Monday, September 27, 2010

Bustles, bustles and more bustles!

I have become an expert - in my own mind - at bustling. Last week I lost count of how many I did. I spent countless hours bustling. I ran out of ribbon at one point. I had 2 (or was it 3) gowns in particular that quite honestly gave me headaches. Usually I can whip out a full set of french bustles (meaning up to 6-7 bustle points) in about 1 1/2 hours. I tend to make pretty good money on bustling. Kind of makes up for some of the other alterations I do that never become money makers! Both of these gowns were needing tiered french bustling, which is probably, in my humble opinion, the loveliest of all bustles. Typically  they are not any more difficult than your regular french bustle. What made these different, was that the first one had layers and layers and layers . . . all of different fullness. Each layer (in order to look pretty and not sloppy) needed to be bustled individually. The dress had a total of 11 bustle points. 3 of these were on the main fabric layer, just to pull it up and out of the way; not so much for the look. The rest of the bustle points were for the outer sheer/lace layers. I started with 3 at the top layer, and 5 across the bottom. I so wish I had taken  the time to take a picture of it. It was really beautiful. But I had so much to do and didn't waste a moment.  And for as much time as this dress took, I had to work double time! The bustling on this gown took almost 4 hours.
The next dress I bustled was even worse. A lovely Matthew Christopher gown, simplistic in style (which is an oxymoron for Matthews gowns!), it was actually a 'mistake' he made, but decided to finish it anyway. It is one of his best sellers. The gown is strapless with a sweetheart neckline, very very fitted to mid thigh, where it flares out quite drastically in to a very full 2-layered skirt. There are 3 - 1" bands of silver sequins at the waist and again at the point where the skirt skirt flares out. Again, we decided on a tiered bustle. When I pinned it up at out first fitting, it was a bit sloppy, but it was only to give the bride an idea of what it will look like. However, when I got it home to work on, well, lets just say that the skirt seemed to swell in volume. And to make it worse, the outer layer had no back seam to line up for accuracy in symmetry. With all that fullness falling all over the place, it was almost impossible to get the layers to lay symmetrically upon each other. So, as with the previous gown, I finally decided to tier each layer individually. 4 hours later . . .Makes for more bustling, but also makes for a truly beautiful fall of fabric. Again - in  a rush - no pictures. So sorry!
This next one, though, I will take pictures. HUGE skirt, draped at the sides into pleats and folds with a huge swoop of fabric across the back. Originally, the bride wanted me to just do a couple traditional bustles, swooping the fabric from the  sides to button at the back. Boring. For the drama this dress presents, it needs a much more dramatic bustle. Yesterday I spent another 5 hours simply playing with it. I think I have it figured out. I came up with an idea I haven't seen in bustling before. This is not to say that I have 'invented' a new bustle! But wouldn't that be cool if I did? I'm sure some one somewhere has done it before. But for me it is a new technique.
But you will have to tune back in tomorrow to see what it is! Pictures - i promise!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Progress made!!

I started the week out with lots of dread and apprehension. My work week didn't actually start until Tuesday, so I got a late start with a very full week ahead. My main goal, if not my first project, was to finish the beading and applique work on the very heavily beaded gown that will be picked up this Saturday. But first I wanted to get a few other smaller projects finished. So, on Tuesday, I worked on 3 dresses. Mary's brown silk MOB dress that needed cups added, taking in at the back zipper, and a hem. I finished up the work on a wedding gown that needed additional taking in at the sides, and the strap adjusted; and I started on another bridal gown that needed cups added, create a sweetheart neckline, taken in at the back, and 3 french bustles. All in one day! That got me ahead of the curve - whew! I finally felt like I could breathe! Wednesday I finished up work on that last gown, and got busy on the beading and applique work on the gown of the week! I started working on it at about 3:00 p.m. Took off about 1 1/2 hours for dinner and a bit of cleaning, and finished the beading at 2:00 a.m.! This morning I had a bit more hand work to do on it, but by noon I was on to other projects. I still have 2 more dresses that need to be ready by Wednesday, but really - no big deal. Not that I won't need to stay busy - it seems like as soon as I think it may slow down enough to breathe - I get incredibly busy again!
I have had 2 clients this week who were real pleasures to work with! Very appreciative, very sweet and accommodating. I appreciate when my clients are very honest about how the dress feels/ fits after alterations. Without putting on the dress myself, I can't tell how it fits. My dress dummy can't either. SO if it doesn't "feel' right, I need to know! It may look fantastic, but if it doesn't 'feel' good, it needs to be tweaked. My second  bride, who picked up her  gown today, was that type of client. She was very honest about what she was looking for in fit, and was not afraid to let me know when it wasn't quite right. Today she left happy with her gown. I just hope the rest of her wedding plans go better. It is  a destination wedding in Florida next Saturday. Everything from the cake to the preacher has given her last minute problems. But she has a dress!
Tomorrow, it's back to work on 3 more dresses due by the end of next week, plus 2 new client appointments. No rest for the weary . . .

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When All There Is Left to Say is Good-bye

I honestly believed I was ready for this. When people would ask, "How are you handling it?"
My response was always the same. No Problem! This is only what I've been expecting for the last 20 years or so. But today I woke up to the realization that after to day, I won't be able to see or touch or be near my son for a year. Tomorrow I leave to head back home, while he will be getting on a  plane headed for Afghanistan. 
From the time that he was very little, there was little doubt that he would someday be involved in the military in some form or fashion. He would drag his toy guns along with him everywhere he could. Not only guns, but his own lego hand-grenades and machine guns made from paper towel rolls and pieces of wood or sticks. He once took a wooden sword we had gotten him at a fair and turned it into a machine gun with a scope and shoulder sling - we still have it tucked away in a closet, waiting for the day when his own children will drag it out to play with. He made aircraft carriers out of legos before they had kits to do so. He had a collection of fighter jets and helicopters, tanks, jeeps, anything camouflage. His bedroom door still bears the carved in markings of his imaginary 'kills'. Hunting came naturally to him. He is a 'crack shot' and never has to take a second shot. Never misses. The first time he went hunting with daddy, I was a nervous wreck. I thought he was way too young. I think he was 6 or 7. But he carried his own gun and his own gear. In the coming years, I found more dead squirrels in my freezer than I want to think of. After shooting them with his BB gun, he 'hid' them in the freezer so I wouldn't find them in the yard! Atleast he was ridding our huge tree filled property of the pesky little varmints! Later, in high school, he joined the ROTC program, which he did very well in. But he seemed to loose interest in most things military for a few years,and I actually began to wonder if maybe I had been wrong. Maybe he wasn't destined for the military. Maybe there was something else for him. But God kept steering him back. All the roads he took seemed to lead him right back to this.  
And now the day has come. And although my heart is so sad at the thought of being so far away from him for so long; I can say with all the honesty in my heart, that I am not worried about or for him. He is going over there with a unit trained in Humvee mechanics and weapons and ammunition distribution. So those are the main 'jobs' he will be involved in. I am not naive - I  know that the area he is going to is very volatile. I know that circumstances over there can change in a second. Chances right now are that he will never leave the base or see combat. But the reality is that full fledged war could break out at any moment and he could be caught up right in the middle of it. But I know he is good at what he does. He has been well trained, not only by the army, but in life. This is something he has been preparing for his whole life. And most important, I know he walks with his creator, his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Should worse come to worse; should his life be taken, I know he will be in his Saviors arms. And isn't that really where we all want to be? I think my greater fear is that he return home injured in a way that I can't fix. Or that can't be fixed by anyone. So, I will be saying a lot of prayers today, and in the days and weeks and months ahead. I will continue to place him back in Gods hands every single day; because, lets face it - even though, as mothers, we say we put our children in Gods hands, we take them back again all the time. 
I know our last good-bye will happen later this evening, and I don't want to forget to tell him what is important. But I don't want to cry, and I know I will if I get serious about it at all. For now, we continue to joke and share laughter with each other. But the time will come, after we have had our last dinner together, after he has gathered up his things and we have moved him into the hotel where the rest of his unit is staying, when we are just standing there, knowing that this is the moment. And I know I will cry when all there is left to say is good-bye, and God speed and come home safely. I  love you my son. I love you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My First Hand Picked Zipper - and more . . .

As a rule, I have always pretty much shunned the hand picked zipper. I have always liked the clean lines that an invisible zipper gives, and even in a lapped zipper, machine stitching just looks cleaner. Not that I can't appreciate the seamstresses skills  when it comes to doing an incredibly neat job on any type of hand stitching. I do, certainly, appreciate and admire those skills. And, partly in the interest of time, I have never taken the time required to focus on perfecting that skill in my own 'basket of talents'. Until now. In the 5 or so years that I have been doing bridal alterations, I have done quite  a few heavily beaded gowns that have needed work done at the zipper. It would have to be either taken out completely, or partially; beading would have to be removed, then replaced. So, when I first brought this gown home, I wasn't too terribly concerned about having to develope any new talents to get the job done. It didn't take long however for me to change my mind. The beading and applique work on this particular gown is over the top, to say the least. After carefully scrutinizing the area at the zipper that needed taking in, I decided that rather than spend several hours first removing appliques and beading, repositioning the zipper, then replacing all the beading and appliques, perhaps it would   be more timewise to only remove those appliques and the beading in the area that where it would no longer be needed/seen(as that area would be folded into the new zipper seam allowance); and to - yes - you guessed it - do a hand picked zipper. With all the beading on the back of this  gown, there was absolutely no way it was going in my machine. And, as I mentioned, to remove it all would have taken, literally - hours. So. My very first hand picked zipper. Because of all the beading you can hardly even see any of my stitching. But it is there. Every last teeny tiny stitch.
Unfortunately, the other work required on this dress did require removal of all the appliques and beading. This bride wanted the dress to fit more snugly around her hips and thighs - more like a trumpet or mermaid style than the a-line that it was made to be. I forwarned her about the cost. After doing the fitting, the side seams each needed to come in up to 1/2" at the hip/thigh, and the back/side seams also needed to come in about the same amount. Here I have pictured each seam. The seams have been taken in, and the appliques pinned back in place. Next step is to hand sew each applique back on, then re-attach all of the beading.

Here is the left side and left back side seams.

Here is the right back side seam. with a peek of the right side seam.

Since taking these photo's, I have spent  3 1/2 hours rebeading/reapplique-ing (is that even a word?). I'm about 1/4 done. So far, with the alterations she required, the cost is up around $500. And I'm not yet finished. When all is said and done, it may reach $800. For alterations. I know that this is what I do for a living. This is how I make my money. But, personally, that is just crazy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shopping the Fashion District - As Seen Through the Eyes of a NYC Virgin!

Arriving in the Big Apple was exciting and a little overwhelming! The first thing I noticed was how much smaller LaGuardia is than the airport in Atlanta! I was out of there in about 10 minutes! In Atlanta it would have taken that long just to find my way out of whichever terminal deck I was in! My taxi driver was from Russia with a strong accent. He regaled me with NYC news stories, and his favorite recipes! He has a fear of motorcycles and helicopters. But not of NYC roads. He got me to my hotel without incident, unfortunately, my room was not yet ready, even though it was almost 5 p.m. So in their kindness, the hotel management gave me a voucher for a free breakfast. How sweet of them. Somehow I have the feeling that most all guests receive them.  I got unpacked and immediately set out on the streets of New York City - on my own! The streets were easy to navigate, being all straight and even, numbered or named. I walked about 10 or 12 blocks, going in and out of a few stores, then headed back to my hotel. I stopped at a deli outside the hotel and grabbed a bit to eat up in my room. My room was very small - but then how much room does one person really need, anyway? I slept pretty well, except for the hard as rock pillow that gave me a headache. Saturday morning I woke early enough to make sure I had time to walk the 8 or so blocks to the rendezvous point earlier agreed upon by my fellow PR'rs. These are women I had never met before, but had engaged in cyber-talk on We were all supposed to meet at Starbucks at 8th and 37th, but as I knew I wouldn't recognize any of them, I grabbed a bite to eat and headed to our first store. First up was Metro-Textiles. Normally closed on Saturday, Kashi was sweet to open his store just for our group! Our group had grown to such a large number that we decided to split into 2 groups. At Metro Textiles I found 2 'finds'! The first - the true find of the trip! - is a soft gray felted wool. It will be perfect for the vintage jacket I've shown with it -
 I also found a beautiful piece of Chantilly black lace, which I plan to use for a lace jacket - very simple.
The next store we went to was Elliot Berman, which was also normally closed Saturdays, but opened special just for us! Unfortunately, I didn't find anything there that I couldn't live without. Some gorgeous fabrics, but nothing I felt I had to spend my $$ on. We stopped to have lunch at a deli, rested our already tired bodies, and got a chance to visit and get to know each other a little better. Then we were off to Mood!
This was the store I would have to say I enjoyed the most! Although, I wasted way too much time looking at the designer fabrics. I was looking for a specific fabric - a silk chiffon in black with large red/purple flowers spread sporadically across it. This is for a formal dress I need to make for myself for our annual ICAS banquet/ball in Vegas in December. I finally decided the expensive designer fabrics were really way too expensive for me! I moved on to the silk chiffon that wasn't designer. I had to ask for help, because I just wasn't finding what I wanted, and in a store that size, I knew my fabric had to be there! Sure enough, I found what I was looking for - exactly!!! Then I moved on to find the black silk charmuese I will use under the sheer chiffon.
Here is the sketch I made for this dress -
I also bought a MOOD t-shirt for my designer student daughter, Brittany (who recently met Anthony from last years Project Runway).

I got one more piece of fabric - at Paron Fabrics. By the time we hit this store, we were all getting pretty tired. But this store had some great pieces, also. Lots of beautiful woolens, lots of knits. But I found a lovely purple and black silk jacquard. I found a silk lining to use to make another vintage jacket. This one is a pattern from Eva Patterns. It is an Audrey Hepburn pattern - can't wait to make this one!
Our group, as I mentioned, had to split up, but I did get a photo of the group I ended up in -

All in all, my day of shopping in the fashion district was not only a lot of fun, but successful in a business sense, also. At both Metro-Textiles and at Parons, the owners encouraged me to leave my card, and sent me away with theirs, telling me they look forward to hearing from me in the future, and that they will be happy to send me samples of anything I may need. Being that the only fabric store we have here is Gail K Fabrics, that is very good news. I left my new friends feeling so grateful to have come up to NYC to spend the day with them. There are almost no seamstresses in my circle of friends and acquaintances, but now, even though they are many miles away, I have many!
You may notice that I am wearing my Silk Dress that I recently painted! I wasn't sure about whether I really loved it or not; but my new friends all gave me such sweet and generous compliments on it, how could I not love it!
It was the perfect dress to wear for this shopping trip. It was so comfortable, cool and I felt good wearing it. Would have looked better with beige heels (you are right Cheryl!) but I refuse to do heels when shopping! Have to be comfortable.
By the time I returned to the hotel, I was pretty exhausted. Crashed  into bed and didn't wake up til about 8:30. I dresses, ate my free breakfast, and hit the streets of NYC again! I walked from 32nd and Broadway all the way to Central Park (they are preparing for Fashion Week, so I took a few pictures of these street 'decorations'),

 then through the park to the carousel,  on up 5th to the Museum, where I wandered into the gift shop, then back down 5th where I wandered through a few no-touch stores, found my way back to Broadway, and followed it back to my hotel on 32nd. It was 5:30 when I walked back into my room. My legs were so sore I could hardly move. My feet were fine, but ohh! the legs! After soaking in a hot bath, I fell into the bed and watched the Emmy's and fell asleep. Monday was an early and uneventful trip back to Georgia. I was ready to be home, and after my most enjoyable weekend away, I conclude that although New York City was/is a fascinating, wonderful, exciting place to visit, I would never want to live there. I sure am envious of all those fantastic fabric shops though.