Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time


Wading Into The Swamp

A Flea Market in Paris

A Flea Market in Paris

Yesterday my son was uploading an animation to YouTube. It is huge, so it took from early in the morning until 4:30 pm. I was having withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from the internet, that is.

I had the brilliant and soul-fulfilling idea to organize my sewing patterns. I have several that I’ve adjusted and copied from books and I wanted to put them in something just in case I ever wanted to see them again in this lifetime. You see my sewing room is (was) a mess.

I proceeded to the sewing room with some envelopes and a marker. I looked around. If I was going to organize these patterns, where would I put them? Hmm. There was no more room on the shelves. I started looking at the shelves. There wasn’t a lot on them that I use with the exception of the printed patterns. Hmm.

I sighed. Then I went downstairs, got 10 garbage sacks from the kitchen and started pitching.

For some reason, ever since I was an art quilter, I have saved the teensiest bit of fabric – just in case. Who knows what I might need it for? Seriously! I’ve saved everything from the clothes I’ve made. The scraps were taking over two shelves.

I was merciless. If I looked at it and my first reaction was to pitch it, I pitched it. Sometimes I would grab it out of the bag and then put it right back in. I am serious about simplifying my life. I chided myself.

Most of my “good” fabric – stuff that I have recently purchased – was on the floor still in the original boxes. I cleaned out my pretty hot pink plastic storage bins, grabbed two more in the basement and started culling fabric. I may only have created another problem, since some stuff went into the old “spinning room” which is no longer a spinning room because I don’t spin and I sold my spinning wheel – but that room can wait – it needs a major re-order too.

I took all the fabric from their boxes and put them neatly in bins. I now can see what I have without standing on my head. I put all my little pieces of pattern tracing material in a box. Who knows? I may need a tiny piece here or there for a pattern. I think the same scrap hoarding disease may have hit again. No matter. I can control it. I can quit whenever I want.

I also had a pile of clothes/projects on the floor behind my door. Super nasty mess that it was, I went through that pile and pitched a ton of clothing I don’t want and can’t wear. I would like to tell you that I’m taking it to SA or GW but I’m not. Nobody would want this stuff. I am doing them a favor and throwing it out.

I cleaned under my sewing table. I removed 8 or 9 cardboard boxes and 6 full bags of trash. This from a room that is 10 x 12. Imagine if the room were bigger? What would I do?

I still have one shelving unit to sort. It is where I keep most of my notions, hand-sewing supplies, marking tools, interfacing – stuff like that. I have beads in a box, an old shawl I was making from felted wool, a doll I will never finish, a box for my iron, my Bernina sewing machine bag for when I jet to Paris and need to take my machine (I can’t imagine traveling with a sewing machine). And all sorts of other “stuff”. I have a bin full of Lumiere fabric paints and a box full of watercolor paints and another full of brushes. I have a huge box full of buttons from all over. Really nice buttons – I do love a bit of pizzazz! And all of this will be sorted, filed and controlled.

I will not give into the swamp. Today I will wade in again (because my two shelves that are clean look so pretty!) and I will conquer the other shelves, the table and finally get the patterns organized.

This is so strange and so soul-satisfying. For almost 3 years I haven’t had time to do anything other than working, caregiving or worrying. Let me tell ya, the worrying was sure a waste of time! I have managed this week to clean my bathroom storage closet of another huge bag of trash and now the sewing room looks like a real person lives there ————— I have offered to start on my son’s room – he won’t let me in…………………


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Wear What You Sew



One rule I make for myself when I sew garments is that I must wear everything I sew. This does mean that, on occasion, I have projects I do not finish. I don’t have many. The last one was this dress made from a Marcy Tilton pattern



I like Marcy’s patterns. They are sometimes complex to put together. Like this one was, I found it easier to just put it together in my own order. The cut out was the hardest part as some pieces needed to be cut and flipped and others cocked oddly from usual pattern layouts.

I can’t find a picture of the dress I made. It must be on the other log-in I have. At any rate, let me describe this for you. I used a green/brown tie dye look jersey with a crepe feel to it. For the bottom and side panels I used one of those fabrics with ruffles stitched every inch or so over mesh. It was in a lovely brown/grey/blue and coordinated well with the main fabric. The only problem was the give in the fabrics.

I made this dress in the largest size and then found that the fabric stretched out so much my hands couldn’t reach the pockets. I worked and worked at this dress. While I was trimming the seams to finish them – the unthinkable happened. I cut a 3″ hole in the back of the dress. After all that work. I covered it with a 3″ piece of fabric sewn over the back at the top of the skirt. Okay, but not great.

Then I put the dress on. I could only think of a frump. She did advertise this as a French House Dress but it  just looked like a house dress on me. I put it away. I’m not sure if I trashed it yet or not because I love the ruffled fabric and can probably use that as a sleeve or trim for something. Probably I have enough for an overlay on a tee-shirt. At any rate, this was definitely a wadder.

Given the difficulty of the layout, the sewing instructions and the general appearance of the dress bagging, I don’t think I’ll ever do this again. If I do, it will be out of fabric with less stretch and more oomph. It can be done out of a woven, but I would need to do a FBA on this with using a woven. We’ll see. Right now I have many more choices so this will wait until I need another challenge.

Sewing beautiful clothing to me means simple clothing. Clothing with good lines that skim the body and don’t WEAR the body. I don’t want my clothes to be the first thing people see. Instead of “Look at that top” I want them to think “Wow she looks good.” I don’t want my clothes to announce my presence in the room.

Since I was 17 and blue jeans became the norm – yes blue jeans were not everyday wear until 1969 – I have been most comfortable in jeans. I do dress up occasionally if I need to for work or a special event. Then I will still wear pants, but usually black pants.  When I did antique and quilt shows I would dress artsy. I am a great fan of Flax clothing. These are remarkably simple pieces that coordinate beautifully and have that air of an artist at a gallery.

A simple jacket is absolutely a requirement in my closet. Actually more than one! This is my newest pattern just received from Style Arc in Australia



This has very simple lines but will be flexible enough to wear with jeans or dress pants. I also purchased her Diana top



to wear under the Abby cardigan. This top is simple. I do find keeping the V-neck in a shirt difficult when sewing, but a little interfacing at the V makes this a lot easier. Chloe also suggests using swimsuit elastic around the neckline to prevent stretching and this is a great idea. I have clear elastic I used in sleeves and on the shoulders to prevent those areas from “growing” so this will work well around the neckline.

Both of these patterns have infinite possibilities. They can be dressy, casual or really dressy. And Style Arc patterns are one piece – in Diana there is simply the front and the back in full size pieces. There’s no need to cut on a fold so you can place a print where you want it to be without difficulty. The instructions assume that you know how to sew. It is not that a beginner can’t do these patterns at all. These two in particular are great for beginners. It is just that you must be willing to look things up if you get lost or don’t understand a construction step. And Chloe is awesome about emailing you back if you need a bit of help. She also has sewing tutorials on the website.

Fashion week just happened in Paris. I do get quite a lot of inspiration from couture clothing. This year for me it is about color and texture. I am looking forward to incorporating some of these concepts into the patterns I make for myself. It’s scary but it’s fun. Now if I could just get the hang of the surface design thing. I’m thinking silkscreen would be best but I don’t want to use someone else’s designs. So I’m back to the drawing board! I love unique ……………..


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I have no idea why I am so strangely drawn to France and particularly, Paris. We travelled to Paris in 1997 from Detroit, MI. Detroit is a hell of a lot different from Paris!

We only had 5 days and I had to beg my husband for that. I sold an enormous amount of quilts at auction to pay for the trip and give us spending money. When I told him we were a go for Paris – he said nah you and the kid go and I’ll stay home. Such a drip.

He went. He sweated on the plane and started drinking immediately. When we got there our room wasn’t ready for check-in. I was pissed. I was also tired.

After we got our room and slept a bit we took off for Printemps. The stained glass roof in the cafe is unbelievable. We have nothing like that here. The closest you can get is Marshall Fields and that’s not even close. We ate, we had “coffee” which was some kind of espresso and we started walking. We walked all the way to The Louvre and then figured out we had no idea how to get back to our hotel. None.

We had metro passes so we got on the metro. We landed at the right metro stop but took the exit to Rue St. Denis instead of Rue de Poissonne. Eee Gads. We walked all over looking for something familiar. We got into the red light district with these women standing outside. I had no clue what they were doing until they started shilling for the husband AND son. Good God. I was shocked. Here I was walking with them and these whores had the nerve to solicit my SON and my husband. The husband was fine – take him – please – but my son? I almost killed some whores that night.

DH said we had to find the pharmacy because he remembered that. Well the pharmacies are all over and have the same green plus sign sign. Hmm. The one I went into nobody spoke English. Oh what the hell. So off we go again and by this time I am so pissed off at the old man I could kill him. I tell him we need to get a cab and he takes off running across an eight-lane road and almost gets killed. Now I start to cry thinking that I would have to scrape his body off the pavement – no somebody else could do that.

Finally my hysteria impresses even he. He gets it – might have been the slap upside his head. Anyway we get a cab. I tell them we’re at Le Horset – which I pronounce Horsay. The cab driver corrects me telling me it should be pronounced HORSET. F***ck it I say just drive there. It was two blocks away. It cost 3 francs or some other minimal amount.

We had another fun experience when DS decided to tie his shoe and not follow his dad in a department store. DH gets all bent out of shape that he’s lost DS. So we start looking for him in this 7 story store. I ask to have him paged. They will do this in French. Well he doesn’t speak French – they won’t speak English – although they can – I offer to do it for them – they refuse. I start screaming after an hour of looking for the idiot. I find him – we leave the store – jeez it was like being in Canada.

On the good memory side we went to Souleaido and I bought tons of fabric. The clerks thought I was nuts. I was. We looked at antique American quilts they were selling an another shop – I wanted provincial quilts. We went to Sennelier for pastels and another art store on the Left Bank for a model of a hand and an easel and other stuff.

We ate at a diner in the neighborhood of our hotel. DH drank so much wine he was barking at the dogs. Ha! This did not impress his son who took his wine away. I had to threaten him not to speak as we went into the hotel. God know what would have come out.

We went to the Louvre one day – wow that’s a lot of stuff to see in one day. We couldn’t do it all. We went to the Eiffel Tower without DS as he wanted to rest and we looked at antique shops near there. We went to Sacre Coeur for mass on Sunday and I loved it – I’m not Catholic although DH was before he divorced twice and got kicked out. We saw Notre Dame and there weren’t any tourists there – it was November and wonderful gray cloudy weather but warm. I had taken a coat and layers and I needed none of them. I will never travel with that much luggage again although it was handy for the fabric I bought!

We ate at a cafe with a market across the street. The guys had hot dogs and I had an omelet. We also got supper and took it home at the McDonald’s right across from the diner we ate at. One nice thing about McDonalds is that you feel at home right away. It was good food that made us feel we were back home. Some of the French food was really odd – like the raw ham and the “steak”.

We went to the Arc de Triomphe but it wasn’t that much fun. We got off at the wrong metro stop and had to walk underground for what seemed like 10 miles. We took the kid back to see the Eiffel Tower at night and I bought some French home decorating magazines – which I still have.

I bought a Limoges perfume bottle in the shape of a chair with a kitty on it for my friend and a Souleaido scarf for another friend’s birthday. I won the birthday best present award that year. We ate that night at a crepe bar – kid chose goat cheese on toast and couldn’t stomach it – but he ate his crepe!

We flew home in the morning and flew over the icebergs and glaciers of Greenland. There was a tiny little fisherman in a boat in the cold water. The glaciers were fantastic. We got back to Detroit and had to fight with ahem Detroit’s Arab population to get a place on the van to go to our parking lot. We got shoved and shoved until I about brutally attacked someone. Shove me around – no – in my country – no. Ha I felt like I was French.

I am going back to Paris. This time probably alone – maybe with DS if he wants to go. I want to stay longer and see more. I want to smell the chocolate streets and the coffee and the rising bread. I want to be in Paris.

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Sewing Blind ………

I am so amazed at pattern instructions that skip something! McCalls seems to be pretty good at skipping instructions or giving wrong information as in the Hoodie that called for a 24″ zipper and REALLY needed a 28″. Honestly – I had the DAMNED cutest houndstooth zipper in black and white I

Illustration: Magnus Överengen

Illustration: Magnus Överengen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

wanted to use …………. and instead I have to use black snap tape – anyway – on to another pattern whose instructions are loopy – another McCalls.

Here’s the pattern – you’ve all seen it –

Gorgeous Silk Blouse  McCall 6605 Version B

Gorgeous Silk Blouse
McCall 6605 Version B

This is cute. So far my replica in silk is working out just as cute – however there is a nasty instruction problemo. They have you put on the collar/tie before you have sewn the shoulders together – now isn’t that kinda hard? I mean how am I supposed to do that??????????? Luckily I am not a new sewer because if I were I would be pulling my hair out and cussing McCalls up one side and down another. But this is sloppy – first the wrong notions info on the pattern for the zipper for this hoodie


And then the poor instructions on the shirt. It has me wanting to apply for a job at McCalls. As an editor/proofreader/whatever. Really folks you CAN do better.

So my day in the sewing room ended up with me having to cut out a new collar/tie as the one in the pattern for some reason isn’t long enough – I stitched it onto the neck at the back and I’m going to hand sew it over the seam and then stitch down the tie part. Much simpler than what they say to do.

I am noshing at the reins on this silk shirt – I want to cut something out to serge but I know if I put this away it will be forever until I take it out again. I have the two side seams, buttonholes, buttons and the hem on the bottom and sleeves to do and it will be finished. Hopefully tomorrow and I can go on to something new – and exciting.

Speaking of exciting – I purchased this book

fashion illustration

and it’s 608 pages of fantastic tips and drawing exercises for fashion illustration for designers – hence the weird title – and I am sketching like mad while listening to DH snore. I am enjoying this!

I finally received my 20 yards of pattern material – which is sewable – so my new patterns from this book will be reality too


I think there’s something organic about the Japanese styles. They aren’t contrived or over the top like runway clothing. The outfits in the book are wearable. Between this and Drape Drape 3 and my fledgling designs on my own – I should be set for sewing patterns for quite a while. Now for more fabric …………….

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Today Might Be Thursday ………

Michelle Lesniak Franklin's Awesome Design

Michelle Lesniak Franklin’s
Awesome Design

Hello! Today may be Thursday to the rest of you but for me ………IT’S THE PROJECT RUNWAY FINALE!

I will admit that I am a little bit of a LUNATIC about this show. I haven’t watched it for a couple of years …….. never turned it on. I think because 1) I was working full time and in bed before 8:30 pm and 2) I was in a bad damn mood because I was working full time.

Needing my time to create – I get pissed when I don’t have that time. Two days off isn’t enough time to do all the chores, rest the brain and create at the same time. I managed during those two years to cut something out one day and then sew it up over a couple of weekends. But it wasn’t enough down time for me.

I started watching this season when Samantha was knocked off. I thought she had some great ideas and her last outfit probably wasn’t that awesome. And then Richard – I think Richard is out there. He’s not bad as a designer at all. I think he has to work in his comfort zone – not doing weird stuff. I sympathize with him, being a person who sews knits A LOT too. I love knits. I like solid knits, printed knits and I’m nuts about the new digitally printed knits too. You can find some great ones at Tesutti Fabrics online. Google it because it’s a site in Australia – free shipping over $150. Even to us.

You all probably know that I am enthralled with Michelle Lesniak Franklin’s work. The shapes, cut, meticulous finishing and style of her clothing speaks of Eileen Fisher to me. Well maybe Eileen on drugs – but classic, edgy, clean and wearable.

You all also know that I don’t get why Patricia Michaels is still there. I haven’t liked any of her designs, I use that term loosely. The designs don’t work as clothing. Fabric and paint manipulation is one thing. Fashion is another. What is she thinking? A jacket with a black dickey over it is not style. She went to Paris? And Michelle stayed home?

And Stanley – I love Stanley – I would want him to win if I didn’t want Michelle to win. His clothing is classic and forward leaning all at the same time. He can construct better than anyone. He does complain too much about his helpers though. He needs to calm that down.

Tonight we’ll see who wins ……………………. I’ll bet Swatch from Mood Designer Fabrics gets to stay up late to watch the show!

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I love to shop. I have always loved shopping. I am so glad the days are gone when I have to leave my home to shop! No more trying to find a parking spot at the mall – although these days you can get right up to the door – NOT the great economy of the 90s or even after the millenium. With the internet – I have found a whole new universe of STUFF to look at, if not to buy.e

Step back just a sec. Whenever my family and I went on vacation – I went to shop. We went to Toronto to see Phantom of the Opera. I shopped. We went to Niagara Falls to see well, the falls – and I went to shop. We went to Santa Fe – I went to shop. We went to Paris and my soul exploded with the sights and sounds and smells. I shopped. I went to Souleaido. The shop girls spoke no English and I spoke no French – I bought so much fabric I think they thought I was nuts. I am. Certifiable.



I looked at quilts. Being in the quilt business. A lady in Paris tried to sell me American quilts. Non non non. Provincial quilts – that’s what I wanted –

I bought a Limoges egg with fantastical painting on it and a little teensy perfume bottle inside. I bought art supplies at Sennelier – can you imagine? I need to go back to Paris. I really really do ………………

Ok back to shopping. I actually spend some time pretend shopping. I used to do this with catalogs – now I do it via the web. I see something I want and poof it’s in my shopping cart. And I keep going – adding everything I want from that site. You see just in case I win the lottery, I want to know what I’m going to do with that money besides buy a home on the ocean and one somewhere warm and go to New York and …………….

So I pretend shop. I do a fair bit of real shopping too – especially for my sewing hobby. Fabric is enticing and it is so cool to be able to look at fabric and buy it online. I don’t need to travel 2 hours to see if fabric stores in Portland have any fabric I want. I just go to my favorite fabric websites and troll for beauties.

Shoes are great fun too. I’ve always liked shoes. Ever since I got my first pair of red rubber boots when I was 5 years old. I got up in the middle of the night and put them on. Then I went back to bed. Mom thought that was funny. I thought it was normal and that everybody did that.

And then there’s underwear. I don’t know about you but I hate ratty underwear. And for some reason it doesn’t last long. I recently purchased 15 briefs. I decided to skip white because you just can’t keep it white no matter what you do and I don’t use bleach. My mom died from cleaning fluids. I don’t use nasty cleaning fluids. So the white underwear looks nasty in a few weeks. I went with blues and lavender and purple. I hand wash my underwear.

I graduated from high school in 1969. 🙂 Believe it or not, while I was in school we couldn’t wear pants to class. We had to wear skirts or dresses and they had to come to our knees – until I got to be a junior in high school. Then they could be shorter – thank God – one of my skirts was 17″ long – and blue jeans – flared-leg blue jeans – became really popular. I don’t know if Champaign was behind the times but I remember wearing my first tee shirt in 1969. It was maroon with white lettering – my high school’s colors. I have pictures of me in that and damn I was cute. I was cuter than I knew …………

Nowadays I like shopping for anti-aging creams and make-up to hid the wrinkles – although I do have less than I expected at this age. I like shopping for hair color – although not totally gray I do have these annoying white strings on my sides. And my hair is dark brown with I swear every other strand white or silver. Yetch. Nasty.

And I like shopping for socks. Have you seen the cost of socks lately? Gawd. I have to buy several pair at a time ……….. and there’s another foible of mine –

I buy in bulk. Say there’s a tee shirt I like. I get it in every color – or try to. How about a sweater? I buy those in bulk too. And socks, done that.

And fabric – oh boy fabric – ever since I started making quilts and wall hangings I started buying fabric in clumps. It was kind of hard then to co-ordinate them together into a quilt. Sometimes I wouldn’t have enough of one that I wanted to use so I would go to the stash and start pulling out possibilities. My friend once said I used more different fabrics in a quilt than anyone she knew. And she owned a quilting shop. I could always use bits. Fat quarters were the staff of life.

And then there’s fabric to sew into clothes. I make a lot of tee shirts. And jackets and pants …………. if I see something I like I buy it. If it’s 60″ wide I buy 2 yards for a tee and if it’s something I like a lot I’ll get 3 yards. If I find great fabric for a cami I’ll buy a yard. Pants need 3 yards for the length I find. And woven shirts – I like floaty so I’ll get 3 if it’s wide and 4 if it’s 45″. On and on and on …………

Whenever I want to make something I just have to go to my stash. And decide which one to use. If I have any time left from pretend shopping on the internet ……………….

A Flea Market in Paris

A Flea Market in Paris

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Project Runway – Yes, I Do Watch This

Heidi Klum

Heidi Klum (Photo credit: fervent-adepte-de-la-mode)

Given all the SH*T that’s happened over the last week here in America – the bombings in Boston, the explosion in West, TX and the manhunt, I thought I’d change the tone a bit. Write some FLUFF – give us a break from Sturm and Drang. Make us feel better, if we can. So let’s leave fear and loathing on the table and talk about Project Runway. Well we’ll leave fear anyway. Loathing I am not so sure. . . .

I was really looking forward to Thursday’s episode. I knew Michelle would create a fantabulous bunch of clothes. I thought Stanley would too and I was sort of surprised that the judges didn’t like them. Daniel was a shoo in I thought. I thought that FINALLY they would bounce Patricia. Oh woe is me – they did not.

I honestly DO NOT UNDERSTAND the fascination with Patricia. The Big Bird Blue Mop was disgusting. Who would wear that? The collection she showed does not coordinate. It does not look like it belongs together. I would not wear horse hair. I would not wear a ruffled shift with huge sequins that must weigh a ton.

Here we have Stanley hand beading his designs. We have Michelle creating a whole story out of the theme of being isolated – and then we have this stuff from Patricia. And they let Daniel go because all of his clothes were black? WHA? Are they nuts?

If Patricia wins this challenge, which I fear she might since she’s stayed on through bad design after bad design – I will never watch the show again. I will not buy L’Oreal products nor read Marie Claire. I will shun Heidi Klum at her next party and I will never Tweet Nina Garcia again. I will be pissed.

There should be an outcry of disgust that someone with so little fashion sense is on this program. How in God’s name did she ever get in? If I send a video of me making ugly pieces of fabric and then making potato sacks out of them – will I get in? What do you think?

I say probably not. I say something is fishy here. I haven’t even seen Patricia WEAR anything I would put on my body. I just don’t get it.

On the other hand – look at the simplicity and meticulous construction of Michelle and Stanley’s designs. They are interesting, wearable, classical and yet forward-looking. They have style. Daniel’s designs were well thought out and were beautiful. I agree that solid black in all of his three designs was a mistake – but not as bad a mistake as that blue mop thing. I am so sorry he’s out. He is such a wonderful designer and his ability to create wearable clothing is immense. This old-fashioned thing I don’t get – ah maybe because I am old. I don’t wear frumpy clothes – and I think Patricia’s things are either frumpy or weird. No cohesion – no sense of style. She took white leather and painted it to make it look like a gingham shirt? Who wears gingham shirts? Did you see the leather shorts? The crotch was bagging. The legs were smaller than the hips. They looked odd on a dress form. Can you imagine wearing leather bagging at your crotch and the legs on the shorts cutting into your legs? What are the judges thinking?

Sigh. I was glad to see Layana and the rest of the sewing helpers. I don’t think Layana can drag Patricia through Fashion Week. But I am afraid the FIX is in and she will win because the judges are so determined she shall win. And as I said – that will be it for Project Runway – do not give the win to someone who is not a fashion designer. Please.

Deutsch: Die Beetrose "Heidi-Klum-Rose&qu...

Deutsch: Die Beetrose “Heidi-Klum-Rose” (Tantau 2006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)