Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Top and a Skirt

I have some quick and easy sewing to share this week: a top and a skirt, though not to be worn together!

Another top from the #fabriclove giveaway fabric

So this is what happened.

When I received this rayon challis from the Elliott Berman #fabriclove contest, I wanted to make my already-altered McCalls 7194, but I couldn't find the pattern anywhere. Instead, I decided to work up another design. For the new top, instead of sewing the border on the bias, I decided to create a pattern that used as much of the border along the hem as possible. I measured exactly how much border I had (two yards) and modified the pattern to use every inch.

I started with Vogue 8913. After altering the pattern extensively, I found my copy of McCalls 7194. After a short dither, I decided to go with my original plan. I made this top, which I blogged about in my last post:

Top #1 - McCalls 7194 (altered to increase hem angle)
I've already worn this top quite a bit

The first top used half of the fabric. I still had 2 yards of border left (the fabric had a border along each selvedge)— it was enough for a second top. (It might seem confusing, but imagine splitting the fabric in half the long way, resulting in two pieces each measuring 2 yards by 30", and each piece with a 2-yard border. The original fabric was big enough for two sleeveless tops.)

I decided to make the Vogue 8913 pattern that I had altered and cast aside. I had purchased this pattern for the pants, so it was in the small size group of 4-14. For a top, I typically start with a size 18 and increase the width at the bust. Since I was starting with a 14, I had to add even more width, especially because this top is made for woven fabric.

Vogue 8913

I made numerous changes to achieve the design I wanted:

  • Started with View A, size medium (the biggest size in the envelope).
  • Joined up/bottom pieces on front to make a single pattern piece.
  • Extended the hem horizontally to use as much of the border print as possible. This results in a hem that hangs with points at each side seam which is exactly what I wanted.
  • Performed a 1-1/2" FBA, resulting in side seam darts.
  • Performed a 1" broad back adjustment, resulting in back darts.
  • Finished neck with self made bias tape.
  • Finished armhole and hem with tiny hems.
Top #2 - Vogue 8913 (heavily altered)

The lightweight rayon challis really flutters in the breeze!

Worn with beaded ballet sneakers! (The only shoes I purchased in Florence.)

A striped scuba/mesh skirt

When I was in NYC recently, I picked up a striped mesh/scuba knit fabric. I decided to make it into a skirt, using the same pattern I drafted to make a laser cut faux leather skirt more than two years ago. I really enjoy wearing that skirt, which is a simple a-line shape cut on the bias. In fact, I've had multiple offers to buy that garment right off my body.

As before, I cut the striped scuba/mesh knit on the bias. This skirt is dead simple to sew with two side seams, and a waistband casing made from a contrasting jersey print. Easy peasy.

Matching the stripes

Carefully pinning the stripes. I found that this fabric presses easily on the #3 setting (out of 4) and with steam, though I did use a press cloth

Two rows of parallel stitches, trimmed at 1/4 after sewing"

The remaining seam allowance

Sewing the waistband casing for the elastic. I like the secret surprise of the jersey print, which no one will ever see

Worn with an Angela Caputi necklace. I made this novelty pleather jacket last summer

Happy birthday to me!

My birthday was a couple weeks ago, but I had just returned from NYC, and DD1 had just returned from Mexico, so we decided to delay our celebration. Last weekend, we got together for dinner on a chilly San Francisco evening. As we walked to dinner, DD1 asked me how old I am. "58", I replied. "Wait... haven't you been 58 for several years now?"

LOL. Nope, definitely not!

For some reason, DD2 thought it would be fun to swap jackets. DD1 took some pics. Here we are in our own jackets. (I made my white denim jacket with frayed edges last July.)

Not a flattering pic of me, but I'm trying to put on her jacket. This pic of her watching me wiggle into it makes me laugh.

DD2 in her jacket

Me in DD2's jacket. She stealthily took this pic to show me that we look kind of alike from behind. How many people think they look better from the back than the front?
Well, I DO! I always have.

DD2 in my jacket. It's too big but looks pretty good on her. Ironically, even DD1 is wearing one of my jackets. She pulled this out of the donation bag in my car because it was chilly. It's a Sewing Workshop West End hoodie that I made some years ago

Wow, each daughter is wearing one of my jackets! I bet that never happens again. :)

It was windy and cold!

It was a gorgeous afternoon on my street when I took the garment pics in today's post.

I'm not sure when I'll have another garment to show so, have a great week! (or two or three...)

And please join me on Patti's Visible Monday!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Top, New Pants, and New York!

The Rei Kawakubo exhibit at the Met

On a random street in NYC


Since my last post, I've sewn a couple things, and I've traveled a bit. Just a few days after returning from Italy, I went to Seattle for work. About a week after that, I went to NYC, meeting up with Kathryn Brenne. I also spent a morning with Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic.

I'm glad to be back! All this running around tired me out and I caught a virus. I haven't been sewing as much as I'd like, but I did make a top and a pair of pants. I also had a dress made in New York City.


Elliott Berman Fabric Top

If you are on Facebook, you may have liked the Elliott Berman Textiles page. Every Thursday they post a #fabriclove post. If you've liked their page, liking the post enters you into a drawing—the winners are announced on Friday. Winners are sent 3 or 4 yards of fabric, usually two different pieces. The fabrics received are a mystery—you don't choose them.

I won the Friday before I left for Italy. The fabrics arrived while I was away and consisted of two pieces: a) two yards of a beautiful lightweight rayon challis border print and, b) two yards of a viscose/lycra knit. Actually, the rayon challis is a double border print as the same border appears along each selvedge.

I thought it would be fun to sew up the fabric and wear it when visiting Elliott Berman in NYC. I used a TnT pattern that I've made twice before, McCalls 7194. This top has only 4 seams, so most of my time was spent finishing the neck and armholes with self-made bias tape and finishing the teeny tiny hems.

For my visit to Elliott Berman, I met up with Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. She seems to enjoy watching me spend money in the garment district. ;)

As soon as I walked into their warehouse, the owner and the manager almost simultaneously exclaimed, "I like your top! Great fabric!" They recognized it immediately.

The good folks at Elliott Berman: Mathew and Eugenie

Melissa Watson posted a blog post a few days ago about her mom's (Patti Palmer's) summer sewing. I noticed that her mom had the same fabric as my Elliott Berman rayon challis, but in a pink color way!

Copying RTW Pants

Before I went to Italy, I bought a wonderful pair of drapey stretch crepe pants from Simply Bella. I loved wearing these pants in the hot, humid weather of Italy and NYC. I especially liked the full leg, which tapers at the ankle.

I decided to trace them off and make a pattern.

Once I'd made the pattern, I dove into my considerable stash to look for a drapey stretch woven fabric.

I came up with nothing. Drapey stretch wovens are something of a unicorn fabric. This pant really sings in a drapey stretch crepe, but I wanted to test out the pattern, so I sewed them up in a ponte. This pair will be fine in the cooler climate of San Francisco, but I'm still on the lookout for a drapey stretch woven or two.

Unfortunately, some of my pics have sun spots

I used up my stash of black ponte on these pants, which was well-timed, because I bought more in NYC.

A Custom-Made Dress by Martina Dietrich Couture

I did something in New York that was rather foreign to me, but lots of fun. I had a dress custom made!

Originally from Germany, Martina Dietrich spent many years working as a designer in Italy and Paris, and has now built a custom business in NYC. I wasn't sure what to expect when Kathryn and I visited her studio, but the process of having her make me a dress was a fabulous. She is a total delight.

I love my dress, especially the flutter sleeves! One of her trademarks is incorporating orange into her designs, even if it's just the exposed seams and bindings. I wasn't sure about the orange when I first saw her collection, but I now love it!

You can read more about Martina here, and you can follow her on Instagram. As you'll see on her Instagram feed, she hangs out with some of the Advanced Style ladies.

Antonio Marras Garments

When I blogged my Antonio Marras presentation, I said I'd bought some pieces at his high-concept store in Milan. I promised photos.

I finally took pics of both pieces: a jacket and a cardigan. I've worn the jacket quite a few times and I love it. I haven't yet worn the cardigan, but I'm sure I will this fall.

The print features Marras' artwork—his interpretation of camouflage—it's a beautiful woodland scene. When I wore this to work recently, my colleague took one look at my jacket, burst out laughing, and said, "Blinged up camouflage?" My response was a delighted, "You GET it!!!" The right front of the jacket features an applique from the same fabric, embroidered with beads and sequins.

My second piece is a shibori-dyed knit cardigan. I first took pics with my new pants, and then I took pics with slim-legged pants. I think it's interesting to see both, though I generally prefer a slim-legged look with a long cardigan or jacket.

Full-legged pants

Slim-legged pants

Full-legged pants

Slim-legged pants

New York 2017

I'm not going to write a separate post about my visit to NYC, but here are a few pics. Enjoy!

Carolyn and I in Kashi's (Metro Textiles)

The black ponte had a hole!

Measuring my silk

With Kashi

Kathryn and I visited the Cydwoq store.

Wearing my first pair of Cydwoq shoes and a necklace made by Martina Dietrich in front of the colorful Fluevog store

Closeup of the shoes


We visited the Rei Kawakubo exhibit at the Met

The Irving Penn exhibit, also at the Met, was wonderful. Here is one of Irving Penn's original backdrops. A woman behind me offered to take my pic, then told me that she is a portrait photographer by profession.

We saw Hello, Dolly. It was amazing!!

We met Dayle at the Museum of Art and Design where we saw three wearable-themed exhibits. You can follow Dayle on Instagram, as well as Kathryn!

The first exhibit at MAD, Counter Couture, features hippie clothing from Haight Ashbury in the 60s and 70s. I first saw this a year ago in Bellevue, Washington. It's ironic that this exhibit seems to be going everywhere except San Francisco!

Also from Counter Couture

Next we saw an exhibit about the future of fashion, including the mix of technology with fashion. This exhibit of interchangeable sleeves, conceptualized and made by Lucy Jones, is for people who are seated, such as people in wheelchairs. (Though even standing people usually have bent arms, so it's rather universal.)

The third exhibit features purses by Judith Lieber. This is the last purse she made before retiring in 2004

That's it for now. I have other sewing projects in the works. I have work deadlines looming. More fabric has arrived from NYC (most places are happy to ship it home). I have a blog post about Italy started. I've even booked some upcoming trips. In fact, I've signed up for Kathryn Brenne's trip to London in March 2018. It's a one-week tour—this trip has no sewing component. I think she still has one or two spaces left, so contact her if you are interested!

On a sad note, Lucy Spector, founder of Britex fabrics, has passed. Her daughter, Sharman Spector, still runs the store. You can read more on SFGate. My condolences and best wishes to Sharman and her family.

Please join me on Patti's Visible Monday! You can also follow Patti on Instagram.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Antonio Marras (presentation and sewn garment)

I recently returned from Italy. (I still have jet lag.) Ten days of my 2+ week visit was part of a History of Italian Fashion class, offered by Cañada College's fashion department. (More about this class on their blog.)

Italy was splendiferous!

I posted some pics of my trip on Instagram and Facebook, but I haven't posted the pics in this post.

One of the assignments for the class was to prepare (in the U.S.) and present (in Florence) a brief talk chosen from a list of suggested topics, including a number Italian designers. I chose designer Antonio Marras because a) I had never heard of him, b) he's actively designing, and c) his aesthetic excited me. I very much enjoyed researching Marras, though much of the available information and interviews are in Italian, so it was also a bit of a challenge.

What follows are the slides from my presentation, with notes of my talking points. You'll also see a garment that I sewed based on one of Marras' designs. It was a failure, but at least it gave the class a giggle!

Slide 1: Antonio Marras
(Note: It took more than 10 minutes)

Slide 2: Who IS Antonio Marras?

Who IS Antonio Marras?

  • Short answer: he is a fashion designer, but that is almost accidental.
  • Mostly, he is a brilliant, creative artist who happens to design clothes for a living.
  • His wife calls him “schizophrenic.”
  • His sons would likely call him an amazing, hands on, father.
  • “Boredom is my personal monster.” —Antonio Marras

Slides 3: Sardinian Son

Sardinian Son

  • Antonio was born and raised on the island of Sardinia in 1961, the middle of 5 children.
  • He continues to live and work in Alghero, Sardinia, away from the fashion world, which contributes to the notion that he’s a bit of a fashion outsider.
  • He grew up in and around his father’s fabric store where he developed a “mania” (his word) for fabric, and where he learned to sew. (He had no formal training in design, sewing, or art.)
  • He later converted his father’s fabric store in Alghero to a boutique featuring his clothing.
  • He has created a workshop at his home in Alghero that he calls the Laboratorio (translation: Workshop) where he does most of his work, and all of his experimenting. Every collection includes some work from the Laboratorio. These hand-work-intensive garments, made with artisanal techniques, are designed, created, and produced locally. “My Laboratorio collection, all sewn and embroidered in Sardinia, is a project that only a madman would take on.” —Antonio Marras

Slide 4: In his Laboratorio (“Workshop”) at his home on Sardinia

Slide 5: The Antonio Marras boutique in Alghero, Sardinia

Slide 6: The Antonio Marras boutique in Alghero
(Very hands on, he’s on the ladder in the right pic.)

Slide 7: With his wife Patrizia. On the right, his eldest son, Efisio.
(Not pictured: his younger son, Leonardo)

Family Man

  • He’s extremely family oriented.
  • His father passed away in the ‘70s.
  • Like many Italian men (according to reports), he worships his mother.
  • He married Patrizia Sardo, also from Sardinia, who became his muse, business partner, and the CEO of his company. They have 2 sons, ages 27 and 18 (as of this report in 2017): Efisio and Leonardo.
  • His eldest, Efisio (named for Antonio’s father), studied fashion at the Parson’s School of Design in Paris, Central St Martin’s in London, and graduated in 2015 from Photography and Liberal Arts in Paris. Efisio is now designing for I’m Isola Marras—Antonio’s lower-priced, contemporary line launched in 2007.
  • Antonio goes to bed early, rises early to jog, and spends his free time with his family.

Slide 8: Collage/sketch (left), and Antonio creating (right)


  • Though untrained as an artist or designer, he creates art every day, particularly drawings, but he also paints, sculpts, collages, and enjoys photography.
  • “Beauty can come from ugly things. This intrigues me, and gives me the most satisfaction.” —Antonio Marras
  • He originally studied to be an accountant, as his father wanted, but he ended up managing the family's fabric shop when his father died in the 1970s.
  • If he hadn’t become a fashion designer, he wanted to either direct movies (film is an important source of design inspiration), or dance.
  • He was invited to mount a solo exhibit representing 20 years of his artwork at Milan’s Triennale Museum from Oct 2016 to Jan 2017. He is the only fashion designer ever invited to do so. (You can see a video of the exhibit here.)
  • “Walking the length of the space, which covers 12,960 square feet in a room that has an expansive curved wall, is like taking a peek into the designer’s soul as the exhibit is a clear reflection of his passions and personality.” —A reviewer

Slide 9: More of his artwork. A sketch (left), and a painting (right)

Slide 10: From his Milan Triennale exhibit in 2016/2017

Slide 11: Also from his exhibit at the Milan Triennale Museum

Slide 12: Examples of his designs (Plus a great pic of he and Patrizia!)

Fashion Designer

  • In the ‘80s, one of his fabric suppliers suggested that he try his hand at designing a fashion line. His wife agreed (and evidently applied some pressure), and his first line was launched in 1987. It was named “Piano Piano Dolce Carlotta”, or “Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, after the 1964 Bette Davis film.
  • A commercial success, he continued producing that line for 10 years.
  • He was invited to show his work in Rome in 1996, so he finally launched his namesake fashion line, Antonio Marras.
  • In 2003, he gained international recognition when chosen as the designer for Kenzo, a well known Japanese design house. He left Kenzo in 2011 to focus on his own lines.
  • He launched his lower-priced, contemporary line “I’m Isola Marras” in 2007. His son, Efisio, designs this line since graduating college in 2015.
  • He opened his high-concept store in Milan in 2012. His wife suggested the name, referencing his early resistance: Nonostante Marras, or “In spite of Marras.” The shop was created in an old factory/workshop, and sells not only clothing, but also ceramics, flowers, vintage furniture, vintage artworks, antiquarian and art books. The store contains a library, and (sometimes) a coffee bar and café that offers Sardinian delicacies. He often exhibits art in his shop, particularly during Milan’s Design Week, held in April.
  • “The most important aspect of my work is the mixing and matching of different materials, different fabrics, different prints,” Marras says, summing up his ideal customer as the woman unafraid to do just that. “I prefer eccentricity over normalcy,” he adds. “Normalcy is very boring to me.”

Slide 13: More examples of his designs
(Note: The blue dress, second from the left, is one of my favorites)

Slide 14: His high-concept store in Milan

Slide 15: Another pic from NonostanteMarras
Note the similarity between these light fixtures and the pieces from the Milan Triennale exhibit (slide 10)

Slide 16: Examples of his fashion sketches. The middle sketch is from his tenure at Kenzo.

His Process

  • Not surprisingly, he starts by identifying ideas that inspire him, that he wants to mix together.
  • He collages, sketches, and paints ideas for his designs. These are later displayed backstage at his runway shows and are featured in his LookBook. He also works them into the invitation for the runway show, which are museum-quality pieces themselves.
  • He collages not only images, but ideas.
  • He likes his runway show to tell a story.

Slide 17: Pre Fall 2107

Pre Fall 2017

Here is an example of his "densely multilayered concepts" (to my mind, he collages disparate ideas when creating his collections—he is a natural-born collager) from Pre-Fall 2017:

  • He took inspiration from Lady Chatterley's Lover, the erotic novel by D.H. Lawrence published in '28.
  • He added a surreal twist of cinematic glamour, referencing David Lynch's Twin Peaks - his son captured the arcane spooky atmosphere in the photos he took for the LookBook.
  • Finally, he added reference images of Vita Sackville-West strolling in the lush Sissinghurst Castle garment, and of the late actress Sylvia Kristel languidly reclining in the '70s soft-porn movie Emmanuelle.

Designers typically don't hold a live runway show for pre-fall, but you can see the looks on

Slide 18: Fall 2014

Fall 2014

The common threads for his Fall 2014 collection were the wolf and the moon, and he included these specific references:

  • The journey to India of swiss writter Annemarie Schwarzenbach, lesbian siren of the Weimar Republic, as captured in the movie ‘The Journey to Kafiristan‘, based on the novel written by Annmarie’s travel companion Ella Maillart.
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Three Little Pigs
  • Joseph Beuys, a German Fluxus, happening, and performance artist from the 1960s as well as a sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist, and pedagogue.
  • Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf
  • ‘Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia‘ by Giacomo Leopardi
The models were done up like Rachael, the replicant in Blade Runner. “There are no wolves in Sardinia,” Mr. Marras acknowledged. “But you can dream.”

Slide 20: My Inspiration

My Inspiration

  • I loved the drape on this dress from his Fall 2017 collection.
  • I thought it would be great made as a summer dress for Florence.
  • Note that he often uses one or two older models in his runway show. The woman on the left is a particular favorite of his.
  • He regularly styles his models with short socks and heels.

Slide 20: My Failure

My Failure

  • Oy vey.
  • My apologies to Mr Marras! This was a failure in fabric choice, as well as a few other things.
  • If I make this again, I'll tweak the neckline and use a fabric for the collar/sleeve drape that looks good from both sides. Possibly lengthen and slightly flare the dress.
  • Also, accessorize differently.
  • Finally, use a fabric that is less heinous!

At least the class was amused. ;)

(Note: I was embarrassed to wear this outside to take pictures. Even though it was 7am on a Sunday—Mother's Day, in fact—I had to screw up my courage!)

When I left for Florence, my slide show ended here. I then spent 3 days in Milan and had a chance to visit Nonostante Marras. TWICE. Afterwards, I added the following slides:

Slide 21: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
Looking out onto the lush courtyard

My Visit to Nonostante Marras

It was such a delight to visit this shop! Located in a mostly residential part of Milan (not far from the Armani Museum), Nonostante Marras is hidden behind a gated entrance. Upon entering, you see a lush courtyard. This shop is a high concept shop, meaning that it's more than just a store that sells items. A high concept shop allows a designer to express his or her vision in a unique way. In this case, Nonostante Marras is a living room, a library, an art gallery and, yes, a clothing boutique. Once a year in April, the store is entirely changed for Milan's Design Week when they also bring in chefs to create food for a popup cafe. In fact, the New York Times listed Nonostante Marras under item #1 for things you should do if you have only 36 Hours in Milan.

Slide 22: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
The livingroom and library areas.
Martina and I sat here and enjoyed an espresso

Slide 23: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
The walls feature art. The large designs, created by Antonio, are actually wallpaper that you can purchase of his designs. The framed images showcase a guest artist.

Slide 24: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
On the left, wallpaper featuring Marras' art provides a background for guest art.
On the right, Francesca and Martina (store manager) staff the store. Both women grew up in Sardinia where Marras lives.

Slide 25: My Visit to Nonostante Marras
Yes, that is me with a shopping bag! I don't yet have pics of my purchases, so that will have to wait for another post.

Thanks to Vera for these photos, taken as I gave my talk!

Here are a few bonus pics that I didn't put in the slide show.

Francesca and Martina. Their tee shirts feature his artwork

Even the bathroom is interesting!

Another livingroom shot (you can see my shopping bag in the lower left)

The lovely courtyard

Another courtyard shot

Selfie in the mirror.
Look at that cool sculptural piece below the mirror. This shop is full of interesting things to look at

Antonio Marras has three Instagram feeds and I follow them all!

  • antoniomarras_personal—His personal IG feed. When I posted pics from his shop in Milan on Instagram, he personally liked them. :) I double checked with Martina that it was really him. Martina told me that after my first visit, she had talked to him about me, so he knows he has a fan in San Francisco.
  • antoniomarrasofficial—The official IG account for his collections.
  • antoniomarras_alghero—The IG account for his shop in Alghero, Sardinia.


That's it for now. I will take pics (later) of the two garments I purchased at Nonostante Marras. On Sunday morning, I dressed up in one of them to go to the grocery store at 7:30am. We're in a heat wave here, so I can't wear either garment until it cools off a bit.

I'll soon be off for a short work trip to Seattle and, in a couple of weeks, to NYC. After that I should be settled for awhile.

I might even sew!