Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chanel and That Jacket, American Sewing Expo 2012

Claire Shaeffer describes herself as a "garment engineer".  Visiting Parisian couture workooms, dissecting haute couture garments, interviewing Savile Row workers and collecting Chanel - owns over a 1,000 Chanel and couture garments, Claire knows couture techniques and gleefully shares them.  Admiring students - and recently I was one - hung on every word and technique Claire shared.

A Chanel Jacket from Claire's Collection
Along with Chanel Inspired Jackets
Last week at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI, I had the pleasure of taking Claire's class.  I consider myself a quilter, but my sewing started with garments and I find myself increasingly enjoying garment construction.  At first I thought I might be in over my head taking this intense hands-on couture level class, Chanel and That Jacket.  However as the class progressed I learned I already knew and already use many basic techniques such as quilting and many hand stitches.  The difference - huge differences - in couture is fit, time, patience and thoughtfulness that goes into the garment construction, or in one word, craftsmanship.  Oh, yes . . . money is a huge difference too.

Juliette Shows Her Couture Techniques
Including the Quilted Jacket Body
The class had 30 students.  Through a drawing we buddied up to use Pfaff machines.  Juliette was my new sewing buddy from Austin, TX.  Juliette is an avid sewist and already made Claire's Chanel inspired Vogue Pattern #8804.  Her sewing techniques, quilting and use of chain weight on the hem were skillful and no wonder, Juliette along with half the class were members of The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals. 

The primary focus of our class were the intricacies of couture techniques applied to a three piece sleeve that Chanel avidly used.  I learned about generous seam allowances, thread tracing and quilting techniques.  We did lots of hand work.  When we machine stitched Claire said she uses SCHMETZ, so of course I had to make a video.  Find our which three SCHMETZ needles are Claire's favorites.  She also prefers to use the Swiss Iris Super Fine Pins - the ones in the adorable little blue Klip-Klap tin.
Claire is An Avid Writer and Educator

Except for this American Sewing Expo class, Claire has cut back on her traveling and now teaches an intensive 5 day workshop in Palm Springs only twice a year.  Lucky for us her knowledge is easily available in books, magazine articles including Threads and Vogue Patterns, and DVDs.  In February 2013 Claire's new book will be released,  Couture Sewing Tailoring Techniques.  I can hardly wait to get my copy. 

Rhonda Pierce and Claire Shaeffer
Thanks Claire for a terrific class.  Learning about thread tracing, easy bound buttonholes, creating trims and the importance of hand basting, you inspired me to sew for better fit and mostly . . . . craftsmenship.

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