Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time


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Working on a Top

elliottbermantextiles

This is not my shirt! It is, however, my fabric. I fell in love with this fabric from Elliott Berman Textiles in New York late last winter. I fussed about what to make from it. Being financially embarrassed at the time, I only bought two yards of this.

In my last post I explained a tee-shirt for which I’ve been looking. It was oversized, boatneck and with dolman-type long sleeves. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’d seen it on Zulily (check them out they are fantastic). I decided to make my own and figured it can’t be too hard. It isn’t.

I first decided how to orient the fabric. I went with the print going sideways even though it is a bit of a stripe effect. It is so loose and flowing a print that it doesn’t make me look wider. Heaven forbid.

I then marked off what I though would be wide enough. I went with the width of the fabric, 60″. I then calculated length and went with approximately 27″. I cut two rectangles. I found the center of both and marked 8″ on either side for the neck opening. I overstitched the edges of each rectangle and then sewed the “shoulders” together up to the neck opening on both sides. Trying this on my dress form, I found the neck opening too large so I sewed a further 4″ in on each side. This makes the neck opening a comfortable 12″. I then pressed the overstitched edges of the boatneck about 5/8″ and sewed them 3/8″. This gives me a nice finish to the neckline.

My next step is sleeves. I calculated how long I want them. I want them LONG. I like the scrunchy look of super long sleeves. I then calculated width. I decided on 24″ at the top and I want to taper this to 10″ at the wrist.

I will sew the sleeve, which is dropped from the shoulder quite a bit, before I sew the side seams. Really if you do this, putting in sleeves is a snap. I hate setting in sleeves. Just like I hate zippers.

The final step will be the hem – I will probably just overstitch this and leave it. I don’t like bulky hems in a knit fabric.

This is the shirt I was looking for all those hours on Google. I made it myself! I will put up finished pictures as soon as I have them.

tee


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The Dream of My Life

 

English: New York City skyline - seen from the...

English: New York City skyline – seen from the Staten Island Ferry Deutsch: New York City Skyline – von der Staten Island Fähre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

There is something I have always wanted to do, ever since I was small. I can remember laying in bed at night in the 60s day dreaming about clothes. Pink and black were my theme then. Jackie Kennedy was the first lady and her fashion sense was amazing to an 11-year-old. I wanted to look good in clothes.

 

I read Glamour magazine and Seventeen in the late 60s. There was a school in New York City that advertised in both magazines. The Patricia Stevens School – for what? I can’t remember but I know they trained models and fashion designers. I wanted to go to that school. I wanted to live in New York City.

 

I hadn’t – at that point – been anywhere other than Champaign, Illinois, a hunting camp in the UP of Michigan and a swampy nasty place in Arkansas. We went to Florida when I was 3 – California when I was 6, but I don’t remember much about those trips. I had also been in Chicago – which involved a long trip, lots of traffic, my dad not minding traffic rules, the car breaking down and not finding a hotel room ————- nightmare.

 

I still had a picture of New York City as exciting, exhilarating and magnetic. I saw myself living in a garden apartment decorated in yellow floral fabrics with a small garden off the back. It had lots of windows. My dream did not happen, but it is still there.

 

I am 61 now. I am the primary caregiver for a spouse who will have to live in a nursing home as soon as we can get him into one. I have been taking care of him at home for 3 years. This past weekend my son and I crossed a line where we knew that we cannot do this anymore. It is a 24/7 job and there are aspects of it that aren’t possible for us. My son is hanging by a thread and would do almost anything to get out of this situation. He is a great help but he is ready to leave just to have a break. I am ready to leave. 

 

In the midst of all of this I dream. I sew and make most of my clothes. I received a serger as a gift from my son for Mother’s Day – to this point I had used my Bernina Aurora 440QE and took double steps to sew and overlock seams. My Bernina is perfect.

 

I have started creating my own patterns, adjusting patterns to fit and draping. I received a dress form from same son for Christmas of 2009 and I have been set free since then. It is the best tool in any sewing room.

 

I just purchased a book on fashion illustration. I got it two days ago and I have already sat down with my pencils (and eraser) and sketched elements of faces. I have glanced through the whole book. I am enthralled.

 

I am back to my dream of being a fashion designer. I will be happy even if the fashions I design are only for me. But I would be happier if they were for everyone. 

 

I have set a goal. Next year I will apply to be on Project Runway – how scary is that? I will make it – and if I don’t – well I will have tried.

 

I like the flow of the top

I like the flow of the top

 


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A Few New Designs I’m Going to Steal – well parts of them anyway

I know stealing is bad. But that’s stealing STUFF. Taking apart current couture fashion and using bits of it in design – everybody does this.

Case in point – I’ve noticed that a lot of pattern designers, not to name names, take elements from other designers’ previous patterns and incorporate them in their pattern. Sometimes the pattern is so similar I have to ask myself if there’s anything new at all.

All of those waisted dresses with the little skirts look alike to me. If you have one pattern, you have them all. And some of the “new” shirt patterns look right out of Issey Miyake‘s vintage patterns. Elements are there that are just directly derived from his work.

I’ve also noticed the trend with the god-awful asymmetrical knit shirts and woven shirts. These are not new and I’m really sick of them. Along with waterfall or cascading jackets. Nice for a couple of years ago – now boring.

Once you have a basic pattern for a top that fits you and that you feel comfortable wearing, you can add layers, embellishments, cut the sleeves or one sleeve out of another fabric, slice up the pattern to incorporate different fabrics, paint, silkscreen —— just keep churning out original tops that flatter you.

My training in batik, hand dyeing, art quilting (hate the term – now bunny quilts are “art” quilts – another rant for another time) and color makes clothing construction intensely exciting. Instead of looking like everyone else, I am not trapped in sameness. As long as I have the guts to wear something “out there” the world is my inspiration.

I was born with an interest in clothes. I played with dressing up my kitten. Not a good idea – all sorts of scratches resulted. I made paper dolls and they were  my favorite Christmas present. Remember Colorforms? Sticky plastic things in bright colors with a board to put them on – hours of creative fun.

When I was 13 I had an amazing experience in art class. I’m so sorry most schools have dumped these classes in favor of remedial reading, writing and arithmetic. Making art develops the imagination like no other learning experience. In my class I learned art history and hands-on art. I was able to do an independent study in batik with the noble assistance of my teacher, Mrs. Pond. She was eccentric and we all loved her. The class was a basis for everything I’ve done since then.

I read Glamour magazine back then – as well at Seventeen – and saw ads for Patricia Stevens Schools in New York. I wanted so badly to go to New York and study fashion design. My dad was a carpenter and my mom was a stay-at-home mother who felt her whole life that she could have done something out in the world. She wasn’t ever happy. At the age of 65 she announced that she was living for herself from now on out. She died at the age of 66. Guess she should have lived for herself earlier.

Neither of my parents thought art was a good idea for me. Odd since they had encouraged my sibling to take a correspondence course in commercial art. I was the “brain” with straight As and a bright future in something that would make me independent and financially secure. No art for me. I was encouraged to study teaching – also because I received a teaching scholarship and because it was thought to be “safe” and I would find a job after graduation. I didn’t have the motivation for this and ended up dropping out after 3 years. The grind was mind-numbing. I skipped a lot of classes. I was in disfavor at the house. Big disfavor. I was depressed – and it was viewed as weakness, not as something real.

So my art languished until 1987 when I picked out some fabric and started dyeing again. And I made over 100 quilts. I was published in quilting books and magazines from the US to Japan. I showed my work at exhibitions and I sold. I wrapped myself in little teensy bits of fabric and put them back together. I hand sewed and quilted everything. Every evening I would sit with a piece on my lap and stitch it. I taught myself traditional quilting and the Amish rocker quilting method. And then I branched out into geometric wall hangings of my own design. It was an exciting time.

I didn’t quilt at all or hardly at all while I lived in Canada. I couldn’t get the fabrics we have access to here in the states. The fabric was expensive in Canada – $13 a yard instead of $7 or $8. Being retired, this wasn’t possible to purchase.

I couldn’t mail order a lot of stuff from the US as the import taxes were high. I also concentrated on my antique quilt and used and out of print book business.

After moving to Maine I made 4 quilts in rapid succession. I got a Bernina with the stitch regulator and machine-quilted. I didn’t like the machine quilting and I can only do squiggles, not the intricate patterns I did by hand.

I found myself needing clothes. Badly. I decided I would make them and found an awesome tee shirt pattern by La Fred, who sadly is no longer with us, and started on this journey I am now on. I love sewing. It is the high point of my life right now. It gets me away from the contemplation of what to do for an ill spouse and keeps me steady.

And I get to take elements from every design I see and plan how I will use these in my clothing. Since I work from July to February, I have plenty of time to do this. If only I had room! My sewing ahem studio is 9 x 12 with a large table, three large plastic shelving units, an ironing board and crap all over the floor. My shelves are groaning with fabric. I keep notions, trims and patterns in pink plastic baskets. Sometimes it takes me forever to find something. This room is going to get a major overhaul real soon.

I spin fiber too. Ah like when I can – I don’t do this as much as I want. I need a better wheel. I need it to spin smoothly and easily. I’m going to sell it I think and get one that’s really good. It will be so worth it. I will be able to feed my yarn addiction to. Now instead of quilting at night, I knit. I’m almost done with an oversized dusty pink alpaca sweater that I love and I have one on the back burner that was supposed to be a test knit and I guess still is but I was too slow …………..

Inspiration is everywhere. I even look at sweater patterns and think how I can make this in knitted fabric with the sewing machine. I look at some clothing like skirts and dresses and think how I could adapt them for my wardrobe. I wear casual clothes most of the time. I can wear jeans and a tee shirt to work – but just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to! Wearing unique well-made clothes is my finest ambition – and helps keep me here now –