February 8, 2005
fused vs floating
(A roll of canvas and the skeleton baste of an overcoat, canvas visible, ready for the customer's first fitting)
Earlier when I talked about what to look for in a bespoke Savile Row suit, I mentioned the difference between a "Fused" and a "Floating" Canvas. I thought I might elaborate.
It very simple. Every suit coat will have a full layer of cloth between the outer cloth and the inner silk lining. It's what lets the coat keep its shape.
With a machine-made, "fused" coat, they use a special synthetic material which effectivley turns to glue when heated. It doesn't really do much, besides give the coat its body.
It can be done on a machine in a few seconds.
With a proper, bespoke suit, the coat is canvassed by hand. Yes, we use a real piece of wool & mohair based canvas. And yes, it does take forever.
Why have a hand canvas? It looks better. With a fused coat, there's no give. Where the outer cloth goes, the fused material goes, and vice-versa. They're just machine-stuck together. There's no synergy between the two.
But with a floating, hand canvas, there's give. There's synergy. The end result is the suit follows the contours of the body more naturally. There's less surface tension. The fit looks more relaxed and elegant without compromising form.
And as the coat now has a natural canvas in the layering, it expands and contacts depending on the body's heat, making for a more organic fit. Fused coats, being synthetic in the centre, just stay the same.
The other great thing with a hand canvas is, if it isn't put in absulutely, 100% correctly, it doesn't hang properly. It looks utterly dreadful. And it's really, really hard to get just right. This is where real experience in you tailor's hands in so important. This is one of the main reasons why the training takes so many years.
Another little detail: dry cleaning is absolute murder on fused coats. One of the main reasons why a bespoke suit lasts so much longer.
Regardless of who makes your suit, if you're paying over a certain amount you should make sure the coat is canvassed by hand. Otherwise you're being swindled.
If the tailor tells you a hand canvas is overrated or unnecessary, he is either incompetent or dishonest. Probably both. Turn around and leave his shop at once.
At the skeleton fitting, you should be able to see the canvas clearly, running down the inside of the coat. You can also feel for it quite easily if it's finished, off-the-peg. It feels like a seperate piece of cloth underneath the outer cloth, "floating" independantly, much like how the silk inner lining also floats independantly of the outer garment.
With the inferior fused coat, you feel nothing. The outer cloth and the fused, "glue" material will feel like one; a single layer of suit.
But now we both know they aren't.
Of course, canvas comes in different weights and varieties, just like any other cloth. I happen to favour a lighter canvas. The very famous (and also the most expensive) Huntsman's of Savile Row prefers a heavier make.
Nothing wrong with that at all, every tailor has his own style. Though their suits are not my cup of tea, the Huntsman look is one of the more distinctive, and I greatly admire them for that.
In case you're wondering, I use mainly "Nochetta Sahara" canvas, which I buy from one of my trimming merchants, Guilt Edge Suitings, based in the North of England.
Posted by tom at February 8, 2005 11:06 AM
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