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Drafting a Wedding Coat

I recently had the pleasure of working with a delightful bride and her mother. She had chosen a simple, yet dramatic, gown of heavy white silk crepe. With the fall wedding planned to take place outside in a vineyard, she envisioned a coat to compliment the gown.

I felt attempting to match fabrics was risky. Fortunately, as with most made-to-order gowns, the bride’s mom was able to order matching fabric from the bridal manufacturer. Fashion illustration isn’t my strength but this sketch shows the gown and accompanying coat.

Ordinarily I would start with body measurements to create a custom drafted pattern. Anyone who has done bridal work, knows how much measurements and the bustline can change depending on undergarments. Therefore, the coat needed to be drafted according to measurements taken over the fitted gown. After gown alterations were completed, I put the gown on a mannequin and started drafting the coat.

Here’s the finished pattern with princess seams moved into the armseye and neckline extending from shoulder to waistline. Long slim sleeves will be added. The skirt is quite flared to match the fullness of the gown.

I absolutely LOVE my cutting table. Covered in canvas, 60 inches wide with vertical grain lines in black, horizontal lines in red and diagonals in green. It makes doing layouts for long gowns so easy. It also worked well for aligning the veil.

The bride planned to wear this lovely heirloom veil of intricate lace which was a perfect compliment to the solid crepe gown. We noticed a few small tears in the veil and I felt that attempting to repair them would have resulted in noticeable stitches. The decision was made to back the entire veil with soft tulle. The underlying layer of new tulle would stabilize the fragile netting.

Working on ivory tulle on an ivory canvas background makes seeing your work next to impossible. I often do these projects over a layer of black canvas which makes the work much, much easier on the eyes. The detail of this lace was just amazing. Machine stitching would have been a disaster, so the supporting tulle was hand stitched in place, then trimmed away from the edge.

This fall was a crazy bridal season and I forgot to take process photos during the construction. I did receive these. Perfect for a late fall outdoor wedding. Congratulations! I loved working with you.

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The Joy of Working with a Custom Dressform

Having a dressform that duplicates the figure you’re sewing for makes the process SO much easier! Your model stands perfectly still for hours and doesn’t mind being stuck over and over with pins. She also eliminates the need for multiple in-person fittings, which was a life-saver during the worst days of COVID.

Here’s my process to create this gown which made it’s debut at the recent opening of Carnegie Hall in NYC. The design was inspired by this exquisite pleated tulle from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics.

I start by draping the fabric on the mannequin and experimenting with how it will drape and best positioning of the design. This fabric was meant to have a full skirt with one seam at center back. Additional seaming would have interrupted the flow of fabric. I also secured a full tulle underskirt to the form to get a clear vision of how much fabric was needed for the skirt.

The bodice looked best using the denser side of the lame portion at the neck and semi sheer section along the waist. I tried two versions, one using the sheer tulle for the back, a second option with the gold. I decided on the first option as the sheer back seemed more interesting; the gold back was too much gold. With the skirt basted into a grosgrain ribbon waistband, the design was complete.

Pattern work for front bodice: left photo is 1/2 of front which will be cut with fold at center front. In order to cut it with the neck gathered fuller, I drew 6 evenly spaced lines from neck to waist, left the pattern attached at the waist and spread out along the neck edge until the side seam was parallel to center front. The altered pattern was traced onto a new sheet of paper.

Left photo shows altered pattern on the tulle. Neck is at the top, waist at bottom with center fold at the right edge. Placed on the form, checked for accuracy and waistline thread traced. The back was cut from sheer portion of the tulle with pleating running vertically.

Basted everything together for a final fit check. I opted to finish the neckline with a stand collar of gathered tulle cut from the gold portion. A zipper in both underskirt and tulle allows the outer layer of tulle to hang freely; attaching it to the inner layers resulted in unattractive pulling. An inner waistband of grosgrain ribbon holds everything in place and supports the weight of the skirt.

Final try-on in the studio; fit was perfect on the first go thanks to a custom form and worn for gala night out.

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French Jacket Trims

I’ve been working on additional trim ideas to customize and embellish your custom French jacket. Alice, of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC, sent me a generous sampling of her new fall boucles to play with.

Sampling of new boucles available at Mendel Goldberg

When creating custom trim, the possibilities are almost endless. Here’s a few variations I came up with for one fabric. I used varying textures of black yarn combined with fibers pulled from the fabric to create coordinated trims.

This trim also utilizes fibers from the boucle as well as a textured grey and white yarn.

To make this trim, I made a crochet chain, turned and worked a double crochet in each stitch. Inserted a large Trim Tube (available in my shop) and steamed to even out the stitches. Then, using a smaller size tube, wove through the chain and inserted a metallic fiber from the boucle. After nudging the metallic ribbon to one side, wove the tube through again, alternating the up and down weave, and threaded a second metallic ribbon through.

For the trim with fringing, I cut a narrow band of boucle fabric and pulled threads from each side. The crochet band was accented with a row of chain stitches on each side using grey yarn pulled from the fabric. Stitch on top of the fringed strip for the completed trim. A second variation uses chain stitching with black/white yarn around the outer edge. I prefer the softer look of the fringed version.

Here’s another idea to coordinate with this open weave ivory with gold and silver metallic threads. The version on the left is crocheted with narrow strips of silk georgette fabric bias cut 1cm wide and used as yarn. The version on the right uses wool/angora yarn. A chain of gold and silver metallic yarn is threaded through the crochet chain.

I’m also experimenting with adding pearls to the trim.

Pink metallic pearls combined with black textured yarn to compliment this black/pink boucle fabric

Finally, while sleuth shopping in Chanel boutiques, I found this jacket and was drawn to the unique use of ribbons and yarns in the weave. It’s listed for $$$ on EBay (untrimmed version) but stumbled across a VERY similar fabric on Etsy.

If you’re interested in a 6 day class focused on creating your own unique jacket and trim, join me in Palm Beach Gardens, FL from November 8-13, 2021. Details can be found in the shop under Classes.

Drafting Patterns, French Jackets, Uncategorized

French Jacket Shoulder Pad

I’ve created a new category on my main menu which will be links to free patterns, sewing/workroom tips, and other topics which readers may wish to refer back to. Not everything is linked yet but will be updated as soon as I organize. Having everything listed under one category will eliminate the need to search through past posts.

Here’s my pattern for a shoulder pad I designed several years ago. I love the shape of this shoulder pad as it has a built-in sleeve head and you can vary the thickness according to your needs. I’ve started making these using wool felt (which is available at JoAnns Fabrics) for a very couture shoulder pad. The wool felt is not inexpensive but one yard goes a long way and it’s a perfect use for the discount coupon. Cotton quilt batting also works well.

Link to pattern:

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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.

Continue reading “French Jacket Pattern Matching”
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In-Person Classes: Finally!

Create a custom French jacket:

November 8-13, 2021

DoubleTree Hotel, PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Class hours 9 AM to 5:30 PM Monday, November 8 through Saturday November 13

We’ll explore techniques such as:

How to achieve a perfect pattern match at the princess seams with a simple pattern modification and ironwork to shape the garment sections.

Change a two piece sleeve into a three piece

Draft a perfectly fitting stand collar

Professional quality handworked buttonholes

Using coordinating yarns, fabrics and fabric fibers to create coordinated trim

Link for additional information and registration

Continue reading “In-Person Classes: Finally!”
creating designer trim, French jacket trim, Uncategorized

More Custom Braid

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.

Continue reading “More Custom Braid”
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

creating designer trim, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Woven Trim Variation

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.

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Custom Trim for Linton Tweed

Here’s the step by step method I used to create this custom trim for a fabric from Linton Tweeds. I used a sport weight black yarn which had a fine strand of silver thread running through. I made knitted tubing with fine linen yarn using the Embellish Knit device mentioned in the last post. The yarn tube was filled with a soft thicker dark charcoal yarn. Finally a line of metallic silver chain stitches in the center of the braid.

I use this crocheted base as a starting point for many trims. It’s very simple to make. I make a sample using about 30 stitches to test yarn combinations, yarn weights and stitches before committing to a long length. If you’re creating trim for a jacket, I would suggest doing trim for the sleeves in one length, all the pockets as another length, and finally enough to do neckline, fronts and hem if desired. The trim is very soft and can be pieced if necessary.

Here’s an illustration of two variations of the stitch pattern. Chain a length as long as you want. Keep the stitches loose; you can also make the chain with a larger hook to avoid pulling the stitches too tight. Then switch to a hook 1-2 sizes smaller. I make the lengths several inches longer than needed to avoid running short. Chain 4 more stitches. Turn. Make double crochet in the 4th stitch from the hook. Chain 1. Skip one stitch on the chain and make double crochet. Chain 1. Repeat to the end.

To make the double crochet bars closer together, you can work a double crochet in every stitch and omit the chain stitch between the double crochets. Experiment to see which look you prefer.

Samples of both variations worked in bulky yarn.

Double crochet worked every other stitch
Double crochet worked every stitch

For the braid shown in this post, I used the second version (double crochet worked every stitch). It doesn’t show well in black.

Double crochet worked every stitch. Sport weight yarn, size F (3.75mm) used for initial chain stitch. Switched to size E (3.5mm) for remainder of work.

Next, I used the Embellish Knit (available on Amazon) and thin beige linen yarn to knit a cord twice the length of the crochet base plus several inches. The weight supplied with the knitted wasn’t heavy enough to pull the yarn over the tiny latch hooks. I’ve discovered the key to success with this knitter is fine relatively smooth yarn, adequate weight to pull the stitches over the latch hooks and turning the hand crank slowly until the stitches start forming. A surgical clamp with several large washers works well. Add or subtract washers until the stitches form easily.

The resulting cord measured about 1/4 inch in width. I though it would add additional interest to fill the cord with a contrasting color yarn. I chose a tube (https://cloning-couture.com/products/trim-tubes ) which looked small enough to thread through the center of the knitted cord and large enough to allow the fill yarn to pass through.

Although the brass tube will feed through the center of the knitted tube, it’s easier to insert a crochet hook, hook side first. The crochet hook will stop at the wider thumb rest, creating a slightly rounded end. Insert the crochet hook end through one of the stitches in the tube and feed the brass tube through the middle of the knit tube. The knitted tube will likely be longer than the brass tube. Allow the excess to bunch up.

Next take a length of heavy thread about 30 inches long, fold in half and insert the cut ends into one end of the brass tube. Push the thread through until the ends emerge from the opposite end. Pull the thread until a loop remains on the end. Insert the fill yarn through the loop and pull the cut ends of the thread, pulling the fill yarn into the brass tube.

Holding the fill yarn and knitted cord in one hand, gently pull the brass tube back, leaving the fill yarn inside the knitted cord. Ease the scrunched up knitted cord towards the tube end and continue pulling until the entire length of knitted cord is filled.

Don’t try and make 5 yards of trim in one shot. I measure the positions I want to use the braid and work in manageable sections. I like to do the shorter lengths first and longer sections after a bit of practice. If I’m doing a very long section, maybe for a jacket neckline, fronts and hem, I’ll make the crochet base and cording in one long length and do the next step of weaving starting at the center and working out to both ends.

Next, select the smallest tube that the now filled knit cord will pass through and weave the tube in and out through the bars of the crochet base.

Use heavy thread as before to pull the filled knitted cord through the brass tube. Hold both crochet base and filled cord in one hand and gently pull brass tube out, leaving the knitted cord woven through. To secure the cut ends of knitted cord, wrap with thin yarn or thread, tie and cut.

Use the blunt end of a crochet hook and force the cording to one side of the base. Thread the brass rod alternating the previous weave, as shown. Remove the brass rod.

I wanted the black edges a tiny bit more defined, so added a row of chain stitching to both edges using the same black sport yarn and a size E (3.5mm) hook. I also used thin silver metallic yarn and size D (3.25mm) hook to make a line of chain stitches along the middle if the braid.

Final braid is very light and flexible. I’ve pinned to the fabric and even without any steaming or stitching, it turns a tight right angle without any bunching or thickness. To invisibly join edges I steam heavily placing the edge of the iron at exactly the point I want the braid to turn under. Place a clapper, edge of clapper on the line which will be turned and allow to cool. You want to completely flatten the braid which will turn under and not flatten the braid which will be seen. Secure the cut edges with a couple of rows of machine stitching or narrow strip of light fusible interfacing.

Trim used on RTW Chanel jackets is thin, light and flexible. Most pre-made trims available are heavier and won’t navigate tight curves this easily. Here’s a view of several jackets I took during a pre-COVID shopping trip. Notice how the trim curves easily in the pockets. I’ll show my method for recreating this version in the next post. Thanks for reading.

I received a comment suggesting that the fill cord could be added while knitting the cord, eliminating the step to insert fill yarn after the cord was finished. I had experimented with this in the past but did more testing to determine if it would work. This is what I found. You can do short lengths but the knitted cord spirals as it is formed, causing the fill to twist. You can untwist the fill for several inches but when working a length longer than about 10 inches, it becomes difficult. You also need to watch carefully that the fill cord stays in the center and doesn’t get caught on the latch hooks. It’s worth a try.