Enjoying the chill in the air and dreaming up designs in velvet and wool.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Architect's Gown

Some of my favorite design influences are artists, architects, and furniture-makers of the late 19th/early 20th century. I'm no student of the Prairie School and I couldn't necessarily look at a given structure and tell you who created it; but there is something running through many of the designs from the era that makes my heart hum happily whenever I encounter it.

Now, I promised photos of this gown to you months ago but have run into multiple snags getting it actually ON A MODEL and professionally shot (can't have anything to do with the fact that I initially made it for a model who is 5'10" and a size negative 2!) The gown was displayed at my latest artisan-market-day and I took a couple of minutes during the beautiful sunlit afternoon to snap a pic or two.

click to enlarge

The body fabric is ivory silk dupioni, and the hand-pieced panel down the front is made of a dozen different fabrics from other gowns I've made. Silks, a satin, linens, hemps, bamboo, cotton; all in shades of ivory and white. Each tiny section is outlined with a heavy machine topstitch in ivory to mimic the leading in a stained glass window. This is perhaps the most fun I've yet had in creating a gown and I'm in love with it! One of the things that delights me about this gown design is that the "window" will necessarily vary from dress to dress, as it will be created to specifically complement the shape and scale of the custom-fit gown.

click to enlarge
Now, in related news, I am hard at work designing a completely new gown for the next NotWedding in Atlanta this March! The theme has a bit of a 1920s vibe to it, and my mind is swirling with ideas. I will, however, be taking an entire week off after Christmas to read, write, clean, and organize, and in general clear the slate to begin 2012 with an unobstructed view to the horizon.

Have a lovely last couple of weeks of the year, friends. Practice joy as you celebrate the holidays with people you love (and people you have to work on loving!) As you find yourself overflowing, may your abundance nourish others. As you find yourself empty, may you find that which was meant to fill you. To all of you - Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kids, Puppies, Dirt, and Glossy Catalogs

I often wonder if I'm doing the right thing by bringing more "stuff" into the world. While I see a lot of my sewing work as redemptive - helping people feel beautiful and valued and cared-for, helping rightfully honor and celebrate events like weddings and baptisms that have cosmic-level meaning - I have this current of guilt that sometimes runs through all the self-promotion I do for my work. Encouraging people to buy. Urging people to acquire something. And yes, my clientele are those that are looking to buy already - but that's beside the point.

I read a great blog this morning about the contrast between the joy of an impoverished child and her dog, and the sometimes disturbing marketing techniques of some of the magazines that many of us adore. It reinforced to me that the difference between consumerism and simply valuing quality in moderation has an awful lot to do with what's in our hearts. It reminded me and encouraged me in what I really want to do, whether it's with my hands and scissors and fabric, or with my smile, or with my prayers. I want to live as a conduit of the grace and joy that has been given to me. I want the choices I make to be derived directly from this way of living. If my craft were taken away from me this afternoon - if I lost my arms, or eyes, or words - I want to know that the primary ways that I help create beauty in this world would still be open to me.

And now - back to the sewing machine. I have a quilt for a precious little man that I need to finish up.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I'll be showing a few of my Laurel & Fife gowns as well as several Triggi Designs pieces this Friday and Saturday at the Clothesline Art Show at the St. Elmo Fire Hall. The work I'll be displaying will showcase the use of remnants and scraps as embellishment - one of my favorite things to do, as I use so many lovely fabrics and hate to let the last bits go until I've used them up beautifully!

Petals in various shades of coffee-dyed hemp/cotton weave, on a background of tissue linen...
all leftovers from bridal and baptismal gowns I've made this summer.

Come out Friday night for the artists' reception (with refreshments...hmmm....what shall I make?) or Saturday to view the beautiful work of several local artists and browse for possible holiday gifts or items for your home. Despite the "Clothesline" name, this is mainly an art show, and most of the work represented isn't clothing or crafts. I'd love to see you there!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wedding Dress Alchemy

It appears to be a growing trend for brides to alter/shorten/dye/otherwise change their bridal gown after their wedding day so that they can wear it again for other functions. I've done this before - for a wedding gown I'd created, actually, which got shortened to knee-length and fiber-dyed sage green.

But today's post concerns a wedding gown I didn't make. Hear the tale of the Taming of the Poly Duchess Satin Dress.

The young husband contacted me; he and his wife were moving to Europe, and were paring down their belongings to the bare minimum. She did not have any deep attachment to her wedding gown, and it had had some water damage while being stored since they got married a few years ago. They asked me to see what I could do with it to turn it into a party dress and pretty much gave me free reign on the design aspect.

I told them from the beginning that I wasn't sure if I could do much with it. I've worked a little with dyes before, but always on natural fabrics - which are ever so much easier to dye than synthetics. I knew that this thick polyester satin was going to be unpredictable and perhaps un-dyeable, but since their other option was to give the gown to Goodwill, I went ahead.

First, I cut off several feet of train and a good twenty-four inches off the front hem of the dress, and removed a bajillion layers of tulle from underneath. I left one small layer in for a bit of a swing.

I hemmed it, using a poly/cotton blend thread, and after doing a bit of research, bought my dyes.

Polyester fibers are not like natural fibers at a molecular level, and you can't dye them the same way. I won't go into the whole explanation here, but if you're a geek or a fabric fiend, it IS kind of fascinating (try this article). The more I researched it, the more intimidated I became (because of articles like this one) and also the more determined I was to make it work. As I gathered information, two main pieces of advice kept surfacing - #1. Don't dye polyester. It won't work. #2. If you must dye polyester, use iDye Poly.

So I picked up some iDye Poly in red and violet from my local craft supply place. I wanted to dye the dress a deep wine color, along with a little extra fabric from the train to make into a belt. The plan was to remove the bow from the bodice, move some of the buttons from the back of the dress (they went all the way down the train) and put them where the bow was, and maybe add straps for a nice, simple, little retro swing dress.

It occurred to me that I'd better remove the beaded trim around the collar, because it probably wouldn't take the dye either...which meant ripping it out and then turning the dress inside out to sew the collar back onto the bodice. Not complicated, but tedious and a little nitpicky. (This is the kind of work where you call up a friend and make her come over and have tea and talk to you while you go to town with your seam ripper.)

I washed the dress (gleefully ignoring the "dry clean only" label), which took the rusty water stains right out and ostensibly removed oils and other residue to make the dye job even. Then it was time to dye! I have a cheap soup pot, twice the size it needs to be for any big batch of chili, that has now become my dyeing vat. It was *barely* big enough to hold the dress and the small bit of extra fabric that I threw in with it. I remembered about the extra buttons just in time and tossed some in, worrying a little that they'd stay at the bottom of the pot and melt as I simmered and stirred the dress on my stovetop for an hour.

See how the tulle is dyeing too? I wasn't sure whether to expect that or not. Nice surprise.

It all appeared to be turning a nice reddish plum. When the hour was up, I took it down to our basement where we have a big utility sink and began the rinsing process. It takes FOR. EV. ER. to rinse this stuff out. And I almost lost all the loose buttons down the drain in the process. And I did splash some of the dye ten feet across the room onto one of my roommate's nice white unmentionables, which I ended up dying completely so now she's got nice deep wine-colored unmentionables instead of weird purple-Dalmation-spot ones.

However, as I rinsed the dress, it became patently obvious that not only was the fabric not deep wine colored but actually an alarmingly bright fuchsia, but it was also blotchy. In weird places. There were two spots on the back - at the waist and just under the shoulder blade - that I realized must have been where the groom put his hand as they took pictures together and posed and danced. My pre-wash hadn't been able to get those oils off, and they affected the way the polyester took the dye. There were also random other blotches here and there, noticeable, and not evenly-spread enough to look like impressionistic watercolors. 

Fuchsia. One of the more commonly misspelled colors in the English language.
After careful consideration, I tossed out the ideas of a) creating a lace overlay for the entire dress, b) covering it all with bunchy tulle ruffles, c) re-dyeing it (I had no reason to expect that the dye wouldn't darken/deepen the blotches, too) and d) just telling the couple that the dye ate the dress and burying the poor thing in my trashcan. I hung the dress to dry (it looked worse when it dried completely) and left it for several days while I dealt with other work.

While gathering some materials for another project, I saw small cans of fabric spray-paint and thought, "Well, I've got nothing to lose at this point." I brought home two of them - a bright violet and a deeper purple - and tested them on the extra piece of fabric I'd dyed. Remembering an art technique from my middle school watercolor class, I wet half of the piece of fabric and sprinkled rock salt liberally over it, and then sprayed the paint lightly over the whole thing to see the difference in how the paint worked with the different preparations. Even thought the can says it gives "even application," it most certainly doesn't, but in this case, I was going for MORE blotchiness than I had, so that was all right. After shaking off the salt, letting the fabric dry, and inspecting the result, I decided to go for the wet fabric, with salt, using the violet paint only. I did about three rounds of that on the whole dress, and when I was done, it looked...different. Not quite the watercolor effect I was going for, and still overwhelmingly fuchsia. My roommates took to calling it the Late 80's Barbie Dress, with the electric pink Jackson Pollock thing going on.

So after a few more days of trying not to think about it, I finally went to my fabric scrap bin for inspiration. I had some silky gray ribbon lying next to some gold silk...and the thought struck me. Back to the craft supply store I went, and got a couple of spools of satin cord in shades of gray, and lengths of the same old-gold ribbon in both satin and grosgrain weave.

After lots of cutting and pinning and zigzag topstitching, I had a nice little asymmetrically-cascading garden all over half of the dress. I took the corners of the collar center and folded them open and tacked them in place. I didn't have time to put it on my mannequin or take another photo after I pressed it, because the customer was on his way over to collect it, but you can get the general idea of the finished product! Since it still fits the owner so well, and she looks good in this palette, I'm tickled...fuchsia...with how it turned out.

...But I don't know if I'll ever try to dye polyester again!

p.s. the couple "loved it." No matter how confident I am in my work, that is always a huge relief to hear =).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Laurel & Fife's New Site is Live!


It's finally up! There's a bit of tweaking to come, but the Laurel & Fife site is up and running. Thank you all for your patience and your interest in the work that I have such fun doing =). More pretty stuff on its way soon!


Alaska and clothing I've never seen before

This, friends, is a kuspuk.

Like "cuss-puck." Yep.

Apparently, they were made to wear on top of furry parkas - like so.

I'm with my dad and sister in Nome, Alaska (population 3,500 or so - it's a tiny little place. But Wyatt Earp's old run-down summer house, aka shack, is here - we went inside, even though it's about to fall over) and at the church service on Sunday we saw probably 1 out of every 5 women/girls wearing kuspuks, in lightweight cotton prints, over their t-shirts. It's not really cold here yet, only about 29 degrees in the morning, getting so balmy in the afternoon that I can wear my down vest without my polarfleece jacket on top of it. The garment baffled me a little, since it didn't seem to contribute much in the way of warmth. They do have great big pockets and look a little bit like aprons that cover your arms and your back.

But I can understand the desire to cover up your cold-weather-wear with bright colors. Up here, it makes sense. Most of the houses are painted bright colors...red, deep turquoise, lots of bright sky blue, with contrasting sills and frames on the windows, doors, and eaves. You've got to have some way of relieving the monotony of the snow for the months and months of winter. Especially when it gets to February and the sun comes up at eleven a.m. and goes back down again at three o'clock in the afternoon. Making the most of the daylight with the brightest, happiest colors you can probably augments the effect of the tiny amount of vitamin D one can absorb on the tip of your poor little blue nose as it sticks out of your furry hood!

When I return, I will tell the tale of my latest wedding-gown-turned-party dress, and soon, my latest new gown design will be up in the shop - think silk. Think sleek lines. Think mission-style furniture. I'll see you all when I am back from the Arctic circle!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Postcards from a Scattered Month

Well folks,

I'm doing the last little bit of writing and photo-uploading that we need to do to get the new site launched. It's been a crazy August - here's a little of what I've been up to!

- Getting ready to head to Oregon and Alaska...tomorrow...which I'm STOKED about. I love OR and have a billion friends and family up there that I am eager to see, and the Alaska leg of the trip will be with my sister, my dad, an uncle, and a few people I haven't yet met. I am thrilled to see a completely new-to-me part of the country - and wear winter clothes even though it's still summertime in Tennessee - and spend two weeks reading and looking at mountains and talking and playing card games and whatever else we'll be up to. I promise pictures when we return!

- Juggling what has felt like three thousand small projects - cotton vacation clothing on its way to Hawaii...another delicate baptismal gown for a special little boy...a wedding gown transformed into an almost unrecognizable new party dress...little "lovie" blankets in silky charmeuse and soft minky for another dear new baby in the world...designing a couple of spandy-new wedding gown styles...sourcessnatching moments here and there to edit photos...getting together the official Laurel & Fife mailing list...

- Helping a friend move to Vermont (and missing her terribly), seeing a roommate off on a crazy 8-week wilderness adventure (and missing her too), having an old friend visit (and making up for lost hugs), hosting a fabulous Greek Food Night with the usual girls (and attempting the most ambitious pastry crust I've ever tackled...and having it turn out quite edibly!)

There's an awful lot of "-ing" words up there. However, there has been time for a little reading, resting, chilling, and just being this month, too - even if snatched over cups of tea and coffee just here and there. But my peace this morning was shaken up; not by anything bad, but by the exciting mention of my work over on the Wedding Chicks Blog - so fun! I also have a couple of secret projects up my sleeve that you'll be hearing more about in coming months. 

See you soon - with stories from the Northwest. =)


Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Friends

Lovely peoples,

The new site is still in the works, but I've left you far too long here without an update. I promise that soon I will do a little sketch-to-reality post on my newest creation - probably as my first blog post on the new site! - but for now, some lovely, lovely photos by several of the new friends I made last week in Atlanta at The NotWedding.

First, a stunning little teaser from (once like a spark) photography (click the photo for full article)-

Second, the beautifully evocative portraiture of the long farewell (I was privileged to attend this shoot, and it was truly delightful to see the team in action!) -

This is Caroline, y'all - such a gorgeous, happy, lovely, hard-working, beautiful gal!

The custom veil, belt, and floral hairpiece are by my new friend Jessica at Fine & Fleurie. Major crush going on between me and her work.

Hair and makeup design by the sweet and ridiculously talented and laid-back Claudia Mejerle.

And this is why they call it Hotlanta.

Meet my new friends:
Claudia Mejerle - www.claudiamejerle.com
Fine & Fleurie {Jessica} - www.fineandfleurie.com
the long farewell {Chad & Tina} - www.thelongfarewell.com
(once like a spark) - www.oncelikeaspark.com

Saturday, July 9, 2011



Things are being moved and shifted all around me, and while I still know which end is up, it's all a leetle disorienting. A recap:

  • I've dropped the Clever Fingers shop and name. It served me well, but for several reasons, it was time to move on. You'll notice that it's still in the banner heading of the blog here - I'll get to that in a second.
  • I have a new website being built around my new brand, Laurel & Fife. I'm very excited about this - besides getting away from the unreliable-ness that *ahem* has plagued my current blog, the new website will be much more functional and sleek. (I'll still have a blog because, let's face it, it's not enough for me to post photos and information - I have to gush over how much fun I get to have doing this stuff, and love showing y'all inside looks at how it's done in the hopes that several of you will take the plunge into making your own clothing, too!) Anyway, the site will be going live within a month, so I'm just leaving everything around here as-is until we make the move. I won't just delete this blog without warning, but if you want to know when the new site goes up, you can sign up to be notified at www.laurelandfife.com.
  • I think I can say this again now without squealing and jumping around the living room...I am participating in Atlanta's The NotWedding in a week and a half. "Participating" in this case means "providing the sole wedding gown for the occasion and having a blast at the awesome party that is The NotWedding."

    (....yeah, nope, there were some undignified noises and bouncing in my seat.)

    So - I'm not making the design public yet, but here's a little look at the pattern-making stage of it. 

(Can I just say that water-disappearing fabric markers are my BEST FRIEND at the moment? I mean, apart from my superfantastic Gingher shears you see there, that a friend gave me, that make me giggle when I think about them. Cutting with those things is like buttah.)

So, yes, things are moving and about to move more, but I will keep you all in the loop!

Some links of interest -

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Polished Ivory

And they're finally here - the lovely photos from The Studio B Photography of my hemp/cotton Ivory Wicket Gown at a recent style shoot by Fine & Fleurie! It is such a privilege to have joined with these talented women for so much collective prettiness =).

Seriously, I want to go back in time to 1986 or so and tell that little girl, drawing floor plans and making clothes for her paper dolls (because her mother wisely wouldn't buy her the uncreative preprinted ones), about the real patterns she'd make and real dolls she was going to get to dress up one day!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pink and Purple

A bright and happy custom-made dress for a South Carolinian mother-of-the-bride (I don't wear pink very often, but my six-year-old inner princess has just died and gone to heaven)!

This customer wanted a hot pink dress similar in styling to my Anemone Dress, but with several modifications: a lower neckline, an included self-crinoline, and a pleated sash with three contrasting kanzashi-style folded silk flowers.

Everyone in the wedding party and family were told to wear bright colors. I can only imagine what a dazzling party it is going to be - like flowers everywhere!

(These flowers are so much fun to make, especially if you're using a nice thin silk that finger-creases well. These are three variations I took off the tutorial kindly put up by my friend Deborah of BeeHoney Designs.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hemp and Cotton

This happy bride (look at them glowing!) wore one of my custom Wicket gowns at her recent wedding. She wanted a dress in eco-friendly, sustainably produced fabrics, and chose my gown because of the hemp/cotton outer fabric.

 "Everyone was amazed by the dress at the wedding...
they couldn't believe an organic cotton & hemp dress could be so beautiful!"
- T.G.S., Green Lane, PA

It's an absolutely delightful fabric - not as wrinkly as linen, soft and breathable while still being sturdy and substantial. I love working with it.

Congratulations, you two, and all the best in your new marriage!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

White-Horned K'nutson

After waking up abruptly and groggily from my accidental Sunday afternoon nap, I remembered a project that I've been meaning to do for several weeks. A little explanation - a friend, Wes Murrell, does this hilarious little running comic, Scottish & Farfray, about a knight and a fox who get into all kinds of trouble together. I don't follow a ton of comics, but it's always a good day when there's a new post on the comic's Facebook wall. One recurring character is the White-Horned K'nutson - well, actually, there are several White-Horned K'nutsons, they're a lovely cuddly little kind of creature who keep getting entangled in Scottish's terrible ideas. Here's an example.

And here's what one of the little fellas - Hoover, to be specific - looks like up close -


I couldn't resist making my own White-Horned K'nutson! He still needs a little white highlight in his eye but I was out of white acrylic paint, so I'll add that later.

His handsome little profile.

Avoiding peril on an adventure.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How A Dress Happens

 It has been a month of hard work. I don't have the official photos yet of this recent custom wedding dress job, but I promised the bride a little mini-documentary on how the process went, so here it is for all of you!

First I gathered supplies - fabrics (silk, lace, lining, interlining, interfacing), pins (several hundred of them), and my design drawing and customer's measurements for reference.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Only One Like It In The Whole World

One of the reasons I so enjoy custom sewing is that everything I make is unique. Even when I do several of the same item, say for a bridal party, the custom fit to each person creates enjoyable challenges. Sometimes, to get a dress to look the same on different body types, I actually use very different base templates to generate my patterns. It's a game I play, with no hard and fast rules, to make unique items look like each other.

But often, I have the joy of making something that is really unique - I won't ever make something that looks exactly like it again. In this case, I had an unusual order; to design and make a dress for a beautiful young woman as her Christmas present (from her then-boyfriend! Fellows, take note!)...no inspiration photos or guidelines given, so that I had near-complete creative freedom with it. Yes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

As Others See Us

My dearest oldest partner-in-crime Emily of Red Leaf Photography (seriously. outstanding. photography. See her professional site, Facebook page, and Etsy shop!) just blogged a post about my sewing studio. It gives me giggles, because often, when I'm in there, all I see are the stacks of fabric and pieces of paper with measurements and the umpteen empty coffee and tea mugs I need to take down to the kitchen and enough thread clippings and pins on the floor to set up a fairy knitting factory for life...but she saw between all that and captured several of the little serene spots in all the creative chaos!

Click on the photo to go see the whole thing, if you'd like. =)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fine Linen

I recently had the opportunity to create a baptismal gown for some dear friends of mine. Their first child is five months old, and her baptism was a wonderful celebration with both sets of grandparents and several friends present.

Friday, May 6, 2011


My dear old friend Courtney is visiting, my dear old friend Emily is over too, and we're sitting around talking about what idiots we were in college. I expect when we're all post-middle age we'll sit around talking about what idiots we are now.

And look! A prototype dress I developed (coming out of my fascination with architectural stained glass, Frank Lloyd Wright, and such) and made a few months ago fits Courtney! I want her to live here and be my model.

The bodice is partially pieced and partially appliqued; I'm currently working on a wedding gown design based on this concept, but in shades of white, ivory, and deep champagne (if anyone is interested, I would love to make it for an actual bride rather than my mannequin.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

At the Fire Hall

My "booth" from last Saturday's Spring Market, just before opening. I had a great day, lots of fun talking with people, including the other vendors - no two had the same kind of wares. Looks like it's going to become a regular happening every month or two!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beautiful Age

My great-grandmother Jean Olive passed away in 2002. She was one hundred and two years old, and had battled cancer (skin and colon) for decades. Even with a body so ravaged, she had a humorous glint in her eyes and was tall and beautiful. I remember asking her a couple of years before she died if she felt as though she were the whole world's big sister - older than almost everyone, still in possession of a very good mind and pretty good senses - and she just laughed at my question. "No," she answered, "But I really am enjoying seeing my great-grandchildren as adults. Not everyone gets to see that."

The dress, before I began dismantling it. A strong breath could reduce sections
of it to powder, but the lace border is still quite strong.

I've been cutting up and framing pieces of an ancient wedding gown that was given to me, and from what I can deduce, it was likely made before my great-grandmother was born. I keep wondering about the woman - or women - who wore it, and what their lives were before and after the day that they lived in this gown.

Lovely stuff. It's heavy and rich still.

Thinking about age and use and what it does to beauty - how it can deepen it even as it erases it - always reminds me of one little moment in the middle of Orwell's 1984.

Julia had come across to his side; together they gazed down with a sort of fascination at the sturdy figure below. As he looked at the woman in her characteristic attitude, her thick arms reaching up for the line, her powerful mare-like buttocks protruded, it struck him for the first time that she was beautiful. It had never before occurred to him that the body of a woman of fifty, blown up to monstrous dimensions by childbearing, then hardened, roughened by work till it was coarse in the grain like an over-ripe turnip, could be beautiful. But it was so, and after all, he thought, why not? The solid, contourless body, like a block of granite, and the rasping red skin, bore the same relation to the body of a girl as the rose-hip to the rose. Why should the fruit be held inferior to the flower?

'She's beautiful,' he murmured.

'She's a metre across the hips, easily,' said Julia.

'That is her style of beauty,' said Winston.

He held Julia's supple waist easily encircled by his arm. From the hip to the knee her flank was against his. Out of their bodies no child would ever come. That was the one thing they could never do. Only by word of mouth, from mind to mind, could they pass on the secret. The woman down there had no mind, she had only strong arms, a warm heart, and a fertile belly. He wondered how many children she had given birth to. It might easily be fifteen. She had had her momentary flowering, a year, perhaps, of wild-rose beauty and then she had suddenly swollen like a fertilized fruit and grown hard and red and coarse, and then her life had been laundering, scrubbing, darning, cooking, sweeping, polishing, mending, scrubbing, laundering, first for children, then for grandchildren, over thirty unbroken years. At the end of it she was still singing. 

I have nothing more to add to that, only, that at the end of whatever I am used for in this life, I want to be still singing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sneak Peek for the St. Elmo Spring Market Today!

I'm just about to head over to the St. Elmo Spring Market at the renovated fire hall. My roommate helped me set up my corner and we'll be ready to roll at 10 am when the doors open. I'm debuting several items that I'm very excited about (including a Frank Lloyd Wright dress that I've had on the back burner for FOREVAH), some saucy new big pillows, and a couple of little baby girl dresses, like this one. We'd love to see you there today - the market goes from 10 am to 6 pm and there are all kinds of other amazing vendors (and free lemonade...and free wine and music in the afternoon.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Green

A couple of wonderful people from my church are getting married in a week, and I'm having fun doing dresses for two of the bridesmaids. One of the gals chose my Lula Dress, only we had to match the paint chip given by the bride...which turned out to be a rather daunting task. With no time to order silk samples, we scoured the local stores so we could match the tone in person. We finally found the color in a linen-look rayon blend that gives the dress a new laid-back character (and doesn't have to be dry cleaned, woohoo!) I've got another (very different) dress that'll be in the party, and I can't wait to see how it all comes together with what the rest of the attendants selected for themselves.

We found the right color!

Sorry the green is off a little in this one - that's what I get for taking photos at night! - but you
can see the texture. This fabric is very soft and breathable and will be easy to wear all day long.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


The past several weeks have seen very little finished, and quite a bit in process. It can be royally discouraging when supplier after supplier has none of the particular fabric you need, or the button you've been searching for; when prospective wedding-gown clients decide they'd rather go with a mass-produced dress; when, for all the work you're doing, there's nothing fresh to photograph and nothing new to go up in the shop. Weeks of alterations and hemming.

But these weeks are also necessary; ideas take time to grow, and just being in fabric, fixing old zippers, adjusting straps, and making buttonholes gives the time and space for new thoughts to form while my hands do familiar work.

I stretched out in a chum's yard a couple of days ago, while she planted herbs in long boxes. New, dark spring grass dampened my shirt and chilled my tummy as I listened to my dear friends talking. Pen and notebook in hand, I began drawing ideas out of the ground.

photography by photolodico

Thursday, March 3, 2011

H is for Hedgehog, or, How Many Links I Can Fit Into One Post

I'm finishing up a nifty business planning course and have the opportunity to join in the alumni showcase event held tonight at Chattanooga's Camphouse. I promised a one-of-a-kind pillow and a certificate for custom sewing work to the silent auction, and rather than using one of the many unique pillows in my Clever Fingers shop, I used the leftover bits from my Oscar party dress to make a new one.

I've loved hedgehogs ever since reading The Tale Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle! And this one is all wooly (the gray stuff is from a winter cloak I'm making for a friend.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anatomy of an Inspiration

I have a dear friend who puts on an Oscars party every single year, even if it's only her and her husband - they dress in their best, make a feast, and watch and comment on the show. This year I happened to be visiting them on the right weekend to join in...so, of course, I needed a dress - and I needed it fast. Here's how it all went down.

Monday, 2/21 - What fabrics do I have? Um...mostly tapestries. Hmmm. What patterns do I have? Geesh. None of these seem right.

Tuesday, 2/22 - Oooh. What about that dress I wore to Catie's wedding last summer?

Yes, it was sky blue acetate, but it was vintage, and it fit really rather well. I've been planning on ripping it apart and using it as the basis for a pattern for a new dress. Now seems the time.

Wednesday, 2/23. I'd better get a move on. How about that tapestry left on that roll someone gave me? I think it was leftover from some couch cushions, but hey, I like the colors. Okay. Let's do it.

First we say goodbye to the ancient (well - sixty isn't young for a fabric) acetate-with-fused-on-lace. (This had to have originally been a bridesmaid dress. I lowered the neckline and shortened the sleeves when I wore it.) Then we start cutting it apart. Then we realize that this dress was made from a pattern which Simplicity has re-released as a retro 1960s reproduction, a pattern that I already own but never looked super-closely at...but why try to alter that one when I already have the dress half-dismantled, and know that it fits me perfectly? I'll continue as I began.

Ew. See the stains? I can't believe I wore this.

Then distribute the pieces on the suddenly very small piece (whose idea was it to make a dress out of a mere yard???) of tapestry fabric. Play around with it for a bit. Consider giving up before realizing you'll want the skirt a little less flared anyway. Remember in the nick of time that you need to make sure the one shoulder is on the same side front and back, and that it would really be nice if the pattern matched itself at the seams. Consider giving up again, say some choice words under your breath, and ease everything into place before FEARLESSLY, IRREVOCABLY CUTTING THE STUFF.

There! That wasn't so bad.

Zip it together (love a serger for the inside seams of unlined dresses! No way I was going to line this one on a time crunch - and with a fabric this thick, it didn't need it, anyway.) Panic a bit over how the diagonal cut neckline stretches - fix it by stay-stitching and very slightly gathering it before making facings out of some poly blend linen-look stuff - and, hey, that would make a nice big bow for the shoulder, too, wouldn't it?

Thursday, 2/24 - Take pictures in my cluttertastic sewing room.

The dress fastens under the right arm with an invisible zipper embedded in the side seam. I happened to have one on hand that matched the fabric. (Seamstresses! Are you afraid of invisible zippers? Don't be! They are ever so much easier to put in than other kinds of zippers, once you do a few of them. Contact me if you want some tips or step-by-step instructions. You DO need a good invisible zipper foot for your machine, but once you've got that - easy-peasy.)

Friday, 2/25 - Drive to Charlotte.

Saturday, 2/26 - Help out with a photoshoot of preemie twins (oh my word. Most precious beings. Hard to believe we all were that size at one point.)

Sunday, 2/27 - We had such a good time at the party!

All photos with people in them (except the one of me in the blue) are courtesy of Emily at Red Leaf Photography. Emily is the very cute lady who is great with child in that top photo in this post. The photo of me in the sky-blue acetate Dress of Ancient Magnificence was taken by Natalie at Photolodico, whom we missed greatly and wished were there with us to pile on the snark regarding Oscar fashions.


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