My Week with Susan

Would you mind terribly if we just skip right over the fact that I haven’t posted a single thing in 2 months? We can? No explanation or excuses necessary? Great, thanks! Moving on…

Last month, I spent six glorious days sewing with and learning from couture dressmaker and teacher Susan Khalje and an amazing group of sewists.  Yes, I’m a lucky gal.  Every year, Susan comes to Houston (and other places across the US – check out her website for more details!) for a week-long couture class and I was fortunate enough to get to attend. I followed the always-brilliant advice of you lovely readers and started working on my own version of the Tadashi Shoji dress that I so adored. While I haven’t finished my project yet, I have made wonderful progress and Susan helped take my dress from hypothetical vision to nearly completed reality.

My inspiration - a dress by Tadashi Shoji

My inspiration – a dress by Tadashi Shoji

Getting to brainstorm with Susan and the other sewists was such a treat. I never could have come up with the solutions that they provided. Here’s a brief overview of my week and progress so far:

On the first day, we went over everyone’s projects and plans for the week and then went fabric shopping at High Fashion Fabrics here in Houston. It didn’t take long for me to find the perfect black guipure lace and a dusty rose silk dupioni. I was actually going back and forth on the color of my under layer – I couldn’t decide between nude (like the original inspiration) or emerald-green (my favorite color).  While reaching for a bolt of green silk, I sat the lace down and it just so happened to land on top of the most beautiful pink silk I’d ever seen.  I think I actually heard angels singing.  So, pink it was!

Silk & Lace

I originally had a muslin made using the Colette Peony bodice and a half circle skirt, but we just could not get the bodice to fit at all. I see now why every other blogger in the world warned me about fitting the Peony. In the end, we took out all four front darts and Susan draped it on me to get the perfect fit. We ended up doing two vertical darts on each side of the bodice.

If you look closely you can see the vertical darts in the bodice

If you look closely you can see the vertical darts in the bodice

She also draped a new a-line skirt for me since the original half-circle was just too full for what I wanted.  We cut out a rough version of an a-line skirt in silk organza.  Susan then pinned the sides together and used a piece of elastic tied around my waist to hold the top of the skirt in place.  She altered the shape of the waistline to give it enough volume at the bottom.  A straight waistline will give you volume at the sides – Susan described this like a paper-doll skirt.  A curved waistline gives you pretty waves throughout the entire skirt.  Once we had a shape we liked, she drew the waistline on the organza in pencil and I marked the side seams and voila!  A perfectly shaped a-line skirt!  (Thanks to Roz at Sew Much Fabric for this action shot!  You can find her shop at http://stores.smfabric.com/StoreFront.bok and her blog at http://www.smfdesignsandfriends.blogspot.com/)

Photo courtesy of Roz at Sew Much Fabric

Photo courtesy of Roz at Sew Much Fabric

Susan taught me how to ensure the lace was lined up perfectly on each pattern piece. I was lucky enough that the seams in this particular lace were not very noticeable, so I didn’t have to do any piecing work – that looks so daunting.

Skirt bands

Skirt bands

My skirt laid out as it will eventually look

By the end of the week, I basically had the entire dress completed, but in pieces. I recently finished slip-stitching the lining to each of the two bottom bands on the skirt and now I can start putting all the pieces together. I still have a lot of work to do, but it’s all pretty straight-forward from this point on. I can’t wait to show you all the end result!

My dress laid out (minus the sleeves)

My dress laid out (minus the sleeves)

My week with Susan was full of drafting, sewing, learning, brainstorming, making mistakes and finding fixes.  It was the most fun I’ve had in ages.  Getting to escape life and distractions and immerse yourself in what you love is truly the most healing experience ever.

Although I’m still working on this dress, I did take a break to complete an instant-gratification project, so I’ll post that very soon. It’s great to be back – or as Robert Earl Keen says, it feels so good, feelin’ good again.

Shoji vs. Papell

If you follow me on instagram or twitter you already know that I’ll have the opportunity to take a week-long couture sewing class with Susan Khalje next month.  We’ve been instructed to have a muslin made of our project so Susan can fit us and we can work on the final garment in class.

I knew that I wanted to make a dress to wear to my company Christmas party this year, and when I found this gorgeous Tadashi Shoji dress at Nordstrom, I was immediately inspired to make my own:

Source: Nordstom.com

Source: Nordstom.com

Today, I was getting photos to put in my sewing planner when I happened across this little beauty by Adrianna Papell:

Source: Nordstom.com

Source: Nordstom.com

Notice any similarities? 

I mean, really!  The Papell dress has a slightly lower neckline, a slimmer belt and matching rather than contrast lining…other than that, they’re identical.  How does that happen?  Are these brands linked and I just don’t know about it?  When does imitation become a problem in the fashion industry?  I couldn’t find anything online about the similarities of these two dresses, but surely someone has noticed.

This has presented me with quite the conundrum.  The Tadashi Shoji dress is over $300, which is why I was planning to make my own version of it.  But the Papell dress is almost half that price.  I seriously doubt I could purchase the fabric I want for much less than the cost of the Adrianna Papell dress. 

So, do I continue with my plan to make a T&C version of this dress even though I could probably buy it for less?  And if I do buy the Adrianna Papell dress for the Christmas party, then what do I make during my week of couture classes with Susan?

I did just buy V8902 and am excited to make it, so I suppose that could be a good project.  And I can always use more work dresses. 

V8902

Still, the thought of planning out the Shoji dress with those sheer strips was intriguing, and I’d love to have Susan’s help with techniques that I’ve never used before, like working with lace.  But I feel a little foolish about making an imitation of a dress that I could purchase for less.

I need your input sewcialists!  Please help me decide what to make next month!

Watercolor Elisalex

Guess what?  I finally have pictures of my Elisalex dress!  I finished this frock back in April but never photographed it…what a naughty blogger I’ve been.  The timing worked out well though – it will be quite some time before I finish my Gatsby dress, so it’s nice to have something to show you in the mean-time.

Without further ado, here she is…my lovely Elisalex:

ImageI’m quite pleased with this little lady, I must say.  

You’ve no doubt noticed that this is not an Elisalex as God and By Hand London intended it to be.  “What happened to the lovely bell-shaped skirt” you ask?  Well, I’m a fashion chicken.  A clothing wallflower you might say.  Once I finished the original skirt, I felt too out of my element (and my husband’s reaction of silent confusion sealed the deal)…so I hacked it.  This is much more me – much more subtle, understated.  Call me a wuss.  Go ahead, I can take it.  But I know me, and I know that this version of the dress will actually be worn.  

ImageOk – time to gush.  I am in love with the bodice of this dress.  It is, without a doubt, the perfect bodice pattern.  The princess seams are super flattering, and there’s no need to fuss with dart placement.  The wide neckline and slightly lowered back are sexy in a subtle way.  It’s just the right amount of fitted – not too loose, not too tight – Goldilocks would feel right at home in this baby.  

I have every intention of using this bodice for several more dresses.  I definitely want to try an Elisalotte (Elisalex bodice with the Charlotte skirt) – I’ve been oohing and aahing over the ones I’ve seen so far, like Helen’s and Zoe’s - although technically Zoe used a different pencil skirt pattern, but it’s the same idea.

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The fabric is home-dec fabric from High Fashion Home here in Houston.  It is 100% Cotton, and I believe it’s called Florinda Aloe from the Dransfield and Ross collection.  I was drawn to the colors and the abstract floral print.  It’s fairly light for home-dec fabric, but turned out to be the perfect weight for this dress.

Like others have said, the instructions were a dream to work with, and the packaging was so beautiful.  The girls at By Hand London have really got something special going on.  I can’t wait to try out more of their patterns.

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I underlined my skirt with silk organza to give it more stability – which would have been necessary if I had kept the original skirt.  Even without the bell-shape, I prefer underlined skirts for the added opaqueness and the ability to have a completely invisible hem.  I slip-stitched the hem to the interfacing so no stitches are seen on the right-side of the dress.

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I also did a hand-picked zipper, as usual.  I know it’s a couture technique, but I really do it because I find it much easier than a machine-inserted zip.  Win-win!

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The zip looks a little wonky here, but it’s not, I promise. I just didn’t take the time to position it correctly for pictures. There I go being naughty again!

I haven’t worn her yet, but Elisalex will be accompanying me to a friend’s wedding in a couple of weeks.  I’m very excited to take her out on the town.  I can tell we’re going to be fast friends!

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The Making of a Sewist

Today my dear friend came over to visit and we whipped up a new skirt for her!

Tea for Two

Tea for Two

She’s going to a music festival in a couple of weeks and wanted a bright, fun skirt for the occasion.  Since I’m going through a huge tribal phase right now, we headed to Spoonflower to check out their tribal prints and found the perfect one here:

Tribal Print FabricI coached, but she did all of the sewing herself!  She did such a great job – this skirt turned out beautifully.

Sewing

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Learning the importance of pressing!

Learning the importance of pressing!

Check out these seam finishes:

Seam Finishes

Someone needs their own sewing blog, amirite?!

We ended up doing a dirndl skirt with an encased elastic waistband – sweet and simple to let the print take center stage.  Ready to see the finished product?

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I’m so proud of my friend and her mad sewing skills.  We had so much fun we decided we weren’t quite done when we finished the skirt, so we made her a matching headband too :)

034I love sewing dates with friends!

 

 

Back from Ireland!

My husband and I just got back from our trip to Ireland!!!

I finally made it!

I came home to over 300 blog posts to catch up on!!  So this will just be a quick photo-dump post to share some of my favorite pics from the trip.  Everywhere we went I just kept saying, “Oh my gosh! That’s so beautiful!  Wow!  That’s SOOO beautiful!  Holy crap!!  Look!!”  I knew Ireland would be beautiful and perfect and amazing but I didn’t expect just how much I would fall in love with it.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Adare Manor

Ireland May 2013 130

Ireland May 2013 142 Ireland May 2013 165 Ireland May 2013 169 Ireland May 2013 193Can you spot the dolphin?  His name is Fungie and he’s famous in Dingle.  He greets all incoming ships!  He was adorable!!

Ireland May 2013 280 Ireland May 2013 288 Ireland May 2013 291 Ireland May 2013 296 Ireland May 2013 324 Ireland May 2013 341

This was a much-needed vacation but I’m glad to be back home and am ready to catch up on my sewing.  I’m ashamed to say I didn’t get ANY beading done on the plane ride…shameful I know.  Something about an 11 hour plane-ride just makes you want to sleep and watch silly TV shows right?  Anyway, I’m glad to be back on the radar and I’ll be commenting away on everyone’s posts…you’ve been warned!

Award Season

Not to sound like a broken record, but you gals make me feel so lucky to be a part of your community – you’re welcoming and inspiring and just all around wonderful!  These blogging awards are such a fun way to share the love – and receiving one makes me feel like doing cartwheels down the hall.  I recently received two awards, so I wanted to do a quick post to answer questions, etc.

Amy at sewamysew nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Amy is one seriously creative and talented chick – just check out her Peony and her rockin’ Elvis print scout tee, two of my favorites!

liebster

I was also named in Brooke’s Very Inspiring Blogger post!  Brooke’s blog, Custom Style, is inspiring and always full of helpful tips and tricks.  In her most recent post she shares where to find her favorite (affordable!) tracing paper – go check it out!

veryinspiringbloggeraward

Since I did a Liebster post not long ago where I nominated other blogs, I thought I would just quickly answer Amy’s questions – because that’s such a fun part of this whole process!  And don’t forget to check out Amy’s post to find some really fantastic blogs that you might now know about yet.

Amy’s questions were:

1. Why do you sew?

Two big reasons: 1) I love the alone time that sewing offers.  It’s such a great way to unwind and de-stress.  2) I’ve developed expensive taste in RTW clothing.  Sewing gives me the opportunity to take inspiration from big designers and create my own, customized, affordable version of those garments.

2. What gets in the way of your sewing time?

Being a wife and having a full-time job definitely cuts into my sewing time.  Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, errands….I honestly can’t remember the last day that I didn’t leave the house at least once to run some sort of errand.  I need to plan ahead so I can have an un-interrupted day of sewing soon.  I deserve it by golly!

3. What is in the background when you sew?

Either Pandora radio or reruns of a TV show or movie that I’ve watched a million times so I won’t be distracted – Firefly reruns are most common.  Shiny!

4. Project you are most proud of?

Until a couple of weeks ago, this would have been my Settle Down dress.  Now it’s my Mom’s housecoat.  I love using vintage patterns and this one fit Mom like a dream without any alterations at all!  I loved getting to use two coordinating fabrics, and those sleeves were gorgeous…it just turned out exactly as I had envisioned, which is not always the case.

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5. Biggest project fail?

Faux leather skirt.  Leather-printed upholstery weight vinyl forced into tons of pleats…enough said.  I still can’t believe I talked myself through this entire project, refusing to admit defeat until the very end.  Aye!

6. Tea or coffee?

I’m assuming we’re talking hot beverages here, so COFFEE.  I can’t survive without my morning cup-a-joe.  I never developed a taste for hot tea, but being a Texas girl, I was raised on sweet iced tea!

7. Sewing aspirations or goals?

Better seam finishes.  I always rush through seam finishes because they just don’t interest me – then I hate that they’re not done properly.  But…if I were to be completely honest here…my REAL sewing aspiration is to make an exquisite, intricate evening gown.  That’s what really gets me excited and inspired…I just have no need for one so that will have to wait!

8. Favourite tool?

The waxed tracing paper that Susan Khalje mentions in her Couture Dress craftsy class.  I always hated tracing paper until I found this stuff – it’s a dream to work with.

9. Favourite pattern?

This is a tough one.  I’ve never made the same pattern twice so I can’t say I have a “go-to” pattern.  I really enjoyed making the Sonja dress and the Minna blouse though, and I intend to revisit both of these patterns in the future.

10. Describe a happy memory that tells us a bit about you?

The first thing that comes to mind isn’t one particular memory, but a collection of them: memories of my childhood, growing up in the country: spending my days climbing trees and riding horses and playing outside with my brother – never hearing traffic or police sirens, just birds chirping.  I didn’t know how lucky I was back then!

11. Who do you want to win The Great British Sewing Bee final next week????

Yikes!  Since I’m so late in answering this one, I suppose I should say Ann :)  I did grow very fond of Ann – how could you not???  But Lauren’s accent had me entranced, so I was honestly rooting for her after Tilly went home.

veryinspiringbloggeraward

Now, The Very Inspiring Blogger Award Rules are:

  • Display award image on your blog page
  • Link back to the person who nominated you – go to Brooke’s blog, Custom Style, now – GO GO GO!  You’ll be so glad you did!
  • State 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award – I’m going to send you to my Liebster post and my blogroll on the side of this page for great blogs.  I don’t want to single out 15 because I follow so many more than that and they are all inspiring!  (yes, I realize this makes me a chicken and no fun at all, and I’m ok with that)

Ok, 7 facts about little old moi:

  1. I am ambidextrous.  I write left-handed…sports-related actions are done right-handed…I can sew, paint my nails and apply makeup with both hands.  It’s a quirk that definitely comes in handy!
  2. My parents had always planned to name me Kacie, but when I was born they suddenly changed their minds.  I spent the first two months of my life as Kelly Renee before they decided it just didn’t fit, so they had my name legally changed back to their original plan.
  3. My hometown has a population of 1,500 people.  We have one stop sign, a post office, and a general store which is now quite famous for their steak dinners on weekends.
  4. I now live in Houston, the most heavily populated city in Texas and the fourth most populous city in the United States!  Culture shock much?
  5. When I was a child, I had a pet sugarglider named Clairie.
  6. Growing up I basically watched two types of movies: black and white musicals with my Mom, and westerns with my Dad.  My friends are constantly disappointed at famous movie references from my childhood years that I should know, but don’t.  I’m constantly disappointed that they don’t know who Ginger Rogers is….
  7. I’m runway trend shy.  It takes years for me to jump on the bandwagon for trends, and some I’ll never accept – rompers, for example.  After the age of three, the only one-piece outfit I’ll be wearing is a dress, thank you.

Whew that was more difficult than I expected.  Thank you again Amy and Brooke for naming me in your award posts – you girls are fantastic and I am THRILLED that you like T&C!

Quick progress report: My Elisalex is finished and just needs to be photographed.  I have two Laurels that are half-way done (but won’t be finished in time for the contest, drats!) and I’ve purchased the fabric for my Gatsby dress.  Keep an eye out for these posts soon!

Happy Birthday Mom!

This weekend I visited my parents and was finally able to give my Mom her birthday gift!

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I made her a 1940’s housecoat using Advance 2170.  This was originally intended as a Christmas gift, which is why it’s such an awfully WARM housecoat.  But, both my Mom and I constantly run on the cold end of the spectrum, so I’m sure she’ll still get some use out of it before the 100 degree summer days hit.

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Mom and Dad are retired and live on several acres of land.  They love to spend their mornings drinking coffee on the porch, watching the wildlife in their backyard – they seriously have a little piece of Texas heaven.  Mom always wears a housecoat on these mornings, so I decided it would be nice to give her a fancy vintage one.  I inherited my love of the 1930’s and 1940’s from her, after all.

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This project took much longer than anticipated – mostly because I decided to hand-stitch the entire lining into place!!  But I am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out.  I seem to do my best work when sewing for others.

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Check out the pleated sleeves!  That’s my favorite detail – and Mom and Dad’s too.  Dad ooh’d and aah’d over Mom in her new housecoat a little bit :)  She does look elegant, does she not?

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My husband had the sweetest suggestion – I should hide a note to Mom in the robe.  It was originally going to be hidden in the lining, sort of as a secret blessing/wish for her.  But…I forgot!  In the end, we decided it would go inside the pocket, just stitched across the top so she could pull it out and read it whenever she wanted.  Mom was so touched by that little note – it made this gift even more special to her.

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She adores her robe, and I’m so happy that I got to make something for her that makes her feel special.  She IS the most incredible person I’ve ever known after all!

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