Friday, November 10, 2006

San Francisco PACC Conference

This is a wreath in the window of Britex (a San Francisco fabric store) - about 18 yards of lilac organza. A good idea for an oversized holiday wreath. Beautiful!

I had a blast at the conference - learned so much. The Professional Association of Custom Clothiers is truly a worthwhile organization for anyone working as a dressmaker or related business...

This is a lovely November day in Union Square...

Stretch fabric techniques class...

Costuming class with accomplished designer of "Beach Blanket Babylon"...

Golden Gate, Alcatraz

Jellyfish at the aquarium...

My last evening in San Fran.. before leaving the pier!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Recent wedding gown

Things have been insanely busy, so here's a brief summary of what I've made lately...

This bride was nice enough to share her photos with me, and gave me permission to post them. I love the way she looks in this dress!

Monday, July 24, 2006

As part of my larger philosophy on handmade, soulful clothing and accessories, I started a modest website at . The purpose of the site is to increase the visibility of custom dressmakers, accessory makers, milliners, etc., because I can't count how many times I've heard "I've been looking for a dressmaker for so long!!!! No one does this anymore..." yada, yada, yada. Word of mouth is such strong advertising in this business, and so many of us don't do any formal advertising because it isn't really cost-effective, that I had a light-bulb moment, and decided to just go for it.

I started my own site ( about three years ago, I guess -- paying for hosting, promoting it, keeping it updated, etc., and I realized that many of my inquiries were coming from people in other states, who couldn't find a local dressmaker. Many of the smaller projects I turned down, since they just weren't worth the hassle of postage, and the other logistical complications. So, in actuality, part of what I was paying to publicize myself, was benefitting the dressmakers to whom I was referring clients. Since I have met so many dressmakers over the years, I decided that I should put the same money into a site that advertises us all, since the vast majority of clients choose a dressmaker not by skill level or artistry, but by proximity. While not a profit-making site, the contributions from those listed on the site allow it to pay for itself. And, whoa, has it worked so far...

So yes, that is why I did it, and I'm glad I did. I think the same idea could apply to many other types of businesses, where clients need highly personalized services.

The bigger picture of this idea is that as people get compliments on their garments, and mention that they were made specifically for them, it will inspire others to consider this option. Typically, every happy client I have recommends at least two others, and my business has really grown organically as a result. This is my grassroots effort to elevate the image of dressmaking and make it more appealing to the general public.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Swimsuit and cover-ups

Oh, when they say "the devil's in the details, I now know exactly what they mean. I love these suits , but the fit really needs to be exact, and getting the technical part right is tough. Fun project, though!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Jeans that fit - part VI

So - this is where we started...

And these jeans fit great...

Jeans that fit - part V

Here's how you preserve the original hem...

But I made my hem this way...

Jeans that fit - part IV

This is my adjusted waist. I did not take out the waistband seam - just cut smoothly below it, serged the raw waist edge of the jeans and topstitched right on top.

Jeans that fit - part III

I needed to cut the front rivets off before reattaching the waistband.

I am replacing the waistband button with this great no-sew jeans button. I am preserving the buttonhole, without shortening the waistband on the buttonhole side, so there will be an overlap on my waistband.

Jeans that fit- part II

I chose this lace for the embellishment - dunno why - just loved it!

I shaped the legs, according to my desired dimensions. (I used a pattern from pants I designed that fit me well.)

After shaping the back rise and rear end, I eased below the yoke to fit the new back leg.

Stitched new yoke in place and topstitched. Now I have a double yoke seam...

Making jeans that fit from jeans that don't!

So, wanting a pair of jeans to fit me the way I want them to, I decided to buy a pair of jeans, too big in every way, and then scale them down to my size.

Here are the jeans I bought. Loose fit, about 4" too big in the waist, waaay too long, waay too wide...

I used the appropriate topstitching thread... I cut away the front, leaving the center front seam intact. I cut away the back, leaving above the yoke intact.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

On Crop Circles, Phi, DaVinci, Cezanne and the "Golden Ratio"

The Golden ratio

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The golden ratio, also known as the golden proportion, golden mean, golden section, golden number, divine proportion or sectio divina, is approximately 1.618, that possesses many interesting properties.

Shapes proportioned according to the golden ratio have long been considered aesthetically pleasing in Western cultures, and the golden ratio is still used frequently in art and design, suggesting a natural balance between symmetry and asymmetry. The ancient Pythagoreans, who defined numbers as expressions of ratios (and not as units as is common today), believed that reality is numerical and that the golden ratio expressed an underlying truth about existence.
So, about three years ago, I met with a client who had an idea for some shirts with crop circle graphics on the front. Oddly enough, I keep an idea diary, and had just developed a fascination for crop circles and the concept of the "golden ratio" as a sort of mathematical proof for good design. I actually showed him my notes, so that he would know that I wasn't just making up some strange coincidence just to develop a false sense of comraderie.

I am now revisiting that idea, since I watched a TV show on mathematics, and they presented the idea that when you strike a vessel filled with water, it produces a tone -- then, if you take an identical vessel, double the size and add double the quantity of water, it will create a complementary tone. So this idea of ratios and aesthetics applies to music as well. And, it seems, you don't have to know anything about music to know what is pleasing to the ear.

Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are all sorts of other reasons why we find things beautiful or pleasing. Sometimes, I think we emotionally respond to the beauty of something that is intentionally out of synch -- something that blatantly defies this notion of proportion. Like a wailing rock guitar riff, a Jackson Pollock... Chinese Opera, for example, is like nails on a chalkboard to me... But just maybe, on the most basic level, there is scientific proof for good, basic design and aesthetic balance? Perhaps all else is acquired taste?

So what does this have to do with clothing... Well, I am really curious about how people approach "fit". It seems that every person believes that they know what "fits", but if you define fit as neither too tight nor too loose, neither too short nor too long, and stays in place during activities, that would seem to define fit. But it doesn't... People have a wide variety of preferences, and it extends beyond what they can feel - they need to examine even the most comfortable garments in the mirror. People generally don't want garments that skim their bodies - they want garments that create a flattering silhouette, which may be quite different than the body shape the garment contains. So where does that aesthetic reference point come from? That is the question I am exploring.

Maybe fashion magazines, TV, movies, the influence of the general cultural mosaic creates a client's vision of ideal "fit"... Whatever it is, it is so specific, so current, so exact, that most people don't realize how many truly unique requirements they have. That is one of the reasons why this business is so endlessly fascinating.

Okay, final strange thought - I didn't know that the artist Piet Mondrian was also thought to have used the golden ratio in his work. See the "what I'm working on" post in this blog. Is this why the dress appeals to me so?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

WAHM (Work at home Mom)

A blizzard. The perfect opportunity to update the blog...
Here's why I love working from home -- my children. I've got two beautiful kids, ages 4 years and 8 mos.

They are fantastic human beings, and I love that I can help support them by doing something I love, and am uniquely talented and qualified to do. They get a mother who is happy, focused, and involved. I get a flexible schedule and no commute. I know a lot of moms thrive on the adult interaction they get in an office environment, but I find it suffocating. Even before kids and marriage, I could hardly stand to be cooped up in an office for any period of time. It just isn't who I am. I work a heck of alot, and my lifestyle forces me to be insanely committed and organized, but I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Funny thing is, I look at my life since my daughter was born, and wonder how I would have maintained any successful 9-to-5 had I not chosen this path.

Here's the chronology:
Sept 11, 2001 - our city is severely impacted by the terrorist attacks. Subways, phones, communications all severly impacted. (I sew and design to relieve stress)
October 10, 2001: After a tough pregnancy, complicated by dehydration/severe hyperemesis, our daughter is born! (I started designing at night and during naptimes to earn money and relieve stress)
April 2002: My father is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. (I sew ALL the time to relieve stress)
June 2002: We move closer to my parents' home,playing musical apartments with my sister, so we can help with his care. (I design to earn money and relieve stress)
July 2002: We begin home hospice care until his passing in August. (I take a short break)
February 2003: We move into the family home, switching places with my sister. (I sew to earn money/relieve stress)
June 2005: After another difficult pregnancy, our son is born! He is born with a congential skull abnormality (craniosynostosis), and needs extensive surgery. (After finishing two wedding gowns, I take a break)
October 2005: The neurosurgery is performed, and, after a few weeks, he recovers beautifully! (I design to earn money, express myself creatively, balance and enhance my life)

In between, plenty of wedding dresses, jackets, pants, fun and wild projects have been created... All the while, the business has continued to thrive and grow. Life is amazing, isn't it? I can't separate my professional life from my personal life - and that's just how it is.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

To the aspiring designer...

It is a new year. Creative energy abounds!

This is my special post to all of you aspiring designers, creative artists and dreamers out there...

It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Starting a design business is a very serious, expensive endeavor. At this point, the ideas may still be in your head. There is an idea, a sketch, a vision, a philosophy... but it doesn't mean a thing if you have no products to display. There are a million decisions to make... fabric choices, notions, choosing suppliers and negotiating deals ... it can be overwhelming. If you do not know how to sew very well, make patterns, drape, or sketch, you will need to employ people who do.

Initially, you will need at least one trial garment to show as an example of what you can do. You'll need to take at least one step in the direction of starting a business by taking classes, reading relevant trade publications, and finding ways to develop some tangible version of what you would like to sell. You'll need someone with the technical skill to pull it out of your head, and into 3-dimensions. Then, you will have a garment to take to potential business associates, show to prospective customers, patternmakers, etc. to help determine what is feasible, and whether there is a market for it.

Before you invest (and possibly lose) a huge stack of cash, please take the time to educate yourself as thoroughly as possible. While I cannot significantly shorten your lurning curve, I
can help straighten the path a bit.

This book will help you much more than any other publication I've seen... Don't take my word for it - Read the Amazon reviews!

I firmly believe in being honest and fair with my clients, helping them reach the next level. While I can't take you all the way there, I can point you toward the elevator!

Think you'd like to collaborate with me?

For more about my business, visit .