Pages

Monday, 17 September 2018

Bright Green Ribbed Silk Waistcoat

To the shock and surprise of absolutely nobody, I have made yet another waistcoat!

Some months ago I was informed by Brann of Matsukaze Workshops that one of his friends was selling 8 yards of very pale greenish-blue silk ottoman, and at such a good price I found it impossible to resist.
Shortly after it arrived I remembered this ribbed silk suit and realized it would be perfect for August's HSM challenge- Extant originals - "Copy an extant historical garment as closely as possible". I decided upon the waistcoat because it was the least time consuming of the three garments, and because I'm more likely to wear it than a bright green coat or pair of breeches.
Suit, Italy, circa 1785-1790, LACMA
The links to the other images on the museum page aren't working at the moment, so here's a link to a rate the dress post which has more pictures of the suit.
The only view we get of the waistcoat is of it underneath the coat, but the rest of the cut is pretty easy to guess so that's ok. The suit is now a rather mucky pea soup colour, but an alteration on the coat sleeve shows us a strip of brighter green. Since this is most probably a very old alteration (I didn't see an acquisition date on the object page, but I'm sure it's been well over a century since this was last worn.) it's probably also a bit faded and soiled, so I decided to dye my fabric a bit brighter still.
I used PRO MX Fiber Reactive dyes, because we have a lot of them in the house. One of my dye samples from school happened to be Grass Green at 4% (meaning the amount of dye powder used was 4% of the weight of the fabric), which looked perfect, but unfortunately Mama didn't have any grass green dye.
I did some samples with Avocado & Lime Green at 3.5% instead. Neither one was right, but I cut two tiny pieces that I put in one bucket for half the dyeing time and then switched them, and they were just right. I settled on Avocado at 2% plus Lime Green at 1.5%.
I just realized that this photo is upside down,
but I doubt anyone's going to read the measurements there so I think it's fine.
grass green samples n the big sheet in back, lime green & avocado on the smaller parers in front.
I cut off a piece of ribbed silk a couple inches wider than I needed to fit my waistcoat fronts on, weighed it, and let it soak overnight in water. I then carefully weighed out my dye, salt, and soda ash, and measured the correct amount of water and calgon. After 70 minutes of occasionally stirring my fabric in a big tub, and an endless amount of rinsing, I had fabric as green as a new spring leaf.
I haven't typed out all the particulars of the dye process because it's a lot.
To be honest I prefer the original colour of the fabric to the leaf green, but I really wanted to do my best on this challenge, and with all these dyes in the house I had no reason not to match the fabric "as closely as possible".
Original colour on the left, dyed fabric on the right.
Much to my surprise, I ended up having to piece about 6cm onto the shoulders, as all the water and agitation made the silk shrink a startling amount. I don't mind this though. Piecing is a totally accurate thing to do, and it really isn't noticeable with the ribbed texture of the fabric.
I used one of the waistcoat patterns I already had, with the cut of the front edge altered a bit.

I've never been satisfied with the interfacing of any waistcoat I've made, so for this one I finally tried making buckram. (Burnley and Trowbridge has a video on how to do it.) I used Stiffy fabric stiffener instead of gum tragacanth because we had a bottle of it already.
I cut out pieces of coarse brown linen for the pocket flaps and front edges (slightly bigger than needed) and brushed them with watered down fabric stiffener. I let them dry on a flat surface and trimmed the coarse edges off.
I think next time I'll just trace all the pieces on and stiffen them before cutting them out.
The buckram drying on a mirror, because it's very flat and just big enough to hold all the bits.
The buckram turned out very nice! Perhaps a tiny bit too stiff, so I will use a bit less stiffener next time.

The entire waistcoat is hand sewn. I started with the pocket flaps. It took a while to figure out how to get the fabric to behave, but eventually I realized that paperclips were perfect for holding the folded edges to the buckram while I whipstitched them down.

I used yellow striped taffeta for the facings and pocket flap linings. I have very few pieces of taffeta in my stash, but luckily I had one that doesn't look to bad with the green.
I used pale blue-green silk thread for all this, because Fabricville has a sadly limited selection of silk threads.
I folded the edges of the lining in and stitched it down with "Le point a rabattre sous la main", which is sort of like a long-ish slanted whipstitch that's especially for attaching the edges of linings.
I put the buckram down the front edges of the waistcoat, with the help of more paperclips, and folded the other edges in and secured them with a herringbone stitch. I cut slits for the pocket openings and folded & stitched back the edges of them too.
I'd never done waistcoat buttonholes the accurate way before because I'd never used the proper kind of interfacing, but with the buckram it was now possible. I was a bit worried, but they turned out quite well!
I followed the waistcoat construction methods described in Costume Close Up, which is a book I only bought recently but wish I'd bought years ago. 18th century clothing construction make so much more sense after reading it.

I marked out all the buttonholes (after covering the buttons, so I knew how long to make them) and cut through the silk and buckram with a buttonhole chisel. I overcast them with cotton thread because the fine silk thread just didn't match well enough.
I was delighted to discover, when cutting my fabric, that the ribs contained 6 heavy silk threads each. They're a tad fuzzy, but perfectly good for sewing with a bit of wax. I used them to finish my buttonholes.
They don't completely match because the warp and weft are slightly different colours.
Once they were done I sewed on the buttons, pocket bags, and pocket flaps. I whip stitched the pocket bag on, used backstitching to secure the two parts of the bag together, and carefully stab-stitched the pocket flap on.
I found it very easy to work with the fronts this way, and I now understand why the lining was added last. When I assembled my embroidered waistcoat I did most of that after lining the fronts, and it was annoying.
Finally ready to add the lining!
I lined the fronts partially in printed floral/striped cotton twill (taken from a gross old pillow) and partially in the yellow striped taffeta.
I pressed the seam allowances back on the yellow taffeta and whipstitched them down,
because it gave me a crisper edge than backstitching and pressing the seam open would have.
I carefully cut slits where the buttonholes are. I put a tiny bit of water on them so I could fold the edges back more neatly, and then ironed them flat.
I carefully stitched all the edges of the slits down.
My buttons (which I covered before I started the buttonholes) are made with dimes because wood or bone button molds this small wouldn't have worked well with such thick fabric.
When I folded the edges in and did a running stitch around them I ironed the cover flat before putting it around the dime, which helped keep it a bit neater.
Buttons in progress.
They turned out a good thickness.
For the back I used the same brown linen as I used for the buckram. I backstitched the centre back seam with the heavy silk thread from the ribs.
I've wanted to do a pieced lining for a long time, like the one in that delightful jacket from The Met.
As I mentioned I have very little silk taffeta in my stash, but I do have several drapery sample books of patterned taffeta that were given to me years ago, so I pieced some of them together to form the back portion of my lining. I also used a few bits of blue/pink shot silk, which are from a small piece that was given to me.
I used a running stitch with occasional backstitches.
I backstitched the side seams and shoulder seams, then popped in the back lining and whipped all the edges down.
Finished!


I tried doing 1780's hair, but was only somewhat successful. I wore it with an earlier 18th century shirt because it's my only lace trimmed one, and with my rather poor quality pink breeches.
All the photos of me wearing it were taken by my mother.
The challenge: #8 - Extant Originals
What the item is: A green ribbed silk waistcoat
Which extant original did you copy: The waistcoat from LACMA's green ribbed silk ditto suit.
Material: silk ottoman for the front, plain unbleached linen for the back.
Pattern: My own
Year: c. 1785-90
Notions: 16 dimes, fine silk thread from a spool, heavy silk thread pulled from the ribs of the fabric, a teeny bit of cotton thread (just to overcast the buttonholes), buckram made of the same linen as the waistcoat back, striped silk taffeta for the facings, cotton twill from an old pillow for the rest of the front linings, silk taffeta squares from drapery sample books (plus 3 other taffeta bits) for the back lining.
How historically accurate is it? Definitely the most accurate waistcoat I've ever made, maybe 90%? It's all hand sewn, with construction methods from Costume Close Up.
Hours to complete: Exactly 42, not counting patterning and dyeing.
First worn: August 31st, 2018
Total cost: I think about $20 or 25 Canadian? The silk and the taffeta facing were fabrics I bought, but it didn't take a huge amount. I was lucky to get the ribbed silk for a very good price as I bought it secondhand. All the other fabrics (as far as I can remember) were given to me.
How does it differ from the original? The bottom of my waistcoat is a bit longer than the original, with a bit less slant, just because I think it's more flattering than the very splayed looking cut of the original. My fabric is also considerably thicker than the original, since it's entirely ribs, while the original has little flat spaces in between the ribs. Because of this I couldn't get the tips of the pocket flaps quite so pointy, and I had to use dimes in the buttons.
I had to piece the shoulders too, but it's not noticeable when I'm wearing it.

I also think the original has one more button up the front, but I can't be certain because the lace is in the way. Either way, the spacing looked better with 10 on mine.

And then there's the tiny inconsequential smidge of cotton thread I overcast the buttons with, the modern chemical dye I used on the silk, and the commercial fabric stiffener I used to make the buckram, but they're what I had on hand and they worked well so I have no problem with using them. Especially the dye, since getting bright, even colours with natural dyes is a whole other profession that I have next to no experience in.

I also think it's highly unlikely that the original has a patchwork lining, since most waistcoats were lined in plain cotton or linen, but LACMA has posted no pictures of the lining so I can pretend that it is.

My one real complaint about this waistcoat is how much the fabric softened up when I dyed it. It's not noticeably sagging anywhere because the ribs are so thick, but the buttons under the pocket flaps are sitting a tiny bit lower than where I positioned them when I sewed them on.
Edit: Hmm, it could also stand to be about an inch longer.



I really need to get a pair of buckle shoes with low heels.
These ones just aren't right for late 18th century.

And that's it!

4 comments:

  1. I'm very impressed.
    Hugs, Mamoo

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the color. Thanks for showing all the details of construction. By coincidence, I am currently reading 'Costume Close-Up' and it does make construction processes so much clearer! -Erika

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looks amazing!! I love the colour and that patchwork lining was actually what caught my eye when I saw your post on tumblr...^V^ I'm really impressed by the fact that you handstiched the whole waistcoat!! :O The buttons are lovely... And the whole costume is really neatly done...I loved learning about the construction process!!

    ReplyDelete