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!

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!

Merrily we stitch along…

I’m still at La Jolla, working as overhire on their show, Bonnie and Clyde. It’s going very well for me–we are getting a lot done and I am learning a lot about working with materials that I haven’t had much of a chance to develop skills around.

We’ve been making women’s slips and period bras, dresses and tops, as well as working with china silk and silk georgette, stripes and plaids… I must admit, I sometimes feel like I’m all thumbs when I try to work with delicate materials that don’t have much body to them… I am used to working with wools and such, doing menswear. Those kinds of materials are much more sturdy, with a weight and feel that allows for a heavier “hand” when manipulating them.

But these soft, flimsy fabrics require a much gentler touch that’s almost excruciatingly mind-numbing… Even the smallest needle in my sewing machine irreparably damages the pieces I insert under my machine’s presser foot, and the feed dogs of my machine seem to simply chew up the materials regardless of how attentive I can be… I am learning to handle the gossamer fabrics with a graceful hand but it is not coming easily…

Im also learnin a bit about knits… I’m not sure, but I think that the refined knitting that we wear today (like jersey knit and t-shirt knit) is a relatively contemporary invention when it comes to clothing… Those kinds of small weaves simply weren’t possible in the past by hand. As a consequence, since most of my sewing is in historical reproduction, I don’t have much experience working with knits–most clothing throughout history has been done with weaves. So stretch fabrics, and the techniques required to sew them are all very “alien” to me. But with this show, I’ve been able to play with some knits and learned some new stuff that I can’t wait to try at home.

Ever heard of Wooly Nylon?  wooly_nylon_web Oh my goodness what an invention!!! I was able to sew with it on my regular Bernina home machine (a 930), and a regular straight stitch suddenly became a stretch stitch! I couldn’t believe it! No special settings or equipment–it hit me that now I can actually sew knits at home with my regular machine and not have to switch a bunch of settings and such. Can you say “ecstatic”?? This opens up a whole new world for me and what I can produce now.

On top of that, the home serger that was in the shop at La Jolla is the exact same model that I have at home: A Juki MO-735. So I was able to learn about chain stitches and cover stitches while getting paid for it! I was using what I was learning on the garments I was building, and storing that knowledge for use later at home. I am so excited for this new potential! What an awesome experience this has been!

Anyway, I go in to work today at 1:00pm to assemble some mockups for some menswear we are building (finally, some familiar territory), and finish up a 1930’s diner apron that we are slamming together. I am listening to Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World” from his Wheel of Time Series, and (being the typical male geek that I am) I’m really enjoying it. Boys with swords. Yada yada yada! : )

Okay back to work!  More later!  Live life with Relish!

Brain Melt

I’ve had a busy, mindful couple of days. “Mindful?” you ask. Yep. My mind is full! I’ve had a lot of juicy conversations with a lot of folks all week long, and my brain is buzzing so much it’s tired.

I’ve had email exchanges with smart, savvy entrepreneurs (shout out to Michelle Sholund of By the Bay Botanicals), and received more comments on my blog than I ever have before (thanks Sister Diane, Gwen, and Michelle)! I’ve also been lurking around the Etsy forums commenting and picking the brains of different shop owners there. I joined the local San Diego Etsy team, and now have dozens of local etsy shops and blogs to go explore in my copious spare time (!).

I’ve been reading some other blogs that have interesting topics that have stretched my mental capacity, and found some wonderful resources I didn’t know existed (I’ll share those with you in the future–gotta explore them some more… hehe…)

I’ve found some websites of different clothing vendors that have made me turn green with envy and planted the seeds of determination, some of them local!! Talk about spurring one on to accomplishment–if they can do it and my stuff is just as good, then why can’t I?!?

On top of that, I’ve had some exchanges with some of my real life friends that have offered me some advice regarding the direction of Relished Artistry, and given me some really good food for thought regarding what I’m making and what I could potentially do with it in the future. Is more of a costume-bent in the future? Hmmm…

My problem now is that my brain is so full, I don’t know what to do next!!homer-simpson-wallpaper-brain

One never ending responsibility is to create more of a body of work, so when I feel myself getting “overwhelmed” with ideas I’ve been retreating back to my studio to concentrate on generating more items to sell. I could literally spend all my time on the internet, zooming around the blogosphere absorbing new thoughts and plans, but at a certain point my gas tank empties and I have to slow down to make a pit stop. My studio is my pit stop. No crew, no tires, no smelly fuel. It is a garage, though!

Now it’s time to DO, not ponder.  Well, at least ponder while I do.  Haha!

So that’s what I’m going to do at this moment: spend time in my studio, simply sewing. I have some projects that I need to complete, and some others that I want to start, and there’s no time like the present. It’s getting cooler in San Diego, and working out in the garage is quite comfy–I’ll eventually have to get space heaters to keep it warm, but I won’t worry about that yet. Right now, it’s crisp and cool and energizing!

So I’m off. To relish my life by enjoying my simple pleasures and add to my stock. And perhaps along the way my brain will sort out the next step. : )

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

6a00d83451cbb069e200e5523f5d0d8834-800wi

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!

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

“Golden Rose” Coat and Purse

Well, here are some pics of the newest stuff. Coat is Sz. 18, forest green satin lining, genuine bone buttons!  The purse is loosely structured, with a magnetic clasp in the center to keep it closed.

Next, I’ll be working on a new coat with some lighter velvet instead of velour, so we’ll see how that works out!  Woohoo!

Still no word from the State, but I have no doubt it will come eventually.  My dress forms were ordered 4 days ago, and they’re coming UPS Ground, so it’ll be sometime next week (hopefully).  I’m still scouring the internet for more interesting goodies, and found another blog that I was really intrigued by.  Hopefully, you will be, too!  It has some really cute stuff, but most of all it’s about “beginning” crafters sort of like me.  It’s very validating!  Enjoy!

Indie House

Until next time, live life with relish!

YellowRoseFront

YelllowRoseBack

YellowRosePurse1

YellowRosePurse2

Another Sample

I have this “chenille double-sided velour” (it’s actually upholstery fabric) that I am using for a lot of my pieces.  It’s gorgeous stuff, and quite luxurious to the touch. I’m now making a jacket out of it.  But I wanted to try out making some shawls, just to try the painting process, and see how they turned out.

I got it done, and here’s a couple pics of the first in a long line of shawls that I’m gonna make.  I will be working on developing more painting skills (interestingly enough, painting on a light-colored pile using black velvet techniques doesn’t quite work), but I’m loving how it turned out. It has a Victorian/1960s vibe to it that’s funky and fun.  And its quite a heavy fabric. It’s not some flimsy affectation that some shawls are–this is actually substantial and will provide a bit of warmth.

I need a few more pieces and some better photography before I post these on any sales sites, but this is a sneak peak.  : )

Shawl2

Shawl3

Live life with relish!

A Body of Work

So I’m sitting in my Garage/Studio sewing some satin lining into the velour wrap I’m working on.  I’m listening to a podcast that’s talking about how many pieces is appropriate for an exhibition/show.  The host of the podcast is very smart, and says it depends.  But she mentions that regardless, when we feel we have accumulated enough pieces around a theme or technique, we will know when that body of work is ready to show.

And that got me thinking about bodies of work.  And samples.  And just exactly what it is that I need to have prepared.

I was wasting time late last night wandering through Etsy and Artfire, and looking for other sites that were similar (which I found: Winkelf and Shophandmade) and started to discover just how many pieces each vendor had for sale on these sights…  They range from single pieces to sometimes hundreds.  There were some that I thought didn’t qualify for “hand made” items (like this one company in China with over 100 employees that posted it’s stuff on Etsy) and thus had more than a hundred completely different garments for sale.  None of the items came across to me as particularly reflective of individual creativity, and certainly none of them looked like they had been “manufactured” with an artistic sensibility.  It was yet another clothing line, and the company was just using Etsy as a storefront.

But that got me to thinking–my “body of work” will have certain pieces that will be individual, unable to completely reproduce ever again.  I like that.  That’s what makes them unique.  I can not mass produce these items in any large scale any more than an oil painter can reproduce hundreds of the same still life.  Yes, it’s possible, but none of them will be exactly alike.  And I’m thinking they shouldn’t be, frankly…

So today I finished my first piece–a heavy velour winter cape with black satin lining, embellished with hand-painted garlands of roses along the hem.  A black satin band running around the neck and center front provides an oriental feel, but the overall feel is rather Spanish.  I’m quite proud of it.  It’s the first in my “body of work.”  I’m calling it “Rosey Warmth No.1”, I think.  : )  Here’s pics!

RoseyWarmthFront

RoseyWarmthBack

Until later, live life with relish!

« Older entries