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Create Custom Trim for your French Jacket

How much fun is selecting fabric, lining and buttons for your French jacket?  Finding the perfect trim can be another story.  If you are looking for black, white or a standard color you may get lucky but what if your fabric is a wonderful mix of other colors and the trim you’re considering just doesn’t look quite right? Another issue I frequently encounter is that many of the trims are too rigid and bulky to curve around corners and the stiffness detracts from the wonderful fluid nature of these jackets.

I searched for some time and experimented with many methods to produce a soft,  flexible custom braid.  Finally I stumbled upon Kumihimo braiding and modified the traditional technique to create a braid I’m finally happy with.  By creating your own braid you aren’t limited to the choices found in the trim section and can totally customize it to complement your jacket.  There are many books and videos explaining the Kumihimo method which can be used to create round, half-round or flat braids. Since I was interested in jacket trim I focused on flat braids.  Kumihimo braids are normally tightly woven and fairly rigid; not what I was looking to make.  By using soft yarns and increasing the counterweight I’m able to get the desired result.

Traditional Marudi or Takadai are expensive and since this started out as an experiment, I wanted minimal financial investment.  Home Depot had a round wooden disk and wooden dowels which made a serviceable stand. I cut a braiding plate from craft foam using internet photos for the design.  Braiding plates are also available online; most beading suppliers carry them.

The simplest braid is an allover design. You don’t need to arrange the cords in any particular pattern. I’ll show a 10 strand braid and then explain the specific yarns I used for trim. The numbering system on this plate may differ from one you find. I’ve wound 10 bobbins (available from Beadalon and others).  I’ve also used 10 different colors of embroidery floss for demonstration.

Tie the cord ends together and slip through the hole in the beading plate. Attach the counterweight. I used two large washers slipped through a surgical clamp. Traditionally a small bag containing weights is used. The weight is adjustable, depending on number of bobbins used and the desired effect. Most instructions will advise weighing all the bobbins and using a counterweight of about 50%. My bobbins each weigh 24 grams times 10 bobbins for a total weight of 240 grams. The counterweight is very important to maintain an even tension. THE MORE COUNTERWEIGHT, THE LOOSER THE TENSION. Since I wanted a soft braid I used a 75% counterweight. My bobbins weigh 240 grams, 75% of 240 is 180, so the weight of the washers plus surgical clamp is 180 grams.


Place a cord in slots 3,4,5,6,7,8,14,15,16,17. The position of each color doesn’t matter. This is just to illustrate the braiding sequence.

Move the cord in 5 to e (small case e on the right side), move 6 to E (capital E on the left side) Don’t ask why e and E (just the version I used)

Move 15 to 5 and 4 to 15.

14 to 4 and 3 to 14

16 to 6 and 7 to 16

17 to 7 and 8 to 17

Then E to 3 and e to 8

That completes a sequence. Keep repeating until you have enough braid. This took much longer to write than actually do and after a few repeats you won’t need the instructions. For each repeat you bring the center cords to the side, alternate cords on the left side, then the right side, and then move the side cords back to top. There are also many versions and videos of this pattern online if my version is confusing. Search for 10 cord flat braid and you’ll find many tutorials.

To guestimate how many strands of yarn for the width braid you want, twist multiple lengths together until you get close to the size.  For the pastel braid I used 36 strands divided evenly among the 10 bobbins.  I wound 6 bobbins with two strands of pom-pom yarn and two strands of metallic silver.  Then 4 bobbins with one length of pom-pom, one metallic silver and one off-white angora.

 

Since the braid is so pliable, it can be stretched slightly to narrow it.                                                                                                                                                                                                         To widen the braid, gently stretch it crosswise.

The braid is very easy to shape around curves and corners.

The jacket which appeared in Threads Magazine was trimmed with braid using these yarns from Linton Tweeds.

How long should you cut the strands? I found about 1.5 times the desired finished length plus 10-12 inches for knotting. Since I didn’t want to piece the trim around the jacket edge, I wove two lengths for each jacket. One length for the sleeve edges and pocket trim, the other length for the jacket body. I did the shorter length first to see if I liked my yarn combination and to test if 1.5 times finished length would be correct. Test a few short lengths before committing to yards of trim you might not like. If the braid is too narrow, add more strands of yarn. As you braid, the counterweight will move lower; when it gets close to the bottom of the stand just unclamp and move the counterweight up. I clamped right onto the completed braid with no damage.  How long does this take!!!  It isn’t fast but not as long as you might think.  After doing two jackets I can braid about 20 inches per hour and need about 140 inches per jacket to do sleeves, 4 pockets, and all around the edges of the jacket body.  Most sewers plan on at least 50-70 hours (and often more) so another 7-8 hours to get exactly what you want isn’t crazy.  It’s great TV work;  you will memorize the sequence quickly and do it without thinking.

This loosely woven trim will unravel very, very easily so I machine stitched a length of tulle to stabilize before cutting lengths for the pockets and sleeves.  Secure the ends of longer lengths also.

Next post will explore different braiding patterns and incorporating threads from the fabric.  I hope you enjoy this and consider using some custom braids.

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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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Do You Dread Making Pants?

How many sewers have difficulty with the fit of pants? The sewing is relatively straightforward; only two fronts, two backs and a waistband or facing.  The truth is that pants ARE hard to fit. You’re asking flat fabric to attractively cover a very bumpy section of the body.  Jackets have multiple seams and attached sleeves which allow for many more fitting opportunities. One of my favorite resources is Cutter and Tailor.com which offers truly expert advice.  It is written for professionals and much of the information is geared to the expert sewer but I thought some of the ironwork techniques weren’t that complicated.

I had made a pair of pants using Style Arc’s Claudia pant. The pant is designed for stretch woven fabric but I used a non-stretch wool and added a little extra to the seams to compensate. I eliminated the seam at center front leg. The pants fit OK but I wanted to see if they could be improved.  I had purchased the fabric from B & J’s in NYC and it was not something I was willing to trash.  I tend to use better fabrics and am willing to take apart and redo if necessary.  Quality materials and natural fibers just behave better and I’m happier with the end result.

CLAUDIA-PANT

Some pattern instructions direct you to stretch the back inner leg seam while joining it to the front and also point out the need to stretch the back crotch seam but the degree of iron shaping necessary for better fit isn’t clear.

There is an  extensive article  in Cutter and Tailor about shaping the pant sections with the iron and very detailed, clear photos describing exactly how this should be done. Search for “ironwork.”  If you Google “pressing” you will get directions on how to press ready-made pants. The author points out:

The correct fit of trousers cannot be achieved by cutting alone, for this must be achieved for the most part through ironwork. Many more errors in trousers have their origins in inadequate ironwork than in the cut. The most important factor in trousers is their width. Different widths demand a different method of working up with the iron, although difference in posture and body habitus also influence this. Even the most perfectly calculated cut could never create well fitting trousers without the proper ironwork.

I eliminated most of the lower leg shaping and concentrated on the hip and seat area.  My fabric wasn’t the most pliable but eventually succumbed to stretching, heat and steam. I worked with both back sections placed right sides together at the same time. That way the stretching was equal on both right and left sides.

Pant Shaping

The pants have a half lining of soft cotton/silk voile and hand under-stitching along the waist facing.

Pants Lining Inside Pants

I’m much happier with the fit and will definitely incorporate this technique in future pant construction. My next pair will be from a softer wool which will be easier to shape but even the fit of this tightly woven plaid improved with some extra iron work.

Pants FrontPants side

All my resident photographers were unavailable so I resorted to some cell phone mirror shots. The dark fabric doesn’t show too well but it’s pouring rain so no chance of outdoor shots.

While responding to comments I found this info which may be helpful if you are having trouble with basic fitting. Note how many drafts were needed before the pants were even attempted in fabric! Also see how small some changes were and how other fit issues could result from a change.

Threads Braid

 

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Winner: The Tunic Bible

Thank you for all the lovely comments. These tunics were. Fun to create and I have a few more planned. The winner of the book is Andrea Birkin. Andrea, please contact me at  mf953@aol.com  before Saturday 10/15. I need your mailing address as the book will be sent directly from the publisher to you.

 

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More Lace Seams

I’ve been doing loads of work on laces recently. Here is the latest project: a navy cotton velveteen dress with the upper bodice and sleeves made in a soutache re-embroidered lace.

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Front and back views. An invisible zip closes the skirt and tiny self covered buttons with looping close the lace at center back. The bows snap on, concealing the zip stop and finishing the back neckline.

This project was a virtual sampler of lace seaming methods and edge finishes.

The neck edge is bound with a bias strip of velveteen.

The center back lace edges are turned under and finished with a narrow strip of lengthwise silk organza to prevent stretching. Here is the wrong side showing bias binding and organza edge with elastic button looping.

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The sleeves were cut with the scalloped lace edge as the hem. This lace was fairly stiff and the soutache cording added thickness. I used a plain seam to close the underarm sleeve seam, trimmed the seams to 1/2 inch width and bound with silk tulle. Loads of steam and a tailors clapper were necessary to get this seam flat.
DSC_0315
The armseye seam was trimmed, bound with silk tulle, and pressed towards the sleeve.
This lace was designed so that edging could be cut without cutting through any soutache cording. The cording frayed badly, so cutting through it and leaving it exposed wasn’t an option. The lace edging was hand appliqued along the seam joining the bodice and skirt.
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Sewing by hand with tiny applique stitches leaves no trace of the join.
Another view of the lace.
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Also, I overlapped the shoulder seams and cut the lace front and back as one piece to eliminate a shoulder seam which would have detracted from the lace pattern. Loads of options for lace seams. Every lace is different and may require multiple techniques to produce the look you want.

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Little French Jacket Sew Along

I am following the Little French Jacket Sew Along.
Sew Along
You can find it at http://achallengingsew.typepad.com and http://www.thewallinna.com/
Check out both sites and I’ll post my jacket as it progresses.

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