Category Archives: Boucle for French style jackets

Focus on Fabric for 2017

Every new sewing year seems to have its own personality. Some of that depends on significant events that may be happening during the year, for which certain outfits must be sewn. Other influences might be travel, or the need to add some “basics” to your wardrobe, or, better yet, sewing classes, requiring planning/ muslin-making/special purchases. For me, this new year of 2017 – it is still new, isn’t it? – is going to have a focus on fabrics. I wish I could say I am resolved not to purchase new fabrics until I use some of what I already have, but I have already made that an impossibility, and the year is a scant three-weeks-old. (Thank you, Mendel Goldberg Fabrics, for tempting me beyond any recognition of reasonable doubt!) However, back to my premise – sometimes I have patterns which are just keeping me awake at night until I use them. Not so much of that this year; it is rather some of the gorgeous fabrics in my collection which are doing their best to disrupt my sleep.

Here are some of them, starting with Winter sewing.

I purchased this fabric from Mendel Goldberg in New York City. It is a wool/silk blend, and it is my current project.

I purchased this fabric from Mendel Goldberg in New York City. It is a wool/silk blend, and it is my current project.

My current bathrobe is in desperate need of replacement. This is the fabric I want to use for this new addition to my cozy, home attire.

My current bathrobe is in desperate need of replacement. This is the fabric I want to use for this new addition to my cozy home attire.

This boucle bridges the gap between Winter and Spring. Given to me for Christmas of 2015, it is a blend of wool, cotton and silk, tightly woven and lightweight. I will be trying to devote most of March to making this into a Classic French Jacket. I will be able to wear it well into Spring and then, of course, it will be perfect for next Fall and Winter, too.

2 full yards of this glorious boucle! I purchased a variety of trims to coordinate with this fabric this past summer in NYC and in San Francisco. Now I just have to decide which one(s) to use.

2 full yards of this glorious boucle! This past summer, I purchased a variety of trims to coordinate with this fabric. Now I just have to decide which one(s) to use.

Spring and Summer sewing always poses the most difficult decisions for me. That is because I have so many gorgeous pieces of vintage linen, and trying to determine which ones to use is a frustrating exercise for me. I would love to make a simple sheath out of this baby blue Moygashel linen, as it would look so lovely with that jacket mentioned above.

Lovely, crisp, pale blue.

Crisp, pale blue linen from the 1950s.

Then there is this amazing abstract design in red and white – also Moygashel – which somehow just has to wiggle its way into the sewing queue:

Red/white abstract linen

This fabric is from the mid to late 1960s, and it arrived with the label intact.

This fabric is from the mid to late 1960s, and it arrived with the label intact.

On the other extreme is this demure flower print, an early 1950s’ Moygashel linen. I have been wanting to make a dress from this for several years. Perhaps this will be the year I get it done.

A very early 1950s' linen, petite black flower silhouettes on a pale ecru background.

Petite black flower silhouettes on a pale ecru background.

Another piece of vintage linen is this duo with lengths of plain and embroidered panels. Originally intended for an A-line shift, I envision it as a dress-length tunic, accented with the grass-green linen shown here. That would be one way I could honor the Pantone Color of the Year, Greenery, as well as make a unique and versatile dress.

Focus on Fabric

How I will ever find the time to make a blouse out of this white dotted cotton, I don’t know, but hope springs eternal for this, too:

I backed this fabric with a piece of orange paper so that the polka dot design shows. The dots are woven into this fine cotton from Britex Fabrics.

I backed this fabric with a piece of orange paper so that the polka dot design shows. The dots are woven into this fine cotton from Britex Fabrics.

With weeks of travel planned for parts of the final five months of the year, it will be folly to plan too much, but I do hope to make one more linen dress which will have wearing power into the Fall.

Navy, rust and brown - perfect for early Fall.

Navy, rust and brown – perfect for early Fall.

And can I possibly get one more Classic French Jacket completed before Thanksgiving? If so, it will be made from this boucle:

focus-on-fabric-boucle

Sprinkled among all these projects will be sewing for my two little granddaughters, too. As usual, I have much more planned than I ever can hope to accomplish, but it is fun to think of the infinite possibilities that dwell in my fabric closet – and in my head.

PS – One fashion observation for 2017:  DRESS GLOVES ARE BACK!

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Linen, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric

Britex or Bust

No trip to the West Coast of the United States is complete for me without a stop at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. This time I had a specific goal in mind: finding silk lining fabric for the next “Classic French Jacket” I have planned. I was so fortunate to receive this lovely boucle as a Christmas gift from my (grown) children, and am so anxious to start work on this jacket, hopefully in the late Fall.

2 full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift!

2 full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift! (Purchased from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in New York City.)

However, I knew I could not start work on it until I had the lining, the trim and the buttons. Britex seemed like the perfect spot to find the perfect lining (and trim), so off I went with my husband and son for a marathon session at this wonderful purveyor of beautiful fabrics and all things sewing. Walking in to Britex from their entrance on Geary Street always gives me a thrill. One is met with tables wide enough for entire bolts of silk twills, charmeuses, chiffons, etc., to be spread out for easy viewing.

Britex interior view copy

Like so many stores in San Francisco, Britex Fabrics extends through the width of the building, from its main entrance on Geary Street through to its back entrance on Maiden Lane.

Opposite from the silks are bolts and bolts of boucles lined up.

Britex boucles 1 copy

More boucles!

More boucles!

Above the silks are more bolts and bolts  – of woolens.

Britex interior view 2 copy

As usual, the Sales Associates at Britex are knowledgeable and always helpful. With my boucle sample swatch in hand, I started looking. My search was helped immensely by a lovely young woman who knew the silks, and started uncovering several which held promise. One, however, was the absolute winner. I was thrilled to find this blue silk lightweight twill, which had all the colors I wanted in a stunning floral print:

The photo does not give this silk its due. The colors are deep and clean.

The photo does not give this silk its due. The colors are deep and clean.

I had several more stops to make on the upper floors of Britex – for lightweight separating zippers (which I find impossible to find), for trim for my jacket (which I forgot to photograph before having it sent home with my other purchases), for Petersham ribbon, for this and that!

Returning to the first floor, I found my husband eyeing a piece of wool – not for me, but for him! Our tailor at home may find himself making a sport jacket out of a piece of Britex woolen:

Britex wool

With so much fabric already in my queue at home, I was trying to avoid being smitten by too much else. But I could not resist taking photos of some of the silks available:

I loved this geometric print.

I loved this geometric print.

Bold and beautiful.

Bold and beautiful.

I am always drawn to pink and green.

I am always drawn to pink and green.

A real conversation starter!

A real conversation starter!

An unbelievable print!

An unbelievable print!

A watercolor print, reminiscent of Matisse.

A watercolor print, painterly and shimmery.

I love the pop of pink in this blue floral silk charmeuse.

I love the pop of pink in this blue floral silk charmeuse.

With more to do and see in San Francisco, we were (too) soon on our way, and I bid a fond farewell to Britex. But only ‘til next time and next year and my next project needing something perfect…

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, silk, Uncategorized

One Year at a Time

Let’s start with 2016. Although, truthfully, right now in January 2016, I could probably plan at least three years’ worth of sewing. That is how many patterns and fabrics I have tucked away, waiting for their turn. But it is time to concentrate on the year at hand and get on with it!

Some of the year is shaped by events that I know will be happening – such as weddings and fancy parties. Some of it will be devoted to little granddaughters who are already growing too fast for me to indulge all my sewing fantasies for them.   And some of it will be my own self-determined challenges – coats and dresses I want to make – that right now are looking like small Mt. Everests, waiting to be conquered!

I probably should be sewing right now for Spring and Summer, but I have wools that are too enticing to ignore during these current Winter months:

Wool challis on the left and vintage cashmere on the right.

Wool challis on the left and vintage cashmere on the right.

Navy and white houndstooth.

Navy and white houndstooth.

Some cute and classic cottons for little girls should be able to find themselves tucked in amongst my plans for Springtime.

The buzzy bee fabric is a vintage cotton. The blue gingham is new.

The buzzy bee fabric is a vintage cotton. The blue gingham is new.

Looking towards Spring weddings already on the calendar, I am excited for the opportunity to use this amazing printed silk for a dress and perhaps pairing it with the plain yellow silk taffeta left over from my fancy dress from last Summer.

One year at a time

I have so many vintage linens in my collection, that it is difficult to narrow down my focus, but here are four that just may see the sewing shears this year:

These are all vintage Moygashel linen.

These are all vintage Moygashel linen.

This vintage, authentic Diane von Furstenberg cotton blend knit has been calling my name for quite some time.

One year at a time = DvF

Hopefully this fabric and this pattern will finally find each other this year!

One year at a time - DvF pattern

The sewing year will no doubt end next Fall with a return to wool. The polka dotted wool is similar to the wool in a dress I made in Fall of 2015. It is from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC.

As one who loves polka dots, I could not pass up this wool/silk blend fabric.

As one who loves polka dots, I could not pass up this wool/silk blend fabric.

When I purchased it, several swatches of boucle were in the package – and I was in a swoon over this blue and pink sample:

How wonderful that Pantone's two "colors of the year" - pink and blue - are the color way for this boucle.

How wonderful that Pantone’s two “colors of the year” – pink and blue – are the colorway for this boucle.

Lucky me to open a box on Christmas morning to find 2 yards of it (thank you to my dear children!) – enough for another Classic French Jacket.

2 full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift!

Two full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift!

Some of the patterns I might be using this year are all vintage ones that deserve attention. I tidied up the boxes where I keep my pattern collection and these just happened to be some which would NOT go back in silence, so here they are with all their wily temptations!

One of my big projects for this year is this coat.

One of my big projects for 2016 is this coat.

I have been wanting to make the dress on the right for quite a while - this may be the year it happens!

I have been wanting to make the dress on the right for quite a while – this may be the year it happens!

I really like this shirtwaist dress (a little shorter, of course) and I envision it made out of a lovely summer linen.

I really like this shirtwaist dress (a little shorter, of course) and I envision it made out of a lovely summer linen.

I think I could make either view of this dress over and over and not get tired of it.

I think I could make either view of this dress over and over and not get tired of it.

One thing I learned a long time ago is the importance of flexibility in planning my sewing year. Sometimes things happen that impede my sewing plans. Sometimes I change my mind. And always, always, I plan too much. And when (not if) that happens, there is always 2017 right around the corner.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Diane von Furstenberg Vogue patterns, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens, Wrap dresses

The Second Time Around

Coco Chanel reopened her House of Chanel in 1954, and by the early ‘60s, her suit with its narrow skirt and boxy cardigan jacket, famously made from beautiful boucles, was a dominant fashion look.  I could not help but think of another product of the early ‘60s as I was working on my Chanel-inspired Jacket No. 2:  the song, written by Sammy Cahn and set to music by Jimmy Van Heusen, entitled “The Second Time Around”.  I wondered if making my No. 2 would be “lovelier the second time around”?  And you know what?  It was!  I give so much credit to Susan Khalje, from whom I took the Classic French Jacket Class, whose tips and teachings gave me much confidence as I tackled No. 2 on my own.

There were a couple of additions and subtractions I decided to try with my second jacket.  The easy one was deciding to have just two pockets rather than four.  The more involved one was deciding to add buttonholes to the front edge, the sleeve plackets, and the pockets.  However, I remembered Susan’s statements about making buttonholes in one of these jackets – and the reason she advocates in her class the use of “hook and eye” fasteners at the abutted front edges.  It is very difficult to make acceptable hand-done buttonholes in this loosely woven fabric, unless one is extremely skilled in this procedure.  Since the only hand-done buttonholes I am used to doing are bound buttonholes – not acceptable in this application, due to the type of fabric – I knew I had to figure out another way to get buttonholes in my No. 2.

Fortunately, I have an issue of Threads Magazine from June/July 1989 in which Chanel jackets are featured.  This picture gave me the idea for seam-slot buttonholes.

You can tell the buttonholes in this jacket are vertical, nestled between two trims.

You can tell the buttonholes in this jacket are vertical, nestled between two trims.  Pictured in Threads Magazine, June/July 1989, page 28.

I would just have to add on a separate piece for the right front, make each pocket in two pieces, and make the plackets on the sleeves separate pieces, sewn on with openings in the seams to make the buttonholes.  Here is an example of what I did.

The extension is sewn on separately, leaving three openings, evenly spaced for buttonholes in the seam.

The extension is sewn on separately, leaving three openings, evenly spaced for buttonholes in the seam.

Of course doing these extra pieces meant I had to apply separate linings to each extension.

Here is the separate lining piece being applied to the placket.

Here is the separate lining piece being applied to the placket.

The entire time I was quilting the jacket, working on the seams, and figuring out these buttonholes, I was pondering the trim.  Some of you may recall (if you read my blog regularly) that I could not decide between two different trims.

Here are the two trims I had chosen.

Here are the two trims I had chosen.  I really liked the fact that the spacing on the multi-color trim matched exactly the spacing of the red rows on my fabric.

Because of the lining fabric I had chosen (and from which I am making a blouse), I was leaning towards the red, white and blue trim, but I thought it looked a little “weak”.  What to do?  I started looking at as many pictures of Chanel jackets as I could find, but the one that made the light bulb go off was one from that same issue of Threads Magazine:

The Second Time Around - grosgrain ex

Click on the picture to see the underlying grosgrain ribbon.

If I could find a Petersham grosgrain ribbon in the right color, I thought it would be the perfect backing for either trim.  Once again, Britex Fabrics  (from which I had already purchased the boucle, the lining fabric, the buttons, and the two trims) came to the rescue:  I ordered 5/8 inch Tomato Red ribbon – and then paired it with each trim.

I thought the grosgrain ribbon made both trims look better, but especially the multi-color one.

The grosgrain ribbon made both trims look better, but especially the multi-color one.  Click on the photo for a close-up view.

I thought it added just the right amount of depth to the multi-color trim, and my decision was confidently made.

I sewed the Petersham ribbon on before I did the finish work on the inside lining seams.  Then the ribbon provided a wonderful surface on which to attach the trim.

The Petersham ribbon attached.  If you look closely, you can see the sea-slot buttonholes.

The Petersham ribbon attached. If you look closely, you can see the seam-slot buttonholes.

 I took this picture to show the contrast between the trims.  I think the multi-color trim adds more interest to the jacket.

I took this picture to show the contrast between an all red  trim and the multi-color one. I think the multi-color trim adds more interest to the jacket.

So – here’s the jacket (shown on my dress form for now.  Once I get the matching blouse finished, I’ll “model” it for you.)

No 2

Back view, obviously!

Back view, obviously!

No 2

Details, details!

Details, details!  Can you tell that I added a little length to the back of the jacket?  It makes for a more graceful appearance when worn.

Here is the bottom buttonhole on the front of the jacket - and notice the chain!

Here is the bottom buttonhole on the front of the jacket – and notice the chain!

There is no way to make this jacket quickly.  The extra steps I added (buttonholes and 2 layers of trim) added to the length of the process as well.  But – it was incredibly satisfying to see it turn out as well as it did.  I am grateful that I made this No. 2 shortly (well, within 6 months) after my first jacket, as it reinforced my knowledge of the process.  For my next one I’d like to add a “mandarin” type collar, as shown in these examples:

The Second Time Around - mandarin collar ex 1

This example is from Threads Magazine June/July 1989, page 28

I love this suit in houndstooth wool.  This is pictured in Threads Magazine, January 2014, page 44.

I love this suit in houndstooth wool. This is pictured in Threads Magazine, January 2014, page 44.

So when will No. 3 commence?  I don’t see it on the horizon yet, but perhaps when it does, the third time around will be … “the charm”.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Chanel-type jackets, Coco Chanel, couture construction, Uncategorized, woolens

Happy New Sewing Year

“Dresses for breakfasts, and dinners, and balls;

Dresses to sit in, and stand in, and walk in;

Dresses to dance in, and flirt in, and talk in;

Dresses in which to do nothing at all;

Dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall”

William Allen Butler (1825-1902) may have thought “Nothing to Wear”, from which these lines are taken, was a satirical poem, but he obviously did not know 21st century fashion sewers.  Isn’t January just the perfect time to plan for the creation of “dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall”?  Yes, thank you for agreeing with me.

Last year I took a rather theoretical approach to the new sewing year, but this year I am focusing on more specific plans.  Let me start with Winter.

I have three things that I want to complete while the snow is still flying (which gives me until the end of March, more or less):

1)  My Chanel-inspired classic French jacket is my current project, and I am happy to report that I am making slow but steady progress on it.

2) I won’t consider the jacket really complete until I have made the bow blouse that will match its lining.

3) I am excited to say that I am going to be joining one of Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Classes in February, and my intended project is — ta-daa — this jacket which I have wanted to make ever since Vogue Patterns first issued it in the 1970s!

I will definitely be doing the color blocked version when I make this coat.

I will definitely be doing the color blocked version when I make this coat.

With any luck (or maybe lots of it will be needed), it may still be Winter when I start this project intended for an event in late April event:

I have an authentic Pucci silk from which to make the dress and line the jacket.

I have an authentic Pucci silk from which to make the dress and line the jacket.

In addition, Spring will not be complete for me until I make a dress for my granddaughter who will be 1-year-old in March.  I purchased this fabric last Fall when I was at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts.  You can imagine my excitement when I saw that the gift shop included yardage of soft, quality cotton featuring designs from his books.  I envision these little ducks embellished with yellow rick-rack.

Happy New Sewing Year - carle fabric Before Spring bids us adieu, I may divert from dresses to make another pair of slim pants in this vintage 1950s’ linen:

I only have 1 5/8 yards of this 35" wide fabric, so it remains to be seen if i can squeeze pants out of it.

I only have one and 5/8 yards of this 35″ wide fabric, so it remains to be seen if I can squeeze pants out of it.

If Summer of 2014 is as hot as last Summer (or even if it is not), I’ll be making at least two more cool, linen dresses, one sheath-style and one belted.  More on these linen fabric finds in a future post…

And a bathrobe!!  I am dying to make a swishy bathrobe!

Ah, and then comes Fall (already??), probably my favorite season of all.  I have two projects envisioned:

1) I found this stretch silk charmeuse at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics on a quick day trip to NYC in early Fall.

Another gorgeous Italian silk!

Another gorgeous Italian silk!

I bought it thinking I may use it for the lining for my No. 2 French jacket, but shortly after that I found this pattern on eBay and promptly decided it would be perfect made up in this dress (which requires a stretch fabric.  Well, it says “ knit fabrics only” but I say stretch fabric will do just fine).

This os one of the few patterns from the 1980s which I really like.  However, i will not be duplicating the hairstyle.

This is one of the few patterns from the 1980s which I really like. However, I will not be duplicating the hairstyle.

2) I’ve had this buttery soft cashmere wool for a couple of years now.  I originally thought I’d make a suit, but now I’m thinking long-sleeved dress instead.  I’m still sorting this one out in my head so I’m very glad I have until next Fall.

A subtle windowpane check in navy with deep red and ivory intersecting lines.

A subtle windowpane check in navy with deep red and ivory intersecting lines.

Sprinkled among these plans for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall will surely be more little dresses for granddaughter Aida.  I fully intend for her to have some of the cutest frocks in all of New England.

Finally, if 2013 taught me anything, it is that the unexpected is waiting around every corner.

Lots of corners lurking in this Liberty cotton!

Lots of corners lurking in this Liberty cotton!

Life can take sudden turns and twists that are not always sewing-friendly, so I plan to be kind to myself if that happens.  But wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to have the kind of year when we have the extra time to make a dress in which to do “nothing at all”?

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Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Boucle for French style jackets, Chanel-type jackets, Coats, Liberty cotton, Linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

No. 2 ~ The Beginning

I may – or may not – find Chanel No. 5 Paris Parfum in my Christmas stocking, but Chanel-inspired, Classic French Jacket No. 2 can currently, definitely, be found in my sewing room.  Well, actually, it’s not a jacket yet.  It is just lengths of fabric and loose trims and buttons, but that is how these things begin, as every home dressmaker knows.

I actually started planning this jacket long before I took the Classic French Jacket Class with Susan Khalje this past summer.  In September of 2012 when I was at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, I found this boucle and purchased it – even then – as my intended Jacket No. 2.

This fabric is very soft, perhaps due to a certain percentage of mohair wool in its composition.

This fabric is very soft, perhaps due to a certain percentage of mohair wool in its composition.

My first jacket is definitely very dressy, so I wanted this one to be less so, which meant I had to find just the right lining, trim, and buttons.  It took another, recent, trip to San Francisco to produce those ingredients – and I couldn’t be more pleased with what I found again at Britex.

A bolt of this light-weight silk twill was tucked under one of the front tables, and it was love at first sight.  I was hoping to find something with navy blue in it, and the geometric pattern in this fabric makes it bold and less dressy than a floral silk charmeuse would be.

No. 2 jacket

The ruler will help you get a feel for the size of the squares.  Click on the photo for a close-up view.

The ruler will help you get a feel for the size of the squares. Click on the photo for a close-up view.

Immediately, however, I knew that I had to purchase enough for a blouse as well, which I did.  I suspect I’ll be using this pattern from 1957 for a blouse with a bow, which should evoke the correct Coco Chanel look. (A muslin should tell me if I need to tame the bow.  I don’t want it to be overwhelming…)

View B with long sleeves has my vote.

View B with long sleeves has my vote. 

With fabrics in tow, I then headed up to the Buttons and Trims Department on the 3rd floor.  An initial look at the red trims flummoxed me, as none of them seemed right.  Then one of the wonderful assistants in the Department came to my rescue and found these two trims.

No. 2 Jacket

Shown with the lining/blouse fabric...

Shown with the lining/blouse fabric . . .

... and again.

. . . and again. 

Back and forth I went between them, unable to make a decision.  It was then that I went to my fail-safe method of choosing between two equally wonderful trims:  I bought both of them! ( It certainly helped that neither was terribly expensive – and both very versatile.)

Now that I have them home, I am leaning toward one of them – can you guess which one?  Does it help to see the buttons, too?  Once again, the experienced button assistant quickly found these – and there was no question in my mind that they were just what I wanted for this jacket.

These are shank buttons, with gold decoration reminiscent of Chanel "C"s.

These are shank buttons, with gold decoration slightly reminiscent of intertwined Chanel “C”s.

And here with the other trim.

And here with the other trim. 

Well, as in so much in life, timing is everything – or it sometimes seems that way.  My timing could be better to be starting such a lengthy project.  It is, after all, one month until Christmas.  I have those proverbial stockings to fill and much to do, but I’ll just bet I can squeeze in some sewing time before my sewing room transforms into Santa’s workshop.

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Boucle for French style jackets, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, Coco Chanel, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s