Shanel No. 2
“It’s the not the Destination, It’s the Journey.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
For three weeks I’ve embraced the French Jacket journey. My diligence was strong and I was not impatient…… but reaching the destination was pure ecstasy!
In 2013 I traveled to Baltimore and made a French Jacket in a Susan Khalje class. Once I completed it at home, alone, after the class, I was shellshocked, and it never occurred to me to make another until writing A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing. We featured pages of my sewing friends & colleagues in stunning French Jackets. What was wrong with me? Why did I let 6 1/2 years pass without attempting another?
Was it the 80 – 100 hours of time required? Was I afraid to make one without a teacher by my side?
In February 2019, I reached for my one French Jacket to wear to Billy’s Christening. I love it still, but the desire to make another jacket resonated as I wore my old standby.
As I mentioned last month, I joined the #januaryjacket2020 Instagram sew along hosted by Julie and Dorcas. I knew the moral support was important and the camaraderie would add a layer of fun. I also sought Julie’s advice using FaceTime from NY fabric and trim stores in December.
My goal was to make a jacket I would wear often. Nothing too formal or heavy.
I selected both the Oscar de la Renta fashion fabric and the silk charmeuse lining from Fabrics & Fabrics, a NY fabric store known to many but new to me. The trims and buttons are from East Coast Trimming, also in the NYC garment district.
By January 1, my fear was long gone – my only reservation was setting aside the 80 – 100 hours needed to make the jacket.Fortunately, I had a fitted muslin to start with, saving hours of time and boosting my confidence. My pattern is Vogue 7975, a quintessential pattern for sewing Classic French Jackets.
I began the jacket by relying on a set of printed instructions from Susan Khalje, and remembered on day 3 that I had purchased her jacket video years ago.
The video is masterfully produced and I could not have made the jacket without it. Check it out – susankhalje.com/collections/videos
If you have never made a French Jacket, the project is a mix of machine and hand stitching. The pattern pieces are thread traced and cut with large seam allowances. The fashion fabric is machine quilted to the lining and the vest pieces are then stitched together by machine. Afterwards the jacket is completed by hand including setting the sleeves. Seam allowances are closed with a fell-stitch, the trim and buttons are applied, the lining is secured after sewing hook and eye closures, the pockets are made, followed by sewing a chain along the hem – and Viola! your French Jacket awaits……….
I made my trim by attaching a wool Chanel-inspired trim to Petersham ribbon. While the braided edge of the Petersham was easy to shape around the neckline and front edges, I chose to pre-shape the trim around the sleeves. I relied on the Tailor’s Clapper I received from Angela Wolf to press out the bulk and it worked like a charm!
As I experimented with the trim placement I discovered no matter how much I tried to place the trim along the edge of the jacket’s perimeter, the eyelash fringe would peak through, so I deliberately placed it 1/8th inch from the edge.
I wanted to avoid gaping when sitting and am pleased with the result.
Two remarkable couture sewists, Helen Haughey of Helen Haughey Designs and Mary Funt of Cloning Couture are teaming up for a series of couture workshops. Each of these wonderful women have so much to offer and I’m thrilled to participate in their debut Custom Couture French Jacket Workshop next month. Much more about this soon.