Thursday, May 6, 2010

Turning to Magazines (and Patterns) for Design Ideas

I've mentioned before that I'm an editor. Before Christmas I helped Sarah Whitney polish her first published quilt pattern, Marmalade & Jam, An Artful Sampler.

It's a small art quilt made with batiks. I want to try it once as is, then repeat the pattern until I have enough yardage for a jacket. Sarah was so precise with instructions that I bet even a beginning quilter could manage this one. More details at her website:

Yvonne Porcella is famous for her quilts--and for what she has done for art quilting--as well as her wearable art. I've followed her from way back, when she brought out those simple patterns for vests and jackets in a book with a black background. Then there was all that pastel color and the burning of silk to make fluttering, fray-free flower petals on dresses.
Now, at last, Yvonne has partnered with the Sewing Workshop to present a jacket pattern. Go to her website to see some of her samples of this pattern. It's a roomy, knock-about, light jacket--at least that's my impression. I haven't yet tried it. The packaging is experimental, interesting, but not strictly practical when you try to fold up the pattern pieces and put them back in the container. I'll go back to using plastic kitchen bags. I think the jacket is going to be easy and fun to try. Yvonne gives several variations on closures and ideas for embellishment, changes of collar vs neckline, different lengths, and different pockets and sleeves. She includes pattern pieces for each variation.

I also want to bring your attention to the magazine, Sew Stylish (, put out by Taunton Press Inc. who bring us Threads magazine. Threads brings us wonderful ideas for the more experienced in clothes sewing. Sew Stylish is aimed at those who are newer to sewing. For me it's like a refresher course, reminding me of things I've learned and forgotten. (Do these magazines reach other countries? I wonder. My readers are all over the world so I would like to know if you have access to magazines such as these. Please write and let me know in the comments.)

The Spring issue of Sew Stylish covers a topic I believe in.
Sprinkled throughout are photos from designer runway shows, to show how you can use similar designer ideas in your own clothes. Sew Stylish even explains how to get the effect or the look, which is invaluable information. I collect fashion photos from Elle magazine, Bazaar, and other magazines that focus on the latest fashions. I put them into plastic sleeves in binders so they become a record that's easy to find.

You have to learn to look carefully for designer details in these photos. It's easy to flip through the pages and be distracted by the model, the poses, the backgrounds and so on. But stop and research the clothes--you'll find any number of great details that you can incorporate into your own designs. These photos don't always show the shapes as well, but in making wearable art, it's the details that count for much. One really important thing I found, these kinds of details don't age. I have 20 year old photos and the ideas are still fresh.

For example, in the May issue of Elle, on page 273, you have an image of a cape from Louis Vuitton. For me this would be an interesting graphic design on a jacket or vest. What technique to use? Think about what you know, applique, piecing, painting fabric, shibori dyeing, embroidery, or beading. Color is another element to consider. (I can't show any of these photos because of copyright restrictions.) On page 120 is a photograph of a pair of shoes. They're arranged as a structural, graphic design that could translate into an interesting shape on a stamp or stencil.
Can you see the X shape I tried to emphasize in my drawing? What caught my eye is the colors used, and the proportion of each of the colors. There's a pale lime green and a deep red, held together with tan and beige on a strong black heel. Credit is given to Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere. Here you have a pro giving you unusual color combinations.

On page 162 look at the gray skirt by Yigal Azrouel. First you see texture, then you see interesting lines on the bias.
Now you want to figure out whether those are appliqued strips of tucks attached to a base fabric, or is the skirt pieced from panels of tucked fabric. No matter, you're not out to copy the skirt so much as getting an idea that you can use in a jacket or coat.

One photo shows a dress from Gaultier Paris. The image is small, most of the photo is of the room the model is in. They're balancing textures and proportions. But read the description. This is woven jersey and shantung. You can see enough to know that the vertical strips hang down loose at the hem. I'm willing to bet the more stable shantung is the horizontal white strips, and the jersey is the black vertical strips. Doesn't matter whether we guess right or not--it's an idea that suggests what you can do somewhere in your garments--simply weave together two contrasting colors. Note also the bodice uses narrower strips than does the skirt.

Now that I've suggested this exercise in magazine photos, or from any wonderful designer fashion books (check, I just got some used books I'll talk about another time), look back at the last two blogs I put up. You could do the same exercise with any of the clothes in Rachel Clark's show. It doesn't matter what they did, it's what you think you can do. Note that jacket with photos of Italy fused on the front. At least I think that's what it is. Interesting new idea whether or not that is what she actually did.

Where do you find how-tos on these techniques? That's a major topic for another time. You do have to learn about adding fabric for tucks and other manipulations, how to do various kinds of applique, etc. You might start with Colette Wolff's The Art of Manipulating Fabric, and you should also already have some sewing bible on your bookshelves, like the one from Vogue or Reader's Digest. More on these another time too.

My great apologies to all the events I have missed advertising. I'm in grief counselling now, getting a lot of really needed help that way, and learned that I'm in another stage where it's hard to focus and write. As you see, the classwork is helping me heal slowly. I thought I was fine, just keeping to myself. But I now see that I was shielding myself from various forms of pain. One of them is the fact that people around you don't want to hear what you're going through and prefer that you not talk about it. So once again, hooray for grief counselling. I recommend it to you if you're going through the same as I am. Contact the hospital or hospice near you. Until next time, Rosalie

1 comment:

Margot Silk Forrest said...

Thanks for all the ideas about getting ideas! I really appreciated your walking us through how you use the magazine pictures. I saw those heels in Elle and remarked on their lines and color combo, but never looked at the arrangement of them simply in terms of their lines.