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The Making of a Savile Row Coat


Drafting the Coat Pattern

In order to complete the draft, you will need the same tools Rory uses in the video. These tools are available to purchase from eBay and Amazon. They include an L-square with scale on one side, a 24" hip curve, a 24" French curve, a 12" French curve, a scaled ruler and a Hand Tool (Amazon). This video is just a brief introduction to the Coat Pattern Drafting. It is not meant as a replacement for our online course, Pattern Drafting for Bespoke Menswear, which covers coat/jacket drafting in greater depth. All students can apply directly to Rory for a block pattern for a fee of €100, or a personalised pattern for only €150.

Cut, Lay and Inlays

Pattern lays are based on sizing and the amount of inlay you want to include. The lay found here is a basic lay which will accommodate most sizes. More inlays should be added for the first pattern of a new client and thereafter fewer inlays are needed when the pattern is established. You may find that you will need to flip the lay of the top sleeve (for example) so you can fit all the patterns and their inlays into 2 yards. Two yards of cloth is ample for the sizes 36” chest – 42”. For sizes 42” - 46”, add one quarter of a yard for sizes over 46”. You’ll need two and a half or more if it’s a patterned cloth. I strongly suggest all beginners start with easy to tailor cloth, like plain coloured wool and leave the checks and stripes until one has mastered the skills of coat making.

Fixing the Coat

Fixing is a term used by coat makers for cutting the linings and pocket pieces, making the 'job' ready for machining. Many Savile Row coat makers use specialists known as machiners or pocket makers to sew the straight seams and make up the cross, welt and in-breast pockets. Many Savile Row firms share the same machiner who services all the coat makers in the area. Though coat makers handle many of the challenging elements of coat making with ease, such as sleeve setting and the collar, many lack the skills and experience need to make a neatly sewn pocket.

Cutting the Canvas

The canvas is the foundation on which the coat is built. These canvasses are cut so the grain of the canvas matches that of the cloth. This is done so by design as these coats are described as a crookened coat (cut to close). The canvas aids in no small part to this by adding structure to the forepart of the coat.

Mark Stitching

Mark stitching may have many names such as thread marking or tailor’s tacks. It has only one purpose and that is to transfer the pattern to both sides of the cloth. It is used to indicate a seam run which has inlay adjacent to it so the maker knows where the seam finishes and the inlay starts. It is also used to transfer points such as the neck and shoulder points, balance lines and pocket positions. Great care should be taken when adding the mark stitches so that the pattern is followed closely when the garment is being assembled. Indeed the coat maker can greatly alter the fit of a garment if they fail to include the appropriate mark stitches. Balances can be altered, neck points moved and a silhouette lost all for the lack of mark stitches.

Sewing the Dart. Machining the Straight Seams

Considered elementary by some, sewing straight and consistently is a difficult skill to master. A question this tailor always posed to a new student which invariably received an affirmative answer. When asked to do so as an example, more times than not, it was found that not only did they fail in the task but they also failed to realise they had done so. Critical analysis of one's own work is paramount when self-teaching through a video series. One must train their eye to see not what they want but what lies in front of them. Inconsistent seams will not press flat and will cause deviations in the run. This may also lead to misdiagnosing fitting issues. The dart should run out fine to the tip - not a sudden turn and stop like the fish cuts of old. Fine cloths need fine stitching to produce fine clothing.

Prepping & Sewing the Cross Pockets

The secret to a well-formed cross pocket is making the flap first. The pocket mouth is then sewn up to the size of the flap. If the pocket is made first and then the flap after, there is always the chance that the flap will either be too big or even worse - too small for the pocket mouth. To many, it may seem no consideration needs to be made if the pocket mouth is marked at 6". It will finish as such. Though the reality is often 6 1/8" or 5 7/8". If the flap fits the pocket mouth, no attention will be drawn to the variation in pocket widths.

Sewing in the Welted OB Pocket

The technique shown here is the same method used in waistcoat making. The main difficulty is sewing the edges from the inside and sewing the edges straight. In ready-to-wear, the edges are bagged out and cross stitched in the foreparts. This is not a method one would find in bespoke tailoring. One useful tip would be to chalk the finished line onto the forepart and crease the edges before sewing, then stitch in the crease and lining in up with the chalk lines.

Padding Canvasses

A hand passed canvas is softer than one that is machined. Padding by hand also allows one to add fullness to the hair-cloth and domettte. It's this fullness that pushes out the chest as it creates length on the inside of the canvas. The hair-cloth and domettte also add the iconic structure found in Savile Row suits

Mark. Cut. Sew. Wedging the Canvasses

The shoulder wedge found here has evolved from a cut placed at the shoulder bone region in line with the shoulder pleat. The issue with placing such a cut was that it created a weak point in the canvas and on lighter cloths could show through. The benefit of this wedge is it creates more front shoulder shape and prevents tightness in the points often attributed to excessive front shoulder angle.

Trimming the Pockets. Pressing the Canvasses

Thinning the edge of the pockets prevents a step down from the pocket edge to the canvas. This technique is found in many forms throughout the coat making process so the garment will seem to fit together seamlessly.

Canvassing the Forepart

Students who study all books on garment making are led to believe that the foreparts are stretched over the canvas. That may have been the case when a light weight cloth was 17oz (480g). With today's average cloth being 10oz (280g), techniques must change with the times and the materials. The foreparts are cleaned over the canvas, meaning no extra cloth is allowed between the stitches and the cloth and canvas are the same length.

Turning the Front Edge for Fitting

Never overly crease the front edge for fitting. Some cloths, like cotton, once creased will remain scarred even after the crease has been removed. The inlay is there so one can let out the front edge if needs be. If it is permanently creased, the inlay is useless.

Basting in the Back

Care should be taken when stretching the inlays of the back and forepart waists. Stretching should be done so on the wrong side or inside of the cloth. Stretching can cause glossing or even burning of the cloth. If this happens it would not affect the inlay.

Marking and Basting the Shoulders

Follow close to the mark stitches for the run of the armholes. It should just be a case of joining up the stitches. Fullness allowed in the draft for the back shoulder seam is the minimum of 3/8" and many cloths will take up to 3/4". If this is the case, be sure to join the front shoulder point to the half back point and give the back shoulder the fullness it requires.

Basting in Shoulder Pads

Generic shoulder pads are now used commonly by most tailors on and off the Row. There are a few hold outs who still make their own from wadding, lining and collar canvas. The only real benefit of making one's own pads is creating the shape which closely matches the armhole run and maximises the pad width. With so many shoulder pad styles to choose from with various vendors, one can be sure to find something closer to suit one needs without resorting to the handmade version.

Drafting and Making the Collar

For this video series, I decided to stay close to the techniques I learnt while apprenticing on Savile Row. This under collar style does work well when one adjusts the collar canvas for opposite bias. Making a larger generic under-collar is more time consuming than making one solely for each coat, but it is much easier to adapt if the neck hole needs to be altered in the fitting stage.

Basting the Sleeves

When basting the forearm seams, one can use a long stitch of about 1". Turn the under-sleeve inlay over and then add a second baste between the first row of stitches. When mark stitching, coat makers usually only mark stitch the top-sleeve as the under-sleeve will roll to a natural line when the hind-arm seam is basted and the top sleeve cuff is turned back.

Attaching the Collar

The greatest difficulty faced by students at this stage is getting the lapel to roll to the button. If you are having this issue, persevere! We have all been there. If you have a mannequin stand, use it to check the roll or try the garment on yourself and see if the lapel rolls to the button. If it's too high, the collar is long and if it rolls low, the collar is short from the break line to the lapel edge.

Basting in the Sleeves

We all want our fitting to look clean and crisp as it is the first representation of our work to the client. Shrinking the fullness into the sleeve will make the sleeve heads smaller at the finishing stages, so more fullness will need to be added later.

Fitting of the Coat

The coat fitting should always be done over a dress shirt, preferably with the shirt the client intends to wear with the coat. Reason being, shirt sleeve lengths will often vary and when setting the cuff length a 3/8" difference can change with different shirt makers having different sleeve lengths. Pro Tip: Never fit in front of mirrors as clients will often stand straighter when presented with their reflection.

Rip and Remarking

Care should be taken when removing basting stitches so as not to damage the cloth. Clearly re-mark any chalk lines before ripping down the garments so the alteration notes are not lost before the alterations are added.

Padding the Lapel

Staying true to handcraft tailoring, demonstrated here is the hand padding of the lapel. Even the most experienced of tailors would find it hard to distinguish between hand rolled and machine padded. Most would look to the underside to see if the stitch consistency was constant with hand or machine work.

Shaping and Tacking the Pockets. Reinforcing the Vent. Taping. Machining for Lining. Prepping and Sewing the In-breast Pocket

When shaping the lapels one must also consider the bias tape which is applied to the front edge. The tape will straighten any curve, so the shape of the lapel will lessen therefore this must be taken into account. The amount of tension applied to tape differs from tailor to tailor. Some believe it should just hold the front edge while others, like shown here, use the tape to give the front edge that 3D effect.

Attaching the Facing. Turning the Edge

Like with all machining, care should be taken to sew the front edge at a consistent 1/4". Any deviation from this will be clearly visible when the edge is turned.

Prepping for Lining

Turning the facing is done so in such a way as to complement the taping and the fullness added. A facing without fullness will be tight and cause the chest shape to collapse and the hem to turn out rather than shape into the body. The swinging of the facing when it's applied is to give fullness in the chest, the length added at the hem is to give fullness from the top button to the hem.

Pressing Forepart for Lining

When padding down the facing edge, care should be taken to pick up the canvas only. Go too deep and pick up the cloth and it will show on the finished garment, even if it's only a fibre. Be sure to push the fullness in between each stitch.

Lining the Foreparts

This is the last opportunity you will have to press the foreparts without the lining. Once lined, any time the cloth is pressed it will crease the lining and vice-versa. Under-pressed is as important during the making process as the final press.

Lining the Back. Turning Up the Back Hem and Tacking the Vents. Closing the Linings.

When adding lining, think fullness. The lining is completely hand sewn into the coat and every seam that is felled (hand-stitched) needs the fullness on top. One can, of course, add too much fullness which will be in excess when the time comes to add the finishing stitch, just as too little fullness will cause tightness in the seam. More will have to be added by either passing it up from the hem or down from the shoulder.

Joining the Side-seams

Pay particular attention to the balance marks. Match the chest line on the back with that of the forepart. It's more important to have the chest lines match than that of the waist or top of the side-seams.

Adding the Shoulder Pads

When attaching the shoulder pads, a short baste is used to hold the pad in place while it is being padded to the canvas. Be sure to take this stitch out as the knot will cause a lump under the cloth when the coat is finished. Here we also have another example of thinning. The canvas inlay at the shoulder is thinned out so it won't be visible in the finished garment.

Attaching the Under-collar

One of the trickiest parts of attaching the under-collar is to avoid catching the bridle in the basting stitches. The bridle needs to be free of these stitches when it comes to padding it into place.

Shaping the Under-collar

You only get one shot at this! Once you cut it of it's gone. Whatever shape is made of the under-collar, the top-collar will follow it.

Stretching and Attaching the Top Collar

Many tailors opt for a collar and stand as stretching the top-collar as a one piece is quite laborious. The only advice I can give here is stretch it a lot and then stretch it some more.

Prepping the Sleeves

Since the sleeve heads were shrunk at the fitting stage, more fullness needs to be added. This fullness can be taken from the under-sleeve.

Making the Sleeves

Rather than opting for the very traditional way of making the cuff with cotton pocketing, I have decided to use fusing here. This will give you the student a fighting chance to make nice cuff buttonholes. It is also lighter in the cuff without the cotton there. I doubt too many Savile Row tailors still add cotton to the cuffs.

Setting the Sleeves.

Pitching the sleeves is harder than I make it look here. One can spend hours pitching and re-pitching the sleeves. I recall one coat maker during my days on Savile Row, throwing the coat on the floor and jumping up and down on it out of frustration when setting sleeves.

Sewing the Sleeves

Once the fullness has been shrunk away we then proceed to machining the sleeves. A good tip is to have the sleeve on the bottom and the coat on top. So you are lifting the canvas and shoulder pad and machining around the armhole. If any of the fullness didn’t get pressed away is with be drawn in by the machine. If pleats develop when you are pressing they can spoil the look of the seam when sewn in.

Attaching the Sleeve-head Wadding

It’s the wadding that helps give the sleeve-head its shape. Savile Row is known for their rolling sleeve heads. The fullness placed in the crown along with the wadding gives it this shape. If a flat sleeve head is your desired look, keep the fullness to a minimum and use a bias canvas strip instead. The wadding should be sewn on the seam allowance side of the sleeve seam.

Sewing the Armholes

When sewing in the sleeves, start at the side-body seam. If the join is slightly off, it will go unnoticed. I haven't stayed true to my master’s teaching; Paul would baste around the armhole and then attach the sleeve head wadding. I have attached the sleeve head and then basted round the armhole. Last I checked, he does it my way too.

Felling the Facings

I like to get the long seams out of the way first. Always use a new silk as you want as few joins as possible. Keep the stitching small and concise as this is the most visible hand sewing one will see on the coat. If this seam bursts, it will unravel fast so avoid joining the stitching here.

Felling the Side-seams

The side-seams are hard to baste straight without deviations on the run. If the baste is short, it is easier to fell straight.

Felling the Vent and Shoulder Seams

Technique is very important when felling. The more tension used, the more fullness is required. Close the stitch but don't overly pull the stitch closed. It's more like a flick of the wrist than an upward tug. In certain areas like the vents and shoulders, more fullness can be easily passed up from the hem for the vents or the shoulder points for the shoulder seams.

Stitching the Collar

In the under-collar, melton is whip stitched to the neck hole. The depth of the stitch is about 1/8" and the distance between is 3/16”. The draw seam is closed with a ladder stitch (also know as a draw stitch). Be sure to keep the stitches directly opposite to each other to prevent movement in the seam.

Stitching the Hems

Some tailors opt for a felling stitch on the hem. If a felling stitch is used, more fullness will be required. A cross stitch, like shown here, is a hallmark of bespoke. Savvy bespoke clients will feel the hem to check if it has indeed been cross stitched.

Felling the Sleeve Linings

Many experienced hand sewers will fell the sleeve linings without basting first. The lining is basted for the fit bar finish, which the finisher will undo and then fell around with the fullness evenly distributed. Here you will see both methods. Pick stitching is added from the two pitches along the under-sleeve to reinforce the seam. If the seam gives way, it will happen here.

Pick Stitching

This is not a decorative stitch. Its purpose is to prevent the edge from swelling or rolling over. The stitching should not be under excessive tension in order to make it visible. This is only done so in made-to-measure and ready-to-wear.

Buttonholes

“A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between art and nature.” - Oscar Wilde

Every tailor has their own signature to their buttonholes and the ones shown in this video are no different. Here we see key-hole buttonholes, lapel holes and sham holes. The three main types found on a gentleman's bespoke suit.

Finishing the Cuffs. Removing the Basting Stitches

It's easier to finish the cuff after the buttonholes are sewn than before. This is not the last hand sewing found on the coat. Some hand sewing examples are included in the final videos.

Edge Pressing the Coat

Tailors press suits. They don't iron them. The final press has been broken down into a number of videos.

Pressing the Sleeves and Cuffs

A resting period should be allowed between each pressing stage so that the coat can dry and the pressing can set.

Pressing the Body and Lining

When the coat body is pressed it creases the lining. When the lining is pressed, it creases the body. It's a vicious cycle.

The Final Press

The body is touched up after the lining is pressed and the collar and sleeve heads are pressed last.

Buttoning the Coat

An episode not to be missed. Learn how to hide the knot, link the buttons on the cuff saving time when buttoning and sewing on that all-important branding label.

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