Thursday, 25 August 2016

Book Review: Mademoiselle Chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel:  A Novel

Author:  C. W. Gortner

Publisher:  Harper Collins

ISBN:  978-0-06-240346-9

Retail:  $21.99 (Cdn) paperback

In the historical fiction Mademoiselle Chanel, C. W. Gortner takes the reader on a romp through Coco Chanel's rise from a life of poverty to the toast of Parisian society. Gortner's admiration of his subject is evident as he paints a vivid picture of the famous designer unlocking the stories behind iconic Chanel symbols. He explores her motivation and desire to be the best, unafraid to be different, yet secretly yearning to be accepted.

Chanel is exposed as a ruthless businesswoman and mistress with a soft sensitive side that she fights in order to avoid being used and escape the life her mother lead. Although the question remains if Gortner has successfully solved the mystery that is Coco.  If anything, he has exposed Chanel as the original queen of reinvention.

The book did not satisfy my desire to learn more of Gabrielle Chanel, the designer. Instead it is a romp though her romanic episodes that aid in her rise in the fashion world. Well into reading, I really didn't care for the book as much as I thought that I would. I was hoping to unlock the sensual textures and descriptions of her workroom and fabrics, not her bedroom, which is what I felt I was left with, too many details of Chanel and her lovers, "God know, I want love. But the moment I must choose between a man and my dresses, I choose my dresses" (269-270). But there is little description to illustrate that this is her true passion. This book is not The Pink Suit. Sadly, there is not enough detail of her true love and in doing so, Gortner at times paints Chanel as a woman without passion.

It isn't until the dangers that Chanel faces in war ravaged Paris that the genius behind Gortner's novel is revealed. Just like a exquisite Chanel jacket, the foundation had to be painstaking built and that is what Gortner achieved, bringing everything together. Towards the final chapters, I couldn't put the book down and it was then that I truly appreciated his workmanship.



Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Refashioned Leather Jacket

Sometimes I shop at the second hand store for clothes to harvest the fabric. This red leather shirt is the perfect example.  

I picked up this oversized shirt a couple of years ago thinking that I would use it in a bag but then I saw this jacket over at Communing with Fabric and my creative juices started thinking that I need to switch up my plans. The pattern I used for this project was the same that Shams used, Burda 7183, I just omitted the zipper.

Burda 7183 will go down as a TNT pattern. I cut a size 14 and there were no issues with fit. Although the pattern calls for knit fabrics, it worked out fine in the leather as well. My biggest challenge was how making the pattern pieces fit. 

I was working with a size XS leather shirt from Danier Leather which meant that I had to do a lot of seam ripping work in order to utilize all the fabric that I needed. And we're talking down to the millimetre!  

It was worth it, as I was able to squeak out just enough to create the jacket I wanted. Thank goodness for eighties oversized styles.

This is how it turned out. I love it. It would be a nice little topper for the late summer / early fall. Shams finished her jacket with fold over elastic and I did consider this option because it looked so good on her jacket. I changed my mind because I couldn't find a matching colour nor one that I thought looked suitable. So I decided to leave the edges raw.

Now the question remains, what to do with the left over pieces?  

The Stats:

Fabric:   1 - XS leather shirt

Pattern:  Burda 7183

Needle:  1 leather

Additional Tools & Supplies:  Sewing machine, thread, walking foot, seam ripper, scissors, threat clippers, tweezers, cutting table, paper clips, and some background noise from the television.

Happy Sewing!  

Saturday, 20 August 2016

In Sewing News Today...

Did you catch this article earlier this week? Polly Dunbar wrote a piece called, "How Your Clothes are DESIGNED to Fall Apart:  From Dodgy Stitching to Cheap Fabrics, Today's Fashions are Made Not to Last--So You HAVE to Buy More."

Dunbar exposes a fashion industry that designs garments to self-destruct in various forms in order to easily force unwitting consumers to replace poor quality goods with the same. I felt that Dunbar unfairly blamed consumers with an uncontrollable appetite for fast-fashion. But I think there is something else at play that Dunbar doesn't mention. Just consider that consumers have lost a very power tool in the 1970s when home economics classes that focused on clothing and textiles were removed from the curriculum in many school divisions. If knowledge itself is power, by taking away the education that makes one an astute consumer in terms of quality workmanship of textile goods and replacing it with cheap prices is there any wonder how this has happened? Brand consultant, Tony Glenville points out that today's consumers do not check the quality of the fabric or seams. But hold on a second!  If they haven't been educated in this essential skill, how would they know what to look for?

Yet we can see that my "home economics theory" has
a hole in it as illustrated with one of my own RTW t-shirts.  

It is a good article, Dunbar interviews many working in the field to expose this long suspected fact.  I especially appreciated the reference to the quality of fabrics found now-a-days.
And the fabrics we wear today are far less hard-wearing than in the past. Until synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon became popular, virtually all clothes were made of natural materials: wool, cotton, silk and linen.  These are more durable than synthetic and blended fabrics - which is why so many ‘vintage’ pieces have survived.  Read more: 
I couldn't agree more with this part of the article. I also find this at the fabric store. I have fabric in my stash that is from decades ago. Yes, an archival collection of fabric, some pieces I'm too scared to cut into. But I digress...

The comparison in quality and weight is highly noticeable when compared to similarly labelled fabrics of today. If I want to make a dress of cotton fabric some of the best finds are in the home decor department not the fashion fabric side of the store. It seems next-to-impossible to find a white 100% cotton shirting fabric, not a cotton blend, that isn't see-though now-a-days.

Talking about finding good quality natural fibre fabrics worthy of clothing in the home decor department... I scored this lovely cloth while at Fabricland this week. It is currently on sale. It is a medium weight cotton. I'm thinking a shirt-dress.  

In other sewing news, I've been busy sewing up a storm to get craft sale inventory together. More microwave bowl holders and kids' clothing are in the works. And these items are not made to fall apart. I'm also thinking about sewing up some tweed teddy bears with some mens' suit jackets that I've collected for messenger bags. We'll see how they turn out.

Tomorrow, I would like to take a break from craft sale sewing and finish up that Issey Miyake dress. I'm just worried if it will fit. It is not yet at a point where I can try it on.

And maybe a new bag.

Well, that's all the sewing news I have for now... Until next time, happy sewing!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Is it a Vest or a Top?

My thoughts have been towards autumn sewing since the mosquitos have made hanging outdoors downright miserable and the air conditioning has me wrapped in a sweater. And then there is Sandra Betzina's latest Fall release, Vogue 1515. Swoon, I love that draped collar. 

Even though it is a sleeveless top, I was thinking autumn gear and I had the perfect fabric in mind for the project.  

The timing was perfect when this embroidered boiled wool found its way to the bargain section, I had to snatch it up. I'm so glad that I did, it worked out beautifully with this pattern. And would you believe I picked up the fabric for less than a chai latte from my favourite coffee shop?  

I did things a little differently from the instructions. I didn't do any of the top-stitching, deciding to serge my seam edges instead. I lengthened the top at the hemline and straighten it a bit. Even though I cut out the armhole facings, I decided to use the fusible Knit-N-Stable™ tape, serge, turn over, and stitch. It worked out great, I love that stretchy fusible seam tape! And instead of stitching the collar down by machine, I chose to hand-stitch it in place along the neckline seam.  

I'm absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. I'll being wearing it as a vest though, I have a lovely grey knit that I would like to sew a t-shirt to wear underneath this item. I can barely wait for autumn weather to get here.  

The Stats:

Fabric:  1.5 metres

Pattern:  Vogue 1515

Fusible Tape:  1.3 metres

Additional Supplies and Tools:  Sewing machine, serger, threads, hand sewing needle, cutting table, pins, scissors, thread clippers, iron, ironing board, tunes on the radio, coffee, and a rest break or two.  

Happy Sewing!  

Saturday, 13 August 2016

In Sewing News Today...

Okay, are you sitting down and enjoying your morning coffee?


Good, I have some news to share. I went into a fabric store and didn't buy any fabric! Crazy, eh? I found myself in the neighbourhood and stopped by Mitchell Fabric, the first time since this happened. And I have to tell you it was a wonderful shopping experience, no one snapped at me for touching fabric.

And they had some beautiful fabric like this Dolce and Gabbana lace fabric. 

I actually gasped when I spotted this bolt draped from the ceiling onto a table.  It is more stunning in person than in the photograph. Rhonda introduced us to this fabric with this blog post. I didn't even look at the price tag, I just stood there in awe, admiring this exquisite bolt of cloth. I was amazed that I would actually stumble across this bolt in a prairie fabric store. It was surreal, so beautifully surreal.

Although, I came across many bolts of beautiful wools and silks, I didn't pick up anything. I kept thinking about the fabric that I have in my stash and that was a good thing. But I was tempted by small pieces of wool found in the reduced section that I thought would work in creating a Koos Van Der Akker design with some of the wools I have in my stash.     

This coat has been on my want-to-make list for quite some time. Maybe soon?

Even though I walked out of the store without any new fabric, I didn't leave empty handed. A New Look skirt pattern that I hope to work on this weekend. Right after I finish cutting and sew Vogue 1515. Yes, OOP Vogue 2427 has fallen to the side lines for now. I hope to finish it before my summer lay-off comes to an end. 

How about you, what's on your sewing table?  

Happy Sewing!  

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Only in My Dreams

I took a break from working on OOP Vogue 2427 to work on a summer dress. And that is when the weather turned from sunny and hot to cloudy and rainy. I should have taken that as an ominous sign that my idea of a perfect summer dress was not meant to be. 

I was influenced by a dress I spotted at a BCBG store earlier this summer. I was so thrilled with the fit when I tried it on and over-the-moon excited when I discovered that with McCall's 7402, I can make my own version.  

McCall's 7402
C$5.00 + Fabric + thread + bias tape.

I almost chocked when I saw the price tag, $205 for a sleeveless pullover tent dress. Not that I was considering breaking my RTW fast on a tent style dress that I could easily whip up. (so I thought). I found a 100% polyester crepe with a lovely drape and made my own version for a fraction of the cost. 

The BCBG dress I tried on in the store was a size small and since I typically cut a smaller size at the shoulders / neckline and after checking the ease on the pattern, I thought I would go with the size small on this pattern as well. Now the plan would have worked out perfectly if I only stuck to the plan. I mistakenly cut an XS on the back side seam. Yikes! It is a little snug at the bust for my liking but it might be the motivation that I need to drop those pounds that have creeped recently. It would have been perfect if I just stuck to the plan.

And woo-wee is this ever long, or should I say, am I ever short! The hem dragged on the floor at the longest points. And I did not want to shorten it at the higher points so the contrast fabric is not even widths.  I cut several inches off at the longest point grading towards the higher hem lengths. It is not a even but it works in my eyes.

The only other change that I made to the pattern was how I finished the neckline and armholes. After reading a review over on Pattern Review, I decided to finish these areas with bias tape and hand stitch the tape in place. I used a beige coloured bias tape left over from the spring coat.

Do I love it as much as the BCBG dress? No. It is not even close. I'll be honest, I prefer the BCBG dress. The McCall's version falls above knee length on me where I did not shorten it and it is not a hem length that I like on me. The BCBG dress is long at the sides and even at the shortest points in the hem, it is well below knee length. And it is huge, reminiscent of Mrs. Roper's fashion style of excess ease.

The neckline looks sad on my version. Oh well, it was good for a laugh. Maybe I can wear it as sleepwear?

The Stats:

Fabric:    4.5 metres polyester crepe

Pattern:   McCall's 7402

Bias Tape:  1 package.

Additional tools and supplies:  Sewing machine, serger, sewing machine needle, threads, cutting table, scissors, thread clippers, pins, hand sewing needle, and coffee.

Happy Sewing!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Monday's Mending Pile

Yes, it is a time for another episode of boring sewing. It is easy to ignore the mending pile when this is my least favourite type of sewing but it has come to a point where I really shouldn't ignore it anymore.  

This pink dress was neglected for too long. It is too hot outside to wear this right now but since discovering the fusible bias tape makes sewing hems easy, I really had no excuse to neglect it any longer.  

Once I had it fused into place, it was time to take it to the sewing machine. And this proved to be a challenge.

My polyester thread kept breaking.

Over and over again. It might have been a sign to remind me not to sit down at the sewing machine too long and that I should elevate my foot at some point.  

And even though the thread kept breaking (maybe I should have changed the needle?), it all worked out in the end.  

Happy mending!  


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