Parisian boucle

Sew Paradise | January 9, 2013 | By

This is the start to a beautiful jacket I will wear forever.


Use the Good Stuff: day 10: dye your own jacket lining

I hand dyed this silk satin lining using my Procion professional dyes. I have had this set of Procion dye kit since about 1998 or so.  I took a class at our local community education on how to do batik dyeing (though I have long since bought more materials – dyes don’t have a shelf life that long.)  When I had children, taking four hours to carefully draw or hand-stamp designs on fabric with hot wax wasn’t really practical (but when they get older, I’ll teach them how), so I just started dyeing fabric.

What crafty things do you have at your house that you have not used in a while? What do you have invested in them? Can you take a class, check out a book, look to Craftsy to learn more about it? Dust off those craft supplies and get cracking!


This lining is for my couture Chanel jacket – French Boucle from the Montmartre district of Paris, and I am learning how to do this in a class on Pattern Review by couture designer Angela Wolf.  The thing that looks like a plaid hot pad is actually the pockets for my jacket, a beautiful aqua blue with brown and white.

This jacket is, for me, the piéce de Résistance project for sewing: it’s the one luxury I would never afford (I’d rather spend $4,000 on a vacation to Paris, not a jacket) and it’s the one big sewing project I aim to tackle multiple times. You know the big sewing project for yourself, the one you initially say “I could never attempt that.”

Well, over the years, I’ve tackled them. First, I made a knit jacket – from the same designer as this jacket, Christine Jonson Patterns. Two piece sleeve, two-part collar, six panel body, you know, a real jacket. Only in knit (harder/easier at the same time!) Then, I tackled swimwear – who knew this was so freakin’ easy AND inexpensive (if you have the right pattern – Kwik Sew, just start with Kwik Sew). And now, the Chanel jacket.

I’m long past marrying time – coming up on my 21st wedding anniversary – so a wedding dress is not on my list of things to sew. I’m hoping my daughter will wear mine (lovingly and professionally preserved in the chest at the foot of my bed.) Oh, sure, there’s a prom dress or two or three in my future (for my daughter) and I’ll love that process when I get there.

Angela Wolf’s class at Pattern Review made this easy. She has video, well-done photographs of every step, and she’s stayed available after the class ended to answer questions on the PR forum, which is good, because there’s no way I could have made this jacket without help. See? I’m not even done and I’m celebrating my success!

So, if you have a craft languishing, a project that you’re afraid – take a class, get a book, and get going! Use the Good Stuff means using the things you invested in and getting your fun out of them!

The most surprising thing about this project is how much I like the process. Normally I’m a ‘let’s get finished’ kind of girl – I want this project done, I want to wear it, use it, love it, NOW! But this jacket has infused me with a desire to take each step and savor that step, that process. That is nothing short of a miracle for distracted-by-shiny-objects me. And it’s not with pain that I’ve accepted this process, but I’m looking forward to it, welcoming it. (I’m still in shock over this change in me.)

It may be related to this point in my life – new company, new responsibilities, and a lot more stress has me looking for ways to slow time, slow down, and do just one thing at a time. Maybe you can find the peace, creativity and rekindle a passion for that craft you have sitting in your basement!

Use the Good Stuff: Vintage sewing patterns for child hobby horse

Sew Paradise | January 6, 2013 | By


This pattern was my grandma’s and now I am making it for my toddler son. I think grandma would be pleased. She never met either of my kids but I think she will like this.

New Year’s Resolutions

Sew Paradise | January 1, 2013 | By

I’m taking a break today from the Use the Good Stuff posts (though I have one about the sled….I haven’t yet taken photos of it) to look at all the cool things  I pinned on Pinterest and see what rises to the top. I realize pinning is a little bit like my pattern collection – I probably won’t ever sew them all, but I like the option of doing so. I also want to pin new creative ideas for my friends and followers to enjoy:

This year I’d like to craft more – and craft with my kids so they know the joy of making.

Beading: I can bead with my fancy beads while my toddler strings macaroni and my kindergartner strings plastic beads.

Sewing: I can sew on my machine with a toddler in my lap, or get him started with sewing cards. My kindergartner gets her own machine next week (I’m not sure who’s more excited!)

Drawing: It’s been years since I’ve drawn. I will get out my chalks and pencils and draw our dog and still life at least, even if drawing my children seems daunting right now. My kids love to draw.

Designing: Infographics, content design are my watchwords for this year.

Cooking: use those recipes! Pinterest, books, whatever.

Of course, less time online, but that’s largely a function of putting my son to bed on time (since that’s when I’m online!)

Use the Good Stuff: Day 9, make it yourself

Sew Paradise | December 31, 2012 | By

Today, I have on a shimmery knit shrug I sewed at least 10 years ago. I intended it and probably wore it over my LBD to some fancy black tie event. I hardly ever go to those now, but I wore it today over a black turtleneck and jeans to a kid party and felt great!

I’ve been sewing since I was 10, which is 33 years ago now (gulp!) and I think the more I sew the more I’m happy I do. This is a bit of a soapbox post, but bear with me.

Most of our clothing now is made in sweatshop factories in China, Bangledesh, Pakistan and India. The people who work there – mainly women – work 12 or more hours a day under awful conditions – crammed in like sardines, sewing as fast as they can. It’s hot, dirty and they have to sew things at an amazing pace to get paid. Some are mothers, leaving their small children at home 12 hours a day just to hopefully make enough to eat.

At home, we buy cheap, trendy, throwaway garments made of cheap fabric, usually polyester, but sometimes cotton (and cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops there is.) All of this is hurting our environment. When we think of sustainability – it’s not just recycling – but considering where and how our goods are sourced. Are they good for the world? for the people in it?

In the last decade, I made a conscious decision to buy only used clothing for myself (or sew it) and for my children. I have deviated from this, mostly the lure of Target. Don’t get me wrong, I love Target. Looooove Target. But I really have to minimize the things I buy there because the culture of cheap, disposable clothing that we discard next season is bad for our world.

I turned to sewing again not because of cost savings but because I could have something more. Something I made, something unique not everyone has, something creative. And I think that’s better for our world.

So today, I got out this shrug, and wore it again. I wore it over a turtleneck that’s at least 10 years old (Lands’ End) and skinny Levis (two years old.) I’m happy I made it and happy it got a chance to get worn.

Use the Good Stuff day 8: use those cookbooks!

Sew Paradise | December 30, 2012 | By

In a world of Pinterest and food tv, it is easy to ignore those great cookbooks you have. My sister in law bought this for me almost 16 years ago and today was the first time I have used it. I made sesame breadsticks.


Use the Good Stuff: day 7 Vintage faux fur coat

Sew Paradise | December 28, 2012 | By

imageI found this champagne-colored vintage Mod style faux fur coat at a secondhand store up north in Michigan.  It has 3/4 sleeves, a big swing shape, giant buttons that I’ll never be able to replace if they fall off, and a giant collar that when I have it up, and my hair in a french twist, could be straight out of 1961.

I bought it for $12.50. Had it cleaned for $40 and it’s a great investment – warm, looks great with long gloves ($60 for those) and I feel uuber chic! Even though I have this wicked cold and look like I do 😉

Use the Good Stuff: day 6 the Christmas Train

Sew Paradise | December 26, 2012 | By

Every year as a kid, hubby would play with their family’s lionel electric train. This year, despite craziness with a two-year old and five-year old,


we pulled them out again for another trip around the tree.

Use the Good Stuff Christmas, day 5

Sew Paradise | December 24, 2012 | By

This painted bell is my mother-in-law’s. One of many we took home as they clean out their stuff in preparation for their big move. The glass snowflake is from a trip to Chicago. Christmas is the perfect time to Use the Good Stuff! Joyous holiday wishes to you and yours. s


Use the Good Stuff day 4: Vintage crystal necklace

Sew Paradise | December 21, 2012 | By


I got this necklace for my sophomore homecoming. And yes, that was long enough ago to be vintage. I wore it with a deep navy asian print dress. It was a very unusual dress for a fifteen year old going to a semiformal — a knit sheath dress with cap sleeves. At the time my mom said it was a classic and I would have it forever. I never believed it but if I can get into it — and I think I can — it will be a post here before the thirty days are up.

But this necklace, it’s subtle and pretty, and I hardly have worn it in the last 5 years because I have small kids who like to grab things. But they’re getting bigger and not so grabby anymore. I have it on with a long sleeve cashmere tee shirt and jeans. Just enough luxe to be cool.

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