Friday, 13 February 2015


Many moons ago I booked a course with the Couture expert, Claire Shaeffer. I'm so excited about it but apprehensive because of the expense just right now.  And for those of you who know my experiences you would truly understand why.  Here is Claires website if you are interested in learning a little about her.

I've often dreamt about having the opportunity to learn from people who are true experts, like Claire Shaeffer and Susan Khalje.  I admire both of these women for their experience and longevity in the industry.  I dont know them personally but I have read copious amounts about their studies over the years and that alone has whet my appetite to one day do a face to face course with them.

Well that day is almost here and come hell or high water I am committed to doing the course with Claire to the very best of my ability.  I could not believe it when I learnt that Claire was coming to Australia to do a once only course in the country town of Armadale. I have been told that Claire will be retiring after this so this is my one and only chance.  I know Armadale reasonably well as my sister-in-law completed her university course there and I have family members who lived around the area.  Not only that, it is quite a historical town and a refreshing break on the inland trip from Sydney to Brisbane.  I would love to share my taught skills with my daughter and even extended family if they are ever interested.  I do intend to do much more with my refined skills after this.

I have an eye for detail and I'm good at technical analysis.  I am very visual and I love fabulous quality. By quality I do not mean things that necessarily cost a lot of money however, a lot of the things that I do like do cost a lot of money.  I understand the processes, tools, techniques and products required to create them.  I admire them.  Again, not to be confused with wanting them, needing them or having to have them, I admire them. That admiration comes from my creative mind.

So I absolutely admire Claire for her commitment to the study of Haute Couture.  Her willingness to share what she has learnt from her privileged position of visiting the couture houses and discovering some of their techniques and tips. I have absolutely no doubt that there are plenty of skeletons in the closet of the designers and the couture houses but I don't care for that. Nobody can doubt the impact of the beautiful creations they have produced and still do produce.  Coco Chanel is a perfect example of this.  And WOW look at the Chanel range for 2015, just gorgeous.  Girls, our raglan sleeves are back! Along with a bit of midriff but I will be passing on that style.  I love they way they have manipulated the fabrics.

As I approach my course and gather my kit together, I can't help but reflect on where I've come. I remember sewing wedding dresses, 3 piece suits, childrens clothing, school clothing, curtains, covering couches, bed spreads, washing machine covers and pictures and many other projects. While living in Japan I created exclusive dolls clothes, issued with their own certificates, for professional collectors in America and other countries. I put one up on ebay once and could not cope with the demand that it created.  I had orders coming out of my ears but because of the items I was producing I could only create a few each week. The time and detail required for each little item was immense and I loved it all.  I can't put pictures of these items up as they belong to collectors now however, none of it excites me more nowadays than the long slow precise process of Haute Couture.

I'm happy to buy any piece of clothing but I will certainly never be buying a Haute Couture garment for myself. Why?  To start with I could never afford to buy one but I sure can afford it to learn the skills to make them for myself and others.  A true Haute Couture garment can sell from as little as a few thousand dollars to upwards of fifty thousand dollars.  I'm not prepared to mortgage my life for such an item but I respect that there are people in this world who can afford this luxury in their lives.  I do see equal value in being the creator and constructor.  I'm sure a big part of every designer is delivered with each garment when it is presented to the purchaser in each and every instance.  You can't put so much effort, love and creativity into something and just let it go and forget it.

My commitment this year, as I participate in the RTW 2015 fast, is to learn the ultimate of couture skills.  I hope those who appreciate what I do will enjoy the journey with me.

Hopefully my next post I can show you some great images of the Couture process.  In the meantime, I will share the fabrics I will use and the accessories I have found so far for my projects.  

Both of my Chanel Cardigan Jackets will be made out of Linton Tweeds.  I purchased this fabric some time ago waiting for this moment.  I cannot speak highly enough of Linton Tweed.  They have supplied Chanel with tweeds from the very beginning and their fabrics are truly beautiful.  One day perhaps I will visit the workshop and see the fabric being made. There are of course many other beautiful fabric stores and accessory suppliers and we have a few here in Melbourne, Australia too.  Searching for them is just part of the fun, especially the buttons and trims.  I have not settled on my trims as yet but I have time for that...

My next post, my toile!

Saturday, 10 May 2014


A celebration of real mums

Here's to the plain mums, the brainy mums, the not-always-sane mums. Mums with dirty floors and interesting thoughts, who don't care about whiter than white or turbo-brush hand-held vacuum cleaners.

Here's to the mums you don't see in Mother's Day brochures. They tend not to have ice-white bed linen. They look older than 25. They've made a life or two or three or more – and it probably shows.

Here's to the mums in their 60s and 70s, working as house cleaners. Bend. Scrub. Mop. Pick hairs out of bath. Dressed nicely, doing what they have to, because they've bills to pay and bugger all super.

Here's to the mums who volunteer. Counting coin towers for school banking; filling book club orders, sewing costumes – none of it measured by the GDP.

Here's to the mums who are too busy at work to volunteer.

Here's to the mums whose babies puke on them, instead of glowing cutely from pristine pink dressing gowns. They favour trackie daks over silk kimonos, maybe with a cloth flung across a shoulder to catch the vomit.

Here's to the mums whose bodies changed forever after childbirth: thicker waists, varicose veins, and so on. They jump or cough with trepidation because, as a male surgeon told me, "once you hit menopause it all falls away down there''. 

Still, look at those sturdy new people they've made. ‘"What have youse got?" asks the sensei at our local Aikido class. "Great potential!" yell back 30 little voices.

Here's to the mums whose aprons have sedimentary layers: cake mix, tahini, tomato sauce, dhal.

Here's to the mums who don't own an apron.

Here's to the mums who'd rather read a good book or see a decent film than "become the favourite child'' for a day.

Here's to the mum at our school who's an actor and singer. She started a choir for parents; got us stretching our mouths and bodies, excavating sounds we didn't know we could make. She gave me songs to sing to my daughter. What a great gift.

Here's to the single mums like author Maxine Beneba Clarke, who writes "messily, in snatches", wherever she can. She might be found at the kitchen table, "jotting down a poem on the back of a Coles docket" while the kids stand around her, both talking at the same time. She once wrote for 45 minutes in a Centrelink queue. "Broken home/nuh uh'', goes one of her poems, "there is nothing here needs fixing".

Here's to the mums who quite like lying in a dishevelled bed, watching a kid dressed as a ninja shout "Hiyaaaaah", before stabbing her dagger into the doona.

Here's to the mums who'd rather be asleep at this moment.

Here's to the mum with two kids under three who recently nursed my own mum in hospital. She was heavily pregnant, working night-shift.

Here's to the mum who cleans for someone I know. She works all day as an aged carer, then scrubs and irons after hours.

Here's to the mums looking for a permanent part-time job. (Good luck.)

Here's to the mums who don't speak any English.

Here's to the mums looking after their own parents as well as their kids.


“But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” 

Sunday, 30 March 2014


Claire Shaeffer's Custom Couture Collection
Chanel Style Cardigan Jacket

If you are looking for a copy of this pattern let me know and I may be able to help you out.  Just remember that the sizing is quite different.  I have made the mistake with these patterns in the past making a Size 10 not realising I was actually making a Size 6 which had me thinking I must have really put on weight.  Not so, its just the difference in the sizing.

Australian Size 6 = Vogue Size 10
A   8 = V 12
A 10 = V 14
A 12 = V 16
A 14 = V 18
A 16 = V 20
A 18 = V 22

Please be mindful of this when you are asking for a particular size of this pattern from me.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Over the past month I have been contacted by so many people and have managed to secure the precious and ever so elusive pattern Vogue V8259 that I have looked the world over for.  Not only did I get a copy of one just down the road from where I live but I was sent one from America and one from France.  Now I have this incredible pattern in every size that Vogue made.  As a result I am able to help out others who are searching for this pattern.  

If you are reading this and need a copy of this pattern, please contact me and I'll try to assist where possible.  

To make sure my decision is well analysed and digested before I cut into my precious Linton Tweed fabric, I also purchased the other two Vogue patterns which are frequently made into Chanel Style Jackets to compare them. Fortunately Vogue patterns have sales frequently so I was able to get them for $3.99, super reasonable.  

My summary of the three patterns most commonly used for Chanel Style Jackets is as follows:

1. Vogue Pattern V8259

An oldy but a goody.  I totally see why this pattern is almost impossible to locate.  It is far more structured and complex than all other patterns combined.  I have a sneaking suspicion this this might be very close to the real Chanel pattern.  I'd like to think so anyway as it has so many pieces and looks so beautiful even as a tissue pattern. On the image below it is the pattern pieces on the left hand side, consisting of #6, 7 and 8.  There is also a side panel which attaches to pattern piece #7. Just the body of this pattern consists of pattern pieces #6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 without the lining pieces or the sleeve pieces.  The sleeve has three pieces making it a very structured well designed sleeve.  You can see there is a lot to this jacket pattern, 20 pieces in fact.

2. Vogue Pattern V7975

This pattern is frequently used for the Chanel style jacket with great effect but it has no side panel and has a two piece sleeve.  This alone makes it a much less structured and thereby less complex article to make.  I would recommend this pattern for anyone who is not a seasoned seamstress because it will look lovely but be much quicker to put together.  On the image below it is the pattern piece in the middle #2.  It is longer and nipped in at the waist and it has two pieces on each side to the front of the jacket.  There are just 12 pieces to this pattern.

3. Vogue Pattern V8804

This is the Vogue pattern that Claire Shaeffer uses in her classes.  I am guessing that this is because V8259 is no longer in print and so so hard to find.  It closely resembles the original (V8259) but it is definitely not the original.  For anyone wanting to make a Chanel style jacket this is the pattern that I would buy and use if I were unable to locate V8259.  Bear in mind that it has a slightly shorter sleeve so if you want a longer sleeve on this jacket you will need to adjust it.  On the image below the two front pieces are pattern pieces #1 and 4 on the right hand side and in addition there is also a small side panel to this pattern.  The side panel attaches to the side of pattern piece #4.  There are 16 pieces to this pattern.

Having reviewed all the patterns in detail, before I commit to cutting up my precious Linton Tweed I have gone to the source of inspiration, Lady Shaeffer herself, to ask her which pattern she truly feels is the better of the three.  Of course this will only be her opinion but as she's made them all I feel her word is worth a lot to me.  When I have Claires response I will include it here and go about cutting and fitting my toile.  This takes a lot of time but is well worth the end result.  This is a couture jacket so the cutting of the designer fabric is only done after the toile is fitted and marked perfectly.  The designer fabric is then cut into squares not around the pattern pieces like regular home sewing and the pattern is then hand tacked onto the square.  Couture sewing is by far the most accurate, time consuming but exquisite style of sewing and the techniques are used by the most high end fashion houses, for dresses worn by your favourite red carpet celebs.

To some this may seem like a ridiculously long process just to make a jacket but to me this is a work of art, a project worthy of my commitment to spend a real lot of my time creating.  To do this I wont be leaving anything to chance so progress is at my pace just how I enjoy it the most.  I am certain that I will be very proud of the end product and then I'll do the second one.

Since starting this months blog Vogue have introduced yet another Claire Shaeffer pattern V8991.  This pattern has all the hallmarks of V8259 however it is cut to the neckline on the front panel and not to the shoulder seam.  It also has just two pockets to the front seam and much longer sleeve opening.  I'm not sure I like the sleeve on this pattern.

The patterns can be seen here:  by searching for Claire Shaeffer in the search bar.  

While you are there take a look and the totally gorgeous new dress pattern V8999.  We really are channeling those gorgeous elegant early 20th century dresses.

I can only imagine the work in this dress.  So very pretty.....

Tuesday, 4 February 2014


I'm slowly getting myself clear of jobs that "must get done" to make my way to start sewing for the Fast. I know the idea is not to sew as many things as you can as fast as you can or anything like that but I'd like to get my teeth into something fun for a change. One small problem, the thing that is holding me up a bit is my pattern, it still has not arrived from the US despite being ordered twice.  Seems the gremlins are also in the postal system these days.

I've never had many issues with posting things places with the exception of a few, one to the US and one to France.  I have noticed that so many people will not post to France these days.  I had one of my dolls go to a sweet lady in France who waited months for her small package.  The French customs system is in overdrive it seems and they are apparently trying to eek out as much small change as they can from as many people as they can.   I provided all the paperwork and sent the package via the most expensive post, which is what I normally do for such items, so there was no reason for any delay ... or so I thought.  I've sent things all over the world in fact and never had one go missing but delayed yes, absolutely.  

One lesson I did learn recently was never never never send anything "sea mail".  I had one customer ask me to send an item via the slowest and cheapest method so I sent it per her wish .... sea mail.  I learnt a lot from that experience but it would take me a month of Sundays to explain it completely to you.  It took over 2 months to get to the US via sea mail.  It went from my home town via our postal system to Sydney where it was literally put on a cargo ship as sea mail.  After waiting weeks to hear it had arrived and investigating with the post office, they informed us that just because you choose sea mail does not mean it will go by sea, it all depends upon how much space they have available, where the item is going to etc.  Well this little package went the long road and we even went as far as watching the boat go overseas online just to reassure the buyer that it was on its way.  There is a program that allows you to track airplanes online and then there is also one that allows you to track all sorts of boats.  It is actually very interesting, look here:

And if you want a truly different cruising experience you can even book a cruise on one of those cargo ships and go with your package:

I said we learnt a LOT!  But that is only half the story.  The other half involved Paypal, their recommendation to the buyer, their refunding her twice, then refunding me, then deducting twice from my account after the package was deemed sent correctly and per instructions. In the end, months later, the buyer ended up being refunded twice and I also so she was ahead and I was even. We were very happy with that because it was the most ridiculous experience we have ever had using Paypal.

We had many lovely discussions with the buyer about family, experiences, the economy, lots of laughs about "the system" and in the end the little package arrived just before Australia Posts deadline for sea mail shipping and in perfect order, within three months.  We were all ecstatic as you can imagine.

I better get back to my studies and try to get more than mending done this week.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


I came across the term "Slow Fashion" while searching for a particular service this last week and after investigating, I am a believer.  I think you will agree that we have all been into a department store and left disgusted that most of the items on the apparent "sale" are brought in especially for the said sale.  This means that we are being drawn into the stores on the pretence that we will be buying a quality item at a much reduced price.  Because the retailers know that's what we all want they pad the few genuine items they do put on sale up with lots of cheap items.  What I have personally discovered is that a lot of the sale items are either poor quality, poorly designed and poorly made or any combination of these flaws.

At this moment I am not in a position to buy super high end luxury items and may not ever be but I do love and admire them and I aspire to have just a few. I admire the design process and the quality that the high end designers seek to put into their brands. Of course along with the designer name comes a designer price tag because they know if its that good they can ask whatever they want and people will still want it. This is where I believe SLOW FASHION will begin making a serious comeback. People really do want quality and if given a choice really would prefer to buy it over the alternative. The gap between the designer or bespoke item and the alternatives is the price. Its like anything, we only buy what we can afford ... hopefully.

What really is Slow Fashion?

Slow fashion is genuinely high quality clothing and footwear, made locally and made by hand. The term bespoke is being used a lot now and it is all part of the new "slow" movement.

Open dictionary explains it like this:

"Slow Fashion - a term which describes clothing which lasts a long time and is often made from locally-sourced or fair-trade material"

Wikipedia explains it like this:

The term "Slow Fashion" was coined by Kate Fletcher in 2007 (Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UK). "Slow fashion is not a seasonal trend that comes and goes like animal print, but a sustainable fashion movement that is gaining momentum."
The Slow Fashion Movement is based on the same principles of the Slow Food Movement, as the alternative to mass-produced clothing (AKA “Fast-Fashion”). Initially, The Slow Clothing Movement was intended to reject all mass-produced clothing, referring only to clothing made by hand, but has broadened to include many interpretations and is practised in various ways.

Some examples of slow fashion practise's include:

Opposing and boycotting mass-produced fashion (AKA "Fast-Fashion" or "McFashion").

Choosing artisan products to support smaller businesses, fair trade and locally-made clothes.
Buying second hand or vintage clothing and donating unwanted garments.
Choosing clothing made with sustainable, ethically-made or recycled fabrics.
Choosing quality garments that will last longer, transcend trends (a "classic" style), and be repairable.
Doing it yourself - making, mending, customising, altering, and up-cycling your own clothing.
Slowing the rate of fashion consumption: buying fewer clothes less often.

The Slow Fashion movement is a unified representation of all the "sustainable", "eco", "green", and "ethical" fashion movements. It encourages education about the garment industry's connection and impact on the environment and depleting resources, slowing of the supply chain to reduce the number of trends and seasons, to encourage quality production, and return greater value to garments removing the image of disposability of fashion. A key phrase repeatedly heard in reference to Slow Fashion is "quality over quantity". This phrase is used to summarize the basic principles of slowing down the rate of clothing consumption by choosing garments that last longer.

I am finding this movement extremely interesting as a few members of my immediate family have elected to be vegan and admirably enjoy it. This is all part of making ethical choices in our everyday life.

What I have also discovered from being part of the RTW Fast for 2014 is the thrill that people are getting from creating their own garments. From the choosing of a pattern, choosing the fabrics, choosing the embellishments, lovingly creating the garment, pressing it, wearing it and taking photos to share with others who have a mutual appreciation for the same process. I never did doubt the joy doing this brings anyone as I've experienced it many times myself. From first sewing for myself at a very young age, sewing for my children, sewing for wedding parties, sewing suits and even leather bags and accessories. Its fun and so so enjoyable seeing the item come together just how you visualise.

I like the term Slow Fashion, I think Kate Fletcher, who coined it knew exactly what direction the fashion industry was going. Sadly along with a new movement comes a lot of corollary disappointment as businesses close unable to compete in the new environment. I have to say that I'm not saddened to see the rag shops close but I am saddened to see designers closing unable to compete with such inferior offerings.

This week I put together my body double. My dressmakers dummy is finally sized and ready to go as I await my pattern, still. I haven't minded the slow progress at this time as its given me a chance to take stock and get a few other important jobs done which would not have allowed me much sewing time anyway, but I'm so looking forward to getting started and sharing my progress along the way.  I am overjoyed to be part of the Slow Fashion movement and I hope I've shared something interesting also.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


One my chores during my usual weekend is to renew or rearrange my vase of flowers. I am fortunate to have the most gorgeous roses in the garden so I can do this whenever they keep blooming.  Unfortunately they got a beating this week in the torturous heat.  I decided to see what I could find and picked the few that survived and below is the outcome.  As you know some of my favourite flowers are Roses and Peonies hence the name of my blog but along with these I also love Hydrangea and Lilac.  

To be honest I actually love most flowers but if I were only allowed two it would be Roses and Peonies.  There is something so delicate and beautiful about them.  No doubt it is the pink colours that gels so well with the dainty petals but its even more than that.  While I continue to get my sewing sorted and await my couture pattern from America I decided to share these pictures because they are such pretty flowers.

I don't know the name of these but they are particularly pretty. They are a soft peach colour with very open blooms.  There are also gorgeous Red, Yellow, Pink and White roses almost in bloom so I will try to capture those at a good time and add them to my collection.  Around our neighbourhood a lot of homes have amazing flowering roses and we've been told that this year was particularly good for the vegetation because of the amount of rain that we got throughout the year.  I guess it must be true.  I will try to capture some of those images while I'm out and about walking our dogs if I remember to pop the camera in my pocket.