I’ve seen many French jackets lined with exquisite prints but finding the right print can be tough and I find myself sometimes preferring a solid. This jewelry design depicting the famous Chanel camellia rose inspired a new technique for lining the jacket.
I played with options and settled on a variation of trapunto. Trapunto designs are usually filled with soft yarn or cording to give dimension to the design. I could have digitized an image but OESD has a trapunto quilting collection. The designs are available as a complete set or can be purchased individually. I used OC870067 and 870068 for one design; 870069 and 870070 for the other.
One stitch file is the pillow used to pad the stitches and the other file is the tack down and embroidery stitches.
After printing several copies of the designs, I arranged them on the lining sections making sure to keep the design within the seam allowances. I tested several options for padding and found regular quilt batting too heavy; same with brushed flannel fabric. Thermore batting is designed for quilted garments and provided the right amount of puffiness yet was thin enough not to show on the right ride of the jacket.
First step was to hoop one layer of Thermore batting and stitch, using very fine 100 weight thread, as many “pillows” as would fit in the hoop. Cut around each pillow.
Hooping lightweight cotton lawn or silk organza was difficult. The fabric was so thin that even tightening the hoop to the max wasn’t working. I decided to hoop heavy cotton twill, cut a window, and pin the lightweight backing to the twill. Problem solved. Just be sure and place the pins well away from the stitching area. Stitch the tack down outline, shown in the right pic. I’ve colored it to show better but use the white 100 weight thread on the lining sections.
Spray the pillow lightly with basting spray and place on the stitched line. Top with a lining section, placing the design according to your paper template. A test sample is shown here. Pin again (keep the pins out of stitching area!!!) Change to regular weight thread (I like Gutterman 50 weight cotton) and stitch out the trapunto design.
Remove all the pins and trim the excess backing fabric. I quilted each lining and jacket section in the usual way except I chose not to stitch through the designs.
The almost finished jacket and matching sheath dress. The dress is not quilted but is lined to the edge with the same Chanel pink silk charmeuse.
The dress neck, armholes and hem are finished with the selvedges from this length of Linton tweed.
Jacket trim and buttons need to be added. I loved the custom zipper front closure from the teal jacket and may opt for the same on this one. Will be scouring the garment district in NYC next week for the final touches.
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.
This is an experiment in the art of trompe l’oeil as the French call it, or to deceive the eye. I’ll explore how to alter the grain of fabric to create the illusion of a less bumpy and curvy shape. I’ll also use my custom shoulder pads as explained in my last post and in my article for Threads Magazine to transform asymmetrical shoulders into an evenly shaped figure.
I’ve chosen a loosely woven patterned fabric and will create a Chanel style jacket for this figure. The dress form has been marked with the standard balance lines. Notice the back view which clearly shows the right shoulder much more sloped than the left. A note to those readers who have seen my posts about various types of dress forms. This is an adjustable foam style with dials. Not my favorite but after padding to match the figure it works fine. A professional model is nice but you can make anything work!
The style lines are added in purple tape. I’ve chosen to bring the princess line closer to the neck edge which creates a more vertical line makes it easier to shape the fabric in the next step.
In order to even out the shoulders I constructed shoulder pads using my pattern from the Threads Magazine article. I added additional layers to the right shoulder pad to make the shoulder height the same on both sides. Rather than try and alter a pattern, it was easier to drape the jacket directly on the form. Note that I carefully marked right and left sides. Although the garment sections look symmetrical on the form they are vastly different when laid flat.
The red stitches show final alterations to the shoulders. Height is added to accommodate the shoulder pads and I widened the shoulder line to balance the torso for a more flattering shape.
Rather than cut the side front and side back garment garment sections according to the pattern, I wanted to shape the fabric to follow the seam lines and minimize an off-grain cut at the shoulder line. For the side front I started with a rectangle of fabric. I pinned the toile to the fabric and rotated the fabric so that the straight grain lined up with the princess seam. As you can see, this caused excess fabric to bunch up along the front armhole.
Working slowly with a steam iron, start easing the fabric towards the armhole. The fibers will compress and you will be able to ease out much of the excess fabric.
Work carefully as you don’t want to press permanent creases into the fabric. Depending on how pliable your fabric is, you may be able to ease all of the extra out. If not just readjust the seam line to be slightly off grain but you should be able to work the seamline almost on the straight grain. Fabric choice is crucial here. Most loosly woven boucles will ease nicely. My fabric was a little tighter weave than most wool boucles and I was able to ease almost all of the excess fabric out. Trim the excess fabric at the armhole.
The fabric is now nicely shaped but very unstable and will want to return to its original shape. I cut a stay from lightweight cotton and basted it to the fabric. I’ve added two rows of machine stay stitching and eased the armhole to correspond to the toile. Stay tape keeps the shoulder seam from stretching out of shape. This fabric wanted to ravel badly. Although many couture sources frown on using a serger I use it to overlock the seams and prevent fraying. I use a very lightweight Guttermann thread (not regular sewing thread) so as not to add bulk to the seam. The lining is cut according to the pattern (not shaped as the boucle), basted and quilted as usual following the weave of the fabric. Your quilting lines will curve and a walking foot as well as diagonal basting will keep everything lined up without puckering.
This clearly shows the distorted weave but it will be hidden under the arm and the jacket front will show a flattering vertically placed weave. The side back is handled the same way. It will be easier to shape as you won’t be dealing with the bust. It does nicely conceal rounded shoulders and back.
I used purchased navy fringe and sewed a narrow white cord in the middle. Two pockets looked better than four as I wanted to minimize the bust. The princess seams are barely visible and the jacket gives a taller and slimmer appearance.
I’m working on more custom trim and have a beautiful piece of Linton tweed for the next venture.
My style tends towards sleek, tailored clothing but this blouse with its many circular flounces was one I had to try. The inspiration is from Alexander McQueen’s RTW line and retailed for over $1000. Wonderful look for summer that I could definitely do for less.
I draped a slim fitting princess line top using my body double dress form. It extends to the high hip line here so I can play with the placement of the hem flounce.
An interesting technical point is that these are known as flounces, not circular ruffles. In the garment industry, a ruffle by definition has the excess fullness gathered into a seam while the fullness of a flounce comes from the curved flare of the fabric.
The flounce pattern is created by drawing concentric circles. The inner circle is attached to the garment.
Drafting the flounce does require some basic math and decisions about how full you want the flounce. The left diagram shows a flounce with an inner circle of 1 inch diameter and one inch wide flounce. The circumference of the inner circle is 3.14 inches which will be the length of the seam joining to the garment. The outer edge of the flounce will be 9.42 inches. Fullness is calculated as 9.42 divided by 3.14 equals 3 or 3:1 ratio. However, imagine that you need a 6 inch long flounce. Drawing a 2 inch diameter circle surrounded by a 4 inch diameter circle creates a flounce 6.28 inches long with an outer edge 12.56 inches long. Note that the fullness has changed from 3:1 to 2:1 (12.56 divided by 6.28). If the desired fullness is 3:1, then the flounce will need to be cut using two of the smaller circles and seaming them together.
I’ve drafted a 3 inch deep flounce for the lower edge of the blouse, cut a test from muslin and attached to the toile. To achieve 3:1 fullness, I’ll use four sections (two back and two front).
Drafting the flounces for the neckline and center front required more complicated methods. Flounces behave differently depending upon the seam they are attached to. Vertical hanging flounces cascade down in folds. The fullness of a flounce is increased when attached to a inside curve and decreased when attached to an outside curve. TheArt of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff is a wonderful resource which more fully explains these concepts.
The neckline is an outside curve. Therefore to maintain the same appearance of fullness, the flounce at the neck was drafted with 4:1 inner to outer ratio. The math can get complicated, especially when you need to consider the length of flounce needed, width AND fullness ratio desired plus adding seam allowances. Then compound all this with varying width flounces for the center front and armholes. I’ve devised a relatively simple way to draft all this.
Either buy a tablet of graph paper or print some out. There are free internet sources for printing all sizes of graph paper. I like Math-Drills.com . Search for graph paper and print out a few sheets of 1/4 inch size. Metric users try 0.5 cm; I found the 1 cm. size just a bit too large to produce smooth curves using my method.
Measure the length of the seam the flounce will be attached to. Measure the SEAM LINE, not the cut edge. All drafting is done referencing the seam line; seam allowances are added afterwards. I’ll show the back neck: seam line from CB to shoulder seam is 3.5 inches. 4:1 fullness is desired and 1.75 wide flounce so I’ll cut and tape together a strip of graph paper 1.75 inches by 14 inches (3.5 times 4).
Cut along every fourth line leaving a tiny bit attached at one long edge. If you cut through, it’s no problem to just tape it together. Overlap the sections so there are four blocks at one edge and one block at the other edge.
The inside edge won’t line up perfectly but I just eyeball it. You can also draw in a line to help. Tape the sections in place as you go. This is what the pattern will look like. It’s very clear that there is a 4:1 ratio of inner to outer length. Also it isn’t a complete circle which is good as there is space to add seam allowances.
The pattern can be cleaned up by using it as a gauge to draw circles with a compass. Use the end points on the outer circle and connect to the center for symmetrical seam lines. I find this much, much easier than trying to mathematically calculate the dimensions of the inner circle, outer circle, width of flounce, maintain fullness ratio. With all these variables, I wound up with a partial circle and calculating the percentage needed of such circles produces some dizzying math.
The graph paper method greatly simplifies creating the long cascading flounce along the center front. If you draft a flounce and trim off the outer edge to create a flounce narrower at one end, the proportion of fullness changes.
Here is a flounce which gets narrower at one end. I trimmed off the outer edge of a 3:1 circle. If you count the squares, it goes from a 3:1 fullness to a 2:1 fullness. This may be what you want, but what if you want to maintain the same fullness the entire length?
Here’s how I created the center front flounce. Measure from center front to the desired length. After some experimentation, I decided 3:1 was a good fullness. Create a strip of graph paper 3 times the finished length by the wider width. Draw a sloping line from wide point to narrow point.
Trim off the paper above the sloped line. Cut along every third square and overlap to create a curved pattern.
The pattern will spiral over itself. Keep going and let it overlap. It will be divided into sections later.
My front flounce needed to be divided into two sections to avoid the pieces overlapping. Deciding where to place the cuts is a trial and error process. You want a few seams as possible and the seams need to be placed where they are inconspicuous.
It may take several muslin trials to get seams where you want them. Trace off your master pattern so it is intact in case your first seams aren’t where you want them. Since the diameter of the circle is constantly changing along the length of the flounce the circles will turn into ellipses. Here is the lower section of my front flounce. I’ve left room for tiny seam allowances to join to the upper flounce section.
My pattern traced off to pattern paper. Label everything as the pieces will get VERY confusing. I also keep my graph paper models intact just in case I need them.
The armseye flounce is drafted in the same way. I did experiment with a 5:1 fullness but felt it too much and ultimately went back to the 3:1 proportion. Some experimentation is necessary as every flounce will behave differently depending on its width and placement. The fullness is removed under the arm at the side seam.
Since this design is symmetrical, the toile is only of the right side. I’ve also hemmed the center front flounce as the drape of flounces does change with the edge finish used. Drape flounces in a fabric similar to the fashion fabric as a silk chiffon will behave much differently than a crisp cotton. I will use a woven textured white cotton that looks almost the same on both sides as the wrong side of the fabric will show on this. Blouse is in production for the next post.
I often take inspiration from a designer outfit and this one from Alexander McQueen caught my eye. The sweater retailed for $5000 and the skirt another $2000. Why not try to replicate the pieces?
I fashioned the skirt from a tweed from Linton Mills and added contrast black leather from Mood Fabrics. Concerned that the leather might rip at the top of the slit, I reinforced it with grosgrain ribbon. Notice the ribbon peaking out from the lining. The most difficult task for the skirt was topstitching the leather. My industrial Juki with an edge compensating foot attached made the job easy and produced perfectly even stitching. I sewed over tissue paper just to make sure there were no problems with the fabric feeding evenly.
For the sweater I used a purchased (on sale of course) one and added the rhinestone embellishment. Rather than apply heat set Swarovski stones directly to the sweater I opted to design each element separately and hand stitch them on.
I designed the motifs on sticky backed transfer film. The rhinestones are placed wrong side up and them heat set with an iron. I used one layer of cotton tulle covered with another layer of silk tulle.
The silk tulle edge gathered, turned over a cardboard circle, and pressed flat.
My sweater blocking board was perfect to stretch the sweater slightly and figure out the placement for each motif. Some motifs were composed of sewn on larger stones and pins helped with placement of each stone. The safety pin marks the bust point so I don’t place a motif directly there.
The large black flower surrounded by tiny stones was the most difficult. I used a scrap of black Ultrasuede, digitized the design, and sewed in the embroidery hoop. Tiny 2mm rhinestones outlined the petals.
My little girl Sydney decided she wanted to get into the photo. I’m on my way to a party for my husband’s parents 70th wedding anniversary! How many couples make 70 years together? Quite an achievement and the entire family gathered to celebrate with them. For all those who asked for more details, I promise the custom dress form is coming next.
Back view. Notice the lace pattern is a mirror image on the right and left sides. This was a design element in many of Mcqueen’s designs.
The lace was backed with silk tulle and additional embellishment of crystals on the lace were added.
The garment as designed. I modified the neckline to be more wearable.