Thursday, May 12, 2016

Modernize Or Die

As many of you may know, I teamed up with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman of FatChanceBellyDance a couple of years ago to create a line of versatile clothing - both for dance and for fashion - and we carved a little sewing studio out of part of her dance studio in San Francisco. We've come up with some fun garments that have been doing well and this is where I sell the Bessie Skirt. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the city had other plans for us and a dance studio that has been a huge part of my life for many, many years now has to close.

These things don't happen overnight, of course. Bit by bit San Francisco has been rubbing out its diversity with greed. The Bay Area is congested beyond belief. The commute into the city is a nightmare unless you hit it just right - and this is getting worse by the day.  If you have to schlep lots of stuff around, public transportation isn't feasible, Parking is all but nonexistent, the landscape changes daily, businesses are gone overnight, citizens are fleeing  because of the impossible conditions of trying to get by............and then it is exhausting to come back class attendance was down and getting worse because of all of this. Despite obvious interest in sewing classes, it was just too hard to fill a class............

I knew it was all over when I came into the city for our weekly meeting/ product development/sew-fest and the cheapish parking lot ( the only one close by) was closed.  That was the nail in the coffin for me. And then the landlord died. Well, we know now what comes next.

So everything is changing and the studio is shutting down. Classes will be spread around to make it easier for all to attend and Carolena is opening a shop in Half Moon Bay where the Bessie line will be featured. There will also be online shopping, of course! The magic will continue and it will be awesome! There is much more fun to be had!

An era is ending, but a new one is beginning. Modernize Or Die is the new motto.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Manus x Machina: My Small Contribution To A Fabulous Gala Event....

The Met Gala, formally called the Costume Institute Gala and also known as the Met Ball, is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York City. It marks the grand opening of the Costume Institute's annual fashion exhibit. Each year's event celebrates the theme of that year's Costume Institute exhibition, and the exhibition sets the tone for the formal dress of the night, since guests are expected to choose their fashion to match the theme of the exhibit. Each year the event also has honorary celebrity event day chairpersons.


The Costume Institute Gala is a major fundraising benefit that serves as an opening celebration for the Institute's annual fashion exhibit. Following the event, the exhibition runs for several months.  The Gala is widely regarded as one of the most exclusive social events in New York and one of the biggest fundraising nights in the city. It is one of the most notable sources of funding for the Institute. The affair, attended by personalities from the arts, fashion, high-society, film and music, has been held at the Met since 1946 and is considered to be the fashion industry's premier annual red carpet event. Its red carpet fashions are widely photographed, reviewed, critiqued and emulated.


Obviously this event is a big deal and generates a lot of donations to help run the Met's Costume Institute. It takes an insanely huge amount of revenue to bring us exhibits and do all the things. It has been slammed as a celebrity prom (whats wrong with that?) and there are always those who complain that the money used for $2000.00 manicures could be used to solve world hunger. Well, lets get real: it keeps your creatives and our suppliers fed instead. That is a big deal to those of us who like to eat as well.  And then we trickle this money into all the other businesses of our choosing.
                                                    This. Is. A. Good. Thing. 

 We have all seen the celebrities on the red carpet at this event. If you didn't know better, you would assume that these are the only  attendees...........but there is a whole event packed with plenty of people who paid big bucks to attend and who are wearing amazing pieces. They may not get all the attention, but they pay the admission price and they pay dearly to support the Museum and to stand out in the crowd. I was happy to help out this season................

Chris March designed a lovely ensemble for one of these generous ladies. She was very particular about the gown, the design, the fabric, the theme.............she was very hands on and had a great sense of humor. She loves dressing up and understands what it takes to make a project like this work.  I made the mockup and carried out the design. We "made" the fabric. I sewed yards and yards of leather trim onto bias cut skirt pieces. I had a lot of fun with this!

And after the skirt was done, I covered a bustier to match the skirt. That part wasn't as much fun because my machine started rebelling.  But the machine and I worked it out. We're good like that.

 This is what the skirt originally looked like when it was done. It fit her perfectly and she was thrilled, but after much discussion and contemplation, she had us cut out the back train. She wasn't going to have a crew available to help her maneuver the crowd. After having plenty of trains trampled in crowds myself over the years,  I couldn't argue with her concern. I get it. So we took out some volume. It was still a pretty voluminous skirt and Chris took the opportunity to take the trim off of the discarded train and add more to the gown.............

Look how pretty this fabric is up close: very Manus x Machina if I do say so myself.

 Chris made a spectacular neckpiece for her.

She looked like a Movie Star, had a great time, was theme appropriate, was sooooooooo pretty, looked like royalty, didn't get trampled, and everyone asked her where she got her garb.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Good Morning!!

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! As most of you - but not all of you - know, I have been helping Carolena E Nericcio-Bohlman create a fun line of wearables that can be worn to dance class or cross over into your day and evening wear! This is the Bessie line of clothing that started with my Bessie skirt! This skirt was designed to be practically lived in and Carolena and I worked on some improvements to the design and then went on to make more great things to wear! The Bessie skirt was designed to be worn in more ways than I can mention here - I wear mine ALL THE TIME!!!!! I have been seen chopping weeds and digging in my my garden in my old one - and sashaying into a party in my newer one. It makes your butt look dynamic!! All the butts.......
What makes the Bessie Skirt unique is the way in which it is designed to be flattering on all bodies, and to be worn in many different ways. You can leave it down, or take one or more of the loops placed at the hem and attach them to one or more of three buttons at the hip line. You can wrap it around your body, wear it as a strapless dress, bustle it up in back or at the sides, or turn it into a pair of pants - I kid you not! 

And now we have the Choli Dress, which is also a smashing success! It has a built in choli underneath, is open in the back, ties in the back like a choli, and has buttons and loops so that it can be worn in a myriad of ways!

Come here to this link to buy your very own or to see more photos! Keep checking in! We are working on so many new designs and ideas! I can tell you one thing......Plus sizes are going to be offered for the Bessie Skirt ! The pattern is being graded as we speak! More is coming down the pike, my friends!!!! Keep Checking In!!!


Sparkle Plenty

 I was super busy last Halloween with a big project. I was commissioned  to make a Prince costume and then also a fun feather and sequined dress inspired by Cruella Deville for  the client's wife. 
It started with my making a mock up of the garment from her measurements on a plain muslin fabric, sending the mock up to the designer and the client to try on, making revisions to the pattern, and then constructing the costume. I use the mock up and revisions as the pattern. This part of the process is usually fun for the client as we draw on the fabric while they are wearing it. This must feel really odd and kind of funny at the same time! We made Prince first because his costume was more work. ( It was tailored and very form fitting ) While Cruella was a lot of work also, (lots of handwork with feather application to the sleeves ) hers was built so that the skirt and bodice was somewhat adjustable. The whole garment was lined and she had a drawstring in the bodice neckline for ease if necessary. The skirt crossed over at the side front so that some leg could peek out without looking too hoochie-mama.

We made the train so that she could hold it up while she danced. It was for a three day Halloween bash - and we knew that there was danger of being stepped on.
The fabric was just gorgeous!
I never saw a picture of this on her, but I was assured that she loved it! Pardon the bad photos and messy studio! Feathers were flying!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy May Day, dear World!

 Its the first day of May and Im very busy with completing a wedding dress and putting in my garden! 
Clara just needs to try her dress on one last time, and then she can take it home. We got it done very quickly - which is somewhat unusual in my line of work. She got Christina Molcillo (my super amazingly brilliant partner is wedding dress making crime) and I at just the right time!  Story and pictures will be coming once the bride gets married. We dont want to spoil the surprise, do we!

It is spring and we are all hoping for a lovely summer and some positive changes in the years ahead!

I really don't know what exactly is ahead for summer. I have some tentative projects lined up, work on the Bessie line, a logo and new website that is being worked on ( Im itching to get this up!!!), revision and updating of my little sewing pattern line, friends going away and old friends moving back..........the constant ebb and flow...........and never knowing what each day will bring!

Happy May Day! May you bloom and prosper!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Hope You've All Partied Like Its 1999............

I made a Prince costume last Halloween. This was another fun project given to me by the wonderful Chris March. He has such great vision and we share that larger than life element that makes for good drama in a garment. ( Larger cant be large enough) We work really well together.  I was commissioned to make it as exactly as I could - according to client and designer specs - which was not so easy, as the original fabric for the coat is not made any longer (80's) and was very hard to track down.  But if I remember correctly, it was finally found in a fabric store located in New York, we got more than enough, and I did the best I could with the few good photos out there on the internet.  Chris found something fun for the matching pants and vest. I found good buttons at Stone Mountain and Daughter. The client is a die- hard Prince fan and he must be grieving heavily right  now. He had gone to such lengths as to purchase a copy of one of Prince's guitars. I listened to Prince music nonstop the whole time I was working on this outfit, so I was having a lot of fun.  I was dancing a lot around the studio in the wee hours. This was a project with good memories and now I'm saddened after Prince's  untimely passing, but glad for that point in time when I was immersed in the Purple One's Princedom. For many he was a big part of the soundtrack of one's life. His creativity touched us all.

I had almost forgotten about this project! Unfortunately, Prince's passing reminded me of it again. So I thought that I would share.  Supposedly the client  and his wife threw a three day Halloween bash and had an amazingly great revelrous time like it was 1999! ( as one should do when hosting a three day bash) I made his wife's costume as well, and have some photos somewhere that I'll post soon.

It always starts with a mock up. This was imperative since the client was living on the other side of the continent. But I would do it for someone living next door as well. It is always best to do this so that you get most of the fitting problems out of the way before cutting into the fabric. The collar was too high and I thought the bottom of the pants legs were a bit too wide, but the pants suited him and I cut the collar down a bit. I guess I could have cut it down more, but everyone was happy with it.  It was Halloween, after all. You always end up putting some of your personality and flair into a costume - isn't that why people come to you in the first place? ( and knowing what you are doing helps! )

I had never made a front opening like these pants have, and of course, there isnt a pattern for this that I know of, so I had to do some pondering on that one. Its sort of like a drop-down sailor pant opening - on one side - on the diagonal. With a zipper and buttons. I'm not sure if there was a zipper in the original Prince pants, but I wanted no accidents.
Everything fit him perfectly and he loved it!
I generally use the pressed out and well marked mock up as a pattern. If I think I'll use the pattern again, I'll transfer it onto paper. I used to keep everything.. But now I throw it out after a year.

I lined his vest and pants because that brocade gets pretty itchy and I wanted him to be comfortable as well as giving the body of the costume some substance. I like costumes to be made as well as one would expect of a nice garment.

 And this is what the coat fabric looks like with just a bit of light shining on it in the dark........
Can we put a hold on icon deaths for a while please?  But the message is clear: we don't know how long we've got this time around. So you had better make the most of it. And we should be supporting and loving our artists while they are alive and making art.
                                                              R.I.P Prince. You done good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

  Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, director of ,FatChanceBellyDance and I are starting our sewing classes again! We had such a great time sharing our accumulative knowledge and helping new and intermediate sewers make themselves some new costume pieces for their dance wardrobe, that we worked on a few things in our class program to make learning and working on projects much easier. We've moved our class times from Wednesday evening to Sunday afternoon, we've made a few revisions of the choli based on Folkwear's Tribal Style Belly Dancer #144 (In partnership with FatChanceBellyDance)) and are making samples of each offered size in the pattern so that we can have you try them on and get a better idea of sizing and fit! One medium C cup choli does not fit all medum C cup choli seekers! We are often several sizes in one and we've got a better system for you now.

Also we are also offering a new class! We will be making the entari from Folkwear's # 108 Turkish Dancer pattern! We all need a ghawazee coat, now dont we! These are fabulous costumes and coverups for Middle Eastern Dance styles and for all those fun Renaissance, Fairie, and Pirate faires! I have used this pattern quite a few times and will have a sample available as an example, but the fabric possibilities are endless!

So that's whats new for now.These are still held at Studio SF in San Francisco.
We have a couple options for you.
Hope to see you soon!:

Upcoming sewing classes at the Bessie Design Studio.

Basic Sewing Skills

27 Mar-3 Apr or 1, 8 May
Sunday 11am-4pm
Week 1
Measure twice, cut once! Choose from a selection of luscious,
jewel-tone taffeta available at the studio for purchase.  We’ll take measurements, cut the fabric and start sewing the hip band and straight seams.
Week 2
Pleats and final touches.
You are responsible for the purchase of these materials:
Fabric: 4 yards taffeta, thread, elastic. $35.00
Pattern: Folkwear American Tribal Style® Belly Dancer. $19.95
(Available at the FCBD® Studio, 20% discount applied at purchase.)
Optional: Magma Fashion Sketchbook. $12.00
(free when you sign up for 3 classes in a series)
Price $75.. / Materials: $51.-$63.   Register Here
Class size limited to 5 students.
Sign up for more than one workshop and receive a complimentary copy of the Magma Fashion Sketchbook. One sketchbook per person.


Intermediate Sewing Skills
The Choli (woven fabric)

10, 17, 24 Apr or 22, 29 May & 5 Jun
Time- Sunday 11am-4pm
Week 1
Measure twice, cut once! We’ll start by trying on a variety of sample “muslin” cholis to determine your unique size, discuss the pattern, cut the fabric and start sewing.
Week 2
Fitting and sewing.
Week 3
Fitting, sewing and final touches.
You are responsible for the purchase of these materials:
2-3 yards woven cotton fabric, thread. Est. cost $20-35.
Pattern: Folkwear American Tribal Style® Belly Dancer. $19.95
(Available at the FCBD® studio, 20% discount applied at purchase.)
Optional: Magma Fashion Sketchbook. $12.00
Class: $110. / Materials: $35.-48.00   Register Here
Class size limited to 5 students.
Sign up for more than one workshop and receive a complimentary copy of the Magma Fashion Sketchbook. One sketchbook per person.

Intermediate Sewing Skills
Turkish Dancer Coat
Dates 19, 26 Jun, 3, 10 Jul
Time Sunday 11am-4pm
Preparation: Prior to our first class, please visit one of the fabric stores one of the fabric stores in the resource list to select your fabric and thread.  Pre-shrink your fabric by washing it as you will the finished garment.
Week 1
Measure twice, and cut once! We’ll start by taking measurements to determine your size, discus the pattern, cut the fabric and start sewing.
Week 2 & 3
Fitting and sewing.
Week 4
Fitting, sewing and final touches.
You are responsible for the purchase of these materials: 4-6 yards woven cotton fabric, thread, Est. cost $30-60.00
Notion: minimal cost, advised on Week 1
Pattern: Folkwear Turkish Dancer. $19.95    Order >> Here
Optional: Magma Fashion Sketchbook. $12.00
Class: $145. / Materials: $49.95-$75.00   Register Here
Class size limited to 5 students.
Sign up for more than one workshop and receive a complimentary copy of the Magma Fashion Sketchbook. One sketchbook per person.

Here is more Info and a resource list!

Sewing Class Information
The classes are designed to introduce you to Basic and Intermediate Skills. If you have no sewing experience, we recommend you start with Basic Sewing Skills: Pantaloons. If you feel comfortable with a variety of skills, you can take the classes in whatever order you like.
Do you have your own machine?
If you have a portable machine we recommend bringing it to class so you can work on your own machine. If you don't have,or can't bring a machine we have several to use at the studio.
FatChanceBellyDance, Inc. Studio SF
670 South Van Ness Ave.
(btwn 17th/18th Sts), San Francisco, CA 94110.
Parking: street parking is available, but not guaranteed, paid parking lot at 17th St/Shotwell (your best choice), occasional paid parking at Whiz Burger (ask *very politely* at the window) 18th St/South Van Ness Ave.
Good to know facts for new sewers: Most stores have mailing lists that will mail you info concerning sales and discounts. Some stores - esp. the chain stores cater to the home sewer only. Some stores cater to a more affluent or professional clientele. Jo-Ann Fabrics has an app for your phone full of coupons. Fabric Outlet usually has an ongoing "sale" and other generous sales throughout the year. Britex has an occasional sale, but generally carries imported fabrics that are hard to find in this country. Watch for their remnant sale! Stone Mountain and Daughter carries the biggest selection of designer cottons and blends. Etsy and Ebay are also a good place to search for fabrics.
Fabric Stores in the Bay Area 
$   Fabrix - 432 Clement St. SF
     (cheaper bolt ends - hit and miss - always an adventure - can sometimes score amazing deals)
$$ Stone Mountain & Daughter - 2518 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
$$ Mendel's 1556 Haight St. SF
$-$$ Hancock Fabrics - 952 Admiral Callaghan Way, Vallejo 94591   
                                    - 1375 Imola Ave, Napa 94559
$-$$ Beverley's Fabric & Crafts - 418 Westlake Center, SF
$-$$ Fabrics R Us- 1745 Berryessa Rd. San Jose   (cash only)
$-$$ Simply Fabric - 1228 12th Ave. Oakland 94606
$-$$ Fabric Outlet - 2109 Mission St. SF
$-$$ Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts - 75 Colma Blvd, Colma, 94014
                                                - 300 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito, 94530
                                                - 245 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Medera
                                                - 1675 B Willow Pass Road, Concord 94520
$-$$  Discount Fabrics - 2170 Cesar Chavez St. SF (the warehouse - more of a selection)
                                     - 3006 San Pablo @ Ashby, Berkeley
$$-$$$ Sal Beressi - 1504 Bryant St, SF
      (geared toward the trade, but often has beautiful fabrics for costuming purposes)
$$-$$$ Piedmont Fabric - Piedmont Ave, Oakland
$$$ Satin Moon Fabrics - 32 Clement St, SF
$$$ Britex Fabrics - 146 Geary St, SF, 94108
Online Fabric Store Resources