The redcoats are coming!


And there are 132 pictures on this page!  Be patient as they load, and click on the thumbnails to see close-ups!


One day, as the beaded dress adventure was drawing to a close, I got a phone call from Phil, who said his dad had saved my phone number from the days when I used to advertise in the parish magazine...  Well, there's a blast from the past!

Phil needed a hurry-up job done to replace a couple of 1808 era 71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantrymen jackets, as the two he and his brother had were...  ...erm...  ...a bit tired...  Well when I saw them I felt that they were, in book terms (and to paraphrase Terry Pratchet), not so much slightly foxed as badgered, beared, and possibly rhinoed to death!  They had long lost their last legs.  As they have done 10 years re-enactment service, they really do look as if they have been on the battle field at Corunna.  They have - several times!  They are no longer fit for parade.

While the jackets LOOK quite fancy, there is nothing too difficult in the construction, and luckily Phil was able to get hold of most of the pattern from the previous making.  He also had enough fabric from then to make two more jackets.  Oh, joy!  This type of fabric is a real pleasure to work with, but is expensive, so I was glad not to have to source it for him at the usual price of about £25 a metre!  Phil also had a roll of the correct tape to do all the lacings, and a pack of nice cast pewter buttons in the right form.  I love working with dedicated re-enactors as they are so good at finding this stuff!

First thing to do was give the coats a good look over to see what was needed and what happens to them in terms of wear...  Phil put his on and showed me some little details that helped me to make several stitch choices during construction.  It was interesting to see why the coats wear out in particular places.

jacketfront.JPG (91598 bytes)

The front of the jacket looks complicated, but a closer look reveals nothing to be scared of.  This will take time, but nothing is technically difficult..


jacketback.JPG (98170 bytes)

The jacket back looks initially as if it has the tails we think typical of the Jane Austin era, but a closer inspection reveals that they are more akin to the pleated skirts of the mid 18th century gentleman's coat.  The pleats are controlled by being sewn in place top and bottom.

epaulette.JPG (105559 bytes)

The epaulettes hark back to the shoulder decorations of the 17th century doublet, but again, are subtly different.  These are applied afterwards, and not set into the arnscye seam at all.  In fact, they are nowhere near it!



shouldertab.JPG (84408 bytes)

The shoulder tabs are another nice detail that needs to be measured and copied carefully.

wornbutton.JPG (52025 bytes)

The cast pewter buttons have worn badly.  I'm glad I don't have to re-use them!

old&new.JPG (238147 bytes)

Here you can see just how much the fabric has worn in the ten years these jackets have been used!  It really hasn't done badly.

spots.JPG (88964 bytes)  spots2.JPG (79025 bytes)


The fabric has some odd spots on it.  Unfortunately some go all the way through, and they are not in places I can avoid as I have very little fabric to play with.


rightside.JPG (71761 bytes)  buff.JPG (61063 bytes)

It's very hard to see which is supposed to be the right side of the fabric from looking at it and feeling it.  I shall just have to make an educated guess and make sure that I cut all the pieces out facing the same way!  The scarlet feels a bit thicker than the buff, but isn't quite as tightly woven, nor is it as well felted.  Both are excellent quality Melton cloths, and I have a good idea where they came from.  I strongly suspect the cloth was sold as seconds because of the marks.  However, once all the decoration is on the jackets, any visible marks will get lost in the rush!


Here's a little history for the fanatics:

Back in the days of the original battle, cloth similar to this would have been woven at over 100 inches wide, then dyed, and  fulled, the nap raised and sheered, and pressed until the fabric was reduced to just over 60 inches wide and probably twice as thick as it started out!  The felting of the fibres would prevent it ravelling when cut, so many garments (men's coats in particular) were made with raw edges to pockets, hems, and openings.  This no turnings treatment saved fabric and labour and meant that pleats were sharper as the thick cloth didn't have to be pleated round heavy hems.  Modern cloths are not quite up to this high standard, but this Melton is excellent and will do very well indeed.

These particular jackets follow a construction tradition that was being superseded by more modern tailoring developments, but military construction always lags behind that of fashion...  Remember also that while these garments would have been factory made, they would not have been machined as sewing machines were still 50 years in the future.  Seamsters would have been paid on piece rates (per garment) rather than an hourly rate, and completing them quickly was also a factor.  While I am doing my best to make these LOOK authentic, close inspection will reveal lots of machine stitching as there simply isn't enough time to do every stitch by hand.

Silk garments were made with turnings, as silk cannot be fulled like wool, and needs turnings to stop it ravelling.


Patterncopying.JPG (93280 bytes)  copied.JPG (81800 bytes)

I need to thank Mike who drafted the original brown paper pattern.  It is very nicely done.  It's now a bit fragile, and there are pieces missing, which is why I am copying it for present use.


front.JPG (85084 bytes)  back.JPG (46937 bytes)   

As can be seen from the shape of the pieces, the 'side' seams are a long way round the back!  While a modern jacket with vents may have seams in a similar position, the body of the jacket is usually cut with side panels and has a seam in the corresponding position at the front.

sleeve.JPG (77719 bytes)  littlebits.JPG (67973 bytes)

The sleeves are very much more curved than a modern jacket, and the armscye is higher and closer.  This allows for greater movement as the jacket fits the form more closely.   It also means that the cuffs don't rise up and expose the wrists when the arms are raised in shooting stance.  The tabs and facings, epaulettes and faux pocket flaps were all missing from the original pattern and had to be measured and traced off the jacket.


scarletlayout.JPG (85792 bytes)  bufflayout.JPG (88970 bytes)

Here you can see how closely I fitted everything to the fabric so as to make best use of the little we had.  Nothing got wasted if I could possibly help it!

halfinchseam.JPG (75497 bytes)

I keep having to remind myself that the seams have half inch wide seam allowances rather than five eighths as on a modern pattern.

beforepressing.JPG (117022 bytes)  beforepressing2.JPG (62771 bytes)

Here you can see the inside of the seams before pressing.  This wool needs a good doze of steam to flatten it.


pressedinside.JPG (66235 bytes)  pressedoutside.JPG (92845 bytes)


After pressing, both inside and outside look much sharper.  There are instances where you do not really need to press as you go, but this project is not one of them!


armscye.JPG (44569 bytes)

Once the jacket back and front seams are stitched and pressed, you can see the pointy shape of the armscye.  You can also see the way that the shoulder seam goes down behind the shoulder, not along the top as on a modern man's jacket.  This uniform is based on a much older cut than the modern suit or uniform cut.


sleevein.JPG (91513 bytes)  pointybit.JPG (93315 bytes)

Once the sleeve is basted in, the point is hidden on the inside.  The excess will be trimmed back later to reduce bulk at the top of the arm, where it would get in the way when the shoulders are raised in the shooting stance.  The epaulette will be stitched about an inch above the armscye at the shoulder point.

buffcuff.JPG (159651 bytes)  sleevebadge.JPG (47144 bytes)

Here are some details form the cuffs, showing the buff facing and the decorative lacings I have to copy, and the badge.


fauxpocket.JPG (156264 bytes)  skirtfacing.JPG (82235 bytes)

Here you can see the faux pocket flap and the front buff facing to the coat skirts.  The pocket flap is of the raw edge finish, and the facing edges are covered by the lacing tape.  

frill1.JPG (92504 bytes)  frill3.JPG (129612 bytes)

The frills round the edges of the epaulette wings are very grubby, but these pictures show that it is sandwiched between the two layers.  I'm not quite sure how I'll reproduce this frill, but I do have a few ideas...

epaulettestitching.JPG (110358 bytes)  frill2.JPG (78408 bytes)

Here you can see how wear and wet have made the colours run, and the contrast in wear between exposed and hidden parts of the cloth.


4insidedetailfront.JPG (142968 bytes)

On the lower front inside you can see just how well the raw edge of the cloth has withstood the rigours of campaign life.  Between us, we thought that ten years of re-enactment service was probably equivalent to one year of real campaigning, so long as the chap in the jacket wasn't wounded...

backdetail.JPG (157250 bytes)  insidebackdetail.JPG (172858 bytes)

The outside and inside top of the central back vent.

collarguts.JPG (90135 bytes)


Inside the collar.  I had to unpick some stitching to mend this bit of the jacket, and it gave me confirmation that the collar was stiffened.  I shall do this on the new collar, and on the epaulette wings.

tabstuff.JPG (93495 bytes)  

Materials for the epaulette tabs: the top side is buff and the underside is red.  The tape has been steam pressed to avoid shrinking later.


tabsewing1.JPG (80796 bytes)  tabsewing4.JPG (150089 bytes)

First I have to sew the tape to the buff, very close to the edge...  I sew on the narrow white bit right on the edge of the fabric!  With such well felted fabric, there's not too much danger of it ravelling.  Then I sew the join down, poking the bits under the foot very carefully...



tabsewing2.JPG (129423 bytes)  newtabs.JPG (129089 bytes)

The inside edge of the tape gets sewn down next, mitring the corners as I go.  Once done, I pop the red layer under the taped buff layer, and zigzag round the outside, and just to be sure it doesn't come to bits, 'stitch in the ditch' inside the tape.

samplehole1.JPG (99392 bytes)  samplehole2.JPG (57613 bytes)  

Buttonholes next!  These are done using the Lily's 'Heirloom' buttonhole, that looks almost hand stitched until you get your nose real close...  I always do some test buttonholes first on scraps.

samplehole3.JPG (46988 bytes)

Tests showed that the best size was 18mm.  These buttons have quite a high dome.


buffcollartape.JPG (87627 bytes)  buffcollartaped.JPG (93140 bytes)

Next thing is to make up the collar pieces.  First I sew the tape onto the buff, just as I did with the tabs.

redcollarhorsehair.JPG (134010 bytes)  hairsewing.JPG (171306 bytes)

Once this is done, I go to the red collar pieces and apply the horsehair stiffening to the inside of the red collar.


pinnedredcollar.JPG (122880 bytes)  redcollarsewing.JPG (131399 bytes)  stitchedredcollar.JPG (186335 bytes)

The red collar is applied to the inside of the jacket neckline and sewn in place with a straight stitch.  These are lapped raw edge seams.


pinnedbuff.JPG (98808 bytes)

buffzag.JPG (51654 bytes)  buffzig.JPG (76465 bytes)

Once the red collar is in place, the buff top collar is applied to it.  I stitched in 'in the ditch' along beside the inner edge of the tape to fix it in place, then zigzagged all round the outer edge.  I thought this would help to keep ravelling to a minimum in a high abrasion area and wouldn't show too much unless you were too close for comfort...

collaron.JPG (132100 bytes)  insidezigzag.JPG (124710 bytes)

Nice and smart!  The collar fits well and stands nicely.  On the inside the stitches have minimal show because although the top thread was cream the bobbin thread was red!  Neat trick for two coloured items!

unpressedcoatails.JPG (108014 bytes)  unpressesinsidetails.JPG (90771 bytes)

The skirt tail pleats were the next area for attention: the seams have to be clipped and the pleats set for the right look.


clippedcentrseam.JPG (97141 bytes)  sideseamclipping.JPG (139121 bytes)

pleatspinned.JPG (85068 bytes)

Both sides of the centre seam have to be clipped, but only the top side of the side/back seams.  This is because while the pleats are pressed to the side, the centre vent is overlapped before stitching in place.

blanketexperiment.JPG (57809 bytes)

Some experiments with a miniature blanket stitch gave good results for the top of the centre back vent.  This looks close to the sort of blanket/buttonhole stitch that would have been used at the time, and will be covered by the decorative tape triangle that goes over the top.  It also gives strength to an otherwise vulnerable section of the construction.

tailtrimming.JPG (78672 bytes)  pressedtailpleats.JPG (64910 bytes)


After steam pressing the pleats into place, any slight unevenness of the hem is trimmed level.  Now the back pleats are almost complete, things are beginning to look very smart!


Once the major part of the basic construction is complete, the decorative elements all need to be done.  I started with the tabs, and they went very well: it was a nice way in for a complex project.  Now I have the buff facings to apply and all the tape lacing..  I need to think carefully about how to stitch down things like the faux pocket flaps and experiment with buttonholes through the taped decor up the front...  And how do I stitch round the top of the buff cuffs?   Plenty of things still to work out and do!  My biggest puzzle is which bit to do first...


underwing.JPG (181464 bytes)


The next bit to get put together were the wings of the epaulettes.  First I put the horsehair on the under wings with a small zigzag.

pinnedwing.JPG (91426 bytes)  wingstitching.JPG (112521 bytes)

The tape is pinned and then stitched to the top side of upper wings


wingstitching.JPG (112521 bytes)  wingtapestitch.JPG (46690 bytes)

The stitches are small so they don't show to much.  Originally this would all have been hand stitched.  There's quite enough work here doing this by machine!

wingesstitched.JPG (103432 bytes)  trimmedtrim.JPG (114459 bytes)

Once all the bits are attached, I trim the ends level and then cover them with the tape round the edges.

wingkippers.JPG (171118 bytes)

Once the edge tape is in place, they remind me of a pair of kippers!  Actually, they look very smart.  Next I need to sort out that frilly wool edge.  Hm...


frillwool.JPG (256574 bytes)  wrapped.JPG (107965 bytes)  tapedfrill.JPG (137932 bytes)  frillcutting.JPG (140387 bytes)

The woolly frills were next.  After thinking about this for a while, I did it this way!  First I put a bit of Vilene interfacing folded over one edge of some plastic card, and wrapped it tightly in the wool.  Once done, I taped it down with some 1/4" quilt marking tape, and snipped carefully along the side opposite the Vilene.

hairdtitching.JPG (88248 bytes)    stitched2vilene.JPG (92448 bytes)

  tapeoff.JPG (175420 bytes)

Next it was opened out very carefully so as not to fall apart, and sewn to the Vilene.  The tape was then pulled off.

hairback.JPG (113891 bytes)  folded.JPG (119890 bytes)

I flipped the frill over and folded the Vilene along the seam line.  This will enable me to sew in in place like piping.


stitchedfrill.JPG (136608 bytes)  zipfoothair.JPG (86631 bytes)  iVilenetrimmed.JPG (80248 bytes)  undersidefrill.JPG (56863 bytes)

First the frill is pinned in place along the curved edge of the epaulette wing under piece.  Then this is stitched in place using the zip foot.  Always check the back for caught threads!


hairfrillout.JPG (140960 bytes)  topsidepinned.JPG (135385 bytes)  frillsandwichstitching.JPG (117625 bytes)

The top of the wing is then pinned in place over the frill.  You need to be careful not to catch the wool strands here too!  Again, the zip foot came in handy!

haircut.JPG (104529 bytes)  frillykipper.JPG (197401 bytes)


Once the sandwich is sewn together, you need to trim the fringe even all the way along, making sure both sides are reasonably even.  Hairdressing for epaulettes!  Now we lay them aside for later and turn to the next bit...



facingstitched.JPG (27349 bytes)  pressedopen.JPG (44009 bytes)

pressedback.JPG (35378 bytes)

The skirt facings get seamed to the inside of the coat and then turned out and pressed in place


zigzaggingfacing.JPG (150953 bytes)  ziggededge.JPG (89648 bytes)facingtape.JPG (96394 bytes)


Then the edges are zigzagged in place to hold them down while the tape is stitched round them.  Once again this is done with cream thread on the top and red thread in the bobbin so that both have minimum visibility in use.  Hand stitching could be made to show a lot less on the underside, but would be done only with the cream thread and would not be as strong.

Once in place, these facings will help me to place the faux pocket flaps.  However, I thought a change of area would be a nice idea, and started on the cuffs next.
  firstside.JPG (111646 bytes)  firstcorner.JPG (125714 bytes)  Doublecorner.JPG (128227 bytes)  thirdcorner.JPG (157956 bytes)

The cuff each have 4 lace details on them.  After marking the position of the first one with pins I set to work, sewing round the edges of the tape, turning the corners sharply.


clippedtape.JPG (100936 bytes)  endown.JPG (144724 bytes)

I then trimmed off the excess tape as I was working from the roll.  This is usually easier than working with short bits as there is less potential for fraying and waste.  As I got to the join, the end was turned under and stitched over.

  sewednown.JPG (83014 bytes)  insidesewing.JPG (114446 bytes)  middledone.JPG (127590 bytes)

Then the centre was stitched in place, leaving the ends free.


pokendsdown.JPG (146051 bytes)  endsewing.JPG (119978 bytes)

firstdone.JPG (138854 bytes)

The end loops were folded down into mitred corners and stitched in place.  Sometimes I needed to poke the loop into place under the foot, and for this the Quick Un-Pick was very handy.


cuffstitching.JPG (155954 bytes)  zigzadding.JPG (267144 bytes)  cuffsewn.JPG (126086 bytes)


Once all 4 were done, the cuffs were stitched to the inside of the sleeves with a zigzag.  The free-arm feature really helps here!

stitchchoice.JPG (115698 bytes)  fmirrorstitch.JPG (116995 bytes)

I then selected the best stitch for sewing down the outside part of the cuff.  Experiments showed that this was a mini blanket stitch designed for use on raw edge appliqué in quilting!


cuffturned.JPG (76920 bytes)  outsidecuffstitch.JPG (112404 bytes)


The cuffs were turned to the outside and stitched in place.

pocketlacing.JPG (88507 bytes)  fauxflaps.JPG (158788 bytes)

The faux pocket flaps came next.  These each had 4 tapes added to them.



pocketbalance.JPG (95753 bytes)  pocketsewing.JPG (121399 bytes)  pocketstitiching.JPG (35673 bytes)

They were pinned in place and the placement checked for balance before being stitched in place using the same mini blanket stitch used on the cuffs.  This time it's red, so it has minimum visibility.


 flap&pocket.JPG (76111 bytes)  cuff&pocket.JPG (99420 bytes)

Once in place, the facings on the skirts and cuffs and the pockets begin to turn this into a real uniform jacket.


markedfront.JPG (101098 bytes)  lacingdone.JPG (103711 bytes)

The placements for the front facings come next: here the 1/4" masking tape came in handy again to mark a temporary line to which the lacings were sewn.

  shoulderlevels.JPG (164353 bytes)

Once pinned in place with BIG pins, I have to check the wings are even!  It wouldn't do to have them lopsided!


awkward.JPG (154407 bytes)  epauletteseam.JPG (86783 bytes)

I used flat headed quilting pins for this as they pass under the needle better than the glass headed sort.

On the inside you can see how far from the armscye the wings really are.



finishedfront.JPG (106942 bytes)  finishedback.JPG (115585 bytes)

Now the jackets are all done!  Chocolate box soldiers again!  The buttonholes were done on top of the lacing on the front, using the same heirloom buttonhole as on the tabs.  They hardly show at all, but close up look better than standard buttonholes on this sort of thing,. and have the added advantage of being far quicker to do than hand ones!


DSCF0001.JPG (150337 bytes)

And just to show that I really did do two of them here they both are!

Each jacket has 30 buttons on it: 10 down the front, one on each shoulder, 4 on each cuff, 4 on each pocket, and two on the back!

My thanks to Susan North at the Victoria and Albert Museum for valuable historical details about garment construction and cloth manufacture.  My thanks also to Mike for additional information and for drafting the brown paper pattern.

Finally, here are some pictures of Phil and his brother, Paul, wearing their jackets in Argentina!  They had a great time, and the uniforms were much admired.


71st+ArgentineMerchantNavy2.JPG (140392 bytes)

71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry and members of the Argentine Merchant Navy

Phil is on the left of the portrait, Paul at the far right.

71st+ArgentineN.RegtPatricios2.JPG (170472 bytes)

71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry and members of the Argentine N0. l Regt. Patricios

Phil is on the far right, Paul second from the left

71st+TerciodeGallegos12.JPG (113491 bytes)

71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry and members of the Tercio de Gallegos

71st+TerciodeGallegosatLujan2.JPG (190247 bytes)

71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry and members of the Tercio de Gallegos at Lujan


71statLujan2.JPG (259791 bytes)

71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry at Lujan


PaulwithDrumMajorsBaton,Lujan2.JPG (192792 bytes)

Paul with the Drum Major's Baton

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