Match of the day

The machinist versus the sample. 10:15 kick-off. The style is the newest iteration of the car coat. To guide him, the machinist has to hand only the pattern — annotated in the customarily laissez-faire manner of its author — and a toile, which is a rough mock-up, a proof of concept, with almost all the right body parts, but only half the pockets, and no lining.

So far, so standard.

At 10:42, the machinist complains that the top and under collars don’t quite tie up.

At 11:05, he patiently explains how the lining doesn’t fit into the body.

And so on and on, with apprehensive progress being made along the way, until around 14:03, when the machinist he throws up his arms — exasperation, frustration, likely thinking how he likely could’ve made three other jackets in the same amount of time — but then only to dutifully proceed to finish the sample, for about another hour, which to the eyes of any observer would be deemed a really rather beautifully made piece of outerwear, with exactly the right split-sleeve, wide fly-front, semi-bellows pockets masking in-seam warmer pockets, and Ulster collar as set out in the original design.

Of course, the machinist is very good indeed, and has more than the requisite expertise and knowledge to overcome the obstacles presented by the pattern (some of which are symptoms of the coat wilfully departing from standard coat procedure in several fundamental ways; others because it was developed with a soft and pliable woollen cloth in mind rather than the utterly unforgiving cardboard-like cotton — or cotton-like cardboard — on the machine this morning). No hard feelings: the same thing happened with the first stabs at the trench, duffle, peacoat, balmacaan, and work jacket, after all.

But changes must of course be made: a good pattern for production must be watertight, unambiguous, and with some efforts made at literal annotation. It might not be an easy thing to make, but it must be a smooth thing to make: no fussy hand-finishing, no doing what the machine doesn’t want to do. There’s no luxury for deliberation or personal interpretation — not for how A slots into B, not for how C is stitched, and not for how the buttonholes on the fly (let’s call them D, E, and F) are spaced. For the factory, the coat is an assemblage of parts, which are themselves an assemblage of parts, which in an inductive sort of manner just happen to come together in a way that fully resembles a good coat.

Time for a second look at that pattern, maybe.