Monday, 25 April 2016

Pelican outfit #2 - patterning the coat

Now I've determined I'm going to make a fitted coat in the Indian style, the trick is to pattern it. Given that patterning typically takes more than one person, and I am reasonably deficient in the sewing skills department I decided to hunt through the commercial patterns to see if there was anything I could adapt to suit my needs.

I came across two potentially viable options. The first seemed perfect for a Persian coat given that it was loosly fitted, with long sleeves and designed to clasp under the breast. Closer examination of the pattern though shows very little shaping in the design and the toile would be difficult to adjust to follow my curves. There isn't a bust line seam so any shaping would have to come from the side seams, which would just end up pulling on the clasp making the coat look ill fitting and me look too busty. I get that enough as it is.


Pattern number two is probably the jackpot. It has centre bust seams which I can use to fit the dress. It has an optional upright collar which can be seen in some of the Persian dress examples. The downside to this pattern is I'm going to have to design my own sleeve template because I do not want puffy shoulders. This is a major downside because sleeves have been my biggest fail in the past. The other adjustment I'll need to make to this pattern is flair it more over my hips and lengthen the design.


This pattern luckily comes with a "lengthen or shorten here" line along the waist so I have a good idea of where to start my flair from. For my first toile I used 90cm wide black, mid-weight cotton I had lying around. I don't tend to keep calico in my stash and I find black shows up chalk marks much better than most colours. The downside to black is the photos don't turn out all that well. I laid out the pattern pieces and continued the line of the final 25 cm of pattern down to the full length of the fabric. I then sewed the pieces together (minus the arms) with the widest stitch possible making sure I remembered not to double back on my stitches at the start and end.

To fit the pattern I pinned the front closed and pinched each seam around my waist and under my breasts and stuck a pin in. I used white chalk to mark the peak of my breasts, hips, bottom and my nautral waist. I then unpinned the front and chalked a line to connect the pins smoothly to the sewn seams retaining the points of flair around the hips and bust and smoothly curving into the waist. The waist came in about 6cm all up and the under-bust came in 3cm on each side. I also made sure to smoothly curve the side back seams up to my shoulder blades as I've been ruined outfits in the past by neglecting to fit the back right. The most important part of the fitting was getting the shoulders to sit right. Until I made a dress for Tamar's wedding I never realised that this was a thing. I guess I hadn't given much thought to the different shapes of shoulders given I'm usually wrestling with a non-standard bust to ribcage ratio.

Once I had the fitting lines, I sewed them up with a tighter stitch and trimmed away the excess fabric. Once I was sure I had the fit right, I unpicked the side seams so I could lay the dress flat and trace the neckline for the cloud collar.

During my first trial I decided that the coat was a little too tight around the upper thighs and if I make it any longer I may have trouble walking. The images of both the Indian and Persian coats show plenty of fabric in the skirt so I decided to make another toile with greater flair from the hips. This one I've made out of a dark blue brocade. It's not really a toile, more of an experimental garment. I'll trial a non-embroidered silk cloud collar on it and attempt to line it as well.

In the mean time, here's my first toile with my first attempt at a cloud collar pinned to it. The hem is a little jagged due to my ad-hoc lengthening method but I'm reasonably happy with the waist and chest fit. I'm pretty sure it won't pull on the buttons or clasps in a terrible way.


The collar didn't work as well as I planned so I decided to tackle the sleeves next. I ran out of scraps of black of an appropriate size so I used some maroon cotton I had left over from an experiment with Roman garb I did about 5 years ago. I used the maroon as sleeves and may use it to line the brocade test garment. Anyhoo, I'm not so good with sleeves as mentioned but I think I've worked out some of the secretes and I present my sleeve pattern. Please note this is a half sleeve pattern as the left side is designed to be placed along a fabric fold.


A is the crest of the shoulder. It is possible to the top line A-B more of a sinusoid (as shown in red). The greater the depth of the sinusoid, the greater the angle of the arm. If you do not have a sinusoid or a curve, the arm will sit square like the classic T-tunic shape. Most female garments have some sinusoid to the arm in modern clothing. Having the arm inset at an angle cuts down in excess fabric in the arm pit however it does mean if you need to lift your arms above that angle you'll be lifting the whole outfit. I especially hate this feature of womens reflective work shirts so I've decided to keep the curve to a minimum.
B is the armpit. You could use a rectangle and have a gore but since I have fabric to burn, little desire to sew more seams than necessary AND I know the Indian tailors of old were experts at seams and fitting, I've decided to go with a tapered shape.
The line A-B is the measured distance along the inside of the dress sleeve. I'll increase this distance slightly by adding the curve but that's negligible and will sort itself out during sewing.
A-C is the length of the sleeve. In this case the sleeve reaches to my inner elbow. This length seems to be a common feature in Indian art but was truthfully dictated by the size of the fabric scrap I used to trial the arms.

I couldn't complete the arms until the final cloud collar design had been appliqued on but here's how they turned out.

You can see the final shoulder seam is sitting too far below the point of my shoulder and there's excess fabric in my armpit. I should be able to resolve both of these problems by bringing the seam back to the point of the shoulder. I will experiment with this further on the blue brocade test dress.

In the mean time, now it's appliqued, I can probably do some cheater mc-fee modern finishing touches, like a sewn rolled hem on the sleeves, over locking on all the seams, a placket down the front and a commercial frog or three and turn this into a plain but nice modern summer coat.

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