French Jackets

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 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!

31 thoughts on “Chanel and the Sleeve, Part 2”

  1. You have indeed done a lot of research and look at the result …… the test jacket has a fantastic fit. Thank you for all the information and links. I look forward to exploring the links and see what I can learn, but most of all I look forward to your construction posts for the jacket ….. and of course the finished garment.

    1. The next post won’t be so long in coming. There were tons of details I wanted to work out before going live. I let Elizabeth Allemong know how helpful her book was and received a lovely response from her. She is also working on another book which I’m sure will have loads more useful info.

  2. Lots of hard work involved there, well done. Takes me back to my training, I feel all nostalgic now.The more you do this kind of thing the more you will have an innate understanding of where you want things to fit which will cut down on some (but not all) of the drafting time. The fun bit is obviously the sewing part but you appreciate the benefits of good preparation in the pattern stage which will eliminate lots of little (and bigger) niggles later. There is just no substitute for it. Good luck with the construction and don’t forget to support that sleeve cap with a sleeve head, (and a booster if necessary) – it will improve the shape and support the ease to prevent any sagging in that area. This is what gives classic jackets that look that is so sadly lacking in today’s garment construction. I wait to see your results.

    1. Thanks. I know what you mean about getting faster the more you do it. Having drafted tons of sleeves (and bodices) using different methods I’m also picking the best of each system. It also helps immensely with fitting as you start to see what needs to be done and how to alter patterns. Definitely time well spent.

  3. Wow, Mary, looks perfect! I’ll be interested to see how it compares with Susan Khalje’s upcoming pattern, which I’m eager to get my hands on. You should think about issuing your own!

    1. It will be interesting to see how Susan designed the jacket and sleeve. Maybe Vogue drafts these for an American fit. Elizabeth Allemong discusses the difference between the American and European drafts, especially how the European cut allows much less ease and places the armhole higher. Although custom drafts fit best I do wish the big 4 addressed the sleeve cap shape.

  4. I also used one of Claire Schaffer’s 3 piece sleeve patterns. #8804, vogue. It was way too wide and the placement of the seams made for a strange drape. I completely revamped the sleeve …narrowed it, raised the armhole and raised the cap slightly and eliminated the 3rd seam to be more chanel like in drape and fit. The pattern also appeared to be a pretty slim fit but was not at all. But I love Claire’s books so I was surprised at the unrefined fit.

    1. I remember reading somewhere that Claire does the initial design but the drafting and grading is done by Vogue. That may explain why the pattern isn’t what you might expect. I also worked with 8804 and had the same issues with the sleeve; easier to just draft your own.

    1. The blogging world can only help us home sewers. There are many talented people who are sharing their knowledge. I’m constantly finding new and better methods. I hope my info is of some help.

  5. The fit looks great, all that effort shows. I’ll have to try the Osnaburg fabric, thanks for the tip.I saw this blog posting right after I asked you if you had posted. 🙂

  6. Mary, I’m about to start my own Chanel Jacket. I have one of Claire’s patterns, which I’ve begun to study. I even have Linton Tweed! So exciting. Your blog is sure to guide me through the process. Thank you so much for all your hard work! Happy sewing. J

  7. Mary, lovely jacket and great technical information. looks like you interlined the body sections with organza and then quilted the lining on top of that. is that correct ?

  8. Silk organza is used as interfacing in the two center front sections, the back neck, a bias cut L shaped piece to stabilize the sleeve hem and vent, and a strip of bias organza in the hem. The other jacket sections are just boucle quilted to silk charmeuse. I researched using a silk organza underlining. Most opinions were that it was counter- productive to the final result. You want this jacket to be more like a cuddly sweater than a tailored jacket. Organza throughout the entire jacket would give a stiffer feel. I quilted a sample and felt I would be happier with just the charmeuse and organza where needed for stabilization. Glad you liked it.

  9. Your photographs and explanations are fantastic, thanks so much. I am currently making a muslin of this pattern and really look forward to adjusting it based on what you’ve written. Though I’m jealous of some of your fitting issues — oh, to be so slim and long-waisted. I’ve got the bombshell physique, not bad in its own way, but not very Coco. Thank you very much for your amazing online resources!

    1. Thank you so much for the compliments. I’m happy you found the info useful. I think if clothing fits well it’s more flattering than poorly fit garments no matter what your shape. I’ve had much success adding small shoulder pads in this type of jacket to balance out less than ideal shapes. Cover the pad with the lining fabric and tack it to the inside; just remember to do the fitting with the pad in place. I’ve deconstructed many genuine Chanels and am planning on doing a post detailing the Chanel shoulder pad. I would love to see your completed jacket. Happy sewing.

  10. How would you compare/contrast Elizabeth Allemong’s “European cut” sleeve to Suzy Furrer’s sleeve in “Building Patterns”? (Furrer’s method has a similar asymmetrical cap & is based upon armscye measure, but I assume that there are differences.)

    I’m similarity obsessed with sleeve fit. Any insight would be very appreciated!

    1. Elizabeth Allemong’s draft defines more points along the sleeve cap. I studied both Suzy Furrer’s and Kenneth King’s methods. They both were taught by Simmin Sethna and are similar. Their methods shape the sleeve cap mostly freehand and only define two points.
      I found Allemong’s draft produces a flatter back cap line and roundness at the upper front to accommodate the ball of the shoulder as well as the shoulder point more forward. Allemong’s draft also has a higher sleeve cap which is great for the fit of Chanel style jackets.
      I would be interested in your experiences with sleeve drafting.

  11. Hello, I am about to start my Chanel Jacket using this pattern and this post is very helpful. I would also like to change the front seam on my jacket like you did as well. Do you have any tips on doing this? Thanks for all of your information. Your work is beautiful.

    1. Have fun with your jacket. I find it easiest to work with a pattern which has no seam allowances. That way you know exactly where the stitching lines fall. You can lay the pattern pieces out matching seam lines. Then redraw the front seam line where you would like it to be. Cut apart on the new seam line and tape the new pattern together. You could also make up a toile (you’ll only need the jacket body without sleeves), redraw the seam line where you would like and cut apart to create a new pattern. Be sure to do both the front and back so your new seam lines meet at the shoulder. I keep the seam about an inch away from the neck edge to avoid too much bulk in that spot. Good luck and I’m always happy to answer questions.

      1. Wow! Thank you so much for your response. I also got the book that you mentioned (European Cut) so I can work on my sleeves the way that you did. Elizabeth emailed me back directly. She is really nice. Thanks again for everything.

  12. I’m sure you will learn much from Elizabeth’s book. I also contacted her directly and she is very responsive to comments. I absolutely love her sleeve drafting method and adapted it to produce a three piece sleeve. It’s not the easiest method to use and you do need to pay attention to detail and follow each step but you will end up with the most beautifully fit sleeve ever! I would love to see your final result. Thanks for letting me know.

  13. Are you still using Osnaburg fabric from Joanne’s for your jacket muslins? I have a few jacket and coat projects in mind and am considering purchasing a bolt – but then I read a few of the reviews and they raised a red flag.

    Many thanks!

    1. I haven’t had a problem with Osnaberg fabric from JoAnn’s. You are using it for fitting toiles, not garments. For coats, I might try something a little heavier. Depending on the weight of your coat fabric, inexpensive felt is another option which would simulate the weight and bulk of the finished coat better than muslin.

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