Monday, December 24, 2007

Vintage dress download

Maybe you've already seen this?

Maybe I'm the last in the USA to catch on, but I don't think so. I think it's a well kept UK secret.
The V&A Museum has an exhibit up that ends January 6.
As a part of that exhibit, on their website, they're offering a free pattern download. How cool is that?

Create a Couture Inspired Dress

This dress pattern has been specially created for the Golden Age of Couture website. It is based on a 1950s ready to wear dress from the V&A collection and has been sized for modern day UK sizes 10, 12 and 14.

The pattern is designed for you to download and print at home on A4 paper, or at a printer’s on larger sized paper. You must then assemble the printed sheets to form the pattern. Full instructions on this are given in the Pattern Instructions.

Once you've created your own couture inspired dress, why not upload a video of it to the Your Elegant Dress video gallery.

Day Dress by Horrockses Fashion

The traditional focus of couture was the creation of high fashion garments for private clients. However, sales to department stores and wholesalers became increasingly important after the war. Some designers created ready-to-wear collections specifically for the export market, using the mass-production and sizing methods developed in the USA, and the sale of home dressmaking 'couture' patterns in Vogue and other magazines made the couturier’s ideas available to a wide audience and proved to be both lucrative and popular.

Ready-to-wear dresses such as this from Horrockses Fashions combined the fashionable couture silhouette with youthful and innovative textile designs, and would have appealed to women of different ages and social backgrounds as the perfect summer dress. These dresses were relatively expensive and were popular with members of the Royal Family - but working women would save up to buy one, often as a honeymoon outfit.

Monday, December 10, 2007

When Real-Life meets Virtual-Life

disclaimer: This is not a new project
I received the most extraordinary email today. It started out "I got to see your mom's Lady Eleanor a few hours ago. As soon as your mom stood up, I recognized the "Lady Eleanor" pattern"... I knit this Lady E (the shawl, I made the skirt, but it's not knit) for my mom, and gave it to her a year and a half ago for her birthday. Evidently, she does wear it. Cool. She was wearing it to church yesterday, when she was spotted.
This was written to me by a woman who is a sewing enthusiast and knitter. Someone who told me she lurks on Stitchers Guild, and is also on Ravelry, but doesn't post much. (I guess I post enough to be recognizable -- blush) And she reads this blog. She went on to write some very complimentary things about me and my mom, for which I thank her, from the bottom of my heart. It was an amazing experience to receive an email from someone who has seen my work, IRL.

She also wrote that she likes the variety of subjects I post about, as did many of you. In emails, and on comments. Thank you all.
So, ok, you'll continue to get a variety of subject matter.
Several of you also wrote that you're thinking about combining your blogs because it's too much to keep up different blogs for different subjects. I can only say...go for it! The response to both Toya's survey and my post were, keep the various content together.

Speaking of Toya....guess what came in my mail while I was off playing in Chicago? My own personal copy of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style Thank You Toya! She had a contest, I won, and she sent me this book as a lovely gift. I have Plans for this. You didn't know it, but I Do, and you'll see, I'll let you know when it's time to see.

Q&A: Every once in awhile I get very specific questions from someone in my comments - but I have no way to respond, as the comment comes to me as 'no-reply, blogger'. This week, the question is, is the Bernina 125-145 series a 3/4 Machine? the answer is Yes. It is not a full size machine, but it is a gem. I'd recommend it. In fact, I recommended one to my mom, who bought one 2 or 3 years ago. I'm pretty sure she got the 135 and added the optional knee-lift.

Lastly, to borrow a device from Summerset, the parting shot:
Admittedly, it's a camera phone shot - but, see all that misty white in the night sky? It was Snowing, capital S when we got into Chicago last Tuesday. We walked to dinner, along Michigan Ave, and this is what greated our eyes. Me, I love it.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Collection, A book review

The Collection, A Novel by Gioia Diliberto

From the dust jacket

A fascinating look behind the public salons of haute couture into the workrooms of the imperious Coco Chanel herself, revealing the hierarchies, jealousies, fierce ambitions, and treacheries of an industry that trades on elegance. Seamstress Isabelle Varlet has our sympathy from the first stunning line to the bittersweet ending, and Gioia Diliberto pulls us along on a thread knotted with surprises. A thoroughly enjoyable read.” blurb by Susan Vreeland

I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation from Scribner to receive an advance copy of this book with the request that after I read it, I’d write a review on my blog.

This book will appeal to those who sew, who’re interested in couture, and to those who consider themselves fashionistas. If you’re reading this blog, that probably applies to you.

I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this book, for the peek it gives inside the couture ateliers in the heyday of Chanel and Patou, who were apparently bitter rivals. At the same time, it brought up all sorts of questions in my mind, about how accurate a portrayal this book is. The picture Ms Diliberto painted of Madame Chanel is really less than flattering. So I kept going back to the title page:

From the title page: “This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental” It wasn’t until I finished reading the book, and read the authors note at the end that I gained an understanding of where the fictional characters ended and where the real-life portrayals began. I’d suggest that before beginning reading, you turn to page 269 and read the authors note. It’ll eliminate some of the confusion.

On character development and plot development I’d not give this book great marks. The characters, even Isabelle Varlet, the seamstress around whose life the story revolves, are flat and one dimensional. The idea of Isabelle leaving the country and immediately, easily being hired into the Chanel atelier as a seamstress stretches ones ability to suspend disbelief. I have a hard time agreeing with Susan Vreeland that from the first we are able to identify with the protagonist. Because of that, I don’t see that this book will have broad appeal.

However, the descriptions of the creation of the couture collections, from the sketches to the making of the toiles, to the eventual descriptions of the construction, makes it a must-read in my opinion for anyone interested in haute couture.

She really covers the details; the division of labor in the workrooms, the working conditions, and the process. “At Chanel the workrooms were by no means palatial, and Mademoiselle did little for her employees’ comfort—we sat on hard benches, there was no comfortable dining room or cloak room, the ventilation was bad. But the spirit of artistry compensated for the lack of amenities. The work was organized around time-honored traditions, and most of it was done by hand. How else could you control the fabric and shape a garment? Sewing machines were used sometimes for seams and to assemble the heavier garments. But the machines could never replace human hands.”

She also paints a portrait of Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel as a jealous, moody, difficult and insecure woman.

I’m interested to find out more. Was Coco Chanel really such a monster? What were the rivalries like in that era? The author kindly gives us a bibliography at the end of the book.

On the whole, I’d recommend it to any reader of this blog – knowing that you’re interested in the creation of fashion.

Monday, December 03, 2007

knitting and sewing

Saturday night, matched and ready to cut - pending some sleep. Sunday AM I checked the match, it still looked good, it got cut.

I’ve been absent lately from posting.

  • Part of it is just LIFE getting in the way, well, that’s just life.
  • Part is that I vary from knitting to sewing to Other. Because I don’t try to maintain 2 blogs, I feel that when I post about sewing, I pretty much lose my knitting friends, and when I post about knitting, my sewing friends go away, and then, when I post about Sailing, everyone’s eyes glaze over ;) I was chatting with Toya about this very phenomenon the other week, and she ended up putting up a poll on her blog. Interesting that the feedback she’s gotten suggests people most enjoy reading a mix of crafts and personal. Maybe that’s when they all reside in the same post??
  • Part is the fact that lately I’ve been hesitant to post process posts. And I got to wondering why. Because the blogs that I try to make sure that I get to, to read, are those that are most detailed about process. Tany’s (with her exquisite workmanship), Summerset’s, the Diva’s, Marina, just to name a few. So why do I think you’re not interested in my process shots?

So, I think I'll go back to posting progress and technique posts, and try to get back in the habit of posting. (ok Carolyn??)

If your eyes start to glaze over, let me know. OK?

On the Knitting Front:

Mitten knitting continues, although at the moment, 2 prayer shawls have taken precedence. Each stitch contemplative, each stitch murmuring prayers, each prayer a question, a plea; for solace, for healing, for acceptance, for relief, for healing… Each should be done next week.

On the Sewing Front:

A long ago promised post on the Muslin.

There is a lot of discussion among sewists (sewers – are we repositories for all the flotsam and jetsam draining from the city streets, I think not) about making a muslin.

I make a muslin when:

  1. I’m sewing for someone else
  2. I’m sewing something for me that is out of the ordinary, or something where the fit is absolutely crucial to the wearing of the garment – where fudging it just won’t do
  3. I’m using really expensive or rare fabric and am hesitant to cut into it

And, unlike a lot of folks who like to make Wearable muslins – I prefer to use a muslin fabric. One I can write on, one I can slice into when alterations are required that require insertion of more fabric, one that I can ultimately cut up and use as Pattern. Have you seen the muslin Phyllis has been working on lately for her silk dress?

The muslin I’ve been working on since Friday is for the Donna Karan pattern See Oct 18

Fits 2 of the above criteria – the fit must be impeccable to wear a jacket with that wide a portrait collar and not have it slide right off, and the fabric is expensive -

Rnd one: too small, I’m bigger than I used to be. Time to hit the gym, but I digress.

Rnd two: good enough to work with.

Fit changes I made: Added 2” to the hip, then took in about ¾” in the back at the waist. I ended up changing a bit of the angle of the raglan sleeve seam that goes into the large yoke. Adjusting the yoke so that it sits right at my shoulders. If the muslin sits ok, with all the structure built into the jacket, I should be fine.

Style Changes:

-Added 3” to the length of the jacket. This pattern was exceedingly short – shorter I think than it appears in the picture.

- I also decided to make the sleeve bracelet length with a conventional hem, as opposed to full length with a rib knit cuff.

- I’m eliminating the contrast welt pocket that was set in the front dart.

It’s really hard to tell in the pattern photo, but the jacket construction is deconstructed – with all seams lapped and raw edges showing – I’m not a fan, so I’m constructing using more conventional methods. and inserting the contrasts as piping


You've already seen the fashion fabric, the houndstooth check boucle

I'm underlining with white cotton batiste, and that is the point that I'm at now. I'm handstitching the underlining to the boucle. Because the boucle is so malleable, I'm not even concerning myself with Turn-of-Cloth. If anything, already the boucle has outgrown the underlining, so I don't need to worry about the underlining bubbling up a bit inside.

Contrast: I'm using a black cotton velveteen that has been sitting around here long enough. I'll use it to pipe the seams where DK inserted the raw edge contrast she used, and I'll use it as the second layer collar that sits under the first collar.

Lining: Because the top collar sits on top of the 2nd collar, and that one is black, I'm going to use a black silk to line the collar, but I don't want to use black to line the rest of the jacket.

Back in the mid 80's - the era of Linda Evans shoulders and Dynasty inspired fashion, I had this black/silver animal print dress. It really was spectacular, it needs a body in it to look like anything. Anyway, it'll never see the light of day on anyone again, but the silk is really nice stuff. I'm thinking about using the silk to line the body of the jacket. Hubby thinks it's too busy. But, the lining is never going to be seen, unless the jacket is on a hanger or at the dry cleaners. It's not the kind of jacket that gets worn undone. For that matter, it's not the kind of jacket that gets worn with anything underneath. I've cut up the dress, and the lining is sitting on top of the check on my cutting table. What do you think? The alternative is a solid white silk. I've checked in various light, and there doesn't seem to be any show-through with the print, although I might have to check that again after the jacket is basted together.

my parting shot today:On order. Bye Bye to my old trusty lovely Sussman Iron. Hello Naomoto.