What more can be said about the process of making a classic French jacket? Well, actually, quite a lot! These jackets look deceptively simple (and elegant) when finished, but their looks belie the hours involved in their construction.
One of their sneaky little secrets is the sewing of the sleeves onto the body of the jacket. The shoulder seam is one of the few areas of the jacket which requires interior reinforcement. The selvedge edge of the lining fabric can be used for this, but I prefer to use a selvedge edge of silk organza.
Once that is in place, the sleeve is ready to be inserted – all by hand! Pinning the sleeve in place accurately is so important, as the grainline of the boucle needs to hang perfectly both vertically and horizontally (and match, too, of course.) The top half of the sleeve is sewn from the outside with small, tight fell stitches. Then the lower half of the sleeve is sewn on the inside with small backstitches, both segments using waxed, double thread. If done correctly, the cap of the sleeve will curve nicely.
Finishing the sleeve insertion is, for me, the last big hurdle to get over before the really fun part starts. That, of course, is the trim. I deliberated quite a bit over the trim for this jacket. I originally thought I would emphasize the blue in the boucle, using pink as a small accent. When I could not find a “demonstrative, stand-alone” trim I liked, I determined to use an underlay of Petersham ribbon, with a coordinating, narrower trim on top.
For those of you who are not familiar with Petersham ribbon, take a look at this cover from Threads Magazine, May 2016.
In the accompanying article by Susan Khalje, one of her suggestions is to use Petersham ribbon to frame a trim.
I used Petersham ribbon on my last French Jacket, and was really delighted with the effect.
The more I looked at the blue, the more I thought it did not give the effect I wanted. I then decided to try Petersham ribbon in a pink hue.
There are actually two pinks in the weave of the boucle, one peachy and one clear pink. Doing the trim this way brings out both hues, which I really like.
Of course, this application of trims means four times around the perimeter of the jacket by hand to apply first the Petersham and then the double row of soutache trim. I never make things easy. Is it any wonder this jacket isn’t finished yet?
19 responses to “More on Making a Classic French Jacket”
Sew pretty. The matching, so well done. In real life I would stare at such details. I am amazed at the trims. You are lucky to be able to wear pink or peach lipsticks. Billboard lips here can carry off only a few shades and your peach is just my shade. This jacket gets better and better.
Thank you, Mery! When I first got this fabric, I did not think I would emphasize the pink in it, but now I am glad I chose to do so!
Your sleeves, they’re so perfect! Can’t wait to see your finished jacket!
Thank you, Marianne! For some reason, these sleeves seemed to go in more easily than I remember from my first two jackets. Maybe I’m getting the knack of it by now!
The sleeves are top notch! All that trim is a little mind boggling, how’s your wrist holding up with all the hand sewing? I do love peach ribbon over the blue, and your buttons really gave me a preview on the value on contrasting buttons for my coat, too! Nothing like a visual aid to help solidify things!
I do like to emphasize contrasting, but coordinating, colors. It makes it more interesting, I think. Yes, all that trim is a little mind-boggling! My previously injured hand is doing okay – sewing with it is easier than gardening with it!
I can relate to that! The last two weeks were very garden heavy and my uninjured hands have been sore! FYI, my local button search came up empty, so I’m making covered ones until I have a chance to visit a real fabric store!
I’m almost speechless–I would be speechless if I saw this up close and personal! I will say it gives me a fresh appreciation for the intricate engineering and construction that goes into one of these babies. The trim is a detail I wouldn’t have thought to pay attention to before–it’s something to keep in mind for future reference, certainly. (Don’t mind me, I’m just swooning over here in the corner.) Yowzah!
Oh, thank you, Jaenice! There are a lot of people in the sewing world making top-notch jackets like this – I am really just one of many!
I would liken it to the emerging undercurrents in contemporary jewelry–there are more and more jewelers abandoning the outward markers of tradition in favor of sculptural or architectural or super-minimal pieces (Hardwear collection from Tiffany, anyone?), but the savvy ones among both jewelers and consumers skip past flash and temporary trends in favor of craftsmanship and artistry. I wouldn’t have thought of Petersham, silk organza, or double rows of trim; likewise it took the more innovative jewelers to make me see, for instance, the value of removing a stone from a prong setting in favor of a bezel, flush, or invisible setting. The same is true of color: Contrasting peach trim against the blue body of the jacket is something fresh and original, and on the flip side, just today I saw a jeweler going tone-on-tone with pink sapphires and tourmalines ditto. And, of course, you have to exercise this muscle (color sense) all the time in order to ensure it doesn’t fall out of use. I trust we’ll see the finished gem–sorry, jacket–sparkling in all its glory!
My big hurdle would be to choose the trim! The fell stitches are really enough in this loose weave to hold the sleeve? Do you also pick up the lining or only the threads from the boucle?
It is a big hurdle to choose the trim, as that what really defines the jacket. Yes, the fell stitches are enough to hold the sleeves securely in place. You do not catch the lining. The lining is finished after the sleeves are set in place. There is a lot of loose lining fabric flying around while setting the sleeves in, which adds to the tedium.
The trim really is the fun part. I love how you’ve decided to use it and two rows of narrow braid do take the curves much smoother than a single wide braid. Awaiting final pics.
That’s right! The narrow trim is an advantage in that respect, and Petersham ribbon is such a dream to use around curves.
I think you are very good at this trims business which while being “fun” as Mary Funt suggests, can go terribly wrong. The reason, I think, is that the bouclés are made up of many colours, and the ones that strike us at a distance are not always the ones that look best close up. So it needs an eye that can discern the best combinations. I am pretty sure I would have gone for the blue, but I find the pinks far more interesting and stylish. Lovely work as ever.
Thank you, Kate. I am really happy that I went with the pink! I am so looking forward to finishing this jacket….
What beautiful work and beautiful fabric. This is just gorgeous.
Amazing work! Love these type of jackets!
Thank you, Diana. There are definitely more of these classic French jackets in my future!