Monday, January 28, 2013

Retreat! Retreat!

Sometimes it takes a retreat to go forward. Such was the case this past weekend, as I joined nearly 40 ASG members at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester, VA for three days of uninterrupted sewing.
As one of the other attendees said, it was the most glamorous sweatshop ever.

We each were allotted one table, and there were shared cutting and ironing stations in the room.

You can just see two of the four ironing boards in the far corner of the room. Having the huge windows was wonderful; so much natural light!

My station, just about ready for me to tackle my first project. You can see the snack station conveniently located nearby! In the background was our dining area; we got breakfast and dinner there, and the tables were also put to use for laying out projects.

Hard at work on Saturday!

The food was wonderful... and it was great to have it close by so there was little sewing time sacrificed for such mundane things as eating. There was never a shortage of conversation and laughter, either.

The hotel staff even included such cute touches as this carved Honeydew melon. Although I did hear that in one of the past years, there was a sewing machine carved out of butter as one of the decorations.

But I didn't spend every minute sewing. I had to try out the hot tub (in the background) and the pool. The Roman goddess statue overlooking the pool "looked chilly" according to my friend Jennifer, so she draped her bathrobe over it.

What I made

This was a sewing retreat, so what did I sew? I went with supplies and fabric for at least five different projects, and ended up finishing three and getting a fourth about 80% done. All in all, I'm quite happy!
The first project was an apron for my daughter Diana. This was a Christmas present for her; I had picked out fabric but didn't know what style of apron she wanted, so she sketched out what she wanted and I made it during the retreat.
Here it is, modeled by fellow attendee Julie.
I didn't use any kind of pattern for this; I had taken measurements on Diana before I left and knew how long to make the various elements, and just sketched a rough pattern out on Pellon TruGrid. The details are a little hard to see here, but the patch pockets are circular, with a flap folded down. The skirt is also edged with a pleated ruffle.

Next up was another sheath dress for me. This is the same pattern I used for this knit dress, but this time I used a woven. I also gave the pockets a contrast lining and added the flap for some visual interest.

The binding and flaps are a quilting cotton. For the binding, I cut strips on the bias and stretched them slightly as I sewed them down, so they actually lie flat.

I didn't get a picture of my third project, a flannel shirt from the same pattern as my uniform shirts and the contrast collar and cuff shirt. By midday Saturday I was so focused on sewing that I just plain forgot to take pictures! And my fourth project, a Pocket Tote, didn't get finished, so I'll post about that when it's done.

All in all, I had an amazing time at this retreat, and am now already planning on going next year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year Treat: Isabelle de Borchgrave

This afternoon I went into D.C. with my daughter to spend some time at the Hillwood Museum, the former residence of Marjorie Merriweather Post. While the house is sumptuous and all, the real reason for the visit was to take in their special exhibit of the works of Isabelle de Borchgrave.

I had seen this exhibit years ago in Toronto and remembered how amazing it was to see paper transformed into what looked like wearable garments. At Hillwood, the garments were spread out in the house and in one of the outbuildings. What was even better, some of the dresses had been commissioned to either copy or be inspired by some of the artwork in the mansion.

In the house, the only beef was that you couldn't really get close enough to the garments to really appreciate the details. But it's a minor quibble!

 These two Provence-style outfits were inspired by the tapestry behind them. It's hard to believe it but everything in these garments is paper, including the lace.

I loved this dress, mostly for the unusual darting in the bodice. 

This confection of a gown was in Mrs. Post's bedroom.

The dresses in the Adirondack House building were much more accessible; you could get really close to them (as long as you didn't touch... and there was a VERY attentive guard keeping watch!). In the bodice above, you can see jewels and buttons... all paper.

The textural effects were achieved by crumpling and ironing the paper multiple times, then painting details, then crumpling and ironing again, then forming the paper over the base form. In the visitor's center, there was a video playing of the process, but it was terribly pixilated and skipping so it was impossible to watch.

I can't imagine how long it took to create each one of these gowns. And how on Earth did they ship them?? Remember, these are not like real clothes that can be folded... They have to be crated and padded and very carefully placed.
 This was one dress I liked mostly for the details. The hem (below) was gorgeous. The glitter is all painted on!

 Here's the back side of the same dress. Notice the red "ribbons" going down the back. These start at roughly the hip line on the front, and are fastened to the bodice all the way to the shoulders. Then, from the shoulders down the back, they hang free. It was a lovely touch and one that begs to be copied in a real garment!

This was Diana's favorite: a Fortuny-pleated underdress with a sheer overdress.

A detail from the dress that I really liked was the beads spaced along the edge of the sheer overdress. Again, all paper. But in a real dress, beads such as this would give just enough weight to prevent the overdress from being too fly-away in the breeze.

 It's hard to see the details in this picture, but the red "fabric" has an extremely subtle tone-on-tone that is supposed to evoke a stamped velvet. The little side "wings" were also a neat touch; very 1920s.

Again, how did they transport something like this?!?

If you are in the D.C. area, I highly encourage you to visit the museum and see this exhibit, which runs through January 20. And if you've seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!