Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back From the Bunny Hole

Remember my adventures in the bunny hole from a few posts ago? I believe I can safely say I am back from the bunny hole. The gown I was working on at the time is finished and delivered.
To refresh your mind - I had been working on a gown for a bride who had received a completely free wedding. The gown she had picked out was a lovely ivory draped and pleated Pronovious gown. It had a halter neck, very fitted to the hips, where it flared out with gathered godets at the sides, flowing into a huge - HUGE train. The first thing she wanted was to change the neckline to a sweetheart strapless. It needed taking in about 1.5 inches at the back; added padded cups, hem and figure out a bustle for this huge train. Oh - and she wanted a lightly beaded belt that was on a different gown. She also got free bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses, 2 mother of the bride dresses, shoes, veil, jewelry, cake, flowers, catering, event center, and yes, honeymoon. It was never mentioned to her that alterations were not included in the package. But it became quite obvious that she assumed they were. Perhaps I should have mentioned it sooner, but in all honesty, I didn't realize she was getting everything free of charge until after our first fitting was done and she was gone. At our second fitting, she was feeling quite sick (almost fainted on me) and it didn't get mentioned again. She was to let me know with in 2 weeks after our 2nd fitting how she was coming on her weight (hopefully she would not have gained or lost anymore and I could then go ahead and do the alterations, again). After 3 weeks, I finally contacted her to find out what she wanted me to do as far as taking the dress in again or not. She insisted she didn't have time to come for another fitting so she told me to just do what ever I thought I should do, but to make it unique and special in a way that would be different than any other gown. Hmmm . . . we had only discussed alterations, not design changes.  She asked me to just drop it off at the bridal shop and she would pick it up this week. The wedding is this coming Friday. And could I take it in just a tiny bit more than what I had pinned?
I did the alterations as we had discussed., but no design changes.  I have no idea whether it will fit or not, because, as I mentioned, she didn't come for further fittings. It was at this point that I became quite, well, irritated. She was expecting me to make her dress into some dream version of a dress that even she wasn't sure of. She expected it to fit perfectly, but wasn't willing, or able, to do her part. And she was expecting me to do all this for free. Hours - and I do mean hours. 22 to be exact. That I could have spent working on other gowns for much more appreciative brides.  Frustration set in as it never has before. And while I sat in my chair by my window with her dress in my lap, I decided to just pray about it. And I immediately found peace. I knew what I had to do. Whether or not I could do it cheerfully was another matter entirely. I finished the alterations and delivered it to the store.  I then sent her a message that I hoped she was feeling better, and I hoped the dress was done the way she wanted, and my blessings for a beautiful wedding and happy marriage. I didn't mention any payment. God helped me to see that as He had gifted me with my business, so I could gift her with my services. It was the least I could do to show Him my gratitude. It may not have been done with the most cheerful of hearts, but it was done in obedience. The cheerfulness will follow, I believe. In the meantime, here is the dress -
Here is the front view, finished; changed neckline, cups added, belt added, hemmed, taken in twice, left unbustled in this photo.
                                         A close-up of the bodice with the confiscated belt.
                                                                 The train full length.
The train is bustled here. There are 6 traditional bustle loops across the back of the skirt going to a single button at the right side, and 4 traditional bustle loops from the center back to the left that go to a single button at the center back.
The heavy satin underskirt is held up with 3 french bustles underneath.
It really is a lovely gown, and she will make a lovely bride. I do hope she is feeling well on her special day, and I pray daily for my own  attitude. It is a work in progress.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Littlel Corner of Heaven

I am pleased to share with you one of my favorite places. I am blessed to have it in my own home, and to be able to spend many hours everyday there. It is the place where I go to dream, to design and create. It is my sewing place. Come in and visit - and I hope when you leave, you take a little piece of my heaven with you!

Upon entering, I am always welcomed by a ray of sunshine streaming in through the front windows. I leave them uncovered, to get the most of the light.  The pale pink walls reflect the light, making the room that much more cheerful and welcoming.

Another view of the front wall - I LOVE my lamp! I found it at Hobby Lobby and it was so perfect for my room. It tells a tale all by itself. Behind the mirror and room divider (which is covered in a silk flower swag) is the Vintage wedding gown, made by my mother - in- law, back in 1957. I may have to do a separate blog on that . . . Below the mirror, are my sketch and photo books, as well as the box in which I store supplies for my latest passion - silk painting. The shelf above the window holds some very old Madame Alexander dolls that also belonged to my mother-in-law,as well as a very very old and tiny childs sewing machine. At one time it actually worked. It also belonged to my mother -in-law.

This wall holds a treasure of shelving! My father - in- law built  the shelving for us when we bought the house 19 years ago. Up until about 1 1/2 years ago, the room was used by my 2 daughters. Neither of them made as good a use of the shelving as I have though! The baskets hold lace trimmings, cordings, appliques,  & beading supplies. On the shelves you will also find a box for fabric paints, hot glue supplies, and more beading tools. Other shelves hold my 'stereo' (which only plays one station on the radio and the CD player doesn't work - but it plays my favorite station, so I am happy), business supplies, paper work, files, resource materials (books, mostly), and supplies for paper crafting. Below the shelving is where I store my patterns - in the rectangular decorative boxes; items I use at Bridal Shows are in the circular boxes. On the table, is a special box where I keep fabric I have set aside for special projects. You can see it is overflowing onto the table itself. What can I say, it's been a very busy summer with no time to sew for myself.

Here in the back corner is my sewing center. My idea board is on the wall behind, as well as a thread holder. The basket on the floor holds my mending.

This is my 'go to' shelf. It holds all those items I find necessary to have close at hand when at my machine. Needles, bobbins, the 2 large boxes hold thread; buttons, tape, scissors, machine tools and feet, etc, ...

A full view of the back wall. My machine is a Babylock Ellageo. It  does everything I could ask for. Don't have, never have had, and probably never will have a serger. Stacked at the back of the table is my current 'job'. I am putting new trim on all the local cheerleaders' outfits. Thus, the bag on the chair with overflowing trim. My pride and joy hangs on the back wall. 2 years ago at Christmas, my youngest daughter (the artist) painted this portrait from a favorite photograph taken years ago of all my beautiful children.

The fourth wall shows my storage cabinet, as well as my ironing station and my sewing companions. They are (from left to right), Polly, Dolly, and Molly. The top storage cabinet is where I keep mostly small to medium scraps. The lower cabinet is where I keep boxes and baskets of other supplies; interfacing's, ribbons, zippers, fasteners, boning and horsehair, stabilizers, shoulder pads, bra inserts, etc., etc., etc. . .
More storage for fabric scraps is kept in the round boxes under the table. You may be wondering why I have a childs plastic chair in my sewing room. Good question - I'm glad you asked! Often, in hemming a wedding gown, I dress one of my sewing companions in said gown, place her up on the short table that is kept under the shelving, and sit upon my little chair to accurately measure and pin the gown. Works like a charm.

Just through the back doorway and around the corner, is my storage closet. Here is where I store rolls of fabric as well as pattern making supplies. And hanging, you will find . . .

Lengths of fabric yardage hanging on hangers, several patterns on hangers, and most of my sample gowns in plastic bags.

Back out of the closet and you will find yourself in the bathroom. It is now my changing room for my clients, and also where I hang clients gowns. Not many there right now, as the season is finally winding down. But during the busy season, you will find it hard to make it through the doorway in to the bathroom. I will have bagged gowns hanging from every place possible, and packed so tight into the shower that it is hard to get them in and out.

Last but not least, is the sink and mirror across from my storage shower stall.
I hope you have enjoyed the tour! My sewing place is very special to me, and I am very proud of it. It is everything I need it to be. It is a pleasant and efficient work place. The only thing I would change is to have a larger sewing table. Sometimes those big ball gown dresses don't fit very well. I've been known to use unpleasant language when fighting with them . . .

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Vintage Sewing Weekend

What an absolutely lovely weekend I have had!!  It started on Friday, when I woke to being 'caught up'; well, atleast for a few days. After months of a never ending stream of bridal alterations and dresses to make, I had a breather. So, after spending the morning cleaning my house (for the first time in weeks, if not months), I did something else I haven't done in months. I went shopping! My first stop was DSW where I found a pair of strappy ankle booties with open toes. I ran a few errands on the way to my next stop - Victoria's Secret. Now, I don't shop there very often. As lovely as their things are, I can't afford them. But, I had a coupon. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I made a stop at The Loft, where I found a gray sweater dress and a cute top; then on to Gap, where I found a pair of jeans and another top.
Friday evening was a quite one at home - just me and the animals. Did I mention that my husband is out of town? Actually, he is very far out of town -Malaysia to be exact. He will be gone for another week. In the mean time, I have been staying busy. Saturday began my weekend of sewing for ME. I had several pieces of fabric I've been wanting to use, as well as several patterns. I began with a vintage Vogue re-make -
I used a piece of fabric I picked up in NYC an August. I was a bit nervous about it looking like I was wearing a blanket. It was very very full through the back, and I ended up taking the center seam in 2.5 inches. It still felt huge, so I made 2 darts going up from the hem to just below the shoulder blades. Maybe if the fabric wasn't so thick it wouldn't have looked so . . . off. But it did look kind of like I was wearing a very short blanket. I think it looks better now.
Here is what it looks like on - (please ignore the fact that I don't have a stitch of make-up on and the light was glaring on my face).

And here is the back -

So, the jacket was Saturday's project. I was expecting a client to stop by Sunday, so didn't really plan to do any more sewing for myself.  But she called to cancel, and I couldn't help myself. I had purchased this lovely silk twill print this summer form Gorgeous Fabrics, and have patiently been waiting to find time for it. It was one of the rare fabric purchases I have ever made where I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I just wanted it. In perusing my pattern stash, I came across  a few vintage blouse patterns I had purchased sometime in the past. My first choice was this one -
I wanted to do view A with the long sleeves, but, after laying the pattern out on the fabric, I began to worry that it might look like pajama's. So I took out this one -
 I made the neckline more open, leaving the opening at the back closed. Instead of using the facings, I did a lining. I detest facings. I line everything. In this, I found a piece of pale pink light weight poly crepe in my stash that did the trick.  The pattern was made for a larger size, so I had to down grade it a bit. Mostly in length. But it turned out very well. I am very pleased with it.

Here you can see the pale pink lining -

So, now it is Sunday evening. Tomorrow it is back to work. But I believe I have gotten my fix; for now. I still am working out details for a dress I need to make before the end of November.
In the meantime, I will look forward to next Sunday when my sweetie is back from lands afar.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Absence of Stress

I've always known that I work better under pressure. I seem to almost thrive on it - to a point. I like having deadlines, I like making my lists, I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I see my list getting smaller and my row of dresses to be done shrinking. I know that this passion I have for sewing (specifically on formal wear and bridal) is a God given gift. Not a day goes by that I don't give thanks for it, cherish it and try to be worthy of it.  That being said . . .

I have never been so glad to see the end to "the rush".  It started in March. Picked up in April. I had a week in June when it looked like it might slow down a bit. But I have been beyond busy ever since. I did take 3 days the end of August to go fabric shopping in NYC (still excited over that!!!) and I took 5 days in September to see my son off to Afghanistan. I took a day and a half a couple weeks ago to enjoy my husbands airshow performance at the Great Georgia Airshow in Peachtree City, GA. And I think I took a day off in July. A Sunday that I took long naps and read all day. Heaven.  But, other than those days, I have been working non -stop. 7 days a week. Some days up to 14 hours. Granted, a certain amount of those hours were taken up in fittings and or shopping for supplies, working on marketing, or designing. But not many. The majority of that time has been working on alterations for bridal/formal wear. It has seemed as though, just when it looked like it would slow down and I could catch my breathe, it would pick back up again. I have been so very thankful. This business that I started on a wing and a prayer, 5 years ago, has proven to be a success. When so many businesses are going under or struggling to make ends meet, mine has been thriving. I cannot say how very thankful I am.
But right now, I am so very thankful to just be able to . . . breathe . . .
I am down to just 4 wedding gowns to do, on my rack. One to work on this week, one the next, and so on. I also have a MOB dress to make for a Dec. 6 wedding. But this is nothing! Nothing I tell you! I can do these dresses at a leisurely pace. I can take time to sew for myself. I can clean my house!!! Do you know how long it has been since I've cleaned?! I can take the time to plan meals again, and get back to enjoy being in the kitchen! I CAN SLEEP IN ON SUNDAY!!!  I can get back to the gym, to church, to the grocery store with out rushing!  Maybe I will read a book again! Oh the possibilities . . . With the holidays coming up I may even think about making gifts. 
But tonight, I believe I will just sleep.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Amazon - I love you!

Last week I received these 2 purchases I had made from amazon! I actually ordered them about a month ago and wasn't expecting to get them for several more weeks, but TA-DA!! They arrived early - now if only I had time to look at them!
In the last week I have also received 3 new magazines, none of which I have had time to look through. It is currently almost 11:00 p.m. and I am just finishing up work for the day. My eyes are crossing and my hands are getting stiff. I've recently discovered an aversion to cooking and cleaning, only because I simply don't have time. No time to shop for food to stock my empty cupboards, no time to plan menu's, no time to dust, do windows or wash my dirty floors. What I wouldn't give these days for a housekeeper who cooks, cleans, does laundry and rakes leaves. The two things on my absolute must do list every day are making the bed and vacuuming. The kitchen can be stacked with dirty dishes, the bathrooms can be nasty, magazines and junk mail can be piling up. But if my bed isn't made, I can't function. And vacuuming is the only way to keep the pet hair from totally taking over our environment.
My husband, bless him, is not a complainer. Either he doesn't see the mess or doesn't care. He even offered tonight to cook once in a while, when I told him how much I am coming to hate cooking. I guess it's a good thing the kids are all grown and out. I can't imagine trying to run my business and a home and kids. Couldn't be done. Not without some serious help.
So, until the sewing and alterations slow down a bit (which I thought would happen soon, but after today's new clients and orders . . . well, maybe not so soon) my new reading materials will have to be patient and wait quietly on my coffee table, watching me as I rush by with the vacuum cleaner or as I sit on the couch with a wedding gown in my lap being stitched with tiny hand stitching.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Down The Rabbit Hole . . .

There is a line in Alice in Wonderland, where the rabbit is running around tyring to find his way screaming, "No time to stop no time to wait, I'm late, I'm late for a very important date!"  Or atleast it goes something like that. Such is my life the last few weeks. I feel like I've been playing catch-up for about a month now. Nothing has been late, but I feel as though I am right  on the verge. Which is why I haven't been doing much posting.
Let's start with where we left off - remember the bustling I promised? Ok -I now have pictures.

Here is the train bustled fairly loosely.
Here it is bustled tigher.
And here is why it is different than what I have done before. This train is HUGE. Very full. To do individual ties for a french bustle, would take many many ties which would get tedious to do up as well as confusing. so, I attached the ribbons, but they are threaded through thread loops, to gather the fabric together, then the ribbon is tied to the coordinating ribbon on the underskirt.
This is the center bustle. I attached the ribbon at the center, then you can see where each end is threaded through a thread loop.
Here is where the two ribbons come together and tie to a third.
This is a view of one of the side bustles. It is threaded through 5 thread loops spread out over about 2 feet of fabric. It will tie to a coordinating ribbon on the underskirt, pulling all the fabric together.
All together, I attached 5 sets of ribbons. Each set is a different color and or fabric of ribbon, so it is easy to see which ribbons go together.
All this to say that when the bride tried it on, she didn't like it. Here is why -
As you can see, from the front, it looks like the dress has wings. Not very attractive. Together we tried to remember exactly how I had originally done it up. It wasn't until after she left and I was playing  with it again that I think I finally came up with  it. All the fabric was pulled over to the right side, on the outside of the dress, where each fold will be attached to a single button on the side. That will leave one piece (which doesn't quite reach to the side) that will have to be attached at the centerback. I'm not liking the look of it attached here, though. I may see about pulling this last fold up underneath into a french bustle instead.
But it is much more flattering from the front!
I first met with this bride about 6 weeks ago. She was a tiny size, and I had to bring the dress down atleast a size to fit. Hemmed about 6 inches, added padded cups, changed it from a halter to a sweetheart strapless, and of course the bustles.
When I met with her last week, she had lost weight - not that she had any to loose. If a strong wind blows, she will disappear. And I have to take to take the dress in more. About 2 more inches at the back, and now also at the waist through the hip area at the side. She has been on medication that has caused her to completely loose her appetite. I told her I am not touching the dress for 2 weeks, at which time I want to hear from her on whether or not she has gained any of the weight back or (God forbid!) lost more. The wedding is in November, so we still have a bit of time.
Ok - back into the bunny hole. I am off to another fitting. It never stops . . .