Iris van Herpen @ROMToronto

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

Yesterday was the end of a long weekend here, and what better way to spend it than in jaw-dropping admiration of Iris van Herpen’s work at the Royal Ontario Museum?  The exhibit was split over two galleries – one in conjunction with Philip Beesley, a Canadian architect who has collaborated with Iris.  His work is another post altogether.

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

It was fascinating to see her creations up close.  There were even portions of the gallery that held samples which we were actually allowed to touch.

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

This is a piece of the material used in one of her more recent collections.

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum
It’s a metallic fabric.  I was expecting something much sharper, stiffer and harsher than it actually was. #irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

One could wear this fabric quite comfortably, although I’m not sure about sitting in the garment. I’m not sure if the oxidation was done prior to construction, but look at that perfect matching down the invisible zipper at the CB!  Ms. van Herpen worked with Alexander McQueen for a while, and her first collections were done entirely by hand.

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

It was an extraordinary way to spend an afternoon, and if you are in the Toronto area in the next few weeks, I would strongly encourage you to see this exhibit. I think the Refinery Smoke dresses were my favourite.

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

DD3’s favourite was the dress made of leather and small chains with a plastic water ‘splash’ worn around the neck.  She said it embodied everything she felt as a swimmer diving into the water.

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

Here is a close up of the dress.

#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

This lovely little black and copper number was my favourite.  I could seriously see myself wearing this one.
#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

If I remember correctly, the fabric is a heavy wool with the leather hand-sewn onto the garment. If you click on each picture, you will connect through to my Flickr album where there are several other photos of her garments.  Some of her pieces were incredibly macabre (not my cup of tea), but I could not help but admire her creativity.  There were also several videos of her working on some of the dresses (pieces of wearable art, imho!), and I was struck by her patience – the losing of herself in the creative process.  I must say, I don’t have that ability to get ‘lost’ while sewing… my mind is always going somewhere else or thinking about so many things!  Can you imagine making something like this:
#irisvanherpen #transformingfashion #royalontariomuseum #designimpossible #RoyalOntarioMuseum

Each strip of plastic is sewn on individually.  By hand.  Incredible!

Your opinions, please!

It’s been years since I made outfits for Easter.  The last dresses I made were for my girls when they were small, somewhere along the lines of this picture.

from about 10 years ago

I remember sitting for hours achieving a near zen state smocking those dresses. I still have all three (four, counting the one for Felicity, the American Girl doll). I do miss smocking, but my right arm and hand don’t miss the repetitive motion that goes into rows and rows of smocking by hand.

Anyways, I am wanting to please myself this year (such selfishness that implies) in making an outfit for myself for Easter that I will like… something from my sewing list that just got pushed to the side over and over again because I ‘didn’t need something new’ or could ‘make do with what I already have’ or would be completely overdressed for a casual family function. We don’t go out anywhere special, but rather celebrate with family, and the mantra I hear from year to year is ‘no pressure: casual dress’.

But I am totally SICK of casual dress.

I dress casually as a matter of course, and I don’t particularly like it.  It’s not my default comfort zone.  But I do jeans and shirts, yoga pants and tees because it’s crazy being overdressed compared to the rest of the population.

OK, OK… I’m completely exaggerating, but that’s how I feel.

I have two ideas rattling around in my head, which I’d like you all to vote on, since I don’t think I have time to make both.  First, a jumpsuit out of stretch crepe, either green, wine or curry.

BurdaStyle 04/2016 #130; fabrics and Vogue 1308

Or something along those lines…

Secondly, a bouclé or tweed ensemble, comprised of a bias-cut dress and a LFJ-style jacket.

vintage wool; BurdaStyle 02/2010 #130; Vogue 1180

Or, just don’t bother with the fitting and the hand-sewing and the WORK and whip up a new Vogue 8379 wrap dress.

Please tell me what you think!


Silk Drapes I

I am trying to replicate a drapery fabric that is long out of production.  I have lucked out in finding silk duppioni in a lavender-thyme colour way, and am now trying to stencil this damask design from Nobilis, a fabric mill in France.  Here’s my inspiration:LR drapery fabricI found these magnificent stencils on Cutting Edge Stencils, which ship to Canada very reasonably.  No one in Canada, BTW, carries these because they are so reasonably priced directly from the US website.drapery trialThen I sourced fabric paint from Dharma Trading.  My local art supply store carries these, too.fabric paintHere’s my first go. drape sampleI’m not 100% happy with either the stencil or the purples, so I have ordered another set of stencils to see if I like a different design better, and I will be mixing paint colours to come up with one that I really like.trial 1There’s a lot of metallic in the Lumiere paints, and I’m not so sure that I like it.  I’ll be trying this again with flat paints, and perhaps adding a bit more red/magenta to the violet.  I like the idea of the stencils being imperfect, with gradations of gold-violet-purple everywhere.

BTW, you would not believe how much doing this myself is saving my pocket book.  When this project is done, I’ll crunch the numbers.

Burda lounge-around-the-house wardrobe

I’ve always had a hankering for making an entire Burda capsule wardrobe for some reason.  I just love how they pull together an average of 10-12 pieces and they all work beautifully together.  I recently cleaned up my sewing area a teeny tiny titch, and had the sudden impulse to sew a lounge-about-the-house wardrobe, courtesy of the February 2013 issue of Burda, after emptying out a large bag of knits that have been collecting over the last 12 months or so.  After laying them all out, I decided on this colour scheme:fabric choicesFrom L to R:  dark purple lightweight RPL, rusty rayon knit from EOS, graphic rayon knit from EOS, lavender lightweight RPL, and silk chiffon along the bottom. After shopping my stash, I decided I’d use the silk chiffon instead of the suggested silk satin.  It’s lighter in weight, and I’ll double it if necessary to match the weight of the knits if necessary.  I have 3 metres each of the light and dark purple, about the same of the silk chiffon and around 1 metre each of the print and rust knits.  Here’s my plan:

1. long skirt dark purple (Burda 1/2013 #116)

2. knit pants in dark purple (Burda 1/2013 #112)3. dress with chiffon in light purple (Burda 1/2013 #110)

4. cardigan with attached scarf in chiffon (Burda 1/2013 #114)114_0113_b_large

5. ruched long-sleeved tee with chiffon trim in rust (Burda 1/2013 #119)119_0113_b_large

6. short-sleeve tee in graphic print (Burda 2/2013 #126)

7. possibly a chiffon blouse (Burda 4/2011 #114)

8. and, if I have enough fabric left, this colour block top (Burda 7/2014 #114)114_072014_b_largeAnd that should give me a pretty good capsule wardrobe for fall LATH (lounge-around-the-house) wear.

*all line drawings courtesy and

Liberty, how do I love thee!

I’m pre-washing and drying some of my Liberty Art fabrics in preparation for summer projects.  Thrown into the mix are a couple of beautiful batiks and a modern print voile.

From L to R:  unknown (help me out with a comment if you know this print, please!!), Pelagia, Molina, Ros,  Angelica Naylah (wrong side out), blue and brown batik, Mollybish, purple print voile, Mark, Clara and Mabelle

Sounds like a regular family get-together!

Thank you!

A heart felt thank you to Mary of Biblioblog for awarding me the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’m surprised – rather – and honoured!versatileblogger113

Not quite being in lala-land, I nevertheless really had no idea what this award meant, so did some research.  Did you know there is a VBA WordPress site?  I kid you not!  You can learn all about this award and see so many other blogs that have been nominated/awarded. 

Seven random things about me:

1. I am an espresso junkie.

2. I cook everything from scratch.  Yes.  Everything – well, except crackers.  It’s just something that I do – another creative outlet, perhaps?

3. I loathe garden work.  I have a distinct memory of having to weed about one acre of peas when I was about 12 yrs old.  Half way through I collapsed from sheer exhaustion, and have never liked gardening since. Ha!

4. I do not eat peas in any shape, form or concoction.  It may have something to do with the one acre job mentioned previously.

5. I married a man who also hates peas.  How cool is that?

6. I am completely in love with Charles Dickens’ use of the English language.   Dickens is my go-to author when all else fails.

7. I spent my teens in the little itty bitty blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Rollyview, Alberta, and then did my undergraduate studies in Toronto.  Culture shock, anyone? 

Passing it on: I’m apparently supposed to list 15 blogs, but this is where I’m going to fail bail, but with an explanation…. excuse?  I kinda cheat when I’m reading blogs…. I have a few bookmarked, and then go on from their “live” blog lists.  I would love to be able to have a widget on this blog that gives you the link to the blog I just read, and how many minutes ago I was there, but such a widget does not (and apparently never will) exist on WordPress’s site because of security issues.  Who knew?  So I find new blogs as I peruse other bloggers’ lists and add them to my static links list on the right, or follow the links in profiles of those of you who are so kind as to leave comments on BurdaStyle or PatternReview whenever I do post something on either site.  The sewing/blogging world is immensely huge, and this is just a tip of the iceberg of blogs that I enjoy which I have not seen mentioned elsewhere. – A beautiful blog written by a photographer who also happens to be a mom to a lovely little girl with DS.

Spicy Colours Blog – In Hungarian – which I can’t read without Google translate – but worth the translation effort.

He Cooks… She Sews – A truly versatile blog that covers two of my favourite things to do!

Rosy – I love her vintage style!

Aventuras de costuras – I just stumbled upon her blog a couple of days ago via PR.

And St. Nolt Sews – whose smocking and embroidery is quite amazing! I’m sorry my girls are getting too big to warrant the labour of smocked dresses.  I’ll need to explore ways of incorporating needlework into more hip styles, I guess!

Suggested rules for nominees: Feel free to disregard these rules—I’m not your taskmaster—but this is what I was told:

1. In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award – I say you only need name as many as you care to!

2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.

3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.

4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.

5. In the same post, include this set of rules.

6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Why I should learn to draft patterns

I distinctly remember my first introduction to the House of Chanel.  It was through Vogue magazine in the mid 80’s, and I fell for it hopelessly.  I loved everything about it:  the quilting; the camellias; the endless ropes of pearls and gold chains; the distinctive shaping of the jacket.  Sigh.  It was my goal as a 15 year old to own a Chanel suit and all the requisite accessories.  E35_chanel_couture_022_1985When I moved to Toronto two years later, I wandered through the Chanel boutique in the now defunct Creed’s store, and I found a signature suit in ivory tweed in my size on sale.  Imagine my stupefied delight.  And then I picked it up to have a good look at my dream suit.  Completely unlined.  100% polyester.  All for 1/2 price at a paltry $2500.  The RTW bubble was burst.  And what an enormous 2

So, rather disillusioned, I went about my business and decided I’d settle for the statement purse.  Just for the record, I still do not own one.  I cannot bring myself to spend the money on a statement item.  However, I would happily spend any amount of money to own something couture, which I discovered somewhere along the line.  To this day, I am an avid couture dreamer.  One of my favourite films is Signe Chanel, which gives a wonderful glimpse into the world famous atelier for a 2004 couture show (the picture above is from that show) and the incredible talents of the women that work in it.  Lagerfeld may come up with the ideas, but the skill set required to make those ideas a reality is formidable.    Chanel PF 2011 duster

I need that skill set.  Very rarely will Chanel put out a collection that I don’t like – or maybe the proper word is admire – with at least one garment that I would happily put into good use in my closet.  The closest I will come to owning any Chanel garment is a copy.  And this is where it becomes very frustrating.  I’m pretty good at patching together pattern pieces into a collage that will be close to the look that I want, but I cannot draft anything to save my life.  Like this collar!  BTW, Claudine has posted this last picture on her blog along with videos on how to get the ombre look with spray dyeing.

chanel couture spring 2012 collars

Inspirational Reading

I’ve been reading through David Chierichettis’ biography of Edith Head.  It’s an interesting read about a very private woman, but what I’m taking away from it are two sewing-related items.


The first is to do with Audrey Hepburn’s sheath dresses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and here’s a quote from the book:

The Givenchy sheaths seem simple to the eye, but Renie conley found out otherwise when she saw Head and Hepburn cooking up some more phony Givenchys in other fabrics at Western Costume after Breakfast at Tiffany’s finished shooting.  “They had taken one of the dresses apart to copy it, and it was full of horsehair stuffing and lead weights to make it fall a certain way,” she remembered.

Really?  Horsehair stuffing and lead weights to make a sheath dress hang the desired way?  I have a LOT to learn about dressmaking.

diamants sur canapé

And the second was how she costumed Bette Davis, who apparently was a bit of a nightmare to clothe because of the “several serious problems: bowed legs, very round shoulders, and a long broad neck.  Worst of all were her breasts, which hung almost to her waist.  She refused to wear brassieres with underwires because she thought that the wire would cause breast cancer.” (p. 86)

The 1950 film "All about Eve" received a record 14 Academy Award® nominations, breaking the previous record of 13 nominations held by "Gone with the Wind" since 1939.  Shown here in a scene still from the film are (left to right): Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and George Sanders. Restored by Nick & jane for Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans Website: Enjoy!

This was very interesting to read, because I’ve never particularly noticed any “flaws” per se when watching a Bette Davis film.  And yet all these things were beautifully made to disappear with the right design elements in her costumes.*

Bette Davis White Dress

Now, of course most of this is not news to anyone who has done the smallest amount of reading or looking or what have you when it comes to fashion.  Dress to maximize your good points is what we’re supposed to do.  And where I get stymied for the most part.  It’s a lesson to look at all the photos of oneself wearing whatever it is one wears.  Some things look amazing and others look dreadful.  And yet others can be made to look wonderful with the right bit of photography!

I make a lot of things that don’t fit perfectly, and my one and only goal this year is to do just that:  take the time and make the effort to ensure the best possible fit.  Oh, and only shop my stash!

*This photo is scanned from David Chierichetti’s book – no copyright infringement intended!  It’s the perfect photo so show the perfect fit of Davis’ dress!

Thanks for the ideas!

When I posted the double giveaway at the beginning of December, I asked entrants to share what they did with me-mades they fell out of love with.  Now, apart from having people comment on something specific vs. random comments, I really did want to know what you all do with things that you hate now, after being in love with either the idea, the fabric, or the result for a little or a long time.image Because this is a problem of mine.  I do love to sew.  I love to try new patterns.  But I confess to being an incredibly lazy sewist, which is probably why I’ll never master that copy of a McQueen or Westwood garment that I would love to waste 10,000 hours creating for my closet.  This inherent laziness produces a lot of clothing, which is wearable in the mass-produced ill-fitting RTW sort of way, but becomes abhorrent after 5 or 6 wearings to the woman in the mirror’s keen observation.  Or is it comparison?  Y’know, to all those beautiful things you see walking down the runways that would be perfect in my life.  I usually send all unlovelies to the thrift shop, only, if I’ve really fallen into abhorrence, after cutting out my label.  I mean, I wouldn’t want said ugliness traced back to me, right?  So I was thrilled with some of the ideas from those of you that left comments.  Here are the ones that alighted little light bulbs over my head:

Aaminah says: One of the ways I recycle clothing I no longer find useful or just don’t like anymore is to cut up the fabric and turn it into something else. Right now I am in the midst of doing just that for sewing purses. I really want to start getting into refashioning clothing though.

Recycling into another garment or item is a great idea, one that I have done perhaps a handful of times in my sewing life.  But the practical side of me says, “You already have an overflowing stash,  and you’re going to add to it?”

Sertyan says: I would love the fabric. I sew for my little girl and currently myself. If my little girl outgrows her clothes, I don’t think I will give them away, I will keep them as a keepsake! Hopefully when she’s older I can show it to her and let her reminisce.

This I have done, and will continue to do with the garments that I truly am pleased with.  And that means the interior, construction, finishing and fit of the garment.  Oh, and the fabric must be something extra special.  I have given a lot of the dresses that I’ve made for my daughters to my mom, who has handed them out in Haiti over the years.  But I have kept some in my cedar chest for the little people in my future.

Mary says:   Hi TiaDia~ I sew a lot, and tend to give things away in batches. I donate to the Crisis center in town, as women arrive with only the clothes they are wearing. Sometimes I will make up a baby outfit, or a small child’s tee to add in. I like to “give back” to these organizations, and I like to keep my closet spare. I use half of my small closet for clothes, and half for accessories.

Now this was a brilliant idea.  Why haven’t I thought of this before?  There is a shelter very close to my home that we have helped in other ways, so why wouldn’t I think of doing this before?  Perhaps because I think my clothing is a bit out there sometimes.  I mean, how practical is this dress, for example?

And I do like to keep my closet manageable.  I do not have the space to keep a museum of outfits, and although I sometimes think it would be fun to keep some things for my kids to wear or laugh at, the practical part of me wonders what the value is of storing something for 30 years that isn’t a collectible Prada or LV.

SewLindaAnn says:  I would love the fabric, it’s beautiful. What I did with unloved anymore items would depend on the fabric and sentimental value. If it was very loved I would make patches into a pillow or something to remember it by. If it would work, I’d cut thin strips and use it to crochet small rugs or creatures. I do love re-purposing my stuff as well as others discards.

Hmmm…. strips for crocheting.   Now I do know someone who likes to crochet. This may be an idea for future rejected projects.  And do have this ridiculous idea that all the fabric in my scrap box will be used to make my children crazy quilts one day… when they leave the house… and go to university.  Or something like that.

Judith says:  Well, first of all they get delegated to the ‘one day’ pile – you know the pile you think that one day you may come back to, when hopefully you give them a second chance! If they sit in that pile way past their use-by-date then they are given a quick trip to the local charity store – surely not everyone would dislike them!!!

The “second chance”.  I have done this occasionally, and have two recent items in this pile.  The first is the fringe dress.  I hate the neckline.  It does nothing for my face or arms, for that matter.  This was in and out of the thrift pile several times until I came to the decision to re-do the neckline.  Probably as a very deep scoop.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll salvage the fringe and thrift the dress.  Or maybe thrift the entire thing. image And the pants made from the same chocolate brown fabric.  image I just really hate the fit of these pants.  I’m going to redo them into capris like these ones. And the shirt was recycled, too.  I just tired of the colour combination and loudness of the print, never mind the ill-fitting through the bust because I was too lazy to do the FBA side seam darts and gathered the fabric into the side seam instead!!!

mireillemcguire says:  hello! I try to give things-i-used-to-love to friends who’d appreciate them. Barring that, there is a thrift organization that offers a quarterly pickup. Sometimes I have charity-remorse and think mournfully of things I’ve given away

Now I have had charity remorse.  Specifically wide leather 80’s style belts that I have longed for years after giving away.  But clothing?  Well, the only thing that I wish I hadn’t thrifted was a black taffeta ball gown skirt that I used for performing years ago.  I have wished that was still in my closet the odd time.

Gill says: I tend to cannibalise(!) anything I no longer wear! I take off all buttons,zips etc and the garment is cut apart and goes into my scrap basket to await the perfect project!

I do this all the time!  Well, when I don’t actually give the entire garment away.  I like to re-use notions when I can.  The sewing hobby is expensive, especially when you put the time and effort into making a garment that should have been muslined in the first place, but wasn’t.  🙂

Diana’s Dresses

diana rose dressJust a couple of observations about the dresses that I saw yesterday at the Design Exchange.  The exhibit runs in Toronto until June 10th, so you’d better hurry if you don’t want to miss it!

The purpose of the exhibit is to raise money for Princess Diana’s charities.  I thought it would be interesting to see them close up and personal, as it were.  I couldn’t get fantastic pictures of them all, but I thought I’d share the interesting things I noticed with you anyways.diana rose dress embroidery

First, this rose silk twill dress with exquisite embroidery.  This is just amazing beadwork with embroidery underneath the sequin details.  Since I love needlework so much, I thought I’d share a picture of it up close.  I couldn’t see inside the garments, of course, which I would have preferred, but I did notice a couple of things that were of interest to me as a seamstress.  The first was the intricate work of embroidery on this jacket and bodice on the first gown in the exhibit.  There was a teal gown that was covered with hand-sewn sequins, too.  I could not imagine having to sew on enough sequins to cover a long-sleeved full length gown.  Incredible work.

The second thing that struck me was the hem on many of the dresses.  I don’t know where I learned to press hems flat, but I’ve always done that.  Then I read recently in Vogue Sewing that hems don’t necessarily get pressed flat all the time, especially if diana rose hemthey’re underlined or reinforced with horsehair braid.  That was a new idea to me.  And then I noticed the hem on this dress.  It’s not flat.  It’s just folded under and stitched to the underlining, I would guess.  There were a few silk crepe gowns that had the soft turned-up-and-stitched hem.  I liked the look of it, and so, if I ever have the need to sew a full-length gown, I’ll be sure to underline the skirt so that I can do such a hem.