Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Parson's pattern making workbook - two sleeves patterns

After reading Wendy's new book on Dresses, and spying all those soft and lovely sleeves in the New York Fall 2010 collections, I was motivated to pull out my old workbooks from my pattern making courses at Parsons The New School for Design. We had a wonderful, old world teacher, and I wish I could remember her name, as I would love to mention it here, but ... if it comes to me, I will mention it in a later post.

In addition to the main task - learning to make full sized patterns - every student also created their own workbook with miniature pattern making notes and tissue paper patterns. In my workbook, there is a little envelope of my slopers (basic patterns) on the heavier weight, tagboard paper, with all the same markings noted on the full-sized versions. We used these slopers to create the little tissue paper patterns that are glued to the two pages I've scanned into this post. (Yes, those are not drawings but tiny tissue patterns.) They look adorable, like little doll patterns.
My notes are unedited, written in ink, not very neatly, very naively, but regardless -- here they are and two different ways you can create beautiful, soft sleeves.Click here to upload pdf file of scans.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tutorial for mending jeans with designer style - technique # 4

Awhile ago, White Oak Cone Denim gave me a small book about an historic collection of denim clothing found in an abandoned shack near Greensboro, North Carolina. The images and information that denim historians have gathered about this clothing helped me to understand from another angle, and more deeply, an era of American history. The clothing, dating from the 1930s, tell the story of a family, living in poverty, working as tobacco sharecroppers. The clothing has been beautifully repaired and mended, by one person. Overalls have been cut into pants, newer denim has patched old, worn holes and resourceful combinations of patches and hand stitching have created an unintentional but beautiful, folkloric patchwork. Above is a scan of a pair of children's overalls. I have seen actual samples, and they are powerful, for the life that they document and also the thoughts and images they bring to mind of this homemaker, who worked to maintain the family's clothing with respect and durability.

As some of you may already know, I am writing a series of articles on mending, repairing and patching jeans with designer style. Fashion is driven by many different events or ideas, and when something is compelling, like this collection of denim clothing, it bound to have a strong influence.

The technique that I have written up for this particular post is inspired by this collection of historic clothing. With respect to this nameless family, I have tried to capture their spirit of resourcefulness and craft, and named the technique "Sharecroppers" patches.
Above is a photo of my final jeans. Patches are put where the denim was totally worn and ripped and where it needed to be re-enforced. Stitches, thread and denim scraps were chosen for how natural, practical or beautiful they looked.

Part of the goal was to make the inside as beautiful as the outside. This would make the jeans more durable, preventing the necessity of repeated repairs. Below is a photo of the finished inside of one of the legs.

Below is a photo of overalls from Ralph Lauren's spring 2010 collection that wonderfully capture the spirit.
For the entire tutorial on the "Sharecroppers patches" click here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shaun White's denim pants

The Winter Olympics is thrilling, passionate and breathtaking. These brilliant athletes share their world and dreams with us for two weeks. Their compelling, state of the art equipment and clothing, is catching every one's eye and certainly headed toward influencing design products far beyond Vancouver, in all kinds of ways. Who didn't notice gold medal snowboarder Shaun White's baggy - GORE-TEX pants. Waterproof, light, and fashionable like a young rebel, their too large, mended and ragged denim look, is hip like the snowboarding competition for which they've been designed to enhance the athlete's performance. But isn't it a hoot that they look like "mom" was up the night before, hand patching his favorite pants, his lucky gear, for his big day! I guess tradition meets state-of-art ... if you have a pair of hand-me-down jeans, that you want to patch up, try the cat and mouse patch, that you can click - here .

Friday, February 19, 2010

Built by Wendy Dresses review

I have wondered about these SEW U books, and am delighted to finally have one of my own, the newest volume “Built by Wendy Dresses: The SEW U Guide to Making a Girl’s Best Frock.” It is a wonderful book and Wendy is a terrific teacher. She speaks your language, shares her enthusiasm and explains everything you need to know to create beautiful dresses.

The book covers all the basics, from information about the tools and silhouettes; narrowing down your best fit; pattern making; about two dozen separate dress projects; plus an envelope with three, sized, dress patterns. Even though there is a lot of material, for me, the chief purpose for a sewer to acquire this book is to teach a beginner to an intermediate level sewer, how to work with dress patterns, how to alter them to achieve their designer vision and how to adjust them for a better fit. This is a great skill for any sewer or anyone who loves fashion. It broadens your sewing ability and also your confidence to freely change and improve your clothing or your sewing projects.

Once you understand and acquire pattern making skills for dresses, you can utilize those techniques for anything from children’s clothing to an extra, extra large sized dress. In other words, the technique will go well beyond the three dress patterns that she has included in the back of the book.

If you are a beginner don’t be intimidated, you will learn the techniques, just follow her clear, logical steps, one by one, and by the second project you will be on a roll.

The spiral-bound book, is the kind of workbook, which invites the reader to jot useful notes, slip in a sketch or magazine photo of a dress you want to make, or staple a swatch of fabric to another page. Like a favorite cookbook, as you use it, it becomes your very own journal and work in progress documenting past, current and future sewing projects.

I also, very much respect, that she has included three, dress patterns in the book. Trust her patterns. They are her dress slopers (basic patterns) her starting point for all kinds of dresses developed from almost two decades of producing dresses that women choose to wear and buy. They are proven territory and will not only shortcut your project - since it is not always necessary to build a pattern from scratch - but also will insure a better fit, and a more elegant proportion.

Wendy spends quite a long time explaining the importance of good fit. Fit is a reason on it’s own to sew and make your own patterns, instead of buying off the rack. A well fitted dress feels comfortable, and with comfort comes a glow that spreads and is communicated to others. She writes about all the various considerations and how to assess your size. I particularly like that she mentions that “it’s not uncommon for women to wear one size on top and another on the bottom.” In other words use your own common sense, there are no rules, follow your body and personal preferences.

On the downside, she really skimmed on fabric selection. Your fabric choice, as much as the fit and the design, can make or break a dress. The drape and look of a fabric differ greatly within each category, for example tweeds – they come in so many different weights, textures and qualities. With that in mind, I would advise one to examine their own wardrobe carefully, or dresses in shops, to learn the differences between the hand feel, the drape, the care (hand washable or dry clean only), and the durability, before selecting the fabric. Develop your knowledge about fabrics, colors and patterns. Always buy the best quality fabric you can find and budget for, as it makes sewing a pleasure and will make the dress more special, more lasting, and more worthy of your work.

Even though it is not a book for experienced pattern makers, it is shock full of her valuable tips and advice (“…think twice, cut once.”), and her voice is fun, so you still may enjoy having it as part of your sewing library. Wendy’s book is fun and easy, and I highly recommend it.

ohh, and one more favorite, Ralph Lauren

Love RL's collection. The soft, short, circular, sleeved blouse, layered over a black, lacey (must be silk) sweater, and all those yummy classic fall wool, shoes and shapes. For home sewers, those sleeves are super fun to draft yourself and sew up. And what an inspiration, from the best of the New York runways, to start layering one's wardrobe to complement one's lifestyle. London's next. Photo from NYMag

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jacob and Rodarte and their dreamy looks for fall

The New York Fall 2010 collections are wrapping up and here are my personal favorites. From the top, I adore the new, longer, softer skirt silhouettes from Marc Jacobs. In this photo he has layered it under a high waisted English riding coat. These clothes celebrate beautiful materials. Suddenly, what is more luxurious than the feel of a swirl of fabric that has been finely tailored. His stockings, which must be silk, the bags and the no-color colors all capture the childlike dreamy spirit of his theme music for the collection "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Then there is Rodarte, and who doesn't love the work of these sisters and how they re-invent fashion. Again, like Jacobs, they showed longer skirts, or if they were shorter, it's feels more like the effects from layering, always soft, with wispy layers, in their unconventional vision. The puff sleeved dresses, silky knee high stockings, ties wrapped around the ankles, pretty gloves, everything is cloudy, mysterious and feminine.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Make yourself a pair of Valentine earrings

What is more lovely than fresh flowers as an expression of love? I’m spotting people all over the city carrying single roses or lovely bunches of pink and red flowers. It is those tempting, pretty, flowers, that seem to be everywhere, that have inspired me to make these golden, pink and red earrings. Only you will know that they are only a slip of paper, as don't you think that they look much more valuable and important? If you want to make yourself a pair, below is the artwork -

and for the entire, very easy, for all abilities, tutorial - click here. Wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hommage à Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen, the legendary force behind fashion as we know it today, a master tailor, creative genius and inspiration and friend to so many in the fashion world, has passed away today. Fashion was his canvas, but actually, it didn't matter, his influence was far beyond that medium. His artistry filtered through our lives on all kinds of levels. He was a true innovator. He will be so very greatly missed.Daphne Guinness wearing McQueen in all it's glory and below, Lady Gaga,
... dancing in McQueen's spectacular boots in her "Bad Romance" video, only a few of endless images of women who were captivated by his art.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mending and patching jeans - the "soho-boho" patch

Welcome to chapter no. 3 and my project to write a series of articles about mending and repairing jeans. When mending jeans, different techniques come into play from mending other kinds of slacks. One needs to respect the special qualities of the fabric as well as understand the individual style of the wearer. There are many ways to incorporate these elements when you patch and mend. In chapter 3, you will find a technique for hard worn jeans, that need durable patches to endure continued hard wear. It’s been named “Soho-Hobo” patches, for how it is inspired by the look of the youthful rebel, the poor but resourceful artists, who founded Soho in the 60s in New York. It's a cool one.