Sunday, September 30, 2007

On lace, running a business, and raising a child

It has become so much the fashion to worship all things ancient that most lovers of fine lace would prefer to have it a century old; and yet there never was a time when laces were more beautiful, more artistic, and more unique in design than just at the present day; for modern laces preserve the best features of the laces that have gone before them, and have added so many new inspirations that except for the sentiment, the romance, or the history connecting this scrap with a title, that with a famous beauty, and another with some cathedral's sacred treasure, the palm would certainly be given to the gauze-like production of the poor flax thread spinner of the present day.

-The Art of Modern Lace-Making (Butterick Publishing Co, 1891)

I came across a scrap of the lace I used to make a wedding gown last year, and decided to give it new life as part of the design for my new pillows...

It looked too new, pristine, and precious, so I gently tea-dyed it to give it some maturity, and to make it blend in with my color scheme. The subtlety might be lost in these photos, but now it has a golden hue.

The aging of this peice was completely artificial, and, although it serves my purpose, I will always be aware of this fact. As I tea-dyed this lace, I thought about my own maturity, and how glad I am to be able to look back on yesterday, last month, last year, fully appreciate how much I am learning and changing.

If running a business is like raising a child, my business is a teenager.

The past year for As You Wish, and for myself, as its sole proprietor, has been characterised by great successes, happy clients, crazy outbursts, fitful tantrums, delusions of grandeur, lapses of judgement, long peaceful flows of projects, boundless energy, quickly followed by miserable fatigue. I am now emerging from it, having learned some painful lessons about who I am, who I am not, and who I want to be... and my business is better for it, although three of the past year's twenty-four clients' projects, unfortunately, were casuaties of my own inner conflicts.

"Sure, you can, but you'll have to eat your young..."

Is what one very wise client said to me, when I lamented that I wanted to be able to endlessly produce perfect and beautiful garments. To pretend that I could just work myself ragged and produce happy result after happy result with no errors was a ridiculous prospect, especially on no sleep and full-time mothering. My superwoman complex is winding down... thank goodness. Today, I am spending two hours (TOTAL) peacefully working on a project for a client with a long deadline, and very clear and straightforward instructions. I feel rested and happy.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I've been tagged!

I've been tagged by Dawn, and I love this idea so much that I actually did my own, without being tagged, in May of this year... One odd "thread" that runs through these lists, is that so many people who love sewing also love science...

I never get around to tagging others - it requires more brain power than I've got left these days, but I will get to it at some point...

Eight Things About Me

1 - I designed and made my own wedding gown in 1996, using less than $100 in materials. Here I am, with my Dad...

2 - I collect old sewing books from the late 1800's because I love them so much... They have a real energy and meticulousness about them that is just incredible!

3 - I feel that I have a guardian angel with me at all times, and have felt that way since I was a little girl.

4 - Although I don't believe in astrology, I almost never get along with Pisces... What does that mean???

5 - I receieved an unsolicited bear hug from Mike Tyson when I was about 17 years old. He thought I was "pretty", he said. (I was working in an upscale boutique where he was a patron)

6 - I believe love is a vital ingredient in all creative endeavors, and that is what gives any work of art its "voice".

7 - I believe resilience is the single most important ingredient for success. It forces you to redefine failure in your life.

8 - I label all of the cords to my computer and sewing machinery, so I know which outlets and ports they are each plugged into.

The angels are in the details!

This post was inspired by my clean-up/clean-out for our move next month. It is a brief farewell tribute to an old blouse I made, which I a ball, in a box... in a dark corner... waiting to be discarded.

I love details. The tiny elements that make a garment extra-special, if only to the wearer, can be so powerful.

Like pintucks...

And beaded fagotting...

And interesting buttons (in this case bone beads on a false closure - there are actually snaps underneath)...

I was inspired by a December 1996 Threads article "Heavenly Embellishment" to try the beaded detail, and I was in a vintage-y, batiste-y, pituck-y kind of phase, so I designed and draped this blouse from the ground up. I was so happy to have learned how to drape and draft a pattern for a collar, that I wanted to create a blouse using all of the elements I loved. I wouldn't recommend it.

As I have matured in my sewing, I have found that it is best to isolate these details, not pile them all on one project, as I did with this monstrosity... (below) I am not bothering to iron it, or give it a new life -- I will simply cut off the bone buttons, and save the strips of fagotting for use on another batiste project in the future. I do remember that 12 hours of handwork went into that beading!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A diet that works! (Literally, the happiest days of my life)

Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.


I've been a bit distracted from writing any sewing posts lately, for reasons you will soon understand. I am, quite literally, experiencing the happiest days of my life. If you are a friend or family member, you already know why!

Last week, I was feeling like making some more interesting foods, and I decided to make falafel (which I love). Because my son, Aaron has so many food sensitivities and sensory issues, the only way I can control what he eats, is to cook it myself. I had a suspicion that falafel would be something he would like. Turns out he does, but that isn't the main reason for this entry. On my search for tahini paste, I popped into a health food store, with a sign that read "Gluten-Free products".

So yeah, whatever... I've heard all the crunchy granola-types espousing this gluten-free diet, but not understanding what gluten is, or why a special diet is supposed to help some autistic and ADHD children, the information just rolled past me. I've seen a few moments of Jenny McCarthy hawking her book on Oprah and other shows, talking about autistic children and their diets, but after tossing her cutesy child-rearing books in the trash in a fit of rage a few months ago, I didn't really care too much about her opinions. I also have almost NO time for TV these days, but I guess it made me a bit curious.

Well, I asked about this gluten-free philosophy (which no doctor, or any respected professional had ever mentioned to me), and the heath food store worker/owner? explained exactly why a gluten-free diet might be helpful. He suggested I simply replace the gluten products Aaron currently eats with gluten-free versions, and see if there's a difference.

We started the diet on Monday. Aaron was different on MONDAY. In more ways that I can even list here. Call it coincidence, magic, whatever... I'm just grateful. Naps that last two and a half hours... UNHEARD OF before this week. We have never seen my son nap longer than an hour or so EVER... Sleeping through the night with no 4 AM screaming... He is calm, peaceful. He knew one speed before this week -- and it was RUNNING! Frantic purposeless running has stopped. He will let me read him a book. He is not flailing, crying, screaming. It is like this diet peeled away a veil, revealing this sweet, loveable bundle of a kid. His bowel movements are different, his ability to pay attention, his steadiness on his feet, his tolerance level for different textures and changes... I can take him out with me, and he is completely cooperative. This is only day four, and he is absolutely a DIFFERENT child!

Since I've been on this cooking and health-food store binge, it just so happens that the meals I've made over the past week or so have been in the vegetarian or vegan category. The unexpected side effect is that everyone is in a great mood, and sleeping really well. We are all waking up early, with lots of energy. It makes me think about how much our diets affect every aspect of our lives.

So anyway, I'm just grateful. It is like giving birth again! And I've gained about 2-hour block of quiet nap-time in my day, that I can use for a little work, writing emails, whatever...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pattern Companies

When I worked for a pattern company some years ago, I accumulated quite a list of other pattern companies. There really is so much out there, and a quality, appropriately-sized pattern with clear directions is worth its weight in gold!

First, these are the standard companies:

Green Pepper

Just really pretty:
La Fred
The Pattern Studio

Historical and Ethnic:

Amazon Drygoods
Vintage Pattern Lending Library
Harper House

Out-of-Print and collectible:

Patterns from the Past




JSM Patterns

I know the owner, and have seen her demonstrate her methods in person and on Susan Khalje's TV show. She absolutely knows what she's talking about!

Connie Crawford

She specializes in plus size clothing, has designed some special patterns for Butterick, and is a great person. I have her book on pattern grading, which has been very helpful.

This company will take a pattern and customize it for you. Well worth the trouble, if you would prefer to leave it to the experts.

Park bench Patterns

Gloves, handbags and hats:

Pattern Studio

I've never tried their patterns, but they have a glove collection that really intrigues me...

There are so many more than these, but I suppose this is enough...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What the @%*&#???

How brilliant!

As part of cleaning out my stash, I happened upon this item...

A fitting "tool", which is actually just an excuse to give a pattern fitting lesson for exactly ONE aspect of any pants pattern. Now, really, what a clever marketing scheme...

Apparently, in 1976, this Pants Former was promoted as an easy-to-use tool, meant to save you from the frustrating challenge of getting that darn crotch curve right. All you need are two strings, a mirror, a stepstool, a paperclip, your reading glasses, and an extra set of arms or two!

This product really bothers me. To fit a pair of pants properly, there is so much more to think about than just whether or not there is enough of a crotch curve to fit your derriere.

When I make pants for myself, I have to consider and adjust the following:

My waist to hip measurement is short, like a petite figure, although I am average height.

My belly is flat, but my waist is not so narrow. My pants have to be fairly tight stretch, drawstring, darted or elasticized at the waist to stay up comfortably.

I have to consider my hips (or lack thereof). I have to reshape the side seams accordingly.

I usually need to lengthen the legs below the crotch line to get back the length I have taken out at the hip level. For personal preference, I usually change the leg shape (mostly taper).

I need back darts to hug the hollow below my waist, and to make a nicer profile.

My commercial pants patterns look like a million puzzle pieces when I'm done adjusting!

Can any of you think of any way this product would get you significantly closer to a better fitting pant? Unless you're making pajama pants, where crotch depth and shape is all that really matters, I can't see how this contraption would really solve your fitting issues.

Monday, September 17, 2007

All is well!

After my "bad day" rant, all issues have since self-resolved. Apparently, bank errors REALLY DO happen, and, as the saying goes... when one door closes... We got the better apartment for our new home!

Today, my mind is at rest, and I can do some sewing while my little one naps...

This is the color scheme I've chosen for our new place. In case your browser displays them differently, I will call it pomegranite/apricot/lemon sorbet/bark/copper.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Glover-ly fingers!

I have really enjoyed "trying my hand" at glovemaking. Ha! I can see what a lovely pair of gloves this pattern will make, and the excruciatingly careful attention to detail it requires. The next post you will see on this subject, will probably be me working on (or having completed) a real pair of gloves using this pattern.

For now, I understand the construction, thanks to the muslin process. I couldn't wrap my brain around it on vacation. The assembly of the fourchettes was impossible to understand on paper (couldn't put my finger on it - ha!), but much easier to understand with actual fabric in my hands.

The manipulation of the pieces to get accurate and attractive stitches is outrageously difficult, I think. Now that I've got the thumb understood, this muslin assembly was just quickly done, to see if I could get the construction happening the way it is supposed to look.

In my experience, the stitching that will give me the look I want, is not one of the suggested methods the pattern provides. For me, I need to baste my 1/8" seam together, and then hand sew on the right side of the glove with what I would call a fine, closely-spaced diagonal "stab and wrap" stitch, if that makes sense.

The fingertip shape is very important to the femininity and grace of the glove. A rounded tip is not what the pattern would yield, so they need to be re-shaped.

It seems that the biggest reward of making a custom pair of gloves is that a truly perfect fit is something you rarely (if ever) experience in a glove, and really unique gloves are such an indulgence. This project also has the benefit of being small and portable. And... if you like to drag things out, you could really spend an outrageous amount of time sewing them.

If you are a true glutton for punishment, tatted lace edges would create an unbearably luxurious pair...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Recovery from a bad mood... there are other forms of currency

We all have our crosses to bear, our challenges, our private struggles...

So, now that it is in the past, I can explain yesterday's bad mood. This is fairly off-topic, but I feel moved to write it, since it may help anyone out there who finds something useful here, or feels moved to say something that may help me!

The need to earn a living and keep things going often distracts us enough to force all of these little precious moments to the bottom of our priority lists. Sometimes things just come to a head, and it feels like your life is exploding in one big blast. In reality, it can just be the way you FEEL about an event that is truly minor, in the grand scheme.

Just to set the scene, a day in my life typically goes like this:

6:45 - Everybody up!
7:35 - Take daughter to school, and hubby to subway
8-10 - Breakfast, showers, misc.
10:00 - Son has Occupational therapy (3 days)- I participate
10:30 - 2:30 - Son play, nap, lunch, I make phone calls or organize
2:30 - Daughter home from school
3:20 - Son has physical therapy (2 days)- I participate
4:15 - Son has speech therapy (3 days) - I participate 2/3 times
5:00 - 7PM Son has ABA therapy for 2 hours(5 days)- I don't participate
5:00 - 8PM Homework and dinner happen during this time, followed by son's dinner
8 - 8:30 Son goes to bed, daughter has quiet time with Daddy
9-midnight and/or 3-6AM - laundry, my own work, organizational stuff, tasks, whatever

*note: All therapies happen at home.

This past Tuesday, Sept. 11th, I turned on the TV, and the endless coverage of the names being read was a bit of a downer, so I turned it off...

Let's go back in time. Here's the history of that day in 2001 for me.

On September 11th, 2001 I was working full time for a legal publishing firm in Manhattan, and my hours were 11AM-7PM because I was in charge of a west coast territory. My typical morning was to rise at about 7AM, work on my own business (As You Wish), for a few hours, and leave to hop on the subway to work at about 10:20. I was 8 1/2 mos pregnant, but feeling healthy and energetic.

My husband left for work at about 8:45, getting on the subway to head downtown to work. His job was very near the World Trade Center. I turned the TV on at 9:14 (we had satellite TV then) and saw what that day was becoming. First... the "What? A plane crashed into a building?", then... "another plane?"

I called the job and left a message for my boss, saying I was taking the day off, since I knew transportation would be screwed up, and I had an OBGYN appointment that afternoon... called the office and spoke to a coworker, until the first tower fell, and everything went nuts. The days following were a blur - my husband's office was shut down for a time, I was having false contractions, I was worried about the future, and my daughter didn't seem to want to leave the womb. My brother was helping clean up the WTC site, and my nephew, who was in the military at the time, was cleaning up debris and body parts at the Pentagon.

In the weeks, months and years that followed, I have truly become aware of how connected we all are, and how wonderfully generous and honest people are. I have really felt the heartbeat of my native city ever since, in a way I couldn't really feel before.

Skip to six years later... our daughter is a bright and happy almost six-year-old,

and our son is a rambunctious 2-year-old,

my business has grown, my husband now works in a renovated building right next to the WTC hole, and we are all living with the awareness, but not daily fear, of terrorism.

I want to remember that day, but celebrate the fact that things have changed so much since then, so I decided to think about my glove project a bit. I was really happy to think that 6 years ago, I wouldn't have thought that my day could be spent loving my kids and working on something as simple and unnecessary as a completely hand-stitched glove. I was just feeling really thankful - for everything.

My daily schedule is challenging, to say the least, but I have it under control, and the only projects I can accept, are the ones I can work into my life without too much trouble.

I was appreciating the freedom to be a bit silly, and had finished a small project for a client who greatly appreciated it. It was a "heart project", as I call them -- the kind of project I would have happily done for free, since it meant so much to the person who commissioned it. She told me she loved it, and was very happy.

So, Tuesday was a good day.

Wednesday, I went to see a broker for a new apartment. We live in a house now, but we need a place that is handicapped-accessible (NO STAIRS!), since my son has special needs, and he is getting to heavy to carry everywhere. Saw a great place.

Thursday (yesterday), I had to run some more paperwork over to the broker's office, and was hoping the broker would meet me outside, but since he didn't answer his phone, I had to traverse a steeply inclined parking lot, with my son on my hip, and no handicapped parking! Exhausted and sweaty, I get inside, and am told that it is no longer available. Incredibly frustrating, since finding handicapped accessible places in New York City is a very tough prospect, and getting there to see it felt like such a waste of time, energy and money.

Looked at my bank account, and the balance was unexpectedly lower than it should have been. The check from my "heart project" client bounced. No comment from my client. Good grief, I can't decide if I want to chase an elderly woman around for the money - I like to think that maybe she just made an honest mistake. This is something that I really would have done for free, if that were the deal - but it wasn't! I take personal checks because my experiences have shown me that the people who approach me for projects, and talk to me heart-to-heart, are honest, and I have NO TIME for extra stuff these days. It is just faster and easier than anything else.

I had an unexpected charge on my account as well, which I had made days ago, but forgot about. The charge went through, but I was charged for the overdraft it created, so now I have actually PAID to make that "heart project"!

Feeling frustrated, I start yesterday's blog entry, stating that I was in a miserable mood.

Yesterday evening, the broker found a better apartment, same location, better price, better space, better configuration. We put in the paperwork, so if all goes according to plan, it's ours. Yay!

My son starts babbling excessively. Enormous progress with his speech. No idea what he's saying, but it is clear -- there are words in there!

There are new posts on my guestbook from my Dad's cancer blog, written years ago, telling me that the site has helped them. Even now, people dealing with cancer and losing loved ones are finding comfort in it.

A package arrives in the mail, and it is a lovely lunchbox and bookbag for my daughter, courtesy of my mom-in-law. My daughter loves it, and is absolutely ecstatic!

So, small things can really make a day wonderful. Even when the $ currency goes wrong, there is always "heart" currency.

If this post bummed you out, my son and daughter both find this particular scene from Tom & Jerry hilarious. So do I. If you need a good laugh, click the link, and it out.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Yes, it would be Glover-ly! (Thumb)

I am in an insanely bad mood today.

It seems there are obstacles at every turn, so I am just taking some time to decompress, and work on my glove. Here, I am sharing my first lessons with you.

This post is part of my ongoing quest, which began with "Wouldn't it be Glover-ly???" about a month ago.

Okay, so the glove challenge is considerably complicated - at least to me! I have read and re-read the instructions, and used the information Diane so generously shared with me to get a better understanding of how gloves are constructed, and my muslin atttempt has taught me volumes!!!!

Okay - they give a bias and straight grain layout. My muslin is cotton twill, since it is strong, easy to manipulate, and the bias has a nice, but resilient give. I used the bias layout.

The first step after cutting and marking was to manipulate the thumb piece, and insert it in that crazy claw shape opening on the hand piece. I have done this three times, making different mistakes every time, but now I see how it goes...

I think this is the hardest part of the construction, so maybe I'm over the hump...

This is just my muslin, mind you, so the hand stitching isn't perfect or careful, nor does the thread match...

Here's what I now know.

- The top of the thumb has to be stitched and clipped into a graceful curve, which is not the shape the pattern gives you.

- Manipulating the points of the thumb piece is very careful, precise work, that must be done with a very tight, accurate hand stitch. Bias is great for this piece, since, when you bend your thumb, the movement is comfortable, and the tension lines bounce back, without leaving permanent strain marks on your gloves.

- The thumb is a bit tall for me, so I will alter it down when I cut the real thing.

By the way, my day got a whole lot better - some new and exciting things are happening for my family!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Solutions to common sewing problems

Today's post is a bit of a public service announcement.

There are many common problems a dressmaker can solve. Even if you sew, you might not even be aware that such products exist, because your local stores don't sell them. Often, a dressmaker can obtain these products for you, or already has them among his/her supplies.

Problem: Bra straps that show under a tank or thin-strapped garment.

Solutions: You can have a bra built into your dress, attach clear or matching fabric straps to your exisiting bra, or use this very simple product to hold them in place with minimal sewing.


This is a great, easy way to get your bra strap to stay put! Click on the photo to go to the website.

Problem: You're at an event and can't get to a drycleaner for hours. Someone has stained a valuable dry-clean only garment, or you are afraid they will!

Solution: A professional stain kit, with portable, safe, easy-to-use, stain-specific drycleaning solutions and instructions.

Stain kit

Click on the photo to go to the website.

Problem: Your outfit won't stay put, or is a bit more revaling than you planned. You're afraid to dance, for fear of flashing everyone around you!

Solution: Like the movie stars use, double-stick body tape.

Hollywood Fashion Tape

Click on the photo to go to the website.

Problem: You want to be a designer, and have no idea what type of professional help you need.

Solution: This book is the answer. It will tell you all you need to know to get started.

Designer-Entrepreneur book

Click on the photo to go to the website, and order the book.

You have probably reached this post because you have something in mind,
and are searching for someone who can execute your vision, or you are just a fan of this blog. Thank you for visiting, either way!

If you would like to know more about selecting a dressmaker, visit the frequently asked questions section of the Find a Dressmaker site or the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers website, and you will find more
tips there. Many of those listed on ths site are members of this quality organization, and we encourage any custom sewists to consider the appropriate membership level for your skills as well.

If you are a dressmaker, or any kind of custom sewing professional,click here to learn more about PACC.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Dog Day at Shea- September 14th 2007!

I have finished a sequined coat, for a wonderful woman's spectating dog, who will make his debut TV appearance at "Dog Day at Shea", benefitting the North Shore Animal League, on September 14th.

My client has promised to send me pictures - I hope she does!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Double Helix theory

The more time passes, the more I feel that my life is like a spiral staircase. Not random or accidental, it is a vastly complex information code that is winding tighter and tighter into itself. When I look up or down, I am seeing connections - to places, to things, to ideas...

Well, either that, or I'm losing my mind.

This is "back to school" week for my daughter, and an intense return to my son's therapy routine. I am trying to get everything running smoothly, while working on a dog coat (yes, for a dog), and a very unique custom jacket (for a human). Both are projects for clients. Both are "heart" projects, with very specific stories and connections to things and places that really mean something far beyond the clothing.

That's how I view my life, the people in it, the projects, and my interests - all spiraling inward, connecting, forming some sort of path... where is it leading? I'm starting to see a road.

I spent this evening updating the Find a Dressmaker site. I keep finding things to improve every day, and I have gotten such positive feedback about it from those listed and customers who have used the site with great results, that I'm inspired to keep going!