What was I thinking?
I was thinking – this will be cool and fun! A better question is — why did I think that??
I bought the Claire Schaffer Vogue 8804 Chanel inspired jacket pattern awhile ago. Not because I planned to make it, but because I wanted to see the techniques she used. I knew Claire was fond of hand sewing. I knew her instructions included a lot of hand sewing and many hours of work. I planned to read her instructions, study the methods just for the sake of learning, and maybe adapt an idea or two, for other projects and for use on a sewing machine.
The pattern arrived. I read the instructions. I searched my Threads magazine archive for any articles related to Chanel inspired jackets. Turning to the internet, I found some V8804 sew-alongs, and read some blogs. And then I put it all to one side, in favor of easier projects.
I bought some boucle, planning to make a jacket, I but I had no specific pattern in mind. I used the boucle for a dress.
Next, I found some black and white tweed. It sort-of resembled a Chanel jacket I spotted on Ebay. And it was inexpensive. I bought the tweed, then tackled a tough decision. Which pattern to use, and if I chose V8804, just how much hand work did I want to do? Well, part of the answer was super easy. I wanted to do as little hand work as possible!
I almost chose a different pattern. In the end, I took up the V8804 challenge, except I planned to do as much as possible by machine.
Boucle, tweed and suitings tends to unravel when cut. I’ve had projects go badly awry when cut pieces simply unraveled into a tangle of loose threads as I sewed. This tweed didn’t seem too bad. But, the instructions call for quilting the pieces to the lining, and that means extra handling and more chances of unraveling. I used tape to keep the edges of the tweed under control, and finished raw edges with the serger.
My goal is always to use my stash, so that’s where I turned for lining. I settled on a polyester charmeuse from Fabric Mart. The tissue thin, slippery fabric made a difficult job even harder. Worse still, this particular fabric shrivels quickly under heat. I will have to wash this jacket in cool water and let it dry flat, not in the dryer.
I had to choose trim and buttons. I couldn’t find very many choices in black and white trim, so it wasn’t hard to settle on the 1/2″ black and white gimp. The buttons were a tougher choice. My three finalists were brushed nickel, beaded plastic, and glass basketweave. I chose the beaded buttons, the center button in the photo.
Two unique features about this jacket are a three piece sleeve and a separate side insert. The front and back pieces do not touch at the side, instead they are connected with an insert. The cool thing is this insert makes the jacket 3D!
Think about pillows. A knife-edge pillowcase is made by sewing a front to a back – just like any ordinary bodice or jacket. A box pillowcase has a separate piece inserted between the front and back. When the pillow stuffing is removed, a knife edge pillowcase lays flat. The box pillowcase will be limp, but still retain it’s depth and dimensional shape.
Adding the clever side insert to the jacket gives the shape depth, it goes from flat to formed. This is fantastic, because the human body is (normally!!) not flat, but 3D with depth.
I didn’t make up a full mock up. Instead, I pinned pattern pieces together and made my adjustments. I knew this jacket would be a lot of work, making a full mock up adds even more work. I suppose if I had used an expensive wool and a silk lining, the time and effort of constructing a full mock up would be worth it. But for inexpensive polyester tweed and lining I felt a pin fit with the pattern was enough.
Sewing the shell pieces together, was easy, even with the extra step of serge finishing the edges. Quilting the shell to the lining was easy, too. I traced the quilting lines from the pattern onto the jacket shell with chalk. I sewed them on the machine with a 3mm stitch and ordinary black thread.
Sewing the lining front and back to the lining side piece was the first tricky step. The instructions are to do it by hand. I wanted to use the machine. I think I may have invented my own seam finish. I folded the raw lining edges together, pinched up an edge, and sewed the lining along the edge. It looks sort of like the inside of a French seam, a little folded pocket and stitches.
The next steps were hard. It felt like I was doing everything in an unnecessarily difficult way. The raw edge all around the jacket – along the front, hem and neck, was turned under. A layer of petersham – NOT grosgrain – ribbon went down all along those same edges. The gimp went on top of the ribbon. Finally, the edge of the lining was turned under and stitched.
Petersham vs Grosgrain
: They look almost alike. But if you look very closely at the edge, you’ll see a difference. Grosgrain
has a a stiff thread along each edge. Petersham has loops. The loops give petersham flexibility. A strip of petersham ribbon can easily be shaped to follow a curve or even make a circle and still lay flat. Grosgrain can’t go around curves without puckering or buckling up. Grosgrain is readily available in craft and sewing supply stores in a wide range of sizes and colors, even prints. Petersham is harder to find and comes in mostly black and white. Petersham is what you want for this. If you can not get petersham, I’d choose a narrow bias tape over grosgrain.
Now here’s where things started to go really, really wrong. The instructions have you installing the buttonholes very early on. There’s one buttonhole in the shell and a separate buttonhole in the lining. I used black top stitch thread in my machine to make the buttonholes. I also shortened the stitch length a very tiny bit.
I could not understand the instructions for making the faux bound buttonholes in the lining. Just. Could. Not. I gave up and made Spanish Snap type buttonholes. These are basically a small piece of bias sewn to the fabric in a tiny pointed oval. The center of the oval is snipped, the bias bit is pushed through the hole to the back, and held in place with topstitching around the opening.
Anyway, I finally reached this step. The shell and lining were complete except
for the chain weight, sleeves and buttons. Then I made a very bad decision, that I will blame on a bottle of very good cabernet blanc. I decided to open the buttonholes. And I screwed them up!!!
In frustration I turned to the unique three piece sleeve, and once again I was impressed. Instead of two pieces of fabric forced into a tube shape, the three piece sleeve actually forms a real tube. I made the sleeves the same way I made the jacket, by assembling the shell by machine and finishing edges with the serger, quilting the shell to the lining with the machine following chalk marks, and finally folding, tucking, and sewing the lining together.
I made machine buttonholes in the vent. I sewed the hem for the shell, applied petersham, then gimp, and finally tucked under the lining and sewed it in place.
The pattern uses a traditional tailoring method to insert the sleeves, that is, shaping the sleeve cap with steam. I’m sure this works great with wool. But, my shell is polyester, and the lining is heat-sensitive polyester. Nothing is getting steamed here. I used a gathering stitch to ease the sleeve cap into the armhole.
Almost done! All I had to add was the chain. Oh, yeah, and I had to fix my messed up buttonholes.
I know from decades of sewing belly dance costumes that it’s difficult to sew chain onto fabric. Sometimes the metal is so rough it quickly wears the thread away. Other times, the slender thread manages to find the opening in each link and slip out, to prevent this, you must take at least two stitches per link. It isn’t always necessary to sew every link, but, you can’t skip too many links, either. And the only way to do it on a machine is free motion, and that requires a lot of practice. My solution was to stitch a bias tube to the lining and thread the chain through the tube. Of course the chain is not visible, and half the reason for putting the chain there is so you can see it. But, I was tired of working on this long, long project. The bias tube was
quick and simple. Once the chain was through the tube, I secured the chain and tube together with a few hand stitches at each end.
The chain is supposed to provide weight and help the jacket keep it’s shape. I have to say I really don’t see a difference in the jacket with or without the chain. But, perhaps over time, the chain will help in some way.
Now it’s time to fix my buttonhole mistake. Because both lining and shell were ripped up, I was able to access the back of the shell through the torn lining. I sewed small bias shaped patches around each buttonhole. I applied a patch on the inside of the jacket, covering the ripped up lining. I remade each buttonhole with the machine, this time both layers, shell and lining, are sewn together in a single buttonhole.
The last step was sewing on the beaded shank buttons. The buttons and securing the chain were the only steps I did by hand.
This jacket pattern is a lot of work!! If you want a couture quality jacket, you’re using high quality materials, you don’t mind hand sewing and relish the idea of tackling an ambitious project, this pattern is for you. If you want a great jacket, with maybe less expensive materials, and you relish the idea of tackling an ambitious project, this pattern might be for you, if you replace some of the hand stitching with machine work. If you want a quick, afternoon project, choose a different pattern!
I probably will never make this pattern according to the couture instructions. Hand sewing just isn’t for me. I love the side inserts and three piece sleeves. I like the effect of quilting the lining to the shell. So far the chain seems useless. I think if I can streamline the process of finishing and trimming the neck, center front and hem I might experiment with this pattern again. I most likely will borrow the three piece sleeve for other projects. I plan to use the quilted lining technique on my next boucle project.