Author Topic: A Reading Supplement to Cabrera: Tailoring Advice that Should Have Been in the B  (Read 3784 times)


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Posted 04 November 2010 - 04:54 PM

Cabrera's book has gradually become the unofficial forum prescribed textbook for beginners learning to make up (rather than to cut or fit):

This thread is intended to upgrade Cabrera's instructions for making up coats, so that it is suitable for a professional bespoke tailor's pattern. Cabrera books is aimed at pre-made store patterns for home sewers. The upgraded method is applicable only to coats cut off modern tailoring systems eg Rundschau, Tailor & Cutter, Panaro, or New Mitchell System published after circa-1950.

However, no book is perfect and despite it's seemingly comprehensive coverage of the subject of making up, there are an overwhelming number of things that remain unsaid. In fact, it only contains about half of what a professional tailor needs to know about making up. Of course, there is an endless amount of cutting and fitting knowledge missing on top of that, but this is not the aim of the book, which is all about making up. This thread also helps to supplement the deficiencies in the instructions on making up. Most of these "deficiencies" are things that are left unsaid, wrongly assumed to be understood, or just not fully fleshed out enough to drive the point home, rather than actual "mistakes".

It is also critical to gain experience cutting and making simpler garments first such as skirts, trousers and waistcoats before moving onto coats.

Beginners must set themselves a good amount of time to both cut and make up a coat. You need to set aside about three hundred hours to cut and make up a professional grade coat for the first time on your own. So give yourself six to nine months to go through the stages of this project. If you fly through it in any less than this, thinking it is all plain sailing, you are almost certainly doing things horribly wrongly.

Also required when using this Supplement are copies of Hostek's books:


These books are less organised than Cabrera's and can be a bit confusing. This is why you will be directed to the precise page in the relevant book, which need to be purchased, as they are still in print.

Some tailoring schools charge you thousands of dollars to study. So compared with this, the amount you are being asked to invest in your education is absolutely trivial. So, please, do go out and buy all of these books.


Always use a modern system of drafting (post-circa 1950). Start with a proportionate system of drafting and use the fitting stage to correct for any disproportions.

Proportionate systems are not without their problems, but these pale compared with trying to draft off lots of short measures. Avoid learning to draft by starting with disproportionate figures. Even seemingly "proportionate" figures are going to surprise you with unexpected problems that your untrained eye failed to catch.

Never use an older system, not even one from the 1930s, as they are dated, unreliable and not for beginners. You will simply unnecessarily torture yourself with endless redrafting and refitting if you ignore this. You already have an insurmountable number of obstacles as it is. Do not make it harder for yourself than it already is, as you risk making this a joyless and enormously time-wasting experience that will put you off ever wanting to do this ever again. A project like this should be fun, not torture.

If you are one of these beginners, who despite every warning and plea, rushes headlong into tiger territory, and find yourself trying to troubleshoot some primitive drafting system - you are on your own. It is a huge waste of everyone's time to help you out of a pitfall you were expressly told to avoid at all cost. So please don't ask.

Always add whatever changes you make on your trial garment to your pattern. If you end up with multiple patterns at various stages of development, make sure you have a system of notation to keep tabs on them. The key things to note are:

1. Name
2. Measurements
3. Reasons for deviation from the proportionate draft
4. Version number
5. Seam allowances (or lack thereof)
6. Reason for change from previous version

Consider attaching photographs of the person it is intended for on the pattern so that you can check the shape of the figure.

Keep an A3 sized notebook and write down detailed dated entries saying what the problem with each stage of development was, why you made the changes you made, and how it can be further improved. This forces you to think aloud and critically analyse what you have done.

A novice will need to spend weeks to months on the drafting stage, depending on the difficulty of fitting the figure in question. If you run into severe difficulties, it is sometimes easier to just start a fresh draft all over again rather than trying to play around with inlays during the fitting. Start afresh a dozen times if you must! You can always do with the practice. Consider it nothing for a total beginner to have to make a dozen fresh drafts before arriving at one that is even close to workable.

Always draft to paper and not to cardboard. Paper is easier to make corrections to, and to manipulate. You can paste on extensions, add or remove darts, or cut sections off and replace them etc. The paper should have a little body to it and not be like tissue paper.

Trial Garment and Fittings

I would encourage you to stop using the term "muslin" for the trial garment, and encourage you to make the trial garment out of a cloth as close as possible to the final garment in weight and fibre content. You should seriously consider fully making up your coat in a cloth as close to the final garment as possible. Even this will still not eliminate the need for fittings.

Always be willing to spend money on decent material (equipment, cloth and trimmings) for making a practice garment. It costs money to learn to tailor properly. Some tailoring schools charge thousands. If you take cheap short-cuts with your materials you are just undermining your education. Consider money spent an investment rather than a waste.

Make as many trial garments as you need before proceeding to the making up stage. Run a dozen trial garments if you need to! If you are not confident, you can start with cheap muslin, and as you gain confidence in your draft, you can work your way up to increasingly better trial cloths that are closer to the real thing.

Make sure your pattern is thoroughly proofed before you proceed to the next step to the point that you feel that it is as perfect as possible.

One important hint with collarless fittings, is that you must prevent the neck/gorge seam of waistcoats and coats from stretching. You can do this either by:

1. Putting some fusing along the neck seam and gorge of both front and back parts
2. Or running several machine stitches along the neck seam and gorge

If the neck area stretches it will distort the balance and fit of the coat.

You may even want to make a bespoke tailor's form specific to the person you are making for:


Tailor's forms fidget less and are available for you any time of the day and night. However, this is generally not necessary except where disproportions are significant.

Always try to understand fitting issues in terms of global balance problems and not local ones. If you fail to recognise that an apparently local problem is actually the result of a more global balance problem, you will likely make the fit worse by applying a local solutions eg pinning out a crease. It is a common beginner's problem that instead of fittings making things better, the "solutions" make things worse and worse each time. If you find yourself in this downward spiral, you should revert back to the original draft, cut yourself a new trial garment, or start drafting all over again from scratch.

If a professional fit is what you expect, brace yourself to be sent back to the drawing board numerous times.

Never cut your collar or sleeve until you have finalise your draft - as per Cabrera.



Cabrera fails to tell you to leave inlays. You should leave these in your trial garment as well as your final garment. Experienced garment makers will reduce or eliminate some of the inlays after running a trial garment. The novice should always leave generous inlays, even if this means you need more cloth. It is better than starting again and you can always reduce the size of the inlays as your project approaches completion.

Inlays are usually added on after "striking" (chalking) the pattern onto the cloth. They are not included on in the pattern. You will need to carefully threadmark around the pattern before cutting into the cloth. An example of a threadmarked coat front from The Jacket Project:

Posted Image

You should also have inlays on your trial garments. You need to get used to working with inlays.


I would say there needed to be a section on ironwork. Go easy with the iron. Modern cutting systems only require gentle ironwork. Anything excessive can cause balance problems. This is why you must use a modern cutting system, and why you must avoid antiquated systems like the plague.

Information on the standard process of ironwork on coats can be found in the following threads:

Rundschau Method of Ironwork on a Coat


Tailor & Cutter Method of Ironwork on a Coat (page 65 onwards)


Schneidermeister Method of Ironwork on Trousers


The trial garment should be subjected to the same method of ironwork as the final garment. This is why trial garments need to be made of a cloth that is suitable for tailoring, and not muslin. A muslin garment is really only suitable for a very rough test garment for novices with absolutely no confidence in drafting.

Before conducting a proper fitting, trial garments need to be worked up with the iron. Do not conduct a fitting on a garment that is "without iron".

A garment intended to be made up of cloth that takes poorly or not at all to the iron is an exception (these are usually cut differently and this is not discussed here), and should be avoided by the novice.

If possible you should use a heavy steam iron with a vacuum board.

Choice of Cloth

Cloth choices to avoid:

Large checks
Lightweight cloths <10 Oz/300 grams
"Super" wools >S100
Polyester and other synthetics
"Light" tweeds (<16 Oz is light for a tweed and suggests a single ply weave)
Stretch fabrics

Anything too expensive - save this for later.

Beginners should always buy extra cloth to recut at least one panel. This may save you money and heartache when you are a beginner.

Always fully close your scissors after use, and keep them well away from your garment when not in use.

This is only a place holder thread that will get fleshed out more with time.

All discussion has been moved to this thread:


This is to make the main thread more readable as a reference thread