Practical Guide III – How To Sew A Doublet (Part I)

Dada a extensão deste artigo, achei por bem publicar as versões inglesa e portuguesa em separado. Para a versão portuguesa, cliquem aqui.

As we’ve seen, there is no more basic garment for the 15th century man than the doublet. Yes in spite of this, doublets are challenging pieces for modern reenactors. From a lack of waist suppression to a lack of decent internal structure, we often see subpar doublets in reenactment that do nothing to help achieve the correct period silhouette.

To try and remedy this situation, I asked the historical reenactor and tailor Rob Chave (whose atelier Robert Taillour you can find here) if he would agree to create a step-by-step guide on how to design and sew a doublet using my own doublet (future arming doublet) that I ordered from him a few months ago. All the following photos, for which I can’t thank him enough, are entirely his own, as is much of the text, with only a few additions/editions of my own.

How To Sew A Doublet

Materials:

  • fustian (in this instance; other possibilities include silk or wool)
  • linen canvas
  • linen fabric
  • wool fabric
  • clamps
  • linen thread
  • scissors
  • needle
  • thimble

Foreword:

The doublet is made in 3 layers: shell, interlining and lining. This method of construction can be used for civilian or arming doublets. The layers are:
A fustian shell: fustian is a common type of medieval fabric made using a linen warp, and cotton weft. A modern linen/cotton blend will have the fibres mixed as threads before weaving, but fustian has the threads of different fibres running across each other in the weave. Traditionally there would have been a nap raised on the surface, resulting in a finish comparable to modern cotton moleskin. Unfortunately this napped finish is only available commercially in pure cotton (without commissioning hand woven fustian). While the properties of linen are desirable, this is a ‘true’ linen/cotton fustian, but without the nap.
Linen canvas: This is used as interlining and provides the strength of the garment. It’s been pre-washed, which softens it comfortably without losing any of its strength under tension.
Medium weight linen: This is a basic shirting and lining weight linen fabric.

The fustian hasbeen dyed, in this case using modern commercial dye suitable for linen and cotton, and then fixed with Retayne afterwards to minimise colour bleeding with sweat.

Regarding the pattern, my approach is to start with a generic pattern shape (8 piece body, S sleeves), plenty of examples of which can be found online, and draw something that looks the right shape but fits the measurements. Then I pin everything together in calico and adjust until it looks smooth and fits everywhere as it should.

The method of construction is one of various possible methods; this particular method is only practical entirely by hand. The principle is to construct each panel individually and then whip stitch the seams through all layers. It is stronger than a running stitch or backstitch, and has the benefit of fixing each panel of lining along every seam, preventing the lining moving loosely over the body as with bag-lined construction.

01 – The fustian is folded, and the pattern is laid out on it as efficiently as possible. Note the top right corner is for the lining of the collar, as the collar will have the shell fabric on both sides.

02 The canvas has been cut exactly to the size of each pattern piece, with no seam allowance. The fustian is then trimmed around it leaving an allowance – I do this by eye, but in this case it is roughly 15mm.

03 – Lines and V’s are trimmed around the curved edges to allow for a neat finish when folded in on itself.

04 – I start to fold the edges of the fustian over the canvas. Here the piece is held at a rolled angle to allow for the shape on the body, which gives the fustian slightly more room over the canvas. The corners are done by folding over diagonally across the corner first.

05/06 – After pinning the panel, the fustian is held down to the canvas using a catch stitch. Note that the stitches do not need to go fully through the canvas, they just have to pick up a little of it.

07/08 The panel after the shell and canvas are fixed. This process is repeated for all the other body panels.

09/10 Before fitting the shell to the collar, a layer of wool is fitted to the upper part of the canvas. This held the collar maintain its shape and smooths out the curve at the side of the neck. It is cut slightly large and then pinned on to the canvas, again allowing for the rolled shape. Then it’s trimmed to fit the canvas more precisely.

11 The wool is pad stitched to the canvas, again allowing it to fall into a rolled shape over the hand while sewing.

12 While putting the fustian shell over the canvas, i let it curve over a tailors ham (the side of a cushion will work fine) and pinned in a couple of places to keep it in that rolled position as before.

13 The same process again of trimming the edges, folding them over, catch stitching the fustian on to the shell. Note how when this is held up in the middle, the panel naturally assumes the rolled shape it was made in.

Note: If doing a collar with a V-back like this (as opposed to the rounder U shaped ones), it can’t be made into an absolutely perfect point. With some careful trimming (the allowance will need to be smaller closer to the point) it can be as close as possible to a point. This will be held into a better shape when the seams are assembled.

14 The longest part of the job is the bit people don’t see. Nonetheless, it’s worth doing right. The sleeves don’t always need interlining; this need will vary on the shell material and the intended use. This may be used to support armour at some point, even though the fustian is relatively light, and the canvas soft. Sometimes I use a medium weight linen to interline, or none at all in other cases.

CONTINUES IN PART II, HERE

4 thoughts on “Practical Guide III – How To Sew A Doublet (Part I)

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