Saturday, April 18, 2015

Parapet: the Edge of Style

Linen Shift, Pair of Silk Stays, Bustle Skirt
Photograph: Robert Lucy, 2015
From the wardrobe I've made I find myself gravitating toward certain garments. This skirt and the linen shift worn with it are a semi-uniform. The silk covered corset/ pair of stays is newly completed.

The first skirt in this design was paired with a slip. The next included a lining. In the third version (pictured here) a deep ruffle was added to the lining's lower edge, widening the circle of the hemline when the skirt is worn. An additional development was to come...

There's a soothing quality to wearing a long skirt. It amplifies movement, it cozily blankets one's legs when one is seated. Nevertheless climbing up and down subway stairs required lifting this long skirt's hem--graceful or a bit of a nuisance depending upon whether or not my hands were already full. (In tandem with living in a pedestrian city with fluid public transportation, one tends to bring along a day's worth of provisions, pack-mule-like.) It was awkward to raise the skirt an inch or two off the ground when carrying packages. Eventually solved the dilemma: bustled the skirt!

The white blouse is the upper portion of a knee length linen shift. I'd practically name a child 'linen'. Have made a small collection of these in my favorite fabric. Each one is a little different--the shape of the neckline, the width of the sleeve, etc. The pattern uses basic arithmetic. By now I've written the calculations in a notebook for consistency.

The pair of stays (i.e. corset) was completed this week. They are based on a similar pair made a couple years ago. Having recently modified the original I discovered them to be suddenly, unexpectedly wonderful to wear--comfortable and becoming. Some designs I make once, others I to continue to develop. That is the case with this pair of stays. This pair is reversible with scarlet silk taffeta on one side, marine blue silk on the other. The structure is comprised of 18 steel bones inserted into channels in a muslin core. There are 30 hand sewn eyelets. At the most rapid each eyelet took about 10-15 minutes to sew. Many subway journeys were devoted to sewing eyelets! The eyelets and hand-stitched edge binding were completed over the course of three months. Decided to modernize and grommet the front lacing holes (of which there are 22).

I inhabit these threads with joy.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cut from the Same Cloth

Long Johns, Bloomers, Long Sleeve Tee, Socks. Merino Wool.
Muslin is a woven cotton cloth. Unbleached it is the color of pale sand. Available in several weights, it is frequently used for creating a prototype of a garment, also called a muslin.

Details are worked out in the muslin. This requires that one use material with properties similar to the fabric in which the garment will ultimately be made, such as elasticity and weight.

A few years ago found pale rose, shallow ribbed merino wool at an excellent price. Bought yards of it. It has served as a muslin for many projects to be sewn in a knit fabric. Note similarities between the long sleeve tee pictured here and in the post below? The construction of the cuffs, the cut of the armsyce (where the sleeve meets the body) as well as the finishing details for the neckline and hem were developed in this fabric. Soft, warm and with the natural stretch of wool jersey it's also ideal for long underwear. It's a wardrobe staple!

Cut from the same cloth: long johns, bloomers, a long-sleeve tee [wearing it as I write] and heck, socks.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Swiss Cheese Tee: The Pleasures of the Threadbare

Swiss Tee. Wool jersey and velvet, 2015
Thought about photographing clothing I've worn to bits like teddy bears loved threadbare. Put one tee shirt on the dressform to photograph it. It looked more swiss-cheese than shirt.

Mending only goes so far; there have to be fibers strong enough to support the mend. Recently labeled a small bin: Clothing in Retirement.

For a new tee began with an idea, shaping the pieces without bothering to make a paper pattern first.  Based the sleeves and the U-sweep neckline on a 'retired' shirt. Cut out the front, the back and sleeves in lightweight rose wool jersey. It had the glimmer of a swift project: a tee that could be worn to dinner that evening!

The process of making a garment refuses to be hastened. It's very odd. Even with well-honed skills and practice it is almost as though there's a muse who requires respectful devotion. "Oh, I will just whip this out," is invariably an approach that leads to the opposite results. It's uncanny.

Beautiful back drape
At the end of the day there were perplexing puzzles to solve about the design. Doubts had arisen. Had dinner with friends. (How good to be out and about!) The next day the road blocks were gone. Gathered the sleeve where it meets the shoulder, finished the neckline with pale chiffon. Decided upon a couple modifications. Cut a second version from dark purple wool (shown here). The neckline is bound with velvet, which does in fact glimmer.

All snowflakes are different. What if all tees were unique?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Conscientious Consumer

Announcing a new video!

We're surrounded literally and figuratively by stitched material: the sheets we sleep between, the sofas we sit upon, the clothing we wear. The goal of this video is to share some knowledge with you, giving you the ability to make more considered choices when in the market for sewn goods.

How can you tell whether the bed linens you are buying are well made?
Verysweetlife shows some details to look for before you make a purchase.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Leather and Rhinestones

Cummerbund. Leather with metal/rhinestone ornament, 2015
A cummerbund belt. Made to wrap around the back and cross over the front panel, the tapered ends are secured on either side of the torso. Love a low-riding belt!

The blouse is (rumpled) linen. The leggings, wool knit. Warm and sleek, am wearing them often this winter.  Glad to have made two pairs. When it works, it works!

This making all I wear... have been thinking about the ease of buying, of finding a beautiful item to acquire. The process of imagining, planning, experimenting and making has become second nature. I'm a stronger designer as a result.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Playground Fez

Fez Hats for Kids, 2015
Just the thing for the playground: a dragon fez.

Was making holiday gifts, a trio of hats for three kids. The first one was made of fairly thin red fleece. Being a little too floppy it was put aside. Then one very cold night when it was chilly even under the covers I reached for that fleece fez. It was soft and added a little warmth, plus wearing a hat is soothing. Really, it has a subtle calming effect. Since then on nights when it's chilly indoors I'm wearing a version of one of these (without the dragon, admittedly). Think I'll put it on now!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Letters from a Single Year Lived Beautifully
In a sort of inverse to spring cleaning, am shedding leaves (of paper) and mulching (metaphorically) garments as autumn descends.

Have treasured letters from lengthy correspondences with friends near and far. Prior to the ease of email the arrival in the post of an airmail envelope and a foreign stamp generated excitement and warmth. Leaves of paper were handwritten then folded, traveled a distance to where they were unfolded and the words slurped up. Glorious.

Undeniably there is ample room in a lifetime for a multitude of friendships. These collected letters are cobblestones along the path. A celebratory bonfire is more appropriate than a dustbin.

Bra in Blush Lace (with black straps), 2014
There is always room for metamorphosis in attire. The season of layering has begun. Am in the mood for that which is...
These qualities in mind, have discarded some clothing and made more lingerie.

It is early morning. The pleasant fragrance of toast from a neighboring apartment wafts in. Birds that have yet to migrate are chirping in a community of song. It is a less riotous sound than a summer morning brings. Bra and birdsongs, the foundations of a day?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Receptive to Material

Sewing, 2014
Fabrics made from natural fibers have distinct properties (e.g. density, surface texture, friction, weight, suppleness, crispness...). These determine how best to cut pattern pieces from a material, the type of sewing needle and pins to use, even the way to press the seams. It's a collaborative process--working attuned to the cloth.

In between other projects have bit by bit made a linen shift to wear as a slip. This is a fabric I love. Rarely use pins when working with linen. In the photo my right index finger is tucking under a narrow edge of the linen while my left hand keeps the material aligned as it passes under the sewing needle. A foot on the pedal powers the motor simultaneously. There's a harmony to it.

Lately it's primarily silk taffeta on the cutting and sewing tables. This material! It is magnificent. Taffeta has the subtle sheen of the surface of a lake at dusk. It is so sculptural one could make origami with it. Working with silk taffeta is like entering an elegant home whose hostess' inviting manner makes one at ease in the sumptuous surroundings. A lot of metaphors for one fabric. Honestly, it's poetic stuff.

Synthetic fibers have advantages, of course! Though they aren't quite penicillin, Lycra and its kin have allowed clothing to become softer, more durable and to be adapted to different climate conditions and provide simpler sizing [applauding: stretch].

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Always Room for a Hat

Sun Hat
Scalloped Hem Jacket
Pirate Pants
Wrap Belt
Lace-edged Blouse

Photograph: Robert Lucy
Labor Day Weekend. Summer's last hurrah has been a generous wave of heat and humidity.

Autumn is on the way.

A sun hat, sandals and lightweight linen (blouse, pants). A jacket to usher in the season.

A hat hook on the exterior of a building?! (A matter of perspective.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lingerie and Lemonade

Moonstone Lace Lingerie. (Nylon, cotton) 2014
Fancied new lingerie. Lace. Was headed to the Garment District.

En route popped into a textile trade show. Looked at neatly displayed samples of lace in a manufacturer's booth. Chatted with the sales representative (about laundering the lace, its elasticity). The three day expo was closing. She and her colleagues had hundreds of samples to pack. She spontaneously offered that I should take samples of the lace to try. Thought about which pieces would be useful. Chose a swatch of wide white galloon lace. (Galloon lace has a decorative scalloped border along the top and bottom edges.) There was a black piece too--both with stretch. Perfect for lingerie!

Barely any scrap of white lace remained once it had been patterned, cut and sewn. Combined the black lace with cotton for a different style.

Onyx Lace Lingerie. (Nylon, cotton) 2014
Buying has its merits, yet there's an intangible joy in making. With a desire to share the benefits was practically singing, "I want to teach the world to sew...(tra-la)."

Yesterday passed by a stoop sale. A seven year old boy was pleading with his mother (who was selling the wares) to let him go to the corner deli to buy lemonade. She was explaining to him that he was too young to go on his own.

An hour later walked by the stoop sale on the way home. The boy was drinking lemonade from bottle with a straw. He was smiling widely, his grin extending on both sides of the straw. His mother had relented. To the boy that lemonade must have tasted better than any other. It was flavored with independence. To make what one wears has a similar essence.

(The background in the photos? Fuchsia fabric draped over the ironing board.)