umbrella bat costume

Friday, October 30, 2009

Yes, it's October 30th and I just barely finished my daughter's Halloween costume! I knew I needed something quick, so I decided to try Martha Stewart's "no sew" costume made from an umbrella which you can download here. The directions are just for the wings which you wear with a black sweatsuit and your own mask or ears.
I didn't feel too bad cutting up the umbrella since it was broken anyway. (Who doesn't have one of those laying around?)
First, I dismantled the umbrella by untwisting the wires holding the upper spokes to the handle and cutting the lower angled ones made sense. My umbrella must have been a little different than Martha's, though, because the handle was hard to detatch from the fabric at the top- it was fused instead of wired- but I managed with some grunting to pry it apart. Then I slit the umbrella in half through the center of opposite-facing panels as directed, but decided to do some sewing on this "no sew" project and hemmed the raw edge.
Next, I rewired the separate halves through the same holes that held the spokes to the handle before. I was glad I hadn't been hasty and cut them off by mistake! I didn't need to shorten the salvaged wire to do it as the directions suggested. I needed all the wire to make the loops with the excess. It seemed like the directions were instructing me to make 2 loops on each wing half, so that's what I did. In the end, though, I only needed 1 loop on each side to pin the wings to the harness.

Once the spokes were wired back together some fabric was left hanging there at the top. Martha says to catch it with some wire and attach it to the top of the spokes. I just took a needle & thread and looped it though the holes a few times to secure it. I was afraid using wire would rip the fabric.
For the harness, I did some more revising to the directions. I substituted bias tape, doubled & sewn together, for the ribbon. There was no 5/8' black grosgrain to be had within a 50 mile radius of me this close to Halloween. I think it is sturdier this way anyway. I cut it to the 21" specified and looped it ending in a point as described, but again, did away with the "no sew" part and sewed the loose ends down. I also sewed the loop of elastic that holds the two harness pieces together. I really think hot glue and staples wouldn't have held very well. Later, I took it apart and cut the pieces down to 19" because it was too loose on my daughter.
Instead of the suggested ribbon wrist ties, I made loops of 1/4" elastic (about 6") and attached them at the wrist position on the wings so it would be easier to take on & off. After trying it on, it needed elbow loops (about 7") to keep the wings from sagging. I also sewed the wings together at the bottom (center back) so they wouldn't have to be safety pinned. It's looking rather bat-like now, right?
With the harness on, I went to pin the wings on at the underarm point through the loops and decided it to use just 1 loop and 1 pin. And I found it worked better to attach the pins right in the very back near the elastic instead of at the underarm because it was just sagging too low otherwise. I added 2 more pins about 5" further down the spokes to add stability. I'll use black duct tape to conceal the mess. This is the part that you see from the back view. The front view is clean and sleek.
It needed a bat hood to complete the transformation. I had some leftover (only needed about 1/3 yd) black fleece and some felt from a previous project and used McCall's #8953 costume pattern for the hood.
The pattern is made for ears that face forward, but I wanted the bat ears to face to the side. I made a 3" slit on each side of the the front hood pattern to accommodate 2 1/2" wide triangle felt ears. The ears needed to be double-layered and sewn together for stiffness. They were sewn into the slit like sewing up a shallow dart. I didn't bother with lining the hood, just serged the edges with a 3-thread overlock. You could always turn the edges under & hem instead. Done!
Warming up for tomorrow...

applique rose project

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I've recently become reacquainted with my Singer Touch and Sew 750 from the 1970's.  All the time I've had it, I've never used it for embroidery or applique. It's not computerized, but came with a box full of cams that you insert in the top of the machine to achieve novelty stitches. I was skeptical. Surely they won't work as well as a computerized machine, will they? 

In my day job as a freelance designer, I am always torturing some poor soul overseas with complicated appliques for childrenswear.  I decided to try one for myself- something advanced, like a cabbage rose with 12 pieces and lots of hairpin turns- to see if I could do a decent job. I chose some random scraps, just thinking it was for practice.

I started by fusing some Heat N' Bond Iron-on adhesive to the back of my fabric to be appliqued.  I printed out two copies of a rose design I had drawn in the computer and numbered the pieces on both.  One became the pattern, and one the key.

I cut out the pieces and peeled off the paper backing on each piece.  Then it was a matter of carefully arranging the pieces while eyeballing the key

Once in place, I fused the pieces in onto the fabric using hot, dry heat from my iron and a Bo-Nash Non-Stick Ironing & Craft Sheet. I'd never used one before and wanted to see if it would really prevent scorching. It worked fine, and I had that iron cranked up to maximum.

With the pieces secure, I was ready to do the embroidery stitch around the edges. I used the one the manual called "Paris point stitch", but I've always called "blanket stitch". Away I chugged, following the edges just fine on the gently curving parts. Actual turns need a pivot every stitch or so to get around neatly. It took longer than I thought, about an hour.

My daughter liked it so much, she had me make it into a doll pillow with ticking on the back. She has put in an order for a skirt with the same flower. Not bad, eh?

a day in the garment district

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanks to the barter system and a helpful mother-in-law, I was able to sneak up to NYC yesterday for some yearned-for  fabric and trim shopping.  My friend Beth of "that 70's chair" was all too happy to grant me another installment of babysitting now that her chair is swathed in tan and her sofa is nearly done. Moms, for finding time for yourself, nothing beats bartering services with other moms.

In an effort to be frugal, I took the Greyhound Bus instead of the train, and arrived for half the price, in same amount of time (from Wilmington DE, it's around 2 hours), and surprisingly comfortably at Port Authority Bus Terminal. Port Authority is conveniently located adjacent to the garment district where most of the fabric and trim shops are concentrated in a four-block area: basically the blocks of 40th, 39th, 38th, & 37th streets between 7th & 8th avenues. I was about to make a map to post, but avid sewer Lindsay T has already created a comprehensive map that is quite useful, accurate, and even includes where to pee.
 typical hole-in-the-wall garment district fabric store
My dear friend and former co-worker Caroline, also known as the "Irish Potato-Eatin' Hag" met me there and gamely tagged along to the stores with me. I learned a thing or two from her about haggling- in the lesser stores, the "price" is not the actual price, it gets lower if you start to walk away. We were focusing on the hole-in-the wall places where you can find bargains on decent stuff if you're willing to hunt and I mean hunt. All the stores have the glitzy stuff up front and the cottons shoved waaaaay in the back. I was in the market for cheerful, slightly vintagy 100% cotton prints and checks and had moderate success. It's tempting to pay $15 or $20/yard at a well-curated and organized store like NY Elegant Fabrics on 40th Street, B&J Fabrics on 7th Avenue or Mood Fabrics on 37th Street. Maybe next time. 
rainbow of fabrics at NY Elegant Fabrics- all marked with prices and pre-cut swatches

cheerful cotton florals from Chic Fabric on 39th Street
For some reason, I have a hard time finding 100% cotton checks.  The poly/cotton kind that is readily available is a pet peeve of mine. It is slippery and frays like the dickens. If you use it for quilting, the batting can work its way through the seams. One of the hole-in-the-wall places, Hamed on 39th Street, had a sizeable stash in the back.
100% cotton checks from Hamed Fabrics on 39th Street
To get that true garment district experience for lunch, if you are there on a weekday, I recommend Nick's Place which is a tiny establishment with about 8 tables, tucked away in the back of the lobby of 550 7th Avenue (between 39th & 40th). There is no sign except for a generic one on a small brass plate that says simply "restaurant", so only garment people know about it. You can get a nice spinach pie and salad combo, a roasted vegetable quesedilla, or any number of tasty wraps for under $10. We met another former co-worker, Kris, there and reminisced about the good ol' days for over an hour. Time was getting short for trim shopping...

a tiny fraction of the selection at Daytona Trimming & Braid

It would be worth the trip to NYC for trims alone. Kris directed us to a place I'd not been in before, Pacific Trimming, where I stocked up on 1/4" patterned ribbons at $1 per yard, made mental notes on the purse hardware, and bought some buttons. When I asked for 50 of a button, the good-natured counter-outer man just shoved a handful in a bag and said, "trust me, it's more than 50". It didn't look like it, but sure enough, when I got home and counted them, there were 68. Next, I went a little crazy at my favorite place, Daytona Trimming & Braid on 39th Street where they had that elastic with buttonholes in it (that most kids' bottoms have nowadays for adjustability) for 75 cents a yard, not to mention all their fancy stuff. I can't help but pause when I walk in there, agog at the selection.  If only I'd had more time! Five hours went by really quickly. 

risd alumni weekend

Monday, October 12, 2009

After 20 years and much cajoling from my apparel friend Liz, I went ahead and attended alumni weekend at RISD (pronounced "riz-dee" and also known as the Rhode Island School of Design) in Providence, RI.  My good sport of a husband came along to see what the mystique of RISD is all about. How does an art school located in the unassuming little state of Rhode Island keep up with the heavy-hitting schools located in New York, LA, and Chicago?  RISD is actually ranked #1 for fine arts schools by US News & World Report and continues to consistently produce great artists and designers such as glass artist Dale Chihuly, apparel designer Nicole Miller, and children's book author/illustrator David Macauley, to name only a few. To me, one of the best things about the school is that it is NOT located in a major city, but exists in it's own bubble, protected from too much outside influence. Just walking into the apparel studio and sitting at my old table brought back that protected cocoon feeling despite the notable addition of computers and better equipment.
Up the hill, on Benefit Street, the alumni and student sale was buzzing with energy and variety. After the Crafty Bastards show last weekend, I was in the mood for more.

I gravitated toward the apparel offerings this time and sniffed out this cheerful childrenswear by a contemporary of mine, Catherine Andreozzi. It turns out she is now a faculty member of the apparel department.

There have been a few other changes around campus since I attended.  In addition to nice improvements to the refectory and student housing, the museum recently underwent a drastic renovation and expansion with the addition of the sleek Leed-certified Chace Center designed by Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo. The building took over the one parking lot on campus. The center is quite spiffy and useful, but I couldn't help but wonder... where do students park now?

Chace Center - Courtesy of the RISD Museum / Photo by Erik Gould
The reunion dinner was held in the museum galleries where the exhibit Subject to Change: Art and Design in the Twentieth Century was on display.  We apparel folk enjoyed the juxtaposition of clothing, furniture, and art in the exhibit.  As students we had access to a vast collection of apparel from every era.

Another big change for the school was the inauguration a year ago of new president John Maeda. When we glimpsed him casually browsing the student and alumni art sale, I did a double-take. He looked just like a student, such is his young appearance and attitude. He actually is quite young for a college president at age 43 (same as our graduating class). A graduate and former faculty member of MIT, he has been a high-profile practicing graphic designer, computer scientist, and educator. He is famous for his philosophy of "humanizing technology" and his book The Laws of Simplicity which I might just have to get.

Maeda has even been dubbed "one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century" by Esquire magazine. We're only nine years into the 21st century, but still that's nothing to sneeze at! I was eager to hear him speak after seeing a few of his lectures online and he did finally make it to our dinner for a short but entertaining speech in his signature casual, rambling style. Alas, no meet-and-greet!

Stacey Guggenheim of Hartstrings, Christine Best of Barnes &, Lorraine Howes, me, Maria Bassett of Jhane Barnes
We did manage to nab our beloved mentor and former apparel department head, Lorraine Howes, for a photo op on her way between parties. She still teaches History of Dress in the apparel department and critiques student work. Like the true style icon that she is, she looks poised and up-to-date, even after all this time.

It was a quick whirlwind of a visit, but it was enough time to soak up some of that RISD energy and feel reconnected to the place. I think even my husband might "get it" now. A nugget of an idea that my 8-year old daughter might like to attend here has lodged itself in my brain. Guess we'd better pick up the pace with the 529 plan!

rosemary's amazing studio

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Today I am featuring the studio of Rosemay Luckett, a fine artist in the Washington DC area.  She also happens to be my mom, but I am not biased at all! I was there this past weekend to attend the Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair with her (see previous post) and took these snaps of her amazing space.

What artist wouldn't love a two story, light-filled converted garage to spread out in?  Downstairs houses a wood shop, print making equipment, and a painting area.  Upstairs is for drawing, collage, and contemplation. Looking down from above...

Rosemary teaches a popular class called "Sculpture from Scrap" and several collage classes at the Art League in Alexandria, VA.

Masks and icons.

Just a fraction of the book collection. 

A glimpse of recent drawings.

This is not a pristine, p-touched, plastic-encased place, and that is the beauty of it. The space reflects the nature of Rosemary's thoughtful and varied mixed media work while feeding her creativity.

crafty bastards 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

You gotta just love the name of the six year-old indie arts and crafts fair, Crafty Bastards, that took place yesterday in Washington D.C.  Intrigued, headed south to meet up with my mom and attend the show. We just had to see what the kids are up to these days in the craft world.  According to the Washington Post Weekend section, 30ish is almost too old to be part of the indie movement. Humph! So 40ish must be absolutely too ancient to participate. No matter! We went and loved it. We had a fabulous time meeting some of the exhibitors, buying gifts, and getting inspired.

Before arriving, I knew I had to get over to booth #5 and meet fellow Delawarean Jenny Nelson of Home Sweet.  I've admired her block printed fabrics from afar (on etsy) and had to see them in person. Her booth was instantly recognizable by her signature prints that read well from a distance.

So many products were ever so clever. The upcycled suitcases given the graphic pop culture treatment by the folks at Final Approach just made me smile.  Being 40ish, I'm not exactly the target market for the cases, but I was sorely tempted to get the Bill Clinton one.

Who knew what could be made with old sweaters from the thrift store and a serger?  We spent some time with Tamara Embrey, of The Devil Made Me Do It , admiring her ruffly dresses, skirts, and hats and talking sergers.  She has the Babylock Evolve and I just bought a Viking Huskylock 936. We're serger nerds and proud of it!  

As I walked around, I started getting interested in display ideas. A booth is, after all, is a temporary retail store. A well put-together one makes the products that much more tempting. Some of the displays evoked that Anthropologie store feeling, which was appropriate since the show was sponsored in part by Urban Outfitters, the parent company of the chain. 

Katie Wagner of Moonlight Bindery had a appealing arrangement of vintage briefcases filled with her hand-bound journals.

Elisa Shere's  modern jewelry that utilizes recycled precious metal and salvaged parts from vintage jewelry was appealingly displayed. She draped her necklaces over antique serving platters and an old-fashioned makeup case, then contrasted them against pops of apple green (my favorite), all atop a contemporary botanical print table covering.

My award for freshest booth design goes to Something's Hiding In Here.  The uncluttered booth had it's white side panels down, blocking out the visual noise of adjoining booths. The back wall, fully covered with a calming forest scene, was genius and set off the case of wooden jewelry perfectly.  Loved the moss too!

I've come to a conclusion after the show: there is absolutely no need to buy mass-produced gifts.  The most stylish and fun items out there are handmade.