Tag Archives: Boucle

No. 2 ~ The Beginning

I may – or may not – find Chanel No. 5 Paris Parfum in my Christmas stocking, but Chanel-inspired, Classic French Jacket No. 2 can currently, definitely, be found in my sewing room.  Well, actually, it’s not a jacket yet.  It is just lengths of fabric and loose trims and buttons, but that is how these things begin, as every home dressmaker knows.

I actually started planning this jacket long before I took the Classic French Jacket Class with Susan Khalje this past summer.  In September of 2012 when I was at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, I found this boucle and purchased it – even then – as my intended Jacket No. 2.

This fabric is very soft, perhaps due to a certain percentage of mohair wool in its composition.

This fabric is very soft, perhaps due to a certain percentage of mohair wool in its composition.

My first jacket is definitely very dressy, so I wanted this one to be less so, which meant I had to find just the right lining, trim, and buttons.  It took another, recent, trip to San Francisco to produce those ingredients – and I couldn’t be more pleased with what I found again at Britex.

A bolt of this light-weight silk twill was tucked under one of the front tables, and it was love at first sight.  I was hoping to find something with navy blue in it, and the geometric pattern in this fabric makes it bold and less dressy than a floral silk charmeuse would be.

No. 2 jacket

The ruler will help you get a feel for the size of the squares.  Click on the photo for a close-up view.

The ruler will help you get a feel for the size of the squares. Click on the photo for a close-up view.

Immediately, however, I knew that I had to purchase enough for a blouse as well, which I did.  I suspect I’ll be using this pattern from 1957 for a blouse with a bow, which should evoke the correct Coco Chanel look. (A muslin should tell me if I need to tame the bow.  I don’t want it to be overwhelming…)

View B with long sleeves has my vote.

View B with long sleeves has my vote. 

With fabrics in tow, I then headed up to the Buttons and Trims Department on the 3rd floor.  An initial look at the red trims flummoxed me, as none of them seemed right.  Then one of the wonderful assistants in the Department came to my rescue and found these two trims.

No. 2 Jacket

Shown with the lining/blouse fabric...

Shown with the lining/blouse fabric . . .

... and again.

. . . and again. 

Back and forth I went between them, unable to make a decision.  It was then that I went to my fail-safe method of choosing between two equally wonderful trims:  I bought both of them! ( It certainly helped that neither was terribly expensive – and both very versatile.)

Now that I have them home, I am leaning toward one of them – can you guess which one?  Does it help to see the buttons, too?  Once again, the experienced button assistant quickly found these – and there was no question in my mind that they were just what I wanted for this jacket.

These are shank buttons, with gold decoration reminiscent of Chanel "C"s.

These are shank buttons, with gold decoration slightly reminiscent of intertwined Chanel “C”s.

And here with the other trim.

And here with the other trim. 

Well, as in so much in life, timing is everything – or it sometimes seems that way.  My timing could be better to be starting such a lengthy project.  It is, after all, one month until Christmas.  I have those proverbial stockings to fill and much to do, but I’ll just bet I can squeeze in some sewing time before my sewing room transforms into Santa’s workshop.

15 Comments

Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Boucle for French style jackets, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, Coco Chanel, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

Paris in Baltimore – and Beyond: A Small Fashion Show

Shortly after I returned home from my Classic French Jacket Class with Susan Khalje, an article entitled “The Comeback of Haute Couture” appeared in The Wall Street Journal.  The reporter, fashion editor Christine Binkley, gives an overview – from the haute couture week in Paris, of course – of the frenzied and renewed interest in “astronomically expensive made-to-measure clothing [ranging] from $10,000 to $150,000 or more.”  Among the fashion houses showing haute couture collections was Chanel.  To quote:  “Chanel . . . looked as though the clothes could be easily worn, even if they were assembled, pleated, and embellished by dozens of ‘petite mains,’ as haute couture seamstresses are called. ‘Of course it’s comfortable.  It’s Chanel,’ said designer Karl Lagerfeld . . .”

“Comfortable” is a description frequently used by those of us making our own Chanel-inspired jackets.  Of course, everyone knows that the inspiration for Coco Chanel’s original cardigan jacket came when she cut her lover’s cardigan sweater down the front, added some ribbon trim and created a classic.  How the construction of the jacket went from sweater to quilted, silk-lined boucle is unknown to me, but one thing is for sure:  these jackets feel as cozy and comfy as any old favorite sweater.  I think this was a revelation and lovely surprise to all of us.  It makes wearing them all the more rewarding.

And – wear them we are starting to do!  Some of my classmates have kindly given me permission to show their finished jackets here on Fifty Dresses.  I am delighted to share these lovely examples made by “petite mains” Joanne, Holly, Myra, and Sherry:

Joanne’s classic black jacket is elegant and so versatile.  Her lovely floral lining fabric does not show, but trust me that is stunning.

A simply lovely jacket!

A simply lovely jacket!

Holly’s jacket has sparkle to it, just like her!

Look at the beautiful lining that Holly chose.

Look at the beautiful lining that Holly chose.

Isn't this color perfect for Holly?

Isn’t this color perfect for Holly?

The buttons which Holly chose are perfect!

The buttons which Holly chose are perfect!

With a few scraps left over from her lining, Holly made a color-blocked shell to wear with her jacket!

With a few scraps left over from her lining, Holly made a color-blocked shell to wear with her jacket.

Myra’s horizontally and unevenly striped boucle caused some minor headaches during the pattern placement, but look how beautifully it turned out.

Looking lovely even in the hot sun!

Looking lovely even in the hot sun!

Myra's jacket - 2

Myra's whimsical lining fabric features images of Audrey Hepburn.  She brought this fabric with her to Baltimore and chose her boucle accordingly.

Myra’s whimsical lining fabric features images of Audrey Hepburn. She brought this fabric with her to Baltimore and chose her boucle accordingly.

Sherry chose a creamy white, loosely woven “windowpane” boucle for her jacket, and the result is pure loveliness.

Isn't this beautiful??

Isn’t this beautiful??

Sherry very cleverly made her pockets on the bias.  The petite buttons are just right for the weave of the fabric.

Sherry very cleverly made her pockets on the bias. The petite buttons are just right for the weave of the fabric.

Look how well Sherry's jacket fits.

Look how well Sherry’s jacket fits. 

One of the many fun aspects of the class was the color variety of jackets being sewn.  While there were other deep shades (raspberry pink, royal blue, true purple) I was the only one making a red jacket.

For starters, here is my jacket hanging.

For starters, here is my jacket hanging.

A few details.

A few details.

A view of the lining.

A view of the lining.

Shown with basic black.

Shown with basic black.

I can't believe it's finished!

I can’t believe it’s finished!

I added a gradual 1/4" to the back length, which gives it a more graceful line, I think.  This was one of Susan's many excellent suggestions.

I added a gradual 1/4″ to the back length, which gives it a more graceful line, I think. This was one of Susan’s many excellent suggestions.

Red Chanel jacket

There is nothing shy about this lining fabric!

There is nothing shy about this lining fabric!

During the lengthy process of making my jacket, I have had lots of time to reflect on some of its charms:

1) Boucle is wonderful for hand-sewing, as one’s stitches simply disappear into the fabric.

2) This is “common sense” sewing: every step (of which there are many) adds in subtle or significant ways to its wear-ability, appearance, or fit.

3) Finishing a project like this is empowering.  I felt like I grew as a “dressmaker” during this process.  And beware . . .

4) Finishing a project like this is addictive.  Yes, I already have a boucle for my next one . .

However, before I start my next one, I have one thing to (start and) finish:   That charmeuse I used for the lining?  I purchased enough to make a sleeveless sheath dress to wear with my jacket.

What was I thinking??

28 Comments

Filed under Chanel-type jackets, Coco Chanel, couture construction, sewing in silk, Uncategorized

Paris in Baltimore – Part 1

It might be stretching a point to compare our Classic French Jacket Class, taken with Susan Khalje at her workspace just outside Baltimore, Maryland (USA), to spending time in Paris, France.  However, I could not help but feel that the twelve of us in the class were a small part of a continuum of dressmakers dedicated to haute couture, even if we were all sewing for ourselves!  Certainly the outstanding instruction we received and the techniques we learned are consistent with the standards associated with such fine custom sewing  – and with timeless, classic fashion.

A classic French jacket (or Chanel-inspired jacket) has certain characteristics and sewing techniques which are specific to it. Among these are:

1) These jackets are usually cardigan style, with the front edges abutting rather than over-lapping.

2) The fabrics of choice for these jackets are boucles or sometimes loosely woven tweeds.

3) The lining is machine quilted to the fashion fabric, but does not show because of the nature of the fabrics which are traditionally used.

4) The interior structure and integrity of the garment depends on this quilting and on extra-generous seam allowances (common in haute couture).  The only interior interfacing is a small section at the shoulder, front and back, extending down just to the lower armscye.

5) Shaping of the garment is accomplished by vertical princess seams which form the fullness for the bust line.  Darts are rarely used, but sometimes necessary (as several of my classmates discovered).

Here is Vogue 7975, which is the "go to" pattern for one of these jackets.  (However, as Susan says, the pattern is just a starting point.)  The vertical princess seams can be seen on these drawings.

Here is Vogue 7975, which is the “go to” pattern for one of these jackets. (However, as Susan says, the pattern is just a starting point.) The vertical princess seams can be seen on these drawings.

6) Hand sewing is used extensively in the construction and finish work on these jackets.

Our instruction began the day after our whirlwind trip to NYC to buy our boucle, charmeuse lining, trim and buttons.  Looking back on the week, it seems to me that the process can be divided into specific sections:  (1) preparing and fitting the muslin, and cutting out the fashion fabric and lining, (2) quilting and assembling the body of the jacket, (3) fitting, cutting out, and sewing the sleeves, and (4) all that finish work.  Although none of the techniques is difficult, it is all very time-consuming, and it can not be rushed.

To start the process, we all came to class with pre-prepared thread-traced muslins.  (I believe we were all using the standard Vogue 7975 pattern, details of which are shown above.)  The fitting process began with the body of the jacket, minus the sleeves.  (I quickly lost count of how many jokes were made during the week about our “vests”.  But on about Friday, the thought of making vests instead of jackets was beginning to appeal!)  Susan meticulously and expertly fitted each of our muslins, which was fascinating to watch.  When it came to deciding preferred hem lengths, we usually had a group consensus – collective thought for something like this is incredibly helpful!

Susan making adjustments in Diane's muslin.

Susan making adjustments in classmate  Diane’s muslin.

After marking and adding all the fitting changes onto our muslins, part of the uniqueness of the construction of these jackets became apparent.  Why?  Susan instructed us to cut out our muslins on the sewing line – and these pieces became our new pattern.  The extra-generous seam allowances would be added as the pieces were cut out.

Here are some of my trimmed muslin pieces.

Here are some of my trimmed muslin pieces.

Some of my muslin pattern pieces laid out on my boucle.  Notice the wide spaces between the pieces.  This allowed for very generous seam allowances.

Some of my muslin pattern pieces laid out on my boucle. Notice the wide spaces between the pieces. This allowed for very generous seam allowances.

A close-up of the same.

A close-up of the same.

Then we used our cut fashion fabric pieces as the guidelines by which to cut out the charmeuse lining fabric.  With these two fabrics held carefully together with pins, we were ready to machine quilt each separate piece, another technique (with lots of do’s and don’ts to it) which was new to most of us.

Getting ready to cut my lining.

Getting ready to cut my lining.

Sewing the pieces of the body of the jacket together had its own set of rules, especially as the loose edges of the quilted linings had to be avoided in that stitching frenzy!  Those loose edges were finally tidied up and joined together by hand, using  a fell stitch, which helps to make a lovely and soft interior.

Here is a side seam in my jacket, partially closed using the fell stitch.  Machine quilting can be seen on either side of this  seam.

Here is a side seam in my jacket, partially closed using the fell stitch. Machine quilting can be seen on either side of this seam.

By this time, it was late Thursday afternoon, and I was wondering how I would ever get sleeves put in my jacket by Sunday…  This was s-l-o-w sewing, but fascinating and fun and clever and precise.  I was loving every minute of it  (well, almost every minute.)

And those sleeves?  Part 2 will cover those little lovelies.  To be continued . . .

17 Comments

Filed under Chanel-type jackets, couture construction, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns

Shopping for Fabric

Are there any more magical words for those of us who sew?  And what if that shopping trip is to New York City to visit Mendel Goldberg Fabrics?  For those of you unfamiliar with this exceptional purveyor of the finest fabrics, this short statement in their recent (and first) ad in Threads Magazine will help to acquaint you:  “This family-owned business carries European designer fabrics, from French lace to brocades, boucles, Italian silk prints and novelties.  You’ll be amazed by their selection of imported couture fabrics.”

The distinctive sign for Mendel Goldberg Fabrics on Hector Street in NYC.

The distinctive sign for Mendel Goldberg Fabrics on Hester Street in NYC.

Well, amazed we were – all 11 of us who visited Mendel Goldberg Monday a week ago (June 24) on the first day of our class with Susan Khalje – The Classic French Jacket.  We were also just a little bit giddy (no, we were actually unabashedly giddy) as we viewed the treasures before us.  However, I am getting ahead of myself . . .

Arriving at the store after our 4-hour drive from Baltimore, we were enthusiastically and graciously met by Alice, the proprietress whose great-grandfather started the business in 1890.  Her daughter Josie works with her, and they are assisted by long-time employee Louis.  Also there to help us was Pierre, a young Frenchman who was interning with the business for two months.

Alice is on the right, in a pose seen often - cutting fabric.

Alice is on the right, in a pose often seen – cutting fabric.

Josie and Louis

Josie and Louis

Pierre shown here in front of all those luscious fabrics.

Pierre shown here in front of all those luscious fabrics.

Our mission was to find and purchase our fabrics for the week-long class.  Thus – each of us needed to decide on a boucle for the jacket, and a silk charmeuse (the preferred fabric) for our lining.  The quantity of boucle fabric which Mendel Goldberg carries makes one’s decision fraught with “how can I ever narrow this down to just one?”  Well, of course, being the intrepid shoppers that we were, many of us actually could not narrow down our choice to just one.  Is it any surprise that many more than just 11 lengths each of boucle and charmeuse yardage were cut that day?

Bolts and bolts of boucles and other fabrics.

Bolts and bolts of boucles and other fabrics.

Just a small sampling of the boucles from which to choose.

Just a small sampling of the boucles from which to choose.

More fabric under the cutting tables.

More fabric under the cutting tables.

And more bolts in the basement, which we were privileged to visit.

And more bolts in the basement, which we were privileged to visit.

A lovely houndstooth, tucked away in the basement.

A lovely houndstooth, tucked away in the basement.

Deciding on the lining fabric was as much fun as the boucle, and the exquisite designs, unique prints, and lustrous quality of Alice’s charmeuses are something to behold.  Truly, the selection is a testament to Alice’s good taste and her diligence in finding the best that is available in France, Italy and Switzerland, and shipping them home to her store in the States.

So many charmeuses from which to choose.

So many charmeuses from which to choose.

Susan helping with the "match-up".

Susan helping with the “match-up”.

Alice bent over more fabric.

Alice bent over more fabric.

Susan  with a beautiful charmeuse.

Susan with a beautiful charmeuse.

Classmate Diane's final selection of boucle and charmeuse.

Classmate Diane’s final selection of boucle and charmeuse.

Alice cutting the charmeuse I selected for my lining to be paired with a bright red boucle.

Alice cutting the charmeuse I selected for my lining.

Alice's father who still comes in to help.

Alice’s father who still comes in to help.

As we left Mendel Goldberg after two quick hours of shopping, I took a moment to view the beautiful display of fabrics in their front window.

Despite the glare, the fabrics still captivate!

Despite the glare, the fabrics still captivate!

More fabric on display in the window.

More fabric on display in the window.

Then we gathered on the street next to our van.  Our bounty of bags spoke to the remarkable, memorable experience of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics.

Just a few of the bags that went home with us!

Just a few of the bags that went home with us!

Now that we all had in our possession the two building blocks for our jackets (the fashion fabric and the lining), it was time to look for the embellishments, namely the trim and the buttons.  So off we went to M & J Trimming uptown in the Garment District.   Walking into M & J was a little bit like walking into a penny candy store, only better (no calories and more selection)!  There were trims and people and sales staff everywhere, and it seemed like everyone was on their own important mission.  We certainly were!  With our boucle and our complementary silk charmeuse in hand, we each first needed to find the perfect trim to set off our jackets.  Although numbering in the thousands, the trims were arranged by color and quite logically, so that once we understood the system, we were each able to pick and choose several “possibilities”.  Susan was there to help us make final decisions – and miraculously, we could start to see a glimpse of the final look of each of our own unique jackets.

Red and black trims, waiting for my perusal.

Red and black trims, waiting for my perusal.

A view inside the store.

A view inside the store.

Classmates Sherry  and Carol being assisted by Susan.

Classmates Sherry and Carol being assisted by Susan.

The only thing left to do was pick out buttons.

The entrance to the Button section of  M & J Trims.

The entrance to the Button section of
M & J Trimming.

As an enthusiastic fan of unique and beautiful buttons, I was smitten.  The button displays went from floor to ceiling, arranged by color and type, again very logically.

Buttons and more buttons.

Buttons and more buttons.

As sewers, each of us is accustomed to choosing buttons appropriate to our garment. So – what fun it was to place different ones next to our fabrics and trims so they could audition for the final starring part.  With Susan’s guidance, wonderful suggestions, and knowledgeable nod of approval, we all left the store with little bags filled with  great and varied treasures.

Shopping for Fabric - M & J bag

So which of those treasures did I find for my classic French jacket?  I went with the hope of finding a lovely red boucle, which I did.  Paired with that remarkably designed charmeuse shown above, the red seemed to me to be set off most beautifully with black trim and black and gold buttons.

My trim and buttons - click on the photo to see them close-up.

My trim and buttons – click on the photo to see them close-up.

Boucle - charmeuse - trim - buttons.

Boucle – charmeuse – trim – buttons.  All set to begin my jacket . . .

20 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, Uncategorized