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.


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

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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Catching up

My oh my, how my blog has suffered over the past year.  I've been in a cocoon of sorts, just not inspired to write too much.  Is that considered "writer's block"? But even as I haven't written or posted, I've certainly been busy with the usual Laurel "things" - sewing, volunteering, knitting, eating, drinking and hunkering down by the fireplace. 

Writing is sometimes easy, and sometimes it's elusive.  Over the past year I had fleeting thoughts of a blog post, but they left without so much as a nod. I've been on a mission in the last few months to do a little less and just "Be" a little more.  In periods of quiet introspection, I wanted this, my final year in the 60's, to be one of consequence. Approaching 70 is tough. But there is a certain peace that is suppose to come at my age, an acceptance of yourself and a ceasing of dragging yourself down with negativity, etc.

I all but gave up on Facebook this year, following only a few family members.  I only check it once a day usually, which is considerably less than the 20-30 times a day that became my habit. I would have ditched it all together, but for my collaboration with Suzan and my own Laurel's Quill page. Looking for approval (still?) after 70 years is a tad negative (did I really mean pathetic, LOL!) in and of itself. And I must admit the election cycle last Fall with all it's memes, negativity, bashing, etc. did me in.

These days, I am concentrating on what I love to do most...

Reading, knitting, etc. in my cozy little corner in the Hacienda...if the urge to drop off hits me, then slumber away, little grasshopper...

Creating fabulousness for me and Suzan in my She-Cave Studio...

Starting to draw and paint again...

Started knitting again...notice how I've got a theme of "relaxation" going here...

 Keep the sewing machine humming along with Me-Made clothes...

 Trying to be more stylish and yet be comfortable in my age..

Finish stuff I started forever ago...

Get back to entertaining (I love to set a pretty table) once in a while...dinner guests this weekend...Beef Wellington, huh!

Find my natural hair's been red for so long, people believe I am a sweet daughter Amy the hairdresser says "you're grayer than you think, Mom".  Bring it on!!

Keep eating healthier...gave up caffeine for the umpteenth time...

And yes, working out.  When you have to heave yourself out of the front seat of your car, it's time...

Do more Girlfriend things...

And, most importantly, feed my soul through my collaboration with Suzan (aka FabricLady)
with who I have been working with for almost 4 years. Now, she keeps up HER blog (I am a contributor), so if you really want to know what I'm doing, just go there. LOL!

I spent a couple of hours yesterday in my Corner Chair, looking at photo albums of our trips through the years and old blog posts.  I used to write so much, but these days I'm a poster of my life on Instagram. I love photography and the spontaneity of it all. I've tried Medium as a vehicle for writing, but perhaps I should just give this old blog a jump start and try it back on for size.

we'll see...

Laurel. Age is just a number.
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