I purchased this lovely boucle fabric from Apple Annie Fabrics and started experimenting with custom braids to compliment the fabric. Possible choices of materials: navy cotton tulle, gray silk georgette, chunky ivory and charcoal yarns to stuff tubing, gray yarns, ivory with flecks of gold yarn and thin silver metallic yarn.
First step was to make narrow bias tubing using the tulle and georgette. Cut bias strips of fabric about 1.5 inches wide. Fold in half lengthwise and stitch 1/4 inch away from folded edge. Trim seam to 1/8 inch.
To turn the fabric tube, insert the largest brass tube (available here) that will comfortable fit inside the tube. Gather the tube of fabric onto the tube.
Thread a length of sturdy thread that is at least twice as long as the brass tube. Stitch through one end of the fabric tube and pull thread ends so they are even and make a loop. Pass the cut ends of thread through the tube. When they emerge from the other end, pull gently on both threads. The fabric tube will easily turn right side out.
Pin the right side out tube to your ironing surface, pulling gently to stretch the fabric. Steam gently while pulling; don’t rest the full weight of the iron on the fabric tube. You don’t want to flatten it.
Reinsert the brass tube into the right side out fabric tube and gather the tube onto the brass tube.
Take the heavy thread, cut ends together, and insert into the tube. Pull through until there is a loop on one end. Loop the chunky yarn through the loop and pull gently. The yarn will be pulled through the brass tube. Holding yarn and fabric tube, pull and the yarn will go through the fabric tube, filling it out.
I repeated this using navy tulle and filled it with ivory yarn. The gray georgette was filled with dark yarn. Gently steam and stretch both fabric tubes.
I made a three strand braid using one length of gray georgette, one length of navy tulle filled with light yarn and one length of ivory sequins on a thread chain.
To give a more finished look to the braid, I wanted a crocheted edge along both sides of the braid. None of the yarns in my stash were exactly right, so I un-wove several inches (on the crosswise grain) of fabric.
I chose one yarn and combined it with the thin metallic silver yarn to work a single crochet in each loop of the braid. Chain 1 between each single crochet. The yarns from the fabric were 54 inches long (width of the fabric) but can easily be tied together and the knot positioned on the wrong side. Work the yarn tails into the wrong side and clip.
Completed trim. The sequins show more yellow in this photo. It is a perfect match IRL. I also love that the trims created by this method are soft and flexible. They can be turned at a right angle without any puckering.
Here’s another trim version I considered. I used the navy tulle cord threaded through a crocheted base and added chain stitching around the edge. The samples are quick to make and allow you to preview before committing to a long length.
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
This is a variation of the trim in the last post. I’ve used the same crocheted base and woven three knitted cords through. For the base, I used a sport weight yarn and size E (3.5mm) hook. This will produce trim which is about 5/8 to 3/4 inch wide.
Crochet a chain the length of trim. Turn and work double crochet in the 4th chain from the hook. Work double crochet in every stitch.
Knit icord three times plus several inches the length of trim. You can use three strands of the same icord or any combination. Insert the knitted icord into the smallest tube it will pull easily through. The knitted cords can be threaded on a large needle and pulled through, but feeding them through a tube is easier and prevents the cord from fraying. A larger tube will be more difficult to weave through the crocheted base, especially when inserting the second and third rows of cord.
Weave the tube with cord inserted in and out of the crochet stitches. Hold the ends of the crocheted base and cord in one hand and pull back to remove the tube, leaving the knitted cord in place.
To prevent the knitted cord from unraveling, tie thread around the cord at the end and beginning of each length. Weave the second cord through, alternating with the first cord. Nudge the first and second cords to one side and repeat with a third cord.
A row of chain stitches can be worked in the front of each stitch along the outer edges if desired.
More examples of trim with three cords woven through the basic crochet base. The top trim used three strands of the same cord and a chain stitch worked along the edges. The bottom trim used fine variegated sock yarn for cords, the darker shade along the edges and lighter shade in the middle. Have fun creating additional combinations. Trims using a three strand braid as a base coming next.
Since the last post on creating custom trims, I’ve been inventing more combinations and ways to vary the three cord braid shown in this post. Here are a few ideas.
I’m usually frustrated when shopping for pre-made trims. What’s available is wrong colors, wrong size, too rigid, they have 2 yards and I need 5, etc., etc… Much easier to create your own. I’ve developed two trim styles, one based on a three cord braid and the other on a crocheted base. This post will cover trims based on a three cord braid. I’ll explain the crochet base in the next installment.
The cords used for the braid should be 3/16 to 1/4 inch wide. Soft, pliable cords made from tubes of fabric filled with wool yarn work very well. Knitted fabric tubes created with this knitter have volume yet are flexible and won’t result in a stiff finished braid.
This little gadget is available on Amazon. It produces yards and yards of soft, knitted cord in minutes. I’ve discovered a few helpful hints for getting this to work. 1. Use THIN yarn: fingering, lace or sock weight yarn works great. Thicker yarns such as sport weight will cause the tiny latch hooks to jam up and break. I see tons of product reviews of customers complaining that it broke with medium weight yarn. The directions say fine yarns and they mean it. Yarn with a relatively smooth surface also works best; fuzzy yarns and those with slubs tend to get caught on the hooks. Start slowly and make sure the yarn is feeding properly. If the yarn doesn’t drop below the hooks, try adding more weight to the end of the cord emerging from the bottom of the knitting device.
I often fill the knitted cord with a contrast color yarn. The fill adds some volume and is more interesting than a solid color. I created this set of brass tubes to help with turning, filling and weaving the trim.
I’m using the third tube from left (5/32 inch) and a 2.75mm (size C) crochet hook. Exact size isn’t important. Choose a size that is large enough for your filler will slide through easily and is small enough to fit through the middle of the knitted tube.
Insert the crochet hook, hook first into the tube. It will stop when the flattened thumb rest reaches the tube opening.
Insert the rounded end of the crochet hook into a stitch in the knitted tube and thread the hook and tube into the middle of the knitted tube. Hold the open end of the tube against a table or your leg to keep the crochet hook in place. Don’t try and force the hook further into the tube or you will cause damage. The tube can be threaded through the knitted tube but the slightly rounded end of the crochet hook makes it easier.
Make sure the entire length of knitted tube is on the brass tube and remove the crochet hook. Fold a length of heavy thread in half. The thread should be several inches longer than the brass tube when folded (brass tube is 12 inches long so thread should be at least 30 inches). Insert two cut ends of thread into one end of brass tube and push through until the thread comes out opposite end.
Insert end of filler through the thread loop. Pull the two opposite ends of thread. The filler will be pulled through the brass tube.
Holding both filler and knitted tube in your left hand, gently pull the brass tube with your right hand, easing the knitted cord over the filler.
Cut the filler several inches longer than the knit cord. I pull the finished cord gently, pin to my ironing surface and steam to block and set the stitches. Make the cord a little longer than you think you need. If I’m creating trim for a jacket or dress, I break the trim construction into manageable lengths. I’ll do the pocket trims as one length, sleeve trim as one or two lengths. If I’m making a length to do the neck, fronts and hem as one length, save until last when you’ve practiced with shorter lengths and worked out any problems. If I need to fill a very long length, start at the midpoint and work to each end. Much easier than working all the way from one end to the other.
Next post will cover braiding and adding crochet edging to create a more finished look.
Testing out trims to compliment this Linton tweed fabric. Trim turns a right angle corner easily. Beige linen yarn knitted tube with black wool filler yarn woven through black crocheted base. Line of metallic silver chain stitched through middle.
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.
Although 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.
What works for me is a sharp hollow punch for the keyhole and a chisel for the slit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To create this Gucci inspired silk crepe de chine shirt, I needed to find pleated ribbon trim. Where do you find such trim in the right color, width, etc.? It’s much easier to make a custom pleating board and make your own.
I started with a length of drapery heading. It’s a stiff buckram used to support pleats in drapes and worked great for this. Cut of a length about three times the length of your finished pleater board. You don’t need to make it more than about 4-5 inches long. I started with about 13 inches of buckram.
Mark parallel lines (I used a water soluble marker rather than a lead pencil. I might want to use this for white trim later and was afraid of pencil marks rubbing off). Mine are 3/8 inch apart. Score the lines with scissors to make folding easier. Line one folds up, line 2 folds down, line three is a placement line. Score and fold the length of buckram.
Press the pleats flat. Fuse a stiff interfacing to the wrong side of the pleater. The right side will have little louvers that ribbon or fabric can be tucked into. When you’ve inserted trim into all the louvers give it a press, let cool and remove. If a longer length of trim is needed, tuck the last pleat into the left side louver and continue.
Notice the pleats reverse direction. I did this at the center back collar so that the pleats would fold towards the front on both right and left sides of the finished collar.
Form enough pleats to reach from center front to center back of the collar. Then flip the ribbon over to the “wrong side”, line up your last pleat, and continue with the opposite side facing up. A box pleat will from at center back. I also made sure the pleats on the cuffs were facing towards the back of the garment.
I like to use a finer thread for the buttonholes; 60 weight cotton works well. Hopefully all goes well and the buttonhole foot holds the fabric securely. Sometimes disaster is lurking and the fabric slips.
Getting those tiny stitches out without damaging the now complete shirt is nerve-racking. I discovered a new use for my furriers knife.
This little baby is SHARP and does a wonderful job of precision cutting. I used a fine gauge machine needle to isolate a few stitches, then carefully cut the threads using the machine needle as a buffer to protect the fabric. This works better if you work in sections. This knife is also my new tool for cutting buttonholes. The blade is super thin and makes cutting a narrow slit easy.
After the stitches have been removed and fabric pressed there’s almost no sign of the mishap. Work a new buttonhole and the disaster is averted. I also found that increasing pressure on the buttonhole foot helped avoid this happening in the first place.
A couple of my blogging friends have explored the world of pleating. Jacqueline of Words to Stitch By mentioned this book: Complete Pleats by Paul Jackson. There is a chapter detailing his method for making pleating molds and steam setting pleats in fabric. Doing yardage is probably best left to the pros, but I’m excited to try a few of the ideas on smaller sections of fabric.
Poppykettle just wrote about her visit to the pleating shop in Melbourne. Melanie posted some wonderful photos of the process. I’ve used International Pleating in NYC for large projects like the skirt for my mother-of-the groom dress a couple of years ago. The pleats have stayed perfect even after being covered with dust and sand and a douse in the sink to clean. Use synthetic fabrics only if you want to try a pleated project. Natural fibers will pleat but the pleats won’t last through the cleaning process.
For the backyard wedding, I wanted something easy, yet elegant. When you’re the resident dress designer/maker, showing up in something not of your own creation doesn’t work! I had my hands full with the bride, mother of bride, bridesmaids, etc. but managed to crank out a tunic style dress with Coco (and Karl) in mind.
My starting point was fabric from the Haute Couture section of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. I chose a wonderful French boucle highlighted with tiny sequins woven into the fabric. With careful planning, the dress required only one yard of fabric; here is what was left over.
I used my basic pattern block and made the following adjustments. If you start with another tunic style pattern, and want to get this look, make sure your pattern has a high, jewel neckline. If your pattern has a lower neckline, the collar might be too large and will stand away from the neck.
Close the armhole and shoulder darts, combining them into the underarm dart. Angle the new underarm dart towards the lower edge.
I chose to eliminate the front fisheye darts and transfer some of the dart shaping to the side seam. The bib placket drops from just outside the neck edge to the bust line. I played with shaping the bib wider at the top and tapering slightly but that design created a problem with trim placement. Having the bib placket the same width from top to bottom allowed the trim rows to be evenly spaced. The back was used as is with fisheye darts. The shoulder dart will be eased. The skirt was pegged about 3/4 inch from low hip line to hem.
Next I drafted a collar and stand. Some drafting books suggest curving the collar stand about 1/2 inch but I find the stand will hug the back neck better if more shaping is used. I’ll increase the curvature of the stand by shaping with a steam iron.
All collar pieced are cut from cardboard which will help when pressing. I’ve also cut a collar lining pattern 1/8 inch smaller to keep the undercollar out of sight. The Curve Runner makes measuring curved edges easy; very helpful when drafting collars to fit the neck.
The cardboard helps when pressing seam allowances under and ensures the collar is perfectly symmetrical. Fell stitch the under collar to upper collar.
Pressing over cardboard also helps shape the collar stand. I used satin faced organza to line the collar, stand and as a base fabric for the bib. This organza is more opaque and stiffer than regular silk organza and is harder to shape into a smooth curve.
Designing trims for the placket was the most fun part. I used the same satin faced organza as a base fabric and applied multiple layers of ribbons and braids. Most were sewn on by hand to maintain a soft, couture feel.
I had some leftover tweed from Linton. I save my scraps of tweeds and boucles as there is often wonderful trim hiding in the fabric. Linton fabrics are woven with continuous strands so un-weaving produces a long continuous length of trim. I also used the fringed selvedges from the French boucle. Also found great buttons!!!
I had just enough scraps to cut bias strips for a hem fringe. Two layers of cotton batting padded the center. A blunt tapestry needle helps to un-weave the edges.
Finished! Here’s a glimpse of the inside. Silk crepe de chine fell stitched to armseyes and placket. Side zip makes it easy to get into.
Next post will detail the design and construction of the bride’s outfit.