Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Journey to Coco

Finished! Hooray!
In November 2011 I began a journey to make a Coco Channel style jacket. I knew there would be compromises along the way. And I knew I would make mistakes. The bottom line is that it is finished, and finished is better than perfect.

  • Vogue 8369 - out of print Claire Shaeffer design.
  • Fashion fabric - silk tweed - browns and blue-grays with a bit of cream
  • Lining fabric - silk charmeuse - blue-gray
  • Trim - two layers, under layer is a pleated blue-gray satin ribbon, top layer is a narrow cream lace, darkened with a tea dip.
  • Chain - very light weight
Changes made to pattern:
  • Much tweaking of fit completed in mid-January.
  • Modified to eliminate shoulder pads to make it more traditional
  • Shorter length
  • Modified neckline

A very talented sewist in my ASG neighborhood group who has made several Coco jackets agreed to lead about a dozen of us through this process. She started by helping us select our patterns and our fabrics. We were supposed to be on our own for fit, but as sewing sisters always do, she helped us with that too. Here are the steps as I recall them, following the fit of a muslin:
  1. Cut the seam allowances off the muslin.
  2. Using the muslin pieces as the pattern, roughly cut out the fashion fabric pieces in a single layer.
  3. Thread trace the seam lines, grain lines and all other markings.
  4. Roughly cut out the lining, same as fashion fabric.
  5. Stay all relevant edges with bias silk organza.
  6. Hand-work button holes. (I skipped this step after a few tries. My silk tweed would have none of it and I was already on a steep learning curve. This necessitated changing the style of my jacket some.)
  7. Machine quilt each piece, layering fashion fabric and lining, leaving enough space for seam finishes along the seam lines.
  8. Tie off and bury thread at the end of each quilting line.
  9. Hand baste body of jacket, with lining pieces omitted. Check again for fit and matched plaid.
  10. Steam shape the body of the jacket.
  11. Machine stitch body of jacket, fashion fabric only.
  12. Attach pockets. (I may go back and add these. Mine is pretty plain now.)
  13. Hand stitch lining pieces together for body of jacket. 
  14. Quilt sleeve pieces as with the body pieces.
  15. Steam shape the sleeve pieces and baste together. Then machine stitch together fashion fabric only, finishing sleeve lining as for the body of the jacket. (I chose a very simple vent for my sleeves.)
  16. Steam shape sleeve cap.
  17. Baste sleeve into jacket, catching only the fashion fabric as above. Check for fit and then hand-stitch sleeve permanently to jacket body. (I machine stitched my fashion fabric sleeves to the body of the jacket.)
  18. Sew sleeve lining to jacket lining by hand, as with other lining pieces.
  19. Attach each layer of trim by hand to neck and front edges, as well as sleeve hems and vents.
  20. Hand-stitch lining to fashion fabric at all raw edges.
  21. Attach chain to hem with a stitch at the top and the bottom of each link.
I left out the steps where I cursed and threw things, the week when I hid all the pieces in the back of a dark closet, the times I fantasized about burning it in my front yard, but otherwise this is the way I remember it.

Lessons learned (There are way more than this. Short-term memory loss can be a blessing.)
  • Use 100% wool for the fashion fabric in a Coco jacket. Wool boucle is best, but 100% wool. Silk does not respond to steam the way wool does.
  • Try to avoid silk charmuese for the lining even though it is traditional. Mine cost more than the silk tweed (Probably. See note about short-term memory above). It grows fur. It grew tendrils and wove itself into the silk tweed which wanted to unravel. It made me crazy over and over again. (And I put it in upside down so it looks like Bemberg Ambiance. Too bad I didn't actually use Bemberg Ambiance.)
  • Use something that reads solid. Avoid plaids. My silk tweed had these heavy threads that changed color as they traveled across the width and down the length of the fabric. So even when I successfully matched, it looked unmatched. The threads were heavy and difficult to penetrate with any hand sewing needle. I think the machine needle just nudged it aside at times because it looked matched when basted. Then when machined, it no longer matched.
  • When quilting, choose less, not more.
  • Truthfully it is growing on me and I think I may wear it a lot. 
  • Wear it with something that is a bit close fitting. I have one picture of me wearing it. I have on a loose fitting blouse and pull-on pants. Not good. Jeans and a tucked in T shirt would look better as well as a skirt and blouse. The former is more likely than the latter.
  • I will make a second Coco jacket, though not this week.
  • I'll make new mistakes on the second one.
  • I learned so much about fabric,fitting, hand-sewing, steaming and so many other skills and ideas.
If you have read this far, I owe you a big thanks. Sorry about all the whining.

I owe a HUGE THANKS to our leader who patiently guided us through this process, and was always ready with encouragement and suggestions. I imagine that she must have cringed occasionally with my technique, but she never showed it. What a friend.

Simple closure (hidden thread bar and button)

Simple sleeve vent

Those price tags are really labels - right back, etc.

OOP Claire Shaeffer Vogue 8369
Coco Channel was a genius.


  1. Martha, I applaud you for this! I've never done a Chanel jacket, though I would like to. It's beautiful and you should wear it proudly. I especially like the trim. I think it would be very chic even with jeans.

  2. Congratulations on joining the Chanel club - beautiful jacket

  3. Martha...this is gorgeous! Maybe you've been hanging out with it too long, but you have a fabulous jacket in the end!

  4. This is a great jacket, the neck is a nice V, it is shaped to your body and is a good length.

  5. This is a great jacket, the neck is a nice V, it is shaped to your body and is a good length.

  6. I think you did a fine job, Martha, and I admire your perseverance throughout the project. Frustration at different points of assembling a garment can be a deal breaker, but not for you, hardy sewist!

    How wonderful that you had a mentor to guide you through this process. Not only do you have a lovely jacket to show for it, you're actually planning on making another. That's true success.

  7. What a beautiful jacket and how lucky you were to have a fabulous mentor. I think your jacket looks great and you wouldn't think you had so many problems. I can hardly wait to see the next one.

  8. I love the colors in your jacket and admire your perserverance. Gail swears she won't lead another group with this, so I am nominating you to be our next teacher!