A jacket in the style of Chanel

I work at a magazine about sewing. We love garment sewing and patterns and fabric. And we get kind of crazy sometimes. Like, let’s-all-make-our-own-Chanel-style-jackets-by-December crazy. With all the projects that were already in my Fall lineup, I wasn’t really anticipating taking on something that was a “someday” kind of project, but here I am, getting ready to cut the muslin for my very first Chanel-style cardigan jacket.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, 1960, wearing one of her iconic cardigan suits.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, 1960, wearing one of her iconic cardigan suits.

I’ll be using the newest Claire Shaeffer pattern from Vogue, #8991, a white-flecked black wool/nylon blend (mostly wool) boucle-type fabric from Hancock Fabrics, charcoal grey silk charmeuse for the lining, and gorgeous pewter and black enamel buttons. It’ll be fun, right? (Right??) Luckily, we’ve formed a support group to help us get through the challenge; it’ll meet bi-weekly.

Pewter and black enamel buttons from Treasure Cast.

Pewter and black enamel buttons from Treasure Cast.

White-flecked black boucle in a wool blend (mostly wool), and charcoal-grey silk charmeuse for the lining.

White-flecked black boucle in a wool blend (mostly wool), and charcoal-grey silk charmeuse for the lining.

Vogue 8991, a Claire Shaeffer-designed pattern.

Vogue 8991, a Claire Shaeffer-designed pattern.

So far I’ve focused on planning and picking my fabrics and details, which is how I roll with sewing projects–get all the major decisions out of the way up front and have a clear design concept. Recently I cut the pattern pieces apart, and I’ll start tracing and adjusting them soon.

My primary inspiration is this black boucle jacket. My fabric is a bit smoother, has white flecks in the black, and is not sequined.

My primary inspiration is this black boucle Chanel jacket. My fabric is a bit smoother, has white flecks in the black, and is not sequined.

My goal is to make something sleek and modern and minimalist compared to the crazy overwrought fringe-fests of many Chanel jackets. I just don’t like a lot of fringe, although it works on many of the design house’s pieces. I don’t need to add bulk to my frame, and I prefer clean edges. So my design plan is to make this jacket without any additional trims, zero fringe, but to have the charcoal-grey charmeuse lining extend beyond the outer fabric’s edges, folding back to the garment edge to create a kind of frame effect. This is a trim alternative frequently used by Chanel.

My design sketch.

My design sketch. Note that I’ve placed the pockets at the hip instead of just below the bust. Seriously, the pattern envelope model’s breasts look like they’re blinking.

This pattern is a bit odd, as it has a princess seam that terminates in the NECK, not the more-typical shoulder or armscye. I’m just not sure how to do the necessary full bust adjustment on it. It’s probably going to take actually making a muslin of the pattern as-is and cutting/slashing the mock-up on my body to figure out how to make that adjustment. We’ll see…


A new costuming-focused blog

If I can ever get moving on it, this here blog will record my everyday, “real-life” sewing–things I make to wear out and about while working at my job in publishing, etc. And possibly any thoughts I have on sewing one’s own wardrobe.

All of my historical (and not-so-historical) costuming efforts are now being recorded on a new blog: Belle Mode, Belle Histoire. If you’re looking for costuming stuff, please visit bellemodebellehistoire.wordpress.com. And if you’re hoping to see the stuff I make for non-historical activities, I can only beg your patience and ask you to hang in there and keep an eye on this space. Eventually it will happen.

A blog in transition

I’ve decided–after about 2 years of neglecting this blog–that I need to refocus. I had intended this space as a sort of journal of my sewing adventures, both in modern clothing and historical costuming. But time is limited, and I spend most of it actually sewing, rather than photographing progress and finished projects and writing about them for a blog. I want to record my work. I want to have a place where I can keep my thoughts and ideas about specific projects for future reference. And my head ain’t cutting it anymore. Neither are the bajillions of sticky notes and notepad papers I have stuck on every surface and pinned to my sewing room walls and inserted into pattern envelopes.

So I’ve come to a decision. I will blog about my sewing projects–when I feel like it. But I need to separate modern from historical. From now on, this blog–renamed Needle Thread Fabric–will be the place where I record my successful modern sewing projects: the blouses and skirts and dresses and jackets and pants, etc. that I plan to sew for my real life, my non-costumed life.

I have set up another blog–Belle Mode, Belle Histoire–to record my historical costuming projects. Both organization-wise and stylistically, this separation makes sense to me. Also it will make it easier for anyone else who wants to view my projects to find what they’re looking for without a lot of other stuff they’re not interested in.

My goal in 2015 is to try and post once a month about a modern garment I’ve sewn. The historical blog will get posts whenever I happen to finish a project, which tends to be less frequent than monthly. To start things off, I’ll be posting a retrospective this January about all the modern garments I’ve made in 2014. It’s not a lot, and some have been disappointments, and a few are being remade for better fit, but it’s a good place to start.

I am actually sewing–I’m just not posting!

I’ve managed to finish lots of sewing projects in the past several months, and I’ve even photographed many of them quite thoroughly. But I haven’t been posting. I guess I’m just lazy. I don’t really want to turn the computer on when I get home from a day at work spent on a computer. Plus, my home laptop recently died and is in the repair shop.

Lately I’ve completed several muslins for Regency gown bodice and sleeve variations. I’ve made an early Regency gown I’m quite proud of, along with a complete set of undergarments (stays, drawers, shift, petticoat), a chemisette, and a vest-like Spencer. I’ve made a few everyday (read: normal person) dresses that I can wear to work, and they’ve turned out great. And I’ve got more waiting in the wings. I’ve completed a sleeveless blouse with fluttery appliques and have one more about half sewn. I’ve done lots of pattern work, made two pet-shaped pillows for work, and am currently developing a pattern for a Regency reticule that I’ll use to teach a workshop at a Jane Austen Society chapter retreat next summer.

See! I have actually been doing a lot of sewing. I’m just not posting about any of it, in direct defiance of my stated intention to post once a month. I declared that back in April, and the end of August is nigh. Well, once I get my laptop back, I will make a far more concerted effort to post something once a month. Even if it’s just a link to my pattern reviews on PatternReview.com.


Bad, bad blogger

That’s me. I am a very bad blogger. Not that anyone’s been keeping track. I originally started this blog to encourage and incentivize my own sewing. It worked! But shortly after starting, I made a big change in my life. I left one job and started another–and not just that: I relocated to an entirely different state. No big deal, right? People relocate for work all the time.

Here’s the thing, though. My new job involves sewing. Reading about sewing, writing about sewing, actually sewing. I no longer need this blog as an incentive for my sewing. And because my days are now sewing-focused, I no longer have the energy to write about my sewing experiences regularly. That’s why it’s been over a year since I last posted here. Again, not that anyone is keeping track except myself.

But I do want to post again. Maybe not more than once a month, but I do want to keep this blog up. And I have been sewing for myself quite a bit.

So, from here on out, my goal is to post about a sewing project once a month, regardless of the project’s progress or state of completion.

I’ve been working on so many different things, but about half have been everyday clothes and half have been historical costume. Since moving to Connecticut from Virginia, I’ve gotten involved with a Jane Austen group, and the group is beginning to organize more Regency-living type events, rather than just book discussions and movie viewings. (Interestingly, a few months ago, a Regency Society started up in Virginia–I miss everything good!) And I think I’ve established here before that I love playing dress-up and will take just about any excuse to do so. So I’m working on a Regency wardrobe. Slowly, but surely.

I’m also working my way through a LOOOONG list of dresses and tops for everyday wear. Again, slowly.

Anyway, that’s the plan. One post a month. Starting….NOW

Refashion Progress

Although progress on my second Heidi dress has slowed to less than a snail’s pace, I’ve made considerable headway in the neckline refashion on my grey wool Talbot’s sheath. What can I say? It’s easy to distract me sometimes.

After finalizing the pattern for the refashioned bodice center panel and neckline, and cutting the existing panel accordingly—outer fabric and lining—I flipped each so that wrong sides were together, pinned them along the new neckline edge, and sewed a 3/8-inch seam. Then I pressed the seam open and understitched the lining edge to the seam allowance and pressed it all again so I could have a nice clean edge that lays perfectly flat when it’s all finished. 

I pinned the outer panel to its lining in a straight line down the center of the panel to keep everything in place while I was working on placing it between the bodice outer fabric and lining. In retrospect, I should have basted the panel fabric and lining together to make it easier. But it worked well enough.

I started the placement by hanging the dress and sliding the bottom tip of the new panel between the outer dress and its lining at the open waistline seam and pinned it in place. Then I used a hand backstitch to sew it in place at the waistline.

From there, it was all pinned into place along each side of the unstitched bodice center. I tried it on to make sure it was straight and even and not bunching anywhere, and amazingly it looked perfect. I measured the distance between the bodice edge and the center V point on each side and got 4 1/2 inches for both.

I had hoped it would be easy to machine sew the panel to the bodice opening, but the existing seam allowance and the configuration and construction of the bodice (especially with the reapplied bodice stay) made it impossible.

So after making sure the panel was pinned correctly in place, I simply selected a dark charcoal thread and used a tiny pickstitch to hand sew the panel in place from the outside of the bodice.

If you look closely, you might be able to just make out tiny indentations where the “pick” of each stitch is located, but a good steam ironing might make them less visible. 

Then I flipped the skirt exterior up from its lining, pinned the open waistline seam allowance together, and machine-sewed it all together again.

To reattach the bodice lining to the center panel, I’ll also use a hand pickstitch, but will probably need to apply it from the outside above the top edge of the center panel to prevent any stitches showing through. I’m not sure it’ll be necessary to stitch the lining down to the center panel below the interior bodice stay. It was all sewn down originally, of course, but first I’ll try it on to see if it’s necessary to keep things smooth (it probably will be).

I’m really happy with how this refashion is turning out; it’s much better than I expected, but just as well as I had hoped. I’ve tried it on and it’s looking great. When it’s complete, I’ll post pics showing the interior lining sewn down and then the refashioned dress worn.

After this neckline refashion I’ll feel much more confident in taking on another one that should be simpler. I have a zebra-striped sheath from Talbots that just isn’t working for me anymore. More on that in another post.

I Needed More Fabric…

….like I needed a hole in my head. Seriously, my stash is substantial. But there are a few patterns I really want to make and I’ve never come across the perfect material for them.

So prompted by a helpful sale email from FashionFabricsClub.com, I browsed over to their selection of cotton lawns. I found three I just couldn’t do without–and I first saw one of them years ago, so I feel like I waited until it was priced just right before jumping. I purchased several yards of these three wonderful, wide-bolt cotton lawns for $4.95 per yard! They will be added to my stash, but with a purpose.

This lovely lawn in a purple, grey, and green print will be used for Vogue 8492 (now out of print), View A. I’ll probably line it in black batiste to make those colors pop! I’ve been fond of this pattern for quite some time. I love a cross-over V neckline. Jury’s out still on whether I’ll actually make the sash for either of the versions of this dress I’m planning to make, but it’s possible I will make one in purple for the above material, and possibly dark navy for the one below.

This bright-blue and white lawn (above) that just screams “SUMMER!” will also turn into the above knee-length dress. I love blue-and-white combos for summer. They remind me for some reason of depictions of vacations in Greece, where the colors are vibrant but almost hard and contrasts are stark. This’ll be lined in white batiste and probably underlined as well, for opacity.  

And the sweet beige-and-pink floral lawn I’ve gazed at longingly for a few years now will become Vogue 8380, the low-neck version. Just imagine this lined in pink batiste. It reminds me of candy, for some reason. I don’t usually go for such pale, sweet prints, but this reminds me very much of a frock I had a few years back with a sand background and tiny pink-and-sage flowers sprinkled all over it. It had hemline flounces and pleating through the bodice and was so wonderfully girly, which I don’t often indulge in. I’m not trying to recreate that dress, but I did love the colors and it went with so much and was perfect for the summer.

Now, I have a long list of frocks already lined up to make, so these three will go at the end of the list. But the materials are beautiful, as are the patterns, and since I don’t really pay much attention to trendy styles from season to season or year to year–at least in terms of sewing projects–I think these will keep very well.