Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On pleating...

Re-posting... for the love of pleating...

I admit to having a healthy dose of chiffonophobia.  You know, large expanses of chiffon move freely when you try to cut them, bias can be an amorphous nightmare, so needle and thread choice, correct cutting, and careful sewing are paramount to success...

I also find it irresistible.

On this project, with some trepidation, I headed into unfamiliar territory.  I knew I wanted to make a sunburst pleated skirt, and I knew who would do the pleating for me, but I had NO IDEA how to plan and cut it.  Because the skirt pattern is a sophisticated circle,  I did not know how to get it to work for the skirt I wanted to make.

I had already scored some fabulous James-Bond-esque golden/black chiffon from Kashi at Metro Textiles, and embarked on the dream.  This is a project you cannot engineer on your own; you need a permanent pleating process to make this work, and I knew just who to call. 

So, I sat down with George of International Pleating.  To do what I did here, you do not need an appointment.  Nope.  All you need is this link, and you can cut it yourself, send or physically take the fabric to International Pleating, and have it pleated.

The wonderful team at International Pleating gave such perfect instructions (with a printable pattern), that this was just as easy as pie to do.  I know, because I've done it.

Oh... and the pattern is FREE.  Yes, I said FREE.


Pleated version, laying beneath the original (unpleated) chiffon.

And the end result is why I couldn't resist the step-by-step instructions for a sunburst pleated bias skirt, provided by International Pleating.

What did I do?

Step 1: I read the instructions.  Note the fabric recommendations, length of skirt, and waist sizes given. You can request help from International Pleating if you need to make something outside of the size/length range provided. The instructions I used can be found here.

Step 2: I printed and assembled the pattern.  Using an ordinary printer. No special equipment or paper required.  The pattern can be found here.



Step 3: I followed the cutting instructions.  Pay attention here - follow the instructions exactly as they are written, for the best possible results.

Pleated chiffon before sewing
Step 4:  I gave it to International Pleating to pleat the fabric.  This is an EXTREMELY affordable service, by the way. $14 per panel for pleating.

I cut my waist out after getting the fabric pleated (I thought I could hang the bias more easily this way) , but if you are at all uncomfortable with properly cutting your waist after the pleating is done, doing it first gives you better accuracy.

Step 5: I followed the rest of the written instructions to complete the skirt.

Step 6: I let the bias hang...


While letting the bias hang, I worried about a "twist" I was worried I couldn't fix at the side seam.

But then I let it hang... and hang...

and hang...

And, because of my busy schedule, it hung longer than I planned, and the side seam "twist" self-resolved!



Awaiting full bias "drooping"!

Step 7: I hemmed the skirt.

A bit of experimentation led me to a rolled hem done with a fine zigzag stitch.  Done here on a test piece on the straight grain,  it gives the hem a bit of a wiry feel, that I wanted to use on this bias hem to give the skirt some energy!  


Step 8: I fell in love with the "dancey" quality of the hem method I chose!


I will wear it over a fitted black stretchy mini-tank dress, that will create my "slip" beneath the skirt. 

Now... Shall we dance?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What I'm reading now...

This is the book I'm DEVOURING at the moment... 


The Lost Art of Dress

Review to follow soon....

Don't bother me -

I'm reading!

Oh, and you can watch the video from CBS Sunday Morning here.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Mood gives you pointers...

I just happened upon this video, which is a great introduction to shopping at Mood for those who have never been.  Check it out!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930's

This is a current exhibit at the Museum at FIT.  Click through the link for hours.  Also note, this exhibit ends soon (April 19)!

When it comes to this exhibits, words fail me for this one.  I cannot adequately express how wonderfully, visually stimulating this exhibit is.  Just go.  It is amazing.  It is free.  It is timely, relevant, and smart.  If that isn't incentive enough, here is my stream of consciousness review...



Fred Astaire's custom shoes, the lovely draped geometry of Vionnet, lovely suits, a sweet and lovely hand knitted sweater... beauty at every turn.  They even took the time to show a woman's garment that is beautifully menswear inspired, despite its technical flaws.  I am so impressed that its value in this exhibit could be appreciated anyway!

Trust me on this one. It is powerful food for thought, particularly in the current US economy, with some historical perspective.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket


Fashion Institute of Technology has done it again! Nestled behind "Trend-ology", which I featured on this blog in January of this year, is another smart, great, culturally relevant, fun exhibit.

This biker jacket exhibit is a small but worthy one, exploring an iconic type of garment in a new, highly aesthetic and practical way.  What I studied specifically and appreciated about this exhibit, was the technical sketch of the standard biker jacket, its features, and the descriptions of how and why a prototypical biker jacket is designed in such a specific way.  Who knew the epaulettes were for holding gloves?  I never considered the assymmetric zipper to be a factor for improving wind resistance, and... assuming you might actually mount a bike wearing one, that jacket needs to be short, needs to have a belt, and those pockets need to zip!

There are also some lovely designer examples to see on display, all worth examining for features and details.  It is a bit-size dose of an education on the biker jacket... and when you're done... head downstairs for another great exhibit.

See my next post for more!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Let's Talk Leather...

If you sew with leather, here are some photos of my recent findings to whet your appetite...

Feels like magic in your hands.

Texturally exciting, and great color...

Rhythmic, erratic shapes that fuel the imagination, and create the illusion of depth and uneven terrain.


North American Tanning Corp., simply called "NAT" for short, is a quiet, cozy, welcoming leather shop that recently appeared on my radar, after a warm invitation from the proprietor, Nick Kamali to come and pay a visit.

And I'm glad I went!

While there is a company website, what you wouldn't know after visiting the site, is that they will serve anyone with a serious interest, whether purchasing small quantities or large ones.  Current trends suggest that most leather shoppers are likely to be doing more accessories, handbags, shoes, custom pieces, home decor, craft items or creations for the hospitality industry these days, nothing but your own imagination what you can create.


North American Tanning Corp.
248 East 35th Street
Suite 505
New York, NY 10001
Tel: 212-643-1702
Fax: 516-808-4015


The quality of the goods is clear.  Simply touching many of the pieces in the showroom reveal their quality.  The pricing is reasonable, with many of the pieces being offered between $4 and $10 per square foot.  Allow yourself to explore the offerings, and don't be afraid to ask for pricing when you see something you love.  One of the great things about my conversation with Nick, is that he knows you need no convincing of the quality of his goods.  You can simply feel it.

The colors and dye quality of the leathers in the showroom is just fantastic.  Nick works with forecasters to establish a season's color palette, but, in my opinion, ask him to show you a color named "horizon", which defies any adjective I can give it.  You'll just have to see it for yourself.

Pay the company a visit.  Don't be shy.  You won't be disappointed. 

And yes... while this blog has explored the idea of sewing with leather before, you really need to know that not all leathers are equal, and it is great to know exactly what you are buying and how to evaluate it before you work with it.  Different places serve different  clientele, and the vendors are as unique as the audience each serves.

Leather does create fear in the hearts of many who have yet to explore, and for good reason.  If you've been dreaming, and have yet to commit, I have listed some classic objections, and links to the answers for your consideration below:

Can my machine handle leather? Well, maybe, maybe not.  Follow the link to understand the considerations you will need to take.  You can also sew leather by hand, if you follow the proper techniques. See the book links below. What does a leather mallet look like?  How/why do I use it, and what other things can I make the leather do?

Are there any books that can help me learn, improve, or evaluate my options on my own?  Where can I take classes?  What if I want to become an expert? (For future reference, (if you read this post months from now, the link takes you to Fashion Institute of Technology's leather program - their links tend to expire over time.)

Are there any special garment district businesses that will help me finish my project?  Sure!  Wanna add closures, studs, sculpt your leather into something amazing?

Where can I buy a leather needle for my machine? There are many choices, follow the link for one of them, but also feel free to visit may other stores mentioned on this blog... there are plenty of places! Where can I buy a leather needle for sewing by hand?  What kind of thread should I use?

Where can I buy leather glue?

You likely knew the answers to those questions already, but if you didn't, consider this post to be your virtual arrow to the businesses and services you need.

Coming to the Garment District? Don't know where to go?

Walking along 40th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, I recently noticed how the food establishments are absolutely TAKING over the block. You can't walk more than ten steps without stumbling across another place to grab a bite.  I ask myself... seriously, how hungry are we?  And more importantly, what are we truly hungry for?

Faster than I could blink an eye, walking between the same two avenues a while later on 37th Street, I noticed how many storefronts are empty or undergoing renovation.  Visiting some of the vendors I have been patronizing for decades now, I can see that only the best can stay afloat these days. Beautiful products abound, and I will continue my mission to help you find them.  The irony of it all is, I have never seen such a gorgeous array of options... but you have to know where to go, or you will exhaust yourself and your wallet with endless searching.  More than ever now, you've got to look "up" to find more places to go!

The weather is changing, Spring is in the air... can you feel it?  And, like the wings of a hummingbird, my machine is humming again.

I now offer  the Speakeasy map to anyone who wishes to purchase one.  (Follow the link, for more info) Complete with names, addresses and special offerings from my go-to sources of sewing-related products and services, this map will help you narrow down your choices to something more manageable and specific to your needs.

Constantly being updated to include my newest finds, this map will help you find special spots of your own.

You may also opt to join me on a future Speakeasy tour, request a private tour, or just contact me for information specific to your own needs.  I'll be happy to help.

Will there be more Speakeasies?  Yes, you can bet your sweet patooties there will be... Schedule to follow soon!