Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sewing Machine Dress

It has taken me FOREVER to complete this dress.

Aaaaand the photos I took today are all blown out, edited as best as I could. I think something is wrong with my camera. It looks perfectly exposed on the screen but really bright when I get it onto the computer. Such is life. 

 But I couldn't resist snatching up this print! It's technically a quilting fabric from Joann's... which is also why it wrinkles so damn fast. I love novelty prints and cotton wovens but I think from here on out, I will be designing my own prints for the most part. 

This will allow Manic Pop to be more cohesive as well as me always being able to order more print of a fabric depending upon what I make. I think it will work out in the long run!

Funnily enough, halfway through sewing this I had to take my Huskystar 224 into the shop for repairs. I've had it for about 9 years myself (its about 11 or 12) and never have ever had it serviced. Whoops. The lady at the sewing machine shop didn't seem to think it was all that big of a deal though. 

My machine is a bit of a workhorse and they even told me that I should never oil the one I have myself. So.... done! Tell me not to mess with it, and I won't! I had a damaged spring on the inside of my bobbin case (which is all internal on mine) so no wonder it was making so much noise and scraping against the bobbin plate while sewing. 

This dress is actually the same exact pattern I used for my 1969 Shirtdress.
That's another reason why I thought this took way too long - about 4 weeks from when I was cutting to completion. The only thing I did extra was make armhole facings and attach a band at the bottom. 

I guess it doesn't help that I was fighting with my machine, then finishing it on an entirely different one, plus my hours at work have been a little out of hand. I can be at work anywhere from 8am to about 10pm and with holiday season it could be anywhere up to midnight or in some cases.....2am I have been told. Yikes. 

So I've mostly been sleeping or chilling at home. 

I have been having lots of fun playing with prints. If you have been checking on my Instagram, I just made a psychedelic mushroom pattern repeat which you can buy on yourself! I made 3 different colors of it and am soon making a jumper-dress out of it. 

 I *might* do Burda's Retro Dress out of it, and I might just make my own pattern. I haven't decided yet. Here is a mock up with their flat sketch.

And the pattern repeat I designed. 

These mushrooms are hand-drawn then imported into Photoshop at 600 dpi. Sounds excessive, but it worked. I haven't really played with prints since college but I'm really having fun with them again. I used this tutorial to jog my memory of creating a pattern repeat. Like I do with any "recipe" I never follow anything exactly, but I got the results I wanted the way I wanted to personally do it. 

 And there is my repeat in person! Image via Instagram. 

Lots of fun things to do, so little time. We'll see how it all goes. I have lots of exciting things on the backburner. 

See you soon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Niko VS Nicole Part 2... Almost

I had planned on spending some more time with "Niko" and taking some more photos, but my life got very busy very quickly (something I don't take too kindly to) and lost track of being creative for a little bit. I wanted to do ONE more setting in this series after these photos but I literally haven't had the time to do anything.

I just worked a 9-day stretch and the timing of my scheduled work hours are insane and allow minimal time for creativity.

 Contrast: Books important now and then - my sewing books are constantly being used/looked through and in high school my "notebooks" (the rest of the world calls them journals) were my world.

I actually took these photos right outside of my old high school.  It was funny because I was certain I was going to get yelled at somehow by someone for taking these photos, setting up my tripod nearly in the middle of the street but not even the guys cutting the lawn that day at the school cared! 

I had to do a quick outfit change in my van which was interesting to say the least. It was ridiculously hot out the day I took these so Niko's hair and makeup were melting a little.

And a phone photo from that day. Super-sunny out!

I have a few other creative things happening at the moment: playing with pattern repeats (see my Instagram @manicpop for photos!), working on a dress with a sewing machine print on it, and hopefully putting what I learned from Burda's PDF pattern design class to good use. 

Although... I really have literally NO time to do anything lately which is severely bumming me out. I guess I'll figure it all out. But until then, keep peeping my Instagram for the most updates.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chicago Bungalow House Tour

There were lots of things in Chicago I am more than glad to leave behind.... but I still occasionally miss the house I lived in for 5 out of 10 years. Located in the Portage Park neighborhood in Chicago (a heavily populated Polish neighborhood!) it was quiet, tree-lined and had rows of bungalow houses. Bonus: I had an international market just blocks away that I shopped for all my groceries. I was super-spoiled.

Ok, so I stole this photo from the internet. This is what my neighborhood looked like though! My neighborhood was even named one of the top 12 neighborhoods to live in Chicago last year.

So here we are - step into my little retro bungalow, just for old time's sake.

Everyone knows I love orange.

These photos aren't 100% spectacular but they are all I have that are this comprehensive and recent of the house. Taken in February 2014.

Living room looking to the road. 

That couch got so destroyed by the cats! 

Archway to both bedrooms and bathroom. 

My friend liked to call this bathroom the "pink Polish bathroom" - her grandparents who had owned this house before we were there were from Poland. In all actuality, most mid-century modern homes have a pink bathroom, inspired by Mamie Eisenhower. See Retro Renovation's Save the Pink Bathrooms.

 The main bedroom.

2nd bedroom which was sort of an office. 

 Turn around and walk down this hallway to the kitchen...

I really loved cooking almost every single night in this kitchen and eating every morning breakfast here.

You can see most of my rainbow mug collection on the wall! 

Just off the kitchen was a 3-season room which we mostly used for storage and the cat's litter box. 

Then head downstairs to one of the coolest laundry rooms!

If you go down this colorful hallway, there is another bathroom and a tool room.

 This is the insane tool room, which actually went even further back.

The unused bathroom downstairs plus cat tail. 

Head back upstairs and notice the "closet door" in the corner to the right....

Everyone was always surprised to see that it went upstairs! 

The built-in bookshelf where I kept my fashion design books. 

To the left you enter a guest room which was impossibly cold in the winter and deathly hot in the summer. The only air vent for up there was the hallway and it did no good. 

Another guest room view.

Stripes I painted in the guest room. Loved that. 

Walk across the hallway is my modest-sized sewing room which I spent a lot of time in. I think it was eventually my favorite room of the house. 

Cozy and compact! 

So that was the house I lived in when I was in Chicago. I was always hesitant to post these sorts of photos when I lived there because ya know.... people can find anything on the internet and use it for no good. I've had my fair share of less-than-honest people this year and wasn't about to go put myself in danger. 

Having a house to live in Chicago is a HUGE luxury. Although the apartments in Chicago are not as confined as New York apartments, they can be pretty pricey for not a lot of room. I felt really lucky to have so much space. I mean, who has the opportunity to have a sewing room while living in Chicago?! 

This house was sincerely my retreat away from the world at many points as I need a lot of quiet and stability in life (hence my choice to go live in the woods) and I am really glad to have spent so much time here. I made it my own little pseudo-retro world. At a few points in time, I was really close to buying it but life got in the way. Looking back, I'm ridiculously glad I don't live in Chicago but the people who owned it sure were super-nice to me. I can't thank them enough!

This house is currently on the market. Contact me for info if you want about purchasing!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Manic Pop Video by Carlos Martinez

About a month before I left Chicago, I had cinematographer/director/filmmaker Carlos Martinez ask to create a video on me and my work with Manic Pop - super exciting!

He's been a busy man the past month and a half or so (and I've been busy with adjusting to my own new life in Michigan) but the video is up for viewing!

The Fashion Designer from Carlos Martinez on Vimeo.

It was a bit odd to talk about myself and my work for nearly a half hour to do the narration part over the video but it was so nice to have Carlos over in my studio one day and see how everything unfolds at Manic Pop. Fun fact: my video is the only video so far done in color. How could you not use color for me, right?!

Check out Carlos' other videos in his artist series. He does great work!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nicole VS Niko Photoseries

It's been a moment since I've posted, I know. I've been settling into my new digs here, setting up the sewing room, and actually been taking an online class on how to complete my PDF sewing patterns.

If you remember, I was working on a PDF for the Petra Dress in January. And while I got super-super far on that, there were some pieces to the puzzle I was missing - like how to tile the pattern for printing. I graded the pattern but wasn't happy with my nesting and some of the pieces in general, but this class is helping me develop a very clean version of those sewing patterns and filling in the blanks. 

I'm excited to see where this takes me!

On another note, I am spending some free time being creative in ways I haven't been in some time. That way right at the moment is taking creative photos. 

I got out of Chicago at the perfect time for myself -- I'd been looking for an excuse for quite some time to leave and big factors that keep anyone in one spot all fell through all at once. It's as if the universe was telling me, "Get outta here. You don't belong here anymore!" And it was true. Nothing against Chicago, but it was just time for me to go.

Since I am back in the same place I went to middle school and high school (and haven't lived here in 10 years) it's really interesting to feel as if there is a juxtaposition with your former self. Everywhere I go, I have this feeling like former me (I went by "Niko" in high school) is following me around. There are constant reminders of the person I left here when I was 18 and I have been exploring "her" through spending some time with her - not only in my notebooks from those years, but also through a mini photo series.

Back in high school, I owned a van - it was an '89 Dodge Ram Cargo Van which I owned until about 2006. Now, I own a '97 Dodge Ram Van (seen above) - completely unintentional that it was the same style! I'm in the process of looking for some really great retro-looking flower power decals. It wouldn't be very me if I didn't make my vehicle look a little jazzed up and....happy.

 Current me is on the left here, former me aka "Niko" is on the right. Yes, that shirt, shoes, and boombox bag are all from high school! Some of the very few things I have left. Former me was very sassy, bold, ridiculous, and completely fearless. It's how I ended up in Chicago.

I've compiled some reference photos which stuck out in my mind about how I looked and acted back in high school, over 10 years ago.

The photo above with "Niko" on the back of the new van essentially recreates the photo from high school below:

Pictured: My sister, best friend at the time, Robby on the roof, and me in 2004.

The pants in this photo (circa 2003) were the inspiration for me using the striped jacket as well as the hairstyle, even though this photo is impossibly blurry.

 I also seriously wore a pink feather boa around a lot when I was 14, so that's why that makes an appearance. I was a weird one!

This one might be my favorite out of all the shots so far. Yes, that "Niko" belt is also something I had made and wore around in high school! I thought it was perfect to wear for this photo series.

This one is a bit ridiculous, but you get the idea.

I have a few more locations set up in mind for this photo series. I've been taking photos in places that were and are important to me both then and now: with my van, the woods, etc. I have a few more ideas in mind.

One thing I have learned so far about playing my former self in these: It's interesting how you look back sometimes and think your former self was "so cool". At least, that's in my case. However, while playing my "old self" and dressing like my old self, I get the sense of the lack of refinement I had. I was bold and brash, but often times wasn't as sensitive as I am now. I was fearless because I was naive and young. 

I also had no idea how to do my makeup! Seriously. I caked on eyeliner for these photos like I used to wear! I stand taller playing "Niko" but I don't have the same sense of self-awareness as my current self. "Niko" was much about drawing attention to herself where as current me is more about drawing attention to my design work and creative output. And that makes complete sense - Niko hardly ever actually made anything except for wrote obsessively. Every single day of high school is documented for me. It's insane.

But current me spends more time actually creating more than ever; sewing patterns, garments, art, working with resin, developing content for my blog, etc. 

Either way, this is a fun study for me. I'm having fun with the juxtaposition and seeing the results of the photos!

Stay tuned for more in the photo series!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tools of the Trade

Well, I'm currently in the process of packing up the sewing room to move to greener pastures. I have a new studio that will be about twice the size of the one I am currently in now (though I really like how cozy and compact it is) to make room for the rest of Manic Pop's products and inventory that is upcoming. That being said, I haven't been sewing at all due to packing and coordinating the move. Plus, my sewing machine desperately needs a tune-up as some odd bobbin tension problem is happening. (I cleaned it out, adjusted the upper tension, even adjusted the bobbin tension, re-threaded a bunch of times, etc. and still not much luck!) It's about time to take it in anyway since I have had it for about 9 years now and have never taken it in for a tune up. Whoops.

For the moment though, I want to talk about machines!

When it comes down to it, I'm an analogue girl. I am also a minimalist. This is why I have only had 2 machines for the past decade of sewing, aside from the fact that I had been long been living cramped apartment life in Chicago up until we got a house-deal.

I know some people are really into gear with their art, but I suppose I am a bit of a purist when it comes to constructing garments. In design school, the industrial machines only ran a straight stitch and that's really what I learned on. It took me a little adjustment period of actually get used to the slowness of my home machine, but hey.

So this is my trusty ol' machine!
This is a HuskyStar 224 by Husqvarna/Viking. It's very basic, analogue, but pretty tough. Like I mentioned, I've been sewing on it consistently for about 9 years and have (not recommended-ly) never had to get a tune up with it. (Hey! I was a poor college student, still living in the 3rd largest city in the US!)

When I took my first sewing class in 2004 at Muskegon's Lakeshore Sewing during my senior year of high school this is the machine I brought to class. (I'd been sewing here-and-there before that, but had never been trained.) I remember the ladies there teaching the class making a big deal about this thing, and in 2004 I suppose it was a pretty nice machine. I have no idea since it was given to my mom initially as a gift, but then she decided she didn't need it so she sent it off to me in 2005 when I was in design school.

 As you can see, it has only 24 stitches. I rarely use anything else aside from the straight stitch (14) and the buttonholer function (1). I just learned the other day while flipping through my manual that one of those stitches is a blind-stitch hem stitch (7? Maybe 9?) Either way, I haven't tried that one out yet. I tend to do a blind-stitch by hand if necessary.

A handy feature on this machine is the reverse function which makes it easy to do a backstitch when starting and ending seams. What makes this machine so tough and long-lasting is that (as far as I know) it has almost all metal parts on the inside. Cheaper machines tend to have plastic insides which deteriorate much faster.

While this machine definitely isn't top-of-the-line (and very well may never have been) it's more along the lines of what you would call "pro-sumer" - a professional-but-still-consumer machine. I've found on the internet that it originally retailed for about $600. But like I said - I wouldn't know since it was a re-gifted gift. Haha.

Part of me would like to play with a new Husqvarna/Viking machine with a digital software screen on it just for fun, but knowing how much more I could do on this machine (and don't) it would be a waste of money for me unless it was a gift. Plus, the digital panels scare me! What if that thing goes down?! You would need an actual programmer to fix it now versus a technician. I can be fairly old-school when it comes to these things. 

A second essential machine in every designer's arsenal would be a serger.
I bought a Brother 1034D as a graduation gift to myself in 2007 when I finished my BFA in Fashion Design. It had great reviews on Amazon and was only $200. I figured, "Hey, when is the next time you'll have $200 to spend?" So I got it. This thing hasn't let me down!

Sergers can sometimes be a little scary at first. I was trained on an industrial serger which is by far the scariest since it's nearly impossible to thread if you don't know what you're doing as well as ridiculously fast, but this one is super-simple. The only thing about this one is that it runs a little loudly, but I'm fine with that.

You wouldn't believe that I JUST dusted this thing out, but it's already dusty again!

For those of you that are unfamiliar, a serger will cut and enclose a seam with up to 4 threads on the inside of a garment. Take a look at the inside seam of a t-shirt you have. See the loopy thread? That was done by a serger.

I personally use mine for finishing off the insides of garments on the pattern pieces before sewing with wovens. With a stretch-knit, I will only add a 1/4" seam allowance and sew the knit directly on the machine. This was sort of scary at first, but I did it successfully with an entire dress very recently!  I think I've read that you can do a real coverstitch on this model, but I haven't toyed with disabling the knife on it for that yet as I sew primarily wovens. I have usually faked a coverstitch on my sewing machine after serging!

The nice part about this machine is that using cone thread (classic serger thread) isn't a requirement - you can use regular spools of thread! I tend not to though because that little notch on the spools usually gets the thread caught and pops off of the thread base which makes for really annoying serging. Plus, I have a ton of cone thread to go through that was given to me! This machine will use either 3 or 4 spools at once and I prefer 4. Typically you would use all the same color, but I like to break rules a lot.

 This machine also uses standard sewing machine needles so if you break one, you don't have to worry about finding some odd needle type. I've only broken I think one needle on this in all 7 years I've owned it and I use it for almost every garment. 

This one also has the removable arm for it  (just like your sewing machine) which is fairly standard but it's still a nice feature to have. It makes armholes and pant legs so much easier.

I'm sure this machine does WAY more than I actually use it for (like ruffling, decorative stitching, sewing on piping, etc.) but like I said, I tend to be simplistic in my sewing practices.

Fun Fact: a former Project Runway contestant also has this serger. I spotted it in the background of her studio once in an interview with her!  I think that speaks to the durability and quality of this thing even though it's so affordable.

So that's a roundup on my machines! Very basic, but completely essential.

I'll be looking around for a backup sewing machine soon just to have around (I'm planning on a metal vintage one of some sort) since this one needs to go in the shop. With me creating far more garments than ever before, I'll need some sort of backup around!

Feel free to tell me a bit about your current machine in the comments as well as suggest which vintage machines are great to look out for!
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