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.
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!