Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hilarious for Project Runway fans...

I hate it when people post links, and don't tell you what they are, or why they feel the need to share...

This is an innovative idea, and a great giggle-inspirer. You can send a friend a phone call or voice email from Tim Gunn with a reminder to watch Project Runway. I don't actually watch this show very often, but the idea is hilarious!

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Monday, October 26, 2009


Spots, done right...

I love creative knitting blogs. (wait, this will all make sense in a minute) I mostly dream of it, and don't do much actual knitting, mostly because it requires an ability to sit still, which I currently don't possess... But that's a story for another day. I had to share one of the most creative things I've seen in a while, at the Dark Knit blog. Check it out.

Knitting and embellishing an animal print? Okay, that's creativity. And... it gave me SUCH an idea for needle felting! Can you see it in your own head? I MUST do it!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

My site stats tell me...

By far, one of the most interesting topics among readers of this blog is:

The dress Keira Knightley wore in Atonement (see earlier post on this subject)and another brief mention...

*Note to self: Add Atonement to Netflix queue today.

Floor length evening gown in emerald green silk. Flowing bias cut bodice with bow detail perforated in the neckline. Loose through the bust, spaghetti straps over the shoulder. Wide waistband wrap, gathered at the rear; knotted at the front and left to hang. Straight cut circle skirt with high front slit and rear train.

18k white gold and diamond star hair studs with matching ‘Cosmos’ bracelet both by Chanel. Gold cage front leather shoes custom made by Bally.

This dress is deceptive. Although simplistic in terms of a lack of appliqué, the complexities of the silhouette would have made it an arduous task to piece together and fit.

- This snippet is from a thoroughly researched and well-written article, found on the Clothes on Film website, is a very complete description of the magical details of this garment, the process of creating it, why it is so iconic, and many of the design features, finishing details, and construction points that made it so perfectly unique.

But wait folks... if you want to know more, it gets even better. Check out the Costumer's Guide for even more in depth analysis and detail.

The dress has achieved a sort of legendary status on the web. Read enough about it, and you will find all sorts of wildly inaccurate tales of the process, strange and false accounts of what it seems to be, and how to make your own...

Funny how this gown, featured very specifically one one actress, in one movie, and so specific to one story, has generated such a buzz among people who imagine themselves in something so similar. Pardon me for asking, but how many people have a figure like that, and places to go where such a dress would be appropriate, and not costumey? What I suggest to anyone dreaming of this dress, is to find your own unique design, suited to your own body, budget, skill, time limits, and circumstances. What you will learn, when reading the article, is that while the fragility and specificity of this dress would make it highly impractical for your own wardrobe, there are some really good design tips to be gained by reading the linked articles.

For example:

- Go for a great and unusual color. Or create the illusion of a color by layering a sheer fabric over another.

- Pay attention to how grainlines may be manipulated to achieve the fit and flow you desire.

- Look at the body type it is being designed for, and how that body navigates space. Let that dictate the fabric choice. A delicate, graceful gait can be enhanced by the right garment, and a heavier, or more athletic type can too... but you have to use your "artist eyes" to find the right silhouette and fabric weight.

- It isn't all about the dress. There is a dialogue that the wearer and garment create as they interact with their environment that creates the magic.

- Highlight the best features of your figure. There is as much beauty in a fragile, slight frame as there is in a curvaceous, ample one. Work with your own unique strengths.


Another topic that seems to be inexhaustible, is fabric shopping in New York City (see earlier post on this subject.

As much of my old information has become outdated, I will need to add to my post on this one. For one thing, I can tell you if you are in NYC for just a day, and just want to "stop in" to a fabric store and find some great fabric, I would suggest Paron. Real designer fabric leftovers to absolutely die for. No joke.

If you have at least an hour or more to spend, go to New York Elegant. However, if you are easily overwhelmed, I would avoid that one.

If you know what you need, and require quality, go to Rosen and Chadick. David and Ellen are fabric connoisseurs, and will help you get what you need.

Spandex House is truly the best places to go for sport, dance, swim, theatrical and recreational stretch fabrics, but make sure you go to New York Elegant for stretch fabrics like silk jersey, wool jersey, and stretch fabrics for your more elegant clothing. Seriously, the back left corner of the ground floor (once you come in from the entrance) is to die for...

If you need notions, trims, or other sewing accouterments, go to Daytona. If you are highly skilled, and need quality tools, notions or special interfacings, muslin, sample paper or patternmaking oaktag, go to Steinlauf and Stoller. For buttons, feathers, and all things that make your projects fabulous, go to M&J trimming or Joyce. The ones who offer ecommerce are great to order from. Most of them will send swatches, or help you with what you need, if you want to order by mail. There are many other completely valid choices of shops in the garment district, but between the stores mentioned above, I typically find everything I need.

Happy shopping!

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Button dilemma

Just in case you couldn't get enough of my Miyake-drama...

This is what typically happens. I get down to the end of a personal project, and get stuck on some fiddly detail, that could literally occupy my thoughts all day long. Oddly enough, this doesn't happen with client projects, about which I find it infinitely easier to be decisive.

Well, not a real dilemma, to tell the truth. I love the boomerang buttons, but will the coat still look okay with only 3 buttons? Can I pull off having one larger button, if I place it correctly? Gotta think here...

You can see I eventually resolved all of this.

I thought about covered buttons, but they look to "cutesy" somehow.

If I cold dream here, I would get glass buttons with jade inside, or a pressed green flower or leaf inside. The buttons I need might be waiting to be found. Hey, this is New York City... forget the stash and go button shopping, right?

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Ambitious fashion sewing... or... maybe I shouldn't make my own jeans...

A few years ago, I made a revised version of a client's favorite jeans... They are pictured below.

She worked in the garment industry, so she had access to the right button and studs to complete the look. She was happy with them, but I felt that they looked much harder, in a way that it didn't look like washing would fix. Here are some poor quality shots of the jeans in black denim...

Then, another client asked me to copy some jeans he saw in an old 1970's soap opera scene(he sent me the VCR tape!),but I couldn't really capture the mood of them... what a shame.

I also think that modern denim just doesn't hang the same way... my imagination?

I even did a blog post on a massive overhaul of my store-bought jeans to create my own ideal fit. But somehow, they always fell short of the dream for me. I can make my clients happy with them, but for myself, jeans are much more elusive. I think the reason is that "fit" is not fact for jeans. It is about where they hug and where they sag. It is about being broken in, and responding to your curves (or lack thereof), and cooperating with the movements of your body as you go about your daily life. They are denim sculpture... on a body.

Which, by the way, explains why none of them look too interesting just laid out on the floor that way. There needs to be a body/denim dialogue happening.

When it comes to jeans, I appreciate quality, durability, beauty, versatility... maybe not in that order.

I'm not really a jeans person. Of course, I appreciate what they represent, and even own a few pairs that I wear all the time, but I would never wear them anywhere I run the risk of actually being seen by someone I know and respect. Case in point: A few weeks ago, when I wasn't feeling well, I made a quick run out to the fabric store in my jeans and swetashirt. A salesperson I see often came up tp me, and said "Oh, I thought that was you, but wasn't sure, since my first thought was, "Mimi would never wear that.". I think that was a nicer way of saying... "You look like heck -- did something happen?"

Like most people, I appreciate the utilitarian features of jeans. But let's face it, if you wanted a fabric to deicately grace your curves, denim would not be the fabric of choice.

Having said that, I need to know what high end jeans have to offer... besides the label.

So, you might be thinking... "Well, why don't you just stop wearing jeans, then?"

My answer, "Because they are the perfect garment for so many situations, and when you look at price per wearing, you can't beat 'em... and, cause when they're right, they're really right... and you feel like a rock star!" I don't think I'm gonna make my next pair... but we'll see.

So... after much searching, I think I've found the perfect ones for me right now... and, just like a "good on paper" blind date, I have to go to the store to make sure they are right, and then I will know for sure. I'll keep you posted.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My love affair with vegetables...

I sew all the time, and I like to use my creativity in the kitchen, too. Lately, with the weather growing chillier, I have started to get hungry, REALLY hungry... and I've been feeling crazy for vegetables.

I have been going to a local Jamaican/Guyanese restaurant to get veggie roti lately, which one of the owners turned me on to a few years ago, by filling it with calaloo, "pumpkin" (it must have another name, since I've never seen this kind of pumpkin before), and chick peas. The other day. much to my chagrin, they weren't offering pumpkin, so I set out on a mission to learn how to cook this vegetable myself. Note: I have since learned that this is also called "kabocha".

I found it! Bonus...It costs all of $1.50 for a whole one, and half of it feeds the family.

Tastes like sweet potato, pumpkin and squash, all rolled into one, but has a natural sweetness and heartiness that makes it a great compliment to fish. I made mine into a smooth, soft texture, like a chunkier, moister mashed potato-like concoction.

I got the cooking instructions from a Trinidadian friend of a Jamaican/Cuban friend, and the result was astoundingly good. Replete with all sorts of slang, I understood her instructions perfectly, and the only unusual thing a person needs to prepare this yummy food, is a very sharp knife. Very easy cooking after that is done! Now its official. I love New York City, and I'm never leaving.

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It was on vacation this summer that a "new" color started to appeal to me.

Okay, so a client decided she didn't want to use the silk fabric pictured below, and told me to feel free to use it. Then Kim of Paron sent me the swatch you see placed on top...

and it is just so perfect I could scream. With the skill of a sommelier, she can find what will excite me. Pairings are her strength, but in this case, it was just a guess at what I would like. And she was dead on...


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Miyake progress - bias binding, gusset sleeve

Originally written 9/29, but telling this story backwards...

Far more interesting this way, no?

So I've loved this pattern for a long time. Like 9 years... Yes, that long. I have always wanted to make this coat, but thought that maybe the model's body type and pose were influencing my love of this pattern, and that if I wasted the time making it for myself, only to discover that it looked like a garbage bag, I would be VERY upset.

But then, one day, the ideal fabric jumped off of the shelf at me in one of my favorite fabric stores...

The price happened to be right at the moment, and even though this is a fairly expensive project, it is very personal, and uniquely all mine.

My first fear was this sleeve/side gusset part of the construction. I worried that the photo was some sort of trick, and that I would have enormous, saggy fabric lumps in the armpit area of my coat. But I trusted the pattern, and the skill of the geat Miyake...

And this gusset works so well, that it forms a neat fabric dimple at the underarm, creating a classy, oversized sleeve that folds into itself when I put my arms down.

My next worry was this daunting pile of bias binding (above) I had to cut. Where would it all go? Well, it is used to create these bound seams that are visible when the coat flutters open. This is a really special, handamde touch that makes the coat seem... special-er...

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Welt pockets and bound buttonholes

Why is she telling this story backwards? Click here.

Now is when I get to worry that my welt pockets and bound buttonholes will ruin all of my careful work thus far. The pattern instructions, while accurate, are very broad, and you would need to know for yourself how to make welt pockets and bound buttonholes before attempting this pattern, I'm afraid.

The bound pocket, before pressing, pictured above. All told, it must have taken three hours (no lie) to get these pockets sewn. The sewing needed to be quite precise to look well in this fluffy fabric, and if I screwed it up, I seriously wouldn't be able to afford the fabric for new front pieces. This is when I also started to question the wisdom of sewing with fabric I really can't reasonably afford to replace... or at least doing so would make for an astronomically expensive garment! Hmmm... Guess I'll think about this after I sew my next few projects, for which this fact is also true...

So this part of the process also prompted some deep soul searching, as I questioned the value of spending a whole three hours on my own coat pockets, when that time could have been spent on a client's project, or doing something, ANYTHING else. Oddly enough, I don't feel the same guilt over watching a movie, or going for a walk, yet I lament three hours of time spent on something that is just a detail, for myself only, since, if I were pricing this particular project out for a client, this would be a darn expensive coat! I also question why I didn't take the easier road; flatlining the entire thing, making slit pockets, using the same flaps, closing the coat with a center front zipper with a front placket and/or buttons with loops, frogs or toggles, to spare the pain of bound buttonholes. (In the end, I didn't do bound buttonholes because of my unusual button decision.)

Oddly enough, I don't fret nearly as much over my now FIVE year quilt, or nearly TWO year scarf, which I have comitted to completing while away on our brief summer vacation, which has come and gone... and during which I probably had a total of 20 minutes of actual downtime.

I'm loving it anyway, and whether you, my dear readers, love it or hate it, the fact remains that this is not a garment that could ever be mass produced. These fiddly details, bias bindings, smal changes to suit my personal preferences wouldn't be done by anyone's hands but my own. So yes, I'm glad I did it. But then again, I'm not done yet...

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Miyake - now I'll start boring you with the details...

Part of my new blogging philosophy is to include what is useful and FINISHED, so that I can actually inspire other people to sew and FINISH their projects, too. For those of you who know a bit about my life, you know that I juggle many things, so some projects take me a VERY LONG TIME to complete. However, I do always try to challenge myself, and create things that have a great deal of personal meaning for me.

To see the finished coat, and read why I'm telling the story backwars, click here.

So, now that I have spent the last 9 years or so(literally) thinking about the Issey Miyake coat pictured below, the perfect fabric practically jumped off the shelf at Rosen and Chadick to greet me! It was pricey, but happily, a tip from a client (Yes, I'm serious) was serendipitously enough to buy the yardage I needed!

This is the inspiration:

And these fabrics together tell just the story I want to tell:

So maybe this is a bit hard to visualize, since you're not living in my brain, but I'll walk you though it...

(written 8/26/09)

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