Red and gold evening jacket

For the CIAM patternmaking course that I have been taking over the last year, one of the requirements is to make a fully lined jacket, drafted from your own pattern (of course!) A few weeks ago I finally came up with a sketch of what I wanted to make, having been mulling it over for months. The jacket will be made in a highly patterned satin fabric, with a contrasting binding down the front edge of the opening.
jacket sketch
I drafted the pattern and made the toile. Last class, I took my sewing machine with me so that with my teacher, Bel’s, guidance, we could make adjustments and sort out any of the fitting issues. I was quite pleased with it. It wanted it rather short, which presented some problems with the back darts (what to do when they disappear into the hem at the bottom? Solution: make the jacket just long enough so that they finish on the surface of the garment!) I also wanted it to sit quite firmly at the bottom of the jacket – not much extra ease, so that it sat on me, rather than “floating” nearby.

I took it home with me, determined to have the jacket mostly made by the time of the next class, two weeks later (not tomorrow, but the next Saturday). And then I decided I wasn’t happy with the fit at the waist. Because it is quite fitted at the bottom of the jacket, near my hips, it almost looked straight down the sides, and created a very unpleasing, boxy look. To counteract this, I nipped it in a little further at the waist as there was still quite a lot of ease there. It is now going to be a very fitted jacket, and I’m quite happy with that.

I also tried on some jackets at the shops, and discovered that their sleeves were much narrower than mine at the wrist. Mine was drafted to about 28cm circumference, and theirs seemed to be more like 25. So I decided to slim down the sleeves as well. I had seen photos of a couture jacket that slimmed down from the elbow. Was that going to work, or should I just taper from the top of the underarm? Because I have a toile, I tried both out, and decided in the end that I preferred the version that was tapered from the top of the underarm.

So yesterday, being happy with my toile, and having completed all the other things around the house that needed doing, I finally had to bite the bullet.

BUT, then there was the issue of the fabric. You see, my fabric is completely and utterly beautiful, and I don’t want to wreck it! It is also highly patterned and as I bought it over a year ago, in another city entirely, there’s no chance to get any more if I get it wrong. I did deliberately buy way too much at the time. It is 90cm wide, which is narrow, so I bought 4m because of that, and also for the pattern matching.
So, with all that pattern, can you see why I might be daunted?!dominant-motifs-fabric

Bel gave me some excellent tips on working with patterned fabric. Start by deciding on your centre line, and place the centre front, and centre back along those lines. Fortunately the pattern has very definite vertical lines in the pattern (axes of symmetry) which is helpful. But then the question was, should I put the dominant motif centrally (top), meaning that the next repeat sideways would be under the arms, or the non-dominant motif centrally (bottom), so you see more of the dominant motif on the torso?

I asked my friends on Facebook. They were most helpful! The general concensus was the bottom option, though there were a few who suggested the top option. I really could go either way, but I decided to go with the bottom option in the end.

Once the centre line had been decided, then I needed to also match up other important points, like making sure the pattern aligned along the hem line, and across from the torso to the sleeves. It’s the torso to the sleeves one that I really think is going to be my downfall! On my toile, I pinned a line horizontally across the bodice front, and then continued the line onto the sleeve. I drew these lines onto my pattern pieces. Hopefully they’re right! I’ll cut the sleeves with extra fabric around them so that if I have to move the pattern up or down, I can.

Bel got me to draft the pattern with no seam allowance. I positioned the first pattern piece – a front bodice – onto the single layer fabric, and because there is no seam allowance, I can see exactly where the motifs fall at the edge of the patterns. There was a bit of screaming and head scratching while I tried to square up the fabric (pulled thread, long ruler and a large set square!), and successfully line up everything with various lines on the pattern. Eventually I decided I’d managed it.

I very carefully pinned the pattern piece on the fabric, and then with an old thread that breaks really easily, I loosely tacked at the very edge of the pattern, right on the seam line. The fact that the thread breaks very easily will mean that it is easier to remove it later. Where there was an important point or line on the pattern, such as the waist, I tacked a stitch out to the side as a marker. The darts are marked with the same sort of tacking also.

I’ve never done this method of pattern transfer before, and it is very time consuming, however it will be extremely accurate when I come to sew everything together as I’ll just be matching tacked seam lines. By the end of yesterday, I’d managed to tack one sleeve, one front, the back, and one front facing.

Today I will do the matching sleeve, other front, other side facing, and back neck facing. And of course I will make them match their counterparts if they have one! I might start sewing together at this point, or I might then cut my linings. I won’t be able to get very far without the linings, so probably I should get them done sooner rather than later!

Now, I am still wondering about the fastenings for this jacket. You’ll see on my original sketch that I drew buttons. I am not convinced about using buttons, but if I do, I would use fabric covered buttons, to match the pattern of the fabric where they will sit. (Nothing about this jacket is going to be easy. The Reader has referred to it already as The Jacket That Nearly Killed Me.)

However, I have also toyed with the idea of rouleau loops out from the edge of the contrast binding, to small rounded, self-covered buttons – the sort of effect that is sometimes used on the back of wedding gowns. I wouldn’t have as many as that though, more like 5 or 6.

And then a friend also suggested a completely concealed idea – using snaps, but not the horrible plastic clear ones! She said that snaps are very IN at the moment, and are available in myriad colours and shapes. She referred me to Vogue pattern 8932 as an example of a pattern that uses them. Hmm… I’m not sure this fad has reached Australia (she’s British), so I might have to do some internet searching. My concern with snaps is that they might pop open rather easily, especially when I sit or bend, as this is going to be a very fitted jacket.

What do you think about fastenings? I’m very open to ideas!

Whatever option I use, I want to be able to sometimes wear the top of the jacket open, sitting as wide lapels. Because of that, I need to make sure that the fastenings won’t look too awful like that. If I can’t think of any way where that will successfully work, I can resign myself to the fact that I will always wear the jacket completely closed.

I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing more about this jacket in the next little while, as it is definitely going to dominate my life, though hopefully not for too long!

11 comments to Red and gold evening jacket

  • Melanie

    IMHO, If you use buttons I wouldn’t cover them with fabric, but buy or make silk thread/silk cord covered buttons–the matte shine of silk cord fits with the fabric and echoes the decor origins of the fabric. Plus you could choose the design and it wouldn’t have to be round. Also small latching metal buckles would be cool.

    I like your strong, clean lap design and because of that I would also be tempted to use snaps to keep everything clean and neat. The only thing I don’t like about snaps is they generally don’t hold the 2 fabric planes of the closure as close together as other options. With this jacket I think snaps will cause the top of the curved lap to stand out a bit from the bodice and won’t lay/mold against your body-it will look like a wing-but stiff wings at the neck and upper bodice are very popular now, several new Vogue patterns have them, so that might be just what you want.

    Buttons and loops by design move the eye off-center; since your strongest design line is already quite a bit off-center I think adding further off-center buttons will move the eye too far to the left on the bodice. Plus, button & loop closures only look good when all the loops are exactly the same, (not easy, especially with 5 spread out). Uniformity is easier on the (much flatter) center back or on a design with more ease, especially when many are set very close together to evenly distribute stress. But, the fitted nature of this jacket, the curved edge and the placement of the closure over the bust curve means the direction of stress on each button & loop will be different than that of its neighbor and they won’t all look the same, and this will argue with the clean, graphic and dramatic diagonal line.

    A design idea: I’ve seen buttonholes placed in orientations other than vertical or horizontal, and even designed with a curved slot, with dramatic results. Given your diagonal design line it would be daring to set your buttonholes at about 30-35 degrees (say about 1:00-1:30 on a clock). The visual result would be arrows flowing up the curve of the front lap. In this case the angled buttonhole slots quote the edge of the lap, reinforcing the design rather than detracting from it, as dissimilar button & loops might.

    Another thing I like about buttonholes on unusual axes is that the direction of the slot can be pointed in the direction of wearing stress, whereas vertical slots, for example, can sometimes pull or gape open a bit with a fitted design.

    playin’ hooky

  • yvette

    So much to think about there, Melanie! Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments and ideas. I do agree with you about the “gap” between the two surfaces that I might get with snap fasteners. What do you mean by “small latching metal buckles”? If I was to do buttonholes, I think that their angle would be really important. But I’ll have to think carefully about what angle!

    Something else I have wondered about is a rouleau loop and button at the top of the lap, and then concealed snaps for the rest of it (still concerned about them popping open lower down where there is less ease!). And as with the suggestion I have just received from Michelle by email, a frog fastener could work there too.

    And of course, I could just sew myself into it each time I want to wear it. ;-) Or sew it mostly closed and have an underarm zip! LOL!

  • yvette

    I’ve received a few suggestions via email, which I will add here anonymously, as they add to the collective thinking.

    “Have you thought about frog fasteners – you see them on a lot of Chinese jackets but you can get them in all different designs and I’ve always loved them and there are so many different styles and sizes available. However if you don’t like them I’d go the rouleau loop and button option.”

    “The jacket design is lovely and the fabric so very beautiful. It certainly is scary, though I’m surprised that such a skilled needlewoman as yourself finds it so, to use such special fabric and with a self-designed pattern. However we both know that you are skilled enough to make a most stunning garment of it, so I and all your other readers look forward to seeing the finished jacket.

    Personally I always have trouble with rouleau loops as the garment seems to pull apart further than I intended (I’m fairly large-busted) and a tighter loop means greater difficulty in fastening and especially in unfastening. That may just be an indication of my ineptitude though. Have you considered small and delicate frog fastenings? They would suit the style of the fabric if you can get them to match the deep red in the fabric. If you could insert the end of the frog fastenings between the facing and jacket material then it wouldn’t be a problem wearing the jacket open. Or even gold-coloured metal loop and hook fastenings; they could look stunning. I had a slightly similar jacket in the 80s made from a Vogue pattern and it fastened at the neckline with one large and special button. Something like that may work using snaps or hooks and worked bars for the fastenings which would stay closed.”

    My response:
    In a comment [above] I have suggested the idea of one large fastening at the top and something concealed lower down. Great minds think alike! I understand what you say about the rouleau loops pulling apart – that is a good point. It would probably be fine up the top of this garment, but really noticeable lower down where there is less ease. Thanks.

    Small and delicate frog fastenings – I have thought about frogs, but I wonder if they would be too much.

    I’ve never made anything so difficult before! All that patterning is really scary. I know it could look fabulous when finished, but my standards are so high that if it is not *right*, I’ll know, and that will disappoint me. So I want to do it right!

    Thanks so much for your helpful ideas. Much appreciated.

  • Anne

    Yvette, what you called ‘tacking’ along the seam line is actually called thread tracing – I recommend getting Claire Shaeffer’s DVD on Couture Sewing – my library system has it (I live in Melbourne). It has a lot of basic hand sewing techniques, which as an embroiderer I think you’d really like. Her books are wonderful, but I recommend borrowing the DVD, as I’m not sure you would watch it more than once or twice. I can’t wait until I can afford her new book, which describes how to make chanel-type jackets.

    Anyway, the DVD is called:

    Couture techniques workshop [DVD] : basics / with Claire Shaeffer

    Good luck!

  • yvette

    Thanks Anne. I went to my local library yesterday and did a keyword search for couture sewing – I was looking particularly for Claire’s book. :-) Nothing came up, so obviously my local library doesn’t have it. But there’s no reason I couldn’t do an interlibrary loan. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • yvette

    Just had another thought. If I’m worried about snaps popping open in the waist sort of area, a waist stay might help. Hmmm…

  • Bel

    You could always ask some one you know who might have a selection of dress-making books (some with DVDs) if you could borrow CLaire Schaeffer’s book!

    Good work with the cutting!

  • yvette

    Oh really? That’s a good idea, Bel. Could I borrow it, please? :-)

  • I like the idea of small metal fasteners, because they have sufficient strength – visually – to stand up to the fabric – which is gorgeous, by the way!

    Other than that, I would go with Melanie’s suggestion of making buttons yourself using silk thread. There are any number of techniques that could be used, and I’m sure someone will have written a book about them!

  • Louise

    What about some small hooks?

  • yvette

    Part of the reason for not wanting to use hooks or snaps is because they will mean the two surfaces of fabric will not sit right against one another. Considered previously and dismissed. :-)

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