V7975: Octopus’ Garden French Jacket

You may recognise this fabric – it’s been the banner feature of this little web space since I started blogging, and was also the subject of one of the first jackets I wrote about, which was made to wear to my best friends wedding.

After the first jacket I had a scant 1.4m of 130mm wide fabric plus two large scraps, and there is quite literally nothing of it left now! I almost had to piece together the last pocket to make it work.

This jacket obviously marks a great leap forward in sewing skill since way back then…

Typically, if I want to get a compliment out of my beloved, it’s not enough to go fishing for one – I have to go in there with a speargun (obviously by which point any nice words extracted are null and void). So when hubby did both a physical double take on me in this jacket – then blurted out how much more amaazinger it was than Octopus the First, well – it was nothing if not completely satisfying!

We’ve hit that time of year where the light is just constantly harsh and glare-y. It doesn’t do justice to the colours in this weave – but you’ve got my blog banner to see how they look IRL :)

In other, completely unrelated news – I’ve finally found a hair dresser I LOVE. I’ve never worn my hair down so much before in my life – and I’ve always judged a hairdresser by how good the cut looks after you’ve washed all the styling out. This is it air-dryed and zero-product – zero maintenance. True to form, I’ll probably keep having it cut like this for the next 35 years.

The pattern is trusty Vogue 7975, with the sleeve from Marfy 9814 – a 3/4 delight with a little flounce on the end. This sleeve piece screams Chanel to me, as it’s very reminiscent of the styling I’ve been seeing in their recent collections. It’s also, I think, ridiculously flattering. Paired with the classic bodice of Vogue 7975 – becomes a 1 + 1 = 3 kind of synergy.

The fabric is a silk boucle, lined in turquoise charmuese (from Stitches to Style). The trim is a chartruese grosgrain ribbon from Jimmy’s Buttons which has been painstakingly cut down to the width I wanted (I could only get it in a wider width) – paired with a vintage Chanel trim Susan Khalje bought in Paris then lugged all the way to Melbourne as a potential option for her students to buy in her 2017 Tour of Australia. It was a particularly long length, and I get super excited when I spot the other ladies who bought some – sisterhood of the trim! Sewing it on made my hands smell like a hessian bag.

The grosgrain was a nightmare to deal with – not nearly as well behaved as lovely petersham. In the end, having it split in two was a godsend come the time to sew it in curving around the neckline – there ended up being a good 2cm difference in length of the inner to the outer ribbon just around that section.

Cut in half, basted back together at the right width, then sewn on with tiny stitches in a matching thread.

I still haven’t found buttons for this yet, and I’ll probably just not bother. I very nearly almost didn’t even put pockets on… then went the whole hog with 4 because I figured the fabric was busy enough, why not just keep with that.

There’s nothing new or groundbreaking here that I haven’t covered in the copious posts I did on my first French Jacket back in 2013.

Oh, except maybe that the sleeve flounce is on the bias – I did elongate the flounce by an extra 1.5cm (at Susan’s recommendation, and thus shortened the sleeve by this amount also to maintain the length) to ensure that I could get enough of the grid repeat of the fabric shown off. I quilted this on the bias as well – along with some extra underlining in the way of silk organza, this really helped the flounce to hold its gentle conical shape whilst being worn.

I recall recording the amount of time I spent sewing my first French Jacket – around the 150 hour mark? Well if I had to guesstimate, this one took a little less – maybe closer to 120 hours all up. This includes making the muslin, the 5 full days I had whilst on the French Jacket course (I couldn’t make it to the whole 7 days), plus a half day prior for fitting and cutting out, plus time spent post-class sewing on trim and pockets. I’ll admit not having a 3 piece sleeve and vents reduced the total time, as well.

I’ve been wearing this a bucket – and am absolutely loving it. You can 100% guarantee there will be more French Jackets in my sewing future.  (I’m still miffed I haven’t yet made one with printed silk in the lining…)

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A Third French Jacket in the making

I’ll admit to wanting a more everyday version of the French Jacket I made in Baltimore ever since I took photos of it for this blog.

And it just so happens that I have enough of the Octopus’ Garden boucle to squeeze a jacket out of – I recall when I first started sewing that I’d always buy an extra meter of fabric over what the pattern called for, you know – just in case. I absolutely love this fabric so I’m really excited to be working with it again.

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So I’m back for another week and another French Jacket! I recall this time last time I was already absolutely sewing fatigued, but this time around I’m incredibly invigorated to keep on sewing. I’m unable to attend the entire 7 days of the class due to a certain little person needing to be looked after, so I was grateful to be able to be fitted on Day 6 of the Couture Sewing School last week. I spent the last afternoon of that week’s class arranging my pattern pieces to make sure I could get the repeat in the right places.

Like my last French Jacket, I’m also underlining this one because once again I’ve picked a lightweight boucle that is see through! This is untypical though. I’m working with a cream cotton voile underneath (last time it was a white batiste).

I’m working with Vogue 7975, but I’ve stolen the sleeve from Marfy 9814. Partly because I really love it, partly because I don’t actually have enough fabric for a full length sleeve! It’s going to be tight….

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Day 1 is a bit of a get to know you again, a fabric show off, pattern fitting by Susan and fabric shopping for those amongst us who have yet to acquire some boucle and lining. We went to Stitches to Style – they have a great range of boucles! (and a huge sale on at the very moment – 50% off lots of cottons, linens and silks from their summer range).

Here are a few pictures of the gorgeous fabric choices by my other classmates:

Margie picked up a really striking red based Boucle from Tessuti, with a matching printed silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg. I think if I ever make a fourth jacket - I'm going to start by picking the lining first so I too can work with a printed silk!

Margie picked up a really striking orange and black based Boucle from Tessuti, with a matching printed silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg. I think if I ever make a fourth jacket – I’m going to start by picking the lining first so I too can work with a printed silk!

Danielle has a really textured black boucle with a black and coloured floral printed silk, which is just so gorgeous.

Danielle has a really textured black boucle from Linton Tweed (that was more than challenging to quilt due to all of the different fibres), and is pairing it with a floral on black background printed silk, which is just so gorgeous.

Melissa is what I have dubbed the classic Melbournian - her jacket is black boucle, with a black charmeuse lining. She scored an amazing beaded trim from Jimmy's Buttons - black of course!

Melissa is what I have dubbed the classic Melbournian – her jacket is black boucle bought from Stitches to Style, with a black charmeuse lining. She scored an amazing beaded trim from Jimmy’s Buttons – black of course!

Carol has an amazing textured boucle in Navy and grey from Linton Tweed, plus a really stunning watercolour printed silk she picked up from her local in Perth. I've laid claim to her silk scraps!

Carol has an amazing textured boucle in Navy and grey from Linton Tweed (this photo just doesn’t do it justice), plus a really stunning watercolour printed silk she picked up from her local in Perth. I’ve laid claim to her silk scraps!

Ros is sewing with a really fascinating fabric in an olive green that has Navy and copper highlights. She's also having a bias panel down the sides of her jacket - which entails an epic amount of quilting! Ros is two sizes different across her hips to her upper torso, and this additional bias panel does beautiful justice to her curves. Check out her smile here!

Ros is sewing with a really fascinating fabric in an olive green that has Navy and copper highlights. She’s also having a bias panel down the sides of her jacket – which entails an epic amount of quilting! Ros is two sizes different across her hips to her upper torso, and this additional bias panel does beautiful justice to her curves. Check out the effect and her smile here!

Marion bought a really stunning boucle from down the road at Stitches to Style, with the most amazing duck-egg blue coloured charmuese to match. It's fraying like a b----, but so totally going to be worth it.

Marion bought a really stunning boucle from down the road at Stitches to Style, with the most amazing duck-egg blue coloured charmuese to match. It’s fraying like a b—-, but so totally going to be worth it.

Day 1 saw me finish of my pattern thread tracing, and begin cutting out my lining.

By the end of Day 2 I had quilted all of my jacket pieces and sewn up the sides ready for a quick fit check and adjustment.

Day 3 I cut out my sleeves and got to work quilting them. On Susan’s recommendation I put the cuff on my sleeves on the bias – only just having enough fabric to squeeze this out. This meant also the quilting was in a grid – which gave it really lovely structure. We also put some silk organza underneath the boucle before the batiste underlining for a bit of extra structure.

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Bias quilting = a lot of knot tying

In the afternoon everyone took a field trip to Jimmy’s Buttons in Fitzroy for trim and buttons – what an absolute GOLDMINE! I can’t believe I’d never been here before. SO many options for trim, my mind was blown!

Day 4 at around lunchtime I was having my sleeves hung by Susan! I spent the afternoon playing with trim options, after a morning visit to Jimmy’s Buttons again after musing on samples overnight, I ended up with some chartreuse green petersham ribbon to go as backing to some vintage Chanel braid that Susan brought from Paris (she hauled a few different selections of braided trim she’s picked up in her travels).

Day 7 – I’ll be popping back in to the class on the Sunday to get a length of chain and have my pockets marked out.

So I’ve still got a fair way to go – sewing on the hooks and eyes, sewing on trim, chain, pockets and then closing up the lining. It’s looking amazing so far!

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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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