Monday, April 16, 2018

Exploring Fashion Design II- a workshop with Sarah Veblen: Part One

A fun trip to Baltimore with some great friends! Several of my Chicago friends and sewists made the trip to Baltimore for a this workshop. We decided to go a couple days early and treat ourselves to a fun weekend in the city of Baltimore before heading out to Sarah Veblen's for the workshop.
Sewing friends off on an adventure!

The weather was beautiful and we really enjoyed exploring the Inner Harbor and finding lots of great restaurants. We spent Sunday afternoon in the Walters Art Museum. What a wonderful and eclectic collection of art! We spent several hours and only saw a small portion of the exhibits. I will definitely put this one on the list to visit again!

Several of the objects in the Walters Art Museum that especially captured my attention!
After a fun weekend in Baltimore we headed out to Sarah's to get down to work! 

I have taken quite a few workshops with Sarah, participated in her mentorship program for a year or so and now I will take time to work with her one on one as needed, as well as in Skype sessions. 2 years ago I took Exploring Fashion Design I ( you can read those posts here and here) and I just finished up Exploring Fashion Design II earlier this month. You can read Sarah's class description here: Exploring Fashion Design- Level II

 Exploring Fashion Design II was much more self driven than the first class and I am very happy that I had 2 years in between the workshops. There is so much information and much of it doesn't become fully absorbed until you go home and start working. Then its like a little string of Christmas lights in your head slowly starts to light up as the information goes into practical use.

On to the nitty gritty of the first half of Design II

General outline
Mornings were generally spent in group discussions and group exercises.
Afternoons were generally spent working individually along with several private interactions with Sarah.

Prior to the workshop all 7 attendees sent in questions and areas of things that they wanted to work on. Sarah used this list to base her workshop off of. Some of the questions we went into a great deal of discussion and others were just touched upon. By the end of the workshop all of the questions on our list had been discussed!

Day 1:
Started with discussion on what we have done since design one and how we have incorporated sketching in to our regular routine. If you follow my blog you know that I am a regular sketcher and try to post every month on ideas and sketches that I have done.

Some great thoughts on sketching were discussed amongst the group about sketching.
A- adding words to the sketches to help complete the picture in your head.
B- using prompts such as what would I wear if going to xxx?
C- taking some time to think about WHY some detail is inspiring and figuring out why you like something. Again use words to describe.

Remember that creativity and vulnerability go hand in hand. In order to grow you have to be willing to go outside your normal boundaries and explore.

It was quite interesting to me that as we tried to define what our individual styles are and assigned words like elegant, edgy and contemporary or traditional that these words really meant very different things to each person. Instead of trying to come to a consensus on the meaning we just had to think about what the words meant to us as individuals and how these related to our own style or explorations style.

Several of the ideas that I identified as being goals for me in the Design II workshop were:
Colors and further exploration in how they related to each other.
Tailoring details, or traditional details along with interesting shapes along with developing a work wardrobe that is interesting and captures my personality.
Combining textures and different textiles
Be deliberate and thoughtful in designing
Go for the unexpected

One of the goals for me from Sarah was to really try and expand and define my concept of neutrals. This really led to some very interesting conversations and exercises later in the workshop.Apparently my concept of neutrals can be a bit different from what other people would design as neutrals. 

We spent the afternoon revising our croquis for changes in shape over time.
My croquis was 2 years old and needed some slight tweaking. It was incredibly helpful to have a group of ladies with a discerning yet nonjudgmental eye to look at your body and croquis side by side. It was also much easier to do this time versus from design I. In my head the negative body image that can be evoked when standing there in tight fitting undergarments in front of a group was easily put aside due to my greater need and want of having an accurate representation of my body to sketch from!

The changes to my croquis in red on the left. It was nice to slim myself down a little bit :)

After croquis adjustments we were each given sketching assignments.
Mine was to sketch using 5-10 different tailoring details. With the rest of the sketch being built or derived from the particular details.
Our inspiration could come from our imaginations, magazines, design books or inspiration that we brought with us to the workshop.

I ended up sketching
  1. Asymmetric double breasted
  2. Slots on pants
  3. Interesting seaming details
  4. Hard tailored shapes
  5. Softer tailored shapes
  6. Release pleats

Several of my warm up sketches on the first afternoon.

As we worked on these warm up sketching exercises, Sarah rotated around and spent some individual time with each of us. During these times we could ask questions, discuss designs, talk about what is inspiring us and how to get that from mind to paper to garment.

Monkey once again claimed my suitcase as her favorite resting spot for the workshop! Must be something special about that suitcase, she camped out on it in Design I as well!
Day 2:
Spent morning time with discussion around designs. We have all made things that we really like and things that are just ok and things we really dislike. It is very helpful to understand the reasoning for the likes and dislikes as this can help you to become more successful in designing. These feelings can come from many aspects of the garment like fit, color, proportions, design lines, fabric and texture.

Sarah emphasized that we should take the time to figure out the reasons why we don’t like something so that we can grow. Assign words and vocabulary to the details we don’t or do like before parting with the garment.

It also helps to try and figure out those garments that are perplexing. The ones that you may always get compliments on but that you may not particularly like.

Sarah shared with us some garments that she has made and why she doesn’t like them and went pretty deep into specifics. We were also encouraged to bring examples of garments with us that we considered to be in the failure category and discuss why they were considered failures and what could make them better.

Lots and lots of discussions about fabrics!!

From here we jumped into sheers! Such a fun, fun, fun topic!
Sarah shared some of the work that she has done with sheers including at drawstring hoodie with a kangaroo pocket all out of sheers.
We also explored the idea of using sheers and lace with traditional menswear Fabrics.
This interesting discussion led us into discussions of using prints

Prints can be tricky. Need to consider:
  1. Size
  2. Scale
  3. Contrast
  4. Regularity
  5. Coloration
  6. Also never buy a print with a background the same as your skin tone...unless you are going for the partially naked look!
 Most of the same principals of prints can also be applied to stripes. Carefully consider contrast of the stripes and contrast to your skin, size and regularity. Later in the week on of the ladies had a fabric exercise at A Fabric Place to swatches many different kind of stripes she could possibly find. She easily had about 15 to 20 or more different swatches. It was a great exercise to expand the thought of striped fabric. I am not a very big fan of stripes, sometimes I just find them to be too regular. 

When working with any fabric but especially with prints you should really hold the fabric up to your body and stand in front of a mirror both close up and at distance to really see what happens.What may look good to your eye on its own may be very different from what you see when your body is the backdrop. This concept really has me distinguishing between things that I like and things that I like on my body!

Just before lunch or maybe just after Lunch we spent some time playing color kittens! This is a very fun exercise where Sarah dumps a whole bunch of fabric swatches on the table and we just play! To start of the exercises this time we each had to start off with a couple swatches of a burnout chiffon and then pull swatches to make a palette of colors and textures to go with the burnout. Everyone was much more open and adventurous playing this game versus the first time we did it in Design I workshop.
A great big pile of color swatches! My palette is on the bottom left and on the bottom right are Liz's. So much fun to see what everyone ends up with!

Day 2 afternoon we again spent sketching. This time we were all given the same sketching assignments.
1)      A double breasted garment
2)      A garment to wear to a MET gala for a 1950’s exhibit.

Double breasted jacket with some asymmetry and details repeated on the back of the skirt.

This was a FUN sketching prompt!
 What I would wear to a MET Galla for the opening of a 1950's fashion exhibit.

Day 3- first half
Morning had an interesting discussion about philosophy of sewing and how things can make you feel.
One important thing I got out of this is that I should check and question my assumptions. Take a time out to step back and look at the big picture periodically to see if you are still on track for your overall goal of your garment or look that you are going for.

Sarah shows some garments that were successful for her and why and she showed several ways of evaluating a garment that you made but may not particularly like to understand why and what things would make it better. Great information to understand as you go through the design process and evolution of designing your wardrobe.

Also that many people feel a bit different about sewing than I do and I never realized it!!!! There ended up being quite a lengthy discussion about sewing/designing and how to overcome failures/wadders or as I have termed them, garments that turn out not as expected. When I told my daughter of this realization that I dont think the same way about sewing as many people she just chuckled and said Mom, you dont think the same way as most people about everything!  
so before anyone goes and asks... I dont get upset about garments that fail or ideas that dont work out. I like experimenting and for the most part I may sometimes feel a little frustrated but that's it. This is not to say that I dont have emotions about sewing, there are lots of those. I just dont find it useful to be have negative emotions about an outcome that I had full control over. Either it works, Excellent! or it doesn't and I figure out why or just move on.

Before lunch we played with flowers. Yup, flowers. We pulled them apart and created flower art or as in several of our cases flower garment art. It was sort of like the unconventional challenge on project runway. It certainly was a pleasant diversion and quite unexpected! It gave my brain a break from the workshop and was fun to come up with a fairy petal dress.
Playing with flower art. we were given inspiration from the website above and then we took apart roses and a couple types of carnations to create our masterpiece arts and crafts project.

Stay Tuned for Part 2!

Happy Sewing!

Friday, March 30, 2018

In The Sketchbook-March 2018

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.

A little bit of deviation this month. Instead of garment detail I have focused on sketches of using 2 fabrics. A blue silk charmeuse and a guipure lace in different color blues and white flowers.
These were originally sketched as inspirations for an outfit for a spring wedding that I am attending. However, that date is rapidly approaching and I haven't even started! The second part of this challenge is that nice guipure lace is expensive and I only have 1 yard of this lace. It is wide enough to be cut in half lengthwise so could maybe eek out an all lace dress. Maybe... but then that is an expected use! I have plenty of the navy silk charmeuse.

The 'challenge' for the ASG- Chicago chapter annual luncheon and fashion show is Lace. This will fit right into that challenge!

I have included ALL of the sketches that I did... even the ones that I don't like. Sketching for a design is a process and that design process also includes things that make you raise your eyebrows and go no, nooo, nooooo! Sometimes you sketch something and you think wow! I would have never thought I would like that and you really do.
For each sketch I have just added a comment of YES, NO or Maybe which indicates my like/dislike for each sketch.
The guipure lace, silk charmeuse is under it and really makes the lighter blues and whites pop!.

Sketch 1: Maybe

Sketch 2: NO, NO, NO

Sketch 3: YES

Sketch 4: YES

Sketch 5: Strong Maybe...
 Needs some work to look less like a cheap party sash across the chest.

Sketch 6: YES

Sketch 7: No, too expected
Sketch 8: doesn't really count since I never got to adding in the lace
 because I really fell in love with the simplicity and clean lines of silk culottes and a bias drape top!
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 with us.

Happy Sketching!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Not quite a Little Black Dress!

Little black...uhm, little black and red dress! Well actually more like red and black dress!

I keep thinking that I need to make myself a little black dress. I even picked up some fabric last year when I was in NYC to make my little black dress. Somehow, every time I go to make my little black dress I somehow end up with a not black little black dress. Sigh... I can’t help it, I really like color!

After little black dresses are very, very, well very black. In my head black is for bad moods, funerals and mourning and for those morose years when the world is out to get you. My closest to an all black ensemble is my car wash skirt and French jacket. I do have an old black knit dress that I seldom wear. I occasionally use it as a bathing suit coverup. Now don't get me wrong... there are some very beautiful black dresses and I know many people that just rock a great LBD and I actually have worn one or two in my lifetime. It's just that right now, I prefer to wear more color :) 

This version of my little black/red dress is made with a soft brocade fabric that I purchased 2013 from a shop in Chicago suburbs that used to carry a small section of garment fabrics. It’s original purpose was to become a dress for my daughters Chicago wedding reception. We decided the fabric was a bit too serious for her idea of dress. So, it sat and marinated in the fabric collection for a while. When I pulled Fabrics for my envisioned little black dress this fabric just kept jumping up and down and yelling pick me, pick me!!! And so I know have a fun new dress.

The pattern is from my master princess sheath dress. I changed the neckline to a scoop neck, gave more waist definition at the side seams, added a slit to the right side front seam and shortened the length just a bit. The facings are of the brocade and the rest of the lining is black ambiance. The bottom flounces are an under layer of the brocade and an upper layer of red silk georgette. The sleeve flounce are red silk georgette with a facing of red silk organza.

This was the first time I have made flounces by cutting circles. I used the Roberta Carr- Couture, The Art of Fine Sewing book to help figure out the size and number of circles that I would need for my circular flounces. The hem on the flounces at the dress hemline are done with a 3 thread rolled hem with black thread. The brocade hem was easy and I almost was going to to do a second round on top of the first one because there are some pokies. In the end I decided not to because it is at the dress hem and the bottom layer and it took a long time to hem that entire length! The georgette was a bit trickier to do a rolled hem on, I had to go much slower and make sure that the fabric did not slip away from the needles after passing the knife blade. Again this was fine for the hem of a dress.

Close ups of the flounce and front thigh slit details

For the sleeve I really needed to make sure the hem on the georgette was clean and well done since it on the sleeve and pretty much at eye level. To figure out the size of the flounce I draped some fabric on my dress form with the main portion of the dress completed and decided that I wanted to go from halfway up the front to halfway down the block. I measured this length and then made sure to cut the flounce with the same length plus seam allowances for the facing. I cut both the georgette and the organza the same size seamed them along the outer edges, flipped, pressed and sewed to the dress.

My initial thought was to make the flounces as a removable ornamentation with small snaps. However, once I pinned them on I really just loved them and decided that the dress needed to have flounces! This made the end of the construction much easier since I would have needed to sew on dozens of little snaps.
22 inch invisible zip! These long zips make it so easy to get and out of my dresses.

On the dress from inside out. Here you can see that I used the last bits of the soft brocade for facings and black ambiance lining. I hand sewed the lining to the zipper tape and used a jump hem at the bottom and sewed the lining to cover the edge of the flounce to keep everything neat and tidy inside.

The armhole is finished with a bias facing and the sleeve flounce was sewn on and the seam allowances hand tacked to the bias facing. This could have been done a bit different however since I had originally thought to make these removable I had already finished the armholes. This means the inside is not as clean as I would have liked but that is just fine!

Something very interesting happened with the sleeve flounces... I really love, like love LOVE them on the dress when it is on the dressform. I really like them when I am moving around but I really DISLIKE them in the photo's when I am just standing still and it is a static image. I knew in myhead that this may be an 'issue' and is all bout my head trash and body image. the flounce sleeves draw attention to my chubby white upper arms. Sounds silly as I write it but it is true. I actually played around with lengths and when I draped them on my arm at a longer length I started having 1990's flashbacks and that was so not a good feeling! LOL!! 
So... I think I will just have to get over my head trash and move on. maybe also do some exercise to firm up those jiggles! 
The slit on the right front shows enough leg to be fun but not indecent :), the Chubby arm is just who I am so I am getting over it and most important the bend over test passed with flying colors and I dont have to worry about inadvertently flashing the boobs!

I have a wedding to go to in April and I think this dress fits the bill perfectly.

Maybe one day, I will finally get around to actually making a real Little Black Dress!

Happy Sewing!
Princess Victoria and I enjoyed a morning at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago!