Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Friends Need Help

My boyfriend, Michael James Armstrong, and our friends, Joseph Huppert, Lee Lavy, and Thomas DeMello, have an artist run exhibition space in San Diego, called ICE Gallery, and well it is falling apart. They are trying to get some funds to fix the very leaky roof, and to gut the inside of the space to make it bigger and better. So I am am spreading word to try to help them reach their goal.

So check our their site to see what they do.

And then please donate if you can.

Also, if you know anyone that might be interested in helping out these artists, please pass it on. Thanks from me and the boys behind ICE Gallery.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sofa and Surgery

Last night I came really close to finishing that sofa. I still have to sew the buttons on. My needle isn't long enough to fit through the bottom cushions but this is what it will kind of look like:

The back cushion is no good. It it just stuffed right now, but I think I'll change that to foam so it will be rigid like the bottom cushions. Maybe it will look better with more stuffing and buttons but I am not sure. If I have time this morning I'll sew a few on to see. This is what it looks like now without buttons all lumpy and saggy:

Unfortunately finishing this will have to wait for a little while because I am having surgery today! At least I can still sit in it though.

For the next couple months my post are going to be quite infrequent if not at all because I will be recovering and not doing a lot of sewing. I do have a bunch of pictures to edit for this re-upholstery project with a few tips on what I learned so I will be posting about that. I will be posting quite frequently on my other blog dedicated to my bunion surgery recovery: MY ACHING KNOBS. I will have nothing but time for the next two months so any emails or questions are welcome. I still get so many from my petticoat tutorial with pictures of the petticoats that everyone made and I love seeing them.

See you later!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just Me and DPC

DPC probably means nothing to most people, but those three initials should be just as important to the home sewer as YSL is to the fashion world. D. P. C. David. Page. Coffin. He wrote a little book called Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing, another called Making Trousers for Men and Women, and a booklet called Custom Making Neckties at Home (which is only available in PDF). I used all three to complete all of the garments for my fashion show, and I recommend all of them. Yes, it was me and DPC night after lonely night at my studio for two whole months so I could present this:

Sometimes, when doing this type of thing where the amount of time spent making the work is exponential compared to the amount of time the work is displayed can be anticlimactic. Which is how I felt costuming those plays, but this fashion show wasn't like that. I was completely satisfied in the end. In fact, I've decided to do another one. The next one is going to be just my stuff, in a place of my choosing, with twice the work . . . I can't wait, but I am getting way ahead of myself. I'll try to stick to this fashion show I just finished. Here are my favorite shots of each outfit:

I love this dress, and I am probably going to have a tough time thinking that stripes should be done any other way.

I am modeling this for the photos because my model for this outfit had surgery on her foot soon after the fashion show, and was in a lovely medical boot. I of course can empathize with that since I will be wearing two of them soon! This outfit was the very first idea that I had for the fashion show, and I was going to do a whole collection that focused more on this idea of pouffy skirts paired with aspects of menswear. But after thinking about it, and asking Mikey's opinion, he steered me into the direction that I eventually took with the collection.

I am a fan of (nicely done) peplums. They can make a women's suit really feminine.

I was originally going to do different ties for all of these, and with this one I had planned on using a mint green flannel to make it look more militaristic, but when I got the mint flannel and put it with the outfit it was so drab. The red polka dots ended up looking the best with all the outfits that had ties.

I love this outfit too. I think it is unfortunate that this ensemble has been commonly identified as "nerdy", when suspenders and bow ties used to be everyday wear.

When I was making this suit I was a little worried that it was going to be really unflattering and too manly. But when it all got put on together, pff, I loved it. There is nothing about it that is feminine (except maybe the cropped pants) but it works on her. And I think a suit just like this one could work on any woman, if they have the balls to wear it.

I really like all the in between stuff, but my favorites are the first dress and the last suit. Designing these two different things is a lot fun for me. On one end of the spectrum you have a feminine dress, where there really are no rules and the design possibilities are endless: fabric choice, color, length, sleeves, no sleeves, different necklines, buttons, gathers, pockets. Then on the other end there is the tailored suit. Still many possibilities, but there are certain rules to follow when designing and wearing a suit: the vest should just cover the pants waistband, the shirt cuff should fall 1/2 to 3/4 inches beyond the jacket sleeve. (Mine doesn't here because I messed up with the pattern making.) Then there are all these other sets of rules for matching the shirt to the suit, and the tie to the shirt, and then finding the right pocket square to tie it all together; what buttons to button when the jacket has two or three buttons, or when it is double breasted. All of these rules can really identify the amateur dresser from the practiced one.

Plus, I prefer men's accessories to women's. I don't wear necklaces, (except for a string of pearls with the right dress) rings, bracelets, earrings, anklets, or jesus god definitely not toe rings. I think that is reflected in my designs. There is usually no where to fit a necklace with my dresses. When I worked in clothing retail-for about three miserable months-every time I dressed a mannequin I had to accessorize it. Pair a necklace with the dress. Throw a purse on the shoulder. Are there some earrings we can display with that outfit? Bleck! Now these men though, they got all the good stuff: ties, bow ties, pocket squares, cuff links, tie bars, tie pins, collar bars, even a pocket watch would be cool.

So I guess what I am saying here, is that I am onto something good: manly suits and feminine dresses. What more do we need really?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sartorial feminism

Well, a bout of laziness struck me the day after the fashion show which was on May 13th, and ended about a week later when I started undertaking this beast:

I took a bunch of staples out, then caught a nasty cold, then took some more staples out, then got all the models together again to take some photos. And last night I finally removed the very last god damned staple from this thing. (I will be posting about this project since I will actually have the time to do so.) Meanwhile, Mikey started editing some of the photos he took. He still has a bunch of individuals to edit, and he still has to upload the video of the fashion show, but here are a couple group shots just to let you guys know that I did finish.

More to come.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Get your stripes right

When I have a design in mind and the fabric picked out, I usually have a pretty damn good idea of what I am going to do right down to the very buttons. But sometimes I am wrong and the design details need to be tweaked a bit. Such it is with this dress.

I had the bodice done and the skirt done but not attached and I was a little worried about these stripes being too bold, especially with red buttons down the center, so I put this thing on the mannequin to have a look see.

And I do think the the stripes are a bit too bold, so I was hoping once I got the sleeves on with pointed cuffs it would tone them down a bit, but well that didn't work. The cuffs and the center front now both seemed out of place:

The solution: repeat the same stripe pattern on the cuff, and there you have it:

This also gave me a better spot to place the button on the cuff. I didn't know where to put it on the cuff on the right, but on the left, it fits right in that little gap between the green.

And here is it almost completed. I still need to sew the buttons on, but that will have to wait till the end because I've got to move on to the wool skirts and vests this week.

I think I am moving right along. I've also completed all the shirts, they just need buttons and button holes.

This week I shall finish three skirts and two vests, leaving me two jackets, a pair of shorts, a pair of pants, three ties, two belts, and one bow tie to finish in 5 weeks. Right now I am not too stressed about finishing on time, I just have to keep up my current pace.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pattern making all day long. . .

. . . For almost a whole week.

Monday I finalized all of my designs: I've got a full skirted cotton dress; a short full wool skirt, with button up shirt, vest, and tie; a pencil skirt with a peplum jacket; a high waisted pencil skirt with a button up shirt and tie; shorts with a button up shirt, suspenders, and bow tie; and a 3 piece pants suit complete with button up shirt and tie.

From Tuesday till this evening, with the exception of the ties and suspenders, I made all of those patterns, sewed them into sample garments, and fitted all but one of my models. Man, I'm pooped. But overall, the fittings went pretty well. I did have some adjusting to do, and now I have to do a few more fittings based on those adjustments. All of these adjustments were made possible with this book:

And I must say it is pretty dang good. It helped me a lot, especially with two of my models who had narrow backs.

Gentlemen beware this book is primarily for women's clothing, although I am sure some of the same techniques could be applied to the man's pattern, just maybe not how to eliminate the bust dart.

My one problem with this book is that it skates by a few complicated situations by choosing some fairly simple patterns, but I only found that in one case so far.

And it is inexpensive. Only 9 bucks over there at amazon.

Well tomorrow is my last pattern making/adjusting day (I hope) and then I'll start sewing these shirts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fabric Shopping in LA

So what is up with the Fashion District in LA? It kind of sucks. I went there last week to search for some wool for this fashion show coming up, and man the trip was almost not worth it. . .

Well, I had gone to all two of the fabric stores in San Diego, exhausted all of my online resources (at least within my budget), and decided that it was necessary to make a trip to LA to find some more stuff. Before the trip I had bought 1 piece of wool online from Black and Sons, and some shirting cottons from

Our first stop was International Silks and Woolens. We got there a bit late after a couple of wrong turns, but we made it, and I found 1 piece of wool that I liked that went with the color palette, and was in my price range. I was a little bummed because I was expecting to find almost everything I needed there. But, they have a ton of great wools there so that is worth going to just to look and dream up some suits.

When we were driving a few miles in the wrong direction looking for IS&W, we happened to see Mood Fabrics on the corner. So after IS&W we stopped there. I had heard so much about Mood, and for some reason I was not expecting much, but man they had some really nice stuff. I only bought one cotton there (the wider red pin stripe) but man I was impressed. They had a great selection of wool, just not the colors I was looking for. Oh, and there coating section was great. I could have made about 17 coats from all those good fabrics, plus they had a really good cotton shirting section.

So there we were in LA, rented a car to drive up there (ours probably wouldn't have made it), it was getting a bit late in the day, and I only had 2 fabrics. As a last resort (because I had been there once before and was pretty disappointed) we headed to the Fashion District downtown where there are a ton of fabric stores lining the street. We put an hour's worth in the meter ($3) and stopped in a few of the stores. Everything there was all jersey knit, metallic spandex, glittery, shimmery, and synthetic, but there was no wool or cotton as far as I could see. I was about ready to give up and say lets go home when I remembered that Black and Sons was in LA, luckily it was also downtown so we didn't have too drive far to get there. We got there about 2o minutes before they closed, and boy I hit the jackpot. They had the best selection of wool, and it was all organized so well, easy to see, and there was some stuff on sale too. I cleaned up. Bought the rest of the wool that I needed, and all for less money than I had planned on spending. Shit yeah.

That was a couple weeks ago already, and I have since gotten all of my designs in order, measured all the models, made most of the patterns, and have fit a couple of them. If posts about this project are a little scarce is it because I literally have to spend every waking hour working on this fashion show, but I'll try.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hold that Thought

One of my former teachers from Mesa College asked me if I would like to be the alumni designer featured in this year's fashion show. I debated for a few minutes whether or not to say yes because I want to get these suits going (and I am off to a good start), and since I'd want to do all new pieces, which requires fabric, I would have to sacrifice some of my knobs money. But, what the hell, I said yes. Good thing too, because this may be my last chance to be featured since the teacher who asked me is going to be retiring this year.

The show is on May 13th, which gives me two solid months to work on at least 6 new pieces. This will be good for me as I haven't had a deadline for anything in a few months, and it has made me a bit lazy.

But what to show? I am in this transitional period in my designing: taking a break from pouffy dresses, and moving to menswear inspired suits. For this collection I've decided to marry these two ideas, my two loves, into one look. It will be feminine petticoatiness, combined with masculine sartorialness: Pouffy skirts, peak lapels, high heels, french cuffs, and bow ties.

I guess I will have to put this suit project on hold for the time being.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love Letters

A couple weeks ago, I was featured on the fashion blog, Love Letters run by two very cute fashionable ladies. In the post, I am wearing a dress that I have not photographed or blogged about (because I need to fix the collar), but it will give you a taste. I am sure I will get around to fixing that collar and posting someday . . . probably not soon though, got other stuff to do.

So instead of waiting for me to post a blog about that dress, check out the rest of what Love Letters has to offer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pantaloons: Fitting

I made a lot of changes to my first pants muslin (not pictured) so I decided to make another one just in case, and good thing I did because I had a few more adjustments to make. . .

First thing, the back pant legs were a little loose, but the front was fine. In the photographs below, my left pant leg is a little tighter than my right (I only adjusted one side.) It is subtle, but the adjustment was worth it.

Now since I wanted to adjust the back pattern piece and not the front, I couldn't just take in extra at both side seams, so I had to rip all the stitches out:

With the pants on, it is hard to pin out excess fabric that is behind me while trying to keep everything straight, and not poking my self, so I just pinched out what felt like about 1/2" inch, and took that amount out of the side seams. If it wasn't enough I would start the process over again.

This was my process:

I needed 1/2" total out of the back pattern piece, thus I took out 1/4" out of side seam and inseam. Instead of marking my fabric with a ruler and pencil, I just stitched a guide line 1/4" away from the edge down the inseam and the side seam and lined the front pattern piece edge to that guide line:

Here is the inside of that seam pressed open. You can see that the seam allowance on the bottom (the front pant leg) is still 1/2", and the top seam allowance (the back pant leg) is now 3/4":

This makes the back pant leg 1/4" tighter on that side. Do this to both sides and you have 1/2" taken out. Easy peasy.

Then I made the adjustment on the pattern:

Just marked 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric and cut it off.

I also took a horizontal pleat out of the pants at the top from the front to the back. The fabric there was a little saggy, and almost naturally folded that pleat, so I just pinned it (as best as I could) all the way around. Turns out the front needed 3/4" taken out, the side seams 1/2" and the back 1/4"

I went ahead and put on my sample vest just for fun. The only adjustment I need to make on that is move the hem down about 3/4" at the front. And I need to make the points at the front more gradual from the side seam.

Also notice that these pants are sans waistband. I would only fit a waistband if it is contoured. These pants fit at my natural waist (well almost, they are a little lower) and the waistband is going to be 1 1/2" so I can make a straight waistband, and I don't think any fitting will be necessary.

It is difficult to see these adjustments with this black fabric, so here is the pleat with the pants off:

To make this adjustment on the pattern I did this (I only pictured the back pattern piece, but it is the same idea for the front):

First, I measured where the pleat started on the front pattern piece, about 6" down from the waist. Then I drew a horizontal line from the center front to the side seam perpendicular to the grain line. Then from that same point on the side seam of the back pattern piece, to the center back seam, once again perpendicular to the grainline. Then I drew a line below that first one measuring the width of the pleat I took out of my sample, 1/2" at the side seam, and 1/4" at the back seam:

Then cut the bottom line:

Lined it up with the top one, and taped it:

I guess it is time to cut out my fabric now. Here it is:

I will be using David Page Coffin's book, Making Trousers for Men and Women as instructions for these pants. I am going to use his petersham waistband method, so I still have to buy some of that stuff, I also need some pocket lining, and think I'll be ready to start.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crotch Problems

The hardest part about making this pants pattern was the crotch. So I thought I'd share with you what I know I should have done in the first place.

First, whether you are making your own pattern, using a commercial pattern, or knocking off a pair of your pants, this is what the top of the patterns will look like:

Don't worry about all those seemingly meaningless lines, they helped me out when I was making a sample of these pants and aren't relevant just yet.

I was quite confident in my pattern making skills, so I just used this exact pattern and sewed my first sample pants. The problem I had with them was that the crotch was way too low. Almost 1 1/2". To fix a low sitting crotch, you have to actually add fabric. I didn't have enough, because my seam allowance was only 1/2" . I wanted these things to almost fit like jeans in the crotch, really snug. What I should have done before I cut out my sample fabric was this:

Taped on some extra paper around the curve of both front and back crotch seams:

Then add 1" from the edge of the pattern to the curves to give me a lot of room to take the crotch up:

You don't have to go all the way up to the waistline seam, just high enough to have some extra fabric to work with around the crotch.

Then use this pattern to cut out your sample pants. Since I didn't do this, I had to go back and add this extra seam allowance to my pattern, then cut another pair of sample pants. Pants take up a lot of fabric, so I actually just made shorts for my second sample (I didn't need to fit the legs again), hence those extra lines below the crotch seam.

When I finally got the crotch where I wanted it to fit, it had required several trials to do so, but with all that extra fabric to work with, it was easy. I would just stitch around the crotch, try them on, make adjustments, remark a new stitch line in the seam allowances, resew on the new stitch line, and try them on again until I got them where I wanted them. Then I just transferred the final stitch line on my pants back to my pattern pieces.

This is how the my first and last patterns compared. The old patterns are laid on top of the new ones:

You don't have to make a whole new pattern for that little adjustment, just use the one you taped up. I made a new pattern because I had made several other adjustments in other places, and I didn't want to be pinning through a bunch of tape.

So before you sew, learn from my mistake, and add that little extra fabric just in case. It might just save you some time and fabric.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nice Feet. Very Bunionesque

I have mentioned my knobs in a few previous posts, but come August, I won't mention them again. At least not in the present tense, because I am getting them chopped off! I got back on my parents' insurance for one year, and thought I should go see a podiatrist about these bunions before the year is out, so I had an appointment on Friday. And well, I've got knobs. Four of them. Bad ones. I've always been really self-conscious about my feet, but here they are:

They are 4" from knob to knob. On my left foot, the angle between 5th metatarsal and the 4th is about 18º. Normal is about 7º. My podiatrist said that was exceptionally large, and that these are some of the worst he has seen. Aw man. (I can't remember what the angle is between the 1st and 2nd.)

My main reason for going were my tailor bunions, which are bunions that form on the pinkie toe joint. They were named "tailor" bunions centuries ago, because tailors sat cross-legged all day with the outside edge of their feet rubbing on the ground. This constant rubbing led to a painful bump at the base of the little toe. They are much less common than bunions on the big toe joint, but it is only fitting that I got the tailor bunions huh? Well anyway, went to the podiatrist for my little knobs, and found out that I have big toe knobs too. Only they aren't as bad, but of course bad enough to need surgery.

When I go in for surgery in August, I will be getting a bunionectomy on all four knobs, which is just shaving down that big bump that has formed on the joint. And I am also going to get an osteotomy on all four of them as well, which is where they cut the metatarsal bone to re-align it. I will have be off my feet completely for a few days, then I can do minimal walking. But I won't be fully healed for about 2 months. Yikes. I'm gonna miss a lot of work, so I am saving up starting now.

I realize that I'm gonna have to change my shoe wearing habits. Well I have changed them already because my feet will only fit into my crappy dirty work shoes. But back when my knobs were just wee little things, I would stuff them into my cute red pumps, not really thinking I would regret it later on. But after this surgery I will have to keep my heel wearing to a minimum. So I've prepared a new, more casual look for myself post-surgery:

First I bought these, the Bass Enfield:

I bought them a couple months ago in wide, thinking that extra space in the toe box would accommodate my knobs, but alas I was wrong. They are still too narrow. Post surgery I hope they will be just fine.

And it would be really cool if I could fit into these, the Bass Breck:

Which are the shoes I really wanted, but weren't offered in wide. If they are still available in my size after my surgery maybe I'll buy them and see if they fit.

I also bought another pair of my old stand by: PF Flyers. Although not my usual red ones because these were just too cool:

Second, I've started on some clothes that will go with these shoes quite nicely: Suits. Man. I've always loved suits. Three piece suits in bold plaids, with polka dot bow ties, and striped shirts. . .

So far I have most of the pattern making done. I still have to tweak the pants pattern a bit, but I'm almost there. The pants were the hardest thing to fit, so when I get back to the studio, I'll take a few pictures of the pattern making/fitting process I went through.

I admit I have been a bit lazy about going to the studio lately, mostly because I have been trying to cook. I've tried few meals, and either I really suck at picking recipes, or pairing foods together, or just the actual cooking process in general, because I have not been happy with them. I have made a few good bean soups though, so I will keep that up, but other than that I've adopted a mostly raw diet: all chopping and no cooking, that's more my style.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Riding in Style

If style means a big white helmet (à la Jerry Seinfeld as a penis), and a boy's shirt from Target, then yeah sure, I feel pretty cool. Especially since with my new bike, I can get to the studio in just a few minutes, as opposed to about 25 minutes. And at night, I feel a lot less vulnerable going fast on a pair of wheels than walking slowly on a pair of legs on the desolate streets from my house to the studio.

I've had the bike for about 2 weeks, and I am still not liking the drop handle bars, so they are going to be replaced with some risers. And eventually I am going to repaint the frame, get a new saddle, and an internal hub instead of the derailleur (which makes the chain system look a lot cleaner). I do like the red and white scheme, but I like the idea of a blue bike with white tires, a brown saddle, and brown handle bars. For now though, this is working just fine.

Since I had been using pockets to carry all my stuff, I needed a bag to carry on my bike, so I bought this leather bag on etsy. Unfortunately it is about 1/2'' too small in all directions to fit more than just a few (skinny) things, so I am just going to make one, which is what I should have done in the first place.

I'll post some process pictures of the bag in the coming days.