The Waistcoat Project: The first effort

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Those of you that have follow my efforts for a while will have noticed that I have a certain fascination with waistcoats. I’ll not try to analyse just why I like waistcoats, but suffice to say they are stylish and practical, and add interest to your outfit. What’s not to like?

Well, waistcoats are not in huge supply. While a few of our trusty manufacturers of menswear have cottoned on to the fact that waistcoats are good, there tends to be a fairly meagre selection available, and these tend to be either tweedy variants or work wear inspired. How about if you fancy something a little bit special? There are of course plenty of opportunities to have one tailored, or something vintage, but maybe there is yet another option?

Never being one to let a lack of skill stop me from having a go at things, I was struck by inspiration to have a go at making my own waistcoat (or waistcoats, as I tend to go industrial on my projects). My previous experience of using a sewing machine was at school around 30 years ago, and a little more recently doing some leather stitching for a car interior, and of course hemming my own trousers. Watching “The Great British Sewing Bee” on BBC recently though was truly inspirational, and I couldn’t help think that it actually looked fun.

mccalls 2447 pattern

To start with, I would obviously needed a pattern. I googled around and asked on Twitter and got a firm recommendation of a pattern 2447 by McCalls. Easily available, I ordered one from a pattern supplier on eBay. Now, I’m an engineering, but I did find the pattern quite baffling to start with. It didn’t help that the pattern was for not only a waistcoat by shirt, bowtie and tie as well. Still, with a bit of help from the more experienced mind of WellDressedGirlfriend, I managed to work out how it goes together.

cutting paper

And it really isn’t all that difficult! For my first effort I used some fabric from WDGs stores, not something I’d consider wearing seriously, but good for a trial run. First point though is to cut out the flimsy paper pattern. This means identifying all the parts necessary and making a judgement of which size to select. I went with the medium size pattern to start with, and cut all the pieces out.

pattern and fabric

Once you have all the pieces of the pattern, they need to be pinned to the fabric so you can cut out the pieces. You need to pay attention to what will be outside and inside, but otherwise it’s quite straight forward. I found it was a good idea to iron the fabric before going further, as it was much easier to work with a fabric that would like nice and flat.

pinned pattern

Use plenty of pins and take care to get it right. Some pieces should be placed at a fold in the fabric, so you’ll cut through two layers of fabric at the same time.

inside out

Once all the pieces are cut out, you start assembling. Again, plenty of pins to keep things aligned and accurate. The pattern is made with a 1cm measurement along the edge to allow you to sew it together.

The photo above shows the lining being assembled. When you get this far you can start trying the pieces against your body and may catch issues or necessary adjustments in an early stage, where it’s very much easier to make adjustments. I shortened the height of mine a little at this point, adjusting the size from medium down to small, to compensate for a lack of stature.

I made a mistake at this point as well, misreading the pattern to mean making cuts up the darts. This is a really bad idea.

cinch detail

Once you get into the assembly it starts getting fun. Pay attention to the sequence of assembly, as a lot of the time things have to be done in the correct order. I had to redo the rear darts to include the material for the rear cinches.

reverse front

I found myself being quite surprised at how decent my sewing turned out. The combination of the sewing machine, taking care to iron pieces, using plenty of pins, and using the age-old adage of “measure twice, cut once”, things really came together. The detail above shows the front lining, after having been sewed on the reverse side, and then turned the right way out.

full frontal

And after only a few hours work, the finished result. More practise would reduce the time used quite a lot, plus experience would mean working more accurately and efficiently. Given that this was just a trial run, I didn’t finalise it with buttons and button holes, but I think I have proven to myself that I can actually do this, and that I should be able to make something nice. Now I need to search for the fabric that will really make a top notch waistcoat!

One idea for version 2 is to add a few pockets on the front. If I go for work wear style patch pockets, this is really very easy. I also found that the fit round the arm holes (professional tailoring term, I’m sure) could use some adjustment, so I’ll compare against other well-fitting waistcoats for a bit of adjusting there.

For version 3 or 4 I am thinking of up-cycling some Harris Tweed from old jackets I have bought secondhand. Given that they’ll never fit, I think it would be nice for them to donate their soul to the Waistcoat Project.

What do you think? Feeling inspired? Maybe you’d like to join in the fun?

The result so far looks as below, in a suitably Yuletide setting.

from the front

from the rear

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18 Comments

  • The Silver Blade 08/01/2014 at 00:48

    Very impressed. I have been considering attempting some clothing projects this year but was planning on starting small; something like a pocket square perhaps. You have raised the bar for us all.

    Reply
  • Waistcoat Project v2, life is full of contrast | Well Dressed Dad 15/01/2014 at 12:00

    […] The Waistcoat Project: The first effort […]

    Reply
  • Waistcoat Wednesday: Levis, ruggedly good looking | Well Dressed Dad 29/01/2014 at 14:01

    […] The Waistcoat Project: The first effort […]

    Reply
  • Waistcoat Project v3: With added denim ruggedness | Well Dressed Dad 05/02/2014 at 14:01

    […] use these fabrics on the inside. This one was first considered a throwaway fabric and used on the Version One trial waistcoat as a sartorial joke. Since then I’ve been bitten by the floral lining bug and […]

    Reply
  • Dauvit Alexander 20/02/2014 at 08:36

    Fantastic! I must try this now, too.
    Very impressed. Thanks for letting me know what pattern to get, too.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 20/02/2014 at 09:04

      I’m happy to hear you feel inspired, Dauvit! Did you take a look at the next three efforts as well? 🙂

      Reply
      • Dauvit Alexander 20/02/2014 at 09:05

        I already have! The striped version with the floral interior is my favourite.

        Reply
        • Well Dressed Dad 20/02/2014 at 09:07

          There’s more to come! The next versions are featuring collars and lapels, and I’ll shortly be moving into tweed and wool fabrics to see what can be done there!

          Reply
  • Anthony 17/04/2014 at 15:02

    I PUT A POST ON IG A COUPLE WEEKS AGO FOR CUSTOM WAISTCOATS AND NOW IVE FOUND YOU! I have been following you on IG for a long while but I never knew about your great website until today! I’ve been EAGERLY searching for exclusive style waistcoats like in gangs of New York for example but no one seems to make a double breasted shaw collar waist coat. but now I have some help in my ENDAVORS good sir! sincerely TONYTHETIGERCBUS

    Reply
  • Kenn 12/05/2014 at 10:56

    It’s funny how many people have the same idea (if not exactly at the same time). I’ve always liked to try new things and I also like waistcoats and I enjoyed the Sewing Bee (second series anyhow). Following a Stroke my mum gave up sewing and I inherited an old Singer. Thanks to the ladies at Coast & Country Crafts nr. Falmouth I now know how to use it and when searching for a How To book I came across your blog. So no excuses. I will order up my pattern and get started. Results, what ever happens, will be posted!

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 12/05/2014 at 12:21

      Excellent, Kenn! Let me know how you get on. I have found another pattern that looks even better than the first, try Burda 7799.

      Reply
  • Jon Alexander 29/10/2014 at 21:25

    I’m a keen wearer of waistcoats much to my wife’s disgust! I’ve got some 40 in my wardrobe, but can’t find a decent Christmas one. You’ve given me the inspiration to try and make one myself…provided my wife will teach me how to use her sewing machine. Wish me luck!

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 29/10/2014 at 21:34

      Waistcoats are excellent! I try to keep the numbers down a bit, as realistically only the favourites get worn. I’m pleased to have inspired you!

      Reply
  • Jonesy 21/07/2017 at 11:25

    Could you tell me if the McCall’s pattern has pockets in the waistcoat please? I want to wear a pocket watch. Thanks.

    Reply
    • nick 25/07/2017 at 16:48

      Indeed, there are two welted front pockets. You could of course add custom pockets easily as well. Here’s a link to the McCalls #2447 patter: https://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m2447

      Reply
  • Tony 25/09/2017 at 00:34

    I have bought the pattern, opened the packet ,laid it out on the table, panicked when I saw a jumble of lines on this tissue paper.. I mean how do manufacturers make it so flipping thin. and folded it all nicely back in the packet to sit in the drawer . But you have inspired me now,yours looks fab …. so thanks for your little blog

    Reply
    • nick 25/09/2017 at 08:51

      The tissue is thin, yes, and they could make it in a thicker material. It’s not a huge problem though, just decide which size you’ll be making the waistcoat and carefully cut it out. You’ll only be using the tissue to transfer the pattern to the fabric, so once that’s done you can carefully fold it up again and put away for the next effort. Best of luck!

      Reply

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