Thank you all for the many comments and compliments about this jacket. The finishing details are what sets French jackets apart and make this jacket unique. In addition to the custom trim, French jackets feature hand worked buttonholes, sleeves are set by hand, countless tiny stitches secure the lining and a metal chain inside the jacket allow it to drape perfectly when worn.
I think the sleeves are actually easier to set by hand and would be almost impossible to do by machine due to the unique construction methods. Although it would be easier to sew the armseye seam through all layers, I find joining only the outer fabrics together before hand basting the lining in place gives a softer, more fluid feel.
Here’s an inside view of the armseye seam. Probably one if the messiest times in jacket construction. Yes, I used Pro Sheer Elegance Couture interfacing which was fused the jacket sections. It’s extremely lightweight, flexible and doesn’t change the drape of the tweed. Linton actually recommends doing this with their more loosely woven fabrics. I’ve serged the edges of the tweed with a wide stitch but finished the seams of the lining with a narrow two thread stitch using fine thread. I like Gutermann Skala 360-U81, Invisafil by Wonderfil Threads, or 80 weight Maderia or Aurifil cotton. I use two strands of regular sewing thread, waxed and pressed, to set the sleeve. I sew the top part from the right side using tiny fell stitches and the underarm portion from the inside with a backstitch.
Notice at the point where the shoulder seam meets the sleeve seam, the seam allowances haven’t been caught but are allowed to float free. This allows the seam to press more smoothly and feels less rigid. I’ve not included the sleeve lining; I feel I get a better result by joining only two layers of fabric at one time.
I create a sleeve head from cotton batting. Cut about 2.5 inches wide and 7 inches long. Fold along a long side about 1.5 inches from the edge, pull along the folded edge while steam pressing to curve. The folded edge is sewn along the armseye seam at the sleeve cap to provide additional shape and support.
Baste the sleeve lining just inside the armseye seam and trim away the excess fabric. I’ve struggled with getting the lining over the sleeve cap evenly if the jacket is lying flat. I’ve found it much easier to turn the jacket inside out and place on my dress form with a sleeve form attached. Now the jacket and sleeve are supported and it’s easier to manipulate the lining into position.
Pin along the seam and sew a line of tiny running stitches. Pull the gathering thread up to fit and tie a tailors knot at each end. Trim off the excess and the fabric will fold under easily along the gathering line. I set the sleeve cap first, baste, then remove the jacket from the form. The lining at the underarm is brought up and around the seam allowances.
I had originally planned for front buttons, but decided I liked the look of trim without buttons, and considered a front zipper. Botani Trimming in NYC makes custom zippers and does mail order. You select the zipper tooth size, length, color and pull. The zipper arrives in a few days and they even had chain for the hem. Finding the right zipper in a local shop would have been impossible. Just as an interesting side note, Botani sells Lampo zippers. They are made in Italy and the same brand that Chanel uses!
How to deal with the lining? I could have folded it back past the zipper teeth and stitched into place but that left the zipper teeth exposed on the inside of the jacket. In true couture fashion, I wanted to cover up that metal. Placing a length of ribbon inside the fold beefed up the edge of the silk charmeuse so it would be less likely to catch on the zipper pull. This was one time when that rigid, slightly raised edge on polyester ribbon was useful. Now zipper teeth are concealed, both inside and out.
The dreaded buttonholes next. Machine made buttonholes lack the couture finish this jacket needed. I’ve experimented with countless ways to improve my hand worked version. I’ve found that sewing around the buttonhole before cutting, especially in a fabric such as this, helps tremendously to keep the layers together. Marking and sewing this manually on the machine requires much twisting and turning of the fabric so I searched for an easier way. My machine sews a square buttonhole using a straight stitch so I tried that, stitching around the buttonhole twice, once at a narrow width and again a little wider.
Looks OK but I didn’t like the thread buildup at the beginning and end (impossible to stop the machine from knotting the threads) plus I really wanted a keyhole buttonhole.
My Bernina does embroidery and I have digitizing software so I created a template for the buttonholes. I hooped a square of heavy muslin, stitched out the placement lines for the sleeve; then cut out a window so the stitching wouldn’t get caught on the muslin. The sleeve was pinned onto the muslin. Working wrong side up worked better. The sleeve was easier to place and keep the fabric clear of the stitching area, plus the embroidery foot wouldn’t get snagged on the loose fibers of the tweed. The embroidery software will insert buttonholes automatically, but I wasn’t able to adjust the shape and stitch length satisfactorily. I also wasn’t able to do the double rows. Mirror the image for the other sleeve and remember to cut another window so your muslin doesn’t get stitched to the fabric.
There are several YouTube videos showing hand worked buttonholes if you need a review. I worked under a magnifying light and tried to keep the buttonhole stitches just inside the second row of machine stitching. It provided a nice guide for straight, narrow stitches. Buttonholes aren’t easy and most people say they need to work a hundreds before somewhat mastering the art. I’m always trying to make mine better but these aren’t bad.
I’ve been inspired by the photos of sheath dresses with matching jackets ( Helen Haughey’s class looked wonderful) so that’s next in the sewing lineup. Thanks for reading.