Inspiration Files

If It Weren’t for the Skeeters

{update: Oops, I didn’t realize comments on this post were disabled. I had a conflict with one of my plugins. All is working now!}

I’ll go for months and months without shopping and then suddenly I get a get a bee in my bonnet to make a whole day of it. I rarely drive anywhere–most of my week happens within a five-block radius–but I love my car so it gives me an excuse to tool around town in my Ladybug.

A shopping day starts with a latte from my favorite coffee shop and then I visit a few local boutiques. There’s always a stop at Anthropologie, and mostly I just drool over their furniture and all the little knick-knack housewares. Sometimes I’ll cruise as far as the mall to check out lingerie sales at Nordstrom. But I really love small boutiques that have their own creative voice, that operate more like galleries rather than try to serve everyone at once. Kick Pleat is one of those shops, with a tightly edited, small collection of designers, mostly independent European brands you wouldn’t find elsewhere in Austin.

Two of my absolute musts for the summer were a blouse-y white tee shirt and silk shorts. I really thought I’d get around to making a tee by now, so I couldn’t resist this floaty white tee which has that right amount of haphazard slouch I like to throw on with everything.

{I’m a sucker for lady sandals, especially ones with bizarre slug ornaments…}

If it weren’t for the mean skeeters, I’d probably wear something short every day. I had a few pairs I planned to make this summer, including a remake of my pretty purple silk charmeuse shorts. They were one of those projects on which I spent more time working out the finishing techniques than fitting them properly and I accidentally cut the wrong size (down). I mocked up the next size up only to realize that the pattern is better suited for a more structured fabric than charmeuse. The original pattern was in the Burda June 2010 issue and is a sweet little short pattern, but has a bit of tailored fit and not quite the drapey loose-fitting style suited to something like charmeuse. (There were two looks in the magazine, which are both available at BurdaStyle here and here.)

My sewing hours the last week have been spent working out a new pattern, but keeping all the trouser-y details. A contour waistband, fly, options for cuffs and welts are all unexpected touches in silk, dontcha think? I’m working out sample #3 and I think I’ve got the pant leg just right. It’s almost a different pattern entirely and sometimes I wonder why I just don’t have a trouser block to begin with!

A few of my inspiration shorts:

{Credits: Shopbop, ForwardForward, Ralph Lauren}


In Which I Dream of Stella Once Again

Why hello! I didn’t want May to get away from me before I stopped by my own blog. As you can tell I have been on a sort of blog vacation–pretty much a forced internet vacation with the sluggiest hotel wi-fi on the planet. I’ve been seriously eyeing an iPad as a result, because 3G is just better in travel circumstances and traveling with a ginormous Macbook is just not doing it for me anymore!

So I was just immersed in two weeks of an intensive course in counseling, consisting of 9-12 hour teaching and practice every day with activities at night. It was enough to send me crashing into bed every night with barely enough inspiration to brush my teeth. But somehow I convinced myself while packing I might have time to sew. I brought along my bra patterns and a few lingerie fabrics–mini sewing! and what little spare time I had was spent designing and drawing out a few new bra styles. I also picked apart an old bra to clone and I’ve been deconstructing several others to learn more about materials and construction. It’s fair to say that I’ve been obsessed with bras the last month, and here’s what’s been inspiring me lately…

Stella McCartney. I just fawn over this lingerie. Such beautiful little details, like silk wire channeling, pleated straps, funky metal rings. This is a simple contour padded bra but the drama is in the details, which I appreciate now that I’ve made a few bras of my own, and have tried on a few of hers! {via}

Huit. This is a French lingerie company and most of their bras are soft cup or unlined cups, which are perfectly fine by me. They work really well under simple tops. I really adore their simple little designs and especially the colors.{via More Huit here and here.}

Wundervoll. I adore the funky styles by this German brand. They veer toward athletic-inspired designs, a bit left of center. {via}


Elle Macpherson Intimates. I own a couple Elle Macpherson bras and they fit me wonderfully (great deals when on sale!). This season the brand really embraced the vintage-style look, and this lace applique silk set just really nails everything I love about lingerie right now.

Check out those high-waisted knickers! Coincidentally, just before I left I won my very first internet give-away in the form of the high-waist Betty Knickers from OohLulu, thanks to Lizz at A Good Wardrobe. These would be a great starting point to knock off Elle Macpherson, dontcha think?

I’m glad to be home, despite the oh, 40-degree temperature hike from Washington to Austin, and ready to dig into new projects! And as you can guess, a new bra is in the works!


Sweet Shorts, Sour Shorts, Spicy Shorts

Well, hello hello, and happy belated Easter! We do celebrate and this year’s holiday was pretty laid back, just spending the day talking with friends under a big oak tree and a little stroll through my garden to pick flowers. I got me an Easter bonnet, too! A fine big-brimmed straw hat that I wish I would’ve had when modeling my Lonsdale last summer. It will work its way into one of my future blog shoots, I’m sure.

This week I’m dreaming of shorts. And tank tops. Alas, it’s that time again.

{credit: google images}

I haven’t really worn sleeves in two weeks. This is why I never made a proper spring wardrobe plan, because heck, spring just flits in and out of Texas like a hummingbird. Now you see it, not you don’t.

My shorts fixation of the moment is being taunted by all the images of scalloped hems and lace shorts on Pinterest. (See my board.)

And serendipitously, today Colette released a cute little sailor short pattern in their new spring collection. You bet I’ll be trying these!

Last summer I wrote a bit about the way my style has changed living in Texas. I was never much of a skin-barer and I never had a need to be. I never really wore sandals, even in midwestern summers, and now they’re at least half of my shoe wardrobe. So slowly, over time, my tastes and my eye has adjusted to a breezier, skin-showing style.

I’ve liked the way summer clothes have taught me to celebrate my figure and make peace with those parts of the body I used to try and hide. I mean, I guess in a roundabout way I could blame Texas for actually giving me the courage to wear skinny jeans. (This year I even treated myself to SKINNY LEATHER pants. For reals.)

It took me awhile to be okay with shorts, for example, but now I can’t imagine living outside of them. A couple years ago, I timidly bought a pair of pretty little Ikat shorts on clearance at Anthropologie. And they became my uniform. I barely took them off for a couple summers straight. I need me lots more shorts.

In August, I sewed my first pair, pretty purple silk shorts, from a Burda pattern. They were so beautiful. I was so proud of the fly I drafted for them and how it all came out. And then I committed the ultimate sewing mishap–I’d completely sewn the wrong size (down). It could’ve been a costly mistake but thankfully the silk was left over from another project so I chalked it up to a fancy muslin. I’m determined to get them right this summer, and even ordered more of the same charmeuse.

The first pair on my agenda, however, are Pattern Runway’s Sweet Short.

After Oona first alerted me to this new line last summer, I promptly ran over to Etsy and ordered a few of their patterns. And now I really need them.

Thankfully, before I went a-cutting I found Liz’s pretty, gauzy take on these and her original assessment of the fit, or I would’ve banged them out without measuring or even making a muslin. (Do I learn?) According to my measurements I’d fit exactly halfway between their X-Small and a Small. The thing is, there are rather big distances between the sizes, unlike many of my shorts or trouser patterns (like Burda). Rather than cutting out some willy-nilly in-between size, I decided to do some measuring first and drew in the seam lines along the X-Small to get an idea of the ease. The finished measurements of waist and the hip have 4.5″ (11.4cm) of wearing ease! Just FYI. That’s quite a bit for fitted shorts, or at least a fitted waistband. Hopefully, the half size down will be good enough but I’m definitely making a muslin dammit. Tonight.

So stay tuned for further shorts developments. And a full-on summer wardrobe plan. I’ve got some drafting ideas up my sleeves!


it’s not easy being green

Do you ever feel like spring is just a bunch of exclamation marks?!


Growing, growing, green. That unstoppable energy of spring is hard to keep up with. And March in particular is often the only “spring” we get in Austin–from here on out it rapidly turns to summer. So we get extra exclamation marks for that. I’m an avid gardener and it’s hard not to want to be outside digging in the dirt every chance I get. Here’s a bit of home for the “expat” Texans out there:

I have declared this the Year of the Bluebonnet. There are some years that they are smaller in crop than the others but between some perfectly timed rains in the fall and spring they are INSANE this year and I’m sure the Texas-dwellers out there have noticed the highways brimming with them. I dreamed for years of having a wildflower patch, something that simulated a meadow in a city garden kind of way. We have a pretty large yard for a city and even for central Austin–but it was entirely covered in shade and invasive plant-weeds. It took one fall of serious weeding, hacking down a few junk trees and bushes, and throwing out a few packets of seeds. Now my little patch of sunlight has taken on a life of its own. Some years the poppies show off, others the larkspur. Last year I had one lowly bluebonnet and all of this somehow came from THAT. (I never tire of the wonder that one plant can generate about 1000 more in just one season of seed-bearing.)

March is also a thick time because it’s also my man’s birthday month. Friends, birthdays are a really big, big deal around here. Sometimes wearily so. We usually take the day off (okay, sometimes more than one) and basically fill it with everything we love. It just so happens that Derek’s birthday is also St. Patrick’s Day. Yeah, he is part Irish and all heart so his bday always has this double-the-party energy. Add to all this SXSW, which seriously takes over Austin for about a week straight–the buzz, the traffic, the 10s of thousands of people crowding every square inch of this little town, the feeling that you are always missing some kind of huge convergent opportunity.

So we had a l’il party last night and now that things are calming down, from my quiet little porch in the universe, I can think about how much I adore this man and hope he had the bestest birthday:

{In this one, he’s wearing a vest I made him a couple of years ago from a vintage 1940s pattern. I’m going to do another one soon.}

Derek wears green velvet pants to breakfast and top hats to conferences. He collects circus paraphernalia and weeps in front of a Marc Chagall. He has the biggest heart and zest for life of anyone I know–and often loves people so much it hurts him. Darn Irish. I know it’s not easy being green.


The Hidden Things

Oh Austin, I love you.

{Sign on Silk Road Fabrics.}

Something about this struck me as very typical Austin. That people here who don’t generally suffer from workaholism. That there are still places one has to find by accident, or in this case rely on word of mouth for opening hours.

Austin is one of those rare cities that has the kind of places one must stumble upon. Groovy restaurants that haven’t been Yelp-ed and mapped and Twittered to death. It’s got a fair share of the Secret South. (There’s an art collective literally hiding in a forest.) The sign might be spray-painted, the pedestrian traffic nil, but those homemade Mexican grandmama tortillas are the secret everyone loves to keep secret, or just recommend the old-fashioned way. It’s one of the reasons Derek and I gravitated here. We always call it a haven for creative people; it’s urban but incredibly easy to be an artist and live an artistic lifestyle without a competitive strain to prove oneself.

Silk Road used to be just a walk away from our neighborhood, in a lovely little cottage that was torn down a couple months ago. (Sigh, no more fabric sources for me that don’t require a driving haul through a labyrinth of Austin traffic.) Long before I got back into sewing I used to browse the exquisite silks and walk out with a couple glass buttons. They have gorgeous linens too–my first-ever fabric purchase in Austin eventually became the wide-leg trousers. Last year they moved deep into the East Side, still a source of hidden creativity despite upscale development. I had to turn around twice at the train tracks before I realized the store was inside the Flatbed coop.

Now here’s a place I’ve heard about but never visited. The closed doors of Silk Road sent me wandering instead around this heavenly mothership of all things printmaking.

All in all, a very Austin experience… where you end up when you were looking for something else.

Anyhow, this would’ve been the one local place I’d find some lovely lace trims for Sherry’s Ruby Slip. I’ll have to wait. I’m finding a bit of pleasure in that, too–the pleasure of the waiting, of finding the one thing that can’t be found by anyone else.

This is about lingerie, I guess, in a roundabout way. In lieu of a slip, I made a new bra over the weekend. I wanted to sew another one fairly soon after my first try, to refine fit and design changes while the experience was still fresh in my mind.

It’s still plain and super cutesy pink, but I wanted to use up the fabric and notions I got from Bramakers Supply to test my changes. I tried changing the pattern to a more vertical seam and went to a full-band bra. I also went down a cup size, which fit just perfectly despite my worries on the first bra. (My first was a modified 32C, which as it turns out was a bit of wishful thinking!)

My sewing will stop for two weeks as we travel abroad, but my first order of sewing business in the New Year will be a luxe version of the bra from this lace-like gilded lycra. It came all the way from Germany via and took almost two months, but I am so pleased. Gorgeous stuff.

Have a wonderful holiday, and I hope that true and meaningful secrets are revealed to you!


A Year of Sewing Burda

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Even to those abroad who don’t celebrate… it really is a lovely holiday. No pressure. Just sitting around eating and drinking with friends and family. I normally go mad cooking and baking but this year I’m only on pumpkin pie duty. I get to sloth around in PJs until late afternoon, so spent some of my free time organizing patterns.

Our lovely postman brought me the new Burda yesterday. A good mail day! It’s the only magazine to which I subscribe–the rest of the mailbox is just junk (well, bills). The last few issues have really caught my eye; I’ve been inspired by the way they’ve been on top of all the urban leather and faux fur trends lately.

My fave has to be this persian lamb cocoon-like coat.

(My late grandmother had a groovy couch upholstered in this stuff so I’m partial to it.)

A great leather top à la Isabel Marant:

Leather shorts and chiffon blouse, yum:

I still love Burda mostly for its design point of view–or just that it risks having one from time to time. The great thing about sewing, of course, is the ability and freedom to shift a pattern’s style to your own, regardless of a pattern company’s aesthetic or demographic. But I still like to be inspired by design rather than having to re-imagine it.

Still, getting a new Burda gave me some pause. The magazine alone adds exponentially to my pattern list! And I’m probably at the point, as I’m sure many sewers get to, where I feel a bit overwhelmed by the project wish list (and my pattern collection). So I decided to weed stuff out this week. It might be Ebay time.

So I went through a year’s worth of Burdas and made a big Evernote catalogue of all the patterns I liked. I weeded out those that felt like repeats, and some of the statement pieces. I always get drawn to the crazy cover styles, but I think I need fewer fantasy garments on my sewing list. I kept all the ones I’ve already traced. That still left about 15!

I’ve only been sewing from these magazines for just a little over a year. Looking back, there was the Number Six Dress:

Which, by the way, gets the most search referrals to the site. No, not sewing. Battlestar. (Hello, Cylons!)

The silk shorts (sadly I traced and made the wrong size! but they were beautiful to look at!):

The drapey white shirt:

My silk tank was a recent Burda make, and I’ve nearly finished two other garments (just waiting for my serger to come back from repairs!).

Two years ago I’d never even heard of Burda. All I had known back in my first sewing life were the mainstream pattern companies. Since then I’ve been a rabid collector of patterns far and wide. Over the past year I dove into Marfy, Colette, Sewaholic, Hotpatterns, and several other little off-the-beaten-path pattern makers. I mean, I have Sewing Pattern ADD.

Every pattern company fits so differently, and I’d really love to focus on understanding fit more in the next season of my sewing, rather than acquire new patterns. I’d like to keep sewing from Burda especially, mostly for their designs, but need to work out their sleeve shaping and bust fit. The Burda sleeve caps and armscyes are quite high and narrow compared to other patterns, which sometimes looks odd on more casual shirts.

Truth be told, I love the idea of having on hand my own blocks (tnts, what have you) to work out my own designs, and have already worked from a Burda t-shirt to design several top styles. Maybe that will be what the next season of sewing is all about for me!

And before I leave this post, I’ll add that I’m very very thankful for the amazing and colorful man next to me. I’m glad we found each other. He’s almost as much of a fashion nut than I am. He’s a theatrical character and makes everything brighter around him. (He screeches Bob Dylan and Broadway tunes at the top of his lungs every morning to wake up.) Someday I’ll introduce him, but in the spirit of Tasia’s recent post, I am thankful that he supports my crazy sewing habits.


Out with the Old Sleepwear, I Think

Have you ever fantasized about sitting at a vanity, powdering up before bed in a long bias-cut nightgown with a matching housecoat? I think there’s one such scene in Holiday Inn but I can’t be sure. I was pretty obsessed with that movie’s clothes as a teen, so to me 40s glamour will always mean Ginger Rogers floating around a piano.

I wonder if the lure is not just the glamorous style but the whole concept of a bedtime ritual. The time it takes to undress as much as it takes to dress.

{Carole Lombard}

Then there’s also the long-gone distinction between boudoir and the rest of one’s wardrobe. I mean, how could those beautiful buttons be wasted on sleeping!

When we were first married, D bought me some becoming camisole nighties but they have languished in my closet in favor of the old t-shirts and yoga pants. The thing is, I get cold at night, even in the summer. There was the minky pajama set that I wore to death for two winters straight, but finally threw them away for diplomacy’s sake. They were not D’s favorite, to say the least, and I’ll spare you from the names they suffered. He wants to talk to someone other than a fuzzy potato creature putzing around the house late at night. Fair enough. I want to be warm. It goes back and forth.

I’m trying to come up with some pajama ideas that combine the best of both worlds. Clothes that gives me a hint of that nighttime ritual, feel pretty enough, but still putz-friendly. As much as I love silk, I just don’t like wearing it in bed, so I’m thinking about what I can do with knits.

I have this cotton knit fabric:

Which needs some kind of drapey design for the big swashy print. For the top, I like this popular pattern from New Look, with the kimono sleeves and hip bands:

But I don’t need a new pattern to do this. It looks so easy to draft and I’ve already created a batwing-like top from my Lydia t-shirt pattern. It would just need a few modifications.

For the bottoms, I waded through all my Burda issues and found a couple elasticated waist pants that are slightly wide-legged. This is from the November 2009 issue, made for a woven but I’m sure would do fine in a knit:

I also have this Kwik Sew pattern but I think these bottoms with that top might be a bit too banded and harem-ish? Perhaps I’ll save this pattern for another pajama experiment.

Do you ever get in a pajama rut? Do you keep your night clothes separate from day clothes?


Fall Color Inspirations

Hurrah for fall! (And thanks all for the birthday wishes!) I love how the light starts to sleep. I love the smell of decay and compost and fall-blooming flowers. It’s probably my entire motivation to for gardening in Texas. There is nothing like those cool mornings and starting from a fresh palette after the hard summer. (I’m sure it works in reverse in spring-oriented climates!)

Back in July I was already oogling over the mustards, ochres, turmerics, old gold colors that showed up in a lot of fall trends. I’m finally getting around to making up my list of fall inspirations, and put together a color palette as a start:

{Marc Jacobs Spring 2011, Gucci Fall 2011, myrakim at Etsy, Mucha sketch, my fall palette, Jaeger Fall 2011}

I’ve been really inspired by other bloggers who use Pantone or Colour Lovers to come up with schemes. I might form an addiction to Pinterest. Finally, I can collect all those visual ideas and save my hard drive.

I really enjoy planning my wardrobe seasonally as a creative exercise. It helps me define my mood and personal life goals for the next few months–visioning through fashion!

Once I get a mood, I start thinking about actual pieces I’d like to add to my wardrobe. I make a huge, unruly list of dream clothes, shoes, accessories and then pair it down to the manageable and affordable (I have a budget twice a year). A little over a year ago I started adding sewing projects into the list, as I finally started sewing enough to rely on it for fashion.

My sewing ideas are also unruly at the moment but I have a few things I’d really like to try, like a take on the saffron cropped jacket:

It’d require some drafting, and probably be my most ambitious sewing project yet, so we’ll see how far I get.

And something like this 60s-ish coat dress.

I love the military silhouette and found a similar style in a pattern, but am thinking it’s those colors that are really attracting me more than anything else (can you tell I liked that collection?).

Practically speaking, fall and winter planning is difficult for me–I love fall clothes the best but serious outer layers are only necessary for two months and the rest of the year just plain hot. So while I’m having fun plotting fall ideas, I’m trying to look ahead to February, when I usually ditch my must-have-wool-cape fantasies.

How do you keep track of sewing or fashion inspirations? Do you make plans with fashion or do you just go as you go?


Warming up to Missoni

After awhile, certain patterns become so ubiquitous that I don’t even think about them being in my textiles anymore. Ikat, Celtic spirals, Hudson blanket stripes, what have you. For some reason it’s taken me forever to really warm up to Missoni stripes.

I loved this fall’s Missoni collection, like crazy.

This and an almost diametrically opposed collection by Jaeger were my two favorite fall collections.

Where one is reserved and so obviously autumn the other insanely extravagant and spring-like. I think I loved the Missoni because it lacked anxiety–which seems to be everywhere. (Here’s more of Missoni’s fall collection.)

But I also loved it because it wasn’t so obviously ziggy zaggy. While shopping for some new house things last week, I saw an imitative and economically-sound stripey Missoni blanket that had to come home with me, just to test it out on the couch and see if those ziggy zaggy’s wouldn’t drive me nuts. And of course there’s the Missoni for Target collection that had what seemed like a viral campaign around it for months on end.

While at Britex Fabrics a month ago, they piled their front door table with a fresh-from-the-recent-collection stack (and I mean huge stack) of Missoni knits. They are lovely to touch, soft mohairs and angoras. (They just listed some of these in their online store. Emma One Sock also has a few. Just in case you have an urge to drop $50 a yard. Hey, for some this might be a genuine investment.)

What’s your take on the Missoni stripe? Love or hate or indifferent? And if you got ahold of some of that insanely expensive yardage, what in the yeehaw would you do with it?

[Oh, and if you're a subscriber here, please excuse the hiccup of yesterday's post. Darn thing somehow got published and went into Google Reader purgatory, but it wasn't edited or really ready for publishing. But I promise, a re-post and Lonsdale pictures are coming!]


All Kinds of Insanity

Way back in the 90s, you used to be able to find deadstock 70s clothes for next to nothing–denim, leather, all kinds of craziness. My friends and I frequented this big dingy warehouse of vintage gold in downtown Cincinnati. (Can’t remember the name, but I suspect it has been run off by the new art district gentrication since then.) We’d bring out-of-towners to witness the platforms: rows and rows of the clowniest patchwork 6-inch-high things, still with the tags on.

Sort of like these Jeffrey Campbell boots.

I confess to thinking at first, what total shoe insanity.

Dorothy finds her way home insanity.

Renaissance fair insanity.

My Pretty Pony insanity.

Let’s not leave out Colorado fashion insanity.

They come in at least 50 flavors. It was only after seeing them in person at Nordstrom today that I kinda fell for the insanity. Jeffrey Campbell shoes always looked a bit cheap to me, but the varieties I saw were lovely melty-soft suede.

And yet this little shoe crush bought up an issue I’ve been mulling as of late. Apparently they seem to be marketed as something of a “cult item”–have them in every color! sort of thing. I have a knee-jerk reaction to cult fashion. I know too well the insanity of women pushing each other to get at a particular sale item with Where The Wild Things Are googly eyes. Just today in Zara, a woman in this zombified state pushed me over a pair of rather boring olive rayon pants, and I almost pulled a “Detroit” on her. Just ask my husband what that means.

The one site that seems to sell the most of these boots even includes in their description of the shoe, “Get ready to fight it out, girls. It’s gonna get ugly in here!” I don’t like businesses that encourage manic-woman trampling, physical or virtual.

When it comes to something faddish, no matter how expensive or cheap, I often ask myself: did you like it before you found out how popular it was? (In this case, yes.) Nothing wrong with the influence of others, but hype is another thing–it tends to trample true desire. Then I ask myself an economical question: if these were $10, would you like them more or less? If they were $500 would you like them more or less? Both sides of the coin–perceived economy or luxury–are tricky values.

Still, I’m not yet over the lace-up platform bootie thing. I fell for it last year and bought two pairs of black lace-ups with the full intention of returning the pair I liked least. A highly unrecommended shopping practice if you are a shoe fanatic.

[Credit: patchwork, dorothy, renaissance, pretty pony, Colorado, colorblock)

oh and p.s. I know I’ve been lax in sewing posts. I made quite a bit of headway on my multi-pattern project before our much-needed holiday. I promise, I have some garments to show soon!

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