THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

October 4, 2009

Gail Gondek at The Center for Pattern Design Conference

 San Francisco California Oct 2, 2009

evening ensembleSilk charmeuse lined suede shell with pick stitch detail around armholes and hem over sequined skirt. Worn with a silk/wool angled circle wrap and stone disk pendant on a black silk cord. – Gail Gondek patterns for Ralph Rucci

The Center for Pattern Design held its first annual conference on Saturday. Pattern designers and educators from near and far came to talk about their art, and listen to a great group of people involved in designing and making patterns at the all day conference.

Julian Roberts spoke about his methods of subtraction cutting, with great folded paper demos of how it’s done, along with some of dresses made by participants at the previous day’s hands-on workshop.

The keynote speaker was Gail Gondek, who has designed patterns for Ralph Rucci and Peter Som, after many years working with Geoffrey Beene. She talked about some of her experiences working with a designer to create their vision in cloth, about the process of taking a design from concept to the runway. Afterwards, we got to look at some of her pieces from Ralph Rucci, inside and out.

Wtih Gail’s permission, I took a few photos to share with you, knowing you would love to see some of these details as much as I did.

This silk dress had his signature back zipper set into the side panel instead of the center back seam.

dressdress back detaildress back


Here’s a detail of the front of this dress. A spaghetti cording is whipped to the body with silk embroidery thread, the same detail as seen on the center back.

dress top

I loved the easy ‘floating away from the body’ shape of this black sheath dress –

sheath sidesheath backsheath back detail





Check out its lovely little peek-a-boo detail at the lower center back – just a little surprise – in an area where most women still can show a flash of skin and get away with it, no matter what your age. The display mannequins are covered in black leather, so the contrast doesn’t show up so much as it would if skin was showing thru the cut out.

The fabric is a double face wool crepe – a truly wonderful soft but firm hand. That’s a fabric that I will have to look into. If you have seen any in your travels, let us know!




The peek-a-boo detail was used on this jacket as well, on both the front and back. The contrast satin insets at the waist seam are a nice touch too.

jacket frontjacket back


Sigh! Wouldn’t this jacket just be lovely over that sheath dress…??

Thanks to Gail for sharing some of her great work. I am looking forward to next year’s conference already.


September 28, 2009

More Jeweled Inspiration

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Embellishment,Georgene — georgene @ 7:57 pm

Continuing my current obsession with sewn jewelry, I thought I would share some of the latest entrants to the field.


lanvin bracelet 5This Lanvin bracelet, while it does have some hardware, is a nice combo of pearls, ribbon, and some rhinestone brooches.



I have my needlenose pliers, and it’s not hard to find jumprings and clasps at the local bead store.



I think deconstructing thrift store costume jewelry could yield some useful elements.


Lanvin crystal ribbon necklaceThe scale of this Lanvin piece is quite wonderful.

Lanvin crystal ribbon necklace 3

lanvin dbl pearl necklace 1I love the double row of pearls on a  mesh covered double-face silk satin ribbon here – Notice the crystal bead sewn in every now and then. It’s very subtle with the two different sizes of pearls.


marni plastron 1


Here’s another of the felt  plastron styles from Marni. While the elements used here are more ‘real jewelry’, I can see doing something in this vein with beads, sew thru stones, crystals, or buttons.


marni plastron 3










Again, the scale of this is interesting.

Not for the shy or faint of heart!





marni stone felt necklace 1




This one from Marni is a more eclectic mix of elements. Here you can see that the black ribbon ties are inserted into big grommet holes, and then just knotted.





Again, the big statement. These felt plastron style necklaces may keep your chest warm under your coat this winter, nestled in at the neck to protect you from the wind blowing in off the lake. Or the Hudson if you are in NYC. I was never so cold as waiting for the bus on 42nd St. with the wind whipping across town.


marni stone felt necklace 2

One final piece, from Phillip Lim, rather interesting in that the fabric is pleated.philip lim pleated necklace 1

I can’t really say what is going on, but it looks like the pleats are stitched to the chain. The chiffon bow is a nice touch.




philip lim pleated necklace 2









I just uncovered a trove of my old costume jewelry (gulp! it’s vintage now) that I can use to cannibalize for chains, pendants, and clasps. Good for Christmas (coming all too soon). I may never have to buy a thing for the ladies on my list.

September 6, 2009


Filed under: Accessories,Designer Inspirations,Embellishment,Georgene — georgene @ 9:55 pm

Ribbon, crystal, and tulle, oh my!

 design elements

Leaping in

 This weekend I put together my own piece of sewn jewelry, since I had the good fortune to find ropes of pearl beads at Addison Endpapers quirky warehouse sale last week. I went thru the trim boxes in the new studio and found some elements to make a tulle covered necklace with a ribbon bow closure, a la Lanvin. The pink/ peach/ nude story jumped out easily. I’ll do a black lace version later on.

trim boxesboxes

 Is it over before it’s begun?

 My fashionista friend who avidly follows anything to do with handbags, shoes, and jewelry claims this trendlet is over because “it’s at Forever 21”. Well, everything ends up at Forever 21 the next day! So what? That never stopped Dolce and Gabbana from doing, say, leopard print. Some things become instant classics, and I think that the ‘statement’ necklace is here to stay for awhile.


(This image thanks to Good Bones Great Pieces)

 The ladies over at Good Bones Great Pieces have also picked up on this trend. Love this great photo montage that shows how the influence has percolated thru the market.

 Not so fast

 Meanwhile,’s Spring 2010 Trend Forecast includes this tidbit about designer/wunderkind Jason Wu:

Wu will be unveiling his line of jewelry for Atelier Swarovski. Expect the baubles as well as the clothes to be sculptural, as their starting point was the work of artist Tara Donovan. “I like her concept of sculpting with everyday objects,” Wu said, “so I’m using fabric and crystals and making sculptures in that spirit.”

 Jason Wu sketch

The sketch that is shown along with the note gives an impression of an explosion of color droplets.

Since Tara Donovan’s sculpture was noted in some of the design services’ forecasts for Spring 2010 that I saw 6 months ago, it will be interesting to see what Jason Wu has done with her influence.

 As seen in Vogue

 September Vogue had this great photo that caught my eye.


There’s a lot going on in this photo. Since there are 2 necklaces in the credits, not sure where one starts and the other leaves off.  No matter, it is a great look for this fall.

200903_marni2The blurb gives credit to Marni for the jewel encrusted plastron, so I went hunting to see if I could find a reference to the specific piece without all the foufou fanfreluche of the Vogue photo obscuring the necklace. I don’t think  this is it.


The whole category of ‘felt plastron’ or ‘bib necklace’ is worth considering for more fun with sewn jewelry.



 MARNI_FW09_jpg  from Marni Fall 2009 collection

 More Statement Necklaces

 Lanvin glass pearl heart 1Love the scale of the latest Lanvin necklace to sell out on Net-a-Porter! Somewhere I have a rhinestone bow pin, I must make my own version of this.

marni_necklaceAlso love the fabric flowers on this Marni necklace – hard to see what is actually going on in this photo reference, but it looks soft knotted cord to form flowers. Could this be some form of Chinese Knotting?

Here’s my finished piece:

 finished necklace

First I tied off the string of pearls with a slip knot, leaving plenty of room on the string to move the beads along.

tie off end

Then I took my 1 1/2″ strip of tulle and passementerie trim and started to wrap the beads. After wrapping the entire length I went back and hand sewed around each bead, securing the tulle around the bead and the trim around that.

wrapping the beads

Once that was done, I lashed the beaded trim to the bottom edge of the tulle

lashing on the trim

I have added some vintage Swarovski teardrops and a pink organza flower…not sure about those elements. I may add more teardrops, and put the flower on a pinback so it can be taken on and off according to need.

The ribbons are stitched to the end and then wrapped with a circlet of the same ribbon to hide the stitching.

It took all day, but now that I know more about how it works, I can see that it could go faster. Worth the $1250+ for the Lanvin version? What do you have in your stash that could be used for something fun?

August 18, 2009

Not Just For Plant Hangers

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Embellishment,Georgene — georgene @ 6:06 am

Macramé back for Chado Ralph Rucci by Gail Gondek

A note from The Center for Pattern Design landed in the inbox about the 2009 Pattern Design Conference in San Francisco Oct 2- 4. The goal is to bring together master pattern makers who will ‘share their insights, their designs, and the pattern techniques that make them a critical part of the fashion industry.’

The keynote speaker at the conference is Gail Gondek, pattern designer for Chado Ralph Rucci, Geoffrey Beene, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, and Peter Som. Her talk, Concept to Catwalk, ” will shed light on the often mysterious pattern design process that produces a fashion masterpiece at the highest levels. Her work has been shown at the Paris Couture and Pret-a-Porter shows and regularly at New York’s Fashion Week for the past 20 years.” Some of her pieces have been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Fashion Museum at Kent State University, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA).

The photos attached to the press release show some of Ms. Gondek’s marvelous work, including some startling macramé inserts. I was intrigued by some of the construction shots that were included in the press pack.

Fitting the knots to the pattern

Placing macramé design on the dress form

This seemed particularly serendipitous, as my neighbor showed up wearing a wonderful knit tank top with a macramé back just 3 or 4 days ago.
tee back

tee front

Time to bust out those macramé skills that are long dormant, or ask your grandma to give you some pointers on technique? First make a ton of plump bias spaghetti cord out of your fabric, then experiment with some knotting. It’s great seeing this treatment at the very high end of haute couture, alongside the much more mainstream 2×2 rib knit top with the matching jersey knotted cord.

August 10, 2009

Pyramid dress from center for pattern design

The Pyramid dress pattern I ordered from center for pattern design because I was intrigued by the designs from the UK designer Julian Roberts.You can see him at work by watching 2 videos.

Pyramid dress a

The pattern is made by Sandra Ericson and based upon the principles of Julian Roberts system of Subtraction Cutting.

I was interested to see  how this pattern was drafted and to see how this design looked like in real which I could not really judge by the pattern design picture.





The pattern is partly drafted ( bodice part) you only need to draw the skirt portion which is a large circle around the pattern depending on the length you prefer.

pattern sketch a

Because this pattern needs one XL piece of fabric I tried this pattern by making it at ½ scale for my dress model so I had no piecing to do. I measured the pattern and draw a 1/2-scale pattern from it.

As you can see there are no seams in the skirt portion of the dress.It looks like a doughnut shape.


Pattern layout 1/2 scale size 12

Untitled-1 copy

The fabric I needed was 1.20 meter by 1.20 meter (1.312 x 1.312 yard) for my ½ scale pattern .So in other words if I would make this dress in a real size I need about 2.40 m by 2.40 m (2.624x 2.624 yard) that’s why you need to piece the fabric to get that wide.

 Suggested bias  fabrics: Loosely woven wools, silks or cotton; wool or silk crepe, crepe backed satin, silk velvet, georgette or chiffon.

I used stretch polyester satin for this unusual funky dress, and because it is only for showing on my scale dressmodel I did not finished the seams just use my pinking shear.

The instructions mention to sew stay tape at the shoulder seams to prevent stretching,I fused some pieces of fusible interfacing at  the sharp angles at the partly side seams, and finished the armholes and neckline with binding finished wide 2 mm wide (0.078 inch) from bias cut self-fabric.

I stitched the bias cut strip of fabric right sides together at armhole and neckline and pressed the  seams towards the bias cut piece, I folded the bias cut fabric around the seam allowance and hand stitched the piping in the ditch from the right side. Sewing it by hand gave me more control because of the small scale than using the sewing machine. Now there was no need to pin or baste first.

PICT0068detail piping

There was no need to leave an opening at center front because my ½ scale dress model has no head.But for a real size dress you need to leave an opening at the center back seam for 12,5 cm ( 5 inches)

 The hem is uneven after sewing the dress and due to the bias cut I left it un hemmed for a few days.But you also can leave it as irregulare level  but I choose for an even hem.

leftpyramide dress frontback

I marked the hemline with chalk using my lead measuring tape.

lead measurement tape

 The hem wide is very wide 5.88 meter (nearly 6 ½ yard) at ½ scale and I finished it by just turning in and stitched from the wrong side a few hairlines away from the fold.This way it looks neat on the dress model but for a real size dress it is not a good way because the raffles are still there.

       Inside view hem wide

hem wide insight view








Back view

back side a front side dress                                                                                    Front view

  If you want a unique funky dress this is the one that you should make.

The sewing is easy, the pattern is printed on sturdy paper and the instructions are clear there are even some variations like using the side flaps to use as  pockets.



PS. I am not planning to make this dress in my size, I only made it out of curiosity.

The cover dress picture has the folds at center front sewn differently, this is described in the pattern as variations on the theme.I folded the 4 corners flat at all the sides to achieve a more slimming view.

At the next pictures you can see the corners or cowls at the center, left, right and back of the dress.

inside side of the dress:

Front inside view  Back inside view

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