Author Topic: The Cutting of Canvasses: Part I  (Read 1017 times)


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The Cutting of Canvasses: Part I
« on: March 09, 2016, 06:58:33 PM »
Sator wrote this.  I may be able to add back the photos at a later time. -- T

Posted 16 April 2009 - 03:46 AM

The Cutting of Canvasses
version edited 25/6/2011

Most published texts fall short on detail when it comes to the important subject of making up canvasses. Because tailoring and cutting cannot be truly separated from one another, cutters sometimes almost begrudgingly add a little appendage at the end of their writing and fleetingly add that the canvas is one of the biggest determinants of how a coat looks. What they rarely admit is that it is to a coat what the engine is to a car. It is precisely here that the skills of cutter and tailor become so intimately intertwined as to become truly inseparable.

The cut of the canvas needs to achieve a number of things:

1. Hollowness or concavity at the shoulder to allow extra length for the shoulder bone
2. Produce roundness or convexity at the chest
3. Enhance waist suppression
4. Minimise the number of cuts that weaken the canvas
5. Avoid having cuts show from the outside of the shell, especially on modern lightweight cloths
6. Not disturb the fit/balance of the coat

The way the shape of the canvas can be achieved includes the insertion of cuts as well as by ironwork. Chest canvas responds poorly to the iron, whereas body canvas is easier to shape this way. Opinions on the right way to cut the canvas vary, and a wide range of opinions are all given full voice in this thread. Many of the opinions expressed here are in flagrant contradiction to one another. Readers are urged to experiment and to come to their own conclusions.


The classic Rundschau canvas (from Rundschau March 1973):

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The canvas pattern is based on the coat pattern. The width of the shoulder is divided into three. The first cut to produce the hollowing of the shoulder is placed 1/3 of the way in. All other measures shown are in centimetres.

The shoulder support and chest piece are basted in ensuring that the extra length at the front of armscye is preserved. A cut is held open at the neck on the chest piece. Another cut is made lower down in the chest to produce chest effect.

To see how the current version of this canvas plan differs from this please purchase the current HAKA book from the Mueller & Sons website.

Earlier Rundschau plans for cutting canvas from Lehrbuch der Zuschneidekunst, XI Ed (1930s):

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These older cuts are NOT recommended for use today, but are the forerunners of modern plans that remain usable. These early plans are remarkable not only for the extreme size of the cuts, but also for the proliferation of sheer number of cuts placed in the canvas. These cuts are also very close together - something that should be avoided on modern canvasses. There are also interesting variations on modern conventional cuts. For example cuts 1 and 2 on Abb 194-195 tend to introduce such crookedness into the cut that the front of armscye has to be given an extra stretch to compensate for this. This will throw even further length to the area of the shoulder bone. This is to say that the degree of shaping in these canvas plans is also quite extreme by modern standards.

Despite these concerns, variations of these plans are still considered usable by many modern tailors. For example, the modern Rundschau plan is just a derivative of Canvas Pattern I (top diagram). The only difference is that the 1930s version is designed so as to throw up extra length at the front of neck as it is closed, something that adds a lot of extra hollowing of the shoulder. When a canvas plan throws length like this to the neck care should be taken to keep the neck short here on the coat to avoid the collar lifting off the neck. Of further interest is the way that the canvas is extended much further around the base of armscye than is usual today, where the fashion today is more for lightness and softness.

Classical German canvas plans tend to be quite complex in terms of both the size and number of cuts introduced. Many will find them too interventionist and object that the cuts are too big, and risk showing from the outside of the coat. Others will object that the size and number of cuts weakens the canvas, especially given the fact that modern canvasses are woven much lighter than in the past.

Readers are invited to experiment and make up their own minds. Trial canvasses should always be made up prior to installation. The extension of the canvas further around the base of armscye helps to conceal fairly large cuts underneath the arm, but such cuts should still be covered with strips of fusible to avoid them showing from the right side of the coat. When introducing these types of cuts into modern canvas care needs to be taken to keep the cuts as far apart as practical (at least 5 cm and preferably 7 cm apart) in order to retain as much spring in the canvas as practical. The length and number of cuts should also be limited.

The next discussion comes from a circa 1950-60s Rundschau article that was previously posted by Schneidergott, and shows the modern descendants of the above variations. The modern canvas plan recommended by Rundschau since around the 1970s is Canvas Number II. Canvas Number IV was recommended by ASZ authors in the 1960s, and a similar plan was favoured by Czujewiecz around this period. A canvas plan with a cut-on shoulder section (often the shoulder section is cut on the bias), is still favoured by some famous Parisian houses. Canvas Number III was recommended by Rundschau in the early 1970s as the optimal plan for a concave shoulder.

The authors of the article say that the fashionable lounge coat of the period had a closer cut with waist suppression and a straighter, modestly hollowed out shoulder. They recommend that the canvas follow and accentuate the shape of the currently fashionable cut of the lounge. This is something that remains true today.

Canvas Number I

The canvas has a large dart at the waist 3.5cm wide. There is also a second waist dart half way between the main waist dart and the front edge. The length is 8-9cm and 3/4cm [≈ diameter of a golf ball] wide. No darts are required along the top of the front edge of the panel down to the waistline for a normal figure. There is another dart around the cut over the pocket.

There is a 1.5cm [≈ length of a large mosquito] hollowing in the shoulder, to give the shoulder joint extra room, and is necessary to achieve a modern line.

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The author suggests that as it is too time consuming to cut a canvas pattern for every coat, for chest sizes 100-110-120cm stock patterns can be cut, although the height of the pocket may need adjustment for individual figures.

Canvas Number II

The chest form depends on the size and position of the darts, and these must be adjusted to the individual figure. Wide darts create excessive fullness in one spot. Narrower and pointed darts spread fullness more evenly. By having multiple darts rather than one large one the fullness is also more evenly distributed.

The type of canvas material is also important. A soft woollen canvas may do almost nothing unless the location and form of the darts is carefully considered.

The lower darts have been reduced in size to allow room for the large upper chest dart:

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Canvas Numbers III

Here there is a separately cut-on shoulder piece.

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Canvas Number IV

The dart extending down from the shoulder must be given width for the following style of canvas cut, which has its devotees:

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Here is an example of a Bunka canvas (from 2010) that is similar to Canvas Number IV but note how it has been modernised by making it much smaller:

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From the Bunka men's coatmaking book (2010) available only in Japanese.

Philip Dellafera - The Tailor and Cutter

Tailor and Cutter canvasses provide a dramatic contrast to Rundschau cuts.

The comes from circa 1950 with Philip Dellafera at The Tailor & Cutter. His canvas cut on the straight is quite classical and similar to that adopted by many modern tailors all over the world. Many will argue that the Dellafera canvas plan is the most uncomplicated and middle of the road of all the cuts shown in this thread. However, many modern tailors will add a layer of shoulder support either of linen or wool body or chest canvas (usually on the bias, cross grain of chest canvas pointing to the shoulder point). These days, it is uncommon to see the shoulder support extend around to the armscye. Edges of chest canvas are usually also bound with bias strips of silesia or lining to stop the horse hair protruding out and scratching the wearer.

Just prior to moving on to the subject of canvas construction, Dellafera states that the front of scye, the neck, and shoulder seam should be stretched "in order to get a good fitting shoulder". Dellafera elaborates further:

The reason for this stretching is to produce a hollow shoulder, and also to provide room for the shoulder bone, which usually protrudes above the shoulder.

Dellafera makes clear that the canvas should be shaped to mirror the concavity around the shoulder produced after stretching in this area. This is what he recommends:

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The solid lines indicate the cuts in the canvas. The dot-and-dash lines indicate cuts made in the chest haircloth. When the cuts made in the canvas and chest piece are "opened out", it produces a concavity (hollowness) in that area of the shoulder. The cuts in the canvas and haircloth are made 1 inch apart to avoid overlapping. He states that:

The reason for this is because when they are opened out they will leave a layer of canvas and horsehair at all parts [my emphasis]

Care should always be taken to avoid cuts in the different layers of cloth, body canvas and chest canvas from overlapping. Otherwise, you will get areas of excess thickness and stiffness building up. This is also true around the edges of layers of canvas. One layer should be trimmed so that the edge is a little bit further in from the layer below it to avoid thick ridges from forming.

Dellafera is one of the few that reminds us of the fact that the shape in the canvas mirrors that infused into the coat as it is worked up with the iron:

...the cuts must be opened out at scye and shoulder in order to produce the same effect as the stretched foreparts

This is the final canvas once installed:

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Note the hollowing at the front of armscye and front of shoulder and neck area.

Although he does not mention this, a good working plan is to pad stitch the chest leaving the front of armscye unpaddded like this:

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The front of armscye is then stretched, which will cause the cut at the armscye to open up. Once the stretching is completed, the front of armscye can the be pad stitched to preserve the shape infused by the iron. The armscye cut (to be opened up) that Dellafera shows is actually unnecessary on the body canvas, and can just be placed into the chest canvas. The reason is because it is possible to replace the cut here with ironwork. Chest canvas does not respond well to the iron, whereas body canvas does. A cut is really only necessary at the armscye of the body canvas if a larger amount of stretching to square the shoulder and to produce extra length for the shoulder bone is desired.

In general, the same method of ironwork should be applied to the canvas as that applied to the coat.

A.A. Whife - The Tailor and Cutter

The writer who is the strongest advocate of cutting canvas on the bias to largely eliminate canvas cuts is Archibald Whife. In his 1962 revision of Dellafera's The Art of Garment Making, Whife writes extensive commentary on the subject:

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In the 1949 MTOC Whife explains more clearly that the reason for cutting on the bias was to eliminate as many cuts as possible in order to avoid weakening the canvas. When there is bias at the shoulder, this allows extra length to be introduced here for the collar bone by stretching at the shoulder to produce a hollow. That is to say, cutting canvas on the bias is a method of replacing cuts in the canvas with ironwork.

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However, not all tailors agree that cutting canvas on the bias is a good idea. Obviously, Whife and Dellafera disagreed on this issue. One of the objections is that the canvas will fail to provide sufficient support or stretch and loses its shape. Others will argue that having modern canvas on the bias makes it easier to iron out any bubbles that form - modern cloths will show even the slightest unevenness in a canvas.


A panelled canvas:

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Notice the figure on the right shows the grain of the canvas (Abb. 1412). Part of the canvas is cut on the straight grain and another on the bias. For more information on cutting the panelled canvas see this thread. The problem with this is that on modern cloths there is the danger that the cuts will be visible through to the right side of the coat. The application of a strip of fusible will help to prevent large cuts in a canvas showing from the outside of the coat.

Die Zuschneidekunst from the 1930s shows a panelled canvas with a wedge shaped chest piece plus an extension towards the base of armscye:

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They also show an option with the chest haircloth on the outside of the canvas:

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A rationale is not given for this.


Poulin explains the need for roundness at the chest in addition to hollowness at the shoulder:

Remember that while the canvas must be convex or round over the breast, it must be made concave in the hollow of the shoulder seam. Hollowness of the shoulder section is obtained by cutting down through the centre of the shoulder from its top to a depth of about 4 in., and inserting a wedge or V. This wedge, which is cut out of haircloth, is placed between the canvas and haircloth and is sewn to open the shoulder cut 1 in. wide. Its function is to provide room for the large shoulder bone.

Poulin gussets open the "puff" at the shoulder to produce the desired concavity there:

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Poulin says:

... while the canvas must be convex or round over the breast, it must be made concave in the hollow of the shoulder seam.

Unlike Dellafera, Poulin does add darts to produce both the convexity of shoulder as well as the concavity of the chest:

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Notice the cuts at 4 and 11 o'clock. These are closed, rather than being opened up, to produce the convex roundedness of the chest.

Poulin also says that if the neck seam dart at the gorge (B) has a dart then the canvas must have an equivalent dart in the same place. However, on coats missing the neck seam/gorge dart, an armscye dart should be place into the canvas at the letter C, evidently to add convexity to the chest:

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