Tuesday, October 13, 2009

DC Show House Adventure (with serendipity!)

I love going to the show house at the D.C. Design Center, and there's a group of friends who like to come along. So I planned an outing for us for today, thinking a weekday would be nice and quiet, and we could enjoy the displays in relative peace.

However, fate had some other plans!

It turns out that today was one of the lectures of the Design Center's "The Business of Design" fall series. And the lecture hall is right smack in the middle of the hallway to the show house, and preregistration is necessary for the lectures. Oh dear. After I got us all signed in (my three friends wore badges proclaiming them my "clients"), we went downstairs, where I told the chic young lady at the sign-in desk that I had no idea there was a lecture, and would it be okay if we just scooted past to the show house? Of course, she said, but you're certainly welcome to sit and enjoy the lecture, too.

Oh, boy!!

The topic was "Timeless Textiles -- An Evolution of Style", presented by Pierre Frey, grandson of the founder of Parisian textile mogul Pierre Frey. He presented a lot of historical information about fabric styles and methods of production, but the real stars of the show were the historical "documents" (i.e. fabric samples) he brought from their Paris Archives. There was one that dated back to Louis XIV, and another from Napoleon I. It was fascinating to hear about how some of these fabrics are being used as inspiration for new lines.

After the lecture, we did go through the show house, which wasn't nearly as dramatic as in previous years, but there were a few interesting highlights. I apologize in advance for the crappy pictures; my camera really doesn't do well in low light and flash was just washing out all the colors.

This picture really doesn't do this piece justice; you can't see the details. It's just a large fabric motif, framed, but the great part is the embellishment. The center pieces are embellished with glued-on Swarovska crystals in the same hot pink as the border, and there's also a line of antique brass nail heads lining the middle piece. You can just make them out in the picture.

Everyone thought this was a marble table, but it's faux-painted wood. I loved the gold Greek Key detail! I wish I could do faux marble finishes.

This was another very cool effect. See the lights shining on the gold counter? They're not spotlights from above; the counter is lit from the underside, and the lights diffuse through the semi-opaque material. It looked like a golden alabaster. There were two cabinets like this.

Again, the picture doesn't really do this justice. These were simple circular cushions, not attached to the chairs in any way (which really made them impractical). What I really liked about them was the fringe trim, which was made of ball-link chain (like you see on key rings).

Another instance of a "repurposed" material. The legs for this coffee table were just four simple C-clamps.

I loved the leading edge on these drapery panels, but was puzzled as to how they got the ruffled look from a straight border print. Then I turned around and saw the bed.

The fabricator had very carefully cut out the circular motifs, sewed them end-to-end, and used them as a leading edge on the drapery panels. Brilliant!!

Once we were through the show house, we went upstairs to the Hines & Co. showroom (where Pierre Frey fabrics are carried) for the luncheon. There was a large assortment of finger foods, all of them delicious, and we got to sit on decadently overstuffed furniture and chat.

Me, Carole, Sue and Malca

We also got "goody bags" at the lecture, and in each one was  a package of paper plates with Pierre Frey designs on them, plus a piece of chocolate.

All in all, it was a lovely surprise to be able to attend the lecture, and I'm planning on going back to the Design Center in November for another one in the series.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Girlfriend Gown: Getting Started

A very dear friend of mine (let's call her "Sis" because she's just like a sister to me) asked for my help in choosing a gown for her 50th birthday celebration, scheduled for New Year's Eve. So of course I offered to make one for her.

She had already tried on some dresses, so the two of us spent a wonderful afternoon snoop shopping at Lord & Taylors. We scoped out all the dresses in the formal section, and chose several to try on. She really had her eye on one in particular, but when I showed her how it looked from the back, she quickly decided on a different style. (Note: when snoop shopping, be sure to bring a friend who isn't afraid to be honest!)

One style really appealed to both of us, so I snapped a few pictures with my cell phone for future reference. I have no idea who the designer is, but it looked really nice on Sis.

It really was perfect for her, except it was the wrong color, and really didn't fit her properly. But that's why she's got me. I'll be raising the neck just a bit and adding a lot of support for her bust.

Here's the back view, close up to show the applique:

The scoop back is too wide and too deep for her shape, so the final dress will be slightly different. What we both liked was that applique: the same one is used on the front of the dress, and sparkly trim leads from front to back to link them together.

The next step for me was to get a bus ticket for New York (I love the Bolt Bus) to go fabric shopping. With my New York sewing buddy Sarah to guide me, I was able to find the perfect applique at MJ Trim, and the perfect fabric (a luscious silk charmeuse) at B&J Fabrics.

This was the cell phone camera picture I sent to Sis to show her the colors, and she immediately said that was perfect. The plum/eggplant color is so flattering for her skin and hair tones.

So, back home again, it was time to get the project underway. To draft the dress, I'll be using PatternMaster Celebrations, which is Wild Ginger's formalwear software. The first step to drafting the dress, though, is to sew up the sloper (otherwise known as "the ugliest dress you'll ever wear"). I brought it over today for Sis to try, and I was so tickled to see that I had nailed it on the first try.

The front view:

What a nice fit!!

The back view:

It wasn't until I saw her in the sloper that I realized she has a mild case of scoliosis. "I never told you?" she said. Fortunately, it won't affect the draft of the dress because it's an empire sheath.

So we've got the first step out of the way. Next up: drafting the dress and sewing up a muslin out of cheap fabric. My target date for finishing the dress is December 1!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Be careful what you wish for!

I've always wanted to be a knitter. I actually do own some knitting needles, and somewhere in my mountain o' crafting stuff there is a bag with yarn and a little itty 2-inch-long test piece I knitted last year sometime. But I never really caught the bug. "Maybe if I had a knitting machine," I wondered.
Several months ago, one of my friends told me she had a knitting machine she was looking to relocate, to make room for more of her crafting obsessions (of which she has many). She had acquired it ten years ago, when her husband received it as a barter payment for some work. It had not been touched since, and she had no idea how to use it, nor did she have the time to figure it out. Would I be interested in housing the machine? Maybe I could figure out how to use it, and teach her, and we could merrily knit garments. Sure!
Finally, I went to pick up the machine yesterday. It's a monster... certainly not the little portable machines sold at JoAnns. I had to do some serious cleaning out of the furnace room to make room for it (which is why it took several months before I could pick it up).

It is a Passap E-6000 double-bed computer-controlled knitting machine. This is some serious piece of equipment!! It's got more knobs and dials and settings and switches than I thought were possible on a knitting machine.

I wonder how long it will take me to figure it out and actually produce some knitted stuff from it. I certainly hope it will be less than ten years. But I'm not taking any bets.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yard Sale Inspiration

A friend of mine introduced me to the joys of estate sales, and ever since, I've been having a lot of fun finding clothes to inspire me. In the last few weeks, I bought two shirts that I have no hope of fitting into, but which have given me a lot of inspiration!

Embroidered Blouse
This is just a store-bought long-sleeve blouse, but someone took the time to hand-embroider it with the names of its parts... in French.

Button placket and pocket, identified.

The right sleeve. I think it says "grain of fabric on the length". (Someone who actually knows French can correct me -- even Babelfish wasn't much help)

The Collar.

I know this is a yoke. Is that what the French says? "L'emplacement du dos"

The Cuff (I assume)

"Swiss Dot" Blouse
At a different sale, I stumbled across this absolutely gorgeous blouse. Again, it will never fit me, but the construction details were just amazing.

The fabric is very sheer, with printed dots. So it's not true Swiss Dot, but it's still very supple. It's in amazing shape; just missing one or two buttons. All the seams are French seams, and the facing is cut-on. The raw edge of the facings are just turned under 1/4" and edgestitched, and there's no evidence of any fraying at all.

Here I've opened up one side of the shawl collar to show the construction detail. The edge of the neck is on the fold of the fabric, so there is no seam bulk at the edge. This really adds to the visual lightness of the blouse.

The only darts are the waist darts, and they're not very wide. The front panel is gathered slightly at the shoulder seam, giving a bit of fullness to the front.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Now THIS is a neat sewing machine!

I spent the day wandering through the aisles of the Chantilly Sewing & Craft Expo, and this was without a doubt the best sewing machine I saw there.

Clare Rowley was using this machine to demonstrate her Creative Feet. She did all the decorating herself, and is in the process of creating a video to teach how it's done. Every surface was embellished... even the flywheel had hot-fix crystals on it.

I don't know about you, but just sitting at a machine like this would make me very happy. I'm looking forward to Clare's video!!