Posted in Couture Sewing, Little Black (French) Jacket

Trimming & Lining my Little French Jacket (#3)

Vogue 8804 pattern frontThe first thing I have to do at this stage in the process of creating my Little French Jacket is review the pattern instructions for finishing the lining by hand and trimming. I know how to do this, but the pattern designer (Claire Schaeffer, Vogue 8804) has her own views that actually differ slightly from my experience.

In the past, I’ve always thought of the trim for the jacket as one of the last things to do – a bit like icing a cake. However, on this occasion, CS wants me to trim the jacket body before I even hand-finish the lining. The problem is that I haven’t got any trim yet! I’ll have to go shopping!

I really consider trim selection to be one of the most creative aspects of making on of these homage jackets. I’m not making a “Chanel Jacket”, rather I’m making one inspired by her designs that have themselves evolved over the years. And the trims that have been used on these jackets have varied wildly!

Here’s what a couple of the spring 2017 jackets looked like:

 

And the possibilities are endless! Recently, one of my very favourite couture sewing bloggers posted a terrifically informative piece on making Chanel-like trims using a Kumihimo braiding technique. [See “Create Custom Trim for Your French Jacket” on her blog Cloning Couture and I’m certain you’ll be as impressed and inspired as I was!]. This was a complete revelation to me and I immediately went to my Amazon account and put a Kumihimo disc and a book on how to create these braids on my wish list. That done, I realized that this isn’t going to happen for this jacket. I feel a winter project coming on! So, I’m better informed about the possibilities for trimming, but there will be quite a learning curve, and I’d like to finish this jacket sometime in the foreseeable future. So, what to do?

When I bought this fabric, I noticed that it had an interesting selvage in that it was a very nice fringe. So, I was careful to keep the selvages intact when I did my initial cutting.

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I highly recommend this! I took a look at my selvages and I find that they will make a very subtle, Chanel-like, perfectly-matched trim for the jacket. So, I run a line of stitching along each of the pieces to prevent any fraying and trim them neatly. Then I press it and brush it with an eyebrow brush. Then it occurs to me that putting the trim on now is not only a new idea, but the only way I can do this. This trim will not sit on top of the edges; rather it will be sandwiched between the fabric and the lining. So, I hand stitch the fringe to the front edges and the neckline, and I’m ensuring that I have enough to trim the pockets and the sleeves when I get to them. It turns out I do, so all is well.

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It still needs another brushing and a press at this point!

This jacket does not have any trim along the bottom for one very good reason: the lower pockets are close to the edge. It also seems to me that with four pockets that are each trimmed, any more trim would be just too much.

Once I’m finished hand-sewing the trim, I’m ready to pin and hand-finish the lining. I really love this process; it’s so meditative, especially when you have a high table to work on and good lighting. My little Ikea goose-neck table lamp works like a charm.

Before I actually get to the stitches, though, I have to pin very carefully. This is not an easy task since the fringe is on the inside and I have to get very close to the edge, but not so close that it will show. I think basting is the only way to go: the problem is that I don’t want the silk to be marked by the basting stitching which might be there for the few days it will take me to finish this. So, I baste a bit at a time with my Japanese cotton basting thread which marks far less even than the silk thread. I know this because I tried them both first!

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I use an invisible ladder stitch with a single strand of silk thread as I’ve been taught and it gives a very nice finish. It’s pretty perfect I think! Now it’s really time to get on with the sleeves, which I have yet to touch. It’s getting there!

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Posted in Couture Sewing, Little Black (French) Jacket, Style Influencers, Stylish Books

Fabric & lining & muslin, oh my! Starting my newest Little French Jacket

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My two favourite Chanel biographies.

I’ve read a lot about Coco Chanel over the past few years as I fed my continuing obsession with all things Chanel. Every biography seems to agree on at least one thing: CC herself wasn’t fussed about other copying her  work. It’s not that she would have been happy with others actually trying to pass off their copies as authentic Chanel; rather she did, in fact, believe that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. She even encouraged others to take on her style since it clearly proved that she was the one and only style arbiter. So I have to believe that Mademoiselle herself would have been proud of the fact that those of us who are interested in couture sewing produce our own homages. It’s also true that the House of Chanel actually gave its blessing (and took a percentage) to specially-selected fashion houses who made authorized Chanel copies.

jackie-kennedys-pink-suit-ii-chez-ninon-labelFor example, until recently, I had been under the mistaken impression that Jacqueline Kennedy was wearing a favourite Chanel suit on that fateful day in 1963 when JFK was assassinated beside her in the back seat of a convertible in Dallas, Texas. In fact, her suit was an authorized copy from New York-based chez Ninon, a knock-off that was 1/10 the price of an original, and made in the USA. There are those who continue to believe that Jackie was wearing an original Chanel, but to me it’s more plausible that since she was the American first lady, and her husband evidently urged her to buy American, that the suit was an official Chanel copy. In that way it was authentic from its design to its bouclé, the fabric that has become synonymous with the Little French Jacket – which brings me to my next step toward my third LFJ: now that I have the design I’m going for, I need fabric.

I always take my time perusing bouclé fabrics whenever I’m in a good fabric store. I had a wonderful time examining Mood’s offerings in their LA outpost this past winter, but in the end I wander down to the garment district here in Toronto and while buying muslin at Leather Supply, I pick through their remnant bin. Now, I’m not a real remnant kind of sewer, but on this day they have a selection of bouclé and tweed fabric in the bin. And the pieces are a minimum of 2 meters each. I find one I like; the only down side to this find is that the precise fabric content is a bit of a mystery. They know only that it is a wool blend. Well, this is good enough for me!

It’s a mix of mostly greys and burgundy with a bit of black. The texture looks as if it will neatly hide the matching quilting and it had a nice hand. I’m sold, but I need lining.

I try my usual spot on Queen Street West: Affordable Fabrics. Today, though, they have almost no silk charmeuse in stock let alone printed charmeuse which is my prefeence for a bit of interior interest. Oh, they have lost of synthetic lining fabric, but as I said in a previous post, I will not go the polyester lining route ever again. I’m out of there and down the street to Leo’s Textiles. Now we’re talking.

The place is filled with the best high-end selection of silks and wools in Toronto. It seems that most of the customers this day are seeking bridal fabrics, and they are not disappointed. Neither am I. The sale associate quickly finds me some beautiful grey silk charmeuse.

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We have an interesting discussion about the rise in the price of quality silk. It seems that although we think of silk as a natural fabric (which it is – a renewable resource which has fewer deleterious effects on the environment than most synthetics), the way it is processed is not so natural. The silk cocoons have to be boiled and this uses lots of electricity which, in many countries, China in particular, causes air pollution because of the coal burning used to produce the electricity. So, less environmentally problematic methods are used and are more expensive. End of environment lesson.  Hence, the price tag. I pay it– in fact, I pay almost three times as much for the lining as I pay for the bouclé! I’ll have to be very careful with it, but I will be worth it.

Vogue 8804 pattern frontWith fabric selected and at the ready, I tissue-fit the pattern and cut the first muslin. Let’s just say that the fit of the first muslin is hideous.

I should have heeded the pattern reviews of Vogue 8804. Many reviewers did say that it was boxy, although when I examined the shape of the pattern pieces and some of the design elements, it didn’t seem to be the case. Oh, it is the case! And then there are the too-long bracelet-length sleeves and the sleeves cut for Sumo wrestlers. But the fitting issues are for my next post.

Posted in Couture Sewing, Little Black (French) Jacket, Style

LBJ*: Choosing my Jacket Fabric & Lining

[*Little Black Jacket sometimes referred to as the LFJ or Little French Jacket]

 

bolts of fabricAnd so the real fun begins. Here’s where I get to play fashion designer. I remember years ago when I used to make most of my own clothes, I never began a project without having first chosen the fabric for it. I found a pattern in a big pattern book at a fabric store, then went immediately to the bolts of fabric to find and buy my fabric. Nowadays, I actually buy all my patterns online, and use online and in-store sources for fabrics. In fact, in the case of this – my little black (French) jacket project – I put off the fun of finding the right fabric until I had gotten to the point of actually being ready to cut it out. I am now ready, so I need fabric.

I am lucky to live in a city where the fashion design industry is vibrant. Toronto might not be Paris or Milan, but it is the epitome of internationally-recognized Canadian design, and we have a ton of great designers, many of whom now live and work abroad as it turns out. But they started here. It also means that there are fashion design programs of study and putting these two things together means that we have an actual fashion design district where the fabric stores line the street – Queen Street West to be specific.

After my previous experiences with those large, light-filled, airy fabric-store chains, the real fashion fabric stores came as a bit of a surprise – and a surprise that I am loving. Each of them is jam-packed from floor to ceiling with bolt after bolt of fabrics, not all of whose provenance or fiber content are immediately evident. However, these stores are staffed by exceedingly knowledgeable staff members who will be able to answer any of my questions and they do.

I amble along Queen Street browsing several stores. Because of my research about the Chanel jacket, I’m looking for a specific type of fabric – a bouclé – because many if not most of the real Chanel jackets are constructed of bouclé. So, what exactly is it I’m looking for?

First, it’s important to realize that the word bouclé is the French word for “curl.” So, the word bouclé refers to both a kind of fabric and a kind of yarn, both of which are characterized by loops. Bouclé fabric has a kind of loopy appearance if you look at it closely. It is also fairly loosely woven – which was the reason that I used one-inch seam allowances when I created the patter as you might recall. This loose weave means that it frays. But what about fiber content?

Bouclé can be made from a variety of fiber types – wool, cotton, silk – and these natural fibers are often combined with one another and even with synthetics to achieve various properties. Since they were introduced in 1954, the jackets produced by The House of Chanel have been created in a variety of fibers and, as I mentioned in my initial research post, Coco herself found her original fabric at Linton Tweeds in northern England.

I did browse through their site when I first began to search for my fabric and I found wonderful bouclé’s and tweeds. However, none of them really were exactly what I am looking for. I am looking for something that is in the black, white and/or grey family. I think that a neutral jacket will suit my lifestyle better than any other colour. But what I did learn from their site is a lot about the fiber content of their fabrics.

I found this one that I liked, though. Notice that the fabric content is 65% viscose and 35% cotton (I also noticed the price which was £34.00 which is about $70.00 CDN a yard – not going to happen the first time I make this jacket! But isn’t the fabric beautiful?

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If you look closely, you can see the loops on the surface.

I also liked this one, and I think you can actually see the loops that I’m talking about. Beautiful. Same fabric content. I also found others with various combinations of polyester, viscose, wool, nylon, cotton and acrylic. So, I realized that I was really looking for a combination or fiber types and I was looking specifically for some kind of a wool blend when I perused the shops on Queen Street.

 

When I walked into “Affordable Fabrics” and found their large stash of bouclé bolts, I was fairly sure I’d found my fabric store. Sure enough, after taking down several bolts (with help from the young man working in the store that day), opening out the fabric and taking them to the window for better light, I found the one that I was looking for. Then all I needed was lining.

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The unimpressive exterior belies the wealth of fabrics inside!

The instructor on the Craftsy video course that I’m following is using silk dupioni which of course is a bit sturdier than some silks. My research told me that real Chanel jackets are generally lined with silk charmeuse. I first looked at their stash of silk dupioni and didn’t see a colour that I felt would do what I wanted for the design (there’s the fashion designer in me talking!). when I asked the young man about their silk charmeuse, he said, “I have just the thing for this fabric!”

 

He pulled out a bolt of fabulous printed black and white silk charmeuse and I fell in love. When I asked him the price, I was ready to cringe, but it wasn’t so bad. I now had the makings of a beautiful jacket. Of course I was going to have to learn to match a pattern, but that would come later. Oh, and I’ll need braid trim and a chain for the hem, but I think I’ll work with the fabric a bit before I decide on the finishing.

Next up: cutting it out! Yikes!

A great blog post on finding fabric on Queen Street in Toronto: http://www.loulou.to/streets-of-toronto/shopping-for-fabric-on-queen-street-west/