Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Just Chanel

Karl Lagerfeld made a book called the Little Black Jacket: Here’s my version.

No celebs, no fashion people, no make-up artists or stylists, no champagne, no fanfare or publicity, in fact, not even a little black jacket – a navy one instead.

Chanel with party frock

And what’s this? A matching dress?
If you’re really that interested, you can click here to see all relevant postings on this jacket. If you have 108 hours to spend usually either hand sewing or steam pressing and you too can have the same jacket. Vogue 8804 Claire Shaeffer Custom Couture Collection.
Item number 1 for 2013 SWAP completed!


Fait Accompli

Isn’t it a treat to have a few days of nothing to do but sew? The Christmas rush is over and the New Year has not yet begun, still off work and there is a bit of respite in the middle. I’m reading that many of you use this time to sew fanatically – and I haven’t been the exception. Nice to see I’m in good company.
I had a few things to finish up (actually start and finish) but more on that for another day – before settling down and returning to the infinite project of the Chanel jacket and its teeny-tiny hand sewing construction. I have a plan that I want to wear this very soon and with a deadline looming – NYE – I had to finish it.
The body of the jacket was completed just needed sleeves – two the same. All the usual stuff here, so I won’t bore you with intricate details – two working button holes at the edge, three piece sleeves, quilted onto the lining and then put the machine away and bring out the needle and thread. Same ribbon and trim attached by hand around the cuff and the lining slip stitched in place.

Tell me, when you are making sleeves do you finish one and then start the other? Or do you do the same bits on each simultaneously?

In this case I worked on one sleeve at a time, completing one before doing it all over again on the other.

Long story short – sleeves done. Machined into the arm scythe after basting and trying on a million times and then the lining hand stitched on the inside to hide all the raw edges.

Because so much work has already gone into the body of the jacket – there are only some little finishing touches to be done at this stage.

Label sewn in, chain for weight and tradition attached at the hemline, buttons sewn on the front. Following Ann Rowley’s advice on SG the button stitches do not come through the lining – it remains free.

I opted for silver chain and buttons instead of gold as it really does go better with the navy/black.

I choose a silver lion’s head – Coco herself used the lion’s head as a symbol of the Chanel brand. I don’t have the $188 per button to spend on the originals, so I was very happy to find mine in the local fabric shop considerably cheaper than that.

 This jacket is also item number 1 from my SWAP 2013 – one down only 10 matching/coordinating items to go. At least it’s a start – and a finish!

There were times when I though it would never be finished; I sometimes dreaded the apparently endless handsewing; I was often overwhelmed with the amount of work involved – now that it is done – I want another one! I love this style – the bracelet length sleeves, the boxy yet fitted shape, the easy throw on and comfortable to wear, the goes-with-anything style.

You want to see this on, don’t you?


Advancement a la Chanel

Progress has been made! Hurray!
Pockets are on, so now I turn my attention to the trim and braid for the main body of the jacket – the fronts and around the neck.

I’m using a black polyester ribbon that has to be steamed into a curve for the neckline. Gathered on the inside edge with hand stitches to pull it into a curve and pinned out onto the ironing board using the template that comes with the pattern – no amount of stream, pressing, effort or swearing is going to make this ribbon shrink.

So I’ve ended up with bubbles and wrinkles but I’m hoping when the trim is sewn on it will hide them all.
This unshaped ribbon is then hand sewn 5/8″ all the way around the neckline and fronts of the jacket.

There – trim added and hides the wonky grosgrain ribbon. Result!
More hand sewing still to be done and that’s for the shaping of the jacket. It is a very boxy shape but there’s a neat little trick with tiny hand sewn darts in the lining and then shrinking the shell fabric to fit. this technique makes the lining smaller than the jacket so the tweed is then shrunk to match.

Look at the difference it makes to the waistline.

 Six teeny-weaney darts, four at the back and two at the front, really no more than 3mm each, hours spent steaming and pressing and now there is a waist. Impressive.

Next, on to the sleeves…..but that may have to wait until after Christmas.

Preparations for Christmas are almost complete; there are a lot of services to go to in the next few days and I’m sure there will be choir robes to be hemmed and buttons to be replaced.

My newest scar is located between my shoulder blades and is healing nicely; the Superwoman scar on my leg still hurts but is also healed and quite spectacular to behold. Back to derm on 11th Jan for another review and then perhaps we can get on with life as we know it. Once again, thank you all for your good wishes for a speedy recovery – I really appreciate your kind thoughts.



Start of SWAP – Chanel

Instead of twiddling my thumbs and getting nothing done, I made a start on the first item of my SWAP 13 – the Chanel jacket. According to the rules, you can pre-sew one item before the start date and this is going to take A LOT of time!

Pattern is Claire Schaeffer Vogue 8804. Lots of couture techniques, hand sewing, steaming, shaping, basting, tacking and hardly any machine sewing!

If you ever find yourself stranded on a deserted island with no electricity make sure you have this pattern, 2m of boucle tweed, a few needles, two thousands miles of basting thread and of course, matching thread, a bit of trim (but you can always knock that up from coconut fibres) and you will be able to construct this jacket. The last and most unimportant item required for this jacket is the sewing machine.

It’s from the Audrey side of the Hepburn collection and although she wore mostly Givenchy, I’m making Chanel, so there!

Fabric is from Craftswoman Fabrics (local shop). It is a rich dark navy blue boucle with a black strip of ‘tinsel’ woven in for shine and glitter. As I don’t wear black, it’s a great alternative to Chanel’s Little Black Jacket.

Chanel Little Black Jacket

It took nearly three hours just cutting this out. I’m multi tasking on this one, doing lots of little things simultaneously – goes like this;

Marking up the lining pieces and the shell fabric pieces as and when I need them.

When I get bored doing that I can always do a bit of shaping and steaming…….
There are no darts on this jacket but a neat little way of adding shape. Gather up a bit at the edge of the side front with running stitches.

Sew a dart in a bit of interfacing and handstitch this in position – matching the dots on the side fronts.

This creates the bubble on the outside that you can see in the pic above.

Pull the running stitches up so that the interfacing bit lies flat on the inside but you have gathers on the outside.

Steam the living daylights out of the shell fabric until it shrinks and lies flat. Voila, as they say in Rue Cambon, a shaped piece of fabric without darts!

While that’s cooling off, I can go back to crocheting a chain for the trim. Made with fibres pulled from leftover fabric and sewn (by hand) onto a grosgrain ribbon,

When I have enough trim, then I can go back to the 4 pockets – all hand sewn – attach the grosgrain ribbon, sew on the trim, turn in the seam allowances, catch stitch them down, slipstitch the lining in place and press. Basting all the way!

And when I’ve had enough of all this I can always go back to the hand bound buttonholes on the front.

Maybe one day, I’ll actually be able to construct the jacket!


Chanel No 2

The vintage jacket is progressing slowly – the organza is cut for the underlining and the tailor tacking has begun – it will be a real vintage jacket by the time I’m done with it! I thought I’d show you a previous couture outfit that I made about a year ago. I’m also hoping this will inspire me to attend to the vintage jacket because my heart just doesn’t seem to be in it.

A few years ago we were driving down England on choir tour and were passing close to Carlisle where Linton Tweeds is located. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to visit the factory and, more importantly, the shop. Linton Tweeds produces the most amazing fabrics for all the big design houses in Europe, renowned especially for Chanel. After three years the shop sells the leftover fabric that the designers didn’t want – so while not in season, you still end up with a unique fabric that you know was created specially for a haute couture house. What else to make but a second Chanel? 

Husband selected this navy, pink and white tweed that has a fine sliver thread running through it. I also purchased a metre (yard) of matching plain pink wool for a skirt. I’m not a pink person – but these two fabrics were made to go together – so why not?

Having already made one Chanel jacket, I was a little better informed for this second try. I used the same Vogue pattern as before but did the usual and left the collar off, only added two lower pockets  and did an edge to edge lining rather than the facings. There were no interfacings or underlinings used but I did reinforce areas of the jacket in alternative ways – see below.

The lining is a soft navy 100% silk.  This was cut from the same pieces as the jacket, quilted onto the shell fabric and sewed by hand to the seam allowances on the inside. The button holes on the inside are bound in a complimentary satin that was also used to line the skirt, but handworked (rather badly) on the outside. The quilting lines on this jacket are much more even than Chanel No 1
To finish the hem of the jacket, I cut a strip of the skirt fabric and slip stitched to the edge for a neater finish and to add a bit of weight. This also provided a more substantial fabric  to which I sewed the obligatory chain. This time I used a silver chain rather than the traditional Chanel brass one to match in with the colours of the jacket. 
For once I also used real buttons instead of my usual covered ones. I was lucky enough to find these in my local fabric shop and bought two sizes – larger size for the front and slightly smaller for the sleeves. The buttonholes on the sleeves work and you can just about see the uneven handworked buttonholes here. 
 The trim for the jacket took weeks and many samples before I was completely happy with the look. A purchased navy braid was hand stitched all around – but it seemed ‘lost’ and insubstantial when viewed from any distance. I crocheted single chains in a furry cerise mohair wool that has flecks of multi-coloured fibres in it.
I sent teenage son up the stairs to hold securely three of the crochet  chains while I backed down the steps plaiting (braiding) as I went. This was then sewn onto the jacket around the edges and alongside the navy trim. 

Never one to waste a scrap of leftover fabric – I made a pull through belt to tie the skirt and jacket together.

 The whole outfit was completed with a silk chiffon blouse from Vogue.

The neck edge of the jacket was faced – but simply to give myself something to sew to as I was down to less than 1cm (3/8″) of seam allowance around the top. It also added a weight and body that the jacket needed over the shoulders.

I was determined to create a full couture suit so the skirt received the same kind of attention that the jacket did. It is underlined, lined and the waistband finish was taken, in part, from Claire Schaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques. Apart from the zip insertion (see Zen & Zips) it is a perfect fit even if it is pink!

The jacket is surprisingly heavy when just carrying it, but it really has that comfy cardigan feel when worn. As always, it goes with jeans and I’ve made navy trousers (pants) to ring the changes. A very versatile style.

Thanks for reading. Ruth