Thursday, January 15, 2015


Beginning. What a weird word. Beginning. Maybe I have been translating too much recently. I start to look at words and wonder what the root meaning is.

Anyway, it is a new year, and I am soon to be back at my regular contract gig. It feels a bit like September used to feel as a student. The beginning of a new session.

Here is my table all fresh and newly covered, binders with show info and budgets organized, ready to begin.

Speaking of beginning and beginners, I have been thinking a lot about beginners and how people view or assume to begin to learn tailoring. Beginning, the words gets stranger on the page the more I write it!

One was a personal experience with a student who had graduated as a designer, and the other a random Internet guy who had decided that he had an interest in clothes and wanted to become a bespoke tailor as a profession. Neither had actually ever sewn anything, never even bought a commercial pattern and made themselves a basic shirt.

Now I am someone who learned both from skilled individuals in a hands on environment as well as through books and experimentation without guidance.

I like to see people with initiative and a drive to get to their goals but in some cases it makes me wonder  about the disconnect between an idea and achieving it.

I am reminded of a friend's child who seemed to be addicted to video games and not much else. He especially loved the hockey videos, so much so that he asked to play for real and his parents signed him up.
What a shock he had! It was not the same as sitting in front of the monitor making things happen with the push of a button. It was cold, he had to wear a whole lot of gear, he had to actually skate which meant moving around and being physically active. The puck hurts if you get hit with it and the ice is cold and hard when you fall down on it. He wanted to drop out but his parents made him stick it out for the season. I wonder now 15 years later what he thinks about that experience?

I tell you this because wanting to become a bespoke tailor with no real sewing experience is going to be a bit more of a process than you may imagine and requires a bit more than a burning interest in fashion.

I won't begin another rant, but my advice is  - get some hands on experience. Start now. Buy a commercial pattern to start, make a drawstring bag, a placemat, a Christmas stocking- anything really. Look for a beginners sewing class to take. Look for a basic machine, basic materials to start. you don't need a lot of tools nor anything fancy, but you do need to practice making things. Not thinking about making things, really making things. Make these things over and over and gradually you will get better at making these things. Then build up your experience by making more complicated things, and do it again and again. Enjoy it.

You have to start there. Not by trying to drafting your own jacket pattern before you can thread a sewing machine. Not by talking about it, or reading about Savile Row, but by actually doing it.
You have to get out on the ice!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A postcard

I finally managed to have a moment to get the photos off my camera. I didn't really take very many as I was so busy just being there.
But I thought I would share a few visuals of my time in Montreal.

The wardrobe shop with a costume for Brighella underway. You can see the trial muslin sleeve.  We just had barely enough fabric so I didn't want to make decisions that would be unchangeable.

A pattern for a coat pinned on the stand. The eighteenth century seems to be stalking me lately. This was a pattern for Lelio, the Liar himself.
The view from my window. At night the cross is illuminated. 

One of Montreal's iconic exterior staircases.

Architecture at McGill university and a light installation outdoors at Place des Arts.

I had such a great time. I went to the Défilé du Père Noël, the Musée des Beaux Arts, a great Bach Magnificat and the François Barbeau exhibit at the University of Montreal, among many other things.
Ahhh, well, it is good to go away and experience new things, meet and work with new people but also good to get home too.
Bonne soirée, a bientôt!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Back home

Je suis revenu a la maison!
I had such a wonderful time in Montreal, I was very busy building the show but I had time to walk, walk, walk around the city and go to museums and visit with friends too.

The time went by so quickly and now here I am almost halfway through December with no Christmas preparation yet and the next work season is looming in the very near future.

Before I get reorganized here at home I want to encourage any of you who are in Montreal, or will be this week, to
GO and see the show at the National Theatre School. It is only $9.00 per ticket, and the bigger the audience, the better.

Other links here and here
Seeing these young actors in this show was such a breath of fresh air to me. I hope you think so too.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I am away

Hello all,
I am just posting a little update to inform you that I am away for the next month in the beautiful city of Montreal.
I have a nice studio apartment close to downtown. I can see the cross on the mountain from my window and I am having a great time working on a production here.
I don't have access to my computer, so posting will be sparse until I get access to one, so bear with me.
Today, I had a day off and I walked for hours, doing some window shopping and I took in an exhibition at the McCord Museum called "Wearing our Identity" the first peoples collection which was astoundingly beautiful. The garments and accompanying blankets and jewellry were the best examples of their kind that I had ever seen. The beadwork ranged from subtle to completely amazing, the Inuit fur garments had very interesting shapes and I may just go back and puchase the exhibition catalogue. I highly recommend going to see this exhibit if you have the chance. The design of the exhibit was also very well done, the pieces were well displayed, and just enough negative space or walking around room, so that you could focus on each item or group of items without feeling visually overwhelmed.
The other two exhibits were "Montreal-points of view"which I also enjoyed, and an exhibit about Sam's diner, an  institution in the city for close to a hundred years.

This evening I am off to see a production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" in French. This should test my listening skills! At least I know the show in English.

I hope to fill all my spare time here getting to as many museums and art exhibits as I am able.
So, I will check in later!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Parka pattern and bonus beadwork!

So I have just been in a whirlwind of activity since finishing the opera. I am not sure if I am afraid that when I stop I will crash, but I have been getting a lot done. Except for the still needs some TLC.

But following up to the previous post in which I am making a pattern for an amautik inspired parka, I made a toile for Yvette, and fit it on her on Saturday. It wasn't too bad, although the hood needed work, as I suspected.

Today I managed to alter the pattern and trace a copy of it out for her so she can order material. She is planning on making it out of melton with a separate wind resistant outer shell.

Here is what it looked like on my table. No sleeves in the photo.

Interesting don't you think? Can you see how it goes together? This is a simplified amautik inspired piece. The child's amautik that I took a pattern from is much more complicated!

Interesting things are the only "extra-curricular" projects I take on these days.

This was indeed "interesting", and I hope she gets her fabric soon, because now I am interested in seeing it as a finished garment. I will leave it to her to add her rickrack trim details and patch pockets. I wonder if she is going to put beading on it? She showed me some beautiful beaded pieces that she rescued from mukluks and other garments they wore in the north, that finally wore out.
Really beautiful work.

Oh, I have a pair of beaded gauntlet gloves.....just let me run and get them.

These were given to my father in law many years ago. He worked for the Indian Affairs Department of the Canadian government in Saskatchewan.

Smoked moose hide. They still smell. Even now.
Early 1960's I think.  Northern Saskatchewan.
Beautiful bead work.

Thanks to my DH who happened by and was willing to be a model.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Project puzzles.

Every so often interesting projects turn up out of the blue and I have to say that  love it when this happens.
Give me a puzzle and I am on it.

This week I am making a pattern for a friend who spend quite some time in the Arctic decades ago and wanted to make herself a new winter coat. She wants a modern take on a traditional amautik. 

I have not checked all the information I was told about, and I do not pretend to know very much at all about these garments. Just be forewarned. 

She told me how the Inuit would wrap their babies when they were small and carry them inside the coat, up against the mothers back. The coats were cut in such a way that as the babies grew, they were accommodated by the shape of the coat. The hoods were made large enough to cover the heads of both the mother and child.
The babies were held in place with a cord or sash that looped through a hanging cord at the centre front of the coat, pulled down between the breasts and wrapped around the waist holding the back of the coat tight and keeping the baby inside. She recounted how the mothers would line the inside of the coat back with moss, (no diapers then) that would absorb the child's urine and feces for later removal.

She gave me a child's size cotton amautik that she had, which I took a pattern from, and I have to say it was a very complicated garment. More complicated than it looks.

I am refraining from posting a picture of the pattern I made, as I believe that it is considered the intellectual property of the Inuit and that needs to be respected.

It was quite fun to design a coat for her incorporating some of the traditional aspects of the amautik.
I will have a mock up fitting with her tomorrow, and I am interested to see if she likes it. I know the hood isn't quite right on mine, but I really was winging it! Hooray for mock ups! She plans on making the coat out of melton, and has a nice little Arctic fox in her freezer (really!) that she may use to trim the hood....

The other puzzle I am working on is a soft case for a stand up bass I made for another friend almost 20 years ago. The zipper finally went!
Just a wee repair, but it was another one of those fascinating puzzles that grabbed my attention. His old case was not sturdy and it was falling apart and I took it on myself to make a new one all those years ago.

In other news, if you want to see the waistcoat for the Opera in action so to speak, click here.
The beautiful dress and the other ladies' costume was cut by my colleague Margaret.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Woman's period waistcoat

A little while ago I posted about a waistcoat that I was cutting for a woman, and here it is all finished.
(Please forgive the dotty covering on the stand, it is a bit annoying to look at but I don't have time to change it.)

It is too bad that the detail seaming I put into the backs is lost with this fabric but hey, I know it is there.
If I was making another maybe for myself, I would either pipe the seams or make a detail of it with top stitching or something. Would look great in leather or suede.......don't you think. Not that I will ever get around to making it for myself. Sigh

Well, I guess it is not completely finished (what ever is?)  as I do not have a pretty ribbon or cording to lace the back up, but I am sure I will get something before this show goes in front of the audience.

It doesn't quite fit my stand as well as it does on the real person (what ever does?) but I am quite happy with the whole costume overall. Considering I don't do women's wear.....