Fabric Hunting in Buenos Aires and Eating Big Hunks of Beef

34

Sing it with me… “don’t cry for me Argentina!” (I apologize in advance for the earworm.)

IMG_6557

Eva Peron (AKA Evita), the working-class first lady who’s been described as Princess Di and Jackie Kennedy rolled into one, used to hang out of that balcony under the flagpole of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires. (Or was it Madonna in “Evita?”) It’s the executive mansion and president’s office, right in the middle of the city.

The “Pink House” is plenty pink, but looking at the color of that sky, I thought it must be the inspiration for the light blue and white of Argentina’s flag.

My husband and I, being ancient parents, decided long ago that we don’t want our son looking back on school vacation with visions of Orlando. So we cashed in our miles to leave  chilly New England “spring” behind and step off the plane into the late Argentine summer.

IMG_6636

People from the U.S. tend to ignore South America, or think of it as a place where there’s a giant rain forest with deadly snakes, Rio where Carnival is happening 24/7, Mayan ruins with too many steps, and a bunch of drug lords acting like the Godfather. (Which just goes to show how provincial the U.S. can be.) When I was in school, I think we learned about it in geography once, and that was about it.

We tend to be surprised to learn that Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America,” could look like this:

IMG_6396

 

IMG_6642

Most of the city looks very European, but the architecture tends to be super-sized.This building was based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, with hell on the bottom and paradise on the top. IMG_6664

(Hm, hell’s a lot bigger than paradise, isn’t it?)

Though Buenos Aires was once a Spanish colonial backwater, from the 1880s through the 1930s it became a country of immense wealth from meat and grain exports. So the rich families built up the city in a mix of faux Paris, belle epoch, Art Nouveau and Art Deco style. Back then if you had loads of money, in Europe they would say you were “rich as an Argentine.”

Visual art is everywhere – with huge paintings on the sides of buildings:

IMG_6455

IMG_6695

And unusual mosaics in the old buildings and the subway, which is clean and relatively safe:

IMG_6439

IMG_6441

This is the floor of the Teatro Colon, the 1908 opera house that hosted the great performers of the 20th century.

IMG_6530

And here’s the rest – it rivals the Garnier in Paris and La Scala in Milan.

IMG_6550IMG_6518IMG_6525

I really liked the Art Nouveau velvet curtains leading into the orchestra seats:

IMG_6529IMG_6542

And the modern textile art on the curtains, a mixture of appliqué and embroidery:

IMG_6569

Check out the Art Nouveau detail at the entrance:

IMG_6553

And how about this ornate movie house, converted into a bookstore?

IMG_6656

The Portenos are sophisticated like Europeans, but not as, um… well I know I have a lot of European readers, so how can I say it – brusque? There’s a certain New World friendliness, and people were extremely helpful to someone like me who’s walking around with no Spanish other than the words I picked up watching “Dora The Explorer” with my son. (Note to Dora – middle-aged women are watching. Teach us how to say “where’s the bathroom?”)

I had read about the fabric shopping in B.A. being so-so, from Melanie of the blog Poppykettle and Sarai from Coletterie.  When I got to the small fabric district in a not-so-great neighborhood, it was filled with small shops, many just too jumbled for me to pick through.

IMG_6412

(With as much fleece as JoAnn’s.)

There were a number of shops selling lace and notions made in Argentina, but most were wholesale only.

IMG_6429IMG_6417

About to give up, I went into the one store with more of a modern “retail” environment, called “Don Boton” (2611 LaValle St.). And I’ll admit I went a little crazy. Beaded trims:

IMG_6421

Ruffled elastic:

IMG_6424

Leather and faux leather trims and cords:

IMG_6426

Pompoms:

IMG_6423

Fake fur and feathers, for when I pioneer “Old Babe” burlesque:

IMG_6572

And lots of buttons! So this happened:

IMG_6447

(I’m going to be consulting Kenneth King’s “Smart Sewing with Fake Fur” DVD to figure out how to sew that retro faux fur. It’s really soft and backed with a knit.)

After that, I needed some refreshment at the legendary Cafe Tortoni, from the 1860s.

IMG_6409

When my husband and I were here 30s years ago, there was a much more “lost in time” feeling to Buenos Aires, and a big afternoon cafe society. It’s nice to see that this cafe still exists.

On Sunday, we visited the antiques fair in the old square in the San Telmo district, with a mixed bag of antiques vendors, tango dancers, and fairly touristy “Becky Home-Ecky” handicrafts.

IMG_6559

IMG_6564

We were about to leave empty-handed, until my Art Deco husband dove headlong into a booth of vintage buttons:

IMG_6571

Good going, hon!

IMG_6570

We stayed in a classy and modern boutique hotel, Fierro Hotel, in the “Palermo Hollywood” area, a quiet part of town with a number great restaurants within walking distance. Their staff found us an excellent English guide who took us walking around the Recoleta cemetery, which is full of “mini-mansion” marble crypts. IMG_6612IMG_6598

(At 19, the girl above went into a catatonic state and then was mistakenly buried alive. Just in case you’re looking for a subject for a creepy Edwardian novel.)

IMG_6596IMG_6619

(I like how that architect made sure he had a wine glass on his Deco crypt.)

Even Eva Peron’s grave:

IMG_6601

The Recoleta is quite a sight, and a great way to creep out any 14-year-old you might be traveling with.

Our guide was telling me that the previous Argentine president had forced international companies like Ralph Lauren and Chanel to plow their profits back into Argentina, so they up and left. Which actually benefitted someone like me who was looking for locally-made products to take home. It’s almost impossible to find souvenirs anywhere that aren’t made in China anymore.

At the store called “Ayma” in the Palermo Soho district (1565 Armenia St.), there are weavers in the workshop upstairs, using 18th century looms to make gorgeous, soft fabrics out of Argentine llama, alpaca and merino.

IMG_6469

As tempting as the fabrics were, handwovens are very difficult to sew (they tend to unravel – and fast), so I went the lazy route and bought a pre-made wrap in the traditional asymmetrical Argentine style. The fabrics were a little more modern and not as rough-hewn as I’d seen in other shops.

IMG_6459IMG_6574

(Believe me, we were enjoying the strong dollar to Argentine peso throughout the trip.)

You can find things made with Argentine leather all over the place, But I liked the goods at the polo/gaucho store Arandu (1920 Ayacucho St. in the Recoleta district).

IMG_6653They carry traditional silver, woven ponchos and sashes, and bags from soft, waterproof “carpincho” leather that looks like a combination of ostrich and nubuck. (They tell you it’s “otter,” but it’s actually from a giant indigenous furry rodent and that’s about all you really want to know.)

As for the huge slabs of beef, they exist in the traditional restaurants, so it’s a good thing that my doctor is an Argentine ex-pat who’ll understand the spike in my cholesterol. But B.A. is full of modern hipster restaurants as well. My foodie husband said he liked most of the meals we had there, which is the equivalent of giving a Michelin star in his world.

And as for my son:

IMG_6453The gelato ruled! Meanwhile, I was checking out the pattern magazines from Argentina and Spain.

IMG_6700

There’s one “textile” memory I’ll take with me from this pleasant trip. One night, we were having dinner at a traditional parrilla (a restaurant with the aforementioned slabs of beef cooked on a fire), sitting outside at a sidewalk table. The “Fair Winds” of the city’s name, which I experienced as balmy breezes, were a little more refreshingly cool than usual, so I was offered a thickly-handwoven alpaca blanket that I put on my lap. A minute or two later, it started sprinkling rain, so the staff hustled our table under a canopy. Sitting there in cool, damp air, but feeling the warmth of that soft, natural fiber so skillfully woven, I almost felt like I was holding hands with the artisan who made it.

IMG_6445

I most certainly will be back!

Hope your sewing’s going well.

 

I sewed for the Oscars again, and lived!

26

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past few years, you know that I am an Oscar widow – meaning that I hand my husband over to the show for several months, and then I get to go!

I’ve worn me-made on the red carpet a couple of times, first this “crushed” boatneck (with a pleat in the neckline) and long skirt:

image

(I have no idea what happened to the rest of that picture…)

And last year I wore the Madame Gres dress from hell that I wrote about ad nauseum:

image

But I swore I wouldn’t go down the eveningwear road again without doing a “sit and sew” with Kenneth King or Susan Khalje. You need someone like that to have your back.

However, when Santa brought me these bakelite Art Deco dress clips:

IMG_5427

I got to thinking about the gorgeous, houndstoothy black tweed in my stash, waiting around to become the perfect quilted “little black jacket” with three-part sleeves, princess seams and all that jazz. I even had lining and trim.

Yet in my heart of hearts, having made jackets like that before, I knew that going the full Chanel was never, ever going to happen again.

And here’s why:

(Watching this Chanel Haute Couture Video will probably give you anxiety…)

But I needed to use the stash for something, so I started thinking about making a version of this McCardelligan that I’ve made a couple of times from knits. It’s based on an original McCardell jacket in my collection. She often designed similar jackets in wovens, and since the pieces were cut on the bias, the fabric is stretchy under the arms – no gusset needed.

IMG_4471

I decided to go for it, because stash-busting is my middle name this year.

I started out cutting out the exterior fashion fabric, joyful that I was cutting out four pieces instead of 13 for a traditional jacket.IMG_5589

I always cut bias pieces in a single layer, and check and double check when pinning and cutting to ensure that they’re going to meet in the center front and center back in a “V”. If both sides end up going in the same direction, the whole thing can twist.

Who else hates thread tracing? That’s the haute couture technique where you baste around the pattern pieces on the seam line to help with construction and fitting.

I decided to fake it with a long machine basting stitch. Because sometimes if you get too bogged down in this stuff, you never get the thing done.

IMG_5603

I marked the two darts and started putting the whole thing together.

IMG_5605IMG_5609

With only two darts and five seams, it was pretty much smooth sailing. I even had a chain I’d bought, pre-sewn onto a ribbon, that I attached to the hem with a piping foot:

IMG_5626IMG_5707

Yee haw! Then all I had to make was…the bias silk lining. Eep!

Now cutting and sewing silk on the bias is a different animal. It slips! It slides! It shifts! It sucks! (But it feels so good when you stop.)

Once again I laid out the pattern in a single layer, pinned it with loads of pins, and started cutting with my Kai serrated shears, which are the only game in town. (FYI, I’m not a Kai affiliate, just an addict.)

Then I kept the pattern pinned to the silk and faked the thread tracing again, with a narrow zigzag.

IMG_5719

So far so good, until I goofed up and, noting that the fabric was burbling up as it got to the feed dogs, I started repinning as I was sewing. Big mistake! That works when I’m sewing things on the grain, but since bias fabric will move all around, I should have left well enough alone.

Fortunately, I had cut large seam allowances, so I literally had some wiggle room. I had to move things around as I sewed the lining together (again with a narrow zigzag, which is forgiving when you’re sewing on the bias).

IMG_5721

And in the end it looked okay:

IMG_5723

When I put the whole thing together, matching the lining seams to the exterior seams on the “wiggly” side was not happening.

IMG_5794

But I was able to shift things around and smooth it out.

I attached the neckline (nervous nervous nervous):

IMG_5732

By then I’d realized that I just needed to break down and hand-baste to keep the lining stable.

I had thought that I could do some quilting of the exterior and lining at this point, but since the bias was wonky, I stitched in the ditch by hand a little to tamp down the seams, then edge-stitched by hand around the neck and center fronts.

IMG_5802

My clever pre-sewn chain was making the hem too stiff, so I trimmed the ribbon.

IMG_5793

When I finally got everything stabilized, I pinned the hem, trying on the jacket several times to make sure that everything was lying flat.

IMG_5814

Whew! After that, sewing on the trim was smooth sailing. (Even though I was doing most of it the day of the show!)

IMG_5849

At the very last minute, I sewed on some brass hooks and eyes (lacking McCardell’s traditional brass shoe hooks and rings) and added the dress clips. Even the backs of the clips were Art Deco.

IMG_5905

Then came the hardest part – pressing the crappy ready-to-wear viscose dress I’d bought to go with it on the hotel ironing board. The dress was a simple sleeveless long dress with a big slit and a sort of 30s godet, so get a good picture in your mind’s eye because that’s where it’s going to stay.IMG_5909

IMG_5900

Showtime!

IMG_5926

I was so excited about wearing a wool and silk jacket in L.A. in February, because I’m usually freezing on the red carpet and in the theater. This time around, though, it was 80 degrees! My husband was walking about 90 miles an hour and for some weird reason was more interested in getting inside to schmooze with people than to photograph me seven or eight times on the red carpet as I was having a hot flash. I tried to pull a Norma Desmond on him but he was not buying it. Consequently, the red carpet picture was awful.

So I’ll stick with pictures from the Governors’ Ball, which was so chilly that I overheard Charlize Theron, in Dior Haute Couture, complaining about the cold.

charlize-theron-oscars-red-carpet-2016

Next year I’m sure she’ll be sensible and show up in toasty jacket like me.

IMG_5929

I did get a peek at Jennifer Garner (tall, in Versace) and Reese Witherspoon (shorter, in Oscar de la Renta) and really wished I could have gotten up closer to inspect the construction of their dresses. I’m sure they would have thought that it was just super-girly and not weird at all.

jennifer-garner-oscars-red-carpet-2016reese-witherspoon-oscars-red-carpet-2016There weren’t a lot of dresses I was crazy about, though I did like that Kerry Washington took a walk on the wild side in Versace:

kerry-washington-oscars-red-carpet-2016

And Amy Poehler, in Andrew GN, proved that you don’t have to be undressed to be fierce:

amy-poehler-oscars-red-carpet-2016

Here’s the most important picture – the desserts!

IMG_5938

(A tiramisu push-up, creme brûlée on a stick, and a chocolate Oscar. Chomp!)

Oh no! I bit off Oscar’s legs!

IMG_5936

And here, at long last, is my official red carpet portrait:

IMG_6021

Okay, it’s a bad wall selfie, because my husband is so FIRED as my photographer. (Oops, just remembered that he’s my ride to the Oscars. Just kidding, hon!) But you get the picture on the jacket.

Of course McCardell, being a minimalist, would have put topstitching on the edges instead of that Chanel-y trim. But it’s really comfy, and now after going to all of that trouble, I have something to wear out to dinner, too.

To misquote Scarlett O’Hara, “as God is my witness, I will never Chanel again!”

How’s your sewing going?

 

The Tale of making a 40s Swishy Skirt (yesss!) and a Golden Girls Spa Robe (noooo!)…and fabric shopping in Paris

36

Who else is thrilled that the holidays are over? Despite being covered with tinsel for weeks, I’ve managed to get some sewing done.

Before Christmas, I thought I’d try this vintage pattern I’d been hoarding for several years.

Duster Pattern

I think these were called “Dusters” or “Opera Coats” back in the day. I wanted to see if it would work as an evening wrap, since I’m always freezing at fancy events. Plus my upper arms are no longer ready for prime time, if you know what I mean.

And I had some nice stash that I had no idea how to use–gold viscose/wool suiting (I am not the gold suit type) and some gorgeous Carolina Herrera panel silk that has been making me feel guilty for years.

IMG_4888

The tissue fit was huge, so off I went! (Because I could always take it in, right?)

Tailors’ tacks for some big release darts at the neckline:

IMG_4890

The gold was supposed to be the exterior until:

IMG_4895

Does this look like Bea Arthur waiting for a facial to you too? Jeez, another classic design that’s peaked and pitched into Art Teacher Chic territory. (Just like the Schiaparelli Mom Jeans Vest) So maybe the blue would be better as the outside?

But rather than take the time to fit it better, I just plunged into making the lining which was now the outside. Clearly I just wanted to get that stash out of there.

IMG_4900

I was proud of myself!

IMG_4902

My Bernina 560, Karl, whispered to me, “you took the time to understitch, but not the time to fit? Is that wise?” (He was doing such a beautiful job that I just lost my head.)

Then, it looked like this for awhile…(bagging the lining was very confusing).

IMG_4901

So I know you’re waiting for the big reveal, but when I got most of it done, it was screaming “summer drinks with hippy friends in the Vineyard” more than “winter evening at the ballet.” So it’s in the closet waiting for two shoulder seams and for me to give a hoot.

But that fabric’s out of my stash…time to get more!

IMG_5274

Back to Paris. Did we go to the Grand Palais to catch the Chanel couture show? Mais non, when you travel with a 14-year-old, you’re going to the amusement park they put in there during the holidays.

IMG_5262

Of course I felt so sad after the terrible things that happened in Paris. But having been nine months pregnant in Washington DC when the Pentagon was hit on 9/11, and having lived in Boston during the marathon bombing (fortunately we were out of town when it happened), I know how important it is for visitors to come back. It’s a painful time, and it helps to have friends in your midst. Even if it’s just people who love your city.

While I was in France, I started reading Elsa Schiaparelli’s biography. Her atelier was in Paris at the start of WWII.

IMG_5427

(I was looking for divine inspiration about what to do with those vintage Bakelite dress clips my husband found for me.)

I remembered an article Schiaparelli wrote for Vogue in the 40s, about the first days of the French occupation. She, Lucien Lelong and other couturiers decamped from Paris to Biarritz with what little they had; their staff of petites mains got there however they could, and then they attempted to keep the French fashion business alive in spite of being under the thumb of the Nazis. In a plot as riveting as Casablanca, Schiap was able to escape via the Azores to get to the U.S. for a tour to promote French fashion. But soon the boats to the U.S. stopped, and most of the couturiers were forced out of business for the rest of the war.

I really admired how those couturiers and their staff fought to keep their culture from getting trampled by the Nazis, even over something that could be considered frivolous, like fashion. So though I’m usually a big scaredy-cat, I realized that it was important not to be afraid to go back to Paris, despite what had happened.

The ladies at Janssens et Janssens were as nice as ever, and the fabrics were as beautiful (and expensive) as ever:

IMG_5340IMG_5341IMG_5337

It was quiet in there right before Christmas, so they were very kind to give me a deal on some beautiful silks and wools on the “coupon” (remnant) table.

IMG_5371

Then I made my annual Pointless Pilgrimage of Fashion. In the past I’ve stood outside of what was Madame Vionnet’s atelier, and done a selfie on the Chanel staircase.

This time, I went to the address in the Place des Vosges where Claire McCardell, Joset Walker, and Mildred Orrick (all friends and fellow designers) spent their year abroad in the 20s, as flapper girls, while they were studying at what is now Parsons School of Design.

IMG_5289IMG_5291

We went to the Musee D’Orsay, where I stumbled on this stunning view:

IMG_5321

Yep, everything in Paris was still there.

IMG_5375IMG_5376

IMG_5390IMG_5372

And when I got to the Tuileries, I spotted one of my favorite things:

IMG_5357

(A buff naked guy.)

When I got home, I decided to make another of the Claire McCardell 40s dirndls that I wrote about here. It’s so swishy! It’s not like those 80s skirts. It flows when you walk.

I’d bought some gorgeous lightweight silk lame’ at Janssens that the saleslady said was Lanvin. So I put in some pockets, gathered yards and yards of it at the waist, and attached it to wide, ventilated corset elastic. (Sure you laugh, but you don’t need Spanx!)

IMG_5586

I was wandering around Saks, bored, and saw a similar skirt:IMG_5524

For $700! (Note: Mine is not size zero.)

IMG_5525

Plus I can both sit and eat in my version, and it feels great to wear! Here’s a video to show just how swishy it is:

Not exactly Ginger Rogers, but it was “backwards and in heels.”

Hope your sewing’s going well in the new year!

My Passion for Wide Elastic and Dental Floss! And Edith Rears Her Ugly Head

21

Karl and I have been putting in overtime around here…because after you make a 20s Schiaparelli that turns into a fugly Mom Jeans vest, you’d better get back on the horse right away.

First thing we came up with was a new version of the asymmetrical sweaterknit wrap I designed last year. I wanted another one, because during Boston’s epic winter (2 yards/meters of snow!) we were all bundled up in our massive puffer coats, then we’d go inside and either freeze or roast. So I kept the wrap in my bag and used it all the time in theaters and restaurants.

IMG_4751

This new version uses French seams to finish the innards, and foldover elastic to bind the edges. The pattern and tutorial are free free free on the website WeAllSew.com.

IMG_4740

Yeah, I’m getting my Judy Jetson on.

It’s part of Jet Set Sewing’s partnership with BERNINA of America. Details are above in the Bernina Collaboration tab. I can’t thank them enough for helping with all the vintage reconstructions going on around here.

And speaking of which, isn’t there a little part of all of us that wants to be a Hitchcock blonde? Even though she’s put in danger, hacked up, or obsessed about by Jimmy Stewart (and Hitch himself)?

Rear-Window---James-Stewa-008

Edith Head did the costumes for most of the Hitchcock movies, including the ones that fashion people obsess about, such as “Rear Window,” “The Birds,” and “Vertigo.”

The Birds

(That’s the “Nile Green” suit from The Birds, from last year’s Hollywood Costume exhibit.)

Edith Head released a series of patterns during that era from Advanced, all very Hitchcock in nature. You can hear my travails of making a bolero from one of the patterns in this post: “Long Live Edith Head”

IMG_0540IMG_3744

All’s well that ends well.

As a little pick me up, I decided to do a quick make of this “turban” in another of the Edith Head patterns:

IMG_4646

What could be so hard about making a hat? It’ll be fun!

(Does anyone else hear ominous music playing in the background? Like the theme from “Psycho” where the violins go EE EE EE!?)

Just two pieces for the exterior, cut on the grain.

IMG_4613

I made it from some leftover jacket fabric–a stable knit–and it was a quick go. The main part of the hat is gathered with some release darts of various shapes and sizes, then is attached to a round crown.

But you know that part of a Hitchcock movie when Mr. Everyman’s just going through his day, and then everything gets weird?

5207

When I went to cut the lining, out of leftover silk crepe de chine, it was (EE EE EE!) on the bias!

IMG_4615

(If you’ve ever cut and sewn silk on the bias, then you know that deep foreboding you have when every move you make could lead to a massive wadder…)

I knew I would need industrial-grade shears, just in case Norman Bates was coming to hack away at the silk with a kitchen knife.

b5fc78cb59c8a074598b8ecd0dde822d

IMG_4616

(Kai Serrated Shears. The best ever for silk. Just go get some.)

IMG_4627

Asymmetrical wobbly darts! EE EE EE!

Honestly, I’d rather go up to the top of that clocktower with Jimmy Stewart:

vertigo900

…than SEW A CIRCLE OF SILK TO A BIAS TUBE!!!

IMG_4628

Sometimes sewing is so suspenseful.

Well, what do you think? Tippi Hedron, or Eleanor Roosevelt? I’m still on the fence:

IMG_4849FullSizeRender 3

So then I moved on to a skirt I’d been thinking about making, based on 40s Claire McCardell dirndl skirt I have in my collection. The dirndl was her first runaway design hit in the 30s, based on traditional dress that she saw in Austria. During that era, she’d bought a funky farmhouse across the river from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where people from Broadway, fashion and journalism were hanging out on weekends. Their houses were rustic and freezing, so she created warm, comfortable eveningwear, made out of wool jersey or tartan. She also pioneered stretch waistbands on skirts during World War Two rationing, using chest bandages.

So I put together a big skirt with a couple of deep McCardell pockets:

IMG_4800

(Neither one of them was upside down this time!)

Then I decided to use a gathering technique I’d read about somewhere (the source of which, sadly, my brain refuses to cough up…):

IMG_4802

You zigzag over a string of dental floss (unflavored, unless you want to smell minty) then pull it up. I was skeptical, but…

IMG_4803

Goal! I sewed it with a zigzag onto a band of 3″ wide knit elastic, which comes under the heading of “where have I been” because it’s so soft and stretchy. I had already sewn the elastic into a circle and then enjoyed annoying my teenager by snapping it at him before I attached it. Once I had it sewn on, I took out the dental floss so the waistband would stretch.

IMG_4814

Well, that’s pretty sweet! But do I really want to, um, reveal that I’ve gone “fully elasticized?”

Thanks to a nine-foot by 13″ remnant of raw silk hiding in my stash, no one will every know!

McCardell Dirndl with Obi Belt

Bring on the holidays; I’m ready to eat!

How’s your sewing going?

Epic Sewing Fail! Anyone want a 1925 Schiaparelli meets Portlandia “Mom Jeans” Vest?

22

Every now and then, we all have a make that’s better in theory than practice, right? So let’s just put this one in the UFO closet of shame without showing it on my middle-aged middle.
IMG_4577

My intentions were good…I had a 1925 pattern, loosely-based on a Schiaparelli design, that I’d been dying to try.

IMG_4612

I say “loosely-based” because back in the 20s, most Paris-designed patterns and garments released in the U.S. were watered down versions of the originals. They were either licensed copies dumbed down for manufacturing in the States, or out and out thefts of the designs. The U.S. garment companies would hire young fashion school “sketchers” to memorize the designs at the Paris fashion shows, who would make quick sketches of the designs afterwards, and then put them on the fast boat back to the States to be knocked off. A number of famous designers from that era (Elizabeth Hawes is one example) got their start as sketchers.

Elsa Schiaparelli is perhaps best remembered for her surrealist designs, sometimes created with artist Salvador Dali. For example, the hat that looks a shoe:

DT10720

(Details here from Metropolitan Museum’s Online Collection)

And her famous “Lobster Dress” (which was included in that tart Wallis Simpson’s trousseau):

1969-232-52

(More info here from the Philadelphia Museum of Art)

This “cracked egg” design in the pattern was avant-garde and beautiful in it’s time:

CI53.40.12ab_F

(More about this much-better version at MetMuseum.org)

But jeez, I should have known it was a little too ubiquitous now. And, having grown up in the north woods knitting and crocheting with “chunky” yarn in the 70s, I was not ready to rock that look post-millennium in this preppy East Coast metropolis. (One journey through the zeitgeist of pullover granny-square vests is more than enough for one lifetime.)

No, it was one of those things where I’d bought this fabric for a wrap, but it wasn’t drapey enough because it had a stable backing, but it would work for a jacket, but there wasn’t enough for sleeves and well…

IMG_4571

Plus I don’t get vests! To me they’re a hot flash with frozen elbows.

So anyway, so far so good:

IMG_4566

(Some nice seam finishes with a stretch overlock stitch that looks like a blanket stitch, using the Bulky Overlock foot. Karl, my Bernina 560, was on fire, baby!)

IMG_4572

A little binding made of ponte, my new favorite thing… (After you stitch in the ditch, you flip it over and trim off the excess.)

IMG_4576

But then I tried it on and thought NOOOOOOOO! No No NOOOOO! It was supposed to have buttonholes and cute lobster buttons along the lines of Schiaparelli’s bug buttons:

55.26.271a-c_CP4

(More on those buttons from the Met Museum here.)

But at that point I was too over it to dig out the buttonhole foot.

And that was that. Elsa Schiaparelli, I am so sorry. I’ll make this pattern again with lighter fabric and sleeves and then we’ll talk.

But I did have success with a different project a few weeks earlier. In the spring, I’d made what was dubbed a “McCardellgan”: a version of Claire McCardell’s famous cardigan jacket design.

IMG_1722

I’d worn the jacket a lot, but thought the design needed tweaking to be more authentic. So I went back to the drawing board and drafted a new pattern from two McCardell jackets in my collection.

The first is this sweater knit jacket, part of a sweet suit that would fit a modern 11-year-old:

IMG_2480IMG_2488

And the second is a woven McCardell jacket, cut on the bias with big French darts and tapered sleeves. (No pictures as it’s buried in my closet somewhere…)

The edges of the jacket are finished with expertly-sewn bias binding, and how the 50s garment workers pulled that off on a knit–using straight-stitch machines–is a mystery to me.

image

In my last post, I talked about how I finished the inside of my new jacket with French seams. I decided to use ponte to make piping on my jacket, to give it some soft structure around the neckline. McCardell often used piping in designs.

IMG_3990

I overlapped the fabric a little, so the raw edge of the piping could be turned inside to become facing, and sewed the seam a little bit away from the piping cord. Then I sewed the piping on the front of the jacket, this time with a seam a little closer to the piping cord. It looks smoother that way:

IMG_3997

(Bulky Overlock foot 12C again. It’s very useful!)

I flipped the seam allowance of the piping to the inside of the jacket and stitched in the ditch on top, close to the piping.

IMG_4002

Then I fell stitched the seam allowance to the inside, making a facing. The raw edge of the ponte doesn’t need to be turned under, which makes the finish less bulky.

IMG_4015

I finished the hem and sleeves with binding, with the help of Karl and Wonder Woman.

IMG_4212

Then it was picture time! Fellow bloggers, you know that look you get when you ask your Significant Other to take your blog photos for the umpteenth time? Well I got that look from my husband, so I decided to use the self-timer to do it myself.

IMG_4262

Oh forget it! I went to my son’s soccer game, then tried it again when I was in a better mood:

IMG_4471

Ahhh, another deceptively simple, yet sophisticated, modernist design from Miss McCardell. This jacket is already in heavy rotation, and another is in my “make” queue.

Hope your sewing’s going well, and that you’re avoiding epic fails this season!

(For details about how the nice folks at BERNINA of America are loaning me Karl, the wonder B560, please click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab.)

Why are we sewing? For the clothes or the experience?

32

Back to school shopping time? I don’t think so.

42b5ef4388254a316078fc65c191347f

I just saw an article in the New York Times about how U.S. retailers are in trouble, because Americans are less interested in acquiring “stuff” and more interested in paying for “experiences,” like travel, restaurants, or gym memberships.

Which is so unlike us. Even though we value individual freedom, there’s definitely a herd mentality when it comes to style and shopping in the U.S. Here’s the link to that article: “Stores Suffer From a Shift of Behavior in Buyers”

It’s true for me, though, and I used to love, love, LOVE to shop! But back in the day, shopping was an experience. New clothes would only hit the stores a couple of times a year. They were made of better fabrics. You would buy just a few pieces, so you’d spend a lot of time in the fall dreaming up your school or work wardrobe.

I used to mull over what I would buy, and think about how it would go with what I had in my closet. I’d look through magazines and pattern books to plan what I’d buy and sew. Then I’d go to Goodwill and throw in some vintage, too.

08-glamour-august-1968-h724

Retail stores were much more pleasant places to go, too, and not jammed with ill-fitting, poorly sewn stuff like they are now. Then came online shopping, which, though it was fun at first, has become overwhelming and weird.

So I’ve embraced the “experience” of sewing instead. Let’s say you take 70+ hours to plan and execute something like a Chanel jacket, for example. When you’re done, let me tell you, you’re really invested in that jacket! It feels luxurious and looks unique. When you wear it, it’s yours alone, and it fits! The whole process is a lot more satisfying than shopping.

image

(One of the zillions of times I’ve worn that jacket)

And I really enjoy the “experience” of communicating with sewing peeps like you, because it alleviates those moments when modern life is dull and crappy. (Like when I’m procrastinating about the dishes I’ve been abandoned with. Which is now.) Most sewing people are friendly and encouraging online and that’s something every girl needs, right?

I was reminded of the ickiness of shopping when I was looking through U.S. Vogue Magazine’s September issue the other day. It’s not terribly inspiring because nobody in there has a body like mine. (Medium height, short waist, spare tire.)

And even though some of the modern designs are cool, the advertising people have clearly run out of ideas. Most ads can be grouped into the following cliches:

I Love Animals:

IMG_3748

“Hello little birds! I plucked your friends to make this puffer dress!”

IMG_3749

“I risked ripping my $800 down jacket to rescue this dog. That’s just the kind of person I am.”

IMG_3766

“I am your trophy spirit animal. Pull the Beemer around to transport me.”

IMG_3770

“I am your spirit animal when you’re skiing in the Italian Alps. Or I’m a muppet. I’m not really sure.”

I’m so angry:

IMG_3763

“I’m so angry that I have to hold two bags. Where’s my assistant?”

IMG_3767

“I’m so angry that I can’t find my brush. Where’s my assistant?”

IMG_3775

“We’re so angry that we’re unpaid intern assistants. And we have to wear Pleather. But we’re too cool to emote.”

I’m so ennervated:

IMG_3780

“I’ve been in bed so long, I’ve become one with the sheets.”

IMG_3778

“Can you help me?…get out?…of the corner?”

IMG_3765

“It’s so boring here at this Swiss boarding school. Let’s throw ourselves off the rocks and end it all.”

IMG_3757

“Zut, they found out we were going to throw ourselves off the rocks, and locked us in the library.”

IMG_3759

“I’ve had so much peyote that I’m starting to over-accessorize.”

Not sure if we’re gay, but we are trite:

IMG_3845

“Let’s play kissy-face and then show off our expensive bags.”

IMG_3846

“Does my lipstick need to be touched up, Kate?” “Sorry, I’m not getting paid to turn my head right now.”

IMG_3776“Astor, when we get to Trump Tower, don’t tell my father that we’re sorta gay.” “But what if he hits on me again, Wisteria?”

IMG_3758

“Oops, I’m so sorry! This dress is so heavy and my heels are so high!” “I know, and this clutch weighs a ton.”

It’s time to RIVERDANCE!

IMG_3756

IMG_3843

(My dancer friends think it’s hilarious when models try to be ballerinas.)

From the land of clueless gifts:

IMG_3841

“One year old today! Here’s your bag!”

IMG_3772

“Lagerfeld wants you to have this $10,000 concept bag. Just watch your fingernails–it’s bubble wrap.”

But there was one ad that tempted me…

IMG_3777

Hosanna! Come to mama! (Rats, I just realized that I spent that $200 on my 13-year-old’s school books, supplies, and soccer equipment. And a couple of patterns. And fabric. And some Steam-a-Seam. And some thread. And a zipper. And one of those little rolls of fleece. Because you know when you stop at Joanns just for one thing?)

After combing through the entire magazine, I only found two or three ads showing women who are within 20 years of my age, either way:

IMG_3773

I’m down with looking like that in 15 years.

But then I saw…

IMG_3750

Jeez, having lunch with Madonna, Donatella?

I know where my fall wardrobe’s coming from–my trusty sewing machine. How about yours?

Hope your sewing is going well!

Susan Khalje on Making a French Jacket, Issey Miyake, and Kiss Me Karl

22

FCJ_2

Hi everyone! Just a heads up that part two of my interview with Susan Khalje, where she spills the secrets of “The Little French Jacket” (AKA making a Chanel Jacket, cardigan jacket etc.) has been posted on WeAllSew.com, and you can find it by clicking here. When I spoke to her, she gave me the history of this enduring design, and explained how the famous three-part sleeve is fantastic for fitting.

Aren’t those jackets she made beautiful? Her online “French Jacket” course has just launched, and I’m eager to take a look at it! You can find the info on SusanKhalje.com.

As for my sewing, hm, the end of my son’s school year kind of did that in. But now that I’m back in my island summer sewing shed, I’m going to get right on it. Just as soon as…

IMG_2783

Somebody, GET THAT MAN OUT OF HERE! (Just because I can run a high-tech machine doesn’t mean I know how to fix the printer for you, hon…)

During the winter, I had fun making up some classic Issey Miyake Vogue patterns. The construction was so fascinating! Even though, technically, patterns from the early 2000s aren’t “vintage,” these designs definitely fit under the “modernist” umbrella, which starts with Vionnet and continues through Claire McCardell and Halston.

When I looked up info on Issey Miyake’s theories of design, which include using technically advanced fabrics and manufacturing techniques, I found that trying to pin down his Japanese philosophy and express it in English was beyond my cross-cultural capabilities. So here’s the bio from his official website: Issey Miyake Bio

I decided to make up two of his patterns as part of the PatternReview.com Travel Wardrobe contest, which was loads of fun. I was short on time, so I wanted to make things that required only one or two pattern pieces.

My first make was from this pattern, Vogue 2814:

IMG_0663.JPG (3)

The sleeveless top on the right was intriguing, because the pattern was cut as all one piece!

IMG_1448

That’s it, you’re looking at it. I cut it out from some light cotton/lycra jersey in my stash, and proceeded to scratch my head over the instructions. (I don’t envy the people who had to write up the guide sheet at Vogue.)

IMG_1457

In lieu of top-stitching the edges (but leaving them raw, as called for in the pattern), I used a kind of 50s-looking Greek Key decorative stitch to finish the edges with a little stretch.

IMG_1458.JPG (2)IMG_1451

After a number of twists and turns, and more head-scratching, I ended up marking the center front, left and right sides etc. with chalk so I could figure it all out.

IMG_1449

Lo and behold, the pinwheel became a nice summer top with a twist!

IMG_1484.JPG (2)IMG_0688.JPG (2)

It only took a few hours start to finish, which has got to be a new record for me. Here’s the play-by-play on Pattern Review.

Then I decided to go for a Miyake skirt, from Vogue 2437. (Alas, I don’t have a photo of the pattern at present, but if you go to my review on Pattern Review Vogue 2437, it should turn up.)

This skirt is also cut from one pattern piece, and here I’m using Eileen Fisher rayon ponte, which has a nice drape.

IMG_1586

Just a big rectangle-ish piece, right? Not so fast. There are so many weird darts and closures that I used white tracing paper and a tracing wheel to mark them, followed by chalk.

IMG_1587.JPG (2)IMG_1590

See what I mean? Yes, those are overlapping darts.

The only closures on this skirt are two rows of snap tape. The idea is that you can snap it how you want to give it variations in the drape. I had some brass snap tape from Paris that did the trick.

IMG_1593.JPG (2)

Upon giving the skirt a test drive, though, I discovered that the snap tape did not have enough hold for my middle-aged behind, so I added a giant snap at the top.

Voila!

IMG_0690

It’s a hard to photograph, but it’s a really fun design. I used Steam-a-Seam Lite 2 to secure the edges and snap tape before top-stitching, which helped a lot.

Here’s one way that I “styled” the two pieces for the contest.

IMG_1730

(You may recall that I made that quilted Chanel bag “homage” last year, and the info on that is in this post.)

I really recommend the Miyake patterns from this era!

In other news, last June I announced that BERNINA of America was loaning me a B560 for a year, and, of course, my on-going love affair with my “Swiss Intern Karl” has been fodder for the tabloids ever since. I’m happy to let you know the good news that Karl has signed on for another couple of semesters here at JetSetSewing.com! Which is great because I don’t know what I would do without his fabulous feed and New Wave yodeling. My thanks again to Bernina of America for their generosity. Details can be found by clicking the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above.

Do you think Karl is sticking around because he’s jealous of this new member of the Jet Set Sewing team?

IMG_2709IMG_2664

Well hello, sweet little Carline! Fresh off the Ebay assembly line. She’s gotta be 50-something, and yet this little Minimatic can still satin-stitch like a champ. (I did my research before I bid, because the cam gears on these girls can crack after all of this time. This one had an overhaul by a collector.)  25 pounds of fun in her own little suitcase!

Hope your sewing’s going well!

Paging Madame Gres

16

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

Gres pattern

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.

IMG_1191

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.

IMG_1158

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!

IMG_1153

(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.

IMG_1160

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

IMG_1161

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

IMG_1162

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.

galaxy-dress_1831560f

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

IMG_1190

They were ready for Jungle January big time!

IMG_1163

 

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

How’s your sewing going?

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

27

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.

IMG_3515

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:

IMG_3577

Pick the buttons in the middle!

IMG_3742-2

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?

imageChanel on staircase

Ha ha, got ya, Coco!

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

IMG_0945

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?

IMG_3725

(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!***

image

 

How to do a Selfie on the Chanel Staircase

28

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.

image

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.

imageimageimageimageimage

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.

image

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).

image

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.

imageimage

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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).

imageimage

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:

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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:

image

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.

image

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

imageimageimageimage

I am just going to have to start sewing faster.

image

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