Sunday, April 6, 2014

Couture Techniques on V1237

 I wanted a simple sheath to wear under the first French jacket that I made, and I was lucky enough to score the last of this beautiful Spring Tweed from Roz at Sew Much Fabric.  I'd been wanting to try the dress from Vogue 1237 and it turned out to be the perfect marriage of fabric and pattern.
To compliment the construction of my jacket, I used couture techniques learned from Susan Khalje's Craftsy class. This is the first garment I've made using underlining and what a difference it makes. The tweed I was working with frayed easily and really needed the additional body of the underlining. I used silk organza to underline and it not only adds body, it keeps the fashion fabric from stretching out of shape and also minimizes wrinkling.
I first made a muslin without seam allowances and traced all seam lines and pattern markings using my giant tracing paper. Then the seam lines are thread traced by machine:

The muslin then becomes my pattern and again I use it on my carbon to trace markings on to the organza underlining:

It's then used as the pattern to cut my fashion fabric. From this point forward the underlining and fashion fabric are treated as one. Here is a photo showing the underlining prior to the insertion of the lining:

At this point all seams are catch stitched to the organza being careful not the catch the fashion fabric in those stitches. I've done the left side in a darker thread so it can be seen more easily:

I lined this dress with a cream silk charmeuse. Like everyone says, it does tend to slip and slide while you're working with. The powers that be always recommend using a walking foot. I have the Bernina walking foot and I am convinced I must have gotten a lemon. It grabs, bunches and basically just makes a mess of things. Knowing my charmeuse would shift I tried this alternating pinning technique and it was miraculous! Absolutely no shifting:

And here's the yummy inside:

This is a great basic sheath pattern and I see making this one over and over. I love the neckline, both front and back:

And I especially love it with my French jacket!

Try this pattern, it's great. And thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

French Vanilla Meets Blue Jasmine

Given the choice of chocolate or vanilla I will always go for the chocolate but when I saw this deliciously sweet boucle, aptly named French Vanilla, I knew I had to take a detour:

Roz, at Sew Much Fabric really has exquisite taste and all of her fabrics are gorgeous. I have adored every purchase I have made from her. The cream silk charmeuse for the lining came from the rediscovery of a shop I knew of back in the 80's called Thai Silks. They have great prices and a good selection of silks.
Knowing that I wanted to try a more traditional French jacket pattern this time I chose Vogue 7975:

So, having procured fashion fabric and lining the hunt was on for just the right trim. I searched high and low and was 90% sure I wanted to order this one and sent for a sample from Britex:

And while I do love it, once I tried it on my fabric it was just too heavy and wintry. By this time it was the end of February and I had made some pretty good headway on my jacket. The Academy Awards were approaching and everywhere I looked I saw Cate Blanchett's Chanel cardigan from Blue Jasmine:

Then it hit me! Why not try my hand at a black blanket stitch for my trim? So, off to Knitting in the Loop where I bought two skeins of Debbie Bliss merino wool, one each of cream and black.
The blanket stitch is easy. Making a uniform stitch in length and spacing is NOT easy. I needed a template of some sort to stitch by and so (and this tip is totally not couture) I made a line of zigzag stitches by machine with a thread a little darker than my boucle. Using the peaks and valleys made the uniformity of stitches so much easier:

Upon magnification of the pictures of Cate's jacket I could tell that there was a cream colored "finishing stitch" at the end of what I call the legs. I put on my needlepoint hat, grabbed a big needle and the cream Debbie Bliss and did a split Gobelin stitch along the outer edge of the blanket stitching:

My jacket does not have 3-piece sleeves or buttons as Cate's does, and I softened the jewel neckline just a bit, but I think it still captures the essence of her classic Chanel cardigan.
Of more importance is the improvement I've made in my couture sewing since my first jacket. I'm incredibly pleased with this sumptuous charmeuse lining:

I recently purchased Claire Shaeffer's new release of The Couture Cardigan Jacket: Sewing Secrets from a Chanel Collector. She mentions that one of the hallmarks of a true couture French jacket is the sag of the pockets since they have no interfacing. Some even cut the top of the pocket with a curve to achieve this look. Mine are curving a little on their own!

I didn't make any pattern alterations except the neckline as noted above, something I  regret a bit now.  I was pleasantly surprised with the fit of this jacket since many I've seen from this pattern seem boxy, but it has nice shaping at the waist:

I'm very pleased with my second French jacket but I don't believe I will tackle such time consuming trim on the next one I make. My full pattern review can be seen here. Thanks for stopping by and here's hoping all your days are only sew-sew! 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Moving forward...and looking back

Welcome to my new blog devoted exclusively to my couture projects. You read that right...couture!
I had an eerie feeling when I went back and re-read the first blog post I made in January of 2013:
"I want to try new things: fabrics I've not sewn with before, more challenging techniques and details, as well as products and notions that might make my sewing easier and more enjoyable."
I had absolutely no inkling that exactly one year later my journey would land me in the world of couture sewing. In fact, I was sure that notion was impossible because I simply hated handwork. Or so I thought.
Enter the French Jacket had no idea what I was missing. Nor did I have any idea what I was doing. When in doubt...start with a loose leaf notebook and make a cute cover for it...


This first post is not to try and impart any wisdom other than point out a few of the faux pas I made and give credit to the sources that were instrumental in the start of what will no doubt be an incredible journey. I'll show a few "in progress" pictures along the way.
My most invaluable piece of advice is to find a couture buddy. Mine is Julie Starr (PR handle JStarr4250) without whose opinions, support, encouragement, like-mindedness and level of commitment this endeavour wouldn't have been nearly as meaningful. Could each of us have slogged through making a French jacket on our own? Absolutely. Would it have been this much fun? NO WAY! Julie is coming to Houston this summer and we are both enrolled in Susan Khalje's couture class so we will finally meet. We have truly bonded over our French jacket experience and have formed such an incredible friendship along the way. If you hear French music, look for Dorcas and Julie!

I chose to make my first French jacket from Burda 02-2013-107 which is a more contemporary version of the classic Chanel jacket. I especially love the neckline:

Initially, I mistakenly thought I could transpose everything that Susan Khalje was presenting in her Craftsy class, The Couture Dress,  and simply make a jacket instead of a dress. Couture is couture, right? Au contraire, mon ami! I had my silk organza underlining pieces all cut out and ready to go when Sarah from Goodbye Valentino  informed me a French jacket is not underlined! It was then I realized what a greenhorn I was to this couture thing. Julie had been following Lorna Knight's The Iconic Tweed Jacket class on Craftsy and was moving right along. I knew the methods were differing when we compared notes but it wasn't dawning on me that I was totally on the wrong course....literally. I quickly converted over to Lorna's class and made up for lost time. Lorna and Susan's teaching styles and personalities couldn't be more different but each have their strengths and both are incredibly talented couturiers.
Thanks go to Roz of Sew Much Fabric for the gorgeous Spring Tweed I made my jacket from. The silk charmeuse I used for lining is from High Fashion here in Houston:

Here is a picture of the jacket back with the lining quilted to it:


My fabric frayed very easily so it was perfect for making fringe. I had my choice of two completely different options color-wise, going either along or against the selvedge. I chose the option you see on the left which has less yellow and green:

I cut 2" strips, frayed each side going towards the center and leaving about a half inch unfrayed. I layered two of these strips to add fullness and then sewed braid down the center, stitching it down both sides. I found the braid at High Fashion and it looks like it was made for my jacket:

I made the pockets a little smaller than drafted on the pattern, approximately 3/8" less all around:

So many power-packed websites, classes and blogs provided inspiration and great information on sourcing fabrics and supplies. How did we ever survive before the internet? A Femme's Guide to Improvement has a great tutorial on how to cover hooks and eyes. It's very time consuming but the results are worth it: 
And now for the miracle of the couture process. Many of you have heard me grumble about how I hated handwork. I would estimate that 75-80% of this jacket is made by hand. I have loved every stitch of it. I saw my hand stitches improving with every seam. I even went back and re-stitched the first few lapped lining seams because my earlier attempts looked like the stitches in Frankenstein's forehead:


The couture experience is the closest thing to meditation that I have ever known. I can't describe the feeling of peace and tranquillity it provides. Becoming obsessed with something I previously resisted and avoided is a huge message from the Universe that I haven't quite decoded yet. But really, do I need to know anything other than I love it? Ending up with a swoon-worthy couture garment is almost an afterthought.
Every bit of lining and trim adds additional weight to the jacket making it feel richer and heavier as you progress. The chain added at the end is the crème de la crème finishing touch.

If my first post of 2013 was a self-fulfilling prophesy, I am so happy I planted the seed. This year my little seed contains the dream of going with Susan Khalje on her Paris trip next year!

You can see my review of Burda 02-2013-107 Boucle Jacket here.
Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by...