Thursday 15 March 2012

Spring is Almost Sprung

When the croci are breaking through the snow, and the potager is looking more weed than white, it's time to plan the spring sewing.
I've looked through my wardrobe and apart from a new pair of red jeans, everything is very 2010-2011, mostly white shirts and two pairs of Burda khakis (one greenish, one mustardey, with light sweaters to match.)

Too many safari jackets to admit to. But I guess the lions are safe this year.

Then there's the "Deauville-feel" stuff— a Burda polka-dot ruffled blouse, navy jeans, Burda "flamenco" navy skirt and lots of blue and grey cardigans for the mountain evening cool.

So which direction to head in 2012? Am I sticking with the jungle or Colette? Venturing into bold colour block territory or heading toward pastels?

I'm thinking that the bold colour thing isn't for me unless it's a strong blue. I'll do a blocked dress if I can find the right (not neon) color combo:
and I need a few simple pairs of white/beige pants. Thanks, Burda April. I'm hoping I can still fit into those white jeans I sewed two years back, so no-waistband sewing is my reward this year,

and as warned, I'm hot for a knock-off of the Philip Lim shirt previously posted in two layers of the same pastel tone. I think I'm heading for some Thai silk/home-dyeing adventures there!

But don't you also love the Ferretti designer dress Burda offers for April? Hmmm. A little silk chiffon and more satin from Thai silks into the basket?

Sunday 11 March 2012

Our London weekend followed by a palate cleanser from Karl

First off, the Narnia Muskrat Love Coat did go to the ball or, er, the offspring's London symphony conducting gig. The weather in London was just enough on the side of spring chilly to pull it off. But I'm afraid there aren't many outings left this spring that will call for fur. Happily, no mothballs needed, unless there are some moths that dine on petroleum products. I know it'll be waiting for me next October.

Here's the coat in action in the Geneva airport lounge on Thursday rocking free orange juice. I think the belt worked but I'm also going to add two more sets of fur hooks, above and below the waist. I packed the skinny grey jeans and grey suede boots you see here with a blue satin blouse and long grey cashmere cardigan for travel, switched the blouse to the Burda ruffled turquoise paisley blouse underneath the cardigan with turquoise necklace for lunch in Battersea on Friday with eldest (who brought me the paisley silk from India last summer), and for evening the Burda black cloqué dress inspired by AllysonC and sewn a couple of seasons back underneath the Jim Thompson silk Vogue Marcie Tilton OOP kimono pattern for the Friday night concert, and underneath the Burda home-dyed blue cut-velvet kimono for a Thursday dinner for our hosts at the very "Midnight in Paris"-mooded Le Quecum Bar.

Our hosts were the parents of the lovely god-daughter, modelling here on the cover of this season's Harrod's catalogue in a lovely blue Roland Mouret dress. See her also on pages 44, 46 and 48.

Before I unveil my spring sewing plans later this week, (i.e. before I figure them out) here's a little laugh. New York mag did a run down of Karl Lagerfeld's most outrageous quotes, including a wonderful compilation of filmed quips.
Love him or not, the guy is one of a kind and you can't underestimate how much he has influenced all of us. So click on for some funny viewing:

A Random Collection of Karl Lagerfeld’s Most Ridiculous Quotes

Saturday 3 March 2012

Please join us March 9, this Friday to watch son Theodor make his London debut, as he conducts the Cambridge University Symphony Orchestra at St. John's, Smith Square at 7:30.

These kids have worked so hard all year getting ready for this performance in London, they really need your support and encouragement.

Here's the info. The tickets are really cheap and plentiful, your little kids or teen musicians can meet the conductor after the show, and best of all, you can show me what's you're wearing.

Please come up and say hi! The Chanel No.6 all-time blog "characters" will be in attendance, e.g. model god-daughter fresh off the cover of this season's Harrod's catalogue!! elder son back from India, recovered husband mobile again, and darling daughter no doubt wearing something I didn't sew this time.

INFO: Theo conducting, all the info you need to be there or be square!

Friday 2 March 2012

Tejaswini Dhavale thoughtfully took time to notify me that my comments weren't open to everybody which was news to me, so I've rejigged my settings and all you Anonymouses are most welcome.

Please also add your real name, contact email or webmoniker inside the actual message even if you're posing as Miss Unknown. Or as Agatha Christie had it, "Mr. U. N. Owen."

Thursday 1 March 2012

The Narnia Muskrat Love fur coat Burda Dec 2011-116

For those of you planning Spring Break in Narnia, this is the coat that the Pevensie kids grab while passing through the magic closet.

It took only a day to cut out. I lengthened it four inches to come to the knee and cover my dress hems. The cut has a bit of twenties' vibe, being a straight silhouette but I cut it from a 38 neck and shoulder to a 44 hip, so blame me for the slight pear shape. It helps to cut the neck and shoulders to really fit so you don't end up looking like Mrs. Beaver.

(I always thought it funny that when little Lucy just grabbed a random coat, it turned out to be a mink sized for a six year old. Smart kid.)

 The fake fur I was using was so soft, I interlined it with pre-shrunk IKEA muslin before lining. (see photos of the layout a couple of posts down.) Now it doesn't just look like a coat, but insulates well.

This design is about as simple to sew as it gets. I would even put it into the hands of a beginner as the skills required are merely 
1. stitching straight seams, 
2. setting in a very forgiving furry sleeve, 
3. no notches to worry about on the collar (just stitch in a circle) and 
4. handstitching the sleeve hems and bottom hems,  (Burda was on about slipping the front pieces through the shoulder tunnel or something, just forget all that and construct it the usual way.)

One note to beginners: make sure you find and remove all the pins buried in the fur before wearing. These stockings got ripped to shreds by a forgotten pin a few seconds after the photo session!

Anyway, as you can see in this photo, this coat returns your efforts with big love—muskrat love in my case, as I couldn't find any of the lush beaver fur used by Burda. I had it ready in two easy afternoons, after weeks and weeks of putting off the project for FEAR of FUR. Just when the snow is melting. Serves me right.

Apart from the vacuuming up after cutting, working with fur is no big deal. In fact, mistakes just disappear inside all that fluff. That big warning about detaching the hairs from the seam after stitching might be an issue with a more cottony or stiffer long-hair fur, but this was so silky, a pin dragged along the seam just set things right.

But there were a few tricks I used to keep it from just flopping in all directions. I hand-understitched the inter-lining to the fur at the roll line between the facing part and the front, which are just folded over. (no seam). I also used a unusually hefty lining fabric in polyester damask.

I also bought proper fur hooks to add at the neckline of the collar join to the coat and a second set half-way up the collar so that it will sit high in cold weather, as well as a third set of hook/eyes at the waist. As you can see in Burda's photo, BurdaGirl pretending the coat fits her waist, their model doesn't really intend to ever close her coat. 

In the end this is less glamorous in the fur I found than hoped for, but more fun. To offset the Lucy-in-Narnia look, I wore it with heels and a silk blouse. A cloche hat would complete the look. 

I called it the Narnia Muskrat Love coat, but Uta misread it as the Nana Mouskouri Love coat. Well, why not. Certainly the Greeks need our love these days. Whatev!

I will make this coat again if the right fur crosses my forest path.

If you like the idea of a lot more fur for your money, you might use this as your inspiration photo. The November Burda offered a collarless fur coat that matches this design almost identically.

But first, you have to catch your bear...

Burda April preview

I realized that when I wasn't looking, Burda did NOT take me on safari this year. And I'm all packed, cleft stick, pith helmet and anti-snake venom!!
Now for me, this is an issue. It's one of my favorite features of the year and certainly more useful than the Pippa Middleton look-alike wedding dress. But yes, now here it is, April already, and I'm stuck with something they're calling "Aloha." Alohaaaawhat? Now I know that Stella McCartney has been showing us summer pyjama sets in loud, unwearable prints and surely we'll all be diving into that easy jumpsuit after the pool, but I'm sorry, it just doesn't replace safari. As I'm sure some of us know, Hawaii is actually inside the US border.

But Burda remains keen on  their Italian Dolce Vita feature. (This might not be obvious to North Americans or Antipodeans, but Burda is a German mag and to Germans, Italy translates as hols, fun, sex and freedom from being... German. It does not mean Uncle Vinnie snoring on the porch after Sunday lunch.)
On the theory that there is a hidden Gina in all of us longing to wear vulgar, obvious, too-tight, come-hither outfits that would make Michael Corleone send us back indoors "to get dressed!" you could squeeze yourself into that skirt above, or just wear a big necklace over a...uh...handkerchief?

Now I'm actually happy to see these choices because in contrast to the Vogue team, to whom I was wedded for thirty years, at least Burda imagines that we are not all alike, hopping from office to carpool to charity meet. Some of us have other lifestyles, even if it means we're looking for business while walking dilapidated streets, idly cuddling puppies, waiting for Aunt Sophie to finish ironing our sheer chiffon...uh... blouse? The business that will get you is your business.

I finished the fur coat, now known as the Narnia Muskrat Love Coat, appearing soon, and am looking for some fun spring projects. I might mix the pastel-mood ordered up in Elle recently with Burda's new take on that Philip Lim two-tone shirt up front: