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:

For a pair of shoulder pads, cut 4 of piece #1, 4 of piece #2, 2 of piece #3 and 2 of piece #4. This will make a shoulder pad three layers thick at the center. If you want a thicker pad, trim off 1/4” from piece #4 and cut 2 more pieces which will be slightly smaller than the original #4.

It’s easy to get piece #2 turned around so keep the pattern pinned in place until you’re ready to sew. I use a three step zig-zag, settings width 5.0, length 1.1. Stitching will be shown in black but you will use matching thread.

Zig-zag the two short seams matching point A. You will have two halves. Stitch together as shown matching points B and C.

Zig-zag the darts closed on pieces 3 and 4. If you’re making the thicker version, you will have 2 #4 pieces as shown. Thinner pad will have one #4. It’s easier to start at the tip of the dart and sew towards the edge of the fabric, butting the edges together as you stitch.

If you have two #4 pieces, stack the smaller one on top of larger piece and use a hand running stitch to join the layers. Hand sewing doesn’t take long and eliminates the risk of the layers shifting when sewn by machine. Take piece #3, arrange so it’s curving upwards like an upside down dish. Place piece(s) 4 on top. The layers should be graduated, largest layer on the bottom, smallest on top. Hand stitch around the edge of the middle layer attaching it to the largest, bottom layer.

Now place the already sewn together pieces 1 and 2 on top, match the center lines and hand stitch along the edge.

Pin the finished shoulder pad over a ham, steam and gently mold the shape with your hands. Finished!!! The zig-zag stitching line is aligned with the armhole seam and the shoulder pad extends slightly into the sleeve head. The shoulder pad can be used as is for tailoring when the lining is inserted after construction. If you’re using in a French jacket in which the lining is quilted to the face fabric, then the shoulder pad will be covered with lining fabric and inserted after construction is completed.

For a pair of covered shoulder pads, cut 2 upper covers and 2 lower covers. ***Leave at least 3/4 inch seam allowance around the outer edges***. The pattern DOES NOT have seam allowances. Note that the straight grain of fabric should be at a 45 degree angle to the center line. Mark and stitch the darts using a 2.0 to 2.5mm straight machine stitch. Press darts towards center line. Trim the single dart on the lower cover to 1/4 inch seam allowance. Take the upper cover (it’s the one with 2 darts) and place it on a shoulder pad. Match up the center line; darts are on the sleeve head section of the pad as shown. Pin the center line and smooth the cover over the shoulder pad. Pin along the edges.

Flip the shoulder pad over so the lining fabric is underneath. Stitch around the outer edge using a running stitch. I use an uneven stitch catching only a thread or two on the fabric side and more space on the felt side. Arrange the lower cover right side up matching center line with the dart in the sleeve head portion.

Smooth the layers together and pin. Trim the seam allowance to 3/4 inch beyond the felt. Fold back the seam allowances and using an air soluble pen, mark center line and a couple of registration points along the curved edges to make it easier to line things up for the next step.

Now unpin the seam. Arrange the lining right sides together. Pin the seam matching raw edges and registration marks. Stitch around the circumference leaving about 2.5 inches open for turning. Use a 1/2 inch seam allowance which will place the stitching 1/4 inch away from the felt. If you stitch right next to the felt, the turned seam won’t press flat. Trim the stitched seam to 1/4 inch. I find it easier and more accurate to cut the wider seam allowance, stitch, then trim rather than using a 1/4 inch seam allowance to start with. It’s also easier to stitch with the felt side up.

Turn under raw edges and slipstitch the opening closed. Press the outer curved edge flat. To attach the shoulder pad in a French jacket you can use thread tacks or snaps at the “X” marks. Middle pic shows underside of the shoulder pad which is next to the body. Photo on the right shows placement on the shoulder; the dashed line on the shoulder pad is where the armseye seam falls.

If you need a slightly larger shoulder pad, print the pattern at 105% or 110%. In that case, all the pieces won’t fit on a single sheet so cut out the pattern and enlarge each section on it’s own page.

French Jackets

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.