Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Retro Color Palettes Straight from 1968

And here I bring you a fun little blog post I worked on for a few days... a late 1960s color palette story!

You can thank Timehop for making me remember that a book I have on my shelf has a really cool page of color suggestions in the 1960s for dress design.

The book is "The Co-Ed Sewing Book" by Marian Ross which was apparently published in 1968. (See below image.)

It's taken a bit of a beating, and upon further inspection, it appears that my mom may have stolen it from a library when she was a kid (haha). There is evidence that there was a library log card envelope on the back page. So, thank you mom for stealing this book all those years ago so it can reside in my collection!

If you haven't had the chance to run into this book yourself, it is chock-full with beginner sewing information: from the absolute basics, like choosing colors for you and making fashion work for you, to measurements, talking about thread basics, cutting procedures, as well as seam finishes, pressing, and helping you essentially design your own handmade wardrobe.

This book is littered with super-cute illustrations like this:

Or this:

My favorite page that I took a photo of three years ago (and then saw on Timehop this past week) was of the color suggestions. If you didn't have an idea of which colors would go well together, this book basically had it's own retro color forecast in it for you. The page itself is very bland and uninspiring but I instantly could see the color palettes in my mind while I was on the train one evening.

Those color palettes were so vivid, that I took it upon myself to create a set of seven boards based on this page, incorporating the illustrations that randomly appear in the book.

Have a look and see which retro colors you love the most all put together! Perhaps it will inspire your next sewing project.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Super-Quick Viewmaster Top with New Look 6217

This post is going to be really straight forward, but I am finally getting around to making myself some much-needed tops!

This pattern was SO easy to put together it was almost insulting. Haha. You only need to cut 2 pattern pieces (front and back). I also measured and cut my own neckline bias binding because I didn't have twill tape on hand and I wanted the neckline to match.

Needless to say, I cut and sewed this pattern up in about an hour -- no joke! I took lots of breaks/lazing around in between making it so I didn't make it straight through, but it was no more than an hour and a half of sewing and that's including installing a back zipper.

I'm always at odd with myself when I make things: Should I make something that actually challenges my vast knowledge of sewing and design skills or should I make things that I will actually wear even though they're super easy? Super-easy and wearable won this time.

 Zipper open, obviously.

I could have very, very easily made the sewing pattern myself for this top but when I spotted this one: New Look 6217 online for like, $4, I couldn't say no.

It was the perfect shape I was looking for! 

This fabric is super-cool. I bought it on Fabric.com the same exact time I bought the Pepsi Scallop fabric for the Saint Pepsi Dress because I wanted to add enough fabric for free shipping. Hahaha. The information printed on the selvage said it was by Cotton + Steel for Fall 2014 and was apparently designed by Melody Miller. (Good job, lady!) I couldn't resist the color palette and retro nostalgia that is the Viewmaster. 

I was one of those bad-ass kids that had not only the classic hold-up-to-your-eyes Viewmaster, but I also had the projector!
I still remember the sound it made when you focused it. 

 I plan on styling this top with a long cardigan this time of year as well as a chunky scarf. I knew I needed plain ones for some reason and this is why! To wear with cute print tops!

I am also planning on maybe using this pattern for a stretch knit jersey version using my Victrola print that I made last year. I'll have to edit the pattern slightly for a stretch knit, but hey! That's why I have brown pattern paper. I might make up a muslin with leftover stretch knits and see how that goes too. You never know. But I have been looking for really artsy/psychedelic-ish printed tops (like 2 I once bought at an Urban Outfitters almost 9 years ago that I have worn to DEATH!). Making my own with fun fabric could be my solution.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Orange and Paisley New Look 6299.

I'm at a total loss with how to present my second version of Simplicity 6299 so here goes nothing....

Yep! I'm back to bad Photoshopping. Haha.

With the holiday season being around, being a retail manager, and winter in Chicago (though it hasn't been bad at all) it makes it nearly impossible to take photos of things I have made recently. So I resorted to taking photos against a blank wall and creating... this.

It's actually apparently a sketch of Chicago somewhere but I just liked the linework of it. I need to develop my perspective drawing skills.

Some of you may remember me posting this sketch deciding between 1 and 2 on my Instagram and clearly, I decided on version 1. It was a hard decision though! (And don't ask me why the sketch is more yellow versus orange, I can't figure it out either.)

One thing I've been failing to do is show photos of things on my dressform. I don't know why I don't do that, aside from the fact that I'm mad that when I had that dressform for less than a year it already broke. I have a way chintzier one that is actually still more together than this one and that's sad. I was super excited about this faux-professional form from The Shop Company, but it's really just a piece of crap. You win some and you lose some I guess?

The dress itself was ridiculously easy to construct, though in the process I realized that I have definitely fallen out of love with my previous go-to fabric is polyester poplin (which is the orange). You can see the poplin crinkling for no reason although it's been pressed to death and pre-washed.

 Here is the pattern packet again. This is the same pattern that I used for the Saint Pepsi Dress, only this time I made View D. I also cut the pattern in a size 10 versus a 12 in the Saint Pepsi Dress even though my body measurements are more like the 12. I suppose I prefer less ease?

 The neckline binding was something that I rarely do yet did it for this one because that's how it called for finishing. I'm so used to using a 2" wide facing from my years of schooling that it's hard to unlearn the habit of just making/using a facing.

Overall, a cute simple, quick-to-make dress from fabric that's been hanging around! And using a pattern I already had. Why not?! 

I do need to remind myself to NOT use woven fabrics in the future (or far less). I am more than proficient when it comes to sewing with knits, but like I said before with the facings... hard habit to break. That, and looking around online lately I can't find much of any medium weight knits with a good print. I have been drawing more lately and I definitely have been playing with more prints (some examples on my Instagram @manicpop) but I really don't want to have to buy all my fabric from Spoonflower as that will surely get costly WAY fast. 

My other go-to is Fabric.com but I'm either being over-picky or just lacking vision on my next projects. I'm sure it's a temporary feeling. 

Until next time....!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Serendipitous Simplicity1059 Vintage Reproduction Dress

I'm back with a new dress that I made!

Funny story: This is a dress that almost wasn't. I was cruising around the fabric store one day just picking up some invisible zippers (my go-to rarely has a large selection of invisible zippers) and both my boyfriend and I happened to find this pattern on sale at the store. I really love that pattern companies are reissuing old designs of theirs and Simplicity has always been one of my favorite pattern companies.

Here's the 60s version of the pattern packet from 1969.

I almost didn't buy the pattern as I didn't really have any plans for it: I'm the weirdo that doesn't buy fabric or patterns without a specific plan. This is probably because my mom spent hundreds of dollars on projects she never even started and fabric she never used when I was a kid. I personally don't want to have a collection of "someday" things cluttering my sewing space.

I bought the pattern anyway and I remember thinking, "Oh, too bad I can't basically make the crazy 60s-print one." I know I usually can find something similar but of course it's never the same.

Not even a few weeks later, I was at my typical fabric store in Pilsen when I walked past a bunch of the calico prints and something made me look up. I couldn't believe it. I was actually shopping WITH the Simplicity pattern, just trying to find something that could work as well as buying other fabric while I was there. I honestly hadn't planned on finding anything for this pattern!

I immediately snatched the fabric off the top shelf and compared it to the pattern packet. It was so similar to the original 60s pattern packet sketch! Almost the exact same colors and print!

I showed my favorite fabric cutter at the cutting table who is also a local fashion designer and does costume design for shows in New York City and he was in shock as well. The fabric itself was printed in 2014 based on the markings on the selvage but was seriously mimicking a 60s look.

So yeah, I ended up making a true vintage 60s dress with reproduction Simplicity1059 and fabric with an obvious 60s vibe!

We braved the cold a few days ago to take these photos. On our way home, we were in the midst of the first snowfall in Chicago! Always a magical time of year. These photos were taken downtown between Millennium Park and Grant Park. I was kinda going for a glossy fashion magazine-type city photo look and the skyline right around there reminds me of Vogue fashion ads. (See below, haha.)

Should I have been a model?! Lol.

I rarely wear this faux fur coat even though I like it tons. I guess I get nervous people will think it's real (doesn't look real at all to me) or PETA people will get mad even knowing it's faux fur, or that people on the street will think I have way more money than I have. In truth, this coat was about $15 at a "vintage" store in Wicker Park (this coat has to be early to mid 2000's) and I bought it some 4 or 5 years ago. It's actually a kid's size and you can tell it's not in the least bit high-end by the lining on the inside!

Overall, the dress wasn't hard to make at all, though it took longer than I originally anticipated. The only thing I oddly had a slight issue with was the inside neckline facing, but that could be because I didn't transfer the circle markings on said facing. I don't think it lays 100% flat still but whatever. It totally works and I can see myself making up this pattern in a more slinky synthetic material for a completely different look.

I'm also not used to wearing long sleeve dresses! With anything long sleeve, I find myself pushing up the sleeves. I'm a huge fan of sleeveless so I can add my own cardigan over anything and hence why I make lots of sleeveless. I also don't recall ever inserting elastic into any garment I've made (though I have done drawstring) so perhaps this was a slightly new learned "skill"? It was easy. I've always liked the look of dresses with the bishop sleeves but actually never have owned any! I did make the matching sash for this dress but opted to style it with a belt I had in my closet to break up all the pattern.

And now, a super artsy photo.

 That's it, kids! Have you made this dress before? Link me in the comments!

Dress: Self-made with Simplicity1059 / Reproduction of Simplicity8238 from 1969
Faux fur coat: Early-mid 2000s "vintage" in a kid's size
Belt: Thrifted
Fleece lined tights: Brooklyn Industries
Boots: Crown Vintage via DSW
Camera bag: Thrifted
Hat: Don't even remember, but bought around 8 years ago

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lady of the Great Lake -- A Prismatic Design

Quick blog post here --

Wanted to "drop off" another one of my creative projects I've been working on. A few years ago in 2010, I got really into these designs I called "prismatic designs" inspired by weirdly enough, a coloring book by Peter Von Thenen .

I think it's funny that adult coloring books have become "all the rage" now because I've kept that Von Thenen book mostly untouched (except the ones I did when I was from around age 11-15) in my arsenal of inspirational books. Fearing no one would ever make anything remotely like it ever again, I started drawing up some of my own to color -- my absolute favorite one to date of mine which I call "The Elk".

I've recently taken to doing "mini" ones at the moment since they're arguably less time-consuming and they are, well... cuter. My latest one I drew up is only 6" by 11" (where my old ones were 11" by 14".)

So, without further ado, here she is! 

Like the rest of mine, this is watercolor pencil on bristol board, inked with Micron pen.

Currently, my process with these is doodle a bunch and wrack up a bunch of shapes I like, then draw out a "skeleton" of where I want your eyes to be drawn to. This particular skeleton had a bunch of triangle shapes. Here you can see my in-progress photo from Instagram (sorry, phone quality photo time) my overlapping of simple shapes and then deciding placement based on those shapes.

Overall, I really like how this little one turned out. I hope to do some more again soon as they're fun, relatively easy, and lots of fun to color as well. I like that this one somehow reminded me of the fountain outside of the Art Institute, which is completely unintentional. I really enjoy the gardens there and occasionally will find myself outside of the fountain called "Fountain of the Great Lakes". So I guess she is my lady!

Monday, October 19, 2015

(Saint) Pepsi Dress with New Look 6299

I know it's been a long time, but I have FINALLY gotten around to taking photos of a dress I made literally like, 6 weeks ago.

I initially had another project up before this one, but for some reason, I couldn't NOT cut this dress first.

The dress is New Look 6299 by Simplicity and I had found this amazing and crazy Pepsi scallop print from fabric.com that I seriously could NOT stop thinking about. Yes, I could have made this sewing pattern on my own very quickly (and basically have with my Tanith Arrow Dress) but I'm still working on completely refining my pattern blocks.

Plus, these days I'm lazy, I don't have a ton of time, and when I get a cool combo in my head I just need to go for it and not waste the time I have to work on things.

From far away, there is no indication that this dress has "Pepsi" printed all over it. And that's what I love about it.

Upon closer inspection, you notice it has a retro-ish "Pepsi" in the middle of the scallops.

I really have no idea why fabric.com would have such an oddball print in their arsenal, but I am glad as hell that they did!

To me, this dress screams 1960's retro though I'm not sure if that was their intention. It's a new pattern but I thought this retro-inspired fabric was perfect for it.

I also wracked my brain for a perfect place to take photos of this dress (Come on! Had to be somewhere colorful!) and I ended up remembering this super cool retro-looking diner down Harlem in Forest Park, IL. The place is called Parky's and although I have never been there, we stopped to use it as our photo location but not before buying some lemon Italian ice from them.

Italian ice reminds me of my childhood: I spent from age 0 to 12 in the New Haven, CT area and being from a predominately Italian neighborhood (I am mostly Italian myself) lemon ice was my favorite thing to get from the ice cream truck.

Promotional photo for my upcoming album.... not. 

I seriously am not a soda drinker at all -- you will never see me buy a 2 liter! I'd rather drink tea. But I DO happen to like musician Saint Pepsi a ton. That's a good enough reason to have a Pepsi dress right?! I also happen to be a huge fan of pop art (haha) and consumer-product related clothing/consumption commentary as a whole (still kicking myself of 12 years ago for not buying a white tee with the red "thank you thank you thank you" printed on it like a plastic grocery bag.)

So Saint Pepsi (now renamed Skylar Spence due to Pepsi threatening him with a lawsuit) is actually coming to Chicago in a week or two. I've been jamming to his tunes for over a year now and it's some seriously good stuff. If you're into chillwave music or even vaporwave plus a mash up of obscure 70s dance and even some slick 80s danceable tracks, the sound is purely nostalgic and familiar but like nothing you have ever heard before.

He's on the same record as another old favorite of mine, Toro y Moi. Now I know he's rocketed to fame and fortune a few years ago, but I saw him open for Ruby Suns at Schuba's in 2010 when he was a virtual nobody and not long after all his equipment was stolen in Brooklyn, NY. He totally made that show for me. Saint Pepsi is also on the same label as Toro y Moi -- Carpark Records -- and it's no wonder why.

This one (Cherry Pepsi) is super 80s reminiscent, but also check out 70s disco and Mario Kart (yes) influenced "Better".

And that's the story behind this fun new dress!

I'm also working on some new art pieces (one is a 6" by 9" smaller-version prismatic design), planning/concepting for more fabric repeats, and sketching in general. So I've been doing a little bit of everything. For the most up-to-date creative pieces, follow me on Instagram, @manicpop 

Dress - Manic Pop-made, via New Look 6922
Pepsi fabric from Fabric.com
Boots (bought in 2013) -Crown Vintage Apple Boot 
Glasses - Seraphin Kipling bought in 2011 from my old eyeglasses place in Wicker Park.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Let's Talk About Ease, Bay-bee

Sometimes, too much knowledge can be a BAD thing....

I know lots of people might say, "But you went to fashion design school! How can you make a mistake like that!?"

Well folks, it happens. And because one of my main goals in life is to help people out and provide tips and tricks I want you all out there in TV Land to learn from my failures.

Here's another tale about the importance of ease. This time, the tale is told from a commercial pattern standpoint. (Also, deal with my phone camera photos on this one, peeps! My new phone is just about as good as my 5-year-old SLR at this point anyhow.)

Here is a photo of me excited about my work before I figured out my huge mistake. 

My idea was to use a commercial pattern I had bought for $3 for this tunic top which turned into a dress (because Lord knows I don't need any more dresses!). But I had the fabric and I went ahead and cut fabric for a dress anyhow. 

Being less well-versed in commercial pattern usage since I have been making all my own for 10 years now, I was confused at which measurements I would need to go by on my commercial pattern.

Maybe it's obvious for everyone out there, but the fact that there were "Body Measurements" versus "Finished Garment Measurements" confused me. After all, almost any pattern I've ever used has told me only one set of measurements and said, "Alright, you're good!"

At this point in my life, my bust is about 33 1/2", waist is 26 1/2" and hips are 35". (For additional reference, I am 5 feet tall.) 

I can't remember what the hell I was reading one day, but it said to always pick your commercial pattern based on bust measurement. Not sure why, but it did. So I went for the one that said 33 1/2"..... in "finished garment measurements".

My mannequin lady is (now) a teensy bit smaller than me, and this is my result when I decided to quit.

And then I realized my fatal error: I had used the wrong set of measurements. Yargh!

At first I was mad, but then I decided to learn from it. I was annoyed that a pattern would be so convoluted, but then I came to the conclusion that no, wait.... this was actually a GOOD thing!

Many commercial patterns I've recently used only give you one set of measurements. The "finished garment" measurements can actually be helpful if you are into knowing how much ease a pattern has been given.

Ease is not something that had been talked about much (or at all?) in my schooling. The only "easing" I learned about was basting stitches on a sleeve cap to ease it into a garment. Seriously, that's it. My garment blocks I've had for YEARS actually has the ease built in, so I rarely if ever worried about it and I had no idea how much ease was included in them.

Again, what is ease? 

This is my absolute favorite quick reference manual for ease. (Yes, I am borrowing the picture.)

There is both wearing ease and design ease

In this case, I'm looking for wearing ease which is the minimum amount of extra room you need to move in a garment. We are not a dressform, so we do need to move. Unless you want to suck in all day, then that's your deal. 

If you refer to the differences between Body Measurements and Finished Garment Measurements on the McCall's pattern, you can determine the amount of ease very quickly: The bust has 3" of ease. (And I guess the waist/hips don't matter on here because they don't even care to list it!) This is super helpful if you're a lady that needs to do a full bust adjustment or even if you have a smaller chest -- you will know exactly how much to take away/add and how much extra your pattern should measure. This also helps you determine if you know you have a preference if 2" of ease in the bust or even if you want your bust to be looser by an inch. 

 I particularly like the "Fitting Ease" chart in all of this and I have it printed for reference in my sewing room. 

After this debacle, I went ahead and decided I needed to once and for all adjust my sewing blocks the correct way, not just winging it on my dressform like I have been. (I'm a lazy designer, apparently.) I needed to learn about ease even more in order to make both commercial and my own patterns work well. 

My original blocks are designed from my pattern making book and for some reason with the measurements of a 35" bust, 25" waist, and 36 hips.

 Here I am, tracing off my blocks from school onto pattern paper for editing. 

Now, I don't know who the hell is those original measurements: Were people in 1995 (the time of original publishing of my book) busty with small waists or was this based on a Barbie doll? I may never know. But what I do know is that these measurements aren't even based on ASTM standards which is ridiculous. So I'm convinced the book just wants to make everyone mad when designing well-fitting garments based on the book measurements. 

After comparing my pattern block to the measurements stated, I ended up figuring out that these particular blocks have 3" of ease in the bust, about an inch of ease in the waist, and about 2 1/2" of ease in the hips. Perfect!

From there, I ended up doing a series of adjustments that are combined with grading as well as addressing an uneven grade which many may refer to just a pattern alteration.

I'm sure I've referred to this before, but this page from Threads is essential with any pattern grading. Not only will it spell out for you the difference between sizes, but it will break down all the lines for you based on how much you need to shift the pattern!

From my original blocks, I needed to grade down the bust from 35" to 33" yet needed to adjust the 25" waist to 26 1/2" plus an inch of wearing ease. (Waist ease may be determined by your preference and mine is 1".) I also needed to decrease the hips measurement by 1 1/2". 

I also used an old Singer Sewing Book I have from 1972 and it had a wealth of useful pattern adjustments! I love it. This combined with the grading reference completely fixed my blocks. 

By the end here, my actual pattern blocks measure 36" in the bust (3" of ease), 27 1/2" in the waist (1" of ease) and about 36 1/2" in the hips (1 1/2" of ease). 

One thing I also edited because I had been having a hard time --- my torso length, aka "shoulder slope" in my pattern book. This book has it at almost 17" for the shoulder slope (which measures from end of shoulder to center front waist) and my own measurement (with the help of my dear boyfriend) is a mere 15". A WHOLE 2" DIFFERENCE! 

For shoulder slope, that is a pretty incredible difference since you don't need ease at all for that measurement. That just means that I am that small. That's what I get for being 5 feet tall.

In the end, all this cutting, slashing/spreading, and delving deep into the world of ease made all the difference. I went ahead and made a full muslin this time to check my work and I am super pleased with the result. I don't think my blocks have ever fit me this well, ever!

 In this photo, I hadn't taken into account that I would indeed need to adjust the hips so that is now adjusted for a slightly tighter fit on my actual blocks. 


My point is, take the time to measure out your own body. Take the time to understand grading no matter how daunting it is, and take into account the amount of ease in your garments. 

From this point, I am going to actually be drafting a torso block (basically bodice/skirt combo with no seamline) as well as determining what my knit blocks should look like. Knit blocks in general will actually have negative ease but that will have to be another blog post entirely once I play with those again. 

I'll likely download my pants blocks from Burda since pants can be a nightmare to draft (especially with weird this ol' book) but I'll likely have to make a few adjustments there. 

And if you want to give it a go on your own without buying a giant, expensive pattern drafting book to draft your blocks, head over to Burdastyle.com to download blocks to adjust perfectly to yourself! Even though you can find most pattern manipulation how-tos online now, I actually do highly suggest having a book as a pattern reference manual. My pattern drafting book teaches you anything you ever would want to do.... except give you the correct measurements for an actual lady's figure. 

But look at that! I took those lemons and I made them into lemonade. 

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