Sunday, October 17, 2010


I totally suck, no need to tell me! I knew this would be hard. However, the ol' day job also decided to go apeshit in the midst of this (Five am starts, overtime, major projects, you name it!). Plus, my back, which I thought was on the mend has absolutely been killing me. It has been really hard to be motivated when sewing hurts! So, I've fallen behind. I debated quitting, but darn it, I am finishing this thing!

So, I am going to allow myself to prepare for our long planned vacation, enjoy said vacation to the best of my ability (Although I am trying to get over not being home for my birthday. I think the hubs will have to ply me with copious amounts of gin to make up for it), and worry about it when I get back. Hopefully, my back will have calmed down with all the R and R and if not I think I have some major painkillers around somewhere. So, I will pull all of the pieces of fabric I have carefully cut out and put them together, and post a flurry of photos, and if I am lucky, I will only be a week behind at the end.

I hope you hang in there with me!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Episode seven: the other half

This post will be the first guest post!! This is from Emily, my partner in crime for the resort wear challenge. Enjoy!

Hi, I'm Emily (also known as Momily on callboard). I'm a friend of Amanda's, and we chat about PR on a local theater callboard, with other fans of the show. I'm a costume designer in the Twin Cities, so I offered to do one of the challenges with Amanda, the resortwear challenge!

I've had some experience with sewing samples, and explaining construction techniques to seamstresses (sewers always looks odd to me!), so I thought this would be easy. But I didn't have a sample to show to Amanda, because she was making the sample! So I had to explain what I wanted, without a visual example; this was really hard for me. But Amanda did a great job with the pants. I wish I had not tapered them so much towards the ankle, after trying them on I decided I would like more fullness in the lower leg. And I had to make a slight adjustment in the top, after sewing on the tie sash and fitting it, the front neckline gapped a little too much. But at least I don't have side boob! I really love this fabric. And luckily, the weather held until I could take a picture on my dock. So I'll put these items away until next summer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

getting ahead is getting me behind

I was gearing up for the Jackie O./American sportswear challenge. Sketch? Check. Fabric? Check. Spoiler for episode ten? Wait what? So, I found out that some custom designed fabric was involved. I've never done such a thing before, but I know that there is a bit more turnover involved in the real world than on PR. So, I had the hubs strategically fast forward episodes 9 & 10 just so I could get the challenges and max my fabric store shopping time. I got the challenges, got more fabric, and set to designing some fabric.

I decided to order from . Their prices were comparable to other vendors, and I know several folks who have ordered from them and have had nothing but praise for their wares. That was the easy part!

I sadly lack any fancy HP tablet PCs. So, I started on our laptop in PhotoShop, a program I have never used before in my life. My first results were an epic fail. So, I sat with my sketchbook and had better luck, but not perfect. To attempt to remedy this, I scanned the image and opened it with PhotoShop. I am now teaching myself how to use PhotoShop to edit my drawing and get it perfect for the making into the fabric. I had no idea when I started this whole blog that I would lament my lack of PhotoShop skills!!

However, as with all the projects, I am learning something new! My brain will be so full at the end of this thing it just might explode. Once I get my drawing perfect, it will be sent off to the wizards at Spoonflower, and in a mere 10 to 14 days, I will have custom fabric! I am wavering slightly between the silk crepe de chine or the cotton lawn. The cotton lawn is in the lead at the moment. While the fabric gets prepped and sent, I will hopefully get caught up on the other projects and attempt to maintain sanity.

I totally blew the one-hour limit for the design portion, but I also do not have the same easy peasy tools at my disposal. That is just the way it is at the moment.

Between now and fabric arrival, stay tuned for some Jackie O. style and a frock that will be just as pretty as a peacock.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Episode Seven: What's Mine is Yours!

The Challenge: Create a resort wear look that shows your point of view as a designer.

The Constraints: 30 minutes to sketch (on a boat!), one day to construct (until midnight), 30 minutes to shop at Mood with a budget of $150, and two hours in hair and make-up.

The Twist: Tim Gunn will randomly draw pairs to work together and the two will swap designs. The designers will work on their partner's design with direction from the designer! The goal is to get a feel for life as a designer and having a sample shop create your designs.

My Take: I am fortunate to have friends who sew. I had two ladies willing to help me with this challenge! I have done one so far, and hopefully the stars will align and I can get together with the other soon!
I met with CostumeMama in the evening where we shared our sketches and fabric selections. I wanted a striped tee and nautical inspired cropped pants. I had red-and-white striped knit for the top and black linen and red buttons for the pants. She had a halter and wrap pant combo with brown linen for the pants, a fun burn out sheer in warm shades of green, brown, and gold and a cream shantung for the top. Two very different aesthetics! We got to work on draping and patterning and explained what we were looking for. We worked for several hours and agreed to finish on our own (still working on each other's projects). It was interesting because I don't own a serger. I have used them, but it's been a while. Thus I think in old timey methods and working without a serger. I do a lot of French seams and occasional zig-zag stitching. She is a costumer and has a serger, and is used to having to create a lot of things in a limited time so she is used to working quickly and in a more modern manner. I think it was a good pairing because of the differences.

I took her pieces home to finish, and tried to keep everything in my mind for the construction. It is really interesting to work on something that is not my own, and not an off-the-rack pattern. Also, my aesthetic involves more tailored pieces, so it took more thought to work on a more drapey flowing piece. I admit that I didn't quite finish her pieces before returning them. I couldn't remember exactly how she wanted the sash attached to the top so I let it unattached. Plus I remember she had buttons for the pants, but didn't get them so I left that alone. I did not want to put the wrong size buttonholes in, that was for sure! Since the designers were able to take back their own designs at the end, we'll pretend that is what happened. (Of course if we would have still had time to work together, I would have been easily able to have her for reference.) I am still waiting to hear her feedback and get photos, so hopefully I achieved what she was after! It is pretty nerve-wracking working on someone else's garment. I know what shortcuts I can take and changes I can make on my own garment, but when someone else is relying on me I have a definite air of paranoia. I don't want to let anyone down or disappoint.

Here are the results of my design as created by CostumeMama:

Now, back at CostumeMama's when I first attempted to try on the pants, I discovered I didn't allow enough space at the front flap to get them on. I have a major difference between my waist and hips, so I tend to have to leave a lot of room to get things on, so they fit at the waist. We decided to put a side zipper in to alleviate this. Well, when I got them back, they were too snug. This was a combination of me mismeasuring and the fact that I ate very poorly all week and put on five pounds (it was a treat bonanza at work). They will fit great, though, once I am able to run again and peeps stop bringing treats to work every day I think they will be great! In the spirit of making it work I used my sun hat to disguise where it didn't fit correctly. It would have been on my head, instead it was at my hip. I thought about quickly turning it into a skirt, but felt that would have been far less interesting.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

resort wear is in the works!

Just wanted to let all of you in the wonderful world of the internets what is happening in my Project Runway world!

If you are a follower of the show, you probably know that there was a resort wear challenge with a twist! The contestants were paired up with another designer and had to swap designs. I thought I would have to skip out, but I am blessed to have friends who sew and are willing to take on this challenge with me. Not one, but two in fact! So, I am getting together with them this week, and we are making some resort wear happen. There is some amount of coordination involved, so this process is taking a little longer than normal.

I am interested to see how this all works out! I am not hip to the world of resort wear, and am used to my process and making mistakes and making them work on my own. It will be interesting to translate that to working with someone else! I hope I have the skills to create their designs. I meet with one lovely seamstress tomorrow, and the other on Friday. Things will certainly be interesting!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Episode six: always a bridesmaid

The Challenge: Choose a bridesmaid and her dress, then rework the dress into a new wearable look with input from the bridesmaid.

The Constraints: 30 minutes to meet with the bridesmaid and sketch, $50 to take to Mood and purchase up to two yards of fabric, however the bulk of the original dress must be used.

My Take: Well, I only have one bridesmaid dress left in my closet. I kept it because it was the only one I got to pick out, and I actually adore it and wear it. So, I needed to procure a dress to tear apart and reconstruct. Luckily, Goodwill was having a half-off day. They had one lonely bridesmaid dress on the rack, so I grabbed it.

As you can see, the dress is sage green. It's the color for those who are afraid of color. I know that technically a color, but really it falls into the beige family. It's really a neutral, and frankly not a great neutral. On top of that the fabric was not great. It is basically parachute fabric, and not the cool stuff that women used to make wedding gowns in World War II. Who chooses that for a formal dress? Well, I had to make it work. While I love getting dressed up, this fabric would not go with that. I thought something on the casual side would be more fitting for the fabric. I decided to go for a romper.

I have never done shorts or pants without a pattern, so this would definitely challenge my pattern drafting skills! I did much measuring and sketching and calculating. I finally had pattern pieces with I crossed my fingers would work the way they did in my head. I thought to save time, I would line up the seams of the shorts with the existing seams on the dress. Unfortunately I overestimated the amount of fabric in this dress. So, I had to go to my trusty seam ripper and rip out all of the seams of the skirt and press them out to maximize the fabric. I eked out all the necessary pieces, whew! I realized that I was just planning on doing basic machine stitching for all the hems, which I felt would cheapen the look. So, in the spirit of making it work, I decided to make the stitching a feature. So, I used metallic silver thread and top-stitch away. Instead of purchasing fabric, I only picked up notions and black cording. The cording was for a shoulder gather and to break up the sage green just a smidge. After scrapping gathering the top at the waist, I instead went with pleating to make it a little neater.

Surprise! Tim came into the workroom to tell the designers that instead of hitting the runway, they would be presenting their work to a bunch of strangers who would vote on their work. Not really a twist I could instead of buttons I am trusting lots of comments here to give me yeas or nays.

I finished the romper, and put it on. The top was more voluminous and less drapey than I intended. I used the belt I chose from the accessory wall to help tame it for the "runway." I went with the same booties from the Philip Treacy challenge because I adore their edginess. I also added a chunky layered necklace to keep it from looking too bare in the chest. Here are the results:
I'm pretty sure the cat was nursing a hangover somewhere. He would totally be the groomsman that would get hammered and nail the maid-of-honor. He may be cute, but keep that in mind before asking him to stand up in your wedding.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

now with 100% more Tim Gunn!

Had you told me when I thought up this blog, that I would meet Tim Gunn right in the middle of it and get to show him my work, I would have thought you were Crazy. That's right, capital "C" crazy. I mean, what would the odds be?

However over the weekend (the one that most recently passed), my husband came home from running errands and asked me what I was doing on Tuesday. I replied that I didn't really have plans. He proceeded to drop a local paper face down on my work table. There on the back cover, I saw that Tim Gunn would be at the Mall of America doing a book signing on Tuesday, September 14! My response quickly changed to, "I mean, I will be doing that!!!" I then had to e-mail my friend Alison who asked me to introduce him to her when I got on Project Runway. Just in case, I wanted to make sure she got to meet Mr. Gunn. Then, I began to think about the event. What would I wear? Obviously not clown clothes! Could I drop fifteen pounds by then? Probably not. How could I casually and eloquently plug my blog while seeming witty and delightful? I had no freaking clue!!!

I desperately wanted to wear the bridesmaid dress challenge outfit, but due to coughing my head off and ridiculous work hours that was not going to happen. I love the orange dress, but still hadn't solved the bra problem. So, I decided on the outfit from the Philip Treacy challenge. Alison and I coordinated our meeting after studying the event outline. Aside from mildly panicking, I was ready.

The day of, I worked from five in the morning until half one in the afternoon. Due to previously mentioned coughing in epic proportions, I got roughly an hour or two of sleep. I managed to squeeze in a cat nap. Then I had to get myself prettified. The thought of meeting Mr. Gunn, for real, made my brain malfunction. I hopped in the shower and my ultra-efficient routine for showering in a flash left my head. What did I need to do again? Maybe not put face scrub on my toothbrush. I managed to pull myself together and prep relatively unscathed. To save some time, I did my makeup in the car while my husband drove. I was terribly worried that somehow I would miss out on a coveted wristband guaranteeing me a moment with Tim Gunn.

We arrived and met up with the lovely Alison. There were not a lot of people there. I was flabbergasted. I thought people would be camped out, waiting with hushed anticipation of the one-and-only Tim Gunn. I purchased two copies of the book, one for myself and one for my friend Brooke who was unable to come. I secured my wristband and wrote out a question for the Q&A session. (What is your all time favorite Project Runway look? (Season 8 spoilers excluded, of course.))

Because there was not much of a line and the event was over two hours out, we decided to grab some coffee. As long as one member of the party stayed in line, one could go grab a beverage or use the restroom. We thought it would be nice to put off standing for a bit and caffeinate. We sought a Caribou, beveraged up and made our way back to the rotunda. There were a few more people there. Perhaps a gaggle. We figured we may as well hunker down and wait. The hubs went off to run errands and such, and Alison and I pulled up a patch of floor, trying to be as ladylike as possible in our skirts. I lamented not having brought a stool or something though I couldn't possibly have found something attractive enough for the event. We eyed a woman in front of us who brought a painted portrait of Tim. She painted it herself to give him. Suddenly I felt unprepared. Maybe I should have brought a casserole? Some loon potholders? A bespoke three piece suit? At best I could have given him my lint brush or some false eyelashes. I think he would have put together that I fished them out of my purse. Awkward.

The longer we waited, the more anxious I became. I tried making small talk with Alison to ease the pressure. The butterflies still fluttered in the pit of my stomach. I felt like I was in an oven and was constantly blotted, worried I would have to apologize to Tim for the moist dust jackets on my books. Security told us we could no longer sit at a certain point. I then committed a cardinal sin. I took my shoes off. I allowed my stockinged feet to settle on the floor of the mall. I generally frown upon this practice and judge those who de-shoe at weddings or other semi-formal to formal events. Yet, I was one of them. Somehow I did not factor in the standing in one spot for hours. The moment I took the shoes off, I felt like I had made a mistake. My feet hurt worse. Eventually they settled down and stopped trying to escape my body.

Finally, Tim Gunn was welcomed to the stage.

He was just as handsome, charming, and gracious as I had expected. The question and answer session was oddly brief, but Alison's question was the first one asked! (What is one piece of wisdom you regret not putting in the book?) He was nearly speechless! He said that there was nothing he felt he left out, but time would tell.

Then, it was book signing time!!! I thought I was nervous before! The longer I had to think about what I was going to say, the more keyed up I was! Alison and I realized that maybe we should have queued up sooner. Then there would have been less time to mull such things over. We waited, occasionally asking ourselves questions about Tim Gunn. What music does he listen to? What sort of dinner parties does he throw? The scenarios were endless. We watched the woman ahead give Tim her portrait. He was so gracious about it. He held up the painting so everyone could see it and take photographs. We scouted what everyone was wearing, surprised that people were not better dressed for the occasion. We noted that everyone must have come after work or school because suddenly there were many there.

Then, it was our turn! Tim's assistant (or agent or liaison) took my books and I had a small warm up chat with him. I politely waited for the woman ahead of me to finish her precious time with Mr. Gunn. I saw stars briefly as I walked over to stand next to Mr. Gunn. I introduced myself and we shook hands. We posed for a picture together, our arms around each other as though we went way back.

He took my books to sign them, and I started speaking. I prayed the words tumbling out of my mouth were coherent and interesting while my brain concentrated on keeping me from vomiting. I told him about my goals and my blog. I handed him my card with my blog address on the back and asked him to check it out. I told him that the outfit I was wearing was from the Philip Treacy challenge, and how I figured out which hat I would choose.

Tim Gunn: Well you certainly did better than Casanova did.

Amanda: Thank-you. But, Casanova had that Joan Collins/Dynasty thing going on.

TG: I know. I always tell him, "When you're not designing for old women, you're designing for hookers.

(Tim and Amanda share a light laugh.)

TG: (motioning to friend/agent/liaison) He's met Joan Collins.

He proceeds to introduce us. We wrap up, I tell him I would love it if he visited the blog, and that I hoped to work with him soon.

I then managed to make my way to my husband in an absolute daze. I was so keyed up the rest of the night! I met Mother-fracking TIM GUNN!

Wow. The rest of this blog has a lot to live up to. I somehow doubt that bridesmaids dress stands a chance now, but I will make it work. You will see it very soon, assuming I can stop coughing long enough to take photos.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

one two skip a few

So, since I don't have a team with five other random people to create a line, I am skipping episode five. Lame, maybe. However, I don't feel that I can truly recreate that challenge on my own.

So, I am working on a lovely bridesmaid recreation!

Come back soon to find out what I do with this parachute like fabric! Find out why a cat is my bouquet! Shenanigans will ensue!!!

episode four: hat's off!!!

The Challenge: Create a look inspired by and to coordinate with one of Philip Treacy's hats.

The Constraints: 15 minutes to sketch, 30 minutes at Mood (my guess, as this was not stated explicitly in the episode), $150 budget, one day (until 11 pm) to create, and two hours in hair and makeup.

My Take: First, I had to come up with a scientific method of getting my hat assignment. My lovely husband suggested that I just get a weird hat from a kiosk at our state fair, but I had a feeling that an over-sized ten gallon hat or a mohawk hat would not really evoke the right feeling. Instead, I cut 13 squares of paper and wrote the numbers one-13 on them. Then I drew a number out of a hat (get it?) to determine where in the hat choosing process I would get to choose. I got 12. That meant it was either the black and green swirly twirly hat that Casanova chose or the orchid hat that Kristen got. I felt like the swirly twirly hat was more my aesthetic, so I went that route. I admit I was really hoping to get a lower number so I could pick the lacy mask, but them's the brakes!

I decided once again to forgo sketching. I had a general picture in my mind of what I wanted to do, and some textures and fabrics in mind. I was thinking a modern take on vintage. I love those old timey eras in which women actually wore hats! I pictures a sort of pencil skirt in a lovely tweed with some embellishment in the back and a drapey silk blouse. Upon arriving to S.R. Harris, I started in the silks as I always do. I found one possibility that I was worried would be too yellow, did some more digging, and decided to think on it. I headed to the wool aisle instead. For the wool, I had a very specific texture in mind. I wanted a black and white fine tweed. I found several that were darker than I had in mind, but felt like butter. Of course these were the long fiber cashmeres that ran $50-$150 a yard. One yard would blow my whole budget! I found several fine tweeds that were the wrong color. Finally, buried under many bolts of wool, there she was! I had to have the hubs help me lift the pile of bolts and tug it out. It was $25 a yard, so definitely with reason. I then returned to the silks, where I went with my first instinct, a chartreuse silk. Not the charmeuse I had in mind, but I felt it would work. (Hey, chartreuse charmeuse!) I went to the embellishments to find what I had in mind for the back, but there was nothing that would work. I decided instead to look for a leather to create a sort of corset. I found this gorgeous dark purple leather that I felt would add an interesting element and keep the outfit from being too matchy-matchy. After getting things cut, I grabbed some wee buttons, cord, and a zipper. This was one of my most expensive shopping trips ever. The bulk of it fell into the leather, as it was a really large piece. I still kept it in the budget, but barely!

I began construction with the blouse. I felt it would be the most complicated piece, so I could base the construction on the simpler pieces on the time left. Maybe I jinxed myself, but this blouse made me want to kill myself! My first error was in patterning the back. I made the pieces too short and didn't realize it until I cut the fabric and tried to sew them together. There went any extra fabric I thought I would have for trimming or lining! I had to attach and tear out the waistband three times before it actually went together correctly. It is not fun to rip out seams on a gathered piece of fabric. My concept was a halter-type blouse with a tie waist and split back. In retrospect, I would have reversed and had a button waist and a tie neck, but oh well. The skirt went together much more easily, despite my delirium and putting the zipper on the right instead of the left. D'oh! I had neither the time nor the desire to fix that, so on the right it is. I had also hoped to line the skirt in the same fabric as the top, but we know where that fabric went! When I tried it on before hemming, I was concerned about it being too dowdy at the kneetop length I had first intended. So, I shortened it just a bit more to make it more edgy. I had little time left, and decided to make a wide leather obi-style belt. For styling, I went with fishnets to reflect the net on the hat. I debated my adorable purple shoes, but was concerned again with the matchy matchy. I went instead with some tough peep toe booties. Here are the results!

After examining the hat more closely, I realized that the green of my top might be too muted. However, I did not have the hat chilling in the next room for reference, so I did what I could. I plan to add black lining to the skirt and to wear it this fall, even with the zipper being on the wrong side. I think with some tights, it will be killer! While we were outside, a passerby commented on how great I looked. I admit it was a little boost to the old self esteem.

What do you think? In or out?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I'm still here and kicking! My plan was to photo and post tonight, but I am feeling pretty crummy. I've been fighting off bronchitis for the last week or so, and tonight it seems to be winning!

I know, I know. The real PR world would send me home! But, in the real PR world, I wouldn't have a day job, errands, or commitments outside of working in the workroom and sleeping in the apartment (with an occasional snooze in the workroom ala Laura the architect).

However, for your troubles, you will get not one, but TWO photo laden posts this weekend!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Episode three: Finally party time

I know, I'm late. I like to think of it as fashionably late. Considering I am still trying to make up for time spent in the "real world," I figure I can cut myself the slightest smidgen of slack. I really am determined to get back on track this week, though. Really.

So, here are the details of project number three.

The challenge: Create a look using only items from a party supply store (and muslin from the work room).

The constraints: Half an hour to shop, $100 budget, one day to construct, two hours in hair and make-up.

My take: First, I did a lot of bitching and moaning. Mostly, because we have one chain of party supply stores and one bulk warehouse party supply store. The chain is not great. Especially not great after I looked on their website for hours, drove to the only open location to find out it was closed, and I wrote them an e-mail to which they did not respond. But, that is water under the bridge.

Due to the previously mentioned wasted trip, I was starting a little (okay, a lot) behind on this challenge. As much as I would have liked to skip ahead, I gritted my teeth and swore I would make it work! First, I shopped. I looked at the same sad selection over and over in hopes something amazing would pop out. Nada. I could not even find cheap polyester ribbon! Since I love paper sculpture, I thought I would go in that vein. I finally took my purchases to the register and came in at $42.

I arrived home and commenced construction. I was sure that a challenge involving glue and paper couldn't take very long and I surely wouldn't need the whole day. HA! I was so wrong. Pleating all that crepe paper for appliqué was tedious and time consuming. I watched two films from my Oscar list (Kramer vs Kramer and Chariots of Fire) which barely made a dent in the time. My idea was a vintage style dress in the vein of the 40s or 50s. The plan involved a tea length skirt, a corset top, and a fascinator.

The Twist: The models came for fittings bearing gifts. Gift bags of more party shop goodies to make an accessory!

G brought me my bag of goodies. I whipped up a rose out of a lei and some crepe paper and attached it to ribbon to make a corsage choker. Easy peasy! (in the grand scheme of things) Though it used the time I had planned for the fascinator, so that was scrapped.

Originally I thought I would make a corset top out of the placemats and stitch star confetti on it like beads or sequins. As the skirt ate more of my time, I was going to glue the confetti. The skirt ate some more time, and I scrapped the confetti all together. Finally, I just wanted to have a top for the freaking dress! So, I pieced together the front and sides. I realized that the paper was not cooperating the way it did in my head. So, I scrapped the back and commenced braiding crepe paper to create closures, figuring I could somehow tie them into adorable bows and salvage the thing.

Then my model (meaning me) went to the stylists (still meaning me) to get ready for the runway. I told the stylist to go for sort of a pinup/Dita vonTeese sort of thing. Some hot rollers, hair pins, and a mole drawn on with eye pencil later, the model (still me) emerged to get dressed. This time I was not abashed to use the stapler to fasten the garment. All situated, I headed for the door with my photographer, when I felt a rip. Stapler, STAT!

Here are the results!
The front view isn't as stellar as I had hoped. Placemats aren't exactly easy to make flattering, despite efforts to fold and such. Here is where I would have had words with Michael Kors, explaining the material and he would tell me not to make excuses. Heidi would say something about how tiny the model is and how she looks like a house, and I would roll my eyes and shake my head.
Here's the back from the runway. I was worried it would read like goth hippie from the back, but I felt that part actually worked!

A couple of details:

I was really pleased with the skirt, not so pleased with the top, and sad I had to cut the feathered fascinator I had planned. It makes perfect sense that the skirt was good, because that is where I invested my time. It takes a lot more work to repurpose items and make them look like something they are not.
Mostly, I am just glad to have this challenge behind me so I can go back to my trusty sewing machine and beloved fabric. I like paper crafting, just not for clothing!

So, judges, what do you think?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Episode Two!

Finally! I did it! I spent 12 hours constructing, based on my previously mentioned estimate of working time.

The challenge: Create a look that epitomizes the Marie Claire woman.

The constraints: 30 minutes to sketch, 30 minutes to shop at Mood, $150 budget. One day to build, two hours with Garnier hair and L'Oreal Paris make-up.

The prize: A billboard in Times Square of your winning creation

My Take: I decided not to sketch this time. Since my last fabric store attempt was not-so-successful, I thought it would be silly to sketch something in my dream fabric that probably doesn't exist. Instead, I thought of a silhouette and decided my first choice was a silk and my second choice would be a luxe cotton. Then, leather for a belt. The silhouette I had in mind was a belted A-line or sheath with a cape effect in the back. I headed to S.R. Harris, the Minnesota answer to Mood. (Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but that's the best I've got.)

Inside, I pored over the silks. I picked up and put down bolt after bolt of silk for one reason or another. I found some that was a beautiful color, but with hideous embroidery, or lovely embroidery on an awful color. Too matronly, too much like upholstery, so on and so forth. I finally found a lovely orange silk. Before I figured out my yardage, I wanted to find everything I wanted to use so I could portion out my funds. I looked at embellishments, underskirt fabric, and leather. I found a lovely piece of fuchsia lambskin that provided a fresh contrast to the orange silk. My plan was to create a hot belt to accent the piece. I did the math and bought the maximum amount of yardage I could with the leather, a zipper, and a little extra for snaps. Despite SR offering a discount, I wanted to have my total be under the $150 without the discount, since Mood sells things at full retail. This got me 6.6 square feet of leather, 4 yards of silk, a zipper, and notions.

Construction started, , and the piece morphed through the construction. I decided to add a statement piece to the dress. Then, I decided the original neckline I had planned seemed too matronly, so I decided that it would look strapless with a collar made out of pleated leather. Then, I thought the collar and the belt and the cape would be too much. So, no cape effect. For the skirt I thought about a bubble skirt, but decided that might be too young looking. So, I went for a box pleated skirt. Finally, I decided the collar should shine on its own, and ixnayed the belt.

Partway through, I learned that there was a second component, a photo shoot.

This is how things turned out:

Here you can see my mad couture modeling skills! If only I lost about 40 pounds...since I have a hard time losing any, I don't think that will happen. I am also pretty sure I am done growing. Darn. While we were shotting these, a passerby in an automobile shouted, "Nice dress!" Yay me!

I just realized that my dress was going to have pockets, and I totally forgot those during construction. That was going to be one of my key points as to why I should win. Instead, I will talk to the other points of my dress as I would on the runway to the judges. My dress is Audrey Hepburn meets Jackie O for martinis in a modern cocktail lounge. It is the perfect dress for a modern woman on the go with a hip dress that has a built in statement accessory.

What I learned: $150 dollars doesn't buy you very much fabulous fabric. If I see boning in the store and think, "do I need that?" The answer is, "yes." Due to the nature of this fabric, I should have alloted enough allowance for French seams. I had also wanted to do a Hong Kong hem (ala one of my idols, Vera Wang), but nixed it due to time. I machine stitched a hem for a finished look, then hand stitched the hem in instead. I think adding lining to the skirt and doing the HK hem would have been preferable. I would not have changed anything about the collar. I love it so much! I know I should probably be more modest, but I do love it, and thought it was well worth all the time cutting, pleating, and stitching all those wee pieces. Though I was thinking petals when I came up with the idea, I think it looks more like feathers. A sort of mod take on them, anyway.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, I had two straight pins in the dress for the shoot. I wasn't thinking, and the bra I wore for fittings did not actually work under the dress due to straps and back and whatnot. Oops. So, I dig out the only bra I own that is somewhat low backed. I wore it to my senior prom. Yikes. So, it didn't fit quite right and kept wanting to peek out the sides, so I had to pin the dress to it on the sides to keep it from making an appearance in the photos. Now you know all my dirty little secrets.

If you would like to see the outtakes of my shoot, check out my Flickr page!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

in progress

So, I am turning in for now. I have done just over four hours of work on my piece, so I have a way to go for this challenge. I haven't been able to find out what time the designers get the challenge, though their finish time is clearly midnight. I know it is in the morning, but that's about it. Man, I should've asked Christoper Straub when I had the chance! I am assuming they start working by eleven or noon. I thought I would actually get to work on the bulk of my piece yesterday, but a dentist appointment and a class got in the way. Instead, construction began this evening. Many apologies for the delay!!

I have most of the hardest work done, but will have to cut out the skirt, and finish putting the pieces together. Here's a teaser of the focal point of my dress:

I am pleased with it so far, but cutting, pleating and stitching all those leather petals is tedious. I think Tim might be concerned about my progress, but I am sure he would tell me to "Make it work."

I did find out there was a twist, and nearly messed myself. I am behind my posting schedule due to vacation, and thought I would have to create a coordinating look or an interpretive dance about my look, which just might have killed me. Fortunately, the twist is a photo shoot! Except, I don't have access to the world famous photographer or a fancy studio. Guess I have to settle for the hubs and the front walk again.

While I don't have Tim Gunn, I do have this guy weighing in on my work, mostly by whacking me with his giant fluffy tail:

Overall, I don't think he is pleased. I took away the last bit of thread I found from the deconstruction of the last challenge, and have yet to give him any other playthings. Harumph.

Stay tuned for the big reveal! Will I finish in time? Will the photo shoot be an epic disaster? Will there be safety pins? All will be revealed soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Just wanted to let you know that this week's project is running behind. I just returned home from a long weekend at Lollapalooza in Chicago! It was a blast, and there were lots of, um, interesting fashions.

I will watch the episode first thing in the morning and depending on the challenge I hope to have the post up by Wednesday night!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Episode One

One project down!

The Challenge: Choose one item in your suitcase to incorporate into your look.

The Twist: Pass that item to your right.

The Constraints: Fifteen minutes to sketch. Undisclosed amount of time in the Mood Annex to choose fabric. Five hours to build.

My Take: Well, since this is a solo project, I didn't have anyone to pass the item to. So, I had my sister select something from my closet for me to work with. She chose the following
I got this dress from my mother-in-law when she moved to Florida. I thought the fabric was pretty, but I hadn't worn it because I didn't find it super flattering to me. Hopefully she won't mind it being a part of my project!

Since I don't have the luxury of the Mood Annex, my sister and I went to a local fabric store. Originally, she suggested using only the bargain fabric bin, but since that was tiny, and the selection of the whole store was minimal at best we agreed that having the run of the store was necessary. She watched the clock, and I had half-an-hour to get the fabric I needed and get to the check out. I wound up with many yards of orange tulle. Not what I had sketched, but I am guessing those designers don't always find what they sketch.

I arrived home, set up shop, and got constructing. The most difficult and time consuming portion of the task was ripping out the seams to maximize the amount of fabric harvested and to save the zipper. I wound up with a whole lot of ramen-esque thread from the seams. This photo captures about a third of the thread. Yikes!

Due to the lack of seam allowance in the original, I had to use the fabric carefully to obtain the construction I had planned. I also decided to go from an asymmetrical look to a more symmetrical Elizabethan inspired look. There were some mistakes, such as accidentally trimming off the seam allowance on one piece. The sad thing is that I was remembering to allot seam allowances prior to this. The second the scissors clipped the last bit of fabric there was much foul language! There was some cursing, some talking to myself, and some general weirdness throughout, though I still don't have a catch phrase. I didn't take any video, which I need to change next time! About halfway through, I watched the workroom portion to feel as though I were on the show, carefully stopping before the runway.

It was dark when I finished, so I had to wait to photograph my creation. Like some of the designers, I did wind up with a couple of pins in my dress due to last-minute fitting issues. I was sad about that, but given this was my first challenge and given the limited amount of time I have to shake that off.

The Result:

The moment my garment was finished, I watched the runway. I think/hope I would have fallen to the middle of the pack. I loved Selma Blair as a guest judge!

My Thoughts:
I learned a whole hell of a lot! My garment will need some tweaks to wear out. I need to adjust a couple of seams to lay better. Also, this fabric has a great desire to roll up. I think I need to stabilize the hems somehow to get them to stay put. (you can see this in the photo of the rear of the garment.) I definitely need to do some video, and some photos of the progress, so stay tuned for that! De and re-constructing a garment completely is a lot of work. Tulle is not my favorite thing to work with. Ironic since I love tu-tus!! I would also love a little of Tim Gunn's guidance. Hmmm...any way to make that work?

So there you have it, challenge number one. What do you think? Did I make it work?

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Today's the day. The big premier of season 8 of Project Runway. It is also the big premier of this blog.

I have loved fashion and sewing for years. As a wee one when posed the inevitable question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I responded, "A rich and famous fashion designer." I sketched lines, designed fabrics, and practiced a runway strut. I got pushed off the path here and there, but the passion for fashion has remained. With the creation of Project Runway, it seemed that maybe the universe was talking to me. Last season I thought I could try my hand at applying, but realized I had no idea if I could actually nail the challenges. So, I have challenged myself.

Each week, I will record the episode. Saturday morning, I will watch enough to find out what the challenge is. Then, I will follow the instructions. Sketch for the allotted time, visit the closest approximation of the location, etc. I will hit my local favorite fabric store with stopwatch in hand, and create! I will stay within the budget constraints of the project (most likely, I will be under as I am funding this venture on my own), and the time constraints. The results will be up by Monday, here on the site. I don't have the advantage of a model, stylists, or an accessory wall so I will have to improvise a bit there. The accessory wall will be my accessory collection, I will be the model, and the stylist. I am sure the neighborhood will be amused when I am strutting up and down the sidewalk.

Will I make it work? Stay tuned to find out.