[TECH.STYLE]

AT THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY AND FASHION

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It’s 2015, and as I sit in my home studio surrounded by piles of incredible textiles collected over the years, the best sewing technology that exists, and a much larger than I would like ‘Suzie girl’ mannequin, I wonder what I have been waiting for. My life may be half over and if I don’t start creating with these textiles soon, they’ll be destined to dusty life on a shelf and a future cardboard box labelled ‘GoodWill’ in Sharpie pen by those I leave behind.

With the fuel of the first episodes of the rich and intriguing Netflix series Marco Polo, and a fresh viewing of Baz Luhrmann’s  The Great Gatsby, I’m in an amazingly creative flow.  It’s time to put pen to paper, scissors to fabric, and apply needle and thread. I love and enjoy the process that transforms the 2 dimensional to wearable 3-D works of art.  In the end, I hope to pay homage to the rich history and the many talented hands who cultivate the animals and plants, spin and weave, or dye, print, and finish the fabrics that almost always serve as first inspiration for my designs.

I’m declaring 2015 to be my year of taking action to transform these textiles I love into beautiful pieces I will love to wear. No more waiting to be thinner, to have more free time on the calendar or to come up with a more poignant design concept.

Won’t you join me as I chronicle the creation of my 2015 wardrobe?  It’s sure to include the joy of design, and the technical challenges inherent in the production of beautiful clothes.  And,  if you feel inspired to cut into your own stash – let me know and we can share and comment on the journey together.

Stay tuned for a fulfilling and creative 2015.

Channeling Jimmy Choo

  • On 5 May | '2014
  • permalink

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Someday, I’ll splurge on a pair of Jimmy Choos. And, someday, I’ll finally take that shoemaking course I keep talking about. I’m quite particular about shoes as my family will tell you and if I’m not looking, I’m sure they will roll their eyes. In fact, back in the day it was one of the determining factors on whether or not I would date someone. Luckily for Peter Goldie, his shoes passed the test, and 22 years later we are still happily together with a front entrance full of shoes.

In any case, you get the idea, shoes play a big role for me, especially when designing a complete look. Recently, I needed shoes to go with a gown I was photographing, and I had little to no budget, so I perused the shelves at Payless and DB shoes and purchased the black and gold chain heels you see above for around $20. They had the height and straps I was looking for. I removed all the studs with pliers, and since the chain was plastic, I just cracked it off.  I then unpicked the straps from the back seam of one side of the shoe being careful to chalk mark the position for restitching. With a little finesse, I was able to get the loose straps under the presser foot of the sewing machine and I topstitched grey velvet ribbon to the black straps.

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Next, I found a vintage design in a sourcebook and saved it as a .tif file in Illustrator. I brought it into Design Center of PEDesignNext to create an embroidery file for the lace applique pieces. I hooped Badgemaster water soluble topping, a layer of grey powernet, 2 layers of black lightweight tulle, added a top layer of Solvy water soluble topping, and was ready to thread up the machine.

I stitched out the file at sewnow! on our 10 needle embroidery machine. After soaking away the backings and toppings, the lace was ready to attach to the shoes.

Finally I added a few haematite beads to each lace piece and hand stitched them onto the shoes. The result is exactly what I wanted for the gown and completely unique. I encourage you to try a shoe hack too, there are so many options for transformation.

I hope you are inspired and have enjoyed a little snapshot of my creative process- your feedback and questions are welcomed!

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I learned to machine sew without any electricity. When I was a kid, we often visited my Grandparents in the Northern Ontario woods. The place was called Boakview, and once upon a time it was a train station. In my years it was a place filled with cousins, Grandma’s scones baked in the wood oven, and fiddle and piano music at night around the wood stove fire. At the top of the stairs on the way up to bed just below the oil lamp, was Grandma’s treadle sewing machine. I longed to give up my embroidery hoop and hand sewing to learn to make it go.

When the time was right, Grandma showed me how to operate it. I was off and running and my head was spinning with ideas of things I saw in Seventeen magazine that I could make for myself. That sturdy machine would sew through just about anything when you got it threaded and rocked the pedal back and forth and although it wouldn’t stitch in reverse, it would get up to a very respectable clip. My most hilarious memory was making a reversible brown corduroy and eyelet ‘puffy vest’ which I thought was all the rage in ’78. A far cry from the light down versions of today, Mom and I filled it with foam bits that were incorrectly called Kapok. Thank goodness we were outside, because we created our own tornado of tiny foam chips that we inhaled as we gave in to fits of laughter. Well, the treadle machine sewed through all that Kapok when I made the channels, and I finished up just beautifully, only to discover that a 5 pound foam chip vest was not exactly the flattering fashion statement I craved. Picture a short haired, blonde version of the Michelin man, and remember to sew and always being ready to laugh and learn from your mistakes…

Today I have equipment that sews 1500 stitches a minute (with electricity) and an embroidery machine with 10 needles that once programmed, will sew by itself and sing to me to let me know it’s done. I can create artwork in Adobe Illustrator, digitize it, put it on Flash media and embroider my own lace. I’m not sure what Grandma would think if she saw it stitching, cutting threads, and changing colors on its own, but I hope she would approve. What’s amazing to me is that all these years later, I still think often of that treadle machine while surrounded by the best sewing technology, and I marvel at the doors that technology has opened for me as a fashion and textile designer and maker. And, I’ll be honest, I love that I still pick up a hand sewing needle occasionally to add texture and personal meaning to my work.

I have a deep love for textile traditions, couture techniques, and cutting beautiful clothes. I hope you will enjoy following me here to share my joy of creating artful fashion with fabric, thread and technology.

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