Friday, May 30, 2014

Claire Shaeffer, Chanel and Palm Springs, CA


Life has been a whirr since I returned from my utterly fabulous week of learning in Palm Springs  with Claire Shaeffer. It was followed just a few days later  with a planned vacation in the White Mountains of NH with family. Talk about contrast! Now life has settled a bit. I'm back to work and finally have a moment to share with you this incredible sewing experience.

First, start saving now and do yourself a favor and take this class! Claire's depth of  experience and skill and those breathtaking couture garments will make it all worth while. The hotel above is where all our classes were held and where us non commuters had wonderful accommodations for the length of the trip. The Palm Mountain Resort is right in the center of all the action in Palm Springs. Each day I was able to go for long walks before class and at night visit one of the many restaurants for dinner. Palm Springs is gorgeous, perfectly manicured and a great place to window shop as well. I took this pic of a store  window because I thought the ideas shown on the knit tops were really clever and useful for future efforts.Love those faux straps on top left.

And then there were our classes! Claire is a treasure, an elegant gamine of a woman whose knowledge of couture, couturiers and "mains" (the " hands ", sewists in the couture workrooms) is priceless. She shares generously of her time and knowledge and is a great teacher. Here she is instructing us on inserting wiggan into our hems, all the way it is done at Chanel.
We were able to purchase hard to get supplies to take back home for our own creations and you bet I brought home lots of various widths of wiggan. Wiggan is a bias strip of woven interfacing with a crisp hand. Yes, there IS interfacing in those jackets, in the hems and sleeve vents and edges!

Above is my attempt at starting a Channel mitered corner, done quite differently than other methods I've used. That is what we were there to learn - how things are actually done at Chanel and Claire delivered. When someone can tell you the difference between a Valentino miter and a Chanel miter, well, I'm impressed and listening! Claire's knowledge of couture is personally experienced and deep. She has taken apart numerous garments for study and had an amazing collection of garments for us to peruse. Every day she brought in another dozen or so of actual Chanel garments for us to "dissect" visually. What a learning opportunity that was! First, we were able to see first hand the incredible techniques as well as admire their beauty. And there was SO much beauty. If you have ever wanted to see or pet a real couture garment, this class far exceeded that expectation. It was inspiring to see how each garment interpreted the classic style. There were collars, lapped center fronts, belts and all sorts of variances from what we all perceive as the Chanel jacket. That taught me that I can make pretty much any jacket with these techniques and the results would be just as lush and lovely as the classic cardigan style. And I will!

The buttons on these garments were works of art in themselves, like fine jewelry. It was such a treat to see them. What appears to be a selvedge edge is machine topstitched for the above edge treatment.

This garment above has a facing at the hem and center front. Again, not exactly what we have been primed to expect and I love how this taught me that I can use these couture techniques and make the jacket I want. There could be a facing, a collar or one of the many unique edge treatments. Wow, those edge treatments! Another observation - those chains in the hems are much heavier than I expected. I have been using the wrong chain! 

And then there were the sewing friends I made at this retreat! Is that not always the best part? 


From left to right, Brenda, Lynne, myself, Claire, Kristie and Lori. Not in the photo were Linda, Janet and Louise. Linda was our savior, helping us with our struggles and encouraging us every step of the way. Janet supplied comic relief and really was a hoot. Louise was in the background perfecting the latest design for Vogue from Claire. I won't let out any secrets but will say it's a stunner and not a jacket. You will just have to wait. The design will look great on every woman and I predict it to be a big seller!

Kristie is an amazing newbie, relative to the rest of us. She has been sewing five years and man, she is self driven to become a master. Kristie was my table mate and I couldn't have been happier about it. I predict Kristie will be a great sewist as she mastered her lessons really well. Her skill level was awesome given her length of time sewing. Way to go, Kristie!


Brenda's smile is infectious and I always strained to hear the fun happening at her table. Let's just say she is "pithy and astute." Brenda is an instructor in garment construction at a college in Arizona, another delightful woman with whom  to share this passion  of  sewing


And here we have the amazing Lori, draper and patternmaker extraordinaire. She also teaches textiles at the same college as Brenda.  I loved hearing her views from the patternmaker standpoint, very informative!


And the lovely Lynne, shown here with Claire admiring this really interesting jacket. It has wool facings approximately 6 inches deep and they extend past the garment edge as trim. So interesting!
 Lynne and her hubby are artists, she with a needle and he as a sculptor. Lynne makes incredible cosplay garments and blogs as well. I have added her blog on the right to my blog roll. Lynne  asked great questions.

People, WE LEARNED SO MUCH! Claire had another class the following week continuing with more of the Chanel suit. Oh, to not have to have gone back to the reality of my job, albeit one I love... Future classes are planned for pant fitting as well as couture pants, a couture dress class and more. Claire has been in the workrooms of Paris and London and worked directly with couturiers. Her anecdotes are priceless.  She works with the Museum of the City of NY, Phoenix Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of arts and numerous other museums around the world. Her resume is very impressive and in case you have been visiting another planet, Claire designs great patterns for Vogue with more coming. She has held faculty positions at numerous colleges and has authored numerous books and DVDs. I think we could all say we got the most amazing education in our week with Claire in Palm Springs.



And then there was Palm Springs. Its beauty was in such contrast to the green Adirondacks and rolling fields  that surround me here at home. It is a small town, very modern, spotless, and lush in a desert sort of way. I had never seen the desert and was captivated. The endless cobalt skies that backed the stark grey mountains surrounding the town were the perfect backdrop for a real life oasis. Rosemary shrubs, lots of wafting scents, blooming trees and giant palms were everywhere. You could tell water was precious but in the evening tiny misters on edges of buildings provided a fine spray to fall on all passers by. It dropped the temp a good 20 degrees when you hit the misters. This was a new experience for this New Englander. Temps ran from 103 to 106 while we ate lunch on our patio. I never found it uncomfortable as the arid air magically made it bearable. I enjoyed my long walks no problem in the heat.

I had my breakfast under the red umbrellas every morning, just a short walk from the hotel.

My head is still spinning. We hope to do a sew along, or maybe we could call it a "sew together"  and make our jackets. I am on a quest for the right fabric and you know how it is when you have a specific vision in your mind. Hopefully my swatching from Banksville Fabrics will provide what I need. I didn't see the colorway I wanted at the Linton site but will keep looking. Claire had some marvelous fabrics I had never seen that we could purchase, including a luscious silk muslin. It was certainly a week of sensory delights.


In our class we built our half jackets with collars, linings, vents,  bound buttonholes in the lining, and all the other required details of a couture jacket. Claire instructed us patiently and clearly with each step. When it took us an entire week and then some to learn and do these techniques you can certainly see why the finished jackets take a hundred plus hours to complete.

This class is so worth it. Claire was a fabulous instructor, totally knowledgeable of her subject and very generous. The women I met were all so much fun and what a treat to be with those who share your passion equally. I can't put into words what a great experience it all was. I hope all of you get a chance to take a class from Claire. You will be so glad you did........Bunny

30 comments:

  1. That sounds fantastic, thank you for all the details. I look forward to seeing what you make as a result. And I am sure you enjoyed the sunshine after your tough winter. Happy spring!

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  2. Better start saving....
    Thank you for a lovely reciew and sharing your experiences. Would love to do it too, though will not be in the near future.

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  3. Oh, your hint about the new pattern is tantalising! Thank you for sharing the lovely photos and story of your trip.

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  4. Beautiful pictures, which I will be sure to re-visit this coming winter. A very complete review, makes me feel I am back in the action. Looking forward to seeing your fabric choices for the sew-together.

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    1. A very nice review Bunny. You were all such a wonderful group of ladies to get to know. Miss seeing you all and our lively lunch conversations.
      Linda Homan

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  5. You brought it all back to me! I particularly loved being able to touch the garments.

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  6. Hi there Bunny,
    Welcome back home!! It sounds like you had such a memorable time with everyone. What a fantastic experience.
    Please may I ask, when will we get to see your jacket?? Can't wait. xx

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  7. Hi Bunny, I've been waiting patiently to hear how your trip went, and am thrilled to know you had sew much fun!!! Thank you very much for letting us in on all the details...I loved hearing all about it. What I wouldn't give to pet those gorgeous fabrics and can't wait to see your choice for your next jacket. Oh...and the vogue pattern...I'll be keeping an eye out for that one : ).

    The size of the weight chain surprised me. It looks just like something we used when making custom drapes. Our drapes were almost entirely hand sewn, and the weight at the bottom made them hang perfectly.

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  8. Wow, what an opportunity Bunny. Sounds like an amazing trip. Workshops are always a real charge. You learn as much from each other as you do the instructor. I also love being surrounded by others who have the same passion. I can't wait to see your finished jacket. Thanks for the report and luscious photos.

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  9. I am waiting to see what you do with your new knowledge and skills. Of course you had great skills already! I am hoping that you will be making a Chanel style jacket that isn't a cardigan style, which is not a great look for me. It looks like it was an amazing class.

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    1. It was and I am planning on something "not boxy". One technique we learned was how to shape these jackets with steam and manipulating the lining. I was amazed at the variety of style the jackets had which certainly added to our learning. This class is right up your alley, Nancy.

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  10. How heavy is that chain? I found that when I bought chain for my sweater jacket it was too light.

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    1. I don't know an actual weight but it was far heavier than any I had previously used. My previous efforts didn't seem to affect the hang much and appeared "for show". Claire's chain was pretty and much heavier. She does carry the chain if you care to purchase and has a facebook page for contact. Her chain was available in silver or gold and was like what we saw in the actual jackets. Jackets with heavy buttons did not have chain in the front hem area.

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  11. It sounds like you found the perfect sewing retreat for yourself. I'm glad you were able to go and learn from Claire and the others. I'm looking forward to seeing how you use these new skills in your sewing!

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  12. Glad you are back home. Your descriptive writing is such a treat. Now I'm kicking myself for moving from CA. It really is lovely there.

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  13. Thanks for sharing the class with us! It sounds like you had an amazing time!

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  14. Thank you for writing such an excellent review. I feel as if I'd been there too! I love Claire's work, I have most of her books including the one on how to make the Chanel jacket. Like Dixie I'm looking forward to seeing your new skills in use.

    Now if Claire would only do a class in the UK, I wish, I wish!

    Linda xx

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  15. wow what a fabulous experience - I too look forward to what you will be sewing after this call - Like Sigrid I would love to attend one of her workshops - its at time like this I feel the UK is so far away!!!

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    1. I would suggest you and Linda go on her facebook page and ask when she can do a class in the UK? She does travel there so it may not be out of the realm of possibility.

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  16. Thanks for sharing your trip with us! I also better start saving, your experience makes me want to continue learning more and more every day.

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  17. Bunny, I was so excited when I saw this post come up in my feed... What a wonderful experience you had in such a beautiful setting.

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  18. Thank you, Bunny, for this wonderful review! It sounds like a special way to spend a week.

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  19. I'm drooling, those jackets look so scrumptous !!

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    1. There were so many,Kathy. They were truly inspirational.

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  20. I've been anxiously waiting for you to post about your class. What exactly did you make in the class? Is your half jacket a sample of the techniques? Or do you complete the rest at home? I think I can take the next class in January, much better weather. I find it funny that you said you didn't mind the heat so much. You would if you had to live in it for 8 months each year and had to pay the huge electricity bills! It's brutal in the desert.

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    1. That's sort of my sentiment about our winters up here. The heating bills can be incredible.

      This class taught technique and everything necessary was supplied by Claire. We each got the same fabrics and learned everything from the initial thread tracing through to the chain hem at the end. I found particularly interesting the buttons we learned to make and the inner bound buttonholes on the lining. Our days were very structured and we never stopped working and sewing but it was great fun. We learned technique and brought our samples home along with our notebooks and all the goodies our budgets would allow. It was not a "project" type of class and I really liked that. Now I feel ready to start another Chanel type jacket and the next one will be so much better than the last. I have learned a lot that I haven't seen in other places. We each left class with our half jackets and many other samples as well.

      As far as the heat, I am born and mostly raised in the deep South. We never had AC and I have never had a problem with the heat. My poor hubby from Cape Cod, now that's a different story!

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  21. I so enjoyed *experiencing* this class through your post, Bunny! I felt like I was right there beside you. How wonderful to be able to learn from & enjoy such wonderfully talented people. I am SEW glad you got to go!!!!!!!

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  22. What a fabulous week and experience you had! I'm adding this to my wish list for sure. Thanks for sharing :)

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  23. Hi, Bunny,
    What a lovely review. Thank you. It was truly a delight to meet you and see the beautiful things you had made.

    I had an email from Anniken, my student from Norway, this morning who is one of your followers. I cease to be amazed at how small the world is.

    I went to Costume Society last week in Baltimore. Now I'm finishing the dress pattern and its directions which must be shipped Wednesday.

    Yes, I do go to the UK. I've never taught a class there, but have a contact and we're discussing one in or near Carlisle. Your UK ladies can send me an email if they're interested.

    All good wishes, Claire

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    1. Thanks so much, Claire, for checking in. I can't wait till that dress pattern is complete!

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