THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

July 20, 2008

Table Talk

This photo from last year’s New York Times slide show of the Christian LaCroix workrooms is inspiring. A simple wooden table, a portable machine underneath, a stool. What more could you want?

The cutting table is your most basic tool. Raise your hand if you are not cutting on a table at waist height. 2 points off if you are cutting on a cardboard mat on your bed. An additional 4 demerits if you are cutting on the floor. I know, I know. You don’t have the space, or the money to have a dedicated cutting table.

When we first moved to New York City, my dear husband and I were poor as the proverbial church mice. We had one room in a shared apartment. So we built folding saw horses, and put a piece of plywood on top, and that was my table. But what a table! It was painted an elegant matte black, and for the saw horse hardware I used gold metal cuphooks and window hanging sash chain to fix the width between the legs. Saw horse tables are easy to make, and can be put up and down with ease.

Check out Ikea’s version, the Artur.

Now to me, the width of the table top in this photo is not nearly wide enough…and I am not sure I want a glass tabletop. You can use a different tabletop with the Artur legs though, which are adjustable from 28″ to 36″ high. My table is 36″, as are most commercial cutting tables. Here is a nifty link for folding sawhorse plans. This other plan with a simple hinge is closer to my NYC sawhorses, but with the cross piece at the bottom higher up the leg. I had a some boards I could sling underneath to make a shelf that sat on top of those cross bars. Can you guess that my table was more or less a permanent part of our bedroom? For those who might like to trade up, check out the Ligne Roset Trestle Table. My DH could totally make this elegant version of the sawhorse table!

Seriously though, your table can have a huge impact on your results. From not being able to get the proper angle for cutting those niggling little curves and notches, to dreading cutting because you break your back every time, there are a hundred reasons why not having a proper table can hurt your results. This is true not only for cutting, but for having a place to lay out your work in progress. All kinds of garment sewing require large surfaces at waist height, and most particularly when working on home decorating projects.

What matters? Not only height, but width, and, tables are not just for cutting!

The main thing for home dec is to have a BIG PRESSING TABLE.

One of the biggest revelations I ever had was walking by a design shop in Paris, up near the Sacre Coeur and watching thru the window as they laid the curtains out on a huge padded table at waist height to press. Light bulb moment!

I now have a layer of padding I can roll out on my cutting table to turn it into a pressing table. I also got 2 giant pieces of ½” thick foamcore and duct-taped together for a folding mat to make it 60” wide if needed. (had to do that for the taffeta of the recent prom dress.) You can see it here propped up in the corner.

I can think of nothing more helpful than a large table at the proper height for any curtain or bedspread wrangling. I even put the portable sewing machine up on the table and sew standing up for the big wide jobs.

This commercial set-up for a drapery workroom is interesting on several levels. I love the little skirt in front that looks like it can be extended to allow the fabric to fall in to it to keep from dragging on the floor. Also, check out the table-top pad. Now there is a really smart idea, to put elastic around your pad, sort of like a fitted bottom sheet for the bed. I just have some layers of flannel sheet and gigantic beach towel that I roll out, but this is worth a try. I am definitely going to adopt this idea for my table.

Also see this clever portable folding cardboard cutting table. Not widely available yet, but congrats to the person came up with this idea.

December 25, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Past

My mother sent me these vintage needle booklets for Christmas – aren’t they wonderful?  She said in her note that she found them at a “second hand sale” and as soon as I opened them I felt an immediate and powerful connection to the sewist who used them.

My favorite tools are always the ones I make myself.  I made the needle book below a few years ago when I was going through a bit of OCD while trying to embroider a proper bullion rose.  

The “cover” is filled with two pieces of plastic canvas zigzagged round the edges, then trimmed.  I added flannel pages and stitched a center “binding” between the pieces of plastic canvas.   I have a collection of vintage needles I that like to use for embroidery and hand sewing, so I store them in this booklet.


I have this fantasy that the woman who made the vintage needle books was just as pleased as I was when she finished hers.  The fronts and back are two colors of wool felt, and the pages are white flannel.  The butterfly is missing one antenna, but the simple silk floss embellishment is still bright.  The flower basket is embellished with posies stitched from french knots and lazy daisy stitches for leaves.  The handle of the basket folds down to show the needles.  Based on the shapes and colors I’d say both date from the late 1930’s to mid 1940’s.  I love the imagery from this era because it reminds me of my grandmother and my great aunts.

I doubt I’ll take the needles out – I’d rather leave them just as they are, as they were, the last time the unkown maker touched them.   A sewing moment frozen in time; a tangible link to the past and a respite from modern life.

January 9, 2007

Dutch Tailor/Dressmaker Organisation

Filed under: Els,fashion/textile exhibition,Museum,Organization — Els @ 7:14 am

I am a custom clothier and member of the Dutch Tailors organisation Bond van Kleermakers.  I am a regional board member, as well as a national board member and one of my tasks is organising the annual tailoring skill competition.  This year will be my last term as a board member.More about the BvK which is a non-profit organisation can be read on our website  in Dutch of course. But for the English readers you can read it here , and for German readers some information is here
It is worthwhile to take a look at the link for fashion and textile exhibitions   in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, UK, Canada and USA.  Of course not all the museums are covered but the most important ones are here, so take a look if you want to know what exhibitions are on. The page starts with The Dutch museums and galleries and followed by the Belgium museums.  The others can be seen if you scroll halfway down the page .

The BvK tailors organisation started 66 years ago and at that time the members were all men because tailors were men at that time, but time changed and now the majority of members are women and we only have a few men in our midst
The diversity is not only focused on tailors anymore ,but also  self-employed, men and women’s (tailored) clothing manufacturers , couturiers, tailors employed by couturiers, designers and manufacturers of costumes for the stage as well as those who own a clothing repair shop and various other fashion studios. Members also include a large number of sewing or fashion design schools.

The BvK has about 300 members and is divided into 5 regions spread over the country so members who live in the south belong to the south section.I live in the North so I belong to the northern section. But each member is free to join one of the meetings organised in a different region.

Each region has its own region board committee of minimal 3 voted members, the period of being a board member is for maximum 4 x 2 years. The Northern region is the smallest one ( 35 members) so we can manage with 3 board members.  From each region one board member is an elected representative for the national board committee. Which exists from 5 regional board members a financial adviser, a secretary and a chairman.

Each region organises a gathering evening about 6 or 7 a year and 2 member meetings and this way we can meet the colleagues and talk about all kinds of tailoring stuff and learn from each other by sharing technical or practical information. Sometimes we invite a guest speaker to show and tell about his or her profession which has a link to our profession. For example last year we invited a lady who makes replicas of historical clothing.

One of our members is specialized in bridal wear and talked about her work, another member who teaches sewing and pattern making showed us the variety in lingerie fabrics and all the notions which are available this day to make the most gorgeous lingerie. We also had a round table meeting with the chairman of the BvK. Another evening was filled with pattern making/adjustments for a full bust.

In our region we try to organise an excursion per year so this year we went to a studio and learned about making felt .Other excursions we did were visits to museum exhibitions.

The national board members organise 3 national days were we can meet our other colleagues from other regions and can attend workshops, lectures of fashion designers etc. and of course shop at the different vendors for fabrics, notions, magazines, pressing supplies, lingerie material, sewing books etc. A great way to stash up. The annual days are situated in the centre of the Netherlands so everyone can attend
 .  Comparative garment show 5 countries 2006 , and the Dutch contribution


 Those 3 days are called the study day which takes place in April, and the focus on that day is learning new skills by lectures and each region makes an outfit for a woman and a men which will be showed on the catwalk. The comparative garment show. The fabrics which are used for those garments are handed over to the volunteer members  who are willing to make the outfits and are the same for woman and the same for the man’s outfit for each region .The member is free to choose whatever garment he or she wants to design and sew.Last year we had a theme evening wear. It is always a surprise to see those outfits on the catwalk. In our region we also use the making of those outfits as a study object during our gatherings where we can learn a lot from. It starts from scratch a few meters of fabric towards the design sketch , muslin fitting and the last fitting sessions for the final garments.  The annual congress in September is filled with a member meeting, and lectures about fashion + the annual tailoring competition where members can show off their skills and win prizes by showing an outfit or two and those outfits are being judged by a jury and showed to the audience on the catwalk.You can see which garments from members who participated in the last tailor skill competition  were showed on the catwalk.
The technical information day in November is a day where members can choose 2 workshops out of 3 or 4 , I attended a workshop in the morning working with fur and in the afternoon a lecture about shoe covering .an impression here 

This year 2007 a new initiative starts with a day called Mode van Top tot Teen (Fashion from Head to Toe) for which the BvK has selected members who will make an outfit which will be completed with shoes made by a shoe designer and hats made by a hat designers .
The exchange of national and international contacts with other tailor organisation is very important that’s why the BvK is a member of the World Federation of Master Tailors and has participated at the international congresses and members were showing their outfits at the fashion shows when the congress was held in Europe. This year the 32 World congress takes place in Taipei International Convention Center in Taiwan from August 5-10 but we will skip the participation this time because it is too far away.We are also a participating member of the 5 Landen Treffen which is a 5 European Country meeting with tailor organisations from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Tirol ( Northern Italy). BvK is the host for the next meeting in The Netherlands in 2008.
Last year the congress was in Bad aussee in Austria you can see an impression of the fashion shows here 

I do not know but The Professional Association of Custom Clothiers  and
   The Tailors and Designers Association of America looks like the US equivalents of the Dutch tailor organisation.

October 14, 2006

Expandable Bead Stash Storage

Filed under: Embellishment,Organization — phyllisc @ 2:24 pm

For a while now I’ve been trying to figure out a way to deal with stash storage for my beads – how to you find a storage system that is infinitely expandable for a small but growing collection? Another dilemma for me is visibility – I like my embellishment stash, especially my beads, out in the open where I can see them and glean inspiration on a constant basis.

This year Ikea has two great products that can be used together, even though they weren’t necessarily intended to be:

The board is a white steel bulletin board, and the containers are actually spice jars with a glass top and a magnet on the back. The containers are 3 for $5.99 and the board is $12.00. For some reason that makes no sense to me, these are available only in Ikea stores. And typically for Ikea, they have the strange and non-sensical name of “Gruntal.” Look for them in kitchen cabinets and kitchen interior fittings.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking “Great idea Phyllis, but I don’t live anywhere near an Ikea.” … so I did some web research, and this system can be replicated pretty easily. Any magnetic whiteboard could be used just as easily as Ikea’s, and these boards can be found just about any office supply store.

The Container Store web site sells similar (and smaller) white plastic clear top spice jars with magnetic backs, and a company called Specialty Bottle sells, very similar to Ikea’s, clear top metal containers in smaller sizes. Best of all, Specialty Bottle has no minimum order:

The smaller sizes really appeal to me for seed beads, and all I’d need to do is glue a magnet onto the bottom. I might try these 8.5 x 11 inch adhesive-backed sheet magnets and stick a round piece over the entire bottom of the small Specialty Bottle tins.

Viola – infitnite bead & embellishment storage!

Keep on Sewin’
Diva Phyllis

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