V7975: French Jacket II

My dear mum celebrated her 60th in May, and to commemorate, I dedicated many loving hours to make her a French Jacket of her own. It’s been a long journey – I bought the fabric at B&J‘s back in late 2013, worked on her muslin over several trips interstate to visit/fit her, then worried about actually being able to finish it in time for her birthday due to our renovation works… which turned out to be a very real concern. I didn’t finish it in time for May, but instead was given a new deadline of the 28th of August, prior to their departure for a holiday in Canada, America and an Alaskan cruise.

Once renovations dropped pace and I’d sewn myself a palate cleanser, I got stuck right into this. And once again – I loved every minute of it!



Fitting was a particular fascination – probably because I very much inherited my mum’s body shape. Seeing the similarities between our fitting adjustments and seeing how my body will probably need to be fitted one day was really cool. One of the most interesting things about watching Susan Khalje fit the other sewists in the French Jacket class I took was how a more mature body differs from what I’m presently accustomed too. This is in no way a slight on anyone older than myself, but I find that the non-symmetrical form a body eases into as one grows older to be an exciting challenge to fit. Or maybe it’s just because it’s different to what I fit when I sew (myself) that recognising things like a ‘sunken chest’, or a raised shoulder, or a ribcage that is smaller on one side of the back compared to the other is almost a way of validating knowledge I don’t usually get to test. Either way, my mum’s jacket was a joy to fit and sew.

It felt a lot quicker to sew this time around. I also think her’s is more beautifully constructed because I’m far more confident in my abilities now than I was when I made mine.

I was terrified of sewing in the sleeves (firstly because Susan drapes and pins them in position for you, and secondly because I didn’t have Mum around to test it on), but I was so pleased when she did try it on how well it fitted and how nicely it looked! (By this stage I’d already ventured into creep territory and tried it on myself several times…)You really can tell the difference between a garment made specifically for your body shape and one that isn’t – even when the fitting changes are slight (like me, Mum fits the Vogue Size 14 really well). I think this was a real point of difference for my mum (I’m lucky – I’m used to it!) – she was an equally impressed at just how beautifully it fit as I was.

V7975 Shoulder Fit

Kicking myself for not picking out a trim for this fabric when I bought it and was still in the States, I attempted to make a swatch of ‘fringed’ trim (thanks to this great resource from Cloning Couture). Mum decided that she preferred it without – “the fabric is fabulous enough” she said. I was happy with that because the time it would take to make 5 yards of the stuff would have been quite substantial!


The trim I was originally thinking of making – along with some piping from the lining down the centre (the cut strip is just for representation…)

Instead, she agreed to my suggestion of a very slight bias trim in the lining fabric at the top of the pockets and around the sleeve cuff, which I thought looked rather elegant.



After setting in the sleeves, I had to take up the cuffs as they somehow ended up being too long! Whilst I had left a 2inch gap between the intended cuff length and the quilting, this ended up being substantially smaller than originally planned for.

But, the trim is a huge part in stabilising the seams around the neckline and jacket front – so going without meant providing this stability on the inside of the jacket. I cut some selvedge from the silk lining, and catchstitched it in place:



Buttons were another thing I was mad at myself for not purchasing whilst I had the chance. I ended up ordering some self-fabric buttons from Buttonmania. As the ‘trim’ was an understated and subtle hint of lining fabric, I went that route for the buttons, utilising both the matt and satin side of the charmuese for contrast. It seemed an elegantly matching solution, and Mum agreed.



However… when I actually put them on the jacket pockets… they just didn’t look right. I recall several times people saying whilst I was doing The French Jacket course in Baltimore, that quite often, you just can’t pick trim or buttons until the jacket is mostly constructed – it somehow changes things. That matched my experience with picking trim for the jacket I made myself (I pared the trim I bought right back to one strand from three), and again with this jacket. So I probably shouldn’t have been kicking myself too hard about not visiting M&J Trimming with this fabric…

I ordered hooks and eyes and chain from Susan’s website, and after a final fitting with Mum in early July to determine pocket size and location, I finished the jacket and sent it off – it arrived about 3 or 4 days before my parents left on their holiday – perfect timing? I also sent her the remaining silk charmuese lining, as there would be enough to squeeze a sleeveless blouse from if she wanted.

Give me another year, and I’ll be ready to start the third French jacket, which has already been promised to another special someone. I should probably let them know it will take at least another 2 years after that, if this project has been anything to go by!

And because a garment is never as fabulous as when it’s on the intended wearer – a photo of my Mum in her belated birthday present!

In the meanwhile, if you couldn’t half tell from my lack of posting on here – I have completely lost my sewing and blogging mojo. And seeing as we’ve gone straight from the depths of winter right into summer… the ‘transitional’ garments I had planned for myself as maternity wear are already obsolete! How fortuitous for me, haha :) Shame, because I have this beautiful Marfy jacket about 2 hours away from being completely finished… and it’s been like this for nearly two months now. And it will probably stay this way for many more months as water retention owns me right now!

Marfy 3022 in the making...

Marfy 3022 in the making…

Hello, Strangers!

“Hi, my name is Melanie, and it’s been 6 months since I last posted”.

Yep, and about 5 of that have had zero chances to sew. But – our unlivable house is now moderately livable. Sort of. Still a lot of work to do! But the last month has had some productive sewing in it, culminating in a seasonally inappropriate top that is very different to my usual style. I do really love it though. Photos just as soon as I find my missing camera battery charger, and brave the cold! (Some sunshine might be nice too, but I wouldn’t want to be too demanding or anything…)


Just a little seam matching perfection…


I’ve also been working on the French Jacket for my mum. I originally thought having it done for her birthday in early May would has been SO achievable. But that didn’t quite work out, so the new delivery date has been set for early August. Better get my skates on…

Because I’ve also started sewing a new jacket (for me). Marfy 3022!

F3022 SS 2014-15 Jacket

The muslin for it is getting me very excited. Even with no adjustments I really love the proportions. Having been out of sewing practise for so long, and also because this pattern had a rather tricky looking dart/pocket configuration – I went to a lot more effort than I normally would in a muslin.




But that’s all come to a screaming halt, because my usual size 46 is a little on the snug side. After many months of intensive renovating, with a non-functional kitchen and limited time – a continuous succession of bad dietary choices (and an underactive thyroid!) have left me about 6kg’s heavier than at the beginning of the year. So I’m deciding whether to buy the Size 48, or make it as the 46 as by the time I finish it, it will be Spring and I should be back to normal by then. Decisions…

Regardless, it’s so lovely to be back and sewing!!


F3348 & V7975: Slow Sewing

The first half of this year gave me an incredible amount of time to ponder my sewing style, and as a result of having a bit of distance from the actual act of sewing anything ‘normal’, I’m finally beginning to feel like I have a bit of direction to curate my ‘to-sew’ list. Simply put, I’m happy to buy basics and to put my sewing skills (and limited sewing time) to use creating beautiful, structural and really well made items that fit in with my basics.

It’ll be quite a long while until you see another dress on this blog – and I want to get back to sewing what I love most – jackets. I’m excited about it because there’s still so much I want to ‘get right’ in this area of sewing skills, mostly around setting in sleeves and getting them to look really professional. It’s the main area I really notice as being sub-standard on all the (non-French!) jackets, coats and blazers I’ve made to date.

So, I’ve started out on two jacket projects which I’ll be working on either exclusively or in the background when I’m enticed away to sew something else.

The first, a gift for my Mum – as she’s having quite a significant birthday event in early May next year. It will be a French Jacket, in a boucle I got from B&Js. It’s a lightweight fabric because Brisbanites don’t get nearly as many chances to wear jackets as we do further South! It will be tough to work with, as it’s already fraying like a Beast…



It will also mean interstate trips for fitting – the first of which is already done to adjust the muslin and so she could select the lining from a bunch of samples I took up with me.

Mum is virtually identical in body shape to me (although I guess it’s technically me that’s identical to her) so her adjustments were minimal as the Vogue 7975 pattern fits her nearly as well as it did to me.

I’ve already cut out and begun the basting process… fun times ahead :)

The second Jacket project is for me, and the intent is for it to be a hybrid between French and Tailored. I’ll be sewing with Marfy 3348, which was one of the free patterns that came with the 2014 catalogue (you can also buy it online – they have pdf now, whoohoo!):


The collar and front facing will be tailored – pad stitched and horsehair canvas – while the rest of the jacket will be quilted. Although I’ve yet to test out the quilting for this fabric combination so that may change based on how well it turns out. This project was inspired by Leisa’s tailored/French hybrid with Marfy 3182, which you can read about here.

My fabric is one of those special fabrics that you hoard until the ‘right’ moment, although this is probably less of a ‘right’ moment and more of a ‘can’t wait any longer’ moment. I’m not a patient person.


It’s a cream and mint boucle, from one of my favourite shops – Stitches to Style.

The current plan is to underline the parts of the jacket that will be quilted with some lamsbwool (from A Fashionable Stitch) so as to keep the balance between the weight of the front which will be backed with horsehair canvas. The lambswool is deliciously soft, but not very amenable to staying on grain!

via A Fashionable Stitch

Lambswool interlining, via A Fashionable Stitch

But I’ve yet to decide whether I’ll be setting in the sleeves, or hand sewing them in to get that lovely soft shoulder curve that my French Jacket has. Potentially they’ll be set in as getting the right location for hand sewing may be a bit too challenging on my own. We’ll see.

The Marfy pattern as intended has a contrast section at the collar which I’d original though to use the lining for. After making and adjusting my muslin, the collar feels a bit smaller than I was envisaging, so I’m thinking of using a matching pale cream charmuese here instead – using the illusion of colour to visually cheat and make it look a little bigger.

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The Marfy jacket has darts, which I converted into princess seams before cutting out my muslin (easier to deal with when I knew I would be working with thick-ish fabrics). I’m glad I did, because the adjustment you see here is one I need to do quite regularly. I’ve added some extra space at the bust to the side front panel, which allowed the collar to sit flat across my chest, rather than gape like on my left side.

The jacket pattern is only slightly fitted – of course, it fit really very well out of the packet – just with the need for a bit of extra boob space. I did flirt with leaving it otherwise unadjusted – but decided in the end that having a non-waist-defining jacket wouldn’t be doing me many favours. So I did pin in the side and princess seams slightly to get a closer fit, and I more than likely will add more space at the upper arms. I can determine that better at the first basted-together fitting, as my fabrics will be thicker than my mock-up! Thank goodness for large seam allowances, as they really do allow you to take into account the differences between how the toile’s fabric and the final fabric react to the pattern.

Also, simple things like the fact that the upper and lower collar pieces allow for turn of cloth make me smile. The sleeve cap looked fabulous just in the muslin, too. Here’s the final, adjusted, un-clipped and un-pressed muslin… gosh they always look terrible on camera:

Marfy 3348 muslin 2

I finally go to try out the walking foot on my machine, to see how the combination of fabric, lambswool and charmuese worked with quilting:

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Totally luxe and lovely on the inside… but the lines do show through somewhat on the outside (probably due to the loft of the lambswool).

For now I’ll most likely power forward on my mum’s French Jacket (because I know what I’m doing there) so I can ponder just how I’m going to bring all those elements together into the Marfy Jacket and decide whether I’m willing to ‘go Jackie O’ (I’ve read that apparently on some of Jackie Kennedy’s Chanel Jackets, the quilting lines were visible). In the meantime, I’ll be posting progress shots on instagram, of course.

Until soon!


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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.

Vogue 7975 1

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.



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:



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:


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.