Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fabric is My Heroin

I could shop for fabric 24 hours a day, just about every day. It is definitely an addiction. In fact, I think I nearly OD'd on fabric this week. My mom was just in town visiting and she's into quilting, so we hit up a bunch of fabric shops as well as a few awesome estate sales and rounded up quite a pile of lovely material.

A big pile of gorgeous dupioni silk! The brown, yellow and lilac purple came from a discount upholstery shop and were only $3 a yard!!! I bought whatever they had left. The bluish-purple iridescent piece on the far right my mom bought for me when she was in NYC recently.

This whole entire group only cost $1! I got all five of these pieces at the same estate sale. From left to right: 1. A LARGE piece of white faux fur. Not sure what I'll do with it, but for 20¢ I couldn't just leave it there! 2. A piece of nice red cotton, I'll use it to line some tote bags I'm working on. 3. An absolutely GORGEOUS piece of very old silk satin. It's pale steel blue in color and feels amazing! Still has a tiny tag on it with writing in Japanese, I'm guessing from when it was purchased originally. 4. An awesome black and white poly knit. Something fun waiting to happen, I know it! 5. Several yards of bright pink corduroy. Good for bags and an obvious addition to my massive corduroy collection.

All the above pieces came from a local discount fabric shop. They sell a lot of factory ends and older pieces. From left: 1. Two yards of a nice fuschia corduroy. 2. A funky paisley print for tote bags. 3. A fantastic floral print which I'll also use for making bags. 4. Really fun blue and brown floral, I've already started making a tote out of this and it should be ready and listed in my Etsy shop tomorrow! 5. Super cute ladybug print cotton. I'm going to make my boyfriend some boxers out of this. I LOVE getting cute prints and making him shorts.

Some really nice fabrics I can't wait to make some clothes with! These all came from the same discount place as the pieces above. From left: 1 & 2 - I don't usually use polyester, but these prints were so gorgeous, the price was right and the fabric so soft! I'm going to make up a basic halter pattern and then bust out a bunch of cute dresses to be for sale just in time for summer! 3. Beautiful maroon herringbone wool blend. If you look really really close the threads are 4 or 5 different colors of purple and red. It's awesome! I'm going to make some pants with this, someday... 4. Nice black and white wool tweed with little rainbow specs. It'll make a great coat. 5. I thought this one was wool when I bought it, and it was in the wool section at the store, but when I got it home and did a burn test it melted and dripped all over my finger. It STILL hurts. I'm guessing it's acrylic. It's still really nice looking and I'm thinking of using it for a cute matching skirt and jacket combo.

This last piece is my favorite one I got all week! It's a to-die-for silk chiffon, mostly black an printed as a repeat panel with the NYC skyline, including the WTC, so this one is obviously at least a few years old. I got everything that was left, which was about 8 yards, and it was only $2.99 a yard. CRAZY deal! They definitely didn't know what they had, which is usually the advantage at this place. Most of the people working there couldn't tell poly from silk with their eyes open. Anyway, I'm going to use it to make a floor length gown with the design as a border along the bottom and the rest of the dress in black, so you can only really see the image if you look close or if the dress is spread out.

I got one more piece of silk this week, a slate blue dupioni, and I haven't actually seen it since I got it home. I'm wondering if my mom accidentally took it home with her. No time to wonder! I need to dive right in and start turning all this fabric into its intended forms. Partially to sell some of the things I create and make back all the money we spent, but mostly so I can make room for more fabric!!! I'm off to the sewing machine!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Construction Zone!

My sewing room always looks like a tornado just rolled through, I find it difficult to allot time for designing AND cleaning. Of course making new clothing comes first! Cleaning can wait til it's absolutely necessary. Anyway, right now it no exception. Half finished garments, pattern pieces, thread, fabric and notions are EVERYWHERE! But at least it's a fun and constructive mess.

Part of my sewing room and its lovely mess

Here's a little bit of what I've been up to since I got back from Chicago. I started this black and white plaid dupioni silk dress yesterday. I've had this fabric for nearly as long as I have been designing. It's just been sitting around waiting and waiting for the right pattern to come its way, and I think I have finally found the thing that it was meant to be used for. Good thing I have about 10 more yards just in case! Yesterday I draped the pattern for the top and made a quick fit sample. Today I sewed all the body fabric together. Right now I'm working on cutting out and piecing the lining together. It will be lined with black silk satin. Tomorrow I need to get a zipper for it and sew in the lining and then voila, a cute dress ready in 3 days! I'm thinking of using a brightly colored petticoat underneath it and then making some kind of sash belt in the same color for contrast. Any color suggestions? I'm leaning towards daffodil yellow, mostly because I already have a petticoat and silk fabric in that color. That petticoat is on underneath it in the second photo and I definitely like the way it helps the dress poof.

On the left is a photo from earlier today of just the bodice sewn and being checked for fit.
On the right the dress is almost complete! Just needs lining and a zipper. Also, it will have
tiny black spaghetti straps when it's finished.

I actually started making this dress with a completely different fabric in mind. I can't afford to buy that fabric just yet, unless a mysterious large amount of money suddenly falls from the sky and lands in my paypal account, so I decided to make a test dress. The plaid one is actually a little different style-wise in the skirt than the forthcoming dress will be. Also, the 2nd dress will have a super cute cropped jacket with petal sleeves. I'm still working out the pattern right now cause it's going have some crazy details and style lines. It'll be lined with and have accent pieces of the fabric the dress will be made from. Here's a little illustration I've made of the jacket:

Soon-to-be real cropped jacket, my original design. The body will be silk noile
and the lining and accents will be printed silk charmeuse. Yummy!

Both of these outfits and many more will be shown at Frock n Roll, a fashion show featuring local designers being held on May 17th. See my past post about the event here.

So, I guess it's time to get back to work! Will post more photos and fun details when this dress is done and I start working on the jacket!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Project Runway Auditions

So, I just got back from Project Runway Auditions only minutes ago. I was done at the audition 2 hours ago, but just made the track back to my friend's apartment where I am staying in Chicago.

What a long day! I got up at about 6 am, left the house at 7, took a train and then a taxi to get there and arrived at the W Hotel around 8:10 am. Auditions started at 9 and we and we waited around in line for a LONG, cold and windy time. I took three pieces with me to show the judges. Two of them are pictured in this post and the third was the plaid skirt in fall colors with silk trim that's shown in two of my other posts. My friend Dalla went with me and patiently waited out the whole day. I was 52nd in line and didn't get inside to the holding room until around 1 o'clock. Then we waited around for another really long time, because when we got in there they were only interviewing #30, but at least it was warm inside, and we could feel our toes and fingers again. Did I mention I was wearing heels? I wanted to look nice but I knew it was going to suck.

Me, in line at PR auditions, on a blustery Chicago morning

So, we waited around in the holding room for almost another two hours, watching person after person come back upset and clearly having been turned away. There were large clothing racks set up throughout the room and you could see everything that everyone else had brought with them to show to the judges. There was an awful lot of really costume-y and unrefined types of things that you didn't have to be a judge to know that that person was going to be shot down. The more I saw the more I felt confident in the pieces I had brought with me.

Dalla took a break at one point to go and try to find some coffee and ran into Nick Verreos (he was the guest past-competitor judge in Chicago) in the elevator. She didn't talk to him as he was talking with someone who just auditioned and telling him that his (the guy who was auditioning )personality AND designs were just amazing. Other than that we didn't see anyone who looked like they had been moved on to the next stage until the very end.

The whole time we really only talked to two other people, the designer in front of us, Lia Joy and her significant other, (whose name I somehow managed to not catch the entire time I was there), who was there as moral support and to help carry large clothing items.

At around 2:50 it was FINALLY my turn to go in and talk to the judges. I was sooo nervous but I don't think it was showing too much. I went down the hall to the audition room, they put a mic on me then sent me it. As I walked in they all said hello and asked how I was doing. I put my three pieces up on the clothing rack and Tim asked me to spread them out so they could see them, right as I was doing just that. Tim said that everything looked excellently constructed, Nick agreed. Then Tim said "But it's just to basic." To which Nick agreed, but I didn't! I know that of all the tips online about auditioning for the show it always says stick up for yourself against the judges. I was totally prepared to defend my work but Tim says "We're going to have to pass, thank you" before I can even get a syllable out of my mouth. Honestly, I was really surprised. They didn't even ask to look at my portfolio, which has much stranger things in it. I couldn't even manage to say thank you as I took my designs off the rack and walked out of the room, I was too shocked. I kind of felt a little bad about that, but whatever. I'm sure that's just a second of time I saved them to talk to someone else.

This dress made from brown and cream wool tweed fabric and lined and trimmed with a nude colored silk charmeuse. I gave it some interested style lines which I thought were really unique. It's hard to see in the photo, and I'll take a better one later of me wearing it and replace this one with that. It came out gorgeous, fits like a glove and I couldn't have been happier with it.

So, yeah. I'm a little bit upset right now, but I went into this knowing that there was only a SLIM chance that I would be moved on to the next round, and also knowing how to-the-point the judges are in these auditions, so I wasn't totally unprepared. Holy run-on sentence! I felt that the work I took with me WAS really good, and maybe if they had actually taken a second to ask me about it I could have explained to them why it WASN'T basic and what made it special that maybe they couldn't see in the 30 seconds they looked at it before sending me away. Literally, I was in that room for less than a minute. I wanted the pieces I took to the audition to look like they came from the same collection and also to look like something that every woman would want to wear every single day. They are by no means plain, but they also aren't over the top crazy either, because that's not what's going to sell to the general market. They were flawlessly constructed by the way, so that must count for something and at least they were nice enough to compliment that. I think that the judges and producers were so caught up about how "couture" the 4th season was that that was all they were looking for. The girl that came out of the audition room 3 or 4 people before me got passed on to the next round. Her clothes weren't interesting, they were made using horrible fabrics and they weren't constructed nicely at all. However, one of her pieces had layers upon layers of the same fabric and looked EXACTLY like something that Christian would have made, just not as nice. Really people, it's not new, hard or exciting to sew a million layers, it just takes freaking forever. Note to self - take pieces to audition that you copied from the previous season's winner.

Also, advise to any future hopefuls - stay away from the sequins!!! I only saw ONE person all day long be asked to leave before she even made it to the holding room. She had brought store-bought jeans which she hand-sewed sequins all over. Frightening, to say the least. And people, please! That does not make you a fashion designer. It might make you crafty and handy with a needle but don't waste your time. Especially to stand in 40 degree weather for 5 hours.

One of the pieces I took with me to the audition. it's made entirely from the same piece of dupioni silk. The silk the body was cut from was washed about 5 times and the fabric used for the collar, cuffs and bottom trim wasn't washed at all. There are tucks at the front neckline to create that extra fullness, and stitched down tucks up center bag that add more interesting detail to the piece. I made this in one day!

So, I guess that's all really. I am a little disappointed but I'm certainly not going to freak out and say "I quit designing because Tim Gunn says my stuff is too basic!" He's not the only opinion that matters in the fashion world, just one of them. And it must be really difficult for them to actually evaluate you thoroughly when there are 150 more people waiting in line that they need to at least try and audition as well. I've had friends who auditioned be told MUCH worse things so I'm not losing sleep over it. If there is a 6th season I will absolutely audition again and this time I'll be even more prepared and have WAY more stuff added to my portfolio (should they decide to actually look at it).

In the meantime, I have something that might be a little more exciting and DEFINITELY less stressful, up my sleeve, but I won't know more about that til the end of this month. Happy April Fool's Day everyone! I must have definitely played a joke on myself thinking I had this one nailed. :-/