Posts made in March, 2013

The Sweat Shop

Posted on Mar 26, 2013 | 0 comments

Front window of Sweat Shop

Photos by Fabrice Fortin for Paris by Appointment Only™  presented on a lovely web site:


I know…you are reading the words, Sweat Shop, and right about now thinking – EVIL – and you are ready to hear all about it.  However – it’s not what you think.


Sweat Shop is actually a “café couture” sewing shop that opened in Paris about 2 1/2 years ago.  It was located in the residential 10th district of Canal Saint Martin, tucked away among other trendy boutiques and bars.   Its two founders, fashion designer Sissi Holleis and makeup artist Martena Duss, had a brilliant idea and set out to make it happen.  They wanted to encourage people to buy less and make more things for themselves either by sewing them or changing up things they already owned.  With the help of Singer, they took this concept and, well the rest is history.


There were 10 work stations, each supplied with a sewing machine, all located around a big central work area.  You could rent any of the available sewing machines by the hour to work on your projects or just visit and relax in their cozy little nook where sweets were available.


Sweat Shop Large Work Center


Whether you were a beginner or a master of sewing, there were regularly provided workshops, often held by well known designers willing to share their knowledge.  If you wanted to brush up on your English, there was the Patch-Up Your English workshop.  While creating a patchwork cushion or blanket, you had to chat strictly in English!  There were even knitting classes for those wanting to learn, or those ready to whip up a sweater.


However, I don’t know if  you noticed, but when I have been talking about Sweat Shop, it has been in the past tense.  As of July 1, 2012, Martena and Sissi closed their doors.  Awe crap was my first response.  I was so excited when I first discovered this little gem that I was plotting on how to make it one of my stops on my next visit to Paris. There is good news though; a book was born out of this project that I already personally have on order.


Sweat Shop Book



It was published November 15th 2011 by Andrews McMeel Publishing.  My understanding is that it is less technical and more personal, and full of ideas for being creative.  I can’t wait to get my copy.   As for Sweat Shop, well..Au revoir!


Merci Madame Sissi et Madame Martena for thinking of a most exceptional way to share sewing!

Salut!  Jessica

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An “Enjoying Life Moment”

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 | 0 comments

Today’s post is going to be about nothing!  Well – not nothing, but instead of the usual sewing  discussions or the occasional rant, I decided to get off the merry-go-round and take a moment to talk about what I like to do when I choose to just enjoy life.  I would like to think that this activity is very French and so I think appropriate for this little blog site sitting in the middle of  a big blog world!

On the menu today…


Wine and Cheese Moment


Yes, you got it.  Cheese, crackers, grapes, macadamia nuts AND wine!  Wine that I made.  So there…also shared a little something more about myself – besides being a sewing artist, I am also a winemaker!


It’s been a wonderful day.  Have not cleaned my house like I should have but instead spent quality time with my daughter.  I could be sewing the buttons on the sweater, McCalls 6708, that I just finished or start sewing together the pieces that have been cut for the Simplicity 1797 dress, but hey… I need to take a brief time out, sip my glass of wine, snack on my cheese plate and just chill-lax!


Since I am writing about enjoying the moment, this may be a good time to mention the book that my son Jared surprised me with several days ago…


The Little Book of Chanel



No…no major gift giving event.  He got it for me because he knows I love books, especially when they are about Coco Chanel.  I have had such a fascination with this woman.  Within the pages are some gorgeous pictures as well as some more tidbits that I didn’t know.


There are several dresses shown in the book that were done in the 50’s and 60’s that I love and have attempted to take pictures of to share with you.


Chanel White Gown - 1960


The bodice fits the body like a glove and the full skirt flares out dramatically from the hips with horizontal layers of ruffles.



Chanel Trumpet Shaped Black Gown - 1958


A cocktail dress made in black lace. It is boned and strapless with a trumpet-shaped skirt and triple flounce.


Coca said “Dress women in black or white at a ball.  They will catch the eye”.   Hmm.. maybe I better quit enjoying life, try to find a ball to attend and start sewing a gown!  First I need to finish my cheese and wine though!

Salut!  Jessica

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The Do-Over Liberation Dress

Posted on Mar 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Seam RipperThe “Save-your-Derriere Tool”


Have you ever decided to sew yourself something, lets say… a new spring-time looking cocktail dress that you can just imagine yourself wearing.  You then decide it would look spectacular made of this fantastic silk that just happens to cost almost $30 dollars a yard, but it’s not very often that you  buy fabric this expensive and so…you tell yourself you deserve it and BUY it!  You then hurry home and dive into the project like the world is going to end tomorrow.   As you are nearing the finish line, having sewn all the pieces together, you try it on before doing the final touches and discover that… IT DOESN’T FIT!  It turns out your butt is bigger than you thought.  You become concerned that maybe you are shaped weird in the shoulders because the neck of the bodice back looks more like a vampire collar.  AND…you discover that your boobs are actually bigger than you thought because the bodice fits more like a corset!


Okay…yes, I am talking about something I did!  I know; you are asking…why didn’t you make a muslin first.  Well…does previously making another style of dress from the same pattern count as a muslin?  I thought it did but I was WRONG.  After a number of  different tactics, I finally admitted defeat, lovingly folded the partly dismantled dress into a small square and put it away because I couldn’t bring myself to throwing away the almost $30 dollar fabric it was made out of.


That was over a year ago…my life has changed a lot since then, more than just the usual changes that life brings.  There were broken friendships, the death of a friend, end of a marriage, that feeling of ickiness  that comes when we think we may have failed.  But time has passed, healing has occurred and it now feels like it’s time to take on new challenges.  This includes that little folded up square of partly dismantled dress that is in bad need of a re-do.


Litle Square of Fabric



My sewing courage has certainly been re-vitalized through the learning of pattern drafting that I have undertaken the last few months.  With the seam ripper in hand, and a deep breath, I set to work.


The pattern that I used was S2588, the multicolored dress on the right except with a slim fitting skirt rather than the fuller one shown.  The slim skirt is also included in the pattern and drawings of it can be seen on the lower part of the pattern envelope.



The original dress I made had side-seam pockets but they are now gone for good! The approximate 3 inches of pleats that were suppose to be in the top front of the skirt found a new home.  The side seam also moved away from the bodice side seam.  This all was done to make room for my big butt!



Extra Dart



After making the Silhouette top with the 3/8″ seams, doing the same with this dress was a no-brainer.  I  managed to get plenty of circumference!


As for the vampire collar, I cut 5/8″ from the top of the bodice-back  which brought the neck band more in-line with my neck.


Neck Band



There are lots of angles and curves in the pieces that make up this dress, which makes it a bit tricky when it comes to fitting, but I took my time, did lots of hand basting with lots of  FITTINGS and I did what I set out to do.  It felt liberating to move seams, create darts and tear out unnecessary interfacing.  Here it is from the back…






Still doing some finish work, but almost done.


Front with only buttons to go


Buttons still need to be sewn on the tabs at the waist.


And here it is all finished!


Silk Flowers Full RS



The back…


Silk Flowers Back RS



Close-up of the side



Silk Flowers Side Close-Up RS



I have named it my “Liberation” dress.  Why?  Because I felt both a sense of relief and a sense of freedom when I was making it conform to what I wanted, rather than the other way around.  No pattern instructions, just me, my creative nature and a handy-dandy seam ripper!   The side-seams are not where they usually are, but why should that matter.  Maybe the darts are not located in the correct places, but my butt has enough room so who cares!  And thank you thank you Peggy Sagers for 3/8″ seams; without them, this might not have been possible!   Yes…if we set our minds to it, there is almost always a chance for a successful red-do!



Silk Flowers Cheers RS



I forgot to tell you – when I saw myself wearing this dress, it was while drinking some of my favorite wine so with that, catch later, gotta go enjoy the rest of my glass of Chardonnay!

Salut!  Jessica

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Yes…I made it!

Posted on Mar 5, 2013 | 2 comments

Wahoo!!!  You can’t see me but if you were a fly on the wall right now, you would be watching me skip my way to the wine rack looking for the appropriate bottle of wine to celebrate my triumphant moment!  You do get to see this though…


The wine…

Glass of Starstruck Wine for Web



and the moment…

Cheers to a New Top!


Yeah, I am drinking wine, I am suppose to be, I am celebrating my latest project!  The Silhouette  675 Top.


Silhouette Top 675



So what’s so exciting about the fact that I made this top?  Well…the fabric is knit and this is the first knit anything I have ever attempted.  So………….Yes, I made it and it actually turned out!


Admittedly I was a bit nervous before I dove into this project.  I spent a good deal of time on the “internets”, surfing anything and everything that had to do with sewing knits.  Finally, after feeling like I killed a bazillion brain cells fretting about how to tackle sewing them, I decided to go with the advice of the lady who designed the pattern, Peggy Sagers.


She said “use a ballpoint needle” and sew it like you do anything else.  Also, I had heard her say in one of her pod casts that she uses a teflon foot for most everything so I opted to do the same.   It did make sense to me since I have used this foot when sewing silk because it holds the slippery wonderful stuff quite nicely!  I set my machine to a 3.0 stitch for all the major sewing like she suggests in the pattern instructions and used the recommended 3.5 setting when top stitching and both worked like a charm.


The needles and the teflon foot that fits my Husqvarna sewing machine.


70-90 Schmetz Assorted Ballpoint Needles in a 5 Pack

Teflon Foot, Viking # 4127961-45




Silhouette patterns have 3/8″ seam allowances and when I first started sewing the fabric, I wondered if this seam would allow for enough width, especially when sewing three layers of the knit where there was facing.  I experienced the WOW factor.  I was impressed.  It was so cool to not have to spend time trimming the edges of seams.  It also meant needing less fabric and of course less waste.  I’m kind of diggin the idea!


There was a small speed bump that I hit…the buttonholes.  I have done lots of buttonholes but never on knit since I’ve never sewn it, right!  It was BACK to the “internets”!  Once I found the magic info I needed, I headed for my interfacing stash basket and pulled out my handy dandy Tear-Away interfacing and started cutting out strips which I then cut into large enough sections to place underneath each area where I needed to sew a buttonhole.  The interfacing tore away easily leaving the underside of the first buttonhole I made look exactly like it was suppose to.   It really did work like a charm.  I was so thrilled with my success that I went a little crazy and ended up with 7 buttonholes instead of 6 but hey, who’s counting and besides, 7 is one of my lucky numbers so – “all is right in the world!”  Now –  it’s back to my wine.

Salut!  Jessica

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What’s Wrong with Home-Made

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 | 0 comments

Today is going to be a rant day.   The rant of course is me saying exactly what I feel in no uncertain terms and which my children lovingly refer to as me getting up on my soap box!


The subject of my rant…the bad rap that the term “home-made” is getting.


It seems like “home-made” is okay sometimes but other times not.  For instance, it is generally accepted that home-made  food is better than fast food (and better for you!).  Then there are home-made  gifts that for many people are more personal and meaningful than store bought gifts. But with clothes…well that’s another story.  It appears  that home-made  is taking a bad rap where clothes are concerned.  Apparently clothes should look store bought, not home-made.   Oh Snap!…I think we have been duped big time on this one and didn’t see it coming!


I have recently realized just how much of a victim I am in this evil marketing plot and how deeply I fell into it.  I will spend countless hours meticulously making a garment so that it doesn’t look homemade.  I have even actually been told that what I have sewn “doesn’t look home-made” and experienced a sense of relief.  I can’t believe that I missed it!  That I tossed “home-made” out the window without a second thought, to instead basque in the knowing that I sewed something that looked “store-bought!”  I am a horrible person!


(I have now stepped up onto my soap box)



I know there are others who have fallen into this same trap; very experienced sewers with good intentions who generously share their ideas, tips, etc. on how to sew something so that it doesn’t look home-made.  Unfortunately  I think they have been duped too and they haven’t realized it!  It’s like we are all receiving a subliminal message…the words being spoken by a mesmerizing voice that says “you should be buying your clothes – they are better than what you make”.


(ooh – starting to warm up now on this cozy little soap box)


So then… can we deduce that if something doesn’t look good enough to the eye of the beholder, then it looks  “home-made“? Awwh…see what I am saying.


And think about this… “distressed jeans”.  I absolutely hate ripped up and holy jeans and will not apologize for saying it!  They were probably beautiful jeans before they were violated with distress!  Would you say they look home-made or would you say they look ruined?  Definitely ruined of course!


(Okay…now we are getting somewhere.  I am on my tippy toes right now, standing tall on my soap box and going for the finish line!)


After a brief examination of this poor defenseless adjective, I think “home-made”  is being used out of context and so is not guilty of its charges.  If  something looks like crap or doesn’t meet one’s expectations, it has nothing to do with “home-made”.  It has to do with skill level, but the skill will grow if  the creative mind is not ruined by unkind words.  Home-made” is a wonderful way of doing anything and we need to remind ourselves of this.  And remember that before there were factories, there were people like you and I  who learned to sew because… it was a very important and useful thing to be able to do.


There is nothing more gratifying and rewarding than lovingly cutting out pattern pieces from beautiful fabric and transposing them into something that we can wear.  It gives one a wonderful sense of accomplishment.   As to the quality…well we know that it has nothing to do with  “home-made“.   The quality is only the level of ability of the sewer who can only get better and better.  🙂


So my friends…lets take back what is rightfully ours!  Sew to your heart’s content, and realize that you are a clothing designer, an artist, a dress-maker, a tailor, a seamstress, a sewer who is creating what was once created in the home, performing an art that has always belonged to us, the at-home sewers who are fabulous people who create and design “home-made “ clothes.  Salut!

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