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…

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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!):

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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…