chanel-inspired alabama chanin sweater

i’m back on pinterest in a big way recently. i had a fairly severe addiction over the summer, when it was the only cohesive way to bookmark garden designs and plant ideas while still keeping track of my garment sewing to-do list. also, it is the best way that i know of to gather french jacket inspiration.

so it was during one of my many exhaustive chanel searches that i turned up this look from, i think, one of the 2013 collections.

i loved it – the color, the weird skirt, even the shoes with socks – but what i most loved was how easy it would be to re-interpret using techniques and ideas i’d already been playing with in my studio. i turned to my trusty stack of inherited cashmere and my well-loved alabama chanin kristina’s rose stencil and got right down to it.


i used, as i said, a hand-me-down cashmere but anything could work. i just took one of my t-shirt patterns – in this case, the pattern included in the alabama studio sewing + design book – and cropped it to about two inches above my natural waist. i cropped it this high so that i could re-use the original waistband ribbing from the sweater for a finished look.


then, i stenciled the design as suggested by natalie chanin and string appliqued strips of white rayon knit (remnants from an old t-shirt project) using silk thread and a big catchstitch.


i hand-tacked the pearl trim once i had gotten the front on the dressform, just to check placement, and then finished all of the seams according to the hand-finishing techniques utilized by natalie chanin and the team at alabama chanin. it was my first time going all in on these techniques, not using a machine at all, and for such a small project it was totally worth it. it gave me a feeling of accomplishment and made the project extremely portable.


true story: my boss actually called me into his office and then asked me, “what, did you cut your shirt in half?” and then didn’t understand that i was serious when i answered “yes.” he said, “what?” and i was all, “yes, i literally took apart an old sweater, cut it in half, and put it back together to make this.”


le sigh. clearly i work with people who have no sense of vision!




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self-drafted skirt in alabama chanin applique

this piece was actually originally inspired by the same lookbook shot that gave birth to my deer and doe datura.

but, as things do, it evolved – mostly when i looked at my datura next to the skirt and realized that the colors weren’t actually as compatible as i hoped. symposium, as it turns out, has a fair amount of blue.

1312676471768152go figure.

my next stop in styling was to consider my colette nutmeg cami. but we’ve already been over that.


so i had no choice but to buckle down and focus on the skirt. originally cut almost a year ago, it got stenciled about a month ago and then finished intermittently over the past several weeks – mostly during commercial breaks of CSI: Miami, which just proves that i’ll binge-watch almost any crime procedural if a network runs it on a weekday night when i need some background noise to keep the sewing smooth.


but seriously – hasn’t anyone in the CSI: universe realized that most of that detective work would be done by, you know, actual detectives? and the dialogue. shoot me now. in law & order we trust, is all i can say. at least jerry orbach was funny.

um, where was i?



for the applique, i decided to go for a source i’ve been debating for several months – the scrap box. it may be the hoarder in me, but i have a huge box of nearly-unusable scrap fragments. as part of this project, i separated out all of the silk remnants and got to work. the result is a hand-pieced, hand-appliqued sort of hybrid string quilt.

most of the pieces – especially in the rose petals and on the stem – i cut on the grain and then tore, so they are pretty much uniform.  the leaves are a free-for-all of silk scraps in several shades of green.  i left the edges raw because i thought that contributed to the look.  all the pieces are catchstitched with heavy DMC embroidery floss.  the side seams are exposed and also opened with a catch stitch.  the zipper is hand-picked and beaded and there is a ribbon stay instead of a waistband.


i used the alabama chanin rose placement stencil and, as a point of departure, the string applique technique discussed in alabama studio sewing + design.

this piece is definitely borderline – skirting the edge between awesome and crafty. but i really kind of love it. it’s a statement piece for sure.



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deer and doe datura in symposium and sheer

i’ve been obsessed with the idea of sheer yokes lately. something about it is playful and daring while still decorous – modest, if you will, although that is not a word i typically use. my initial inspiration for this piece was the prabal gurung for target collection released early last year. i became fascinated with the play of bright colors and unexpected prints with the little bits of design detail that took it to another level, like in this piece (the top specifically).

my original plan was to recreate a version of this blouse by refashioning my colette pastille top, made out of liberty of london symposium, but eventually i decided i didn’t want the strictures of a classic button-down shirt, however elegantly played with.

i quickly focused on the deer and doe datura.


it cried out to me in that way that patterns sometimes do. i saw immediately that i would pair the liberty symposium with white organze and make a cute little black collar with a nice washed silk. i toyed with making bias-cut sleeve flanges, to bring it back to the prabal gurung inspiration, but ultimately decided against it.


the top is, i think, well-drafted although i ran into a few errors as i adjusted to fit. i have to admit that this may have been as much due to user error as anything; i tackled the pattern in a whirlwind of other pattern alterations and lost track several times of what i was attempting to do.


that said, the shoulder seam is a smidge tight – i need to raise it perhaps 3/8 of an inch – and the armscye is similarly affected. also, i have a weird sort of gap in between the bust darts. by this i mean that the front yoke fits pretty excellently across the bust and then the main portion of the blouse sort of droops in the center. in future i may want to take a wedge out of that center front to compensate.


i love the shape of the collar and the curved hem – the curved hem keeps it feeling shirt-like, and the collar is like a peter pan collar but different enough to be interesting. i also love the back button detail.



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pleated trousers!



because, dammit, they deserve an exclamation point!!


and my smug smile of smugness.


because who wouldn’t be smug after completing her first pair of trousers and then fearlessly inserting a zip-front fly with a custom-length zipper the resulted in broken zipper teeth flung hither and thither in the sewing room?!


we’ll try to ignore the partial fail that is my colette nutmeg cami.  try as i may, i just cannot get those patterns to work for me.  it’s simultaneously too big in the top and too short in the top – what?! – and too tight along the side seams while being too wide at the armscye.

i think we’ll just call it a hot mess of gorgeous silk-cotton cammo and move on to happier things.

like my trousers.

and at this point in the narrative, let us all pause and admire my ass.


nice, right?

i have to confess i did not come by it completely honestly.  there was some major tweaking of the crotch curve on these trousers, the papercut pleated trouser pattern.  before i dove in, i should have done the research to know that older printed versions of this pattern, like the one i have, are infamous for the poorly drafted waist circumference and mysterious too-short waistband.  (i’ve read that this has since been corrected as the pattern has been re-printed)  instead, i winged it with my trouser moulage and hoped for the best.

the result is a fairly good fit in the crotch curve, front and back, and a bit of a disaster in the waist area.  i ended up needing to deepen both pleats on the front by about an inch in addition to pulling in an inch at the center back for a total of about five inches.

and i think it is fairly clear to most discerning eyes that i chose not to interface the waistband.

IMG_0199mistake!  it pulls a bit and is not as stable as it should be.  i did not use the included waistband, instead following kenneth king’s method of cutting a straight waistband on the crosswise grain.  (you can see his detailed explanation of this technique in his jean-ius craftsy class.)  but, in addition to not interfacing the waistband, i also did not steam the stretch out of the crosswise grain or give it any curve, two other no-nos in the waistband department.

speaking of jean-ius, i followed kenneth’s construction method for the zipper fly as well.  i confess to not even checking the papercut instructions on this issue.  for better or for worse, if kenneth has a method for doing something, i’ll basically take that as gospel and go with it.  it was my first time even attempting a fly front and i had zero issues.

IMG_0197a few other construction notes:  i used some scraps of my printed cat cotton for the pockets and the pocket bags.  i stabilized the pocket opening not with a fused piece, like katie intended, but with a piece of muslin cut on the crossgrain (again, a la kenneth).  on the back of the trouser, i made a cutting error that resulted in my left side waist not being even with my right side waist, so did some quick patchwork with a scrap of cammo silk and a piece of lace, just for giggles.  i secured the waistband at the front with an oversized snap, but next time i want to try hooked trouser closures.  i just didn’t realize in this, my first pair of trousers, that they needed to be inserted during waistband construction and not after.

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a snowy day here in siberia deserves a snuggly outfit: papercut patterns rigel bomber (refashion)

IMG_3996here’s the view from my window today.

awesome, right?  according to the weather channel’s bizarre new method of naming storms, this is winter storm “maximus.”  i’ve noticed that while touting this new name whenever possible, the weather channel has declined to provide any information that might actually be useful, like the expected duration or accumulation of this storm.  seriously, i watched for almost an hour this morning while deciding if i should risk the drive into work – i am a notoriously bad snow driver – and ended up being more confused than when i woke up and looked out the window and said, “huh.  snow.”


whatevs.  i stayed home.


this piece is actually a refashion of a cashmere cardigan i inherited when i cleaned out the closets in my dad’s house last year.  my mom was a cashmere fiend, and it seemed ridiculous to donate or trash the stacks of sweaters i discovered, all smelling clean and like the penhaglion soap she used in her drawers, just because they were a bit baggy, or  stretched, or too big, or whatever.

this lovely blue one, a cardigan with a zip front and a cute little camp collar, was a case in point.  i kept it in my stack of sweaters in a cedar chest in my upstate studio and waited for inspiration.  i saw immediately, once the new constellation collection came out, how easy it would be to modify the sweater so that its fit was a little more snug and the details more modern by converting it to a raglan sleeve and using the fabulous patchwork detail at the shoulders.

IMG_0232i did this by cutting out the sleeves and then re-cutting them according to the papercut pattern.

IMG_3974similarly, i de-constructed the cardi at its side seams, preserving the elastic hem for re-use, and recut the front and back pieces so they had raglan seamlines.  i cut carefully so as not to disrupt the collar, the welt pocket, or the zip front.  i was surprised to discover that a mere nip and tuck were all that was necessary on the side seams for the trimmer fit i was looking for, but i spent almost an hour rearranging the puzzle pieces of the raglan sleeve before i got it right.  i think this is because i kept getting confused as to which piece was which; i was using a sheer knit, which the pattern is not designed for, and it was very easy to accidentally stretch pieces to fit where they didn’t belong.

IMG_0227after decrypting the mystery of the sleeves, i just reassembled everything, re-threaded the elastic through the hem, and zig-zagged the side seams shut again.  admittedly, not the cleanest closure – i really should have pinned the casing closed and shut it with a fell stitch – but i was tired by then, and you can’t tell from the outside.


all there is is lacy goodness and a fun cardi.




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papercut watson in blue cashmere: or, the miracle jacket


i first set my sights on the double-breasted jacket with capelet, designed by katie of papercut patterns and dubbed the ‘watson,’ over a year ago, and acquired the pattern even though i knew in my heart that it would be a while before i got to it. the reasons were myriad – or at least they seemed so at the time – but basically boiled down to two: i didn’t have the energy for a tailoring project, and the fabric in my stash most perfectly suited to the jacket project had already been hacked into for a failed attempt at a 1930s dress.


also failed: my attempt to stage photos outdoors.

the fabric in question was a gorgeous lightweight coating in blue cashmere acquired a few years ago on what turned out to be my last trip to paris with my mother. during that trip, i dedicated an entire day to following the recommendations of susan khalje for shopping in paris and hit up several excellent fabric spots, including the small boutique shop in the 16th were i scored this amazing lightweight coating in blue cashmere, happily sitting right next to a remnant of louis vuitton floral print that i got for 25 euro a meter. (WHAT?!?!)


so, last winter i pulled out the remains of my cashmere as well as the discarded dress pieces to see if i actually had enough fabric to make my coveted watson.


i did…sort of. except i still wanted a sleeve. so the entire pile went back into the closet until about a month ago, when i set aside an entire day to do cutting and prep on the watson, come hell or high water (or, in my case, snow and a polar vortex). ultimately, i swapped the included one-piece sleeve for a 1930s-style two piece sleeve, which worked out amazingly because i could cut each sleeve part out of a discarded skirt panel in addition to getting the subtle shaping and better fit of my two-piece sleeve.


i still lacked facings and an undercollar, but i was in business at last and would not let that stop me. i pulled into service some of the cool dyed denim with character embroidery (also scored on my trip with my mom) for those pieces and got to work with an awesome and unexpected italian printed silk lining from mood fabrics. i say unexpected because it doesn’t match at all…except it really does and i love it.

20140122-150435.jpgbecause the coating was so lightweight i underlined it with some flannel. because i wanted the nicest texture possible, i eventually realized that what i needed to do was quilt the flannel to my lining pieces. i did this on the side panels and the lower back panel and, of course, on the entire capelet. on the back piece, where i needed to have a back stay as well as a pleat in the lining for wearing ease, i left the interlining hanging free.


i also drafted lining and interfacing pieces according to the methods outlined in kenneth king’s “the tailored jacket“, instead of using any of the pieces included by katie – although a quick check of my self-drafted undercollar and katie’s included undercollar show me that katie is quite familiar with turn-of-the-cloth and other necessary tailoring adjustments.


20140123-100906.jpgi machine padstitched the undercollar and did no tailoring on the front pieces, although leaving the top buttons open does create a sort of notched lapel with a roll line. my one gripe about katie’s patterns – really, about all indie pattern companies – is that they don’t include important landmark drafting notations like, for example, the intended waistline or the roll line. yes, i made a muslin of my undercollar to check the drape – but a suggested roll line would have made that easier. similarly, i made a lot of adjustments to the pattern to more readily accommodate my moulage – but an indication of where the drafter intended the waistline to fall would have made that easier.


i like to hate on the big 4 as much as anyone, but they include all of these markings and more.


that said, i found this pattern to be exceptionally well-drafted. even after all of the pattern adjustments i made to fit with my moulage, everything went together perfectly and without a fuss – all seams lined up and everything. it was a thing of beauty.


this was one of those sewing projects where i hit the zone and stayed there, completely confident with every stitch that i was making something well and easily. it was a great feeling!







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papercut copelia, pucci-style

20140117-091626.jpga while back in 2013 i scored a great piece of pucci border-print knit in the knits bin at mood fabrics.  and it sat, and it sat, and it sat in my stash as i debated the options.  since i only bought one panel, i knew i wanted something relatively small.  since the panel had a huge design as well as a border print, i knew it needed to be something that would respect the integrity of the graphics.

my enabler at mood suggested a skirt, but the fabric was so tissue-thin and drapey that i knew that wouldn’t work.  obviously i considered a renfrew as well, but the border section of the panel wasn’t meant for a half-length sleeve and i don’t like short sleeves on my renfrews.

20140117-091632.jpgi moved on to raglan-sleeve designs, considering, of course, a sloppy josephine by papercut, but in laying out my pattern pieces i was hit with an epiphany – the bold square design demanded the diagonal fronts of a wrap, not the simple, uncomplicated lines of a T.

i also felt that this enabled me to get the most use out of my fabric  – and believe me, i needed to hoard every scrap.  the border areas i saved for the tie belt, sleeve cuffs, and neckband.  i was able to squeeze a half raglan sleeve in the extra border area of the print. i used the corners of the square for my two front pieces and did my best to center the back of the cardi exactly in the center of the design.

no easy feat, by the by, since the fabric was so thin and so drapey that keeping anything in a line was nigh impossible, but on the whole i am pleased with the result.  i especially love the colors – when i was a kid i was always told that red and pink do not go together, so imagine my childish glee at pairing red, pink and purple with a pair of red cords and a purple belt and my combat boots for a friday outfit.


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