Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cheap Fabric

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the fashion district of L.A.. I wish I knew it better, I felt rather trapped in Michael Levines as the surrounding area is a little seedy, shall we say. You can very quickly end up in a bad area. Or perhaps I am just used to my squeaky clean Toronto haunts. Hm.

Firstly, as my husbands business was near LAX, I had to take a cab. No problem, I was told, it's about 20 minutes. Little did I know that 20 minutes = 45 fricken dollars! I spent about 4 hours in Michael Levines, and honestly, it is very easy to spend THAT amount of time there. I bought 4 different fabrics, two from the bargain bin. The others were a nice faux suede and a black with white polka dots silk chiffon - 7 dollars a yard! I've been dying to make this dress from Vogue but it requires approx 6 yards of fabric. I really wanted to make it in silk chiffon so I waited until I could afford something. I seem to have done it again, the fabric looks exactly like the pattern cover!

I already made a top with one of the bargain fabrics from a New Look pattern. It was one of those aggravating ones that should have been easy. The top is ok, I wore it. But I think I secretly resent it for causing me so much frustration. You hear that, top? My full review and more pictures are on PatternReview here

Saturday, November 25, 2006

LA Fashion District - LOOK OUT!

Michy's coming! Well, we are off to 'hell-a' for a few days. Shawn has some business and I will be spending all of Monday mired in the glorious wonders of the fashion district in downtown L.A. Ahhhhh, I can smell the textiles already. For someone like me whose only fabric salvation is Joann's, I will have died and gone to heaven! Look for me, I'm the one with the glazed over eyes running around madly to experience every single store before closing time. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Project Runway - My Rant

Cutting into my sewing post with a personal rant. Okay, how did Jeffrey win?? His clothes sucked. Period. Irregular hemlines are so - 2 years ago! And the green striped dress? Uggggggh. Zippers inserted all over the place? More like how 80's. I saw nothing innovative or remotely creative so I don't know what the judges were smoking that day. I think only one person they interviewed after the runway shows said they liked Jeffrey's collection. I really like Uli's collection and at least she came in second, although she deserved to win. She really went out of her usual large prints zone and made some nice pieces that a woman would want to wear. But there's no drama with her, is there? She is just too nice.
It now seems clear to me that in order to win you have to be an egotistical bonehead.

Okay, I'm done.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The fabric

As I mentioned in my previous post, I found some fairly similar fabric at crappy Joann's! It's a wool tweed with coppery metallic threads running through it. It had an okay drape - but stiff enough for a jacket.
I starting cutting out the pattern pieces I would need for the project. In terms of the peplum at the bottom, it needed to be more frilly and less fitted than the pattern I was using - as well as being on the bias. The back piece would need to be longer to allow room for the inverted pleat. In the photo I have the original pattern piece and what I ended up cutting. I came up with the piece mostly from draping it onto the dressform and pinning the inverted pleat. The roundness of the pattern piece as opposed to the original makes it on the bias and with a bit of a 'frilly-ness' when it is attached.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

And the winner is....

Sue tried out both dresses and she decided she like the burgundy dress the best. She will be dancing in a competition in October in it! I hope to see her but if not, I will be sure to post pictures of her dancing in her dress!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Challenge of the 2 Dresses

Both dresses are now finished! I am really happy with how the black dress turned out. I have since shipped them down to my friend (about 2 weeks ago) and she is going to try them out and decide which one she likes when she has some time. I asked her to take pictures of herself dancing in them so you can see the dresses on a real ballroom dancer! I hope one of them works out? So which one do you think she will choose????
The Ruby Shoes Dress?


The Tatum Dress?

Long time,no blog!

Eee, It's been two months since my last post and I have no excuse other than I have been doing my website work like crazy. I also took a trip to Alberta for a client to photograph her herd of 200 horses and am now sorting through the hundreds of photos and video footage!

So what happened with the black dress, you ask? Well, I finished it. And I took some pictures along the way. This first picture is me just beginning to stone the back of it by putting a border of stones around the edge. Next I started working down in a triangle direction down the center of the back. I would dollop dots of glue on and then place the stones on with tweezers. It sounds exhaustive, but once you get the hang of it, you can start slapping those stones on fairly quickly! I added large teardrop stones as a variation and I really liked how they looked! I add the stones strictly by eye. I cluster them very closely at the back opening and down the center back, then start to spread them further apart as I spread out. You have to do certain sections, then wait a couple hours for the glue to dry or else you end up accidently moving the stones and then you are left with a glue stain.
Pictured to the right is the finished back. I risked running out of purple stones so I decided to do a combination purple/crystal ab on the straps and it worked out quite well. And I didn't have to buy more stones! I started to add the smoky black crystals to the body of the dress. I decided to not go overboard with them.

Pictured to the left is the finished front. As you can see, the keyhole opening is quite large. I originally had sewn in a bra, but I decided against this. I will include sew in cups when I sell the dress. Cup sizes vary and I would hate to do all that work sewing in a bra and it is the wrong cup size for the person who buys it. If the key hole is too large for a larger cup sized woman, I thought I would provide a sew in nude underlay for the keyhole, which will stabilize it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Coming Along

I am still working around the keyhole opening with the tanzanite crystals on the dress. I added some large teardrop crystals to break up the design. Basically I add a lot of stones around the edges and spread the crystals farther apart as I move outwards. The tanzanite will be glued close together on the straps all the way to the back. The back edge will be glued much the same way as the front - clustered close together around the edge and then spacing out. I've ended up having to order more tanzanite, because, as is always the case, you always end up needing more stones than you realize!

Monday, May 8, 2006

Getting Stoned

Well, what else could I call it?! I figured I would go with the same theme.

It's been a while since my last post. Unfortunately, real work was calling and I did not get a chance to start stoning the dress until last week. I'm using Tanzanite colored crystals for around the edges and neck straps. I started first with the border around the keyhole. To be honest, it's not rocket science. I just use my Aleenes Jewel Glue, and my trusty Tweezerman tweezers. I dab glue on the fabric where I want the stone to go and I use my tweezers to stick it on. I do most of the stoning by eye and use a ruler where appropriate. I work in sections, being careful to work from left to right so as not to smush what I have already glued.

I try not to use a uniform pattern - the end result looks better if the stones are placed randomly. I am going to use a teardrop stone as a contrast around the neckline and see how it looks.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

My Psychedelic Trip

No, I have not started taking hallucinogenic drugs! I've finished the dress, I know the color rhinestones I'm going to use, and I needed to purchase some. I was torn between two different colors for the body of the dress, so I really want to look at them in person. I think I mentioned in a previous blog entry that the ONLY stones to use for a ballroom dress are Swarovski Flat Backs. They are pricey, but worth it. About a year ago, I scoured the internet looking for the cheapest place to buy them. I have purchased in the past from MJTrim - their prices are good, but they are in New York and it takes a bit of time for them to arrive. The only place that is near to me where I can purchase in person is a place called General Bead in San Francisco. However going to the store is an adventure. It's on a very desolate side street in a not-so-great area that has turned into a homeless haven/bathroom in which the sidewalk is scattered with broken glass, liquor bottles and smells like poo. The last time I ventured there by myself I was followed back to my car by some homeless guy who kept saying he liked my hair (eeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!) Now let me just state that I am not a naive chick from the burbs, I have lived in a big city. But this made me nervous.
So yesterday I dragged my husband along as escort and hired him as official photographer (these photos courtesy of Shawn's Treo, his second love). To describe this store without pictures is just impossible. Other than the pictures, you just have to GO there to believe it (with sufficient mace, if by yourself)
When we arrived at the store, I reminded Shawn before we went inside, if he had any trace of a headache, to put his shades on. AND also to OBEY THE SIGNS. A supply of order forms and pen is located at the entrance, and you must fill this out with the proper order numbers to place your order.
The store is well, it's a trip. A cornucopia orgy of beads. A WALL 'O' BEADS. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING has been adorned, including the calculator, stapler and employees. I was almost surprised the cat was still grey and white! Besides the bad location, this store is great and the selection is just incredible. For Swarovski rhinestones, they offer wholesale prices if you buy by the gross (144 pieces). I am using Tanzanite for the neckline, straps and back. I already have a supply of this color and just needed to decide on what to use for the body. I decided to go with Black Diamond for the body of the dress. I wanted something to blend into the dress but give an added sparkle and I think this will really fit the bill. I ordered 5 gross of 20ss. I'm not sure yet how many I will use so I may have some left over. If you ever watched Seinfeld, paying for your purchase at General Bead is akin to the Soup Nazi episode. You MUST line up on the psychedelic rainbow circle underneath the sign - or you may be ignored... Most of the staff are very knowledgeable, helpful and very...colorful. I even got a freebee out of the grab box with my purchase!

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Making the Floats for the Tatum Dress

Part of the beauty of watching ballroom dancing competitions is seeing the beautiful dresses float and sparkle across the dancefloor. Floats are a lovely acoutrement to the ballroom dress. They can attach anywhere on the dress and can extend to one or both arms and are usually made out of light, sheer material - thus the term - floats.

On Dancing with the Stars, the Tatum dress floats appeared to be made out of a heavier type of material - possibly georgette. Since this was a smooth dress on the show and I am making a standard dress, I decided to go with the same light chiffon I used on the underskirt. I cut a haphazard triangular piece from the chiffon and worked on draping it to the front and the arm just by pinning it and cutting any excess. This is not an exact science - but draping onto the costume is the best method - especially if you can drape onto an extended arm because you need to leave enough material for when the arm is fully extended.

The longest side of the chiffon is on the bias, which means it runs diagonally from the grain. The reason for this is it gives a nice wavyness to the chiffon. I spread out the chiffon on the arm and proceeded to create folds from one end to the other. I then stitched the folds from one end to the other. This fold stitch line is where I will attach the chiffon to the arm. I sew on 3 snaps to the part of the chiffon that will attach to the front.

I also finished the edges of the chiffon piece by stitching a rolled edge on my serger.
When I am done stoning the dress, I will hand sew the chiffon to the arm in several spots. I sew snaps to the front of the dress and then attach the chiffon to see if everything fits and voila.

I made an identical float for the other side. In the picture, I've tried to have the dress form in as much a dance position as possible to give you an idea of how it will look!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Attaching Chiffon Underskirt

I am now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with finishing this dress! HOWEVER, this post has taken me especially long to do because the photo upload on Blogger is slow and/or not working. Does anyone else have the same trouble???

It's now time to attach the underskirt to the inner bodysuit of the dress. To do this, I will first put the dress on the dress form and pin up the skirt to reveal the bodysuit. Then I will pin the underskirt to the bodysuit and determine if the hemline is correct by dropping the top of the dress.

I want about around 2 inches past the dress hemline - this is in order to trim it when I even the hem out, and to leave it a little longer than the dress. I will then sew the underskirt onto the bodysuit using a zigzag elastic stitch. The fabric will pucker , but will stretch flat when worn or on the dress form. I was a little concerned about the seam showing through, but it looks quite flat, and once there are rhinestones on, it will not be noticeable at all.

The next step is to even out the chiffon layers hemline. I will use the chalk marker for this task.

I bought this from Joann's online with a coupon and I really have not used it that much except for these long dresses. It comes in very handy with a huge circle skirt! After cutting, I'm left with about and inch overhang.

The next step came with some bumps. I was going to finish the chiffon with a fishline hem. It involves doing a rolled edge on the serger with actual fishline - this gives it a stiffer and fuller hem. After changing my mind a dozen times, I decided against using the fishline, in favor of just a rolled edge. With this many layers, I felt that the end result would be too 'poufy' if I used fishline.

I'm very satisfied with the result. After ironing the chiffon and hem, I ended up with a nice floaty hem, just like a rolled hem (which I am still completely incapable of doing on polyester chiffon !!!)
I needed to finish off the sleeves so I quickly did this using encased elastic overlocked on the edge and then zigzag stitched on top.

To avoid the sleeve riding up when dancing, it is common to have an elastic loop around the index finger, so I inserted string elastic in a loop, tied the ends so they would not pull out after sewn. And voila, the dress is almost done. The last step is to create the floats, which will hang off the neck and go across the arms towards the back.

And then - THE RHINESTONES....

Monday, March 20, 2006

Making the Chiffon Underskirt for Black Standard Dress

The chiffon has been hanging for about a week, and it is now time to make the underskirt for the black dress (as pictured right). It will consist of a skirt, made out of the same material as the dress, and 3 layers of the chiffon attached to it. The underskirt will be sewn to the built in bodysuit and then the chiffon length will be adjusted accordingly. First, I sewed the chiffon pieces together to form 3 skirts. To do this, I used a chain stitch with a 2 thread overlock on my serger. The reason for this is:

  • Chiffon can fray easily, with a combination stitch, you have extra reinforcement
  • A 2 thread overlock, as opposed to a 3, reduces bulk since chiffon is such a lightweight fabric.
It is very easy for chiffon to pucker, especially with 2 different stitches, so it takes some testing and tension adjustment to not have that happen. Another thing I do is use a BRAND NEW serger needle. The slightest blunt needles can cause the serger to skip stitches, especially with chiffon.
After I have sewn the chiffon pieces together, I press them and attach them to the skirt. I stagger the chiffon seams ever so slightly at the side seam so as not to create a huge lump on either side. Just make sure that the outer chiffon skirt (the one that shows) meets with the side seam of the skirt (looks neater and more professional).
The worst thing that can happen to a ballroom dancer is get their heel caught in their dress in competition. To reduce the chance of that happening, I finish the underskirt with a cover stitch where the chiffon attaches to the skirt. This contains all of the chiffon seam allowance in a nice enclosed stitch underneath. Obviously the bottom of the skirt is still uneven! After I attach the skirt to the bodysuit on the dressform, I will adjust the hem to make it even.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hollywood Glam

I have always loved old movies. Lately, I have been renting dancing movies from the 30's and 40's for fashion inspiration in making ballroom dresses. Movies with the likes of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and the ever beautiful, Rita Hayworth. Yes, not only was Rita Hayworth a beautiful movie star, she could dance. According to Fred Astaire, she was one of the most gifted natural dancers he'd ever danced with. Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino. In 1941, she was teamed with Fred in You'll Never Get Rich, and their dancing together not only helped revive his flagging onscreen career but made her into a star. A year later she teamed with Fred again in You Were Never Lovelier, another smash hit.
The evening dresses in those days were beautiful and you don't have to look far to see how much influence they have had on today's fashion, just look at this years Oscar dresses - Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Alba are two examples. Although I'm not sure what the heck Charlize Theron was thinking!
Not only were the dresses in those days stunning, but they flowed beautifully in the dancing scenes. I look at these dresses and wonder, how were they made? What fabrics did they use? Can I make my dresses just as glamorous yet functional for dancesport?
Lately, I've seen dancesport outfits that are so bright and gaudy, they make me cringe. Although I realize bright colors help get dancers noticed on the dancefloor, does one have to look like a peacock? I think that a well made elegant dress, that fits the dancer well and is functional works much better. If a dancer feels confident and good in what they are wearing, you can't go wrong!
Luckily, nowadays there is a lot more choice in terms of functional fabrics that stretch. One can use sheer illusion for areas where they used tulle, and stretch satin or lycra for bodices. Instead of using tulle for the skirt, one can use more drapey chiffon or georgette. Or you can make an allover dress of lycra with a slight sheen. Whatever the case, I hope some of these dresses inspire you as much as they inspire me. And if you get a chance, rent You Were Never Lovelier.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Cutting chiffon

You guessed it, I decided to go with the chiffon! I decided to make an underskirt for the black dress with 3 layers of chiffon. To make them as full as possible, I will be making them full circles. This means I will be cutting 6 half circles of chiffon. Materials required:

1. Chiffon - at least 5 yards, 60 inches wide.
2. Dressmakers curve - to make a half circle pattern (I used a Kwik Sew pattern piece (Kwik Sew 2601) and added to it to make it the desired length)
3. Pins (notice my new handy dandy wrist magnet pin holder :)
4. Scissors
5. Plenty of time and a vodka martini handy - this is a painstaking process.
I would have to say that the most difficult part of working with chiffon is cutting it. It is like trying to cut Jello. It slides all over the place.

I have tried cutting it on carpet, but for large pieces, I cut on our dining room table. The great thing about our table is that we never eat off of it, so it is basically my cutting table. Another great thing is that it is rectangular, so what I like to do is line the chiffon up with the edges to get a cut that is on grain, or close to it. I think that some people use weights on the pattern piece to stop it from shifting. I have not tried that. I will fiddle for about 15 minutes, getting the chiffon as much in line as I can before I cut. I try to hold the pattern down with my left hand as I cut or chiffon will tend to pucker and you end up with all of these angled cuts! To cut out the 6 half circles took about 2 hours.
After cutting all of the pieces (ahhh, martini) I set them on a clothes hanger. Before I knew about cutting chiffon, I read somewhere that after you cut it, it WILL go 'off-grain'. What this means is that all that careful cutting you did goes completely out the window because the fabric will shift after a couple of days, or minutes! What you end up with is an uneven bottom. What was suggested was to hang the chiffon for at least a week and attach clothes pegs to the bottom for a bit of weight. Since clothes pegs have kind of gone the way of the steam train, I used big paper holder clips at the bottom and leave it to hang for a few days. Then I use the pattern piece again and recut if there has been any shifting. When I sew the pieces together, I also check the hemline again when it is on the dress form.