Monday, March 23, 2015

Kaia's Rose Communion Dress

It's nice that my first white dress of the season gets to be this delightful confection. Delicately embroidered Swiss cotton organdy makes up the skirt and elbow length sleeves of this dress. Heavenly fabric!

Kaia wanted her dress to honor her grandmother, Rose, so I crafted three little Dior roses in satin to accent the waist. Each rose is stitched by hand with several layers of petals in different sizes.

Satin picks up the subtle sheen of the embroidery. The scallops are sweetly feminine.

I finish dresses with a couture zipper, set by hand for stability and accuracy. The sheer organdy fabric is underlined in cotton poplin for support and opacity. The dress is then fully lined with soft cotton lawn. The skirt layers are each finished with French seams. This dress will be as comfortable to wear as it is lovely.

Cotton organdy remains my favorite First Communion fabric. It has a light, innocent quality that I think speaks to the occasion. At the same time, it is elegant and very special. It would be nice to see this dress passed on to a little sister, a cousin and one day a daughter.

Friday, November 14, 2014

little red coat

I like to invest in a good coat, even for my children. A nice coat makes you look and feel instantly pulled together and polished. And when I see my children lined up in their nice coats, I feel instantly like a mom who has her stuff together, no matter what kind of day I'm having.
If you've seen Kitty and me around town, you've probably seen this little red coat. We get compliments every. where. we. go. Seriously. This is red wool with black velveteen trim. The coat is fully lined in Bemberg rayon and has a cotton flannel interlining for added warmth and structure. The black cuffs turn down for another year's wear. Wool is very durable and doesn't need to be saved for a special occasion. She wears it for everything but the coldest and messiest of days.

From a cost and labor standpoint, a coat is very much like a dress. However, you get a lot more wear out of a coat, so it's actually a better value. This time of year, in fact, the coat is the only thing people see. My boys get nice coats too, always with room to grow and be handed down. Oh, and baby doll gets a matching coat of course.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Natalie's Nutcracker Dress

Natalie's family is planning a special trip to see the Nutcracker this year, so they wanted a very special dress. Nutcracker is a Philadelphia holiday tradition and the Academy of Music is a venue that demands a very fine frock. Did you know the Academy was the setting for the lush opera scenes in the Age of Innocence?

It didn't take long to decide what to make for Natalie. I had been saving this cranberry voile for the right client. It has a beautiful drape and a floaty quality that reminded me of something a ballerina might wear.
The color was exactly right on her. Normally, I take my little clients through piles of fabrics, swatches and trims to find the right thing. When I draped this fabric around Natalie, we didn't look any further.
The pattern features a soft gathered yoke with floating slightly puffy sleeves. I accentuated the bodice, neckline and sleeves with fine French laces. Although the cranberry and lace combination gives the dress a holiday feeling, it would be just as suitable for a birthday party, wedding or other occasion. The skirt includes a 4" double turned hem, which I will happily let out in the future for no additional charge.
It's even perfect for curling up with a favorite Christmas book!
My 2014 holiday schedule is almost completely booked. I have room for only one more full commission if you contact me quickly. In fact, I've already started booking for Communion 2015. However, do get in touch if you have specific requests. I might be able to accommodate you. Also, stay tuned as I might be offering smaller gift options!
*this dress made from a licensed pattern by Oliver + S.

Monday, November 3, 2014

may the force be with you

Although I’m already busy with holiday commissions, I have to allow room in my schedule for Halloween costumes. My kids love dress up and costumes get used long after Halloween in our house. My oldest wanted Star Wars and it didn’t take much effort to get the others on board. All he had to do to convince his sister was utter the word “princess”.
The Jedi pretty much wear karate shirts and a bathrobe, so it’s all easy sewing. Knowing that ours will get much wear, I use cotton and finish these well to hold up to lots of washing. I even stitched their names on the inside with “love, Mama.”
We all had a lot of fun with these!
Of course my favorite was Leia’s dress. To recreate the fluid drape of Carrie Fisher’s iconic white gown, I used a bamboo rayon jersey. I lengthened a full peasant blouse pattern and drafted drapy bell sleeves based on an angel nativity pattern.
The huge hood and collar I had to make up for myself based on what I observed in the movie. It didn’t take much to convince the kids we had to watch Episode III again for “research.” The great thing about costume making is how you get to stretch your imagination and skills to make it all come together. I worked with fabrics I don’t normally and merged different patterns to create something unique.
Yes, the hair took an hour and many bobby pins, but you can't be Leia without the hair. Oh, I took them trick or treating as Darth Vadar, which was super fun.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

summer love

I don't take commissions over the summer so I that I can recharge the creative juices. It gives me chance to fulfill the wishes of my very favorite client of all. Here's a fun little ruffled halter top in blue striped seersucker with a tie made from a scrap of Liberty of London. Perfect for a sticky summer park day.

I am also spending the summer making lots of plans for the holiday season, so stay tuned! 

"Mom, are the pictures good yet? I want to play with my boys."

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tessa's Heirloom Communion Dress

After many hours of careful labor, Tessa's family heirloom was completely transformed. Instead of the neck ruff, she has a classic Peter Pan collar in silk satin. The sleeves were shortened and simplified.

The scratchy yellow lining was replaced with soft cotton lawn. The delicate original fabric was given much needed support with an underlining of cotton poplin. These three cotton layers give the skirt a gentle fullness that is still comfortable to wear.

A delicate bias tube with tiny bow at the waist ties the new satin collar and hem together. I really love how the satin brings out the embroidery. The original lace was heavy and coarse. It overpowered the fine detail. With the satin adjacent, the embroidery seems to shine like silk.
Still, I couldn't bear to completely separate the original pieces of the dress, so I attached the original lace to the skirt underlining.

 There wasn't another dress like this at Tessa's First Communion and she wouldn't have it any other way! Her mother and grandmother were equally pleased with the results. I was grateful for the opportunity to save a treasured heirloom.

 Maybe one day they'll bring it back for me to turn it into a Christening gown.
Photography courtesy of George Aubrey Photography

Sunday, June 29, 2014

an heirloom Communion dress

Tessa came to me with her mother's dress from the early 1970's. It had been sewn by Tessa's great-grandmother, who was a professional seamstress. Tessa's mother remembers accompanying her grandmother to 4th Street to select the fabric. Tessa is an old soul and it was important to her to wear her mother's dress. But, like many of today's children, she had very particular ideas. She didn't like the collar, it bothered her. She preferred a Peter Pan collar. And she hated the long sleeves - too puffy! Plus, the dress was quite a few inches too short and the acetate lining had yellowed with time, making the dress appear a little Miss Havisham.

I took on the project of re-working the dress with excitement and a little trepidation. This was a family heirloom with great sentimental meaning. There was no additional fabric to work with and no room for mistakes! I washed the dress and removed some minor stains and then I spent a lot of time inspecting every construction detail and making a plan for how to alter it. Finally, I had to admit the only way forward was to dismantle the entire dress. It's rather like renovating an old house - you don't entirely know what you're going to find when you start taking things apart. The delicate fabric required great care.
Once I had it apart and the pieces pressed flat, I could start to plan the design. I wanted to retain all that I could of Tessa's great-grandmother's fine workmanship, but fulfill Tessa's wishes and bring the dress into the 21st century. The biggest challenge was adding length in a cohesive way. Finally one night I had this idea:
If I cut off the original lace hem, the satin Tessa chose for the new collar could also form a wide band at the skirt hem, allowing as much extra length as we wanted  In trying to save as much original detail as I could, I hadn't considered cutting off the lace. But in fact, the embroidery looked much nicer next to the satin, which was a perfect match. A delicate waist detail with a tiny bow in the same satin provided cohesion. Again, it's like an old house: to properly patch a very old wooden floor, you "feather in" the new pieces so it blends together. I pitched several ideas to my little client, but this is the one we all liked best.
Stay tuned for the final pictures!