#24-Sitting by the river on a snowy day…

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Sitting by the river on a snowy day…which doesn’t quite match Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening.  As a child growing up in New England I had to memorize this poem.  Was it just children from New England who all learned this poem by heart, or did all U.S. children learn it? You can find the poem at the link below. It’s a lovely simple poem, but of course it has all kinds of deeper meanings.

http://<div id=’rg_embed_link_1875′ class=’rg_embed_link’ data-song-id=’1875′>Read <a href=’https://genius.com/Robert-frost-stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening-annotated’>“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost</a> on Genius</div> <script crossorigin src=’//genius.com/songs/1875/embed.js’></script>

snow falling on the river

A Snowy Day

 

I have been working on another version of the Burgundy blouse, seen below, as photographed by Jess McDougall.

The burgundy blouse with shirring and gold tone pearls on me.

Burgundy Blouse

 

I added to the length of the blouse and a bit more to the gathered section on the side.  Did I take the time to true the side seam after adding more fullness? No.  The side seam was already ugly in the Burgundy Blouse version, and adding more fullness her made this seam even worse.  I was hoping to just wing it and cut off whatever doesn’t fit.  Haha!  Another good idea ruined by the facts.

Front view of brown floral top

Front view

I like the fullness going from the left waist area  to right bust area.  But there’s extra fabric at the arm hole on the left and the rest of the top hangs badly.

 

Side view of brown floral top

Side view

The front is much longer than the back. Also it’s very lumpy at the waist– on both sides- which makes me think that might be the machine basting stitch I used to sew this together.  I wanted to baste it together to see if I could skip the side zipper.  I don’t have an answer for that question as the whole thing looks so awful I decided to put the garment aside for another day.  Argh!  Is it a redeemable wadder?  or forever a UFO?

Only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

#20 – Books & Novels about Dressmakers, Fashion and Sewing

Books and Novels about Dressmakers, Fashion and Sewing

I love to read, especially novels that whisk me away to another time and place. I don’t usually read the Bestsellers from the New York Times; I like easier books. I love series of books: Sue Grafton’s A thru X series, P. D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh and Louise Penny’s Inspector Gammach books. I’ve read every Anne McCaffrey novel, Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle and of course J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  Another terrific book is The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George; I loved this book.  This is just a short list- if you want to know everything I’ve read in the last couple of years join me on Goodreads.

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1628367-ellen-miller

 

Below is a list of books that feature sewing or fashion as the focus of the heroine. I wrote a 2 sentence synopsis for all of the books, but not a review; there are professional literary critics who write great reviews. The first few books true stories or based upon true events; the others are novels.

cover of Dressmaker of Khair Khana

Dressmaker of Khair Khana

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, set in Kabul, Afganistan, is the true story of a family’s survival after the Taliban take charge of the city. Organized by Kamila Sidiqi, the women in her family create a sewing workshop to support themselves amidst the chaos of war and the Taliban’s harsh restrictions on daily life. This was a really interesting book.

cover of Kimono

Kimono

Kimono and Geisha by Liza Dalby. Liza Dalby trained as a Geisha in Japan in the 1980’s: the only western to do so. Geisha is her memoir about that time. Kimono explains the history of kimonos, including the designs, how they have been worn and their social significance.

cover of The Pink Suit

The Pink Suit

The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby. The novel is based on the true story of Kate, a seamstress employed by Chez Nino in NY City, who made the iconic pink suit for Jackie Kennedy. The suit was designed by Coco Chanel; the design and pattern were purchased from Chanel by Chez Ninon and Kate created the suit. I knew that making a Chanel suit was labor intensive but this novel describes some of the sewing details that go into the creation of a Chanel suit.

 

cover of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini is set in Washington D.C., around the time of the Civil War. Elizabeth Keckley, a fine seamstress and former slave, really did make Mrs. Lincoln’s clothes. Jennifer Chiaverini’s fictionalized account of their friendship and Keckley’s life was interesting and the book has been made into a movie.

 

cover of Circle of Pearls

Circle of Pearls

 

Circle of Pearls by Rosalind Laker is set in 1650’s England, a time of revolution and distrust. The pearls are Julia’s inheritance, which she pans to wear at her wedding, but the revolution upends many plans.

 

cover of The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker

 

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott follows Tess on board the Titanic as a personal maid for Lady Duff Gordon. Tess and Lady Gordon survive the sinking of the Titanic and later testify in the hearings about the catastrophe.

cover of The Dress Thief

The Dress Thief

 

The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evan addressed the issues of copyright, blackmail and doing what’s necessary to keep from starving. Set in 1930’s Paris Alix, the heroine knows she’s not doing the right thing copying designs but….

cover of The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham. I must confess that I saw this movie on Netlix or Amazon and I haven’t read the book. However, it’s a terrific story set in 1950’s Australia involving the complexities of returning home, clothes as a show of defiance, lost memories and revenge.

cover of The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck unravels a mystery surrounding a vintage wedding gown found by Charlotte, the owner of a bridal boutique in Birmingham AL.

cover of Silk For The Feed Dogs

Silk For The Feed Dogs

Silk For The Feed Dogs by Jackie Mallon follows Kat Connelly as she finishes fashion school in London, finds works in London, then moves to Milan, finding her way “In The Industry”.   I really enjoyed this book.

Please send me any recommendations of books and novels about dressmakers, fashion and sewing that you have read and enjoyed.  I would love to accumulate a library of “sewing books” that are fun reads.

 

 

 

 

 

#19- The SFD Apron- Seminole Patchwork

#19 – The SFD Apron- Seminole Patchwork

The School of Fashion Design in Boston, where I went to school and later taught, has added a December couture detail garment auction to its annual calendar. This year’s garment to be embellished is an apron. I was asked to make an apron for the auction; the apron is due December 1, 2017  for the auction on December 12, 2017.

SFD Apron Flyer

SFD Apron Flyer

Here is rumpled flyer; it’s been through the USPS to get to me.

As I have mentioned before designing is not my strong suit, so I set up a Pinterest board about Aprons. https://www.pinterest.com/coutureellen/apron/ I wanted my apron to be useful: machine washable & dryer-able.On the Pinterest board were photos of apron made from shirts.  My husband recently cleaned out his closet and a bag of his shirts was waiting to go to the thrift store.  There is a standing joke in our house: which blue & white striped shirt will he wear today? Blue & white stripes and Seminole patchwork could work!

The shirts on the table

The shirts on the table

First step: cut the shirts into 2” (5 cm) wide strips. Second step: create an order for the strips. Did I create an easy to replicate repeating order? No, of course not.

The first set of strips

The first set of strips

 

Cut into strips

Cut into angled strips

Third step: cut the strips into angled strips on a 45° angle.

Sew the angled strips together

Sew the angled strips together

Fourth and fifth steps: Offset the strips by one block and sew them together to make the “new fabric.”

Working on the base shirt: I cut away parts of the yellow and blue checked base shirt leaving the fronts shaped into apron-like pieces with the collar. I opened up the collar stitching from the edge of the button placket around through the back neck and forward to the other front placket. I also opened up the stitching on the buttonhole placket that attached it to the shirt front.

Sixth step: Place the strips on the base shirt. When I made the set of strips for the right hand side I had to cut all the strips in reverse to get the diagonal pattern to mirror the left hand side. All good. But when I laid the strips out and sewed them together I saw that I had added an extra set of narrow blue striped blocks into the pattern. I took apart the blocks around the narrow blue stripes, laid it out again and the pattern still didn’t work. I asked my husband to come help. His verdict: I was missing the narrow blue striped blocks. Argh! We placed all the blocks in the correct order and I pinned them into place. Then I took photograph below.

Laying the new fabric on the base shirt

Laying out the new fabric

This photograph shows the missing pieces on the right hand side, as you look at the photograph.

 

Close up of the missing pieces with numbers

Close up of the missing pieces with numbers

After looking at the photograph I decided I could still get mixed up so I numbered all the pieces to be added: the strips/columns (vertical) were labeled 1-11 and additions were numbered A-D using bits of masking tape. Columns 1 and 3 just got numbers as they were complete. All the other columns got numbered and lettered A through D as they needed pieces added. I didn’t think to take a photograph of this, but I labeled the photo in Photoshop; I hope the numbering is visible. Column 11 didn’t exist, so I hadn’t screwed up that piecing!

The next steps have no photographs.

I placed the “new fabric” on top of the shirt fronts and aligned the diamond pattern, vertically and horizontally. The raw edge on the right side at center front got tucked into the buttonhole placket and then I re-sewed the placket seam. The raw edge on the left side at center front was folded under ¼” (6mm) and top stitched down to the base shirt, right next to the buttons.

Working across the fronts I matched the vertical seams of the new fabric to a blue stripe in my base shirt, every 3” (5.5mm). These lines were then top stitched/ machine quilted to keep the two fabrics together. There are a few places where my attention wandered while I was top stitching and my stitching line went astray; I left these bobbles as it shows the garment was made “by hand” rather than by machine. OK- I was too lazy to undo the stitching.

Step one hundred: I cut away the extra new fabric around the outside edges of my apron base. Now it really looks like an apron! I stitched all around the edges of the apron at 1/4″ ( 6mm) to hold it all the raw edges together. Bias binding made from a shirting remnant was sewn around the outside edges and made into apron strings. The apron strings were stitched onto the sides in big Xs. Finally the collar was re-sewn catching the top edge of the apron and closing the back neck. DONE!

The completed apron on the table

The completed apron on the table

What I thought would be a one day project was a 2+ day project.

The completed apron belted on a dress form

The completed apron belted

 

The completed apron tied in back on a dress form

The completed apron tied in back

 

I’ll let you know how the auction goes!

#17- Lace Presentation at the Boston ASG meeting

#17- Lace Presentation at the Boston ASG meeting

On Saturday, November 4th,  I spoke to about 35 members of the Boston chapter of the American Sewing Guild about Lace and Lace Trim. I had made a Power Point presentation based on the Lace and Lace Trim chapters in Creating Couture Embellishment- my first ever Power Point presentation. I think the presentation was OK, not great, as I was nervous; I know I rushed through the information at the beginning too quickly. I think the middle and end were better, as I slowed down, but I think I relied on information from the book too much and the topic didn’t catch fire in everyone’s imaginations.  Afterwards I overheard someone say, “Well, she certainly knows her subject…” Damning with faint praise.

Because I was nervous, I forgot to take photos at the event–again.   I recreated the display and photographed it in my workroom so you can see what I brought for Show and Tell.

Three shirts and eight sleeves with lace and lace trim on a table

Lace and Lace Trim display

Top row: a new shirt with Lace Appliques going over the shoulder, the Lace bodice, and the Lace Trim bodice from Creating Couture Embellishment.

Bottom row: Sleeves: metallic lace with beads and feathers, lace in a plain seam, lace applique, lace motif, lace around a curve, lace mitered at the corner, lace eyelet insertion, adding lace to beading and lace beading from Creating Couture Embellishment.

 

I started the talk by explaining the structure of lace; I definitely went through this bit too quickly. Then as I talked about how to sew with lace, I passed around some of the flat samples made for the book. Later the bodices and sleeves pictured above were passed around the room too.

Since most of the women in this group are not interested in making an entire garment out of lace, I wanted to show these ASG members that they could easily add a little lace to an existing garment, creating something striking and unique. One of lace’s endearing qualities is that it doesn’t ravel, making it ideal to use for appliques. One of lace’s drawbacks is that the net background that lace is woven onto can be very delicate and can rip, which is why a used wedding gown often has rips near the hem where the train of the gown has caught on something. Often the rips can be mended using a narrow zigzag stitch. But the delicate net background also folds down to nothing, so you can bunch up the net or push the net under the more solid motifs, when appliqueing lace.

I bought 2 shirts at a local discount store: a blue and white striped shirt and a plain blue shirt. The blue and white shirt is a casual shirt. I wanted to maintain the that easy going feeling, but make the shirt unique; I added some cream colored Alençon lace on one shoulder.

Blue & white shirt with lace

Blue & white shirt with lace

Piecing lace for an applique like this is a bit like working a jigsaw puzzle; you move the motifs around until the pieces fit together nicely.

Pocket close up to show lace coming out the pocket

Pocket close up

On this shirt I started the lace coming out of the chest pocket and continuing over the shoulder. On the shirt’s back I pieced a fleur de lis and two large flowers to the lace that came from the front. Once I had the motifs pinned in place I trimmed away the net fabric and the extra bits until I had a single layer of lace motifs.

Blue & white shirt back

Blue & white shirt back

Alençon lace is good to use as an applique because the heavy cordonette that outlines the motifs provide solid outline edges to sew to the garment. The appliques can be sewn to the garment by hand or by machine; in this case I used a narrow zigzag stitch to sew the pieces of lace to the shirt. I also used some tear-away interfacing on the wrong side of the shirt to prevent tunneling by the zigzag stitch.

For a more formal look you could use some blue lace, but I love the way the cream Alençon lace makes this shirt “a little bit country”.

The other shirt I embellished is a blue button down shirt. I wanted the embellishments on this shirt to be more formal and subtle, so the shirt could be worn under a jacket to an office.

Blue shirt with lace embellishment

Blue shirt with lace

This size M shirt doesn’t show very well on my size 4 inflate-able (!) form; she’s listing to the back a bit. The inflate-able forms are wonderful for traveling Show and Tells.

Blue shirt collar close up

Blue shirt collar close up

I added 2 rows of a lightweight, polyester edging trim to the collar. The trim is placed with the footsides next to each other so the decorative headside edges are visible. (The footside of a trim is the sturdier edge of the trim, designed to be sewn to fabric. The headside is the decorative edge of the trim.) Because this a demonstration garment the footside edges of the trim are spaced 1/16” apart from one another so that you can tell it’s two rows of trim, sewn to the garment with line of straight stitches through the footsides.  If I were making this for a client I might butt the two rows of trim together and sew them to the collar with a single line of zigzag stitches catching both pieces of trim. Part of the stitching method decision requires thinking about the look of the under collar: do you want two rows of straight stitches or one row of zigzag stitches on the under collar?  Of course you could sew the trim on by hand catching only the upper collar with your stitches.

Blue shirt arm close up, side view

Blue shirt arm side view

On each sleeve I added a strip of allover black lace. To insert the lace I unpicked the shoulder seams and the cuff seams part way. Next I cut a slot along the straight grain of the sleeve. Then I added a strip of lace to fill the slot, sewing the two fabrics together length-wise, with a ¼” seam. I tucked the ends of the lace into the shoulder and cuff and re-sewed those seams shut. Finally I topstitched the long seams to keep the seam allowances from showing and from raveling. The lace strips aren’t visible  if you are wearing a jacket, so you could wear this shirt to a business meeting. Take off your jacket and you’re ready for a more casual setting.

I’m really pleased with lace additions to blue shirt: it changes up the shirt from one of thousands to one of a kind.

#12 – The Burgundy Top

The Burgundy Top

As you know from a previous post my friend and sleeve designer Eddi Phillips designed some clothes for me to wear while on The Book Tour. I am so lucky to know such a talented designer and have him design clothes just for me!

Eddi designed 10 outfits and we picked 6 of them to make; Eddi helped me chose the fabrics and trims for each outfit- or at least the general idea of fabrics and trims. This top included gathering fabric to one side seam, then layering lace and appliques on top of the gathered section.

Sketch showing a long sleeve blouse with lace and applique on one side

Lace & Applique Top

 

There were 2 stumbling blocks in my iteration of this design: the lace addition just added bulk to my non-existent waist and the applique didn’t work the way I envisioned it. I didn’t take pictures of the top with the lace and applique, but the basic top with the gathered fabric had a great deal of appeal to me. Hmmm…

Burgundy top front pinned to dress form with a few rows of gathering stitches on the right

Shirring idea

 

I decided to shirr the entire half circle area and add beads. Can you see it?

Close up of the shirred and beaded part on the wrong side

The wrong side

This is the wrong side of the top, showing the shirring and the bead work. The shirring was sewn by machine; the rows are ½” apart. You read about this in detail in Creating Couture Embellishments, page 95.

 

I sewed the beads on with FireLine™ Smoke, size B, with the thread doubled. I suppose I could have used size D, single thread, but I had the size B on my work table already. I knotted the thread after each bead so if one bead got pulled off the rest would stay on. After all the beads in place I covered the shirred area with fusible interfacing to protect the knots of the shirring and beading, and covered the interfacing with a layer of lining to keep the entire garment slippery.

The top on the dress form sowing the shirred and beaded section

Shirred and beaded

Here is the garment finished except for the hem.

The burgundy blouse with shirring and gold tone pearls on me.

Burgundy Blouse

The finished top on me. Jess McDougall of Salem, MA took this photo of me.

I think the next iteration of this top will have more rows of shirring and be 3″ longer.  And there will be more iterations of this top!

Have you got other wader saves?            Please share!

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#11 – Mother of the Groom Dress

Mother of the Groom Dress

My son is getting married in a couple of weeks. We are all very excited as we love my future daughter in law and her family. The entire event will be outside, from 4 – 10 pm in Massachusetts. The weather could be chilly and rainy or could be warm and sunny; what to wear?

Over the summer I asked my friend Eddi Phillps to design some clothes for me to wear on a book tour (still in the planning stages.) Eddi sketched 10 beautiful designs; we selected 6 for me make.  Eddi also helped me choose fabrics from my stash to use in this project.

Sketch of green princess line dress with swatches of fabric and trim

Green Dress Sketch

I chose this dress design for my Mother of the Groom dress.

I started by adapting my muslin from the shirtwaist dress pattern (in post #3) to a shoulder princess line dress. I sewed the bodice pieces to their corresponding skirt pieces and fiddled with vertical seams until the pieces laid flat on the worktable.

The center back seam opened so the pieces can lay flat.

The center back seam opened so the pieces can lay flat.

Here is a close-up of the back panel showing how the center back seam had to be opened up to accommodate the pattern changes. (The fabric peaking out from behind the muslin along is the lining layer.)

 

All the pieces laid out in order on the worktable.

All the pieces laid out in order.

I cut out the dress in a lovely dark teal that I bought from Zimman’s Fabrics in Lynn, MA. http://www.zimmans.com/

I cut out the lining in a dark Bemburg rayon; I love the feel of the Bemburg against my skin and it sews up beautifully.

After sewing the dress and lining I put the dress on my dress form and started to pin the trims in place. The trims are from Daytona Trimmings Co. in New York City; they don’t have a web site.

Trim pinned to the back of the dress.

Trim pinned to the back of the dress.

Designing is not my well developed area. The change from lace and rat tail in Eddi’s design to this flat, rectangular trim and rat tail trim has thrown me for a loop. I can execute a design, but making something up isn’t something I can do. I have fiddled and diddled with the trim for the better of two days and this still doesn’t look anywhere near what Eddi designed.  Argh…

Time to re-group…

 

 

 

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