The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

OK Back to my obsession du season!

I’m not forgetting where we are here on this Chanel obsession….next I wanted to talk a little about fabric.

The big deep secret  about the Chanel jacket and what makes it so coveted is that from the second you put it on, it feels like a great friend.  You know that garment, jacket, sweater, pants, whatever and you’ve worn it enough times that it’s molded to your shape and style and looks great on you but feels like a warm great friend, that’s what a Chanel jacket feels like from the very first time you wear it.

Part of making the jacket is to participate in the creative process that Mme. Chanel went through to perfect this style, and part of what Karl Lagerfeld does an excellent job in keeping that style, but updating it every season.  Actually, to my mind that is what Karl is so brilliant at doing, because it’s hard to work within a certain parameters and yet he does it very well….Mme. Chanel would have loved the fuzzied trim, the frayed bias cuts of fabric, the fluid-ness of the trim applied with expert technical ability.

So last time I talked a little about patterns and how to vary them to make the Chanelisms that make the jacket so wonderful.    This time I want to talk about the fabric.

Bouclé is the traditional fabric of choice for the traditional Chanel jacket.  It is usually a loosely woven fabric and at almost the drop of a hat will fall apart or unweave.  This is good for a number of reasons.  It is a very comfortable fabric and very drapy, but it has depth – or rather it has loft as it can be fairly thick for the weight of the fabric.  Not like a woven heavy-weight wool, but it is a delicately woven fabric.   It acts and feels very much like a comfy knit, but it does not stretch.  It will on the bias, but not on the straight of grain.   Next time you are at a fabric store, ask to see some and you will see the fabulous properties it has.

The bad part about bouclé is that it does come unwoven at the drop of a hat so you have to take that into consideration when you make the jacket. In some way it must always be stabilized.  That means that even if you are doing a “faux” jacket (without all the quilting is usually what this means) you must stabilize all that loosely woven mess or you will have nothing but a mess on your hands.

So enter the lining:

Lining for a jacket usually means something to make it easy to slide on over a blouse, shirt, sweater or anything that might grab or otherwise make it difficult to slide on.  And this is the same purpose for the Chanel jacket, it’s just that it’s also got another purpose – the lining acts also as the stabilizer.  In this way, the jacket doesn’t require another layer of fabric to be applied to the loosely woven bouclé.  So with the minimum of weight, thickness and extra bulk, the jacket has suddenly been stabilized.  This makes the jacket light weight (the bouclé is really not that heavy – it just has lots of loft which makes it take up a lot of room, but doesn’t have the weight of something that took up that much room), and it makes it move in a drapey like fashion, because there is no stiff woven interlining or backing to add bulk and body to the jacket.  Of course if you want the jacket to have body, you can just add that backing, but the whole idea behind a Chanel jacket is that it doesn’t have body, yet retains its shape as it isn’t a knit or doesn’t spring with age, as a knit would do.

Personally, I love seeing wild prints for linings.  I like seeing one dominant color in the bouclé, then accented on the inside with a beautiful lovely print that can be any format or design you like – wild florals, animal prints, geometrics.  One word of caution: matching the inside print as in a motif type print would be fine, but it would be a horrific headache, because remember this is going to be quilted to the jacket.  If this is your first jacket, just don’t do it.  Go with a wild print, and make the back your center piece, and then don’t worry about matching the rest.

The magic occurs when the lining is quilted to the jacket:

The quilting makes the wonderful slippery silk charmeuse, which is more closely woven than the bouclé) stabilize the loosely woven bouclé that has loft and makes the inside look like trapunto stitching.

The variations in quilting designs is almost as many as the variations in print patterns and bouclé designs to use;  some like to follow the outline of the print;  some like to make their own design – plaid, floral, geometric, diamond; and some can even use a free form shape.  This is one of the wonderful creative ways that you can individualize your creation to make it your own design – no one – NO ONE will be wearing anything like it.

For updating, I’ve seen chiffon and other light weight fabrics in the ready-to-wear jackets in the Chanel boutiques, but remember these are ready-to-wear – not the couture line of jackets that are made in Paris.  I’ve also see two fabrics used, especially when one of the fabrics is a burnout – this allows still another fabric to be used as a contrast, more fun on the inside.

The amazing thing here is that even with some pretty classic print designs and bouclé fabric selection, you can end up with a fabulously updated garment from the original style.  Something I think that not only Mme. Chanel would approve of, but she would be doing if she were still alive!

Hopefully all this gave you some ideas about how to create your own Chanel jacket.


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