Got a spare thirty grand? No, me neither, but sadly that is the price tag on the Balmain crystal studded blazer that I saw a couple of years ago, a dream piece of clothing that I still lust after. I’ve kept photos of the blazer in my sewing-inspiration folder since then, but had no real idea about how I would ever create it. Maybe it’s just having a few more years’ experience, or maybe I’d had a glass of wine, but last month I decided it was time to give it a go, and sew my very own bejewelled blazer, at a fraction of the couture cost!
This was a very time-consuming project, for several reasons. First off, I didn’t have a ready-made pattern as a starting point, instead I used an old Burda pattern that had the overall simple shape I wanted, but I had to resize, redesign and refit to get the silhouette I wanted before I could get started on the garment. I used my old bedsheets to make a one-armed toile for fitting, and when I was happy with that, I cut out the Velvet. I also drafted my own facing and lining pieces, as those were not included in the original pattern.
I procrastinated for a long time over the jewel placement—what layout to use, distances between them, circles or lozenges, a mixture of both? And then there was the pewter trim to deal with, the neck finishing, the cuffs, the detailing…and so the list went on. Initially I decided to have the pewter trim go up one front opening, round the back of the neck then down the other side in a single continuous piece, but after a few hours of fiddling about, it became clear that the curvature of the neckline was far too severe for the jewels to lay flat. In the end, it took me many days of experimenting (and swearing!) to finalise my layout.
The jewels had to be fixed to the fabric while it was still flat, so I put three lines of stitching on the sleeve and front pieces to use as guides for the jewel placement then spent a few days attaching the jewels. The black jewels were fixed with glue, and the pewter trim on the front openings was entirely hand stitched.
I am really happy with the sleeve head on the blazer. This was the first time I had ever used Sleeve Head Roll, which I hadn’t even heard of until recently. It’s basically a strip of felt and canvas that you attach into the sleeve seam to give fitted jackets and blazers that little ‘puff’ of structure at the top of the sleeve.
I used braided trim for detailing on the shoulder (all hand sewn into place!) and I had ten glass crystals that I combined with some glittering rhinestones to give the shoulder seams some bling.
The cuff detail brings together the braiding from the shoulder with the pewter jewels from the front opening, but I only used two rows of jewels as I didn’t want it to look too chunky.
The standing collar is finished with satin bias binding and gives a really clean, smooth finish.
I had a few issues when sewing the blazer… first off the velvet was very heavy so my machine struggled to go through sections of the neck seam, where there were up to six layers of fabric. Also, a few jewels popped off when I turned the sleeves right side out because it was such a tight squeeze and there was a lot of twisting and squeezing. Other than that, the sewing was pretty straightforward. The main difficulty in finishing was the sheer weight of the garment—hauling this thing around as I tried to bag out the lining, topstitch through layers of velvet, attach a facing, and hand sew the hems, and all the while trying to avoid hitting a jewel with the needle!
Looking at the photos, I am quite amazed that it has come out so well. This project feels like one of those milestone makes—I’ve experimented with new techniques, pushed myself (doubted myself!) and at the last minute, pulled it out of the bag. It also gives me an appreciation for the work that goes into these types of garments (and why they command such high prices tags!) Thanks to Matt Farci for taking these fantastic photos.
Right, I’m off to the shops in my shiny new blazer, until next time, happy sewing!