Schuylkill Arsenal Infantry Jacket
This project was definitely a procrastination item, so I'm entering it in the Historical Sew Monthly Procrastination challenge.
What the item is: Schuylkill Arsenal Infantry Jacket
The Challenge: January 2016, Procrastination
Material: wool broadcloth, linsey woolsey lining, cotton lining, cotton batting interlining
Pattern: County Cloth Chas. R. Childs
Notions: silk buttonhole thread, cotton thread, buttons, japanned steel hook and eye
How historically accurate is it? Great, except I machine sewed the interior seams. The Schuylkill Arsenal contracted out these garments to individuals who rarely owned sewing machines.
Hours to complete: 30
First worn: January 2016
Total cost: Maybe $100 U.S. for the materials
My friend for whom I made this coat gave me this commission and one other, a sack coat, two years ago. I started making this infantry jacket last spring. It went very, very slowly as I didn't know what I was doing and kept anticipating major problems like I had with the sack coat. So I spent a lot of time just staring at it blankly. The pattern is actually fantastic and I highly recommend it, but there are a few parts of it that weren't really explained in the directions. I was able to figure it out through doing what made sense to me, and it worked perfectly, so I guessed correctly. This is definitely a pattern for an experienced seamstress/tailor/sewcialist, but I managed. In the end, when I saw Tom try on the coat and it actually fit, I was ecstatic.
I also had a few delays because I needed to obtain supplies, such as the cotton batting. I kept running out of buttonhole thread and had to buy lots of it. Everything worked out in the end, slowly but surely. I learned a lot while making this project and am very grateful to some friends who supervised and fielded my questions. It felt so good to get this loooooooong standing project finished and delivered to its owner.
I sewed the front buttons on after I had Tom try on the coat so I could mark the button placement. According to one of our friends who helped educate me about this project, soldiers often moved buttons over to make the jacket fit more snugly and to downplay the pigeon breast effect. So, on Tom's jacket, I placed the buttons at the breast further from the edge to create a snug fit. Thank you very much to The Young Sewphisticate for helping me sew the buttons on! We got it done very quickly working together.
|Facings on the bottom edge--I had to guess how they were placed, but there's really only one way they fit onto the edge.|
|Interior breast pocket|
|More of the facings and the lining|
|Facings and the inside of the buttonholes|
|Japanned steel eye, sandwiched in between the outer and inner collar|
|Japanned steel hook|
|Buttonholes and a close-up of cat hair, even though I furiously lint-rolled the jacket|
"The Art of the Hand-Tailored Buttonhole," http://williamsclothiers.com/2012/01/hand-tailored-buttonhole-.tutorial/ was very helpful. I thought I was pretty good at buttonholes, but this is very detailed and has more steps than I'm accustomed to. There are different approaches to making buttonholes, but this tutorial is ideal because it's for thick wool broadcloth and is a specific, strongly reinforced style.
First, I basted around the buttonhole area. Then, I measured and drew lines to mark the location. Next, I punched a 3/16" diameter hole at the stress end of the hole, then used a 3/4" chisel to cut the straight part. Cutting the round hole first helped me to line up the straight cut more accurately. I trimmed the corners at the transition from the straight cut to the round hole with scissors to smooth out the keyhole shape. I whip stitched around the buttonhole first., then held the gimp in place and sewed the buttonholes as per the tutorial. Each one took about 20 minutes to sew.
|One of the sleeve buttonholes|
The tutorial gives a complicated method for making gimp thread by twisting, waxing, and ironing silk thread. At first, I just used thick cotton thread as gimp, but I tried the twisted silk and it was actually pretty easy, so I used that for all of the front buttonholes.
I referred to this resource about a different garment made by the Schuylkill Arsenal to help answer some of my questions about the jacket: "A study of Enlisted Invalid Corps jackets 1863-1866 by Christopher J. Daley," http://www.cjdaley.com/vrc.htm. It looks like the originals used black buttonhole thread--good thing I saw that, because I was planning to use dark blue to match the fabric.
|The sleeves are lined in white cotton|
|More of the cuff facing and buttons|
|The back--I noticed that the sleeves are a tiny bit misaligned; the sleeve seam should be centered between the two seams on the coat, but this is close enough.|