Monday, January 15, 2018

We all need to get "Schooled" once in a while...

I hope that I'm never too old learn.  I'm 70, and even though I got my BA when I was 47, I still have daydreams about going back to school. God knows, it would be a challenge the way my brain is working these days. I've been sewing for 60 some years and you would think that I know just about all there is to know about sewing, designing and making wardrobes. You would be wrong.

Today I saw the cutest top on Instagram made by a gifted designer and I was immediately smitten.  It was made using a technique that many sewists have employed - patchwork. You take all your scraps and sew them together and make a unique design.  Over the years I've seen jackets, tops and dresses using this particular technique...always thought that my Ikat scraps would make a cool garment. And it's Sunday and I have nothing else better to do.

So in my haste to let inspiration run away with me, I asked if I might "copy" it - the designer (thinking that I was smarter than I am) said yes. And so off I ran. However, somewhere in the midst of posting a picture of what I intended to do, we both realized that my drawing looked very similar to the design I saw. I was never intending to copy the exact piece, but it was a little too close for comfort for both of us.

Dang. Lesson learned.  Read the IG background profile, Laurel.  If I had done this FIRST, I would have realized that the sewist was actually a designer and sold the garments under their own label...thus, I probably never would have even asked, or at least made it clear I had no intention to copy it exactly. The "yes" was a qualified yes - be inspired by all means but please don't actually copy. As sewists, we imitate other designs and ready-to-wear all the time.  We buy the same patterns, the same fabrics and try to make them uniquely "ours". A case in point, Chanel is very protective of their jacket stylings, but we all copy them, and call them "Little French Jackets".

It's a lot different for fledgling businesses, as I am well aware. The designer was very kind in the "schooling" process, but I felt horrible. (At least I DID ask, so I thought I was cool.) I used to make one-of-a-kind jewelry, and when Charming Charlie came to town, they were making "my stuff" as far as I was concerned, albeit cheaper, and my little cottage industry closed shop. They were not copying my designs, as they didn't know me from a hole in the ground, but I was pretty sure my customers would think I was copying them.

Hence, to complete my Sunday project, I was sent back to the drawing table post haste, confident that my garment would not resemble the designer's...just perhaps capture the spirit of the patchwork/piecing idea. I chose a pattern that I have used twice before - The Sointu Kimono Tee by Named Clothing.

Oh, and yes, sewists do pattern hacks all the time...I changed the neckline to a "boat neck".


 When I say "hack", I mean it.  I chopped my pattern into little squares and strips. 


I picked fabrics out of my scrap stash.  I even used a fabric that was already cut out in a skirt pattern.  The polka dots were never going to be cute as a skirt - what was I thinking?


So even after the pattern hacking, my design changed several times (more hacking my own design) 
as I switched around the fabrics.


By the time I finished, my sewing studio looked like a cyclone touched down.  Did I mention that I still love my new wood floors - perfect for cutting.


In the end, it was a great project for the holiday today.  I think it says me.  It actually reminds me of a dress that I made back in the 80's using this piecing technique.  I wish I had a photo of it, as I loved wearing it.

Put a turtleneck under this puppy and some leggings and call it a day.


Now all that remains is to clean up the mess.

Laurel. Considering myself Schooled.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Godfather's Lament...or mine?



Image result for godfather 3 quotes just when i thought i was out"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in"... Of course Michael was talking about getting out of organized crime and finally operating only legitimate businesses, so though my 2018 lament is hardly comparable to killing and mayhem, I am regrettably and forever tied to social media.

Last year in a heroic effort to cut myself off from all the political mudslinging, the never-ending barrage of memes and the bazillion Tasty food posts, I drastically cut back my Facebook involvement, opting to only follow family members.  I rarely posted myself and I was marginally successful in curtailing my two dozen or so daily peaks into the app, limiting myself to one or two peaks a day.

But social media is an insidious parasite, feeding upon your starved ego and regularly clamoring for your attention.  So as much as I would love to say I'm "over it", I'd be lying. It seems that all I really did was substitute one habit (Facebook) for another (Instagram).  And it really doesn't matter how you try to rationalize that Instagram is "so much better" than FB, it still hooks you.

As I began evaluating my life (as one always pretends to do on January 1 of any year) I realized the things that I wanted to change and or continue doing are tied to social media.  Perhaps I am being to hard on myself (as is my custom) as we are in the tech age and it's not going away. I'll never be tweeting like the Donald, but Facebook and Instagram are powerful tools that I can use to further my personal goals.  It's not like my brain will atrophy if I'm on my "devices" a few hours a day...or that I won't pay attention to my hubby or forget to cook dinner or even bathe. Besides, there are some very positive things happening in my little corner of the cyberspace.

For instance, I am halfway through my fourth year of collaborating with Suzan Steinberg, owner of Stonemountain- this week I will be making our 200th garment.  Our hard work that we have invested in the Fabric Lady blog is really paying off - women are coming back to sewing their own clothes, all because we have made sewing a wardrobe popular. I'm always amazed that people recognize me in the store and talk about how we have inspired them to sew again. We rely on our social media connections to inspire, communicate and teach.

Fabriclady:  http:fabriclady3.blogspot.com

In January I joined an Instagram challenge sponsored by Sarah Gunn to refrain from buying any ready to wear clothing in 2018. Sounds like a tall order, since I love me some Nordstrom's.  But I am an impulse buyer anyway and granted, I do make most of my clothes, so I thought I'd give it a go. One whole year! There are over 1,000 women participating in this challenge and we can track each others successes within a private Facebook group. (I should mention that there are regular prizes and giveaways during the year and if I hadn't been on FB I would never have WON the first giveaway of the year!!! A $100 gift certificate to Mood Fabrics in New York City!!

Image result for mood fabrics

I feel like I'm cheating on Stonemountain, but I have always wanted to go to Mood, ever since I started watching Project Runway.  So for my gift card I will have to settle for online shopping.

I also track some five or six hundred women on Instagram.  It's sound excessive, but most of them are sewists and designers.  IG is a wonderful way to see what other people are working on and to see their completed projects.  Another plus is that they have a "live" element that you can just scroll through and not not have to "click" on anything. No hands peeping.

I also joined a group of sewists on Instagram who sponsored a "secret Santa" kind of thing in December, where we would make a particular pattern and send it to another sewist as a Christmas gift.  It was an international group, so I made this Linden Sweatshirt (that was the pattern we were all to use) by Grainline Studios and sent it off to the UK to Charlotte (aka the English Girl at Home)
 

And finally, I am reminded of how much I love to write, just by seeing my old blog posts pop up in my FB memories.  I should be writing more. Maybe even journaling...it keeps my head straight, so to speak. I hope to revive this blog in 2018 (do I say that every January?) and try to capture some of that wit and humor that I used to have on my blog and not take myself so seriously. I'm 70 afterall, and we're supposed to do and say what we want. This isn't one of those witty posts, but at least it's a start.

I look forward to seeing more creativity, seeing more beauty in the world and hearing about your me-made garments, and of course sharing my own stuff.  So here's to a great Social media year - 2018!!!

Laurel. I'm back.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Celeste est fini...The Secret is in the Chain

The Chanel jacket is a commonplace garment worn by the well-heeled and best dressed, but only dreamt about by the likes of middle-America people like me. If we are blessed with a gift for dressmaking, then we can copy the styling of this iconic jacket with the help of pattern makers. My goal was to make a "Little French Jacket" using the couture techniques that make the big fashion houses famous, before I turned 70.



I started my jacket in March of last year and named her Celeste. Though I didn't spend a year actually working on it, it was a time consuming and challenging project. I can normally make a complex garment like jeans or a lace dress in roughly four to six hours, but couture sewing techniques take time and patience, and lots of hand sewing. I tracked my time, documenting the various stages just to see how close I would come to the 100+ hours it takes the designers to whip one up.

Start to finish, Celeste took roughly 70 hours. I think part of the reason my time is shorter is that I didn't count in any customer fittings and I did use my machine in some parts of the construction.  And, as much as I tried to make hand sewn buttonholes, they looked like crap, so I opted to make machine bound buttonholes instead.  That would have probably added another 10+ hours to the total, plus the cost of a bottle of bourbon.

I have already documented some of the couture stages of the jacket construction in previous posts, but I wanted to give you a picture of some of the many aspects of the making of Celeste...and her final debut. It's funny that I finished her in a record setting heat wave in California, so I'll not be wearing her any time soon. She will just have to hang on Colette in my new sewing studio.

I won't even make you wade though the construction details to wait for a picture - here she is, up front and center...
Celeste est fini...
 


And here below, for all the sewing junkies, are some of the construction details...I made plenty of mistakes during the process and "would do it differently next time", if I were ever going to make another jacket.  I will admit as much as I loved the hand sewing, I'll not be making another. Celeste is a one of a kind, once in a lifetime adventure, thank you.

Recall that the couture method starts with rectangles big enough to fit each pattern piece, the outlines of which are thread traced onto the rectangle.  You don't actually cut the seams until after you match up the thread tracings and sew the seams...very opposite to standard garment construction.


The silk lining pieces are basted to the woolen fabric along the "quilting lines"
The bound buttonholes which I chose to add were made with grey organza and reinforced. Wished I had used a darker organza,

Passable, but not Chanelish.
 The center front edges were also stabilized with organza "tape".
 

After the quilting on each piece was completed, the princess and side seams were sewn together, matching the thread tracings.  The lining was then hand sewn at all the seams


The hem was also stabilized with some special bias tape that JoAnn's doesn't carry,  and not wishing to drive to Stonemoutain  or Britex, I ordered it off the Internet. Pick stitches hold it in place.



All the trim is sewn on by hand



The three piece sleeves are sewn together using the conventional method.  (I must have laid awake for three nights trying to figure out how they would be constructed...until I went back to the book and saw that they are just a normal sleeve construction.  I cut a narrow strip of that fancy tape to stabilize the sleeves, then hand sewed the hemline and sleeve vent.  I did cheat on the vent - no buttonholes...another Chanel faux pas.


Adding the trims...
 


The lining is basted in and the quilting lines are added by machine.
 

I love the doing the "fell" stitch...all the lining pieces are sewn together and hemmed using this stitch. The trick is to keep them tiny.


Sleeve innards...
 

Finished sleeve...
 

I have put in so many set in sleeves in my life, they are not a problem for me.  And any time you are sewing with a rich woolen fabric they are that much easier, as the fabric has a lot of give. (Be sure to always use a basting line to ease the sleeve into the armhole.  I just pinned the sleeves in my normal fashion and sewed them with my machine.
 

The hardest part of this method is that the sleeve lining is all over the place and basically in your way. Once the sleeve is sewn in, the sleeve lining is then pinned to the bodice lining and hand sewn together.


The entire lining is hand sewn to the jacket fabric...and those dang buttonholes. Not very pretty.
 

One of the last steps is making the pockets. Originally I was only going to have two pockets, which is not very Chanel, but I ran out of one of the trims - the selvage edge of the fabric (the fabric was purchased three years ago at Stonemountain).  As it was, I had to open up the back seam and cut off that selvage to make enough trim for the sleeves and pockets.  But after sewing on the two lower pockets, I knew I needed to add the two upper pockets.  Otherwise it's just another boxy jacket. I had one piece of the selvage edge, but it was cut too narrow. Solution - I just cut down the width a fraction of an inch and was able to make trim for the two upper pockets.

The pockets are lined and hand sewn to the jacket.
 When all is said and done, it's not a Chanel-styled jacket unless it has a chain at the hemline.  The Chanel chain gives the jacket it's "weight", and makes it hang better on your body.  Plus the weight of the jacket is one of it's endearing features when you slip it on.  The silk lining caresses your body...I can understand why you see a lot of sleeveless blouses underneath one of these jackets.
 


Even though I have enough fabric to make slim skirt from the wool, I'm just not that into suits anymore...and I can't even imagine a time that I'd wear one.  My Celeste will look fabulous with a pair of leather pants or skinny jeans, some sling back pointy toed heels and a huge string of pearls. Fall can't come soon enough!!

Laurel. Check that off the Bucket List!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

50 Hours and It's Not Done yet...

Celeste - Part 3

Over a year ago, I started an adventure making my first Chanel styled jacket...I named her Celeste. I wrote about her beginnings in earlier blogs ( see Ultimate Sewing Pinnacle  and Celeste - Part 2 ), but Celeste lay dormant for some time and when Spring of this year arrived, I vowed to finish her. I will be doing a final post when she's finished, complete with photos of my version of the couture process, but I wanted to give you another sneak peak.

To date, I have logged 50 hours into my Little French Jacket and when I say I only have to set in the sleeves, sew in the lining, attach the buttons and the Chanel-style chain at the hem, it sounds like I'm almost done, huh? Not so much...right now, I'm guessing that Celeste will be almost 80% sewn by hand, and 20% by machine by the time she's ready to step out. Keep in mind that even the most complex dress might take me 6 hours at most.

I love hand sewing, and I'm in no hurry... couture sewing can't be rushed. So I'll just keep plodding along and hope to have her ready for our Breckenridge trip in July, and before my 70th birthday in August. We are stopping by my sister's home in Salt Lake and I can't wait to introduce her to Celeste. Jane is an excellent seamstress who makes the most beautiful garments.  The last time I visited her, she whipped out a full length double breasted coat from the closet, made in stunning blue-back (HEAVY) wool, and fully lined. I was so impressed...not that I couldn't do it, but that I wouldn't! Where would I wear it in California? Rubbish!.. she can probably out-sew me tenfold. ( I always wanted to use that in a sentence...LOL!)

She will love Celeste...

"Sleeve Guts"

Oh Celeste, I love you already...


Laurel. Bucket List check-off coming up.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Graduate Scarves

I have written about making graduation scarves (Scarves of Pride ) for the graduates of Women's Empowerment ("WE") 8 week job readiness training.  WE holds about 4 to 5 sessions a year, and I've been making their scarves for maybe two years. It's just another way to use my sewing talents for good.

This March graduating class will the the first class to hold their ceremony in the B Street Theater in downtown Sacramento.  It's a great venue for such an auspicious occasion, so I thought I might make something special this time.  The graduates always choose their colors, and this class chose Gold and Burgundy. I immediately thought of the USC Trojans and decided perhaps a touch of femininity might be in order, lest we look like football fans.

Serging the edges of this Poly charmeuse is the easy part...I used a beautiful shiny gold thread and set my Imagine on a narrow rolled hem setting.


The fabric is not as drapey as a silk (way too expensive), so I thought I might pleat it, so that it would lay flat around the neck. A hand made flower in burgundy fabrics will be attached.

I've made "silk" flowers before and they are not that hard, just time consuming.  All you need is several sized squares and a candle. Using Polyester fabric is important as it melts. Silk would catch fire and burn.

Watch your fingers!!


I chose gold beads (6) to hold the layers (4) together.


They are sewn on to the pleated scarf, about 18 inched from the bottom of one side.


Finished!



I hope the graduates feel special. It's always a pleasure to attend the ceremony, even if it is a three-hankie event.  Their stories are incredible and their accomplishment is profound. 

I love being a part of this awesome organization. 
Read all about it on the web at http://www.womens-empowerment.org/


Laurel.  Giving Back.


Friday, March 10, 2017

My first ever Trunk Show!!

My favorite fabric store Stonemountain and Daughter Fabric is scheduling an event featuring all the garments that I've sewn for the Suzan, aka FabricLady. We have enjoyed a 3+ year collaboration, sewing, blogging, wardrobe planning and a special friendship. Others on her team will be joining in the fun and I can't say how thrilled that I am to be a part of this special day.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

If you live in the area, I hope that you will come by.  Suzan's blog has a huge following and I am a contributor. Actually, it's part of the reason that I've let Laurel's Quill flounder for the past few years. My process is simple: sew, take photos, write about it.  It's not a job, even though I'm busy with it at least 3 or 4 days a week on average.  It's that our collaboration hits all my creative buttons, not to mention it's great to be a part of watching Stonemountain's garment fabric side flourish.

Meanwhile, you know how I am - got an event? Make an outfit!!! We have been concentrating on the Independent pattern designers for the last year, so I try to stick with them even in my own wardrobe.
I chose three simple patterns from 100 Acts of Sewing and three coordinating fabrics to make a casual layered look.


And would ya check out those shoes?? I got them yesterday just to match my outfit!  Love pointy toes!!

The tops are simple so adding pockets is a creative way to jazz them up...



You get the idea.  The fabrics are soft and they will transition into Spring (even Summer) very nicely. I still have several outfits to whip up before the event, so I better get this studio cleaned up from yesterday's melee.  Funny, but I sew the same way I cook: messy, messy messy.  But who wants to be stifled by wiping down the counters during Beef Wellington prep or picking up scraps and pins while sewing a Dior?


Oh and about that Beef Wellington? Incredible!!























Oh MY!!!!!


Laurel. Sewist and Cook...sorta.
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