Waistcoat and shirt mock-ups

I’ve spent several hot days with Charles (Hecklinger) in an attempt to create a mock-up for a thing. One does not simply start with the Keystone system, right? So I enjoyed the process tremendously, but results are rather questionable.

Maybe I should start with something „simple“. With a box shape, perhaps. It cannot go wrong with squares, right? So, this „glimpse“ to 19th century tailoring was highly educational, especially with my attention span, warping through spaces wildly.

I recommend it. No, I really do. It’s a great exercise.

It won’t let you doom scroll, zombie mode, since you’ll have to engage all the mental power, finding yourself in „floor troll“ posture at four in the morning, forming the fabric of your first mock-up into recognizable shape with untamed stitches.

I had to do a lot of altering due to my body shape. I’m very thin, with less than little curves, so I had to draw the pattern from scratch. Well, I didn’t „have to“, but I’m a masochist and wanted to try it and see if I can follow nineteenth century instructions, which, of course, count on some experience. That part is a deep dark void.

Last time I stitched together something shapeless, were simple things for LARP and it has been a century or two ago. Consisted of no actual tailoring or shaping via draping.

I didn’t run for the hills in the end and managed to create a waistcoat mock-up, which still needs some alterations, and as the fabric stretches itself out, I’ll have to be careful with that.

The shirt, on the other hand, I drooled over a year prior to these events. I even made some notes back then, which needed to be updated. So I created a famous pirate shirt mock-up for myself, to see where to cut and where to add.

Cannot tell if I’ll sew actual things some day. You see, I scraped together various old things to be able to create those garments and have no great tools at hand right now (like good sharp scissors, threads, fabric and such). But I managed to get the sewing machine sewn in the very end of the projects. It is not perfect either, since it’s old and has sat in a cupboard for many years, fiddling with lower thread is an alchemy itself.

Links to resources can be found at the very end of this post.

Next episode: Pirate shirt 2.0



Links and resources

Manual of needlework and cutting out: specially adapted for teachers of sewing, students, and pupil-teachers.


The „Keystone“ jacket and dress cutter. A treatise on jackets, dresses and other garments for women. 1895.


The „Keystone“ system. A text-book on cutting and designing ladies‘ garments.


Household Sewing with Home Dressmaking.


Butterick 1905: Dressmaking up to date.


Bernadette’s pirate shirt


Tailor square tool for pattern making

To help with above manuals, there is printable L-square ruler, which is very important, especially when you are very new to the whole thing of victorian patterns and sewing altogether, having no tools nor knowledge. Such as:

Now, on the long arm of the square, we find what size is given on the Two Thirds scale opposite the 1o-inch (size of blade) point. Having ascertained what it is – for this size it is 15, we find on the short arm 15 on the Scale of Fourths — 3 3/4 inches — and this amount we place back from K to obtain L, from where a line is drawn up to the top line.

So I had to check on the long arm of the L-square ruler – in its 2/3 part – what equals my size of blade (different than the book testing measurements) and with that number go to the short part of the ruler, and check in 1/4 part that it is indeed 3 inches. Now I can repair half the pattern I drew. As sewing is highly unexplored field, unless I count some basic and very old LARP stuff, I was stuck at this point for eternity. Such a simple task. I had to find out myself otherwise I’ll learn nothing. You’ll also need a degree in math and architecture :). Have fun.