Registration is open for my upcoming in-person classes. I’ll be hosting a sewing retreat in Bristol, RI October 2-8, 2023. Immerse yourself for 7 days of couture level sewing in the charming town of Bristol. Class fee includes 7 days of instruction plus accommodations at an Air B&B, snacks plus a group dinner at one of the lovely historical restaurants.
The November class in Palm Beach Gardens, FL is geared towards creating a custom French Jacket. You’ll construct a muslin test jacket prior to class (instructions provided). After perfecting the fit, you will be guided through the steps to create your own version of this iconic jacket. Read the class description for additional information.
The January 8-14, 2024 class is an opportunity to work on, or complete, your French jacket, construct a custom dressform or another project of your choosing. I will contact you prior to class to discuss your plans. Some students begin a new project while others bring partially completed ones for expert assistance in completing the garment.
This class is a great time to create a dressform which replicates your body. You will also draft a master sloper which serves as the basis for altering patterns or creating your own. Completed forms fly easily in a golf bag as checked luggage.
I am also offering a 1 or 2 day class this spring, May 20-21 at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC. The class will be geared towards creating custom trims to coordinate with Alice’s exquisite boucle fabrics. She will clear the shop for us to work Saturday and Sunday. This is a hands-on workshop where I’ll guide you through how I choose yarns and design a trim to match the fabrics. Techniques used are crochet, braiding, braiding on a Japanese Kumihimo stand and more. I will also explain my method for handworked buttonholes in boucle fabric and the specialized notions which give a professional result. Different topics are covered each day; Saturday and Sunday are NOT repeats, so attend both days for the best experience. You will enjoy this class more if you are comfortable with basic crochet stitches.
Class registration can be accessed through the “Classes” drop down menu or “Shop” and then look at the Catalog. Hope to see you. Any questions, email me at MF953@aol.com or leave a comment. Thanks for reading.
Monday, September 19 through Saturday, September 25, 2022
What could be better than 6 glorious days of uninterrupted sewing in the picturesque town of Bristol, Rhode Island. Join me for expert help creating your custom design. This is a great opportunity to work on a French jacket, tackle lace, refine fitting issues or work on an unfamiliar style. Class runs from 9 AM to about 5:30 PM but you will have 24 hour access to the studio in case you want to work overtime.
Those choosing to work on a French jacket will receive my 100 plus page manual of valuable construction tips plus we’ll do a session on creating your own custom trim. I also bring a number of jackets I’ve constructed for you to examine.
If you would rather work on fitting issues, bring a few toiles you would like help with. I’ll fit you and mark any changes needed. Then you’ll learn how to transfer those changes to your pattern. You can also work on creating a master sloper to be used in making necessary changes to commercial patterns.
Our home for the week will be a lovely 4 bedroom house with detached finished garage which will be setup as a spacious sewing studio. One block away is an additional house with 3 bedrooms. There will be a large cutting table, individual work spaces as well as professional pressing equipment. Bring your own sewing machine or borrow one if you prefer. Let me know you need a machine when registering.
While investigating the area, I discovered that Apple Annie Fabrics, owned by Anne Kendall is a 15 minute drive from our studio. Anne and I spent the morning chatting sewing and I received a tour of her well stocked store.
In addition to fabrics she has a large selection of thread, notions, patterns, etc. so not to worry if you forget to bring a necessary item. I also loved her inspiration wall of fashion.
I also spotted a wonderful bolt of boucle which I’ll be using for an upcoming custom trim class. This particular fabric combines black with deep rose threads; I’m envisioning multiple variations using coordinating yarns along with the fabric fibers.
Cost of the 6 day class plus 7 nights accommodations is $2250. Class without room is $1500. There will be welcome drinks/snacks on Sunday 9/18 plus 2 dinners: an authentic New England lobster boil and Portuguese style grilled feast. All are welcome to join us for dinner.
Registration is open for classes in Palm Beach Gardens. Join the 7 day French jacket class from Monday, November 7 through Sunday November 13, 2022. These jackets involve considerable hand sewing and do take time, so expanding the class to 7 days made sense.
What is unique about this class? We will start with fine tuning the fit of your jacket toile. Detailed instructions will be sent several weeks prior to class.
Vogue 7975 is often used as the basis for a French jacket. It is easy to change the jacket’s length, neckline, sleeve and front closure. The pattern has princess seams ending in the shoulder which simplifies many fitting issues. Curvy figures need more shaping which can result in any horizontal stripe in the fabric to be mismatched along the upper part of the front princess seam. This photo shows the difference.
The right side (right side of photo) of this sample has been cut and sewn according to the pattern. For the left side, I’ve made some simple changes to the pattern and shaped the front side section with a steam iron. Note how the horizontal lines in the weave carry across the upper chest uninterrupted.
We will examine techniques to eliminate darts. For this sample, I wanted a very curvy figure, easily accomplished by a bra filled out with extra padding. It’s easy to achieve the look on a small busted model but harder when dealing with more curves.
The pronounced curves of this figure required additional shaping which could have been accomplished by adding a dart either from armhole to bust or side seam to bust.
Either dart placement isn’t ideal and will create unnecessary bulk. Fortunately most boucle fabric is pliable and can be molded with steam. Any distortion in the weave is hidden under the arm and a better solution than darts.
A few patterns have the classic three piece sleeve. Vogue 7975 has a standard two piece sleeve. It’s not difficult to convert the pattern. This method can be used on any sleeve.
Learn how to customize the look of a basic pattern. The neckline is easily converted to a stand collar, round or V-neck.
Coco Chanel said, ”never a button without a buttonhole.” Machine buttonholes are an option but handworked buttonholes are a true couture finish. Loosely woven boucle fabric isn’t the easiest to work with and mastering buttonholes does take practice. There are a few tips and tricks that make the finished result more professional.
Trims are the final embellishment. Shopping for pre-made trim can be difficult. You rarely find something that’s the perfect color, width and texture. Often trims are rigid and difficult to navigate curves and corners. Creating your own trim using fibers from the fabric and coordinating yarn isn’t difficult.
November dates not convenient? Another Couture Sewing Class is scheduled from Monday, January 16 through Saturday, January 21, 2023. This class isn’t strictly for French jacket construction but you can certainly work on one. It’s a perfect opportunity finish (or make significant progress) on a previously started jacket. Work on anything you like. Maybe you’re hesitant to work on tricky fabric or an unfamiliar style? Take advantage of expert help with planning and executing your project.
Register by clicking on ”Classes” from the main menu. Any questions email me: email@example.com
To expand my variations of custom trim, I’ve been experimenting with tubular yarns as well as crocheting with narrow strips of fabric. Many boucles are woven using tubular yarns, such as these two.
I pulled strands of the tubular knit from the fabrics and filled them with bulky wool yarn. Wool yarn works better than acrylic or cotton as it is lofty yet soft and flexible.
The tubes can be woven through a crochet base or braided. A technique for tubes of fabric used as braided trim here. This boucle contained gold tubular yarn as well as multiple other fibers and lent itself to several variations of trim.
You can also find tubular yarns put up in rolls or skeins. Any time I find metallic silver or gold I stock up, as gold/silver compliment many fabrics.
Another interesting technique uses narrow strips of silk georgette fabric to work a chain stitch along the edge of trim. This is a version created from a combination of ivory wool yarn combined with fibers pulled from fabric yardage and edged with a chain stitch of silk georgette. The bias edge of silk frays just enough to create a soft textured finish.
Join me on Tuesday, March 1, from 5-7:30 PM (Eastern standard time) for a hands-on virtual workshop in which we’ll create multiple variations of trim. Sign up (PLEASE NOTE: This link is for the March 8 class. The March 1 class is sold out) through the Cloning Couture Shop. The class is limited to 20 participants. A kit containing crochet hooks, sample boucle fabric plus assorted yarns is available here or you can source your own materials. The class is held via Zoom and will be recorded so if you can’t participate live, the recording will be available. You can also download and re-watch the class as often as you wish.
Here is the jacket I used for demonstration in a recent French Jacket Class. The trim utilizes fibers pulled from the yardage plus silk georgette used as yarn.
In my recent moulage/dressform class, students used everything from a custom made full body form from Wolf to a display form found at Hobby Lobby. Evidence that you can get almost anything that resembles a body to work.
We ripped the existing base off the display form and replaced it with a wooden dowel. The dowel fit into a sturdy cast iron base and was a huge improvement over the rickety wooden one. Class begins with taking about 25 body measurements. We then draft a moulage, or mold, of the body. The drafted moulage pattern is cut from sturdy muslin and tested on the body. Fit adjustments are made and transferred back to the paper pattern. When all looks good, we cut the final dressform cover from heavier muslin and do one last fit check.
The muslin cover is draped onto the form. Placement and amount of padding is assessed and we start padding the form to fill out the cover. Depending on where padding is needed, I’ll suggest using various bust cups, cotton quilt batting or polyester batting. The poly batting is steamed to compress and firm up the shape. The display form fit her neck and shoulders surprisingly well. Bust, waist and hips can all be customized with layers of compressed batting.
At the opposite end of the dressform spectrum is a custom made full body form from Wolf. This student had wrestled with fitting problems for years and tried everything from body scan versions to this custom model but nothing seemed to address a key fit issue.
She had already drafted a custom cover to fine tune the fit. It needed firmer padding and a key adjustment for a high hip. After drafting the moulage it was test fit and elastic tied around the waist to pinpoint the fit issue. The right hip significantly higher causing skirts and pants to ride up on the right side. Notice the position of the waist when her back draft is laid out on a grid. Lowering the hem on that side really doesn’t fix the problem.
We carefully marked the dressform cover and added padding to duplicate the hip contours. The finished form is a much better fitting aid with balance lines correctly placed.
We tested the fit using several of her dresses. The new mannequin pinpointed the need for a slight full bust alteration to remove the drag lines around the bust dart. The moulage patter is used to create a custom sloper or basic pattern which can be used as the basis for drafting additional styles and correcting commercial patterns.
The next custom moulage/custom dressform class will be held January 10, 11 and 12 in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. For more information: Dressform Class
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.
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.
I’ve been writing this blog since 2014 and am thrilled to learn the tutorials presented are helpful to other sewists. Joyce posted photos of her completed jacket on Instagram and tagged me as a resource for her construction methods. I invited her to write a post, highlighting the information she found especially valuable.
Thank you Joyce, for taking the time to write this and allowing me to share your work.
Hello! My name is Joyce. After my recent completion of a French jacket, Mary asked me to write about my experience in a post for her blog. Before we get started, here’s a bit about me: I live in southern Manitoba, Canada with my husband, who is also my best friend! We have raised two children, who have blessed us with five grandchildren. I am a retired Interior Design Consultant & Kitchen Designer. My talented mother taught me to sew, crochet, knit, and hand embroider. From the time I was five years old, she allowed me to use her sewing machine. I made a lot of clothes for my dolls until the age of ten when I began sewing my own clothes. My favourite things to sew are coats, jackets and dresses. My favourite fabrics are made of natural fibers.
About seven years ago, I began dreaming of making a French jacket. While reading blogs of sewists who documented their experiences on the subject, I became aware of the hours involved, as well as the couture techniques they had learned along the way. It was when I discovered Mary’s blog, cloningcouture.com, that I soon realized what a treasure store of information it is. Her precision and her impeccable attention to detail reveal incredible skill. I was amazed that she was willing to share her extensive knowledge and experience with her readers at no cost to them. I read each post in detail, bookmarking those I wanted to refer to later. By early 2019, I had collected all my supplies for this project, and was ready to begin. My fabric is appropriately called “Giverny Tweed”. The lining is silk charmeuse.
Of course, the first step was to make a well-fitting toile. I cut the body of the jacket according to Vogue 8804, but in reading online reviews, I heard repeatedly that the sleeve in this pattern was wide. Since I have thin arms, I knew I would have to draft a narrower sleeve. This is where Mary’s post https://cloningcouture.com/2014/08/04/chanel-and-the-sleeve/came to the rescue. I know she has since updated it, but her original method worked for me! I also changed my sleeves to full-length instead of the three-quarter length from the pattern.
As many of you already know, after fitting the toile, it is cut apart and used as the pattern to cut the pieces in the tweed and lining fabrics, adding wide seam and hem allowances. In hindsight, I should have fused Pro-Sheer Elegance Couture interfacing to the tweed at this point, since I was working with a fabric that frays very easily. Mary gives this advice in the following post: https://cloningcouture.com/2018/02/15/finishing-details-the-french-jacket/Instead, I used a stepped zigzag to secure the fibers along the edges.
Over the next couple of weeks, I interfaced the fronts with silk organza, quilted the silk charmeuse lining to the front and back pieces, before joining them along the princess and side seams. I really enjoyed slipstitching the lining seams together by hand.
Now that the body of the jacket was taking shape, it was time to turn my attention to the trim. I was unable to find a ready-made trim that complemented my fabric, but then I remembered Mary’s post on making your own. My first attempt was a crocheted chain using fibers from the tweed, but it was too narrow and did not contrast enough with the fabric. I was intrigued by Mary’s detailed instructions on Kumihimo braiding, so I decided to try my hand at it. See her post here: https://cloningcouture.com/2017/08/30/create-custom-trim-for-your-french-jacket/After locating a Kumihimo plate at my local fabric store and watching some YouTube videos on 10-strand braiding, I was ready to begin. After a couple of false starts, while deciding which fibers to use, I settled on four blue strands and two ivory from my fabric, in combination with four strands of ivory Phildar yarn left over from a sweater I knitted for my husband many years ago.
This was the set-up I used. It is certainly not the traditional way, but it worked for me. Every few inches I had to stop and release more material from my “bobbins”. It took me about three days to work out my setup and make three and a half yards of trim.
You can see it being “auditioned” here with the buttons I planned to use. Btw, although these were inexpensive buttons, they remind me of Coco Chanel’s favorite camellia rose.
After making the trim, I did some work on the sleeves, then packed the project away before going on vacation in March 2019. As it turned out, this is where the project stalled out until a couple of weeks ago.
I had been putting off making the handworked buttonholes, but one day I gathered up courage and got to work. First, I made a sample buttonhole to work out the method. Then, in a pleasant afternoon’s sewing, I made five buttonholes on the jacket front. You can see Mary’s post on buttonholes here: https://cloningcouture.com/2020/01/07/buttonholes-and-more-trim/
After crossing this hurdle, I knew I was on the home stretch. The next two days were spent finishing the sleeves.
After this, I applied the trim to front and neck edges with a running stitch and the occasional backstitch. It was actually easier to do than I thought it would be. Then I fellstitched the lining to the jacket edges. This was my favourite step!
In summary, I learned so much about couture sewing methods while working on this project. I easily spent a hundred hours on it, but the result is something I will wear with much satisfaction for years to come. It has also given me a great appreciation for the work of couturiers. They are indeed a skilled lot!
Mary, many thanks for all your informative, detailed and inspiring posts on couture sewing! Thanks also for letting me share my experience with your readers. You can find me on Instagram at amakersshowandtell, where I post photos of my projects. They include sewing, watercolor painting, home decorating, gardening, knitting, and occasionally, upholstery. Best regards, Joyce
Pressing plays such an important role in producing great results when sewing. Unfortunately, many professional pressing aids are difficult to find and extremely expensive. They tend to be bulky and heavy which further contributes to the cost if you need to have them shipped. I’ll share some of my favorite tools and methods I use to make my own for very little cost. Warning: You need access to a few power tools or someone who has them.
I love this press buck for long, gently curved seams such as the back sleeve seam in jackets, hip curves for pants/skirts or center back seam with shaping at the neck and waist. I also works well for basting the canvas to the front of a tailored jacket.
This is about 28 inches long, 8 inches wide and 3.5 (measured from the bottom of the wood) inches high at the highest point. To construct this, you’ll need one piece of wood 8” x 28” x 3/4 for the base and one piece of wood 10” x 30” x 3/4”, two 4” high legs plus wood screws. Print out the file for Press Buck here.
Trace onto the 10” wide piece of wood. The pattern is for 1/2 the template, so flip and trace the opposite side. Cut out with a jigsaw. I used two unfinished short legs from Home Depot and attached them as shown. My legs had bolts at the bottom. I drilled a hole slightly larger than the bolt to allow the legs to sit flat on the wooden base. Attach the remaining piece of wood to the legs from the underside so the screws don’t show (countersink the screws so they don’t scratch or snag any surface).
I used a length of heavy wool and cut concentric shapes as shown. You want the thickest part on top of the right hand leg, tapering to nothing along the edges.
View from the top of layers. I cut a paper pattern the shape of the bottom layer and worked upwards. Cut a layer of wool fabric, trimmed the pattern down a little around the edges and continued until the shape was built up. View from the side. The thickest part is about 3.5 inches high including the wood. In other words, 3/4” thick wood plus 2.75” of fabric.
Cover the entire top with two layers of wool. Staple the wool to edges of the wood base.
I added a finishing layer of wool felt (available in the utility fabrics section at JoAnn’s), wrapped it under the edge and secured with double sided masking tape.
Ease the felt around the curves, stick to tape and trim the excess.
For the cover, add about 2.5 inches all around the pattern. Cut from heavy muslin. Cut a bias strip about 1 and 1/8 wide long enough to go around the outside edge of the cover (piece as necessary). Starting in the middle of the larger curved end, turn end of bias under and stitch at 1/4 inch. Fold end under when you reach starting point.
Wrap the bias around a thin sturdy cord and stitch, making sure not to catch the cord when sewing. The cord will act as a drawstring to tighten the cover. I’m nudging the cord against the fold and stitching along the seam line (badly in need of a manicure; COVID hands).
Place the cover on the press buck, making sure there is equal amount to turn under on all sides. Place a few pins to hold the cover in place while you pull the drawstring tight and tie.
Adjust the gathers and steam to smooth out any wrinkles. I’ve added a couple of lengths of twill tape secured with safety pins along the underside of the long edges to tighten up the cover in that area.
The sleeve board is made the same way except instead of multiple layers of wool, the surface is flat.
Cut a piece of acoustical ceiling tile using the same template. Glue it in place. Cover with thick felt and a muslin cover. The muslin cover should be about 2.5 inches larger than the pattern template to allow for the increased thickness. The combination of ceiling tile and thick felt makes a pin-able surface to secure the work when pressing.
Cut 3/4 inch wood the shape of the pattern and mount from the underside. The base is 8” x 28.” Shape the point with a wood file and sand smooth.
I have more of my favorite makes coming: seam stick, pressing block and pin cushion which goes around the palm of your hand. I think it’s easier to use than the typical wrist location. Thanks for reading and enjoy making new tools.
The mockup was done on a half-scale mannequin but a full size pattern worked better for the collar draft. Here’s my final collar pattern which I tested with hymo canvas and a piece of scrap boucle.
When looking closely at couture designs, I’ve noticed that a horizontal weave in the fabric travels straight across the the upper body and continues through the sleeve, creating an unbroken line in the fabric. This half scale jacket illustrates the difference.
The right side of the jacket has been cut with the princess seam ending at mid shoulder. For the left side, the princess seam was shifted from the bust apex to a point closer to the neck (about 1 inch). This pattern adjustment makes the princess line on the side panel more vertical and requires less manipulation of the fabric. Refer to the previous post linked above for a more complete explanation of the pattern changes.
Here’s the full scale side panel being steamed and shaped.
Here’s a preview of the custom trim. I rarely use pre-made trims as most are too stiff and rigid. This one has been created with tubes of matching silk georgette fabric and yarn. This one turns corners easily and compliments the boucle.
I’ve written about the process of drafting a skin tight pattern to duplicate your body and using it as the basis for creating a custom dress form. Now that you’ve invested hours in perfecting a draft of your own body, what can you use it for?
Here’s an image that was posted on one of the dressmaking FaceBook groups I follow. It’s a button front Chanel style; looks fairly simple but it has several design elements that elevate it to couture level.
The shoulders are slightly extended with a squared shape. I’ve marked what looks like the sleeve seam in yellow. It’s narrower than a standard shoulder and the extended shoulder width comes from clever shaping of the sleeve. The collar sits away from the neck and looks like it has been worked into shape using ironwork rather than being cut to shape. The shaping appears to be concealed by princess seams which end close to the neck rather than mid-shoulder, as many princess seams do. Moving the princess seam closer to the neck allows the horizontal lines in the boucle fabric to carry across the front chest into the sleeve as one unbroken line.
I’ll walk through the steps I use to recreate this dress. Start with your moulage draft. This draft is done to half scale and fits my half-scale mannequin. Working in half scale is easier to show the entire draft and design yet is large enough to demonstrate details.
This will be a slim fitting dress so I’ll add minimum wearing ease to the draft. The changes are shown in red.
Next I’ll relocate the princess seam to end near the neck on both front and back. I’ll also narrow the shoulder to compensate for the width added by the altered sleeve. Deciding how wide to make the finished shoulder is a personal design choice. I want this to be slightly extended yet not look like football padded shoulders. I decided to make the shoulder 3/4 inch narrower. I’ll add about 1 inch to the shoulder in the sleeve. The added width will be supported by a small shoulder pad.
Moving the princess seam closer to the neck is important as it allows the horizontal lines in the boucle fabric to span the upper chest in an unbroken line. Here’s how the pattern will match if the princess seam ends at mid-shoulder and what happens if the princess seam gets shifted. Additional shaping and perfect pattern matching can be achieved in the side panel by coaxing it into shape using heat and steam.
Sample dress on the mini-mannequin. I’ve drawn horizontal lines to demonstrate how the fabric will match. I use Osnaburg fabric as it replicates the boucle fairly well. The weave is looser than ordinary muslin and can be shaped much like a boucle.
Views of the shoulder, sleeve and collar. Also one shot of how the horizontal lines would mis-match if the princess seam had not been repositioned.
The collar is cut straight on the crossgrain and shaped with heat and steam into the necessary curve. I’ve created a collar stand, attached the outer collar and positioned it so it doesn’t hug the neck tightly.
Height has been added to the sleeve cap and darts added to produce the extended, squared shape. Here’s how to draft the sleeve:
The diagram on the left shows the armseye of the dress. On the right is a short, one-piece sleeve drafted to fit that armseye. Notice the length of the back and front seams are the same for both armseye and sleeve head: no sleeve cap ease is wanted for this alteration.
I’ll raise the sleeve cap 3/4 inch and dart out the resulting ease. I’ve positioned the sleeve cap darts one inch either side of the shoulder point. Draw a horizontal line connecting the front and back underarm point. Draw a vertical line from the shoulder point to intersect the underarm line at right angles. Connect the dart points to the point where the two guidelines intersect.
Cut open the pattern as shown. Raise the center of the sleeve cap 3/4 inch tapering to nothing at the underarms. The top of the sleeve cap will spread open. Position the triangle of original pattern section midway to divide the sleeve cap opening in half. The original sleeve cap shape is shown in red, new line in black. Draw two darts the width of the opening and 3/4 inch (the amount the sleeve cap was raised) long. Measure the length of the seam (front and back) and compare to the armseye. If the seam line of the sleeve cap is longer, increase the width of the darts slightly to compensate. The necessary ease has been added by the darts and extra ease will alter the “squared” shape of the finished sleeve cap.
Crease the paper and fold the darts closed. I fold both darts towards center. The original sleeve cap line will need to be smoothed out as shown. Also note that the darts will create a fold just beyond the original seam line. In this draft, that distance is 1/4 inch. This is what will create the straight line for the “square” shoulder shape.
Leaving the darts folded, cut along the new seam line. Your completed sleeve pattern should look like this.
I’ll tackle the collar and collar stand in full scale in the next post. Stay well and happy sewing.