Hanging with Madame Fred on the Red Carpet

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So the dress I made from the Madame Gres design (or “Madame Fred,” as autocorrect likes to call her) did make it to the red carpet on time:

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I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille…Sunset Boulevard was only a couple of blocks/drinks away. (You can read about how I slogged through this dress and three blizzards in this post)

Lucky thing I’d made the dress out of merino wool jersey, known for it’s weather-hardy, quick-drying properties, as a deluge during the red carpet arrivals was making everyone into a soggy mess.

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(Those men are trying to stop the rainwater that was pooling on the tent from turning everyone’s haute couture into a wet tee shirt contest.)

I can report that it was truly loads of fun to wear this streamlined, fluid design to stroll among the acres of beads, tulle, trains, boning and other froufrou. Though as froufrou goes, this was definitely the best, most intricate work that I’ll have the opportunity to eyeball outside of a museum.

Take for example the dress worn by Best Actress winner Julianne Moore, by Chanel. Moore always looks classy yet approachable in her red carpet looks, usually opting for jewel-tone colors such as emerald and amethyst to compliment her red hair and pale skin. (Here are some lovely screen shots for you!):
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For this outing, where she was considered pretty much a shoo-in to win, she chose an expertly-fitted sheath by Chanel with rows of black circles of beads that reminded me of open tins of caviar (and I mean that in a good way). Here’s what the L.A. Times reported about the construction of the dress:

“Julianne Moore’s Chanel gown in white organza was embroidered with 80,000 small, white, hand-painted resin sequins and flowers. The dress took 987 hours of work and 27 people to complete, according to Chanel representatives.”

What set this apart from the traditional “sheath with stuff on it” that you see frequently on the red carpet was the fine cut and fit, with the strapless bodice following the line of the torso and a skirt that came in slightly thigh-to-knee, then arched out at the back to give her room to walk. She was elegant and glowing in person.

Marion Cotilliard stayed true to her Frenchy vision of pushing the envelope with this Dior gown:

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It looked a sheath in the front, but when she turned around revealed a rounded pleated back reminiscent of vintage Balenciaga.

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Though one fashion rake in the media wrote that the fabric looked like it had been gone over with a giant hole-puncher, in person the dress, which is covered in white sequins with circular cut-outs, was classy and whimsical at the same time.

The red carpet itself is a bit of a zoo. Here’s Rosamund Pike sashaying by, looking a little “Moulin Rouge” in Givenchy…

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I also got a good look at Zoe Saldana’s draped pale gown by Versace Atelier, which, on top of being classy, was expertly fitted to hug her curves without pulling, a rare occurrence on red carpets lately. She pulled off one of the better “old Hollywood” look of the night.

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Reese Witherspoon’s gown by Tom Ford was equally well-fitted and classy.

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And here’s my old nemesis, Meryl Streep, wearing a feminine tux look by Lanvin:

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It was a good choice for someone who has been to the show frequently; by now she knows it’s freezing in the theater. And her outfit doesn’t look anything like mine! Proving that my graphics team, AKA the chipmunks who used to live in my kitchen, were the ones leaking information to her stylist after all. Good thing I fired them. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this post)

And George Clooney was a no show! So, sadly, no ripping off of my dress to inspect the haphazard interior.

George Clooney
Sigh. I still forgive you, George. (Here’s the post explaining that in-joke.)

In case you think that the show day is all-glitz all the time, the truth is that for we “normal” women attending, the “beauty” team consists of your own brush, your makeup kit, and the nail place down the street. (Good thing they cancelled “mani-cam.”) And rather than attending that celebrity new age fitness workfarm, known as The Ashram, to take off a few pounds that weekend, I hiked briskly from Cinderella’s Castle to Tomorrowland on a Disney forced march, following a strict diet of burgers and root beer. But this is my real secret weapon:

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The morning of the show, my husband and I went to the red carpet area to have a look around. Media people were already there in black tie, rehearsing for the hubbub later on.

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Then I did some zen meditation over fabrics at The Fabric Store (where I bought the merino jersey I used for the Madame Gres dress), and clearly I had forgotten that there was still six feet of snow at home.

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Security is so tight around the Dolby Theater the day of the show, that to escape it, we always walk over to Mel’s Diner for lunch, where American Graffiti was filmed.

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Glamorous, I know. Believe it or not, the food’s pretty good.

Showtime!

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During the show itself, everyone in the balcony was spending as much time on social media as they were watching the show, with people frequently popping out to partake of the open bar. Since it was chilly up there, I whipped the drape of my dress over my shoulders. I decided that wool jersey was just the ticket for black tie.

During the after party, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who was wearing a sort of dinner jacket/chef’s jacket hybrid, was offering small plates that included baked potatoes in foil with sour cream (a very typical dish in the U.S. while I was growing up), but it was topped with a dollop of caviar, speaking of which.

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The little shot glasses of pea soup were laced with truffle. The ironic high/low food pairings is so American in just the weirdest way.

The whole time I was blabbing away on Instagram, Twitter, and several Facebook pages, proving that I have become the social media freak that I frequently warn my son he might turn into. The next morning, during the 6:00 a.m. airport run, feeling like I had Cinderella’s other shoe in my mouth, I saw that haute couture master teacher and author Kenneth D. King had left this comment on a picture of my dress: “Beautiful, flattering, and fits far better than the borrowed stuff you see in the other photos of the “celebs”…

Sheesh, who needs an gold statuette when you hear that!

Now I’m back sewing some “vintage” garments from…1980 and the year 2000?

How’s your sewing going?

Shoveling Through a Madame Gres Dress and Six Feet of Snow

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So, I managed to kill off Madame Gres before she killed me. It was a war of slidey jersey knits, sticky power mesh, and numerous sharp objects, punctuated by meals on demand for my snowbound and crabby men. The only one I’m still speaking to is Karl!

When we last left off on this project:

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There were merely two feet (less than a meter) of snow on the ground in Boston. You can read about making the muslin by clicking here, and the early stages of construction by clicking here.

The snow was still kind of a novelty after storm number one. People were jovial in the snow, and it looked pretty:

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Then, storm #2 hit, with two more days off from school. My husband was in one room working, and my son was in his room doing homework, which stranded me in my tiny kitchen, laboring to create the large half-circle drape that attaches to the underdress. The diameter of the drape is at least six feet (two meters).

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The first thing was to make and stabilize a slash on the straight edge of the drape, which would attach to the shoulder and then go under the arm. Since I was using lightweight, stretchy wool jersey, rather than hand-roll the edge hem as called for in the instructions (which would have led to hari kari), yeah, I got out the old Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite! I’m not ashamed! For the uninitiated, Steam-a-Seam is a kind of mesh fabric glue with paper backing.

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I glued that sucker down and edgestitched it, and decided I could live with it. Many of us had a long, depressing hiatus from Steam-a-Seam last year when apparently there were production problems with the product. I myself became a hoarder and even bragged about it on InstaGram, which made things worse because people started begging for it. (I refused to share.) But now you can find it again on Amazon, hallelujah!

I learned about Steam-a-Seam from the Craftsy.com course Sewing on the Bias with Sandra Betzina. She recommends laying down the paper strip and tapping it quickly with an iron to get the glue mesh to separate from the paper, which really helps.

I used the Steam-a-Seam again on the long hem of the drape:

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From there, it was easy to flip up the hem again and sew it without pressing or pinning. It avoided the wonky wrinkles you can get on a circular hem like this.

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The great thing about using wool jersey is that even if the edges get a little lettuce-y after they’re sewn, the wool shrinks back with a light steam press, so it’s flat but stretchy.

I know I never got around to profiling Madame Gres and her innovations with jersey (because I was so pissed at her) but you can read all about it here.

Here’s one of her gowns from the same era in the 60s, made of silk jersey, in the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute:

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She hated to cut her fabric. Girl after my own heart!

Another great article about Madame Gres, by Arlene Cooper, is in this special issue of Threads Magazine, released this summer. I wrote about it here: (“$9 Couture Course”).

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It’s well worth downloading a back issue if you’re into vintage couture techniques. The article includes pattern drawings of several of Madame Gres’ knit wraps:

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Here’s a quote from the article, which I wish I’d read more thoroughly before I started: “Her work is known for its prodigious use of luxury fabrics in a personal method that is time- and labor-intensive and virtually impossible to copy.” Hoo boy.

Back to the salt mines:

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(I briefly kicked my son out of his room, then it was back to the kitchen for snow day #4.)

It was time to attach that giant drape. On the underdress, I had hand-basted the jersey to the power mesh underlining, and now I decided to machine-baste it with a narrow zigzag to stabilize it (that’s a big diagonal going down the front and back of the dress).

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Then I pinned the drape on the dress.

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Since I had elected not to put in a zipper, I knew it was going to be dicey sewing the thing on smoothly all the way down the length of the dress. I left the shoulder seams detached and headed in from the top and bottom.

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(I was seriously nervous about that part, but Karl the Bernina 560 pulled it off!)

Ta da! I love how the angle of the drape is exactly parallel to the angle of the French dart on the left.

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Now we were up to four feet of snow!

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When the next storm hit:

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it was time to do the fiddley shoulder seams. After messing around trying to line them up inside out, I decided the only way to finish them was right side out:

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I used a kind of running stitch/fell stitch hybrid to try to mimic machine stitches, and went over it a couple of times to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.

Because…it would be terrible if my shoulder seams unraveled when I was standing next to George Clooney, and he said something like, “Dammit, you should have reinforced those shoulder seams, and by the way, those markings on the power mesh still look like crap!”

George Clooney

Sigh. I forgive you, George.

When it came time to do the hem, the dress was so big I had to put the drape on a chair.

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Okay, maybe I’ve become a little too in love with Steam-a-Seam…

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I hand-basted the jersey to the power mesh at the hemline, trimmed the power mesh, glued up the raw edge of the hem, then turned it up and hand-sewed the hem. Are we there yet?

Last stop…the snap to close the drape’s big slash under the arm:

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Finally!

By then, we were beyond six feet (two meters) of snow! Everyone in Boston was in a horrible mood!

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And then it was time for the trickiest part…getting my design know-it-all and tact-challenged husband to take some pictures. He’s worse than George Clooney.

Picture #1, so far so good:

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Picture #2, well, can you tell by the look on my face that my husband had pointed out that a half sheath/half tent-dress is not flattering from all angles on a middle-aged body?

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I’m not even showing you the angle on the other side…

I briefly considered trying to ratchet in the drape a little bit at the waist, but then I thought, hell to the no. It’s about the design. I set out to make a Madame Gres dress, and I’m not going to mess with it.

Though I don’t thoroughly love the dress, I do like it. And going through the process of re-creating the design has helped me have a deeper understanding of Madame Gres’ genius, which is why I’m sewing up these things.

So Madame Gres and I will see you on the red carpet, George. And now I’m enjoying the day when my husband’s in the doghouse and he knows it. He just made me an espresso.

As I was fiddling away on this irritating project, fave blogger Oonaballoona and I had this brief exchange on InstaGram:

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So Funkytown is exactly where I’m headed next…

Halston-YSL patterns

How’s your sewing going?

(Just a reminder, for details about the machine-loan arrangement between BERNINA of America and JetSetSewing.com, please click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab. With the exception of this collaboration, Jet Set Sewing does not have advertisers or affiliates. All of those links you see are just good clean fun!)

You’re Really Tedious and Boring, Madame Gres

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Remember how excited I was about trying out this 60s Vogue pattern by Madame Gres, made with thin wool jersey and underlined with power mesh?

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I made up a muslin (info in this post) and got a lot of nice feedback both here and on InstaGram. I was ready to go!

Then I took a closer look at the directions, which include things like making a hand-rolled hem, something that takes the folks sewing Hermes scarves YEARS to learn…

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(Check out this Blogger’s post and you’ll understand why Hermes scarves cost $400.)

Not to mention a side slot zipper that had “hours of hand picking” written all over it. (Oddly, the instructions were printed on the pattern.)

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So I started to think, boy, this is going to be a pain in the ass. An old Monty Python sketch started running through my head, where Michael Palin, an accountant who wants to be a lion tamer, tells John Cleese that his job is “tedious and boring and DULL” and, well, just have a look:

I was thinking, it will be a pain to layout, it will be a pain to cut, it will be a pain to attach the mesh, it will it will be a pain to hem and attach the six-foot drape, it will be a pain to…I was just getting anxious about the whole thing.

Meanwhile, in the next room, my 13-year-old son was complaining about a “take-home” test in American History and stressing about the War of 1812 (anyone?), the Whiskey Rebellion (anyone?), Pinkney’s Treaty (anyone? Except you, Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler, former middle-school history teacher…).

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So I put on my “mom voice” and said, “the stress will go away when you’re done.”

Then I realized that that was what MY mom would have said, so the next day, I got out that fine wool jersey and did a layout that took up the entire length of the bedroom floor:

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Did the alterations that I knew the pattern needed on the sides (from having fit the muslin):

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And figured out a way to hang the big drape, so I could hem it before I put it on the dress. I didn’t think there would be a problem with the bias shifting with a knit, but I did it just in case:

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Then the blizzard hit, so I took advantage of the snow day to cut and mark the powermesh lining, using a marker to speed things up.

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I had already marked the wrong side of the fashion fabric with wax sheets and a tracing wheel. The interior was going to be a little messy, but I got over it.

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I figured if George Clooney and I were somewhere out of earshot of our spouses, and suddenly he got fiesty and ripped off my dress, he would be enough of a gentleman not to say, “boy, you really should have put in some kind of lining, even though it would have made the dress more bulky, because, dammit, those magic marker lines look like crap.”

George Clooney

(I put that picture in for my friends Darcy and Christine, who don’t really sew, but read my blog anyway. Isn’t he dreamy?)

As much as I wasn’t feeling it, I hand-basted (“thread traced”) the fashion fabric to the underlining at the darts and the line where the drape will attach. I’ve just found it’s so much easier to manipulate darts with underlining if you take the time to do this:

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I wasn’t about to thread trace all the way around, so I attached the underlining to the fashion fabric around the edges by using a long, narrow zigzag about 3/8 inch outside of the seamline.

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My Bernina 560, Karl, was so happy to be back in action, his walking foot was jumping up and down! The walking foot kept the layers together and even. (For details about how Bernina is loaning a B560 and walking foot to assist with these vintage projects, click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab.)

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Yeah, it was still snowing!

When I went to pin the darts, the thread tracing made it so much easier to line everything up, it was worth the effort.

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I basted the whole underdress together, and saw that the fit wasn’t too bad.

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I also saw that it was time to get back to the gym. But since the dress was stretchy, I knew I could jettison putting in a zipper, which made me delirious with joy.

Then the next day, when the whole town was digging out:

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I decided to use light knit fusible on the neck facings, to speed things up. I turned up the bottom edge by 1/4 inch and edgestitched it.

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So I’m getting there, but I still have a way to go:

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The snow’s not going anywhere anytime soon, either!

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Anyone else’s sewing stuck in the snow? Keep shoveling!

Boston’s “Hollywood Glamour” Exhibit, and Step Away from the 20s Chanel, Ma’am.

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I wanted to share a few pictures from a beautifully-curated “jewel box” of an exhibit I attended recently at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. “Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen” features gowns by Chanel, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Schiaparelli and other famous designers and costumers from the 20s through 40s, along with some big flippin’ ROCKS of jewelry…okay, I may be getting a little overexcited, but trust me, if you saw them, you’d have a hot flash, too.

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Let’s start with what, to me, is the best, most beautifully preserved vintage dress I’ve ever seen in person, and that’s saying a lot, as I’ve attended a number of the big fashion exhibits over the past couple of decades.

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The dress was created in the mid-20s by Chanel, and it was worn by actress Ina Claire in a photo for Vogue by Edward Steichen.

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The dress appears to have a black silk bias underslip, and over it is a mesh dress with the most exquisite sequin and beaded flowers. It’s so Chanel and ahead of the curve. The preservation is just pristine.

Though photos without flash are allowed in the exhibit, as I leaned in to get a closeup of the beading, a loud BEEEEEEPPPPPP rang out through the hushed room, and I was suddenly worried the “authorities” from Casablanca would come bursting in. Readers, these are the risks I take for you.

The dress is from the collection of U.S. Vogue Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles. In previous posts, I’ve written about my extreme jealousy of his writing prowess and large couture collection. Hamish, invite me over to look through your closet anytime; your articles are always favorites of mine.

The exhibit has a number of dresses and outfits from 30s and 40s movies, with a clever film loop running in the back, showing them in the films:

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I loved this dress, created by the costume designer Gilbert Adrian, which Greta Garbo wore in the movie “Inspiration”:

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I’m already trying to figure out how I can hack that pattern.

And how about this dress, created for Mae West by Schiaparelli?

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The exhibit also features the special platform shoes Mae West had made up to wear in films, to give her a few inches of extra height:

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And there was this Vionnet-inspired gown, designed by Edith Head, for a young Betty Grable:

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The exhibit also includes costume design sketches, like this one by Travis Banton, created for Marlene Dietrich.

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Then I moved on to the bling, and sadly I was too dazzled to take many notes. Can you blame me?

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(Those are Mae West’s gigantic aquamarines…)

This excellent exhibit was put together by Michelle Tolini Finamore, Curator of Fashion Arts, and Emily Stoehrer, Curator of Jewelry at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; two jobs I’d like to have in another life. The exhibit runs through March 8th, so if you’re in the Boston area, check it out!

Here’s more about the exhibit from National Public Radio, journalists who are far less lazy than I.

I always enjoy wandering around the Boston MFA (particularly now that their new addition includes a huge atrium and restaurant), and even though the museum seems big on the outside, it always has a nice flow and intimacy.

For example, on my way to the exhibit, I stopped for awhile at the top of a grand staircase, to sit in one of the club chairs provided and ruminate on a small collection of hand-woven Persian rugs.

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A little later, walking down a hallway, there was a mini-exhibit of vintage advertising from WWI:

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Then I went around the corner to a modern installation and found:

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My fabric stash!! I knew I left it somewhere!

Actually, it’s a work by artist Shinique Smith, (but it really does look like my stash):

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Now that I’ve found my fabric…back to work!

And just a quick reminder, if you’re stuck in the snow in the Northeastern U.S… I have a couple of free downloadable patterns available on Bernina’s WeAllSew.com, which can be sewn up quickly using pieces from your stash. The first is a Midcentury Claire McCardell-inspired Infinity Wrap/Scarf made from knits:

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The second is an authentic 50s design for a scarf with tucks and a buttonhole, known as The Hepburn Scarf:

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Both projects are part of a vintage project collaboration between Jet Set Sewing and Bernina USA. For details, click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above. And if you give either pattern a try, please let me know!

Hope your sewing’s going well!

 

Paging Madame Gres

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With the holidays over, I decided to get going on this 60s Vogue Pattern by French designer Madame Gres.

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I’ll write more about Alix Gres’ history in a future post, but since she was known for her genius at draping jersey, I thought the dress would look nice made from some dark blue merino jersey that I have in my stash. (Just FYI, I bought this beautiful New Zealand jersey from The Fabric Store in L.A., and the info is in this post.)

The design is actually a straight shift dress underneath, with French darts to give shaping from the bust to the waist, one of my favorite vintage cuts.

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Then a large half-circle of fabric is attached to the front and back of the dress on the diagonal and over one shoulder, and slashed to go under the arm, giving it an asymmetrical flow. As always with these old designs, I know that something that simple is probably going to be tricky.

You never know what you’re going to find when you look at these vintage patterns. In this case, there were still some old tailor’s tacks attached.

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I decided to use some cheap ponte from my stash to do a quick muslin. Even though this pattern is a couple of sizes too small for me, sometimes these 60s patterns are cut somewhat loose, and I also knew that with a knit there would be some extra ease in a pattern cut for a woven.

I’ve been reading this fitting book recommended by Susan Khalje, which is based on analyzing the body for fit, rather than analyzing what’s going on with the garment. It’s very helpful!

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(Sorry the pictures are so lousy this morning…things haven’t been the same since I fired my graphics team.)

I started by comparing the pattern to the fitting shell pattern I made last winter (hope it still fits!), and found that actually, the Gres pattern was pretty close.

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But since I’m making it in a knit, I held the pattern up to a knit dress I have to compare the fit.

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Again, it was pretty close, so I just added a little room on the side seams when I cut it out.

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I put the muslin together, and the fit was quite close. (I’ll have a pic of that next time.) It has a nice flow from the bateau neck, curving in with the darts, and then going straight down.

The pattern calls for underlining, so after consulting with some sewing peeps, I decided to try underlining it with power mesh. The designer Roland Mouret is know for parking that mesh under his form-fitting Galaxy dresses.

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So I ran out to Sew-fisticated! in Cambridge to pick some up.

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They were ready for Jungle January big time!

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I hope to get the sewing going in earnest on this dress next week.

How’s your sewing going?

Golden Globes Me-Mades, and Meryl, may I have a word with you?

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Me-made at the Golden Globes? Leave it to brilliant actress/comedienne Melissa McCarthy to be in-your-face with Hollywood, and show up in something she stitched together from “pieces in my closet” at the Golden Globes:

Melissa McCarthy Golden Globes

She referred to it as a “chop shop” and said, “It’s a little weird, but I like it.”

Having grown up in the Midwest, it makes perfect sense to me that an Illinois farm girl like McCarthy would know how to sew, and apparently in a recent appearance on “Ellen,” she talked about how she’s sewn a lot of her own clothes.

I have an actress friend who, when she was up for an Emmy, ended up spending what you’d pay for a low-end new car on a stylist and dress (not everyone gets them free), so I don’t blame Melissa McCarthy at all for giving it a go with a hack from her closet. She pulled it off, too.

Here’s another rad look from a fellow Midwesterner of a certain age:

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(Where’d they dig Prince up?)

Like many of you, I saw the Golden Globes live from my bed, wearing RTW faded knit pajamas and fuzzy socks. As I was watching, I wasn’t thinking so much about which designer had come up with “best sheath with stuff on it” (Though I think Uzo Aduba in Randi Rahm was the winner):

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No, I was thinking more about “who’s acting their age?”

Here are a few of the winners in my book:

Pohler-McCartney

Host Amy Poehler at age 43, in Stella McCartney, with sleeves and pockets, in just the right color. I want to hack that.

Jane Fonda-Versace

Jane Fonda, in her late 70s, wearing Vesace, edgy, but with sleeves! I read a quote from her recently, talking about how everyone fears getting older, but once you’re there, it’s not so bad. Thanks for everything, Jane. (Please note, if you don’t remember the 80s, women didn’t even think about working out until Jane came along with videos, leotards and legwarmers.)

Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren, 70-ish, ravishing in red Dolce and Gabbana. (Again with sleeves! We want more dresses with sleeves!)

And on the younger end of the spectrum, people who pulled off the right look for their ages:

Emma Stone Lanvin

Emma Stone in a Lanvin pants “ensemble” with a big floor-length sash, just right for someone in her mid-20s going to a mock-serious event like the Globes.

Quvenzhane Wallis Armani Junior

And Quvenzhane Wallis, looking like an adorable and well-mannered young girl at age 11, in Armani Junior. She was great in “Annie” too.

Kerry Washington Mary Katrantzou

Kerry Washington, mid-30s, in Mary Katrantzou. The look is unique and perfect.

Now, a couple of bones to pick:

Claire Danes-Valentino

Claire Danes, also mid-30s, what is this? I know it’s Valentino, and it has feathers, but ?? I hope the people at your table weren’t allergic.

Lena Dunham-Zac Posen

Lena Dunham, I like this Zac Posen dress on you, I do.

Here’s the thing…I know you’re supposed to be a 20-something anti-heroine from the “failure to launch” generation, but the truth is, you’ve become a successful actress, producer, author and businesswoman. Not to go all Helen Reddy on you, but could you pul-eeze stop doing that twee pigeon-toed thing?

Amanda Peet J Mendel

Here’s gorgeous, 40-something Amanda Peet in J Mendel. I just don’t get the blousy bodice. It’s too old for you. It’s too old for Granny Clampett. Take that dress to a tailor and get three dresses made from it.

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez, mid-40s. Again with the cleavage to the navel? And with all that fabric, it looks like you brought your own VIP cabana.

Keira Knightley-Chanel

Keira Knightley, late 20s…were you planning to go to some kind of Jane Austen cosplay afterparty? It is Chanel, but I suspect that Lagerfeld left the designing to his cat Choupette.

Here were some draping “hits”:

Amy Adams

Amy Adams in Versace, my favorite of all the dresses.

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt in a Michael Kors goddess gown.

Camila Alves-Monique Lhuillier

And Camila Alves in Monique Lhuillier. Love that 60s bodice drape.

George Clooney was accompanied by his classy and accomplished bride, Amal. She was wearing Dior Haute Couture, the lucky ducky.

Amal Clooney Dior

When someone asked if her gloves were handmade as well, Clooney quipped “she sewed them herself.”

Excuse me, George, but what’s so funny about that?

And then there’s that Meryl Streep.

If you were one of the 8 or 9 people reading my new blog last winter, you’ll recall that both Meryl and I attended an event where a number of Hollywood people go home with gold statuettes as well. You can read my report of that here.

I was in a me-made 60s boatneck top with 3/4 length sleeves and a long black skirt, which I had been blogging about making:

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But then that Meryl Streep showed up in practically the same silhouette:

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One thing led to another and I accused her of copying me and then, well, I called The First Lady of Film a bitch. (Not to her face. On my blog. Which bumped it up to at least 11 readers.)

I hindsight, I figured it was probably just a coincidence. But then I saw what she was wearing last night:

Meryl Streep Golden Globes

Um, didn’t I just post a pattern for that very same asymmetrical wrap!?!

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Now I was sure there was a breach in security at JetSetSewing.com, and Karl and I had to get to the bottom of it.

Meryl’s dress is by the French brand Paula Ka, and you can find a short, pink version of it here for 690 Euros. (Meryl, you didn’t buy off the rack, did you? Why didn’t you just make yourself something like Melissa McCarthy?)

After a thorough investigation and grilling of all employees, Karl happened to remember hearing the fax machine being used in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago.

I looked in the machine, and aha, the pattern was still in it!

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That could only mean one of two things.

1) my husband faxed the pattern in his sleep, during a midnight bathroom break. He’s the only person left in North America who remembers how to use a fax.

or:

2) The CHIPMUNKS!!!

So now the JetSetSewing graphics team, AKA the chipmunks who live in my kitchen, have been fired, via the fire escape. They’re so lucky I didn’t put them in the microwave.

As for what I’m attempting for this year’s Big Kahuna…well, I just made a muslin of this Madame Gres pattern, so we’ll see if I can pull it off.

Gres pattern

How’s your New Year’s sewing going?

Here’s just a quick update to this post to add a couple of articles about the Globes from the New York Times. In “What Happened to Risk on The Red Carpet?” journalist Ruth La Ferla asks the same question as “Smittenness” did in the comments below.

And here’s an article, also by La Ferla, with drawings of some “Modern Red Carpet Looks in a Perfect World” as dreamed up by contemporary designers.

Claire McCardell-Inspired Free Downloadable Pattern, and a couple of hacks.

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I hope you all had happy holidays, and I wanted to mention that my new free downloadable pattern with tutorial is available on Bernina’s WeAllSew.com website. Aren’t you ready for some post-holiday #selfishsewing? I certainly am, and I didn’t even finish my husband’s tie! (It’s now officially his “birthday tie.”)

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When I created this pattern, I was inspired by a 1947 Claire McCardell design (lower right) for a knit shoulder wrap, though the concept was around long before that. This wrap is snug enough to stay on the shoulders, but can still be worn around the neck like an infinity scarf. It’s lined and reversible, and the tutorial takes you through step-by-step. It’s not difficult at all, so I hope you’ll give it a try!

Carmen of the CarmencitaB blog tipped me off that this type of wrap is known as a “liseuse” in France, (the loose translation is “girl reader”) and that it used to be worn while reading in drafty French country homes (similar to what was known as a “bed jacket” here in the U.S.). So then it was eeek! down the internet rabbit hole again, to learn more about this style.

First of all, who knew that there were so many works of art featuring women reading? Which makes perfect sense, because after a certain point, just about any woman is going to say, “I don’t care if you are Picasso, if I’m going to sit for you, gimme something to read!”

image (That’s Picasso’s “La Liseuse” from 1920. Doesn’t it look like she’s texting?)

The earliest example I found shows a high-born woman (who could read!) wearing a cape-like wrap, in a painting by Hans Memling from the 1470s:

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Then in 1888, Vincent Van Gogh captured this woman wearing a chic wrap, in “Une Liseuse de Romans” (which I think means “reader of novels.” No wonder she’s so engrossed.)

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In terms of fashion, in the early 20th century, this style of short jacket was interpreted for evening by Madame Vionnet:

image (Another great save by the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute.)

And that may very well have been where McCardell picked up the idea. She studied fashion in Paris in the 20s, and in her letters home she complained about the French being “thrifty” with the heating. While she was there, she spent a lot of time deconstructing Vionnet garments, which is how she got hip to the bias cut.

During her career, McCardell designed a number of evening dresses made of warm wool, with wraps, shrugs, and cropped jackets to wear to dinner parties in drafty U.S. country houses as well. Here’s one example, a strapless wool evening dress with a jacket, again from the  Metropolitan Museum’s online collection:

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More recently, this type of wrap was shown in the 2013 collection from Celine:

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When I was in France I saw several similar wraps:

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(I don’t know what the furry thing is on it, or why she’s wearing a hat over her head…)
And this one from French cult brand Agnes b., made from a light sweater knit:
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To make a wrap similar to the one from Agnes b., download the free pattern, which looks like a triangle with the top chopped off. Add several inches to both the top and bottom of the pattern.

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(That’s a highly skilled sketch from the JetSetSewing graphics team. They’re a couple of chipmunks who live in my kitchen.) Extending the pattern at the top and bottom will make it longer, like a poncho, with more of a funnel neck.

I’ve seen wraps like these in the U.S. as well. American designer Eileen Fisher offered this asymmetrical wrap in her fall collection, which immediately made me think “I could hack that.”

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To make a “muslin” version, I took my pattern and set it on the diagonal, putting the left on the fold, and adding triangles to the top and bottom. I sewed it up and it looked okay, so I moved on to the real thing.

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I decided to use this Missoni-ish wool blend I got in France. I prepped it by throwing it in my dryer’s steam cycle. (Do as I say, not as I do, always test a swatch first!)

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Since I wasn’t lining this version, I decided to use a French seam on the side to finish the raw edge. With wrong sides together, lining up the design on the fabric with double quilt pins, I overlocked some clear elastic into the seam, using the Bernina Bulky Overlock foot. (The same foot that made all of that piping on the McCardell dress…it’s very useful!)

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(You could also use a narrow zigzag to attach the elastic to the seam, if you’re using a vintage machine.)

Then I turned the wrap wrong-side out to put right sides together, and pinned it to encase the seam I just sewed.

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I sewed that seam with a narrow zigzag, which covered up the overlocking and elastic.
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Oo la la, I love zee French seams!

When I tried it on, the length plus the retro pattern on the fabric was looking way too “hippy poncho” to me:
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So I chopped about 5 inches off of the bottom.

At the top and bottom, I overlocked more clear elastic along the edge, turned under the raw edge about 1/2 inch, then turned it under again about 3/4”, and sewed the edge with a narrow zigzag, like topstitching. If you pick the right color thread, the stitching’s not that obvious, and there are no raw edges showing on the inside.

You can wear it with the point on the side, or in the back.

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(I think the chipmunks took that picture, too.)

Here’s how the final pattern looked (more or less). The grainline goes along the bottom:

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(I’m going to fire those chipmunks…)

Now that I’ve made myself a liseuse, I need to find time to read!!

Happy New Year’s sewing!

(For details about how Bernina USA is loaning a B560 machine to JetSetSewing.com to assist with vintage projects like this, please click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above. At some point, Karl and I are going to set that disclosure to music, to make it more pleasant for all of us…)

 

Holiday “Bests” (and don’t try to make a tie at the last minute).

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First of all…

Darcy's card

From me and “Karl.” We have appreciated your visits and comments so much here at Jet Set Sewing this year. Thank you!

(And thanks to my longtime TV pal, and fellow midlife re-inventor Darcy Corcoran, for sketching up this card for JetSetSewing.com. To see more of her custom cards, click here.)

Before my Swiss intern, Karl (seen below), took off for a ski holiday with his family in Zermatt (don’t worry, he’ll be back for second semester), we put our heads together and came up with this list of “Bests” for 2014.

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Bwwwwaaaaaaa! I’m going to miss you sooooo much, Karl!!!! (Sometimes I think I’m getting a little too close to my intern. For details about how Bernina USA is loaning a B560 machine to Jet Set Sewing, click the Bernina Collaboration tab. And Happy Holidays to Bob and Betty at the FTC, who have so lovingly created the guidelines for these clunky blog disclosures.)

Here goes!

Best group advice from readers:

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Pick the buttons in the middle!

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Nice!

Best project to avoid trying to figure out three days before Christmas?

Tie nub

Making a tie! You think it’s all nice angles and straight seams and then you have to make some nib thing and roll the facing yiiiiiii!!!!

Tie liningTie tip

Who knows, it could still happen. I found these websites useful:

SamHober.com and Seven Fold Ties.

Best book to order if you don’t like your Christmas presents:

Little Black Dress Book

The new “Little Black Dress” book, found here. It includes patterns for a number of classic designs, and the patterns are cut for C-cup women with curves. Here are some of the other looks in the book:

Little Black Dress 30sLittle Black Dress Angelica Dress

I actually bought the book because I liked that pattern on the right, inspired by Angelica Huston with a side of Halston. There’s a classic wrap dress pattern in it, too.

Best gate-crashing by Jet Set Sewing?

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Ha ha, got ya, Coco!

Best photo-bomb? Well, I was having brunch with old friend Sam Moore of “Soul Man” fame…

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And then…

Nancy photo bomb

Excuse me, you may be the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, and (just as impressive) a mother of five, but could you get the hell out of my photo?!? Okay, it’s a long story, but the Congresswoman was rocking what appeared to be a very classy asymmetrical Armani jacket, which could be knocked off with this Vogue pattern…

V8932, Misses' Jacket and Vest

Vogue 8932 Hm, nice pattern!

Best erotic gown? (No, not something from the vintage burlesque gals following JetSetSewing on InstaGram…though they are awesome…)

Millicent Rogers in Charles James

This Charles James gown, shown in the Charles James Exhibit. Look real closely, and you’ll find the man in the boat.

Best way to put off blogging: sew something.

Best way to put off sewing: blog something.

Best way to avoid making dinner: both of the above. And InstaGram.

Most hilarious vintage pattern?

70s tunic pattern

After I posted it, my sister informed me that the guy on the left is my brother-in-law. And it is! (I didn’t recognize him because in this picture, he has hair).

Scariest iron?

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(Cue the screeching violins from Psycho.) Never attempt to press any of your makes in an L.A. hotel, even when you’re desperately finishing it for an event. It’s right up there with “no wire hangers, evvvveerrrrr!”

Best comments? Well there have been plenty of great comments, but the ones Karl and I truly enjoy are from the spam filter. Here’s one of our favorites:

“Ferragamo Fake Belts” writes: “I get pleasure from, result in I discovered just what
I was having a look for. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day.
Bye.”

Dude, you have a nice day, too. How’s the weather in North Korea?

And now for the “Best Conversation about Sewing” I had this year:

I went to see my doctor, who is a brilliant guy, gifted physician, and devoted family man. I expected to get raised eyebrows as I described throwing my back out hunched over an ironing board during my Edith Head/Claire McCardell sewing marathon.

But instead, we launched into a conversation about how, as a young man in Argentina, he didn’t have access to good mountain climbing gear, so he himself had learned to sew, under the tutelage of a traditional tailor. Let me tell you, I was the one with raised eyebrows!

Then he started talking about how the doctors who are really into sewing are the surgeons, which makes perfect sense, since that’s a critical part of their work.

He went on to describe one colleague in particular, who is descended from the indigenous people of Chile. He said that this surgeon had learned traditional handsewing techniques from the women in his family, and had incorporated these ancient stitches while sewing up the hearts of newborns (whose hearts are about the size of a walnut) at Boston’s world-class Children’s Hospital. In doing so, he revolutionized infant heart surgery.

Wow.

So my friends, my New Year’s wish to you is that you keep sharing your love of sewing, because who knows where it will lead.

Well, Karl and I were going to wrap things up by singing a holiday medley, but his father’s limo just showed up so he’s on his way to the airport. Instead, here’s an old recording of Charles Brown and Bonnie Raitt, wishing you a “Merry Christmas, Baby.”

Enjoy the holidays!

***And I’m adding a quick update to the post today… my Claire McCardell-inspired 50s Wrap pattern and tutorial has just been posted on the Bernina website WeAllSew.com. It’s a free download, that’s a lot of fun for some #selfishsewing. If you make one up, please let me know!***

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A Quick Wrap and More Paris Eye-Candy

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Here’s a wrap I spotted in the New York Times Style section yesterday, which you could make in about an hour:

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(Photograph taken in my high-tech graphics studio, AKA the kitchen.)

Step 1: Get that piece of wool out of your stash (you know it’s in there). Figure out how long and wide you want the wrap to be and cut it.

Step 2: Give it a good steam twice over with your iron and let it dry out. I use a piece of silk organza as a press cloth to protect the fabric.

Step 3: Cut off the selvages.

Step 4: About a 1 1/2 inches (3 cm.) from all of the edges, sew it with the stitch that looks like a zigzag, but has three stitches going up the zig and three stitches going down the zag. (I would show you a picture of that stitch, but my B560, Karl, is currently on the floor while I reconfigure my growing stash, and boy, is he ticked off!)

Step 5: If you’re using a loose woven, such as a Chanel-type tweed, put a 1/2 inch (1 cm.) wide ribbon over the stitching you just made, and sew along each edge of the ribbon, to keep the wrap from unraveling. (I learned that the hard way when a Chanel tweed scarf I made for someone got returned for repairs…)

Step 6: Fray the edges by pulling out the loose threads. (Just FYI, keep your cat out of the room.) Give it a good press again with the press cloth.

Step 7: Go to a sewing or notions store and buy the kind of big safety pin we used to call “kilt pins” in the 60s. Or you can find vintage pins in this Etsy shop, which also stocks beautiful vintage trims: TextileArtLace on Etsy

Step 8: Put it on and pin it, or wrap it up and give it.

You just saved $86.50. Tell your pal you saw it in the New York Times and thought of her.

I wanted to share a few more pictures from Paris, as I continue to procrastinate about stash closet-cleaning and Christmas shopping:

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I did a little window shopping at the French hat store Marie Mercie at 23 rue Saint Surplice. These French-made hats are beautifully constructed and full of whimsy.

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Like Schiaparelli, right?

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Merrrowww! You can now find these hats online on Avenue32.com, but be prepared for sticker shock.

Everywhere you go, you see the French penchant for choosing aesthetics over commerce. Look at how beautifully things are displayed:

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Those are hair clips that look like jewelry. And here’s a beautiful embroidered bag:

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(Makes me want to take up machine embroidery…)

Towers of Macarons!

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I spotted this retro-looking coat with unique pockets, from Carven.

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As I was looking at this Hermes home dec fabric, I kept thinking, “could I make an Hermes scarf out of that?”

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How about this handmade leather retro bag?

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Here’s a tiny shop that sell slices of marble, with patterns that look like landscapes:

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I really laughed when I saw this tee, in a shop that stocks products made in France:

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Even when things are under renovation, they’re still tidy and chic (and a little phallic, too, don’t you think?).

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Here’s a favorite market street, the rue de Buci, near where we stay. It’s full of inviting food shops and cafes.

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I’m mad at myself that I didn’t have any in-season oysters while I was there. I can only describe the taste as a cold starry night on the North Atlantic.

Oh, how I hate to leave Paris!!!

Speaking of wraps, just a heads up that another of my free pattern downloads will be coming your way this month on the Bernina USA website WeAllSew.com, just in time for some New Year’s #selfishsewing. (For details about how Bernina USA is assisting me with my vintage projects by loaning me a B560, click the Bernina Collaboration tab.)

The wrap is based on a 1947 design by Claire McCardell, and I tweaked it to give it a midcentury modernist “Judy Jetson” vibe, (for lack of a better description). It’s also a stash-buster that uses one yard/meter each of two different knits, and it’s reversible.

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I’ll let you know when the free pattern and instructions are posted. Thanks again to Bernina USA for their assistance with my projects!

Yikes! Less than two weeks till Christmas! How’s your sewing going?

How to do a Selfie on the Chanel Staircase

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Of course, the Paris Meetup wasn’t the only fabric shopping I did in France…

We landed in Marseille in the south of France on a Sunday, and headed to my husband’s old stomping grounds in Aix-en-Provence. He spent his “junior year abroad” in Aix during college/university, leaving behind an all-men’s school on a Tennessee mountaintop and landing with an old French host family that had a large villa on the outskirts of town. It was culture shock in all the best ways.

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That’s a picture, probably taken by my husband, of his American student roommates and his French host family members playing “boules” on the villa’s lawn.

We visited their home once 25 years ago, and the matriarch threw a dinner party for us on a balmy May night at a table set up outdoors. She served the “spring plate” of lamb chops, flageolet beans cooked with bacon, and a “jolie” French red wine. In other words, paradise.

Check out the early-60s Kennedy-era fashion in these pictures from the yearbook, now online, of my husband’s 1964 class at the Institute of American Universities, an entity that still exists in Aix. It’s a lot of fun seeing these idealistic young American things, who came from places like Kalamazoo (third class on the Queen Mary), and landed in another world.

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Duffle coats, pencil skirts, those parkas with the single kangaroo pocket worn with capris…the 60s mod “youthquake” was just about to begin.

Just a short drive from the villa where my husband stayed that year, is this view of Sainte-Victoire, a mountain frequently painted by Cezanne. Still gorgeous.

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Aix-en-Provence is one of those old town that was occupied by the Romans way back when, and some of the structures still exist. My husband thinks that the main thoroughfare was designed much later by Pierre L’Enfant, the same guy that created Washington, D.C.’s circular layout, which looks stately but makes it absolutely impossible to make a left turn. However, I wasn’t able to back up that claim (in the five seconds I spent googling it).

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As we were walking along the main drag of the Cours Mirabeau, my husband reminisced about how he had been standing in line at the movies theater there when he overheard that President Kennedy had been shot.

Later, we had dinner in the Grillon brasserie, which looks exactly the same as when he was there 51 years ago.

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Mmmm, warm goat cheese salad with olive tapenade. Old France does still exist.

The first day we were there, I spotted this congenial fabric shop, Tissus La Victoire which had a number of printed cotton Provencal fabrics from region.

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But I was afraid if I bought some, I would have to sew (shudder) home dec, so I stuck with the garment fabrics on the other side of the shop. The very patient people working there tirelessly pulled bolts down onto a large table while I hemmed and hawed, and finally I settled on a good-quality wool blend Missoni knock-off and a bonded knit masquerading as a tweed. Unfortunately, I don’t have more pictures of the shop, because my husband ran off with my phone that day!

In the same market square, there was one of those magazine gazebos you see frequently in Europe.

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I looked around the shelves of craft magazines, but then had to ask the man, “Burda? Pour coudre?” And I don’t know what kind of reputation French Burda has, but he pulled it out of some hidden cupboard in the back and plunked it on the counter, like a girlie magazine.

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While we were there, we rented a car with a navigational system that gave us very polite, officious and, frankly bossy instructions in a clipped British accent, whom we quickly dubbed “Miss Moneypenny.” Using Miss Moneypenny, we were able to find this archeological site of the remains of a Gaul, then Greek, then Roman town in Glanum, near St-Remy (a male family member’s idea of course).

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But while walking around there, I thought about the women who lived in these houses, cooking, weaving, sewing, and possibly hanging out in the place I’d most likely be found:

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After that I got Miss Moneypenny cranked up again, while my gadget-mad husband put on the American voice from Google maps “as a backup.” Well, Miss Google Maps must be doing her year abroad from Little Rock, because she kept saying things like “turn on the “Rooo Suh-ZANE” for “rue Cezanne” while Miss Moneypenny barked at me to “PLEASE prepah to tuhn left!!” in that Sloane Ranger voice.

After some spirited back and forth between my husband, Miss Moneypenny, Miss Google Maps, and me, Miss Google was sent to back to Mayberry to study her French some more, and smug Miss Moneypenny soldiered on with the ugly Americans. Then all of a sudden Moneypenny croaked out, SZERGLSZZZZZ! and died a swift death. (Probably from some Bond villain’s leftover cold war laser). So we had to settle for Nellie Forbush again, telling us to turn on rooo dess eckol-ess militar-ess.

Suffice it to say, the 13-year-old in the back was the most mature of the bunch.

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All around us, the landscape looked like every Impressionist painting, with the rounded, leaning pines and tall, straight, skinny evergreens (probably evolved like that from the winds that can be, as the road signs said, “vent lateral” which basically means “sideways winds that can blow you the hell off the road.”). As we drove through Van Gogh country in St. Remy, the road was lined with a tunnel of solitary trees. Still so beautiful. Vive la France for having the discipline not to mess up this gorgeous area.

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Then it was just a short trip, less than four hours, on the high-speed TGV train to Gare de Lyon in Paris, where I ran off to the meetup.

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The next afternoon, after ditching my family, instead of heading to the left bank where I intended to roam, my feet made a sharp right down the rue du Faubourg St-Honore, past the rows of tony designer shops, in the direction of the fabric store that dares not speak its name. (But I wrote about it last year here.)

On the way, I spotted Chanel on the rue Cambon, and walked into the part of the shop where her famous staircase resides. I took a picture of it last year, but this time I was determined to get a selfie. As I walked up to the stairs, I was stopped by the guard, but after asking nicely in bad French, he let me have a seat, and was friendly enough to take some pictures.

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Score! (Sorry, Coco, but the Chanel-style puffer jacket I’m wear is from the Monoprix, AKA the Target of France.)

While I’m thinking about it, I wanted to mention that if you’re going to Paris, and would like to arrange an insiders’ tour of fabric and notions stores, Barbara of Stitching Up Paris can arrange it all for you. She came up with a garment district itinerary for the Paris meetup, with a lot of great shops on the list.

So then this happened:

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There’s a reason why Susan Khalje calls Janssens et Janssens the best fabric store in the world. Because it is. Just rob a liquor store before you go.

I wanted to get more of the Italian printed wool I’d used to make things like this:

imageMy Spring Wrap

because the feel is so light, warm and luxurious when I wear them. So I picked out an Italian wool/silk fabric, with a retro print that reminds me of the Fuller Fabrics “Modern Masters” fabrics from the 50s, and decided that was enough.

But then, looking at the silks (bad idea) I found a gorgeous 30s-looking twill and remembered that I still had black Italian Chanel tweed from last year’s budget-blowing visit to Janssens et Janssens. The tweed was slated to become a little black jacket I’d dubbed “The Kaiser” (Lagerfeld’s nickname, though probably not to his face), and though I’ve already bought silk to line it, I thought this would be better. Uh oh.

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Then I went downstairs to look at the sparkly stuff (not for me, fortunately) and found the trims. Nooooo!

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I am just going to have to start sewing faster.

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So that’s what I did when I skipped Thanksgiving! Hope your sewing’s going well!