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!

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!!! 🙂

The Cloth-of-gold Lining

There comes a point in every persons life where things just fall apart. Maybe you get your car repossessed. Maybe you lose that amazing job that came with a skyline view from your office and season tickets (what ever that means…). Maybe you go to the salon to have your hair dyed and it all falls out. Regardless of what it actually is that makes you stomp your feet and throw a tantrum, to you, it’s the biggest deal in the world. And no amount of people telling you that “this too shall pass” is going to make you feel immediately better. So you go out in search of your silver lining. Or, in the case of fabric, your cloth-of-gold lining (I know, I know, it’s a really corny joke. Forgive me).

For me, this “the sky is falling the SKY is FALLING!!!!” moment came today when I opened my mailbox. Today I found out that I have been rejected from every single fashion school I applied to.  I’m a student with no school, a designer with no training, and, even if it’s not REALLY true, I am at this moment convinced that it’s just possible that I might not be as awesome as I thought. FIT (a state school) said no. the Art Institute said No. And now Parsons has said No.

Faced with this depressing reality, I searched for my brighter lining. Well, heck, now I’m going to have a WHOLE lot more time to work on the VPLL Sewing Project, I told myself. So I printed out all of the patterns they’ve sent me, and am currently on break from assembling them. I don’t care if they are covering my living room floor… I’m getting SOMETHING done.

And if those schools don’t want me right now, really, that’s fine. I’ve got all the pattern drafting and draping text books sitting up in my bedroom (I bought them early so I’d be prepared for class in the fall…=S). So, since I’ve got the books and I will now have the time, I might as well get started on the exercises in the text books. Then I’ll be SUPER ready for when I’m finally in school.

And somehow, knowing that I could accomplish things, even something as simple as taping pieces of paper together to make a slip pattern, has made my rejection letters sting a little less. it’s made the sky a little brighter. And it’s made me smile ever so slightly,on what I am currently calling the crappiest day of my life. I’ll be fine.

The moral of the story is this: Although shit does happen, these events leave you with three options- One, you can hide under a rock and say “maybe if I close my eyes it’ll go away”- two, you can get dragged down by the feelings of failure, depression, resent etc. – or, three, you can take a deep breath, cry if you have to and then do something. do ANYTHING. Make a hard boiled egg. Vacuum your couch. Vacuum your dog. Paint your nails. Do anything at all that you want to do. And when your done, you say to yourself; “hey, I can do that. I wonder what else I can do.” And before you know it, you’ll be up and running, trying just a little bit harder.

Trust the Tutorial

Yesterday I finally downloaded my PatternMaker software I cracked my knuckles, rubbed my hands together, and got ready to draft the most amazing dress the world has ever seen. I had my models measurements. I had a sketch of what I wanted the dress to be when I was done. I was ready to go!

Unfortunately, when I opened the program up, what I got was like the Geometrist’s Paint Program. Circles, Rectangles, Lines, POLYGONS??? What was I supposed to do with this? I tried to draw a line, and it didn’t work. I got the rectangle, after 10 failed attempts, but then couldn’t erase it. I begged my computer. I implored, I wheedled, and then after 4 hours of FAILURE, I cursed my computer and started yelling. It was time to go the the Help Topics and surrender my pride.

But even the Help Topics didn’t tell me what I was doing wrong. All the pages just kept telling me to do the Tutorials. And where the heck were they?! Another hour of cursing ensued before I found the tutorials on the website.

In two hours I ran through the first 5 tutorials and had a fully functioning back sloper. Piece of cake.

Today I booted up my computer and, with a fresh cup of coffee and some sleep, decided to explore the files in the PatternMaker. I found the Tutorials, on my hard drive, conveniently labeled “Tutorial” (had I bother to check yesterday? No. I’d just gotten really inventive with my insults directed to my computer).

This morning I cracked my knuckles, rubbed my hands together, and, like a much more logical person, I opened up the tutorials and settled down to learn more about the program. My computer and I have since made up and are back on speaking terms.

The moral of this story is that, regardless of how sure you are that you KNOW what you’re doing, running through 12 short tutorials really won’t hurt you. And it may save you HOURS of frustration. Food for thought.

I’m now off to try and scale a pattern. With more coffee, of course!