Combining Eras

Detail: Linen Tunic, 2014
Am attracted to aesthetics of different eras. Accordingly, here is a linen tunic that harkens back to the late 1800's with a lace edged neckline and long sleeves. The sleeves are full and airy at the shoulder then taper to the wrist. Linen is wonderfully cooperative to work with, moving in tandem with one's hands as it is sewn. Dressed in linen the body seems to inaudibly whisper, "Ah, this is what I was meant to wear." 

In the photo below the tunic is paired with leggings made of a wool pique knit from Italy. This material achieves winter’s trifecta: warm, non-scratchy and stylish [take that, Polarfleece]! Gravitate to wearing them so often that I made a second pair.

The belt. It is draped from the hips. Adjustable. It combines the appeal of a weightlifting belt with a style own.

Linen Tunic, Wool Leggings, Leather Belt, 2014
(Jacket in progress on the left.)


Rain skirt, Washday Blouse, 2013
Necklace, 2007
Photography by Robert Lucy
Had attempted to squeeze almost too much into a busy morning. When Robert Lucy arrived to photograph I apologized for having to dash to the laudromat to pick up laundry from the dryer. The good spirited Mr. Lucy suggested he'd come along for the walk and take photographs.

In college a friend who loved wearing jeans and a tee periodically arrived in the cafeteria for lunch dressed in a skirt and blouse. The explanation was always, "laundry day". 

Rain skirt and...Washday Blouse.

Gazelle Neck Blouse

High Neck Blouse: cotton lace knit, 2012
Here's to a revolution in terminology: Gazelle neck? Yes! (With all due respect to turtles.)

To make a blouse with a Victorian high collar began with a previously drafted pattern for a blouse with a yoke. Replaced the yoke in the pattern and raised the scoop neckline to accommodate the collar. The fabric is a knitted cotton lace which doesn't stretch. Therefore, the collar required an opening. (Were it a stretch knit it could be pulled on.) Sorting through a small stash of buttons found an imitation mother of pearl shank button and three small flat buttons for the back closure.

Hum, 5" is a very high collar! It is perhaps more giraffe than gazelle. Modified the pattern, lowering it to 4".  (Photograph shows the 5" version.) 

Detail: fabric

Detail: back buttons

Pirate Pants, Ahoy!

Pirate Pants & Tee, 2012
It's been raining so often there's practically a mist in the air. Time for some pirate attire! The pattern for these pants is continually evolving. Written as pure numbers, it is without pattern pieces to trace. The calculations are algebraic, using a formula with variables. Brain food, all this!

The pants wrap and tie at a high waist. (Must hire a photographer; photographing self in mirror has limitations when attempting to show a side view!) Besides sailing through the mists of Brooklyn these pants were great when sewing today. Drop a pin and there it is, in the apron-like folds rather than on the floor. Pants as a labor saving device?

Rarely wear tees, yet this one is unusual with a host of design details. Pretty. The pattern is less complicated that it would appear! 

The Life of Pants and Shirts

First fitting: short pants, 2012
In-process short pants. Tend to make dense notes on patterns. Trying these on led to more ideas. And notes!

My grandfather who was fastidious, grew up in a factory town in Pennsylvania. As a young boy he wore short pants. Putting on his first pair of long pants was momentous. On that occasion his older brother offered to sell him very important information about life for five cents (a lot of money at the time). Tantalized, my grandfather scrounged around until he came up with the fee. His brother accepted the payment and said... "always lift the creases of your pants before you sit down."

Throughout his life my grandfather paused before he sat, his fingertips pinching the center crease of each pant leg, lifting it slightly as he bent his knees. It was an enduring investment and distinctive gesture.

Shirtwaist: cotton, 2012
Two top layers: a blouse and camisole edge beneath. Made a blouse years ago by deconstructing and reworking a man's shirt. The shirt was well-worn when I'd begun and now in its second incarnation it has become threadbare. It's a favorite--deliciously soft and a quasi-sampler of mending techniques! Recently drafted a pattern based on that improvised design and made a new version (photo).

In the Midst of So Many Projects!

Long Sleeve Tee: silk, 2011.
At 5.30 p.m. the sky was dark and rain was fallingAfter a day of sewing turned to a garment which had been waiting for completion. It required the resolution of a pattern calculation dilemma. Solved it! Excited anew. Coaxed myself to leave the studio by 7 with the promise: you'll come back tomorrow! 

While the pattern was put aside (mellowing for several weeks) worked on sample garments for classes and made a long sleeve tee with raglan sleeves in silk knit. (The Garment District is a dream resource for fabric.)

Rose, Rose, Rose

(Velvet Camisole with Satin Straps, 2011)
Rose velvet. Satin shoulder straps. The hem borrows from recent designs [here is an example], shaped with curves rather than sewn on a straight horizontal. This might become the verysweetlife hem standard! 

Am in the habit of dreaming about projects on the subway. Am working on designs that undulate with the animated body. Add material that glistens like sunlight on water and mmmmmm.

Velvet and Denim: Sounds Like a Country Song

(Velvet Blouse, Denim Skirt: 
Cotton/Rayon, 2011)

Velvet is delicious--but oh, what a diva to sew. Every stitch shows.

The pin tucks on the yoke reflect light. (In the photograph even the crest of the fold at the waist is illuminated.) Gathering the sleeves at the wrist worked well in the lace version, however, the velvet drapes differently and here a minimal hem works better.

Snow has been a constant presence for two months, melting partially on warmer days, becoming ice encrusted as the freeze returns. A just-above-the-knee length skirt manages to avoid the inevitable splattering slush. Ah, winter! (Layers worn underneath: homemade long johns, knickers, silk slip!) 

It's such a pleasure to wear everything made by my own hands.

Chilly Night! Layers Upon Layers

(Kilt & Lace Blouse: Cotton, 2011)
Went to a lecture at the Museum of Art & Design with Robyn and Sven. It was a chilly night. Wore kilt-style skirt (previously made in a lighter weight fabric this summer). The lace blouse makes its appearance! (Underneath: two homemade camisoles and homemade long underwear.) Was the most official blog photo session ever--Robyn coached, Sven took the photo. Was lovely!

Tend to draft a pattern then make a couple versions of the same garment. It helps with tweaking the pattern and solidifying the design.

Lace, Pintucks, Bishop Sleeves--The Upcycle

(Lace Blouse: Cotton, 2011)
A blouse of cotton lace, a curtain transformed. The hem, rather than being straight is curved, sloping down in the front and back. Four linear pintucks on the front panel are juxtaposed with the meandering motif of the lace. The lace served as a curtain for the past year but does well here!

Bishop sleeves are wider at the wrist than in the bicep. Considered leaving the sleeves with their full volume at the wrist. Long open sleeves tend to brush surfaces as one reaches, however. Decided against  a plate-cleaning sleeve and gathered it at the wrist. (It's wider than it appears in the photo.)

Ooooooo. Pretty.

Flannel Tunic (1920's)

(Tunic 1920's. Cotton flannel, 2010) 
How to combine a penchant for sleeveless tops and the arrival of cool weather? Flannel! 

One benefit to sewing a personal wardrobe is finding a style that feels completely authentic. 

In the background: rolls of paper used for pattern-making. Oaktag for permanent patterns (durable), newsprint for drafting ideas (recycled) and mid-weight paper (with gridlines and a smooth, erasable surface).

Liberating to photograph garments on a dressform!

Summer Gingham

(detail: Lace)
(Camisole: Cotton with cotton lace, 2010)

How does one describe the strength of wearing what one has made? It must be the same confidence-building sensation a child feels knowing "I did it myself"!

Begun last summer, the homemade wardrobe consisted fundamentally of three dresses, essentially the same design re-worked in different fabrics with variations (longer/shorter, with pockets, etc.). This hot summer, a camisole blouse. An initial sample used a worn white cotton sheet. The latest version (above) is gingham with cotton lace trim.

(On feet: shoes made by tracing the foot and figuring out how shoes are built. It took several attempts and there remains an issue of getting a solid sole on these. For now they are strictly indoor a footwear. According to a local cobbler, soles require glue that can adhere foot-bed fabric to the [leather or rubber] sole. This might be the next step to making everything, although it is a little daunting.

Light Calico Blouse

Cutting on the bias requires extra yardage. Too little fabric remained after cutting the bodice and cap sleeves for the bottom portion of the sleeves. Nylon mesh was on hand, ideal for a form fitting sleeve--soft and stretchy. I made the sleeves ultra long, widening at the wrist.  
A boutique has requested these and I am in production mode. Each blouse thus far is made with a different fabric. Unconventional for commerce, acceptable for art?
The wool plaid cummerbund was made about a year ago. (Matching stripes on a six-piece corset belt/cummerbund was nutty.) Wearing it is surprisingly solidifying.  It's the designer's workout belt!

(Blouse, cotton with nylon sleeves, 2010)