The Strawberries & Champagne Series is DONE!!!

So many things have happened in the past week! Classes started for the Spring Semester, just in time for a HUGE snow storm, which effectively cancelled classes for two days straight. So I got an extra two days of vacation. No complaints here, though.

Over my winter break, I tried to really knuckle down and do some dedicated work on my first collection. Of course, I did have to work around family commitments and parties, none of which I factored into my ludicrous sewing schedule. As a result, I’m a week behind schedule on getting the first part of the collection out.

But, hey. Better late than never, right?

And so, with no more ado, I give you “The Strawberries & Champagne” series!!

The series is one of four in the collection, and features two different vintage bra styles

Strawberries & Champagne bullet bra

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Tap pants

A camisole

A slip

And a garter belt corset, all crafted from luscious satins and vintage lace, following vintage style lines. The items are currently all sewn by me, in the little workshop that is sometimes known as my mother’s living room, and are sewn to fit the unique measurements of each of my customers. No need to battle it out with your clothing to make it fit.

The items will be going up for sale later in the day in my shop. I hope you like them! 🙂

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Confessions of an Unapologetic Caffiene Freak

The facts were these-

Three months ago, I RSVP’ed to my cousins wedding. Of course, I had to come up with something stunning to wear, and any old clothing store wouldn’t work- I have an IMAGE to maintain; a standard of (neurotic) excellence to uphold in the eyes of my family. So I decided I was going to make a dress. I had three months. No problem.

I settled on a stunning 1930’s evening gown pattern (not one of my own, shockingly enough, although I did have to size it up from a size 6 to a size 18), and with two months left, I picked out my fabric. I had two months to get it done. No worries.

And then school came along like a rider of the Apocalypse, and gobbled up all my time. When I wasn’t desperately cramming in as much Japanese and Chinese vocab as I could before a test (a test every week??!! That’s pure sadism!!), or maniacally hammering away on my laptop to crank out ANOTHER anthropology essay, I was either folding origami for First Friday until my fingers were numb, or was flopped out in the house in a state very similar to that of a human vegetable. I was exhausted every day, and felt like I’d been run over by a truck. A big rig truck. Multiple times.

Well, my cousin’s wedding is tomorrow.

I started the dress on Tuesday.

For four hours, I sized out the pattern, sewed together a muslin sample, and with a quick prayer, cut into the fabric.

On Wednesday I had a nervous melt down.

On Thursday I worked on the dress for six hours, around a full day of classes and two tests.

On Saturday, I finished the dress, jumped into the car, and scampered off to the wedding.

Is it 100% perfect? Well, to me, no, it’s not. I always struggle with satin, because I don’t actually have a good workspace for laying it out and cutting it. And I skipped the very necessary French seams completely in deference to my limited time.

But that’s not really the point. The point is that with the assistance of seven energy drinks, I managed to put together a stunning evening gown in four days.

Working around five classes, three language exams, and two anthropology assignments.

The moral of the story is this: Caffeine makes the world go around. When you’re at the eleventh hour, line up a few cups of coffee, and get to work! 🙂

It’s Not Easy Being Green…

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After many promises, and many set backs, and tears, and tantrums, and four hours doing make up, I FINALLY finished and photoed the first of my “Things That Go BUMP!!” LE collection! I call this little gem “Something Wicked”, and boy, was it ever!!

I’ve been drafting my own patterns without a sloper recently, as a sort of experiment, and di so with this dress, using a vintage photo as my inspiration for the design. Twenty seven pattern alterations later, I had to surrender, and start all over again from scratch (I had completely forgotten to add a placket extension, so when I tried to put in the buttons, it didn’t work. Then there were a plethora of pattern sizing patterns to deal with, which I think I dealt with rather well, considering that it is intended to be worn with a belt (which will cinch in the waist nicely, if I ever come across a belt that I believe would work with this dress!).

The make up is what I am particularly proud of- I did it myself, and spent four hours on it. I painted my arms, chest, neck and face. And then I also did some pretty cool detailing on my face. The wig took me another two hours to style.

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All things considered, I’m thrilled that this is the first dress of my collection. And I’m also happy that the next dress does not require make up that is NEARLY as difficult to execute… or as difficult to wash off!!Image

 

When Life Gives You Lemons….

It’s been a while since I’ve written. The good news is that my puppy, Beasley, despite Murphy’s Law, survived his ordeal and is doing wonderfully. Thank the goblins for small favors, because if I lost him or Jack the Parrot, I think I would be utterly lost.

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I have recently been working on a series of sample bras. They are very pretty vintage designs, and I bought beautiful, slinky, silky satins, and stunning kimono fabrics to make them. Being the genius that I am, I took my pattern, and cut out all the pieces in all of the fabrics I had, all in a 36B.

Right there was the first series of mistakes. I should have cut the damn thing out in muslin and sewn it up to make sure the pattern was okay. But I didn’t. My new fabrics filled me with excitement and perhaps more optimism than I should have had for such a daunting challenge.

And then I sat down to sewing… having NOT made a test muslin first, to make sure I knew exactly how to assemble these beautiful bras. And having not put a SINGLE MARK on the pieces to help me in the assembly.

At first I thought I was on a roll. I had a bit of trouble with my darts, but I forged ahead at reckless speed. Once the first one was done, and only needed to have some hand stitching down, I noticed that it just looked… well… it looked WRONG. Because I had sewn two pieces BACKWARDS, and had done the most beautiful, miniscule French seams the world had ever seen. There was no salvaging or fixing my mistake.

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So I surrendered that bra, and continued on like a run away train. I put together two new bras, still in the glorious (expensive) silks and satins. Another one suffered the upside down fiasco, but I was determined to fix that with the cunning use of lingerie elastic (on non-existant seam allowances, because I trimmed those off…). There were nightmares with trying to encase elastic with bias tape, which created horrendously bulky underarm seams (because both the bias tape AND the elastic were all wrong). There was my failed attempt a what could have been beautiful piping detail, because I had no idea what I was doing.

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There were seams and stitches that were picked out so many times that the fabric disintegrated, and then there with the horrible, ugly , visible seams that you could SEE, because I ran out of the appropriate colored thread.

I was like a zombie mindlessly hell bend on finishing. Or a lemming, DETERMINED to charge off that cliff if it was the last thing I did.

The first sensible thing I did, was take an enforced two week break from the projects, to get ready for two back to back events I was privileged enough to be a vendor at. For two weeks, my sewing area sat fallow, and dust covered, while I barreled through 200 lb.s of origami paper to make these stunning hair creations and more (not that I’m tooting my own horn, or anything…). And I was equally as maniacal about these pieces as I had been with the bras… the results were just better.

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After two weeks, I returned to my derelict sewing area, and picked up the bras. They looked wretched. So I did the second most sensible thing I could think of. I went online, to the wonderful vendor of vintage patterns, and found a tutorial for sewing a vintage bullet bra.

And there, before my eyes, in black and white print, and colored photographs, I saw EVERY SINGLE ONE  of my mistakes spread out before me.

Such as including seam allowances in my pattern pieces.

Such as using an iron to press seams before barreling ahead.

Such as understitching.

Such as matching seams before you sew them.

It was embarrassing. I know better. I’ve known better for years. But I was so excited with the gorgeous, dazzling fabrics I chose, that I was determined to skip all the appropriate steps, and convinced that the end result would be just as good.

The sewers, seamstresses, and designers out there will not be surprised to learn that I was disappointed.

Over 100$ of supplies were chucked into the garbage, the fabrics now too degraded from abuse to be salvaged for anything more than cleaning rags.

This week I sat down, resigned to the fact that I have not yet achieved Alexander McQueen perfection with my “sewing-by -eye”, and cut out a muslin that fit my fairly hefty 38DD torso. I figured that if I was going to drag myself through hell again, I was going to make something I could wear.

The muslin, including all of the tweaking and pattern redrafting, took me thirty minutes. Just thirty minutes.

Then I cut into my beautiful fabrics again, and spent an extra two minutes marking all of the pieces. Just two minutes.

And then, before I could do any damage, I called it a day, and spent the rest of my time drawing up an sewing order, so that the bra would go together nicely.

Had I bothered to take 32 minutes out, before I let myself loose on the project, I could have saved myself an ENTIRE MONTH of needless cursing, tantrums, and tears.

And 100$.

The moral of this story is that, yes, “Time is money”.

By which I mean that you will WASTE money if you do not take the time to go about things the proper way.

 

 

Because Sometimes Your Best Friend Needs to Drag You, Kicking and Screaming

A very long time ago, it seemed, I wanted to try and start my own business, as a fashion designer. True, I had dropped out of an apparently well respected university’s fascist fashion program because the professors were all Nazis, and the students were all Abercrombie&Fitch drones… not that I was judgemental or anything…
And true, I changed my major to Anthropology (and am now happily frollicing about the class rooms of Temple University). And maybe I decided to pick up a few other side jobs because the start up fashion design business wasn’t exactly booming the way I anticipated… Which will happen when you only end up with 10 hours a week to sew, between three other part time jobs, and a full course load. (Yes… I know, the term over-achiever-about-to-become-burn-out might POSSIBLY be applicable… but that’s not the point!)

So I was thrilled when I pillaged The vintage lingerie patterns of MrsDepew, and got the okay from her to sell the things I made with her patterns in my store. And even MORE thrilled when I picked up two orders! Imagine, little ol’ me, making “unmentionables”! Surrounded by rolls upon rolls of laces and satins and crepes (covering my mother’s living room floor…)

But when it really cam down to it, even though I’d managed to get three listings put into my store, I was unhappy. Where was the glitz and the glamour? Where were the people clambering for my carefully crafted, excruciatingly detailed clothing? I was supposed to be famous by now, and making clothing for Dita von Teese, dammit!!

Enter one of my trusty best friends, who listened to me bemoan my fate , very patiently. He took a few moments to consider my options.

“Uh, didn’t you used to have a blog?” he asked me. well… yes…

“Did it ever occur to you to keep your blog UPDATED, so that people will see what you’re working on?” … But it takes SOOOO much time to come up with a post, after classes and work, and more work, and homework….

“Don’t you have, like, FIVE HOURS between classes, when you sit in Starbucks and watch Netflix?”

And that was where he got me. True, I can’t drag my entire sewing room on SEPTA and through the college campus. But I can keep my blog updated. But what was I going to put IN my blog?

Well, he solved that one for me, too. He remembered how much fun I had in the summer and fall, drafting vintage patterns for day dresses and then trying to sew them, and get them too look right. So, my goal has been set for me!

From now on, Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re going to be kept updated! (Because he’s making me do it, whether I want to or not…)

Oh. One more thing. To keep myself motivated, I apparently have to show you what I’m going to be tackling first. How hard could it be to mess up a kimono, anyway? 

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Think Pink, A Better Way of Life! :)

All this lingerie sewing might have just gone to my head. I finished the Pin up bra I’d been working on, and then made a pair of cute little tap pants that matched. I wanted photos for my store, and since I’d made the bra and tap pants in my size, I thought “what the heck? I’ll model them!”Image

Am I a trained (or even self taught) model? No, I’m not. Do I have any understanding of modeling? Well, no… Not really. Am I even model proportions? Nope. Not even close.

But some times, A girl’s just got to say “screw it”, and be silly and have fun. As it is, some of the photos actually came out good enough for me to use in my shop!

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Am I trading in my sewing machine and tailor’s chalk for the bright lights?

Nah.

But I got to admit- It was fun! 🙂

Photos by G. Dunn

Bra and tap pants are available here, as a set: Pin Up Lingerie Set

Bra available separately, Here: luxurious bombshell bra

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!