Saturday, December 29, 2007


What can you ever say about christmas. I know its suppose to be a big wonderful moment full of magic and warm fuzzy feelings but I don't know anybody who actually feels that way.

I have three houses to go to. The first of which is my Dad's where this year they were kind enough to wait for us to get there before opening presents. They also did a very sweet job of welcoming Jason. They even bought him some presents that were well thought out and things he would actually use. I got my dream boot. The Frye boots I've been coveting for ages. It was incredibly nice of them.

Then it was on to my Grandma's for brunch. She had decided this year that no one could bring their boyfriends. Which I think is totaly resonable but seemed to add some tension to the event. My mom gave me her late 60s Merantz stereo receiver. This is also something I've been coveting since childhood. I've seen a lot of second hand amps just from dating an audiophile. Many of them have light bulbs burned out or whole speaker channels that don't work. This one has a little bit of stickiness in the knobs but that's it. It has more power than Jason's Merantz and for once he wants to use my equipment in the house. I only feel a little smug.

Next on my list of christmas events is crab louies at my other grandma's house. On this side of the family I'm the oldest of sixteen cousins. Not all of them were there but needless to say its almost complete chaos. The highlight of the night was a present from my aunt to the four youngest cousins. They can only be described as giant stretch velvet pillow cases. They were sewn almost completely shut with a gap at the top. The kids climbed inside with just their heads sticking out the hole in the top. They were like giant velvet flying squirrels. If you ever want to keep a six year old entertained for hours, let me tell you this is the way to do it.

Portfolio update

Suzanna and her husband were kind enough to help me take pictures for my portfolio. Really they've been kind enough to help me with just about everything. When we first talked about taking pictures I had no real idea what I was in for. I was not excited to do it myself. The photos would have been done with my tourist quality digital camera in front of what ever blank wall I could find. I imagined that Brent would do pretty much the same thing with a better camera and a better wall. When I got there I realized that this was not an amature set up. We had real lighting, seamless, and a great camera. Suzanna ran me all over town helping me get my stuff together. She did a wonderful job of setting up my stuff including bringing foot lasts for my slippers. Because of them I will have a beautiful portfolio. I cannot thank them enough.
ps I'll post the pictures later.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lovely Marc Jacobs jacket

Here's a picture of the most inspiring coat I've seen in a long time. I've got yards of the perfect heavy vintage wool to make a similar one out of, I'd lengthen the sleeves - I want to make it good and warm and I'm tired of chilly arms - but besides that I love it. It's perfectly versatile, whether worn over a little dress, or with old jeans and sneakers. All my (2) coats have to be worn with fancy things or I look confusing. It's a little frustrating on the weekends when I want to slouch around.

Feeling grateful

I have to take a moment to report how utterly happy I am to be apprenticed to Nicolas. Most of the other folks at NC have much more experience in the fashion industry than I, having actually gone to school for it, and lived in NYC for a time, and they talk about the world of fashion as a not altogether friendly or delightful place. Not that that is a surprise; I suppose what is a surprise is how utterly pleasant that world of fashion is at NC's. The amount that I learn daily is mind boggling (yes, literally, sometimes at the end of the day I am remarkably stupid from having used up my entire mental capacity). Even days when nothing goes right, no one gets frustrated with me, and I am still learning -- what not to do. At risk of sounding gushy, Nicolas is always kind, helpful, and says some damn funny things, both intentional and otherwise. The other day he told someone on the phone he was "crazy busy sick" -- meaning very very busy -- but the immediate image that came to my mind was of someone rushing around puking wildly. I'm digressing.
Every day at lunch we all sit down together, eat off real china with real silverware, and chat for awhile. It's so nice, especially since most of the day we're quiet, focused on our work.
Sometimes I can't believe I'm here, that somehow I stumbled upon someone who does what I want to do, and who wants so much for others to learn it from him.

A Fitting at Proenza Schouler!

I met two of my favorite designers last week. They’re the design team behind Proenza Schouler, the up and coming darlings of the New York fashion world, straight out of Parsons 5 - ? – years ago, now with a CFDA award, and a big chunk of their company bought by Valentino – which means they can play around a little bit more with their creativity. The reason I mention their credentials is because they’re some of those esoteric famous people – if you’re in the fashion world, you know who they are and presumably respect the hell out of their work, if not – well, none of my friends have had any idea who I was talking about when I excitedly told them I’d met Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez. Oh well.
Nicolas had a fitting with them last Thursday – a sleety, freezing day – and NC Inc is so swamped that he couldn’t spare Isabella to help him at the fitting – so I went instead! I was sooo excited. I felt very quintessentially NYC running down Broadway with a garment bag and an umbrella in the slush, taking the freight elevator up to PS’s 6th floor studio. I met both Jack and Lazaro, who were very sweet, as were the rest of their team. My starstruck jitters didn’t last very long because the fitting itself was so interesting.
What I've come to learn more and more with Nicolas is that I need to trust my gut at all times. So much of what we do is instinct based. That instinct needs to be honed, of course, and you have to know the general guidlines in terms of how fabric behaves and the basic process of draping and patterning garments, but a lot of times when I'm stumped, if I remind myself to use my instinct, I can figure the problem out.
The reason I mention this is that most of the fitting seemed to be Jack or Lazaro saying "hmmm...I don't know if i like this aspect" and then Nicolas would slash a line, or tear out a seam, or pinch out some fabric, and they'd all step back, and say "better..." or "no...." It was a lot of fun to watch, but hard to convey in writing. We had 7 garments to fit, and it took about 4 hours, with 2 of the garments needing a second fitting. The fact that the other 5 didn't need second fittings attests to both Nicolas's skill and Lazaro and Jack's complete trust in Nicolas's skill.
Another little thing from the fitting: I noticed that Nicolas handled the clothes on the fit model in exactly the same way he does on the dressmaker's forms. I guess this isn't surprising except that I realized suddenly that I had been thinking of the fit model, Lily, as a dressmaker's form. I mean that in the literal sense. It actually startled me when she spoke.

clumsyness = accidental productivity

I fell down an entire flight of stairs today. NC Inc. on the third floor of building in Tribeca and I 'm always a little nervous going down the steep at lunch I misstepped at the top of the second flight and went head first all the way down, landing upsidedown, feet in the air, dress around my waist, at the bottom. Miraculously all bones are intact, no facial deformities, and all I'm left with are dozens of bruises in the making and some seriously bloody knees. I have to say, if ever you need an impromptue nurse, patternmakers are the best. Isabella, head patternmaker, could have been a surgeon with her steady hands, cutting away my tights with some tailoring shears, picking god knows what out of my knees (couldn't watch) with the sewing machine tweezers, then I was sterilized and bandaged up...
I was sent home in a cab, and now have an afternoon of free time, unplanned. I could work on one last Christmas gift but it involves an exacto knife and I'm still a little shaky, so I think it's the perfect time to get to all those entries that I've been wanting to post. It's been so long I'm afraid some of them have buried themselves in the deepest recesses of my mind, but I'll do my best to dredge them up.

From the Fashion Incubator

Ah, how I love Kathleen Fasanella's blog The Fashion Incubator. Sometimes I'm not sure I should even continue with my blog, since all I usually want to do is cut and paste her entries... but I refrain. Here's one I had to share though, because it made me laugh, because drinking does seem to be involved in a surprising amount of sewing and patterning activities, because I'm still amazed by all the fabric store salesmen chainsmoking indoors, and because I love the idea of 9 fingered flirts finagling passes to the YKK party.

"According to Mr Mahon (of The English Cut), cutters and tailors tend to drink heavily and while he makes no mention of smoking, we do a lot of that too. In fact -and until quite recently- one of the unmentionable memes of the trade was that you did not -or should not- trust anyone who didn't smoke. Seriously. Some still feel that way -often vendors- those who continued to smoke quite heavily in and out of their booths at the previously annual Mecca-trek (The Bobbin Show) in Atlanta. This in spite of copious signage advising criminal penalties for non-compliance. In fact, if you needed a cigarette, all you needed to do was find some guy missing a finger or two and he'd happily help you out -the folks missing fingers came up through the ranks having cut their teeth figuratively -or fingers literally- on the cutting table. Drinking was always an issue of moderation although the minus-appendage-guys (all of them shameless flirts) were often good for a snort from a hip flask. However, most vendors and attendees were able to postpone alcohol consumption having finagled an invitation to that evening's YKK party (YKK always threw the best parties)."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

accidental hiatus

a quick note to say that no, we haven't given up on our blog, carly and i are both just swamped at the moment -- i'm currently doing 18 hour days, but i'm planning on posting like crazy as soon as i leave for my luxurious christmas vacation, and carly will be done with her extremely thorough grad school application process within the month, leaving her more time to share her brilliant thoughts with us....
thanks for reading, by the way. and commenting. i love the comments.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More portfolio

One of the things I want to make is a three part folding screen. The fabric suspended through the screen will be folded and tacked. I haven't figured out what I want to make it out of. The picture is made with cotton sheeting. I have also tried silk organza which I liked for its crisp hand but it was so see-through it hardly made a screen. I would love some suggestions.

Well, its official.

I have sent my transcripts to Pratt, RISD, Art Center, and the University of Washington. I have talked to my professors about letters of recommendation. There's is no backing out now. Now I just need to write my letter of intent (which I'm not looking forward to). I have a list of twenty things that will go in my portfolio. The university of Washington requires all twenty but for the other schools I can chose my twelve favorite. So if you own something awesome that I made and have forgotten about now is the time to remind me. I'll be taking official pictures around christmas but here are some teasers.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ahh, language.

My Peruvian coworker taught me the word "pattern" in Spanish today: "patron" (there's an accent over the O but I don't know how to put it there...)
The thing is, "patron" also means "landowner", or "boss", in Spanish. I just did a very half-assed search for the etimology of the word online, and came up with nothing. Still curious...

Edge of Ability

During my long commutes to and from work, I've been reading Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good For You. The basic premise is that as our culture is getting more complicated -- the complexity of tv shows, video games, movies, technical operating systems, etc, have all skyrocketed in the past 20-odd years -- our intelligence is increasing. All of these cultural outlets demand much more than they used to in terms of logic, picking up on subtle cues, problem solving, and thinking in new and creative ways. Johnson talks about the "edge of ability" -the point at which people can just figure out what's going on, or what needs to be done, as being the sweet spot for maintaining attention span, and generating both direct and collateral learning. If something is too easy, too obvious, you'll loose interest. If something is too hard, you'll give up. But if something is just at the edge of what you already know how to do, you'll keep at it until you figure it out, because there's an emotional reward -- the feeling of satisfaction at your own success -- that comes with it.
This is exactly why I love patternmaking. Of course some days it feels like what I am trying to figure out is beyond the edge of what I already know, but then, I am relatively new at it. Most of the time though, I can feel that if I just focus enough, look at the problem from enough angles, run through the mental catalog of Important Points to Remember, and maintain some patience, I'll eventually figure out what I need to do. And when I do, damn, it feels good. The fact that the end result is a piece of generally gorgeous clothing is fairly secondary, and very seperate from my enjoyment of the process.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

garment district

I went to the garment district yesterday for the first time. It was the first shop I went to, the owners were smoking. Inside. Seriously, is there anything the smell of smoke sticks to more than fabric?? I couldn't belive it. In several other shops people were also smoking, albiet by the open front door -- in 33 degree weather! Priorities, I guess.
Anyway, I found some amazing things. One store was stocked entirely with wool. It was presumably geared towards mens' suiting, as almost all the colors were fairly subdued, but it was incredible. I walked around for a very long time just feeling everything. I'm trying to hone my skills at identifying fiber content of fabric, but right now I'm still practicing identifying "wool" vs. "polyester." Pretty basic. I spent a long time in the cashmere section, especially because there are these vendors all over NYC right now, selling $5 cashmere scarves that they all swear are real cashmere -- I'm sure they're not, but they do feel mighty convincing.... So I spent a long time feeling all the cashmere. Finally I brought a muted plaid up to the front, thinking maybe I could get 1 yard and make an extra luxurious scarf. Hmm.. at $120.00/yd. the potentially faux scarves seem to fit my lifestyle a little better.
There were so many specialty stores. There was one little 1/2 block that was full of spandex fabric stores. Others sold only european fabrics. There were a lot of trim and button stores as well, which are my weakness...I found some big brass military buttons to replace some more generic buttons on a wool melton coat, and drooled over all the glitzy buttons that would make fabulous earrings with a little glue and some post findings...and then I had to leave to protect my already very tiny bank account.
I was originally on a mission to find some plain black cotton for a project I'm about to embark on. I'm making a bag with braided handles. The braids will be made out of tubes of black cotton, stuffed taute with some sort of filling. Hard to describe, but I want it to have an almost down jacket puffyness, while maintaining its shape in your hand. Originally I thought of stuffing the tubes with polar fleece -- light and bulky -- or maybe quilt batting - but that might be hard to pull through the tubes -- if anyone has any suggestions, let me know. As soon as I'm done, I'll post some pictures. (This may be months away...)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My co-worker Don, who I like a whole lot, said today while working on a gathered dress “Oh man this is haaard.”
Nicolas smiled and said “Yes, but that is what makes it so fun.”

Lunch conversation II: or, second languages are fun!

NC: So, what’s the difference between a button-up shirt and a button-down shirt?
Me: Well, I think a button-up shirt is any shirt that buttons up the front, and a button-down shirt has a collar that buttons down to the shirt.
NC: So it’s not like a glass is half full/glass half empty thing?
Us: No…
NC: And it doesn’t have to do with whether you start buttoning your shirt from the top or the bottom?
Us: No…
NC: Because that way you could have both in one shirt – you could button it up, or button it down! Or start in the middle and go up and then down…


I get tired of seeing things pretty quickly – when I say “that is SO last season” or “I am SO over that” I’m usually making fun of the fashion world, but the truth is, my brain just gets tired of processing the same visual information, especially if those visuals aren’t fabulously aesthetically pleasing in the first place. Right now I’m having a little tizzy over fake designer bags. They’re everywhere, and they’re so damn ugly. The originals are usually fairly overdone in the first place, and the knock-offs all have this sort of extreme hardware, shiny leather, giant (fake) logos, baggy poufy pleaty-ness with no regard for good design. All the trends are just thrown into one floppy oversized bag. And everyone carries them. It’s visually assaulting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Conversation at lunch today:

Co-worker I: I think there's a certain age when women should have more heels in their closet than tennis shoes.
Co-worker II: Oh, I totally agree.
Me: Wait, what qualifies as "a certain age?"
Co-worker I: Oh...21, cause then they're not teenagers anymore, you know.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Here's a picture of the Spring/Summer 2008 Proenza Schouler dress I worked on today. All I really did was copy the pattern - SS08 is getting sent to production soon and all the patterns have to be changed from a size two to a size four or six - from runway model size to the mid-range size of the label's target market. The patterns also have to be cleaned up and made crisp and perfect (my job this morning). I was excited to work with this pattern because the garment looks a little complicated -- in reality, without the sleeve, it's just three pieces. Both the front and the back are single pieces shaped like giant up-side-down Ls and then there's a draped piece that comes down from the center front, and under the sleeved arm. I love garments that are draped in interesting ways but end up being so simple -- uninterrupted by seams, the flow of the fabric is especially beautiful.
This post is borrowed from Scott Schumann of the Sartorialist. I loved his thoughts, as well as this lady's getup. There's also an interesting followup debate at the Sartorialist website (

A Less Narrow View

Often I read comments on this blog like "Shouldn't clothing enhance a woman's form and femininity? " or something of that nature.

I think this is a very narrow view of what clothing should/could do for a person.

Clothing only needs to keep you protected from the elements, past that what you do with them is your option.

This young lady is a great example of self-expression and intellectual dressing.

Nothing she is wearing really speaks to WHAT she is physically ( fat or skinny, tall or short, male or female) but her look speaks volumes about WHO she is mentally.

Is this fashion? I don't know but it surely is an extremely evolved version of self-expression.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

united bamboo

I love what they're trying to do with these clothes. The fact that they can even make the shapes stay in place while on the body is no small feat. I think it raises a question about geometry and the flattering lines of the female form. Very little of what I saw on had any respect for the waist. I think that it would be fairly difficult to use such large boxy shapes to produce anything other than a large boxy silhouette. Which is not to say that, given a chance I wouldn't take it apart and see how it was made. It makes me curious about deco era clothes and their fascination with the orient and boxy silhouettes.

I love this collar

And this skirt

The real tour de'force

Saturday, November 24, 2007

fabric origami

I was at Opening Ceremony yesterday (store off broadway on howard in soho) and there were a few lines of clothes with some pretty impressive origami based designs. Some of them were hard to figure out even when i turned them inside out and poked around looking at the seam lines and the grain of the fabric -- the only line I remember the name of was United Bamboo - well known, I think they even have their complete collection at -- I don't remeber the others but I'm going back and will update this --
If you're in new york, check out opening ceremony if you haven't before. They have more clothes, etc, with intersting ideas and construction quirks than any other place I've been so far.
I overheard Mr. C tell my friend Erin the other day “You don’t control the fabric, the fabric controls you.” I thought it was the single best bit of draping wisdom I’ve heard yet. Thinking that way has started to make draping feel less difficult (note that I did not say easy.) You gently guide the muslin into the shape you’re looking for, taking into full account what the muslin naturally wants to do, which results in the fabric flowing and hanging gracefully. More to come on this thought – not nearly enough experience to really expound yet.

With auto caps and a “smart” computer, writing muslin over and over has resulted in some pretty funny typos – for instance, I just typed “you gently guide the Muslim into the shape you’re looking for.” Hmmm.
I finished a Peter Som Fall 2008 today. Let’s just say there was a lot going on. I’m assuming there’s some sort of unspoken confidentiality contract (??) that prevents me from dishing on what various fabulous designers’ collections will look like come fashion week in February –- but I was laughing to myself imagining the exclamatory headlines detailing the upcoming trends in fashion mags 6 months from now. It’s so fun to see the designs with relatively no idea what the final fabric will look like – print or solid? bright or subdued? All we know is the basic texture – silky, knit etc, which is of course necessary for draping purposes. The final fabric changes everything though, and I’m curious to see if it’ll save some of the designs I’m pretty unimpressed with at this point – or, even, overwhelm some of the pieces that I’d wear in a heartbeat just as plain undyed muslin mockups.
But the Peter Som. It was loads of fun to drape. There were bits of it we referred to as bunny ears, another as Mickey Mouse, and at one point I crossed out L side bustle and wrote in L side train. And then I assured Nicolas that yes, turquoise was the word he was looking for. Yup, there was a lot going on. Apparently Mr. Som’s cliental are a little more advanced in years, and I’m hoping to someday see this number on some woman of great stature and presence, caring it off with grace and gumption. You’d have to be a little bit of a fireball to do so.
It’s been awhile (alright, a week or so…ages relatively speaking) since I’ve really read a fashion magazine. I was wondering about it, and realized that my interest has waned since starting at NCI, I think because I see and work with so many gorgeously executed garments, that I get my fill. Honestly, I rarely see many things in the standard fashion magazines that are as interesting or well made or well conceived as what comes through our little shop. Mr. C sure does know how to pick his clients. And of course, how to pattern their designs.
I haven’t set my sewing studio up yet. Oh how I yearn. It’s been…12 days since I arrived in NYC, and today I got a lead on a drafting table – my landlord may have one and might also cut down another table for me to use for my machines. I also have a large wardrobe, which is going to be perfect to hang all of my patterns up in. Apparently it came from down the road at Snug Harbour, at an old hospice house where sailors used to go to die. Yesterday I discovered, written on the inside of the right door, a series of dates, all in the same handwriting: March 4, 1968. April 11, 1968. July 30, 1968. At least a dozen of them… My first thought was, death dates??
Anyway, I miss my sewing studio and am thrilled at the possibility of soon getting to start of one of the dozens of plans floating around my brain.