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.
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.
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.
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
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.
For the braid shown in this post, I used the second version (double crochet worked every stitch). It doesn’t show well in black.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Pattern pieces 1 and 2 (already stitched together) are layered on top and pinned for sewing. Next photo shows the completed shoulder pad.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To celebrate a friend’s birthday we did a “girls day” in NYC. Although none of my friends are sewers we all enjoyed the current exhibit at the Anna Wintour Costume Exhibit. The theme was “Death Becomes Her”; a display of mourning wear through the last couple of centuries. We were lucky enough to plan our trip for opening day and were treated to a private showing of the exhibit. My photos were terrible and no flash allowed; much better shots here. The moire fabric in photo 7 was spectacular.
After the museum we wandered our way up Madison Ave. and stopped in a very upscale resale shop. Chanel dominated the racks! Even at resale prices, my shopping splurge in Paris for Chanel fabrics looked like a downright bargain. I was able to get some shots of garments and even got inside a few.
I’m working on a clone of this flower pin. Here’s a back view.
The houndstooth jacket was lined only in the sleeves. Seams were turned so they were hidden by the lining. The seams in the jacket body were serged and turned under, making a very clean finish inside.
The black silk blouse had a back neck opening constructed like a shirt sleeve placket.
Seams, even in the linings, were generous. The garment sections had all been serged before sewing together; makes for easier alterations and with the generous seam allowances, the salesladies assured us that the jackets could be altered three sizes up or down.
Chanel braid looks like a bias strip of fabric frayed and sewn on as trim.
A Valentino design with amazing pleated ribbon detail. Crystal drops were sewn in between each pleat.
Even zippers were carefully finished on the linings.
The jacket sleeve seam and shoulder pads were impeccable and created the shoulder line Chanel is known for. Note how the shoulder seam is pressed open at the top. The shoulder pads have a unique shape. I managed to dissect a couple of different ones.
Here is the pattern for one. These are not bulky, oversized pads but provide just subtle lift and shaping for the shoulder, Notice how the pad is constructed to extend into the sleeve and provide support. I tried to convert the pattern to a pdf file but the sizing got wonky no matter how I did it. I think it will print at the correct size if you just print the photo on a 8.5 by 11 inch sheet and don’t allow scaling. Let me know if this doesn’t work and I will email you the file, hopefully in the correct size.
I used cotton quilt batting. Pieces cut and marked with placement lines.
Mark the shoulder pad back and notches.
Stitch piece 1 and 2 together. I used a 5.0 mm wide three step zig-zig stitch. Start and one end, butt the edges together and sew, butting the edges together as you sew. The pad will take on a curved shape.
Section 4 will fold with the edges offset. Place the folded edge along the placement line on piece 3 with the narrower side up towards you. You want the layers to be graduated with the larger parts towards the outer side of the pad. Open the fold and stitch on the line. Fold back in place. Your piece should look like this:
Position sections 3 and 4 along the seam line of 1 and 2.
Turn and place a few pins on the outside of the pad to hold the layers together.
Stitch the darts closed on piece 5 using the three step zig-zag stitch. Place it on the underside of the pad.
Stitch the dart in piece 6 and add it to the underside of the pad. Be sure the edges are staggered.
Place the pad on a ham and steam. The steam will compress the batting and start holding things together.
Using a length of doubled thread, stab stitch the layers together. Don’t pull the thread tight as you don’t want dimples in your shoulder pad.
Add a line of stitches along the seam line where you have multiple layers. You don’t want this coming apart inside the finished jacket.
Put back on the ham and give it a good steam to meld the layers together. The finished pad. Notice how it isn’t huge and gives support to the top of the sleeve.
Another style I discovered. This one is even easier to make.
Sew pieces 1 and 2 together with the zig-zag stitch, matching notches. Notice how the neck edge is longer in the back.
Piece 3 is placed inside and then piece 4.
Sew the dart in section 5 closed and place.
Steam over the ham, stab stitch the layers together, and steam again.
Notice how the shoulder pad extends to the neckline seam.
A few readers have asked about adding shoulder pads to a Chanel style jacket. The jacket construction does not allow for internal pads, but you could cover a set with the lining fabric and tack them into the finished jacket. Some figures just look better with a little more lift at the shoulder.
I did see one quilted jacket at the shop. I couldn’t snag photos as it was carefully guarded by the salesladies. From what I could tell it was well within the skill level of many home sewers. The silk charmeuse lining was a vibrant print and the colors in the lining echoed the boucle. The trim was constructed using fibers from the jacket fabric.
We ended our “girls evening” with dinner and a painting class. We were required to purchase two glasses of wine during class so the paintings are being saved for an appropriate event.
Notes on downloading the shoulder pad patterns:
Printing directly from the photo won’t give you the correct size. Right click the pattern photos, save as a jpeg file. Open with a program allowing you to resize. You will have the correct scale if Piece number 1 measures 4 and 13/16 wide for the first pattern and 5 inches for the second.
I tried several pdf converters but nothing gave the correct scale. I’m open to suggestions if you have experience.
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.
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.
Slip stitch the lining to the pocket, attach trim and slip stitch to the jacket. Don’t catch the lining when doing this.
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.
The roomy armhole. I would never have guessed this much ease would be required.
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.
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.
Inside the jacket showing the various linings used.
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.
Here’s the finished work.
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!
Mommy and daughter out for a ride.
Getting a high, tight and well fitting sleeve is one of the key elements in a Chanel style jacket. The three piece sleeve is designed to give that snug fit as well as place the vent a little more forward to showcase buttons and trim. My last post outlined how to go about converting a two-piece sleeve pattern into a three. Another issue with most of the commercial patterns is that the armscye is rarely high enough and the shape of the sleeve cap doesn’t really fit that well.
I’ve spent the last month researching sleeve drafting. Never did I imagine it would lead to an intensive study of just about every method in multiple languages. Where to start? A website devoted to fairly advanced topics in tailoring is cutterandtailor.com. Most of the discussions of sleeve drafting referred to German systems which were complicated, difficult to translate, and I found the sleeve shape geared to mens’ tailoring. The sleeves I drafted from these tended to be too wide and the sleeve cap too short. This site does have tons of valuable information about just about every tailoring topic. Numerous other drafting books produced less than perfect results.
The Mueller system got closer to what I wanted but placed the top of the sleeve cap too far forward. Finally!!! I found European Cut. This manual by Elizabeth Allemong is a compilation of the best French, German, English and Italian drafting techniques written in easily understood terms. The system is far from quick and easy. You will need patience and attention to detail but this is by far the best I found. I’m surprised it’s not more well known.
I decided to work with Vogue 8991, one of Claire Shaeffer’s new jacket patterns. It has a three piece sleeve so that part of the drafting work is already done.
I added my standard 1 and 1/4 inch to the waist length and decided to reposition the front seam. Otherwise the muslin fits perfectly. I’ve started using Osnaburg fabric, available at Joann Fabrics in the utility fabrics section, for jacket muslins. It’s heavier than regular muslin and since it’s 100% cotton, shapes easily. I wait for the discount coupon and buy 10-20 yards.
The sleeves were a different story. The pattern envelope shows fairly narrow sleeves but when I made the trial version they were much too wide at the hem and very long. The sleeve cap was also in need of reworking.
What I liked about European Cut is that the sleeve draft is based on the armscye of the garment, not arbitrary standard measurements. The sleeve cap is unevenly divided with the back width longer than the front. Since the back armhole of the jacket body is always longer than the front it makes for a better fit. The front sleeve cap also protrudes more but the back cap curve is shallower.
The scye shape from which a new sleeve shape can be drafted.
The paper draft.
The black outline is the pattern, red is the redraft, and green is the final draft. The sleeve cap needed raising 3/8 inch and underarm raised 1/2 inch. I also narrowed the sleeve slightly.
I didn’t care for the flared hem so here are my changes to the bottom of the sleeve pattern. This fabric can be eased and shaped much more than regular muslin. I feel it mimics a soft wool better and gives a better read as to the final fit.
Shaped sleeve ready to set.
I was on a mission to perfect these jacket sleeves and feel that the hard part is done. Finally the fun of sewing this can begin!
The past month has been occupied with a quest to develop a sleeve pattern for the French boucle jacket. Chanel was obsessed with sleeves. Axel Madsen writes in Chanel: A Woman of Her Own: “she would pin up a dress as many as twenty times to get it right. Armholes were her bane-and the engineering secret of her jackets.” Jackie Rodgers, a Boston-born mannequin, would recall: the armhole was never high enough, and she’d reset a sleeve six times. The high armhole gave the jacket the cleaner, closer fit she wanted.”
Also, just some interesting notes regarding us sewers referring to our projects as “Chanel jackets.” I’ve read that Chanel takes a dim view of this and states that “only Chanel can make a Chanel jacket.” True but Coco had somewhat a different take on those who copied her work. Axel Madsen also notes that: “Coco had always believed that any fashion not adopted by a majority of women was a flop. To see herself copied in the street was the greatest compliment. Piracy was the flattering result of success.”
We may not be able to make a “Chanel jacket” but Gabrielle Chanel would have been flattered by sewers devoting endless hours to emulate her work.
In order to avoid the “home sewn” look, you need to get the fit of your jacket perfected, especially the shoulders and sleeves. Too many jackets appear that are much too large through the shoulders. Most commercial patterns have sleeves which are much too wide and the whole effect of the chic jacket is lost.
The three piece sleeve seems to be the holy grail of Chanel jackets. I found almost nothing published on how to draft this sleeve and so began my quest.
This post will demonstrate my method of drafting a three piece sleeve from an existing two piece sleeve. Future posts will explore custom sleeve drafting and some radically different sleeve shapes.
First I’ll deal with the armseye shape. The scye, as it’s referred to in professional tailoring language, is the basis for beginning the sleeve draft. If your jacket has the wrong shape and size armhole, you have no chance of getting a correct sleeve fit. Perfect your muslin fit and make any changes necessary to the sleeve before proceeding. You will also need to remove all seam allowances from the pattern. All professional pattern drafting is done without seam allowances. If you try this process without removing the seam allowances, things will become muddled very quickly. Sorry to those who prefer to work with seams added.
The scye shape is easiest to visualize by laying the jacket body sections on a grid with the armhole seams just touching and all grain lines parallel.
Here is an example of a poorly shaped scye. It is too narrow, vertical and doesn’t follow the natural shape of the arm. The armhole is also too low. Much better drafts look look this:
The scye from a Chanel ready to wear jacket.
Scye shapes overlaid showing the small variations.
I’ll use Vogue 7975 as the example of how to draft a three piece sleeve. This is a pattern used by many as the basis for their Chanel style jacket. It also has a two piece sleeve, perfect for demonstrating how to transform it into the coveted three piece draft. The McCalls pattern shows what to avoid. It should also be clear from these diagrams that substuting one sleeve pattern for another can be risky. Imagine trying to get the sleeve from Vogue 7975 into the McCalls armhole. Sleeves are drafted to correspond to a specific armhole shape and size. You might get away with switching the Vogue sleeves but even that might require some tweaking.
The first step may appear counter-intuitive, but I found it easier to return the two piece draft to a one piece and then draft the three. Altering and combining the two piece into three created multiple issues and this approach worked better for me.
Start by aligning the grains and have the seams just touching. Remember, NO SEAM Allowances.
Trace the sleeve cap shape onto paper, either gridded or plain. Stop the tracing at the underarm match point on both front and back. You should now have a sleeve that looks like this. Don’t do anything with the lower sleeve yet; all you want is the shape and size of the armseye seam.
Connect the underarms with a straight line. From the shoulder match point drop a line straight down which intersects with the underarm line at right angles. Make it a few inches longer than the sleeve length. Measure and mark the sleeve length from the top of the sleeve cap to the hem. Mark back and front as its easy to get confused until you’ve done this a few times. The back will be slightly wider than the back. I’ve written 6 5/8 on the back and 6 3/8 on front.
Now mark A, B and C as shown. Cut along the sleeve cap line.
Fold point C directly on top of point B and trace the underarm seam.
Fold point A directly on top of B and trace the underarm seam.
You should now have this:
Measure out along the underarm line 1 and 3/8 inch left of B. Measure 1 and 1/8 to right of B. You are starting to form the undersleeve piece.
Next you need to draw in the bottom of the sleeve. Measure the finished width of the sleeve hem. Size 8 measured 8 and 3/4 inches. The line down the middle of the sleeve is offset 1/4 inch towards the sleeve front; 6 and 5/8 along back underarm, 6 and 3/8 along front underarm. Therefore you need to offset the hem by the same amount.
Sleeve hem measures 8 and 3/4, half of which is 4 and 3/8. Add 1/8 inch to back and subtract 1/8 inch from the front. Your sleeve hem will measure 4 and 1/2 inches along back sleeve and 4 and 1/4 inches along front sleeve.
The sleeve needs to bend at the elbow to follow the natural shape of the arm. Every drafting source I found used arbitrary values to establish this bend. After measuring countless arms and sleeves I decided what made more sense was to duplicate the angle. A perfectly straight arm would have a straight line from top to bottom. Most peoples’ arms bend at about 175 degrees with the elbow as the pivot point. The dress form with sleeve showing this angle.
A Chanel sleeve from a ready-to wear jacket showing this angle.
This shows a two piece sleeve but the angle remained remarkably consistent with everything I measured. Therefore, I decided to draft the lower sleeve to reflect this angle. Draw a horizontal line where the elbow bends. Measure from the top of the sleeve. This measurement isn’t critical so just get close but don’t go crazy trying to find the exact point. This is the elbow line.
This pushed the seam 3/4 inch towards the right. In order to maintain the width at the hem, the center line and front seam needed to be redrawn 3/4 inch towards the right. Come straight down from the sleeve top, pivot at the elbow and continue to the hem.
To finish the under sleeve pattern measure out along the elbow line 1 and 1/4 inch towards the sleeve back (left of center) and 1 and 1/8 inch towards the sleeve front (right).
At the hem measure 1 and 1/8 inch towards back and 7/8 inch towards front. Connect the points from the underarm line through the elbow line and pivot to hem. Your undersleeve should look like this. It is is red.
In order to complete the back and front upper sleeve patterns, the width of the undersleeve needs to be subtracted from the upper sleeve pieces. Along the back seam, measure in 1 and 3/8 at the underarm, 1 and 1/4 at the elbow and 1 and 1/8 at the hem.
Along the front seam, measure in 1 and 1/8 at the underarm, 1 and 1/8 at the elbow and 7/8 at the hem. These lines are shown in green.
Add ease to the back upper seam to allow the elbow to bend. Measure down 3/4 inch from the elbow line and form a dart about 3 inches long. This will be eased into the seam. The seam needs to lengthened by the same amount so lower the hemline 3/4 inch and angle upwards to the front seam.
Trace off the under sleeve, shown in red. Be sure to mark front and back. The upper sleeve is for the RIGHT sleeve, the under sleeve is for the LEFT sleeve. This pattern gets flipped for the right sleeve. Don’t get confused. That’s just the way this draft works.
Trim the upper sleeve pieces along the green lines and along the center line. They can look similar so be sure and label them before you cut apart. You can also trace them to save your master draft.
Final sleeve draft. Next will be a mock up to test the fit and adding a working vent. This post took hours to write and I hope not too confusing. I am going a little buggy now and hope it makes sense. Please let me know if any steps need clarifying and I’ll address questions in the next post. This was a while coming but I think most of the glitches are worked out. Next is custom drafting the sleeve cap.
Ever wanted to see inside luxury ready to wear and compare the construction techniques to yours? Here is a glimpse inside a few pieces of Chanel and other luxury garments. These aren’t technically couture as there are no fittings and they aren’t made for an individual client but some of the techniques are worth considering using in your sewing.
I found more hand sewing than in most ready to wear. The hems are sewn by hand using a catch stitch. Jacket linings are completely sewn together before inserting but are hand tacked along the shoulders and underarm point. The jump pleat at the hem is slip stitched by hand.
Closeup view of the jacket hem. Notice the hand stitching and how it is placed.
I noticed loads of serged edges. All garment and lining pieces are individually serged along all sides(except the armhole seam). In couture sewing, sergers are generally a big no-no. Raw edges are hand overcast but how time consuming is that! The difference is that an extremely fine thread is used; no wooly nylon or what is sold as serger thread.
The pockets and pocket flaps on this Chanel dress were slipstitched by hand. They are removed here for alterations.
Here is a Pucci dress using the same fine thread to finish the seams.
Also note the wide seam allowances. Most are at least 3/4 inch and some are 1″ to 1 1/4″. Linings have the same generous seams.
So what kind of thread and where to buy? Oshman Brothers in NYC is one source. You are looking for Gutermann Skala U81. I also have the U151 which is slightly thicker but the U81 is the thinnest thread I have ever seen.
The thread on the left is Gutermann 100 sewing thread, middle is Skala U151 and right is Skala U81.
Another source is Bergen Tailor Supply.
Also you need to set your serger for a narrow three thread stitch. On mine this is done by removing the left needle and using the three thread narrow hem but loosening the tensions. You’ll need to play with your serger settings and once you discover what works, write it down. I have it on a post-it note next to the machine.
For unlined garments I noticed the edges were serged, turned under and stitched. Here is a test on silk charmeuse using the Skala U81 thread.
The serged edge is turned to the wrong side and edge stitched.
Finished seam pressed open. Put strips of brown paper under the seams to prevent any press marks on the right side.
This seam finish wasn’t limited to silk blouses. Here is an unlined Chanel jacket of silk and linen check. The jacket seams were serged, turned under and stitched. The sleeves were lined to make the garment easy to slip on and off.
Sleeves are a whole topic of their own and I will delve more into that with the next post. Interesting the way the top sleeve seam is pressed open for about two inches each side of center at the sleeve cap. The armhole is stayed with narrow, lightweight bias tape and the shoulder pad incorporates a sleeve head.
Exploring the Chanel shoulder and armhole led to a self-taught course on sleeve drafting, fitting and how to achieve that high, slim Chanel sleeve. More about that to follow.
Meanwhile I did manage to get Style Arc Franki dress finished and incorporated some of my new-found finishes.
I used a linen knit and lined with bias-cut silk charmeuse. The lining extended to the armhole edges where it is fell stitched, eliminating facings. I used the fine overlock thread for seam finishes and also used it for a slipstitched hem on the silk lining.
Hope you enjoy. Mary