Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Overcoming my bead fear... something for me, and a great creative teen gift idea!

If you have been following the blog for a while, you may remember that I have mentioned, on several occasions, my nervous, irrational fear of beads, bead stores, and the process of beading.

So, what made me step into Toho Shoji today?

On 6th Avenue
between 36th and 37th street 
Well, I needed a certain type of bead to use for a client project - a teardrop shape, really... just a thought, but I'll tell you about that one later... The store was quiet, with only a few customers, so it was easy to navigate and peaceful inside.  I started looking at things... all kinds of things, to get creative ideas for some things I'm working on... and then I saw this sign.

Really?  You'll show me?  Hey, I think it's Tuesday!  I think it's noon!

There was a loom on the table, and some completed projects.  Although I have wildly different ideas of my own, I watched the friendly and engaging store expert work, and beautifully explain this simple technique and the variables and uses one could consider.  She explained that the loom, which is OUTRAGEOUSLY affordable (less than $10!) comes with a grid for design planning, and what type of threads, needles and bead sizes would be appropriate (all of those things are wonderfully affordable, too!).  Within about 10 minutes, I completely understood, and knew I could do this myself, and that it is something my teenager would probably LOVE to try!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why you should create and/or design your own projects (To be followed by Why you should NOT create and/or design your own projects)

Previous (related) post: Why you should NOT hire a dressmaker

Why should you make your own projects?  Well, I assume you are reading this blog because you already know why.  But I'll gladly give you my opinion, too.

If you are starting from the very basics of sewing/designing/creating, you can take classes or find a tutor, although they are few and far-between these days.  And the beauty of the garment district is that it is full of resources and services that can get you to your finished product without investing in machinery or tools yourself!


Grommets installed in my "cradle bag" by Star Snaps

Top zipper cut to size by Botani

Have you ever thought about what it means to be unique?  How about "ladylike"?  Well, if that is important to you, you may find it difficult to find in stores without being dowdy, or weird, given today's fashion offerings.  If you want the freedom not to be ladylike or standard, you can find that too, but are you finding what you want?  I am a huge advocate of buying what you love when you find it, but so much of what I've seen is positively yawn-worthy, lately.

Speaking of freedom, how about freedom from wallet-busting current trends?  I am not getting much of what's going on in the fashion landscape right now, but, thank God I can continue to make my own stuff and ignore the rest entirely.

And, well, because HALLOWEEN will come again.

Let's say you haven't been making your own stuff, or you haven't been as productive as you planned to be when you bought all of your supplies, or your poor, neglected stash is screaming your name lately...  Where do you start?

Well, many people start with profoundly ambitious goals, and stop when they feel they have fallen short or failed.  To avoid this cycle, I recommend a very unambitious, unconventional start.

Go to the garment district, WITHOUT planning to spend any money (Yes, ON PURPOSE!).  Treat the stores like a museum visit, and gather ideas.  While in the district, visit the exhibits, idea inspiring spots, and bookstores for images and new inspiration. You will have ideas for embellishing things, ideas for making things, ideas for having things made for you... just ideas.  Buy only what you cannot live without, and, for the rest of it...  sleep on it.  Yes, leave it right there. For a night, a week, or whatever amount of time you need.  The things that really stick with you will still be in your head, and you will need to go back and get them.

The last step of the above detailed plan is dangerous, though.  I'll tell you why...

There are a few stores, and sections of other stores, where you'd really better buy what you fall in love with, because it seriously may be gone later, and I'll tell you which stores those are (based on my own experiences), to save you some heartache:

Here's the good GREAT thing: Fabric has no expiration date!  So, if you buy it, and practice good storage methods, you are not limited to any short timeframe at all.  Ask me know I know... (smile)

Next post: Why you should NOT Create and/or design your own projects 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Yesterday in the garment district...

I took a friend to Rosen & Chadick in the garment district, and found the yummiest double faced wool for a fall jacket.  So delicious, we both melted at the site of it.  You need to feel this fabric! This is where it begins...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Why you should NOT hire a dressmaker (To be followed by Why you should create or design your own projects)

I have so much to say on this topic, I will do my very best to keep it brief, and express it as clearly as I possibly can.  In an effort to spare you and the dressmaker/sewing professional of your choice the inevitable heartache when such situations arise, let's just get to it...

Below are the reasons you should NOT hire a dressmaker.  I assure you that these situations, barring any miracles or unforeseen happy accidents, will send the project into a tailspin, causing misery for everyone involved.

Example of a super-fast alteration (added trim) to transform an unflattering gown

"You don't have enough time."
You won't know until you ask, but the amount of time it will take to complete a garment depends on the dressmaker's schedule, energy level, your availability, the availability of supplies, how quickly you can confirm your intentions by specifying what you wish to have made, getting measured, and securing the project with your deposit.  Not enough time?  Buy something "acceptable" and have it altered if need be! (see also, You Have ENOUGH time, as mentioned in my post, Why You Should Hire a Dressmaker)


The bride didn't like it, but I loved it... not that it mattered.
"You are uncomfortable expressing your opinion."

A silent try-on is never productive.  If it isn't what you envisioned, for reasons you CAN identify, don't hesitate to say so. If you are not liking EXACTLY what you asked for, you'll need to express that, too!  The uncomfortable phone call to the dressmaker, placed a few hours/days after the final fitting or receipt of the garment, is inevitably difficult for both of you, if not impossible, to resolve.  Sometimes the real solution is to make a drastic change DURING the process.  If your comments are too late, this often cannot be done. Speak up!  I beg you, on behalf of dressmakers everywhere!


"You want an exact duplicate of an existing garment."

Usually expressed fairly casually at first... "You know that dress ___X wore? Kinda like that..." 

It soon becomes, I think hers had 10 yards of that really beautiful handmade lace over the skirt..." and suddenly, nothing less than an EXACT duplicate will suffice.  The dressmaker tries to explain that you have fallen in love with a dress that exceeds the negotiated price range a millionfold, and you respond that this lesser version is not what you wanted.  I ask you, please don't use words like "kinda" or "affordable" or "inspired by" if what you mean is EXACTLY. If it took an army of skilled hands months to create something, there is no way one dressmaker can create a reasonably similar version alone in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the price.  If she can, I guarantee, it won't happen more than ONCE, and you will likely receive news of her unfortunate death (of exhaustion, no doubt) shortly afterward.


"You want to look 'just like' a celebrity."
This is an offshoot of wanting a garment to transform your looks.  A dressmaker is usually aiming to try to flatter the unique features of YOUR figure, not create the illusion of someone else's.  Girdles, shapers and undergarments can help squeeze and reshape your figure, but your level of comfort and mobility will inevitably be affected. "But I don't feel as pretty as Grace Kelly in this gown." (Actual client quote, many years ago) Need I say more?


"You are planning a drastic weight loss."
Often planned with long timeframes, garments like wedding dresses require measurement-taking long before the actual wear date. If you plan to lose more weight than an alteration will accommodate, start early!  There is nothing harder than fitting a moving target, and even tougher to negotiate a price change when intricate work has to be undone and redone to accommodate it.  You will also need to make sure that every jiggly bit is appropriately supported or held in place, according to your preference.  You may need appropriate undergarments to do that, if it is not within the design of the garment.  See the "About the girls..." post for help with that.


"You can't find anything you like in a store."

You've searched online.  You've been shopping.  You've found nothing.  Really?  Unless you have a physical challenge or unique fitting situation, there is something out there you love, for sure!  A dressmaker can create something special and commissioned for you, and if you have the desire, the budget, the vision, and the time to have it created, that is a reason to pursue the custom option.  But, please, not because nothing else has ever met your approval, since that will likely be the case for what is made for you, too!

Next post: Why you should create or design your own projects (expect to see it shortly)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why you should hire a dressmaker (To be followed by... Why should NOT hire a dressmaker)

On a mobile device, or want a better format?  Click here.

Previous Post: Fall Artisanal Speakeasy

Certainly, there  are some great reasons to hire a dressmaker or custom sewing professional to create the project you envision. Having something made can truly be a special way to have a one-of-a-kind item created to your specifications, and in your choice of color, fit, and size.  I made the dress below for a fun client who was a bridesmaid for a wedding in Bali. The bride sent each of the maids a length of this bold fabric to use in any way they chose. My client was thrilled with it, and I sewed and draped this dress in a creative weekend frenzy that seriously was a creative risk, but lots of fun.

So, here are some reasons you SHOULD hire a dressmaker.


"You have enough time..."

I fully acknowledge that you will not know what "enough" time is until you have discussed what you need with your dressmaker.  The dress above is not an example of "enough" time.  We were lucky. She and I were both satisfied with the result. Sure, some dressmakers will work like demons and pull all-nighters to get your garment made, but some need to work at a more peaceful pace to achieve a quality result.  This also depends on how much other work the dressmaker currently has in his/her schedule. If you are really trying to get a last-minute project made, recognize that some shortcuts may need to be taken.  Then again, you may find someone who loves to work under pressure! Either way, working too fast is a bit of a gamble for you both.

Crooked?  Not precise? Yes. Manufacturing allows a level of precision the human hand can only approximate. Good dressmakers do it better, and more consistently, but really, if you need a magnifying glass to show any errant stitches or wobbles, you are probably evaluating too closely.


"You trust, know, and appreciate the talent/skill/expertise of the person you hire"

Let's face it: Contracting an unknown person to create the item you have in mind is a bit of a risk on your part... and the dressmaker's, too!  Ask to see photos, samples of past work if possible, get a feel for the personality type you are working with, and give a clear idea of what you are expecting BEFORE the project begins.  Whether you want standard, home-sewn quality, or haute-couture Dior or Marchesa quality work, or something in-between, recognize that skill, time frame, and price are all still factors affecting whether or not that is even a possibility.  Might you find an incredibly talented, underpriced person?  Of course?  You can also find just the opposite. Be sure to articulate why you want something custom made, and define what quality level you expect, because it will help you both to determine whether or not you are a match.

Open communication should help clarify and expectations as the project progresses, but every project comes with risks.  A client can hate something a dressmaker loves, or love something the dressmaker is not happy with. Sorry, but that's just plain true.  Love their work?  Confident that his/her skills meet your needs?  Go for it! 


"Your due date is earlier than your wear/use date"

While many amazing feats of sewing can be achieved, sewing against the clock is not recommended. By EARLIER than the wear date, I mean enough time for you to try on/see and approve the item, with time (To make this work, BOTH of you must have appropriate availability) to make any changes or fix anything that requires fixing before the item needs to be worn or used. Ideally, two weeks to spare is great... but I know people have a tough time planning. Do yourself a favor and try to alleviate the stress by adding in a healthy time buffer.


Can you make a "baby prisoner" outfit?

You know and can articulate what you want.

Words like "elegant", "flowy", "corseted", and "sturdy" can be communicated and generally understood by any creative professional, but more artistic words can be a matter of interpretation.  Sketches and photographs can work well as inspiration, but, frankly, it is all theoretical until actual fabric is chosen and design work begins. What does this mean?  It means that a project's path to success and/or ultimate failure can actually be influenced by things that were NOT said. It is tempting to lean back, arms crossed, and say "You're the expert", but keep in mind, the expertise is on the making, not the idea.  Because the idea is your OWN.  After all, that's why you are hiring a dressmaker, correct?

Where do you find these? Did you know you could buy them?
You have/can get the right materials

This is important.  A garment doesn't exist if the supplies to make it don't exist.  Creativity is wonderful, but unless you either already have the supplies, or your dressmaker knows where to go/where to send or take you to get the fabrics you need, you'll have to fit the project to the fabrics available. Shop the Garment District maps can certainly help you with that, but make sure you know your budget, notions and yardage requirements before shopping.

Looking for a dressmaker?  Try www.findadressmaker.com or www.sewingprofessionals.org

Look for the next post, entitled "Why You Should Not Hire a Dressmaker" (will post September 15) to get a handle on some of the issues that can ruin the process...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fall Artisanal Speakeasy 2.0! (Another 2-day exploration!)


Following the success of the Spring Speakeasy, and using its success to create the next one, I am very anxious to do another version of this tour, and implement some improvements for my next group.

I also know what aspects not to mess with:

Gotta have good food with comfortable seating!
Gotta have reasonably good weather!
Gotta have really compelling and unusual meetings with experts!
Gotta have access to exciting goods in exciting stores!

Here's the description for the Fall Event:

This will be a special Speakeasy, where participants will get to see creative workshops and technicians in the garment district who make magical things happen to fabric.  Through surveys, conversations, consultations, and experiences, I will curate a truly exciting combination of experiences and learning opportunities for a unique group of Speakeasy participants.

Like the last one, this tour is a "go" no matter how few attend, since I know some of you are "in" already (because you needed to cancel/postpone or reschedule the last one).  While I doubt this will be a problem, space is limited, though.  While I would like to invite the whole wide world, more than 20 people would make this unmanageable. 

This will be a 2-day event. The dates will be October 2nd and 3rd, 2015.   This type of adventure is as "Speakeasy" as it gets... so don't expect to get too many details here...

To reserve your space, a $50 deposit (refundable if cancelled no later than 30 days before the event) will be required. 

Balance payment will be due by September 3, 2015.  

The cost of this Speakeasy is $250.  

This includes our events, and lunches for the group on both days (with consideration for any special dietary needs/restrictions addressed in advance). I am holding the funds in a special account specifically designated for tour expenses, which I will incur as the date draws nearer, so please do not make full payment unless your plans are set to participate.  The deposit reserves your spot.

Who will want to participate in this Speakeasy?

  • Someone who is a creative sewer
  • Someone who is a creative designer/small manufacturer
  • Someone who loves to learn, loves history, appreciates fine skill
  • Someone who loves stories and creative adventures
  • Someone who enjoys both old and new

*If you are someone who has spoken with me at length about this, and know you are already committed, feel free to submit a deposit to reserve your space, or submit full payment if so inclined.  In the event of my illness or unforeseen calamity, the tour will still take place with a replacement guide(s).

I know some of you will call, email or text me with questions.  I'll answer many of them, but, I assure you, I'm being secretive ON PURPOSE.  There are some HUGE surprises on this one!

Wanna come?

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