Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Tailoring, Uncategorized

Finishing Details; The French Jacket

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.

Setting Sleeve by hand Free seam allowances

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.

Sleeve headSleeve head shaped

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.

Jacket inside out Sleeve head inserted

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 around seam Gathering line Pull up gathers

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.

Seam EasedSleeve underarm

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!

Custom Zip Lining at Zip Zipper Inside

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.

Machine buttonholes

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.

Hoop setup Buttonholes in hoop Embroidery buttonholes

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.

Stranding Buttonholes  Best Buttonhole

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.




32 thoughts on “Finishing Details; The French Jacket”

  1. This is absolutely lovely — inside and out. As you know, I struggled with the hand-worked buttonholes on my own last jacket. They weren’t bad, but I’d love to get better! I guess I’ll just have to do a hundred more! As always, I’m inspired by your work and feel better educated every post I red. Thank-you.

    1. I feel like mine could be better also. I think the only way to really improve is to be constantly re-evaluating your work and looking for ways to do things better. Thanks for reading.

  2. Thanks for another great post, Mary! Did you use the fusible interfacing in the sleeve cap only, or other parts of the garment as well? Sharon

    1. I used the lightest, most flexible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply and fused the entire garment. Linton has a booklet which advises this treatment for their loosely woven fabrics. I’ve also has issues in the past with yarns snagging when the garment is worn and the fusible decreases the likelihood of a thread being badly snagged. The interfacing didn’t affect the drapability of the fabric. Thanks for asking.

  3. Sometimes you see something that you hadn’t thought of before and are a bit dumbstruck it didn’t come to mind – seeing the row of gathering thread on the lining sleeve cap was a bit like that for me! So intelligent, so simple. I’ll remember it for next time 🙂

    1. Worked beautifully. Make the stitches tiny and the fabric will ease into place without any puckering. Hope this little trick helps you. I always love seeing what you create.

  4. Made my first french jacket last year after purchasing Susan Khalje’s online class and pattern. So pleased with how it turned out, will be making another one soon. Great idea about gathering the sleeve head to get it to turn under neatly. Will try that on my next jacket. I love your blog and never miss a post – have picked up so many tips from you over the years.

    1. Thank you for following and for letting me know you find the information useful. I felt like I needed three hands to hold and pin the sleeve lining and the mannequin was perfect.

    1. I use it all the time and love it. Chanel uses stretch silk charmeuse with their logo woven for most RTW. I didn’t use the stretch version in this jacket. Thanks for reading.

  5. Oh my gosh, the close ups of that fabric are to die for! What a stunningly gorgeous jacket. And what a tremendous attention to detail. Your LFJ posts are so inspiring. I really must make one.

  6. Thank you so much. I have really enjoyed reading your blogs on the French jacket and have learned such a lot. Your jacket looks terrific and the fabric is beautiful and I am looking forward to watching you make the dress to go with it.

  7. Again a great post!! Hand sewn buttonholes is really something I would like to tackle one day, but my attempts at embroidery tell me that it’s going to be a long and difficult road…

  8. I am so enjoying following your jacket journey. It is gorgeous. Getting that sleeve lining in proper position has always intimidated me and your tips will help in the future. As far as the BHs, I am able to control the stitch density of mine on the machine and sew a machine BH with a rather open density and use a 60 weight machine fine sewing thread. This gives me my base keyhole shape that I then work the hand buttonhole on top of in silk twist. The machine BH literally disappears in the boucle with this method but makes it so much easier to do the hand BH. Thanks to a longtime heirloom sewing friend for that tip.

    1. Thanks Bunny. Nice to hear from you. I’ve always enjoyed your posts and hope your life settles down and you return to blogging. I’ve also tried your method and it works very well, especially when used with 60 or even 80 weight thread in both top and bobbin thread. I think that the more ways you have to do any technique can only help.

  9. I’ve read this post several times now and always seem to pick up another detail. The tip on the zipper source is so helpful. Although I am generally not a fan of zippers in prominent places in garments, I really like how you used one with this jacket. A zipper might be just what I need for the next jacket I have planned (after I’ve finished my red/black houndstooth jacket and dress), and I never would have thought of it without seeing your jacket. Thanks so much for sharing all the great details in construction!

    1. Thanks Karen. I tried to make the zipper as inconspicuous as possible. I also like how the lining covers up the zipper on the inside. Pacific Trim also makes custom zippers. The zippers are offered in multiple size teeth: I chose the narrowest tooth size. I actually got the idea from a Chanel RTW.

  10. Fabulous detail here. I am struggling with sourcing chain for the hem of the jacket. Would be grateful for any online links.

    1. There are several online sources: Botani, M & J, Toho Shoji. I’ll be in NYC next week and will include sources with detailed ordering instructions for various weights and styles. Thanks for reading.

  11. Super photos as usual! Love the tip for the curved sleeve head and it is so nice to see all those pins used for the hand worked sleeve cap lining! I will probably never venture into the world of a Chanel jacket but still I can drool over all the steps that it takes to make such a gorgeous project! Thanks for showing the ribbon trick along the zipper teeth too!!! You are amazing, Mary!

    1. Thank you Mrs. Mole. Sometimes tricks such as wrapping the lining around ribbon just emerge as necessity while I’m sewing. The same for the sleeve head trick. I was struggling to hold the sleeve in position while pinning the lining and needed four hands. The dress form was sitting there ready to help.

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