Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Napped fabrics (Things to know - Part 8)

Me (to my mother): Our cousin is suggesting a family get-together in North Carolina so Dad's side of the family can all get to know each other.
Mom: Sounds like a good idea...
Me: I really don't have the time or resources to plan it, so we really need someone else to take the reigns on this... I'm just not so sure everyone is all that interested.
Mom: (distant) Did you hear the story of the fraternal twins who were adopted by two different families?
Me: No...
Mom: Well, they grew up and married each other. They didn't know they were twins!
Me: How awful...
Mom: That's why it's good to get to know your family.

Is that an understatement or what?

Have you ever sewn with a napped fabric, and discovered your cutting mistake after the fact? While that mistake pales in comparison to the surprise of finding out you have married your sibling, it is just so upsetting, I thought I would give some pointers on identifying one-way fabrics.

Many fabrics have a directional quality. Prints can have a definite "right side up" direction, such as floral with all of the blossoms and leaves headed one way. Fabrics such as brushed flannel, corduroy, mohair and velour, which have a soft or plush texture, feel smoother in one direction than the other. Also, fabrics such as knits, twill weaves and satin weaves show differences in color shading if not cut the same way. It is to these fabrics that the statement: "for one way designs - use nap fabrics and layouts" applies. The nap layout shows you how to arrange all the pattern pieces on the fabric so they are going in the same direction. Because this can require extra fabric, the napped fabric requirement is given separately on the back of the pattern envelope.

Example of a directional print (above).

If you are wondering where all of these posts are coming from, let me tell ya... I am so busy that I just write pieces of posts when the mood strikes, and I have at least 10 half-written posts at all times. Over time, I forget them, and/or forget to post them, and they just need a few sentences to tie them up and make them "postable". This kind of brain organization happens about once weekly, so that's when you see a flood of posts. The information is from my vast collection of article proposals (which have never been accepted), book proposals (same deal), books, magazines, and personal notes. I've been trying to get things published for a long time now (12 years?), but so far, I have only written for companies for whom I've worked as a full-time employee... so apparently, freelance writing in the cards for me, and hey, this information can help people... so why not just post it here, right?

All of my posts are the result of a spare 20 minutes here and there, while my son has his therapies (more on his progress later), while he naps, or while my daughter does her homework. Lots of good news to share about both of them... That post will take some time...

Pattern difficulty... or "Things to know" (Part 7)

This is the seventh entry of the Things to know series...

My work has become much more deliberate, purposeful, intentional... and so, fewer garments have been made lately. That's okay, though. It is probably part of the "maturing" process, and the best things last for years, anyway.

There is a Japanese philosophy called "kaizen", which is about doing all things in tiny steps to achieve your goals. It is a beautiful process for the creative person, and one I highly recommend it for anyone who is having trouble slowing down, and/or keeping all of their balls in the air. (I read a wonderful book that inspired me to implement the strategies in my own life... "One Small Step..." -- if interested, you'll find the book's full datils on my Amazon slide show to the right).

Another thing that will help you if you have any time, attention span or frustration factor concerns, is to choose your patterns according to difficulty ratings. I don't know how many of you look at the difficulty ratings when you choose your sewing patterns, but there is a method to the madness (for Butterick, McCall's and Vogue, at least). Some of the reasoning is obvious, and some less obvious... I will help to demystify them for you now...

Very Easy:
The easiest and quickest patterns to sew. Perfect for the beginner or experienced sewer with limited time available. Most patterns have only five main pieces. Easy to sew fabrics are recommended.

More details than the Very Easy category. Perfect for those with limited sewing knowledge or little time. Expect a wider variety of sewing procedures. Some fitting knowledge required.

Perfect for those with more time or sewing experience. Challenging construction details, more fitting and inner construction: interfacing, lining and underlining. More variety of fabrics - from stretch to synthetic leathers and suedes.

Perfect for those who like the challenge of fine couture techniques. Expect intricate shaping, hidden construction details, fine touches of hand sewing, and more. These patterns use the widest variety of fabrics.

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Wrong turns and missteps

Sometimes, patterns that look wrong, can be transformed... but truly, there's hope for the following examples...

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Pants fitting

I mentioned that I had the perfect pants fitting article somewhere among my notes.

Well, I found it.

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It makes about as much sense to have a smoking section in a restaurant, as it does to have a peeing section in a public pool...

-Wayne Dyer (paraphrased, from memory)

I went fabric shopping on Saturday... Well, I tried to fabric shop on Saturday. Completely overloaded with choices, stores, project ideas, and my own works-in-progress, I wandered around aimlessly, wasting my precious time, only to return home empty-handed. I thought I was feeding my creative ideas, but I actually contaminated my process by adding a bunch of new ideas to the mixture.

And, boy, did I see some HORRIBLY ugly stuff, things I just can't erase from my mind. The "sale" or "closeout" sections of some of these stores made me want to weep. Considering the fact that sewing out of economic necessity no longer makes much sense, why do these stores insult our taste with the very worst examples of textiles available in the free world?

Or maybe it is just that time of year. We are heading toward my least favorite month... February. Long, cold dreary days with no hope of Spring in sight. I think I went to the wrong place looking for inspiration.

Next weekend... maybe the Metropolitan Museum!

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Independent Pattern companies and fabric shopping

I have recently been asked where a person can buy sewing patterns. Well, the most common way, is to go to a large or independent fabric shop, browse through the pattern catalogs, and select and buy your patterns right there in the store. When I worked for a pattern company, it was standard for the big companies to have approximately 700 patterns in a catalog, so there probably is some version of what you are looking for in one of those books. The most common catalogs you will find are Butterick, McCalls, Vogue, Simplicity and New Look. In the catalaogs, you will find patterns for children, women, men, boys, girls, infants, pets, crafts, and home decor. Sleepwear, formalwear, casual and costumes are all represented.

If you are not near a fabric store, you may shop online, or you can buy books or magazines containing patterns/directions. You can also invest in a computerized pattern drafting program. (I have no experience with these)

My recent post on the subject of pattern companies gives lots of other pattern choices, and here are a few more, I've found along the way...

Nostagic Patterns is a new vintage-inspired pattern company.

Men's patterns can be harder to find, and Islander Sewing systems has plenty.

Of course, if vintage is your thing, there's always www.oldpatterns.com.

So, let's say you've found the perfect pattern, but you can't find the notions and fabrics required to make it. You can absolutely shop online with good results. I would recommend getting swatches before ordering blindly. You may have to pay a swatch fee, but that beats ordering fabric you don't want, doesn't it? Some stores in Manhattan's garment district will handle your swatch requests quickly and easily, and you can order beautiful fabric without hassle. You do have to be able to describe what you want, though. If you live in New York City or nearby, you can't do better than hopping on the subway.

Some ideas for where to buy notions:


For fabrics, the list is truly endless. Here are some I've used and loved:


Draping or "...Before You Sew" (part 6)

This entry is about draping garments. This is the sixth in the Things to know series...

My additional information includes: a good form, draping principles, tools and techniques, and why you would/would not want to drape.

Whether sewing for men, women, or children, this information will help you find the help you need to get started draping garments. I emphasize the "getting started" part here, because draping is the most artistic and advanced way to develop a design. If your skills are sculptural, but you are also scientific, and have a reasonable understanding of anatomy, draping can be a satisfying pursuit. Draping will take you from "sewer" to "designer". I warn you, however, that if you start to learn today, you probably won't actually be good at draping for at least another five years. After reading this, you will understand why a good commercial pattern saves you a fortune in time, money, and potential heartache.

Now, I don't say this to discourage you... I say it because it is true. After all, assuming you are still alive and sewing in five years, you will not have wasted your time.

Why you would/would not want to drape...

As an alternative to commercial sewing patterns, and computerized patternmaking programs, draping allows you the freedom to develop your own designs, and determine what pleases your eye as you go. If you love asymmetry, fabric manipulations like twists and knots, bias and other grain line variations, and other unconventional shapes, draping will help you get to what your mind's eye has envisioned much more accurately than any other method.

On the flip side, though... if you aren't really looking to reinvent the wheel, or design for any particularly unusual body type, there are so many pattern companies out there, that what you are imagining has probably already been done, by someone, somewhere...

What draping does require, is a great deal of study, skill, patience, appropriate tools and materials, and... sorry to say... a bit of an investment.

Why study?

When you drape a garment, you will need to understand how grain line affects the drape of the garment, and how to "balance" your seams, and when it may or may not be appropriate to join bias to straight grain. You will need to be able to choose muslin or a muslin substitute that mimics the performance of your fashion fabric. You will need to learn how to account for linings and facings, and construct them in such a way that they do not adversely affect the drape of the garment. You will also need to know some flat patternmaking techniques, for creating things like collars, cuffs, sleeves, linings and facings.

You will need to learn to block your muslin, making sure that you are using an appropriate quality muslin for your project. You will need to learn how to account for stretch, and use the appropriate test fabric for stretch garments as well. You will have to learn about ease and "reach", so that the garment you make can actually accommodate body movement.

On top of all that, your dress form is not likely to match the dimensions of your own body (or the intended wearer), so you will then need to use your fitting knowledge to adjust the pattern for that body.

Why investment?

First off, I strongly recommend that you take a class or get a very high quality book, preferably written by a professor, who can tell you more than just the basics. In addition to just laying fabric prettily over a dress form, you will need to understand the science of what makes a garment work.

You will need a good form, purchased from a reputable vendor, like Ronis Bros, where I purchased my form some ten years ago. They are pricey, yes. They are available in men, children, misses and junior figures (among others). Pads are sold to simulate pregnancy or other figure variations, and there are specialty forms for plus size, petites, etc. Sure, there are cheaper forms, but you need a form that is smooth with no gaps, that you can sink your pins into. Some forms have legs, (for making pants and shorts) and some do not (for dresses, tops, jackets, coats). You will need at least one arm (sold separately). I can't imagine buying a form to sew for men or children, unless I had aspirations of becoming a professional clothing designer, or had professional performers to sew for on a regular basis.

What are the other tools?

Muslin, patternmaking paper (dot or sample paper and possibly oak tag sheets or something fairly sturdy for finished patterns), marking pencils, tracing wheel, notcher, style tape, french curve, hip curve, see-through ruler, fabric scissors, paper scissors, pattern weights (optional) and space to keep all of this!

This post needs no video... mainly because the information is available online for free (see window below). If you can learn this way, great. I would think most people who need a hands-on, in-person experience, though.

Now, of course a person can always try draping experimentally, enjoying the process, and welcoming all happy accidents along the way. It is an artistic experience... lots of fun, possibly frustrating, and certainly not fast!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Remember the 80's?

I'll take Manhattan and "Before You Sew" (Part 5)

There is a sewing-related video at the end of this post... it will all connect... you'll see.

Last night, my husband came home from work early and I left the house. By myself. Dressed like a grownup. (Well, my version, anyway - I had a bright tuquoisey-purpley thing happening) It was glorious. Went to a business networking event. I love going to these things, because the topics are often of great interest to me, I meet interesting people, and get to talk "shop" with people who speak my language. The event was a lot of fun.

The topic of the panel discussion was the current state of the music and movie industries, and what sort of challenges they are facing, and will face in this new digital age. Of particular interest, was how they expect the video game "Guitar Hero" to really affect boys' interest in pursuing music and forming garage bands over the next five years. Hey, and did you know that the lightening fast speed of the internet can now get the word out that something is great or horrible in a way that significantly impacts box-office receipts within days? In music and movies, you really have to be clever to make money from a poor product nowadays, and that is a good thing. "Cloverfield" was the example of the terrible movie everyone will stay away from. Personally, I have heard nothing but how horrible that movie is, since the day it opened. "Juno" is enjoying the opposite effect right now. I'd love to see that... that is, if I can actually leave the house again so soon...

And, on a depressing note, I learned that in the movie and music industries, pure talent really doesn't mean much in financial terms these days... very skillful marketing efforts plus talent bring the success (at least in monetary terms and name recognition), not just the quality of the work. It wasn't always that way. As one of the panelists said "Show me the platinum artist who came outta YouTube without a big marketing behind them..." Someone offered an example. He replied "3 million dollars in marketing. Try again." That's kinda sad, isn't it?

I met one of the original organizers of the Woodstock festival (yeah, the big one), a comedy club owner, a children's' clothing designer, an intellectual property attorney... and more...

But the absolute best part of last night, was that it reassured me that I can still hold quality conversations with adults, that I'm not "out of the loop" when it comes to current trends and ideas, and that I have valid points to make, of interest to people who are actually intelligent businesspeople. They made referenced to books I've read, names I know, places I know about, even if I haven't been... Whew! Felt good.

So, when it was over, I was in Manhattan. Alone. And I took some video to show you that the hoppin' nightlife I imagine I'm missing, didn't seem to be happening last night. Walked past where they are setting up the tents for fashion week, but it made for very boring video, so I didn't include it here.

So, as with anything great...music, movies, clothing... you can come up with any idea, using any pattern or method, but to make it a quality item, you need to know how to navigate the rules for that particular pursuit. You won't get there without some amount of study, so here's some more help.

And I was more than happy to come back home to our warm apartment, and resume my cozy life.

And... I just noticed that I don't need to upload my videos to YouTube; I can just upload them straight to Blogger... Never noticed that until today... Is that NEW?

Update - nevermind - didn't work. My videos are in the wrong format. So here it is, uplodaded on YouTube! It won't be available immediately, so if you are seeing this post as soon as I put it up, check back in a while.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

No apologies

I'm seeing a trend in blogging lately, that disturbs me greatly. We bloggers, (women bloggers exclusively, it seems) are apologizing for things that require no apology. Why is this happening? I am seeing apologies for mussed hair, dark circles under eyes, crooked stitches, slightly imperfect photographs, messy studios, slow posting, unfinished projects...

I made most of the above jacket a few years ago (this photo was taken while it was in progress), when I thought I was going to love purple forever. Now, I REALLY hate it, but the fabric was quite expensive, so I hold on to it, thinking maybe someday... well...let's get real... This will likely remain in my nearly completed stash until I can transform it into something I will like for a long time. Who knows how long that will be... a poorly conceived project... sometimes that happens... even when you're $250 into materials for the project. Yeah, oh well.

I see many very professional, well-produced blogs as well... which are great -- don't get me wrong... But we all know how much time a person needs to dedicate to create a "perfect" post, with great photographs, masquerading as something casually dashed-off while sipping your morning coffee.

Isn't the beauty of life in its imperfection? Isn't life messy and unpredictable? Let's celebrate that. Isn't the person you love the most absolutely breath-taking when he/she first wakes up in the morning? Isn't your favorite sweatshirt threadbare in just the "right" places?

Isn't that what life is all about?

In this high-tech, highly-polished environment, super-glossy and over-produced, don't we all read blogs to engage and indulge our inner voyeur with real people leading real lives? People to whom we can relate? Really, who would trade their mother's famous chili (or insert your loved one's specialty here...) over the finest restaurant meal money can buy?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Laughter again...

When my sister and I met with the funeral director to collect my grandmother's ashes last week, we were seated on a couch next to a coffee table. After handing us the ashes, he knelt down next to the table, and we both stiffened, thinking he was going to pray with us... Keep in mind that we didn't really know my grandmother, since she hasn't been able to hold a real conversation within the past 20 years or so...

Anyway, we caught each other's glance for a short second, and I emitted a small snort...

Apparently, he just needed to kneel to fill out the receipt.

There have been lots of opportunities for inapproriate laughter this week. How I wish I had seen this video for advice before our trip to Pennsylvania.

How To Stop Laughing At An Inappropriate Time

Things to Know Before You Sew (Part 4)

This entry is more information on choosing your correct pattern size. This is the third in the Things to know series...

For women only, this information will help you find the help you need to use a pants pattern.

Information includes: taking measurements, finding your hips, tissue markings for finished measurements of garment, full rear end adjustments.

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Things to know before you sew (Part 3)

This entry is more information on choosing your correct pattern size. This is the third in the Things to know series...

For women only, this information will help you find the help you need to avoid buying the wrong patterns.

Information includes: taking measurements while wearing the proper bra, where to measure, how pattern was designed to fit, standard height for patterns, tissue markings for finished measurements of garment, body types and figure flattery, "no provision for above waist adjustment", and using the stretch fabric gauge.

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Standing Ovation

I was having trouble ending my show. I thought, "why not make a virtue of it?" I started closing with extended bowing, as though I heard heavy applause. I kept insisting that I needed to "beg off." No, nothing, not even this ovation I am imagining, can make me stay. My goal was to make the audience laugh but leave them unable to describe what it was that made them laugh. In other words, like the helpless state of giddiness experienced by close friends tuned into each other's sense of humor, you had to be there.

-Steve Martin, Born Standing Up

I spent about three hours with Steve Martin this weekend. No, I was reading his book. I have been wanting to do some video entries on my blog, but worried about appearing silly, vain, or like I was trying to start my own reality show.

I decided to rejoice in the freedom of it, make the videos, and let anyone who wanted to watch them, do so. In my head, I can take a bow to my imaginary standing ovation, and it gives me a wonderful way to spend these little snippets of time I get while my son has his therapies!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Things to know before you sew (Part 2)

This entry is about choosing your correct pattern size. This is the second in the Things to know series...

For women only, this information will help you avoid the most common pattern selection mistake.

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Things to know before you sew... (Part 1)

If you have been reading my blog for some time, you may know that I once worked for a pattern company. I ADORED working for Butterick/Vogue, and received an incredible education while working there.

Over the past 12 years, I have been sewing professionally for clients, teaching here and there, and doing a bit of writing. The strange and wonderful opportunities that have come my way as a result of these pursuits, have led to fascinating discoveries, and the questions I hear from new and old clients, students, and fellow sewists sometimes really surprise me. Most of all, I am amazed when I learn something basic... fundamental even... that I had never heard before!

So, I had a flash of an idea for a series of blog posts, which begin today...

I will call it... "Things to know before you sew"

As you view them, I will guarantee that you will find this information fairly basic... until I say something that BLOWS YOUR MIND that you didn't know... and you will be amazed that no one ever told you.

The reason why this happens, I believe, is that because most of us haven't learned sewing under the careful tutelage of our mothers and grandmothers, and, since there are no rules establishing what a formal sewing education consists of, there are gaps in our learning, only filled by learning from (often repeated) mistakes.

The first video is about finding inspiration...

Lesson 1:

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Pay it forward... (Hint)

I have nearly completed the first of my "pay it forward" challenges.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Hello and Goodbye...

Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another.

-The First Law of Thermodynamics

In the week since her death, I have finally gotten to know my grandmother. Family stories, documents, information, and legal complexities have been swirling all around me, and now I see, with absolute certainty, why this has happened right now, and why these responsibilities have landed on my plate. I am not one of those people who talks about spirits floating around us, but this morning, I got a divine "wink", in no uncertain terms.

Far too complicated to explain here, but I needed one obscure piece of information, and I went to the library, with no idea where to begin searching for it... a very dedicated library staffer, was able to retrieve exactly one piece of information on the topic I sought, and it just happened to be EXACTLY the information I needed. It might not seem so strange to you, but if you only knew how obscure this information is, you'd be floored.

The family stories I've learned in the past few days would make a fantastic novel or movie, but since they involve people who are still living, I can't go into details here. Suffice it to say, many questions were answered, and now so much more is understood. I am truly at peace with this whole process, and it has given me important information for my own life.

Here's what I learned:

Make sure you have a Will. Make sure you indicate what should be done if the beneficiaries die before you do.

Love your family completely for exactly who they are, and not who you wish/hope/manipulate them to be.

If you absolutely cannot agree with someone, keep your distance, while maintaining respect for them.

Don't worry about what you were meant to be; decide who you are gonna be, and be it! (That one is from my Dad)

Listen to your heart at all times.

Like the first law of thermodynamics insists, her passing has set another set of cosmic wheels in motion, pushing her family to forge new relationships with one another, think beyond ourselves, make positive changes... ah, the circle of life.

Now, I must sew. My heart says so...

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Sewing classes evolve

Modern sewing classes are evolving. I happened upon a blog a few days ago, that gives the most encouraging description of a great sewing class, that I wanted to make a mental note for the future, when I have an opportunity to teach again.

This hands-on, jump-on-in approach is what today's beginning sewer needs to get fired up about the process. I know it takes a special kind of teacher to teach such a class though. Well, that, and a small class-size, to make this kind of personal attention.

The marketing opportunities could be great here. Call it "kamikaze" sewing... where you absolutely surrender to the process, cutting fearlessly into your fabric, knowing that you can create a masterpiece, or a disaster, and be willing to encounter either. It could be a great tool for releasing your creative energy, overcoming fear... (pant, pant) am I getting too far ahead of myself here?

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A-list designers who created custom frocks for the celebrities expected to attend the Golden Globes are going to miss a golden opportunity this year. As an article in today's USA Today states, there are designers who have actually gone through the pain of fitting custom dresses that may never be worn. That's gotta hurt.

What I won't miss, though, is the instant knock-off and imitation frenzy that big awards show precipitate. It just feeds into our celebrity and fame-obsessed culture, and I guess I am in favor of anything that helps tone that aspect down. There is so much media hype about nonsense these days...

Ready to wear just doesn't compare to custom. Don't try to look like J-Lo, Jessica Alba, whoever the "it" girl of the monent is. You will be disappointed. Please strive to look like the best version of yourself. I have a feeling most people reading this blog already know that. ;)

Speaking of hype...

Now, you tell me, is the "Kindle" just hype or is it revolutionary?

I love this idea. Seems like a real treat for any information-addict. If you haven't heard about it yet, you'll have to click the link, since I can't adequately describe it.

But hey, let's say it breaks... have you lost your whole library?

Can you believe it is sold out already? Or... is that hype?

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The Birds and the Bees

Friend: Nadine is adorable, and she looks just like you!

Me: Thanks... Really? I think she's the spitting image of her Dad!

Nadine: Why would I look like Dad? I grew in YOUR belly!

Why doesn't every kid ask that question?

The circle of life continues...

My Grandmother died yesterday morning. She led a very long life... died peacefully in her sleep with absolutely no health problems. Never got to see the housedress, but that's okay. I guess that project was more about me than her, anyway. I don't have any particular feelings about it yet. Is that strange?

Well, we're processing it... going to PA to handle her affairs, and gather her personal effects.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008


This photo is from a great Alvin Ailey Dance, entitled "Cry". This dance was first performed in 1971, and was choreographed as a tribute to Ailey's own mother, but dedicated to mothers everywhere. It makes you want to cry, just to watch it.

The dress is just fabulous! How that beatiful movement is captured in the skirt is just magical.

I am on day three of nurse-duty for my sick six-year-old. Last night, after giving her a spongebath at 2AM, and changing all of her bedding after this most recent round of unpleasantness, I am truly tired. I we didn't get back to sleep until after 4AM. BOTH of my children woke up, bright and shiny, at 7AM today. I have decided that there will be a mandatory nap for all of us today.

Many of us high-energy, try to do-it-all types have hit that wall before... precipitating that 4AM weepy feeling, haven't we?

A Wall street Journal blogger asks "Can you relate to Clinton's tears?"

Sure. Not a sign of weakness... tears just come so easily when you're exhausted.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

"Atonement dress" (Part II)

Strangely enough, my "Atonement dress" post continues to attract quite a few visitors to the blog. I really don't know why. I can only assume that people are drawn to this dress, and want to capture a bit of that magic in their own lives. They want to know who made it, if anyone has knocked it off, where can they buy it, perhaps?

I wrote the earlier post because of a lovely article in The New York Post (which I don't normally read) about this dress (above), made for Keira Knightley's character in "Atonement". Make sure you read on to page two of the article, where the costume designer's (Jacqueline Durran) inspiration is explained.

I adored this article, because, unlike so many others, they don't make it seem that anyone just "whipped up" a little number for her. The article really lets you know that specificity, specialness and art take a considerable amount of time, expense, and experimentation.

But what really puzzles me, is the incredible interest in this dress, considering how obviously specific it is to Keira Knightley's body, lighting and set design of the film. Most women of any age are... well, three dimensional, and wouldn't carry off such a design too well. I mean, imagine trying to disguise a tummy bulge, rounded shoulders, a droopy bosom, hips, anything at all, in that gown.

What I see in this dress, is a Vionnet inspiration (the book I'm referring to is on my Amazon slideshow at the right). This lovely work contains patterns for a variety of Vionnet's designs, and one is evocative of the Atonement gown. The main difference, though, is that this dress would work on a more ample and/or rounded figure. Basically, this dress is more doable. And it can always be made in green...

What do you think?

For all the single ladies... a "glove" story

My blog mission hasn't changed much in the years since its inception, but my readership is growing rapidly, so I am re-dedicating myself to its purpose. I want to make sure that what I write is useful, entertaining, thought-provoking and/or inspiring. Since my schedule doesn't allow me to work as much as I'd like, I need this outlet, and, thank Goodness, people are responding. Since what I sew or create usually has some bigger idea behind it, which I may or may not be able to convey clearly in a blog post... I'll continue to share what I feel I can share in a useful way.

Some projects just take years.

I am proud to say that my glove project (see previous posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4) 5 years in the making, is finally near completion. Now, the pattern seems "easy", the pattern has been tweaked and cutsomized for my hands, and the fabric choice and color has been made. Three tries since my last post, I decided that sewing them completely by hand, (no machine intervention) using a microfiber fabric with the right amount of "cushiness" (one sueded side), with some surface embellishment, yet to be determined, is the right way to go. What you see above is try #2 on the thumb, which is the hardest part to get right, in my opinion. Outside, vs. inside stitching? Both, actually. Inside stitching for construction, and satin stitches on the outside, over the seams, for beauty. That's what got me the best results.

When finished, they will be worn everywhere.

Before our daughter was born, I commuted on the subway from Forest Hills, Queens into lower Manhattan for work at Vogue Patterns, and I played games with myself to pass the time. One of the games was the "eavesdropping" game. I closed my eyes and listened to conversations, taking mental notes, and then I compared the common threads between the different topics.

I usually found that at the end of the workday, most of the conversations were the "Why everyone else at work is an idiot", "What no one understands (but me, of course)", "I know my boss hates me" or the "When will I get my due" rants. It seems that a good night's sleep would inspire optimism, and the people who were talking would start the day, cheerfully chattering about their lives outside of work. But among them, was also a good share of somber faces, hunched shoulders, and closed eyes.

Now a new year has just begun, and more than a week has passed since I started writing this blog post. I wonder why all of a sudden it seems that it seems everyone is having the same conversations all around me... over and over and over again. I felt I needed to finish this post, if only to get my thoughts out there while the conversations are still happening.

At the beginning of each year, it seems that women move into a self-examining, excessively critical mode. It can be unhealthy. Sometimes, it hurts to listen.

And I'm not just hearing it on the streets... I'm hearing it from peaple I know and love. I am noticing this trend among my single friends. Intelligent, beautiful, accomplished women, who lack partners, and are feeling lonely, sad, and confused about it. I notice that they seem to be blaming themselves for their singlehood.

Some people I know, have even taken to the airways to broadcast their singlehood. A cousin of mine, was on a makeover show, throwing a "divorce party" on the Style network's Big Party Plan-off. My friend (of about a quarter-century, now...whew!) Kysha, has appeared on a talk show to talk about her dating life.

This is not meant to be advice... I am not presenting myself as a dating guru here... I am sure there are plenty of quality men and women in the world, and there are nice, upstanding, lovely people at every turn. Yes, being older means some extra baggage, divorces, children might also be in that package, but, really, doesn't everyone want to find someone who was already alive, vibrant, and hopeful before you met? You're not "settling", you're just acknowledging that you are both grown-ups, who have been living grown-up lives for a while.

To quote the God character in Bruce Almighty, "If you want to see a miracle, be the miracle..." To paraphrase... Since like attracts like... ifyou want a quality partner, just continue to be a quality candidate.

A mate, like the perfect pair of gloves, serves to shield and help you through storms, add beauty and comfort to your everyday activities, and fit you perfectly. As part of that pair, you would do the same for your mate. It doesn't matter how many you try on... when you find that right one... you'll know it.


Oh, and when you do, the aphrodisiac cookbook by Isable Allende (see Amazon slideshow at right) wouldn't hurt, either.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008


Setting: Paris, 6th arrondissement (Rue des Rennes), McDonald's Restaurant, circa 1990

After a hard day of lecture classes in Paris, my American schoolmate (from Kansas) and I ducked into "MacDo" for a taste of the familiar.

Me: How do you say "Big Mac" again?

My friend: I can't rememb... (sneezes)

Stranger behind us: Gesundheit.

My friend: (To the stranger) Oh, finally, someone who speaks English!

I wanted to crawl under a table...

It has simply become a habit that you say "God Bless You", when someone sneezes. Gesundheit had just become such a knee-jerk reaction, that she didn't even notice that it was of foreign origin.

Now, looking back on it, I realize her point was "A familiar word! I am so happy to hear something I recognize!" If that were to happen today, I would just laugh, knowing what she meant vs. what she said...

Don't we all seek the familiar?

I had a deep pressure massage today. I was wearing a hand-knit sweater when I entered the massage room, which opened up a whole conversation with the masseuse about knitting, sewing, art and life. Talking to her was fascinating, and relaxing. During our hour-long conversation, I found that we do indeed "speak the same language"! (although I was still too chicken to try acupuncture)

My masseuse, a Chinese woman who has been in this country for 9 years, was telling me how difficult it was for her to learn to speak English when she first came to New York. A well-educated woman, she had learned English in China, but found herself completely unable to get the words out when she needed to say something. She took classes here, and couldn't bring herself to participate. She was computer-phobic, because she found the keyboard daunting. She, like many Chinese immigrants, was more comfortable getting her news and information from Chinese sources, in her native language. Much of that has changed for her in recent years, and the internet has opened her mind to many other interests and pursuits. Now, she uses the computer to learn about things, make friends, and chat in online communities.

Our son Aaron (2 1/2, Autistic, if you are new to the blog) is trying to speak. More words come every day. Putting those words into sentences still hasn't come together yet, so what we hear now, is a cross between the Governator

and "Pootie Tang".

I can tell that his frustration over not being able to make his words understood is really causing him great distress. We have hesitated about teaching him too much sign language before now, but I am changing my mind. The desire to communicate, and to be understood is fundamental.

Friday, January 04, 2008

When will it end?

Be what you is...
not what you ain't...
Cos if you ain't what you is,
You is what you ain't.

-Luther D. Price

I chose these words because sometimes something so true is best expressed simply, plainly, even if grammatically incorrect.

I recently had a conversation with a really talented dressmaker who started honing her sewing skills during a long childhood illness. There was a time (Great Depression-era) when it was not uncommon for family doctors to "prescribe" knitting, sewing and embroidery-type activities for anxiety and depression in their patients. Gratitude journals and other new-age pursuits get a lot of press, but nowadays, the medical landscape is so much more dangerous.

What is a dimming pop star? I am just so sad for Britney. I hope she can find who she is, and not dwell on who she isn't. My heart aches for her. Doesn't this facial expression say it all?

We really have to stop beating people up in the media. It is clear that she has problems that need to be handled away from the glare of the spotlight. There outta be a law preventing this kind of voyeuristic, predatory pursuit of people on the brink of disaster.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


There has been a lot of laughter in our house in the past week. Falling down, weak-kneed, teary-eyed kind of laughter. Why, I dunno. But let's spread the fun, shall we? Far out fashion ideas are always funny to me, but the site shown below, combines humor and an interactive experience that is so well done and unique, I had to share! Enjoy.

Above, is the "Great Pockets" hilariously funny website, originally recommended by the Fashion Incubator. There were a lot of gems in that post, but this one is particularly funny...

Laughter II

My DVD drive is broken. It won't open, no matter what I do. I've already taken the computer apart and put it back together, but no luck.


Today, I've been doing sewing work, juggling Aaron's therapies, chores, and my daughter's activities... I'm in a manic, workaholic mood... so, I'm taking full advantage of it.

If I'm still upright tonight, maybe I'll take some pictures to show you all. Let's hope.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

On Why I DO sew for other people...

And a brief story of a gift that just keeps on giving...

Inspired by today's "Why I don't sew for other people..." posts by Erica B. and Cidell, I have to write a quick post to respectfully disagree...

Sewing for other people is an expression of love, gratitude for your own talent, appreciation for what makes your loved one unique, and a task that can make your heart sing. As a religious person, I feel that a creative pursuit like sewing can be such a wonderfully meditative process, if you just open up, allowing yourself to be a vessel, and letting that creative energy just move through you and out of your fingertips...

Whether for pleasure...

or profit, we cannot close the door on sewing for others because we FEAR they will not value the amount of effort that went into it.

For example, I love handmade items, but certainly not ALL handmade items. If I could trust this blog post would never be read by my friends and family members, I could give you a list, and some pretty hilarious pictures of things I wouldn't be CAUGHT DEAD in. My sister and I still laugh hysterically over one well-intentioned handmade Christmas gift from the 70's.

Well, I'll tell you about this one...

Okay, it was a belt.

But the material chosen was just the oddest choice one could make. The originator of that gift probably won't remember now, as it has been a good 25 years since then. And, if you do remember, we love you to death, I promise!!!! (Pretty sure she knows that already) It was bright green, with a crazy heavy buckle. And...it was made of FELT... And... my sister was a TEENAGER! It was faaaaaar too wide for any belt loops I've ever encountered... must've been 3-4"?

(Groaning, eyes watering, shoulders shaking...)

ROFL can be used literally here....

And... I think she might have even had help to create it, like in a CLASS or something!

Okay, let me catch my breath...

And it wasn't a joke!

You probably had to be there to really get the full impact, but whew!

So, you see my point. Not that these are the kinds of things you would make for friends... but.

Maybe I know a person who is a very talented knitter, but honestly, there is no one on this earth who can convince me to don any pair of mittens, EVER. And, also, no offense, folks, I'm not so sure I have ever worn an apron even once in my life. I do know how to show appreciation, though, and would never make rude comments. Really, why should everyone else suffer because one person didn't show proper appreciation for your handmade gift(s)?

So, that's my 2 cents. Just had to share. Hopefully this post either changed your mind, or gave you a good giggle!

Oh... and we still have the belt. It gets a good laugh at least once a year... still.