How to sew a waistcoat – step-by-step advice and top tips
Claire-Louise hardie takes you through the tailor’s method for sewing a waistcoat
With the finale of the Sewing Bee approaching we’ve heard the contestants are making classic waistcoats to showcase their tailoring skills. It’s going to be an exciting look at who can create the sharp finish we usually expect on this type of garment!
With Father’s Day approaching, you may have presents for chaps on the mind! Or perhaps you have decided to take on the task of creating matching waistcoats for the groomsmen at an upcoming wedding.
If you’re looking to make a garment for a special gent in your life you want to try making a chic waistcoast with tailored details, you’ve come to the right place.
The method I’m sharing is a different construction, showing how tailors do it!
I used to be a waistcoat maker when I was at National Theatre London, so I’m very familar with all kinds of waistcoat styles! Let me also say thanks to Rosie Martin and Melissa Fehr for helping put these illustrations together so clearly.
They should help you feel confident taking a waistcoat pattern and creating a more authentic finished garment.
Top tips for sewing up a waistcoat
Once you’ve chosen a pattern, here are some tips for a flawless finish:
A waistcoat should cover the waistband of the trousers and never let any shirt show in between, so check the length!
If your waistcoat will require a narrow belt (also in lining material), attach this to the outside back panel before the main construction begins.
Always use an odd number of buttons as this looks more pleasing to the eye.
Most waistcoats feature a lining back piece that is smoother so your jacket will hang and drape nicely
Tutorial for making a waistcoat
1. Cut out all outer and lining pieces and transfer all pattern markings including stitching and cutting marks for the pockets. Interface fronts, front facings, and pocket welts.
2. Seam allowances are 0.5cm throughout the welt construction, returning to a standard 1.5cm for the pocket bag.
3. Fold pocket welts along the marked fold line, right sides together. Then stitch along short edges.
4. Flip right side out and baste 0.5cm away from the bottom edge.
5. Lay welt towards the bottom of the front piece, lining up the basted edge with the cutting line marked on the front piece.
6. Stitch between the circles, over the line of basting stitches.
7. With right sides together, line up the notched edge of pocket lining A with the top edge of the welt. Stitch between the circles as illustrated.
8. Place pocket lining B on top of the welt with the notched edge lined up with the edge of the stitched welt.
9. Stitch between the circles, over the previous line of stitching on the welt.
10. Tucking the lining and welt seam allowances out of the way, cut along the marked cutting lines, taking care to cut only through the front and not the welt or lining pieces.
11. Post both the pocket lining pieces through the opening to the inside and press the seams flat.
12. Press welt upwards from the right side.
13. For the pocket bag remember to return to a 1.5cm seam allowance. Fold the waistcoat front and side edges out of the way. Maybe hold them temporarily with a pin.
14. In one motion, stitch the cut triangles to the pocket lining and around the remaining three sides of the pocket lining.
15. When you’re finished the pocket lining edges should be completely enclosed when seen from the reverse, forming the pocket bag. How smart!
16. Stitch the edges of the welt to the right side of waistcoat.
17. Returning to a 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowance, stitch front facing to front lining. Press seam allowances towards the lining.
18. Join the two fronts to their corresponding facing/lining pieces by stitching around all edges EXCEPT the shoulder and sides. Clip into curved seams.
19. Turn right sides out. Press the front ensuring the seams ‘roll’ to the inside creating a clean finish.
20. Join the two back pieces with the right sides together stitching only the neckline, armholes and a portion of the bottom edge (leaving as a turning gap).
21. Clip curves, then sandwich the two fronts inside the back layers (by inserting through the opening at the hem) and pin into place matching the raw edges at the shoulders and side seams. Sew shoulder and side seams through all layers.
22. Pull the fronts out through the bottom opening to turn right side out. Press, then sew the opening along the bottom edge.
23. Stitch buttonholes along the left centre front following your pattern placement markings. Sew buttons onto the right side of the front to finish!
Claire-Louise is an author, pattern designer, teacher and costumier.
We recommend Claire-Louise’s online course www.learntosewwithapro.com/ultimate-beginners
Claire-Louise’s book, The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion With Fabric, accompanied the third series of the show and is priced at £20 from www.quadrille.co.uk