Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Classic French Jacket Class: Day 4 (epic sleeves)

Sleep: 5 hours
Meals skipped: none, yay! (I thing it was related to my happiness level, see below)
Happiness level: ........  I tend to eat more when my happiness level sinks...

Did you know that it takes freaking 17 hours to complete sleeves for this jacket!!!!! Now I know what Susan meant when she said we would freak out if we saw the instructions before the end of the class.

9:00 a.m. I am in the classroom, cleaning up and fell stitching the seams on the sleeves. This is a three-piece sleeve. One seam runs as an extension of the shoulder seam, and two other under the armpit, so the vent has a very pleasing placement.

11:00 a.m. fell-stitching...

12:45 p.m. Still fell stitching....

Susan's tip: use pins as a stitch: insert a pin at the very edge of a fabric fold for very accurate marking

My sleeves are quilted as well, and we are waiting for instructions on the sleeve vent.

01:45 p.m. Susan shows me how to handle the vent and sends me back to my table to finish up the other.

06:00 p.m. Still working with the sleeves. Susan tells me to finish all the remaining work to prepare the sleeves for fitting.

11:00 p.m. I am done with my homework, but decide to stay in the room and keep company to my fellow couturiers and work on other things.

01:00 a.m. I am exhausted  - time for bed. It seems there is no end to these sleeves. I am so looking  forward to the next step. Today, I worked 12 hours on sleeves only....

(to be continued)

Pantone Fall 2011 Color Forecast and why we end up following trends...

... I am not that kind of person who runs shopping every time a new trend emerges. Instead, I am trying to have more timeless wardrobe staples, which can be easily accessorized or complemented to give them an up-to-date look.

Now, Pantone and many other color (forecasting) institutions come up with new color trends every season. And the new one, for the Fall 2011, has been recently published by Pantone. (For this Fall's color forecast from Pantone check out this great report. )

"Designers take a painterly approach to fall 2011 by artfully combining bright colors with staple neutrals, reminiscent of how an artist would construct a stunning work of art," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. 
I was always wondering how designers come up with trend colors; until I took a Fabric Selection class at Parsons. So we had this field trip to the Color Association of the United States - an organization dealing with color forecast and color education for designers. What I heard, made complete sense to me. However, when I had to explain it to my friends, they said that most of them don't follow trends. It was the summer of 2009, I believe, and Slate Gray was one of the season's colors. So, I just pointed at what we wore that day, and it was obvious to everyone - many of us had at least one item, a garment or an accessory, in slate grey. Every store was selling something in slate grey that season.

Why do designers follow color trends? What I learned is that there is no definite answer - there are many aspects involved: commercial, psychologic, aesthetic... But there are some interesting facts that help understand this phenomenon:

Here are some facts about color (from Textiles and Fashion, Jenny Udale, Ava Publishing 2008):

  • The human eye can see some 350,000 colors
  • Colors have subjective and symbolic meaning: In Europe, white is associated with wedding, black - with mourning, blue is for boys, and pink is for girls. In India, red is associated with fertility and is also a wedding color, while white is linked to mourning.
  • Colors can make us feel depressed or happy, warm or cool.
  • Red, navy, black and white are safe colors and are present in every season. What makes them look trendy is a combination with a new color

So, taking into consideration these cues, every season fashion forecasters look at what's happening in society, the economy, the arts, science, popular culture, entertainment and haute couture, for example.

Then, they try to predict how these developments will influence fashion and design in general. Mad Men is probably one of the most obvious examples - Joan and her jewel tone garments have immediately had a great influence on our color choices in fashion.

Or, here is another example, an excerpt from the Women's Fall/Winter 2009-2010 Forecast of the Color Association:
"Environmental awareness continues to grow as a focus of our society, greens continue to make a strong statement in this forecast. The reach, leafy hues of "Avant Garden" indicate that eco-chic designs will aspire to be upscale and sophisticated. In this aspect, the blues are a stylish alternative to being "green". From the soft blues of the sky and ocean in "Mystique", to deep, steely purpled blues in "Armor", warm blues are the less obvious and more adventurous choice for nature-inspired designs"
Look, at the names of different color groups: "Avant Garden", "Mystique", "Armor"... Colors are described by association, reinforcing the message communicated by a color forecasting company. Sometimes it's too much, I think - as in "the blues are a stylish alternative to being "green" (ha?), but, overall, ok, it does resound the growing awareness about the nature and the environment.

A spread in a Fall 2009-10 Color Forecast book by the Color Association
Of course, there is sometimes less logic - this is when we face color trend influenced by some artistic choices. I think Honeysuckle, Pantone's Color of the Year! Remember this year's color posts on sewing and fashion blogs? We all loved Honeysuckle, right? Though, I must admit that while the relation of greens and blues and the environmental awareness is more obvious, I am still puzzled over where the Honeysuckle comes from? If someone knows, please share it with me!

So, what if we, home seamstresses and indie designers, are not convinced? The problem is, that textile manufactures follow color trends as well, so we end up with fabrics in colors predicted for this season. There is always more choice on seasonal favourites in fabric stores (Navy stripes, floral prints, anyone?) and we will end up picking one or two, or even more, trend colors... Is it limiting? Is it bad? maybe... I would love to hear what you think!

Do we need color trends? Are you influenced by them? What are the staple, year-to-year colours in your wardrobe?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Classic French Jacket Class: Day 3

Sleep: 5 hours
Meals skipped: 2
Exercise: A trip to Jo-Ann's
Happiness Level: 5 (out of 5)
Optimism about finishing the jacket by the end of the class: rapidly sinking

9:00 a.m. everyone has gathered around Susan's table, where Diane (the lady in the center wearing a black and white graphic top) has arranged her treasures: a piece of couture lace and two Chanel-inspired jackets made in previous classes.

The jacket is one of Diane's previous creations.
This French couture lace (by Lesage) adorned with beading, sequins and ostrich feathers
was bought at Mendel Goldberg we were told.
Mendel Goldberg has beautiful laces, but this one is very unique even for this exquisite store.  
This is the back side of the lace - beading, sequins and feathers are arranged on delicate netting

Look at this workmanship! Can you imagine how many hours it took to make it?
10:00 a.m. Enough fun! We are sent back to our tables to get on with quilting and sewing up the seams.

I am happy I stayed late yesterday and finished my quilting, so instead of working and enjoy cakes and coffee brought by Diane (it was really generous of her to treat us to her couture possessions and food). I catch up on my skipped breakfast and get back to my jacket - I still need to stitch the seams on the bodice.

Look at the seams on this image. We haven't basted them. Instead, we pinned them into the seam with regular pins, making sure that the pattern on both layers matches and then reinforced the seam with so-called fork pins - those double pins you seen on the image. Susan recommended them for any matching job in future - it saves time with basting and is pretty accurate. We later drove to Jo-Ann's and bought more packs for everyone. But you can also order them from Amazon, for the same price - Susan said Clover has better quality than other brands.


11:00 a.m. Seams are done and we are queuing again to be fitted.

12:30 p.m. I end up with tiny alterations on five seams, auch! All the new seamlines are traced and I am stitching the seams again. Well, that's another three hours for perfecting the fit - absolutely worth it.

4:00 p.m. (or around that time) we are ready to clean up the seams. Susan shows us her method, and that's what we are doing for the rest of the day and the evening.

(to be continued)

100 followers giveaway: vintage lace!

Yay, I have 100 followers! Thank you so much, dear readers. I enjoy your feedback as much as the process of writing and sewing!

Now, following the best traditions of sewing blogs I am hosting a giveaway - and the prize is ... a set of three bands of beautiful vintage lace. 

I thought it would be so timely for this season - lacework and embroidery is everywhere. Paired with white, it makes a perfect summer piece. You can make a top, a dress, a pair of shorts, or use it as a detail on a light summer jacket. Imagine it with denim, for example... 

Each of these pieces is almost 1.5 yard long and, with some luck, this beauty may belong to you.

You can enter the giveaway by leaving a comment under this post. The giveaway is open to existing or new followers anywhere in the world.  I would also love to hear what you would want to make with the lace, but this is not a pre-condition for joining the giveaway. So, good luck and enjoy some inspiration from the runways, below:

Image: Style.com (Dolce & Gabbana, Spring 2011)

Image: Style.com (Dolce & Gabbana, Spring 2011)

Image: Style.com (Dolce & Gabbana, Spring 2011)

... and here are some styling tips from the UK edition of  Harper's Bazaar (June 2011):

  • accessorize with hippie-inspired pieces or a stack of bold silver bangles or layered necklaces
  • pair white flared jeans with an embroidered waistcoat
  • add some warmth to your look with natural-hued accessories

I forgot to add, post comments by Sunday, June 12th - the winner, which will be drawn randomly, will be announced on Monday, June 13th! 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Classic French Jacket Class: Day 2

All I can say about this one is that it was a long long day...

Sleep: 7 hours of undisturbed sleep! (no kids around)
Alcohol intake: 2 glasses of white wine.
Meals skipped: 2
Exercise: none
Shopping: Michael's fabrics (what did I want there, again?)

7:00 a.m. I am wide awake before the alarm goes on! This is what children do to a normal person. If someone told me fifteen years ago that I would wake up around 7, on my own, I would have laughed... 

I put on the TV and tune in to CNN ... ? ... The first thing I hear them say is that New Zealand is still there! Right... of course, it's the Judgement Day today and by the time I woke up, New Zealand was supposed to be gone, right? 

Anyway I am ready to have my breakfast!

8:00 a.m. Breakfast in the hotel, at the Northern Lights restaurant. Does anyone know why would a hotel in Baltimore call its restaurant 'Northern Lights'? I was thinking about it as I entered our sewing room at

8:40 a.m. Whoa, Susan is already here and my fellow couturiers are already queuing to get fitted! I thought I was early...

11:00 a.m. we all gather around Susan's table to marvel at each other's fabrics and trims! Susan comments on our choices.

That's Becky's fabric and trims. She was telling us that even though this jacket is quite expensive, it would amortize over years, costing just $10 per week. Whoa, I note it down - it's a great reason for taking this class after all. 

see my fabric on the right, with all the sparkling going on?

Susan demonstrates the jacket she made for the Threads feature (Issue 121). She shows us all the typical characteristics of this jacket, including quilting, seam allowances, abut lining, pockets, trims, buttons....

Jacket seams are open at some places offering a peek inside. We all ooh and aah as Susan explains us that these jackets are a completely independent subcategory of couture.

We quickly grab our notebooks and start taking notes. Susan stops us saying she got seven-page instructions for us. She will send them to us after the class, she says. "You would freak out if you saw them now," she explains. That's a comforting thought, right?

12:00 a.m. or close to this time we are all sent back to our tables to true our muslins and to start cutting fashion fabric and lining.

Those of us who bought fabric that needs to be matched realize that we are going to spend our evenings in the sewing room! Sleeves for jackets that need matching are not cut yet, we will fit them on the finished bodice to be able to match them precisely.

Phew, all bodice pieces are matched - we can now cut fashion fabric get on to the next step: quilting. Susan shows us how to prepare the fabric for quilting.

Look, my table is in the back, next to the window :-)
Lining is cut right after fashion fabric
Meanwhile, I decide to join a few of my fellow classmates on the way to Michael's fabrics - I am still not sure what lining to use and decide to buy 3 yards of crepe de chine. I get a handful of new coat weight wool swatches there and end up buying a beautiful off-white tropical wool suiting... Nice! I see some Chanel bouclés at Michael's as well.

7 p.m. Susan gives us some 'homework' - we need to finish quilting. With a couple of classmates we stay up until 2 a.m. next day...

(to be continued)

Classic French Jacket Class: Day 1

I hope you will forgive my week-long absence after reading my diary about the making of my Chanel-inspired jacket, dear readers. It was one of the best classes I have had, and I spent about 15 hours a day sewing - this is the reason for not updating my blog during this time! Did you know that the jacket, which is constructed using couture methods, takes 70 to 80 hours to complete?... Unbelievable, but I will try to prove it here. In addition, some of you asked me about the class, its structure and the work involved, and, so, I will try to give you as accurate account as possible...

So, here is the Day 1: Friday, May 20.

Sleep: 2,5 hours
Alcohol intake: 2 glasses
Food intake: one breakfast bun, maccaroni and cheese (lunch), and a huge pizza at 10:00 p.m.
Exercise: carrying Eve and 3 more bags, four blocks in total.
Shopping: 5 hours
Happiness level: 5 (out of 5)

1:00 a.m. I am still working on my muslin. Of course, I should have done it much earlier, but until the last week I was still playing around with the style, pattern choice and the fabric. So, now I am sitting here thread-tracing the Vogue 7975, which was one of the recommend patterns for the class. We were to choose a simple style with princess seams and any length.

4:00 a.m. Bodice is done, traced and assembled, but I still need to assemble the sleeves. I decide to leave them as is and hope to get a few hours of sleep. The group is traveling from Baltimore, where the course takes place, and is arriving in New York at 12:00, so I will be meeting them at Mendel Goldberg.

6:30 a.m. All three kids are up and I got to join the family for breakfast, say good bye to everyone and start packing. Will miss the little mischiefs....

11:00 a.m. All packed: Eve (my Bernina 1008), a sleeve board, a box full of sewing notions and tools, and my latest project - silk charmeuse tunic for some additional evening sewing, and all the usual travel stuff. Eve is carefully snugged in a quilted jacket and tucked from all sides in a sturdy suitcase; another bag for the sleeve board and sewing notions.... I end up with four bags!!!! Auch! Well, never mind, now it's time to get a cab and drive to Chinatown - I am so excited!!!

11:15 a.m. Hmmm, the streets in New York are not made for rolling super precious Swiss sewing machines - Eve is being carried three blocks where I am getting a cab and enjoying the ride to my dream - Classic French Jacket!... On the way, I am texting Susan (Susan Khalje - our celebrity instructor!) that I am on my way. She is texting back that they will be arriving soon as well, and that I will probably meet another three New Yorker participants there... How great!

12:00 a.m. I am at Mendel Goldberg! Alice, owner's daughter and store manager, is there to greet me and is keen to show me her treasures. Her father and her daughter are there as well - they are all set for a busy afternoon. I have to disappoint her - I already bought my fabric - but I would love to see what else is on offer there. I meet Rosie (if you decide to take a class with Susan, make sure Rosie is one of the participants - you won't be disappointed!) - she is one of the veteran participants and a few minutes later I have a feeling I know her for ages!.. The group arrives, and I am somewhat relieved that the attention of the store owners and sales assistants shifted toward the newly arrived -  just want to look at fabrics quietly....

some of the summer fabrics suitable for Chanel-like jackets
Alice (left), Alice's daughter (center, with her back toward the camera, Cheryl (right)
Center: Diane (she has made three Chanel-inspired jackets) talking to Susan, who helps her to choose fabrics
Right: Becky (another class participant) talking to Alice (left)
These gorgeous fabrics range from around $85 to $500 per yard. You may be lucky to find end of bolt or out-of-season pieces for less, but, still, expect to pay from $300 to $900 for both, fashion and lining fabric for the jacket. 

The lining choices are charmeuse, georgette or crepe de chine, we were explained.  The latter two are more suitable for a lighter version. I was not able to make up my mind, so I had both, charmeuse and crepe de chine, which I bought at the Mood. However, I must say, you cannot compare the Mood to Mendel and Goldberg when it comes to printed charmeuse! The store carries amazing prints from Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, Dior and others, which sometimes cost more than bouclés we chose for our jackets. In fact, many of the class participants did chose printed charmeuse as lining. 

At the end I decide to use charmeuse. The thing is, charmeuse felt sooo good on bouclé that I almost felt like making a 'snuggie' out of this combination, cuddle up and spend the rest of my life in it. Seriously, you will never want to wear a fused ready-to-wear jacket after this. 

Rosie with Susan's husband
2:30 p.m. After a brief lunch in the neighborhood we head toward M&J Trimming in the Garment district and spend close to three hours selecting trims and buttons for our jackets. I am skipping this whole experience, since, by the time I had my trim and made a decision not to use any buttons on my jacket, I was exhausted! I must say, Susan was there to help everyone! So, despite the fact that I hate extended shopping and was in a desperate need for sleep, I was very happy to be part of the group. Only one single day separated me from getting my hands on my own 'Chanel' jacket. 

3:30 p.m. Everyone is in the van and we are all set to go back to Baltimore! It seems that excitement are over for the day, and it's time to relax, when Rosie unveils, as by some magic, a box of super delicious macaroons from the Macaron Café. We all Ooh! and Aah! and then slowly settle in in our sits exchanging our stories and personal backgrounds. Amazing group of people! I think of the coming days and doze off.

9:00 p.m. We arrive at our Hotel. I check in and half an hour later join Diane and Sue for a late dinner at a close-by restaurant. Two glasses of wine, a pizza, and an interesting conversation with my fellow couturiers...

11:45 p.m. (in my bed) I am so relaxed... apparently, tomorrow is the Judgement Day, and I think it's quite alright to be sewing a 'Chanel' jacket on this significant date. What can be better than that!

(to be continued)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All set for the 'Chanel' jacket!

I have more exciting news, dear readers! I am going to join the Classic French Jacket Class with Susan Khalje in Baltimore tomorrow! And in a week, I will have my own Chanel French jacket, made using the finest couture techniques!

It's been very stressful at work lately, so sewing vacation is just what I need! Six days of sewing with eleven other couture enthusiasts and Susan Khalje, whose work I was craving to see for so long.

It took me long time to find and choose the right fabric - I could not find much in the Garment District... better bouclés at Linton Tweeds were sold out, and, yet, finally, I found this great piece which I love!

this beautiful bouclé was bought at Mendel Goldberg in Chinatown.

Image: New York Times

It's a beautiful store packed up to ceiling with great fabrics. And their basement is full of end of roll treasures, which you get for a bargain price. Check out this slide show from New York Times for a little bit of history of this great place.

Meanwhile, I still have to pack! And, I need to finish my muslin! Tomorrow at around lunch time I am meeting the rest of the group at Mendel Goldberg, and after a quick lunch in the area we will get trims in the Garment District and head toward Baltimore.

I will be posting here updates as often as possible, so stay tuned for the next post!

Have you taken any sewing classes? And what classes would you love to take?

Monday, May 16, 2011

This weekend's Apple Blossom Dress

This will be a shorter post today - I am not feeling well (nothing serious) and so I am just posting a quick update of what I have done this weekend - an Apple Blossom dress inspired by my mom. I can never catch up with Sew Weekly challenges, but this time - for the Mother's Day theme - it worked out before I knew it. Mom loved eyelet and I remember she made me a skirt with a white eyelet ruffle. I wish I still had that picture but it got lost. My mom and me we were standing at the beach, I was 5, she was 26, and we were both wearing those maxi skirts... loose black hair.. I remember her so young and beautiful on that picture...

So I went to Mood Fabrics last Friday, determined to get white eyelet, and  then I saw beautiful very light pink eyelet fabric. I immediately thought of the two apple trees in front of our house here, in New York.

I love this extremely gentle pink color...

The image of my childhood, my mom, the apple blossom eyelet fabric - like pieces of a beautiful puzzle - all it lacked was a simple frame. So, I chose a very basic pattern from June 2010 issue of Burda magazine (#148).

I used an invisible zipper instead of a keyhole opening - to make it more comfortable for my daughter to put it on.

I also underlined it with white batiste, light enough for hot summer days.

and here is the full shot of the dress.

She is happy!

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