I’ve just finished basting a coat for a fitting. The last part was attaching the collar, which is just the backing of canvas and melton at this point. I cut them both out using a cardboard pattern that has been passed down for ages – it was passed down to Derek [Tomlinson, coatmaker] and he’s been here 28 years.
Those two are then sewn together, using silk thread where the crease of the collar is and plain cotton thread elsewhere. The stitches are just tight enough to hold both in place, without being too loose.
The canvas is soaked in water and hung outside, right under the feet of the men walking by on Savile Row. You have to do that because canvas can shrink, and if you don’t soak it first then slowly, over time, it will contract within the collar and cause it to pucker.
Also, Anderson & Sheppard has always cut its canvas square for the collar, where others do it on the bias. The melton, on the other hand, is on the bias. Other than tradition I don’t think there’s any particular reason why.
The completed collar is then stitched onto the back of the coat, again with relatively loose basting stitches so it can all be ripped down after the fitting. Then it’s ready for the customer. As an apprentice tailor I’ve got to the stage where I put together nearly all the suit for the forward fitting, everything except putting in the sleeves.