She is here, finally, after years of trying to purchase the expensive working professional dress form. She is here after we gave up and went with inexpensive Dritz. And we love her. She is a welcomed new figure in our Apron Company family. We are still working on a name. It’s interesting how many people suggest Bertha. We are playing with Clara or Beatrice, it sounds like Aunt Bea of Mayberry, who if you remember, lived in Aprons. The new website is live so that has us busy but I can’t wait for my assigned day of nothing but me and Clara and new designs made especially for women who share her size. It is so much easier to design for a shape that stands in front of you. I am aching to design for her.
Sometimes you can’t move forward because you have a tool missing. Whether due to lack of funds to make the purchase, time, or sometimes you simply can’t find what you need. I have needed a dress form for large ladies. I mean large, not a size 14 or 18, I mean size 28 or 32. It has been a solitary road filled with mishaps, unavailability, unreliable sources and simply misadventures. I finally gave up on a professional form. On average a professional form is $250 up to size 18. It jumps to $800-$1200 when you want it 6″ wider and a size 28. With all the larger ladies we have in our culture, you wouldn’t think it would be this difficult. But it is. And quite frankly a testament to why large clothes fit so badly. Who is testing anything?
I now have lowered the bar and have a plastic adjustable Dritz on its way. At least it goes from size 20 up to size 28. I am thrilled to finally get my hands on one, draping, fitting and making something beautiful for our larger customers. Our website will finally bring presence and recognition to the whole range of sizes. I’m excited to begin a new line to our collection.
I need to make a Prairie dress for background dress form. I can make one quicker than buying one and having it shipped. I love doing this kind of work. In the real world of fashion, I have no idea what I’m doing. Meaning, I have no language or vocabulary or official technical training. I just have Grammy’s voice, ” Put it on and pin it in place.” So I start with the bodice.
I pin the fabric in place and cut a 1/2 inch past the seam marks for seam allowance.
I tuck up fabric for darts and pin them for pressing and stitching.
Matching both sides is a good thing. I pin midriff darts the same way as bodice darts. By the way, I can sing along with most show tunes while I work with the dog still wagging her tail, until Julie Andrews comes on. She is the James Brown of show tunes. Meaning, never Karaoke a James Brown or Julie Andrews tune. It will never be a good thing. I need music to work, usually classical, broadway, jazz, celtic, anything stings, or anything Botti or YoYoMa… or Alison Kraus, of course Buble…..ok…. back to dressmaking. I’m glad you can’t hear me belt out Les Mis.
I left fabric long enough to make a decision about waistline shape and placement. That way I will have fabric hanging there for playing. Here I need a traditional look, this is when I have to do what we need me to do and not what I want to do. So traditional, straight across the waist it is. So I cut off everything except a 1/2 seam allowance for a proper waist. Not fun or exciting but meeting the need of the moment.
My amazing hand cutting is not always perfect so I fold the bodice in half and clean it up. Not exactly Project Runway….:)….. I’m told this is Back Alley dressmaking…let’s face it, this is what women did in their homes for centuries before we had Project Runway.
Here I am using the front bodice to guide the shape of the back bodice. Armhole needs to be a little wider and an inch on a back seam for the zipper. “Wouldn’t it be quicker to use a pattern?”, I have been asked. Nah.
I forgot to shoot the sleeve cutting process. It’s pretty much hand cut roughly as well. But now the skirt… the question is how long should it be? Simple answer, it needs to be longer than the aprons that it will display. Putting one on will help the measurement process. Once you have a finished bodice, the rest is easy.
It’s already looking pretty good, I’m inspired to make a matching bonnet….:).. A bonnet with old looking lace. …. not now though…..Now I can see the skirt needs to be cut at 36″. So I cut 2 fabrics widths a yard long each.
I stitch a machine basting stitch but hand gather. I have to hand gather. Nothing beats that. Especially since you want the outside hip area to have less gathers and you can’t adjust like that on a machine.
My lovely hand gathered skirt pieces ready for the perfectly prepared bodice.
Stitching the skirt to the bodice is the best seam for me. It’s when I get my first glimpse at what the dress will look like when finished.
I machine stitched a straight hem. And voila! I love it. It’s perfect for what I need.
Here is a shot of the back. It’s pinned where the zipper needs to go. I will put one in later. (seamstress are laughing everywhere). No one will notice in the photos.
Here is the final dress with a light petticoat underneath.
And we are done and ready for pictures!
Thinking of it, this same process may work for the wedding line.
I am about to make more Brides Wedding Aprons. We had hoped for a rather lavish wedding photo shoot but now a simple bride with pretty flowers in gorgeous Vermont scenery will do. My issue becomes the wedding dress the model wears. I long to make gowns and miss making them so badly. I tell myself the apron is the focus, not the gown, any gown that is white and pretty would do….. check Salvation Army, used clothing shops, Craigslist. Don’t wrap up your time in making a wedding gown!…..*sigh*… my imagination runs in so many directions and the gown in my mind is beautiful, distinctive and lavish. Maybe I have ADD. It’s not wedding gowns, it’s about Aprons, Susannah! Aprons!
Here’s the photo of our traditional Brides Wedding Apron, upon which we intend to expand.
I suppose I could make the apron look like the front of a gown….(she says, compromising with self)
I spent an entire day at MoMA. Just me, alone wondering, occasionally ducking into the cafe for another coffee and checking my phone. I love wondering museums. I love turning each corner to see what fills the next group of walls. I love the lighting, the wide spaces and even the little dark creepy spaces. And when I return home, I am filled with renewed energy, the cutting table feels energized and I cant wait to feel scissors in my hand. My fingers scribble sketches at an amazing rate, the mannequins seem to enliven with anticipation of what new thing will come. But then reality comes slowly like the closing of a windows nightly shade. The fabric I see in my head is not in my studio, the yardage I want to cut is not on my table. My moment of enthusiasm is stabilized as the reality is that I must go hunt for fabric first, if I can find what I envision and then secondly hope that my checkbook can handle it…..*sigh*
Tomorrow I get to sew all day. I love days like this. I love waking up and have nothing calling to me or distracting me. I even have special comfy clothes and shoes that I wear in the studio as I plod around from cutting table to sewing machine. I wear my hair in a ponytail that looks horrid but here in the studio I get to be comfy with no one judging…. well, the outcome goes up for judging, doesn’t it? The work gets judged, critically so, and that’s Ok. The work is what matters, not how I dress.
It’s hard to sleep I am excited and filled with enthusiasm. I have two new designs to try out on the dress form and new fabric to order. Additionally, I also want to make some new dresses for simply the sake of playing with design. I do miss dressmaking. I have never done anything so fulfilling as crafting out a new dress, that one wonders if anyone would dare wear it. I made a pumpkin dress once for a girl who dared to be a pumpkin. She looked like the Good with in The Wizard of Oz except in bright Orange. I loved that dress and loved her for being so excited about wearing it.
I also miss making dolls. I miss making dolls that explode with emotion; sadness, despair and hopelessness. Women connect with those emotions. Women all share moments of crying out in despair. We all know what it feels like to not have what we need. I better try and sleep if I am to be productive tomorrow.
Here’s a photo of Aprons and outfits I designed for Thanksgiving one year. I enjoyed making these and miss window dressing.
I live at the cutting table. Its mess is a reflection of the workings of my mind. Its layers speak to me alone and form a language only I understand…. another designer may be able to come in and pick out enough of that language that they would understand… or maybe not.
I know I want to work in trees and that the lime looks like a perfect compliment, so I keep it on hand.
Finally I drape my choices onto her to mimic what I am about to sew. I am happy with my decisions and I love how everything looks under the skylight. I love how the sun and shade dance over everything, like deep in a forest.
The dress form and I are best friends. She holds my designs as best she can and demonstrates what it will look like on a person. I love her. Sadly, I spend more time with her than anyone alive. She holds the pieces I have cut, just to fit her. I can’t decide on the lime or graphic brown and white for the waistband. She holds my choices while I sip coffee and decide.
She is so patient with me and never seems to tire.
Even once I am done, I long for the lime print and ache for a place for it to reside. A large bow on the head would present so dramatically. Lovely, here in the studio, but I hardly perceive anyone cleaning with a lime print perched theatrically upon their head. I could be wrong. It has happened.
Joy and Peace, Susannah
Just like children save their art projects from school. I think most artists save their own projects. Here are a few of mine that are still fun for me to see. Not all the pictures blow up well but they bring back nice memories.
Patty was my first Ebay sale and now lives out West. I always loved making dolls and hope I have more time to include them this year.
My first attempt at unrefined curly wool roving hair. I decided that I liked it and it is now my standard…..(on most days unless something really interesting comes along with which i need to play). Clarissa now lives in Vermont with the artist that adopted her.
Morrison, my first non-fur, bear now lives in England. I heard he did really well on the very long flight home.
My first baby bear, Silkie lives nearby.
The first pair in the Doll Sculpture Collection, These Victorian Bridesmaids adorn the living room of a wonderful German woman who wouldn’t let them be separated. These were always my favorite form of dolls to make. They take on emotion much more easily than other forms.
Amish Amy was the first to inspire me to take a more creative hand to my photography, using the sun and darkness equally, I am still drawn to the technicalities of photography. The light in this photo still draws me into it.
My first Vermont Apron Company Apron, the beginning of a very fun collection.
The Beginning of the Hat collection; the first hat, at the first show on the first Styrofoam head.
The first hat that I ever made where I blended both knitting and crocheting.
The First Carpet Bag I ever made. It was made from an antique tapestry that I purchased at a flea market.
The First Carpet Bag created for sale and photographed for online web sales.
I wish the work side of business would stop getting in the way of the creative, passionate, imaginative side of business. I embrace that side and do the other only because I have to….just like dusting.