Sunday, December 5, 2010

Farewell to Autumn

Well, it's almost Winter now, and time for all the holiday craziness. This December I will be attempting to take my driver's license exam for the first time (ugh) in between all the rest of the things that life throws at you this time of year. The weather has finally changed in my little warm corner of the world, and the trees are in brilliant Fall colors!
The Etsy shop has been doing booming business (October-December is probably mu busiest time sales-wise) and so it is starting to look a little bare! I have been chugging along on this rather complicated tailoring project for the last few weeks (I had a big nasty flu somewhere in there, which sapped my will to live let alone to sew for a while). But this week I finally put on the finishing touches and it is ready to meet the world!
This little wool jacket went through a mock-up stage before the final product was actually underway, to assess how I liked the fit and style, which direction I wanted to put the pleats in, how long the hemlines should be, and that sort of thing. The fabric is a lovely blue and white herringbone shot with multi-colored threads ( I used a brown version of the same fabric for the "Irene" capelet a while back) and it is lined in a blue lining fabric that I had in my stash leftover from my big final project in couture sewing class when I was in college (ooh, about 10 years ago, now). That project caused so many tears on the day it was due, as while I was giving it a final press before turning it in the iron melted one of it's long sheer organza sleeves! Ugh! I am still heartbroken!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fabric primer!

I work part-time in a locally-owned independent fabric store, where I am closely involved with the customers on a daily basis. Often I find that when people ask for or describe a type of fabric they are looking for they use incorrect terminology, which is certainly not their own fault and mostly comes from being unfamiliar with fabrics and their construction. So what is a clothing shopper to do when they encounter fabric terms they are unfamilar with? Do you know the difference between "silk" fabric and "satin" fabric?
Here is a quick primer in fabrics that you might see specified in my work and elsewhere in your clothing shopping adventures:

Woven: When fabric is woven it is made from threads interlaced like those potholders you used to make in summer camp. A set of threads is stretched out across a loom and another thread is literally "woven" through them. Over-under-over-under... etc. Woven fabrics are not stretchy unless they contain an "elastomer" like lycra (also called "spandex") or rubber, and even then will only have a small amount of stretch. Woven fabrics include satin, twill, denim, broadcloth, calico, taffeta, velvet, etc.

Knit: Knit fabrics are made with needles locking a single long piece of thread together over and over again like a chain. This is why when you get a snag in your sweater or pantyhose they unravel all over the place, because cutting that one thread undoes the entire structure of the fabric. Knit fabrics can be quite stretchy without the need for an elastomer. Knit fabrics include jersey, french terry, ribbing, velour, stretch velvet, and your standard-issue T-shirt fabrics.

Animal fiber: anything made from an animal product. Wool, silk, alpaca, etc.

Plant fiber: anything made from a plant or tree product. Cotton, linen, etc.

Man-made fiber: Broadly, anything made through chemical processes. "Synthetic" fabrics include polyester, nylon, and acrylic and are generally petroleum-based. "Cellulosics" include rayon, tencel, lyocell, acetate, and bamboo (word up! bamboo is not straight off the bamboo plant!), and are generally made by processing paper mulch, sawdust, or waste cotton until it's a squishy goo and forming it into fibers. Vegan but often not eco-friendly.

Blend: often fabrics are made from threads that use more than one type of fiber. This lets you get the qualities of both fibers in your fabric, or helps to reduce costs. Cotton is often blended with polyester to help prevent wrinkles. Wool is likewise blended with polyester to help bring down the price. Lycra is a huge deal these days, and it's nearly impossible to find a pair of pants that doesn't contain a small amount of lycra to help them fit a little nicer and return to shape after you sit in them for a long time.

Microfiber: I use this rarely, but you see it a lot so I thought I would point it out. Microfiber is always made from a man-made fiber such as polyester. Microfiber simply means that the fibers that make up the threads are very fine and narrow compared to standard polyester fiber. Thus the fabric is quite soft and drapes nicely and is often used to clean glass and plastic because it won't scratch the surface easily. All true microfibers are man-made and vegan. "Wool microfiber" is not truly microfiber, it's just degraded wool.

Cotton: Everyone knows what cotton is, right? Well, not really. A lot of people call a fabric "cotton" if it is soft or if it is stretchy like a T-shirt. But cotton is a plant fiber that can be made in to many different types of fabrics. I often use "quilting cotton" which is a smooth, non-stretchy, mid-weight fabric with a print on it, or "broadcloth" which is a similar fabric but in a solid color, for linings in my jackets, shrugs, and vests. They also make great shirts, dresses, skirts, you name it. Heavier types of cotton include "twill" (usually a solid color or print) and "denim" (usually woven with two colors of threads, like the fabric blue jeans are made from) which both have a subtle diagonal weave pattern to them that you can see if you look very closely. These days cotton often has a bit of lycra in it to add stretch. I almost always use cotton twill for my corset linings, and another heavyweight cotton called "canvas" or something similar for the interior structure of the corset. Cotton is a plant fiber and is vegan-friendly. Here is a cotton from my shop.
and Another

Linen: Another plant fiber, linen is often slightly slubby or very smooth and crisp. Linen wrinkles easily when it isn't blended with another fiber, and the industry (hand to god) calls them "status wrinkles". As in "I can afford to not care if my clothes are all wrinkly". Because of this I usually like to use linen for tops and jackets, but generally not for skirts or pants. Linen is vegan friendly. Here is a linen.

Silk: This is the #1 word that people use when they are trying to describe a smooth, lustrous, often diaphanous fabric to me. It is almost always NOT what they mean. They mean "satin" or they mean "china silk" but they do NOT mean actual silk. When I say "silk" in my listings I am referring to 100% silk fibers, made from the cocoons of silk moths. It can be smooth and shiny, or slubby, rough, and otherwise textural. Silk charmeuse is a satin fabric that is very shiny and soft. Silk habotai is lightweight and airy, but not shiny. Silk shantung and dupioni both have streaks of slubby texture running throughout the weave, and are lustrous and stiff. Silk noil (pronounced "noyl") or "raw silk" is very rough and slubby with a soft drape and no shine. Real silk is rather expensive. Silk is made from animal fibers, and is not vegan-friendly. Here's an example of silk.
And here's a silk satin
And here's a silk dupioni.

Wool: Wool is made from the fur coat of sheep. It can be woven or knit in to many different types of fabric and can be found in a lot of different qualities. "Suiting" is usually a smooth, flat, wool used for jackets, skirts, pants, etc. "Wool flannel" has a soft brushed finish. "Wool crepe" has a slightly crinkly look. I love to use wool. Most of my wools are blends, simply because 100% wool is rather prohibitively expensive for a lot of things. It is often blended with polyester or acrylic (both man-made fibers). Obviously, wool is not vegan-friendly. An example.

Satin: This is usually what people are talking about when they think of "silk". This is a slick, smooth, shiny fabric that you often see used in formal wear, wedding gowns, the linings for jackets, etc. Satin can be lightweight and drapey, like charmeuse satin, or heavyweight and firm like "bridal satin" or "duchesse" satin. A common heavyweight satin that is slightly dull rather than brightly shiny that I like to use is called "peau de soie" (pronounced Poh-Du-Swah). Satin is made using a special weave that creates the shiny effect. It can be made from silk, but is often made from polyester, acetate, or another man-made fiber. It can also be made from cotton, in which case you will sometimes see it called "sateen". In my listings I will specify either "silk" or "polyester" in my materials list, and I never use acetate satin because it deteriorates badly with age. Satin can be vegan-friendly if made from synthetics, but can also be made from animal fibers, so make sure you read carefully if that is a concern for you. Synthetic satins are generally low to mid-range in price, silk satins can be VERY expensive. Here's a satin in the shop.

Taffeta: taffeta is a stiff, formal wear fabric that makes a nice scrunching sound when you rub two pieces of it together. That "swish swish" sound is called "scroop" in the industry and is supposed to be a mark of quality and opulence. Taffeta can be made from silk, polyester, nylon, and sometimes acetate. It can also have a bit of lycra in it to make it stretch slightly. I usually use only polyester or silk taffeta, and again it will be specified in the listing. This one, just like satin, can be vegan or not depending on fiber content and can vary in price likewise. A taffeta for reference.

Pongee: soft, lightweight, often polyester. Rarely silk. Used in linings more than anything else. Not shiny. Here is a pongee under-layer In white) with a chiffon over-layer (in green)

China silk: lightweight and slick. Can be 100% silk or polyester (polyesters tend to be shinier). Often used in linings. Real silk China silk is often called "habotai".

Chiffon: sheer, lightweight, and drapey. Can be silk or polyester. Totally see-through. Usually seen in clothing with a layer of something opaque underneath it. This one in the shop is a jacquard woven chiffon.

Organza: sheer, stiff, not drapey. Used a lot in home decorative projects and in formal wear. Can be silk or nylon/polyester. Also totally see-through.

Velvet: velvet is a fabric made with little extra threads that stick out from one side of the fabric and give it a soft, fuzzy texture. It can be woven or knit for stretchiness. Synthetic fibers like acetate and polyester are the most common velvets available, but silk velvet (which is actually a silk blended with rayon) are also available and are softer and more luxurious. Stretch velvets and acetate velvets are the least expensive velvets, but even they are rather difficult and expensive to produce and are in the mid-to-high range price-wise. Silk velvets can be quite expensive as can some of the better quality polyester microfibers. "Cut" or "burnout" velvets have designs etched into the fabric though the fuzzy pile to expose the base fabric underneath. Velvet made from cotton is called "velveteen" like the rabbit. Here's a burnout stretch velvet and some regular stretch velvets.

Brocade/Jacquard: Woven fabrics generally made in synthetic or silk blends. They feature a design (flowers, crosses, etc) created through the weaving process. Often people will call these "embroidered" but they are not (embroidery is added to fabric after it's already finished. Brocades and jacquards have the design woven right in to them). Expensive to produce, brocades are often spendy fabrics, and are usually found on corsets and formal wear. If you want to tell if your fabric was jacquard (pronounced "juh-card") woven flip it to the wrong side. The design should still be visible, but in reverse, like a photo negative. Here's a brocade.
Also here.

Polarfleece: Always ployester. Thick, soft, stretchy, very warm, sometimes made from recycled soda bottles and the like. You probably have a jacket made out of this. Or a blanket. I use it sometimes for shrugs. You also see it used a lot in stuffed animals, fingerless gloves, etc. Doesn't unravel when you cut it so it's pretty versatile. Here's a shrug in polarfleece.

Anything I didn't cover that you want to know about? Let me know!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Autumn already?

Amy scallop skirt
Originally uploaded by I Will Fly design
I don't know about you, but I was flabbergasted to realize that it's the middle of August, already. Where does the Summer go?
Everyone is turning their thoughts to Autumn fashions and Fall styles and I feel like I haven't even gotten started on Summer stuff, yet!
Luckily for me, this cute little number is pretty appropriate for the changing seasons (or is when you throw on a cardigan, anyway. I should mention that it was REALLY hot when I took these pictures! That's why I'm not ready for Fall yet, because it's still air conditioner weather!)
I promised myself that it wouldn't take me a whole month to post another item to the Etsy shop, and I succeeded but only *just*! To be fair to myself, the skirt has been completed for almost a whole week, but I wanted to make a quick petticoat to go under it for the photo shoot. And *then* I had to wait until I had a moment free in the afternoon in which I could take pictures! That's always the tricky part, especially when you're working multiple jobs and have a sick husband in the house (he's better now!)
This skirt is a variation of an "infinite gore" style. The scallops were inspired by a photograph from the 1950's I saw on-line and then I changed things up by turning the side panels in to big, deep pockets. Skirts never seem to have pockets and even pants have pockets that are just too small! So, this is my solution to the problem.
The fabrics were chosen quite simply: they are what I already had on hand! In this age of cutting back and reducing/reusing I decided that I needed to use up some of my "stash" of fabrics before buying more. You may recognize the striped fabric in the scallops as left over from the apron in this skirt:
The petticoat (which you can see here: ) was made from silk habotai that was once again hand dyed by my fabulous mother, Hilary. I enjoy the challenge of creating something from fabrics that I may not have chosen otherwise and I'm pleased as punch by the results of these sewing experiments.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

hot summer nights

Whew! Well, I don't know about your neck of the woods, but here in central California it is Hot Hot Hot! We spend an awful lot of our time eating ice cream and sitting directly in front of our woefully inadequate air conditioner until it finally cools off enough to open the windows at night.
In that vein, I created these sweet little jammies, which are blessedly light-weight and perfect for the gal who would really rather not wear clothes at all this time of year.
My mom, textile artiste extraordinaire, recently gave me this swirly blue silk habotai she had been experimenting with, bemoaning the fact that it wasn't as cool as she thought it was going to be. Well, I loved it. It reminded me of hot Summer vacation days when I was growing up.
We lived in an old farmhouse with no air conditioning to speak of (none at all!) and the temperature would regularly top 100* during the day. At night mom would let my sister and I pitch an old mattress with sleeping bags out in the back yard. We would sit and talk and play stupid games and listen to my sister's little aqua-marine plastic stereo until late in to the night. It's one of my happiest memories from childhood.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Step right up!

For a while now I have been pondering the "circus" aesthetic. This is a subset of... some variety of dress-up fashion. Anyhow. I have long been intrigued by all things carnival related and circus inspired, so it was a natural fit.
The only problem was, I couldn't figure out WHAT it was. The style. What it was supposed to be embracing. I looked at a lot of artwork and even some other people's fashions that were supposedly "circus" themed, and all I got was a sense that no one was agreeing on the look they were trying to achieve. I saw a lot of stark black/white combos that looked basically "gothic" or "lolita" like. I saw a lot of brightly colored things with neon flashes and striped hoo-has. After a lot of searching it seemed as though "circus" was basically just "steampunk" but with more color.
Well, not one to follow anyone else's ideas of what's what this is what I eventually decided to make. It's my nod to the carnies and ringmasters of the good old days. I would like you to imagine me standing in front of a yellow gypsy caravan while I play my mini accordion here. I would also like you to imagine that, instead of the tuneless honking that I illicited from said musical instrument, that I was instead wailing away on something more like this:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

howl, winds, because she is dead and gone, gone, gone

I find a little variety in my sewing essential to keeping it interesting. If I had a job where I had to sew the exact same thing over and over I'd get bored pretty fast. With some things, stockings and panties and such, I try to spread out the construction process as much as I can, only making a few at a time, or it gets old FAST!
So, for the sake of mixing things up a little I have been experimenting with making hats.
Making hats is fun, sure, but I will tell you what, it will never be my full time gig! It is so SO so much work! This bonnet, here, has been in the works for quite a while. First I had to draft the design and experiment with materials until I found the right blend of techniques to create it. After that I set to work on this lovely black silk dupioni fabric that had little beads stitched into it at every pin-tucked point. It quickly became obvious in my pre-production experiments that the materials required to make the brim stand out in a nice stiff arc would mean that every single bead needed to be removed from the outer fabric and sewn back on by hand after construction.
Tying this little number under your chin with a black ribbon seemed obvious, but after putting all that silk and all that effort into it, I just couldn't bring myself to using polyester ribbons (most satin ribbon is polyester). Instead, I went all-out and bought lovely double-faced silk satin ribbons to tie it with.
After a week of construction I was faced with the final challenge: hand sewing the lining into the hat. This is where I bogged down. I have an amazing knack for distracting myself with other things when I really should be working on a project. I made a couple of bindi. I mopped the bathroom floor. I spent too much time reading Mental Floss online. Finally, tired of looking at this thing on my ironing board, I knuckled down to it yesterday and polished it off, lining, beads, and all. I felt terribly accomplished!
In case you think this was the first and only time I have managed this procrastination-a-thon, I must admit that I have another black silk hat in the works (a pill box with peacock-y teal lining) that I have managed to "work on" for the last two years, now! It's all hand sewing, and all in awkward ways. And to top it off, I am reinventing the wheel as I go along because classic millinery materials are just not available the way you might like them to be these days.
Just remind me that my next project needs to be less experimental!

Friday, April 23, 2010

An actual blog post! Oooh! Ahh!

What with medical issues and general life-getting-in-the-way issues, it's been a VERY long time since a new and interesting thing got made around here. In my copious spare time (ha!) I've been working on these terribly boring wool vests for my husband but while I would like to say it's all his fault that nothing is getting sewn I am afraid I must admit that it's my own problem.
Anyway, for the first time in over a month I actually felt like sewing something this week, but I had limited time to do it in so I picked a quick and dirty project that I knew I could make fast and feel accomplished at the end of (I have a top I have been "working" on for about three months now. It has become one of those endless projects that you never seem to finish and eventually stop caring much about).
Several years ago, in another lifetime almost, I bought these darling blue and white striped "ticking" sailor pants. I was really quite chuffed about finding them. This was before the current trend for nautical fashion, but I have ALWAYS been a fan of nautical styles! Maybe it's my sailor blood. Who knows. Anyway. They were full length and had little zippers down the sides of the legs with silver anchor-shaped zipper pulls. Unfortunately those cute little anchors broke off the very first time I washed the pants.
After a few good years of use I realized recently that I simply didn't wear them that much anymore (they had a strange tendency to bag out at the knee, anyway) but that they were in too fabulous a condition to get rid of (besides, I love them! You can't just throw away things you love.)
So here is my solution. In order to give the pants new life and a chance at a new owner who will love them just as much as I did I figured they needed a little face lift. I hemmed them up into shorts and designed this big metallic red anchor applique to add a little extra seafaring flare. They turned out so cute! I don't wear shorts. Ever. If I did I would keep them!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

just a noisy hall where there's a nightly brawl...

Eva bloomers
Originally uploaded by I Will Fly design
and all that jazz! I am pretty sure that fashion-wise I was meant to live in the 1920's. That would mean living through the 30's and 40's, though, and that doesn't sound like any fun at all.
Here is a project I made from things I had in the closet and hadn't any plans for when I was trying to distract myself from another project (that seems to be taking forever and is dropping pretty low on my "love it" list).
I don't think I have ever made anything to sell using my rolled hemmer (it makes those tiny thread-covered hems you find on the edges of things now and then), so I thought I would give that a shot and make some retro 20's-style bloomers.
On the whole I am happy with them. I can see lots of ways to use the concept with different colorways, and want to fuss with the pattern (I didn't really use one for these, I just went ahead and figured it out as I went along) for future models, but I like the flirty flapper feel.

The weather here is trading off between beautiful and sunny weeks when the cherry trees all burst into bloom, and dismal rainy weeks when you don't see the sun for seven days in a row. Of course, I keep making projects on the nice days and then ending up trying to take photos on the blustery days! Just my luck!
And I also have new neighbors. They are very nice people and have a really precious cat and tiny dog, but they keep popping into the back yard while I'm trying to take pictures! I'm naturally pretty shy and get SO embarrassed!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

See, I promised it would be green!

My latest project is done. Actually, it has been done for several days but I have been fighting against such abysmal weather conditions that taking photos has been impossible.
The fabric store I work at was selling off these old vendor samples of embellished taffeta and I snatched up three of them, a deep burgundy, a chocolate brown, and this lovely olive green color. They are all embellished in this charming cream and brown braid work with tiny holographic sequins (it reminds my husband of fancy braid-trimmed Spanish jackets, hence the name). The samples are little, though, maybe 14 or 15 inches tall and about 30 inches wide. Figuring our what to do with such a limited amount of fabric was a bit of a challenge!
This style of corset worked out well because it's made from a single piece. I was also lucky because I happened to find a plain taffeta in a perfectly matching olive green for the binding (the brown and burgundy, I'm afraid, were not as lucky).
Man-made taffeta is terrible to work with. There could be a whole post here devoted to the steps I had to take just to put the grommets in down the back of this corset. I was pretty thankful when it was complete. There aren't any pictures of the back yet, though, because I want to replace the lacing I made for it with a ribbon in a complimentary color first. That is my shopping chore for tomorrow!
I lined this corset in a cotton twill printed with scenes of Chinese riders and deer and love the way it looks on the inside even more than the outside! Click through to my Flikr page to see a shot of the lining, including the novel stitch arrangement I invented for the stays.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Black and White and Read All Over

"Film Noir" top
Originally uploaded by I Will Fly design
Okay. All of my projects have been black and white, lately. My next will be green, I swear! Especially since the weather here has been 100% grey 100% of the time.

This little top was made from an intriguing silk crepe border print that arrived at the local fabric shop, recently. It was narrow, about 38" (most silk crepe is about 45" wide), and strangely printed in 1.333 yard long panels. Lucky for me, that is exactly how much I needed! We know it's a "designer end" fabric (someone had it made for a production run of something and then there was some left over afterward so it was sold to a distributor who then sold it to the store) and we think maybe it was originally designed for long scarves or something. It's a lovely crisp weight for silk crepe, and remarkably it wrinkles very little (I was so amazed at how not wrinkly it was that I burn tested a swatch to make sure it was actually silk. Sure enough, it is.)
I added a big bow drawstring to the top made from inside-out silk charmeuse and beaded the hemline with tiny black sequins and raven (black with an almost-iridescent multi-colored finish) seed beads.
I feature this on a moonlit patio, champagne glass in one hand, keys to my very expensive convertible sports car in the other...