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Trousers Ironwork - ABC des Schneiderhandwerk - simple long trousers extract

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This extract from the ABC des Schneiderhandwerk has been translated for private study to show a good explanation of German ironwork for the trousers from about 1938.  If any parts are not clearly explained by the text they would make excellent topics for discussion on the forum.

Das ABC des Schneiderhandwerk

Fachzeitung Der Schneidermeister

Extract from

Heft 2 - Die Einfach Lange Hose

Translation Created For Private Study by G Boyce with invaluable assistance from S. Pirkl

The Ironwork for the Long Trousers
As the title suggests, one must press a shape into the fabric parts of the trousers, because the seams of the topsides and undersides do not lie in the front or rear crease. If this were the case then you could form the individual parts by cutting.  For the shape of the lower topsides the fabric at the inseam and side seam must be drawn out [stretched] with the iron, to get the crease line hollowed or concave.

Abbildung 53

Abb 53 shows, which parts of the topsides, must be stretched for shaping.
In Abb. 53 the places that must be stretched with the iron are indicated by the crosshatched chalk lines.  This is the technical sign for when the cloth must be stretched.  If one carefully observes the course of the inseam and side seam in this photograph, then one can see without difficulty that the seam lines show a hollow shape. The hollow, which is initially located in the seam lines, has to be shifted to the centre line by ironwork. 

As in Abbildung 54

Abb 54 the iron is moved in the direction indicated by the arrow, and the fabric is stretched in this direction
one places the iron slightly below the knee height of the topside, gather the cloth of the hem bottom with the left hand and now moving the iron in the direction of the arrow. Thus the fabric is stretched out at the edge.  Depending on the kind of fabric to hand, one will have more or less difficulty to iron the cloth around.  The harder the fabric, and above all the tighter the twist in the warp threads the more difficult it is to stretch the fabric with the iron.  To make the work easier one must moisten the cloth.  One should, however, also take into account the surface of the cloth.  It is not good to wet the cloth more than is necessary. 

In Abbildung 55

Abb 55  the shaping is achieved by intensive ironwork
we see how the iron is pushed down to the bottom during the ironing process.  In the process of the ironwork one should also take advantage of the bias direction of the cloth. For this purpose grab the fabric at the hem at the crease line and by pressing the iron hard onto the cloth pull the fabric in the desired direction.  It is necessary, to somewhat exaggerate the shape, that you want to reach, since as everyone knows, the cloth is trying to regain its natural shape.  To avoid this effect it is wise to shape the piece more than needed. 

At Abbildungen 54 und 55 The ironing is shown on the side facing away from the body.

With Abbildungen 56 und 56a

Abb 56 One can also iron in the necessary shape at the side facing the body

Abb 56a  the left hand guides the iron just as well as the right hand.
We show how this work may even be performed on the side facing the body.  Here the left hand guides the iron, while the right hand grasps the cloth under the hem and leads the iron work in the same way, without any difficulties.  It is good for the apprentice to practice the ironwork with the left and the right hand equally, since this will only assist the acquisition of skills for work.

Both the fork area and the side seam area have to be treated equally in the ironwork.  After stretching the seam edges of the cloth, one folds the piece together, at the crease line, so that the seam edges are lying on top of each other.  As Abb 56b shows the achieved shape now is to be distributed equally with the iron to the inseam and the outseam

Abbildung 56b shows.

Abb 56b   In order for both parts to be uniformly processed by the ironwork, the fabric is folded together at the crease.
Through a secondary treatment with the iron, both sides (inseam and side seam) are evenly distributed.  This avoids a situation where the side seam is stretched longer than the inseam or vice versa, which could later affect the shape of the trousers.

Usually it is easier to form the ironing crease from the wrong side of the fabric so that one can get a good picture of the shaping.  We don’t want to misjudge, but that is not always correct to press the ironing creases sharply from the wrong side, because problems may arise later.  By creasing the fabric in the ironing crease and by the firm ironing from the wrong side the weft fibres in the ironing crease are stretched. When one turns around the trouser parts later so that the right side lies outward, then the ironing creases have to be ironed out in the opposite direction. Thus the fibres at the crease line are being bent in the opposite direction.  Therefore, understanding professionals have long since ceased to iron from the wrong side of the fabric but fold the pieces wrong side together and press the crease line from the right side by using a pressing cloth from the right sides.  (But be careful!  Do not use an iron that is too hot!)  This surely has an influence on the later durability of the crease.

While the ironwork of the topsides is usually restricted to the lower parts of the leg, the ironwork of undersides extends all over the piece.  The shape of the seams does not have a straight line. Therefore the seamlines of the undersides must be ironworked in a way that they harmonize/synchronize with the seamlines of the topsides.  Because you can only join equally formed seamlines when you want to achieve the correct shape of the legs.

Abbildung 57

Shows the areas of the undersides, that are to be shaped.  The areas marked with cross hatched lines are to be stretched during the ironing process.  And in the areas indicated with curved lines the fabric must be compacted/shrunk [eingebügelt / hineinpressen (from Duden)] at the edge of the cloth. The stretching and shrinking is not only done at the edges but continued towards the crease line of the piece. Because the crease line will not be straight, but will take the shape that is achieved by the ironwork.

Abbildung 58

shows first where to place the iron and  how to grasp the fabric in the area of the side seam. Thus, one places the iron at the level of the seat and by pushing the iron and pulling the fabric in the direction of the arrows you stretch the fabric.  By using the bias of the weave, the shaping is much easier to do. When pulling the fabric in the shown direction, a slight length will develop in the side seam in seat level. This has to be shrunk away to achieve the right shape of the pants.

Abbildung 59

Abb. 58 und 59. diagonal (bias) ironwork of the undersides
The first iron stroke was performed in the direction of the arrow to the sideseam.  Now the iron is sitting on the fabric, on the sideseam, at knee height.  The left hand grasps the cloth of the undersides about the level of the calf at the inseam, so that the fabric can be stretched from knee to calf in the direction of the second arrow.  Thus the ironwork process is facilitated as much as possible by the use of the bias fibre direction.  It should be emphasized that during ironwork, the shaping must be carried more intensively than is required, because the fabric always has the tendency to return to its original position.  Therefore the shaping can be exaggerated without disadvantage.

Abbildung 60

The iron now passes the way from the knee to the calf.  Now the last iron strike passes down from the calf in the direction indicated by the second arrow, to the sideseam.  Here also, the fabric will be easier to stretch because of the bias direction. Between the knee notches and the bottom hem a slight wavy length develops in the area of the sideseam, which must be shortened/shrunk in by careful iron work.

After the iron has been passed in the direction of the mentioned path to the bottom hem and the individual parts are brought into the required shape by the intensive ironwork, the ironwork for the side part is, for the moment, finished.  The inseam also gets the same shape that was given to the sideseam.  Here too the iron is first placed at the level of the seat, see

Abbildung 61

and the fabric is stretched in the direction illustrated by the arrow, by working in bias direction during the ironwork process.  The iron strokes end at the knee height.

According to Abbildung 62

turn the iron a bit outwards and stretch the cloth according to the indicated arrow in the direction towards the calf.  At the same time, the left hand grasps the cloth at the level of the calf and pulls it out as the iron is advanced.  The lower part of the inseam side is also stretched in the direction of the arrow lines.  The left hand also pulls the cloth in the bias.  The iron is turned during this part of the process.  Length that develops in the inseam at the level of the calf is to be shortened, see

Abbildung 63

After both the side seam as well as the inseam are brought to the required shape through intensive ironwork, take the two undersides and turn them over, and redo the work in the same way, once more, from the other side.  Then it is always advisable, when the two fabric layers lie on top of each other, to repeat the ironing process on the back part, so that the underlying part is not adversely affected.  When the work is ended, then separate the two undersides and fold the two individual parts, as it is represented in

Abbildung 64

the side seam and the inseam lie flush onto each other. Now you should recognise, that the achieved  hollow shape reaches as far as to the crease line. The trouser crease, no longer has a straight shape but now has the form we wanted to achieve with ironwork. After putting the pants together, the inseam and sideseam parts must be smoothed again so that between the inseam and side parts, as far as form moulding is concerned, no difference can be detected. During the entire form shaping operation the iron was moved in the direction of the indicating arrows.  It is possible to flatten out the underside creases with the iron from the wrong sides.  However, it is advisable, to avoid ironing the creases firmly but to iron them quite lightly.   Preferably it is better to fold the pieces wrong side together.  Using a damp pressing cloth you can press the trousers crease flat.   It is very important that the inseam and outseam line up exactly.

Abbildung 65

In order to avoid a twisting of the trouser legs, the topsides and undersides are laid together smoothly on the table as shown in Abb 65, and control marks are installed. These must fit together when the seams are basted, and must not shift also when joining the pieces. Often, the Master will want to check the waistband, knee and hem width after the sideseams are basted.  This work is usually done by the Master. The basting stitches are inserted about 0.5 cm from the edge so they don´t get trapped when sewing. That would make removing them much more difficult.

tom bennett:
Spot on Graham, thanks.

theresa in tucson:
With so many other fibers being used for garments, is this method predominantly for wool and wool blends or can it be used for linen or cotton?  Living in a hot climate I have no use for wool.

That is a good question, I live in Adelaide in Australia so wool is not the most practical cloth.  I have linen garments.

I think the intention of the processing is to ensure the seams are all of equal shape and length at the time that they are sewn up. 

Even with wool the cloth slowly reverts to its original shape. 

So I do iron the linen, but without the expectation of the same result as for wool.

And that is also obviously the case since linen has a very different handle and fall to wool.

In addition to the instructions above I understand that it is virtually mandatory to stretch the seat seam at the fork, whatever the type of cloth.


theresa in tucson:
Good point on the seat seam.  I shall give that a try when I make pants this spring.


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