Here are two types of shoulder pad. The one on the left – cheap as popcorn – is a slim slice of shaped foam, symmetrical about the middle. On the right is the crescent which I’ve talked of before. It has a flatter end which goes round the back and a more meaty side which sits at the front, filling out the hollow of the shoulder.
The Hobbs coat and Marianna in Dungeness, YEARS ago
In making my McCalls 5766 coat, I got to the stage where I tried it on after setting in the sleeves (but before making the lining) to determine which shoulder pad to use and where to place it. The convention is for the straight edge to extend 1.5cm beyond the armscye. But I couldn’t help noticing that with either of the pads, the shoulders of my almost-finished coat were acquiring an edgy, Mafioso look! It’s probably not something a casual observer would notice as their eyes skim over the garment as a whole but it sure would bug me, so I did some investigative work! I took my seam ripper to the lining of a lovely, well-fitting and good quality RTW coat I own, which has been hibernating in my wardrobe waiting for fashion to call it back into the limelight.
I discovered the Hobbs shoulder pad wasn’t like the ones I’d bought. There were other surprises too in the construction, more of which below, but here is the pad:
It’s roundish, like a flannel rosette, or more precisely, like a large raviolo with a light sponge filling. Here’s the side view showing its attachment to the shoulder seam (I’d snipped the tacking off the armhole allowance). Easy to copy, huh?
How to make a soft-edged shoulder pad
You will need: a small amount of a soft fabric like flannel or thin fleece (I used leftover curtain interlining), thin sponge or wadding, and preferably pinking shears. A compass may be useful for drawing circles, plus needle and thread.
I have based the measurements on the pads in my coat which is a size 12. If you’re making a larger garment, size up a couple of cm or more. Don’t worry if your ovals aren’t perfect; our bodies are not geometry either and every pad will mould to your own shape eventually.
Step 1: Cut a flannel circle of 15cm (6″) diameter. Use pinking shears for a blurred edge
Step 2: Fold in half and trim some 1.25cm from each edge to create an oval
Step 3: repeat with a 12.5cm (5″) circle
Step 4: cut a 3cm x 7cm rectangle and sew it to the long middle of the larger oval.
Step 5: cut a 10cm (4″) across piece of sponge or wadding with good recovery. The piece may be circular like in my RTW coat but I used the filling of the cheap shoulder pad.
Step 6: sandwich the layers together with tacking stitches making sure not to pull tight. If possible, cup the pieces in your hand into a ‘lens’ as you sew, curving away from the strip. This will create a desirable shaping to the pad.
Step 6: the reverse
Step 8: attach strip with loose tacking to the shoulder seam
Step 7: attach the short end of the oval to the shoulder seam
Step 8: …. and at the other end, tack loosely to armscye SA, at front of sleeve and back
Once your pad is in place, the soft layers should merge and flatten to your own shape.
Other investigative discoveries
Finishing off seams takes time so I was surprised on opening the ‘perfect coat’ to find that the lining seams weren’t finished at all. They have frayed, yes, but not dangerously, considering how much wear I got from this coat (we’re talking quite a few winters!). This got me thinking: is this the reason why certain bloggers are able to produce garments at a rate with which I couldn’t possibly keep up; they don’t waste time on non-necessities.
Also, notice how the stitches are long. That too is a time saver.
But the biggest surprise is that the wrong side of the wool fabric is fused throughout with some kind of a weave. It probably helped keep me warm but nevertheless I feel slightly disillusioned as the glue which was involved and the woven fabric weren’t specified on the label.
On the other hand, this machine-tailoring tactic ensures that there’s no need to finish the seams. More time saved.
Here are a couple of links which got washed up in my research. You may find them of interest:
a: Different shoulder pad shapes: in McCulloch and Wallis and on the catwalk
b: Detailed instructions on making the traditional crescent shoulder pad
Being new to making coats, I confess this is completely virgin territory to me. If you’ve a shoulder pad story to share, please do! (Alexis Colby, if you’re reading this….)