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...