The couture jacket chronicles continue…

Two years later…I am still poking away on this jacket. It will be beautiful and it is taking me forever!

Sewing a couture Chanel jacket – what happened to this sleeve??

I’m midway through this couture jacket – look at how awesome that bodice fits and the plaid matches beautifully down the full princess seam, but that sleeve, WTH? Look at that nasty bubble on the back of that sleeve cap near the back of my shoulder. Ugh, it’s nasty. I haven’t the foggiest on how to fix it.  So I posted in Angela Wolf’s Couture Jacket class on PatternReview (I took the class, it always stays open, Angela usually gets to posts after a few days, if not, I’ll poke at her on her Facebook page.)

Anyway, I’m working through my New Year’s resolution – I set goals all the time, so I don’t really have anything new in the way of resolutions, except that I would like to finish this jacket. Without that nasty bubble on the sleeve cap.

Also in other news, I see that I have the most boring half bathroom ever. I really need a different coat of paint in here!

Untitled by annsiegle

Constructing a modern couture jacket: sewing the body panels


Today is a momentus day in the development of the couture jacket. Today I sewed the jacket together! I watched the PatternReview class materials from Angela Wolf (such as match up that plaid on the bottom and work up!) and only had to rip out panels twice. So that’s pretty good! But look at that – it’s a jacket (minus sleeves and pockets.)

Of course the photo does not do the jacket color justice – the pale aqua is luminescent and the espresso brown is deep and rich, with shots of black running through it. I have not quite decided to omit the collar and go with the standard Chanel round collar, but I’m thinking about it. It will get me to the true classic Chanel style for sure.

And then my thought was, this is the white wine and wheat beer jacket. Absolutely ZERO red wine, grape juice or dark beers in this jacket. I’m even worried about coffee. Can you imagine? spend 100 hours sewing it and get a stain on it. I’ll be wrapping myself in plastic wrap to wear this, LOL.

So, from left, the front, the front side panel, the back left and back right, front side and front right of the jacket. I will pin up the shoulders and try it on to decide on collar versus no collar.

And once this is done, I’m wearing it with jeans to the library with my children. Yes, indeed, a gorgeous couture wool boucle jacket at the library with my children. I’ll feel wonderful in this jacket and, as I’ve posted many time before, I’ll behave better. I’ll look better. You can put this jacket with a tee shirt – any tee shirt – and jeans (especially ratty ones!) and look like a million. Just wear good shoes, too.


The seasons of sewing a Chanel couture jacket the modern way

I’ve been working on my Parisian boucle Chanel-inspired jacket for a year now. This summer, I posted about sewing at the beach, and listening to the waves crash on the shore on a moonlit night as I hand-basted the lining to the jacket pieces. Today, in the middle of fall, I sat on my porch, all the machine quilting done, tying in the thread ends between the jacket layers. It’s time consuming, this jacket, but it is not hard work.

It’s surprisingly meditative, this jacket, and I’m enjoying every minute of it – much more than I thought I would.

I’m hiding out away from the family – and whiny children – and plotting sewing halloween costumes (because we have barely two weeks left!) or buying them. I’m leaning towards Goodwill and the latter, frankly. I’d rather sew the couture jacket and some cute kid outfits from Burda Style than a fleece dog or cat, for some reason!

As this jacket has progressed, so, too, has my enthusiasm, which is unusual. I normally grow bored of UFOs but this one is really invigorating me. I guess that means I’ll be sewing more Chanel-inspired couture jackets – hand quilting and hand-lining and all!

Right now I’m at the point where I can SEE the jacket construction coming, where it goes from being pattern pieces to a garment. This, in the large scheme of how I usually sew, is a ridiculous amount of time to get HERE. After all, usually, once it leaves the dining room table having been cut, it’s going together into a garment right away. This has been months (well, OK, a year!) just almost getting to sewing it together!  But once I do, it’ll feel like it’s almost done.

The piece de resistance part is deciding on the trim and making it. I’m leaning heavily towards a couple of fancy yarns and threads pulled from the fabric itself, crocheted together with a giant crochet hook, then hand-sewn to the edges of the front, collar and sleeves. I’ve also formally decided to cut away the front overlap and butt the edges together with hooks and eyes (traditionally a Chanel jacket has no overlap, just hooks that meet the jacket fronts together.)

The hand-dyed silk lining is gorgeous, the quilting lovely and I am off to go get the pieces to begin tying those ends inside. In between sewing a leopard and a dog costume, of course!

I’m happy to report that my dog is still with us, and she’s doing OK. I just give her a soothing doggie massage, and she fell asleep at my feet. I know she’s not going to live forever, but she seems happy.

Sewing a couture ‘chanel’ jacket at the beach

I’ve posted before that I’ve been sewing at the Lake House a lot this summer. We are spending a lot of time visiting my parents – in part because our children are getting bigger and Grandparent time is awesome, but also, a little bit, I think, because this is our dog’s last summer. And this beach is her favorite place in the whole world.

So tonight, I’m sewing upstairs in the guest room, window open, surf crashing on the beach outside. The moon has risen, and I can see it in between the branches of a very large white pine. It looks like a photo from a children’s storybook, with the moonlight on the water, the moon peeking through the pine branches. The heat has vanished, leaving behind a cool evening, suitable for bonfires and sweaters.

On this night, my children asleep in the bedroom across the hall, I am finished with basting the lining to the jacket pieces, and I’m just about to begin machine quilting the pieces together tonight. I hope to get to all the quilting (ambitious) but would be happy with half of it. I won’t hear the surf over the hum of the machine, so I’m relishing the sound now, while it’s quiet and still upstairs.

I will wear this jacket in the fall, when the first hint of cool weather arrives. I can toss on the jacket over my best jeans and cozy my neck in a pashmina scarf and feel very chic, in my Parisian-boucle, couture jacket inspired by Mme Chanel herself. But I’m sewing it in the summer, and hoping I’ll remember this sewing with the surf crashing and the smell of the pines on a deep-midsummer evening.

I hope too, that our beloved dog we’re bringing up here to enjoy her last summer, is with me then, too. Fall, don’t come too soon. Just let this last summer linger.

Know when to fold ’em: taking a sewing break to save the project

So I brought up some projects to work on to my mom’s house. She has excellent sewing machines. But for some reason the humidity, and the ironing board and the iron, and the fact that I have 3 fans going, the silk wants to ‘stick’ to the ironing board and when I quilt-basted my couture jacket sleeves to the silk, I got puckers along the quilting lines. Not good. I’ll have to try to re-press and if not, remove the basting and try again. I’m nervous enough about these two pattern pieces (sleeves are big) to give them a pass til I get home. Or find a less humid day (?! We’re at the beach, there are no less humid days!)

Sometimes you have to give a project the pass. An easier one is to finish a swimsuit I started two years ago. Or the new light gray embroidered canvas Hot Patterns Metropolitan Homage Tote I cut out yesterday (on the floor! indeed, spread it all out before me and cut it out like I was a teenager in my high school bedroom.)

For those that want to make their own couture jacket, I’m taking the video class at by Angela Wolf, the Contemporary Couture Jacket. It’s great, these video classes, you see exactly what she does (and how fast! holy moly, that woman can baste 19x as fast as I can!)

Sewing on vacation is a blast though. I’m in wide leg linen pants, a mint green draped tube top and bare feet as I stand at the ironing board, trying to coax that silk lining into behaving. This entire vacation has been a mix of reliving my youth (cutting sewing patterns on the floor, sailing my teenage boat, in my teenage lifejacket, on the same lake off the same beach) and feeling my age (mother of two, thank-goodness-they-are-asleep tired kids who have had one big day after another since we got here.)

The sewing room is a bit more crowded with the guest bed in there, but I don’t mind.

Video class: easy guide to sewing jackets

CJ patterns fitted jacket, in red moleskin/suedecloth

CJ patterns fitted jacket, in red moleskin/suedecloth

By now, you know my obsession with jackets. I come by it honestly; I’ve had it since the late 1980s and the first crime shows with sexy detectives who wore jackets with giant shoulder pads, and the 90s crime show detectives that could not possibly button jackets over their skimpy tops. It’s been an ongoing obsession through my twenties and thirties. A jacket is the perfect finishing layer.

I love to sew jackets. Right now I’m making a quilted, hand-sewn Chanel inspired designer jacket from wool boucle plaid I bought in Paris in the fabric district at the base of the Sacre Coeur. And I think it’s a great ‘big sewing project’ that takes you to your next level. I recommend several jacket patterns and techniques. One of these is this awesome video class at PatternReview, by designer Angela Wolf: The Easy Guide to Sewing Jackets.

I also recommend the Christine Jonson Patterns fitted jacket, a jacket that is serged together, unlined, from a knit  or stretch fabric (see my stretch moleskin version at left). This is my go-to jacket for a comfortable, lightweight layer that feels like a cardi with the polish of a jacket. The instructions in this pattern are terrific and the pattern contains all the classic details: two-piece sleeve, four-piece body and a collar with a bias under-collar for a good shape. Christine includes several professional sewing techniques for a sharp collar, that is quite different from most sewing pattern instructions for jacket collars.

If you’re an odd size – such as a C or D cup, and find jackets hard to fit in the shoulders if the bust fits, or if you’re narrow in the waist but larger in the hip, I highly recommend you look at sewing your own jackets. A good snug fit in the shoulder, skim over the bust, waist and hip is a perfect fit, and hard to achieve in ready-to-wear. Plus, the unlined jacket (Angela Wolf offers a class at Pattern Review for this too) such as the one from Christine Jonson,  is a perfect casual layer over a tee and jeans, feels like your favorite hoodie but looks lightyears better. I bought the moleskin fabric for under $5 a yard at Walmart, of all places.

vacation sewing

I have sewed on my summer vacation just about every year. My mom has two excellent machines (and we brought my six year old’s Janome Sew Mini as well.) This year, I’ve brought three UFOs – Kwik Sew swimsuit for myself, Jalie bicycle jersey/jacket for my 6yo DD, a couture boucle jacket for myself and a Hot Patterns Metropolitan Homage tote. A mother-and-daughter project of long tiered maxi skirts is on my DD’s UFO list. And fabric to make doll clothes.

Sewing on vacation is relaxed. I often sew after my kids are in bed (also because we spend the day at the shoreline, in the sunshine, swimming, sailing and playing in the sand.) Tonight, I’m a bit tired (a fairly athletic windy sail, and a 2 mile run in the sand) so I’m working on cutting, not sewing.

Summer sewing attire is relaxed too. Wide leg linen pants, a pale peach v-neck sweater top (aeons ago, JCrew), a mint green cardi (Landsend, this past spring) and a pretty good suntan. Barefoot. Glittery purple pedicure.

If you’re wondering what my locale is like just look here ^^ at the header. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to sew, a more relaxed place to create.

World’s slowest hand sewn Chanel couture jacket. DIY gone mad.

I am nearly eight months into this project. Granted I put it on hold for a while… but this couture jacket is taking forever. And I’m glad!  In my workday, as Chief Executive Officer of a rapidly growing marketing, design and web agency, I deal with project, plans, numbers, code, and words all day long. Some days I do practice my craft (and my education) of graphic design.  Mainly, strategy rules my world. I live (and love) data. But here, in my kitchen, after my kids are in bed, with a cup of decaf coffee, I sew.

And right now the slow hand-quilted sewing of a couture jacket is just what I need. It’s not fast paced like my work. It requires concentration. And this is the first of fourteen pattern pieces that will eventually become a beautiful bespoke jacket. I started with a big piece, too. Get the two big pieces (this is the back right side) and the little ones will seem fast!


You can’t see it but there are very fine pink silk basting threads running up the center of this jacket so far. I figured I’d better be able to see them in person to remove them later. I’m so happy I’ve started this hand-sewing process!


Very slow sewing of the couture Chanel jacket

Step three of ten. Fuse knit interfacing to every jacket panel


and piece. There are fourteen pieces. Jamming to deep house club music as I press and hold the iron in place over the pieces. It isn’t ironing. It is pressing.

And that’s it on this project for today, an hour standing at my ironing board. I’m pushing ahead a whole slate of turquoise projects this winter. In fact, I’m going to call this my “emerald” period.

  1. Kwik Sew 3609 swimsuit, strapless maillot with side & back cutouts in emerald nylon/lycra swimsuit fabric
  2. The aqua and brown boucle Chanel jacket, Christine Jonson Princess Jacket from the Angela Wolf Couture class on
  3. Hot Patterns Palladium Backpack in aqua pleather
  4. Jalie bicycle Jersey made into a  jacket in turquoise Polartec PowerFleece for my almost-6yo DD

When I emerge from my “emerald period”, I’ll update you of the color change on the thread in my sewing machine and serger!

Depending upon the weather, I have white faux ermine to make a couple of vests, myself and my DD.

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