Monday, May 29, 2017

Truly, Madly. Deeply - Rei Kawakubo

Part of the "War" grouping of pieces.

Where do I begin? Let's see...

Okay, let me begin by saying that I love Rei Kawakubo like nobody loves Rei Kawakubo.  We have a history, she and I.  I wrote (and kept) a paper I feverishly, passionately wrote as a high school student about her work and the magic I felt when I first viewed it. I went to this exhibit this weekend, with my kids in tow, and again, melted at the sight of her beautiful work. My son, not nearly as interested as I, sat just outside of the exhibit (for a great reason I will explain in a bit), and my artist daughter navigated the space by by side... well... kinda.

This exhibit is hardly navigable.  It requires you to squeeze through uncomfortable spaces, peer at important work through strangely shaped cubbyhole openings, gaze up uncomfortably from strange vantage points you must find on your own, and repeatedly murmur "excuse me" as you weave through the crowd.  

I had to ask myself, was Rei Kawakubo (if asked) happy with this layout?  My son, while completely respectful of my interest in it, opted not to join this tangled crowd to see the work, as it just "isn't his thing". (Well, that, and he really came along for the skateboarding opportunities in Central Park afterward...) What he did do (on his own), was pay very close attention to the reactions of the people who were coming out of the exhibit.  People were endlessly questioning why they didn't even think to put arrows on the floor, to give some guidance through this maze.  While it was (still is) a holiday weekend, did they not anticipate that it could be a bit crowded?

So there are what were most photographable among the pieces we saw:

This piece, while interesting to me, reminded my daughter of the "Turtle Shirt" skit from Saturday Night Live (below)

Scattered among the exhibit, were these titles... giving a bit of food for thought, with descriptions as cryptic as cryptic could possibly be.
Each section of the exhibit was labeled with a similarly contrasting title, like the exhibit map  below:

Reminded my daughter of an Ellen Degeneres act...

A folded, newspaper-like map and explanation of the "scenes" were handed to the guests upon entry.  I would have benefitted from a printed summary or video to introduce the ideas, so that I might have some time to digest it a bit before viewing.  I really don't think this exhibit could have been considered self-explanatory.

Birth/death/marriage were all presented with an artistically somber tone...

And... I am so happy that this work is also intended to amuse, because my daughter, a teenaged artist, who is also HILARIOUS, gave me a million reasons to laugh as we stumbled through the space.

"Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between" examines nine expressions of "in-betweenness" in Kawakubo's collections... It reveals how her designs occupy the spaces between these dualities - which have come to be seen as natural rather than social or cultural - and how they resolve and dissolve binary logic."

Mission accomplished.  I wholeheartedly endorse this exhibit.

I just think there should be direction arrows on the floor and an printed intro or video on the wall to help orient the visitors.

So... in a nutshell, see it.  If you have a curious mind, a giggle in your heart, and a moment to spare, just see it!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Leather: Whether friend or foe (faux!), you'll find what you love there!

It was a simple visit to a leather vendor I've visited before. I knew what to expect.

Or so I thought...

I stepped into the showroom of NAT Leathers, a beautifully organized and welcoming office and meeting space, with an exciting stocked shelved section in the rear room. I was warmly greeted by Nick, who was happy to show me the wonderful pieces his space had available.

As eye candy, I share these with you:

Metallic faux leather

If you could touch this, you would consider it "hand candy" as well.

Clearly, I had misunderstood the possibilities of the world of "faux" leather.  I remember as a teen, that faux leather was something to be made fun of.  Inferior in quality, look, performance, durability, and lifespan, it was considered a cheap imitation of a superior product.  It was for "posers".  But no longer.

NAT's product range includes high end faux leathers. "How do your faux choices compare to the real thing?" I asked.  Nick's answer? They perform as well, if not better, than real leather.

And when it comes to real leathers, there is so much beautiful product in this space, that you will just squeal with delight (as I did) when you see the range of weights, textures, finishes, colors, and softnesses (if  that's even a word).  It is a wonderful adventure.

A "polka dotted" optical illusion?

Sparkly "disco" leather!

Lots of textural excitement!

Beautiful colors to custom order...

So, what's all this leather for?  Accessories, clothing, shoes, home dec, upholstery, hospitality... you name it.  On trend, budget-friendly, and wonderfully curated color palettes.  Custom orders and bulk orders are welcome, as is the small quantity shopper.

N.A.T. Leathers 
248 West 35th Street Suite #505
New York, NY 10001

Call 212.643.1702 for an appointment to meet with one of the team, or to inquire about bulk pricing.

Did I find a few gems?  You bet I did!  Then I hightailed it to SIL for leather thread and leather needles, to Manhattan Wardrobe supply for glue, and to Daytona for a special trim.  I'm in creative heaven! 

I've spoken at length in the past about shopping for leather in the garment district, sewing with leather, and I have shown you some personal projects I've explored/made.  The tools and assistance you need are right there in the district to help get you going (think Botani, Lou Lou, Star Snaps), and, if you are motivated and brave enough, trust me, you can create what your heart desires. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Not dead...

Just insanely busy.  

Will update very soon with positive news and fun things!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Speakeasy maps - updated and improved - and... what does the future hold?

As the district changes, so does the blog, the tours, and the maps!  I'll chronicle how it all changes over time, and I am excited to do just that!

This weekend is for speakeasy map updates.  Going through and refreshing descriptions of stores.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Today's news...

“Today is about beginning a long discussion, first about urban manufacturing in general, then about garment manufacturing in particular,” Borough President Brewer said.

A New York Times article reports on the future of the district today. Side note, George, the owner of a garment district business I adore, is quoted in the article.

And, where do we go from here?  This is an industry I love, but have no personal financial investment in, to be frank.  My passion for the making of sewn items doesn't give me any permission to insist that my favorite haunts remain in the same square of city blocks I have so thoroughly enjoyed for the past three decades of my life...

Hmmm... I can get on a different subway train, or even DRIVE, if the new spot is parkable. Why are people insisting on this space, when it is no longer supporting the businesses who are struggling to make it work? 

I'm starting to think... why are we/people so averse to change?  Is this really such a big deal?

This article touches on that point, while giving no concrete examples...

What do you think? Visit the Facebook page for more discussion, if you are so inclined.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Men of the Cloth Documentary Film and my "Yodic" conclusion

Reposting - (originally written 2/14/16)

Yesterday evening, I ventured out into the wet cold wilds of Manhattan to attend this event at FIT:

And wow, was it worth it.

The weather was indeed uncomfortable, but the theater was, by comparison, cozy...

Let's start with the film.  Within the first 20 minutes or so, I feared that it would make me cry, much like so many documentaries about disappearing (don't say "DYING"!) industries do, but I was actually able to appreciate the beauty in the stories of the men featured within it, their lives, and their chosen vocation/calling.

While the film focuses on men's custom tailored suits, and the artistry and specificity of the skill set required to do it well, the implications for the industry are much broader.  Interestingly, what the documentary seems to omit, are the significant social and cultural changes which necessitate the changes to the industry.  If there is no customer willing to patiently respect the time, skill, value and rarity of the skilled hands needed to achieve such beautiful garments, frankly... there is no future in it.

To my surprise, though, the film left me feeling hopeful, with a strong dose of healthy realism as well.  Much to my delight, the viewer sees the stages of custom suit production (best case scenarios), from measurements, to pattern-making, to cutting, to a "raw try on" fitting, to basted construction fitting and a completed garment.

When the Q&A portion began, the questions asked and information shared by the expert panelists were definitely thought-provoking.


A film like this one can only be born of love for the subject and its characters.  During the Q&A, one of the panelists refers to the workroom as an old, dirty basement, to which she enthusiastically countered "I LOVED that basement!" I deeply admire the choice to pursue a topic that is so unique, and with, what I assume, is only a fanatically interested/dedicated niche audience appeal. The commitment this endeavor must have required alone is worthy of applause.

Master Tailor (essential main personality featured in the documentary)

Where do I even begin with this one?  You'll have to see the film to appreciate the level of commitment, skill and love he has shown to his vocation.  When I spoke with him briefly following the Q&A, he made a statement that spoke directly to my heart,  "To watch the film, you would think everything I make is perfect.  It is not. I aim to do the best, but it is not like all I ever do is perfection."  It thrills me to hear this,  and to know that despite many years of careful, diligent practice, it is indeed true, that, in his words "You are always learning." His dream?  To open a school of tailoring to teach people from a young age, to create custom suits.  Why young?  Because you need to start young to really have time to develop the skills.  But learning is a difficult, serious, and time-consuming pursuit.  How can a person do this without earning money?  Frankly, one cannot.  And it wouldn't be fair to them.  Serious investors are needed to make this work.

A subject that arose several times during the film and our discussion was the prospect of American made, hand-tailored, factory-made, beautiful suits, and American made materials with which to make them.  When Frank Stella (a client) refers to Corvato's work as art, we listen. And along with that, the recurring question of how to pay salaries commensurate with that effort, skill and experience.  How do we get there?  The question still hangs...

Rory Duffy 
Master Tailor

Full disclosure: the man has an accent to die for.  Side note: In a quick conversation with him after the Q&A concluded, he mentioned having taken elocution lessons here in the States since, before taking them, no one could understand him.  I tell you now, the man could read a phone book to me, and it would be mesmerizing. But that's not what we're talking about, is it?

His credentials are quite impressive, and include an invitation to the White House to applaud his contributions to education. A creator of bespoke suits for men and women, he invites us all to view to his YouTube videos on coat making.  Oh, did I mention his beautiful accent?

Obadiah Mazo (he is introduced later in the article linked to his name)
Pattern Maker

Head pattern maker at Martin Greenfield Clothiers, Obadiah is building his lifelong passion for pattern making and drafting - the less sexy (i.e. not design), but truly crucial parts of the industry. When describing the daily challenges of his role, he hit upon an issue I often tackle and see in my own professional life as well.  A design that has not taken into consideration all of the elements that make it a functioning garment (meaning BOTH the front AND the back, closures, fit elements) is not a DESIGN.  The "design" remains an idea until these things are fleshed out. There is a notion that the patternmaker will devise /create/invent the rest, which seems to pervade the industry, but, make no mistake, the designer must present a full design for his/her instructions to be carried out.

Menswear Blogger

One of the smartest comments of the evening, included his mention of "the endangered master/apprentice relationship", and its contribution to the disappearance of the serious pursuit of tailoring as a profession.  Perusing his blog this morning, I happened upon a lovely piece he wrote on the promise of an American woolen mill, a subject I happen to know a bit about, having once been an employee of one of the companies he mentions. 

Master Tailor

A pure passion for tailoring led him to an apprenticeship under master tailor Joseph Centofanti in Pennslyvania.  His story is beautifully portrayed in the film, as the viewer witnesses how BOTH natural ability and painstakingly pursued skill are shaping this young master tailor in his craft.

As the evening wrapped up...

During the Q&A, one voice in the audience asked, "This profession seems to be exclusively portrayed as one for men and boys.  Aren't there tailoring schools for girls?"  There were several answers to this, but I feel I know the answer in my experience.

When fitting a man for a suit, you need to be comfortable doing so.  You need to understand whether a man "dresses" left or right,  what that means, and have a basic understanding of anatomy, and what a man needs to be comfortable, moving around in his suit.  These requirements are different for men than they are for women. I think a person who has worked primarily with one sex and not the other, is not likely to have a firm understanding of this distinction. To be fair, this was not the answer offered by the panel.  The overall answer seemed to be that the profession was more often pursued by boys at a young age, when women are generally not likely to undertake it.

Also addressed during the film, was the importance and guidance anatomy lessons can provide a tailor when trying to understand and become acquainted with the human form. I feel strongly that anatomy lessons should be REQUIRED learning for tailors and designers who seek to create fitted/sculpted garments.

My takeaway?  

My favorite coat (my personal Yoda/Issey Miyake inspired coat), before buttons.  The dress form is not the best way for my coat to show herself, but I am simply not willing to do a coat selfie. 
All of this brings me to my point/Yoda quote, when it comes to tailoring: "Do (learn) or do not (learn).  There is no try."

Note: There is now a tailoring supplies map as well...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Garment District News...

Today, the New York Daily News is alive with stories about the garment district.  If you follow this link now, you will see that among the top articles listed there, at least three of them are about various aspects of my favorite part of this city!  Been talking about this stuff for a while, but it is great when news organizations get on board, too.

As always, my passion for the industry lead me to thinking... "What can I do?" Actually, and realistically, it may not matter what I do or think, but it is a good place to start.

Here are the few things I will do:

  • I will continue to buy supplies, use the services, and share what I know about the district vendors with others. And yes, I will continue to lead tours and provide maps.

  • I will continue to make stuff.  Not just stuff, but great stuff! I'll share when appropriate, and something I think might have a broader appeal.

  • I will continue to make the things I could easily buy very inexpensively using the labor of likely underpaid, poorly treated staff.  Even if I don't know who/how it was made, if I make it, I can guarantee that no one else suffered to make it.  (Although, I still can't say that about the fabric). 

  • I know every bit of creativity and labor it took to make it, and I will value it more as a result.  

What will others do? What will businesses do?  What will the industry do?  Only time will tell.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's that booth with a button got to do with me?

Updated, since much of this information has changed since I wrote this post on 5/12/12.

Here's the new link.

If you have wondered why that official-looking kiosk sits there on the corner of 39th Street and 7th Avenue, and then walked right past it, wondering "What's that booth with the button got to do with me?"... Well, here's your answer. A whole lot, actually. Daunting as it may seem, it is there to serve the professional, the aspirer, the student, the hobbyist - anyone with questions about where to get anything related to the industry in the garment district. You may just learn that there are plenty of ways you can improve your projects, or simplify your projects just by finding the right business or service provider. Today, I walked in, rain soaked, and asked my question. "Do you know of a company that will fuse interfacing to fabric? Just a small length, for one garment?" "Hmmm..." said the cheerful young woman at the desk. A few keystrokes, and she handed me a list of 21 businesses in the garment district. The only drawback is that they are addresses, short descriptions, and contact info, so we only know that they all do some sort of fusing, but there is still additional legwork for me to do to find out which business is the right contact for me. Since you can't really expect to drop in on most of these places, you do need to go home to do the homework/research, but hey - so much better than doing your own Google search, right? Using this service effectively requires you to know the correct terminology, and be patient with the answer(s). There are so many possibilities, fabric types and manipulations possible, that their resource database is VAST, and only YOU know what you need, your budget, and what type of business you want to work with. The best part, is that when you do research the companies, you end up exploring paths you never even knew were available to you. Who knew pleating, shirring, smocking, and jean stressing could be done just for you, just for one project, too? They also give you a free, lovely Fashion District neighborhood map, listing the restaurants and other common needs in the area. This is ideal for the tourist, but it does feature many of the true garment district neighborhood haunts. The Fashion Kiosk... Click the link above for more detailed information. So, in a nutshell, the booth is great. Step inside... but this is New York, folks... Have your question ready. And use the right terminology. No guessing and sentences filled with "You know what I mean?" No one's got time for that.

Here's the booth as of yesterday (10/9/15)

Months of construction.  Vacant for now.

Oh well, you can always buy a map instead!

On pleating...

Re-posting (from 4/23/14... for the love of pleating...)  Note: I still wear the skirt.

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?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Exhibits to see...

While it was my intention to go to a museum exhibit today, my belly has prevented me from doing so.  Instead, I have a cup of tea at the computer, waiting for my insides to settle down, so I will try again once I feel better.

Spring in NYC seems to always turn my attention to beautiful museum exhibits.  There are so many alluring ones right now...

Here are some to get excited about - both current and upcoming!

Museum of Art and Design:

Handmade Fashion in American Counterculture

Judith Leiber handbags

Upcoming later this month: Fashion After Fashion

Museum of the Moving Image:

Teen Digital Lab - costume design

Cooper Hewitt Museum:

Scraps: Fashion Textiles and Creative Re-use

Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Antique Textiles and Modern Design

Museum of the City of New York:

Online Exhibition - Worth and Mainbocher

Museum at FIT:

Upcoming: Force of Nature

Merchant's House Museum:

The Merchant’s House collaborated with 3D modeling firm PaleoWest Archaeology to create an interactive 3D model of the two-piece spring and summer cotton dress, 1862-1865 (MHM 2002.0840), on display through April 29, one of the 39 dresses in the Tredwell Costume Collection. The model allows the viewer to look at the dress from all angles and zoom in on details. In the coming years, as each dress is displayed, we plan on creating similar models of dresses.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NYC Fabric Store Review: Paron's Fabrics (revised) - now closed

In an effort to clean up old information on the site, I am revising old posts, and adding new, relevant information for those seeking what these old businesses once offered.

Looking for the Paron experience?  I suggest Fabrics and Fabrics (for fashionable beauty and variety), B&J (for quality), Metro (for price and unexpected finds) and Elliot Berman Textiles (for designer fabrics).

 Paron has since closed.  The post below was written on 3/5/08.

Address: 206 West 40th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-768-3266
Hours: Monday -Thursday 8:30 am - 7:00 pm; Friday 8:30 am - 5:45 pm; Saturday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm; Sunday 11 am - 4pm
Online store: Manhattan Fabrics
Best for: the 50%-off deals in the sales annex

Reasons to wander over to 40th Street in the Garment District for a visit to Paron's:
  • The staff is a friendly, cheerful bunch. They're eager to help you pull bolts off the shelf, and they quickly came to my aid when they saw me walking around with my hands full. I appreciated that they gave me a little extra fabric with each cut.
  • You don't get that claustrophobic feeling you can have in some garment district stores. You know, that any minute you could get swallowed up in an avalanche of falling fabric bolts, never to be heard from again. In the main part of the store there's plenty of room to unravel bolts and play with your fabric.
  • The sales annex part of the store features some great bargains. I spent most of my time in here marveling over the wide variety of fabrics and the wallet-friendly prices. 
  • Paron sells Kwik-Sew and Burda patterns. They also carry the latest BurdaStyle magazine, though while I was there they only had the plus-size edition.
  • The assortment of fabric they have per square foot is pretty amazing—there's a little bit of everything, from silks and wools to cottons and knits. Wonderful prints and colors. And I appreciate how their labels identify the fabric content and the RTW company who produced it.
This store has a happy vibe. When I was in it I felt proud to be a woman who knows her way around a sewing machine. Sounds dumb, but you'll see what I mean when you visit Paron Fabrics in the Garment Center. (By the way, it's pronounced "pear-in.")

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Netflix delight...

I'm not in the business of promoting Netflix series, but this I do straight from the heart.  It requires both your visual and auditory attention, so you can't really watch while you work, but it is well worth it.  Trailer below:

Do you appreciate a good drama?

Beautiful cinematography?

A love story?


A war story?

A historical drama?

Beautiful clothes?

Unexpected sewing, designing, and dressmaking wisdom?

Imitations of Fortuny's technique, and inspirations from Schiaparelli?

If you have Netflix streaming, watch it.  If you don't speak Spanish, read the subtitles - I assure you it isn't tedious.  A really wonderful series.

Where to find coutil in the garment district

** Reposting (From hundreds (600) of posts, it is silly never to repost, right?)

We get stuck on names and labels for things. Armed with sewing books, dictionaries and lexicons, we scour the district, searching every store for the thing we've been told we need...

Coutil (or Coutille) is woven cloth created specifically for making corsets.] It is woven tightly to inhibit penetration of the corset's bones and resist stretching. Coutil has a high cotton content. Cotton has good dimensional stability, or a resistance to stretching, which makes it a good choice for such a stressed garment. Coutil may be made to be plain (similar to 100% cotton facing), satin, or brocade. It is common for coutil to have a herringbone texture, or a similar woven texture.
- from Wikipedia

Order coutil via mail from Richard the Thread or Farthingales

"Do you have any coutil for sale?"

Fabric store employee (annoyed):
"Cou- wha?"

Coutil, when sold specifically by name, is a firmly woven cotton with a herringbone weave, used for foundation garments.  

That's why no one knows what you are talking about.  

The fabric is specifically designed for use in corset-making. Can't find it? You'll have a hard time finding a good substitute, although some poeple use duck or twill when they only want to mimic the look of a corset, and not necessarily rely on its functional role in a properly made corset. Word on the street is that it has no equal. It is strong, it breathes, and not many other fabrics will serve as a suitable substitute.

So, where do you find coutil in the garment district?  In my experience so far, you don't!  Order online from Farthingales or Richard the Thread, but get the rest of your supplies right here in NYC.

Now, once you've got the  right supplies to make your garment function as it should, get as fancy as you like with supplies to make it beautiful from some of our favorite garment district haunts:  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Let's Talk Leather...


If you sew with leather, here are some photos of my recent (2014) 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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fabric has no expiration date...

***Note: This post is particularly funny, as I had rescheduled it for a time when I just knew it would have been turned into something great... and, as of today, it still hasn't! (further proving my point?)

And thank God it doesn't...

Heaven knows I'd be swimming in a sea of "expired" fabric by now, if that were true.

But... let's say you bought some silk fabric years ago, that you just loved, but never fully committed to a project? Well, you take this beautiful, irregularly striped fabric, and hand it over to International Pleating, to make it magical.

Tight, mushroom pleating takes those stripes to different textural magic (below)... but, creatively paired with its unpleated version (above), 

 it becomes...

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On being REAL...

Just this past weekend, I attended a wedding (reason for the dress in my recent post) where the above passage was read to my friend, the (mature) bride by her mother. Total tearjerker! 

At the reception, I talked to a Silicon Valley professional tech-savvy person (another close childhood friend's husband), and asked him "So, what is it that you ACTUALLY do?"  His patient reply gave me serious food for thought.

"Well, in a nutshell," he said, smiling, "people hire me to make  jobs go away." (He's a systems engineer)

He went on to explain that ANY job a person currently does that can be done by a computer, or automated in some way, eventually will be.  People will be replaced wherever they can, and that's where the future is headed. Hmmm... So what can go away?  What can't?

The things/functions that are currently done as jobs by human beings, which can be broken down into facts/stats/data and analyzed will go away.

"But what about creative professions, and the things you can't measure?" I asked, confidently.  After some really engaging conversation, I offered the example of clothing design.

Well, here's the thing.  There's the practical side of things...  We all understand the purposes of a basic t-shirt.  Versatility, color, fit, softness, and durability are all considerations, but, frankly, a computer program can analyze your preferences and suggest a t-shirt for you to buy that will likely be better than anything you might have chosen or described on your own. Technology is already proving that. Now, we can't quite account for things we haven't yet seen, innovations, and functions/features we haven't yet thought of, but the foundation has already been laid.

So what's left? Well, tech jobs, for sure.  Did you know that English is the primary language of 75% of internet users? Also, the things computers can't do, like sort through trash to find things of value. Problem is, the types of jobs you NEED people to do are generally also the lowest paying. Then, there are things that HAVE to be felt, lived, experienced in person.  In real life. For me personally, that is the tactile experience of making things with my own hands, and the things and feelings that effort creates, for myself and for others.

Sure these thoughts had occurred to me before my conversation at the wedding, but I really look at my clothes in a deeper way now.  Too much in my closets and drawers, I only want to own what makes a difference, and multi-season wear is vital. I am starting to genuinely dislike and eschew excess, and among my friends and family, the rejection of excess seems to be a growing trend.  Not only that, when you consider your purchases more carefully, what you are willing to spend changes, with quality and beauty becoming your focus.  This way of thinking, I feel, is more respectful of the marketplace, of yourself as a consumer, and of the enterprise or individual maker (especially if that person is yourself!), as a business.  I also no longer expect, require or seek anyone else's approval or permission to create or wear anything of my own choosing!  Maybe I'm just a grownup now.  Who knows?

I look in the mirror now and see the person I am, not anyone else's idea of who I am or should be. REAL. Some grey hair, a little extra weight/softness here and there, some wear and tear... but not too shabby (grin)...

Versatility, uniqueness, beauty, comfort, practicality, ease of wear and laundering have all become primary considerations for my clothing now.  The things that don't meet the requirements can go to charity.

In this deep thinking mode, I looked online for a TED talk or something similar, to help me process the abrupt quicksandish-seasick feeling that conversation left me with - but I saw nothing that jazzed me enough to watch.  It all feels ego-driven, feel-good, "you're the greatest!", when what I wanted, was something else ... something real. 

So I fired up my sewing machine.