Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Resources for Patternmaking- Recommendations?

Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while may know that Cal Patch's book, Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified, was what first got me interested in patternmaking. After racking up late fees at my local library, I bought my own copy, which has been a great resource for drafting several basic skirts and shirts this past year. I haven't yet ventured into the trouser drafting section, but I look forward to getting there eventually. Now, I'm looking for a book to supplement the Cal Patch book. I'd like a book that demystifies the bodice-making process and shows how to use a basic sloper as the basis for constructing other designs.

Here are some contenders I've recently checked out of the library:

Patternmaking for Fashion Design (4th ed.)
by Helen Joseph-Armstrong

This hefty volume looks like it is the most comprehensive of the three. It shows you how to make a sloper from measurements and provides 800 pages worth of instruction on manipulating the sloper to create a seemingly infinite array of design possibilities. There is even a section on creating swimsuits.

 Cons: Very pricey! Used copies start at $109.95. Also, a few reviews point out some errors.

Principles of Flat Pattern Design by Nora MacDonald - Looks similar to the Joseph-Armstrong book, but less comprehensive. The illustrations are plentiful and clear, but it doesn't seem to cover coats and jackets or other garments outside the basics. Nevertheless, it's gotten some good reviews and is significantly less expensive than the Joseph-Armstrong book.

Professional Patternmaking for Designers by Jack Handford - This one also covers the basics of sloper construction and manipulation, but at first glance the instructions don't seem to be as clear as the other two books. The book does cover pattern grading, though, which is on my long list of skill to acquire.

What are your favorite sewing books? Do you have any patternmaking books you can recommend?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Would you pay $1,600 a yard for this fabric?

Photo Credit: NYTimes

A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times ran a story about Medel Goldberg Fabrics, a fabric store on the lower east side that has been  run by the same family for four generations. The store specializes in luxury fabrics, such as the pearl beaded lace pictured above, that can cost as much as $1,600 a yard. The article is accompanied by a slide show of lovely photographs that left me momentarily daydreaming about being a long lost Goldberg and dividing my time between fabric finding missions abroad and sewing in a cramped corner of my great-great-great grandfather's shop. Honestly, I think that is the only way I would ever slice into a $1,600/yd piece of fabric.

Actually, even if I were to acquire such a valuable piece of material, I could see myself being so obsessed with finding the "perfect" project for it that I never actually use it! How about you? Do you have any fabric that you are hesitant to cut into?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Swing Dress

Yay for daylight savings. I finally had enough daylight (and help from my trusty assistant) after work to get a couple more shots of my swing dress:

Now that that's done, think I'll be able to sew up that blue wool before the end of the season? Tick tock!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Finished Project: Swing Dress

Here's a shot of my newly completed swing dress! Kind of a dark shot, I know. I'll try to get another one in the daylight. Here's a close up of the fabric:

This was part of Casey's sew-along, in case you weren't sure. A good time had by all, I think. I especially enjoyed learning how to sew a neck yoke.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fashion and Propaganda

I recently came across an excellent book called "Wearing Propaganda: Textiles on the Home Front in Japan, Britain, and the United States" by Jacqueline Atkins. Peppered with gorgeous images of fabric, clothing, and advertisements from the 30s and 40s, the author shows how fashion was used to elicit feelings of patriotism  during the Asia-Pacific War. 

My favorite examples from the book are the instances in which the patriotic elements emerge subtly from playful and dainty decorative forms. Take this printed fabric from Great Britain, for instance, on page 225:

On the left is a detail from a blouse. The print reads "The Navy's Here!" I imagine the dancing sailors from afar could be mistaken for a floral motif . On the right, parachuting soldiers land among grazing cattle in "The Home Guard." Both prints were designed by Arnold Lever and now reside in London's Target Gallery.

Here are a few more of my favorites:

In the fabric design "66 Coupons," the designer Arnold Lever lists items that were either rationed or in shortage during WWII. According to Atkins, such lighthearted allusions to wartime sacrifice was part of a larger effort to keep up morale on the Home Front.

Here, the Textile Color Association, Inc.lists colors for the 1942 fall season with patriotic names like "Independence Blue," "Valor Red," and "Victory Gold."

From Japan on page 295, a child's kimono from the 1930s, now in the collection of Mahoroba Oito Antiques, Kyushu.

I found these so interesting, and I'm trying to think of contemporary examples of fashion colliding with propaganda. Has anyone seen any such cases lately?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Valentine for You

In honor of Valentine's Day, a love story:

The noted cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Cat vs. Cat, wrote that cats are much like people in the sense that inexplicably some cats like each other and others just don't. For Lucius and Dieter, it was love at first sight. From day one Lucius and Dieter were eating out of the same dish and sharing the ledge of the living room window, which seems to be a prime piece of kitty-cat real estate in our house. You can check out their affection in this video. Ah, true love.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Putting the Poodle Skirt to Sleep

 Considering that fine line between paying homage to bygone styles and looking like you are wearing a costume, I think it's safe to say that the poodle skirt crosses into the costume territory. Am I alone on this one?

Of all the lovely vintage fashions being stitched up by contemporary seamstresses- the swing skirts, the wiggle dresses, the cigarette pants- I don't think I've seen much interest in the poodle skirt, except maybe at Halloween.

That being said, my mom made me a poodle skirt when I was in a sixth grade lip syncing contest in which my two best friends and I emphatically mouthed the words to the Shangri-Las' 1964 "The Leader of the Pack." Unfortunately, we lost out to a group of girls who performed Janet Jackson's "Nasty Boys," but wearing my skirt the rest of the day, I felt like a winner.

Think it's possible to put a modern twist on the poodle? I'd love to see it. Can you think of any other vintage style garments that probably won't be making the next round of sew-alongs?

I'll leave you with the Shangri-Las in case you aren't familiar with their hit:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Applique Inspiration

Ever since finishing my first applique project, I've been itching to start another. After looking around for some inspiration, I thought I'd share some of my favorites:

An evening coat by Balenciaga from the late 50s or 60s. I love the scalloped edge. The monochromatic floral motif reminds me of wedding dresses from Alabama Chanin:

A silk sash made in 1925 by Natalia Goncharova for House of Myrbor:

An evening dress by Pierre Balmain from the 1950s:

Silk and velvet applique by Natalia Goncharova in 1923 for House of Myrbor:

All images (except the Alabama Chanin pics) are from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Perfect Uniform?

I've always been a fan of uniforms- not necessarily men in uniforms, but rather, wearing them myself. I'm not sure why exactly, since I've never been much of a conformist. Maybe they give me that Halloween feeling of being in disguise or give me the sense that I'm not really going to to work, I'm just playing "make believe." I wore a polyester turquoise number in college when I waited tables at a diner. I always loved the moment at the end of my shift when I could peel it off and toss it in the hamper. I wonder if the the wearers of these uniforms felt the same way:

WWII Nurses: photo source credit

WWII Factory Workers: Photo source credit

Braniff Flight Attendents, 1965Photo Source Credit
 I work in a library now. My coworker Jersey Gina and I have joked about creating a "library uniform." I'm not sure exactly what this would look like, but I'm pretty sure it would involve cardigans and elastic waistbands. Do you wear a uniform? Do you want to? What would it look like?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Swing Skirt Fabric and Other Finds

At Fabric Row this weekend, I found this dotted blue rayon to use for the swing dress... well as this polyester floral...

and these goodies to use for future projects...

I'm not sure how old the fabric is. The shop owner was thinking early 60s, but admitted he didn't really know. It's a shame there wasn't more left of it on the bolt- about 2 1/2 yards of the navy dots and 1 1/2 each of the other pieces. Hopefully, I can squeeze the swing dress out of it! I'm still waiting for a company to start making retro prints on rayon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Muslin for Peter Pan Collared Dress

I'm getting close to finalizing the pattern for this dress- just a few adjustments to the sleeve and a decision about the collar.

Think the big collar looks too dopey? I'm thinking of scaling it down a tad. On the actual dress, the collar and the bodice will be of the same fabric. This is just the muslin, of course- some clearance fabric I found for a dollar.  The bright yellow makes me feel like a Disney character!

I tried to make it roomy enough for comfort's sake, while maintaining some sense of form. I'm looking forward to trying it in blue!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sew-Along City

I've been making good progress on the muslin for the Peter Pan collared dress I've had in the works for a while. Hopefully, I'll have some pics to show you this weekend before I start cutting into that blue wool.

On another note, have you noticed all of the sew-alongs either happening now or on the horizon? So many! I wish I had time to participate in all of them.So far, I've been hesitant to participate, wanting instead to work on my patternmaking skills, but I just might not be able to resist Casey's upcoming swing dress sew-along. Isn't that dress darling?

It makes me think of the swing dance lessons Stephan and I took when we first started dating.

I'm also intrigued by the pattern company- Sense and Sensibility Patterns. Apparently, it started as a hobbyist's tiny cottage industry and quickly grew to the point where she had to recruit help to fold and mail the patterns. The owner is Jennie Chancey and her enthusiasm for historical patterns really shows through.

How inspiring! Lord knows, on a snowy day like today, I do fantasize about having a stay-at-home job where I can draft patterns all day and listen to NPR!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Blue Wool for Winter

Yet another fabric change for the impending Peter Pan collared dress I've written about here and here. I liked the charcoal pinstripes, but when I actually unfurled the piece of fabric, I realized that I'm just shy of having enough. So, I took a trip to fabric row, and after spending way too long browsing and daydreaming, I decided to go with this blue wool:

The plan is to use the wool for both the dress and collar, and use piping along the edge of the collar and waistband. Now I just have to decide on a color for the piping. 

Here are the three contenders:



and pink

Any suggestions?