Friday, 10 June 2016

Groom's Waistcoat - burda 3403

Anthony and Helen asked me to make Anthony a waistcoat for the wedding. Anthony asked for this to be tartan, in our family tartan which we'd had specially woven in medium weight wool (I've spoken of this before). However, he then explained he wanted the tartan at the back of the waistcoat, the idea being that once he was part of our family,  he'd take off the jacket with a bit of flare and surprise everyone with its unique back.

I agreed but suggested that as waistcoats usually have a silk back we'd try to get silk printed with the tartan. It's a long story, and not mine to tell (though interesting!). Kate (of Fabrickated) suggested a couple of UK companies which might help. There appear to be more now. David was in charge of this part. Lacuna Press printed the tartan pattern provided by David onto the silk twill I chose, after sampling various silks. We first bought a sample of the printed fabric following which we slightly altered the colours and scale, making the patterns smaller which I thought would fit better with a waistcoat.

I chose a suitable pattern (burda 3403) and made a number of toiles using version 'A' from the pattern envelope until we were happy with the fit.

Overall, Anthony preferred a slimmer and slightly longer style than the original shape.  We kept the 5 buttons. I finally made up a complete waistcoat, complete with buttons and pockets and rear belt and fasteners. This fitted well and we were good to go. I completely redrew the main waistcoat and lining pieces so I wouldn't get confused with the changes I had made. I didn't ever intend to make the waistcoat pattern from scratch.

We looked for suitable fabric for the front of the waistcoat. Anthony and Helen found the perfect fabric in Joel & Son. Anthony, the best man Alex and the ushers would be wearing ties in Cambridge blue and the chosen fabric, a beautiful wool and silk blend, matches beautifully. I must say I continued to have a bit of a concern that they would clash - until I actually saw them together on the day of the wedding. I needn't have worried. In Joel & Son they also bought the lining for the waistcoat and the main fabric for the bridesmaids' dresses, which were also going to be in Cambridge blue.

Why Cambridge blue? Anthony and Helen are Cambridge graduates and Anthony has a Cambridge Blue (awarded to those who represent the University in sport at the highest level including playing against their big rivals, Oxford). Anthony was a successful international fencer (he isn't now fencing internationally) and gained a Full Blue for fencing. I hope I have the correct terminology here - I haven't checked up the details.  He has a Cambridge blue blazer which to me seems a lot paler and more blue than the shade we have (which I see as green and others as various shades of blue, silver, green, grey.) Several other members of the wedding party were also fencers, including Anthony's brother who regrettably just failed to gain a place on the GB fencing team for the Rio Olympics. Helen also played sport for the university. 

Time to start the waistcoat! 

I had great difficulty making the first cut!  This was at the time the most expensive fabric I had ever used. My tutor Lyn and the other ladies in the sewing class were all encouraging me to go ahead. Lyn pointed out I had tested the pattern, redrawn, checked and just needed to do it.  So I did. Scary! That was a key moment in this whole process.

There isn't a great deal to say about making up the pattern. Instructions weren't brilliant but adequate, particularly as I had Lyn to ask for advice.  She's shown me a few techniques not mentioned in the instructions which improve the finish. The main fabric behaved well. I followed some written advice about how to bag out the waistcoat lining in addition to Lyn's advice and she explained how important it is to ensure there is no excess lining, trimming any excess off so that it lies properly inside. I used interfacing as suggested. All the edges were understitched.

Of course I had a few problems. None insurmountable, though.
  • I was ironing the creases out of the custom printed silk and got water stains! I couldn't believe how dirty they were, even though my iron is new.   I was horrified but we washed it, after pressing on the right side on the hottest setting it could take as per FAQs, and it was fine. 
  • I had to redo one of the facings
  •  I accidentally cut through one of the welts when snipping a thread with my so sharp scissors. I had no choice but to replace - I replaced both and slightly modified and improved how I did it. Fortunately I had enough of the fabric to replace the bits that needed replaced.
  • When I was making the toiles I got confused with the turning through of the lining at the end so I needed to have advice available. That's why I needed both the books, with diagrams and Lyn's advice on hand
  •  I made imprints of the darts on the front of the waistcoat but these disappeared

I had more difficulty with the slippery silk for the back. David helped me lay it out flat and even and secure for cutting. I had to ensure that the appropriate pattern line was at the centre back of the waistcoat and that the waistcoat was perfectly symmetrical around this. This took some time but I think I succeeded pretty well. I practised with some off cuts and started my sewing with the belt.

It was difficult to match thread and buttons to the fabric but we succeeded pretty well. The main thread is the same as that for the bridesmaid dresses. I chose a colour to fit in with the silk on the strap. (You may admire my pattern matching of the strap to the main body of the back!) Anthony chose a couple of sets of buttons and together we all chose the ones to actually go on the waistcoat. I had the buttonholes made (but not cut) and the buttons sewn on before I dared to cut the buttonholes - and then only after getting the tutor to check the positioning etc. Another scary time.

So the waistcoat was the first wedding garment completed. 

Front. On hanger

Back. On hanger
Back - on Missy!

Front - on Missy!
Anthony tried it on and it still fitted the way he wanted it to - too late to change anyway!! I'm showing him trying it on just before the wedding - he's wearing casual clothes.

I didn't get a chance to get a photo of Anthony and David together at the wedding but I believe there will be one from the official photographer. You can see the front in some of the photos.

I'm pleased with the waistcoat. It fits as it should and looks good. I'd be happy to make another. I learned a lot - not least to be braver and to try things.

As it happens, the weather stole Anthony's thunder!  It was so hot that he slipped off his jacket at the meal without any fanfare! I was glad we had sun and warmth after a poor start to the day - and even more glad when the next day was even nicer for our BBQ. 

After I brought the waistcoat back from the display of my work at the college last night (Anthony needs the waistcoat for a wedding they are attending immediately they get back from their own honeymoon) I checked it and realise there are some pulls in the fabric and some minor staining. I'll have to see what I can do with it. 

Does anyone want David to say more about the process of printing the silk?

Some people have told that they'd like more details about the wedding dress. Can you let me know if you would like that, please?

Also - I will be putting up another brief post about the bridesmaid dresses. As you know, I didn't actually do the final sewing but did do everything up to that stage. Alison commented how lovely it was for us all to design the dresses, personalise them and then get them to fit perfectly. So they will be on the blog.

More photos of the wedding will have to wait, I'm afraid. All photos here remain the property of their original owners!


  1. O yes! Please tell us more about the printing and certainly more about the wedding dress! After all the suspense I'd like to hear more about the process and the happy ending. The waistcoat turned out wonderful and the tartan back is brilliant!

    1. Thanks, Marianne. I have asked David to put together a post about the tartan and the printing. He will do because someone (other than me!) has asked for this.
      I will say more about the wedding dress - I've started thinking about the challenges I faced and the lessons I learned. I did describe the process as such in my portfolio for the course but it's really dry so I don't think that would work.
      I also do intend to put up a post about the bridesmaids' dresses. Although I didn't actually do the final sewing, I was responsible for all the steps up to that point.
      Best wishes

  2. I also would love to find out more about the custom printing. We have Spoonflower here in the US and I've used them successfully. I checked out the company you mentioned and they have fabric options that Spoonflower doesn't and will ship internationally. Your idea to scale the tartan to an appropriate size was brilliant. The waistcoat is a wonderful combination of meaningful images to the couple: Cambridge blue coloring, your family tartan all constructed by you.
    Please expand your description of both the gown and bridesmaid dresses. Your photos show what a wonderful event it was.

    1. Thank you, Mary. I will. However, now that we're just beginning to get back to normal, or at least trying to, we're going to have a few days break, so it won't be until after we return.


Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Please leave a comment. I welcome each and every one. I value criticism (constructive of course! ), love hints and tips and would appreciate suggestions for future direction.

Do you know? Can you answer?

I put up blog posts via Blogger. I follow blog posts via Bloglovin’ with a few via email. The stats on the Overview stats page o...