Friday, July 22, 2011

Now that I live in The Sticks (seriously the sticks.  You have to drive out of state to catch a flight) I really appreciate the chance to wander around Beverly Hills and grope the high end fashion you find there.  I love love love Prada.  And while the bulk of the new collection is in serious Man Repeller territory, there are some gorgeous pieces.  

The sweet sales agent who followed me around (probably in the vain hope that I was someone, somewheres' mistress out on a jaunt with his Centurian card) couldn't answer any questions about these two dresses, but I assume they are resort collection.  The first is a heavy lace effect cotton, lined with batiste.  The simplest shape possible, and easily replicable at home.  And about 1500 bucks.  

The second dress on the rack was even simpler, a basic sheath shape with a low back neckline, and covered in the most fabulous hand worked embroidery.  No lining, and no other details, but if you view it as a work of art then maybe it's worth the 1600 or so it was priced at.  

I was too shy to drag any of these dresses to a fitting room, which I regret, because there was a fantastic and highly wearable '60s Dolly Bird / Mod fashion story that was featured in the store, but absent from the runway.  Not surprising I suppose, since the runway is more about telling a story, and the actual store is about selling clothes.  The dresses were red or white or black, fine wool, shift style, with various details.  The coats dead simple, just long enough to cover a mini and gorgeous.

I found these two pics on, which give a general idea. After viewing Gertie's bombshell class I was excited to see that Prada also uses ribbon to protect their zippers, only they add a tiny, clear-plastic snap at the top of the ribbon to hold it in place.

On to Tom Ford.  I don't really share the TF aesthetic, but boy is his store beautiful.  They have the most astonishing staircase that is fully lined in highly reflective metal, but works almost as a fun house mirror. You never actually see yourself at the angle you would anticipate.

More Marc Jacobs, winter' 11 at Mood

The Prada winter-white Mod coats inspired me, and I bought yardage in this fabric at Mood.  It's gorgeous, has a fantastic texture, with a ribbon woven through it.  The fabric is denser than some of the boucles I liked, and will work better as a winter-coat.  Originally I was planning a Lady Grey, but to be honest I'm now completely on board with doing something more Mod.  Maybe Simplicity 2508.  The white coat they show is almost exactly what I want.

I also bought a few yards each of this fantastic light-weight wool boucle in cobalt blue and pure red.  Wonderful, springy texture and incredibly rich color.  Gorgeous.

And it hasn't all been shopping on my LA Sojurn.  A friend of mine lives in a loft downtown.  The space is good, but the set up was pretty bleak and cold.  He bought some fabric, pulled out his mom's old New Home, and I sewed him some curtains.  Now he has a clear differentiation between the living space and the sleeping space, which is a massive improvement.

In two days I say good bye to LA, and head north.  Lots to think about after my trip here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mood Fabrics, LA

The Fabric tour of Southern California continues with Mood on Pico. 

 I. Love. Mood.  

I know people grouch that they are expensive, but I think this is incredibly unfair.  They have the best fabric in Los Angeles.  The selection is huge, and the fabrics are super luxe, high-end, and I think the $$ is fair.  

Where else can you regularly find bolts of Marc Jacobs coatings?  Whether this is to your taste or not is another question, but I've seen bolts of fabric that are distinctly recognizable from his collections over the years.  I'm guessing that the quality is top of the line, and $30 a yard feels fair.  There is also a ton of Oscar de la Renta on offer right now.

Tie fabrics for Cidell, suddenly they have tons of them!

Rolls and rolls of boucle coating fabric.  I would love a Lady Grey in any of these!

I'm heading back to Wyoming this weekend, and besides my Bombshell Dress aspirations I also hope to make a Colette "Lady Grey."  These fabrics are all possible contenders.  They are all more or less in the $30 a yard category, which, when you factor in buying 4.25 yards, adds up.  But I still think that spending more on great fabric that you love justifies itself.  Today I wore a '50s cocktail dress I made in 2004, out of quite pricey vintage blouse fabric.  It's in great shape, fits fantastically, and will continue to do so for years.  Whereas dresses I've made in cheaper fabrications were thrown away years ago.  I think the maths may be a little painful in the moment, but it all works out in the end.

Fantastic springy very loosely woven boucle.  What do you do with this?  An unstructured jacket, or dress?
Any votes on which fabric to pick?  I love the red boucle the most, but I think it's too loose and unstructured for my needs.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bombshell dress fabrics


I'm in LA, and as profoundly ambivalent (oxymoron I suppose) as I am about this city it's fantastic to have access to serious fabric and sewing stores.  Today headed downtown to Michael Levine, and then to Silverlake for the new-to-me SewLA.

The main goal was to find fabrics and notions for Gertie's Bombshell dress class.  Gertie recommends Japanese cotton for this, which I've always assumed is essentially high-end quilting cotton.  The fabrics I bought were made in Korea, and lack that weight and barkcloth-like texture she mentions.  I suspect these are technically too light, but with all the under-pinnings I think they may work.

 The orange is a Kaffe Fassett and the washed-out pink is "Kamari Garden" by Free Spirit.  The lining fabrics are shirtings and seemed a fantastic value - super soft, and only $6.00 a (60" wide) yard.

Originally I picked the striped shirting to line the orange fabric, but maybe that's just a little too crazy...

I've always avoided quilting cottons for the usual reasons, but these fabrics are gorgeous. Rich, lush colors,  intricate and perfectly balanced patterns with a lustrous sheen that is fantastic to the touch.  I'm hoping that with a muslin interlining, lining, boning and cotton batting cups the fabric will end up being up to the job.



After Michael Levine I hit up Sew LA in Silverlake, and decided that I had to buy a "real" Japanese cotton in the heavier weight that Gertie recommends.  This one was the most subdued, and I picked it to balance out the loudness of the other prints.  If you are in LA I highly recommend SewLA, they have tons of indie patterns, and a full selection of Japanese cottons.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Nineties Styling redux

If you'd asked me in the '90s what '90s style was, I would have been emphatic that there was none.  I clearly remember - around '96 or so - thinking how unfair it was to be 20-something in a decade with no signature look or style.  Now of course I can see it.  I'm not really talking about that Jennifer Aniston-in-Friends look, the big floral print dresses with Keds.  High waisted Jeans.  I'm sure I wore that at the time, but it is certainly only suitable for coastal teenagers at this point.  I'm more thinking of that mid-90s minimalist look that screamed 'young woman on the big-city go.' At this time I was working in a small ad agency.  I had no real ambitions, and wasn't sure what I was doing with myself, but these clothes were inspiring.  I wanted to be the kind of woman who wore them.

 I wish I'd kept more of my sewing from these era, because I'd love to revisit it, and see what I was coming up with at the time.  I do remember one hipster pencil skirt with a fly front that I made dozens of times (oddly enough in heavy, fully-lined winter weight wool.  This was odd because I lived in Florida at the time).  My oldest living UFO dates to about '96, and is a fuschia bias cut shell.  Wool, lined of course.  Fuschia - worn with grey houndstooth check - was a major micro trend at some point around then.  I should really finish that thing.

Anyway, '90s minimalism looks fab now.  I know I'm not the first person to say it, but it bears repeating.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


It must be the heat of summer, but there seems to be Broo-Haa-Haa-Ing all over the sewing interweb lately.  I've been lucky to meet many of my favorite sewing bloggers, and they are universally charming, so I'm going to make a bold statement and say it's all The Other People's Fault. Unless of course, you are one of the Other People, in which case I reverse my opinion.  I remember when knitting took off - there was a real sense of us vs them, and people fell into camps quickly with not much room or flexibility for acknowledging the "other sides'" perspective then.  It was silly, but to be honest, massively entertaining to view from the sidelines.  Now that I know people in the middle of the dust-up it just feels silly and pointless and occasionally quite mean.

Sew your frocks from Pork Chops if it makes you happy, just don't be mean to the people who choose Chicken Wire instead!

Friday, July 08, 2011

S**t Sewing

The recent broo-haa-haa on the blogs about "What level of sewist do you consider yourself?" got me thinking about a really under-discussed category, that of S**t sewing.  S**t sewing is that thing you start at about 9pm the night before you leave for a vacation, or extended work trip.  It's anytime you sew something that you could actually buy at American Apparel or HM for less than $30. It's when you can't see your chalk markings and you just "wing" inserting that sleeve, or guessing where the hem line might roughly be.

I do a lot of S**t Sewing.  Actually, the older I get, the more I do it, which is pretty much the opposite of what you'd expect.  Unless it's a super fancy dress, I tend to put the sewing pedal to the floor and simply, "sew through it."  Sometimes that's a bad strategy, as in the Cynthia Rowley dress, which would have benefitted from some more thoughtful work.  Other times it works surprisingly well.

I really wanted a Breton top for my trip to LA.  This is from a TNT Burda WOF pattern, it took about an hour to make, and despite the fact that it's made with all the classic S**t Sewing techniques; poor markings,   shoddy pattern matching, eye-balling of all hems and facings, I think it works.

Do you do s**t sewing? Should it be a new "level" category on PatternReview?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Existential Angst Time

I'm a few minutes away from hitting the final "send" on the freelance project that has taken up most of the last twelve months, which means one thing; it's existential despair time.  I like to think of myself as pretty sane and stable, but my experience of this world is that it is pretty rough being out here alone.  I know all the appropriate psycho-babble and "The Secret"-ish interpretations about life.  I have dark thoughts, therefore my life sometimes feels dark.  I don't do enough creative visualization; if only I sat and visualized that next big project it would appear.  I don't leap-and-know-that-the-net-will-catch me enough.  I get chastised a lot for saying things like, "life is scary," but that's my experience.  Being single and middle-aged and living alone, with no one to split the cares of sustaining and building a life; scary.   Being all those things and also being someone whose been pretty rootless for years; doubly scary.  Living far away from family, but somehow resistant to going home.  Scary.

One of my favorite expressions is, "it will all come out in the wash." I'm sure that five months from now I'll be working away on a new project. Life will feel settled again, maybe I'll even have a lease on a place.  Either way it's likely I won't always be lost in a void of self-doubt.  Till then I'm faking it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Finished the Cynthia Rowley non-maxi dress

If I still lived in Southern California this would have been my default Coachella dress.  It's super light and airy, and I love the faux Japanese-Indigo fabric.  Alas. There are issues.  This dress really doesn't work so well, which is why I've copped out and done the cute little dress-on-a-twig photo shoot.  PatternReview is full of complaints about the mysterious midriff bands.  Here you can see how I did them - they are tacked on the outside of the midriff and one points down, one up. They serve no purpose and don't really add to the overall look of the dress.  I'd do it differently if I made it again.

Another PR complaint is the ridiculously low neckline.  I sewed it up an inch further than directed, and it still didn't work.  I'll have to either make a keyhole neckline, or where a camisole under it.  Frankly, I thought it was some fuddy-duddy-ness on PR, but no.  Those ladies were right.

The skirt is massive IMO.  I took out a lot of fabric from the gathers, but by that point was "over it," and didn't do a good job of balancing the skirt on the back.  It hangs poorly and has some bubbles at the waistline.  

On the plus, I do love the fabric.  I found enough cotton voile to line it, and it's super pretty.  The bodice fits well, even with my insane alterations, and I think it will be a good Sunday morning, "hey look, I'm not wearing jeans," dress.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Cynthia Rowley 2587

I've had this Cynthia Rowley pattern sitting around for ever.  Originally I thought the long sleeve version would make a great winter wool dress for New Mexico, but the pattern sat and gathered dust and I did nothing with it.  A few days ago I finally decided to take it out for a spin, and see if it would work with the faux-Japanese-indigo cotton print I bought at Joanns.  I figured that it could be a super cute summer dress for my upcoming 3 weeks in LA.

This is it tacked together.  I'm not sure, I think I look a little beamy in it from the backside. I'm going to narrow the skirt considerably, and take it up at the back waist seam for a bit of sway-back love.  I'm hemming and hawing about sleeves.  Really, I should have cut the spaghetti strap version . Not sure why that didn't occur to me.

The biggest hurdle is that his dress clearly needs to be lined with a super fine white cotton lawn, which you can't find for love or money in WY.  I don't do unlined dresses, and I do have some regular lining fabric in a cream / ivory color, which is totally wrong for this dress, but probably doesn't matter.  yet I'm a little paralyzed at the thought of how great it would look if I had the right stuff.  Oh well.

 Most of the Pattern Reviews for this mention the mysterious bands.  They are an enigma, wrapped up in a frustration, inside of a "WTF" to paraphrase Churchill.  They are mentioned, once, very briefly, and then never discussed again.  I don't really have any answers, my bands are seamed to the waistband, and the band 'folds' point down from the top of the waistband, or up from the bottom of it.  That makes no sense, does it? My solution seems like somewhat pointless adornment.  If I love this pattern and make it again I'll do something different w/ the bands.
 The drag lines are a bummer.  I think I over altered the pattern, doing my usual extreme shoulder slope, and lowering the armhole drastically.  Maybe there is too little fabric and these are pull lines.

Finally, My Little Magpie.  I used to be driven to tears and insanity by leafblowers in LA.  the WY version are these little birds that make an infernal and unending racket, guarding the teen-age birds who've left the nest, but not quite figured out flying yet.