Summer Days and Summer Nights

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Wow! What a crazy start to summer! I did two events, a First Fridsy, that went FABULOUS, and another event, the West Park Arts Fest, which did not go particularly well, but was definitely a learning experience.

What did I learn, you ask?

That event managers and organizers sometimes tell lies to get vendors.

To make up for the disappointment that was last weekend, I am gearing up for another battery of events-

June 28th, 9am-1pm
Lansdowne Farmers Market
I will be bringing freshly mixed body products from my new Raw Spa, which you can check out at THE RAW SPA .

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The current line of products is called “Jewel of the Nile”, and was inspired by many sleepless nights researching ancient Egyptian cosmetics and beauty aesthetics. See, I just KNEW I would be able to mix my anthropology major with my work!!! I will also have the butterfly and fish hair pins, the little lotii clips, and a few of the Matahari pieces.

July 4th, 11am- 10pm
Philadelphia First Friday, at 2nd & Church St.
Yep, this is going to be a loooooooong day. But in addition to fabulous freshly mixed lotions and potions, and the fun CREASE origami pieces, I will be bringing my awesome, fantastic, wonderful German cousin with me!! It’s her first time in America, and she will be staying with me for two months!! And of course being the great cousin that I am, I thought her first few days here should include a wicked long day in the Philadelphia heat, at what I think is the coolest event in town! Plus, I hear there will be fireworks, two blocks away at Penns Landing! (have I convinced you yet?)

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July 12, 10am-4pm
First African Presbyterian Church Summer Market
This is going to be my first time at the FAPC Market, so I’m excited to see what other vendors will be there! Right now I am planning on mostly having the CREASE origami pieces, so lots of butterflies, fish and flowers!

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I’m still looking in to more events to do around the area. So if you live around Philly or the Main Line, keep an eye out for us! I might even slide my fabulous blog followers a discount… ::hint HINT::

In addition to that, since there is no such thing as TOO BUSY, at least in my overly caffeinated opinion, I’m starting work on the samples for this fall’s Thing That Go BUMP!! collection. Yes, the collection that I promised last year, and then failed to finish. I am even planning to have a line of body products to go with it!!!

20140620-113657.jpgI’m trying to come up with some fun and funky Halloween products. I feel like all-natural, organic body products are frequently stodgey and boring. What do you guys think? What sorts of things do you think of when you imagine Halloween lotions and such? I’m game for any suggestions you can throw at me!

Well, that’s my looooooong over due update. I keep telling myself to keep the blog updated better… I mean, do I really need those four hours of sleep a night, anyway?

Of Ancient Egyptians and Bias Tape

First, let me introduce you to Hatshepsut!!

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She is my brand new industrial sewi g machine that I bought for 50$. No joke.

She needs some living care, like some oil, and a new cord, and maybe a new lamp, since the old one got smashed in the moving process.

But other than that, she runs like a dream!! I can’t wait until I have her back in ship shape, so I can put her to work… And let my moms sewing machine take s vacation. That poor little Viking has really been a trooper for me!

So what I have for you today is a rant about bias tape.

I just spent two days making 5 yards of shantung bias tape from 1/8 of a yard of fabric. “Why?!” You ask.

Because the fabric stores near me only sell decently priced cotton bias tape, and for this new panty design, I needed cherry red shantung bias tape like this.

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I’m going to cry blood when I run out of this bias tape!

A Delayed Christmas Present Pt. 2

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The second present I got this Christmas that just about brought me to tears was from my stupendous uncle. He gave me a TREASURE TROVE worth of old Ciba Review journals.

For those of you who don’t know about Ciba, they are a chemical company (Chemische Industrie Base) that has fingers in everything from paper and inks, to textiles and dyes, and even agriculture. You can learn more about this Swiss company here: BASF.com

They published research journals that covered everything from historic textiles and dyes, history of costume, botany, and “native” clothing (which the politically correct call “traditional dress”… )

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I’m still in the process of organizing them. Once I’m done, however, I will be not only posting up scans of the articles for your reading pleasure, I will also be writing reviews and cliff notes of the articles.

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Sound academic and boring? How wrong you are. As a former fashion major, I can honestly say that in the library at the School-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, we had nothing nearly as comprehensive as this collection I have been gifted. So I do this for all of the costume designers, fashion historians, textile designers, dye chemists, historians, fashion majors and in general curious individuals.

This is my Christmas present to you, and I hope some of you can find a use for it all!!!! 🙂

P.S.- Sorry some of the photos are upside down! :S

The Fine Art of Frolicking

There is something magical about a full skirt with a flouncy petticoat underneath it. It evokes the fairy tale princess, dreams of Cinderella and Prince Charming, and the delicate femininity of the 1950’s fashions.

I have been working on a 1950’s style dress for this Sunday, and, as luck would have it, unearthed a black net petticoat from the maelstrom that is my costume shop. I pressed it, tried it on, and swirled through the shop in a tee-shirt, beat up jeans, my petticoat and sandals, like a little girl at the holidays.

Having finally finished my dress (by finished I mean that it’s not held together with pins, and has a functioning zipper, but still requires hemming and a few fitting alterations), I was determined to try it on with the petticoat underneath.

The result was fantastic. it added just the right amount of body to the skirt, and gave a wonderful twirly effect when I turned around to show my patient mother. I jumped up and down, and swirled the skirt.

“That’s not how you frolic!” my mother admonished.  “Stop looking down at the skirt! Stand up straight! Now you can frolic!”

I followed her directions, and frolic, I did, through the living room, and the dining room. And then, having entirely too much fun, I careened into a table in the kitchen and knocked over a bowl full of fruit.

The moral of this story is that as much fun as it is to prance and dance around in a full petticoat and skirt, it is important to keep one’s surroundings in mind. you must be graceful and princess-like… and princesses DO NOT slam into tables! 🙂 Also, remember that a full skirt can knock things off coffee tables… like your coffee mugs! BEWARE,  and, most importantly, have fun!! 🙂

Over the Top (But it’s OK) Pt. 1

You are going on a date. it’s a date with a new gent. Maybe you have butterflies, maybe you are nervous. Maybe it doesn’t even phase you. But there is one thing that I bet every woman does: they try to figure out the “perfect out fit”.

I never really had that problem. I always ended up dating people that I had know for a little while. I got to skip all of the nervousness of a “first date”, and I always considered that a blessing.

Until today.

I met a very nice man online (please hold the snickers, snarky comments, and eye rolling), and after two months of emailing and texting back and forth, we decided to go on a date (the exact day is still up in the air because of our schedules)

But now, I find myself in the exact place that I used to make fun of my friends for. Now, I’m nervous. Now, I’m trying to figure out the perfect outfit, the perfect jewelry, the perfect hair style, the perfect shoes, and the perfect make up.

I feel so freaking girly!!!

And that’s not even the worst part! The worst part is that I don’t have anything to wear!!! Sure, I have some gorgeous vintage gowns (waaaaaaaay to fancy for a first date). I have some frocks that I wear at work (waaaaaayyy to casual), and of course tons of sundresses, and frilly frocks. But nothing was what I wanted. Some dresses that I thought would work, I couldn’t even get zipped up! (It doesn’t help that my wardrobe and my body are going through this really awkward transitional phase…).

I was almost ready to just throw in the towel and say “FUX it. I’m not freaking going!!!” And then I had an epiphany! I’m a costume designer! I know how to sew! And I’ve got TONS of fabric laying around the house!

SO, being the genius that I am, I decided to make the dress.

The black yoke will be a bronze satin

So I settled on this dress, which I have a hoarded pattern for! Isn’t it GORGEOUS!!!? Of course, the pattern is only a size 10, and my big tush barely squeezes into a size 18… so there will be a sample made first. And I want to wear a girdle with it so I have a pretty little waist, which means some more pattern alterations. …

But it will look gorgeous when it’s done, and, more important, I will look FABULOUS in it!! 🙂

So the next question becomes, what accessories should I wear?

 

A Stitch in Time Keeps the Doctor Away

Ah, my sporadic blog. How I love it.

I recently relocated funds (very paltry funds, used in conjunction with an army of coupons), to buy most of the materials to begin work on the constantly mentioned, but never seen (okay, well, now you can see it- isn’t it gorgeous?)

Antoinette Dress (Acheron Violet)

Original design for Antoinette dress set, by Mack McKamey August 29, 2012. For KSSD’s Vices&Virtues.

And while I was working on the actual sample, I decided to do something incredible stupid. I decided to make TWO dresses to go together as a set.  So I got the materials for the under-dress, and drafted out the pattern for that.

Antoinette Underdress

Original design for Antoinette under dress, by Mack McKamey, August 29 2012. For KSSD’s Vices&Virtues

 

So 5 yards of muslin later, I figure out the pattern. I redrafted the pattern on to paper and painstakingly marked every single seam allowance, every single notch, ever reinforced stitching line. I marked EVERYTHING.

With a slightly pounding hear, I traced out the pattern on the fabric, a dusty rose shantung that is currently worth more than my life, as far as I’m concerned. I got it cut out with out any incident. I transferred all of the pattern markings to the fabric with meticulous care. And then I sewed the stupid thing together wrong.

It’s true. The upper bodice, where I was supposed to gather it? I didn’t make the basting stitches go far enough, so when I gathered it, the bust would only really have fit a boy who had glued two apples to his chest. And to add insult to injury, I’d clipped the seam allowances BEFORE checking it on the mannequin. Stupid me. So now I have to re-cut the upper bodice (THANK GOBLINS that I thought to buy a little more fabric than I needed!!!!).

The moral of this story is that regardless of how carefully you plan, it is the actual execution that matters. t doesn’t matter if you spend a month perfecting a pattern and marking it. If you don’t put the same amount of attention and care into the garment you are sewing, you ill end up feeling the same way I did- stupid. Don’t be stupid. Take your time. Because it’s not how you get there, that counts. It’s what you have when you are done!

The Lie of Lace

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word “Lace”? Some people think “The curtains my cat ripped to shreds”. Others think “Something I wish my wife/girlfriend/finacee/lover would wear more often…”. Still others think “I wonder if they finished altering my wedding dress yet”. And of course there’s a plethora of people who think in abstraction : Sexy, pretty, girly, flirty, soft, decadent, expensive… the list probably keeps going on into eternity.

Now, with a show of hands, how many of you thought “I hate you”? Not many, am I right. Maybe a few new sewers, who are in the same boat I am. Those of us who are still getting the hang of working with lace twitch in horror. I have nightmares. I’m being chased by a bolt of lace that is screaming “SEW ME!!!!”, and I can’t escape.

My fear of lace is actually pretty logical. It gets pulled down into my machine while I’m sewing, and then rips. And if it doesn’t do that, then it stretches while I’m sewing (now matter how many pins I use), and then has a bubble effect. I can’t mark it very well when I’m cutting the pattern. And let’s not talk about how many times I’ve sewn something together backwards and then had to take out every. Single. Seam.

I recently encountered a new problem with lace. This time my problem arose with the lace trim. Those dainty strips of gorgeous lace that you can use to trim skirts, and dresses, and socks and gloves, and, well, anything at all. The sewing instructions called for lace that was 1″ wide. I’ve got a HUGE drum full of vintage lace, in every width, and color and pattern. So i dove in to this barrel-o-lace (literally and figuratively) and like a cat with yarn, I started unrolling the lace until I’d made an ungodly mess.

And not a single lace was 1″ wide.

Sure, there was scalloped lace that in PLACES was an inch wide… But in other places it was 2-3″ wide. i had lace that was straight edged and 1.5 ” wide, lace that was .75″ wide, lace that was 6″ wide… but no 1″ lace.

“What the heck,” I said to myself. “Does it REALLY matter? I’ll just use a thinner lace!”, and so I did.

Now is when I should probably say that the lace in question was going to be used for inserts. What is this “insert”? you may wonder. Basically, I was supposed to sew the lace flat against the finished dress (or stitching line on each side of the lace), and then slit the fabric behind the lace, fold it back, and sew it into place, thus creating sort of windows. Doesn’t that sound pretty?

Now that you know what I was supposed to do, please divide .75 by 2. If you don’t want to, that 3/8 of an inch. That’s not a whole lot of a seam allowance to be sewing on, especially with a machine.

My machine agreed. It sucked the fabric down into the hole for the needle, and ripped a big old hole in the dress. I screamed a little. Then I swore a black streak. I stomped my feet, and pounded on the table, and, after three more failed, and destructive, attempts, I surrendered and threw the dress into the garbage.

This week, I decided to try the dress, all over again, with many modifications on the sewing instructions. As for the question of lace, I took two thin trims and sewed them together with a zig-zag stitch. The machine enjoyed this, and did NOT try to eat the lace. And while I have not yet gotten around to doing the inserts, I have a feeling that this time, with the help if a zig-zag stitch and a WHOLE lot more patience, I will be much more successful.

In conclusion, I offer these words of advice on using lace: patience is a virtue. So is a fresh needle and a zig zag stitch. And if you feel like I did, and want to eradicate lace from the face of the planet because it just DOESN’T BEHAVE, do as I did. Take a break. Drink some decaf herbal tea. Do some yoga. play fetch with your dog. Take the time to unwind, and then, once you feel calmer, return to your project. It will go a whole lot better. I promise!

Curb the Enthusiasm

When you run a small company, with a work force of one, you wear a lot of hats and have a very small paycheck at the end of the day. You work 8 days a week, and 26 hours a day (all possible with copious amounts of caffeine). Now, when that pay check DOES roll around into your bank account, you should feel happy. You should feel proud. You should feel like you own the world because you EARNED that money.

Today I had those feelings of glee when I made a relatively large (for me) sale in my store. There was mulah in my bank! My first thought- “I’m going out to dinner tomorrow night”, followed by “I’m going to drink Starbucks coffees for a MONTH”, and, finally, the sobering thought of “Well, first I need to pick up the materials, and I don’t have the right thread, so I’ll have to get that, and I’m almost out of X,Y and Z (you fill in the blanks, but basically, supplies that I need)”

When you wear many hats and work many hours in your job, you are lord and master (ROCK ON!) but you are also responsible for… well, being financially responsible. In reality, all of the money from the sale is just going to be cycled right back into the company.

But tonight, I’m going to dream of silk sheets, French champagne and decadent clothing – none of which are in my immediate future. But dreams are free. And don’t impact my bank account!

The Glitzy, the Glamorous, and the Mundane

When people think of fashion, They probably think the same thing I thought. They think of Alexander McQueen gowns, and the glamor of fashion shows. They think of perfectly tailored Armani suits, homes in the Hampton’s, Italian villas and French chateaus. They think of cameras, and flashing lights and dresses on red carpets.

And sure, some of them will think of the way fashion rapes the earths plants and animals (let’s not get started on Vicuna, shall we?); How many little critters have to die for a mink coat, no matter how luxuriously soft it feels? And how about the way cotton was manufactured by slaves for a while? or children in sweat shops in Indonesia?

We each choose which side of fashion we fixate on. Probably because trying to fixate on the gritty and the glamorous would lead us all to nudist colonies.

However, very few people, even those going into fashion as a career, are prepared for the mind numbing boredom that is sewing a sample. What is a sample (you innocently ask)? A sample is a test garment made of cheap fabric, usually some type of muslin, which is used to check the fit of the garment, the viability of a pattern,  the style lines, see what needs tweaking. Essentially, it’s the rough draft of your product, used so you can find and fix every single flaw there is, AND so that you absolutely, positively, 100% KNOW how to sew that baby together without messing it up. Because, let’s face it, Seam rippers and Duoponni silk? Not good bed fellows.

Now, in the perfect world, us aspiring designers would be able to draft a pattern that is a perfect fit, and would be such stunning savants that a sample would be superfluous. Unfortunately, this is NOT a perfect world. And so sample sewing is what I have just spent the past week and a half on. Not on multiple samples, mind you. Just on one. One sample dress in cheap muslin. And I haven’t even gotten it on a model yet!

The bright side of the tedium is that i really HAVE found every single flaw- The waist line was a little long (so I’ll have to bring that up about an inch…) and the seam allowances on the sleeve were wonky (MEMO- seam allowances are a good thing). Then of course the neckline was off, and the skirt hem is all sorts of wrong. but the important thing is that I can FIX it! I may have drunk every last ounce of caffeine in my county, and have blood shot eyes that make me look like a victim of Ebola, and, okay, so I’ve got a tick in my left eye and I’m a little bit twitchy…

But the important thing is, The sample is going on the model tomorrow!!

The moral of this little story, is this-  In the glamorous world of fashion, for the small designer, there will be hours upon days upon weeks doing the most boring job in the world- sewing a sample. My suggestion is to use the sample as a chance to really bone up on your sewing skills. Make that sample like it’s going to be embroidered with diamonds and given to the Queen of England. Sure, it’s absolutely demented and delusional… but it will get you through it to the final product!

Les Mechandes Des Modes: Introduction and Concept

in the 1700’s, fashion was a door to door sales job. Girls, who were not particularly wealthy, would dress in the height of fashion, and go to the homes of the wealthy, sort of like an Avon sales rep, and show of the latest and greatest of the fashions. It may be assumed, the wealthy would then decide they wished to dress like that too, and contact their tailors and dressmakers, and corsetiers, and cobblers and milliners… and, well, the list of talents required to replicate the look goes on.

So it got me thinking. About the title these girls so proudly bore, and the ideas and feelings it conveyed. And it hit me- Gothic Civil War era, aristocratic, circus side-show Lolita! ::please don’t roll your eyes yet, you haven’t even seen the drawings!::

Sounds like a hodge podge, but I think it works! So, over the next few months, I’m going to be busting my behind (and hopefully updating regularly) with the drawings, the samples, and, finally the unveiling of each amazing dress! I’m planning for 6 dresses (so it’s a miniature collection), and have already got four of six dresses drawn out, and one is an almost finished sample!!!

So, check back to find out how the Les Mechandes des Modes project is going!!! 🙂