The internet made me do it! Lots of ladies, worldwide, have re-created a Chanel-type cardigan jacket, Vogue 8804, using the finest tweeds, silk linings, buttons and braids.
Two Chanel style patterns created by Claudia Shaeffer, an expert on couture techniques and Chanel specifically, are available from Vogue. This enables the amateur tailor to produce either a cardigan jacket, or more recently a mandarin collar version, featuring some of the same techniques as used by couture houses. Her newer pattern Vogue 8991 (shown above left, in black and white tweed) is very similar to the out of print Vogue 8259 and is on my list to try in the future.
After having a reasonably good outcome with Vogue 7975 I thought I would try at Vogue 8804, following Claudia’s instructions to the letter.Claire Shaeffer’s instructions are incredibly detailed. She has a collection of vintage couture items, many by Chanel, and she promotes the construction methods that have historically been used in Paris couture. Much of the jacket is hand-sewn which is enjoyable if you put some time aside to do it for pleasure.
Design and alterations
The pattern is multi-sized and there is only one “view”.
Having said I would follow the instructions, I ignored her first suggestion to make a toile – a preliminary version of the jacket in stable cotton, in order to check the pattern fits. As I had recently made a similar jacket, in navy, I figured that I would transfer most of the alterations and measurements. The main thing was to reduce the boxy look, and ensure the jacket fitted me in the upper chest, bust, waist, back length, overall length and sleeve width. I was able to do this by using the multi-sized lines on the pattern.I got a nice close fit where it matters – across the upper chest, arms and waist, with sufficient ease and a slight flare at the hips. I lengthened the torso as I usually do, but found the style of the jacket rather short. It is a design feature, and makes it feel more “cardigan” like. I had never made a three piece sleeve before, but this was one of the main attractions of pattern, allowing apparently a better, closer fit.
Materials and other supplies
Like everyone else I bought my fabric from Linton tweeds, the UK company based in Cumbria, that produced fabrics for Coco Chanel herself. They still produce fabrics for Chanel and many other couture houses and designers. Jigsaw have been incorporating the tweeds into T shirts, skirts and casual jackets over the past few seasons. I chose a light blue and beige fabric, with flecks of silver, as lighter cool colours suit me. Also I wanted a spring/summer jacket, and something that would look nice with jeans as well as more formal items.
I decided to make my own braid and chose a beige tape to sit it on. The lining is a bright blue silk twill. I bought silver buttons, and after a trial button hole (with both beige and blue button hole twist) chose blue for the buttonholes. The wax (ironed into the buttonhole thread) makes sewing smoother. Lots of the seams are taped but there is minimal interlining (I used Simply Fabrics organza) – the stability comes from quilting the lining to the jacket fabric, with a chain to weight the hems. This explains the use of quilting and chains in Chanel handbags, in reference to her techniques. I also bought some coloured basting thread. When so much is hand-sewn it makes sense to use different colours to indicate the markings on the pattern. For example I used pink for the Centre Front, button holes and other balance markings; yellow for all the seam lines; and white to baste with.
I generally enjoy following the instructions. One of the things I like about “bought patterns” as opposed to ones I make myself is that I don’t have to think too much. I get in the zone and just do as I am told. Sometimes it’s something different, or new. Sometimes a technique is badly explained, and I enjoy the challenge! This pattern has very extensive instruction and 94 separate stages (compared to say 10 with an average pattern). I did most of it, and am pleased to have done so. Three things were completely new – the three piece sleeve, the quilted lining, the handworked-and-bound buttonholes. The aspect which didn’t work for me was the shrinking of ease. I have shrunk tailored sleeve heads and even skirt waists, but I am sorry to say it didn’t work with this particular fabric. I can only think that it doesn’t have much wool in it, or it is somehow preshrunk, or felted. I don’t know what happened but I couldn’t get it to shrink at all. Instead I added a sneaky little bust dart, but got most of the shaping into the seams.
The whole process took me a month, mainly working on the jacket at the weekends. I found the extensive hand stitching nice and relaxing.
Making the braid
The jacket has four appliquéd pockets which are first decorated with braid, then lined, then applied. I didn’t try to get a matching braid as I was keen to make my own. The Linton tweed include a multitude of yarns and colours and I spent a happy Saturday pulling out several stands of the predominant blue nylon pleated and over-stitched, dip dyed yarn, and twisting it with other less flashy threads. It made a bulky yarn, which didn’t like being crocheted (one way to make a braid). The only thing I could do was to twist, then couch the thread onto the base. I actually really liked the effect and it lifts the jacket from being a bit bland. The brighter blue in the ribbon works well with the lining and with denim.
Its a nice jacket. Its easy to wear (probably better not done up over a T shirt and jumper), goes with lots of things, and is both lightweight and warm. I don’t expect to make another one with this pattern, but I am keen to try the new one as I do like a mandarin collar.