Balenciaga Museum Presentation


Hello my friends! Did you think I’d forgotten about you? That’s what Karl’s been thinking!

During most of the summer I was busy writing an article to present at a conference about the couturier Cristobal Balenciaga, which was presented by the Balenciaga museum in Getaria, Spain, on Thursday, Oct. 1.

The article is called “Balenciaga and the American Fashion Editors who Shared his Private World: Bettina Ballard, Carmel Snow, and Diana Vreeland.” And if you know me, it’s a safe bet that–even though it’s a serious fashion history article with tons of footnotes–there was plenty of gossip in it.

When I was selected in January, I thought I’d be in Spain’s Basque country for conference, enjoying a glass of wine in a little cafe on the Atlantic coast and getting ready for my presentation.

Unfortunately, due to Covid, the presentations were moved online, so I was sitting at home in Boston in my Zoom socks, thinking about getting some wine from the fridge.

The upside is that the recording of the entire conference is now being offered on YouTube for free. My presentation can be found on the Thursday’s recording, about one hour and 22 minutes from the beginning.

Here’s the link for the recording of the conference on Thursday:

The conference continued on Friday, Oct. 2nd, and here’s the link for that day:

I was thrilled to be a part of it, and really enjoyed researching the three remarkable American fashion editors in the article. It was a fun ride, and the other speakers were fantastic. The whole conference is worth a look.

Now I’m very excited to get back to sewing. I don’t know if Karl is still speaking to me after all of the time I’ve spent cozying up to my computer!

Hope your sewing is going well!

Remembering my Husband


Well, it’s been awfully quiet around here.

As some of you may already know, I lost my husband more than a year ago. An avid skier, he suffered life-ending injuries in a tragic accident on a mountain in New Hampshire. I was with him, and over the days that followed the rest of the family was able to join him before he passed. It goes without saying that my son and I, my three stepchildren, and our three grandchildren are bereft.

Howell was a man with a great appetite for life, so of course he would be fearlessly skiing just shy of his 75th birthday. That same fearlessness led him to help a great many people during his career as an attorney. Most notably, he and the legendary 50s rhythm and blues singer Ruth Brown worked together to shame the major record labels over unpaid royalties. Using his well-honed negotiating skills, Howell talked them into paying the recording artists of Ruth’s era the royalties that were owed to them for hits they had recorded years ago. With the help of performers such as Bonnie Raitt, Howell and Ruth started the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which helped artists obtain their royalties and get other much needed benefits, like health insurance.

I married Howell in the late 80s when he started the R&B Foundation, and the joy for me was getting to know Ruth and other artists such as Jimmy Scott, Charles Brown, and members of the Clovers and the Drifters. Ruth used to call our house and say “is Our Husband home?” because she felt so close to him that it was like he had an extra wife.

The New York Times did a heartfelt obituary for Howell that talks about the many aspects of his adventuresome life and you can find it here.

As an entertainment lawyer, Howell had loyal clients who counted on him to take care of intellectual property rights and other matters for the Motion Picture Academy, The Kennedy Center, and the American Film Institute. When he was working on the Oscars, I would show up in L.A. a couple of days before the show, and the two of us would have the most fun watching rehearsal and gossiping about what was going on behind the scenes.


After Howell’s death, he was honored by the Oscars, the Grammys, and the American Film Institute on their TV shows. His clients from those organizations still tell me how much they miss him.

People who knew Howell found him to be gregarious, talkative, and–as I mentioned before–fearless. How fearless? Well, after raising three children, he was not intimidated by taking on fatherhood again–at age 58. And Howell was determined that our son would go with us on jaunts around the world–regardless of how old and tired we might feel. Here’s Howell and our Charles on the Paris metro a decade ago.


Howell always believed in pursuing “the big idea” and being persistent in following a dream. As much as I made fun of “Mr. Art Deco” here on the blog, he was an enthusiastic cheerleader for my work as a fashion historian and sewing peep. Here you can see him in the San Telmo market in Buenos Aires diving into a pile of vintage buttons to find just the right ones for my “makes.”


When my Dad’s wife very nicely gifted me her mother’s Singer Featherweight, Howell got out the metal polish to shine her right up.


A man of style and taste, Howell always appreciated great design, so he would actually enjoy accompanying me to fashion exhibits. He also spent a lot of time helping me with aspects of my research–including sending a former colleague on a hunt to track down designer Claire McCardell’s will! His motto was “I don’t take no for an answer” which served him well throughout his career. When he got home, though, he knew he was better suited using his formidable negotiating skills with me. We were a well-matched pair who shared joy, sorrow, parenthood, and, of course, a lot of fun.

In June, we had a heartfelt memorial service for Howell on Martha’s Vineyard, where he had spent 45 summers. Our dear friend, the talented musician Kate Taylor, put together an ace band, so we had an afternoon of music and remembrances featuring friends from around the world. The day before, our close friends Nat and Pam Benjamin took the family out on a wooden sailboat that Nat had designed and built, to scatter Howell’s ashes in Vineyard Haven harbor. Now Howell can spend eternity sailing around his favorite spot, and I’ll always know where to find him.IMG_6109.jpg

It was a sad time for all of us over the holidays this past year, but on Christmas Eve, a year from the day of his accident, I realized that Howell hadn’t completely left us. I took comfort in knowing that his spirit was still next to me, within my son.

Teaching Hipster Mending at The Museum of Modern Art — and — what I sewed when I was “Procrasti-making”


So I was up on stage with Pink Martini, the retro band that celebrates worldwide lounge music with a hefty side of camp. They had invited roughly half the audience to join them in singing Helen Reddy’s 70s feminist anthem “I Am Woman,” and since I was lubricated with a beer and wearing my second Papercut Patterns Sapporo Coat of the season, I felt a need to get up and belt, “I am STRONG I am INVINCIBLE–I AM WOMAN!! (That’s me selling it on the far left.)


(At that moment, it became official–I have no shame.)

Here’s a look at the coat up close. I used many of the same pattern modifications as I did on the Sapporo Coat I made last fall, but also took this one in 4″ under each sleeve, and 3″ in on each side seam, tapering toward the hem to preserve the cocoon-coat shape. The fabric is silk/wool and the lining is hammered silk.


I felt the Pink Martini experience was the perfect culmination of a year where I was supposedly working hard on a project, but in truth was living the ethos of their song, “Sympatique,” which roughly translates French to English as “I don’t want to work, I don’t want to have lunch, I only want to forget, and then smoke.”

But in my case, it went “Don’t wanna work, not skipping lunch, already forgotten everything, so then, I sew.”

When I saw this article in the New York Times about “procrasti-baking” (where people put off working by baking something delicious), I realized that, in truth, I was “procrasti-making,” which was a lot better for my wardrobe and waistline.

Not that things weren’t happening. In the fall, I received an email from the Museum of Modern Art asking if I wanted to do a couple of fashion history/sewing workshops for their “People’s Studio.” (Here’s the story of how I got involved with MoMA.)

Would I?! I’ll be right there! Then I read further. “The subject is ‘mending.'”

Mending? I love mending! No, really!! (Feigning enthusiasm? Moi?)

I felt that it wasn’t an appropriate time to mention that the running joke among sewing peeps is “no, I won’t hem your jeans–alter your prom dress–make your curtains for free hahaha.”

But you don’t get an offer to present at a major museum every day, and I was thrilled to be involved in their exhibit Items: Is Fashion Modern. So I spent Thanksgiving brushing up on mending history: starting probably more than 100,000 years ago when humans began figuring out how to sew furs together using intestines as thread (ick); jumping ahead to the 25,000-year-old iron needles with eyes that were found in caves in France (the beginning of the French haute couture tradition, in my view); sprinting through the industrial revolution, the Depression, and WWII rationing; and wrapping up with the advent of fast fashion, when it became easier to buy cheap clothes, and toss them, rather than fix them. Unfortunately, fast fashion is an environmental and social justice disaster, so sewing and mending skills have become crucial again. Sewing is our superpower!

I put together a Power Point and a sewing project for participants, and though I hadn’t spoken in public since my son was born (he’s taller than I am now), I got my fanny to New York — hauling little Coco the Bernina 215 (a great travel machine) and my sewing gear on the train and subway, then rolling her from my sister’s apartment to MoMA, weaving block after block through the holiday crowds near Rockefeller Center with my little Tutto wagon (and it’s more uphill than you’d think). IMG_4249(Yes, my iron’s in there, too, because, as we all know, half of sewing is pressing.)

When I got to the museum, I truly wondered whether I was the first person to bring a sewing machine into that temple of modern art.  IMG_4258

I was pretty nervous, to tell you the truth.


I was gratified that people from all walks of life had signed up to learn Japanese Boro mending from the 1600s, techniques for fixing and embellishing worn clothes with basic embroidery stitches (I used the recent Alabama Chanin book as a reference), a method for sewing on a button with no gnarly knots hanging out, and simple patching for jeans with a machine.  fullsizeoutput_3c0f

My sister, New York City bureau chief for Jet Set Sewing (and secret crafter who is knitting again — welcome back to the dark side, Janet) was there to take pictures and watch me hyperventilate as I tried to speak into a mike, operate PowerPoint, and demonstrate catch-stitching at the same time. IMG_4267.JPGAt one point the expression on her face looked so much like my late mom that I felt I had my female cheering section with me, so I gulped and moved forward to the story of how Claire McCardell invented ballet flats for streetwear during WWII — because regular shoes were rationed, but dance shoes were not. IMG_3655

Even though the workshop was targeted to beginners, I was happy and excited to see some of my pals from my blog and Instagram feed. I really enjoyed meeting all of you! Thank you for coming!

Later, when the museum featured photos from the workshops on their social media channels (with several million followers), I’ll admit it was a pretty big thrill for a middle-aged broad like me who’s spent a lot of her time in the past decade cutting fabric on the floor, tracing disintegrating vintage patterns, negotiating with her sewing machine, and digging through fashion history archives in chilly libraries. What an experience!


Phew! Made it through with flying colors, and caught my train back home on time! (Thank you for selling wine, Amtrak.)


After the holidays, I meant to get back to my project, I really really did, but so many other exciting (and distracting) things were happening!

  1. My father, a widower who remarried in his 80s, had the good sense to propose to a quilter, and we’ve become fast friends. She’s a Bernina fan like me, but when she asked me if I’d like to have her mother’s 1930s Singer Featherweight, in perfect condition…(well, I think you can picture the great amount of jumping up and down, hootin’ and hollerin’ over that). I waited till I had it in my hot little hands before I broke the news to Mr. Art Deco that I was taking an additional carry-on on the airplane home. When we got back, he took out the metal polish and shined her up. Now little “Claire” is a gorgeous machine that runs like a top! IMG_5954 I used it to reconstruct “Claire McCardell’s Gay New Hostess Sash” apron, and it did a wonderful job with those perfect stitches! (Women in the 50s could order the Hostess Sash by sending in a couple of bucks and a boxtop from Modess Sanitary Napkins. I recently found an original apron on eBay.) Thanks again, Elaine, for this fab machine! IMG_6043fullsizeoutput_3e16
  2. While I was researching the MoMA workshop, I googled “Rational Dress,” which was a movement in the 19th century that encouraged women to throw away their corsets and other constricting outfits so they could stop fainting and maybe have a life. Little did I know that I would find the modern-day “Rational Dress Society” — a couple of game gals (oops, I mean “comrades”) who are “Making America Rational Again” by promoting a uniform of utilitarian jumpsuits that you can make yourself.LKP_20180114_0436_web-smallThe idea is that fast fashion has become so overwhelming and tacky that we should throw out all of our retail clothes and wear this simple “monogarment” all the time. (And yes, it is an art project meets goof.) The RDS is actually grading and posting the free patterns in a wide range of sizes on their website as we speak, and many of the sizes are available to download now , with full video sew-along instructions posted as well. (Since the patterns are created for both men and women, if you’re a woman, check the measurements before you cut, as the crotch can be (ahem) “hung” a little low. I’ll admit that I did some unauthorized fitting on my jumpsuit, by taking up the waistband and crotch, and taking it in a little under the arms. And just FYI–even though the instruction videos show the seams being finished by a serger/overlocker, you can easily finish the seams with a zigzag or overlock stitch on a sewing machine, as I did.) I made my jumpsuit from fabric by Thread International, which is a company that hires people to collect used water bottles in Haiti, then transforms the bottles into fabric. They were selling the fabric as yardage for awhile, and now they’ve moved on to manufacturing backpacks from the fabric in the U.S. My jumpsuit, made from their French terry, is very RATIONAL, and feels like a giant Snuggie that’s perfect for Eurythmy dance calisthenics or collective farming.

    The style did not go over big with the male population of the household, however (not that I care). And, I’ll admit I’m not ready to throw out my me-made Chanel jackets anytime soon, because their glitzy metallic fabric adds an important layer of utilitarian warmth to my jumpsuit.

  3. I got this pattern free with a UK magazine, so I made pants! (Because, why not?)IMG_4955 (McCalls 7415 Palmer/Pletsch “No-Side-Seam Pants”) I made them from mysterious “athelounge” fabric from JoAnns, but skipped the zip and stuck in an elastic waistband. Clearly I was in a post-holiday “make and wear comfy baggy stuff” phase. It’s a nice pattern!fullsizeoutput_3c01
  4. Then I made this poncho just because I liked it. (And I figured it would fit over the baggy stuff I was wearing.) I used French seams to finish the interior, and sewed ponte inside the neckline so it wouldn’t be scratchy. The fabric is double-sided merino from The Fabric Store (which unfortunately just closed up shop in L.A., but still sells to the U.S. online).fullsizeoutput_3cc8
  5. In the spring, I got invited to a college reunion three days before it happened (no pressure), and at one of the events we were supposed to wear something from our era. That’s back when I was a dance student, and we wore mid-length Danskin wrap skirts all the time — over our leotards to class, to the disco, to and from our boyfriends’ rooms… What better way to deal with reunion anxiety than to self-draft a wrap skirt using muscle-memory left over from the days when I used to make them from Qiana? Wrap some stash knit around you, throw in some waist darts, put on a waistband and ties, sew on some snaps… I was sort of in a trance, but it turned out pretty well.  fullsizeoutput_3e79 (Trying my damndest to do a big Martha Graham ab “contraction” and pull off “Dance Teacher Chic.”)
  6. After that I got an uncontrollable urge to make a funnel-neck sweatshirt with that 60s “Throw a few clay pots in the kiln then ride your Vespa to the hootenanny” vibe. These patterns are everywhere, including the Sew House Seven “Toaster” sweater, and this intriguing “Bond chick at the ski resort” look (Vogue 9330)V9330_05 I decided to go with Named Clothing’s Talvikki Sweater pattern, which has pretty dart shaping up to the neckline. There are so many basic patterns floating around that I’m always happy to find ones with some design detail.IMG_5778It was very roomy and the sleeves are meant to be rolled up, so I took it in under each sleeve and on the side seams, and shortened the sleeve hems. fullsizeoutput_3e75 Sheesh, what a ham!

Hm, so I guess I really was getting a lot done, and if you check out my Instagram feed, you’ll see that I actually have been working on a not-so-top-secret Claire McCardell pattern project. So “popover” there to see it! (Popover — that’s a hint!)

And now that I’ve gotten all of that sew-crasti-making out of my system, I’m ready to get more project work done!

Except — isn’t it that time of year when I always make a blanket coat?

I hope your sewing’s going well!


Oscars report (get a snack, it’s a long post) and Daniel Day-Lewis’ Sewing Blog!


So I needed to make something for the Oscars.

I had some gorgeous silk/wool/metallic fabric I’d scored at B&J Fabrics in NYC during the fall. B&J is a well-organized, somewhat pricey shop on 7th Avenue with a nice selection of fabrics for dressy events, and lots of knowledgeable help.

I had a repro pattern for a 30s swing jacket, so I set to work stitching it up, even inserting some silk pockets.


I was so productive! I’d made a quick muslin using Swedish tracing paper, (not always a great idea, as tracing paper doesn’t have grain, so you don’t get the feel of the drape), but I thought I could fake it.

I think you can tell where this is going.

I realized as I was working with the fabric that it had some kind of Lycra in it, and it wasn’t molding at all with steam from the iron. I sewed on one of the sleeves, which turned out to have a very large and puffy cap that wouldn’t shrink up with steam, and–holy moly, I looked like General (Princess) Leia chaperoning the Jedi Academy prom! I was too mortified to take pictures!

I knew it wasn’t going to fly, so onto plan B. I had just enough fabric to make the Decades of Style one-sleeve wrap pattern #5006 (which is an original 50s design by Schiaparelli). I’ve made it before, and it’s really fun and dramatic.

I dug around in my stash for lining, and found yards of vintage signed Schiaparelli silk twill that I’d completely forgotten about! Yes!!


I made the following modifications on the pattern: flipped the pattern to put the sleeve on the left arm (because I’m a lefty), lengthened the front hem (at the belly button), shortened the ends and the sleeve (due to not having enough fabric), brought up the seam under the arm somewhat to give it more definition, got rid of the flap over the hand opening, and tacked the wrap together at the shoulder to keep it from sliding off (I put it on over my head).


Now we’re talking!


I felt really glam, yet comfy in my skin, because in late middle age, eveningwear is a challenge. (I still remember Nancy Reagan propped up in those strapless dresses with corselets and that crepey skin hanging over…yick!) And the wrap was as warm as a jacket, which helps because it’s freezing in the theater.

The day before, I’d spotted two “mature” women on their way to the rehearsal, absolutely rocking very different looks that worked equally well. Jane Fonda turned it out in creams and beige, with tailored pants, a simple knit top, and a long duster giving her height and authority. Helen Mirren was next to her in eccentric Brit style–black origami skirt, white tee that could have been Ric Owens (or Hanes), and Vivienne Westwood-style black army boots. Clearly neither one of them was throwing in the towel on style (or giving up kicking butt) anytime soon.

And I loved Jane Fonda’s ad lib that the Oscars’ set looked like “the Orgasmatron from Barbarella.”


In these Oscars posts, I usually make fun of the dresses worn by the stars, but it seems a little tacky in this era of #MeToo. I worked in TV as a producer and writer for years starting in the 80s, and let me tell you, Me Too could have been Me Three for most of us. We were just happy to have jobs at all, and knew if we complained, we’d be given a box for our photos and office plant and escorted out the revolving door that afternoon.

So the “whisper network” was real, and that’s how I knew that Rod in Master Control was known as “elevator eyes,” and that under no circumstance should I get on the CBS elevator alone with Bob, the our showbiz legend Executive Producer, because by the time you got to the basement level where the commissary was, Bob would have tried to stick his tongue down your throat.

So let’s talk about the guys, shall we!

First, George Clooney, where were you?! I know you have twins and would have shown up with spit-up on your Armani lapel, but make an effort, will ya?

George Clooney


Here’s Timothee Chalamet taking a fashion flyer in a Berluti white tux.


You’re young, adorable, extremely talented…but oh, honey, who did this to you?

Pegged pants, dark boots, and worst of all, no cummerbund to cover that saggy waistband. When I saw you in person, you looked like a kid who’d been fitted for his prom rental tux in October, then had a growth spurt. Meow, I know, but fire your stylist.

Armie Hammer, Armie Hammer, Armie Hammer!


Red velvet, my favorite flavor. He’s absolutely the only man in the universe right now who could pull off this look. (Including you, George Clooney.)

This winter I saw a number of the nominated movies, and was feeling very esoteric and removed from the whole horse race of the winners and losers, until I saw…


If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that Mr. Art Deco has been fired several times as my photographer.

But in this case, he scored the selfie prize by grabbing a total fangirl pic of me “with” the cast of Black Panther:


I attend the Marvel movies to “chaperone” my teen son, but in truth, I love them, and in particular I adored Black Panther.

According to this article in the New York Times, the costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, based the costumes on traditional African garments, but gave them a modern twist.

For Queen Ramonda’s crown, for example, Ms. Carter’s inspiration was a “traditional Zulu married woman’s hat,” and her updated version was 3-D printed, with the assistance of designer Julia Koner.


(Doesn’t it look fabulous on Angela Bassett, on the right, who not only got to be Queen in this film, but also got to portray Tina Turner in the same lifetime?)

Ruth E. Carter should win the Best Costume Oscar next year.

Look, Salmon Oscar has a caviar bowtie!


There’s Armie again. He’s looking my way, right?


Who needs you, George?

And what about my on-going feud with Meryl (of which I believe she’s unaware)? Until recently, she had a tendency to “copy” my look. I was quite upset about it, particularly when she one-upped me by wearing a “hostess set” (skirt over pants) last year.


This year, she was at it again, with a gorgeous red gown from Dior:


That’s it, you win, I can’t compete with your fabulous outfits.

Just one question, though. Did you make them?

And what about you, Daniel Day-Lewis, star of the really weird and not-my-favorite “Phantom Thread?” (Though the beautiful bespoke suits in the film, worn by Lesley Manville (the sister) and other characters, were made by Thomas von Nordheim, author of the excellent book Vintage Couture Tailoring.)

According to this interview in W Magazine, after learning to sew for several months, Daniel Day-Lewis has become sew crazy, and is chucking acting for good to become a fashion designer.

Well, Daniel, we’re all looking forward to the launch of your blog!

I got a sneak peek, and honey, it’s fabulous. I hope you don’t mind if I print a preview here:

DDL’s Major Thoughts About Sewing Blog

113 Followers. Follow Me On Bloglovin’!

I entered the Bargainista Fashionista contest on Pattern Review

Day 78 of Daniel’s Sewing Journey:

“Today was a frustrating day of sewing. My wife stood patiently for hours with her arms over her head, as I conceptualized how to insert a gusset. I went on Instagram with my sewing peeps for advice but still struggled so with the bias corners. Then Mrs. DDL’s-Major-Thoughts-Blog left in a huff after I stuck her in the armpit with a pin, and said something about making me her special toadstool omelet.

In a tizzy over the gusset, I consulted the blog Jet Set Sewing, who’s dyspeptic Bernina, Karl, recommended Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 for any and all sewing emergencies. I opened my stash closet to find some, and–what the blazes?!–my recent purchase from the Fabric Mart sale, all 78 yards, came crashing down, followed by approximately 838 buttons skittering onto the floor.

At times like these, I try not to be nostalgic for the days on the film set, when an assistant would bring me water from the Danube at precisely 12.7778 degrees celsius, whilst I stayed in method character annoying everyone for all but the five minutes per hour that I actually needed to act.

And yet, the minute I sit in front of my 1938 refurbished Featherweight (which I found on Ebay in Very Good condition for $325, including the original case and pedal, and seven of the most expensive feet), I know that giving up acting was all worth it, because, honestly, I’m just so mad for sewing!”

We feel you, Danny. And your sewing peeps are here for you when you need us, which will be probably be soon, and, I’m guessing, pretty often.


A Steamy Post on a Pressing Matter: Making the Papercut Patterns “Sapporo Coat”


What is it about late summer that cranks up my obsession with blanket coats? Last year I whipped up two: the 50s “Blancoat” that made a groovy bathrobe, and a very hacked version of Vogue 8930, the oversized-collar coat with the naughty name.



I usually don’t sew from modern patterns, but was intrigued by the new Sapporo Coat from Papercut Patterns, an indy company based in New Zealand known for their fashion-forward designs. The pattern has the air of “20s cocoon coat meets 50s balloon coat” that’s appealing.

The coat has sleek style lines and a relatively simple construction, allowing sewing newbies to make a lined coat without a lot of hassle. Searching online and on Instagram, I saw a number of people happily modeling their warm, cozy coats made from the pattern.


I decided to go for a more couture-ish version that would give the feeling of the light, luxurious Italian coats I see in the windows of Loro Piana and Max Mara on Boston’s tony Newbury Street. You know, an “investment piece” that softly whispers “I had $5,000 lying around, so I thought I’d spend it on this jacket.”


(That’s one I’ve been lusting after at Loro Piana. Unfortunately, Santa doesn’t shop there.)

I started ogling some wool/cashmere fabric on the Emma One Sock website, but was on the fence and left it in my cart. Then the next morning I saw that Carolyn from the blog Diary of a Sewing Fanatic was offering a discount code to EOS that week, as part of national sewing month! Sold!

I read through the instructions and decided to make a couple of modifications. I don’t like to have wool next to my neck or wrists, so I redrafted  the lining to come all the way to the neckline and wrist opening. And I sized down from my usual retail size L/XL to the Small/Medium size of the pattern, as it’s really oversized.

Let’s get on that floor and cut!


Constructing the exterior of the coat was not that difficult, though with this soft, malleable fabric, I was a little concerned that the neckline and pockets would get stretched out. So rather than attaching the fusible interfacing to the facing, as called for in the instructions, I fused Pellon Ultra Weft directly onto the exterior “fashion” fabric as soon as I cut it. The Ultra Weft gives lofty fabric some soft support that’s not noticeable from the outside.


A little funky-looking, but I knew the lining would hide it.

This is where the “steamy” part of the post comes in. With a coat like this you need to press press press!! As Kenneth King told me in my interview with him, “good pressing can save bad sewing.” I wasn’t planning on sewing badly, but knew that pressing diligently really would make or break this design.

So I got out my arsenal.


Ham, seam roll, clapper, and mysterious obscene-looking blue thing. (You put the squared-off edge of the blue thing in a corner that you’ve turned and press over it to get a sharp angle.)

I gave every seam a “sandwich press,” where you press it just the way it’s come out of the machine, then clipped the seams and pressed them open (over the ham or seam roll). For those seams that needed to be turned out, I clipped, turned, and pressed pressed pressed again. I gave them lots of steam and then jammed the clapper on them until they cooled off nice and flat.

Honestly, I spent as much time pressing as I did pinning and sewing, so it took longer than I expected.

The pocket design is very clever, as the pocket bag is included in an elegant bias seam with shaping at the end. I was a little worried about the bias pocket edges stretching out with this soft fabric though, so I reinforced the tops and bottoms of the openings with more Ultra Weft.


The back piece of the coat also has bias seams where the wing-like shoulder panels are attached. To reinforce those seams, I took a tip from the 50s bias-cut garments in my collection, and sewed Hug Snug seam tape over the seamlines.


At that point, I really didn’t feel like catch-stitching all of those seam allowances down, which is the haute couture way of keeping them from curling up under the lining. So I totally cheated and used Lite Steam-a-Seam 2, a fusible mesh, to glue them down. It worked well, but would I get busted by the couture police?


When I confessed my wanton ways on Instagram, a comment popped up from Kenneth King himself, saying, “if it’s in the lining, it doesn’t exist.” Phew, dodged that bullet!

The outside’s done and looking good! Now I just have to cut the lining! Urrrrgggggg.

I wanted to use silk crepe de chine, as a wool/silk combo is light and toasty. I ran off to “Sewfisticated” outside of town, a discount roll-end place that’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. But whatever it is, it’s cheap!

I found some pretty fabric on the silk table for $9/yard. Would it pass the burn test? If you burn a scrap of mystery fabric, you can usually figure out what it’s made of. And it’s an easy way to burn down the house!


It’s silk! Let’s get back on the floor and cut, Julie! Because cutting and sewing silk is so much fun!

Or maybe it’s time for new hobby. Modern cross-stitch perhaps?

I got all of the supplies and a couple of books:



I cross-stitched the Mona Lisa’s cleavage!


Okay, that’s boring. Where’s that silk?


(You can tell by the Nintendo pattern weight that I’m back in my son’s room.)

By now, Karl was back from the sewing machine spa – lubed, rested, and ready. I pinned the silk to tissue paper and we got busy. The tissue paper really helps keep the seams smooth with slippery silk. (Then you just rip it off when you’re done.)


The pattern instructions call for the sleeve of the coat (called the “cuff” in the pattern) to be lined with the same fabric as the exterior, then attached directly to the body of the coat. But that would have given me a seam at the upper arm with three layer of wool sewn together, and I was worried that that would be too bulky. If you decide to make this coat, dear reader, I recommend buying extra lining fabric and using it to cut the sleeve cuff lining, so the seam won’t be as thick.

In my case, I made the lining completely separately from the coat, and decided to bag the whole thing. (“Bagging a lining” is an industrial sewing method that allows you to sew in a lining with only a tiny bit of handsewing, but it’s very confusing to pull off.)

I consulted the oracle, Sandra Betzina:


I love this tutorial, as it’s by far the most lucid explanation I’ve seen of a very tricky maneuver. This is a great book to have in your arsenal, because it addresses a number of advanced sewing techniques.

I started to attach the lining, stopping after each step for more obsessive pressing. I rolled the fashion fabric under a tiny bit, pressed pressed pressed, and top-stitched it down.


The mysterious blue pressing tool really helped on the corners!


Now the tricky part: attaching the sleeve linings by pulling them through the open hem at the bottom of the coat. I heeded Sandra B. and lined them up like “two elephants matching their trunks.”


Then I went in the kitchen and made a burrito.


(Okay, it’s the “Burrito Method” where you wrap everything inside and sew the hem by machine.)

Then I turned it right side out and – remain calm!! Burrito giving birth in the kitchen!!


(That was messy.)

More pressing, then a little pick-stitching along the pocket edges, through the Ultra Weft, to give them more even stability. See, all of that pressing paid off!


I was excited to try it on! But then, hmmmm, I was on the fence about the oversized look, to be honest. You know how you make something, and it doesn’t match your mind’s eye?

That meant it was time for Saturday night bathroom selfies/Instagram confessions. Does this coat make me look like a big gray seed pod? Would it be better with some vintage French ribbon to draw the eye vertically? Or is that just too “Art Teacher Chic?”


Via Instagram, the general consensus among worldwide sewing peeps was: don’t do it.

Then I rooted through my stash and pulled out five yards of haute couture Chanel-ish trim from Paris. pinned it on, and went back to the bathroom IG confessional.


There were a few “maybes,” but mostly a chorus of: “nope.”

Even choreographer Martha Graham, high priestess of spare modernism, got in the act:


(Or maybe it was my sister channeling and quoting Martha – I think she was running the Martha Graham Dance IG feed that night…)

I went to bed still ruminating about whether “to trim or not to trim.”

The next morning, I sewed on one of the large hooks and eyes I’d found in New York at Pacific Trimming:


I dug an Art Deco pin out of my collection that I hadn’t worn in about 15 years (as recommended by my IG peeps, who were telling me that the coat needed a broach rather than trim). I tried it on again, and decided I was done.


Nice! It’s a lovely design.

Now, having recovered from seed pod anxiety and my steamy pressing hot flash, I’m really going to enjoy wearing it!





Outfit for a Party at Museum of Modern Art (Versions 1 through 5) and scenes from their “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” Exhibit


So I needed an outfit to wear to the opening night party of the Museum of Modern Art’s Items: Is Fashion Modern exhibit – their first show about fashion since the 40s. Through a bit of kismet, the curators had discovered my Claire McCardell research via my blog, and contacted me. I helped them locate a rare pair of McCardell’s original ballet flats, answered a lot of questions, and loaned them a photo from my collection for their exhibit and catalogue. In case you missed it, they put the tale of my unusual path to becoming a fashion historian on their blog.


The exhibit, which tells the story behind 111 iconic wardrobe items, was inspired by MoMA’s original 1940s exhibit “Are Clothes Modern,” in which McCardell’s designs were featured for their architectural quality. Here are some of her fashions from the museum catalogue, with completely inaccurate patterns! (Obviously not from McCardell’s team.)


Claire also consulted on another textile exhibit at what was then referred to as “The Modern” in the 50s. So I knew I had to bring a bit of her spirit with me to the party.

And whatever I was making, it had to go with ballet flats.

Concept #1: The McCardell pintucked dress:

During the 40s and particularly the 50s, McCardell used clever tucks that often would release at the bust and hip, to give the dresses a design element without a lot of frou frou. Lots of times she would use striped fabrics, and pull together the stripes with the tucks to give the bodice a solid color that would open at the bust to give a peek of the stripes – drawing the eye to the bust. (Even though McCardell was known for practical designs, they always had a hint of sex.)

Here’s an example from the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute’s excellent collection of McCardell garments:


Oo, I was going to look like this!


(After I had liposuction and a rib removed, which some women, including designer Jo Copeland, actually did back then to get a wasp waist.)

I have several of McCardell’s Spadea patterns that have tucks like these, so I decided to try this sheath pattern, using a striped seersucker that would show the manipulation of the fabric. I figured I’d give it a test run, and if I liked it, make it from fancier fabric.


Since my Bernina, Karl, (who recently went from intern to “work husband” when I bought him) was off at the machine spa, I put his Walking Foot #50 on Coco the B 215 (on loan in a pinch – thank you BERNINA!) and got moving. She was more than up for the job.


I started making tuck – after tuck – after tuck – lining each one up so that the stripes came together evenly. The directions called for each tuck to be topstitched 1/4″ from the edge, so they would open over the bust like an accordion. Then a side dart was elegantly added at the edge, so the shape of the dress wasn’t too boxy.


Days of tucks later – when I started to ruminate about how the word “painstaking” is a combo of “pains” and “taking” – I realized that I was probably once again making – let’s call it an homage – to my previous bombs that I refer to as “Gertrude Stein’s Bathrobe” and “Bea Arthur’s Spa Robe.”


I think this design will actually work as summer duster, but not as an avant garde party dress. When the collar piece didn’t line up and needed recutting, I abandoned it (for now) for another project.

Concept #2: The McCardell Jersey Wrap Dress:

I had done a ponte version of this 1958 McCalls pattern that hadn’t worked for me – the ponte was too heavy, and in the gray it gave me that “air de la prison matron” look.


I’ve found that most McCardell garments are made from lightweight fabric, so this time I tried it using very light Liberty Dufour viscose jersey (the original pattern called for wool jersey). There were a lot of tricky uneven tucks at the top of the shoulder, but the walking foot made quick work of them.


So far so good, but I found that the bodice was out of balance, with too much weight in the front tucks, which is probably why the pattern calls for a giant belt to support it. I often wonder about these late 50s patterns attributed to McCardell, “designed exclusively for McCalls,” which were released when she was very ill from cancer, or after her death. She was so weak that her lifelong friend and fellow designer, Mildred Orrick, used to come to the hospital to sketch her designs. Compared to the Spadea patterns, which were drafted in the early 50s from original retail garments, the McCalls seem a bit dumbed down, and probably not tested by McCardell’s sample makers, just sketched up and sent to McCalls.


I was frustrated that the shoulder seam kept slipping forward due to the weight of the tucks in front. Looking at this photo of McCardell in a similar design, (which is actually a jacket, also in the Met’s collection)  I noticed that to hold the tucks up, the neck needed to be high in the back, unlike the McCalls pattern, which dips in a “V” behind the back.

So I did a “hail Mary,” pulled the neckline up in the back, made a number of other modifications to the bodice, and that put it back in balance.

I didn’t want the gathers of the skirt to make me look too big in the hips this time, and in fact, McCardell often moved gathers in her skirts to different places for different bodies. Sometimes they were centered over the hips for people who are shaped like rulers, and sometimes they were centered over the rear and stomach to streamline the hips. So I moved the gathers to the center front and back, and put the side seams with pockets slightly forward, as she would move the pockets around as well.

Instead of wearing a belt, which I loathe at this age, I added a 3″ ring of knit elastic inside at the waistband. It’s like Spanx! I recommend it to support knit dresses at the hips. Since modern jersey and knit elastic are so much stretchier than wool jersey and stiff elastic from the 50s, I was able to skip the side zipper.


After all of this monkeying around, I had significantly modified the design and made it much closer to an authentic McCardell look from that era. I threw together the rest of the dress in the nick of time to put it in the Martha’s Vineyard Fair! (Lovely hair from sewing in 90% humidity…)


Second place due to wonky seam finishes. Oo, those judges are tough!


But I did win a blue ribbon for my hack of the Vogue 8930 sweater coat. Then I caught a couple of women manhandling it when I was stalking – er photographing – my makes.

Hands off the silk crepe de chine woman! Sheesh!


I really like this dress, but it feels more like one of McCardell’s Kitchen Dinner “entertaining at home” looks. You know, for Thanksgiving dinner with the fam. But to wear to a fashion party at Museum of Modern Art? It just wasn’t modernist enough. Which led to:

Concept #3: The Houndstooth McCardelligan:

I’ve made three McCardell cardigan jackets before – two from knits and one from lined tweed – and I love them all. They’re hacked from a couple of original McCardell jackets in my collection, and have the style elements she used again and again: cut-in kimono sleeves, a bias cut chevron, and a large French dart for waist and bust shaping. During her career, she designed dozens of variations of this jacket, sometimes with collars, kerchief points in the back, piping, or pockets.


I decided that one of these jackets would be more representative of McCardell’s architectural style for the MoMA party, and got going with some haute couture linen houndstooth from Paris. I figured it was the right weight for late September in New York.


I carefully lined up, pinned, and cut the fabric, which is very loosely woven and could slide around on the bias. I hand thread-traced around the seamline, as that keeps you out of trouble when sewing bias seams, which can stretch all over the place. (To learn about bias sewing, I recommend Sandra Betzina’s course “Sewing on the Bias” on


All cut and ready to go! I had a month to finish! Then waves of extended family showed up at the end of the summer, and well…

Concept #4: The Donna Karan Skirt:

I started thinking that the houndstooth might be a little loud for a McCardell jacket. Also, I saw the list of items featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s show, and one classic element was comprised of Donna Karan’s “Seven Easy Pieces,” which I certainly wore in the 80s. They included a bodysuit, jacket, soft pants, shawl, wrap skirt, belt etc. that all went together for work and travel.

McCardell had come up with a set of similar separates in the 30s, but the retailers refused buy her “Six Black Matches” until a few years later, because the idea of a “capsule wardrobe” was too radical for that era. These 1934 separates of McCardell’s, in the Met’s collection, were probably items from her personal wardrobe that she took to France twice a year for the fashion shows.

That sent me down a rabbit hole that resulted in getting an “Easy” Donna Karan 80s Vogue pattern from her original Seven Easy Pieces collections, to make a skirt that was an homage to McCardell’s Six Black Matches. I decided to extend it into a maxi.

Easy, huh?!





OMG Ode on a Grecian Urn meets the draperies! Abandon the S.S. Donna Karan!

Concept #5: McCardelligan from Menswear:

When I got back home in the fall, the clock was really ticking to finish my outfit. As I was unpacking my sewing stash and shoving it in an overhead closet, I discovered a cache of vintage Savile Row fabric I’d found for a song three years ago on Etsy, and had completely forgotten about!!!

I had four yards of gorgeous 50s men’s suiting wool from legendary Wains and Shiell that was screaming McCardell’s name. She famously used menswear fabrics to create evening dresses with jackets that were chic, warm, and feminine in their way.

My inspiration was a photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, whose color-saturated modernist images put Harper’s Bazaar (then under the helm of fashion editor Diana Vreeland) on the map in the 40s. (If you’re in London, check out the Dahl-Wolfe exhibit at the Fashion and Textile Museum this fall.)

Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Looking at Matisse, Museum of Modern Art , 1939,

(Looking at Matisse, Museum of Modern Art, 1939)

I thought that a jacket with long skirt would be just the ticket, but skip the feathers.

I cut another McCardell cardigan jacket, each piece in a single layer, and matched them all at the center front and shoulder line. I would cut one piece, keep it pinned to the pattern, flip it over, and match the stripes for the mirror-image piece, which makes a chevron in the front and back. The chevron keeps the bias from twisting, and gives the jacket a geometric look.


So much matchy-matchy! I used a lot of pins, because sticking the pin through both layers right at the seamline is the way to go.


(I cheated and thread-traced by machine – then modified the fit – as you can see by the chalk line.)


My brain hurt after all of that matching! The walking foot really helped keep the layers of fabric even over the feed dogs, so the stripes lined up properly.

I totally cheated and finished the seam allowances by gluing the edges with Steam-a-Seam Lite – no time left for binding this unlined jacket!


Of course, it wouldn’t be a McCardell without topstitching. She was inspired by a topstitched French worker’s hat in the 30s, and added the detail as a jaunty fashion element to her womenswear – even for evening.


Eep – tacking down the facing on the train to New York!


Five vintage brass shoe buttons sewn on between Providence and Mystic:


Phew! Finished in the nick of time! And after all that, it was just what I had in mind.


Even though it was hot and humid, this light, breathable wool was soft, comfortable, and wrinkle-free. McCardell really was onto something making all-season eveningwear from men’s fabric.

Let’s go to the party!

I was accompanied by Janet, Jet Set Sewing’s trusty New York City bureau chief and location photographer (AKA my sister). We’ve been hitting the town together for more that 30 years, probably making us the city’s oldest Holly Golightlys. Even though she and most of Manhattan had been delayed in traffic for two hours while our president, in one of those “let them eat cake” moments, had dinner at Le Cirque, she was still game to go.

The Museum of Modern Art was packed – seven deep at the bar and people spilling out into the garden! We walked in, looked around, and said, “guess we’re not going to find those people we were looking for.”


But what an exhibit!


It had a little of everything – Chanel’s original Little Black Dress from the 20s:


Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress:


Donna Karan’s Seven Easy Pieces (these are few of them):


A fanciful harem look from the early 20th century by Paul Poiret:


A hoodie hung like a piece of sculpture:


Polo shirts, platform shoes, shift dresses:


Even a Wonderbra, tighty-whities –  and Spanx. With cellulite! (Little did people know that my behind looked just like that.)


But where were those ballet flats?

Ah, at long last I got to see them in person.


These are from 1943, when WWII rationing kept women from buying many new shoes. Since dance shoes were not on the rationing list, McCardell enlisted the Capezio company to make ballet slippers from fabric that matched her outfits – with soles that covered the entire bottom of the slipper, so they could be worn on the street. (The soles of stage ballet slippers only cover some of the bottom of the foot, and wear out easily on pavement.)

I looked below the ballet flats and saw the photo from my collection – with my name next to it! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

MoMA McCardell Photo

(Although it’s actually not a publicity still from a film – it’s a 1943 press photo publicizing McCardell’s collection. I’m not sure how that mixup happened, but hey, they got my name spelled right!)


Just casually lounging nearby so I can point out my name to people…

It’s a great exhibit! Here’s a review from the New York Times.

On the way back to my sister’s, strolling the avenues of Manhattan’s East Side on that balmy September evening, I really did feel like I’d gone back in time – when a long skirt, a little McCardell jacket, and simple ballet flats were all a girl needed for a glamorous night out at The Modern.








Textiles from the south of France, caught in a Roman Bath tsunami, and Reader, I married him…


Before I got to my haute couture embroidery class at Ecole Lesage in Paris, I did a little damage ogling (and purchasing) textiles in the south of France.


A couple of years ago, I wrote about visiting Aix-en-Provence and the surrounding area, as my husband and I drove around in circles while two competing navigational systems – Miss Moneypenny and Miss Google Maps – bossed us around, and our teen son hid in the back programming a new million-dollar app (at least, I hope that’s what he was doing – though it sounded a lot like he was playing Fruit Ninja).

This time it was summer, and though it was beastly hot, once again we gave our son the thrill of driving from one charming and virtually identical village to another and wandering through brocant (flea) markets in the pulsing heat, until he finally informed us in that fun teen way that he’d had enough.

What? You don’t like hours on end of rooting through vintage textiles? These pajamas are classics!


Silk thread, kiddo!


Enjoying the view from a charming cafe painted by Van Gogh – with 800 other tourists!


We decided just to stay in Aix-en-Provence one day and stroll to Cezanne’s workshop, which the hotel assured us was a 15-minute walk. Even though it was 97 degrees, my husband insisted we go.

Unbeknownst to us, the 15-minute walk was straight up a hill.

But what a great sewing studio! (I mean painting studio…)


With a giant fabric-drying rack! (Or is that a massive easel? With no air conditioning, we bailed on the one-hour lecture on Cezanne’s super tight friendship with Emile Zola.)


Fortunately, our hotel, The Aquabella, was built on the site of old Roman baths with supposedly healing waters. So after a day of sweating through culture, I was able to retreat to “take the waters” in the spa, where basically a cute little thing smeared me with mud, mummified me in plastic wrap, then rinsed me off in a relaxing way by blasting me with “fraiche” water from a fire hose. (Of course, I forgot that “fraiche” means “cool” and not “fresh” in French. Quelle surprise!)

Then I went into the “experience shower” which said something in French about a jungle. I pushed the button and a warm mist emanated out, backed by the soothing sounds of condors and vultures coming to rip the flesh off my body. This was followed by a typhoon of “fraiche” rain downpouring on my head. After that I had to retreat to the pool where, after my endorphin level returned to normal, I felt like speaking to my husband again.


So freakin’ relaxed from exhaustion (and local wine).


(I think that’s the writer Frederic Mistral photobombing me up above the gargoyle water fountain. And I’m not really leaning on the bias, but I think my photographer was.)

Even though my  fabric stash-guilt, brought on by KonMari, kept me from buying more yardage, I did indulge in some fun textiles.

The Provencal company Souleiado has taken traditional textile designs and created modern scarves and garments that reflect the boho soul of the area. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to their museum, but I did spend a lot of time concentrating on their prints in their shops.



(I think you can see why my husband was relieved of his duties as Jet Set Sewing’s official shutterbug during this trip. Rose’ and photography do not mix.)

I found some beautiful traditionally-woven textile bags from the Basque region, by Tissage de Luz.


But the most intriguing find of all was this piece of vintage embroidery I found in the market in Aix-en-Provence:


A little 20s flapper/odalisque – all hand-embroidered with beading and cutwork.


It needed a few touch-ups, but otherwise it was great. Was it professionally done, or stitched by a hobbyist?

I put the photos up on Instagram, and remarkably had my answer within a half an hour. My online sewing pal, Marie Noelle Lafosse of the French blog La Machine a Coudre, spotted my find on my Instagram feed, and a few minutes later, posted a similar printed embroidery kit from the same era that she had in her collection. So it was definitely a kit for an enthusiast to use to make a pillow cover, but wow, what a level of skill needed to pull it off!

So my plan is to touch up the damaged embroidery and frame it. When I mentioned on Instagram possibly putting it back on a pillow, I swiftly heard “quelle horreur” from sewing peeps around the world!

Anyhoo, after living through embroidery school, I returned to the comfort of the Martha’s Vineyard sewing shed, ready to get to work on a bunch of projects with my “Swiss Intern,” AKA Karl the sewing machine. He’s been helping me out for three years, on loan from Bernina.


But then he said those horrible words:

“We need to talk.”

He started to go on about how, even though we’d had a great time together, he could only be an intern for so long, and how it was probably time for him to go back to Switzerland and get a real job and…

I realized the horrible truth. “Are you breaking up with me?” I bleated.

“It’s not that,” he assured me, “It’s just – I need commitment. You’ve been taking me for granted. I mean, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

“But think about all of the great times we’ve had together, Karl,” I sobbed, trying to keep the snot from dribbling on his stitchplate.

“I know,” he said, choking up.

“Remember when you made me those corded buttonholes, while I had to lie on the couch with a cold compress over my eyes, because I had spent 40 hours on the Edith Head Bolero from hell, and if the buttonholes had gotten messed up, it would ruined it?” I said.


“But I pulled it off, didn’t I?”

“Yes!” I blubbered.

“Remember when you made fifteen feet of piping, using that big, hulking 9mm stitch width of yours, and attached it to the Claire McCardell dress I was making for my sister –  the one she was going to wear to speak at the Fashion Institute of Technology?” I went on. And on.


“And you put the pocket in upside down?” Karl smirked lovingly. “You’d have been totally humiliated if I hadn’t Frankenpocketed it, and she’d been forced to appear in some tawdry retail thing.”


“And remember, when you powered through sewing a four-piece knit wardrobe with designs by Halston, Issey Miyake and Claire McCardell in two weeks for that Pattern Review Travel contest?” I sniffled.


“It wasn’t my fault you didn’t win.”

“I don’t think we need to go there right now, Karl. And what about the cute little phrases I used to put on your screen?”


But by then the only sound was the waves from the ocean of my tears flooding Karl’s bobbin cabinet. He started packing up his Barbie case to leave.

“You can’t go!” I hollered.

“Hey, you knew it was temporary from the start, babe.

“But I never knew how much I needed you!!”

At that, I burst out of the shed and tracked down my husband, who, as a lawyer, has a phone permanently implanted on his jaw. He was blabbing with a client.

“We need to talk,” I said, gesturing dramatically. He ignored me.

“I can’t live without him! I have to have him in my life!” I yelled. That got his attention.

“Is it another man?” my husband whispered.

“No, it’s Karl. I can’t let him go!”

“Oh go ahead and keep him,” my suddenly brilliant and level-headed husband said. “You’ll just be in there gossiping with another machine, and I’ll be stuck listening to you kvetching about not sewing on a Bernina.”

I ran to the shed with the joyous news. I kissed Karl on the top of his little bobbin winder and he accepted my proposal.

Our commitment ceremony was touching and chic. The Jet Set Sewing spokesmodels, Halstonette and YSL, were there as Maid of Honor and Best Man.


Karl wore white and I wore Chanel.


We pledged our undying love, and then – Reader, I purchased him.

But I was surprised that you weren’t there. I mean, I told the Jet Set Sewing graphics team, AKA the chipmunks who live in my kitchen, to send invitations to all of my readers. And you know how reliable they are.

So now that Karl and I are one, our sewing adventures will continue unabated.


Well, that should be the end of the fairy tale. But Karl, being Karl, informed me that before he could continue to star in my blog, he needed to spend some time in the machine spa to get his annual cleanse, lube and Botox touch-up. I could tell that he expected me to get upset, but instead, I just whistled as I went off to pick up the mail.

A little while later, I pulled up with a large box in the Jeep, and said, “not to worry Karl, go off and have your spiritual journey/tummy tuck. And take your time.”


“What’s in the box, sister?” Karl said in a mild panic.

“Oh, just my summer intern,” I said casually, as I unpacked the box.

“You got a TEMP?!”

“Yes Karl. Meet Coco. She’ll be filling your shoes and wearing your feet while you’re gone.”


Well, once Karl got a load of my pert and efficient new assistant, he left in a huff.

To be continued…



(To learn what’s really going on in the love triangle between me, Karl, and Coco, and how the nice people at BERNINA of America are loaning me a B 215 while Karl is away at the spa, click the Bernina Collaboration tab above.)







Haute Couture Embroidery School in Paris, Balenciaga, and…eek! I dropped my needle again!



How excited was I to attend the world-famous Ecole Lesage school of haute couture embroidery in Paris! The school was formed in 1992 to pass on the legendary embroidery techniques of Maison Lesage, which has embellished the creations of Vionnet, Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, and Chanel over the past century.


Fun! Like a sewing retreat, right?


Off to school – in Paris! Like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina!

I had gotten in touch with the school six months prior, and, with my schedule, was given the choice of a six-hour beginning class for beading (using a needle) or twelve-hour class for ribbon work, which teaches the technique of embroidery using the Luneville hook. (Here’s a video the explains that technique: Luneville Hook Video). I chose the six-hour class, which is spread out over two mornings or afternoons, as your hands can only take so much beading at a time. I told the school that I had proficient hand-sewing skills from making garments.

I got to the school fifteen minutes early and went looking for the woman who had booked me. Someone told me to wait in the lobby to be called. I saw the instructors breezing in, and noted the other students arriving with large rectangular frames stretched with organza, which are used with the Luneville hook. I also noticed that there was no friendly chatting among the students, most of whom were younger, with more of a “deer in the headlights” look.

At 9:30 sharp, we were called by name into specific rooms with workstations. Everyone else had a table on which to perch their frames, and I was given a table with a traditional round embroidery hoop attached to a pole with a flat base to stick under your leg. It’s actually a brilliant design that frees both of your hands. Clearly I was the only newbie there.


(A photo of the “tambour” taken later, after several glasses of wine.)

The other students put down their frames and started right to work. There was no chatting, just intense needlework. Though I’d asked for an English-speaking instructor, I was started out by someone who only spoke French. We soon both realized that I didn’t have enough embroidery vocabulary for that to work, so an English-speaking teacher came to help me. There were people of all different levels practicing in the same room, with three instructors, all expert embroiderers, moving between the students to show them what to do. There was no lecturing, just learning by doing, which was fine by me. The overall languages were French and English, and many of the students seemed to be from Asia and the U.S.


I was given a kit with a piece of silk twill with the project printed on it (a portable phone carrier), all the beads and sequins, some very brief instructions in French, a roll of cotton thread, and just one #10 embroidery needle with a teeny-tiny hole.


The French-speaking instructor whipped the project onto the hoop (always straight, never on the bias), threaded the needle, and showed me how to get going with the beading – three backstitches, up outside the sequin, pick up the sequin, down through the dot in the middle – it was going so fast! I started doing it and felt like a complete klutz – so much was counterintuitive to garment sewing. The tail of the thread goes on the top of the hoop to be clipped, not the underside. The stitches need to be pulled so tight! The sequins I’d sewn were wobbling all over the place. When I stabbed the sequins with the needle, they went flying off the table!

Then the English-speaking teacher came over and checked out my setup. She took pity on me, sewing black fabric with black thread at this age, and got me a work light. She showed me how to level the hoop so I could see the work better. And she made me little paper trays to put the sequins in so they wouldn’t fly around. (Ecole Lesage doesn’t provide them because they keep getting stolen.) “Pull the stitches tight!” she said.

Then I ran out of thread, and had to thread that tiny little hole with cotton thread, without the Clover needle threader that is my constant companion and crutch. (If Susan Khalje can use one, so can I.) The school had giving me scissors that were not very sharp, so the end of the thread frayed really easily. I could not get that damn needle threaded! I was totally stressed out!

The instructor took pity on my again. When I mentioned a needle threader, she said it was fine for hobbyists, but in the ateliers… (her voice drifted off in that French way).

She taught me to pinch the thread hard between my right-hand finger and thumb (I’m a lefty) then, using my left hand, shove the eye of the needle over the bit of thread sticking up. It even took her a few tries. Here’s the idea:


Just a tiny bit of thread sticking up – then take the needle in your other hand and squish the eye over the thread to work it through. It reminded me of working out a sliver.

At that point I would have given a million dollars to have that needle threader, particularly because, using a single strand of thread, the thread would get caught on a sequin and come out of the needle, so I’d have to thread it again. Grrr! I started cutting a really long piece of thread, but was told it was too long. The thread is supposed to be the length from your thumb to your elbow, plus 15 centimeters. There were a number of times that the teacher had to thread my needle for me, much to my chagrin.

Then I dropped my one and only needle, and could not find it anywhere! Let me tell you, I scoured that floor until it showed up, because I was not going to flag my teacher down again for something as stupid as that!

I now started to realize that coming into Ecole Lesage and expecting it to be like a sewing retreat was the same as going to the American Ballet Theater school and asking to take a Jazzercize class. It’s pro training, and you’re not going to walk out a prima ballerina in a week. The teachers were all very nice, but there was none of that American rah-rah that’s GREATTTTT! attitude. No “A” for effort. The teachers were very straight with the students about what they needed to do to improve, and often took their place at their workstations to demonstrate, but there was none of that “oh, it’s okay…” It was refreshing! Even though I was mortified!

Oh my God, so many teeny-tiny sequins! More than 200 of these 2mm sequins alone.


At this point, my instructor had my number as a hobbyist, but I think she recognized that I could stitch, so she concentrated on getting me where I needed to go in the time I had. She taught me how the flat sequins (paillettes) have a right side and a wrong side, though I’ll be damned if I could tell them apart. Some have a small, raised edge that you can sort of see if you look really close. She told me to backstitch frequently as I was sewing, in case the thread broke. She also told me to backstitch when attaching beads, and to make the stitch longer than the bead or sequin to keep them from sticking up. She taught me the proper way to stitch the stacked sequins and beads. I was taking notes like crazy. There was no chatting her up. She answered my questions then had to move on to other students.

This is as far as I got in the first three hours of non-stop stitching:


At the end of my first class, which was on a Friday, all around me I could hear the reckoning among the other students, some of whom were there for a week, while others were taking longer courses. “You have a lot of homework to do,” the girl next to me was told. One American young woman seemed close to tears on her last day, and was given some final corrections and encouraged to keep practicing. There was none of that “wow that was so great – thanks so much!” thing at the end of the session. People packed up and left. I found that I needed to buy myself a tambour hoop from the school (for 68 euros) so I could do some work over the weekend. They don’t let you borrow their equipment because “sometimes people don’t come back.”

Bon courage! I was going to need it!

Over the weekend I sewed on maybe 40 more tiny sequins, but come on, we were in Paris!


My husband and I attended an under-the-radar Balenciaga exhibit at the Musee Bourdelle, where the garments and hats were intermingled with the giant sculptures that are a permanent part of the museum. But was I looking at the sculptures?

I really wasn’t expecting much, but ended up thrilled to wander the rooms and see an excellent selection of this master couturier’s sculptural works – most in black for this exhibit.

My photos really don’t do the exhibition justice – which to me was as exciting as the Charles James exhibit at the Met a few years ago.





Some of the garments were so delicate that they had to be kept in boxes with curtains in front to block the light. It was almost like opening a present to peek inside.


There was some beautiful beading as well, that I now truly appreciated after having my butt kicked at Ecole Lesage.



As I’ve mentioned in the past, I tend to get in very close when eyeballing these exhibitions, to the point where the alarm has gone off, followed by a stern warning from a guard. At this exhibit, I heard a loud clatter and was thrilled when it wasn’t me who knocked over the guardrail!


One of the most exciting parts was seeing some of the original muslins or toiles, all cut from black fabric with multicolored stitching to show the various modifications.


(There was a lot of reflection on the case, but you can see that the lower part is the front of a bodice, which is cut in one piece with the back at the top.)


How I loved this exhibit!

I also made a run to Maison Sajou, the French embroidery and needlepoint brand that’s been brought back to life by a new owner – everything in it is charming!



I was going to do some fabric shopping in the neighborhood, but I got a little panicked because one of the metro lines and a lot of the streets had been shut down, and there were police everywhere.  I started walking back to the place we were staying and realized that everything had been closed down for the Pride parade. I was relieved, but still needed to cross the parade to get home. So I just joined in for a couple of blocks!

Then I met up with my husband and son, who dragged me to a video game history exhibit, with virtual reality stations.


(Unless Coco Chanel’s in there, I’m not interested.)

Then everyone in the family went home happy – that is, after my husband gave up on his navigational skills and listened to my very best friend, Miss Google Maps.


On Monday, and I packed up to go back to Ecole Lesage.


I’ll be honest – I kind of wasn’t feeling it on that beautiful day.


But now that I knew the drill, I was able to set up my workstation with my boxes from Maison Sajou and my son’s Swiss Army knife, which actually had the sharpest scissors – though I still would have been a whole lot happier with that needle threader.


One of the instructors sang “are you going to finish your case today?” Considering there were hundreds more beads and sequins to attach, sadly the answer was “non.” But I put my head down and got to it.

More help from my instructor, who made sure I knew what I needed to do to complete each of the circles in the project when I left.

I turned off the sound on my phone and snuck a few pictures.


(An instructor demonstrating for a student on her sampler.)

I got up to stretch.

“Mal a dos?” (“Backache?”) one instructor asked.

I nodded my head and took pictures of some of the samples that students can learn to do if they take the longer classes, and have the patience of Job.


I got a little further, then, at the end of the morning, bid Ecole Lesage adieu.


Waiter! Rose’ please! Make it a double!

Don’t get me wrong – going to Ecole Lesage was a great experience, because if you’re going to learn something that requires physical technique, I believe you should learn from the best, most accomplished teachers you can find. But I wouldn’t call it “fun.”

When will I finish my tiny portable phone case, with roughly 1000 beads and sequins? (Don’t hold your breath.) However, if I want to put beading on collars or cuffs, I’m glad I took the needlework class to learn how.

Jet lagged and sequined-out, I returned to the island summer sewing shed to find Karl waiting in a bit of a huff.IMG_2809

“How’d the hand-sewing go without me, doll?” Karl asked with a smirk.

“No comment. And of course I wanted to take you to Paris with me, Karl, but, no offense, you’re not exactly the most sylph-like carry-on.”

Pretty soon we were back to work, though:


As to what we were making, and what other big announcements Karl and I might have to make – that will just have to wait till next time.

Hope your sewing’s going well!

Is it okay for feminists to sew? Or: Want a man? Get a sewing machine.



Can you sew and still be a feminist? Oh honey, I’m a feminist from way back.

My mom taught me to sew in the 70s, because every woman in the midwest needed to know how. At some point, your daughter was going to come home from Girls Choir with a mimeographed sheet instructing “Mom” to come up with a red corduroy jumper with a zipper up the front from a Simplicity pattern, and you just had to do it. Sewing was right up there with cooking as a life skill.

These were the women who had flexed their muscles as Rosie the Riveter during WWII, or were co-eds like my mom. Then the men came back, and the women were expected to go home, be quiet, and raise a passel of kids while secretly reading “The Feminine Mystique” and pounding back Excedrin. We’re talking Betty from Mad Men.

My mom wisely got out of the house as a teacher, assigning Robert Frost and Kurt Vonnegut then moving on to Marshall McLuhan and “the medium is the message.” My Dad was the director of the school, so on top of all that she had to entertain as part of his job. I remember her sewing — rather than buying — a maxi dress of washable teal doubleknit to wear at the parties she was catering and hosting, because my parents were wisely choosing to spend the family money on college for us three girls.

I knew if I wanted to wear anything the least bit fashionable up there in Northern Lower Michigan, I had to make it myself, with patterns by Betsey Johnson or Kenzo. Imbued by the overconfidence of Cold War America, I thought everything I made was great.

The Girl Scout leaders knew we had a big job ahead of us too, so we learned to hike and camp with a pack, build a campfire and cook a “one pot” meal using a #10 can for the pot. We’d eat off of a table we’d made by lashing branches with twine, while sitting on our hand-woven (from newspaper) “Sit-Upons.” After dinner we’d sing “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” with hand motions, then bury all the trash.

But since we were training to be women, another night we had to cook and serve a “dressed up” fondue dinner party for our dads. I remember sewing a maxi wrap skirt out of wool houndstooth to wear. I was 12.

Pretty soon Ms. Magazine started showing up at our house, and my mom was going to feminist “consciousness-raising” meetings. My dad, who believed in fairness and lived in a house with four females, stuck up for her, which was a highly unpopular position for a man to take back then. He started cooking, and would invent casseroles from ground beef and giant zucchini from his garden. One of them was called “How To Stuff a Wild Zucchini,” but after a couple of nights it became “Baseball Casserole” because, as he said, “three times and you’re out.”

My mom was finally freed from sewing by then because I, the youngest, knew how. I could knit and embroider, too, and one summer in the 70s, my sister, who now is the Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, came home from Juilliard and taught me to macrame plant-hangers.

In college during the recession, I was part of the first generation of “thrifters” who lived in vintage fashion and army surplus, inspired by the book “Cheap Chic.”

That’s me in a 40s “Popover” wrap dress.

Too broke for retail when I started in TV in Ohio, I sewed myself a velvet dress to wear when I got an award at the Waldorf.

Then I moved to New York, where my love life replaced my sewing machine. Power suits from Anne Klein II. Nights at the Plaza in Norma Kamali. Marriage to a guy with custody of three kids. Cooking Christmas dinner for his teens (who decided the night before to become vegan). Yards of curtains sewn. Parties for 40 with a rock band crashing at our house. Doing the rock band’s laundry because I didn’t know any better. Wearing vintage haute couture from Didier Ludot in Paris. Fifteen years of writing and producing for television. Ten years raising our boy — a much wished-for but exhausting surprise. Then menopause, which is as bad as puberty — but in reverse. By the time I was through, I had skills for days and was restless.

I took a $25 online course about French haute couture sewing, and made a Chanel-style jacket. I remembered how much fun it was to sew. It was more fun than shopping, which has been ruined by fast fashion. And lots of people were online chatting about sewing, of all shapes, sizes, hues and ages — women, men, gay, straight, trans. They were posting proud pictures of themselves in their “makes.”

It was all so much more fun than thinking about test prep for my eleven-year-old’s four-hour middle-school admission exam — an incredibly anxiety-producing thing that was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, I now realize. I started blogging about recreating vintage fashion by famous designers here at, and it took off. Sewing kick-started my career again.


(Speaking of which, three kick pleats in this Charles James “Dorothy” skirt! And a shrug by Claire McCardell.)

Here’s the deal: feminist or not, domestic crap is a part of life. I sew for fun and cook under protest. I drive my son to stuff and try to figure out what’s on his mind. I’ve cleaned up plenty of puke and poop, and checked for pinworms (don’t google it). My husband’s put up shelves, done the dishes, and decorated the house. We’ve hauled umpteen pieces of furniture up and down stairs, swearing at each other. I’ve made up five million beds. My husband’s done a lot of varnishing. We’ve both dustbusted a major portion of the East Coast.

I’ve read young bloggers agonizing about whether “crafting” is anti-feminist, and here’s what I think, now that I’m in my 50s: go ahead and get good at sewing, cooking, woodworking, small engine repair, whatever floats your boat. You have no idea how many freaking skills you’re going to need over the next 30 years.

As the Dalai Lama noted recently in a New York Times Op-Ed, a lot of western anxiety can be traced back to the feeling of not being “needed.” I really can’t stand a lot of the housework I do, but I do feel useful.

Now for the part about “getting a man” (or whatever gender “rings your chimes,” as they used to say in the 60s), which is feminist too, because, trust me, your family ties will outlast your career. Even though the shimmering blonde hair on the next girl over may be temporarily blinding, once a guy does the math about how much it costs to touch up those roots every three weeks, an engaging, independent and industrious gal like you with a sewing machine can start to look mighty good. Because in the end, you two are going to be spending a lot more time keeping house and eating dinner together than you will fooling around.

(Just don’t show him your sewing stash closet until after the honeymoon.)

Sewing a retro mermaid skirt (McCalls 7386), a 20s-vibe sweater coat (Vogue 8930), and a 50s McCardell bolero; but still it was all downhill until I made a pink hat…


Oh hey! Remember the good ol’ days? Like, in June?

If you’re a U.S. reader, it’s entirely possible you’ve been experiencing a bit of anxiety lately. I know I have. Personally, I blame a major Italian fashion house for my slide into bad karmaland.

There I was in late July, wearing my not-terribly-tatty workout clothes and carrying a completely acceptable non-It bag, cutting through the mall to get to Star Market for groceries, when I spotted this dress in the middle of a store:


Well, of course I had to take a picture for Instagram, because I’d seen 70s Halston dresses that are just like it. Here’s one from the excellent Yves Saint Laurent + Halston exhibition  that was at the Museum at FIT a couple of years ago (on the left):


So I dashed in, and the minute I got out my phone to take a picture, the security guard streaked to the back room of the store.

Suddenly a very officious and nervous young manager came speedwalking out, insisting that I had to stop taking pictures and leave! I don’t know if my non-Bedazzled workout clothes were disturbing the shopping zen of the overdressed foreign tourists taking selfies right next to me, but clearly I had to go.


Anyway, I guess he figured I wasn’t in the market for a $1,300 cotton dress that you or I could make on a Tuesday for 50 bucks tops, with a pattern like Butterick 6446.

b6446_aNext I cut through Lord and Taylor, and, because I still had blanket coats on the brain after making the The 50s “Coat Even A Beginner Can Make” (or a Capote even Truman might wear), I snapped a pic of this easy-to-hack wool jacket by St. John:


Fortunately, the nice ladies at L&T didn’t give a hoot that I was taking a picture of this $1,300 “putty melange” wrapper.


Seriously, you put it on, one of your friends does a red wine “spit take” on you and you’re on the floor crying.

Even though my sewing machine, AKA Karl, was still mad at me from making him do “le pivot” on my last make, I decided that stitching up a retro shawl-collar jacket was in the stars. They were everywhere!



I decided to make one from  Vogue 8930, as people were waxing poetic about the pattern on Pattern Review. Another blogger skillfully explained the mania you can get from thinking about this pattern, along with the naughty alternate name that it has: Vogue 8930 review with hilarious naughty name.

By then it was August, and it was so hot in my charming-yet-non-air-conditioned sewing shed that all I felt like doing was making muslins, believe it or not (in this case, a tracing-paper test version of the pattern). Even the thought of fitting actual fabric gave me a hot flash.


I knew from the get-go that this was an oversized pattern, so I went down a size to make a Medium, when I’m normally a retail L or XL. But the first version, upper left, still had a lot of volume. The dropped sleeves were oversized and a little 80s as well, so I took them in a couple of inches under the pit, shown top right. Then I chopped 4″ off around the collar and hem, shown bottom right, but it still seemed big to me.

Meanwhile, I was showing my progress via Instagram and getting a lot of good advice from sewing people all over the world. In the end, I took a total of 8″ off the collar and hem to get the silhouette I was looking for (bottom left).

There are two ways to sew this pattern in the instructions: either unlined with overlapping  unfinished seams, or completely lined. However, as I have never encountered a pattern that I can’t make more difficult if I really put my mind to it, I decided to only line half of it around the collar.

When I start cutting the wool for the exterior, once again I heard “MERDE! NOT LE PIVOT” from Karl, my Bernina. Then I told him I was doing French seams, which means you sew the seam once, then flip it and sew it again to give it a nice finish.

You know those Grumpy Cat memes? Karl was giving me that look.


I knew he could do it! Though I did find it was too bulky when I tried to cross together two French seams, so I kind of chopped that part and you’ll never see a picture of that. (The fabric is a pretty doubleknit wool that I bought from Emma One Sock.)

To line and face the collar, I used some silk crepe de chine I’d had printed up by My Fabric Designs. They’d offered me a credit to try their printing service, so I’d uploaded some original Art Deco fashion graphics from my collection. It’s good quality silk, and the printing is nice and crisp.


This one’s called “The Death of Love” (in French) and, geez, haven’t we all been there after a breakup, floating comatose down a cold river, boob hanging out, but still miraculously wearing our “kiss me” (or something) pumps?

I cut the collar lining, then it was back to Instagram. Does this pattern make my headlights look like lowlights?


Sewing people are nice and polite on IG, but like true friends, they wisely advised me to re-cut it.

I had chopped so much off the hem that the pockets were going to stick out the bottom, so Karl and I added ponte binding. It’s a nice finish for knits.


I did a little hand pick-stitching to secure the edge of the newly-cut collar, as topstitching would have been “meh.”


Then it was off to the Boston Symphony to drown out the cacophony of the election.


I went to bed on election night hoping to wake to a celebration of the first American woman president. Instead I found myself sentenced to four years of my husband kvetching about politics at the breakfast table.

At that point, there was only one thing I could do with all of that agita. Go hide somewhere and make something.

I needed a long black skirt for an event, and had bought some mysterious “athe-lounge” “anti-pill” ponte type stuff at JoAnn’s that had a lot of body and magical lycra. I’d liked the retro mermaid-type cut on McCalls 7386, and since it was a “Learn To Sew For Fun” pattern, I figured it would be doable on a day when I really couldn’t be trusted with sharp objects.


Three seams and some elastic later I had a nice skirt. It’s a very easy and well-drafted pattern. The fabric was so artificial that I skipped sewing the bottom hem and gave it a smooth finish by gluing it with Lite Steam-a-Seam 2, because it just seemed like a day to throw all sense and tradition out the window.

A couple of weeks later, half the country was still driven to distraction, as was I. I decided that the only sewing I had the patience for was the “One Yard Wonder” contest on Pattern Review, where you took a yard or meter from your stash and made something creative.

I used some vintage Savile Row suiting wool to whip up a 50s Claire McCardell bolero pattern, as it’s cut on the bias to create a pretty chevron with striped fabric.


As a single woman in her early 30s, McCardell bought a drafty farmhouse a stone’s throw from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where the Algonquin Round Table crowd had decamped to escape New York’s cafe society. She thought of her designs as “solving problems” for herself and the modern woman, so she created eveningwear with jackets and shrugs like this from wool – often men’s suiting fabrics – to stay warm at dinners in cold country houses and ski resorts.

This pattern uses one unusually-shaped pattern piece that’s doubled. I cut the first side in a single layer, then flipped the cut piece, still pinned to the pattern, and lined up the stripes to cut the second piece, to make sure that the stripes would meet in the middle in a chevron.


Then I used Wonder Tape to match the stripes before I sewed.


At this point I was joking on Instagram that I was making a giant bra, and other guesses were a one-armed top or large manta ray stuffed toy.


I lined it with some silk crepe de chine that My Fabric Designs printed up with photos I’d taken in Paris. (The lining didn’t count toward the one yard/meter in the contest.)


I got in the true McCardell spirit by topstitching the edges (she pioneered putting topstitching from work clothes on womenswear in the 40s). I was so not in the mood for more hand pick-stitching.


Karl did an awesome job as usual. I was pleased with the results.


Those Pattern Review contests are tough, and even though I didn’t win, it’s always fun to be in the gallery with so many talented peeps.

For my last anxiety-relieving project, well, several million of my women friends and I kept hearing about how our president-to-be was fond of cats or something, and since he’d spent a great deal of his life in a big, gilded tower, we decided to welcome him to the People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with a little parade. And to make sure that he knew we were girls, we decided to knit, crochet and sew attractive pink hats. Little did we know how popular this particular crafting project would be. Details and patterns are here: Pussy Hat Project.

I hadn’t knit for years, but decided to switch to the dark side for this project. I noticed that the patterns were similar to a pattern floating around for a version of Elsa Schiaparelli’s 30s “Madcap,” a soft hat that could be worn number of ways. Here’s that pattern: Madcap Pattern. There’s a cute sewn version of the pattern on Kate’s blog Fabrickated.

And here’s one of the original Schiaparelli Madcaps in the Metropolitan Museum‘s online collection:


How I adore the thousands of images of fashion history on!

Wearing a retro in-your-face hat seemed appropriate, since during World War II the Parisiennes took to wearing bizarre hats as a way to show that someone could take their city, but not their fashionable souls.

I mixed together the 30s pattern and a Loopy Mango knitting pattern to create a dark aubergine-pinkish chenille topper, suitable for madcap parties and protest marches.


I used size six chenille super-bulky yarn, size 15 needles, and cast on 33 stitches. Stockinette stitched until I thought it was tall enough (about 8″). Folded it over and sewed the top and side (I’m wearing it purl side out). And that officially got knitting out of my system for another five years.

After the ladies’ Welcome Wagon marched through a major portion of the world, many of us in the U.S. had the hope that our new public servant would get the message, as it takes a lot to be named “Employee of the Month” around here. Time will tell, but it’s not looking good so far.

Play it, Bonnie. (Bonnie Raitt “Sugar Mama”)

Now that Karl has hidden my knitting needles, it’s time to get back to sewing! How’s your sewing going?