Friday, July 25, 2014

summer love

I don't take commissions over the summer so I that I can recharge the creative juices. It gives me chance to fulfill the wishes of my very favorite client of all. Here's a fun little ruffled halter top in blue striped seersucker with a tie made from a scrap of Liberty of London. Perfect for a sticky summer park day.

I am also spending the summer making lots of plans for the holiday season, so stay tuned! 

"Mom, are the pictures good yet? I want to play with my boys."

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tessa's Heirloom Communion Dress

After many hours of careful labor, Tessa's family heirloom was completely transformed. Instead of the neck ruff, she has a classic Peter Pan collar in silk satin. The sleeves were shortened and simplified.

The scratchy yellow lining was replaced with soft cotton lawn. The delicate original fabric was given much needed support with an underlining of cotton poplin. These three cotton layers give the skirt a gentle fullness that is still comfortable to wear.

A delicate bias tube with tiny bow at the waist ties the new satin collar and hem together. I really love how the satin brings out the embroidery. The original lace was heavy and coarse. It overpowered the fine detail. With the satin adjacent, the embroidery seems to shine like silk.
Still, I couldn't bear to completely separate the original pieces of the dress, so I attached the original lace to the skirt underlining.

 There wasn't another dress like this at Tessa's First Communion and she wouldn't have it any other way! Her mother and grandmother were equally pleased with the results. I was grateful for the opportunity to save a treasured heirloom.

 Maybe one day they'll bring it back for me to turn it into a Christening gown.
Photography courtesy of George Aubrey Photography

Sunday, June 29, 2014

an heirloom Communion dress

Tessa came to me with her mother's dress from the early 1970's. It had been sewn by Tessa's great-grandmother, who was a professional seamstress. Tessa's mother remembers accompanying her grandmother to 4th Street to select the fabric. Tessa is an old soul and it was important to her to wear her mother's dress. But, like many of today's children, she had very particular ideas. She didn't like the collar, it bothered her. She preferred a Peter Pan collar. And she hated the long sleeves - too puffy! Plus, the dress was quite a few inches too short and the acetate lining had yellowed with time, making the dress appear a little Miss Havisham.

I took on the project of re-working the dress with excitement and a little trepidation. This was a family heirloom with great sentimental meaning. There was no additional fabric to work with and no room for mistakes! I washed the dress and removed some minor stains and then I spent a lot of time inspecting every construction detail and making a plan for how to alter it. Finally, I had to admit the only way forward was to dismantle the entire dress. It's rather like renovating an old house - you don't entirely know what you're going to find when you start taking things apart. The delicate fabric required great care.
Once I had it apart and the pieces pressed flat, I could start to plan the design. I wanted to retain all that I could of Tessa's great-grandmother's fine workmanship, but fulfill Tessa's wishes and bring the dress into the 21st century. The biggest challenge was adding length in a cohesive way. Finally one night I had this idea:
If I cut off the original lace hem, the satin Tessa chose for the new collar could also form a wide band at the skirt hem, allowing as much extra length as we wanted  In trying to save as much original detail as I could, I hadn't considered cutting off the lace. But in fact, the embroidery looked much nicer next to the satin, which was a perfect match. A delicate waist detail with a tiny bow in the same satin provided cohesion. Again, it's like an old house: to properly patch a very old wooden floor, you "feather in" the new pieces so it blends together. I pitched several ideas to my little client, but this is the one we all liked best.
Stay tuned for the final pictures!

Friday, June 13, 2014

summer is here

My Communion season wrapped up a little while ago, so it was time to work on something bright and colorful and just for fun. I made Kitty this little summer top from some very small remnants of Nani Iro double gauze that I couldn't bear to part with. I asked what she wanted to go with it, she said "pink shorts!"

I had this hot pink linen that was a crazy perfect match for the Nani Iro and I knew that only the Puppet Show Shorts would do.

They are one of my very favorites. I love the gathers, the cuffed hem ...
 ... and the pockets!
They are fantastic for a humid summer day exploring the city. Here we are at Bartram's Gardens, an 18th century estate now preserved by the city. It's a very unique place and downright magical.

So much fun, in fact, that she can't stay still for long.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

introducing Penelope

With Easter gone, I am up to my elbows in whites for First Communion season. I can hardly wait to show you what special project I've been working on. Meanwhile, I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce the last of my samples for this year, the Penelope dress.

Penelope is made from a positively divine cotton voile. Many carefully engineered layers imbue this dress with an ethereal quality I find absolutely perfect for this sacred occasion. 

 Sleeves are demure with a gentle puff and a hand finished bias cuff. 

The dress is finished with my trademark hand picked zipper. The sash and bow are made from cotton lace fabric that brings a subtle textural contrast to this simple frock. The headband is made from the same lace.

I am completely smitten with the grace of this dress. Its simplicity and elegance perfectly befit the occasion.

Of course, most of the gorgeousness here is due to my lovely models! Without them, my dresses would be lifeless. Many, many thanks to them and their moms for all their help.

Many thanks also to my photographer, Amanda Hall Studios, for bringing my vision to life.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Miss Isa goes to Washington

Yes, that is my dress on the White House lawn! Miss Isa was invited - by Mrs. Obama, no less - to attend the annual Easter Egg Roll. (OK, it was her mother's company that got invited, but still.) So exciting! They were kind enough to snap some pictures.

The wish dress still fits her well and it's still plenty comfortable to move around in. This dress has really gotten some good wear and that's what I love to see.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter finery

 I am a sucker for Easter finery. Growing up, it was always an exciting thing to have a new dress for Easter. A special new dress is a symbol of the new life we celebrate during spring and Easter. After many long months of snow boots and parkas, this year it is especially welcome.

This spring, I have been drawn to traditional, classic, even downright old fashioned little girls' frocks. My oldest son will make his First Communion this year and we have family portraits scheduled, so it is a good year to make my baby girl something really special. 

Replete with pintucks and lace insertion, I hope I have achieved a dress of which Grandmom would approve. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress and I thought a lot about her when I made this. In soft pink cotton batiste with French cotton laces, this is something she might have made for her daughters.

 Though they look sweet, these delicate details are actually quite labor intensive. Since we have several occasions to wear a fancy dress this year, I thought it worth the investment. The deep hem can be let out next year too. When she's outgrown it, I will pack it carefully away for her daughter. 

 My most discerning client was well pleased!