Sunday, June 24, 2012

{Guest Post by David} Sewing up the Graduation Kit

Jacket shell front (the pattern called for fusible interfacing--next time we'll go with hair canvas and handstitched tailoring).  There was a good fit at this point and a nice roll on the collar.  Our first was the funky darts in the front.

Hey, all!
Debi has asked me to write a bit about our recent joint project - the Prince Charlie Jacket and White Tie Vest that we made for my graduation ceremony.  It was a trying experience at points but it was great working through the hurdles together.

We went to Edinburgh Fabrics together two weeks ago, as they have a great selection of British wool.  Debi picked out a great medium-weight wool with a fine weave and texture.   It looked black but we realized later was actually dark midnight blue.   We decided to go with it, as deep, dark shades of blue are my favourite colours anyway.

As it turns out, midnight blue was often used for formal wear in the 1930s and 1940s, as it appears "blacker than black" and is especially rich in daylight or twilight.   As this was a morning ceremony, I thought it would look very sharp, especially in contrast with the black duchess satin lapels and white piqué (marcella) fabric we were making the vest and tie from.

We used Folkwear Pattern No.152, which was easy to follow but had a few steps we would probably do differently next time, but I'll get to that.

The back of the jacket taking shape.  Debi did a great job on the details.

I cut out the pattern pieces first in some nice spare fabric Debi had in her stash.  It was wool with kid mohair in Air Force Blue.  We'll probably end up putting it together at some later point.  The fitting went well, and we made markings for alterations, which I transfered to the new fabric before cutting.

I had the pieces cut out in the midnight blue wool before I left for work, and came home to find the jacket hanging from my desk chair.   Debi was restless and upset, because she'd had a very difficult time with the collar and lapel.   She was able to get the roll just right but because the method for lining the jacket in the instructions made things a bit difficult.  It involved attaching the undercollar to the lining and the overcollar to the jacket, sewn inside-out, then flipped through the armhole, so she was sewing it blind.   It's basically a bagged lining, which was easier for the rest of the jacket but the time it saved us was spent tenfold while trying to fix the collar and lapel.

In the end, we had to pull the stitching out and cut a new lapel front (luckily, we had extra satin) because with all the handling, the original had begun to fray.  I spent the rest of the night steaming, stretching, and pressing the lapel and collar into shape.

Button detail:  Lion Rampant with Gaelic inscription, "Clann nar Gael, An gralli bra crelle."  I've looked it up extensively and cannot find a translation - it's neither modern Gaelic/Gaeilge nor can I find the words translated in middle Gaelic.   It must be ancient.  The first bit is "Family of the Gaels" but I cannot find the words "gralli," "bra," "óra" "crelle" or any combination thereof.  Anyone know?

We looked in the shops for the buttons but ended up getting them online.  They're made in many finishes now, including chrome and black, in addition to gold, "antique" and silver finishes.   Since it's formal, I thought it should be shiny but the chrome finish has too much of a sheen.   I was glad to find them in silver, as I prefer the hue of polished silver to chrome.  

Attaching the buttons.  Debi did a wonderful job on the flap details - the seams were sharp and the shape was perfect.

Debi went off to bed and I stayed up, sewing all twenty buttons in place.  It became almost like a meditation after a while.   I put on some music, and the third button in, the song was a Cherokee version of Amazing Grace, complete with pipes.  The frustrations of the early part of the night faded, and I knew we would get through this project together, as problematic as it had been.

The song also reminded me of when we went to the Clan Grant International Gathering in Grantown-on-Speyside in the Highlands two summers ago.   Chief "Corntassel" Smith of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation accompanied a contingent of Cherokee Grant descendants to meet the Scottish Clan members and the current Clan Chief, James Grant of Grant, Lord Strathspey.  It was a great visit, and planted a lot of seeds in my head for my own work/research.

You can hear the song, by the group Walela, here.


The next problem came with setting the sleeves:  The sleeve caps are larger than the sleeve opening on the main body of the jacket, so there's a lot of work required to get the cap to fit just right.

The first of many seam rippings: The right sleeve cap...

We finally got it right (third time's the charm), and I, in celebration, reenacted a favourite scene from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

Taking a break from the complicated bits, I turned to the construction of the flashes, which hang from garters under the top fold of the sock.   I tried to make it as simple as possible - of course, I could have used the proper width elastic, but that would be far too easy...

Debi did a great job sewing these up and even made an extra pair for my friend, Stephen.

Sewing up the Flashes

Hand-sewing the bowtie...

I'd been looking for a bowtie in piqué/marcella in town to no avail.  Some of you will remember that I'd sewn one to go with Debi's creations two winters ago but it's time-consuming and piqué is stiffer and more frail than silk or satin.   Debi had suggested overstitching but it wouldn't look right and the fabric frays easily.  In the end, she stitched the top and sides, leaving the bottom open.  I flipped it right side out, pressed the hem, and hand stitched the rest.

As it turns out, on our way to the ceremony, we passed a shop that sold white piqué bowties.  But as you know, there's nothing like wearing something you've made yourself, and this will now join the other pieces of my kit, all of which have special meaning.

Graduation Day, 3AM:  sewing up the waistcoat.

Debi got to work on the vest.  It was past 3AM and we'd decided to just make a go of it and not sleep.  It wasn't the best idea but the snags we'd hit cost us many hours and there was simply nothing for it.

I put on the Puppini Sisters, and we did our best to steel ourselves for the long night and day ahead, put our heads and fingers to the task, and soldiered-on.  The music soon put us both in a better mood, and we used the loopiness that came with staying up so late to our advantage.   We finished it together and were very pleased with the results.  Debi did an amazing job tackling the unfamiliar and tricky aspects of sewing a men's jacket, and both the jacket and vest ended up looking very professional.

Stay tuned for pictures of the finished outfit!


  1. wow you've done an amazing job, can't wait to see the finished photos! Love following Debi's blog, so inspirational!.....
    I can't help noticing in one of your pictures, you are wearing a White Tree of Gondor t-shirt. Where is that from? My boyfriend (and indeed myself) is completely obsessed by Tolkien and finding one of those would make his day completely!

  2. What a lovely joint project! Can't wait to see the final ensemble all together :)

  3. Graca ResendesJune 24, 2012 9:36 PM

    Wow, what an amazing story of teamwork!  I love the Monty Python bit and photo.  It looks like you two had a fun time with this project, that is sweet.  I hope you guys had a blast at the graduation ceremony and weren't too tired.  I can't wait to see the finished look.  

  4. Fabulous work!!! looks like an heirloom, very beautiful

  5. Wow, I'm so impressed that you guys were able to accomplish so much so quickly!  Great job!  Really excited to see photos of the finished ensemble!

  6. Hello, Laura.   Thanks for your comments.
    I have a few of the Gondor shirts in different colours that a screen printer made for us back Stateside.  The same print is available in metallic from Amazon here:

    A slightly different design is available from Red Bubble for a bit more, but you can get it printed on any colour shirt or hoodie, and you can choose the type of shirt as well.  Here's a link to that page:

    Always glad to meet another Tolkein fan.  We're thinking of another joint project for the release of the Hobbit, so stay tuned.   Maybe Debi will decide to to a sew-along for that.

    Warm regards,

  7. Thanks!   Amazingly enough, we made it through graduation and the garden party with plenty of energy - we got a bit punchy towards the end, but we were laughing all the way.

  8. Fantastic post! This looks like such a wonderful, special project. The details look great. I can't wait to see the final photos. :-)

  9. Hi David!  Wow, you guys make such an amazing team, but really we all knew that already.  Can't wait to see the finished pictures!

  10. What a fantastic journey!  It's like an epic novel - full of trials, tribulations and triumphs, with the occasional bit of craziness.  Love it.  :-)

  11. Oh, good job, you two! I love the whole Folkwear series, but you're right, sometimes their construction instructions are absolutely loony. Glad you both survived the trial-by-jacket.

  12. that's an amazing amount of work! Well done! 
    To decode your buttons, have you thought about contacting anyone at the School of Scottish Studies at the Uni? Dr Lamb or Dr MacLeod could probably translate it for you. Or just contact their course secretary and she'll point your inquiry in the right direction.

  13. Rachel ProffittJune 25, 2012 4:18 PM

    Goodness, you poor sleep deprived things!  I was at least hoping to see the outfit at the end of the post ;)
    It looks like your team had fun though, and it looks lovely from what I can see!
    I hope you find your translation!

  14. Rachel ProffittJune 25, 2012 4:23 PM

    but this forum thread might help with translating your buttons:

  15. Katrina BlanchalleJune 25, 2012 6:33 PM

    Wow, that is an amazing story and a testament not only to the strength of your relationship but even more to your youthful energy. If I'd been sitting there trying to finish at 3AM the day of, I probably would have missed the graduation completely, having collapsed from exhaustion.
    Congratulations to you two for the excellent work - all the details look just exquisite and I can hardly wait to see the finished product in action on the big day.

  16. It's been fun reading these last 2 posts about this! I'm really impressed by how much work you and Debi put into this, and together. If there was an Olympic sport for team sewing, I think you two would win the gold. ;) Can't wait to see the finished result! (I really enjoyed that version of Amazing Grace that you shared, by the way.)


    That's amazing.   I trauled the net looking for it, and had even visited xmarksthescot but did not see it answered.   I may have been on another thread.   Thank you so much for clearing that up - you're a star!

  18. Thank you, Tasha.
    I'm glad you liked the song.  Walela are great - it's Rita Coolidge, her sister, and her niece.
    They have several records out.   You may also like Pura Fe and her group, Ulali.   She is a descendant of the Tuscarora Nation, who migrated to New York from North Carolina in the early 1900s.You can access her music here:

  19. Rachel ProffittJune 25, 2012 10:01 PM

    You are very welcome... if it helps, the forum guys there were complaining about the search feature, so chances are I just managed to hit a link that did not come up for you :)

  20. Cation DesignsJune 26, 2012 4:48 AM

    I am just so impressed at your teamwork in making this jacket! I think it's such a beautiful expression of your commitment to each other; perhaps they should consider adding "even during late night last minute sewing marathons" to the sickness-and-health-richer-or-poorer bit of the wedding vows. I was also geekily thrilled to see the tree of Gondor shirt!

  21. Congratulations for the team work. I'm jealous :) but happy for you.

  22. You guys are great together and separately!
    Thought you might like to read this after the tussle with the sleeve.

  23.  Thank you very much, Rita.  That's an excellent article, and I'm particularly pleased with anything that confirms that what Debi took on was extremely difficult, especially for a self-taught sewist.
    Debi is fearless in so many ways, and one of the things I've been most impressed with is her willingness to throw herself into advanced-level projects with the belief that they will turn out right.   As she's proven here, many times, they do.

    Although it was a difficult experience for both of us, we do work well together.   Fur may fly but only in frustration at the situation, and we do our best not to bear our claws or hiss at one another.

    Right - enough.

    So the sleeve cap ease is bogus.   Definitely need to rework that pattern.

  24. Yes, indeed, we are committed.   Or, rather, we should be.  Ha.

    Glad to see so many Tolkien geeks here:   His works mean a lot to us, and I designed our wedding rings based on the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin, from Tolkien's book, The Silmarilion.   Essentially, it's in reference to the Elves' favourite time, which was the twilight, when the silver light of Telperion and the Golden light of Laurelin intermingled.   Debi is sunny, warm, golden and bright (and a day person) and I am nocturnal, hard, silver and reflective.   I thought the image of each of us sharing that light with one another summed-up our relationship rather well.

    who's in for a sew-along in honour of the release of the Hobbit?

  25. Thank you, Tasha.
    I'm glad you liked the song by Walela.   It really did fit the moment, and brought me right to the place I needed to return to.   I was really frustrated and in that moment, to remember what we were trying to do, and why, well, it brought everything into perspective.   I was still frustrated, but the idea that Debi was putting all this effort into making a garment for me to wear on such an important day was incredibly powerful.

    I love working with Debi but I'm hoping our next joint project will be less high-pressure.   It'd be nice to work together when we're not stressed.

  26. Thank you, Katrina,
    Strangely enough, although we were exhausted, we made it through the day quite well, with some loopiness occurring towards the end.

    I'll never forget what Debi did for my graduation.  These garments have a very special power to them.

  27. Tears, don't forget tears.

    Ha ha ha.

    Thanks for your comment, Kat.   It was all that and more.

  28. Thank you, Kristen.

  29. Thank you very much, Ginger.

  30. Thank you, Anne.
    Yes, theses items are now heirlooms.   They are very special parts of my wardrobe.  The Kilt is something I've dreamt of having since childhood.  Having "kit" that was made by my partner, or both of us together, has incredible significance for me.

    Thanks for your comment.

  31. Such a fantastic post!  Loves hearing all the behind the scenes details  :)

  32. Hello am Jennifer from UK i wanna thank Dr Paloma for what he has done for me at first i taught he was scam but until i just decided to follow my mind.i told him that my ex lover which i loved with all my heart left me for another all Dr Paloma did was to laugh and said he will be back to me in 3days time i taught he was lying on the 3rd day my ex called me and said he wanna see me,i was shocked then he came over to my place and started begging that he was bewitched,immediately i forgives him and now we are back and he his really madly in love with me.All thanks to Dr Paloma he indeed wonderful incise you wanna contact him here his is private mail


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