Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Joy of Learning

Today at Camp Couture, individual projects became noticeably closer to completion.  It is remarkable what has been accomplished this week.  Tomorrow, we will sew more, then pack up and return home to our families, friends, pets, jobs and normal schedules.  We'll leave with new skills,  better understanding and deeper appreciation for the art of fine sewing.

This evening, I am thinking of a beautiful Marfy sheath dress sewn from black-on-black linen jacquard.  I am so sorry she bought the last of it, otherwise I'd go back and buy some for myself.  The dressmaker has been sewing for two years.  She hit a rough spot yesterday when she accidentally cut right into the bodice of her dress.  She looked on, tearfully, as Susan calmly devised a new design feature involving extra seams and scraps of fabric.  As a newcomer, this dressmaker is well aware that she has a lot to learn.  And, she is in her seventies.  That takes guts, you know? By the way, that dress looks beyond fabulous on her.

I admire people who see the green grass yonder and waste no time charging ahead.  That's what we, in the sewing community, have in common.  If you are reading this now, thank you for being a part of this creative energy.  It nourishes me, as it does all of us.

This evening, we enjoyed dinner together and Cidell joined us.  Many of our classmates stayed behind to work.  There has been a good bit of sewing around the clock.  Tonight, however, was a wonderful evening of laughter and companionship.
From left to right, Gertie. Amazing Anna, Susan Khalje, me, Best Baster Barb, Gigi and Cidell.

I am happy I could share this with you.  Of course, I am also sorry that more of us can't get together, for geographical reasons.  But at least we have this real-time online news network, right?  And it's a wonderful thing.

Happy sewing, my friends.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

a little lace jacket, coming along

In addition to enjoying the entertainment* at Couture Sewing School, I am actually sewing a jacket.
As you may recall, I am working with guipure lace and underlining it with polyester chiffon.  Neither polyester nor chiffon are often mentioned as a ideal choice for underlining.  Perhaps poly chiffon is never recommended, however, it was the right color and it looks pretty, so it's happening. 

Poly chiffon is reluctant to sit still and behave.  I had to square up each piece carefully, then pin the muslin to the fabric, directly on the stitching lines.  In order to transfer the stitching lines to the fabric, I marked with chalk pencil.  The chalk brushes away easily so there are no worries of staining.  Normally, the markings on the underlining serve as a guideline for basting to the fashion fabric.  

Amusingly, in this case, the chalk markings were insufficient.  Ah, ha ha ha, yes, it was necessary to thread trace the stitching lines to the underlining.   What a little rascal that fabric is!   No worries, I was happy to hand-baste every seam.  Once that was completed, I basted the underlining to the lace.  This didn't take long, maybe 2 days, tops.

 By the end of  today I assembled the bodice.  The one-inch side seams were trimmed down except for a single layer of the chiffon, which you can see in the lower right hand corner above.  That inch of chiffon was then folded over and hand-sewn into place as a seam binding.

This part (seriously, not kidding now) went quickly. 

* there is some goofing off, laughing and general merriment.  It is refreshing to walk around and see other projects, or, perhaps, make a trip to the trunk.  Susan's trunk contains many treasures.  

Here is a particularly lovely corset.  Is it not amazing to see Susan Khalje's work?  A true artist, she is.  Thank you Gigi, for modeling!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scenes from the workroom

Today was another productive day at couture boot camp.  The hours relaxed into zen-like fluidity as we marked, hand-basted underlinings, and cut fabric.  
My own project has evolved a bit.  As of yesterday morning, the lace was to stand alone as a bolero jacket with a chiffon tie as a closure.  Alas, the color of the lace (you could call it gun metal) proved challenging to match.  The best option was a slightly lighter poly chiffon.  It's a sheer fabric that looks nice as an underlining for the guipure.  The fact that poly chiffon is evil is irrelevant - this is the fabric I'll use.  One must suffer for beauty.  Or curse, as the case may be.
Blue underlining for my guipure bolero
 Each dressmaker possesses a vision, determination and remarkable focus.  It takes but a short conversation to realize each woman is a sewing warrior in her own right.
a custom dress form made with plaster for the dressmaker's daughter.
Hall-of-Fame mother is sewing a custom gown for daughter's prom.  
working steadily and progressing quickly
A guipure lace jacket from Susan's trunk provides guidance for my jacket.  The lace and underlining were treated as a single piece and seams sewn normally - as opposed to overlapping the lace over the seam.
K working on her corselet for her self-draped gown
I stepped away before embarrassing myself by drooling on someone else's
personal belongings.  Observe notions galore and a Marfy pattern all tucked into a traveling organizer.
(my stuff is in a paper bag)
This is a fascinating experience in many ways.  It is really interesting to meet other people who are as obsessed with sewing as you are.  We understand each other very quickly!

Happy Sewing - thank goodness for the internet, right?  We have found each other here.

Happy Sewing!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Surrounded by Sewing Goodness

Where do I begin?  How do I describe today?  This morning began gently, sitting in a circle with a small group of accomplished dressmakers eager to begin six days with  Susan Khalje.  We introduced ourselves and we shared the special fabrics, patterns and ideas we'd brought to the workshop.

We also drooled over projects made in previous classes (look at this bias cut gown below!!)
 We examined Susan's work - if you thought it looked good in Bridal Couture or Threads, it was scrumptious in real life.  Sublime!
There were fittings, lots of fittings.  Check out the gown this FIT-trained hobbyist draped herself!   These women have taken their passion for garment construction to the highest levels.
 Toto, we are NOT in Kansas anymore!
 And everyone is so nice!  Somehow sewing seems to beautify people.  I think we should make the leaders of all countries spend six days a year with Susan.  I am sure we could all work things out without all this bombing and misbehavior.  Ooops, didn't mean to get political on you.
 I just love this dress - and I am sorry you can't see more of it here, but it's a simple, flattering shirt-waist that she'll sew in superfine herringbone wool.
 I had never seen pins like this - there are 2 parallel pins connected on the end.  They hold fussy fabrics securely.  No one in this class is afraid to tackle a fussy fabric!
 Fitting, fitting, fitting. Susan explains and describes the adjustments and the reasoning for them.
We also shopped. It was grand to see Michael & staff at A Fabric Place, which was packed when we arrived.  And I accompanied a classmate to G Street Fabrics.  I was her real-life GPS and let me tell you, if you need someone to drive you to the emergency room, find a motivated fabric shopper.  I am not sure I've ever made it between Baltimore and Rockville quite that fast.  Not that her driving was scary or anything.  (that's not at how I meant that, okay, just a little bit).
OK, just kidding.

A wonderful day, with much progress already!  More to come!

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's the fascination with guipure lace, anyway?

Why did I search high and low for guipure lace? 

I found my answer in the pages of Bridal Couture, by Susan Khalje.
see the edges of the pages on the left? that is guipure lace!
Do you see those images in the book?  On the left hand side of the pages?  Susan Khalje inserted subliminal messages in her book!  That must be what happened!  (also, on the clothesline, that is guipure lace on the bottom left.)

I read this book, in its entirety back in 2004 as I designed and sewed my own wedding ensemble.  I ended up using Chantilly lace, but I promised myself I'd come back and sew other fine garments for myself using techniques from this book. 

Now I understand why I was so determined to sew with guipure.  I had gazed upon it for many, many hours! 
another cell phone pic of my dark blue /kinda slate gray guipure lace
I promise these are the last cell phone pics you'll have to see for a while.  I was finally reunited with my Nikon and I am looking forward to using it more.
One of the reasons I finally invested in a DSLR camera is so I can take nice photographs during the workshop with Susan next week.  Yep, I am enrolled in couture sewing class with Susan Khalje and it starts this Saturday.  That is why I have been so interested in finding just the right project.

It doesn't get much better than this!

On another note, I am reading a book right now called The Happiness Project, based on the very popular blog of the same name.  It turns out I am already doing almost everything recommended to be happy.
I spend virtually all of my time, energy and resources on my passions.  Sewing, of course, is a passion.
And blogging - blogging has become a passion, too.  I have so many more ideas thanks to you!  In your comments you have pointed me to more resources and pattern ideas.  Thank you so much for following and discussing.

Happy Sewing!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happiness in a Hotel Room

Friends, there are many varieties of bliss, right?  And, yes, some can be found in a hotel room.  Allow me to share my cell phone pics of my own special moments.  Fabric!  Displayed in my hotel room!

Blue guipure lace (Mood) and brown cotton lace (Elegant Fabrics)
Waffle weave cotton for a bathrobe and 6 pieces of silk for scarves (Paron Annex)
This is my fabric haul from an all-too-brief stop in New York City, on my way north.  I am now near Boston, Massachusetts to attend a talk on garment fitting.  You know my passion for fitting, pattern-making, alterations, and such.

This little trip was quite a challenge to plan because DH and I thought we'd just come to Boston for this and to meet up with the son & girlfriend.  Ha ha on us!  It's their spring break, LOL!  But we made it work.  All of us got to do really fun things, just not all in the same city at the same time, but we will meet up later today for a nice dinner all together.  Way fun, way fun...
And I did manage another super-duper fun treat - I got to meet Peter and we had a lovely little meet-up.  I forgot my camera, but he did a nice self-portrait of us.  I was so glad to get this and see that there was no lettuce in my teeth.  But, he's a gentleman, he probably would have warned me :)

Only one tiny thing marred the day.  I thought I was meeting a professional hockey player. That part was pretty disappointing, but I did my best to make the most of it.  I don't think he noticed.  At least we both like sewing, so, you know, we had something to talk about.

Now I really must close the computer and see what can be done about my face.  I washed my face with the hotel soap, applied makeup and promptly broke out it a big rash.  Believe me, an ugly face is not exactly what a woman wants when she has plans to meet up with Ann Steeves!

Wish me luck!!  
Happy hotel room happiness - maybe pretend you are in a hotel room if you are bored.  I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

lace jacket inspiration

Thank you for your feedback on the various jackets and the laces.  Your opinions are helpful.
In addition to lace,  I am looking around for style inspiration.   Here is a beauty:

I found it on Lyst, click here. And have you heard of Pinterest?  It is a website where you create inspiration boards of images found online.  When you sign up, and follow the instructions, you wind up with a little button in your toolbar. When you see an image you like, just click the "Pin It" icon and select the image to bookmark.  What's nice is that it retains the link and other information you'd like to save.  Here is a link to my collection of ideas for lace jackets.
There are some hand knitted sweaters in there, but that would be too straight forward, wouldn't it?!
No, no knitting...  I want to search for a woven lace and line it with silk, preferably using new-to-me techniques.  Otherwise, what's the point?
Am I right?

Happy searching,
happy sewing!

Monday, March 14, 2011


I would like to sew a lace jacket and I'd like to wear it more than once in a blue moon.  So ... I am looking for inspiration!  I need guidance!  I need advice!
Here is a dark blue (photographed in poor lighting with a cell phone, but you get the idea)
Here is the same thing in red:

And here is a gorgeous, gorgeous brown but it is rather dressy.  The sequins sparkle :)
Or should I get a ticket for the Bolt Bus and zip up to New York?
Maybe I should call around stores in New York?
What to do???

Saturday, March 12, 2011

the year of coats and jackets

Fueled with a sense of accomplishment (Kelly's coat and my military jacket) I turn my attention to the sky (you know, that place where the limit is?)

And here are some jackets /coats that appeal to me.  First up - how about a nice guipure lace jacket underlined with a lighter silk.  This could be dressed up or down, no?
Or how about something textural in a different vein.  This looks like wool jersey that has been pre-treated in hot water.  I think.  Not quite boiled wool, but definitely warm and comfortable.  What do you think?

This photo comes from a foodie website and I zoomed in on the pretty cardigan.  I especially like the way it looks layered over the colorful camisole.

And I love the length of the sleeves and the hem on this beautiful floral print.  This makes me want to jump on a bus to spend the day shopping for fabric in New York City.  I want freshness!

And with March 17 around the corner, I need this.  I really do.  It looks like it might be a boucle?  I don't usually wear bright green, but I think the right shade might work on me.

Well, it's good to have some ideas tucked away.  I am almost finished with a couple of shirts and I'll sneak some photos soon.  Shirts are so very useful and I wear them a lot.  But not exactly exciting to sew.
I need more pants, too.  Not very exciting, either, but necessary.  Those boring shirts and pants are pretty darn exciting when I am getting dressed in the morning!  

Been super busy and kinda missed you'all on the internetz.  I hope to have some fun stuff soon.  In the meantime, happy sewing!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gray shirt - attaching the collar stand

Today I worked on another shirt.  I thought I'd show you how I attach collar stands.
Next I will be twirling a baton for the talent portion of the show.
ha ha...

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

White Shirt

This evening I will choose and sew buttons to the white shirt that's been in progress for a couple weeks.  I cut six basic shirts on Saturday February 12, when it seemed my jacket muslin was a loser.  Accomplishing nothing over a weekend is a buzz-kill, so desperate measures were required.   It's hard to look at a stack of cut shirts and feel self-pity!

Shirt sewing is relaxing, predictable and productive. Having six shirts cut is like pulling something out of the freezer for dinner.  Turn on Netflix and proceed to enjoy the evening!

Pattern is my basic shirt, fabric is a cotton pique from Fabric Mart.  Buttons on the left are from Dongdaemun in Seoul and buttons on the right are from Pam Erny's Fashion Sewing Supply.

Should I make this shirt snazzy with the cute buttons from Korea?  Or go-with-everything white?
*happy sewing*