Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In the Mood for Sicily

Dear readers, doesn't the fabric on this skirt remind you of Sicily? Black with tiny modest flowers, beaded in slightly irregular pattern to make it look just so perfect and authentic...

I picked this beauty at Mood on Monday two weeks ago, just a day before we took a plane to Europe.


Because our holiday is exceptionally long this year (the reason behind the light posting recently) - four weeks, readers - I decided to take some sewing with me. I packed this fabric (incl underlining and lining) along with tangerine red dress-in-progress, hoping to work on both projects at my in-laws in Germany. Yet, my mother-in-law's sewing machine I hoped to use was beyond home repair and so I put my already-basted tangerine dress aside and took on the beaded chiffon challenge.


I have to say a few words about the fabric before I explain the project. As I said before I got it at Mood. I went to Mood knowing I wanted a 'statement' fabric for a simple skirt, a garment I could dress up or down.

Now, Mood has a small but great 'lace' section. Unfortunately, high quality lace in colors other than white and cream sells out really fast, but if you are flexible you are likely to find some gem pieces at a very reasonable price! This was the case with my beaded fabric too, as I was initially looking for dark solid-color guipure or Alencon lace.


As I am typing this post, the project is finished. As you see it is a straight skirt - simple project for complex fabric. I took pictures of the work-in-progress and will upload them as soon as I am back.

For now I will just finish this post with a quick note that this skirt is done all by hand (partly due to the absence of a sewing machine, and partly due to the nature of the fabric). It has only one, center back seam, with the most work gone into removing and resewing beads.


Please excuse me if I am very slow to answer your comments - I am currently in a picturesque place in South Tirol, in Italian Alps and the closest connection is a 30-min hike away. In fact, I am quite happy I am not distracted by internet as I truly enjoy the tranquility and the beauty surrounding us here. No music, no traffic, just pure nature, the Alps and the incredibly starry nights...

Let me just share this view from our terrace where I sew slowly, couple of hours a day while my younger daughter naps in our bed.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sew Organized: Thread

Dear readers, a while ago I organized my sewing space, so I could easily find and store things, reducing clutter and time spent finding the right tool. I loved reading about your sewing spaces, so now it's my turn to share.

This week I am organizing thread. And here my solution (nothing original, I admit, but quite efficient).

I buy my thread in bulk during 50% sale at Jo-Ann's. Most of what you see there is Guterman Polyester and Mettler silk-finish cotton. What you see is not one giant thread rack. I used two Mega Racks by June Tailor. Mine accommodates 90 spools on each rack, that is 180 altogether.

I store my basting thread separately because I use three main colors: white, black and red. But more about it in another post.

How do you store your thread, readers?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Moulage Class with Kenneth D. King

Dear readers, here is the part one of the promised review of Kenneth D. King's Moulage class. The class took place at the Sew Right Sewing Machines in Bayside, Queens, New York. Yet despite the remote location - it takes at least one hour to get there from Manhattan or West Queens - this class was worth every single minute spent commuting.

Instruction was excellent, the only thing that I found confusing was the organization. I dragged way too many things, including my sewing machine on the first day. It turned out we didn't really need the sewing machine on the first two workshop days at all, alas. But let's focus on the essential things: the class itself.


When we arrived everyone got a print-out with moulage instructions accompanied by an insight into Kenneth's rich biography. I loved his stories about Simmin Sethna, Kenneth's  patternmaking teacher. Simmin, who "was considered THE ONE to go to if one really was serious about learning", taught him the moulage method.
"When I get done teaching you, you won't need ANYONE - you'll KNOW! You will be able to draft anything," Simmin said to Kenneth reportedely. 
Kenneth was cracking jokes and telling anecdotes non-stop, yet despite this rather cheerful distraction we managed to take about 25 accurate measurements to draft the front and the back bodice block. Kenneth demonstrated how to take measurements on one of the students. We filled out our measurement sheet and proceeded to calculations.

This image was actually taken on Day 3; and, if you are a Threads magazine reader, you can see that Kenneth is wearing sheer jeans he made for the latest issue. He is fun! )
Once we were done calculating fractions (horror, I tell you), the back bodice was drafted. Kenneth demonstrated only a few steps at a time and then let us do it on our own. He regularly checked what we did and pointed out occasional mistakes. I thought he was completely in control. He also encouraged us to ask questions and was happy to answer them in detail.

(By the way, this was so different from the continuing ed patternmaking class I took at Parsons couple of years ago. The instructor just demonstrated the steps and never really explained the 'why' of the process. I just think you cannot learn patternmaking without understanding the link between the body shape, its movement and the flat pattern.)

However, I guess, at the end I was a little too inquisitive because Kenneth told me: "Just trust me". Yet, he did answer that last question later, when the block was drafted and he could demonstrate how that previous step made sense after all.

That's it, readers. I will finish this class review next week - there is more to say about the process, the fit and the slopers we walked out with.

What's your patternmaking experience? How did you learn it? Do you prefer to draft patterns yourself, or would you rather use commercial patterns?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Next Project Started

One more garment off my list this week - more about it later - now I wanted to share with you that I am finally working on the next one. Here are the fabrics, aren't the colors vibrant???

The tangerine is a very nice and fine wool I got a few days ago from Mood; and the blue silk tweed was sitting in my stash for a while now. So, my first project is a dress made with this tangerine wool.


I am not using any particular pattern this time but creating my own, using the sloper we drafted in the Kenneth King's Moulage class. If you remember, I took this class to be able to draft well-fitted garments myself. I think Kenneth's Moulage method produces very good fit for custom clothes, but more about it in a separate post.

The dress has simple lines, no sleeves, so I just need to add some design elements and draft a skirt. I will be making a muslin, of course, but mostly to check the design. Fitting alterations will be minimal, I hope, because the bodice was fitted, and the pattern we drafted was altered accordingly.

The red and blue lines you see on this picture relate to the dress and jacket sloper, and include wearing ease. I am so curious how it will work. Check in later this week for my work-in-progress update.

What are you working on right now? Any new techniques, methods you are trying?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Inspiration: Bustier referencing at Dior

Readers, are you following Haute Couture shows in Paris. Day 2 was no disappointment, with Dior being the most spectacular collection of the day. It's amazing, actually, as the new designer at Dior is Raf Simons who was responsible for the minimalist and linear style of Jil Sander. It seems, Simons surprised everyone, downgrading bias-cut dresses and Kabuki styling of Galliano to a footnote, according to the Guardian's Jess Cartner-Morley.

My intention is not to critique this collection though. I thought, rather, I would look for details that make this show memorable - there were plenty, really! Instead, I wanted to quote another fashion guru, Cathy Horyn at the New York Times, because she captured the essence of the couture:
"His clothes are often so simple that you have to look at them for a while before you see the small gesture or the magisterial way of sleeveless black crepe falls over the body. He gets the most and the best out of couture, and this is just the start.”
 So, here are some of those small gestured that captivated me. I loved how Simmons translated the strapless look (which dominated his first collection) into other pieces. Enjoy!

This seemingly simple dress has elaborate bust shaping, similar to a bustier,
and a yoke that look like as if it covers a strapless dress. Beautiful dress, and with some patternmaking skills...
Source: {Stylebistro.com}
Now this looks like boobs talking to the audience on both sides of the runway. Not sure whether this detail directly references something done in the past, but in any case it is very weird. Am I the only one?
Source: {Stylebistro.com}

Classic tailoring spiced up!  Love this bustier cups!
Source: {Stylebistro.com}
This is a dress I would love to make! Not with glitter but maybe with lace instead. Not sure what it is, but it does create an illusion of a strapless dress. Fun!
Source: {Stylebistro.com}
Again, cup shaping resonates bustier shaping.
Source: {Stylebistro.com}
Now, what do you think? Do you think Raf Simons showed a fresh angle on Dior? Does Haute Couture inspire you to add new challenges to your sewing, try new techniques, introduce new styles? 

Monday, July 2, 2012


I am back to the bias stays/facing theme as I used bias stays and bias facings on my flapper dress.

{edit} If you are new to this - thanks, Oona, for reminding - stays are used to stabilize seamlines or garment edges to prevent stretching, not to be confused with the waist stay.

 It is probably one of the more fascinating subjects for me since stays belong to those invisible but crucial techniques in couture sewing. And once you dig into this topic you will uncover quite a few options. Who knows what to use? and why?... After taking several classes with Susan Khalje, making quite a few couture garments myself, and researching a range of available resources I began to understand the choices; and so, today, I want to share my findings with you.

I don't use fusible stays, so I won't cover those. But I hope this brief overview of sew-in stays will help you save your time when looking for the most appropriate stabilizing choice. 


Availablility: Black or white, polyester (less bulky) or cotton.

Width1/4" is preferred for stabilizing

Characteristics: straight grain, stabilized seams will never stretch, will behave equally well after washing

Fabric suitability: heavy- to mediumweight woven fabrics

Fit: close fit, tailored styles

Support: only on straight edges or seams, such as waistline, or top edge of the strapless bodice, etc.


Availablility: fashion fabric selvage, can be made of china silk, silk organza, silk chiffon or cotton voile. Chose the stay to match the weight, the color and draping characteristics of your fabric. Stays cut on lengthwise grain can also be used, as well as crossgrain stays, but they are not as sturdy as the selvage, and, in addition, the crossgrain-cut stay will have some stretch. If you do use stays cut on lengthwise or crossgrain, do press them and stretch while pressing to remove all the stretch. I explain the reasons below, under bias-cut stays.

Width1/4" is preferred for stabilizing

Characteristics: firm support, perfect match in color and weight because it is cut from the same fabric, minimum bulk

Fabric suitability: sheer or delicate woven fabrics, medium-weight fabrics, bouclé.

Fit: any styles

Support:  straight edges or seams, such as waistline, or top edge of the strapless bodice, etc.


Availability: purchase braided elastic (gets narrow when stretched)

Width: approximately 1/4"(0.5 cm)

Characteristics: flexible support, allows to move, but returns to shape; bulky, so cannot be used on light-weight fabrics.

Fabric and Style Suitability: medium-weight fabrics, especially on dresses and tops with plunging necklines; also used for armholes.  

Fit: close fit

Support: deep necklines, armholes, and similar applications. Here I want to add that on those deep necklines you can always consider using boning to keep the neckline close to your body.  Elastic can keep the neckline taut, while boning will prevent the garment from revealing too much when you move. More on it later.

Application: it is applied using the catchstitch, which encases the elastic on both sides without piercing it - elastic should be able to move. The elastic is then pulled up to the desired length and securily sewn to the garment at the end.


Availablility: 100 % percent nylon; in black, white or ivory; bias or straight grain.

Widthavailable in 5/8"

Characteristics: light support, sheer and lightweight, minimum bulk,

Fabric suitability: sheer or delicate woven fabrics

Support: straight or slightly curved seams, prevents seam slippage.

Notes: Susan Khalje also recommends using bias-cut tricot to stabilize scalloped seams on knit fabrics.


on the top, the strip after pressing, stretching and steaming out the bias;
below, initial width. 
Availablility: DIY, I use a matching silk organza to make this bias stays because organza and sturdy and sheer at the same time. Bias stays need to be cut on true bias and then stretched and presses until all the stretch disappears. (Read my earlier post on bias stays)

Width1/4" - 3/8" 

Characteristics: light support, perfect match in color and weight because it can be cut from matching silk organza, minimum bulk, minimal fraying. The width of the strip reduces to almost a third of the original after pressing, the length increases, and the strip does tend to return to original shape if moved. It's simple mechanics, and so that's why you remove all bias with pressing - the strip can only get slightly shorter during the wear - making the stay perfect for necklines and armholes. In this, this stay works similarly as the elastic stay mentioned above. Finally, because of the bias the stay creates a softer edge (or roll) where it is applied, which I personally like more. Straight-grain stays, or folds produce a crisper edge when pressed. 

Fabric suitability: sheer or delicate woven fabrics, knits, lace.

Fit: any styles

Support:  shaped seams on wovens, straight and shaped seams on knits, seams on bias-cut garments, especially zippers, etc.


I tend to use organza selvage for straight/ on-grain edges and shoulder seams. If seams are cut on the bias (V-neck, for example), especially on the lightweight fabrics, I prefer using bias stays, also from silk organza.


At this point I cannot link to tutorials on how to apply this different type of stays - I am working on the bias stay tutorial - but you can find some information in the following resources.

Readers, do you use different stays in your sewing? What were your biggest stay frustration moments? Are you interested in a tutorial on how to apply any of those stays? 

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