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Sew! Let’s Get Dressed – Cutting Out French Jackets

Welcome back to a post about our Tabula Rasa French Jacket experiment.  We find ourselves at the scariest part of any fine sewing project, cutting apart your precious fabric.  In the design stage everything seems so perfect; you have sketched your ideas and gathered materials, constructed and fit the mock-up, and now you must cut.

photo cutting FJ 1
Placing the jacket pieces for cutting.

Armed with the deconstructed and trimmed mock-up pieces, the layout begins.  As suiting fabrics go, bouclé is weighty and soft.  It should lay on the cutting surface at all times, like any drapey fabric, to keep the grain from shifting.  My yardage is long enough that after laying it flat, I still have to fold up the extra at the end of the table.  My bouclé does not have a defined plaid, but there is a strong enough pattern in the weft that I am placing as many pattern pieces as possible side-by-side on the fabric.  The hem lines are all aligned with a particularly strong pink and yellow thread.  Once I cut the first group, I can use the cut pieces to help place adjoining sections correctly along a similar strong thread.

Placing the Center Front and Side Front using the already cut side piece.
Placing the Center Front and Side Front using the already cut side piece.

I am fortunate that I purchased plenty of fabric.  Carrie’s piece of bouclé was just barely long enough.  When you are calculating how much French jacket fabric to buy, don’t forget to factor in the plaid or other matching issues.  Also remember that you will cut 1½ – 2” seam allowances around each of the many pattern pieces.   Once you start working with the bouclé, it will become apparent that the wide seam allowances are an insurance policy for successful construction.

When you are satisfied with your lay out, cut out your jacket and thread baste around each pattern piece on the bouclé.  Use a silk or rayon thread that will be highly visible and easy to remove.  These are your seam sewing guidelines so be precise.  Claire Shaeffer’s book has an excellent section on the best stitching technique for this step of the process.

The white thread basting utilizes Claire's corner basting technique.
The white thread basting utilizes Claire’s corner basting technique.

After you have cut and thread basted, lay the lining right side down on the cutting table, pin the boucle pieces to the lining, and cut out your lining pieces so you can begin quilting.  You can see Carrie’s photos of her process on our Facebook page.

photo cutting FJ 4
Using the jacket pieces to cut the fabulous frog lining.

There is a sweet novel, The Pink Suit, you can add to your French Jacket reading list.  The main character is a seamstress who works at the New York Couture House where Jackie Kennedy’s Chanel Suits were made.  The heroin is quite eloquent when she talks about the raveley nature of the bouclé.  I enjoy reading some light fiction in addition to the how-to books and Threads Magazine articles for inspiration.  I am also in the process of reading Chanel, A Woman of Her Own.  It is fascinating to consider the historical circumstances and personality of the woman that lead to the design and marketing of this revolutionary jacket design.  All of these sources are pinned to my pinterest page for easy access to both design ideas and sewing resources.

Have you read any other interesting sewing books you can share?  Any tips for cutting bouclé? We always enjoy hearing your perspectives and learning from you!

photo cutting FJ basting threads
Here is an extra tip I learned from Susan Khalje; when you are thread basting, thread and wax several threads at a time to minimize interruptions..

Happy Sewing, RAE



2 thoughts on “Sew! Let’s Get Dressed – Cutting Out French Jackets

  1. I love the fabric!!! Making a French jacket with wonderful boucle is so much a part of the process. Susan’s tip about using beeswax and threading many needles is a big help. You will be threading many needles during the creation of your jacket. I look forward to seeing your progress.

    Harriet Kerr

    1. Harriet, How nice to hear from you! I know you are a veteran at French jackets so we will love your comments. RAE

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