Tuesday, February 23, 2016

French Jacket: Part Two- choosing a pattern, muslin fitting and fabricprep

In this installment I am going to talk about my thoughts in choosing my pattern, fabric and trim. This part of the process can be very exciting and sometimes overwhelming. My thought is to always go with what just feels right and with what makes me feel happy.

So which comes first? The fabric or the pattern? Fabric!!!

In my case I bought my main fashion fabric, the black and white tweedy wool boucle, years ago at Haberman fabrics in Michigan while on a business trip. It has been lovingly waiting in my fabric collection for the right time to be made into a garment. I actually bought enough to make an entire day suit. So sometime later this year I will be working on a skirt to go with the jacket.

The lining fabric was purchased this past December on a post luncheon shopping trip with friends to Fishman's Fabrics in Chicago. It is actually not the original lining that I purchased to go with this jacket. I have a solid teal silk charmeuse now added lovingly to my fabric collection. It was perfectly fine and lovely but just did not move me or inspire me with passion and happiness. As soon as I saw this beautiful, bright watercolor rainbowish plaid at Fishman's I just started smiling and knew this was THE ONE! Luckily at this point in time I had not yet cut into my original lining fabric because due to my illness I had lost 30 lbs in 3 months and had to re-do my muslin from the very beginning!

Trim decisions also were done separately. I absolutely knew that I wanted to use the selvedge as part of the trim. It is lovely and fun! For the second layer of trim I decided to use my Chanel trim that I purchased early last year from Susan Khalje. I attended a day seminar at Soutache in Chicago that Rhonda Buss organized. Susan brought a selection of trims with her from one of her Paris shopping trips. I have a habit of emotional shopping and when I see something beautiful that I may want to use someday, I purchase it! This trim works out perfectly! 

The buttons for the sleeve vent are from my robust collection of vintage buttons. These are from a card of Jablonex glass buttons made in Czechoslovakia. I am an avid button collector and almost always use vintage buttons on my garments. Something about it just feels right to me. These particular buttons have been around for several years. They are a little thicker than regular buttons so really needed to wait for a loftier fabric to be used properly.

Before I even had a project outlined I had purchased the fashion fabric and the trim! In fact for most of my sewing the fabric comes first... Rarely do I have a pattern picked out first. In fact, I think the only time that I have a pattern picked out or at least a selection of patterns picked out is when I am printing fabric from Spoonflower. 

To prepare my fabric for sewing I took my entire length of wool to the dry cleaner. I was not fussing with 6 yards of wool to seam! The silk lining I used my home steamer to steam shrink the 3 yard length. I first did a test for the lining. I cut a 4 inch square of fabric, traced around it, steamed the heck out of it and let it cold and dry and put it back on my paper against the lines I drew around it. You could see that there was a small amount of shrinkage in the length direction. I repeated the test and there was no additional shrinkage. And just for fun I repeated the test the next day and no additional shrinkage! Yay! With this knowledge I decided to just use my home steamer to steam shrink the silk lining fabric.
Once my garment is completed I will only dry clean my jacket.

Let's move onto my choice of pattern. I looked at a bunch of jacket patterns! I looked at online reviews on patternreview, on sewing blogs, on the big 4 websites. I then made a list of 5 or 6 that's I thought I liked and then went to JoAnn's during pattern sale times and pulled them and I bought a couple. Not all because I have a ton of patterns and knew I really didn't need a bunch. 
My biggest criteria was that I wanted a princess seam for front and back for the best fit for my body. I know that there is an entire group of al Chanel jackets that are made to look like they have no seams to mar the front and back by using easing of darts instead of using actual darts or princess seams. I thought about that, it would be a cool technique to learn. However, with my lovely curves I need the full on princess seams for shaping. 

I ended up using Vogue 7975. I made 2 design changes to the pattern, the sleeve was changed from a 2 piece sleeve to a 3-piece sleeve and I changed the neckline to a more flattering shape to suit me. All other changes to the pattern were purely for fit  I decided to attend a jacket workshop with Sarah Veblen last spring and this is the muslin that I decided to mock up and work on. Long story short I decided to use the pattern for making several other non-French style jackets first (which all turned out great!) and then I got sick with pancreatitis and then had to have my gall bladder out and as I was wanting to finally start my French jacket I had to start my muslin process over again because I lost 30 lbs! Big sigh, good problem to have.

So, in January I re-made the muslin from the last master jacket pattern that I had completed. I ended up having to make several adjustments. I had a Skype session with Sarah Veblen to get me started on what would be the best way to approach the problem. I knew that circumference adjustments would need to be made and Sarah pointed out that I also needed to shorten the front with wedges and closed wedges. My boobs ar smaller so I had to make an adjustment for that first. Once I had my horizontal balance lines horizontal to the ground I was able to work on the circumference. I ended up opening the princess seams over the bust and making changes to the front princess seams all the way to the hem, the side seam was taken in, the lower back princess seams were taken in (my butt got smaller!) and last but not least I had to adjust the 3 piece sleeves in both width and length. Again my bicep got smaller (yay for losing some of my fatty arms!!!) so I needed to take a closed wedge across the bicep to eliminate U drag lines on the upper arm. Having a 3 piece sleeve really is the cats meow! It just fits like a dream. I can have it fit the armhole and yet have a more fitted sleeve design and look and be 100% comfortable and looking great! No more too big sleeves or too big armholes to accommodate my body shape. 
Original muslin from spring 2015- new muslin is about 2 sizes smaller.

After all these changes I made another muslin to asses the final fit and to decide on what neckline I wanted to use. Once I had all these changes I made brand new master patterns. One with 1 inch seam allowances and one with 5/8inch seam allowances. The French jacket is made with the wider seam allowances to add stability to the jacket. As I mentioned I also have several different necklines patterned up. This time I opted to use a soft high V neck. I really prefer to see some skin at my neckline. 

Whew! That's a lot of decisions to be made before even starting my project!!

With my new masters pattern ready I cut out my fashion fabric and lining fabric. The wool fashion fabric was easy peasy to cut out. I opted to cut it out in a double layer using scissors. I did this over using a rotary cutter because of the loftiness of the fabric the rotary cutter would push the fabric. Scissors was the better option for staying accurate. 

Next up was the lining. The lining took quite a bit longer due to the pattern matching. Of course I had to do some pattern matching! The inside has to look just as good as the outside! Due to this I layer out my fabric in a single layer right side up. With each pattern piece I drew in the major plaid lines onto the pattern piece so that I could both mirror the piece and so that I could match the pattern along the seamlines. This is time consuming! I spent several hours to get his right. Luckily for me iI did not end up with too much waste. Sometimes pattern matching can have the by product of wasting fabric. 
I did not worry about matching the 3 piece sleeve. Partly because the undersleeve is on the bias and the second reason is that it's not seen so no need to waste fabric trying to match all the way up the seam. This left me with just enough fabric left over for lots of testing, for lining pockets, for covering angel wing shoulder pads and to keep in my fabric/project journal.

The only other pieces that needed to be cut out are a side front and side back chest shield out of silk organza. I will also use silk organza in the body hem and the sleeve hem. The chest shields were drawn from the side front and side back pieces. Depending on what resource you are using to construct your French jacket there are different methods of using silk organza interfacing. Some techniques say to interface the entire front with silk organza. I may try this next time to see what the difference is. Once I had the shyest shield pieces cut out I basted them to the back of the fashion pieces. 

Next time we will move onto the quilting stage!
Happy sewing!

Monday, February 15, 2016

French Jacket: Part One- Inspiration

This is the first in a series of blog posts on my journey of sewing my first French style jacket.
Above: Day Suit 1963-68 by Gabrielle Chanel 

The documentation of the process is as much for myself as it for my readers. I am already enjoying the process so much that I can clearly envision several more of these being created for my wardrobe!

I thought I would start with what has inspired me to go down this intensive path of French jacket creation.

As with many people, Coco Chanel sparked my initial desire. I am a firm believer of learning from our past and taking that information and moving to the future with it. There have been many famous designers that have struck me with wonderment! Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Charles James, Jeanne Lanvin, Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen to name a few. However, Coco Chanel really drew me in with her style of easy elegance that just lets a woman feel at home and look beautiful. 
Above: photo of Gabrielle Chanel from book Coco Chanel, an Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney

For some reason Chanel got under my skin and I just could not shake the desire to create and design some amazing clothing based on her style. She was an amazingly strong woman who was able to succeed in a male dominated world during such a tumultuous time in history. In creating in her honor I feel almost fearless! I decided to start with a classic French style jacket and move on to a day suit. There are a plethora of resources for the home sewer to use for sewing these jackets. 
- Susan Khalje has both a hands on class as well as a video class on creating a classic French Jacket.
- Claire Shaeffer has published several books, Specifically the Couture Cardigan Jacket. Teaches hands on workshops and has several Vogue patterns.
- Sarah Veblen teaches a Jacket workshop that will help to streamline some of the couture techniques that are traditionally used as well as provides excellent fitting services.
- Craftsy instructor Lorna Knight has a video class The Iconic Tweed Jacket.

As you can see there is a wide range of teaching resources to fit into every budget.

I have chosen to primarily work with Sarah Veblen to create my first jacket. In a Jacket workshop last spring we worked on fitting, sewing techniques and design ideas. I also have several of Claire Shaeffer's books and I do have the craftsy Class.

Some day I would love to work with Susan Khalje in one of her couture workshops. I think there is much to be learned from creating a garment mostly by hand! For now I will stick with modified couture methods with a smattering of real couture thrown in.

Another reason that Chanel got under my skin is that through books and movies she has become real to me. After reading several books about her life, my favorite being Coco Chanel, An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney, I just felt that it would be a wonderful thing to create something in her honor. For her to somehow know that she has inspired an untold number of home sewists to create beautiful garments, I think this would be such a surprise to her. Another way that her legacy lives on in many people.

Another inspiration for me is the use of the fabrics and trims that is used in French jackets. The feminine style of soft shaping combined with interesting fabrics, beautiful colors and exquisite trims just draws me in. I have several lengths of boucles and tweeds in my fabric collection that have been there for years and I finally feel confident enough to cut into these and create some beautiful garments.

And my final inspiration is from actual French jackets! Several of these are actual Chanel Jackets and some are French style jackets. 
Above: Day Suit 1960 by Gabrielle Chanel 

Above: Day Suit 1986-87 by Karl Lagerfield

Above: Chanel Jacket, date unknown photographed with permission of Susan Khalje

Above and below: French style jackets designed and sewn by Sarah Veblen.

"May my legend prosper and thrive. I wish it a long and happy life" - Coco Chanel

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Workshop review: Sarah Veblen 3-day Choose Your Own Focus Workshop

Late last fall I decided to sign up for a Sarah Veblen workshop. After all Threads magazine had it in their Great Gift Guide for last Christmas!

The Choose your own Workshop is a small group workshop (at this venue a max of 6) where you choose what you want to work on. Sarah is a fit goddess so muslin fittings are always a great thing to work on.

This workshop had 4 attendees, which made for great one on one time with Sarah.
The basic structure of the workshop went something like this.

Day One: Morning group time where there is round table discussion. Each participant discusses what their individual goals are for the workshop, show and tell of fabric/patterns, etc. This allows Sarah to get a plan of action in place. She is very comciestious about making sure that everyone's needs a met. This also gives her time to set realistic goals with participants!

One of the great things about this group time is that you get to hear what everyone else is working on and when it's something that interests others the it can be made into a group teaching opportunity. Such a great way to learn!

So what were my plans for the workshop?
-Fitting, fitting, fitting! I made 3 muslins. Sarah is a fitting goddess! And since being ill I have now lost 30 lbs and needed some help adjusting my master patterns. 1. Pants  2. Darted shirt 3. Princess seam with partial dolman sleeve blouse.
-fabric/patterns to discuss design ideas
-WIP French Jacket. Always need something to work on while you wait for your 'turn' with Sarah. I worked on quilting the pieces of my French jacket. So colorful! Makes me smile every time I work on it.

So what kind of things can you expect in this workshop?
I started with fitting of muslins. I wanted to leave with a solid pants pattern! One of the tops was almost complete and just needed a couple tweaks that I wanted her to check. The princess seam pattern is a long term project that is not a rush so we just did a single fitting.

I am quite comfortable with transferring pin fitting changes in muslins to the flat pattern so I leave those to do at a later time. However, if this is something you need help with Sarah will make the time to teach you how to do it.

Another quite fun thing that happens is that when something interesting or difficult happens with anything that the other participants are working on we all have the chance to join in.
For example, Sarah did a sewing demonstration of attaching a narrow continuous sleeve placket for Wendy and a couple of us joined in to watch and learn!

It is also quite informative to be able to watch Sarah doing muslin fittings. All fittings are done with the person being fitted standing in front of a full length mirror so that you can watch the changes being made. Sarah's methods are logical, reproducible and best part... Learnable!! Sarah has an amazing fitting book that is an invaluable resource. I finally feel like I am really moving to the next steps of designing instead of always stuck on the fitting phase! Sarah's book Perfect Fitting is available on her website. www.sarahveblen.com
Wendy's little black dress collar design in progress!

Having a group of like minded ladies working alongside you, each on individual projects is very inspiring, empowering and fun.

Other participants projects included blazer fitting and construction, trim application, several of us worked on sleeves, muslin fittings, pattern design work and more!

This Chicago workshop is held at a private apartment and there is plenty of space to spread out... By day three it looked as if a sewing tornado had blown through!

Each participant has a nice space for sewing and use of a worktable along with ironing boards and irons. Each participant brings their own supplies such as sewing machine, pattern paper, rulers, pens, pencils, tape, etc, etc, etc...

So... Did I accomplish what I wanted? Yes and no.
No, because I was just 2 weeks post surgery and my energy levels were just not where they needed to
be at!
Yes, because I was quite happy with what I accomplished! And because 3 days of being spoiled by my friends really helped in my recovery and completely took my mind off things 😀
My pants muslin went from 'oh my' to good to great! over a series of muslins and fitting changes! 
And to get to perfection we changed side seams, crotch depth, dart placements, shortened front crotch extension and upper front thigh, lengthened back crotch extension and did a knock-knee adjustment! 
From excess back thigh fabric to an almost perfect fit! No one wants that wrinkly mess on the backs of their thighs! I'm so happy with the final product. 

If you are looking to increase your knowledge of fitting, pattern work, custom design and couture techniques then I highly recommend taking one of Sarah's workshops! I know that I will be taking many more!