Friday, January 12, 2018

2018 Plans and a peek into my Sewing space: Part 1

I have had so much fun reading blogs and posts about everyone's New Year sewing goals and plans. It really makes for such a fun community.

I have hemmed and hawed about whether I want to make concrete sewing plans versus more nebulous overall goals. I made lists, I jotted down notes, I reviewed what I did last year and looked through notes from my sewing notebooks. I also looked at what everyone else was planning to do and was trying not to get swept up in the overall sewing communities goals. There are challenges, and pledges and fasts and what not! Can be somewhat easy to get pulled along!

In the end, I have decided to just do my own thing and follow my own path....

So, what the heck does that path look like? Honestly, probably not much different then everyone else!

Just a couple quick notes:

  • I already make most of my own clothes, so the RTW fast is something that I already have been doing for several years.
  • My closet is comprised of an approx 85% or higher me made wardrobe. The RTW items I own are in great condition and fit and are very useful to me so I see no need at this point to get rid of them just so I can say I have a 100% med made wardrobe.
  • I have mostly moved away from using commercial sewing patterns to designing my own patterns. So pattern fasting is already being done by default.
on the flip side:
  • I have a very lovely and rather large curated collection of fabrics that I really want to use!
  • I want to be more deliberate in what I choose to make and create.
  • I really, really enjoy the entire creative process of designing and sewing.
If  I just HAD to write down a goal for 2018, I suppose it would look something like this:

For 2018 I want to continue to explore my creativity in design and sewing while using my beautiful textiles in a way that makes me happy and content.

Well, That's done! Now for a peek inside my sewing space. :)

I have 2 distinct sewing spaces. The first is my office which houses my fabric, patterns, buttons, cutting tools and a small cutting/work table. This is the space we will be exploring today.

One corner of the room is my real work desk. This is were I work when I am not traveling. the other 3 corners of the room are all sewing all the time!

First up my fabric closet: From here it looks like an ordinary closet...

However... once opened it contains so much beauty and color and makes me smile and dream of all the possibilities it contains!The center shelves contain cotton lawns and cotton shirtings, some linens and some silks. In the plastic bin on the upper shelf are smaller remnants that are 1/4 to 1/2 yard of cottons that are mainly used for facings, bindings and pocket materials. The pink file cabinet holds all my patterns.



To the left and right are all the rest of my woven fabrics that are hanging in a color coordinated fashion.

Top Left:

Bottom Left:

Top Right:

Bottom Right:

There is so much inspiration when I open my closet!

The very top of the closet, not pictured. Holds some empty bins and a sewing machine trolley and all of my old photo albums.

Moving on...
As you turn to the left from my fabric closet you come to a metal can that I use to hold my rolls of pattern paper, yard sticks and tall skinny items like that. Next to that is an InterMetro shelving unit and canvas  cover from The Container Store. This shelving unit holds all of my knits and on the bottom shelf some bulkier items like denims, faux shearling, pillow form.



I love having the canvas cover because it protects my fabrics from dust and light and since they are not in a plastic bin they can also breath.

Printed mesh fabrics:

Cotton/lycra and rayon/lycra knits:

Washable merino wool knits:
Next to the canvas covered shelving unit is an aqua colored locker that holds random items. Materials for my sewing group, materials from classes I have taken and liked. Plus some random odds and ends! You can see this locker in one of the pictures above.

Moving to the left around the room we come to my work desk, which I will skip, and then to my button, threads and project box area.

The 2 pink Bisley cabinets house my buttons. The thread rack is my regular sewing thread. Below in the cubbies are sewing magazines, current project boxes, current patterns I am using, and fabric and technique samples.

Many of my buttons are vintage and have been purchased in antique, resale and thrift shops.
Some have been purchased in regular button shops in NYC and other cities around the world.
One of my all time favorite type of buttons are Czechoslovakian glass buttons from pre-WW2.



Moving to the left again we come to my permanent cutting/work table.
This table has a smaller cutting mat (36" x 24") and I have 2 task lights as well as a small magnetic board above it to hold inspirations. Under the table is a bin of old muslins. I like to keep the last one I make of a garment so that if IO want to go back to it to check fit or use it to make a new design from then I already have that first step done. The other bin is of remnants.

Hanging on the wall is a peg board with all my most used cutting tools and rulers hanging on it.



And then we come back to the door. I have a long hanging mirror on it that I use for fitting. This mirror is easily moved as it is just attached to hooks that go over the door.

And that is plenty for today!!
Next time we will take a look at the other half of my Sewing space. 

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fabric shopping at Liberty London and Amsterdam street markets! Happy 2018!

Happy 2018 everyone! 
I am starting off the new year with a blasted head cold that has me suffering through sinus headaches, using an endless supply of tissues and trying all the different cold remedies. The temperatures in Chicago are brutal right now so at least i'm not feeling bad about not getting fresh air. Wind chills of  -20 F have left me snuggled up in my place getting lots of rest.

I have also had the time to go through my holiday pictures and reminisce over my trip to Europe that I went on for the week and a half before Christmas. I had such a wonderful time!! I spent a couple days in London and then went on to the Netherlands to spend a week with my brother, sister-in-law and niece. 

As I look back at everything I did over those 11 days, I feel like it should have been too much! But, it really wasn't at all. I had some things I wanted to do and some things on the would like to do but not necessary and then plenty of unscheduled exploring time. I could write a blog post on each and every day! Since this blog is mostly about sewing I will share the sewing side of the trip :) 

I started in London for a couple of days. So most surprising thing about London: The Christmas lights and decorations!! London goes over the top and it was so awesome and so much fun and you just couldn't help but to smile and look around in wonder. They even have an entire webpage devoted to where and when you can see Christmas lights all over the City.

What else did I do in London:

  • Had tea at The Grosvenor House (I also stayed here!)
  • Walked and walked through and around Hyde Park
  • Saw the Balenciaga and general fashion exhibits at the V&A Museum
  • Went to the Opera: Power, Passion and Politics exhibit at the V&A
  • Attended the British Library Harry Potter- A History of Magic exhibit
  • Shopping at Liberty London!!! SO delightful!
  • More walking all over the place!
Balenciaga exhibit at the V&A was very well done despite, what I thought, was a relatively small sampling of his creations. It was well curated cross section of his design career and was done very interestingly. It was broken into 2 parts. The downstairs was all his work and then the upper level was all designers that were inspired by him and some that also had similar work. A very wide range of garments as well as 2 video large and loud video screens with looping interviews with new and current fashion designers as to how Balenciaga has inspired them. It was interesting and had some lovely creations but really felt more like they needed some filler to provide more for the price of the admission.
One of my favorite parts of the Balenciaga exhibit were these displays that had a dress (on right) on a rotating stand so you could see all of it! The muslin of the dress on the left, sketches of the garment and sometimes fabric swatches in the display. An x-ray of the dress in full size and on the video screen to the right was a ~2min movie that showed the construction of the dress. There were 3 or 4 of these displays.

This display was of some of the more over the top dresses. The pink one on the wall and the ombre one were all hand beaded by Maison Lesage. The embroidered gown on the left was embroidered after the pieces were cut. This kept the embroidery out of the seam allowances and made things match perfectly across the dress. sublime!



This was a display of some of the day dresses for his clients! Imagine wearing such beauty on a regular basis! The case was lined with mirrors so you could see the backs of the dresses as well.
Another highlight of my trip- Liberty of London!
I arrived in London and to my hotel by early afternoon. A nap, a shower and then I was off to the Liberty shop :) It was the only actual shopping that I did in London other than books from the exhibits that I attended. I spent almost 2 hours in the shop. It was very cool, eclectic and unlike any shop that I have ever been in. Each area was so different and the building itself was so charming. 

Of course I made a beeline for the fabric area! Ohhhhhh so many tana lawns!!!! and the rolls of silks and velvets. I could have just spent all day in there! They did a very nice job of organizing. The center of the floor was open to below so you could see up and down and the outer perimeter of that room was lined with all the garment fabrics. They were organized by special collections, newest releases, childrens prints, older collections and some of there ongoing collections. As you can imagine... I had a hard time not buying everything!!

The photo on the left is off a little alcove on the first floor where they have little gifts and such and these wonderful deer in the fireplace and mounted on the wall that are made with different liberty print fabrics. On the right upper is the notions and quilting fabric room and also houses the collection of buttons. In effort to not lose my mind or ALL of my money I stayed away from the button wall!
Left is the corner entrance and on the right are a shot of the home dec room which was delightful in its own right! adn the view from the upper balcony looking down. There was so much more to the store! Jewelry, clothing, rugs, home dec, live plants, kitchen, bath and lighting. It was a treat :)
The top picture is of the Tana Lawns: Starting top left going clockwise- Liesl from the Alpine Symphony seasonal collection, 2 Winter Florals (pink and smaller piece for contrast in yellow) from the Garden of Temptaion collection and then a piece for the Princess, 
Que for the Zoo from the main Liberty collection.
Below are 2 silks that I could not pass up! 
On the left is Tresco in a silk Satin and on the right is Turtle Thief.


After London I headed over to The Netherlands to spend time with my younger brother, Willie, and his wife, Lide, and their daughter, Roxie.

This too, was an amazing time! We had so much fun together and it was relaxing and I loved just getting to see and experience where my brother and his family live. Some things very similar and some things very different!

Netherlands trip included:
  • exploring Utrecht city, trying to climb the Dom Tower built in the 1300's and only making it to the bells!
  • Going under Utrecht and seeing an archaeological dig that showed evidence of the ancient roman walls from over 2000 years ago and all the periods between then and now.
  • Exploring a floating Christmas Market in the city of Leiden.
  • Exploring multiple outdoor markets in Utrecht and Amsterdam.
  • they sell everything in markets! flowers, clothes, fish, bread, meats, fabric, leather goods and more.
  • Enjoying a lovely tea made from fresh mint, shaved ginger and a lemon slice all served in a clear glass.
  • Taking the wrong train
  • riding a boat in the canals
  • visiting the Anne Frank House 
  • navigating and not getting run down by bicycles and vespa scooters!
  • buying buttons
  • buying fabric
  • Spending hours in the Van Gogh museum
  • Cookie baking and decorating party!
Fabric fun in Netherlands included: the Noodermarkt, The Albert Cuyp market and a couple small shops in Utrecht. 

My brother and I headed to the Noodermarkt in Amsterdam that is held every Saturday and Monday. The part that we went through reminded me very much of flea markets found here in the US. Lots of used books, clothes and stuff. I found some great vintage buttons and I bought myself some lovely thick double knits that you can see in the photo below

I also found a great button and notions shop in Utrecht (okay so my SIL showed me this shop... I'm just excited that I found my way back to it on my own!) These buttons are so cool and colorful and the best thing they are NOT plastic. they are shell that has been printed on.Very cool!

I had a free day to myself in Amsterdam and had a list of places to go to. I only made it to half the list! The Albert Cuyp market and the Van Gogh museum. I had several other fabric shops in another part of the city on the list but those will have to wait for the next trip! Probably a good thing since my suitcase was quite full from the purchases I already made! LOL! 
The Albert Cuyp market  was quite large, entertaining and had quite a few fabric shops/vendors as well as many other vendors! It was interesting as some of the vendor stalls were walk throughs to get into the shop associated with it and some were strictly tent vendors. Most of the fabric vendors also had shops and did a good job of showcasing sales or specials in the tent which enticed you to go inside! Of course my very favorite fabric shop in the market, Nanucci Tessuti, I did not get any pictures of because I was too busy trying not to drool on the amazing fabrics! 

Several of the shops along the way. Lots of fun and colorful fabrics to admire.
In the photo below you can see a lovely array of special fabrics for possibly mid-eastern and Indian weddings and special occasions. Sort of reminded me of US Prom fabric displays!


This shop, N&N Stoffen had a large assortment of beautiful cotton/lycra dutch prints. Many of which I have seen on Emmaonesock and other online US retailers. From here I kept my purchases at a minimum of 2 cuts because I knew this was all my suitcase could hold!
The first is a panel print that has a large image of the hot air ballons with the animals and is big enough to easily make a cute knit dress for the princess and on the right is this amazing skull print! I have been on the search for a good skull print for quite a while and this one is perfect.

Once you are tired from your shopping you can go from the notions store to the flower and plant shop and then right too the fresh fish and seafood vendors! 

SO in a nutshell... that was my fun and happy trip to Europe for the holidays!

Happy sewing in 2018!

The Princess playing tea with her stuffed animals and baby doll!






Friday, December 29, 2017

In the Sketchbook- December 2017

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.



I can't believe that another year has gone by! So many changes have happened this year and I am really looking forward to just enjoying 2018 :)

Last month I posted some sketches of ideas for Opera ensembles. There was one that I just wasn't feeling the best about. It was like the idea was only partly formed in my head. This was the design.

I had a very thoughtful comment from Carolyn:

 Carolyn F.December 8, 2017 at 9:59 PMI really enjoy seeing your monthly sketches and saw this group the other day. I may be going out on a limb here but I've been thinking about the third one - the "flowering bud". You mentioned in the post that it feels a little disconnected between the upper and lower halves. It seems to me that the sleeves, bodice, and top layer of the skirt (or possibly this is all a jacket?) are symmetrical and mostly angular whereas the bottom layers (a skirt?) are asymmetrical and curved. Could that be what makes it feel a little disconnected? What if you placed the button up higher - more towards the left shoulder, rather than at the waist or under bust - carrying that upper line out more in a curve and making it asymmetrical. Then make the lines of all the layers, top part and skirt part, parallel for each layer. Maybe use a small funnel type or raised neckline in the back or use the neckline of the fourth drawing with the soft folded collar. It would continue your flowering bud theme. The cuffs on the sleeves seem a little heavy feeling also. These are just my thoughts since it has kind of stuck in my head after seeing your designs and reading your commentary. The fabrics sound wonderful and I look forward to seeing your finished garments.


The new design that I drew is somewhat tortured... I drew and erased and drew and erased and rinse and repeat several more times! the lines just kept getting away from me. I decided to stop at the point where I was wanting to take the entire thing in a totally different direction! You can clearly see all the graphite smudges. his idea is still in my head and I will have to work on it again after I let it all settle down and my brain can work on it subconsciously.

In my last post I mentioned that I was headed off to Europe for the week and a half prior to Christmas. I had such a wonderful time!! It was relaxing and fun and educational and just nice to see where my days took me. I was hoping to spend some time sketching but I did not get to it as much as I wanted. Mainly because I spent a lot of time outdoors and everyone in London and the Netherlands were wearing coats. I was able to capture the looks of 2 very different ladies at afternoon tea in the posh hotel I was at. 
The first was very simple, lovely and elegant dress and was very similar to a Balenciaga dress that I had seen at the V&A museum earlier that day. This is the only one that I added color to as well!

The Balenciaga version is silk Gazar with cut on sleeves. It also has a bit more of a dropped waist and overall was longer.


The second was a bit of a mash up of all the latest trends all in one! Right down to the giant hairy boots. Pants with articulated knees and 'holes' (which I left out of my sketch) and skirt over it and then a double tee. It was all just a bit much.


These last 2 go back to my theme of Opera. I saw the Opera Passion, Power and Politics exhibit at the V&A and it was quite an experience! I really enjoyed it. 
The first of these 2 is inspired by both the Balenciaga exhibit and the Opera exhibit. And I have actually draped a loose form of this on my dressform.
You can see the general idea of the shape on my dressform. 


The second one is also inspired by the V&A museum. I was playing with some gender bending and taking what would have been a purely masculine dress ensemble and changed it to be for a more modern woman. Somehow it is a little punk-ish. and could totally go that way with the right textiles! Maybe a little cross between David Bowie and Prince??? Could be a fun theme to explore someday.

Make sure to stop by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor to see what lovely sketches and ideas she is working on. Please feel free to share your sketches and ideas!

Sending many Happy wishes for a wonderful New Year!