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The Three Old School Tools Of Vancouver’s Bespoke Tailor, Michael Mahood

Scout MagTradecraft takes Scout readers into the workshops, kitchens, and toolkits of Vancouver’s most talented crafts-people. From trusty pencils and custom-built machines to good luck charms and bespoke chef’s knives, this new column aims to get to the bottom of every creative attachment. No laptops or cellphones allowed! Today we hear from Michael Mahood, a master of his craft who keeps Vancouver men looking crisp and dapper through his own company, Martin Fisher Tailors.

1. Shoulder Level | “The most important element of a jacket is the shoulders – and the key to getting them right is making sure you have the right shoulder angle.  This device acts just like a standard level but in this case it’s measuring the angle of the shoulders as it runs from the base of the neck down towards the shoulder bone. This will tell us if the shoulders are held high (square), neutral (regular) or low (sloping). It’s critical to get this angle spot on as the positioning of the neckline in relation to the positioning of the armhole must be perfect to achieve optimal comfort and a clean appearance through the upper and lower chest.”

2. Measuring Tape | “An obvious inclusion! When constructing custom clothing the measurements are a big part of the picture thus a tape is a constant around my neck.  That said a critical aspect of learning the trade is to not rely solely on what the numbers tell you. Reading the body’s posture and where muscle and weight is held is equally as important and must be combined with what the numbers are saying to create the entire picture. As an example – three guys can have the a chest measurement of 40 inches but be completely different in terms of body shape. One could be completely balanced between the front and back, a second could have a very developed chest with a smaller back while the third could have a developed back with a smaller chest As the old adage says ‘the tape doesn’t lie but it can deceive.'”

3. Pins and Chalk | “Last but definitely not least are the pins and chalk. Both play a critical in every stage of creating custom clothing; be it at the fitting stage, the basting stage or during a forward fitting when we’re tweaking a completed garment. The pins are used to literally “pin away” excess cloth or fullness that exists in the garment. We then take that information and either alter the pattern or alter directly onto the garment depending on which stage we’re at. The chalk has a similar function though it is used to primarily communicate the changes that are to be made. The wonderful thing about chalk is that with a little steam it disappears – as such we’re able to record what changes need to be made right on the garment.  For example if we want to add more cloth to a seam I would mark the amount with the chalk and strike a line through it – the line communicates that you should ‘add’ cloth.  In the event I want to do the opposite and take cloth away I simply chalk the amount to be removed – in this case though I don’t put a line through it as that is the universal sign to reduce not add. The lovely thing about pinning and chalking is that it is a universal language whereby most shops and factories in the world share commonality.”