Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Making a Waistcoat and adding functional pockets.

Anyone who has seen me enjoying my work at the Colchester  branch of Fabric8 will realize I LOVE my waistcoats. As a close up performer I tend to wear them a lot (and at the last count I had well over 30). My friends  and I have been asked to help Headway a charity that helps people with brain injuries. They are holding a Dickensian style ball and need some entertainment, all performers to be sporting Victorian attire. Naturally I'm always set for such an eventuality, but two of my friends need waistcoats. A lot of customers in the shop have said they want to have a go at making a waistcoat but have never followed a pattern to make a garment before. So behold, a step by step guide to following Simplicity 4762, with a few tips and tricks I have developed and functional pockets. I'll be making two double breasted waistcoats with collars. The pattern has no pockets for this version, but I'm planning on adding them anyway. A few things to note. Patterns include a seam allowance of 5/8th of an inch. Just take your time when sewing, make sure to enjoy the creative process. You don't HAVE to add pockets but I think they're worth the trouble. Try making one up on some scrap fabric if you're uncertain. Finally this waistcoat is for a man (well Chap) The construction for women's waistcoats follow the same principles though, you just need to get the right pattern.

You will need
Simplicity Pattern 4762 (or other pattern)
Fabric for the front of the waistcoat (in my case 1.1 metres)
Lining (and back) (I used Duchess Satin)
Fusible Interfacing 1.5 metres
4 buttons
belt buckle for the back

'Carbon' paper

Step one

Measure your subject and decide which size you need. Next check which pattern pieces you need for your project. Most patterns are both multi sized and have different options, for example this pattern  has four different styles of waistcoat to choose from.  

Cut  along the line indicated for the required size. 
You will see little triangles pointed in on the pattern. These are notch marks and are used to align your pattern pieces. DO NOT cut into the pattern piece  Instead cut a triangle on the OUTSIDE of the notch, as seen below. 

Step Two
Lay the pattern pieces according to the guide with the pattern. Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric keeping both the pattern and the fabric as flat as possible. 

The pattern pieces will tell you how many pieces you need to cut and of what. You will notice you need something called Fusible Interfacing. Interfacing adds body and rigidity. Fusible interfacing is an interfacing that bonds to the WRONG side of the fabric using the heat from an iron. 

Step Three
Apply interfacing. In this case to the collars and the front of the waistcoat. I'm also adding pockets to my waistcoat (using the pattern pieces provided for one of the styles). I like to pre-wash my interfacing in cold water (just swirl it around in the sink and then hanging  it to  to dry, it dries really fast). Interfacing has a heat reactive glue on it which can muck up an ironing board if any gets on it. For this reason I keep some clean cotton to place on my board to protect it. Set  your iron onto setting 2 and place the front panel onto the board right side down. Iron out any creases and then place the interfacing panel onto the wrong side of the waistcoat front. The glue side is slightly shiny, this is the side to put onto the wrong side of the fabric. Place a damp cloth over everything and gently iron from the centre out, holding the iron for 12 seconds at a time. If you think the fabric will stretch out of shape try applying the interfacing BEFORE cutting out the pattern piece. 

Step Four.
Mark out the darts onto the front of the waistcoat. There are a few different ways of marking out where the darts are. Some people use tailors tacks, others marking with pins. I find using a pattern tracing wheel and carbon paper (or other colored marking paper) makes this process much faster.  

Slide the paper between the pattern and the front of the waistcoat. Using a ruler to guide you push the wheel along the lines for the darts.

At the widest part of the dart slide a pin from one side of the line to another
Bring the pointy end of the pin back to the first side of the fabric. Repeat along the length of the dart. Stitch the dart into place. 

Step Five 
Stitch the collar pieces together along the outer curve and the top, right sides together. Clip the curve as shown (click on the picture for a bigger view). Normally it's best to press the seam allowance  towards the lining side. However in the case of the red velvet waistcoat I'm doing the opposite  This will give the collars a white satin trim. Stitch to the waistcoat front as shown on the pattern. 

Step Six
Adding pockets is much simpler than people think. As a fan of pocket watches I think it's well worth he effort to create a functional pocket.
Begin by cutting out and interfacing the pocket WELTS. Fold in half, right sides together and press
Next stitch down the sides of the welts using a 3/8" or 1 cm seam. Clip the corners
My Point Turner only £1.80 

Turn the welt right side out using a point turner. You CAN use a pair of rounded scissors but more often than not you'll just damage the the fabric and not get a clean corner either. I can't recommend these things enough. Now press the welts again. I HIGHLY recommend a PRESSING CLOTH. Again these are relatively inexpensive to buy and give you a far more professional finish. There are chemically impregnated to disperse the heat evenly. It will stop the corners of the pockets scorching  I recommend using a pressing cloth whenever pressing the RIGHT SIDE of your waistcoat. 
Make the "pocket bag"  as shown. It is narrow in the centre (it will  eventually be folded in half to form the pocket. Don't make it too deep as your pocket watch chain may be pulled too tight. 
Mark out where your welt will be (along the dart by the waist). Set it so the short vertical sides are laying straight up, the lower end near the front of the waistcoat, the higher end near the side of the waistcoat. Draw a faint line along the bottom of the welt then flip the welt so the rough unseen side is now on this line. Top stitch in place. 

Place the pocket bag over the welt, right side down. Align it so the narrow centre of the pocket is just above where you have sewn the welt into place. place a pin just on the inside of each welt and two more to hold the pocket bag in place as you flip the waistcoat front right side down. 

Sew a rectangular box just above the stitching for the welt using the pins either side of the welt as a guide to make sure it's not too wide. The bottom of this box should just sew over the seam allowances of the welt, the top of the box should only be sewing the pocket back to the waistcoat. Flip the waistcoat front right side up again and cut a line through the middle of the box you've just sewn, push the pocket bag through this hole in it's middle. 

Right sides together sew the bag shut.

Place two strips of interface either side of the pocket and press into place. These stop the front of the waistcoat creasing by the pocket (a little tip I worked out years ago) 

The front of the waistcoat should now look like this. Fold the welt up over the hole and press into place (using a pressing cloth). Make sure the pocket bag is UNDER the welt before top stitching the welt into place (you don't want to sew through the pocket bag as well, yep I've done that) 

Behold the finished pocket. This may seem complicated and drawn out but it's actually simple once you've given it a go. You always feel really good when being able to slide your pocket watch or other bit and bobs into a pocket you made yourself.
Step Seven 
The hard work is done :) Right sides together sew one back panel to another, repeat for the lining

Right sides together sew the front sections to the back at the shoulders.

Repeat for the lining.

Pin the outer side of the waistcoat and the lining right sides together along the armholes, bottom of the back, the front bottom, sides and neck. Basically everywhere BUT the sides.  Stitch in place, clip corners and press towards the lining side. 

Now put your hand into the back open side and reach through to the front of the waistcoat and pull it right side out. You're almost there. Pin the side outer fabric to the back outer fabric, lining up the seam and notches as shown. Leave the back and front lining alone at this pint. Try to the pin a little of the back and front linings together either side of the side seam and stitch in lace. repeat for the other side. Now all that remains is to check it on your model for fit and add the buttons and button holes and slip stitch the inner sides shut as these are non structural I've been known to use instant hemming tape (wonder web) for this :)

And there you have it. A quick walk through on waistcoat construction. Hopefully this guide along with the pattern will encourage you to give it a go yourself, perfect for magicians, steam punks and people who just want to look sophisticated :) 


  1. Excellent ! Will be giving this a go when I have my Singer up and running :)

  2. Glad you approve. Using this method I've made waistcoats out of all sorts of fabrics. I'm baffled as to why the pattern manufacturers don't include FUNCTIONAL pockets. I don't think they're that hard to make at all. Hope you have fun with your waistcoat, you know where we are if you have trouble.

  3. Thank you for this! I was wondering the same thing, why not add functional pockets. Great!

  4. Thank you for this! I was wondering the same thing, why not add functional pockets. Great!