Monthly Archives: September 2014

French Jacket; The Beginning

Now that my body double dress form and three piece sleeve research are complete it’s time to try them in action.

This is from my stash, probably purchased at B&J Fabrics several years ago. Now seems like a good time to get it made.  Another hallmark of couture construction is the shaping of garment sections with steam before any sewing takes place.  “Vintage Couture Tailoring” by Thomas von Nordheim has probably the best diagrams of how to shape jacket and sleeve sections.  Claire Shaeffer’s videos also explain the process well.

If you haven’t seen it, the video “Secret World of Haute Couture” is a great watch. It’s about 45 minutes and interviews some of the purchasers of haute couture garments. Although these ladies don’t sew they do understand and appreciate what haute is and how it feels. About 10 minutes into the film, one of the ladies who worked in haute couture for years explains, “You don’t just cut the fabric and sew it; you work the fabric. It is shaped with special irons so that when you roll it up, pack it, etc it still looks perfect.”  The importance of prefect fit is also stressed; “the clothing fits like a second skin; feels like you are wearing nothing at all.”

I used Vogue 8891 as a starting point. I reshaped the front princess seam so it would be easier to shape a rectangular piece of fabric into the proper shape.

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Trace the grain line about one inch from the fabric edge. Place your muslin pattern (no seam allowances) on top.
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Smooth the fabric so the grain line follows the pattern shape. You will notice ripples form; these need to be steamed out so the fabric is now shaped like the pattern.
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The same process needs to be done on the back sections.
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And all sleeve sections are steamed to further build in the shape.
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Although Claire’s pattern instructions don’t specify this type of shaping, notice that what was a curved quilt line now tends to follow the grain of the shaped garment sections. I spaced my quilting lines about 1 and 1/4 inch apart and followed the lengthwise grain on each section. After quilting I like to roll the raw edges of my lining sections under; it just keeps things neater.
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I cut the sleeves after completing and fitting the jacket body. Pins show match points. Most boucles do have a subtle pattern, so look carefully if you think yours doesn’t.
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Almost completed. Here is the jacket front and back. Notice how the armhole has been eased and tightened before the sleeve is set.

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I decided to shape the upper neck edge. An easy way to get a smooth shape that is symmetrical is cut a cardboard template. Press the neck edge under. Flip the template for the other side.

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Needs sleeve buttonholes and a good final press before I’m ready for trim.
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Pockets? Undecided yet. I’ll wait and see what the trim and buttons look like first.

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Chanel and the Sleeve, Part 2

Getting a high, tight and well fitting sleeve is one of the key elements in a Chanel style jacket.  The three piece sleeve is designed to give that snug fit as well as place the vent a little more forward to showcase buttons and trim. My last post outlined how to go about converting a two-piece sleeve pattern into a three.  Another issue with most of the commercial patterns is that the armscye is rarely high enough and the shape of the sleeve cap doesn’t really fit that well.

I’ve spent the last month researching sleeve drafting. Never did I imagine it would lead to an intensive study of just about every method in multiple languages. Where to start? A website devoted to fairly advanced topics in tailoring is cutterandtailor.com. Most of the discussions of sleeve drafting referred to German systems which were complicated, difficult to translate, and I found the sleeve shape geared to mens’ tailoring.  The sleeves I drafted from these tended to be too wide and the sleeve cap too short. This site does have tons of valuable information about just about every tailoring topic. Numerous other drafting books produced less than perfect results.

The Mueller system got closer to what I wanted but placed the top of the sleeve cap too far forward. Finally!!! I found European Cut. This manual by Elizabeth Allemong is a compilation of the best French, German, English and Italian drafting techniques written in easily understood terms.  The system is far from quick and easy.  You will need patience and attention to detail but this is by far the best I found. I’m surprised it’s not more well known.

I decided to work with Vogue 8991, one of Claire Shaeffer’s new jacket patterns. It has a three piece sleeve so that part of the drafting work is already done.

Jacket Toile
I added my standard 1 and 1/4 inch to the waist length and decided to reposition the front seam. Otherwise the muslin fits perfectly. I’ve started using Osnaburg fabric, available at Joann Fabrics in the utility fabrics section, for jacket muslins. It’s heavier than regular muslin and since it’s 100% cotton, shapes easily. I wait for the discount coupon and buy 10-20 yards.

The sleeves were a different story. The pattern envelope shows fairly narrow sleeves but when I made the trial version they were much too wide at the hem and very long. The sleeve cap was also in need of reworking.

What I liked about European Cut is that the sleeve draft is based on the armscye of the garment, not arbitrary standard measurements. The sleeve cap is unevenly divided with the back width longer than the front. Since the back armhole of the jacket body is always longer than the front it makes for a better fit.  The front sleeve cap also protrudes more but the back cap curve is shallower.
Scye 8991
The scye shape from which a new sleeve shape can be drafted.

Pattern 1
The paper draft.

Pattern 3
The black outline is the pattern, red is the redraft, and green is the final draft. The sleeve cap needed raising 3/8 inch and underarm raised 1/2 inch. I also narrowed the sleeve slightly.

Sleeve Pattern Hem
I didn’t care for the flared hem so here are my changes to the bottom of the sleeve pattern. This fabric can be eased and shaped much more than regular muslin. I feel it mimics a soft wool better and gives a better read as to the final fit.

Shaped Sleeve
Completed Shaped Sleeve
Shaped sleeve ready to set.

Modeling Toile 2
I was on a mission to perfect these jacket sleeves and feel that the hard part is done.  Finally the fun of sewing this can begin!

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