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A Method of Basting in the Canvas


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#1 Sator

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 02:43 AM

This was originally posted in another thread. However, this subject deserves its own thread, and so I thought I would start one.

When installing the canvas, the basting helps to reinforce the shape put into the canvas-shell by the cuts/darts and ironwork (photo from Maestro Pirozzi):

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So when you baste in the canvas, you have to shape as you baste to carefully preserve this shaping.

If you baste the coat flat then, of course, it won't matter if you have one, ten or a thousand rows of basting - it will still be flat. In fact, it will have less shape than zero rows of basting! Which is another way of saying you are doing it wrongly since the whole point of basting is to infuse shape, not to eliminate it.

Funnily enough this is pretty much exactly how I was taught to do it (photo from Maestro Celentano):

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Notice the block being moved around the chest as you baste. You baste from the middle, along a line from the neckpoint going up through the front dart down towards the hem, and work away from the midline. That is each line of basting moves sequentially further and further away from the the initial midline row of basting until you reach the edge of the coat. You move your block around to preserve the shape you have carefully worked up in the chest.

Place the canvas over the shell. Give the shell as gentle tug from top and bottom to ensure that it is lying flat and even. The section of the canvas front you are basting over is made to lie evenly on the block, by smoothing out the section ahead with your hand to eliminate all bubbling. If you are basting in a straight line you use the straight part of the block. If you are going around in a curve (eg for the armscye or chest) you use the curved part of your semi-circular shaped block (Italians call it a "mezzaluna" block). The block is not needed below the waistline, on the skirt area. Always ensure that the section that is being basted is laid perfectly flat on the surface of the block. The part to be given fullness is allowed to hang over the edge of the block.

The following diagram is based on what I have been taught to do with slight modifications based on the Bunka men's book. The original Bunka plan was quite different, although in the overall schema quite similar in concept if not in execution. I intended to change the diagram to the method I have been taught but ended up keeping a couple of things that were originally on their diagram. As I was modifying it, I realised that basting row 7 is actually quite intelligently placed to avoid flattening the fullness at armscye (in the original Bunka plan row 7 was actually row 1).

a. The row of basting down the middle (1 and 3) can be conducted with the foreparts placed out flat and smoothed over a work table. Basting row 1 goes straight through the front dart and continues downward. Each subsequent row in the chest area parallel to this centre row of basting must be carried out on the curved side of your semi-circular block. The area to be basted goes on the block and is smoothed out by the free hand ahead of that area being basted.

Row 3 starts at the shoulder, avoid flatting out the extra length in the armscye. The row of basting goes through point X in the shoulder. This point defines the centre of the hollow of shoulder, about a third of the way into the shoulder seam length:

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Frequently, the cut at the shoulder goes from a to x. Another cut is often opened up from b to x. All cuts pivot around the centre of hollow of shoulder, point x.

The basting must not disturb the shoulder shaping created by canvas cuts, darts and by ironwork.

b. Row 2 goes along the waistline. Prior to going up to the chest and shoulder area, secure the waistline.

c. Row 4 is conducted on the round edge of the semi-circular block for the chest area. However, to continue below the waistline place the fronts on the flat of your table.

d. Rows 5 and 6 are carried out on the block. A piece of canvas has been cut out of the chest piece to make room for the buttonhole, so work around this.

e. Rows 7 and 8 are carried out on the block. Care is taken to avoid disrupting the shaping of the shoulder area.

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When your rows of basting each help to preserve shape, then adding extra rows becomes meaningful. If there is any bubbling or unevenness it may be necessary to start all over again. Great care must be taken to ensure that both sides are basted in the same way.

#2 Sator

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 11:39 PM

Another way of basting in the canvas:

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From the blog of Davide Taub.

You can see it has been done correctly because it has preserved the fullness of chest in the centre.

#3 Der Zuschneider

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 02:41 AM

German master tailors would stand the hair to edge if they would see this kind of basting and they would tell it a 'Kasperletheater'.

Edited by Der Zuschneider, 01 May 2011 - 02:43 AM.

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#4 Sator

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 03:26 AM

German master tailors would stand the hair to edge if they would see this kind of basting and they would tell it a 'Kasperletheater'.


Why? Calling someone an idiot doesn't make 1 + 1 = 3. You have to prove that is the case. Your proof is lacking.

#5 Nishijin

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 08:01 AM

I've heard tailors talking about basting techniques from competitors and calling it rubish, saying this guy or this guy clearly doesn't know how to work... Though I've asked, I've never been explained why the said technique was foolish and unreliable. Quite the contrary, I've been convinced by some techniques once I've tried them...

I'm just fed up by this way to criticise others without explaining why it is "wrong". Usually, I interpret this as proof that the critic just doesn't understand.


There are things I don't like in the picture above, but I presume it is because we work differently after basting in the canvas. The main points seem well respected (giving shape, preventing bubbles, etc.), so I certainly wouldn't say it is done incorrectly. Just different from what I do.
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#6 Kevin Koch

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 08:33 AM

Thanks for posting this here Sator. I missed it previously. While it is different from mine, the way Master Henry taught me, I shall give it a go. We never stop learning, eh. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

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#7 Sator

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 12:10 PM

I've heard tailors talking about basting techniques from competitors and calling it rubbish, saying this guy or this guy clearly doesn't know how to work...


The usual way of working in the trade is this:

Judy: I say that 1 + 1 = 2

Punch: You idiot 1 + 1 = 3

Judy: Why?

Punch: Because you are an idiot! Only idiots believe that 1 + 1 = 2 [bashes Judy over the head]

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There is no systematic proof or critical examination of methods in any objective way. The real reason why tailors hide their methods is because if you did critically examine them, they wouldn't stand up to scrutiny.

As for German methods, here for interest is what Rundschau shows in Zuschnitt XVII (they don't describe the method, and just show the finished result):

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As you can see, it's nothing special at all.

Here is another method from a German text.

Lay the shell on top of canvas. They should lay smoothly and naturally without tension. The waistline marks are aligned. The front dart of shell lies a little behind that of the canvas to avoid them overlapping. The shell should not under any condition be under tension:

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The next pictures shows how even and harmoniously both parts lie on top of one another. The lower layer lies completely flat on the table. Begin the first row of basting along the waist line, going towards the front edge. From there head down, 3 cm in from the edge, towards the lower hem. The second row begins once again on the waist line, but in between the first row and the pocket line. The photo was taken when the second row was half complete.

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The next picture shows the fully basted lower half. The third row goes over the pocket line along the front edge.

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That was the easy part. The next part will be a bit trickier.

Turn the canvas and shell around the other way, so that we can begin from the waist and work towards the left, so that you are set up like the next photo. The first row of basting goes through the front dart, passing over the fullness of chest towards the centre of shoulder. Press the fullness of chest flat and move it upwards towards the armscye. On reaching the centre of chest, push the fullness downwards to ensure that the working area becomes flat before continuing to work on the upper section.

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Finish the basting where the needle is, as the shoulder area has to be left free to be worked on later. Now push the fullness of chest over towards the front edge, so that the area from centre of chest to armscye are flat enough to work upon.

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Start at the waist and run the second row of basting towards within 5 cm of the side body seam going along the edge of the inlay. Continue along the armscye, the same distance in as before, until you reach a height the same as the first row of basting. You should now be able to demonstrate the presence of fullness along the greatest round of scye that can readily be pushed upwards. The shell must not be allowed to come under any tension. The fullness must be able to be effortlessly stroked upwards.

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To complete the basting of the front of chest a ham is used. Place the foreparts on the ham as shown in the next photo to start the next row of basting. Continuously advance the forepart along the ham as you work to ensure that it is firmly placed over the roundness of the ham.

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The next photo shows the completely basted forepart. Do not pull your basting thread too tight as this will cause bubbling and distortion. On this picture you can see the run of the fourth row of basting. A beautifully basted front should have even rows of basting. The lengths of basting should be even and the commencement points of basting should converge neatly into the waistline. As elegance and good taste should be the hallmarks of our trade, these qualities should be evident in the task of basting in the canvas fronts, which should show a defined order.

Any canvas the protrudes out from the edge of the armscye and front edge should be trimmed away - except along the lapel. Some excess canvas must be left at the revers, to allow for the task of padding stitching.

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Full original text:

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With that you can see that a German Kasperltheater isn't much different from the English Punch and Judy show after all:

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I should mention too that Punch and Judy are the English equivalents of the Italian commedia d'arte figure of Pulcinella, whose name was Anglicised to Punchinello.

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As for the Russians, they have Петрушка (Petroushka):

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#8 Sator

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 01:39 PM

From Zuschnitt XVII: The Basting in of the Chest Piece

This is an important subject that is not covered elsewhere.

The basting in of the chest piece can be done on a flat table top, over a semi-circular block, or over a large ham. However, it is done, care must be taken to ensure there is no uneven distribution of length on either side or bubbling.

Based on practical experience we recommend that the upper area of canvas and chest piece be placed over a large ham/press buck. This ensures that there is a precise overview to check if both sections are laid flat. In this position a binding line of basting is run through the middle of the chest.

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When commencing work on an area where there is significant fullness of chest, the work should be conducted on the round part of a semi-circular block or over a ham, according to preference. Both sections must lie with all lengths evenly distributed throughout both horizontally and vertically.

Baste towards the back (and then later towards the front) as shown in the photo. Place the canvas with the round of chest on the edge of the block. This positions the canvas and chest piece so that they are both flat and clearly laid out at the armscye. Now baste along the armscye and towards the bottom, so that they are secured ready to be basted.

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In the position shown next, the chest piece can be basted using stitches that are neither too fine nor tight, in preparation for later padding. You can see in this photo how the horizontal cuts place the chest piece well into the hollow of the shoulder.

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With the upper part of the chest laid flat, the horizontal cut in the chest piece is opened up until the fullest hollowing of the shoulder is attained. In this position baste the chest piece in at the top using narrow stitches.

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The finished canvas with chest piece basted in, ready to be pad stitched by hand or machine. Machine zig zag stitching done well is better than poor hand padding. All pad stitch is done with the finest thread. Particular care must be taken when using light materials.

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From Zuschnitt XVI

[This volume has some clearer pictures in it, as well as more complete explanations of some things.]

The chest piece is placed about 1.5 cm behind the front dart of body canvas:

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The front dart is closed:

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Ensure the chest piece has a bit of excess length:

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The chest piece is basted in place through the middle, ensuring that there is extra ease along the length:

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The cuts will later even out the length:

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The cuts are placed along the cross grain to avoid disrupting the elasticity of the chest canvas:

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On positioning the semi-circular block into place, the cuts will be made to overlap. The front of the chest piece is then basted into place:

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The block is used again to place a row of basting at the back of the chest piece to produce the necessary fullness of chest:

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The chest canvas is then pad stitched. The chest canvas lies on the lining side of the foreparts as it better supports the canvas when placed here. The canvas is shown here with hand padding (but this may be done by machine):

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#9 Nishijin

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 07:03 PM

Notice that this basting the chest piece is required when you use zig zag machine to pad stitch the chest piece, but not when you use thimble and needle. Quite the contrary, you then need only a very light baste, just to put the chest piece in place, and you unbaste it while padstitching as you chase bubbles with the hand.


I think there is also fusing canvas on the market, that could be used to fuse the chest piece before machining. It would give an even firmer chest, and if done correctly, you'd be sure there would be no bubbles.


As I don't like myself stiff chests, I use the hand. Machine is only for semi-bespoke grade, and when customer ask for a stiff chest.
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#10 Sator

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 08:07 PM

The Rundschau authors make it very explicit that the chest piece be basted in first irrespective of whether the canvas is padded by hand or by machine. This process of basting in the canvas becomes more important when there are a greater number of cuts being held open on the chest piece or shoulder support.

Notice that for this canvas quoted from Jefferyd's blog, that a similar cut has been opened up in the shoulder support to that on the Rundschau example, thus making it necessary to formally baste in the hair cloth:

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This shows that this sort of basting to produce shape in chest canvas should be conducted formally in the way described by the Rundschau authors.

#11 Sator

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 10:38 PM

Basting in the Canvas

From Zuschnitt XVI


[This text gives a particularly detailed and comprehensive account of the basting in of canvas. Instead of using a semi-circular block, they use a ham to give the chest shape - although in other texts they also allude to the fact that this is more a matter of preference. The general principles are much the same, with a row of basting going through the middle with the foreparts laid down flat, but then with each subsequent row of basting to the side of the middle row being conducted on the ham.]

The way this is done decisively influences the final appearance of the garment. Despite this the important of this stage is widely underestimated. The canvas has a life and elasticity of its own. However, the outer shell, depending though on its structure, composition and weave will not always tolerate being forced into shape. It is thereby critical to bring these two components together into harmony by means of basting them together, lest they start to clash with each other later upon removal of the basting thread, each part going off in opposite directions.

To this end, it is recommend that the basting commence starting over a flat surface. Feel with the hand to check whether the shell sits too long or short. Also check whether the foreparts have enough ease to through their width to accommodate for the fullness of chest in the canvas.

The further progress of the basting towards the front and backwards takes place over an appropriately shaped ham. Again pay attention to the harmony between both sections.

The importance of the basting in of the canvas is clear when you see the results of this being done poorly.

When finished the canvas and shell should effortlessly be bound together, so that the finished garment will retain its shape and not change. Above all, it must remain perfectly smooth, even with repeated wearing.

Finally, it should be said that both foreparts should be basted in exactly the same way. Checks should be made at points where the canvas protrudes out such as at the collar, the armscye, shoulder seam, and front edge. This ensures that faulty canvas installation is never the cause of fitting problems.

First, place the canvas and shell on top of one another:

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The waist levels are matched to one another:

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The entire shoulder piece is laid out flat on the table surface right up to the level of the base of armscye:

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Begin basting through the middle of the shoulder piece:

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Baste through the middle of chest on the flat table surface:

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Lay the work surface flat from waist level downwards:

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Check the results of the first row of basting:

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The second row of basting goes through the front of the forepart:

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Baste the chest over a ham:

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Baste the front going through the front edge:

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The third row of basting goes through the roll line:

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Continue this row of basting on the ham:

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Baste the front of forepart:

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Run a check of the overall shape:

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Baste the back edge on the ham:

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Secure the armscye:

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Place foreparts over the ham to procure a natural chest shape:

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This is how the front should look after the basting is complete:

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Draw a chalk line defining the underarm seam:

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Place down the side body ready for basting:

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The forepart at the conclusion of canvas installation and the basting in of side body:

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Check that both foreparts have been basted evenly, by looking at the amount of protrusion of the canvas at the armscye, shoulder, collar area, and front edge:

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#12 Sator

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 12:34 AM

Now here is something I don't quite understand. It comes from A.A. Whife, who says it shows an example from a West End work room. He takes pains to praise what he calls "ease" given to the chest in the canvas:

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He states that "this is an important thing, for any tightness in the body canvas here may well cause trouble in the finished garment".

While I have been taught to give the innermost lining ease like this, I have never been taught to give the canvas this sort of ease. In fact, I have been taught to call this sort thing, not ease - but "bubbles" to be strictly avoided. These sort of bubbles tend to show on the right side of modern cloths. At the time of publication 13 Oz was considered "feather weight" tropical cloth, and 16 Oz light weight cloth.

#13 Nishijin

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 05:43 AM

The coat commented by Whife may be an example of soft tailoring of his time. Look at the very small chest piece. So maybe this "ease" provided in the chest canvas is to keep something very supple, without any stiffness whatsoever.

I agree with you that this can't be done on modern cloths. Any bubble show before the coat is finished. Sometimes, it can't be mended, because it is nearly impossible to remove the canvas.

Today, one even have to be clever on the way to close canvas darts so they don't show through the shell (happened to me once, fortunately not on a customer's garment). The place and shape of the darts must be chosen with consideration to the cloth, some cuts can't be used on the lightest cloths. Some very light cloths are very difficult to canvas, even the lightest canvas such as tie canvas can be too thick.



In the big workshops, canvas basting is something usually done by beginners. It would be a mistake to think it is something easy to do. There are many mistakes that can be made while basting in the canvas, and they will show when it's too late and can't be mended.

Even on a fused coat, with floating chest piece, a lot can be done by the tailor to give the coat a nice shape, much nicer than coats using an industrial premade chest piece. But the tailor must give it the consideration it deserves. Some tailors just put in a standard chest piece, hold lightly by 3 rows of loose basting. It makes a flat coat, and they say it is because it's fused.



BTW, on Whife's picture, see how the haircloth is not bound ? Just a piece of domette on top of it... I'm surprised to see this work shown as top-quality example...
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#14 Nishijin

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 05:49 AM

On post #11, Zuschnitt XVI, I'm surprised by the shoulder part of the front, which looks quite flat. Look at post #10, both Jeffery's coat and the Rundschau one have shape for the collarbone. It is hard to baste those kinds of fronts on a flat table. The only part that lays flat is the bottom, under the waist, and sometimes even there it's not flat.
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#15 Sator

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:49 AM

They actually state that this sort of flat shoulder was fashionable at the time. There is another text from a Rundschau source of the same period in the Canvas Construction Thread without any cuts in the shoulder like this one.




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