Racing Stripes

A client brought me a number of items that were just a little too small. A couple of them, I added what I like to mentally refer to as “racing stripes” up the side, though calling them that out loud to clients generally gets a negative response.

For both the jeans and the skirt, I added a contrasting grey stripe; for the skirt, I serged horizontal stripes to give it a textural difference and add some interest. I made one long piece that was more than wide enough for both sides, then cut it into strips:

And the results:

Dying Linen Pants: Do Not Try This at Home

A client gave me a pair of pale green linen pants that had an unremovable spot on them and asked me to dye them black. In an attempt to get them as black as possible, rather than greyish, I used 3 packages of dye in as small an amount of water as possible. Since linen can shrink, I couldn’t boil the water or the pants themselves; I used sink-warm water. To keep the pants from floating, leaving some of the fabric outside of the dye and potentially making it splotchy, I weighted it down with heavy things–a large lid and a full kettle:

Usually, permanently and seriously setting dye into fabric involves washing in hot water and running it through the dryer. I settled for washing it in cold water, but still pulled it out of the washer about 4 inches smaller.

Here it is with the lining hanging out and a Barbie-sized waistband:

If you had asked me a week ago if clothes could be stretched out larger, I would have recalled the time in highschool when a friend of mine got sent to the office for a “paper stretcher,” essentially an academic snipe hunt, and I would have laughed at you. But while holding a client’s apparently ruined garment, I went ahead on a google search for fabric stretching.

Turns out it IS possible. Most sites recommend soaking it in conditioner beforehand, which I did, though I’m not sure that’s entirely necessary. I used the piano harp to weight it on one end and some paint cans with handweights on top on the legs. I put the paint cans in plastic bags to protect the pants from whatever might be on the cans.

The pants mostly shrank up, but not so much side-to-side. The reason the waist looked like it shrank so much is because the grain of the waistband was horizontally the same as the vertical grain of the pants themselves. I had to pull off the waistband to effectively stretch the pants, and when I tried to stretch the band, the ease clipped into it ripped. So I gave the band up for lost and just stretched the belt loops.

It pulled back to the original length, but it became increasingly obvious that the dye had not set.

I didn’t wear gloves while messing around with the stretching and the dye kept coming off all over my hands. So I washed the pants in a gentle cycle of cold water with vinegar. I stitched the belt loops into a baggie made of scrap fabric so they could also be washed in the vinegar without getting lost.

The pants came out 2 inches shorter again, and the dye was still coming off to the touch. I washed them again, including more soaking time, in a larger quantity of vinegar, and they shrank back down by a total of 4 inches.

I stretched them again and made a new waistband. The client tried them on and was pleased with the color and happy with the length. They’re still a little bit too narrow in the hips,  so I do need to attempt to stretch them out more horizontally, though it’s only by about an inch at the most.

Grauwyler: Artist’s Rendering

A couple years ago, my trusty Grauwyler ran off and was missing for a week. I printed off enough small fliers to tape to the door of every single house for about a 5-block radius. I had a flier and piece of tape in hand and was just about to stick it to the door of one house when I looked over and saw him sitting on the porch staring at me like “what?”

Grauwyler used to be a cat who appeared sickly and homeless and possibly diseased, due to being a runt and having a nervous disorder, so his would-be new owners had taken him to the vet and spent a bit of money attempting to fix what a vet he hadn’t been to before didn’t realize was his genetics.

So when I dropped off a check for his doctoring, I put it in the mouth of this interpretation of Grauwyler (I created the grip using plastic canvas covered in flannel) so they wouldn’t have to be so sad to lose their new friend.

Okay, so it looks more like a hunch-backed opossum, but I think he’s recognizable.

I painted stripes on the back:

I think it’s a pretty good likeness:


My First Sewing Sales

When I first got into belly dancing, and I checked out the prices of the costumes online, I decided to make my own. A roommate saw me wearing an outfit and said, “You could sell that!” We decided to sign up for a booth in the upcoming ren fair.

I had a month and a half to make enough clothes and jewelry to fill the booth. The tent was a lunch pavilion from Wal-Mart or something, and was so much smaller than the tents around it that even I walked past it while looking for it. Luckily, we wound up right next to the drum booth, so that made it easy to dance to try to attract attention.

I now know why dance costumes are so expensive when they’re freaking covered in jewels and dangly things. Now I have no idea how they can be as *cheap* as they are (the answer is slave labor wages in other countries). But I was in college, where rent can be as low as $200/month, and $90 on groceries is living large, so actually showing up to your minimum wage job can make you the wealthy one in the group. (Also, I hung out with hippies.)

Here is my very first booth, with my very first sales, with me wearing an orange panne costume I made pre-serger, and before I figured out that those crappy little leather straps you get at craft stores are not to be used as structural elements.

This is the first booth I had back in the 1890s, though why I sold costumes rather than time machines, I still don’t remember:

My troupe was also the main dance troupe at the fair, so we got a lot of stage time, as well as a near-monopoly on the field. The photo quality is terrible, because, kids, this came from way back in the day when a 1.4 megapixel camera was actually impressive.


Yikes, will I ever be that thin again?

Or have the posture that only a year of pilates classes 3-4x per week can provide?


And it’s good.


Velcro for the Chinese New Year

The project: 72 strips of velcro for Chinese New Year window display panels for Cartier


Those are the finished boxes in the background:

The fabric this go-round is fancy taffeta, which feels lovely, and would make a great dress, but its high-wrinkle tendency adds to the difficulty of using it for window displays. It also doesn’t work well with spray glue and makes the whole process especially hard for pretty much everyone involved. Except for me!

Boxes of velcro-sewn panels ready to be glued, with test-glued mini-panels sitting next to them:

Our Lady of Perpetual Machine Lubrication

I spent some time working for a sewing machine dealer and started getting into sewing machine repair. The two most common serious problems with sewing machines are when they need to be realigned and when they need new gears. I can’t do either of these things, but other than those, it seems that most seeming problems with machines are actually pretty minor. Basic maintenance, needle/thread choice, and giving the machine some love so it knows you appreciate it will fix many other problems.

Here’s me in my original Weirdery hat healing my friend Diana’s machine by the laying of hands, with an assist by Mother Mary in the background.

I found that Mary statue at on sale at Wal-Mart, obtained it, and set it behind a corner in Diana’s yard while she was out of town. It turned out to be perfect, as her arrival angle caused her to come upon it with a maximum of surprise.

Belly Dance Costume

One day, feeling particularly bored with all my have-to-do sewing projects, I decided to play with some of my some-day belly dance costume fabric that I accumulate for myself and then don’t do anything with. I put this together with a skirt design that I had come up with before, then draped the top and invented it by pinning and tucking. The veil came from some fabric that had the same pattern but was printed on a sheer, net material.

And here’s me dancing in it:



Old photos of clothes

I came across this while wading through my stash of photos on facebook recently. The yellow part was intended as a sleeveless ghawazee coat to be worn with a belly dance costume. I like incorporating belly dancing clothes into regular wardrobes, and a lot of my ready-to-wear designs are based on dance ideas.

I had never gotten around to adding a clasp, so I put it on with a brooch. I found the boots on the side of the road and recently gave them to my chi gong teacher because apparently we both have large feet.

Potunia Photoshoot

I’ve been written up twice in a local Vietnamese fashion magazine called Potunia.

Diana Souza and Ava Carmichael came over to take some photos of my fashions and of me hanging out and looking sewy in my old studio at the Continental Gin building. I’ve posted a gallery of the photoshoot here: