Tag Archives: French jacket trim

Finishing Details; The French Jacket

Thank you all for the many comments and compliments about this jacket.  The finishing details are what sets French jackets apart and make this jacket unique.  In addition to the custom trim, French jackets feature hand worked buttonholes, sleeves are set by hand, countless tiny stitches secure the lining and a metal chain inside the jacket allow it to drape perfectly when worn.

I think the sleeves are actually easier to set by hand and would be almost impossible to do by machine due to the unique construction methods. Although it would be easier to sew the armseye seam through all layers, I find joining only the outer fabrics together before hand basting the lining in place gives a softer, more fluid feel.

Here’s an inside view of the armseye seam.  Probably one if the messiest times in jacket construction. Yes, I used Pro Sheer Elegance Couture interfacing which was fused the jacket sections. It’s extremely lightweight, flexible and doesn’t change the drape of the tweed.  Linton actually recommends doing this with their more loosely woven fabrics.  I’ve serged the edges of the tweed with a wide stitch but finished the seams of the lining with a narrow two thread stitch using fine thread. I like Gutermann Skala 360-U81, Invisafil by Wonderfil Threads, or 80 weight Maderia or Aurifil cotton.  I use two strands of regular sewing thread, waxed and pressed, to set the sleeve.  I sew the top part from the right side using tiny fell stitches and the underarm portion from the inside with a backstitch.

Setting Sleeve by hand Free seam allowances

Notice at the point where the shoulder seam meets the sleeve seam, the seam allowances haven’t been caught but are allowed to float free.  This allows the seam to press more smoothly and feels less rigid.  I’ve not included the sleeve lining; I feel I get a better result by joining only two layers of fabric at one time.

Sleeve headSleeve head shaped

I create a sleeve head from cotton batting. Cut about 2.5 inches wide and 7 inches long. Fold along a long side about 1.5 inches from the edge, pull along the folded edge while steam pressing to curve.  The folded edge is sewn along the armseye seam at the sleeve cap to provide additional shape and support.

Jacket inside out Sleeve head inserted

Baste the sleeve lining just inside the armseye seam and trim away the excess fabric. I’ve struggled with getting the lining over the sleeve cap evenly if the jacket is lying flat. I’ve found it much easier to turn the jacket inside out and place on my dress form with a sleeve form attached. Now the jacket and sleeve are supported and it’s easier to manipulate the lining into position.

Pin around seam Gathering line Pull up gathers

Pin along the seam and sew a line of tiny running stitches. Pull the gathering thread up to fit and tie a tailors knot at each end. Trim off the excess and the fabric will fold under easily along the gathering line. I set the sleeve cap first, baste, then remove the jacket from the form.  The lining at the underarm is brought up and around the seam allowances.

Seam EasedSleeve underarm

I had originally planned for front buttons, but decided I liked the look of trim without buttons, and considered a front zipper.  Botani Trimming in NYC makes custom zippers and does mail order. You select the zipper tooth size, length, color and pull. The zipper arrives in a few days and they even had chain for the hem.  Finding the right zipper in a local shop would have been impossible.  Just as an interesting side note, Botani sells Lampo zippers. They are made in Italy and the same brand that Chanel uses!

Custom Zip Lining at Zip Zipper Inside

How to deal with the lining? I could have folded it back past the zipper teeth and stitched into place but that left the zipper teeth exposed on the inside of the jacket. In true couture fashion, I wanted to cover up that metal.  Placing a length of ribbon inside the fold beefed up the edge of the silk charmeuse so it would be less likely to catch on the zipper pull.  This was one time when that rigid, slightly raised edge on polyester ribbon was useful.  Now zipper teeth are concealed, both inside and out.

The dreaded buttonholes next.  Machine made buttonholes lack the couture finish this jacket needed.  I’ve experimented with countless ways to improve my hand worked version.  I’ve found that sewing around the buttonhole before cutting, especially in a fabric such as this, helps tremendously to keep the layers together.  Marking and sewing this manually on the machine requires much twisting and turning of the fabric so I searched for an easier way.  My machine sews a square buttonhole using a straight stitch so I tried that, stitching around the buttonhole twice, once at a narrow width and again a little wider.

Machine buttonholes

Looks OK but I didn’t like the thread buildup at the beginning and end (impossible to stop the machine from knotting the threads) plus I really wanted a keyhole buttonhole.

Hoop setup Buttonholes in hoop Embroidery buttonholes

My Bernina does embroidery and I have digitizing software so I created a template for the buttonholes. I hooped a square of heavy muslin, stitched out the placement lines for the sleeve; then cut out a window so the stitching wouldn’t get caught on the muslin. The sleeve was pinned onto the muslin. Working wrong side up worked better. The sleeve was easier to place and keep the fabric clear of the stitching area, plus the embroidery foot wouldn’t get snagged on the loose fibers of the tweed.  The embroidery software will insert buttonholes automatically, but I wasn’t able to adjust the shape and stitch length satisfactorily. I also wasn’t able to do the double rows.  Mirror the image for the other sleeve and remember to cut another window so your muslin doesn’t get stitched to the fabric.

Stranding Buttonholes  Best Buttonhole

There are several YouTube videos showing hand worked buttonholes if you need a review. I worked under a magnifying light and tried to keep the buttonhole stitches just inside the second row of machine stitching. It provided a nice guide for straight, narrow stitches. Buttonholes aren’t easy and most people say they need to work a hundreds before somewhat mastering the art.  I’m always trying to make mine better but these aren’t bad.

I’ve been inspired by the photos of sheath dresses with matching jackets ( Helen Haughey’s class looked wonderful) so that’s next in the sewing lineup. Thanks for reading.





Filed under Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Tailoring, Uncategorized

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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