This week I got a request for the most unusual sewing job I’ve ever had. Based on a tattoo his girlfriend has, a client needed a Scott Tracy outfit made for a Hello Kitty doll. Scott Tracy is a fictional character from the TV series Thunderbirds, which I had never heard of but was happy to take on the job. I’ve never made an outfit for a Hello Kitty doll; while I always enjoyed making clothes for my Barbies when I was younger, apparel for dolls is not exactly my forte. Hello Kitty’s proportions are fairly strange, which posed some interesting problems to be solved. It’s safe to say that this is one of the most unique jobs I’ve ever done, and I enjoyed the change in pace.
Earlier this year I sold on of my vintage linen sleep masks from my Etsy store.
The purchaser asked me to ship it as soon as possible because it was going to be used in a TV show. I figured it was a local show and sent the mask off without another thought about it.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when my daughter and I sat down to watch one of our favorite shows together. My daughter loves horror movies and zombie flicks so of course she loves American Horror Story. Coven was our favorite season so far and we even bought matching black hats so we could feel a bit witchy.
So this season starts and it is SCARY. I almost can’t handle it. I have this problem where I empathize with fictional characters way too much. So I’m watching episode 2 and hiding my eyes and cringing when all of a sudden I jump off the couch “that’s my eye mask!”
One half of Sarah Paulson’s character is trying to sleep while her other half is trying to have a conversation and she is wearing, you guessed it, my sleep mask that I shipped off weeks ago and forgot all about.
My daughter was thrilled to think that something I made was in such close proximity to Evan Peters and I was pretty excited to see my work somewhere so unexpected. Their costume people must spend an enormous amount of time looking for unique items that can fit in with the time period. That sounds like a fun job doesn’t it?
…and I am going to keep watching this season even if my eyes are closed sometimes!
My wall of Patterns and my doll necklace. Starting to run out of room here again.
I wear my headless doll necklace when I need to be reminded to stay focused, stay true to me.
A stack of fall hats waiting to be run through the serger. Shades of fall, white, blue, gray and brown.
A stack of done hats ready for labels, photos and posting to Etsy. This part takes longer than making them!
Today I draped some peplums on the half-size dress form. I’ve been thinking of making these for months but something has been holding me back, today everything just clicked for me and I was able to finally start.
This is the first finished peplum and it’s really beautiful. I got this fabric at Mood this summer. It has a black cotton background with brown satin stripes.
This peplum ties around the waist with a drawstring of the same fabric and on the back there are buttons to hold it in place and extra buttons inside so that you can adjust the width of the peplum at the waist.
I’m working on some in other fabrics including one from crisp white poplin with a rounded shirttail hem that will resemble a men’s shirt.
If I could afford the Comme des Garcons trench (FW/09) I would buy it. I would buy one in every color and style. This coat makes me want to cry.
OK, I’m a bit over dramatic but what the hell. So of course on my student/designer for hire/can I shorten some pants for you salary, I could never afford a coat that would cost more than what I paid for my car. So I headed out to my favorite thrift in search of clothing that could be turned into something resembling the coveted trench.
I lucked out big time. First I found a short mens trench that was a great color and weight but also had the most amazing brass buttons. In the women’s section I found a long red and black wool blanket skirt.
I had to take the jacket body and sleeves in quite a bit because they were both really wide. Then I chopped off about 12″ of the length and removed all the buttons, pockets and plackets. I reattached about 5″ of the length including the original hem to form a really straight, thigh length coat.
Then I draped the skirt around and under the coat until I had an idea about how to cut it. I used the waste band of the skirt as a scarf around the collar and the fringe from the front of the skirt to trim the lapel and left front. I trimmed up the rest of the skirt into a rectangle and then cut a square from the center of the cut edge, basically making a horse shoe shape out of it. Then I took the horse shoe shape by the inside corners and stretched it out so that it formed a straight line at the top with the corners of the original rectangle hanging down all pointy and uneven. Get it? Kind of tricky to explain, but it worked! I sewed the pockets and buttons back on, reattached the lining and tried it on.
I’m happy with it. It’s not quite as amazing as the original but it is definitely my style, I think it looks like something I would make and wear — it’s more me than the Comme version. I am tempted to get into my feelings about copying other designers work, which are mixed. But I’m just not in the mood, I just want to enjoy my new coat and this snowy day.
(Comme pics from Style dot com)
Muslins are ugly, they just are. So bland and colorless. When I make one I can appreciate the beauty in it, well, because I made it. But it takes a lot of imagination to see the final garment in a beige mass of unbleached cotton. For example, here is a snap shot of a muslin, a sketch of the same coat and swatches of the fabric that the final coat will be made from.
I think seeing the sketch and fabric makes things a little clearer, no?
With all of that said here are some more snap shots of muslins on the models from our recent critique.
This shirt dress has a row of buttons and button holes on each side so that it can be buttoned right over left or left over right. Sewing in sleeves is a real pain, especially when you know you are going to have to do it many, many times. That is why some of these shirts only have one sleeve. My sleeves also have a lot of detail in them so I tend to only make one in the muslin.
This hat is actually in final fabric, it’s the first hat of hopefully many.
Since every minute of my free time and some of my not so free time is spent worrying, doodleing, and actually working on my senior thesis, I have no time for crafting. So, I thought maybe you would like to see exactly what goes into designing a small collection. I say small because we are required to design and build between 4 and 8 complete looks. Of course I have a lot to say so I’m doing 8. That’s 8 fully dressed models and I am hoping to make hords of accessories like hats, shoes, bags and jewelry.
The first step is to develop a concept which can really be anything that inspires you. In my studio we have designers who are inspired by the senses, under water creatures, Michael Jackson, synaesthesia, medieval music, and garments as musical instruments, just to name a few.
My concept is based on a Terry Gilliam movie called Tideland about a little girl who is utterly inocent to the point of makeing viewers uncomfortable. She is left all alone with her friends the bodyless doll heads that she talks to, the firefly ‘fairies’, and the squirles in the attic.
I love her fearlessness, imagination, ability to make me uncomfortable, and her ability to defy death by ignoring it.
Once you have established your concept, you just start sketching, and sketching, and sketching… I find myself doodling constantly. At some point you are supposed to have an ah-ha moment when you stop sketching, you pick your final designs and move on. I never seem to reach this point. Oh, I move on but the thinking and sketching just never stops and this can become confusing because now I have to start to making things…
Next, the patterns. Lots of paper, lots of tape, pencil smudges all over my face; this is my favorite part. Without a good pattern you will not have a good garment.
This is my wall of patterns so far:
Probably only 1/4 of the patterns I will end up making. These are priceless. Well, to me anyway.
Once you have a pattern that you think is going to do what you want it to, you make a muslin. A muslin is a garment that is made from very simple fabric, usually unbleached cotton or something that resembles what your final fabric will be.
You fit this muslin on your model and make corrections by pinning or drawing right on it. Then you transfer those changes to the pattern and yup, make ANOTHER muslin. It isn’t unusual to make 3-5 muslins of one garment. How many garments am I making again?
The things that don’t fit into this time line that you just have to squeeze in there between sketching, muslins and awful sociology classes, are the fabric research and shopping, fittings with models, critiques, eating, sleeping…
So, this is where I’m at so far and what has been occupying my time for the past 7 weeks. I’m making some patterns and some muslins, and soon I will make the jump to final fabric. Wish me luck, I’m gonna need it.