And So It Goes…

I must lead one of the most boring lives of everyone I know. This last couple of weeks have proven it to me. I go to work, I come home, I watch TV, listen to my audiobooks, and then go to bed. Then I get up and do it all over again. Pretty repetitious.

But the end is in sight–my day job as overhire at La Jolla Playhouse is coming to a close very soon, and I will be returning my attention to my own business. I feel like I’ve neglected Relished Artistry a bit–but I’ve still had a couple sales, so that’s been exciting! I know that I could be spending some more time on it, however, and I’m actually looking forward to creating some new things. Fleshing out my “stock” is the first thing on my priority list, and I have a list of items that I am going to make.

I think my time at La Jolla has taught me a lot–I have a new understanding of knits now, so I’m excited about making some new knitwear. I had done a couple samples of some women’s tanks with a cute little rose in the center front by the neckline, and now that I know how to hem them and sew them better, I’m less hesitant to take the leap. We’ll see how it pans out, but I anticipate I’ll have some cute little black stretch velvet tops soon.

I’m also going to investigate some menswear in the form of smoking jackets… Higher quality, lined, with some masculine embellishment on the center back (maybe a silhouette of a bird? Skull? Tree? Scorpion?), but I need to find the right image first. I’m leaning toward using tribal tattoos as reference and inspiration. The challenge is painting crisp, sharp lines on a velvet pile…hehe… Not the easiest thing in the world…

And I’m going to put together a “fantasy” cape with a piped collar and leaf embellishment along the hem. We’ll see how a more overtly “costume-ish” item is received.

I have yet another coat to put together that I am working on, ready to put in the sleeves and the lining. It’ll be done very soon, but until then it rests on a dressform in my studio until I get the “gumption” to finish it off. Having energy to continue sewing at night after sewing all day can be a bit difficult… But I won’t have to worry about that soon.

Alrighty! Another post soon! Live Life with Relish!

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Shiny New Sewing Machines…

I’m a sucker for shiny new objects, especially when they’re sewing machines I’ve never seen before. Yesterday, I went into a local sewing machine shop (Central Sewing Centre in El Cajon) to see if they had a sleeve board. My old sleeve board was a cheepo one made of particle board, and of course it quickly snapped in half. So I wanted something good. I also wanted to see if they carried Wooly Nylon.

So I walked in, and the sales pitch began… But golly, these machines are neat!!

The first machine I saw was what they call a “Sashiko” machine. Blanket stitches. Oh my goodness it was beautiful!!! Talk about regular spacing and even stitching… I was stunned. Of course, I don’t really have much of a need for it, but it was fascinating to say the least.

ProdEMB12

And then they walked me over to their “Embellisher” machine, which I probably have more use for… I can’t even describe what this was doing–it was totally creating textures, needle felting, and melding two pieces of fabric together, and affixing yarn and ribbon and silk to fabric, and making flourettes–all with 12 needles and no yarn. It was stunning. I want this machine… And they had it on sale, but it was still out of my range… Good grief it was awe inspiring… The things I could do to my creations…

So my trip to the sewing shop was really quite useful. And I got my sleeve board ordered and picked up some Wooly Nylon to boot. And I’m putting this Embellisher machine on my Christmas list.

Things at La Jolla are still comin’ together. I will probably be there for another week on Bonnie and Clyde, and then my job will come to a close as the show opens. I’ve been told it’s quite good, and it’s selling out. I”ve had my head buried in assembling two pairs of matching men’s suit pants for a scene where Clyde’s brother, Buck, is baptized by immersion. Wouldn’t do to walk around in wet clothes for 2/3s of the play…

I guess that’s it! I’m heading out to my garage this afternoon, and finishing reading up a script for my next Design experience: Moxie Theatre’s “Expecting Isabel”. It’s a cute show thus far!

Ta ta for now! Live life with Relish!

Some thoughts on the Final Challenge of Project Runway…

Goodness! What an interesting episode!

First off, I have to say that it was refreshing to see the designers challenged with interpreting a piece of inspiration that they got to choose themselves from the Getty in LA. I felt like, “Yes! That’s the essence of costume design! To be inspired by one thing and translate it to another, with a purpose and a context!” I felt like I could wrap my head around this challenge.

Secondly, I was so happy to hear them get a decent amount of time (2 days) and a decent budget ($300) to put together their look. Why can’t all the challenges be like that? I dunno about you all, but putting together a piece of industry-busting fashion that can be wearable in the crowds my posse runs in simply can’t happen on $100 and 24 hours…

Thirdly, I have to say that I am shocked that Gordana went home. Goodness, of all the designers, she was the most consistent, the highest quality, and the most competent in translating most of the challenges. I think we will see wonderful things from Gordana–of the lot I would choose her to design and create something for me before any of the others, that’s for sure!

It will be interesting to see the three ladies pull off something for Bryant Park. Fashion is a hard nut to crack–if anything I am personally anti-fashion, that’s for sure, so it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what appears to me to be a “game” that dictates to a flock of sheep what is “good” and what is “bad”, but I guess I’m never gonna get it so I can’t be too judgmental, can I? Part of me is happy that I don’t understand fashion–I think perhaps as an industrial “concept” fashion is going through so many changes that one can’t define it easily anyway, so I’m in good company. I certainly don’t want to wear something that makes me feel good simply because others think I look good… I guess I just don’t run with the kind of crowd where other’s opinions of my appearance are that important… But that’s me knockin’ something I just don’t get so why bother?

Suffice to say, I guess Project Runway is good television for my particular consumer bent–those push-up bra commercials will linger in my mind for a while, and I guess that’s what TV is about anymore–selling advertising, right?

I still don’t understand Nina Garcia’s opinions from week to week–“Take a chance–no that’s too much! Too safe, not safe enough…” Oy. Not sure I’d be a subscriber to Marie Claire since I just don’t get her…

Meeeeow! Okay. Claws in, Corey!

Anyway, for once I was intrigued by the episode and I’m curious for the next one.  Live life with Relish!

Workin’ Overtime…

Work at La Jolla Playhouse has reached the “overtime” phase as we approach closer and closer to the preview performances. For the last two days, they have been “tech-ing” the show, from the beginning, bit by bit. That means they’ve had all the actors in their costumes, and slowly coordinated the lighting, projections, and set in order to merge everything together.

We’ve had a handful of notes that have been required, but they’ve mostly been fitting notes and such. I’ve been hard at work on the pants portion of a mens three-piece suit that we have to make doubles of–this particular actor gets wet during a full immersion baptism, and so wearing the same suit throughout the show would be a tad bit uncomfortably squishy. : )

So I’ve been assembling welt pockets and side pockets and such, stuff I haven’t done in a very long time. I so rarely actually make stuff for myself–I don’t know why… Portions of the mens wear process is quite familiar to me, but there are gaps in my knowledge. The only way I’ve learned to fill those gaps is to practice, practice, practice…

I saw a special on TV last night about Bill Cosby receiving the 2009 Mark Twain Comedy award, and there was a clip from the Cosby Show that had one of the characters wearing an awesome vest from the 1980’s. The back simply continued down into a set of “tails” that flowed gently behind the vest, all in satin. I was enchanted! I have to do that next! It looked so elegant and so flashy at the same time, yet it was incredibly complimentary to the form of the woman who was wearing it. I think that may be one of my upcoming projects! I also want to try a men’s smoking jacket, and a women’s trench, but we’ll see if we get to that.

I have accepted a design position for an upcoming show at the Moxie Theatre for their production of “Expecting Isabell”. It’s about a couple’s journey when they decide they want a child, and how things get almost ridiculous on the way… It’s a comedy, and while I’ve only read about a quarter of the script so far, I am tickled pink! It’s cute, and charming, and poignant, and sad and hilarious all at the same time. I anticipate this will be a big success!

Alrighty! More soon! Live life with Relish!

Project Runway Thoughts for October 22 Episode

Good grief.

Maybe I am way too opinionated for my own good. Maybe I am totally ignorant of what fashion is and isn’t. Maybe I’m simply too dense to “get it”. But after watching the Oct. 22 episode of Project Runway, I have to say I’m proud that I’m apparently “clueless.”

Some things really stuck out to me tonight.

To begin, the comment “Those weren’t fashion, those were clothes.” Wh-wh-WHAT? I guess I don’t know anyone that wears anything fashionable then, because in my world clothes are fashion. The people I know may not be able to afford the upscale clothing that is marketed as “fashion” nowadays, but in the end it’s still clothing. And I think Michael Khors’s comment illustrated a major problem with the fashion industry today: people are too independent today to be told what “fashion” is and isn’t. People wear what they like, and what they feel makes them look good. And other people’s opinions about that are becoming less and less important… We are in the era of “ur-Fashion”, and the quicker the fashion industry realizes that the better off they will be…

Everyone that I know grew up in an era when waves of different fashion expressions each held the stage at different times… Grunge, Goth, Rockabilly, Punk, Glam, Annie Hall, Laura Ashley, Retro, etc.–all of them extremes in their own right. Wearing an “extreme” isn’t so unusual anymore. People wear what’s appropriate for particular situations, what they happen to like, or simply what makes them feel good. That is not dictated by a Fashion Council anymore, it’s dictated by what’s available and one’s own sense of personal taste.

Having 4 panelists passing down judgements about what looks good and what doesn’t somehow strikes me as profoundly backward and prideful for some reason… There is a fashion style out there for everyone’s tastes now–it’s too late to make blanket pronouncements regarding what’s “fashionable” anymore… Mass media has blown that privilege out of the hands of a select few and thrust it securely into the consumer’s. Witness the variety of looks on Style.com, the plethora of fashion magazines, the prominence of online clothing purchases, the DIY/Handmade movement… The overly simplistic era of “colors for the season” (for example) has evaporated in the face of a new dynamic that is much too individual for any pat dictates to be credible anymore…

This episode demonstrated one thing to me: Mila Jovovich was the only judge that was humble enough to admit that her opinion was just her opinion, while the rest of the judges apparently continue to believe they actually have a tack on what the general populace thinks is good and bad fashion. They may be in positions of power and authority, but I don’t think that means their ideas are better or more relevant than anyone else’s anymore, especially in today’s society. It simply means they’ve demonstrated some talent and ability, someone believed in them, and they played their cards right to get to where they are. Tim Gunn summed it up perfectly at the end of the episode: “Personal tastes.”

I may be coming off a bit harsh, and that’s certainly not my intention. But I do believe that our concept of what is fashionable has changed forever because of our new ability to cater to our own desires and preferences that has developed in this era of global communication. And regarding Project Runway specifically–I am not sure that the ability to meet 4 judges standards and complete an artificial challenge qualifies a person to be called a legitimate fashion designer anymore… Given what’s happened to our contemporary world with the advent of the internet and the freedom of choice it offers, I’m not sure if fashion is as relevant as it used to be…

Can’t we just make stuff that we like and try hard to find others who like it enough to buy it? Maybe our creations and creativity aren’t what’s “wrong”, maybe it’s our ability to find the right consumers for it… And maybe we should stop worrying about what’s fashionable and start thinking about wearing what makes us happy… Because honestly, folks, is the stamp of approval of out of touch fashionistas really what we should be striving for? And ultimately, is our quest for personal relevance reliant upon someone else to pronounce that we’ve acquired it?

I guess I have too much faith in individuals to express themselves to believe that…

Anyway. Whew! This was a mouthful! LOL! Until next time, live life with Relish!

Costume-ology, Part 2

My experiences working in the Bonnie and Clyde costume shop at La Jolla Playhouse are really turning out to be quite remarkable! We’re all hard at work sewing together several 1930’s outfits, mostly for the women, and doing alterations on several rented items for the men.

I took some more pictures, so I think I’ll just comment on them.

Women's Clothing Rack

Women's Clothing Rack

The above picture is a shot of some of the costumes for the women. Many of the items that are being used in the show already exist, being rented from various rental houses like Western Costume. La Jolla has a stock of items already, and the goal is to use as much as we can that’s appropriate from pre-existing garments, but sometimes that’s not possible when the garment is too fragile or there are specific requirements in the script that prohibit their use (like getting wet, etc.). This rolling rack is chock full of garments that have already been tried on and decided upon, either for a media shot for promotional materials or in the show itself. We’ve worked our way through most of these and repaired the holes and tears that were in them or adjusted them for fit. Notice all the shoes in the bottom–Actors Equity (the actors union) requires that the cast have new shoes specific for each actor (who wants to spend a month wearing someone else’s icky shoes?), so there are lots of pairs for the actors waiting to be tried on. Shoes can be a pricey expenditure, especially when you’re trying to find something that’s not contemporary… And believe it or not, sometimes the period look is defined by the footwear!

Patterns, Patterns, and more Patterns

Patterns, Patterns, and more Patterns

The above picture is of the rack that holds all the patterns for the costumes we’re actually building. Each hanger holds the paper pattern pieces for a different specific costume. As you can see, there are a lot of them! In the front, you can see one of the designer’s renderings. This is what the Cutter uses to draft or drape the pattern to the specific actor’s measurements, just like Project Runway!

Slip Mockup and Photocopies of Renderings

Slip Mockup and Photocopies of Renderings

This is a pic of the different designs we’re building, along with a mockup of a period slip. Can I just say we’ve got a lot of work to do? : )

Sometimes I get asked, “Why don’t you just use real vintage garments?” Well, we can’t for lots of reasons. For one, people are much bigger than they were back then… You’ve noticed how basketball players seem to get bigger and bigger, and teenagers always seem to grow taller than their parents? Well, our contemporary bodies rarely fit into vintage garments anymore–we’re just too big! And those garments that have survived are rarely of a size that’s actually useable because in order to survive they’ve rarely been used. And that usually means they aren’t the “typical size”, as those garments that were useable back then were probably used often, and haven’t lasted long enough to make it through the last 80 years… As fashion has changed, our wardrobes have been discarded so there’s not much left anymore… The average man in World War II had a 38″ chest. Today the average is 42″. And the average men’s shoe size has gone from an 8.5 to a 10. Our bodies are just different…

On top of that, when was the last time you wore a garment 8 times a week and physically exerted yourself?  Costumes have to be very durable to meet that stress–they get much more wear and tear than a normal, every day piece of clothing.  Vintage garments simply can’t handle the strain…

Anyway. More pics and Costume-ology to come!

And I finally finished my audiobook, “Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke (narrated by Lynn Redgrave), and I’m lookin’ for another one to listen to… Any suggestions? Sure makes the day go quicker! : )

Take care, ya’ll, and live life with Relish!!

Costuming and Fashion: One of these things is not like the other…

Okay this is bit of a long one. Wow, do I have a mouthful to say tonight! And it’s perfect to start out the new direction of this blog. AND it’s all about the latest episode of Project Runway, which aired Thursday, September 24.

The challenge for the designer/contestants was to create a look for a character in one of several movie genres: Western, Film Noir, Period, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Action/Adventure. It had to be completed in one day, and they had $150.

When I heard the challenge, I thought “Cool! This is right up my alley!”

And then I saw the results, and I was reminded how frustrating it is to be undervalued as a costume designer in the face of the fashion industry.

Tonight’s blog is about the definition of “Costume”. What is a costume, really? Is it a subset of fashion? Is it a matter of degree? Or is it something altogether completely separate?

No. A costume is fashion. However, a costume is much more overtly defined by a purpose and function that fashion doesn’t have to deal with.

First, a costume has a purpose. In a sense, fashion does as well, but not as explicitly defined as a costume’s. A costume is worn as part of a larger, collaborative effort that has a clear purpose: a performance of some kind, whether it’s to a party or as part of a production that’s filmed or live. A uniform is also considered a costume: it clearly delineates a person as a part of a larger whole separate from everyone else.

Second, a costume (unlike fashion) must support the vision of how that purpose is expressed. That may be focused through the eyes of a particular director or team, a studio, a bride, a choreographer, a corporate executive, or even a government.

Third, the costume must meet the dictates of a host of different “parameters” that are inherent to the nature of the expression. Is it a script? A cultural ritual like graduation or a wedding? Is it the impression desired for a fast food restaurant? Or the functionality of camouflage in a combat setting? How much time, money, and personnel is there to assemble it?

My experience is in theatre. My designs are regulated by a host of logistics that I have little, if any, control over. These include the script, the concept of the piece, and the genre. The purpose of the event dictates how those logistics are dealt with–is it better to get the message of the play across by putting it in period or should we place Arthur Miller’s pilgrims from “The Crucible” on the moon? Does the language have a poetic quality that can be abstracted somehow (putting everyone in foam rubber, for example), or do we need to put everyone in Masterpiece Theatre realism?

Fashion doesn’t deal with these quandaries. Instead of a script, fashion deals with the parameters set down by one’s particular “Style Tribe”.

What’s a style tribe? It’s the difference between what the sorority girls wear and the corporate executives. The movie, “Legally Blonde”, was an exercise in demonstrating conflicting style tribes. Tribes are defined by social class, age, gender, climate, politics, philosophies, occassion, or any number of different factors. And there are subsets: colleges have a wide variety of style tribes, including the artists, the stoners, the business students, the jocks, the science geeks, and the aforementioned sorority girls.

Art-Students-005

Each of these tribes comes with a host of what is “appropriate to wear” and what is not. Stepping outside the boundaries of what each tribe has determined as acceptable marks you as “not one of us”. (Incidentally, that’s why clothing can be terribly important to younger folk–fitting in is part of one’s self identity…) New Yorkers dress differently than Southern Californians. The Howells look different from Marianne and Ginger.

Interviewing-partying

You get the point.

The problem with this week’s challenge on Project Runway was that they asked people to design a costume for a character in a movie genre. What they really wanted was a piece of fashion that was influenced by a movie genre.

Two VERY different things.

How?

Let’s look at some movies that can help… These examples are costumes that were influenced by fashion. (Sometimes it’s helpful to look at the opposite situation.)  Please note that it’s a given in the costume design world that before the mid-1970’s, historical accuracy in film was “optional”. Some of our most beloved films that we regard as “period” are far from it.

For example: “My Fair Lady”. That musical is set in March of 1912. But you couldn’t tell that from the costumes: they’re about as 1960’s as you can get! Eliza’s traveling outfit, her Ascot Races dress, even her ball gown are all heavily influenced by the styles and fashions of 1964.

MyFairLadyDressCompare

myfairladysuitcompare

Another example: “Cleopatra”, with Elizabeth Taylor. Are you kidding me? Period accuracy would have warranted an X-rating. No, no, no… There was no such a thing as showing too much skin back in the Egyptian era…

Cleopatra1compare

Cleopatracompare2

These examples below use costuming in a more appropriate manner.  These films purposely mix period styles and contemporary influences into a look all their own: Bladerunner, for example. This is a sci-fi movie that is incredibly influenced by the film noir genre, on purpose, as a choice. So much of it was straight out of the 1940’s it could have been filmed in black and white…

FilmNoirCompare

Or how about Moulin Rouge? Those costumes were purposely enhanced from their period-accurate originals to include splashes of bright, garish colors and contrasting textures. They started with research. They made them non-period when they wanted them to be. They purposely blurred the lines between period accurate representation of historical fashion and created their interpretations of it in costume.

Moulin-Rouge-Compre

Today, genre accuracy in costuming is a highly valued skill: Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare in Love, Mad Men, Titanic, Evita, Memoirs of a Geisha, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Chicago, Milk, Schindler’s List, Dances with Wolves, Star Wars… All of these have their own parameters of what fits and what doesn’t, most of them dictated by what is appropriate historically or as part of the “vision” that makes the purpose of the film/TV program more clearly evident. It doesn’t have to be “real” or historically accurate, it’s what fits the parameters. Working from accuracy to non-accuracy as a choice. On purpose.

So. What did we get on Project Runway? We didn’t get genre accurate costumes.  We didn’t even get historical fashion with elaboration.  We got contemporary fashion inspired by movie genres. Without a real grounding in costume history, there was no way they could accurately represent these genres. Inevitably, they created “versions” of them that were clearly not accurately part of those genres at all…  Here’s a link to the pics of the final results.

Our contemporary sensibility doesn’t read contemporary-fusion into historical accuracy as a choice. It reads it as inaccurate, or wrong. Only when the degree of debarkation from the original period’s style is clearly strong enough to distinguish the difference do we accept it as a “take” or “interpretation” or “stylization” of what is, in our heads, the “real thing”.

There are too many that know too much to get away with faking it anymore.

I’m not advocating simply replicating the past. What’s the point in that? But what I am saying is that on this particular episode, the purpose/function was not made clear. They were designing for genres as style tribes, not as part of a production. They weren’t designing costumes, they were designing fashions that had costume elements.

It really, REALLY disturbs me that costume is somehow denigrated and considered “lesser than” by so-called fashionistas. Being a costume designer is HARD. You actually work with other people’s ideas and collaborate–a runway dress does not have it’s own opinions. An actor does!! Costuming requires a real operating knowledge of costume and fashion history, and the ability to implement it when appropriate, a lot of people skills and a host of other widely varied skills.

“Too costumey” as an insult? I think not. What about the retro movement? What about the up-cycling/second-hand movement? Goth? Punk? Rockabilly? And what about those Prada shoes that one wears to the office? Dressing up as costuming? Hmmm….

goths2

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neetmagdec08

wondergirls-retro-fashion

rockabilly_514

“Costumey” is not synonymous with “inappropriate or overdone fashion”. It is not “too dramatic”, or “fake”. That’s insulting.

What is really at issue is how one personally determines when the degree of “dramatic flair” in one’s fashion sensibility is too much for one’s own taste, situation, etc.

And it’s funny how I look at runway shows today, and all I see is fashion dipping more and more into costuming’s dramatic flair by leaps and bounds, stretching that imaginary line of “appropriateness/too much drama” further and further. Given different defining parameters and purposes and logistics, those clothes would be considered costumes without any changes whatsoever.

It’s all about context.

In a sense, one could say that everything we wear is a costume, and that we pull attire from our closets based on outside parameters every day, depending on what we’re doing, or how we’re feeling, or the weather, or whatever… If anything, it seems to me that fashion is a contemporary subset of costuming, not the other way around.

And that’s my overly long 2¢.

Life life with Relish! And wear that costume well! : )

Poiret Preview

Today I am proud to preview my latest experiment–a recreation of a 1923 Poiret Cocoon Coat! I have yet to get the button closure on it, but I am terribly excited about where this is going… I have longed to do something elegant and drapey like this for a long time, and think that my floral painting might look really good on it, especially around the hem up to the sleeves. This was made out of black velveteen using a pattern: Folkwear #503.

Front

Front

There are some adjustments that I would like to make to the pattern, as well as some alterations and piecing that I would like to do… I am not thrilled about using someone else’s pattern for things–I’d like to adapt it to my own, so I’ve got some thinking to do… If you had your druthers, what would you do? I’m thinking there is a way to make it more contemporary. Just haven’t hit on it yet. : )

Side

Side

But here it is, sans center front closure. I would love to have some feedback if you’re willing… Perhaps some vertical panels in the front and one in the back? Hmm…

Sleeve

Sleeve

Until next time, Live Life with Relish!

How I Sew, Part 4: The Last of the Vest Tutorial

This is Part 4 of my “How I Sew” tutorial on a festive holiday vest.

The previous two installments are here for Part 1 and here for Part 2 and here for Part 3.

Last time, we had jut completed the collar. We were getting ready to sew the lining to the outside fabric!

After pinning it all together along the edges, I sewed, clipped, and graded all the seams, making sure to carefully trim out all the points that would be turned in (getting rid of all the excess fabric can help prevent lumpiness and increase the sharpness of the corners) and all the curves were appropriately clipped (so they would actually turn where they are supposed to and lay flat).

Tutorial31a

Pin Pin Pin...

Stitching directions

Stitching directions

After that’s completed, a quick check of the center front would be a good idea. On plaid fabrics, or any print that has a clear “line” in it, one should make sure that the center front closure is lined up properly. Having a line that doesn’t go straight up and down can look sloppy. The lines in the fabric need to be the same distance from the edge of the center front fold all the way up and down the front, otherwise it will look as if the stitching didn’t follow the line (regardless of whether it did or not). If it doesn’t work, open up the center front seam line, and try adjusting it. At this point, you can follow the print of the fabric if you’re not more than a 1/4″ away from your drawn stitch line. Any more than that and it’ll look very odd…

"Straight line, Ladies and Gentlemen!  Single file!"

"Straight line, Ladies and Gentlemen! Single file!"

Once the inside lining and the outside fabric are together, turned out, and pressed, we attack the shoulders.

Sew them up so the neckline is open. You don’t want to sew up the neck because we need to insert the collar later.

Shoulder Seam Pinning

Shoulder Seam Pinning

If you haven’t already (and it’s a good idea to do so way back when you cut out your pieces) stay stitch the necklines, and clip. You’ll then pin the neck to the outside of the vest only, not the lining.

Neckline Shmeckline

Neckline Shmeckline

A Mistake

A Mistake

Once that’s done, it gets sewn, and then clipped and graded. The lining fabric gets pulled up, clipped, turned under, and slipstitched to the stitching line that was just sewn.  The picture below is  one that I took in the middle of a mistake–I was going to pin it to the lining instead of the outside layer.  Don’t let that happen to you…  Make sure you pin the collar to the outside layer.

Hand sewing is easier when you use beeswax on your thread. It makes the thread stiffer and doesn’t allow it to twist up on itself as easily.

A Hand Sewing Necessity: Beeswax

A Hand Sewing Necessity: Beeswax

Thread with Body is Better

Thread with Body is Better

After finishing the collar, we finally turn our attention to the buttonholes. Placing these can be done with a pattern guide, an expandable button placer, or just by measuring. Since I was working with a plaid, I had to follow the dictates of the pattern of the fabric, so I placed my buttons accordingly on lines (and between lines) down the center front.

Most home machines come with instructions to do buttonholes. If not, pick up a handy sewing guide and follow those instructions.

Buttonholes!  Almost done!

Buttonholes! Almost done!

Transfer your marks on one side to the other, and sew on your buttons.

Button. Button! Who's got the Button?

Button. Button! Who's got the Button?

And Voila!!! The vest is done! We did it!!

Taa Daaa!

Taa Daaa!

There are some general principles that I should share with you regarding sewing that I follow as good practice:

1) Press as you go. Nothing makes a garment look more homemade than a lack of a good pressing job. Garments look much much better when you take the time to constantly press your fabric while you are in process.

2) Use a sharp sewing needle on your machine. Part 2 has a picture of what happens when you don’t use a fresh needle.

3) Grading can reduce bulk. Cutting all the seams so they don’t lay on top of each other at the same distance can prevent ugly lumps.

4) Being careful and going slowly is better than plowing through things.

Okay, I think that’s it for now! More about what’s happening in Relished Artistry soon! Have fun, and live life with Relish!

How I Sew, Part 2: A Vest Tutorial

I touched a little upon my sewing process in a previous post called “How I Sew, Part 1”. Well, now I’m going to get a bit more detailed, because it dawned on my that this new vest project could be perfect to use as a tutorial. Those of you who may not be incredibly interested in sewing may find this post a complete and utter bore. But for those who are curious, this might be useful to you (hopefully).

I’ve been snapping pictures along the way as I work through each step. This particular post has a lot of pictures, because as I discuss details, I need visuals. So it may seem a bit longer than most posts.

First off, I have to say this vest is modified from one found in a commercial pattern package: Simplicity #2566.  While I can make my own patterns, I don’t really want to unless I have to, so this was a lot easier. I traced the pattern size that I needed onto paper (leaving out the seam allowances inherent to each pattern piece–I prefer to add my own.  See Part 1 for more info on that…) and proceeded to lop it into pieces…

Choose What You Want

Choose What You Want

Below is a picture of what my finished pattern looked like when I was done. I added a collar, extended the shoulder seam, and cut many of the pieces into halves… I also created a facing piece for the lining along the center front button closure on the inside.

Adjust your Pattern

Adjust your Pattern

This process required me to make notches in the new pieces I made, just to make sure that I was lining all the curves up correctly.

I knew what I was wanting–a festive vest with vertical panels in Christmas colors. The pic below is a shot of the fabrics that I chose. Not that the gold fabric is sheer… I would need to mount this to another fabric in order to use it, otherwise my vest lining would show through (or, alternatively, this vest could be worn only at adult oriented Christmas Parties… hehe…). All of the fabrics were actually too flimsy to use on their own. I think they may have actually been drapery fabrics, and so they hang beautifully but have no body whatsoever. All of them would need to be supported somehow.

My Selected Fabrics

My Selected Fabrics

The solution to flimsy fabrics? Flatlining. I would essentially “marry” two different pieces of fabric into one. And that meant finding a fabric to meld onto my fancy outside fabrics that wouldn’t be seen but would bolster it up and make it a bit sturdier. I chose a cheap $1/yard cotton broadcloth. Akin to muslin, it would do the trick. The process is called flatlining, not lining. Lining is a separate piece of fabric that makes wearing easier and more comfortable. This is a structural method.

I took my pattern pieces, laid them out on the cotton (making sure the grain lines match), and traced around each paper guide with a sharp soft lead pencil. Making sure to make little pencil marks where I had cut out all the notches, I then traced around the edges of each pattern 1/2″ away. This was my cut line. I now would have a 1/2″ seam allowance. Finally, I cut each piece out.

I then used transfer paper and a pouncer to transfer the lines on one piece of fabric to the second piece of fabric underneath it. Voila! You have a left side and a right side! My transfer paper is red, and it’s mounted to a piece of poster board for easy use. My pouncer is flat, so it creates solid lines. I use paper weights and cups to hold down my patterns, or I simply pin the paper to the fabric.

Pouncing Lines

Pouncing Lines

The next step is the hard one, and you need good eyes. But it’s a REAL time saver. Instead of tracing each layer out separately, I simply take my newly marked flatlining and place it on the fancy fabric. The trick is to make sure the grain lines match up… What’s a grain line you ask? It’s the direction of the threads. If the flatlining and the fancy fabric don’t line up with the same direction, the two pieces won’t behave nicely, and they’ll sorta fight. (My analogy about marrying to the two pieces together isn’t so far off, but there isn’t an option for counseling in the fabric world…). The edge of the fabric is indicative of the direction of the grain.

The picture below is comparing the grain line of a flatlining piece with the grain of the fabric underneath it by using the edge to see if it’s laid down straight. The direction of the threads in the flatlining should match the directions of the fabric, and I measured out from the edge at the top of my flatlining piece and at the bottom, making sure they were the same distance from the edge. Otherwise, if they were off (even by a little bit) the pieces wouldn’t fit, and the next step would be a nightmare.

Grain Lines

Grain Lines

It’s important to make sure that your flatlining pieces were cut out following each pattern piece’s indicated guideline. If they weren’t you’re setting yourself up for trouble even before you get to laying them out on your fancy fabric.

Pinning is also important. I pin the two pieces together along the stitch line, crossing it. Some people pin their flatlining along the stitch lines. I find that problematic at this stage, cuz I just wanna get these two pieces together without having to care about taking the pins out as I sew… So I pin them together so I don’t have to take the pins out at all… Lazy? Maybe. Time saving? Definitely!

You’ll notice in the picture below that I use quilting pins. I like them. They have the plastic head that make them easy to pic up with my stubby “man-fingers”, and they’re long, thinner, and usually sharp. I find they work with a wider variety of fabrics than the traditional shorter pins used for sewing, because they’re simply easier to handle. I also have a specific pair of sheers for cutting delicate fabrics. While it would be nice to use one pair of sheers for all purposes, sometimes those big honkin’ 12″ cutters are too big to wield easily for floaty wafting fabrics that demand a softer touch.

Needles and Pins!

Needles and Pins!

Now I had to deal with that sheer metallic fabric I chose. Backing it with a second fabric, I cut out that piece, placed it on my sheer, and cut those out first before I pinned my flat lining to it. Seemed easier to me that way.

Notice the grid created by the red and green stripes. How weird would it look if they weren’t symmetrical on the body? Or if one panel ran in one direction and the other panel on the other side of the body ran in a different direction? Probably not so fashionably kosher. “Like, how homemade lookin’, dude!” So a little attention to lining up the grain line and making sure both pieces are exactly the same will save a lot of embarrassment later on.

Backing Sheer Fabrics

Backing Sheer Fabrics

Finally, the two pieces are cut out!

See how they shine together?

See how they shine together?

Now to have the marriage ceremony and sew all the layers together! Flat lining is stitched 1/4″ away from your stitch line, which is conveniently half a presser foot width on your machine! Look at the pic below to see the correct placement of the stitch line. This is a Vegas wedding, so your stitch length should be as long as you can get it so the whole thing is done as quickly as possible. Wham! Bam! We wanna get to the next step of actually assembling the garment!

Sew!  Sew like the Wind!!!

Sew! Sew like the Wind!!!

However, being in too much of a hurry isn’t good either. Check out what happened to me below: a shoddy needle I ignored too long. See what happens when you don’t put into your machine a fresh, clean, bur-free needle of an appropriate size for your delicate fabrics? Your threads revolt, and you get stripes. Icky, ugly pulled stripes from threads that got beat up by your crude, brutish needle. Usually, a sleek clean needle pushes the threads aside, but not this one. This particular needle was a real thug, and simply shoved his way through, and met with resistance! Viva la Resistance! Yeah, well, your seem ends up looking crappy. Best to avoid confrontation altogether, and keep your neighborhood watch active: change your needles!!!

Bad needle!  Bad, bad needle! Shame on you!

Bad needle! Bad, bad needle! Shame on you!

Okay, so finally, having married all these pieces (busy little Vegas sewing machine, eh?), I laid them out on the table to see how it would look eventually.

Whew!

Whew!

And then I thought of the lining I was gonna add.

And decided I’d do that tomorrow.

So. This one was LONGGGG! But I think it’s helpful to anyone who is curious about the sewing process I follow. And perhaps a little inspirational, too. I do all of this in my garage, on the top of an old door set on two shelving units. You don’t need a fancy schmancy sewing room to do it (although in my dreams, my studio is to DIE for, and someday I’ll have that…).

Alrighty, next entry, we move on to assembling the garment!

Live life with Relish!

How I Sew, Part 1

Hey, gang!  I figured I’d let you in on some “trade secrets” regarding how I put together a lot of what I work on.  A lot of my process is influenced by my background in theatrical design and construction.  I learned a particular way of sewing that is kind of an offshoot of the regular kind of home sewing one does with a store-bought commercial pattern (like Vogue or Simplicity or Butterick, for example).
I use a method called “line-to-line” sewing.  In a nutshell, instead of cutting out a pattern with an automatic 5/8ths inch seam allowance, I literally draw each line on the fabric and sew the lines together.  Most costumes shops cut around each of their hand-made patterns with an inch of seam allowance (to allow for fitting adjustments and use on other actors in the future) but end up trimming away what they don’t need.  The biggest difference is sewing on a line instead of sewing a certain distance from the edge.

Hey, gang!  I figured I’d let you in on some “trade secrets” regarding how I put together a lot of what I work on.  A lot of my process is influenced by my background in theatrical design and construction.  I learned a particular way of sewing that is kind of an offshoot of the regular kind of home sewing one does with a store-bought commercial pattern (like Vogue or Simplicity or Butterick, for example).

I use a method called “line-to-line” sewing.  In a nutshell, instead of cutting out a pattern with an automatic 5/8ths inch seam allowance, I literally draw each line on the fabric and sew the lines together.  Most costumes shops cut around each of their hand-made patterns with an inch of seam allowance (to allow for fitting adjustments and use on other actors in the future) but end up trimming away what they don’t need.  The biggest difference is sewing on a line instead of sewing a certain distance from the edge.

ToolsGreen

Various Patterning Tools I Use

So to develop the pattern for my coat, I used a size 12 “sloper” (available in stores) and adjusted it to what I needed.  A sloper is a basic pattern for a specific set of standardized measurements common to various sized bodies.  I simply traced the commercial pattern along the seam allowances marked onto a piece of kraft paper, then adjusted it to what I needed.

Pattern alteration is an art in itself, and people get paid big bucks to do it in the manufacturing industry.

Knowing that all my fabric was just 8″ wide, and that I had very very little to work with, I used each piece that I had to it’s maximum potential, and adjusted the pattern to what I needed.  Coat like, curvy pieces for interest, no real shaping involved.  Notching all the pattern pieces for markings on the fabric to line up (so the curves fit accurately) was a time consuming process.  I developed a collar pattern, and adjusted the sleeves for a little more room in the arm.

GreainandSA

Differences in Seam Allowance

Reassembling all the pieces after cutting them out, I re-adjusted the pattern so I could cut out the coat’s lining pieces, which don’t have the curves in them.

Patternlines

The Coat's Specific Wavy Pattern Lines

And voila!  The beginning of a most unusual coat!

Patternlines2

The Same Specific Wavy Pattern Lines in the Coat Itself

As I move forward on different projects, I’ll share more of how I put things together.  Until then, live life with Relish!

Growing, Friends, and Inspiration

I got two more garments done today, as I sewed the buttons on two vests that I will be posting in the next couple of days to my two online vending sights.  Here’s a couple pics as a preview:
Vestredfrontpreview Vestredbackpreview
Interestingly, the way to make sure that more people see your stuff is to not post all of it at once.  A wise online entrepreneur using Etsy and Artfire and other handmade-centric merchant sites won’t post all their inventory in the beginning.  One trickles it in, because the merchant sites all have “recently posted” features.  The more you spread out the posting of your items the better it is, because then you show up more often in that mechanism and more people see your post.  If you post everything all at once, you’ve sort of wasted a lot of opportunity to be seen over an extended period of time.  So I’ll be posting these new vests over the next week, but not both together.

I managed to put together a new “Page” to my Facebook profile, which is centered on Relished Artistry, and sent out a mass email to all the people on my friends list (regardless of how I knew them) so they could join as “fans”, and not have to be constantly peppered with business-related posts through my own personal profile.  I’m gonna try really hard to keep the two separate and distinct, as I don’t like the idea of using my friends to promote my business.  My ethic is this:  I do what I do and I have what I have.  I don’t need to push it to within an inch of it’s life on all of my friends who don’t really care.  That’s not cool in my book.  I’ll share new stuff once in a while, but I want to keep my friends not lose them to capitalism.  I’m excited about the Page–we’ll see what happens.

I was told through my partner that my greenery looks like grape leaves.  I think I’m gonna run with that… I am gonna start practicing bunches of grapes and see how they look on velvet.  We’ll see what happens.  I’m also exploring pushing the “medieval” feel of things, and considering using “illustrated manuscripts” as inspiration for artistic expression.  We’ll see.  I’d like to figure out something to actually say with that style, not simply decorate stuff.  I’d like to incorporate some kind of statement that’s fun and interesting, as well as artistically expressive to wear, but we’ll see.  I have some thinking to do about that.

Okay, more later!

Live life with Relish!

“Ya got talent, kid!”

“Ya got talent, kid!”
I’m really enjoying my iPod.  I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m working.  Today, I downloaded a book to start listening to: The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.
I came in from my studio (I am not going to call it a garage anymore, thank you) all excited to write this entry to share with you what I was listening to.  I hopped on google to find some reviews before I dove in.
The book is brand new (2009) and talks about how talent is developed, literally, through the study of neuroscience…  I’m not gonna bore you with the details, but it’s very inspiring to me right now.  It has several big concepts, but right now the idea of “deep practice” is hitting home…  In a nutshell, it says that talent comes from thousands of hours of concentrated practice.  Not a big surprise there.  Learn by doing.  But it goes further to explain something I hadn’t really thought about deep down inside:  practice comes from trying to fix failure.  Without failure, you can’t really be practicing.  So practicing really must be about never really succeeding, but constantly striving to accomplish what you can’t achieve yet.  Trying to do what you can’t do, not simply repeating what you already know.  Inherently, it is not about successful accomplishment of a goal, it is about the inevitable failure we all must experience over and over again in order to move on to the next set of failures.
Talent, from Coyle’s perspective (as I understand it thus far) must come from slowly working through doing things wrong over and over again until we don’t think about it anymore and it’s natural.  Talent is, in a way, simply the ability to do things quicker, more easily, and to a higher degree than average.  One doesn’t think about doing “it” anymore.  And the ability to concentrate on one’s mistakes in bits, breaking it down slowly into workable pieces (or “chunking”) is REALLY what talent is all about.  It isn’t the result, it’s the process of learning.
So.  I think I’m gonna pay more attention to what I’m painting a bit more, and purposely stretch.  I see now why they say all artists must be prepared to throw away their first years of work–it should be more about growing than accomplishment.  Practice does indeed make perfect, from a certain perspective.  How you practice is the real question…
Live life with Relish!

I’m really enjoying my iPod.  I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m working.  Today, I downloaded a book to start listening to: The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.

I came in from my studio (I am not going to call it a garage anymore, thank you) all excited to write this entry to share with you what I was listening to.  I hopped on google to find some reviews before I dove in.

The book is brand new (2009) and talks about how talent is developed, literally, through the study of neuroscience…  I’m not gonna bore you with the details, but it’s very inspiring to me right now.  It has several big concepts, but right now the idea of “deep practice” is hitting home…  In a nutshell, it says that talent comes from thousands of hours of concentrated practice.  Not a big surprise there.  Learn by doing.  But it goes further to explain something I hadn’t really thought about deep down inside:  practice comes from trying to fix failure.  Without failure, you can’t really be practicing.  So practicing really must be about never really succeeding, but constantly striving to accomplish what you can’t achieve yet.  Trying to do what you can’t do, not simply repeating what you already know.  Inherently, it is not about successful accomplishment of a goal, it is about the inevitable failure we all must experience over and over again in order to move on to the next set of failures.

Talent, from Coyle’s perspective (as I understand it thus far) must come from slowly working through doing things wrong over and over again until we don’t think about it anymore and it’s natural.  Talent is, in a way, simply the ability to do things quicker, more easily, and to a higher degree than average.  One doesn’t think about doing “it” anymore.  And the ability to concentrate on one’s mistakes in bits, breaking it down slowly into workable pieces (or “chunking”) is REALLY what talent is all about.  It isn’t the result, it’s the process of learning.

So.  I think I’m gonna pay more attention to what I’m painting a bit more, and purposely stretch.  I see now why they say all artists must be prepared to throw away their first years of work–it should be more about growing than accomplishment.  Practice does indeed make perfect, from a certain perspective.  How you practice is the real question…

For those of you who are really interested, here’s a little video the author made…  Geesh I feel like a pusher…  <sigh>  Honestly, I may hate this book when I’m finished with it, who knows…  But it’s intriguing.  Take it for what it’s worth.  : )

Live life with Relish!

Process Report #1

For this next project, I’m going to walk you through the steps that I use to create an original piece of wearable art.  As the 1950’s coat is created, I’m going to post photographs each step of the way.  That way, you all can see how I get these things created.

The first step is “Inspiration”.

People are inspired in lots of different ways by lots of different things.  For my previous projects, I was inspired by my great-grandmother’s china paintings of roses and such, and wanted to be able to replicate that feeling on a piece of fabric.  I’m still working on capturing her essence, but it will come with time.

This garment was inspired by the color of the velvet.  I had not worked on an obviously neutral background before, and I am realizing that I paint in a much more “free” manner when I am not burdened with representational realism in the subjects I paint.  So I was looking to create something that was a bit more abstract, and the grey velvet reminded me of rain and fog filled drab and dreary days.  What could spice up those kinds of days but something beautiful to look at?

I chose a 1950’s pattern because of the idea of using abstract painting.  And when I think of abstract art, I think of it really starting to come into it’s own in the 1950’s for some reason.

The type of abstraction… Hmmm…  Well, I had completed a project for a play a long while ago that had a velour robe inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.  I really enjoyed creating the swirls on that robe, and I had received so many compliments regarding it, I thought I might try something like that.  (In actuality, the experience of the robe had inspired me to create a wearable art company and continue painting on fabric for Relished Artistry in general…)

ProcessStep1 msnd090a_171_big ProcessStep3

I took these two ideas, and tried a painting sample on the fabric.  I use Jacquard Fabric Paints–Neopaque, Lumier, Textile Traditionals, and Dye-na-Flow–all by the same company. After experimenting with these thoughts and trying to exploit the metallic nature of the Lumier Paints, I concluded that the colors and the application could come across as quite complimentary to the neutrality of the velvet.  The cut of the coat would simply enhance it’s “period painting” quality.

And so, I transfered the “medium” size to a 50# craft paper (so I wouldn’t need to cut up the pattern paper itself), selected a button closure and a lining, and now I am going to cut the fabric out and start painting.

ProcessStep2

And now, all there is left to do is dive in!  More soon!

Until then, live life with relish!

“Autumn Relish” Preview

Tonight, I started on my next project.  It dawned on me that I didn’t tell you all about my previous one…

I am expanding out of the realm of roses… hehe…  I tried some autumn leaves this time on some beautiful auburn velvet.  It’s a short jacket, sz. 20, without a lining.  Since it’s velvet, it’s just a shmata, really, but the collar is a bit heavier so it will provide a tad bit of warmth around the shoulders.  It’s not completed yet, but here’s a few pics.  The leaves cascade down in curls to the hem, and they look rather muted straight on.  But viewed from an angle, the color really pops.  Rich oranges, reds, golds, and metallics make the leaves rich and bright!

I also decided to start putting a “pseudo-watermark” on all the pics, just in case.  Since I haven’t found anything like this, and I’m sure the idea will get lifted eventually by someone, I’d rather not make it too easy for ’em.  Haha!  : )

Next up, a vintage recreation of a 1950’s women’s coat.  Grey velvet with some abstracted designs around the hem, ala Van Gogh, but not quite…  I’ll find an artist that does similar stuff to it between now and when I get the preview pics up.

Until then, live life with relish!

AutumnPreview1wm

Autumpreview2wm

Autumpreview3wm

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