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 jackethttps://cloningcouture.com/2017/12/

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.https://cloningcouture.com/french-jacket-class/

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Drafting Patterns, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Guest Post by Joyce: “amakersshowandtell”

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.

Detail of the front, ready for machine quilting

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.

Completed sleeves with trim and handworked buttonholes

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!

Stitching the sleeves in by hand
Sleeve lining basted into place
Completed jacket

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

couture sewing, Tailoring, Uncategorized

Make Your Own Professional Pressing Tools

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 1.75 inches high at the highest point. To construct this, you’ll need two pieces of wood 8” x 28” x 3/4.” Print out the file for Press Buck here.

Trace onto one 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. 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 1 and 3/4 inch high.

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.

Sleeve board. This one is much more stable than most. A rolling tool chest stores loads of supplies and the top is a sheet of plywood covered with the pin-able tile and felt. The heavy canvas cover can be replaced when worn. Can you tell Home Depot is a great sewing supply store.

Last tool is a point presser.

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.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Drafting Patterns, French jacket trim, Uncategorized

Recreate the Runway Look

In a previous post, I outlined the steps to recreate this runway look. Here’s a link: https://cloningcouture.com/2020/05/11/how-to-use-your-moulage/ to a more detailed description of the modifications to a basic pattern that I made.

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.

Runway design. Notice how the horizontal stripe is matched.

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.

Fabric before shaping
Working the fabric into shape. The excess fabric in the armhole will be shrunk into place.
After shaping the boucle will be unstable. Silk organza cut on the original grain holds the shape. A row of running stitches helps hold the armseye to shape.
The collar is partially pad stitched. I’ll finalize the placement and determine the finished collar size before finishing. This is the under collar which is collar felt and bias cut lightweight linen canvas.

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.

Waiting for silk buttonhole twist to arrive.

couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, Dress Forms, Uncategorized

How to Use Your Moulage

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.

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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.

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This will be a slim fitting dress so I’ll add minimum wearing ease to the draft. The changes are shown in red.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Leaving the darts folded, cut along the new seam line. Your completed sleeve pattern should look like this.

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I’ll tackle the collar and collar stand in full scale in the next post. Stay well and happy sewing.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Drafting the Three Piece Sleeve

I’ve written about this in the past but have revised the method slightly. I’ve seen converting the two piece sleeve to a three piece by simply splitting the upper sleeve at the shoulder point. This method results in a wide under sleeve. The classic Chanel design has a much narrower under sleeve section. I’ve found the easiest way is to convert the two piece pattern to a one piece sleeve; then split the sleeve.

First cut off the seam allowances from your pattern. Pattern drafting is always done with no seam allowances. You will add seam allowances after all drafting is completed. Extend the grain lines the full length of the pattern. If the elbow point isn’t indicated, measure your arm and determine your elbow point. Line up the upper and under sleeve patterns along the underarm line. Make sure the grain lines are parallel to each other. Trace the top of the sleeve from the underarm point on the under sleeve around to the front of the upper sleeve.

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Shift the pattern to complete the top of the sleeve on the right side. Draw a horizontal line connecting the underarm points. Draw a horizontal line to indicate the elbow position; also draw the finished hem of the upper sleeve.

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EE1B8EFA-CEB5-40A2-8823-068B93DFBBC6Determine the midpoint of the underarm line (line which will divide the sleeve in half lengthwise). Extend this point to the bottom of the sleeve.

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Determine the finished width of the sleeve hem. Divide by 2. Mark 1/2 finished hem width on either side of center. Connect the underarm points to the points on the hem for side sleeve shaping.

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Shift the midpoint of the sleeve about 1/2 inch towards the right (front of sleeve). Extend this point up to meet the top of the sleeve. This moves the shoulder point, also known as the pitch point, a little further to the front and places the finished sleeve more in line with the natural position of the arm.

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Fold the left (back of sleeve) underarm point to meet the just marked offset center point. Trace the armseye seam from the side seam to fold.

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When you unfold the paper, it should look like this:

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Repeat for the right (front side). Fold the right underarm point to meet in the center and trace. You should have the underarm curve duplicated in the center of the sleeve.

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Draw a horizontal line indicating the elbow line. If the elbow isn’t indicated on the original pattern, measure your arm either from the underarm or shoulder. Cut the pattern from the back side seam to sleeve center. Cut the pattern from the hem along the center to just before the elbow line, leaving a small hinge point of paper. Rotate the paper to open up a dart along the elbow line. The dart should be about 3/4 inch wide. Tape extra paper underneath the opened dart. Tape the overlapping pattern at the hem. The width of the sleeve hem will be shorter due to the overlap. Measure the amount of overlap and add that amount to the right (front) sleeve at the hem. Extend up to meet the elbow line.

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Draw an elbow dart 3 inches long and 3/4 inch wide (the amount the paper was opened). There will be extra fabric, indicated in green. This is to provide ease over the elbow. The angle between the sleeve midline above the elbow and sleeve midline below the elbow will be about 175 degrees. A little more or less is fine.

The undersleeve on classic Chanel jackets is about 2.5 inches wide at the underarm tapering to 2 inches at the wrist. This is for smaller sizes; you may want to adjust for larger sizes/ fuller bicep. From the center line, measure towards the sleeve back 1 and 3/8 at underarm, 1 and 1/4 at elbow and 1 and 1/8 at wrist. For the front, measure from center towards sleeve front 1 and 1/8 at underarm, 1 and 1/8 at elbow and 7/8 at wrist. Connect the points to form the undersleeve. Shown in red.

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Now remove the corresponding amounts from the side seams. Shown in blue. Trace the undersleeve onto pattern paper. I place the upper portion of the undersleeve on the bias. The lower portion won’t be on the true bias but it will be off grain. This will allow the undersleeve to stretch when worn for comfort. Chanel sleeves are intended to be slim fitting and the bias provides a little wearing ease. Trace the upper and lower sleeve sections. Your patterns should look like this:

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Using the hem length from the original pattern adjust the bottom of the sleeve. The sleeve back which joins the undersleeve should be 1/2 to 3/4 inch longer than the corresponding seam along the undersleeve. The excess length in the back sleeve will be eased in the elbow area. The seam joining the sleeve back to sleeve front will be the same length on both back and front. The front sleeve seam which joins to the undersleeve should be 3/8 to 1/2 inch shorter than the undersleeve seam. The upper sleeve seam will be steamed and stretched before sewing to give the sleeve proper shape. The sleeve hem should be slightly longer in the back and angle upwards to the front. Add vent extensions for buttons if you want. The top of the sleeve cap can be curved to decrease the amount of fabric needing to be eased into the armseye.

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

Buttonholes and More Trim

C2F04906-FBA3-42ED-A583-0BEE9E6284D2Although many machines can sew acceptable buttonholes, there is nothing like a handworked buttonhole to distinguish a garment as couture. Now for the good and the bad. The good thing about making buttonholes by hand is there is one basic stitch and you simply repeat it over and over. The bad is that it takes hours, and hours, and hours of practice to get the stitches narrow and evenly spaced with just the right tension.

There are a few hints that can make this process easier. Using professional materials does make a difference. After making hundreds of buttonholes I’ve found there really is no substitute for Gutermann gimp. It’s not easy to find outside of professional tailoring suppliers but it makes a tremendous difference in the quality of the finished buttonhole.

Gimp is a stiff cord that lifts the stitches off the surface of the cloth and gives a smooth surface for the buttonhole stitches to sit on. Silk buttonhole twist also comes in various weights. The thicker size F is easier to work with and requires fewer stitches but produces a bulkier buttonhole. My preference is Gutermann R753 which is just a bit thinner and makes a finer buttonhole.

Cutting the buttonhole is also easier with a couple of tools. I found an antique buttonhole cutter which cuts the circular hole and slit in one step. This probably isn’t sharp enough to use.

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What works for me is a sharp hollow punch for the keyhole and a chisel for the slit.

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To actually make this buttonhole first carefully mark where you want the buttonhole and baste all the layers of fabric together. This prevents  things from shifting around while you are working. I forgot to take a photo of just the basting so this photo shows the buttonhole cut. Blue thread is the basting.

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Before cutting anything (this is especially useful if you’re working on a loosely woven boucle type fabric) machine stitch around the buttonhole. I run two rows of stitching using about a 0.8 to 1.0 mm stitch. The machine stitching will really hold everything in place.

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How’s the time to cut. Unlike machine buttonholes which are cut after stitching, the handworked buttonhole is cut first. I use the hole punch pliers to cut a clean hole. Then carefully place the appropriate size chisel along the center of the buttonhole and tap the chisel a few times with a hammer. I use thick cardboard or a piece of heavy scrap leather underneath both the hole punch and chisel to prevent damage to the tools.

I prefer the look of a teardrop shaped buttonhole so I carefully trim away the little triangles at the base of the circular hole.

I begin stitching the buttonhole with the rounded end away from me and begin work on the left side. Thread the gimp on a large eye needle, put it between the fabric layers and bring it up just inside the cut edge. Wax and press the buttonhole twist. Rule of thumb is that 1 yard of twist for 1 inch buttonhole. Stitches are worked by inserting the needle about 1-2 mm from the cut edge. Wrap the thread in the direction you are sewing; in this case I’m wrapping the thread around the needle clockwise. Pull the thread through and upwards forming the purl knot on the top edge. Using a traditional tailor’s thimble is helpful to control your needle and place the stitches accurately. Putting you left thumbnail where you want the needle to exit the fabric also helps. You want the stitches almost touching but not crowded. Practice definitely helps. Your 10th buttonhole will look much better than the first and number 100 even better.

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Work up the left side, fan the stitches around the circular end and down the right side. Turn the cloth so you are always making the same stitch from the same position. The cloth moves, your hands and stitches don’t. Bend the gimp around the buttonhole as you work.

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When you get back to where you started pass the gimp between fabric layers and cut it off. Take three stitches across both sides of the buttonhole with the silk twist and bury the thread. Baste the edges of the buttonhole together and use a bodkin to shape the end into a nice circular shape. Press and leave the basting in place until the garment is finished.

In my quest to replicate Chanel jackets, I did a little sleuth shopping. These are from the new spring cruise collection. Looking at the price tags, I’m happy to be creating my own.

The trim was what I was most interested in. I’ve managed to create a fairly good duplication and am working on refining and variations.

Here’s my version.

Buttonholes, advanced garment shaping using ironwork, Chanel style trims and more in a French jacket class, Palm Beach Gardens, FL February 10-15. Only 2 spots left; more classes coming. Dates to be announced.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, French Jackets, Tailoring, Uncategorized

French Jacket: The Details

In this post I’ll explore the seemingly little details will make your completed jacket look professional. I love the look of a patterned fabric perfectly matched across the seam lines. Here are the changes I make to the pattern. I also shape certain garment pieces using heat and steam.

A basic princess line pattern. I’ve drawn it on grid paper. It has been cut so that horizontal threads in the fabric match along the lower portion but look what happens in the upper chest area.

077935F7-3AB5-4432-AC2B-C925A101A0D8 First Draft

Here’s what happens if I’m able to manipulate the fabric in the side front.

draft 2 draft 3

In order to minimize the amount of shaping required, I’ve shifted the front princess seam from the bust point upwards and brought it closer to the neck. The violet pattern shows the original; in the red I’ve shifted the princess seams (both front and back so they match at the shoulder) closer to the neck. Overlaying the patterns shows the changes. The same amount of fabric removed from both center fronts and backs has been added to the side back and fronts.

pattern 1 pattern 2

Here is an illustration done on a full figured model. The first photo shows the fabric without shaping. Second photo shows how the fabric pattern matches and gives a much less disruptive line.

Linton demo 1 Linton demo finished

The ironwork does push a lot of fabric into the armseye area and makes the grain quite unstable. I deal with this by cutting a piece of silk organza using the original pattern and baste it in place. The armseye can be further stabilized by taping the seamline. The lining is cut according to the pattern and basted in place before quilting (this is a sample and the lining wouldn’t stop below the armhole).

Linton demo 3 Lining basted

Here’s the front of my white jacket. I’ve moved the princess seam and manipulated the fabric.  The horizontal lines in the weave are continuous. I’ve chosen to add a standup collar. It is also cut as a straight piece and shaped with the iron. Cardboard cut to the shape and size of the finished collar helps press a smooth curve and keeps both sides identical.

Shaping side panel White jacket front

collar 1 collar 2 template

An easy way to match the fabric design when cutting sleeves is to pin the muslin sleeve onto the jacket body. Pin scraps of fabric to the muslin sleeve, matching the fashion fabric along seam lines. Remove the muslin sleeve, lay it flat keeping the scraps of fashion fabric in place. Carefully trim along the seam lines. Now you have an exact guide to cut the sleeves and be sure they will match. The sleeves should be mirror images of each other but check to be sure.

pin sleeve pin scraps

cutting template

Next I’ll tackle handworked buttonholes. If you would like hands-on instuction, I’m teaching a French jacket class in Palm Beach Gardens, FL from February 10-15, 2020. We’ll cover fitting, ironwork using professional equipment, jacket construction, custom trims, handworked buttonholes and more. If you’re interested, leave your contact info and I’ll send further details.

 

couture sewing, creating designer trim, Lace, Uncategorized

Finish Lace with a Custom Edge

I love working with lace but shudder at the thought of a turned up edge for the hem. To me, the finishing edge of lace is as much a part of the beauty as the center. I found this unusual guipure lace at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics

I wanted to use this lace in the lengthwise direction which meant creating a decorative edge for the hem.

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Finding matching lace motifs to create a finished edge would have been impossible so I created tiny floral designs and embroidered them as free standing lace. Additional blue motifs were cut from fabric scraps. The edges were reinforced with a narrow zip-zag stitch to prevent fraying.
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This wasn’t the most stable lace in the world so it benefited from a lightweight linen under layer plus light cotton lawn. Handstitching tacked the lace to all under layers and prevented the lace from sagging as it’s worn.

Thin cording covered in linen, a grosgrain waist stay and silk crepe de chine lining finished the interior. The zipper crossed through one of the blue flowers, so that flower was treated to an appliqué finish. Tiny snaps secure it after the zipper is closed.

B&J Fabrics had a silk/linen blend perfect for a matching shirt.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Uncategorized

Tips for Sewing Leather

Making leather garments can be intimidating.  Leather skins are relatively expensive and there is no room for adjustments as stitching marks are permanent. I’ve discovered a few tips that make sewing leather look more professional.

Always, always make a test garment in medium weight muslin. Get the fit perfect before cutting anything in leather. The test garment can be taken apart and used as a pattern. I mark using chalk or a soft lead pencil. Ink pens tend to smear and the marks can be permanent. Even if used on the wrong side, pen marks can bleed through to the face.

I was surprised to learn that leather can be steam pressed. Many sources advise against pressing, but unless you use loads of heavy steam, it works just fine. Having a teflon shoe for your iron helps protect the leather. Teflon shoes are available from most tailoring supply sources and are specific to the iron. Here’s mine for the Naomoto gravity feed iron. Make sure you also get a steam diffuser, which is a piece of heavy felt lining the shoe. The diffuser spreads the steam more evenly and prevents marks from the steam jets. Both are available from Wawak and other sources.

Teflon Shoe Teflon shoe on iron

Gentle steam pressing is effective at removing creases. Here’s a sample that I intentionally left folded for awhile and the result of steam pressing. Some sources advised using leather tape (also known as cold tape) to stabilize the seams. The tape can be difficult to source and is a PIA to stitch through as it gums up the needle. Narrow strips of lightweight fusible interfacing worked fine.

Wrinkled Leather Pressed Leather  Stabilize seams

Darts can be difficult to press flat so I sew darts this way:

Cut away the dart. Spray a scrap of leather with temporary quilt basting spray. Carefully line up the sides of the dart and finger press gently to tack the dart closed. I position one side first; then align the second side. Doing this over a tailors ham helps get the proper contour.

Cut open dart  Dart underlay Dart Tacked Stitch dart

I’m using a leather roller foot on my Bernina; the roller feet are are also available for industrial machines and probably other brands.

Here’s the settings for Bernina. I’ve positioned the needle left of center so it stitches very close to the roller. I’ve also threaded the machine with two strands of polyester thread and wound the bobbin with two strands. Topstitching thread was a little too thick and a single strand of thread didn’t seem enough. I was surprised that the machine sewed fine with two strands in the bobbin. No adjusting was needed. Be sure and use polyester thread. The chemicals used in tanning leather will degrade cotton thread over time.

Roller foot setup Double Thread

I prefer the clean look of invisible zippers but they can be tricky to get right and you can’t remove misplaced stitch marks. Use a zipper at least 2 inches longer than the finished length. In this method you’ll need the extra length to pull the zipper slide out of the way for stitching.  I stabilize the seam with lightweight fusible interfacing. Press it on the wrong side using an iron fitted with a Teflon shoe. Stitch the seam closed up to the zipper. Lightly steam press (I also use a press cloth or brown paper when working on the right side) and pound the seam open. I use a soft face mallet and place the seam over a rounded wooden stick to prevent the seam allowance from making an impression on the right side.

Zipper Seam Pound seams

Measure the width of the zipper tape. This one is 7/8 inch. Mark exactly 1/2 of this width (7/16) on the inside seam allowance of each side of the zipper opening. Pin the zipper along the marked line placing pins within seam allowance only. Machine baste along outer edge of zipper tape.

Measure zipper tape Measure half tape width Pin Tape Baste

Repeat for the other side of the zipper. The zipper is now basted in place but since the basting stitches are on the outer edges there is enough room to reach in with narrow nose pliers or a clamp and pull the slide below where the zipper will stop. Mark where the zipper will stop. Using a regular zipper foot (an invisible zipper foot won’t work as it doesn’t allow you to end exactly where the seam begins), roll the coil out of the way and stitch close to the zipper coil. Stop exactly at the mark. I pull threads through and tie rather than back-stitching which would weaken the seam in leather. Now pull the slide to the zipper top using pliers if necessary.

Pull slide through Stitch along coil Coils stitched Pull slide closed

The stitching should look like this. Notice that the seam line stitches and zipper coil stitches don’t line up exactly. The zipper coil stitches are slightly further into the seam allowance. If the stitching lines weren’t offset just this small amount, you would get the dreaded pucker at the bottom of the zipper. Here’s the completed zipper installation totally smooth and no tell-tale sign of where the zipper stops.

 

Offset seams Completed

Sewing hooks and eyes on the waistband for a closure won’t work too well. I use a hook and bar with prongs and a backing plate. The waistband has been sewn on from the right side. I’ve interfaced it with Petersham ribbon and added a rectangle of Ban-Rol (a rigid interfacing which resists tearing) to support the fasteners and prevent them ripping through the leather. I’ve used an awl to create small holes for the prongs. The hardest part is determining the exact location before punching holes.

Prepped waistband Hooks Hooks back Bars back

Once the bars and hooks are in place, fold the waistband over and stitch close to the previous stitching. Trim on the underside.

Stitch waistband Trim wrong side

Finished skirt:

Skirt Front Skirt back