Monday, December 22, 2014

Before you buy the fabric...

The best way to avoid wadders (failed projects), UFO's (Unfinished objects) and semi-wadders (partial waste) is with a well-planned project.  Ask me how I know...

Seriously. (*wipes tears from eyes)

Below, are some examples of sketches from books I own, and I have found useful for planning and articulating  2-d versions of things I've created over the years...

Details, and how to draw them - I've probably ben using this book for 25 years now...

A good place to start for sketching a posed fashion body - I've made several body type variations using this sketch...

Before you sew... 

Instructions and illustrations to hep you communicate and create - from Draping for Fashion Design by Hilde Jaffe and Nurie Rellis (used for an FIT Draping class in the 80's)
There's an idea.  You may need to convey that idea to others, to the intended wearer, or even yourself.  Focusing in on the steps you take to make an idea a PLAN is a great way to start, but I will tell you that sketching is very difficult for me. Sketching and/or conceiving using the computer doesn't translate well to the real world for me. What this means, is that I spend a lot of time working in 3 dimensions, when I know I might be better able to solve design problems faster by really sketching out the solution/plan of action earlier in the game.

From Costume 1066-1966 - purchased at the Tate Museum in London, ca. 1983 or so...

The pamphlet I scanned (top) is full of tools to help a designer articulate what he/she is trying to create before any actual construction, pattern making or draping begins. I have been using this book since my first classes at FIT, and it is still amazingly useful. (And it only cost $1.75 when I bought it WAAAAY back then - and it there's no copyright.)

From Erte's Fashion Design Illustrations - Harper's Bazaar 1918-1932

Can you still find resources like these in the garment district? Yes, and places beyond...

Fashion Design Bookstore
FIT classes (particularly continuing education classes)
Around the World Magazines
Mood Fabrics (figures to use for sketching)

Some people are better at planning than others, and some are less patient when it comes to the actual hands-on aspect of the process.  I am squarely in the latter category, but, I must say, that it does cost me time and money to skip steps.  I encourage you to learn from my mistakes!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Value of Wigan

Speaking of things people who create are having trouble finding...

Inspired by a post on Miss Celie's Pants, I felt compelled to write about "wigan".  I then checked Kathleen's Fashion Incubator blog who offers far more information on the subject than anyone ever even asked for (which is one of the reasons I adore her), and then referred to my own sewing definition and explanation bible, otherwise known as Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide.

Wigan is sold by the yard, cut from a roll of stiff, bias cut interfacing, somewhere around 1.5" wide, and used for hems and cuffs.

Looks like the best garment district alternative, if you cannot find it pre-made, would be to bias-cut it yourself, using horsehair interfacing from Steinlauf and Stoller, (doesn't sound like a terrible amount of effort - personally, I'd use the continuous bias method to make yourself a reasonable amount. That's not hard at all...

Example of how to do this is found on The Sewing Loft Blog

Otherwise, Banasch's has been rumored to have it, if you call and mail order!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Where to Buy Petersham Ribbon in the Garment District...

*This is from an earlier post - Updating Meg's original post dated 1/18/11

Petersham is a hard-finished, closely woven, cross-rib fabric.  It is available in ribbon widths, and most commonly used for waist stays, facings and hat bands, among other creative uses. It is crisper than grosgrain, and gives structure and shape to areas of stress on garments and accessories. 

Rows and rows of petersham ribbon at Pacific Trimming

Petersham ribbon, when used as a facing or support, is like a gift from the sewing gods! It kinda looks like regular grosgrain ribbon but its flexible picot edge allows you to shape it with an iron to curve and conform to your project, which grosgrain will not do.

Designers like Moschino, Tahari, MaxMara and Milly have used petersham ribbon as trim on their jackets and coats, and, of course it's perfect for no-waistband skirts and pants. If you make corsets, petersham can be of great use to you! 

One great source for petersham ribbon in NYC's Garment District is Pacific Trimming on W. 38th Street. They have tons of colors in several different widths, very affordably.

Update: Just a word of caution that there is no sign or label indicating "petersham" ribbon at Pacific. The staff may not be able to point you in the right direction, so you just have to know what to look for: the edges of petersham have little scalloped ridges, whereas regular grosgrain ribbon edges are completely straight. In many stores, they will not know what you are talking about if you ask for it by name.  Some stores will say they have it, but then offer something that isn't quite right - I have seen stores offer grosgrain as petersham, thinking the products are the same.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Pantone color of 2015 is...


But, frankly folks, I call it "Brown".  Long ago, as a high school student, I wrote a report on the color and fashion trends of the Great Depression.  For the record, no one appreciated that report but me, but I still stand by it. I thought it was just fascinating. Shades of brown were all the rage at that time. 

Exciting, huh?

This "Marsala" color has no enemy, no personality, and no mood. 

But I'll allow it.  I don't follow color trends, anyway.

If I could choose the color?  I'm not too far away from that one.  I love brick red as a neutral color.  Like "Marsala's" more interesting  sister! I expressed my love for this color in my May 2013 posts about my "Ombre Hombre" shirt and skirt combo

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Been around the world... within the garment district (Part I)

I go to things...


And when I go to these things, I get business cards.  Not just from anyone who wants to hand me a card, mind you.  I only take them when I am interested in following up, or if I see something that really interests me.  I'm curious by nature, so of course, that means LOTS of cards...

I now have a pile of cards I have not yet put away in the file, and I am fully immersed in my end-of-year/pre-new year cleanup.  Before putting them away, I check each, to make sure they are still valid, and, as I am doing this, I see some definite trends in this group.

These cards take me all over the planet... This industry is clearly global, and modern technology is making it possible to be more closely connected every day.  What that allows for creatives and any industry types right here in NYC, is access to these amazing suppliers who have representatives and local stockists who bring their phenomenally creative wares right here for our use.  Some are as close as New Jersey or Maryland, while others are as far-flung as you can imagine.

With an emphasis on eco-friendly businesses, I have highlighted a few who will remain in my card file.

  • PAPER No9

For example, check out Paper No9, which is a very cool Brooklyn company, making amazingly interesting sustainable fabrics for the apparel and accessory industries. I learned about this company and sampled/fondled some of their products at a Be Social Change event earlier this year.

  • ZenTex

ZenTex is an eco-friendly NY company with a garment district showroom, selling in stock fabrics with minimums as low as one bolt. 

  • Indigo Handloom

Indigo Handloom is a company that makes such breath-takingly beautiful Ikats and other fabrics that you will think you have died and gone to heaven when you see them.  Their fabrics were on display at the DG Expo this year, and their goods are just amazing.


I wrote a blog post a while back about Miki Agrawal, an "underwear activist" who impressed me greatly with her THINX line, which is just about the greatest thing since sliced bread, in my opinion.  Her company is an absolutely beautiful example of eco-friendly, passionate, heart-driven work that I sincerely adore.

I will offer a glimpse into some other companies I have discovered in a follow-up post.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Want to Explore the Garment District?

If you want to explore the garment district ... 

There are many ways to do so!

I receive a good number of questions and requests from people who want to tour The Garment District, and have a wide variety of interests/needs/goals.  Believe me, my tours are lots of fun for people who sew, design and create.  The area is navigable on your own, of course, too... but some places you will not find without guidance, and there are so many stores that it is REALLY hard to make your journey time-effective without running out of energy! I do occasionally offer my own carefully curated tours, aimed at really finding what's "special" and unusual for people who are passionately creative and education and quality oriented. The social aspect is a big bonus, too, and may of us have made great connections and gotten great ideas this way!

This is New York City, though, and I'm sure you can imagine that there are other great ways to experience the magic and history of the garment district.

You will find other touring options by clicking  Some of them are free, and some are low-cost! I don't have the personal experience with these tours to offer an endorsement or guarantee, but want to make you aware that they exist!

If you would like to attend one of my tours, there is currently one scheduled for January 2, 2015, and a very special artisanal tour planned for Spring 2015.  Details for the spring tour can be found by clicking  If a tour is not for you, you may decide that you would to tackle the area on your own, with a map.

Whether you come to NYC as a tourist or a local, I hope you will enjoy what The Garment District has to offer!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Apparel, Sustainiblity and the Environment? A very REAL post...

You must treat the earth well. It

was not given to you by your

parents. It is loaned to you by your


- Kenyan Proverb

I'll be real, here...

This is too broad of a topic to even try to address in a single post.  There are far too many tendrils involved to even make a dent in the bigger issues here.

But... this post does come with resources, ideas, and reference tools. 

Why do I even bring this up?

I recently attended a special premiere for an HBO documentary, that, while specifically created for and about children, it presented environmental challenges in a unique, digestible, and hopeful way. Believe me when I say it is equally valuable for adults and children alike.

To view the short trailer for the program, click here.  The documentary is called "Saving My Tomorrow", and it features some phenomenal kids, some great music (Check out Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi, performed by Lennon & Maisy - *you can also find it on ITunes or Spotify), wonderful visuals, celebrity readings... and, what I would lovingly refer to as "gourmet food for thought".

After seeing the film, I understood that while we can always talk about what we (collectively) are doing that is environmentally irresponsible now... (and... yeah...yawn, right?) what we will HAVE to talk about eventually, is what we CANNOT continue to do.  Eventually, we will be FORCED to make different decisions, because so many choices we are currently making are not sustainable ones.

Now, if you're still with me, here's my next point:

When it comes to apparel...

Let's consider the Higg Index.  What is it?  Officially, it is an open-source...

"self-assessment tool aimed at creating a standard industry approach to measuring and evaluating sustainability impacts of all apparel and footwear products for the industry, while informing business-to-business decision-making that identifies ways to improve products and processes.  The Higg Index looks at sustainability from an environmental and social/labor standpoint."

Blah, blah, blah...

These are just words right now, but these words will grow louder as time marches on. I've never been a tree-hugging environmental activist, and in fact, have long appreciated the artificial obsolescence of fashion trends.  But, even I will say that this subject is worthy of your time, careful consideration and attention.

On artificial obsolescence:

Have you ever noticed that trends are just created and sold to you?  You didn't actually just happen to love skinny jeans, they just got used to seeing many permutations of them, until, eventually... you bought/made/coveted a pair?

On Squawk Box this morning, the financial reporters commented on low retail numbers for apparel are due to a trendless season in fashion fight now.  No prevailing colors or styles pushing people out to buy new stuff is a real problem for retailers.

In the UK, however, they are busy trying to push sustainability as its own fashion trend.  Is that possible?  Can it be done? Can it be cool?

Yes, it can...

Check out these links:

First eco-fashion week  in New Zealand.

Sustainable fashion from Pharell.  Yes, the guy who sings "Happy" wants to clean the ocean...

Oh, and let's add some more starpower to the mix...

The CFDA Sustainability Initiative, and the no-brainer featured designer...

There's a lot more to explore out there.  I can't imagine where this will take us in the future, but it is absolutely the beginning of a broader movement.

M&J Trimming for your hair!

There's a cute hair ornament/ponytail holder that has been featured and ADVERTISED like MAD this holiday season.  Completely affordable, and easy to buy, right?  But... as any of you garment district lovers will notice, the supplies to duplicate or upgrade this idea are very also VERY easily obtainable.

Inspired by this idea, I stopped at M&J Trimming and found a variety of lovely things and other hair-taming ideas to make some stocking stuffers for a few "tweens" in our family this year.

While these do not photograph particularly well flat, here are some of the things I found, and how I used them...

The balls are light, the elastic is strong.  I found the balls about 18 years ago, in a unique Tibetan store in SoHo (NYC), but the cord stop is from M&J Trimming. I would consider this one to be "hair jewelry" more than anything, great for adorning a low ponytail or bun...

A strong, simple ponytail holder.
A ponytail holder with silver tassels!
A wonderfully strong, snug, stretchy, sparkly headband, to gracefully push hair away from the face.
Just some fun "extras" for some people I love this year...  Side note:  I made more than just these, and some extras I will keep for myself! (Can't wear 'em until after Christmas, though!)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dance & Fashion at the Museum at FIT

FIT's museum exhibits and I go WAAAAY back.  I remember one cold winter evening after a tailoring class many moons ago, when I casually stepped into the downstairs exhibit space to see an exbit by a designer I'd never heard of... Norell.  That exhibit was ABSOLUTELY breathtaking and unforgettable.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but...

The power of this one comes close!

I don't think there is enough I can say about this one to allow you to live it vicariously, so you'll just have to go see it yourself.

While I'm sure you expect ballerina tutus and flamenco dresses (and there are some of those), what you don't expect is the Rei Kawakubo's lumpy, bumpy designs for Merce Cunningham, and so many beautiful examples of wild creativity and beauty.  I think this is an exhibit that merits more than just one simple pass, as I needed to stop and think a few times as I viewed it.

"When you design for a dancer, you are designing for an athlete."  This is my own paraphrased version of the text introducing the exhibit space.  A video, showing jellyfish-like dancers  flowing within a seemingly gelatinous gauze mesmerizes you before you open the door to the space.

This exhibit is a magical experience.  Be sure to check it out.

Faking It at the Museum at FIT

This weekend, I stopped in to this exhibit, just to give it a look.  I wasn't particularly inspired to see this one, as I have never had any particular feelings about copying garments, or the inevitable resulting "downward spiral of declining quality" it generates.

Now, in a time where digital images and original garments provide equipped copyists nearly immediate access to original designs, it is cheaper to pay off a settlement once sued than it is to buy a license.


This exhibit really did make me pause and think about that.  When there is no legal protection of the investment of creative work, talent and research and development for the originating designer's enterprise, how do we protect them? 

How do we support that work?

Does it even matter?

Of course, it does.

What's next, if there is no legal protection?  My belief is that designers will continue to follow the lead of companies like Missoni, who satisfy new customers by offering highly affordable versions of their own designs to a wider market.


Here's what I see as an ENORMOUS problem we can't ignore.  The exhibit specifically identifies the famous "Birkin" bag as a unique product on the market, since it's unusual closure is protected by trademark, and its easily identifiable shape gives it a place of its own in the marketplace.

Now, Google "Birkin knock- off" or "Fake Birkin", and see the enormous wave of sites you get.

We'll need a better solution, if there is one...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

And if you're wondering where I am...


Still here...

Looks like I've invited some chaos into my life... I'm crawling out slowly.  More info to come.  I guarantee, it will be interesting!

I'm here, just EXCEPTIONALLY busy at the moment, with an enormous amount of information to share.  Stay tuned!

Coming up (I'll link them to this post as they appear):

Among other stuff... hold on.  I can't rush this stuff...

Talk soon!