Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Palazzo Pants - The Other Black Dress

Happy New Year!

Off to multiple parties. Invited at the last minute. No time to think about something new to wear. The predictable solution is that little black dress, but that is its problem. The little black dress is so damn predictable. If you are not wanting to hide in a sea of black dresses, my favorite last minute solution is palazzo pants. You'll never feel too dressy or too casual, and Palazzo pants give unexpected flair.
They are perfect for hopping between parties of different character.

I have 2 pairs of palazzo pants, and for and with a client, we are making a simple pair, that consists of 3 independent layers of different colors of chiffon. Our client's design was inspired by a selection from the collections of John Galliano. They are incredibly easy to make and will fit just about anyone. Will post their progress here later.

The pair of palazzo pants I am wearing New Years' Eve party hopping were made using Vogue 1290. Their outer layer was made using a silk chiffon, flocked with a golden plush velvet tree of life outer layer. They are not lined. Instead, I wear them over a pair of silk charmeuse fitted pants.

A series of chiffon, heavy georgette or plush velvet burnout palazzo pants, worn over fitted silk charmeuse or satin, with stretch fitted pants worn on their own or under the shear palazzo pants are a great trick for staying unique and fashionable for multiple parties. They are the perfect solution for what to wear when traveling to attend the inaugural bashes in Washington, Academy Awards parties, on a cruise, or on New Year's Eve. The look of the pants can change depending upon the layers worn.

The pair of plush patterned chiffon palazzo pants pictured here are fitted at the waist, so a closure is necessary. With fabrics that have a fine drape, like chiffon, I like to substitute small, clear nylon snaps for the zipper. A zipper can add bulk to the seam and interfere with its drape over the hip. I also used size 3 hooks and eyes to keep the waistband closure delicate and low profile.

Our New Year's Eve started at the estate home of Paula and Joe Campinelli,

moved onto a party hosted by Hillary Hauser, Founder and Executive Director of Heal the Ocean, where I was having so much fun I did not even notice that singer Jack Johnson, a big supporter of many environmental causes, including Heal the Ocean was sitting on the couch in front of this dance line up. Oh well, my husband got the opportunity to meet him and thank him for his music and work.

The transition to casual might be better made if I took off the coat and showed the pants with simple sleeveless sweater, but I was caught in the line up on my way out the door to end 2008 quietly at home, so both my designated driver husband and I could toast 2009 in together.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When I was 17.......

At different stages of life, our body takes on different characteristics. No matter how healthy, muscular or thin one might be, at 50 our boobs are a bit lower. I am sure I was not wearing a bra in that circa 1974 photograph. I can't remember if I even owned one then...... Our waists are wider, and well,... we don't need to carry on this line of thought any further...... On the other side of the coin, I don't think that there is a one of us who does not visualize ourselves as we were at 17. Just like the music we listened to, the clothes we wore and how we looked at that very transitional age sticks with us throughout our lives. That can be frustrating since our mind sees our body and how the clothes we wear as they were or might have looked in that fertile, prenuptial stage of life. When we put on the garment and look in the mirror, it cannot look the same as our visualization. I say to hell with respectful attire, sometimes, it is a good idea to let your visualization survive. See yourself as you were at 17. If you feel that way, it is how you will look, and avoid looking at yourself in the windows as you skip down the street. If you don't see yourself other than in your mind's eye, you are 17 still.....

Friday, December 12, 2008

SWAP at Artisans' Square II - Sand and Sea

I had an interesting conversation with my son this morning. He leaves on a flight to Tasmania tonight. Tasmania is home of some of the World's finest wool merchants. Alex is not on a buying trip. He is there to embark on a month long cruise aboard the Research Vessel Thomas G. Thompson in the rough waters South of Tasmania. He does know how to sew and probably made the mesh collection bags into which they will place the specimens to be collected from the deep. Alex had a lot to do before he left, not the least of which was get in his post-doctoral applications. In his own words, he has made "progress on multiple fronts", but was not yet packed, nor did he have one of the applications completed. Who says men cannot multi-task.

I had to scrap my first wardrobe plan, since sold out of the key pieces - the African Linen and Batik. Without these, the plan did not have the zip to keep me motivated sewing through 11 pieces.

Plan 2 is called sand and sea: Like my first wardrobe plan, the Missoni fabric found a new home before I made my ensemble. I was able to save 1/2 yard that is at this time destined to be a collar for a jacket to be made from the open weave silk muggah or a sweater coat out of the oatmeal jersey. That may be more versatile than the totally Missoni fabric suit, I had originally envisioned making.

During the past few weeks, I've completed the Organic bamboo with lycra dress. It reminds me of a dress, I lived in during my Senior year at High School and Freshman Year at college. Very soft on the skin when suffering from too much sun! Will post pictures of a young, thin Ms. Fine Fabrics later.

I've cut out and constructed the vest from the last yard remaining at of an absolutely unbelievable piece of Solstiss Lace, embellished with leather, metal, mini-springs, and embroidered with copper metallic thread. The vest is loose fitting and minimally constructed. I used a sleeveless, button down the front shirt pattern by Adri for Vogue Patterns, No. 2279 for the muslin.

I eliminated the side seam, which is a good trick to follow when seams will interfere with pattern more than they are required for fit. There is a more detailed instruction on this technique in "
Smelling Silk and Roses".

I used the post-fitting muslin as my pattern. It is a good idea to lay the fabric over the pattern or muslin so that you can see how the embellishment will appear on the finished garment. Since there was only a 1 yard square of this lace in stock, I had to add a side front seam and be a little creative in placement of the pattern. It is always a good idea to sleep over a creative layout before cutting, since I was able the next day to piece it a bit differently, that gave me more length and enough of the scallop edge to use in finishing the center front edges. When working with lace it is sometimes desirable to hide seams by cutting around key design elements and embellishments, then over - and under - lapping the seam edge. To be able to optimally choose how the design elements lay over the seam, I marked the pattern seam with glass head pins, and left key design elements extending beyond the seam line so I could choose how to over- or under- lap them where the pieces were joined at the shoulder, which seam is pictured below,or along the side front seam pictured below. ecause of the metal pieces, I hand sewed the seams and the scallop edge to the center front edge using a running prick stitch. I hate to say that my stitches look nothing like those done by the embellishment sewers for Solstiss. On this piece of lace, they use a copper metallic thread, and each stitch adds to the design. It prompted me to take a closer look at the application of embellishment by other Solstiss pieces we have at, and the same is true with these. Make a note to think out how seam stitches can be worked into the design on next piece.

Left to do is the finishing of the armhole and neckline edges, and deciding upon whether I want to add some sort of optional center front closures. This leaves me hand work to do when sewing with students who are using the machines and tables.

I'm ready to cut out the Montana for Vogue Patterns pants to be sewn this weekend. And, with respect to the sand and sea halter and Montana Pants.....

People often ask me whether one should start from a pattern or the
fabric. It really is sort of a chicken or the egg sort of question. I am of the fabric school of thought. Having a store full of fabric from which to choose on any single day is not the only reason. You can always find or modify a pattern to do what you would like to do. It is not always as easy to find a fabric that is exactly what you envision. And, frankly, I think it limits your creative options to be too specific when shopping for any fabric.

That being said, planning an 11-piece coordinating wardrobe offers its own challenges. Not the least of which was making my chosen designs fit within the boundaries of the fabric I had available to use. After a week of pinning and unpinning I made a pair of pants and top for which the combined patterns required 3-3/4 yards fit into 2.

In the meantime, I've come up with a couple more wardrobe plans in Navy, red, ivory and gold, and another for a client in deep brown, black, white, light taupe and gold. We'll post on these later also.

Like my son, I'm happiest when there are more projects on the deck than can possibly be finished, then orchestrating them to a crescendo conclusion.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why do prices at appear to be more than some other on-line fabric sources?

There are certain fabrics for which I am always on the lookout. They include cotton and silk voile, cotton velveteens and silk prints, with sophisticated adult patterns, designer fabric that is both contemporary and classic. Quite frequently, our fabrics are pre-season goods. is now accepting delivery of items from some of the worlds' finest mills' 2010 collections. Although some of our exclusive collection of Solstiss Lace is in-stock, many more pieces are custom made-to-order for our clients. (If you are sincerely interested in these, please contact me for permission to access

This year, I stumbled upon some cotton velveteens from one of my favorite vendors, whose Company has for the past 70 years represented a number of mills from Italy. The value of the Euro to the US Dollar on the day ordered required that I price these velveteens at $34.95. Not bad for their rich print and excellent fiber quality.

As I was anxiously waiting for their arrival from Italy, a vendor who sells remainder inventory to a discount on-line fabric source stopped by our Santa Barbara fabric store. Remainder inventory are fabrics that are left-over, or have not sold through other outlets. Sometimes you can find great classics at bargain prices from vendors that specialize in these goods, but you have to know what you are buying.

Our remainder inventory vendor pulled out of his suitcase swatches of some cotton velveteens that were pleasant in color, sophisticated in design, made in Italy....... They were even designer goods, "Made for Calvin Klein." I could feel my eyes get larger as I thought about the velveteens on the ship from Italy that I was going to have to sell for $34.95 per yard, and here were some "not bad" velveteens being offered to us at a whopping $2.00 per yard! Had I been had?

I composed myself and focused my eyes to discern the truth about these velveteens and their too good to be true price. These discount velveteens were not quite as exciting as those I was importing for They were a little dated in design and color.... and that was the key question I had to ask. "How old are these fabrics?" My vendor responds, "Oh, these are from the 1970's. We're cleaning out our warehouse and have some things here at a good price from all the way back to the '50's."

Vintage hounds may find this interesting, but if you have ever visited a fabric warehouse in New York, you know that the fabrics are not preservecd like your mother's vintage wedding dress. And, if you have ever tried to use cotton thread from your grandmother's sewing box, you know that cotton deteriorates. And the poor, unwary sewer that falls victim to purchasing these velveteens from one of the discount on-line sources, at the bargain price I see of between $5.00 and $11.00, will have no bargain when the cotton deteriorates, shreds and splits after putting their time and creativity into their garment.

I've sat next to chain store and on-line discount fabric buyers ordering before. I've heard them say, "We'll take everything you have in quantity that is under $1.97", while I am there handling and inspecting each piece we are considering to buy.

We're as excited about finding a real bargain as anyone, but our vendors and clients know that we accept only 1st quality goods that are worth your time and creativity.

And, that is what you pay for at We ask the questions for you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hong Kong or Bound Seams

Good quality metallic fabrics have a quality like peau de soie that is as light as a feather. Their wrinkles are part of their elegance. They both crunch and dance in the light. They are perfectly suited for making a gown.

They do not slip and slide. They are not difficult to sew. You do want to carefully finish all edges. The metallic fibers can shred, poke and itch if left loose.

In her "Fabric Sewing Guide", Claire Shaeffer recommends binding the edges of all pieces with a tricot seam binding. I can understand the logic, the stretch in the tricot makes it easy to keep the binding smooth. Traditionally, Hong Kong seams are made using a 1" bias strip of matching lining fabric. (More on making a continuous bias strip later.)

At Fine Fabrics we carry dressmaker quality rayon seam binding by Mokuba. It doesn't stretch, but it is soft so it does not change the quality of the fabric. It worked just fine for the task of binding the seams for my gown and will work just as well for binding the seam, facing and hem edges of any woven fabric.

I followed Claire Shaeffer's advice and bound all the seams on this gown before constructing. The gown is is also lined with silk charmeuse. Bound seams are my favorite finish. They are clean, elegant, tailored. They are one of those details that give a couture touch and make you smile when putting on the garment.

Bound seams take a little extra time. With seams that are pressed open you are stitching each seam 5 times, but the time is meditative: Sew the seam..... seam the binding to the seam edge..... press the binding out..... press the seam rolled over..... sew the binding in place.... repeat on the other side.....

With a bit more specificity a bound seam is made as follows:

Meet edge of seam binding to unfinished edge of seam, right sides together. Stitch as close to the edge as you can. I use an edge stitch foot, number 5 for my Bernina Sewing Machine, with needle set to the far left and tab running along fabric and binding edge to hold a perfectly straight line, while creating a very small seam. Press seam binding out, then roll around and under seam edge. Stitch again just inside the seam ditch. If the fabric is particularly at risk of shredding, I might use a zig zag stitch, which I did with the metallic fabric in this gown and I might also do with matka or tweed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

SWAP at Artisans' Square

At Artisans' Square I learned of "SWAP". It does not mean we are now bartering. The acronym stands for "Sewing with a Plan". It is a sewing concept developed by Timmel's Fabrics in Canada. It is great for motivating the sewing of projects that work into your wardrobe. For an impulsive, creative project fashion sewer like myself that is a very novel and useful way to learn to approach fashion sewing. The result of impulsive creativity, although fun, can be a closet loaded with interesting fashionable pieces, yet each morning it is difficult to decide what to wear. I decided to give SWAP a try.

Artisans' Square is currently running an international SWAP, with the blessing of Timmel's Fabrics, that challenges all between now and April 2009, to make a coordinating wardrobe. 6 tops, 4 bottoms, 1 jacket. All tops must work with all bottoms.

There are all sorts of discussions at Artisans' Square as to how best to approach your SWAP. I decided to start with choosing a group of fabrics that are both inspiring, will work for my wardrobe plan, lifestyle and personality.
Next step was to choose the specific patterns or designs I wished to make from each of the fabrics.

I created the storyboard at the top of this blog entry in Photoshop by:

1) Creating a storyboard file.
2) Scanning into Adobe Photoshop a very high resolution image of the line drawings on the back of each pattern I chose. Converting these to line drawing transparencies by selecting the background color range, then deleting. Then copying and pasting the line drawing to a layer in my storyboard file.
3) Copying and pasting the image from of each fabric I planned to use as a layer just beneath the line drawing in the storyboard file.
4) Using the magnetic wand tool to select the outline of the line drawing, selecting its inverse, clicking on the fabric layer, then deleting.
5) Linking the 2-layers together.

I do have a few extra pieces in my storyboard, but there is every reason to leave yourself open to decision making along the way.

It is now time to get sewing......

Thursday, November 6, 2008

49th Annual NOGI Awards Gala Gown

AUAS NOGI gala gownFor 3-years Martha and I have gotten together for our portrait in the gowns we have made for The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences Annual NOGI Awards Gala. Every year it seems that we both are finishing the gowns in our hotel rooms as we rush to get ready for the event.

Inspired by Martha's Valentino red gown she wore to the event last year, I went all out this year and made a GOWN!

I toyed with the idea of "embracing my belly", like a Ruben's portrait or pregnant child with crop top and skirt rolled below, but opted for conformity. It took 4 muslin drafts to get the pleats to lay and the fabric to bulge in just the right manner to hide, instead of accent my round middle.

The Armani gold silk with metal turned out to be a perfect choice for the task. Not only did it conform to the shape for which I was aiming; it also traveled incredibly well. I was able to roll it up to fit in my carry on, then tug the fabric back into place.

Every client and friend who entered Fine Fabrics was surveyed as to best color choice for accent lining and lace: Sophisticated gold lining gray Solstiss lace vs. lively watermelon lining Solstiss gold lace. The unanimous choice was the latter.

I balanced the activity of the right side, with lace overlays dripping down the left side and sublime back. I'll post details of this later.

Friday, October 10, 2008

When times are tough, its time to sew

Many of the mills that supply have survived World War II, the last Great Depression of the 1930's, World War I, the Long Depression that started in 1870, and even the Napoleonic War. There is something very humbling and ingratiating to look at love, life and business as a long term global adventure. And, if there is anything I have learned from my short time here, and the few lost loves, disappointments, and hardships I have had to endure, the very best therapy is activity. Let's get in shape - swim twice a day and twice as long - and let's get sewing.

This weekend's project: Gown based upon Vogue Pattern 2842. The rough draft made out of muslin revealed that pleats on both sides of front, that fold in along pelvis simply does not make it for those of us who are not flat bellied.

"Oh did you see that Susanne is pregnant!" (translated: "They must be awfully active and he must be mighty virile...." ) may not be a bad rumor to spread at the age of my husband and I.

Nonetheless, I settled for fashion conformity and dropped the pleats and pulled the side seam up 6" accordingly on the left side, creating an asymmetrical line, while keeping the volume at the hemline, dropped the bottom pleat on the right side so that the fabric drapes over and hides the, "I'm not really pregnant, it just looks that way," belly. To overcome the virginal wedding dress look, I'll show a little skin by not lining the godet.

For the gown, I'm using a crisp silk and golden mettallic taffetta with a scale pattern texture, selvage stamped Giorgio Armani, available from

I have yet to decide on the lace to be used for the sleeves, bodice and godet. I'll either stay with Armani inspired colors with a gray Solstiss lace lined with golden silk charmeuse, or liven the look up with a pale rose colored and gold chantilly lace, also made by Solstiss, lined with a lively melon charmeuse. If I use the latter, I'll tier the lace that hangs in the godet, and drip some of the lace down the front of the gown.

Oh yes.... I do have a before the sky fell scheduled black tie event to attend in a couple of weeks, so the gown is needed.... Love, life, business and fashion will continue.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kubler-Ross' missing step - Euphoria

They say a move is the emotional equivalent of death. I do have to say that during the past couple of months my moods have run the course of Kubler-Ross.

Denial: I piled up so much to do that I could not possibly make the move date. I agreed to make a wedding gown, that
turned into a most adorable rehearsal dress, inspired by Yves St. Laurent's 1957 black dress and made using an Armani linen fabric in ice blue, when
we decided to give the bride's mother's 1953 Saks couture wedding gown a boob job, round down the points, and an overlay of Solstiss lace. The wedding was the same day as Fine Fabrics new store opening and exhibit of the 2009 Haute Couture Collection from Solstiss Lace.

I also joined an international internet "Great Coat Sew-A-Long". More later on construction of my coat, including interviews with 2 of Santa Barbara's finest couturiers on pad stitching and bound button holes. I started my summer pleated skirt to be finished next, and agreed to see our Armani fabric sales representative on the day before movers were scheduled. Some great new Armani Fabrics have since arrived, and are now available at I ended up packing up the old store in 6-hours. Years of trade shows made that part a breeze. Movers showed up the next morning. It took 6 men to move our black granite, steel-based cutting table. We were in, out and in Fine Fabrics new location in 9 hours flat.

I won't go into my anger or depression stage. My mother, who like so many others had taught me to sew, died in the middle of all this. She is 90 years old and had a major stroke a number of years ago. Some say it is a blessing. I don't agree. I say, "it just is." She survived and progressed in life for more than 7 years after she could no longer take care of herself. Sitting with her in the end, allowed us to share our release from anger and depression, but I won't go into that here because when the doors opened on August 9 ........

Hundreds of Santa Barbara's fashionistas showed up with bouquets and orchids, and 10 bottles of champagne later, I felt a bit euphoric. Kubler-Ross missed the last step: Euphoria.

Thank you all for joining us for our opening celebration and allowing us to share with you the art of Solstiss Lace. We look forward to many more years of composing and sewing fashion together.

And, here is to you mom, who unconditionally loved your family and life, and fought to live so well.

Ms. Fine Fabrics in the red hat, Fine Fabrics' dressmaker, Cindy Asendorf, who pulled off completing the wedding gown makeover in the nick of time, in the white hat, and my mother, Betty Chess, in the blue hat, at Santa Barbara's most sought after for invitation 4th of July party.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fine Fabrics Hosts Solstiss Collection

To christen their new location Fine Fabrics will Host
The Exclusive Collection From Solstiss
Makers of The World's Finest Lace
August 2008

Show Opening Party: August 9, 2008 / 3:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Suggested Attire: Lace or Beads

Private Showings to Serious Buyers Only by Appointment: August 1 through 8

Solstiss Show Open to the Public: August 10 - August 31

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Santa Barbara Gap Fire Report

I was in college when I experienced my first solar eclipse. I remember the unusual quality of daylight. A fire sky gives the same quality. Santa Barbara's, well really Santa Barbara's neighbor Goleta's Gap Fire is raging in the hills a few miles from our home. Fires chase winds down canyons on their run to the sea. Our home is Southeast of the fire and it is not at this time expected to head this way.

We are experiencing intermittent power outages. Wednesdays lasted the entire evening. We pulled out the candles, had a bottle of local Santa Barbara Pinot Noir by J. Wilkes Winery. We enjoyed conversation uninterrupted by urges to pull out our laptops, tv remote or even turn on the radio.

We held our Thursday evening sewing party as usual. One of my clients is working on her wedding dress muslin. I'm about half way through sewing the pleats of my skirt. I'm again very excited about my skirt. I should finish it this weekend.

Heading home, I should have taken a picture of the Arlington Theater steeple silhouetted against the fire sky. Smoke plumes now color it like a Maxfield Parrish painting. On the drive home, most traffic signals were out. Santa Barbara is full of tourists visiting for the 4th of July weekend, but everyone was very civil taking their turn in line at each street intersection. As I crested the hill on the corner of Constance and State, the fire came into view like lava flows running down the mountain.

Moseley was a fireman. He would have been working today. Moseley also loved solar eclipses. He would make travel plans to meet their totality. I just realized the connection today.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Sewers are often afraid to work with shiny, slick or squirrelly fabric. They love the look of silk charmeuse, silk chiffon or a slinky knit, but are afraid to give it a try because, quite honestly, it does slip and slide. Some sewers will baste the fabrics together. That is probably the most reliable, but I do not enjoy basting. It is like filling a hole twice. Hand me a needle and thread, and I'll rush through the stitches as quickly as I can to move onto the next step. But, pinning, I love to pin. I think it is because whenever I am on a project that requires me to pin-a-lot, I think of Moseley.

Moseley was a maniac. In the rain, you could see him driving down the street, making the largest splash wave from his truck he possibly could. When he tested products for my designer husband, we would call it a submission to the "Moseley Destructo Test Facility". If it was physically possible to break something, Moseley would find a way. Then he would laugh. He always laughed.

When my husband and I felt stressed with business, or life, or just like we were having hard times, Moseley would call with just one word.... Jaaaa....laaaaa....maaaa. We would jump in the car, drive 1-1/2 hours north and meet him at the secluded surf beach. Somehow, whatever was causing the stress mattered no longer. That was Moseley's gift. He was a party animal, who made everyone else feel as if their life was one big party every time he was around.

My husband and I were in Paris when Moseley died. Our office called to give us the message that we were returning for his funeral. What a funeral it was. They had to open a side chapel at the Santa Barbara Mission to hold the overflow crowd. The Highway Patrol led a procession along Highway 101. On duty emergency personnel, firemen, paramedics and police, stood at attention at bridges along the way. I do believe Highway 101 was shut down for Moseley's procession.

Along the entire length of Gaviota Pier, firemen in full dress uniforms held their gloved hands to their head and saluted to Moseley, while on the beach a Shaman from the Chumash Indian Nation sent Moseley on his way through the Western Gate.

What I remember most of the entire event was when one of Moseley's pall bearers was tying the coffin to the back of his fire truck. My husband walked up to him and said, "If you can't tie a knot, tie-a-lot." At first the fireman looked angry at my husband, and then he smiled because we knew the code. Moseley had a lot of sayings and that was one.

When working with slippery fabric, it will slip and slide while basting too. So, the best thing to do is grab a whole box of silk pins. It is very important that they are silk pins, so as not to leave holes in fine fabric, and PIN-A-LOT.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Let It Go

I am a project person. I must always do. In fact, I am happiest when doing multiple things at a time. I find rather prophetic the scene from "The Man Who Fell to Earth" when David Bowie is viewing a wall of televisions broadcasting in multiple languages at one time. It looks exactly like the multiple windows open on my computer screen. When someone says to me, don't you ever take time to just "relax", to just focus on yourself. To just be. I say, "why". There is much to much to do.

The upside of this psychological trait is that I do accomplish alot. There is also a funny side effect. I am "attached" to very little. Once it is done, I can very easily let it go. In fact, I rejoice in the mental click that goes off when I finish and task, and can move onto the next. There is always some other project or task that must be completed to fill the void.

The same is true with the fabrics we sell at I am in love with each and every one. I personally pick each by hand, and can visualize exactly what I, or one of my clients might make out of each. When one sells out, I let out a little sigh, but I also rejoice because it is an opportunity to fill the void with another beautiful piece.

Yesterday, a very odd thing happened. 3-pieces walked out the door, all of which were on my list of "things to next make", two of which were part of current compositions underway. My skirt was widdled down to 1-3/4 yards of fabric. It clearly needs more.

I was dreaming about this skirt. It was elegant. It was casual. It had volume and depth. It was simple and complex. It had style. It was chic. I was excited about it. It was the most exciting thing I have made in, well, I can't remember how long. I was attached to it and the idea of wearing it, but I had to let it go.

Well, onto the next project!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Let the Fabric Speak

I rarely draft my own patterns and drape garments even less. Pattern companies have done the job of thinking out the pattern piece relationships, general nuances of fit, and any number of details. It simply saves time and headache to manipulate patterns to my desired end. In this case, the fabric alone is dictating the outcome. To force it into a preconceived shape would not work, so here I am draping the pleated skirt. The inspiration for this garment is the fabric.

It is a patchwork of alternating large squares of cotton voile and muslin. They are sewn together in diamond squares. The selvage runs with the bias of the squares. It is a challenging piece with which to design. Until last week I saw it only as a big loose fitting coat, something like that in Eileen Fisher advertisements, or billowing curtains. Then, it screamed out to me that it wanted to be made into a skirt, but not just any skirt. It wanted to have its boxes manipulated into an interesting play of different sized diamond to box shapes.

So, I pulled out my pins and started to play with how it might respond to pleating. The result was a series of diamond shapes half the size of the original to form a fitted yoke that opens into the full size diamonds.

Then I decided to play with a horizontal side tuck on one seam to visually pull the diamonds to boxes along the hem. This resulted in shifting of the manipulated side seam from bias to straight grain. Along the hem, it shifts from bias to cross-grain, but I want to do this on only one side.

So, now I need to drape a muslin to test:

1) How I am going to keep the design clean around my hips.
2) What am I going to do with the side dip in the seam and peak to the front formed by the horizontal tucks?
3) What is the effect of the shift to bias on the lower right side seam? Will I have to mirror the side tucks on the back? Can I simply mirror the curve on the back side seam, or is this piece so uniquely constructed that it will break the rules and do what I want it to on the side if I keep the back 1/2 of this side seam straight on the bias?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tag, I'm It

I've been tagged for a Getting To Know You meme by Liana of Sew Intriguing aka Liana, Adminstrator of Artisanssquare, a very sophisticated sewing forum. I would not normally get so personal on MsFineFabrics, but if challenged, you must rise to the occasion.

What was I doing 10 years ago?
1. Managing exponential business growth at Force Fin - business #1
2. Entertaining alot - guests every weekend.
3. I am sure I was traveling, but cannot remember where that year.

What are 5 things on your to do list today?
1. Schedule Mom with Easy Lift for Visits to Fine Fabrics.
2. Bookkeeping for Fine Fabrics.
3. Answer interview questions posed to husband for article in Historical Diver
4. Send thank you note to Director of New York Museum of Modern Art for complementary lifetime memberships for artist/designer husband and myself.
5. Take remnants and fabrics sold out down from

Snacks I enjoy - wonder from where my belly comes?
1. Bread, brie cheese and minced garlic
2. Nuts
3. Iced mocha made with non-fat milk, Italian semi-sweet chocolate and no sugar
4. Bread
5. Chocolate chip cookie

Things I would do if I were a billionaire...
Millionaires used to qualify for this question. Who says I am not...., in concept, at least. Same as I do now, but without the stress. Take a deep breath. Travel, at a wim. Buy property for store to exist permanently. Buy house for sale on beach for $29,000,000, or better yet, an island, that is high enough to still exist in 100 years, with plenty of fresh water and good soil. Learn to fly. Buy a farm in the heart of France. Invest more in DH's ship and energy projects. Entertain. Establish a foundation with world class Board to manage everything.

What type(s) of work have you done? A talk I gave to a graduating class of Santa Barbara's Women's Economic Venture Group best describes who I am professionally.

Peeps - I'll have to think about this one. I am new to blogs and I am still learning my way around. I will update later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Infinity - The Limit of Design Interpretation

Another example of how a classic design can be infinitely interpreted is the two dresses that were made using a very classic interpretation of the little black dress by Vera Wang for Vogue patterns. This is the base pattern that was used for the large format flower dress of "Smelling Silk and Roses".

Earlier we made the same dress in its formal length, with a bodice overlay of Solstiss Lace, embellished with tufts of tulle, silk habotai, silk charmeuse and pearls. The same base dress was made using an outerlayer of an iridescent silk that shimmers between indescribably beautiful shades of cream, light mustard and acid green, above a layer of autumn gold chiffon, to warm the value to better work with my autumn color profile, and cream heavy georgette to mirror all the colors in the bodice overlay: Two very different interpretations of the same design.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vintage or.... Not.....

They say that fashion constantly recycles itself, that there is nothing new to be done. I say with the infinite number of variables that can be used to make something, every project is a new interpretation. The best of those become classics. They appear again and again in new and updated ways. For example, this sheath with curved seam to create a flattering front panel appeared in this 1967 vintage pattern by Simplicity, to be offered again in 2000 by Oscar de la Renta for Vogue Patterns, and has shown up again by Prada as published by Branche & Business in their Fashion Trends Forecast for Winter 2008-2009, and again by Ms. Fine Fabrics in a tunic using this challenging piece of embellished silk.

The challenge of working with this fabric is to place it where it is comfortable. It cannot be sat upon. It will catch on purses, or anything that you brush against if worked into a sleeve. A collar or hem is too predictable, but an interesting shaped front panel. That can be quite elegant.
When I saw this progression from 1967-2000-2008 of a curved seam front panel dress, I found this fabric's proper place.

I grabbed the last 3/4 yard remaining in our Santa Barbara Fabric Store and walked around the store holding it up next to everything to reveal its mate, a traditional African fabric cotton wax print made in the Ivory Coast. A perfect hippie inspired combination for a 1967
inspired tunic.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Smelling Silk and Roses

I love the smell of silk, but when sewing, as in life, there is always a temptation to cut corners. To jump past the details of accomplishment and go for the results. I suppose there are times when it makes sense to do this, but when we stop and take the time to contemplate each step along the way, new discoveries and a better garment is made.

Take this fabulous piece of silk pique fabric screaming to be made into a very in-style shift for Summer 2008. It is silk. It is black and white. I will want it to stay a crisp black and white. I will most likely dry clean it. I could skip the pre-wash and dive right into cutting and sewing, but there may also be the day when I will want to retire it from dry cleaning bills. What did I discover as it was drying from the pre-wash I almost bypassed?

The print runs along the bias. The interval is wider when viewing along its length than when viewing along its width. Convention and sewing pattern instructions tell us to cut it lengthwise, with the grain. Had I not stopped and viewed the fabric while hanging on a clothesline, I would have labored over the lengthwise pattern that could never fit properly within the princess lines of the shift I plan to make. [Note for the future: Hang all prints and view them from different directions and study how they will best work with the garment design.]

When cut on the cross grain the narrower repeat of the pattern fits perfectly between the center front seams. The position of the bold print running from neckline to hem at the center front is key to its use.
Cutting along the cross grain also lends itself to a couture trick of using the muslin made to fit the pattern as the pattern itself.

The muslin is a rough draft of the garment. It is not meant to be finished. Its primary purpose is to test the design and fit of the garment. Key fit points are marked on the muslin from the body and replace those of the pattern from which the muslin was cut.

In this case, the hip line is a very special demarcation. Above the hip, the seams of the garment are curved to the shape of the body. Below the hip, the seams are straight. that means they can be eliminated from the final garment and the print can run continuously around.

After fitting, the left side seam is opened, but all other seams are left intact below the hip line. Above the hip line, the seams become darts. The muslin pattern is laid on the fabric. When translated flat it looks something like a map that has been cut from a globe.

What had been a 4-piece pattern, with 7-distinct fabric pieces to sew together, is now a 1 piece pattern, with 1-seam and 5 darts. The print will run with interruption only on the left side seam from below the hip-line. The print is matched as well as it can be. As an added bonus, about 1/2 yard less fabric is required to make the garment than had it been cut with the lengthwise grain.