Category Archives: French Jackets

Manipulate the Fabric to Fool the Eye

This is an experiment in the art of trompe l’oeil as the French call it, or to deceive the eye.  I’ll explore how to alter the grain of fabric to create the illusion of a less bumpy and curvy shape.  I’ll also use my custom shoulder pads as explained in my last post and in my article for Threads Magazine to transform asymmetrical shoulders into an evenly shaped figure.

I’ve chosen a loosely woven patterned fabric and will create a Chanel style jacket for this figure.  The dress form has been marked with the standard balance lines. Notice the back view which clearly shows the right shoulder much more sloped than the left.  A note to those readers who have seen my posts about various types of dress forms. This is an adjustable foam style with dials. Not my favorite but after padding to match the figure it works fine. A professional model is nice but you can make anything work!

Fabric Form Front Form Side Form Back

The style lines are added in purple tape. I’ve chosen to bring the princess line closer to the neck edge which creates a more vertical line makes it easier to shape the fabric in the next step.

Style Lines Front Style Lines Back

In order to even out the shoulders I constructed shoulder pads using my pattern from the Threads Magazine article. I added additional layers to the right shoulder pad to make the shoulder height the same on both sides. Rather than try and alter a pattern, it was easier to drape the jacket directly on the form. Note that I carefully marked right and left sides. Although the garment sections look symmetrical on the form they are vastly different when laid flat.
Side Toile  Shoulder Pad PatternBack Toile

The red stitches show final alterations to the shoulders. Height is added to accommodate the shoulder pads and I widened the shoulder line to balance the torso for a more flattering shape.
Right Shoulder Changes.JPG Left Shoulder Changes

Rather than cut the side front and side back garment garment sections according to the pattern, I wanted to shape the fabric to follow the seam lines and minimize an off-grain cut at the shoulder line. For the side front I started with a rectangle of fabric. I pinned the toile to the fabric and rotated the fabric so that the straight grain lined up with the princess seam. As you can see, this caused excess fabric to bunch up along the front armhole.
Cut Rectangle Front
Working slowly with a steam iron, start easing the fabric towards the armhole. The fibers will compress and you will be able to ease out much of the excess fabric.

Work carefully as you don’t want to press permanent creases into the fabric. Depending on how pliable your fabric is, you may be able to ease all of the extra out. If not just readjust the seam line to be slightly off grain but you should be able to work the seamline almost on the straight grain. Fabric choice is crucial here. Most loosly woven boucles will ease nicely. My fabric was a little tighter weave than most wool boucles and I was able to ease almost all of the excess fabric out. Trim the excess fabric at the armhole.

Start Shaping Front Trim Armhole

The fabric is now nicely shaped but very unstable and will want to return to its original shape. I cut a stay from lightweight cotton and basted it to the fabric. I’ve added two rows of machine stay stitching and eased the armhole to correspond to the toile. Stay tape keeps the shoulder seam from stretching out of shape. This fabric wanted to ravel badly. Although many couture sources frown on using a serger I use it to overlock the seams and prevent fraying. I use a very lightweight Guttermann thread (not regular sewing thread) so as not to add bulk to the seam. The lining is cut according to the pattern (not shaped as the boucle), basted and quilted as usual following the weave of the fabric. Your quilting lines will curve and a walking foot as well as diagonal basting will keep everything lined up without puckering.

Cut Stabilizer Stay Front Shoulder

Completed Front Back Complete

This clearly shows the distorted weave but it will be hidden under the arm and the jacket front will show a flattering vertically placed weave. The side back is handled the same way. It will be easier to shape as you won’t be dealing with the bust. It does nicely conceal rounded shoulders and back.

Jacket Front with Trim Jacket Back Completed

I used purchased navy fringe and sewed a narrow white cord in the middle. Two pockets looked better than four as I wanted to minimize the bust. The princess seams are barely visible and the jacket gives a taller and slimmer appearance.

I’m working on more custom trim and have a beautiful piece of Linton tweed for the next venture.

 

 

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Filed under Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, Draping, Dress Forms, French Jackets, Uncategorized

McQueen Top Finished and Chanel Trims

Here is the final version of the flounce top adapted from a RTW Alexander McQueen design. Shown with jeans for an outdoor summer party.

Finished Top Front

I’ve also been busy developing a method for making custom trim to match your Chanel style jacket. The next few posts will go into more detail about this but here are some previews of what’s coming. I also have an article in the latest issue of Threads Magazine which explains how I go about adding a shoulder pad to the jacket and there is also a link to the pattern.

I love creating these jackets but am often frustrated when searching for just the right trim. Often what I find is too stiff, not the right color/width, etc. If you’ve watched Signe Chanel (it’s available on youtube or DVD) you’re familiar with Madame Pouzieux, the lady who created trims for Chanel. Unfortunately she is no longer alive and I understand no one quite “got” her method. Her loom and spinning devices were very large and beyond what any home sewer could possibly fit into a sewing room.

My search for a reasonable way to replicate these perfectly coordinated soft braids led to Kumihimo plate braiding. The braiding stand is easily made and I had very good luck with an inexpensive braiding plate.

Braid Stand

Here are two jackets trimmed with braid woven on the stand using yarns in my stash and some from Linton Tweeds.

Pastel Jacket    Threads JacketPastel Jacket Front

Pastel Jacket Detail

Threads Jacket FrontJacket Front CloseupThreads Braid

The braid is very soft and flexible but unravels VERY easily. I stitch a narrow strip of tulle across the ends before cutting. The 10 strand braiding pattern works well for these jackets and I’m experimenting with other patterns. The results will be up soon.

 

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Chanel Shoulder Pads

Anyone who has constructed their version of the classic Chanel quilted jacket is aware that there is no provision in the design for shoulder padding. Unfortunately, many figure types are enhanced by the addition of even just a slight lift at the shoulder line. I came across this RTW Chanel quilted jacket WITH shoulder pads.

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The lining is silk chiffon and is difficult to see in the photo. Each section of the jacket, including sleeves, is quilted in vertical lines about one and 1/4 inch apart. The lining seams are finished by hand: amazing to find this in RTW! There are also shoulder pads covered with the silk chiffon. Happily I was able to get inside this garment and copy the details.

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Here is the jacket wrong side out with the shoulder pad visible and the pattern I was able to reconstruct. The inner working of the shoulder pad were identical to a pattern I previously posted on 1/20/2016: The Chanel Shoulder.

Here is a copy of the shoulder pad itself:

shoulder-pad-pattern

I don’t have pdf conversion software, but if you right click anywhere on the pattern you will have an option to print. Print to fit on 8.5 by 11 paper and it should print to the correct scale.

I’ll run through the construction of the shoulder pad again so readers don’t need to toggle back and forth between posts.
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On the right are the sections cut from cotton batting. Left photo shows the sections completed. Check the post from 1/20 if you need additional hints.

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I’ve shown the inner layer (pattern piece 3) placed on the mannequin first, topped with the optional additional padding (pattern piece 4). Stitch these layers together.

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Pattern pieces 1 and 2 (already stitched together) are layered on top and pinned for sewing. Next photo shows the completed shoulder pad.

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Since the lining in this jacket has already been attached by quilting, the shoulder pad needs to be covered by matching lining. Here are the lining pieces: Shoulder Pad Cover

 

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Sew the darts in both top and bottom cover pieces. Notice both sections are cut out bias grain. There is also NO SEAM ALLOWANCES on the outer edges. Allow about 3/4 inch or 2 cm. Pin the upper cover (the piece with two darts) on the top of the pad. Stitch just INSIDE the edge of the batting.

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Place the bottom cover section on top of the top cover layer and stitch just OUTSIDE the batting. I find it easier to sew with the cotton batting layer on top and the silk fabric next to the sewing machine feed dogs. It controls the ease better.

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Leave about 2 to 2.5 inches open along one side to turn. Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch. I increase to 1/4 inch around the opening the make sewing that closed easier.

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Attach to the jacket with 1/4 inch French tacks so the shoulder pad will move slightly when worn. I usually use four tacks: one at each end of the shoulder seam and one at front and back where the sleeve joins the jacket body. These aren’t limited to Chanel jackets. Anytime you need a covered shoulder pad these are wonderful. I like that the sleeve head support is incorporated into the design. Also the pad is securely stitched to the lining so these should withstand the cleaning process. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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The Chanel Shoulder

One of my latest projects has been to reshape the shoulder line on two Chanel jackets for a client. These are not couture but from the Chanel RTW line. Chanel does produce some of the very best RTW clothing and many of the techniques can be incorporated in home sewing. The first jacket was long, almost a coat. I’m not sure who they intended this coat to fit, but the sleeves were inordinately long. There is a white cotton cuff, attached by tiny buttons, which gives the illusion of a tailored shirt underneath. I’m fairly tall with longish arms so imagine how this looks on a petite figure! Also notice how the plaid matching is slightly off from sleeve to jacket body.

The sleeves needed to be shortened by a whopping 5.5 inches. In addition the shoulder was too wide and needed 3/4 of an inch removed and 5 inches of width removed from the body.

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The width alterations needed to be done at the side back seam as that was the only seam without pockets or vent. Chanel leaves wonderfully wide seams in both the outer garment and lining. 3/4 inch or 2 cm. seems to be standard. Notice the hand sewn hem. Chanel also finishes each garment piece by individually overlocking so that taking in or letting out seams is a dream.


The sleeves needed to be shortened from the top down, leaving the working sleeve vent intact. My method is to remove the sleeves and open all seams except in the area of the sleeve vent. I certainly didn’t want to redo that detail! Trace off the sleeve patterns without seam allowances.


The completed sleeve pattern needed to be narrowed by 2 inches at the bicep, tapering to 1/2 inch at the hem. I slit the pattern and removed the excess width.


Place the altered pattern down the required length to be removed and recut the sleeve. I thread traced the new seam lines.


Notice that Chanel presses the center 3 inches (1 and 1/2 inches each side of center) open. The remainder of the seam is pressed towards the sleeve. The blue thread is my mark for the amount to narrow the shoulder when the sleeve is reinserted. I use Japanese basting cotton as it has some texture and tends not to pull out during construction.

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Here is a second jacket getting similar treatment of narrowing the shoulders.


Notice the little shoulder pad with built in shape for the sleeve head. Here is my pattern for making these. I make my own shoulder pads and find them far superior to purchased ones, not to mention being almost free.
I posted two variations of shoulder pads Chanel uses in RTW on November 18, 2014. One of my readers, olden bears, kindly sent me pdf files for these and I’m inserting the link in case you want those patterns.

Shoulder Pad Pattern

This post has been edited to link to a pdf pattern. Click on the above link and the pattern should open in pdf format.
(I’ve scanned the new pattern but don’t have software to convert to pdf. I think if you open the picture and print, scaling to 8.5 x 11 paper it should be close to size. The size isn’t too critical and you can add or subtract according to your shoulder length.)

Here is the pattern for another shoulder pad with a built-in sleeve head.

Shoulder Pad Pattern
For each shoulder pad you will need to cut pieces 1 and 2 twice, piece 3 once and 4 once. Piece 4 is optional. Use it if you want an additional layer for more lift in the pad. Butt the edges together and sew. I use a three step zig-zag stitch.

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You will have two (or three) dish shaped pieces. If using piece 4, place inside the sewn outer layer sections; Place piece 3 on top and pin the layers together.


Baste through all layers. I just discovered the basting stitch on my Bernina. Maybe I should read the manual. Your machine may have a similar stitch. Loosen the tension so you don’t wind up with a puckered mess like this.


Fit the pad over a tailors ham and steam heavily to set the shape. Let the shoulder pad dry before removing from the ham.


Completed jacket with a beautifully shaped and supported sleeve cap. I was also able to get a better pattern match between jacket body and sleeve.

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Jacket Finished, Plus Two More

The last step in finishing was to add pockets. I played around with different sizes and debated two versus four. A great way to visualize size and placement is to cut pockets from shop towels (they are heavier than paper towels) and play around until you get the right look.

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I had four larger buttons and decided to add them at the center front. They are sewn at the right front edge and don’t actually fasten.
I find it easiest to get pockets exactly the same size and shape by pressing the pocket around a cardboard template. I interfaced the pocket with bias cut interfacing which is cut just a tad smaller than the finished pocket. The bias gives the pocket a softer shape. I cut a slightly smaller template for the lining.
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Slip stitch the lining to the pocket, attach trim and slip stitch to the jacket. Don’t catch the lining when doing this.

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I had a chance to get a closeup look at some geniune Chanel jackets at an upscale resale shop on Madison Ave. and noted some distinctive details. Trims are applied after construction and are made to be removed if necessary for cleaning. More about my findings in the next post.
I was sidetracked by an request from my daughter-in-law. She was invited to join the hunt staff of our local equestrian team. Hunt staff wear red jackets and bespoke versions are a small fortune. Since I had made her wedding gown, she figured a jacket would be an easy task.
Just make a tailored jacket from a commercial pattern, right? Wrong. Riding clothing is another animal. We combined my research and her knowledge and came up with a punch list of what this garment needed.
*Roomy armholes with significant ease in the back to allow the rider forward arm movement
*Sleeves pitched much more forward than conventional clothing as the arm is held almost horizontal
*Abrasion resistant lining in the jacket skirt to resist wear
*Flared skirt with most of the flare at the back to cover the seat while in the saddle
*Warm lining as hunt season runs through the winter
*Slippery sleeve lining to allow the jacket arms to slide freely over shirts/sweaters
Mood Fabrics had a beautiful heavy wool/cashmere/nylon fabric. They also had abrasion resistant lining and wool flannel for the upper jacket lining. I drafted a fitting muslin from cotton canvas which mimicked the weight and drape of the wool better than lightweight muslin. Note the exaggerated curve of the sleeve.
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The roomy armhole. I would never have guessed this much ease would be required.
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The jacket fabric was thick and required loads of steam and heavy use of a tailors clapper to get things flattened into shape. I found it helpful to flatten the inside of especially bulky seams with a clamp from the hardware store. Get loads of steam into the fabric, clamp it down hard, and leave until it’s cold.
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Also, don’t sew across the layers of intersecting seams. You can get a much flatter press by folding the seam allowances to one side and end the stitching at the seamline. Fold the seam allowances the other direction and begin stitching at the seamline. The seam allowances will remain free and press much flatter.
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Inside the jacket showing the various linings used.
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The color of the upper collar is unique to the particular hunt club; her’s is purple. The fabrics were so heavy and it was applied with traditional tailoring techniques.
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Here’s the finished work.
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I couldn’t resist using the leftover fabric for a matching jacket for the one year old. Fittings were a bit of a challenge on a squirmy baby but we got it done!
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Mommy and daughter out for a ride.
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French Jacket: The Trim

Trim for the French jacket was slightly delayed because Elmo was needed at my grandson’s birthday party this past weekend.  When we asked mom what he would like for his party, she said, “He would really love a visit from Elmo.”

Hoping to avoid having to construct Elmo, grandpa and I made the party store rounds but everything looked so amateurish that there were really no other options. Off to JoAnn’s for yards of red fur.

There was no way that stuff was getting all over my sewing studio so the kitchen was set up as a workshop. Finally, after a trip back to the craft store for additional materials, Elmo materialized. He travelled to Florida in his own suitcase and made a grand entrance singing “Accidents Happen” from the Elmo potty DVD. Grandpa got talked into wearing this getup in 90 degree heat!  He did have one couture detail: spiral steel boning was used to keep his mouth from collapsing. It was the only thing that flexed in two directions yet held the shape.

Elmo

On to creating custom trim for my French jacket. Many of the trims available are simply too stiff and inflexible for this type of jacket trim. Many of the Chanel jackets I’ve seen have trims made from the fabric fibers and coordinate with the jacket.

I decided to try fringing bias strips. One layer looked too skimpy and two layers sewn together resulted in trim that I thought too stiff. The solution was to gather bias strips, compressing the fibers into a fuller fringe. This also produced a flexible and lightweight trim. I started with one inch wide bias strips cut from the jacket fabric. Leave the ends at at 45 degree angle; this makes butting them end to end invisible.
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Adjust the fullness. You could measure but I just pulled up the threads until the gathering looked even. Then steam pressed the bias strip flat.
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I fell stitched a narrow braid down the center. The bias strips were just butted end to end. Hand stitching controlled the fullness; don’t try this by machine. The feed dogs will push the fabric into all sorts of unwanted directions. Machine stitching is done after both sides of the braid are fell stitched.
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Using a zipper foot, stitch along both edges of the braid using about a 2mm stitch. This locks the fabric threads in place.
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Looked good but I felt it still needed something. Narrow silver snake chain was coutch stitched along both edges of the braid. Light grey thread makes the stitches almost invisible.
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The edges looked a little scraggly so they were cleaned up. I used a transparent ruler and rotary cutter to keep a consistent width. Fluff them up after attaching so the edges don’t look quite so neat.
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Attach to the jacket with a pick stitch using doubled waxed thread. Pick up just a thread or two on the right side and don’t stitch so deep you catch the lining. The stitches can be half an inch or so apart and will keep the trim in place just fine. Do this along both edges of the braid.
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Fit the outer edges of curves first and ease the inside curves.
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The sleeve trim was steam shaped before applying.
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Sleeve and edge trim finished.
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Looks good but I think I still need pockets; haven’t decided whether to use two or four. I usually do the trim one step at a time before deciding if the jacket needs more. One more tip. If you opt to use hooks and eyes to close the jacket, it stays closed better if you alternate them on each side rather than putting all the hooks on one side and all eyes on the other.
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I’m exploring other ways to do custom trims and have several other ideas in the works.

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French Jacket; The Beginning

Now that my body double dress form and three piece sleeve research are complete it’s time to try them in action.

This is from my stash, probably purchased at B&J Fabrics several years ago. Now seems like a good time to get it made.  Another hallmark of couture construction is the shaping of garment sections with steam before any sewing takes place.  “Vintage Couture Tailoring” by Thomas von Nordheim has probably the best diagrams of how to shape jacket and sleeve sections.  Claire Shaeffer’s videos also explain the process well.

If you haven’t seen it, the video “Secret World of Haute Couture” is a great watch. It’s about 45 minutes and interviews some of the purchasers of haute couture garments. Although these ladies don’t sew they do understand and appreciate what haute is and how it feels. About 10 minutes into the film, one of the ladies who worked in haute couture for years explains, “You don’t just cut the fabric and sew it; you work the fabric. It is shaped with special irons so that when you roll it up, pack it, etc it still looks perfect.”  The importance of prefect fit is also stressed; “the clothing fits like a second skin; feels like you are wearing nothing at all.”

I used Vogue 8891 as a starting point. I reshaped the front princess seam so it would be easier to shape a rectangular piece of fabric into the proper shape.

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Trace the grain line about one inch from the fabric edge. Place your muslin pattern (no seam allowances) on top.
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Smooth the fabric so the grain line follows the pattern shape. You will notice ripples form; these need to be steamed out so the fabric is now shaped like the pattern.
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The same process needs to be done on the back sections.
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And all sleeve sections are steamed to further build in the shape.
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Although Claire’s pattern instructions don’t specify this type of shaping, notice that what was a curved quilt line now tends to follow the grain of the shaped garment sections. I spaced my quilting lines about 1 and 1/4 inch apart and followed the lengthwise grain on each section. After quilting I like to roll the raw edges of my lining sections under; it just keeps things neater.
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I cut the sleeves after completing and fitting the jacket body. Pins show match points. Most boucles do have a subtle pattern, so look carefully if you think yours doesn’t.
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Almost completed. Here is the jacket front and back. Notice how the armhole has been eased and tightened before the sleeve is set.

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I decided to shape the upper neck edge. An easy way to get a smooth shape that is symmetrical is cut a cardboard template. Press the neck edge under. Flip the template for the other side.

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Needs sleeve buttonholes and a good final press before I’m ready for trim.
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Pockets? Undecided yet. I’ll wait and see what the trim and buttons look like first.

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