Sunday, July 31, 2011

Alana's Wedding

Alana was referred to me by a mutual friend that Ive known for over 20 years. Her friend Amy was actually the go between for us. We communicated a bit first via email, then they set up an appointment to come into the studio.

Well, I liked them both right off. Alana is an architect and knew just what she wanted. She had purchased a beautiful designer dress, but it wasn't fitting and she wanted the bodice reconstructed. This was going to prove a bit of a challenge because it already was an asymmetrical cut and we were going to have to cut into the matching lining to get some extra lining.
This was one wedding story that brought tears to my eyes.. The groom to be had been in an accident and had suffered traumatic head wounds. They nursed him back to health, although progress will still be long and difficult. I met him as well, and this couple brought the meaning of commitment back home to me. The meaning of love. The meaning of why I do this.

Sure I like to make really cool things. I love to make unique and personalized wedding gowns. I love the whole process. And sure, most people are happy in love when they get around to marrying. But these two are the prime example of why dressing up a bit for your commitment day is important. Its a showing of respect for each other and the whole circle of people who love you.

So Alana brought her thoughts and ideas to the table. We discussed budget and what could and couldn't be done to the dress. We had about 4 fittings altogether because of the difficulty of the design. I cut off the existing straps, re cut the bodice, made the bodice lining lie flatter under the bodice, gave it a more sweetheart type of neckline, made thicker straps, took it in a bit at the sides,covered buttons for the bustling of the train, and made little swing tags for the hem where we wanted to hike it up.

It turned into an easier dress for her to wear. She can have her poolside reception and be comfortable. She can wear it again and again. I'll post photos of her in it if I can get them!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kellsie's Wedding Dress

 I met Kellsie a few years ago at a party at my last house in San Francisco. Her sister was my roomie, Kristine Adams, and we had a big birthday/housewarming bash. So later on down the road, Kellsie came to me to work on the gown that she wanted for her wedding.  She brought me a dress that she had purchased earlier but it wasn't working for her any longer.  She loved it, but wanted a more Steampunk feel for her wedding attire now.  Silk was the main fabric used in the purchased gown. So she brought me some beautiful jacquard fabric, the dress, some ivory silk, and a Truly Victorian pattern  - style # 1879, the Cuirass Bodice with Evening Options. You can purchase this pattern from Lost Coast Historical Patterns or Lacis.    

 This was the dress before I cut into it. We decided that we would take the bodice off and make it into a skirt. This was a very full skirt and more of a hobbled bustle effect was wanted. The skirt was a wee too small, so when I started cutting down the skirt, I added more fabric to the back, repositioning the zipper, and that took care of that.  I constructed a sturdy, wide waistband to carry the weight of the skirt and to produce a nice line under the jacket.
This is the skirt unbustled. I ended up using most of the extra silk fabric given to me to make the inner structure of the bustle skirt. I chopped off quite a bit in front to shorten the skirt and to create a slimmer front. There were a lot of flowers on the train, but I repositioned them and placed them in strategic points where there would be hooks for bustling up the train when she wanted to do so. It was nice to have the option.

I followed the pattern for the jacket pretty closely. I always make a mockup first and it fit pretty well the first time with a few adjustments. Im dont even think I had to read the instructions more than once. It was pretty straightforward. I think I shortened the sleeves and lowered the front, then further squared off the front of the bodice. I used hooks and eyes to fasten the front. When I was done with the dress, Kellsie took some of the extra fabric flowers and made a veiled headpiece. She also did the beautiful embroidery on the upper bodice. Kellsie picked out her trims and I placed them where I thought they would look best. I think we did a lovely job. She had a strict budget and we used as many existing materials as we could. We reused a beautiful dress with lots of yardage in it, and we made something it  much more interesting. And now she has a Victorian two pieced gown that she can reuse if she likes.I'm sure she will since she too, is a costumer and loves to dress up now and then!

This is Kellsie and Kristine - two hot babes! Congratulations, Kellsie!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dance Cholis

 Ive started making cholis again.. I had some cut out and so when I had a few hours a while back, I put them together and posted them in my Etsy shop. At the moment, Im experimenting with fabrics and basic choli patterns. Its kind of hard (I think) to make a design that works pretty good, even better. But I dont really like how the larger sizes look sometimes on larger bodies. There is a woman who has designed a way to make cholis  more supportive, but the bottom line, is - you cant really do this the way she does it without some discomfort. And I dont like how those look either. You need to wear an undergarment if you are a full busted woman and want to wear a choli - AND have the girls held up. Or you need to wear a good supportive dance bra over the choli. Not those little tribal tie on bras that hang there. But a real bra with substance. A choli by itelf cannot support without some inner structure.

This, of course, is doable,  but going to take some work. As soon as Ive got my current last few orders out of the way, Im going to enlist the help of some ladies that I know and start to really tackle this problem. A smaller busted woman has no problem finding cute cholis. Those cute little stretch velvet and cotton lycra tops are adorable, but not so flattering on a womanly figure without either some inner support or outer. So we'll see what we can do.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Cut Above - Literally

 Lynne Rutter is one of those friends who started out as a client and ended up being an integral part of my life. Over the years we have made corsets, costumes, wedding attire, soft home furnishings and I even had my work studio in her garage for two years.

This woman is amazing - read about her Here and then go Here to read her blog. And HERE is a great recent SFGATE article about her! What exquisite talent and taste Lynne has! When Lynne gives you her opinion or assessment on any given subject, the woman knows what she's talking about!

Lynne was wanting a painters smock that was a cut above what was being offered anywhere else.  She had some ideas and off we went to Discount Fabrics to buy a roll of beautiful Belgian linen. She planned on wearing it on site and in her studio as well. It had to be well made and stylish as she often works in her clients' homes.  We made two or three of them and they have lasted her years and gone through some heavy wearing and abuse. This one still looks great! I think we did a good job with this project. Lynne looks well polished and represented as the professional artist that she is.

There is nothing like linen. Linen is one of the most environmentally friendly plants around and has been used for centuries. Every part of the plant can be - and is used. It is an extraordinary fabric and a joy to work with - as is Lynne!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ramblings And Musings About An Online Phenomenon That I Dont Like

Its getting to be time to be preparing  for Burning Man!I kind of want to go again., but I want to go in comfort. Its just turned into that for me - gotta be comfortable. Gotta be clean before climbing into my sleeping bag. Dont want to be sunburned!

For those who don't sew, I have lots of little vests, a pair of Leg Ruffles, and some cute Sampants up for grabs in my Etsy Store!They would be perfect for the Playa!

Ive got a few more custom orders of Fluffie Rufflie's and then I'm done. Yes, thanks to this new thankless economy, the orders have slowed to barely a trickle and Ive been forced to take on other kinds of work. I was really sad at first, but everything has its' season and now Im happy again. These Fluffie pants and pantaloons are taking way too long to make for some folks, and the stress of juggling isn't worth it for me. If you REALLY want a pair and are prepared to wait as long as it takes me to find the materials and make them just the way I need to while juggling projects, then I'm more than happy to make you a pair. I still love them. I still love how they look, how they feel, how they make you feel...............but you can buy my pattern and either have them made or make them yourselves. Its a win/win situation for both of us! And PLEASE send me photos of what you make! I REALLY want to see them!!! I feel like they are my grandchildren!!!

 I'm going back to my roots. The roots of making special wedding dresses and costumes custom fit for you and back to the art of making your clothing look like it was made for you - even if it wasn't. I think it is especially important in this day and age to keep your already purchased clothing in good condition. And if you bought something new and it doesn't look right, chances are that a tweak here - a dart there will make it fit beautifully. And this is what I like to do!

My new client , Nirmala, and I agreed  today that finding a good seamstress is like finding a good hairdresser - you don't want to let either one go............and I like that kind of thinking. She's my kind of gal!

Which leads me to something that has been bothering me this year. Ive been mulling it over and over in my mind for months and trying to make sense of what is going on with people. Since the economy collapsed last year, Ive tried to go with the flow..........Etsy pushes and tries to convince its sellers that having sales on our merchandise and goods is a GOOD thing. I don't really think that having a sale on handmade goods is a good thing UNLESS you are sick of it being around and you just want to clear it out.  But Etsy is trying to convince us to behave like a retail store in a retail market. Of course, this is all left up to the individual seller and I resisted for a while. But with sales down and this being my only means of financial support, I eventually caved to see what would happen.

I actually think its fun to have a sale now and then. The whole process is kind of a kick when people sit up and take notice. I actually enjoy taking a few bucks off now and then if it helps someone purchase something that they might not otherwise have justified. It makes me feel like I'm giving back in a small way. So I tried a variety of tactics. Sometimes just a few things were marked down. Sometimes just my particular custom goods; sometimes everything. I tried different price points or discounts for different reasons. At first it seemed to be a good thing. And while my profit went down the tubes on occasion, I was making a few more sales that might not have been made, and my name was getting passed around.

And then the abuse started. I could not figure out what was happening for the longest time!  People were not reading all the info on my custom listings all of a sudden. They were expecting custom goods to be made in a few days or a few weeks  - while I specifically state that this is never the case with my process. I had one or two people cause me so much grief at Christmastime that I was ready to throw in the towel. I was forced by Paypal to return money at a time when I could ill afford to while custom projects were in the works. (it completely ruined my Christmas - there were no gifts for anyone.) I could have and should have fought these people. I would have won, but it would have taken time. Paypal froze my account. Certain people complained to Etsy about me for taking too long. One woman's package was in the mail when she complained to Etsy before consulting with me. I was confused and in hell.

I NEVER and clearly state this - give money back when in the middle of custom work. I was in tears. I had a customer accuse me of taking the public's money and waiting til the last minute to work on projects. Another accused me of stealing.

WTF. I wondered if this was what selling online is like for other sellers and I wondered what I was doing to deserve this (yeah - I know that was wrong of me - but I'm only human and make mistakes now and then)

I heard from two other vendors that they were also getting bullied from customers all of a sudden.It seemed to be happening all at once.

I was flummoxed. Totally and utterly bewildered. Never in the 20 or so years of making custom goods have I ever been treated this way. Sure, Ive had the  bride who lost her mind during the wedding. Who hasn't! The stress alone from a wedding can kill you! Nobody can ever be 100% perfect with everything they do. I only do my best and I think that I've developed a pretty good reputation with that  - I have 99% of the time always been treated with respect. And I do admit when Im wrong. But this new phenomenon really blew my mind. If this is business, then I didn't want any part of it. But I knew that something was going on and it wasn't personal (even though I couldn't help taking it that way). I'm growing as a business person and trying on all sorts of hats just to get the right I decided to try  the Etsy sales thing.

I was talking about this with the owner of Fool Proof Studio the other day and she made a comment about how she thinks that sales on handmade goods cheapen the product.

And the bright incandescent light bulb about to be discontinued turned on full blast over my head - and ta da - there was my answer to this dilemma. But it is actually a two-fold problem. By putting my handmade wares - esp. my custom made to measure garments on sale periodically - these garments were cheapened and made less special in the buyers' mind. And wrong as some of these people are, it gave them permission to treat me terribly - to bully me - to literally sometimes make my life a living hell. I  suppose I knew the answer to this this subconsciously already. It never felt right. It felt like I was coming off as desperate to make a sale - and maybe I was at times. This is a tough world to try to be self employed in without any backing or financial support. Most of us who are making it on a shoestring are having a rough time and the shoestring is now very  frayed.........this is simply a fact................. but by cheapening our art, or designs, or whatever you want to call our craft, we can be putting ourselves in harm way. Because not everyone understands the difference between handmade and stuff you buy from an assembly line in a retail store. It is up to us to educate those who don't know. And those who don't know or respect this should not be our customers.

Also, being online can be very impersonal. As best as we make our little smiley faces and XXX's in our emails, this  cannot be a face to face relationship where we actually KNOW each other. It is far easier to abuse a character in print than to a real live face. I am quite sure that none of these people would have treated me this way in real life. And this has confirmed in me the value of someone actually coming into my studio, forming a relationship with me, and getting something special made to their standards with my creative process, and getting an experience that they would not get anywhere else.

I think that Etsy is a wonderful platform for the creative who wants to sell his or her wares. If things are not selling, maybe Etsy should be used as kind of an online portfolio. And if it sells, all the better!  I'll continue to sell  there while its working for me, but for those who really put a lot of effort into their craft, mark down sales may not really be the answer. Everyone is looking for a bargain these days, but should your hard work and effort go unpaid and disrespected? Maybe it depends on what the item is and how it was made, but to me, handmade items, if they are made well and are special, should by their very being, be a higher price point. The customer who will never buy unless the item is marked down substantially should never be your target customer. I know that not everyone is self employed and that maybe their crafts are just made for fun only - and I do understand that - but if the crafted items are unique and the effort taken to buy the technology and learn the skills to make them look nice in real life and online are applied - should not these items be treated as the gems they are?

Ive learned a valuable lesson. I'll be conducting business differently from now on and treating my work with more respect and I'll be expecting the same respect in return.  Oh sure, I'll probably have a sale now and then on ready to wear and pre-made merchandise, but its got to be fun for me as well. No more sales on the custom goods. No more abuse. I'll be sending out info that must be read first for custom work to commence. Perhaps this is part of working with the public from behind a computer, but if I wont treat you this way, I should not be treated this way. NONONONONONONONO. I DO take things  personally. I put a lot of ME into my clothing. Even if I'm making 10 pairs of Sampants. I made them! With my own two hands! I think a lot of us feel that way. Not everyone, but a lot of us.

And as most of my customers are fabulous and "get" it, this dilemma in no way reflects you!!!! I just now have to protect myself from the bad eggs out there. I got a little sucker punched  from my own naivete. I would be very interested to hear from anyone else who has noticed this happening. I was previously blaming it on the economy and maybe people being tighter and more sensitive to where their money is going.. Maybe  feeling less secure and perhaps feeling guilty about how the money is being spent and therefore getting punchy and more abusive...........all of the above?

Artists, fellow craftsmen/women - protect yourselves! Value your goods!!! No Abuse allowed!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vestuses for the Bestuses

 I keep telling people to go to my blog, and Ive just realized that I don't have many photos of my work up - a lot of inspiration, but silly me - where's my work?
I like my pictures big and taking up all my space on this blog, so they sometimes get cut off - click on a photo if you want to get the whole view!

I had been trying to make a simple vest for quite some time, but that thought materialized into these cute little shortie underbust vests that I sold at the Salome's Suitcase trunk show during Tribal Fest. Ive sold out of most of them, but I still have about 5 left in a variety of sizes in my Etsy store. Once Ive got my current orders under control, I'll make a few more of these out of different materials. I took my button and applique stash to embellish them randomly in different patterns which was a lot of fun for me since I love watching tv and doing hand sewing! So any excuse to do that makes me a happy camper.

They button in the front and fit rather tightly. They are meant to be form fitting and not a loose fit at all. Ive worn mine with Capri's, skirts, dresses - I really, like them. I think they are flattering on just about everyone who likes this sort of style. The buttons can be moved over if you need a tighter fit, but they are not really built to be made larger. Its best to buy a size up and move the buttons over if you are questioning your fit. But you can email and ask me to measure the vest again.
 These are bound with a self bias and fully lined. This fabric is a microfiber fabric that I found somewhere - there is no real fabric content info available. There is a sheen to the fabric, but its not shiny. Great for day or evening!

And last but not least, this vest would be awesome for Burning Man!
Here is Daniela Adriaenssens wearing her Vest at Tribal Fest. - and isn't she adorable!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Betsy Ross In The Silent Films 1927

Its getting to be a tradition with me. Every year I must pay homage to Betsy Ross. She was a real person and she knew George Washington and the story goes that he asked her to help him out with making a flag to unify the country. They had umpteenth flags too many and he just wanted the one flag to symbolize the United States of America. She and her first husband were upholsterers. And supposedly there is very little proof of her actually making a flag, but she gave George some advice on the design and created a 5 pointed star instead of one with 6. I think she told him where to put the stars too. (that didn't come out right.....)

Now, some say that her grandson made up the whole story - Blasphemous! Some stories should just be left alone.
She went through a lot of husbands. they always died, it seems.

Happy 4th of July Everyone! I'll be spending my Independence day working on drapes. They are looking pretty sweet!


No matter how you want to look at this country, its an interesting one. Everyday we realize that things are not as we thought they were. I just read recently somewhere online that there is a thought that the Druids came over to America and intermarried with the Natives here.Sorry - I have no idea where I read that and I should have bookmarked it.  It said that the Druids and natives in South Dakota became the Lakota. Im sure the Lakota would have something to say about this  - and you cant believe everything you read online - but the fact that the Vikings were here long before Columbus was but a myth not too long ago. We pretty much know they were in fact here wandering around and probably intermarrying with the natives.So who knows......maybe the Druids DID come over and have been here a long time. That would be very exciting. They had to go somewhere, now, didnt they, since Cesar insisted on exterminating them. (Those Romans ........)!  I guess what Im trying to say is that this has always been a country of immigrants. Even the native people who were here thousands of years before the white man, came from somewhere else. And who knows who or what was here before them.

Oh - HERE it is - it looks like someone made it up or heard it said - but its a fun thought - hope it pans out to be true one day. This would be a fun twist on history!And to be honest, its a fascinating subject, but I am very ignorant of  a great deal of knowledge on the subject - well, we all are, since there is very little that has been passed down. It all died when they died. Just not into much revival stuff..........unless it has to do with costuming.

We need to get over all this illegal immigrant bullshit and start respecting anyone who risks their life to come here and work for shit wages doing the shit jobs that nobody white wants to do. We all complain about no jobs, but I see house cleaning jobs all over the place listed on Craigslist.. Put your gloves on and start cleaning toilets if you are out of work! Get thee into the sweat shops! Its good honest work and having done it before, its not going to hurt you if you are fit. (except wear you down to the bone and break your back) Do something useful and take back those jobs that these immigrants are taking away from you, you idiots. And lets take care of those horribly paid workers, shall we? The child of one might be smarter than you and be a future president.

So back to Druids. I know very little about their spiritual practices.Ive never felt comfortable donning robes and standing in circles.(Like I even know what Im talking about )  But  I say more power to any group who trys to recapture the old ways. Maybe not the human sacrifice part, but even I, who tries to be a more loving and humane person these days can see the wisdom in putting rapists, stalkers, and pedophiles in wicker baskets.

Well, if I were Queen.......................
Happy Independence Day to everyone who actually made it to the U.S. and survived. I hope it was worth the effort. Some of us seem to have forgotten what we've got and don't want to share.And just remember that you cant do what you want in a lot of places in the world. This dreamland country of ours is flawed and going down hill fast. This Rome is burning........the powers that control  us are insane and watching it burn.........but if we all pull together, we can douse the fires and make this country strong again. We can have our dreams here.

Put on those gloves and lets get to work!