Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Best Learn to Sew Videos

It's fall again, and it's back to teaching. This term it's two sections of "Fashion Sewing for Beginners" which focuses on learning the basic techniques used in fashion sewing. It's a 3 hour class, lasting 9 weeks, so you know it's not a class for those without determination, and preparing for class is a huge task. Every class I share a demonstration of several techniques and then everyone spends some time at the sewing machine practicing. I ask students to keep these practice samples in a notebook so they have an example ready and handy.

For me, of course, creating these samples again and again every year has produced quite a large pile of samples! I feel wasteful, just throwing them away, but I can't show "how to" by showing a finished sample. Thankfully, Threads magazine has created a list of videos showing "how to" do these very same samples! Their series is called "Teach Yourself to Sew." I've seen many of them, and find them to be excellent. If you are just learning to sew, or are teaching someone to sew, I highly recommend them. They are clear, concise, easy to see, and to the point.
Click the link below to watch this first video on choosing equipment, or scroll down the hyper linked page to choose a different video to watch:
Teach Yourself to Sew: Equipment 101 - Threads

Thank you Threads! You make my job so much easier!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Everything old is new again!

Hello my name is Karmen and I am working with Laura this summer as her intern. She has asked me to update her blog with a subject that interests me. So here goes, oh and this is my first blog that I have ever done, so I would love feedback and comments!

One thing I love about fashion is it is always changing, there are always fresh ideas and concepts that designers the world over use as inspiration for whatever project or line they are working on. I also strongly feel that there is no entirely new concept in fashion, but the concepts are already there to be used and interpreted in new ways. This especially true for "retro"/vintage styled garments, the inspiration is from the 1940's-'50's. What's interesting to me is that many top designers who put out "new" lines every year also are seeming to have this viewpoint and many designers are taking their inspiration from decades past.

This year I fell in love with two very different collections each taking a bold and sometimes obvious look at history and translating their inspiration into gorgeous collections for the Fall 2010 runway. The late Lee Alexander McQueen's last bow to fashion was his fall 2010 ready-to-wear collection. It was so sumptuous and luxurious there is no doubt that his inspiration was equally luxurious and beautiful. While Louis Vuitton’s retro inspired Fall 2010 Ready to Wear collection, under the direction of Marc Jacobs, was on the other end of fashion. It was wearable, elegant and yet still with had the luxurious feel that he is known for. The reason I am highlighting these two collections in this post is because I want to show how history and fashion directly correlate, and how fashion though ever changing, always draws from what has already been seen at some point in history.

Lous Vuitton's collection:
What immediately drew my eye was the full skirts and the slim corseted waists, in other words the silhouette. I also wanted to show you examples of how the garments in this collection so closely resemble those worn in decades past. The full circle skirts and tiny waists with an emphasis on the bust is very 1950’s.

The grey suit outfit is reminiscent of the late 1940’s with the details of the high gathered shoulders and the dropped waist of the jacket.

The next three examples are a few of the dresses the Marc Jacobs (the head designer/creative director for Louis Vuitton) that also were heavily influenced by the 1950's, as you can see from the examples of the 1950's patterns shown.

Alexander McQueen:
This collection has inspiration drawn from art from the 17th century, the cartridge pleats from the 1700's fashions as well as art that was printed directly onto his fabrics. This collection is a great way to show how so many themes can go into one collection (or even into one garment).

The gold feathered hat is reminiscent of the roman military helmets, while the cartridge pleats are often seen in 17th century paintings, the painting of the Annunciation by Botticelli has a similar opening on the cape that was used in the long red dress done by McQueen. Another strong element is the Byzantine embroidery (shown above on the cuffs) that was used in many of his garments this season.

This post is only touching on a few elements and examples in which different era's in history are used to influence fashion. There are many more examples out there to find and if anyone is interested I encourage you to keep on the lookout for these references in fashion, whether it is in your own wardrobe, or in the garments you sew yourself or see on the runway.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Internet Archive- A treasure trove of information

My senior year of college I went on a college study tour to New York City. My professor had "connections" with the currator at the Museum of Natural History and had promised that she could arrange for me to see a less common gown designed by Madeleine Vionnet that was housed there. I had been studying Vionnets techniques, and had tried to copy the drape of this dress using photographs, and was anxious to see how close I had come to the real thing. Allas, my professor forgot about her promise, and my hopes did not materialize. It was unfair, it seemed, that the archives and great works of this world had been shut away from the eyes of the common man. Only the well connected or those with money had hopes of reaching history.

Though perhaps it's not as rare as a Vionnet design, how much would you pay to get your hands on a book about sewing called "The New Dressmaker" published in 1921 by Butterick? Though I wouldn't pay collectors prices, personally, I LOVE it when I can get my hands on one of these gems. Although fashion and patternmaking has taken many a long turn, the art of sewing hasn't changed much through the years. It's worth a look, just for the prose and writting style, if for nothing else.

Founded in 1996, the Internet Archive set out to establish an internet library available to everyone- not just researchers and people with museum connections- of historical collections that exist in digital format. Their moto is "universal access to all knowledge." They have millions of books, movies, and audio free to download. Thank you, Internet Archive. Not even a libary card is required. Take a look:


Monday, May 31, 2010

Estimating Fabric

Years ago I read a bumper sticker reading "She who dies with the most fabric wins." My husband has long since stopped complaining, as it does him no good. I must have enough fabric now to open my own retail store, but still, it's not enough. The personality of the fabric reaches out to me and I see a clear picture in my minds eye of the perfect style. The fabric "speaks" to me, telling me what it longs to be... and I tell myself that it's my duty to make it come to pass.

I don't know about you, but I assume that estimating yardage is a regular event for those of us addicted to fabric. I found this chart made available by an online fabric shop, which I'm sure is very helpful to many folks, but myself, I found it a little overwhelming.


Personally, I think in simple terms, such as the area the fabric needs to cover, rather than in terms of standard or average yardage. In most cases, for a slim style, the fabric will be wide enough to accommodate one side of the body, so measuring for the desired length for all sides is really all that is required. It might also be helpful to remember that the grain of the fabric usually goes down our center front and back, thus the reason for measuring in "lengths" = whatever your term of measurement is.

Example: Let's say we want to make a fitted dress that has a pencil skirt, short sleeves and contrast collar. We want the skirt length to be 30", our backwaist is 16.5, and the sleeves will be about 10". We'll also want to add in a few extra inches to each of these numbers to give ourselves room for hems and some style and layout flexibility.
1. First add the body length measurements twice (for front and back) .
32"+20"=52"x 2 = 104"
2. Now we'll add in one length for sleeves.
104" + 12" = 116"
3. Now divide by 36" (number of inches in a yard).
116"/36" = 3.22 yards
I would round that up to 3.5 yards. Always round up.

Now we have to think of the contrast collar. Is it wide, like a sailor collar? Measure the length it will cover from front to back: how far down will it come in the front? How long will it hang down the back? Will 1/2 yard be enough? Maybe 3/4? You get the idea.

When it comes to full skirts, think in terms of doubling or tripling the length for each side, but just for the skirt section. Will two lengths per side be full enough? For a 45" wide fabric, the skirt with double lengths would be up to 150"- 160" in circumference.

There now! If you have not yet become a fabric collector in the race against time, you now have the most important knowledge necessary to become one. Because as they say, "she who dies with the most fabric wins!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The anatomy of a waistline

With the internet, who needs an encyclopedia anymore? I'm always looking for information on the internet. We have a whole world of people sharing with each other, so some of it has to be good, but some estimations put less than half as solid and true. I once tried to find a video tutorial on how to accurately measure yourself for a pattern. One video suggested I should choose a waistline location where ever I thought best. Hummmm...Really? I guess I didn't need a video after all!

Webster defines a waist as: "the typically narrowed part of the body between the thorax and hip." Okay, so it's typically narrowed, but not always, so that's what throws everyone off (that and low rise jeans!). The real answer is in the last part of the description. Your waist is actually an anatomical place we can point to! I ask my students to feel for that place between the hip bone (pelvic girdle) and the rib cage. This is the place where your body can bend because it's not encased in bone. Your body is unique to you, so that space can be rather long, especially if you are tall, and other times it's extremely narrow. If you still have trouble finding it, feel along the bottom rib to your side where the bone and rib come the closest. It is at this defined point, all the way around and parallel to the ground that is your waistline!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Learn to sew with 1948 style

I love these old videos!! They make life look so easy and simple. They are also very useful, as the craft of sewing has changed very little over the decades. This two-part video briefly touches on how to choose styles for your figure and explains how to read your pattern, cut it out and sew it up. Learn some basic couture techniques that will improve your quality of sewing. These used to be common place, but are now rarely done. Part two includes how to sew in a sleeve, a tiny bit of fitting, and even a fashion show!

My favorite quote is at the end. Remember that you become a "fashion show every day when you step out in clothes you've made for yourself!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Careers in Fashion?

Last week I gave a presentation on careers in fashion at a local Charter School. Once a month they invite a member of the community to talk about a career that students are interested in. The group was made up of all enrolled middle and high school aged kids, perhaps 30 in all. They were polite and friendly. They participated in both asking and answering questions. I asked how much money they thought a designer made. Of course they assumed a range, depending on how well known a designer was, but they were surprised to know that couture cannot support itself with clothing sales alone. Perfume sales are the cash cow for that sector. The other thing they were surprised to know is that at some schools, apparel design is a science degree, not art. There is a good amount of math required in pattern making. I asked how many student knew how to sew. Two students raised their hands, a boy and a girl. That's not a very good percentage. I think they might be needing a home ec. teacher.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Recommendations and Reviews

This month, Katie, who won a pattern in last months pattern giveaway, blogged about her experience sewing up the Sew Chic Myrtlewood design, and then wrote a review of the pattern on Pattern Review for other sewers. She offered up a good recommendation because she had a great experience putting this pattern together, and the pattern fit her really well with minimal alterations (this IS everyone's ideal!). Thanks for the nice review, Katie. (I want you to know that there was NO bribery involved!)

Pattern Review is a good source to find recommendations for everything from books to patterns to sewing machines. Because time and money are almost always in short supply these days, reviews and recommendations can come in handy. Don't we all like to read a review before deciding on a movie to see, or ask for recommendations before using an auto repair service?

Recommendations are a powerful thing. Depend on the fact that your comments will most likely impact someone's decisions. When taking a recommendation keep in mind your own needs and limitations. I had a student who bought a 4 thread serger completely based on online recommendations, and then didn't know what or how to use it once it came in the mail. She may very well have bought a quality machine, but I think she didn't count on having to teach herself how to use it. Perhaps the price of buying it at a local store where she could get training on how to use her machine may have been worth it. Otherwise, one day I might find her ad on craigslist. Sewing enthusiasts love to buy these machines offered up at a deep discount!

I get questions all the time asking for sewing machine recommendations. Would it surprise you to know that I like the old metal machines better than the computerized plastic ones? In quilting and crafts, it may be useful to have 242 stitches (an exaggeration, I know) plus sew sideways, but I know from experience that I would rarely, if ever use them. It's technology that clutters the main purpose of my machine and keeps the cost high. Other than that....I have no recommendation :-). Do you?

Friday, January 8, 2010

The job of a fit model

I started teaching my fitting class this week, and it's always fun to start with a new group of students that are excited about the prospect of sewing well fitting clothing.

One of the first things we discuss is the role of a fit model, and how it relates to the fit of clothing (or a pattern). In ready-to-wear, a company refines the fit of a new design around a particular body type from their customer base they consider average. Fit models can come from an agency, or they advertise to find a person to fit that criteria. For some companies, their fit model is sometimes considered highly classified information. Even the most exquisitely made outfit would look awful if it didn't fit, so we the public buy clothes mostly based on the fit, right? They are after the kind of fit model that will encourage sales, and as long as they stick with the same fit model, it's assumed that you will buy again. Fit is a pretty important element.

For sewing patterns, it's only slightly different. Though you can alter the fit or look however you like, I still have to start with a good fit for someone. So, I've been looking for a fit model. Again. It's harder to do than you might imagine. So who is really 'average' may I ask? Is there really such a thing? Three people with the same measurements can be very differently proportioned. Narrow back, wide in the hips, flat rear, broad shoulders, high bust, short waist, thin neck. There are any number of combination's.

The whole ordeal only proves my conviction that the best answer to the fit question is to get people sewing for themselves.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Announcement Time

Time to announce the winners of the pattern give away. Is everyone on the edge of their seat?? As I watched my humble list of (2) followers grow through the month, I admit to peeking around your profiles to see what sites you like to follow and what some of you blog about. I was completely inspired by you, and the great vintage/retro and sewing blogs that are out there. Thank you for sharing with me.

The worst part about doing this is that I hated leaving anyone out when I'd really rather give a pattern away to everyone. If only it could be that easy. I hope you winners will determine to make this pattern up this year (I know how the projects can pile up on you!) and post photos for us on your blog, at Sew Retro or on the FB fan page (let me know!!). This isn't a pattern for total beginners, so please contact me if you run into trouble!

In no particular order, here are the five pattern winners in which my hearty congratulations go to:

Faye Lewis
Katie Jones
Miss Emmi
Sew Great To Be Me

I have one more pattern I call Constance, #8404, to give away. I'll do that giveaway through Sew Retro, I think, so you retro girls stay tuned!

Of course all these patterns are available for purchase on my website,
and you are welcome to join my mailing list at Sew Chic to get official news of sales and events.

Happy 2010, and KEEP sewing!