Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Love Serendipity—the fortuitous discoveries!

Today I went to photograph my dress so I could show you details up close. I stopped to take a picture of my bird Dolly and then the camera went silent. The battery had run out and I hadn't noticed. Why serendipity? Because usually my batteries would die in the middle of my photographing the Fairfield or Bernina fashion shows! I'm about to travel and might have left with a dead battery! It's charging as I speak.

Happy 90th Mama!
I was photographing a lot lately. Mom turned 90 and I threw her a birthday party. So instead of the dress, here's mom! That's neighbor Trinity with her. Mom was Queen for the day, and Trinity was princess of July Fourth.
Trinity and her brothers decorated the pink foam tiaras using glitter glue, crystals, buttons, fussy-cut fabric flowers, and beads. The sparkle was wonderful! Then someone chose not to bring the birthday cake after all, so I proved my love of color with the strawberry pizza I'd made (recipe on Google) and fortunately I'd found birthday candles on toothpicks. Came out great! Best, happiest, unposed picture I've ever taken of mom.

The store sign was made in secret by her next door neighbor Mike who is so sensitive to her needs. Now just come visit her store at 1610 Cedar St. in Calistoga to make her even happier. She gives knitting and crochet lessons too.

International Quilt Festival, Long Beach, CA
I have so much to tell you. I have ordered my tickets and hotel room to go to the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, CA on July 22. I went to Houston for ten years but I'm not ready to plunge into the big show yet, especially when the Bernina fashion show is no more. I also have to admit that I don't relish getting on a plane. I'm going to attempt the trip by car. Anyone here in N. California who would like to make the trip with me? I have a room with two beds reserved, so I'm ready to go. I've already heard from friends who will be there so for me it will be like going back to who I was before my husband died. I'll be at the Westin hotel if you're coming too though you can likely find me at the show. Did you know that the Chicago version of the show has been moved to Cincinnati, OH? For details, go to

Designing with Julian Roberts
Two weeks ago I took a class with Julian Roberts. Do you remember me mentioning him last year? He's the English designer/professor/rebellious person who has designed a new way of sewing clothes.
These are clothes that look something like Issey Miyake, Commes des Garcons, and Rei Kawakubo styles. I knew from the get-go that this wasn't anything I would wear, but I went because I'd been craving to be among people who know what a seam allowance is. Leslie Gelber and Diane Ericson were in class among many others I've gotten to know over the years. Julianne, for example, won a Threads competition in the last year—see more information below.

We listened to the introduction to this one technique—he has others described in his new book, School of Subtraction Cutting, available for $60 at the Center for Pattern Design: I haven't seen it yet but expect to get it. He also has patterns available—he shows you how he has created specific dresses. I got a kick out of Julian because he's a slim, slight "chap" with an intense energy, very kinetic, and dresses like the "rockers" did back when I was in England as the Beatles were becoming famous—very pointy shoes, slim pants, close-fitting shirt. He creates videos, does graphics, builds websites and then puts out fashion lines and teaches us his techniques. The whole time he's teaching, he has one of his fashion videos running in the background. Wouldn't that be distracting? Not to him, he's of that age where they're used to all the technology and noise. If anything, it made us focus on him that much more.

In an hour or two he had cut and sewn a beautiful gown. After lunch we got to do the same. Look around online to get glimpses of his work and tours (old website) (new website, available only 10 am to 8 pm on Wednesday no matter where you are in the world!) A search on Google brings up more blog comments and photos. He also had samples hanging on the wall which I photographed for you but couldn't get past the sewing machine. Here are two of his dresses:

I had bought a piece of cotton gauze at Walmart, figuring it wouldn't be much to lose and maybe it was something I could give mom. I had picked something heavier as the second material. But as I was about to leave the house, I saw the putty-colored lining fabric I've had lying around for years, to snip off as needed. I regularly will buy something like that for quick experiments or as an interlining. I complicated the process by having one piece longer than the other. In the end, that circumstance added interest to the garment. I don't want to give the technique away though. As a demonstration, in about two hours Julian cut and sewed up a new dress from what looked like two pieces of cotton, one red, one white.

OK, so here he is using his circle technique. Nothing too complicated—you start with your own tanktop pattern then sew edges of two holes together and continue in this way. In the end you have to figure out where's the path for your body to enter the garment. Julian had to help me with mine because I had something like the floating buttresses holding up Chartres cathedral inside my dress. There's just a lot of twists and turns that you don't see on the outside. I put it on and I felt like a million bucks. There are torn holes in the lining fabric, the design features start too low and show off the worst of my body, but I felt like a princess. When I looked at all of us in our gowns, I felt like we were in the wild, wild west—the gowns women wore in saloons, or something contemporary from Japan. Certainly they have the feel of something out of the 1800's and yet are totally avant garde. I just fished mine out and put it on the dress form and the top looks like flapper twenties, but that's because my design started too low and I didn't sew in bust darts. I also want more happening in back so I have to figure out how to do it. These photos aren't flattering—I had put all the excess fabric on my shoulder trying to cover up that I was still wearing my t-shirt. So it looks like I'm wearing a sari. In future I'll show you how it looks with the excess removed.

With the help of Julian's assistant, girlfriend, and fellow artist (a lovely girl), I got photos of the group of students. One of my favorite dresses is from two pieces of red cotton. See what you think. I'm sorry, I lost my record of names so have to go back and get them again. In the meantime, look at the "rose" on this red dress. My other favorite was this slim dress made from Japanese fabrics.

Julian's desire was for us to catch the experimentation bug and to move out of our comfort zone—not just in this classroom but after we left it. Certainly his technique forces you to leave all rules of structured garment sewing behind. He sure got to me! One of my classmates insisted that I should wear the dress to my niece's wedding at the end of August. I've decided to make another one and see how it looks and feels. I'll be trying some "what ifs". I've bought a black and pink floral challis and a rayon with much smaller flowers. I thought the two worked off each other somewhat well—I doubt I could find a black rayon easily these days. I'll know better how I feel about that once I photograph them together. So here goes. Now I'll have to go out and buy new shoes—running shoes and clogs just don't go with the dress! I'll tell you one thing, this process makes me turn my back on working with patterns simply because I don't have to work with anything but my own sloper. There are no fitting issues below the bust.

Julian Roberts did show us how to work with sleeves and pants. Leslie Gelber had brought in a dress she made after last year's class. It was completely out of net and stunning. My photos didn't do it justice. This time she made pants out of a stiff fabric so they weren't quite wearable, but we got the idea of what's involved. It really brought us back to basic shapes of clothing. A tank dress, harem pants, and other shapes you will find in the book, Cut My Cote, or among ethnic Folkwear patterns. Now I want to stop talking and get to my cutting table and sewing machine. I have to sew up placemats but might just get started on the gown first.

I'm busy adjusting my "sari" and that is Julianne on the right. I think she'd taken the class before so this time she made a skirt. Most attractive on her.

That is Linda who makes buttons on the left. The person next to her with a black and silver item is Leslie Gelber with her pants.

And then there's me. Oh drat, I forgot to resize the photo showing our backs. You'd see how the back of my dress is all blah lining but with interesting seaming. Another time.

Sew Boat Retreat 2010
Mary Lou Rankin of Park Bench Patterns has set up a Sewing retreat in San Diego for September 16-19. She knows she's thought this up very late but she's thrilled to get a deal on rooms in a four star hotel. She and her partner, Judy Stinton, will be the teachers. If you've been to Mary Lou's booth at various shows, you know what a wonderful eye she has for combining fabrics and colors. Her designs are distinctive, soft and loose-fitting. You will be staying at the Loews Coronado Resort & Marina located on the Silver Strand Beach in Coronado across the bay from downtown San Diego. Classes will be held in their spacious conference rooms. In addition you will enjoy continental breakfasts daily aboard a private houseboat anchored at the marina. You will also enjoy a field trip to Old Town for a Mexican lunch and shopping for fabric and embellishments. Reservations must be made by August 15th. For more details, go to Judy Stinton: email:
Mary Lou Rankin: email: phone: 619-269-9808

Custom-made Enamel Buttons from Linda Lingren
I asked Linda about her jewelry and whether she made buttons. Oh yes. The backs are finished in a different pattern from the front. These are part of the hydrangea series. She has a studio at the Art Explosion in the Mission area of San Francisco. If you'd like to contact Linda, please write to me in comments and I'll forward the message. Linda was in Julian's class—she's on the far left in the first group photo.

What's to See Online

The Dressmaker’s Art: Highlights From the Bruce Museum’s Costume Collection,” Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, through Sept. 5. Information: or (203) 869-0376. See article:

I can hardly believe this but thought you'd like to see the continuing outrageous ideas in shoes in Japan:

More eye candy from past centuries. This is an upcoming show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915, doesn’t open till October 2:

Go to Julianne Batkin Bramson's website to be reminded of the gown that won her top prize at Threads magazine. (She designs patterns again, so do have a look.) Note she will be a featured teacher at the American Sewing Expo in Novi and is appearing at the American Sewing Guild National Conference in Georgia.

New Japanese Fashion Designers:

The Sewing Workshop has decided to try printing patterns in Plus sizes 1X-5X. They're starting with the Valencia Pants. 1-800-466-1599

California Fiber Artists is exhibiting at the Chico Art Center opening Satuday, July 31, 2010—August 22, 2010. Chico Art Center, 450 Orange Street, Suite 6, Chico CA 95928 Open daily 10-4pm
Reception: Saturday, July 31, 7-9pm Gallery: 530/891-5945

On the Road with Austin & Santino
It’s going to one chic road trip according to TV News from People magazine, "Two of Project Runway‘s most memorable contestants—Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice—are heading to a small town near you for a new show on Lifetime". The show starts July 29 after Project Runway‘s season 8 premiere. It will follow the duo as they 'travel to and immerse themselves in the culture of small towns across America to create new, dream-come-true looks for special women in unique situations'. In the 14-episode series, Austin and Santino will face differences in opinion and demanding clients." Hope the focus stays on the designing and sewing and not the sturm und drung.

Till next time, keep sewing and embellishing—and stop to say hi in Long Beach! Rosalie