I’d always wanted to make a Chanel inspired jacket, so when I found this Linton Tweed at an exceptionally good price I knew exactly what I was going to use it for. I already had the charmeuse lining from a sale when Janet Reger closed her local factory, I knew I’d find the perfect use for it!
A couture design deserved to be made using authentic techniques.
If the jacket was to made to the exacting standards of a Paris atelier I needed to do some research. I already had an idea of how the jacket would be made and I have a collection of Threads magazine with articles by Susan Khalje an amazing couture sewer. Claire Shaeffer also writes for Threads and has a number of designs for jackets produced by Vogue Patterns. One of her Couture Sewing books is The Couture Cardigan Jacket – Sewing secrets from a Chanel collector, so I bought that as well.
Choosing the right pattern would be important and I decided on Vogue 8991 by Claire Shaeffer as it wasn’t too boxy and it’s shaping would suit my body type. It had important features of a Chanel jacket , the front being made from two panels with a narrow side panel as well as a three piece sleeve with a functioning vent at the centre and machine quilting. I also wanted to include a collar.
Having collected together most of the materials I needed I was ready to make a toile. At 5’2″ I had to shorten the bodice above the waist. Getting the fit right at this stage is really important as the construction process is quite different to dressmaking. I copied all the pattern features including grain lines and quilting lines onto the toile. Once I was happy I cut up the toile exactly on the machine lines to use as my pattern.
This pattern is not for the faint hearted! It has very detailed couture instructions that have been adapted to be accessible to experienced dressmakers. Although the fabric had very distinctive threads it wasn’t going to be possible to match the design exactly, but I could see certain yarns that needed to follow across the seams.
Cutting the cloth was the first major technique that was different to dressmaking. Rather than cutting round the pattern pieces each body panel is cut as a rectangle.
This Linton Tweed is both heavy and very loosely woven on cotton warps. The weft is at least four different textured yarns and braids. It was quickly apparent that controlling its ability to disintegrate was going to be one of my biggest challenges. I only cut and worked one panel at a time.
All the stitching lines were thread traced, marking the notches with stitches that crossed them. I also thread traced the quilting lines. I cut the same sized rectangles from the Charmeuse for the lining and the front is supported by a layer of silk organza.
I’d be making hand stitched buttonholes and I was concerned that the wide yarns of the fabric wouldn’t hold the stitching. So before starting the jacket I experimented with making buttonholes. I discovered that using a strip of soft, knitted interfacing fused behind the buttonhole helped stabilise everything. So I marked the buttonholes and applied small pieces of interfacing to both front edges so it would support the buttons as well. I also herringbone stitched strips of selvedge from the silk organza down the front edge. These were cut to the exact length taken from the pattern tissue and will support the front edge helping it to hang straight.
I was quite surprised that the quilting was done by machine. However “cheaper” shop bought copies of the classic jacket weren’t quilted at all. The front panel was quilted to the silk organza, whereas the rest were quilted to the lining.
The quilting lines needed to be thread traced and basted through both layers to keep everything from shifting when machining. I tied off the machine quilting between the main fabric and the lining.
With the quilting finished it was time to stitch the seams. Each piece was still a rectangle, so I had to match the thread tracing for each seam. As I was still concerned about the excessive fraying I left the seams untrimmed until I was ready for the next process, stitching the lining seams.
I often work on the ironing board as it allows the layers to lie flat and the rest of the fabric falls away. Working one seam at a time, I trimmed and pressed the main fabric using a silk organza press cloth. I matched the lining fabric to the body fabric. Trimmed all the seams.Using a size 8 John James Between needle and silk thread I hand stitched the lining seam being careful not to catch the body fabric.
It was now time to sort the outer edges. The collar will be attached later.
At this point I haven’t trimmed any of the edges as I’d have nothing left to stitch due to the fabrics ability to fray! I used bias cut cotton interfacing to support the hem, catching the edges with herringbone stitch. The red stitching is only temporary.Then I turned all the edges over on the thread basted seam line and tacked about 5mm from the edge. The edges were trimmed leaving them slightly larger than I usually would. All the edges were herringbone stitched to enclose the fraying edges.It took quite a while to choose the trim which had to be attached next. In the end I hand layered bought trims onto grosgrain ribbon. I decided not to add trim the lower edge as I didn’t want a harsh horizontal line at hip level.
To get the trim to turn at the neck edge I eased the ribbon and steamed it before attaching the other trims.Before stitching the lining at the edge I made the hand stitched buttonholes. I had originally intended using buttonhole silk over gimp, but decided this would be too stiff. So I prepared the buttonhole opening, sealing the cut edges with clear nail varnish. You can use white glue or Fray Check. I then made the buttonhole stitch over 2 lengths of silk buttonhole thread for added body. On the wrong side the buttonholes are backed with small welt made from the lining fabric.The lining was then turned in so that it was just shy of the outer edge, trimmed and fell stitched in place. The lining was split at each buttonhole and slip stitched to the welt.The collar was made from a rectangle cut on the grain and eased to fit the silk organza interfacing that was cut to the finished shape. The edges were trimmed, turned to the wrong side and herringbone stitched. The trim then added to the outer edge.The collar was matched to the neck edge of the jacket and felled in place. Only then did I trim the body fabric at the neck edge, again herringbone stitching to the inside of the collar to stop it disintegrating! The collar lining was then felled to the inside.
I chose to pick stitch round the edge of the jacket front and collar to help stop the lining from rolling to the outside. The jacket body is finished except for the buttons and chain for the bottom edge.All the information I could find said the 3 part sleeves were cut to the actual pattern pieces and then made in the same way as the body, leaving the seam from the shoulder to hem open. Knowing how much this fabric wanted to fall apart I chose to cut rectangles and only trim when I could secure the cut edges. To keep the genuine techniques I made fully functioning sleeve buttonholes, but these didn’t have the welts behind them. Finally stitching the seam and hand stitching the lining.
I used my tailoring knowledge to ease the sleeves into the armhole, backstitching them twice, once from each side. After trimming the sleeve lining was slip stitched to the armhole seam.