Let's talk sew along fabrics...
These are traditionally used in French jackets and are instantly recognizable for their textured surface and beautiful designs, they don't crease or wrinkle and are oh so lovely to sew with....
So where to begin? How do you pick the right fabric?
The key is to be very realistic about both your skill level and patience. A single colour or non matching plaid or stripe is much easier to cut and sew and it will make the sleeve setting stage much simpler.
A specific pattern/ plaid or stripe is going to take meticulous matching and extra fabric, and while its certainly worth doing and will be fabulous, just be aware of the extra time it will take!
I usually have some kind of jacket shape and neckline in mind by the time I start fabric shopping, I know where I will be wearing it and in which season...from there its a little easier to decide on colours, textures and trim.
Some things to consider.... are you living in a warmer climate? then an all natural lightweight boucle or a wool and silk would be more suitable......planning on wearing it often? then a closed weave that won't snag or catch on a purse strap would be better, ...you get the point!!
Boucle's are usually quite loosely woven and will not feel as stable as a standard wool so you should find one that you are comfortable working with. There are lots of options, and swatches will help you narrow down your preference..
If possible ask for a sample before you buy, handle the wool, tug gently at the edges and see if it pulls away easily or remains reasonably intact, squeeze the fabric and decide if its to thick or thin for your needs ..a good boucle will almost spring back between your fingers, it will feel bouncy, which will make quilting and sewing easier...and stress free. The stitches will disappear...mistakes won't be noticed..
Is there a firm metalic thread runnng through which removes the flexibility, sequins that can't be sewn on which will make quilting impossible...consider it all before you commit.
and if you still can't decide, pin some silk on the underside of a boucle swatch and sew some straight lines an inch apart...thats what your entire jacket will look like when you are done, now how do you feel? this is a big commitment, you are about to spend approximately 70 hours on this one garment, its much more enjoyable if you love what you are working with...and feel confident.
or you may want to consider looking more closely at tweeds, I noticed while I was in the fabric stores this week that although many carried that label they are basically the same thing, obviously a thicker tweed will quilt better and be easier to work with..and as their fibers are closer together than a boucle they will be less likely to unravel faster than you can sew! a great online resource is Linton Tweeds, suppliers to Chanel.
and the big question...how much should you buy? for a fairly standard French jacket with no matching, I purchase around two and a half yards.....If I was planning to match a pattern, then I would add another yard, and of course if you want to join me at the end and make a quilted skirt to match than order another yard or more again!
and remember that in couture sewing we leave large seam allowances, two inches or more are perfectly normal, so don't follow the fabric guidelines on the patterns....you will need much more than they suggest...
A silk charmeuse is the best choice, a pure silk with a medium weight....it takes some abuse with the quilting and pinning and if its too thin you run a chance of snagging or stressing it. A good silk will take all you can throw at it and more!
I love my linings bold and bright. It always makes me smile when I put a coat on and see something beautiful and unexpected.... so go crazy or don't!!...this is your dream jacket after all :-)
If you cannot find a good quality charmeuse then a crepe de chine will be fine....but either way they should have absolutely no stretch to them...seriously none at all!.....it will make fusing the two fabrics impossible as one will be a stable and the other flexible.
I purchase about two and a half yards for my jackets, but again you will need more if you are working with a pattern..
I'm probably not the best role model when it comes to trim, I usually buy a couple of different ones and wait until the entire jacket is finished before I decide which to use, its very hard for me to get a good idea before I see it completed but I am very visual and I tend to overthink, so please feel free to ignore this!
Try to take a big swatch with you when you shop, or better still the entire piece. Lay your trims out on top of the fabric and stand back..You are going to need four to five yards, so pick thoughtfully as it should elevate the fabric, bring out the colours of the weave and highlight the shape of your garment...make sure it does not overwhelm either you or the jacket or worse, disappear into the fabric...thats just as bad after all the work you've done.
and if they don't appeal, then use the selvedge or incorporate the two....we will talk more about this once we are ready to cut our fabric out.
There is nothing more satisfying than sewing the chain on at the very end...its such a relief to know that you are finally finished...there are a vast array of chain sizes, colours and weights to choose from, M&J has a good supply in New York but I tend to buy mine from Susan. They are the perfect weight and lay very flat to the hem.
I took some pictures from my fabric hunt on Tuesday and have posted them to our Flickr sew along for inspiration ......and if you have your fabric, share a picture so we can all be swoon! and of course don't forget both Inna and I have our pinterest boards for design ideas...
I'm sure I have forgotten lots of info, so feel free to leave questions in the comments, Inna and I will do our best to answer them, and of course if you want to reply, go for it! there is no such thing as to many opinions, although thats probably more because I live with three teenage daughters!