Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Or a part of something greater.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Journey to Coco

Finished! Hooray!
In November 2011 I began a journey to make a Coco Channel style jacket. I knew there would be compromises along the way. And I knew I would make mistakes. The bottom line is that it is finished, and finished is better than perfect.

  • Vogue 8369 - out of print Claire Shaeffer design.
  • Fashion fabric - silk tweed - browns and blue-grays with a bit of cream
  • Lining fabric - silk charmeuse - blue-gray
  • Trim - two layers, under layer is a pleated blue-gray satin ribbon, top layer is a narrow cream lace, darkened with a tea dip.
  • Chain - very light weight
Changes made to pattern:
  • Much tweaking of fit completed in mid-January.
  • Modified to eliminate shoulder pads to make it more traditional
  • Shorter length
  • Modified neckline

A very talented sewist in my ASG neighborhood group who has made several Coco jackets agreed to lead about a dozen of us through this process. She started by helping us select our patterns and our fabrics. We were supposed to be on our own for fit, but as sewing sisters always do, she helped us with that too. Here are the steps as I recall them, following the fit of a muslin:
  1. Cut the seam allowances off the muslin.
  2. Using the muslin pieces as the pattern, roughly cut out the fashion fabric pieces in a single layer.
  3. Thread trace the seam lines, grain lines and all other markings.
  4. Roughly cut out the lining, same as fashion fabric.
  5. Stay all relevant edges with bias silk organza.
  6. Hand-work button holes. (I skipped this step after a few tries. My silk tweed would have none of it and I was already on a steep learning curve. This necessitated changing the style of my jacket some.)
  7. Machine quilt each piece, layering fashion fabric and lining, leaving enough space for seam finishes along the seam lines.
  8. Tie off and bury thread at the end of each quilting line.
  9. Hand baste body of jacket, with lining pieces omitted. Check again for fit and matched plaid.
  10. Steam shape the body of the jacket.
  11. Machine stitch body of jacket, fashion fabric only.
  12. Attach pockets. (I may go back and add these. Mine is pretty plain now.)
  13. Hand stitch lining pieces together for body of jacket. 
  14. Quilt sleeve pieces as with the body pieces.
  15. Steam shape the sleeve pieces and baste together. Then machine stitch together fashion fabric only, finishing sleeve lining as for the body of the jacket. (I chose a very simple vent for my sleeves.)
  16. Steam shape sleeve cap.
  17. Baste sleeve into jacket, catching only the fashion fabric as above. Check for fit and then hand-stitch sleeve permanently to jacket body. (I machine stitched my fashion fabric sleeves to the body of the jacket.)
  18. Sew sleeve lining to jacket lining by hand, as with other lining pieces.
  19. Attach each layer of trim by hand to neck and front edges, as well as sleeve hems and vents.
  20. Hand-stitch lining to fashion fabric at all raw edges.
  21. Attach chain to hem with a stitch at the top and the bottom of each link.
I left out the steps where I cursed and threw things, the week when I hid all the pieces in the back of a dark closet, the times I fantasized about burning it in my front yard, but otherwise this is the way I remember it.

Lessons learned (There are way more than this. Short-term memory loss can be a blessing.)
  • Use 100% wool for the fashion fabric in a Coco jacket. Wool boucle is best, but 100% wool. Silk does not respond to steam the way wool does.
  • Try to avoid silk charmuese for the lining even though it is traditional. Mine cost more than the silk tweed (Probably. See note about short-term memory above). It grows fur. It grew tendrils and wove itself into the silk tweed which wanted to unravel. It made me crazy over and over again. (And I put it in upside down so it looks like Bemberg Ambiance. Too bad I didn't actually use Bemberg Ambiance.)
  • Use something that reads solid. Avoid plaids. My silk tweed had these heavy threads that changed color as they traveled across the width and down the length of the fabric. So even when I successfully matched, it looked unmatched. The threads were heavy and difficult to penetrate with any hand sewing needle. I think the machine needle just nudged it aside at times because it looked matched when basted. Then when machined, it no longer matched.
  • When quilting, choose less, not more.
  • Truthfully it is growing on me and I think I may wear it a lot. 
  • Wear it with something that is a bit close fitting. I have one picture of me wearing it. I have on a loose fitting blouse and pull-on pants. Not good. Jeans and a tucked in T shirt would look better as well as a skirt and blouse. The former is more likely than the latter.
  • I will make a second Coco jacket, though not this week.
  • I'll make new mistakes on the second one.
  • I learned so much about fabric,fitting, hand-sewing, steaming and so many other skills and ideas.
If you have read this far, I owe you a big thanks. Sorry about all the whining.

I owe a HUGE THANKS to our leader who patiently guided us through this process, and was always ready with encouragement and suggestions. I imagine that she must have cringed occasionally with my technique, but she never showed it. What a friend.

Simple closure (hidden thread bar and button)

Simple sleeve vent

Those price tags are really labels - right back, etc.

OOP Claire Shaeffer Vogue 8369
Coco Channel was a genius.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

But can they sing too?

The Pure and Simple Gang
Having just finished my Coco jacket (post coming soon), I needed to make something fast and fun.

Louise Cutting's Pure and Simple Shell was perfect for the task. And A Fool For Fabric provided the needed inspiration with her gallery of Pure and Simple shells. I had to tweak a bit on the first one - size small through the shoulders, then slash and spread below - but it was mostly as advertised - Pure and Simple. Her instructions are such a delight to follow. 

From left to right, they are out of silk charmeuse, linen, 7 ounce denim, and quilt-weight cotton purchased by DSIL in Mozambique. With one obvious exception, the fabrics were easy to sew. I did make the first one too large. That is why the denim one has a seam down the middle. I took the first one apart, made the needed changes and recut it. That forced a center front seams, which by the way is another vertical line.

From the back
The one problem child is pictured below. It is silk charmeuse, a remnant from my Coco jacket project. I was reminded over and over again why it is that Kenneth King says he'd rather chew glass than sew with silk charmeuse. I tried every silk trick I knew and it was still a slow challenging process. The hem was the worst. I may go back and bind it the way I did the neck and armscyes though not soon. Like maybe never.

Don't they look a little like the linen Lennon sisters? For me, they sing. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Home Dec. Oh, My.

Home decoration is my least favorite sewing activity. It's obvious in my home. Many rooms with no curtains at all. Upholstered furniture in dire need of recovering. PK our old kitty was the excuse for ignoring all of this. Alas, she died a week ago at age 19. :(

A few days ago I headed out to a sad event, a visitation prior to the funeral for a sweet quilting friend who had been fighting cancer for a number of years. A wonderfully creative sewer. Such a loss. She leaves a legacy though - the Storybook Quilts project. That's really something, I think.

Anyway I grabbed my go-to jacket for such occasions - a royal blue and black silk matka one made from a Shirley Adams pattern. It wasn't my all-time favorite jacket ever, but it was easy to grab and go, especially over basic black. As I drove home, I glanced over at it in the car seat beside me. Lo, and behold, the sleeves were two entirely different colors. The one hanging nearest the window in the closet was decidedly lighter. And ugly.

Then I began to think about all of the other garments hanging in the brightly lit closet. Ones I put even more time into constructing. How much other fading has occurred? Well, I'm not going to check. Instead I covered the offending window. 

I have had this interesting little piece of home dec cotton in my stash a while. A border print with wild flowers on one selvage, then black and white wavy stripes out to the other selvage. I did not buy enough for a real home dec project. (whew) but it worked great for this space.

DH obligingly mounted the hardware and it went together quickly. I lined it with blackout fabric from the big box store. Amazingly satisfying.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Am I a girl again?

This is not about sewing. I know this is a sewing blog. It's called Now Sewing. But right now it should be called Now Stewing. What is going on?

First some of the thirty-somethings even in my own family seem content to refer to every female person as a girl. These are successful young women with children of their own, daughters even. And they don't want to know anything about the history of the women's movement. Even women my age refer to female persons as girls.

Even our breasts are referred to as *the girls.*

And now, one of my favorite blogs Wearable Art, posts this one about Retro Aprons. What does this mean?

My mother is spinning in her grave. This is the woman who covered her cooktop in house plants. Looked good. God, I miss her.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pattern-less Sewing

Having been in a bit of a sewing funk, I decided to make something simple, something that allows me to just enjoy the fabric, enjoy the process, enjoy the day.

This is an easy dress for DGD1 who just turned 8. I used elastic thread - really just elastic thin enough to fit in the bobbin - to shirr one edge of the fabric which is 60 inches wide.

 I used Pam Howard's felling technique to finish the hem. So simple. So neat.

 And I added a label as I usually do for DGK projects.

 And then the straps,

 which are easy bias tubes with some craft beads on the ends.

 And I added some elastic to my CLD one-seams that are really just a muslin. A muslin I cannot seem to leave alone.

So satisfying to finish something.