Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Black silk waistcoat with patchwork lining

I've made waistcoats in quite a few colours, but somehow I didn't have any plain black ones until I finished this one. (I have made two plain black waistcoats before, but it was years ago, so they were both badly made and don't fit me anymore.)

This one is made of silk taffeta that I bought several years ago, unbleached linen on the back, and lined with a lot of silk scraps.
There isn't much to say about the construction, since it's made the exact same way as the previous waistcoat, just without the striped trim.
The pattern is mostly the same too, but I made the collar shorter on this one, making it more 1780's than 1790's.
The lining has some scraps from projects, and some from drapery sample books.
Here's a scrap from my yellow striped waistcoat
which I also used as a sample to test my embroidery transfer method.
I did a lot of little bits for the back, but fewer pieces for the front because I didn't want it to be too bulky or leave lines. The patchwork is all done by machine, as are a few of the construction seams, and the rest is done by hand.
Buttonholes are sewn with DMC cotton pearl, as usual.
For the buttons I used 9 small bone moulds from Burnley & Trowbridge. (Who have a shiny new website now! Which unfortunately means all the links I've left to them in previous posts don't work anymore.)

I forgot to get pictures of them, but the pockets and pocket welt linings are made of the same cotton as the lining of my 1730's breeches.
Pinning the shoulder to check the fit for probably the fifth time.
Every collared waistcoat I've ever made has been wrinkly on the right shoulder, and for this one I was determined to get it smooth. After hours of fussing around, piecing bits on and trimming bits off and basting again and again to check the fit I got it somewhat smoothly fitting on that side.
A terrible mess of little bits of frustration.
I even made a whole separate pattern piece for the right front with a different angle on the shoulder, but it still didn't help. Moving the shoulder seam too much caused the whole piece to shift, making wrinkles appear all down the side of the waistcoat.
It was very frustrating. I had a look at my shoulders to see what exactly the trouble was and found that the muscles on the right one are significantly smaller than those on the left. Also, my neck isn't exactly in the middle, so that shoulder is a bit narrower too.
Wonky shoulders.
Not enough to cause trouble with collar-less waistcoats, thankfully.
I've decided that next time I sew up this pattern I'll try to make up the difference by padding the right shoulder with some scraps of cotton batting. I expect that should work better, and be much easier to do.

"If the customer has some physical defect it should be noted so as to be skilfully disguised with extra stiffening, padding, etc."

Aside from the shoulder troubles, I'm happy with how it turned out. It'll be a nice plain everyday sort of waistcoat.
I figured the brightly coloured lining made it a good entry for the "Sewing Secrets" HSM challenge.

What the item is: A man’s waistcoat

How it fits the challenge: It’s very plain on the outside, so one would never suspect that it’s hiding a colourful patchwork lining.

Material: Silk taffeta, various silk scraps for the lining, cotton scraps for the pockets.

Pattern: Drafted myself

Year: 1780’s

Notions: Buckram made from stiffened linen scraps, silk thread, cotton thread, linen thread, 9 small bone button blanks.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern, construction, and materials are pretty decently accurate, aside from some machine stitching and small quibbles about some of the cotton bits.

Hours to complete: 41 and a half

First worn: July 17th, 2020, just for a few quick photos because it was very hot.

Total cost: I’m not sure, maybe about CA$30?

I look forward to seeing how the shoulder padding work out on my next waistcoat!


  1. I'm glad that you found out the reason you had difficulty fitting the right shoulder.
    It's really one of a kind garment with the patchwork lining.
    You did a fine job.
    Hugs, Mamoo

  2. No one is symmetrical. Lovely vest. I have a (very) dropped shoulder and it really works better for me to pad that shoulder, it's a time honored technique. Just remember to only pad one item of clothing because otherwise you will overcompensate. What I mean is don't pad the vest and the jacket. Or at least try the jacket with the padded vest before padding to make sure. I'm assuming you would never wear your jacket without the vest.

  3. As I'm working through my 1730's waistcoat right now, I'm having the same shoulder issue. I saw it coming because I have scoliosis. Thankfully, with no collar to worry about, I can just adjust the right side to fit. I totally understand the difficulty of getting tailored garments just right when you're uneven. Thanks for sharing the process.

    1. Elizabeth S Chapman23 February 2021 at 22:47

      So sorry, I did not mean to comment as an Unknown Nameless Entity