Out of the Chaos …

It is not all that unusual for a big sewing projects to begin in some sort of controlled chaos, whether it is unwieldy pattern pieces, or slippery fabric, or complicated instructions – or no instructions! But nothing quite comes up to the chaos that making a classic French jacket creates.

Two main things contribute to the chaos. The first is the nature of boucle fabric, which is the building block of the jacket. Boucle is, by nature, a loosely woven, sometimes wildly variegated fabric. The loose weave is what gives it the ability to be quilted “invisibly” to its lining. But, it is also what makes the fabric fray so easily, demanding careful handling throughout the construction process.

Then there is that quilting process. To say that the construction of this type of jacket is unconventional is an understatement. Once one has her fashion fabric (boucle) pieces thread traced and cut out, the lining is cut to conform to the shape of each individual jacket and sleeve piece. Then, the lining is quilted onto the boucle following  guidelines (selected by you!), but dictated by the boucle.

A ruler and pins help me determine where my quilting lines should be, generally about an inch apart from each other and set in an inch from the side seams.

Quilting with a walking foot.

The ends of the quilting lines stop a couple of inches from the top and bottom of the marked seam lines, and the loose threads are fished into the inside and tied off, each one with three loops to secure the knot.

Although it is difficult to see, here is the tying off of one quilting line in-between the two layers.

How strange is this? Then the edges of the lining are hanging loose while you proceed to sew the seams of the boucle. I pin the edges of the lining back in order to make this process a little more orderly, but it is still kind of a mess.

One of the sleeves, quilted, with its lining pinned back.

I have a great advantage in making this jacket, in that I have a muslin pattern which I know fits me well. Knowing this allows me the option of finishing the sleeves before I do the main part of the jacket, and that is what I have done.

I have finished off two of the three sleeve seams here before sewing the final, third seam.

All the sleeve seams are now sewn, and I am about to finish attaching the lining at the cuff ends of the sleeves.

I also decided once again to make slot-seam buttonholes on the sleeves and at the center front.

Here is the extension on the sleeve cuff. Normally cut as one with that section of the sleeve, I make it a separate piece so that I can leave two openings for the buttonholes. If you look closely at this photo, you can see the slots for the buttonholes.

This shows the extensions for the buttonholes.

Two finished sleeves, except for the trim, of course.

Now, here is a diagram of what I do to make the slot-seam buttonholes for the front of the jacket.

It is important to know how much width you need for your trim and buttons before deciding the width of that extra extension piece sewn onto the front. In this case, I determined I needed a piece with a finished (not including seam allowances) width of 1¼“. Then I proceeded to sew the seams together.

The body of the jacket really looks like chaos here!

Gradually the chaos will begin to be tamed as I hand-stitch the edges of the lining in place.

Perhaps the eventual control of such chaos is what helps to make the construction of these types of jackets so appealing. It is a good thing to remember that the creative process can be messy and tedious and very time-consuming. Sometimes, as in life, you just have to see it through to the other side to be able to appreciate the journey.


Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Chanel-type jackets, couture construction, Slot-seam buttonholes, Uncategorized

24 responses to “Out of the Chaos …

  1. Mery

    Oooh, I like it already. The lining looks great with this fabulous fabric. Your explanation is very helpful and inspiring. Thank you for reminding us of the possibility of using slits (much less distracting than bound buttonholes and much better fray control). While it would be too minimizing to say it’s all downhill from here, at least much of the mountain has been conquered. Just a bit more and the victor who conquers chaos will be wearing this well-deserved jacket. I love that fabric more each time I see it. Well done. Very well done.

    • I have been so busy sewing that I’ve ignored answering your comment – until now! Thank you, Mery! Getting close to the mountain’s summit by now. I always forget how much time is involved in these jackets….

  2. Ah yes – the wooly mammoth stage! Time to tame those seams!

  3. Ooooh, it’s taking shape!! That bouclé is just phenomenal and the lining is marvelous. Together, it is breathtaking, and we haven’t even started on the sewing technique!!! BEAUTIFUL!

  4. Lovely boucle fabric. I hadn’t appreciated the method of attaching lining to fabric etc so am enjoying this post. I look firsts to seeing tiny finished jacket

    • Thank you! It is a rather unusual process involved in these jackets. I was amazed when i made my first one several years ago.

      • Your jacket is beautiful and the finished item will be worth all the effort you have put into it. I tried to comment on your latest post but couldn’t do it despite being signed in hence my additional comment here.

  5. Your fabrics are stunning! The slot buttonholes take some planning in the early stages but will be virtually invisible and much easier than traditional ones. I also pin my lining sections out of the way when sewing the main seams. That keeps things neater and helps prevent accidentally catching the lining in a seam. I’m looking forward to seeing the next stage.

    • I do think the slot buttonholes are a good compromise, when you want your jacket to button rather than close with hooks and eyes. And boucle is such a forgiving fabric, lending itself beautifully to this type of buttonhole. right now, I am STILL stitching!

  6. Chaos indeed! I can see why the sense of accomplishment after taming a beast like this would be immensely gratifying. So looking forward to seeing this gorgeous jacket completed and modeled. The combination of boucle and lining is just beautiful!

  7. Thank you for an interesting post Karen. I really enjoyed the construction of this jacket (much of it hand sewn), and felt it was quite an orderly process. I stuck precisely to the instructions. Not how it usually is for me…. And I too love this fabric which will look gorgeous on you, obviously.

  8. Jaenice Palmer

    Looking good so far–and I have to say it suits your style. Keep at it!

  9. This is quite the process but the rewards in the end will be fabulous. I’m looking forward to seeing it!

  10. Marguerite

    Wow! I love the Chanel jackets. Yours will be a beauty. Thanks for showing all these inner workings. The slot buttonholds are a great idea. I have an old 60s coat pattern with that feature. Can’t wait to see this beauty on you!

    • Thank you, Marguerite! I have a number of vintage patterns with slot buttonholes, and I think they are a really clever feature. They work well with this type of jacket, but I don’t think I have ever seen anyone else use them in this application.

  11. The construction of a French jacket always fascinates me, and I want to try this out. I am still unsure if I would wear this type of jacket though. Can’t wait to see your finished jacket!

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