couture sewing, French Jackets, Uncategorized

French Jacket Pattern Matching

Several years ago I began experimenting with techniques for a better pattern match along the princess seams of the French jacket. Here’s a photo and link to the post explaining my approach.

Techniques used in this jacket

Since then, I’ve continued to refine the method. It’s easy to achieve this match across the upper chest on model shapes but what about figures that have more curves? I started by giving one of my mannequins a much curvier (about a G cup) body and started playing with the fabric.

The middle photo shows a thread traced outline of the typical jacket front pieces. The front princess seam is pinned together and put on the mannequin. Notice how the horizontal pink lines match below the bust point but start to angle in a different direction and don’t match from the bust point to shoulder. You also will see a bubble of excess fabric where a horizontal bust dart is normally placed. That’s because this curvy figure requires more shaping than the pattern has.

I could add a dart, either along the side seam or at the front armhole, but that still didn’t solve the issue of the front princess seam mis-match plus the pink stripes now looked even more mis-matched and I had to deal with the bulk of the dart. A third solution would be to unpin the seam and shift the front side panel further towards the center front but that increased the discrepancy between the pink stripes.

It’s clear that the only way the horizontal lines will match is if I can get the side front princess seam on the straight grain. Cut open a side bust dart and spread the dart until the princess seam is on the straight grain? That leaves a GIGANTIC side dart to deal with. How about splitting the dart into two darts, one at the side seam, one in the armseye? The darts are smaller but I really don’t like the way darts look when sewn. Could I convert the darts to ease and steam out the excess rather than sewing?

Getting the side princess seam closer to vertical would help. Here’s my half scale pattern to start experimenting with. If I reposition the bust to shoulder seam and move it closer to the neck, that will decrease the angle of the upper side princess seam and lessen the width of side/armhole darts when I place the seam on vertical grain. Now the darts are small enough that they can be dealt with by steaming and compressing the fabric rather than using a sewn dart.

Back to the fabric. Change the position of thread tracing (left photo, orange thread shows new seam line placed on vertical grain) so now the front princess line is moved closer to the neck edge (pattern has been altered with repositioned upper princess line). Pin the side front to your pressing surface at the bust line and using a press cloth to protect the fabric, start to rotate the upper princess seam to match thee curve of the pattern. Fabric will bunch up in the armhole and just below the armhole along the side seam (where the darts were in photos above). Middle photo shows original pattern shape in white, repositioned princess seam in blue, and vertical grain in orange. You can also see how the fabric is bunched up in the armhole. Gently steam and compress this bump of fabric. Start where the dart tip would be and work towards the outer armhole edge. Go slowly steaming and working the ease out. You don’t want to press creases. The success of this depends on how loosely woven and compressible your boucle is. Most boucles aren’t tightly woven. A boucle with a high percentage of wool will be easier to manipulate than synthetics. Test on some scraps first to see how your fabric will react to heat and steam. Photo on the right shows what the side front should look like after shaping.

Allow the piece to cool completely before moving. The armhole area will be very unstable and needs to be reinforced with silk organza. Pin the pattern to the right side of the fabric; I cut the pattern from sturdy brown paper as it won’t stretch out of shape. Turn the piece over, wrong side up. Pin silk organza to cover the armhole and princess seam. The organza should extend about 2-3 inches below the underarm. The organza is placed on the original grain line. Baste into place. Organza is added AFTER shaping. Don’t try and shape the boucle with organza already attached. The organza won’t shape like the boucle and you don’t want it to anyway. The organza is to help stabilize the boucle. The armhole is likely to stretch so it’s best to either apply a narrow tape or row of small running stitches, secured at both ends, to keep the armhole from growing.

Here’s the finished result back on the mannequin. The fabric is distorted in the underarm area but is in an inconspicuous area, especially after sleeves are inserted and no bulky darts to contend with. Front view shows now the pink stripes travel uninterrupted across the upper chest. Sleeves can be matched and the horizontal line will be continuous. The lining sections are cut as normal. I hand baste the lining in place in the upper chest area of side fronts to be sure nothing shifts around while quilting. The quilting lines follow the grain of boucle so, yes the quilting lines will be curved.

Remember to shift the back princess seam also if you want the seams to line up along the shoulder. The same shaping can be done for the back princess seam. It’s much easier as the back shaping is rarely as curvy as the front. It is a great technique if you are dealing with a very rounded back.

Join me for a 6 day class where we’ll explore this and more: how to shape and fit the sleeve, adding a collar, custom trims and more. Details here.

11 thoughts on “French Jacket Pattern Matching”

  1. As always, your illustrations and explanations are very thorough and easy to follow. It’s so helpful that you’ve included various solutions and their outcomes. You leave no stone unturned!

  2. Thank you so much – it came just in time, as I am still plucking up the courage to draft my final pattern – I’m scared I will get it all wrong. I can’t boast of being a G cup though! I still hope to join you in person for the class one day, although here in Australia our borders are still closed. A quick question though, Mary, if I may – presumably you have to bring your own sewing machine? If that’s the case, I might just have to observe and perhaps refine the fit of an existing toile. I hope you are all safe over there. Janet

    1. You can always tweak the pattern. If you’re unsure, make a test jacket in not too expensive fabric and try out your design. Hopefully the world will open up one day and travel will once again be safe. Yes you do need a machine for class but I have several extras I loan out to students for the week. Stay safe and hope to meet you someday.

  3. Brilliance! I am a 32G and I hate that I can never get stripes and plaids to line-up after I do an FBA. Thank you so much! I will keep my eye out for future classes.

  4. Thank you Mary for this!. I have a DD-E cup and have made three French jackets with the exaggerated princess line curve which is fine with fabric that doesn’t have a grid pattern but i bought several beautiful lengths of bouclé at Linton Tweed a few years ago that I’ve been afraid to use because of difficulty matching the pattern at the front seams. I’m so pleased I can now have a go at making them. Big thanks again. You’re amazing!!!!

  5. Thank you for sharing your innovative fitting details. I totally nerded out on this post! The ones who don’t know the technicalities that go into making a perfectly fitted garment will never understand but we will.

    1. Glad you enjoyed this one. It’s technical but you’re absolutely right that it’s these little details, unseen by many, that go into a couture quality garment. Thanks.

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