Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Orange silk late 18th century breeches

At the end of 2019 I made a pair of striped cotton breeches to test a pattern I had drafted, and this April I finally sewed up that pattern in a nicer fabric.
Looking back at my first pair of breeches I'm astounded by how badly they fit. And quite puzzled by how, at the time, I thought they fit pretty well. I've improved so much!
(I posted this on instagram a while ago)
In my 2019 in review post I mentioned buying a few secondhand silk obi, and the orangey gold one in the picture at the end of that post was lined with this solid bright orange silk. The brocade is intended for a 1720's waistcoat, but I had no particular plan for the lining fabric.
It's not a colour I'd ever think to buy, but it was such a heavy nice quality silk that I didn't want to use it for a lining.

I put it away in a drawer, and then a few weeks into this whole lockdown business I was feeling so crappy and unmotivated that I couldn't focus on anything. I thought that maybe a hand sewing project in this very bright orange would be interesting enough to keep my attention, and it was! I finished it within 9 days. I haven't done a huge amount of sewing in the weeks since then, but it was nice to feel motivated to work on something for a little while.
Standing up cone is the heavy linen, lying down cone is the probably rayon.
I sewed it with heavy orange linen thread, finer white linen thread, and silk weft threads pulled from the fabric because I didn't have any orange silk thread in my stash. I waxed all the pulled threads, and even twisted and plied some of them so they'd be sturdier.
For the buttonholes I used a shiny orange yarn I borrowed from my mother, which I think might be rayon.

I didn't have a working camera for a large portion of the construction, so I'm afraid I don't have photos of all the steps, but they are extremely similar in construction to my green 1730's breeches. The main difference is the front closure but I have a separate post about how I sew fall front plackets.
The fabric had a slightly ribbed texture on one side, and a shiny almost satin-y texture on the other side. I went with the shinier side. It's very like satin but without the long floats.

Because the obi lining was a little narrower than my breeches pattern I had to piece an extra little bit onto the crotch area on all 4 of my main pieces, but this doesn't show at all when worn. I also pieced a little bit onto the button extension at the knee so I could have the side seam straight along the edge.
This bit was whipstitched on selvedge to selvedge.
Jumping ahead a lot because of camera troubles, in the picture below I've sewn the front crotch seams on the outside & lining, sewed the fall front, the back crotch seams, the side seams, and the inseams, in roughly that order. I used backstitch for the silk, a very tightly spaced backstitch for all the crotch seams and pockets, and a running backstitch for the side and inseams of the lining.

I sewed the fall plackets with the same method I used in my tutorial, just with hand stitches instead of machine, but I know that's not quite right. I don't know how exactly they did these plackets historically but looking closely at photos of extant ones I can see they're not quite the same as mine.

I had originally intended to do those little buttoned corner pockets, but I forgot to trace the front piece and make the appropriate alterations, so I had to do pockets in the side seam instead. (Still a perfectly historical option!)
The front is at the bottom of the photo.
You can see the pocket in the side seam pointing towards the back,
right where my hand is.
The lining fabric is a light brown cotton which I found in my linen drawer. I suppose I must have mistaken it for linen a few years ago and sorted it into the wrong pile, but that's alright. A linen lining would be more historically accurate but I don't usually fuss too much about breeches linings since they're one of the least visible materials in the whole suit. It's soft and comfortable and a good weight for lining, so I went with it.

I interfaced the waistband with a heavy linen which I had stiffened with fabric stiffener. I basted it onto the waistband to keep it in place while I was working on it.
The green bits on the linen are from some screenprinting.
Someone gave me this linen years ago along with a lot of old dye & print samples.
I sewed it to the waist of the breeches with a backstitch in the heavy linen thread. The back portion is gathered, but the lining on that section is pleated.
Waistband attached.
After sewing the waistband on I sewed the lining edge down to those seam allowances with fairly large stitches, since it gets covered with the waistband lining.
The two watch pockets on the waistband are done in the usual way.
I cut a slit in the waistband and trimmed back a bit of the buckram around it so I could press it open, then just sewed the pocket bag on as pictured. Usually I sew the two halves of the pocket together first by machine and then hand stitch it to the opening, but since I was doing this all by hand I did it the other way around.

And I didn't get photos of sewing the pocket welts, but I talk more about those in my yellow striped waistcoat post and my brown & gold one. They're just lined separately and stuck on.

I pressed in all the seam allowances around the waistband. I had to piece part of the waistband lining because there wasn't quite enough cotton left. It appears I didn't get any photos of stitching down the waistband lining.
Piecing the waistband lining.
I finished the lined edges on the knee openings and kneebands just like usual.
I put buttonholes on the ends of the kneebands, which is something I have more photos of in the 1730's breeches post. (Here's a link to the tutorial I learned from.)
I sewed the kneebands on with a spaced backstitch on the top edge, and a whipstitch on the bottom edge (done from the inside).
And, oh, it appears I didn't take any more progress photos after that. Oh dear.
I used Burnley & Trowbridge moulds for the buttons. 3 small wooden ones for the waistband and 10 even smaller bone ones for the knees and fall corners.
I was able to borrow a good camera, and got a lot of photos of them finished.

This orange is hard to photograph accurately. They're a bit less red in person.

One thing I'm sure is different in the actual 18th c. plackets is the way the seam allowances face.
Mine are pressed outwards, which kind of gets in the way of the buttonhole,
but I think theirs are pressed in towards the centre, which lets them angle the buttonhole a bit more.
I forgot to mention the lacing but it's just eyelets done with the usual method. Hole poked with an awl and sewn round and round with heavy waxed linen. The lacing itself is a bit of vintage cotton tape.

My buttonholes have improved so much!
And they look so much better with the bar tacks.

The piecing is nicely hidden.

Pocket in the side seam.
I submitted these for the Historical Sew Monthly, as I felt they fit the "Celebration" theme quite well.

What the item is: A pair of breeches.

How it fits the challenge: These are celebration worthy for a few reasons. They’re my first 100% hand sewn pair of breeches, they’re the best fitting pair I’ve ever made, and they were something I actually enjoyed sewing and was able to focus on after a month of being in an uninspired sewing slump.
(Yes I know the green 1730's ones technically fit just as well, but late 18th century breeches are tighter, smoother, and much more visible than earlier ones so I'm still counting these ones as better fitting.)

Material: Heavy orange silk, plain light brown cotton for the lining.

Pattern: Drafted myself, based on ones from The Cut of Men’s Clothes.

Year: Late 18th century. I’ll wear them for 1780’s-90’s

Notions: 10 bone button blanks, 3 wood button blanks, linen thread, buckram (which I made with heavy linen and fabric stiffener), silk weft threads pulled from the fabric, and probably rayon yarn for the buttonholes.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty good! (I feel like I say that about all my submissions) It's 100% hand sewn. The materials are mostly good and the less than ideal bits aren’t visibly so. I’m really dang proud of the fit. I’ve been told that bright orange is possible with 18th century dyes, and that it would have been quite expensive. Orange doesn’t appear to have been very popular in the late 18th century but I have seen a few examples of extant orange things and some orange in fashion plates.

Hours to complete: 53:23

First worn: May 1st, 2020

Total cost: I bought the silk and button blanks, but most everything else was given to me, so CA $29

I didn't expect to like these breeches very much, because I much prefer cool colours, but to my surprise I love them!

I think they go pretty nicely with the brown waistcoat I made recently.
But I think they look the best with my black & white coat and striped waistcoat.
It seems I've accidentally ended up with a perfect Halloween outfit. (Although I kind of want to make a new black & white striped waistcoat, because that old one is not at all up to my standards anymore.)

When October comes I must remember to wear this next to some pumpkins.

A couple of people asked to see my lime green waistcoat with the breeches, so I got some pictures of that eye searing combination.
I didn't much like the carrot outfit.
The only place I'd want to wear this is in a vegetable garden, holding a freshly pulled carrot in each hand.
In that context it would be good.
I should note that the waistcoat looks a bit brighter in person, and the breeches a bit less bright.

Now I'm finally caught up on posting my sewing projects! Since finishing these last month I have done some shirt alterations, gotten about halfway through another pair of breeches, and started a new waistcoat. Hopefully I will finish a thing soon.
I used to put off making breeches, but now that I have such a good pattern I am more motivated to make breeches.