Thursday, September 29, 2011

More ASE Adventures

After all the excitement of the Passion for Fashion show Saturday night, I had a whole day just to enjoy the expo. Readers, I feel like I could have spent a whole week there and not have gotten enough! It was amazing. I started out by wandering the booths. I met Nicole from Simplicity--yes, the very same Nicole who answered my Slenderette questions in this post! She hooked me up with a copy of the new Simplicity Simply the Best Sewing Book and I read it in the bathtub later that night. It's really good! I especially appreciate that they include a lot of serger options, because not many books do.

I also meandered over to the Kai Scissors booth, where they had tester scissors and fabric samples you could cut--everything from slippery lining fabric to faux leather. It was so fun! I went a little crazy with the scissor testing.
Here's the super-nice Jim from Kai. It's possible I came home with a couple new pairs of scissors as well. I've been using them a bit, and I can see why people are so crazy about Kai. They're super sharp and dreamy to cut with.
 I also took a couple classes. The first one was Copycat Sewing with the fabulous Kathy Ruddy.
Kathy is a wonderful teacher, and I had many lightbulb moments in her class. She showed us how to make a copy of a RTW garment using wax paper and your fingernail. It was awesome. She's got amazing energy and spunk, and I highly recommend you take a class with her if you can.

As I was leaving the class, I had to take a picture of this sign:
Afternoon brought a little more wandering time. I ended up at the Islander Sewing Systems booth, where Mickey (below) was nice enough to give me a personal demo of the techniques. Islander is a system using industry methods for faster, more efficient sewing--no pins! She taught me how to ease, sew curves, and install a lapped zipper using the skills and it was highly impressive.
I treated myself to one piece of fabric, a plum-colored sweater knit from Haberman. I've never sewn with sweater knits, and I'm eager to give it a try. I somehow managed to resist this Carolina Herrara sequin fabric (but let's face it, I could still mail order it, right?):

I finished up the day by taking a bra fitting class with Anne St. Clair of Needlenook Fabrics. I learned a ton (did you know that if you make your own bras, you can make odd band sizes, like a 35C? Amazing!). It made me extremely excited about trying my hand a bra making one of these days.

I didn't get a picture of Anne because she taught most of the class with her shirt off, so she could demonstrate fitting areas on her own bra. That takes guts! But she was super comfortable, and before the end of the class, everyone was lifting up their blouses to talk about their fitting issues. It was fabulous.

I will totally be going back to ASE; it was heaven on earth for sewists. Hope to see you in Novi next year!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Is "Fashion Forward"?

This is a question I'm eager to hear your thoughts on, readers. During the Passion for Fashion competition, we were told repeatedly that our goal was to make our ensemble "fashion forward." As the hours passed, I realized I have no idea what that means.

To me, I suppose I think "avant-garde" or "ahead of its time." But what does that look like? Could you pick it out on the runway? Could you come up with it yourself?

As the show went on, I joked that my aesthetic is really "fashion backward." And, well, it is. I love the looks of the past and I only make subtle tweaks to them in my own designs. I mean, Dior's New Look doesn't really need improving upon. It just needs a few adjustments to make it wearable today. Is that fashion forward enough? Would Heidi Klum approve? (No.)

During the competition, we had a great mentor named Becky Fulgoni. She was like Tim Gunn, but with motorcycle boots and a shaved head. Her critiques were fantastic. Her critique of my work (not surprisingly) was "what is fashion forward about this?" That was the hardest question to answer. As the hours passed, I felt less and less sure. And I realized: I have no idea what fashion forward is. (I only know that McQueen was fashion forward, and that is the extent of my knowledge on that term.)

But really, do any of us know what fashion forward is? Could we agree upon it if we saw it? Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. Here's a picture of me and my model, Samia, before the runway show!
photo: Charles Islander

Monday, September 26, 2011

Passion for Fashion Recap

Hey friends! I just landed in home in New York, and I have SO MUCH to tell you about American Sewing Expo. In fact, it probably won't fit in one post. So let's start with the event that brought me to the expo: the contest! As I mentioned last week, I was one of the finalists in the Passion for Fashion competition, a live Project Runway-style challenge. Thursday night we met at the expo center and picked our models in random numerical order. I was 9th out of 12, but still got an incredible model named Samia. Little did I know exactly how perfect she would be for my creation. (See what I did there? Foreshadowing!)

Friday morning we arrived early at the show and received our challenge from Janet Pray, president of ASE and all-around awesome lady. It was very reality TV: we walked into a room with movie posters hanging all around the walls. The challenge? Pick a movie poster and design an ensemble inspired by the movie, a character in it, or the poster itself. There were lots of great choices: Breakfast at Tiffany's, Alice in Wonderland, Casablanca. But I knew which one I had to have:

Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite artists, as well as a style icon of mine (blogged here!). Readers, I had to have it. Luckily I was 4th to pick (in reverse order from model selection) and got it easily. (I later found out that no one else wanted it anyway!)

We got to work on sketching. I immediately thought of Frida's body cast--she was in a horrific bus accident in her teens, which resulted in massive injuries (including a broken spinal column) and necessitated 35 surgeries over the course of her life to correct. She began painting while she was bed-ridden, and later would paint her body casts, using a mirror to help her.

I saw one of her casts in person at the Casa Azul in Mexico City, and it looked like a strapless bustier to me. I also thought of skeletons--Frida's broken bones and Day of the Dead sugar skulls--and a skeletal structure became integral to the design.

After sketching, we were given $100 to shop for supplies on the expo floor. Here I am picking out some felted wool rayon at Crawford Designs. I also bought fabric at Haberman and Sew Batik, and a couple gorgeous trims from Soutache.

 Anyway, long story short, here's the outfit I made over the course of the challenge:

The bustier was made in navy cotton, and I used ivory petersham ribbon on the outside as external casings for spiral steel boning. I arranged the ribbon in a subtle ribcage design and adorned it with bows, because Frida was nothing if not feminine. The back is similar, without the bows. There is vertical and horizonal boning, creating a cage effect.

The skirt is batik, as Frida loved folk art. There's horsehair in the hem (of course!) and border-print ruffles peeking out from below. The capelet is in a saffron-colored felted wool/rayon, and it elongated Samia's neck in the way Frida's portraits often did (you can check out some portraits here if you're interested. My favorite is "Broken Column."). The final touch was a bright rose-red silk ribbon which was twisted through Samia's hair.

How perfect is she???

I draped all three garment patterns, which felt like a big accomplishment. We had to sew everything over Friday and Saturday (in the middle of the expo floor, no less), ending at 3pm to get ready for the big runway show. 

We were interviewed by the judges first (one of them was Suede from Project Runway Season 5), and it was hard. I was nervous.

We followed that up with the runway show, where we got to talk about our inspiration for the garments. Samia looked stunning. After all the garments were presented, they announced the top six and I made it! We were interviewed by the judges and some audience members while onstage (I felt like I was in a pageant). We made our way backstage while the judges deliberated.

We came back out and the winners were announced, starting with third place. It was me! Hurrah! I won a Babylock Melody sewing machine.

Here are the winning garments. The center is First Place (inspired by Alice in Wonderland) and on the right is Second Place (inspired by 101 Dalmatians).

Overall, it was a fantastic experience. Everyone was super nice (no reality show back-stabbing) and it got me thinking outside of my usual design choices. The sewing wasn't as stressful as I anticipated; the hard part was the designing. I think I'll have more to write about that later--as well as my recap of the expo itself, of course. I have the garments home with me, so I can show you more construction details if you're interested. Just don't ask to see how the ruffles are attached--that was the one time crunch! (Don't worry, it's not glue or staples.) It's just not very pretty . . . and of course everyone at the reception afterwards wanted to flip up her hem and inspect it. Oy. Anyway, more to come!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Anyone Heading to the American Sewing Expo?

Hello friends! I'm packing my bags to head to ASE in the morning, where I'll be competing in Passion for Fashion. (Wish me luck!) Starting Friday morning, I'll be deep in the Project Runway-style competition (though hopefully not behaving in the Project Runway style--you know, throwing hissy fits and breaking down from sleep deprivation and an inflated ego). But tomorrow night I'll have a bit of free time, and it got me thinking . . . anyone up for dinner or a glass of something festive? E-mail me if you are!

Packing for this thing is nerve-wracking. Unlike a certain reality TV show, you're allowed to bring your own fusibles, zippers, etc  . . . and one pattern drafting book. Oh the pressure to decide which one! I decided on Design Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis since my copy has prestigious roots, which must make it lucky, right?

We contestants will get our secret challenge Friday morning, shop for fabric at the show, and then sew all day Friday and Saturday, on the expo floor where attendees can watch (!). The garments will be presented and judged at a fashion show Saturday night. Oh the excitement! And the anxiety, too. Will I choke under the pressure? Burn a hole in my garment? I suppose we shall see. I will report back as soon as possible!

The blog will likely stay pretty quiet until I'm back next week. I have some fun coat and bombshell dress posts planned. Until then--hope to see you in Novi!

P.S. The last step of my skirt sew-along posts is up at BurdaStyle!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gone Cuddling

I meant to get up early today and write a post but decided to focus my efforts on cuddling instead. It was Henry's idea, and I think it was a good one.

Hope things are cuddly in your corner of the world!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Skirt Step Three

While I'm having an amazing time in Minnesota (it's fantastic here! Love it!), don't think I've forgotten that you need to be working on your skirts, my dears. Week Three of my pleated skirt sew-along is now posted on BurdaStyle. Come learn how to apply a simple and sleek grosgrain waistband and how to insert an invisible zipper. We'll finish off the sew-along next week with hemming. Are you sewing along? I hope so!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

All the News from St. Paul!

Hello, dear readers! Sorry I've been an absentee blogger this week. I'm afraid I may have given the impression that my book is done. Alas, while the photography is complete (hurrah!), there's still a lot of writing and revising work for me to do. And in addition to scrambling to get that work done, I'm a jet-setting lady too. I'm here at The Creative Connection as a BurdaStyle ambassador. I salute you, my subjects! As promised, here's all the news:
  • OMG, it's freezing here. I'm in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, and we're experiencing an early frost. Carol from BurdaStyle and I made a trip to the Mall of America (how novel!) and bought tights. I got these cute lace ones in nude. I'm in love.
  • We also stopped by the Bettie Page store where I bought the new book Retro Makeup by Lauren Rennells. I started it (in the bathtub!) last night and it's incredibly well done.
  • Last night we had dinner with some gals from Etsy as well as Gussy, who's a peach. We've decided we should go on the road together as The Gussy & Gertie Show. 
  • We set up the booth this morning. That pic above is me posing with my new friend for the weekend (we'll just call her "Singer"). We're in the "lounge," where we'll be making cute little bags. 
  • The shirt dress I'm wearing was made recently from a pattern of my own design. Let me be coy and say perhaps you shall have the opportunity to make the pattern yourself someday! So I dearly hope you like it. It has shirring in the back so it's super comfy.
  • I'm also wearing my "conversation clogs." People love to stop me to talk about them so I make lots of new friends!
  • My editor, Melanie Falick, is coming in soon and we're bunking together tonight. She'll probably chain me to my laptop until I finish the book.
  • I'm teaching a hand stitches class tomorrow at 8 a.m. (yikes) and a blogging class on Saturday afternoon. Hope to see you there!
What's going on in your world, readers? What's in your sewing machine?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Next Up in VoNBBS: The Raglan Sleeve Coat!

If you started reading my blog back in the day (the 2009 era), you know that the whole purpose of it, originally, was to complete all 14 projects from a 1952 book called Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing. You also know that I shamefully ditched that project (after completely 8 garments) when I got too busy with my own book. Well, it's time to get back in the saddle!

Project #9 will be the Raglan-Sleeve Coat, a roomy swing coat. I started by making a muslin. I thought I would need extra room since my pattern is intended for a 32" to 34" bust. But no! It fits perfectly. It's not really much to see yet, is it?

I've also been gathering my supplies. I'm making it in a pretty blue wool/angora coating from Paron's. It will have a caramel-colored charmeuse lining with big white polka dots. And the icing on the cake? A removable faux fur collar. I can't wait to cozy up in it this fall!

The bound buttonholes are made, and now I'm diving into the rest of the construction. Of course, I will keep you updated as I go along. More to come!

P.S. Also on the interwebs today: check out my interview with Alison Reid, author of Stitch Magic--the book that inspired my STC Craft Stitch-Along!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Finished Sew-Along Skirt

I finished my skirt for the BurdaStyle sew-along I'm leading and I thought I would post it here ASAP--all the better to entice you to join the sew-along! There's still plenty of time to join up. You can go read the first and second posts to get started. The next post will cover the grosgrain waistband and invisible zipper, and it will go up early next week.

The pattern is this cute pleated skirt (downloadable from BurdaStyle) and I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I don't think I would have picked this design myself, but I love it! Sometimes it's good to get out of a style comfort zone, don't you think? 

The fabric is Joel Dewberry's Rose Bouquet, which was provided by Free Spirit fabrics. (I also got a big package of goodies from Coats & Clark. Oh, the perks of being a sewing blogger!) It's a home dec sateen that works nicely for a full skirt like this one. It comes in several lovely colorways. I think this one is called Jade.

The skirt is pretty easy to construct, and it's done completely by machine. The waistband is a length of grosgrain ribbon, which was so simple to do and looks really cute.

Have I tempted you to join the sew-along? I hope so!

P.S. I'm guessing some of you will ask me about the shoes I'm wearing in these photos. Don't. They are the shoes from hell and they will only bring you unhappiness and pain. I can barely wear them for 5-minute bursts before wanting to chuck them into a dumpster.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Making a Muslin from a Vintage Pattern

I've finally refined my method for this, and while I have a feeling it may be a totally obvious method, I thought I'd share it anyway! This is a non-fussy way to make a muslin from a vintage pattern without tracing it first--and it doesn't harm the pattern at all. This only works for perforated patterns, not the printed kind. Here's what I do.

First, I lay my muslin out, on the fold. Next, lay your first pattern piece on top of the muslin, check the grainline, and hold it down with weights. (Note: you can use a dry iron on vintage patterns, but the folds are very hard to get out completely. I just smooth it out as much as possible by hand, unless there's a really egregious wrinkle.)

Transfer the pattern perforations by filling them in with a pencil. Also fill in notches.

If you're not sure what any of the markings are, refer back to your pattern instructions, where they'll be labeled.

Make any pattern alterations you know you'll need right off the bat. Here, I've added width below the armhole.

Next, cut out the piece with a rotary cutter, being very careful not to nick the pattern.

Remove the pattern and weights and hold the cut pieces together with a few pins. Label the pieces, making a note of any alterations you made.

Transfer the markings to the other piece by putting tracing paper face-up underneath your muslin pieces. I use a blunt knitting needle to transfer the marks. 

Now both pieces are marked!

If your pieces have a grainline marking (which is denoted by two large circles), I connect the circles and transfer the grainline to the other piece so I can use it as my pattern later.

Now your pieces are all marked and ready to assemble as a muslin! You can later rip apart the muslin and use the pieces as your pattern, which saves you having to make a tracing of the vintage pattern. I only make a muslin with the crucial pieces (no facings or anything), so I will later carefully cut out those pieces on the fashion fabric with weights and a rotary cutter or make tracings of them if needed.

Like I said, this may be completely obvious, but I'm pleased with it anyway. It kills two birds with one stone (the pattern copying and muslin making) and is very gentle on brittle patterns. Any tips of your own to share, readers?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Doings Around the Internet

Hi readers! A couple quick things to note:

  • The Stitch Magic Stitch-Along culminated with a post on smocking. Guys, I actually tried smocking! I made a mess of the right and wrong sides (hence all the weird dots on the sample below), but I still think it looks pretty cool. And that's not all! I'll have an interview with Stitch Magic author Alison Reid this week, so look out for that. 

  • I'm leading a beginner's sew-along on BurdaStyle in honor of National Sewing Month. Do you like my official graphic, above? I love how dorky I look in that photo. The project is a cute skirt with front pleats and you can go read the first and second posts. I'm really enjoying this one. I've never done pleats with underlays, so I'm getting that under my belt (so to speak, haha). And even though I didn't pick out the skirt pattern, I'm loving how it's turning out! The underlays give it a bit of vintage-y fullness that's really cute. I can't wait to pair it with my kicky green clogs and take it for a whirl on the town.  
That's all for now, friends. Hope to see you all over the sewing blogosphere!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Padding a Peplum

Hey readers, remember when I used to blog about garments I was making? Well, I've still been making garments. To be specific, I've made TWENTY-SEVEN GARMENTS without blogging about them. That's hard for someone like me, who can go on and on about the most mundane sewing topics. Twenty-seven garments, and not a peep. But I decided that I can show you the inner workings of a jacket peplum, since it doesn't really give much away.

Over a year ago, I wrote about hip padding in vintage suits. As you probably know, I love any sort of intricate inner workings on a garment: boning, pad stitching, etc. But I had yet to try hip padding . . . until now! I love the look of padded hips, and they've been favored by such varied designers as Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen. There aren't many instructions for this kind of thing out there, so I pretty much winged it (wung it?). First I thought I would pad stitch the hips as I did for the underside of the lapel of the jacket, but the stitches showed a bit on the outside. So instead I made a little inner padding.

I started with a layer of needlepunch in the shape of the peplum (with the seam allowances cut off); needlepunch is just a very firm batting. I cut out the darts on the peplum, and zigzagged them together.

I did the same thing to a layer of hair canvas and layered it with the peplum. I beveled the upper edge of the layers so they wouldn't create a ridge on the outside of the jacket.

Next, I padstitched the peplum in vertical rows, leaving the bottom inch or so unstitched.

For the bottom inch, I changed direction and used a shorter stitch to encourage the peplum to round toward the body. (This is what you do on the outside edge of a lapel to get it to curl toward the chest.) As I was padstitching, I curved the padding over my hand to shape it.

The pad stitching can go all the way through the layers, since it won't show on the outside at all.

Next, I pinned it to the jacket underlining and catch stitched it in place.

Finally, I steamed the whole thing together over a ham and let it dry.

That's it! It resulted in a very shapely peplum, and I was pleased with the result. It was still a bit soft, though, so I think I might try layers of buckram, hair canvas, and muslin next time (as suggested by the pattern I blogged here) for even more shaping.

Hope you've enjoyed this little garment post. I'm now done with said TWENTY-SEVEN garments (yes, dramatic caps are necessary), so I can start sewing for fun again soon. And I have a plan: it's back to VoNBBS!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bombshell On the Town

I've never really blogged this dress before, and now seems the perfect opportunity! This is the dress we make in my online course Perfect Fit Bombshell Dresses. May I point out the faux-sarong skirt?

And the contrasting waist stay?

And perhaps you'd like to see the grosgrain zipper guard?

Okay, enough shilling my course. (But seriously! You can learn how to make all these details right here! For the low, low price of $29.99!)

Jeff and I went out on the town to celebrate his book release last night. Here's what my date wore:

OMG guys, my husband is so cute.

First we stopped at the Union Square Barnes & Noble to see Jeff's book on the shelf.

A saleslady yelled at us for taking pictures in the store. Seriously, that's not allowed? You'd think we were in Prada or something. But then she relented when we told her manager that Jeff wrote the book, and they asked him to sign copies!

I bought a copy. Did you know it's dedicated to me?


Then we went to dinner at Craft, which was AMAZING.

Whew, what a night!

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