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V7975: Sherbert Bomb Chanel

And it is completed – Couture baby, woooooo!!

I enjoyed working on this garment so much more than I ever thought I would. The 8 other ladies I took Susan Khalje’s Classic French Jacket class with were an absolutely delight to work with, and I’m so looking forward to seeing theirs completed (come on girls!! I want pictures!!). Thank you guys so much for such a wonderful week!

But enough talk – here it is:

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Despite the seriously close fit in an unrelenting woven fabric, there's plenty of room for a hair flick.

Despite the seriously close fit in an unrelenting woven fabric, there’s plenty of movement available for a hair flick.

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The total time spent? 153 hours, including preparation of the muslin which I had to bring along to class. The only parts stitched with a machine on this was the quilting lines, the vertical seams on both the bodice and sleeves, the shoulder seams and the stay stitching around the neckline. The rest is entirely hand stitched…. I’m clearly a slow sewist.

Taking this class was absolutely enthralling – and I now truly understand why this garment has held so much fascination to sewers over the years – it really is a subset of couture in its own right. Virtually everything about the construction of this garment was new to me, and I was riveted the whole way. Nothing is wasted, even though it seemed awfully extravagant to cut out such massive seam allowances. I think what amazed me the most is how those seam allowances were utilised throughout the garment, like at the armscye – simultaneously providing the role of a sleeve head and a light shoulder pad at the same time, as well as in the princess seams to provide strength and stability to the body of the jacket. I’m tempted to call it a cardigan more than a jacket – because that’s how it feels (and how it should feel, too). It’s so much less of a jacket than I originally thought it would be. And yet, just look at the shape – nary a shoulder pad in sight – gorgeous.

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The fabric is a loosely woven Chanel boucle, bought from Mendel Goldberg – and the reason I figure I can get away calling this post what I have. It’s lined in a lilac silk charmeuse from B&J fabrics, and my trim – bling-y buttons and a silvery grey beaded thing was from M&J Trimming, all from New York. I was originally planning on having two rows of trim with potentially some orange velvet ribbon in the middle, but when it came to pinning it on the jacket, it just looked too much and the orange of the ribbon too harsh. Thanks to all the girls from Social Sewing for their general consensus advice on this matter of crucial importance! So, one row of trim it was.

Some closeups:

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My first (half lousy, half good) and second attempt at sewing on the hardware. Such a shame the pretty stitches are then covered up by the lining! Click to Enlarge.

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And the fit? Well, it’s probably the best fitting thing I’ll ever own, assuming I don’t put on or lose weight. The jacket is definitely snug, but super comfortable at the same time.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing however. One of my favourite anedote of Susan’s from my time in Baltimore was hearing her voice her disappointment when she got her white-gloved hands on some historical couture pieces from this and last century whilst at a museum in France (I forget which one) because not only did the pieces have little quirks - they had flaws. I think that’s a prudent reminder that even at the top tier, garments sewn with the utmost of skill can be imperfect. The pursuit of perfection is soul killing? Either way, she said that anything sewn by a person is going to have human aspects to it – those little imperfections that make us what we are. Now, my jacket has a few imperfections, for sure. But these are learning experiences, and the next one I make will be that much better for it. Like – if you have a non-symmetric trim, it would probably be a good idea to make sure you get it the right way up all the time. Unfortunately for me, I only realised this after sewing the trim on #3 of my four pockets. It would have potentially ruined the fabric and the trim to unpick it, so… eh.

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I ended up quilting my pockets as well – with the lining fell stitched to the pockets, then fell stitched onto the jacket. It was a mission not to let any of the stitches show through on the lining. But! These are entirely functional pockets, woo!

And somehow in the fitting process I missed that Susan pinned my sleeves a lot shorter than I would ideally like. The 2 inch seam allowance came to the rescue, however I would have preferred even more than this. It meant my quilting lines (the support to the fabric) are a long way back from where they probably should be:

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So there’s the little imperfections we can live with, and the ones we can’t… like how I got within inches of finishing sewing on my chain, only to line it up and realise that I hadn’t been pulling the blasted thing taught – the links were all squished up next to each other and as a result I was 2 inches short from having the chain meet the other side of the jacket.

So totally NOT FUNNY.

So totally NOT FUNNY.

I downed tools at that point and went off to kill some demons in Diablo III to vent my frustration. I came back later to unpick and resew, but also managed to work out a much faster and more even way to sew the chain the second time around! Ah, the good ol’ learning curve.

Regardless, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed sewing a garment more than I have this. Am I hooked on sewing these? Definitely. I’ve already bought a gorgeous blue boucle as I’d really like to make one of these for my mum. Let’s just add that to the post-wedding-dress sewing queue, alrighty?

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The Stats:
153:00 hours

Fabric Utilisation = 6.2m (Shell fabric, underlining and lining)

French Jacket Class: Day 6

It’s officially the final day, and most of us are starting out still with our Jacket in three separate pieces. The goal is to leave with at least the sleeves pinned in places by Susan – she does this whilst you’re actually in the jacket and I must say – the result is incredible.

Then the sleeve is stitched in – by hand.

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The trickiest part is not to catch your lining whilst doing it – I think I catch mine in about three places. ARGH. And all the ladies here are just so lovely and ladylike – that I bite my tongue and keep the swear-fest inside my head. Mum, please skip over this next part of the sentence… but I’m particularly partial to a well-placed f bomb.

And here we are at the starting line:

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And you can see once again the handy-ness of uber-wide seam allowances when you’re continuing to refine the fitting as you go, with the changes in seam positions from that fitting.

Popping the jacket on for the first time with the sleeves on, I’m amazing at how snug the fit is, but how impeccably it moulds to my body. It’s a bit like a second skin, oddly! Seeing it like this gives me a fresh burst of enthusiasm for completion :)

Then we’re back to more fell stitching…

And with Susan’s help we pin the neckline to the desired shape (which can change based on how your trim will sit – the trim ‘draws’ your eye and can really affect the neckline positioning) which I stay-stitch and then clip.

As many of the others are leaving this afternoon, Susan talks chain, trim and pocket positioning before we depart at the usual 6:30pm. That night I manage to sew up the lining in one of my sleeves:

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The other got completed about a week later whilst watching Project Runway with a few of my fellow classmates from the Couture Sewing School. And the proof of improvement can really be seen here – learning the hand of the charmeuse and how to fold it in under itself to the right degree is something you can only do with practise, for sure. The last half of my second sleeve is a bazillion times better looking than my stitching around the first half attempt! The more pins I used, the better control I had.

From here it’s all pretty much up to me, and there’s still a loooong way to go:

– Sewing on the trim (of which there are three that will join together to make one, and I’m guessing there’s going to be at least 2 passes of hand stitching for both)

 - Sewing on the hooks and bars down the front sides

 - Closing up the lining around the edges with that ever present fell stitch

 - Sewing on the chain along the bottom hem. 

That night I start playing with the trim placement:

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But for now, it’s getting packed in my suitcase, because I’ll have my hands full with meeting all the fabulous ladies for the Couture Sewing School next week. It will be so delightful to meet in person people who I’ve been exchanging comments with for ever and a day! Not to mention seeing what everyone else is going to be sewing… BRING IT.

French Jacket Class: Day 5

I kickstart the morning by quilting my sleeve pieces and sewing them together, in between waiting my turn for the ironing and sleeve boards to tidy up my seams.

Thankfully someone does indeed have a blunt embroidery needle with a big eye so I can weave that errant orange piece back into place!

It takes the better part of the day to turn two of these (each with three seams):

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Into this:

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Then fell stitching the 6 sleeve seams and my 4 remaining bodice lining seams together… phew.

The sleeve vents complicated things a little, but look great now complete!

Before the end of the day, I also managed to sew shut my shoulder seams, before fell stitching the lining together:

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Considering the progress to date and the fact that there is only one official day left of the class… I’m wondering how close I’ll get to actually completing this! There is still an incredible amount of work to be done. Apparently this jacket takes the Chanel atelier 70 hours to complete – I think my first attempt might be a little closer to 100+ hours, and I’m beginning to understand just how much value is in the $6-7000 price tag of a RTW Chanel jacket (not to even mention the $25-30k price tag for the couture version).

And here we are – I managed to get 2 of the 3 seams in each sleeve to match:

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French Jacket Class: Day 4

A new morning and a close inspection of my efforts last night highlight an additional few more spots where my pattern matching is off at the seams, so I kickstart the day unpicking, pinning and re-stitching.

And hour or so later and I’m ready for my second fitting, which – you guessed it – means a few more changes are required. Due to underlining with the batiste, the boucle doesn’t have as much ‘give’ in it as it would otherwise – the difference means I need a lot of extra space at the shoulders and to let out the princess seams at the fullest part of my bust. Also, I need an additional 1/2 inch of ease at each of the side seams. The one lesson I seem to keep learning over and over again is the importance of considering how the hand, weave and drape can affect the outcome you’re aiming for.

Frustratingly I forgot my camera today, so it’s dodgy iphone pictures to go…

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The top line is the original seam line as per my muslin, and the line about 1-1.5″ below is my new seam line. Another good cause for super wide seam allowances!

Susan marks the spots of the new stitch lines and sends me back to re-baste, pin and sew the adjustments – I also add in a few more quilting lines now I have an extra inch of ease at the side seams. Quilting when the jacket pieces are joined is not something I would recommend….

It’s 2:30pm and after another quick try-on Susan says I’m good to go.

Time to start working on the sleeves! Susan pins one muslin sleeve to the jacket and makes any necessary adjustments:

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Then we all gather around to watch her explain how to convert a two piece sleeve into a three piece sleeve, as well as the best place to position the sleeve vent so your buttons and trim end up in a flattering position on your forearm.

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Most of us managed to adjust our sleeve pattern pieces and start cutting them out before having Susan demonstrate how to ‘clean up the seams’ at the end of the day.

Homework? There’s a lot.

- My sleeves need to be underlined then the seam lines traced.

- Lining for the sleeves needs to be cutout

- Quilting lines on all 6 sleeve pieces need to be pinned (I’ll do the sewing tomorrow)

-  The 5 vertical seams in the jacket need to be pressed, cut back the lining pinned in place and fell stitched together. I’ll probably do a lot of this tomorrow as it requires a sleeve board and a tailors ham, neither of which I have. (Susan’s was lent to one of the ladies who has to finish the class a day earlier).

But then disaster strikes!!

My fingernails are battle weary from all the hand sewing and beginning to catch on my super loose boucle. Inna’s Japanese hand sewing needles take no prisoners. Right about the time I’m cursing my lack of foresight in not including an emery board in my sewing kit, this happens:

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Hopefully someone has an embroidery needle stashed in their supplies tomorrow so I can weave it back into place… tweezers weren’t quite up to the task.

At 11pm I settle in to burn the midnight oil with some hand stitching – and quickly decide that the fell stitch and I are going to become excellent friends. Probably a good thing really, because there is a LOT of fell stitching to be done – virtually all of the jacket’s insides is sewn shut this way.

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I manage to get the two side seams sewn up before falling asleep. It’s actually starting to look like something other than a messy pile of scrappy fabric now!

Amazingly, I haven’t experienced the usual rollercoaster of increasing and flagging enthusiasm I usually do whilst sewing. You know how you get to a point and a project just kind of gives you the sh*ts? There’s been none of that. Maybe it’s the class atmosphere, maybe it’s the mindset of knowing you’re in the hands of someone who knows the process inside out.

I am kinda getting sick of the sight of lilac, though. You can guarantee that the fabric for next weeks project will NOT be any shade of purple…

French Jacket Class: Day 3

Hi everyone! I’m thinking of changing my tune a little around here.

Why?

Well, since starting this class, I’ve had a steadily growing sense on unease about sharing it with you via this platform. Words aren’t something I’m all that great at using to describe how I feel about something as I usually work on intuition, but I’ll try and explain as best I can.

At what point does knowledge become proprietary? I’m torn between wanting to respect the know-how of the ebullient Susan Khalje (she’s amazing) and wanting to share my experience. Is it fair on her that I come here and talk about everything in detail? (I’ve got a whole stack of drafts which cover in detail what we’ve been working on). Probably not.

But – as I said to Susan – who is going to take over from you after you decide to retire? I want to keep doing these classes – hell, I’m already dreaming of going to Paris. (Alas, we’re supposed to be saving for a house, not to mention paying for a wedding. Sometimes being responsible can be so boring). So the good news is she’s bringing out her own range of videos (Starting with the Classic French Jacket, apparently going to debut pre-Christmas this year – whoo!) but being immortalised in dvd won’t quite fill the void – there really is no one else at this level with the experience and knowledge she has who also can teach, and teach well!! And it was this belief that the value of coming here to do these classes was in the one-on-one teacher time – anyone can sew along (don’t read that badly – I adore a good sewalong) or watch a Craftsy class, but it will never offer the kind of learning you get in person.

On the flip side of the coin, I must have read Marina’s and Gertie’s posts on their Susan Khalje classes oh, I don’t know – 50 times? Each time I read them I got more and more excited about taking these classes. I think talking about it on here gives Susan great publicity and allows those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to take part the chance to see what’s going on. And one of the things I love most about the sewing blogosphere is the positive sharing of experience.

So where does one draw the line? The simple answer is “I don’t know”. So I’ve decided to continue posting about it… but not in a technical manner. I think that is a happy enough medium to quell my unease. 

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Back to regular programming – because it’s like Christmas morning every 5 minutes here!

A few of the other ladies and I pop down the road to Joann’s – a place I’ve read about in so many other blogs, so it was kinda cool to be able to walk into one, regardless of what people think of it. They have plenty of thread which is what we’ve come for, along with quilting rulers and the Clover fork pins.

There’s not really anything particularly groundbreaking or interesting to report on today – apart from making a fair bit of progress, and it’s all about quilting each of the 7 jacket pieces before joining them together.

Hearing the whirr of multiple sewing machines is a beautiful thing, and it’s a real pleasure to actually do some machine sewing!

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Those lines are stitched with the lining facing down, following the grain line of the boucle fabric, in which the top thread is virtually invisible (unless you know what you’re looking for).

The quilting process provides the structure and support to the rather floppy boucle fabric, and gives it a completely new feel. Having a walking foot is an absolute must – you simply couldn’t do this without one. Comparing the hand of my quilted pieces to those of others – they’re now on a more level playing field, whereas before my poor boucle was definitely punching above its weight.

After a steaming and very light pressing (which I can get away with because my boucle doesn’t really have much loft) and Susan shows how to pull the purposely long tail threads through to the inside, which are then knotted and cut short:

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The next step is to join the pieces… and this is where you thank your lucky stars you have ginormous seam allowances, because all the handling equals fraying.

I pin to match the boucle’s repeat/pattern starting at the bottom and working my way up to the top – the ability to match stops where the curve of the princess seam starts. Then, using the fork pins to secure the match (with plenty of flipping over to check!) it’s ready to sew.

The rest of this is homework as somehow it’s 6:30 already…

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The fork pins do an amazing job of preventing the layers from slipping and you can sew right over them so your match isn’t compromised by taking the pin out just before your fabric goes under the feed dog.

About 90% of the time I got a perfect match with this method, with just a few small spots that I’ll unpick and fix up (like at the left) – a pretty darn good hit rate for sure:

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Late at night after the day’s homework is complete – I’ve got this messy-looking but super snuggly thing:

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All ready to go for the next fitting tomorrow!