Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Lost Art of Dress

 Imagine yourself going to the mailbox on any ordinary day, and pulling out a package you had not ordered containing a lovely hardbound book. Slipped inside the front cover was a nice letter addressed to you from the publisher sharing an overview of the book and announcing that it was an "advance" copy. This book was not even for sale yet!

This is what happened to me last week. The book, titled "The Lost Art of Dress" by Linda Przybyszewski, provided no clues either. Forget the reading time factor- would this book be of interest?

Thumbing through the pages and found the photo of Mary Brooks Picken, the woman who founded Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. I know this woman. She began teaching in the early half of the twentieth century and wrote many books on sewing, and was considered an expert on dress. Many of her books are available to read or download here: https://archive.org

 This, of course, really piqued my interest so I decided to look up the author on the internet. I found out that she goes by the name Professor Pski, and is an Historian of Law, Culture and Dress. Teaching at the University of Notre Dame, she is most well known for her class titled "A Nation of Slobs." She also loves vintage fashions and is a dressmaker herself. Gotta love a woman like that!

Now- I understand the point this book is trying to get across, and I decide to send her a note to introduce myself and thank her for the gift that mysteriously landed in my mailbox. She writes back "I know exactly what you do...." ...which makes me feel kind of silly and spooked all at the same time. She mentions that she is about to post a blog about one of my patterns.  The focus is on Fifth Avenue and what the "Dress Doctors"- those considered expert in dress- would say about it:


This book is exactly my kind of reading, and this lovely gift provides great incentive to find some time for it this summer. If this is your kind of book too, you can now get it everywhere online such as ebay or Amazon of course, and also at Target, or please order it from your local bookstore. If you can get through it before I do, I'd love to know what you think!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Skirts with Bows

I love this dress! I don't know why, but it feels like Paris Fashion and Audrey Hepburn all rolled into one. The style is classic yet original, and there is no getting lost in a sea of look-a-likes cause you'll never see another one quite like it. Let me introduce you to Myrtlewood, # 7401, the very first pattern I published, plucked from the many styles in my Gowns by Laura collection for the Audrey/Parisian Fashionista!

No doubt, this style makes a bold statement. You likely find yourself with a strong reaction to that bow, but the dress would be nothing without it. Think of this dress with only a flat band. BORING. A slightly smaller bow might be okay, but would it really sell the style? With design, I can sometimes feel it's best to "go big or go home."  No statement can be worse than boring. I decided to look up this idea of skirts and bows and found them everywhere! Take a look:

Pauline Alice (who happens to be from FRANCE!), now a pattern company, made this custom skirt that sold on Etsy. (For patterns, see http://www.paulinealice.com/)
I found this skirt with a big bow on Burdastyle.com.

There are a whole lot of big bows going on in the Ready-to-Wear world also. See the line up below:

This is the beauty of sewing: YOU decide how big the bow should be. Happy Bow Making! See more photos and get your Myrtlewood pattern here: http://www.sewchicpatterns.com/myrtlewood.html

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Expos and Sewing Competition Update

I have failed. My New Years resolution to post every week has gone by the way side, and thus my ability to stay on my posting theme and schedule. I guess when it comes to priorities, blog posts are definitely below travel schedules, good customer service, and getting shipments out on time. On the plus side, I'm still here and will post as I can- so I guess that means back to my usual. That's not so bad, is it?

This Spring has been very busy with the Sewing and Stitchery Expo and International Textile Expos right on top of each other. Last year I brought all of my gowns, so there wasn't room for decoration, so this year I went all out to fancify (is that a word?) my Expo booth, setting up with mannequins and risers and such. My car was packed to the gills with all this stuff.
A few weeks after this show, I went to Las Vegas, NV for ITE. At this wholesale market, we IPCA members put on a fashion show, making our patterns with vendor fabrics. It was exhilarating to be back to the fashion runway!
This is Constance in Rayon Challis from Mike Canetty Textiles

The Spin Skirt and Victory Jacket is so adorable in this Embroidered Gingham from Richlin Fabrics.
Other designs were made from fabrics from C&C's  http://www.candcfabrics.com/, and Mond Tex International http://www.mondtex.com/.

Now it's time to think about the IPCA Sewing and Design Challenge called "Party Like a Rock Star." I used to compete in design competitions, so this challenge is near and dear to my heart. I enjoyed them so much, not because I am competitive, but because they would make me stretch my skills and really think about the potential of my idea. In fact, Fifth Avenue was a prize winner in one such competition.

To enter, all you need do is choose a pattern from any of the IPCA members' pattern collections (mine included) and make something that could be interpreted as "PARTY"...and I mean any kind of party- up to, and including rock and roll. You need to provide two photos of your design, one full length and one close up, along with your entry form and a small entry fee by May 1, 2014. Each company will choose 3 semi-finalists, and request garments to be mailed in for evaluation. Photos will be placed on Facebook to be crowned "peoples choice" by number of "like" votes, winning $100 in product from the associated pattern company. Each of those winners then go on to compete against each other for the grand prizes as mentioned in the image above.

To learn about the companies involved, visit http://patterncompanies.com/
To download the rules, entry form, or pay the entry fee, visit http://www.sewchicpatterns.com/
home page, lower left hand side you will find the links.

On behalf of the IPCA, we would like to thank all of the sponsoring companies who support our sewing and design challenge with the donations of really great prizes. Because we are all small independently owned pattern companies, mathematically speaking, YOU have really great odds of winning them! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sew Expos BIG SALE 2014

It's time to get ready- well, past time that is- for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo which is happening Feb 27-Mar 2, 2014 at the Puyallup Fair and Events Center in Puyallup, Washington, USA. This is the moment when speakers and vendors go into over drive to just GET IT DONE. We have not only been spending long nights at the sewing machine, but writing and preparing handouts and samples for the classes, arranging and preparing for the multitude of things that go into booth set up, and coordinate with anyone who might be there to help.

I need to disappear from view for a while, but before I do, you'll need to know about the big sale that Sew Expo is doing this year, happening TODAY, valentines day, Feb 14.

Here is the scoop, from their newsletter:

"Starting a 12:01 a.m. (PST) until 11:59 p.m., February 14th, we will be offering a 20% off all seminar and admission tickets, and even Friday Night Live and Quilter’s Night Out tickets! We will also waive shipping and handling fees for that 24 hour time period!

This is your chance to buy tickets or add to the ones that you already have at a great price. Some classes fill quickly, then later open up when we can add seats or sessions, so check your brochure or online for classes you may have missed. This is the perfect opportunity to give a gift of fun and learning to yourself or a special friend for Valentine’s Day!

This offer is for online sales only and only for the 24 hours listed, and the coupon code is CUPID. When you place your order, select Enter Coupon in your shopping cart before proceeding to Checkout. Type in the word CUPID, which is case sensitive. You will see the discount applied. Then proceed to Checkout)."

I am teaching only ONE 1 needle class, #1061, "Cleaver Techniques for Vintage Sewists". It will be in Room L of the VIP Bldg, Thurs and Sat. at 4:30pm. 

The other class I teach is FREE. "The Mix and Match Modern/Vintage Wardrobe" is on the showplex free stage Thurs. and Sat. at 8:30am and again at 3:30pm on Fri. 

Now go get your discounts! http://www.sewexpo.com/
I'll see you at the show!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The full bust adjustment in 10 easy steps

We might think there is enough information out there about the FULL BUST ADJUSTMENT, affectionately known as the FBA, but it's fair to say the the majority of questions I get from students in my Craftsy class are centered on this very important alteration. To try and clear up any confusion you might have about how to do this adjustment, I've made up a hand out showing how to do this alteration, in 10 EASY steps.
  • Get the alteration measurements from a cup size chart
  • Using my Tia pattern, I show you how to do the alteration step by step
  • This method is the same for all princess seam patterns. 
  • This downloadable instruction is more detailed that the class video. 
 Whether or not you need to do this alteration, I will leave for another post !

 Link to the handout from my website here:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sewing Pattern Mix & Match

What do you get when you merge the Tia Bodice (LN1312)  the Beatrice Skirt and Sleeve (LN1310)
and the Phantom Cuff (LN1106) ?  More style options.

I'm working on a class for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo, and the ASG conference called the "mix and match" wardrobe for patterns. So many of us  like to change patterns or tweak them just a little. Maybe you don't care for the sleeve, or you wish it had a different neckline, or you want to change the skirt etc. If you've tried to switch out pattern pieces, merging two or more patterns together, you may have seen your fair share of disappointments. Mixing brands and even styles within a brand can be really tricky. I'm going give some pointers, what to avoid, and how to do a more difficult mix with patterns to get a successful merge.

As you might guess, my patterns are simple to merge, as they are all designed to be mix and match. I'm working on making up just a few of the many mix and match options available because it's easier to love when you can see it made up in front of you.

This dress isn't finished, so I've done a rough pin together job for you as a sneak peek into what this mix and match wardrobe could look like.

This dress is a mix of the Constance Bodice (LN8404) and Tia Skirt (LN 1312) without pockets. It's   made from a dotted Challis Rayon from Mike Cannety Textiles. I think it's adorable. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vintage Techniques: Smocking for Skirts

My mother loves smocking, and has made several dresses using this technique over the years. We most often see this traditional and labor intensive technique on pillows, yokes, and peasant blouses. While there are many many ways to do smocking, I have never really cared for the look of it until I saw it used on these really cute vintage skirts:

So I took a look at one of my old sewing books to see if there was a quick way to get the job done by machine, and sure enough, there are several methods to get the look of smocking without ever touching a needle to hand. I gave this one a try and and it was pretty and easy to do:

smocking example
  1. To make a skirt using this smocking method, cut a rectangle of fabric about 1-1/2 to 2 times the width of your hip measurement and the length of your desired skirt plus additional for a hem and waist seam allowance. 
  2. Sew the first row of stitches 5/8 from the raw edge and another row 1/8" from the first. Continue sewing double rows of stitches 1/8" apart, with a 1/2" between each set for as long as you car to, but not past the hip. I used a standard stitch of 12 stitches per inch, but loosened the top tension so that the bobbin threads would be easier to pull. On a longer length, or depending on your machine, you may need to use a longer stitch, so test the stitch length for yourself. 
  3. Starting at the hipline, pull both threads together from each group individually, gathering evenly, and shaping each row to match your figure. Generally speaking, each succeeding row will be more tightly gathered. Do leave at least a bit of ease (1 1/2" minimum) at the hip graduating to none at the waist. 
  4. Using contrast threads and a double needle, I set my machine to do a zig zag stitch just wide enough to span the 1/8" area. Continue to sew between each 1/8" double row.
  5. Sew up the back seam, add a zipper and a waist band and a hem, and you are ready to go!
smocked skirt
I'd like to make one up, but there is no time. Let me know if you make one for yourself because I would like to enjoy  it vicariously through you.  For now, my hipless half size mannequin wears this one well :)