Drafting Patterns, French Jackets, Uncategorized

French Jacket Shoulder Pad

I’ve created a new category on my main menu which will be links to free patterns, sewing/workroom tips, and other topics which readers may wish to refer back to. Not everything is linked yet but will be updated as soon as I organize. Having everything listed under one category will eliminate the need to search through past posts.

Here’s my pattern for a shoulder pad I designed several years ago. I love the shape of this shoulder pad as it has a built-in sleeve head and you can vary the thickness according to your needs. I’ve started making these using wool felt (which is available at JoAnns Fabrics) for a very couture shoulder pad. The wool felt is not inexpensive but one yard goes a long way and it’s a perfect use for the discount coupon. Cotton quilt batting also works well.

Link to pattern:

For a pair of shoulder pads, cut 4 of piece #1, 4 of piece #2, 2 of piece #3 and 2 of piece #4. This will make a shoulder pad three layers thick at the center. If you want a thicker pad, trim off 1/4” from piece #4 and cut 2 more pieces which will be slightly smaller than the original #4.

It’s easy to get piece #2 turned around so keep the pattern pinned in place until you’re ready to sew. I use a three step zig-zag, settings width 5.0, length 1.1. Stitching will be shown in black but you will use matching thread.

Zig-zag the two short seams matching point A. You will have two halves. Stitch together as shown matching points B and C.

Zig-zag the darts closed on pieces 3 and 4. If you’re making the thicker version, you will have 2 #4 pieces as shown. Thinner pad will have one #4. It’s easier to start at the tip of the dart and sew towards the edge of the fabric, butting the edges together as you stitch.

If you have two #4 pieces, stack the smaller one on top of larger piece and use a hand running stitch to join the layers. Hand sewing doesn’t take long and eliminates the risk of the layers shifting when sewn by machine. Take piece #3, arrange so it’s curving upwards like an upside down dish. Place piece(s) 4 on top. The layers should be graduated, largest layer on the bottom, smallest on top. Hand stitch around the edge of the middle layer attaching it to the largest, bottom layer.

Now place the already sewn together pieces 1 and 2 on top, match the center lines and hand stitch along the edge.

Pin the finished shoulder pad over a ham, steam and gently mold the shape with your hands. Finished!!! The zig-zag stitching line is aligned with the armhole seam and the shoulder pad extends slightly into the sleeve head. The shoulder pad can be used as is for tailoring when the lining is inserted after construction. If you’re using in a French jacket in which the lining is quilted to the face fabric, then the shoulder pad will be covered with lining fabric and inserted after construction is completed.

For a pair of covered shoulder pads, cut 2 upper covers and 2 lower covers. ***Leave at least 3/4 inch seam allowance around the outer edges***. The pattern DOES NOT have seam allowances. Note that the straight grain of fabric should be at a 45 degree angle to the center line. Mark and stitch the darts using a 2.0 to 2.5mm straight machine stitch. Press darts towards center line. Trim the single dart on the lower cover to 1/4 inch seam allowance. Take the upper cover (it’s the one with 2 darts) and place it on a shoulder pad. Match up the center line; darts are on the sleeve head section of the pad as shown. Pin the center line and smooth the cover over the shoulder pad. Pin along the edges.

Flip the shoulder pad over so the lining fabric is underneath. Stitch around the outer edge using a running stitch. I use an uneven stitch catching only a thread or two on the fabric side and more space on the felt side. Arrange the lower cover right side up matching center line with the dart in the sleeve head portion.

Smooth the layers together and pin. Trim the seam allowance to 3/4 inch beyond the felt. Fold back the seam allowances and using an air soluble pen, mark center line and a couple of registration points along the curved edges to make it easier to line things up for the next step.

Now unpin the seam. Arrange the lining right sides together. Pin the seam matching raw edges and registration marks. Stitch around the circumference leaving about 2.5 inches open for turning. Use a 1/2 inch seam allowance which will place the stitching 1/4 inch away from the felt. If you stitch right next to the felt, the turned seam won’t press flat. Trim the stitched seam to 1/4 inch. I find it easier and more accurate to cut the wider seam allowance, stitch, then trim rather than using a 1/4 inch seam allowance to start with. It’s also easier to stitch with the felt side up.

Turn under raw edges and slipstitch the opening closed. Press the outer curved edge flat. To attach the shoulder pad in a French jacket you can use thread tacks or snaps at the “X” marks. Middle pic shows underside of the shoulder pad which is next to the body. Photo on the right shows placement on the shoulder; the dashed line on the shoulder pad is where the armseye seam falls.

If you need a slightly larger shoulder pad, print the pattern at 105% or 110%. In that case, all the pieces won’t fit on a single sheet so cut out the pattern and enlarge each section on it’s own page.

25 thoughts on “French Jacket Shoulder Pad”

  1. Thank you, Mary, this is very informative and exceptionally well thought out to produce immaculate results. I appreciate these instructions as I’ve been a fan of at least some shoulder padding to help me cover up my protruding bone and slightly dropped shoulder from a poorly healed separation. No one was sadder than I when the big shoulders of the 90s went out of style! I’ve not always successfully used purchased pads and have often wished to produce custom. Thanks!

    1. I think shoulder pads can go a long way in smoothing out a shoulder line. You don’t always want to fit exactly to your shape; it’s an art to camouflage figure issues and custom shoulder pads definitely help. Thanks for the feedback.

  2. Wow Mary!! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. This shoulder pad will be used, as I love to make jackets.. I am starting a coat in September that has a raglan sleeve. I would appreciate any input for shoulder pads- no rush❤️❤️Lisa Jones

    1. This pattern is perfect for a raglan sleeve as it has the built in sleeve head and a smooth curve over the shoulder you want with a raglan. Depending on how fitted your coat is, you might want to experiment with enlarging this. The pattern was developed for a slim fitting jacket. If you are working on a looser fitting coat, a larger pad would work better. Not much bigger. Like I suggested, try engaging 105% to 110%. Let me know if you have problems and we’ll work it out.

  3. Hello Mary, thank you for sharing your technique , you have made it easy to follow and understand . I have printed it for future reference. I hope this is ok ?
    Kindest regards, Karen

  4. Wonderful. I appreciate you sharing your expertise. It is so helpful to get the patterns and instructions from you.

  5. Thank you so much for creating the new links on the main menu! I have been known to sit and flip through blog posts to find something, so this is fabulous. I appreciate the work that it takes to do this.

  6. I have long wanted to try this but never got round to it. With your pattern and super instructions it has been made so easy for us. As others have said, it is very generous of you and much appreciated.

  7. Hi Mary,
    Absolutely love all the wonderful advice you share with us. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I had previously printed off this pattern ( some while back now) and the printer shrank it, but I kept it as a reference. Thrilled that I revisited your page and what did I find, the perfect download, just as I am about to need shoulder pads for a Vogue jacket I am making. Serendipity!!

    Thank you so so much. The shape of your shoulder pad is just beautiful.
    Kindest regards.

    1. Thanks and glad this showed up at just the right time. I’m getting better at Adobe Illustrator and using it for pdf patterns. The learning curve is steep and my first attempts may have had glitches.

  8. I must add my thanks to all these others. It’s very generous of you to share haute couture techniques, instructions, and patterns.
    I’d love to take a class with you someday! I’m interested in the trim class on Zoom (I need to check my work schedule, but I hope to sign up for that!). Do you do any in-person classes in the northeast?

    1. Thanks for reading and I hope to meet you in person also. I’m doing another trim class with Claire Tyler September 22 via Zoom and will be posting more info about that shortly. COVID has wrecked havoc with in-person classes. Hopefully I will be comfortable scheduling something in the NY area next spring.

  9. Thank you so much Mary. The shoulder pads were a lot of work to make and explain but you did a great job.

Leave a Reply