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.


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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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

The Vanishing Lapel


The Vanishing Lapel

Another project ticked of my list.  In a recent edition of Threads Magazine (April/May 2014) I saw a picture of a jacket that had me very intrigued.  The article accompanying the picture was titled ‘The Lapel Vanishes’ and gave quite detailed instructions for creating the pattern.  I pored over the instructions and diagrams for a long time and still couldn’t work out how the garment was constructed.  CHALLENGE!!!

The only way to work this out was to draft the pattern, as per instructions and make a calico toile.  My first attempt, using a basic jacket pattern, was not so good.  The neckline was too low, the angle of the lapel wrong and the vertical front seam was in the wrong spot.

Attempt No. 2 used a basic shirt pattern with a bust dart – much happier this time.  Although the bust dart added an extra ‘line’ at the front, the fit was much better and it was far more comfortable to wear.

Ready for the real thing! My fabric was purchased online from Tessuti’s – a gorgeous Italian 100% wool faille.  The colour was called Wasabi and, although it is quite different from what I saw on screen, I’m still very pleased (after all, it’s green!).

My jacket differs to the Threads version in that I choose to make it single-breasted and added set in pockets with welts.  The sleeves are one piece and 3/4 length.  It’s a boxy style jacket rather than fitted, and very comfortable.  Check out the gorgeous buttons purchased from Designer Fabrics on the Gold Coast AND the bound buttonholes!



Dressed in Denim

Loving this dress, just completed last weekend. The fabric was another purchase on my trip to Sydney in March, this time from Remnant Warehouse.  I have yet to visit this shop without coming away with at least one piece of fabric.  This time it was 3 metres of stretch denim in muted shades of navy and brown floral with a striped background.  When I took it to the counter for cutting I got a nice surprise when I saw the other side of the fabric which was striped without the floral print.  Hmmm, she says, this means I have to use both sides.


The pattern is Burda 8864 which I’m pretty sure is no longer in print.  It’s a pattern I have used and modified several times, always with good results as the basic design is very flattering.  The side front panels were cut on the bias to make best use of the plain stripe.  I used the pattern version with the dropped waist seam so I could add a degree of difficulty – matching the diagonal stripes!  This became a bit more of a challenge than anticipated because the stripes were directional and I was working with a limited amount of fabric, having first made a pair of jeans.  After much fiddling and jiggling (the pattern, not me) I got the perfect match.  Check out the side view of the dress in the photos.  The sleeves were my own creation – a cap sleeve with a pleat at the shoulder.

I finished the dress, tried it on for the last time and something seemed to be missing.  The centre front panel was one expanse that was BORING.  To break it up, I added the shaped belt attached with 2 buttons.  Amazing what a difference this made; suddenly the dress looked very interesting.  Oh yes, forgot to mention that I also added a shaped stand-up collar around the back and just past the shoulder seam in the front.  For a bit of variation I dug out a gorgeous detachable collar with lots of blingy hardware.  I can wear the dress with or without, depending on my mood.

Chanel Cardigan

This was my Easter weekend project. The challenge was to make something without having to go to the shops to buy supplies – i.e. USE THE STASH! The fabric is not that old, only purchased a few months ago at Pitt Trading in Sydney. At a quick glance it looks like the classic Chanel jacket. On closer inspection it is a simplified version – the Chanel cardigan.

I used KwikSew pattern 2759 (for I’m sure the 100th time). No variations this time other than to add the pockets. The garment is super easy to make with just 5 pieces in total – 1 x back, 2 x fronts, 2 x sleeves. The front and neck edges were stabilised with fusible edge tape which is one of my favourite products for stabilising all manner of things.  I buy it in 100 metre rolls from Hawes and Freer Ltd. (NZ) who have a wonderful range of tailoring products as well as beautiful fabrics.  Digging through my stash for a suitable facing, I decided on good old cotton bias binding (2.5cm wide).  Pockets are lined with cotton voile and stitched on by hand.  The beauty of working with this fabric is that you don’t have to take great care with your stitching as nothing shows.  All stitching disappears into the highly textured fabric.  To finish it off , black braid trim (also attached by hand) which makes it a ‘Chanel’ cardigan. No buttons, no fastenings – just a simple style made special by the fabric and trim.

It’s a cold night on the Gold Coast today (yes, we do get ‘cold’ weather) and I am off to the ballet in Brisbane.  I had a strappy little number all picked out which has now gone back into the closet.  Out comes the basic black knit dress, topped with this super cardigan!


The Wedding Dress – Part 2

Ta da! Drum roll and fanfare of trumpets. The dress is finished without any more major challenges.  Lots and lots of hand sewing to applique lace to the side fronts and backs as well as the tiny seed beads scattered  between the lace.  Check the side view of the dress – very proud of those beads!  The buttons down the back are decorative below the lace (the dress closes with an invisible zipper) and functional above the zipper closing.  Tiny pieces of shirring elastic were used to create the loops and the easiest way to  button up is with the help of a crochet hook.  The flounce at the bottom has four layers of tulle.  The ‘pouffe’ is created with 8 metres of netting underneath, pleated onto a lining.

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