Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thai Wrap from Folkwear

I really, really liked it. In fact, I thought it was exceedingly cute until I took a photo.

Now I know that the mirror lies. Of course, I encourage this. This little topper feels so good. It looks good on the dress form. It was fun to sew. It seems to fit. Must be a success.

Then I checked out the pictures. oh.

Folkwear's South Asian Tops and Wraps (#134) has been on my mind for many years. I was first attracted to it when I saw Elizabeth of the late (sniff, sniff) Waechter's Fabrics wearing the Thai Wrap Blouse on a hot summer day. She had omitted the long sleeves, and voila, cute summer top.

Finally, yesterday, I cut out a muslin. A wearable muslin made of denim. Denim is a favorite fabric, especially after seeing Anna Toth's winning collection at the recent Charleston Fashion week competition.

Unfinished here, but already too short
Denim is such a delight to sew as well, especially this light weight washed denim (100% cotton) from Gail K. It tears in both directions. It presses beautifully. It is ideal for top-stitching.

There are many things to like about this interesting pattern. There are only 3 pieces if you omit the sleeves: the front/back piece, the center-front wedge, and the collar band. The front and back pieces are cut as one, so there is no shoulder seam. The triangular addition to the front section creates a secure wrap and lovely princess lines. The curve of the side seam adds the illusion of a waist.

The fact that some SAs are 1/2 inch and others are 1/4 inch is a little odd, but consistent with the Folkwear use of traditional ethnic clothing construction techniques.

My main concern is the length. It's too short for my not-all-that-tall 5 feet 5 inches, I think. And I'm not sure how lengthening it would affect the silhouette. I wonder if it would be an interesting vest for a sheath?

Perhaps I should make another, longer muslin. Or add the sleeves back. Or use it as a vest. Or make another pattern. Or just go back to quilting.

How can I save this cute pattern?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

CFW 2014 Winners: Anna Toth, Leah and Rebecca Plante

Anna Toth's design, available on
Charleston Fashion Week 2014 is finished, this time with a few surprises.

For the first time, the win was awarded to two designers. One is a sister team - Leah and Rebecca Plante; the other is Anna Toth.

I was lucky enough to attend the first night of CFW 2014 and see both collections during semi-finals. I even voted for Anna because her looks are so appealing to anyone who loves denim. That night, the Plante sisters were both the judges' choice and the peoples' choice.

The tucks are so pretty. Toth also makes custom jeans.
Saturday night we saw the final collections of each night's winner plus a judges save - Anna Toth. So there were 5 finalists. Each of the five added a few items to this final runway competition.

Surprises: Two Project Runway alums competed - Justin LeBlanc a finalist in season 12, and Angela Bacskocky, also season 12 but she exited after episode 1. Justin did not make it to the finals; Angela did. And I actually liked her final collection quite a lot though it was more of a fall collection, and spring is on my mind.

The other surprise is that the winning looks were not edgy or outrageous. I would classify both as pretty, but not over-the-top art. They were certainly the most immediately wearable, especially Anna Toth's work.

Both of the winning runway collections were spring-like in color and texture, appropriate to Charleston and the rest of the southeastern US now. Since Anna Toth makes custom jeans, those were also prominently featured. In fact she wore some tight but beautifully fitted jeans each evening. 

As an aside, I was mystified by designers who seemed to be wearing uninteresting clothing when they appeared at the end of their own runway shows. It was almost as if they had been caught off-guard and dragged from their workrooms.

Toth was clearly wearing something of her own design. Very pretty. Very casual. Very wearable. I did not see her up close but I think this is a cap-sleeved tucked denim shirt with one of her denim vests over it, and of course, her great jeans.
Toth with the final model in her Saturday show. I don't think this jump suit is denim. Hat is also an Anna Toth creation.
For the final runway, Toth added quilted pieces - a cropped top in dark denim that was paired with her signature jeans, this time in white. There is something so appealing about white pants for spring and summer.

Toth also showed a quilted A-line skirt paired with another cropped top. The skirt had body and stood away from the model's hips, producing a cheerful, youthful silhouette, not the dowdy silhouette I usually associate with A-line skirts.

You can like Anna Toth and her work under the name Bow and Arrow on Facebook, if you do that sort of thing.
My favorite look from the Plante sisters

The Plante sisters used drapey fabrics with some low-contrast color blocking in spring neutrals. The dress at left was shown in a peachy beige where you see navy in this picture. The back has a feminine V formed with the spaghetti straps. They used lots of flowers in the models' hair and put on a good show.

The other designers presented collections that were decidedly darker, the traditional fall collection shown in spring, I guess.

Some themes ran through all the collections I saw: 

Sheer layers were everywhere. These included palazzo pants that were sheer from the knee down, a black sheer dress with a white lining, dark shorts under long sheer skirts.

Bare midriffs were another theme, both on and off the runway.

Still seeing lots of high-low skirts (low in the back). I saw many missed opportunities here to showcase the inside of the back skirt with some gorgeous design. Most were lined in self-fabric or ordinary lining material.

I'm not sure this CFW will be as memorable as the previous two but we'll see. I hope to watch Anna Toth on Facebook this year to see where she goes. 

Next up - off- runway looks seen during CFW 2014. 

What a fun and inspiring week!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Final Prep for CFW 2014

Charleston Fashion Week (CFW) starts tomorrow so it's a good thing that I am almost finished with my last pieces for it. I hope to wear this to the Saturday night finale.

This is a lot of purple, or plum as the Waechter's website described it. It is a silk noil and, seriously, it really does look good with the kimono fabric. What's up with these pictures? They make the silk noil look blue next to the silk brocade.

The plum column is composed of CLD's Pure and Simple shell, and her tapered one-seams. I never grow tired of that PAS pattern, when I need a slightly fitted easy topper. It has just the right amount of fit. And of course the one-seams are a great TNT pattern for me.

The shell is lined using the jacket-bagging idea I tried out on the bling version. I experimented with various ways to make sure the lining does not slip out. The is very important, you see, because I used a light blue ambiance from my stash (!). For now, the neckline is finished with a little sashiko using gold silk embroidery thread (4-ply). I top-stitched the other edges at 1/4 inch in the interest of time.

The plum silk noil was narrow (44 inches) so I had to add a front center seam and back center seam to the shell. No real problem since it disappears or creates another vertical line.

I interlined the plum one-seams because I wanted to add strength to them. Silk noil is quite fragile so I'm hoping that will help. And the one-seams are not tight, so I should be fine.

Now for that kimono. I love it but maybe it takes this ensemble into PJ territory. I hope not!

I used another TNT pattern for this kimono. It is the women's hippari from Japanese Field Clothing (Folkwear Patterns). I bought the silk for it in San Franciso's Chinatown many years ago. It is only 28 inches wide and I did not have a lot, so I needed an efficient way to use it. This hippari pattern is very traditional and so involves only rectangles. Very efficient way to use fabric, I think.

The kimono silk is soft-of a silk brocade though much lighter than that and it has great drape. Maybe it is a double-cloth of sorts. One side is predominantly purple; the other is predominantly gold. And there are no running threads on either side. Perhaps there is a better name for it. 

There is still a bit of handwork remaining. The pictures show the hem facing hanging out and the front band with threads. I used gold silk dupioni for the front band and to create facings for all the hems. I've got a  long car ride coming up which will be perfect for the handwork.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Expo plus ACC Show!

Inspiration overload today...

CLD booth

Yesterday I attended the Sewing and Quilting Expo in Atlanta. It is a combination of education, inspiration, and, of course, shopping. There were so many things I discovered that I needed. You know what I mean.

I did resist the gorgeous pieces at left. Love that combination of colors. Hate it on me.

Yes, there were way more quilting vendors than those geared to garment sewists. And it seemed that there were fewer vendors. But the few there make the trip totally worthwhile.

And I do love some quilty eye candy (below).
Large installation by Marlene Glickman

My trip to Expo included Louise Cutting's booth with so many alluring bolts of fabrics, all placed in an tasteful and even artful arrangement. She had an interesting piece of Japanese cotton that I believe was sashiko stitched by machine. The background is cream and the stitching parallels the selvage in black cotton. Now I do love sashiko and though I have no interest in creating sashiko that way, I thought the piece would be fun to use for embroidery experimentation. Maybe it accent some upcoming piece, like a vest.

More fabulousness at CLD booth

Louise wearing (A New Dimension) and holding some of her exquisite Japanese cottons
Also inspiring was a fashion show narrated jointly by Louise Cutting and Linda Lee. Linda Lee had made interesting use of some of the older Sewing Workshop patterns including the very first one I ever tried - the cocoon coat. Louise's ensembles were in that casual spring-like Florida styling that is her signature.
Cutting Line Design Samples

THE highlight was getting to see and visit with old and new friends. These are my people. It always reminds me of the first expo I attended. I was not a member of any sewing group at that time, just doing my career-kids thing mostly. My sewing was solitary and almost secretive. But here they all were - my people, my tribe. And each year I get to see some of them at this event.

Today I attended the American Craft Council show in Atlanta. This is always a treat. It features quite a bit of fiber-based art, but then I love most forms of *craft* art.
Wool coat, ACC show. Love the obi-inspired *belt*

So Marcy-Tilton-like.

ACC continues to show more and more fiber art, it seems. There were several wonderful Atlanta-based artists, whose work I have admired in other settings - Karen Tunnel and Lucinda Carlstrom.  And there was quite a bit of wearable art.

Architectural necklaces enhance the B&W theme here

Danielle Gori Montanelli cheerful precision wool felt jewelry

This coat reminds me of Vogue 8934, another Marcy Tilton design
More on the ACC show here.

Monday, March 10, 2014


As Charleston Fashion Week (CFW) approaches, I am preparing, as best I can, to blend in. The first year I just wasn't thinking at all. I brought clothes appropriate for a somber meeting, or maybe Sunday School, but not even Easter. Yes, boring.

When we arrived Daughter2 showed me the runway dresses she and BFF had rented for CFW. You know, thirty-somethings, slim, and going to a party.

Last year I did a little better. Black silk TSW Plaza pants with a black silk shell. The jacket is a soft, sheer High-Five jacket with just the smallest bit of bling. Daughter2 modeled during CFF last year for several of  Charleston's boutiques. You can see here that she loves to ham it up in a picture. Her BFF is in the center.

This year I am getting a bit more serious. I am not slim (still) and would not want to be 36 again anyway. Even if I could dress like Daughter, I would feel silly. So my goal this year is a little bling. Lower case bling. bling that allows a sixty-something, over-weight person to sort of blend in.

After much digging at Gail K in Atlanta, I was drawn to a beautiful purple lace that could go to a party. It was just beautiful. I thought - perfect for grandmother-of-the-bride, perhaps. Not the look I wanted.

Then, just as I was about to give up and buy my old standby - silk dupioni - I saw it. Sitting in the isle. $40 per yard. But perfect.

I really love this fabric. I'm keeping this on my dress form so I can pet it. Despite its appearance, it is really quite supple. It is a sheer black mesh with tiny silver sequins. The black lines that show up in the photo are just the bare single layer of mesh. Tiny sequins are stitched on top of it to create the swirled effect. 

After the salesman cut the fabric for me, he had to sweep the cutting table. Sequins everywhere. He assured me that once the seams were enclosed, the shedding would stop. And, amazingly, he was absolutely right.

CLD's Pure and Simple (PAS) top seemed the best pattern in my stash for a fabric that is really not like any fabric I've ever sewn. PAS has horizontal bust darts, a little shaping at the side seams and shoulder seams. Sadly, it is now OOP.

So I cut out the two pattern pieces. My whole sewing room was aglow with sequins. A customer at Gail K's suggested French seams so as to avoid having the raw edges next to my skin.  I sampled a French seam on a remnant and realized that would not make me happy. Way too bulky. 

So I decided to line it with black Bemberg Ambiance. Ambiance works great with so many fabrics and it was just right to pair with this non-fabric fabric. 

I even had fun assembling it, so as to avoid as much handwork as possible. I love handwork but not on sequins. I stitched the front and back together in the sequined fabric, as well as the lining. Then I layered the face fabric and lining, right sides together, stitched the neckline and turned it right sides out. Easy-peasy. A little crunchy, but easy.

Next I used a variation on the bag-a-jacket technique to sew the sleeve edges together. I pinned the shoulder seams together so nothing would twist as I manipulated it. I reached inside, where all the raw edges were and lined up the sleeve edges, RST. Sewing required two passes.

I trained the neck and sleeve edges over my ham with a tiny bit of steam and finger pressure. (And I understitched these edges by hand later to keep things flat.) More crunching, but surprisingly easy to handle.

To finish the lower hem, I turned the piece inside-out and stitched RST for all but about 5 inches so that it could be turned right side out. Again, easy-peasy, but a little fussy. And I only sewed the last 5 inches by hand.

I had thought I'd wear this with a favorite silk-and-wool jacket that gets very little wear in my very casual life.

Husband pointed out that it takes me right back to the office, or maybe an office party. So I guess I'll have to show my arms. Maybe the flash of bling will make it hard to actually see my arms.

Must remember to stand straight
All in all, I'm pretty happy with my first foray into sewing on sequined, fancy fabric.