Saturday, September 20, 2014

Final Collection and Germany Trip

It has been a busy couple of months! For my pattern making courses, I set a goal of completing my final collection by the beginning of September. As often happens, I ended up scrambling at the end to meet that self-imposed deadline -- and while some of the pieces could have been sewn better (and perhaps benefited from an additional muslin round), I was happy to have finished. Here are some not-so-great shots of the pieces when I presented them to the class. I'll post more about them when I get them back from the school.

This dress ended up being a bear to sew -- 16 parallel darts all around!

My favorite piece is the cape on the left. The color is actually more of a carnation pink rather than the bright pink on the screen. It is a luscious wool + tiny bit of cashmere blend and is lined with a sueded silk charmeuse, which feels great without being too slippery. The outfit on the right is a textured cotton/synthetic blend with strips of leather to highlight the curved seams. The lining + blouse is an amazing silk crepe print that I absolutely adore. 

Here's the Classic French Jacket again, with a matching fit/flare skirt I managed to squeeze out of the remaining yardage. The top is a silk/cotton blend with a pleated collar and tie neckline. I knit a cardi as well, but I think the shade of pink doesn't quite go with the rest of the collection. The asymmetric zip jacket is a fave as well -- it was a last-minute addition because I had enough fabric from the cape and some leather scraps. It needs another muslin to really perfect the fit of the sleeves. The trousers are fully lined with a leather waistband. The top under the jacket is made from extra lining fabric from the cape.

A few days later, I joined my husband on his business trip to Germany. It was my first trip there and, even though I don't speak the language, I had a great time. Here are some photos.

Hike up to the site of Ravensburg's castle. After climbing those steps, I realized I need to work out more!

Views of Ravensburg from the site of the town's original castle. Ravensburg is a well-preserved medieval town with dramatic towers and gates, located in southern Germany near the Swiss border. On a clear day, you can apparently see the Alps, but it was cloudy and rainy the entire time we were there. This was the clearest day we had.

I took a train/ferry to Meersburg, a town on the shores of Lake Constance, which borders Switzerland (one side of the lake is Germany and the other side is Switzerland). Here's a view of the town from the ferry. This town is also a well-preserved medieval town with a castle with sections that apparently date back to the 700s. 

Here's the new castle, which was built right next to the old one. Looks a bit more inviting!

Everyone was eating ice cream, so I couldn't pass it up. Cherry -- tasty!

One of the highlights of being in Ravensburg was their saturday market -- a local tradition since the 1100s or so -- where the main streets are lined with vendors selling produce, cheese, meats, breads, prepared foods, and even yarn.

From Ravensburg, we took the train to Munich to spend a few vacation days there. 

This was ground zero for tourists -- the Neues Rathaus and Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz area. We heard the chimes ring at 5 pm and saw the amazing figurines twirl -- the Glockenspiel is definitely worth navigating the crowds to see.

We walked a lot in Munich and came across random things -- like this shrine to Michael Jackson. 

And this very fancy car that had my husband drooling.

On our way to a museum, we stumbled on a street fair, so we decided to ditch the museum and check out the fair instead. Glad we did -- a lot of fun to see vendors, performers (like this big band playing great music) and people out and about enjoying the festivities, despite the rainy weather.

We took a train to Dachau, which is in the outskirts of Munich, to visit the site of Germany's first concentration camp. It was a sobering experience. History has always been one of my favorite subjects, so I had some knowledge before visiting, but being there at the site was an overwhelming and indescribable experience -- and one that should not be missed. 

We had a wonderful trip -- too short to really experience everything, but hopefully there will be other trips in the future. Here are just some random shots -- I loved seeing the traditional trachten (Bavarian clothing) in the windows and in the stores, as everyone was gearing up for Oktoberfest!

And of course I couldn't leave Germany without taking a photo of Karl Lagerfeld -- he has a twin!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Soutache Capelet Design: Published!

It seems like ages ago when I posted my sneak peek of this project. Finally, after months of waiting, it has been published in a new book, 60 Quick Luxury Knits!

The Soutache Capelet is knit in Venezia Worsted by Cascade Yarns, a wonderfully soft merino wool/silk blend that produces a knit fabric with a wonderful drape. The soutache effect is created by twisting and looping a lot -- I mean, a lot! -- of i-cord.

The design is meant to be one of those "throw over your shoulders" pieces when going out for an evening. In the photograph above, it looks like the editors may have added an extra pin around the bust area to close it up for a more fitted look.

One caution about the yarn -- it tends to grow after blocking, so be sure to knit a good size swatch and wash it before you check gauge.

This was an unexpected design project for me. I had actually designed this a couple of years ago, when I was still actively designing knits for publication. The publisher must have kept it in their files, because I was quite surprised when they contacted me about including it in their upcoming book. I'm glad to be included!

All images from: Soutache Capelet from 60 Quick Luxury Knits, published by Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by Jack Deutsch and text copyright © 2014 by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Just a Couple of Summer Dresses for Hawaii

We just returned from a short trip to our fave isle -- the Big Island of Hawaii -- to celebrate my DH's birthday! While I tend to be more of a shorts + tanks + flip flops kind of gal in Hawaii, I thought it would be fun to have a couple of dresses on hand. Luckily for me, I'm a fabric hoarder, so I just went to my stash and found a couple of cool prints I had purchased on prior trips. I'm not sure if you remember this one, but this very bold shell print turned into a dress … yes, a dress!

Here it is! The shell is so prominent that the design had to be super simple. I put some thought into where the shell could go without looking ridiculous -- options were kind of limited, so I kept it along the hem in front and back. The dress is simple -- a cut-away shoulder, drawstring waist and side slit.

I made a deep V-neckline in the back, which made the neckline wide enough so I could get away with no closure.

The neckline and armholes are finished with bias binding that I made with the same fabric. I love this finishing technique for unlined, sleeveless garments. It is clean and neat.

The drawstring has a casing and ties at center front. I considered using elastic instead, but there is a certain ease with a drawstring that I like for warm-weather garments.

The second dress is a really simple baby doll style dress. Again, I used the cut-away shoulder style and the deep V-neckline in back. In keeping with the baby doll style, there is a fitted seam line that runs across the bust, with added fullness below. Sorry the photo is so small -- I lost resolution when I tried to increase the size.

Here, you can see the hemline is lowered in the back and there is a curved pocket at one side seam (I ran out of fabric so the dress only has 1 pocket!).

The hem and pocket top is finished with bias binding. The bodice is faced. This was a quick dress to make and super comfortable to wear.

The fabric for the baby doll dress is from Discount Fabric Warehouse in Kailua-Kona. They have a great selection of batiks, Hawaiian prints and Japanese/Asian prints, so I always try to visit when I'm on the island. This time, I picked up a couple of patterns -- one is a Victoria Jones one for a Hawaiian shirt and the other is for a yukata, a traditional Japanese summer kimono.

Overall, we had a great trip and hope to visit again!


Mauna Kea Sunrise

Peaceful Beach Scene

Creepy Eel

Wine Flight at Merriman's Restaurant

Happy Birthday!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Generating Design Ideas With a Free-Form Project

I recently learned a great way to play with new design ideas -- creating a free-form project. It's the kind of project that encourages you to reach into your imagination and try new things. The concept is to divide a simple bodice or skirt pattern into four quadrants and come up with new techniques, test new ideas, play with color, explore new fabrics, etc. Please excuse the Valentine's Day vibe -- I just grabbed some quilting cotton from my stash!

For my project, I used a sloper and flat pattern techniques, but draping directly on the dress form would work, as well as starting with a simply styled commercial pattern.

In one quadrant, I played around with a vertical curved seam -- kind of serpentine in shape. It wasn't as difficult to sew as I thought -- just needed to stay-stitch and clip along the entire length of the seam. I also converted the bust dart into gathers, which is something I really like. It gives the side seam a softer look while still allowing a nice fit.

On the other side, I drafted a princess seam and curved the CF piece so the middle is wider than the ends. For the side seam piece, I created a flared peplum.

I think it is kind of interesting to have a "partial peplum" and may incorporate this treatment in the future. I'm not too excited about the princess seam shape -- it may be more interesting if there is a way to create a unique shape that spans the entire front.

In the back, I tried to develop a curved "flap" that allows a peek of a contrast color underneath. For this, I drafted the curved piece and added a bit of flare to allow the piece to stand away from the body a bit (will stand away even more in a more structured fabric). I think this could be an interesting detail on a jacket.

I really had fun working on this, and came away with a couple of design ideas that I plan to further develop and use in future projects. I can see how this could be a great project to do regularly, perhaps every month or so -- such a great way to set aside time to play!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Some Details of My Current Projects

I can't believe it is already July! I've actually been very productive on the sewing and knitting front, and thought I would share some of the details from the projects I've been working on. These projects are for my collection, and so they are supposed to be cohesive and tell a story, but I'm not sure how it will all turn out. I think each piece works fine individually, but it is the cohesive part that is the most challenging for me. I think I just need to finish the pieces and look at them collectively -- I know others have actually spent quite a bit of time editing their finished pieces, so I'm sure I'll be doing the same soon!

Parallel Darts and Pleated Sleeves
My experimentation with parallel darts has turned into an actual dress. I love the vintage vibe, but what a pain to sew all of those darts!

I tried various ways to sew the darts, and found the best (and cleanest-looking) way was to sew the empire seam first, press, then treat them as internal darts (sew from the seam line to each dart point). This ensured that the seams were all even.

For the sleeves, I decided to go with a pleated sleeve, complete with organza sleeve head! For a short sleeve like this, I faced the inside with self fabric and then pleated both the fashion fabric and facing to create more volume for the pleats. To help balance the sleeves, I created a high pleated neckline -- higher and more dramatic than I originally envisioned.

Leather is Back
Ever since my first leather project, I've been looking forward to working with it again. This time, I used the same, soft leather as a flat piping trim for the curved seams of a pencil skirt.

I cut strips 1.75 inches wide, which gave me a half-inch seam allowance and 3/8 inch flat piping when folded. I considered using the raw edge rather than a folded edge, but was glad I folded it, as it has a more finished look to it. I cut the strips so they mirrored the curves -- it was still challenging to sew the leather to the curved edges, but I think it helped to have the curved shape in place.

Pops of Color
Because these fabrics are dark, I wanted to incorporate pops of color to help brighten things up. For this skirt, I added a strip of pink silk taffeta to the back kick pleat to add a bit of color to an otherwise dark fabric.

For the matching jacket, I used the same pink taffeta as the hem facing (body and sleeves) and as a flat piping for the lining. I just love this lining print!

Here's the front of the jacket -- complete with leather flat piping and cool buttons from Britex.

Textured Stitches
I'm actually including a hand-knitted project because knitting is a significant part of my work. I used Spud and Chloe's Sweater yarn for this -- a wonderful wool/cotton blend that I love working with. I wanted something easy to put on and comfy to wear, yet polished enough to match my tailored pieces.

Here's a detail shot to show the mix of stitches I used. The cuffs and flounce collar are worked in a decorative stitch that reminds me of a floral texture. I created a hem band (the hem is higher in back than in the front) using a simple moss stitch, while the teeny tiny pockets are worked in single crochet (to match the crochet edging on the flounce collar).

Now back to work!