Friday, April 18, 2014

The Devil and His Details!

A short while ago I was happy to find myself at yet another Burnley and Trowbridge workshop. I'm kind of a junkie, if you didn't already know. What could be any more awesome than spending a weekend learning 18th century tailoring, mantua making, and millinery with some of the nicest and most informed folks around?
My child size waistcoat front and
back semi-finished from class.

This workshop was entitled Devil in the Details  and focused on coat and waistcoat construction. The magnificent Mark Hutter and his apprentice Michael McCarty were our task masters (erm... instructors...) for the weekend and they did a phenomenal job at giving us so much amazing detail that our brains were near bursting when we left. (Well, at least mine was- I can't speak definitively for everyone else!) 

Near bursting brains aside, it was a blast! Mark has probably forgotten more about 18th century tailoring than I could ever hope to learn, which makes it so much fun to spend a weekend under his tutelage. The goal of this class wasn't so much to complete a coat/waistcoat in a weekend (if it were, as you can see from my picture I would have failed miserably on that count) but rather to learn the more subtle details of the construction of a coat/waistcoat that we are then able to take with us and apply to all of the cool new coats and waistcoats we'll make in the future.

Unknown portrait from our tour.
I attended this class with a friend, and while we missed the Friday portion of class (super bummer!) we worked extra diligently to get all caught up on Saturday. Friday night's homework was pocket flaps, so Saturday we arrived early and got to work. Once we were caught up, we tried to stay on pace with everyone so we wouldn't have a ton of homework Saturday evening. Saturday afternoon, we learned set in pocket bags, applied pocket flaps, put in our buckram and button stands, and were ready to set in the linings for homework. Our diligence paid off.

We finished our homework Saturday evening and had some time left over to be able to go on a ghost tour/investigation at the hotel in which we were staying. The manor house was built in the 1730's and burned down at some point in its history but has been restored. As we were walking through the main hall I saw this portrait and couldn't help but snap a picture. Sadly, the tour guides didn't have any information as to the gentleman in the portrait, but I thought it showed some nice details of his coat and waistcoat.

Michael McCarty switching threads
on an "astral" button.
Even though we missed some of the demo of death's head buttons on Friday, Sunday afternoon Mark and Mike put together a variety of demos for us so that we could pick which things we wanted to try individually. I was really excited that multi-colored death head buttons and basket weave buttons were some of our options! I think buttons seem like such a small thing but can make a really big impact on gentlemen's clothing. I'm working on finishing up a civilian waistcoat for my husband (let's not talk about the new coat he severely needs- or that regimental and small clothes- eek!) so this class was timely for me. Now I will get to apply everything I learned relatively close to the end of class, so hopefully it will stick! 

The end of a workshop weekend is always bittersweet. While it's nice to come home, it's sad to leave. While it's so cool that Angela let's us run a tab for everything we purchase over the weekend, it's always a little painful when I realize how much I spent... okay, just kidding. I budget pretty well for these and I can always justify what I'm purchasing as an investment in my historical wardrobe! This time, I even got a pair of shoes for my husband. =) Behind=covered!

Mostly, though, when I leave a workshop weekend I am inspired to be better and I feel more equipped to do so. I also can't wait to go back. Did I mention I was a junkie? Without meaning to wax poetic, without these workshops and the people who make them possible (Angela and Jim, Mark and Janea, and the rest of the crew of the Margaret Hunter Shop) I wouldn't be where I am now in living history and I'm so thankful for that. 

On that note, and until next post, I'll leave you with our end of workshop photo:

All of our coat fronts as a pretty spring posy. =)


  1. Christina -- is there a tutorial or YouTube video online somewhere on how to set in pocket bags and pocket flaps on a waistcoat? I need to finish my waistcoat with pockets but it's been so long I've forgotten how.

    1. Good question! I am not aware of one, but that doesn't mean it isn't out there. What's your event schedule look like this year? If you bring it to an event we're both at, I could try to help you set them in. Let me know. =)

  2. Was the workshop held in Williamsburg? It would be great if we could get them to come out here.

    1. Yes, it was. If we have enough people seriously willing to commit, it's a possibility. I'm hoping we can make it happen soon!

  3. Thank you for the kudos Christina, it means so much to know we are doing a good job :D


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