Thursday, November 19, 2009

Different shoulder types

Since my next suit will have a softer shoulder than I usually wear, Lynn has asked for some details.

The drafting of the shoulder seam itself will depend on the amount of padding, if any, used. I have sloping shoulders so I will use some padding and structure, but it will be a much more commercial shoulder than the usual pagoda and rope.

For a pagoda shoulder I will start with a straighter line and work the shape in with the iron. For a softer shoulder, I draw a straight line for the front seam, then divide that line into thirds. The third closest to the neck will have a concave curve of about 2mm below the line, then I curve upward about 2mm above the line, and finish with a slight downward dip to ward the end of the line. The shape will be adjusted in the fitting so I don't get too crazy when drafting. More important is the sleeve draft.

One of the first calculations I make when drafting the sleeve is the cap height. To get this, I measure the shoulder height on the pattern from the breast line- right to the tip of both shoulder seams where they join the armhole. I measure both, add them, then divide by two to get an average height. From this I will subtract a variable amount to get the cap height- for a rope shoulder with moderate padding I will subtract 7/8", for a softer shoulder I will subtract 1 1/8", for a shirt-type shoulder I will subtract up to 1 3/8". The cap height is absolutely crucial to a good fit- too long and you will get dimples or divots, too short and you will get vertical drag lines. Fortunately it is easy to fix in the fitting so I would err on the long side and adjust during the fitting- it's easier to remove than to add.

The following image shows what a rope draft might look like and a softer shoulder in red. Not only is the cap height lower but the top sleeve is narrower by about 3/8" as well. A soft shoulder requires less fullness and a smaller sleeve. If I wanted the Neapolitan "waterfall" effect I would shorten the cap without narrowing it- the extra width gets worked in as the fluting or pleating.


The dark pencil line in the draft will give this kind of rope sleeve, which is very full


while the red line will give a much flatter appearance, not only in height, but also in the crown of the sleeve. The few inches forward of the shoulder seam are pressed open and flat, whereas there is a prominent ridge formed in the rope shoulder. I've started pulling the basting to give a better idea, but the coat has not been finished or pressed yet.

softer shoulder

Ok- here it is after having been worn and travelled in but not repressed yet so you can see how the cloth performs.

grey dugdale

The grey is from Dugdale Brothers' English & Town Classics book, number 9437.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dugdale Brothers

A parcel came this morning.


I decided to try out another English cloth merchant, Dugdale Brothers. From what I gather they are a smallish, private cloth merchant in Huddersfield who will deal directly with tailors selling cut lengths. Their prices are very good (for English cloth, mind you) and they stock a range of trimmings as well, trimmings which are getting very hard to find over here. They have an attractive website here

I initiated discussions with them and had the samples I requested very quickly so I placed a little order last week to try them out. They were nice to deal with and quick to respond, and the order arrived within days so full marks on service. One thing that surprised me was that the Gutermann S1003 silk thread I ordered is quite a bit heavier than the R753 that I usually use for buttonholes, though that may be a good thing; it's not quite as heavy as the F size thread that's more readily available over here but that I find just too thick and clumsy looking. It's only available in 7 colours but they are the standard menswear colours.

Now I have to decide what to make first. Life is full of tough decisions.


Decision made. I have a meeting coming up with one of our retail accounts in the US. If I showed up in one of my severe, rope-pagoda shouldered numbers they would probably vomit (the US is all about soft shoulders) so I'll have to make something much more demure and soft-shouldered for this meeting. In the light grey, I think.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Two cloth merchants, two drafting systems

OK so here are the finished garments. The navy is Harrisons and the charcoal is J&J Minnis. Aside from the differences in lapel, the Minnis was drafted using Whife, with no side body (which I think contributes to that wobbliness on the front) and the Harrisons was drafted using the Mitchell system. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, but I definitely vote for separate side body- it's far easier to get a good fit with it. I used my own sleeve system adapted to each draft, which worked out better on the Mitchell system than on Whife.


two flannels

Thank you, all, for your comments.

Karen, here is a partial backview of the Harrisons, taken before it was finished. I'll get better shots of both of them soon.
Har flannel back
And you are quite right, a donlon wedge at the level of the pocket would have fixed the front or the Minnis, but a separate side body is required for that, which was why I expressed that preference. That's the thing about experiments; sometimes they don't turn out the way you would have wanted them to. That's why I make so many suits for myself- I wouldn't want to experiment on a client's suit and the best way to learn is to try new things out and make mistakes. So it's all good

Superfluidity? You have taught me a new term, Jordan. But what do you mean by it? They are both pickstitched by hand, ever so discretely, to keep the edge crisp and flat. Perhaps you would have liked a swelled edge or a more decorative stitch?

Regarding the drafts, Whife was the editor of the Modern Tailor, Outfitter and Clothier, a massive 3-volume encyclopedia of tailoring last published, I think, in 1951. It's now something of a collector's item.

The Mitchell System was published by Frank C. Doblin in the 1950s as the New Mitchell System, and then in the 70s as the Modern Mitchell system- I believe that they are still available, and a few pages of the New Mitchell System are available oon the Cutter and Tailor forum. I originally learned a system very close to this, and later studied this system, but abandoned them for what I thought were systems which made more sense to me, since the drafts need to be "straightened" after cutting them out- that is to say, the main construction lines are not parallel to the grain lines, which is a pain when grading or trying to cut directly to cloth. I was speaking recently with a tailor who uses and speaks highly of the system so I decided to give it another go. He likes the sleeve draft, so long as you don't change the scye- I am particular about the scye fit and so used my own sleeve system for this draft. It should also be noted that neither of these garments fit like this "out of the box" (from the first draft) several fittings were necessary, as usualy, to get them to a point where I was somewhat satisfied with the fit so anyone using these systems should not feel discouraged if their first attempt at a draft does not fit as well as they expect. It should also reinforce the notion that fitting skills are more important than drafting systems- there is no magical system which is always perfect, and so long as your fitting skills are strong, you will get decent results no matter the system used.

A last note about these systems- they were published as guides for trained cutters and not as a step-by-step manual to teach how to cut patterns; it was assumed that one already had a firm understanding of drafting or was under the guidance of someone who did. If you are just starting out it is very easy to make all sorts of mistakes, and very hard to spot those mistakes; I would advise anyone who is just learning drafting to find someone who is familiar with the systems to give them some guidance for their first few drafts or to be prepared for a bit of frustration at first.