All Suited Up

Not much time to sew of late.  My sewing machine sits there glaring accusingly at me while I work on my laptop day after day. Still, I have managed to churn out a suit, even if it did take about 2 months from start to finish.


The jacket (yes, yet another Chanel jacket – you can never have too many) is Vogue #8804,one of the Claire Shaeffer Custom Couture Collection.  This is what took the longest obviously.  This is also when my machine was seriously annoyed with me because much of the jacket is stitched by hand.  The fabric comes from Tessuti’s and is a wool, acetate, viscose blend – a dream to work with.

The skirt is my design.  I didn’t have enough of the wool blend to make a skirt so off to the garage to rummage through my stash.  Voila! – a quilted faux leather teamed perfectly.

To finish off the ensemble, a matching handbag from the faux leather.  The pattern and hardware was purchased from the delightful Kylie Hammond of Handbag Hardware Australia.  Check out her store on Etsy – well worth the visit.

The jacket has already had an outing to the ballet in Brisbane, worn with a floaty black skirt.  Several favourable comments received from passers by.


Triangular Buttonholes

IMG_5185 4x6-2

Click to view video

Here’s a twist on the traditional bound buttonhole – a triangular buttonhole!  They look fabulous and – bonus! – they are a wee bit easier to make.  I have just finished a video tutorial which I hope to be the first in a series I am calling Creative Closures.  Can’t promise when the next one will be published but hopefully before too long.

IMG_5184 4x6


Castaway to Couture

Green Jacket-Before

‘Before’ shot – a wee bit too big for me

I got inspired by the Castaway to Couture competition run by the Australian Sewing Guild and took myself off to the Red Cross Op Shop for a bit of bargain hunting. Lo and behold – a jacket in my favourite colour (green), although definitely not the right size.

This jacket had lots of interesting features, especially the pockets.  So what to do…?  It hung in my wardrobe for a while, then migrated to Mrs Doubtfire (my dress model) while I pondered options.  Wanting to keep the pockets and the zipper, I eventually decided a skirt was the best use of fabric available.

Collar and sleeves removed, shaping at the side seams, a few darts to bring it in at the waist – looking good.  One sleeve was cut apart to make the waistband and voila – a skirt is born!

Chanel Cardigan Jacket

 Jacket Front

Claire Shaeffer pattern – Vogue 8259 (out of print)

Coco Chanel was the epitome of elegance and her classic cardigan jacket is a timeless garment.  It is my humble opinion that no wardrobe is complete without at least one version.  Then, if you are going to be a purist, it must be constructed using classic couture techniques.  Being a huge fan of sewing by hand, this suits me just fine.

This year I will be teaching a 4-day workshop at the Australian Sewing Guild annual convention on constructing a Chanel jacket incorporating couture methods.  Although there is a considerable amount of hand sewing required, you still do get to use a sewing machine.  The order of construction is quite different to what you may be used to.  For example, normally the lining would be the last thing to be inserted into a jacket.  Not so with the Chanel jacket which has the lining quilted to the body.  This means you attach the lining to the fronts and backs BEFORE you join at shoulders and side seams.  Quilting the lining to the fabric provides wonderful stability and body to the garment particularly when using the traditional tweed boucle fabric which is a loose weave.

I now have two versions of this pattern in my wardrobe.  The first one I made was a a navy textured wool/polyester blend  I made it with a collar, two pockets only, and gorgeous retro-print silk lining.  The pattern (Vogue 8259) has a 3-piece sleeve with a lovely curved vent (with buttonholes, of course).  This sleeve is wonderful for fitting larger arms, as the extra seam gives you more opportunities to enlarge where needed, particularly in the upper arm area.

The fabric used was stable enough that back, side front and sleeves did not require interfacing – the quilting provided enough body.  The jacket front still requires interfacing and I choose to use tailor’s canvas.

For my second jacket I choose the more traditional boucle fabric with a check design which means careful cutting to match the pattern across seams.  This being a loose weave fabric, I interfaced the body pieces with silk organza before quilting the lining.  Four pockets in this version and no collar.  Loving the laser-etched Italian buttons.  In fact, the whole jacket was designed around the buttons!

What would I do different next time?  I should have made the front facing from a contrasting fabric like a silk dupion to reduce the bulk at the front.  I’m still very pleased with the result and it fits beautifully.  Now I just have to wait for winter to wear it.

Vogue 8259 is now out of print but a very similar pattern (also Claire Schaeffer) is V8804.  No collar with this pattern and a 2-piece sleeve but otherwise the same.  It would be easy enough to adapt the sleeve and add a collar.

Re-fashion competition

Check out the Australian Sewing Guild Inc.  They have got an exciting new competition, collaborating with Red Cross Stores.  This is for all those re-cyclers, re-fashioners, creative thinkers, fashionistas, etc., etc.  Anyone can win, you just have to collect votes.  Well OK, you do have to do a bit of sewing first but that’s fun!

Click the Enter Now button in the sidebar to get all the information.


Vintage Lace Re-visited

It’s been a long time coming but AT LAST the beautiful piece of vintage lace I wrote about nearly a year ago has found its way into a garment.  This piece was a Christmas present from my husband in 2013, purchased from Chantilly Dreams.  Every couple of months I would unwrap it, gaze at it lovingly and then put it away again, waiting for inspiration and the right piece of fabric.

Early in the year I received an email from the lovely Amanda at Designer Fabrics, telling me her new shop in Bundall (Gold Coast, Qld) is finally open.  Drop everything and rush off for a bit of shopping.  As luck would have it, all old stock was drastically reduced so I came away with a nice top-up for my stash, including a printed chiffon that was begging to team up with my lace.

It may be a bit hard to see in the photos, but the front bodice has tucks.  I was a wee bit nervous about tucks in chiffon so tried a new product called Terial Magic which is a stabilising fabric spray – worked a treat!  Spray the fabric until saturated, squeeze out excess and then hang on the line to dry.  The result is fabric that handles more like paper.  Of course the lines in the pattern were a bonus, making pressing the tucks a cinch.  Once all tucks were sewn, back to the laundry to give it all a good rinse to remove the ‘starch’.

So, without further ado, here it is!

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Sheer Bliss

Last year I attended the Australian Sewing Guild annual convention and gave a PowerPoint presentation on working with sheer fabrics.  After the presentation a number of ladies asked for copies of this presentation.  I decided it might be a good idea to turn it into a video and share it with the wide world of sewists.  FINALLY, months later,  here it is.




Quest for the Perfect Bodice

Alas, over the years my body has changed.  Many hours spent at the sewing machine (and computer) have contributed to slightly rounded shoulders, making a good fitting bodice a wee bit more difficult.  All you sewing enthusiasts know how hard it is to fit yourself and when the fitting problems are in the back it becomes even more difficult.  Sooooo… the eternal quest for the perfect bodice sloper has led me to this post.

Some months ago I purchased a Craftsy online class called Pattern Making Basics:  The Bodice Sloper.  Before you roll your eyes and say “been there, done that” read on.  I’ve tried a few other such classes – very ho-hum – but this one was different.  The instructor is a fabulous teacher by the name of Suzy Furrer.  She takes you through the steps of measuring, creating a moulage (a VERY tight version of the sloper, with no wearing ease) and then the creation of your sloper.  It’s a process that is not for the impatient as lots of measuring, checking, careful calculating, etc. is required.  However, definitely worth the effort.

Ta da!!!  After a weekend in the sewing room, hunched over my cutting table and sewing machine, here it is.

Perhaps still a bit of tweaking required(see those slight wrinkles), but I’m very happy with the result so far.  I’ve just purchased Suzy’s book Building Patterns:  The Architecture of Women’s Clothing (go to her website at  Suzy also has other online classes available at Craftsy but purchasing the book gives you all the classes in one reference book.

Of course, I have to acknowledge the assistance of my Australian Sewing Guild buddies who helped with measuring and fitting.  What would I do without my Guild friends?!

Before and After

Two months since my last post – shame on me! This post needs to be pretty special to make up for the lack of activity. I should clarify that statement – I HAVE been active, both in and out of the sewing room. I just have not had time to indulge in a little sewing for the all important ME.  When I got an email from my Sewing Guild Group Coordinator telling me that our July meeting was about re-fashioning garments I needed to come up with something in a hurry.

Before - coat



Voila! The deep, dark recesses of my closet revealed this overcoat purchased 20 years ago when living in Sydney and still working. I’m usually pretty good at regularly weeding out my wardrobe but this coat seems to have escaped every pruning. It was a favourite for lots of reasons – I loved the colour, the fabric and  details like the collar and pocket flaps. However, since moving to Queensland 12 years ago I have worn it exactly twice. Time for a makeover.


Vogue 8876001


Marcy Tilton is one of my favourite designers and her patterns frequently lend themselves to this type of project because she uses interesting shapes and lines in her designs.  Lots of smaller pattern pieces make it easier to re-fashion an existing garment.  It’s a bit hard to see the detail in this photo but take a look at the line art below and you will see the design lines more clearly.


Vogue 8876002






After dismantling the coat (at my Guild meeting) it became clear I would need another piece of fabric so off to the garage when I got home to rummage through my stash.  Of course, with all those pieces to choose from, the perfect one was waiting for me – a piece of cream and brown border print (cotton) picked up for $5.00 from a remnant basket.  Some careful planning, juggling of pattern pieces and a thoroughly delightful day in my sewing room resulted in this masterpiece.  It’s a bit chilly to wear  just now but winter never lasts very long in Queensland.

Remember the collar and pocket flaps I so loved?  They have reappeared, intact, on the dress.  A slight variation on the original design which is still very pleasing to the eye and had the added benefit of reducing sewing time.  I also salvaged the tabs from the sleeve cuffs and added them at the back of the dress.  The buttons are also from the original garment.  End result – a quirky little number costing me a grand total of $7.80 (I had to buy a spool of thread)!

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

Perfect Points

This one is for Sharon who wanted to know how I achieved the perfect points on the sleeve plackets of the ‘Vanishing Lapels‘ jacket.  First, I will say that the placket is decorative only, not functional as in a shirt sleeve.  The trick to achieving perfect points is described in this post.

Placket 1Step 1:  Decide how wide to make the placket – 1 .25 inches is a good choice and what I have used in this example.  I cut a strip of fabric 1.75 inches wide and pressed under 0.25 inches on each side.



Placket 2

Step 2:  Fold one edge over diagonally as illustrated and press





Step 3:  Fold Corner A to meet Corner B and press




Placket 3Placket 4

And Voila – the perfect point!  If your fabric is heavy, you may wish to trim away some of the excess under the fold.




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