Once the customer has been measured and a pattern created, that pattern is laid out on the cloth in order to cut out – strike – the various parts of it. In fact, we have usually laid out the parts of the suit on our board before we order the cloth, in order to see how they fit and therefore how much cloth the suit will require.
This arranging of the various parts – forepart, facing, back, sleeves, collar, trousers – so that it uses the minimal amount of cloth possible is probably the hardest part of the job. A larger customer will have a larger forepart and that means the facing might not fit next to it, as it would with a normal customer. A double-breasted jacket is different again. We all build up our own books that record the most efficient lays, as we learn them.
We start in the bottom left corner and work our way down the cloth to the right. At the far right will be the trousers, though Ollie and I do not strike these as we are apprenticing to be coat cutters – the cloth is given to the trouser cutters, such as Oliver, to work on next.
The type of cloth can make the lay harder as well. If it is a one-way cloth, such as velvet, then the various parts all have to lie in the same direction. And with a stripe you have to make sure all the stripes will match across the parts and pockets, for example.
Cutting the cloth itself is not as difficult. It’s very much a process, one I’ve learned over the past couple of years. The patterns are held down with weights, so those can’t slip. You need to remember the amount of excess to allow at various points, or to kick out by around a quarter of an inch towards the bottom of the side seam, but that all becomes habit.
Once both the jacket and trouser cloth is cut, the trimmings are added and the whole bunch is sent to the tailor.