Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Summer Lovin'

Tom Palumbo for Junior Bazaar.

Its summer; I'm loving natural fabrics.

It's summer; I made linen wrap skirts.
Just for fun, you know, in my spare time, chained to the sewing machine.

But, martyrdom aside, here they are!

Fabric is, as usual, from my brilliant friends at the Fabric Store in Brunswick St.
They have a great range of summer linen and cottons, printed and pretty, and funky, and classic.

I used a circle skirt for the first two skirts (the apricot and the floral), and a more tailored shape for the striped skirt.

I'm feeling the Fifties vibe (just a teeny tiny bit), so long as its very comfortable and very liberated.
Thank you Marilyn.

These are actually Christmas presents for the Fam', because I'm so damn tired of buying useless junk at Christmas. Shame my whole extended family is not female; it would be so easy!

Speaking of... I found this lovely ladee...her green laundry ideas are great, as well as her retro style.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Electric Sugar

Lissom Yarn is now stocking the label Electric Sugar.

Created by designer Eline Martinsen, this label is both ethical and evocative.
She is influenced by her strong traditional corsetry skills and a penchant for moody literature, though not of Twilight type!

Eline describes the label thus:
"Electric Sugar design moody, provocative collections, incorporating traditional corsetry techniques and evoking the spirit of a circus sideshow: magical and dreamlike, yet sleazy and sinister."

The current collection is called Pendle Hill and is inspired by the English witch trials. Lissom Yarn has the beautiful Alice Nutter Skirt (pictured below), in a very excellent brown and aquamarine floral print; and the simply wearable One O'clock! singlet top, in grey.
These are strictly limited edition items.

All Eline's designs are realised in wonderful sustainable fabrics including soybean, hemp, bamboo, recycled PET and organic cotton. I'm in love.

I will be getting another delightful drop in early 2011, featuring tailored shorts and another elegant blouse style.

Drop by for a dress up!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lace Ahoy

The last big project from the Spring Carnival was a "racey" little red number, courtesy of Stella MacCartney.

Again, the client had found a pic she loved and wanted me to do a similar job for her Oaks Day dress.

But, as my Client is not 20- something and under-eating, we made the skirt longer.
I chose stretch cotton sateen, from Clegs, as the bone-coloured base of the dress because I wanted stability and enough substance in the weave to be flattering.
We chose to bone the bodice and I also added bone-colured orgnaza straps which could convert to a halter-neck if my Client wanted to wear it out "to a barbeque", as she put it. Without the sheer blouse over the top. She hosts some pretty special barbeques I believe...
It was all lined with beige silk habutae.

Anyway, I got red polyester lace from Clegs and red silk organza from Tessuti; the only place I could find that stocked red - outrageous!
I draped the lace onto the dress base, as it was the most effective (and, dare I say it) enjoyable way of creating the right look.
I hand-sewed long vertical darts around the bodice to shape the lace, and then cut and pieced the neckline to create the scolloped look of the original dress.
I added a silk organza hem about 10cm wide to soften the look of the hem.

I toiled the blouse that goes over the top in a design that reflected the original picture, but found it lacking- too Jetsons, not chic enough.
So I drafted the peplum again and used a half circle to create the volume and silhouette that was more flattering and exciting. I made the back slightly longer, for a more elegant line around the body.
We added a belt with a vintage gold buckle, to make it more age-appropriate, and break up the blocks of red a bit, giving the eye something to focus on.

I bound the edged of the blouse with self bias strips, and put an invisible zipper and a little keyhole and button a-top the centre back closure.
I was really happy with the silhouette in the end and enjoyed working with the lace in such a restrained way.

Then it was time to sleep.

Spring dresses.. continued.

This is the second of the major jobs I had for Spring racing.

My client bought in a picture of a dress by Christopher Kane; a beaded satin cocktail dress with apricot pleated skirts and tulle. Its ladylike, yet pretty edgey as well, of course.

Samantha Harris in Christopher Kane; image from "Style Me Romy"

Our intention was to get the beading done in Bali, as my client was visiting for a holiday.

I chose duchess satin for the tunic-inspired part of the dress, as I needed shine and weight, as well as structural integrity, to handle the weight of the beading and cutouts.
I got a remnant from Rathdown Fabrics; 2m of pure silk duchess satin for $35.... it was my first purchase there and I am now converted! Such amazing prices, and if you visit often you will find what you need. Its just a bit of a lucky dip.. but I like challenging retail experiences ;)

I had to dye the satin once to get the right colour; a pale kingfisher blue, but not too pale; tricky.

Then I replicated the overall shape with a princess line pattern and cut out the hip panels. I chose silk georgette for the hip panels, over-layed with a pre-pleated tulle to give the layers and reduce my work; i love perma-pleats sometimes!

The next hurdle was that the beading came back... less than useful, shall we say. There were about 11 partial flowers over 2m of tulle, which, had it been complete, I had intended to cut out in the princess pattern and stitch together with the satin panels.

In the end, I cut out all the flowers and spent an afternoon arranging them to look like a "design feature"; as they say in Fashion Design 101, if you make a mistake, make it look intentional!

I added double- layered tulle sleeves with a flower in the centre of each, thankfully there were enough to stretch to that part of the dress. A ruffled tulle and satin collar was also added and, the whole thing was lined in flesh - coloured silk habutae; the best kind of lining, as far as I'm concerned!

The skirt inserts of georgette and tulle were sewn together and gathered, then I pinned them into the cut outs around the hip and arranged them carefully so as not to drag the satin tunic in any direction, or ruin the drape of the georgette.

I used an invisible zip down the centre back and hemmed everything right at the end, then slipstitched the lining to the satin parts of the hem.

So that was our tribute to Mr Kane; we hope he doesn't mind.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spring Racing Carnival of dresses!

Well, as the racing season is finally over, I have a chance to share some of the more exciting projects with you.

I had three very interesting and challenging dresses this year, all for the same family!

The first outfit was inspired by Louis Vuitton's last collection (F10), featuring full 1950's skirts and corseted bodices. Very simple and very chic.

The only hiccup was the Client wanted the leather skirt, and I've never really used leather - well, not in this application anyway.

I sourced it from NSW Leather in Collingwood. I bought six sheep skins, as it was a full pleated skirt, with a separate hem panel; very scary for aligning grain and weight on an unfamiliar "fabric".

Cutting out skirt panels from pieced hides.

The other major difficulty is that any pins holes are permanent; try making a pleated skirt without pinning! Well, I found it hard...

I also added a lining of course and layer of soft tulle to assist in creating the fullness of the skirt shape.

The corset was a simple construction made by draping onto the mannequin, designing the shapes, and then patterning and making. Shown below with toile skirt, and without straps.

I used plain old plastic boning and a silk/lycra satin lining in apricot, just for fun. And bound the bottom edge with orange cotton bias binding.
I used black cotton velvet for the straps, lined with black silk,
both from the Fabric Store, Brunswick.

In the end it was very cold day for Cox Plate, but my Client still looked smashing, and braved the elements. In the end it was decided that a cape was necessary, and she chose a Jaimi Kark design from the ready to wear section of Lissom Yarn.

It is shown below on a model for Jaimi's collection, the Interview, which was created in connexion with CraftACT in 2008. We stocked black versions of this capelet for Spring this year.

So the final outfit looked like this:

You can see the published photo from the Age newspaper here!

Spring Racing Carnival of dresses!

Monday, October 25, 2010


To continue on with my jungle-pattern obsession, last weekend we went for a holiday to Daylesford in the countryside, and I managed to book "the Zebra Room" at the Manse. It was pretty awesome and had an array of verging-on-hilarious-but-kind-of-cool african-based prints and decor.
Zebra bath!
Mantlepiece Hippo....

The bed head was an amazing print of a Victorian-era botanical drawing, for which I also have a fetish at the moment.
I just bought a beautiful book called "Botanical Riches; stories of botanical exploration" by Richard Aitken. It charts the exploration and documentation of the world's flora by all the major colonial powers from Egypt and Islam, though to Asia and Great Britain.

Left: Franz Antoine, Die Coniferen nach Lambert, Loudon und Anderen. Nut from the Australian Bunya Pine.
Right: Henry Andrews, The Botanist's Repository, 1806. North American Aloe Agave americana and vanilla, below.

British manuscript album "Shrubs and Trees"1802-4. Rhododendron arboreum, the national flower of Nepal, bought to England by Thomas Hardwicke.

I find the precision and delicacy of these beautiful works both calming and enlightening; I love that people were drawing like this, sketch book on their knees, out in the wilds, wherever crown and country let them sail.

Spring Racing

So we are off and racing, literally at Lissom Yarn, to Oaks Day, after which I intend to collapse and sleep for about 4 days.

Earlier this month I did a spring-coloured merino dress for a client, in a very pretty pale sea green-blue. Very nice as there is still a chill in the air, and these are so good for layering.

Next was a bridesmaids dress for a wedding next weekend; it was a simple job from a vintage pattern, which was actually really enlightening. The plethora of innovative design features in '40's dress is amazing; you just dont see designs like this anymore. Its a 1948 Vogue pattern.
The bodice was constructed in two s-shaped parts with gathering along the curves, opposite to each other (shoulder and hip). This gave a delightful asymmetry to the volume in the skirt, set off by the strong padded shoulders and high neckline.

It has a side invisible zip and I just put one button and loop at the back of the neck to stop her looking too "stitched-up". I particularly like the long back darts and how plain it is compared to the front design.
The client chose the fabric, a polyester steel grey satin, which is always a challenge, but I think it turned out nicely.
The Client is very slim and quite tall, so it looks great on her.

Next week, how to make a box-pleat leather skirt. It takes five and half sheeps.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Daylight Save-d My Life

Happily the sun is returning to my world and it really looks like winter may finally end.

Latest creations are delightfully breezy; no more tweed please!

With the Racing season approaching fast fast fast, I'm getting into the mood with printed cottons and classic lines.

This linen and printed cotton dress was ordered way back at the beginning of the year, for Derby Day. It is an adaptation of a dress I made when Lissom Yarn opened and I didn't have a lot to do.. the original skirt was a full circle.

The back of the skirt is longer than the front and the bodice is lined and bound with my old favourite, black satin bias binding.

The cotton print came from the ends bin at Tessuti, back in February. I wish I had 5 more metres!

Next is a lovely thing made for a client with fabric she supplied, a very interesting printed silk chiffon.

The client was inspired by my awesome "How to be a Fashion Designer" book from 1979 in my studio; lots of drawings of rip-offs of Yves Saint Laurent's bohemian Russian gypsy collections.
So we decided on bell sleeves and a little peplum, that she can add a thin leather belt to at home.
I'm rather proud of this little blouse, mostly because the construction is largely french seams on four layers of chiffon; quite a challenge. But it looks great inside, so it was defiantly worth it!
I also love the "pussy-bow", and the way the print worked out; the blue section only ran along one selvedge, so cutting was slow and cautious!
Again with the self - covered buttons, which were desperately fiddly with two layers of silk chiffon.

But hooray, it all worked out in the end.

Coming up this month are some outrageous race dresses and hopefully some hats...Stay posted!