Monday, February 16, 2015

TOTE bag

Project #7


I had about an hour the other day so I made this tote. Years ago I bought this New York City fabric from The City Quilter and wanted to use it. After living in New York for 13 years, I have a fondness for the city.

It’s two rectangles with the bottom corners cut off/sewn diagonally. Nothing difficult. The grommets are so fun. They come from the drapery department and are so easy to snap over the cut out holes! One Xmas I made about 20 bags featuring these grommets.

Here is the inside with Jane Sassaman lining fabric.


Back to costume sewing for the upcoming high school musical next weekend!

That’s what is taking up most of my time but it should be a fantastic show…How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

R.I.P. Koos van den Akker




Here is a photo of the last time I saw Koos in his workroom in Nov of 2011.

February 3, 2015, Koos van den Akker died of colon cancer at a hospice in New York surrounded by good friends. The model for our book, Kathleen Scully, and former assistant to Koos kept me there in spirit with her texts. 

I’ve known for a few months that he had Stage 4 Colon cancer but had to keep it quiet. They didn’t want anyone to know and I couldn’t get to NYC in the last months of the year with the holidays, travel and all.

You can read my full tribute that I wrote for Threads online if you click on the link here but I wanted to say some other personal remarks here.

Threads magazine

You’ll notice in my tribute that I didn’t even mention that he designed the sweaters that Bill Cosby wore on his tv show. People only seem to know Koos for those sweaters but it’s such a small part of his career.

I met him when I was about 20 years old. When I was studying Fashion Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, I only wanted to work for a Couture house vs. mass merchandising companies. I wrote him a letter, had an informal interview and got the internship for my Senior year.

I remember the first time I saw him. Two men were talking in the factory. I went to the man in the suit but he walked away...Koos was the one in the wild surfer type, loud printed shirt! I should have known.

lf you really know him, his gruff, grouchy personality is just the outer layer and not at all the ‘real’ Koos. The real Koos was someone who just wanted to love and be loved and was a workaholic. Unfortunately, his one beloved partner died a long time ago and his frustration was what appeared on the surface too often.

He loved to have young people around him. He loved to mentor them and see their success. When he didn’t call me a ‘housewife’ (and not in a good way), he told me how lucky I was to leave NYC and have a family and a good life. He told me that I did it right. I think that was the real Koos.

We, in the inner circle, put up with some of the harshness because we admired his talent and respected him greatly. He had high expectations and was very demanding of himself and others…but that is a good quality in an artist. I know that many times when I thought…seen it, he would change it up and show us an amazing garment that would take my breath away!

So, we lost a very creative person and a friend but he trained his staff so that they can continue beautifying women in his style and vision.  I cherish the coat that he made for me when I wrote his book,Koos Couture Collage. It is a treasure because I felt his gratitude and appreciation.

Every phone call ended with “Be Well!” but the last call I had with him, he said, “Love you”. And I cried for hours…

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Upcycled Men’s Jacket Fun

Project #6


Two weeks ago I went to a Crafts Fair with a friend and they were selling some cute jackets like this but nothing fit me. So I went on a hunt to my local thrift stores (now becoming my fav places to go) to find a men’s jacket to embellish. I bought two at $5.99 each, what a bargain. Beautiful wool, fully lined and in good condition.

First, the fun part…taking out all my antique buttons and trying to find ones to go with the jacket and make a pleasing pocket arrangement. It took a while.


It was fun to finally have a reason to use all the hundreds of buttons I’ve been collecting for years!



Then in my newly organized Embellishments drawer, I found a small bolt of black galloon lace, 5 inches wide. Who knows where it came from and how long I’ve had it! But now that I need it, it is handy.

I folded it in half and put it around the cuff. If the sleeves were too long, I would turn them up on the outside, stitch them down and then add lace over them, but these were a good length.

I zigzagged the scallop edge with matching black thread and you can’t see the stitching. It is folded so that the stitching caught the lace on the inside and holds it down.



For the collar, I pinned the scallop close to the edge and then folded the lace to match the lapel seam line. I folded the lace to the inside and cut it to match the collar seam where it is attached to the jacket.  The outer edge that you see in this picture was zigzagged but the inner edge I just hand basted down.

Last step, cut some lace, gather it and put it in the pocket.

One thing I will say is that it is not as easy as it looks to sew down these buttons in precision. I had to snip and redo some a few times to make them line up right.  That square button is supposed to be ‘on point’. I have a second blazer that I started but don’t like the button arrangement so I will work on that and show you when it is done.

Friday, January 30, 2015

One UFO checked off list

Project #5 for this year.

While cleaning and organizing the studio, I found a ‘few’ Unfinished Objects, or UFO, as we like to call them in the Quilting world.

I don’t know how long ago I made this jacket! I’m thinking maybe even ten years ago. It was all finished except for the buttons and buttonholes, but just sat in a box for ages! So, I found the buttons and today I made the holes and finished it. Now I can wear it when the weather is warmer.


It has an outer vest from home dec fabric attached to the men’s woolen base jacket. Then some silk added for contrast on the sleeves and the same vest fabric but from the wrong side for the cuffs. I like it! Will be fun to wear.

I need to find a good way to photograph my garments. Maybe set up the mannequin in a corner with lighting and my tripod at the ready.

We are in full swing with costumes for the high school musical in February. Lots of long satin gowns to make but in between I will be working on my projects and some other UFO’s! Why don’t we finish a project before starting another one?

Right now I have a baby quilt on the wall, two upcycled men’s jackets on the tables and a UFO coat that needs cuffs and button to finish. I have my work cut out for me this weekend!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

One pattern, two versions

 I bought this Burda pattern last year to make a Koos collage sweater.


I bought this metallic knit online but when I received it, I was disappointed to see that it was bonded to another fabric and had no stretch. So, to use it, I cut the back in half and put in a silver zipper.

The front is pieces of left over obi fabric and some cottons with sheer ribbons going up the right sleeve and then down the front.

Version #2


Continuing on my quest to sew more this year and to try to use fabric from my new Treasure Trove, I selected this soft printed knit last night. There was only 1.5 yards so couldn’t do anything fancy. But I think this basic sweater will be worn often. Project #4 for the year.

I cut it out at 5:30pm before I had to get dinner on the table. The pattern is only 3 pieces so with my trusty serger, I sewed the sleeve seams, side seams and attached the sleeves to the body.


Then hemmed the sleeves with two rows of stitching using the free arm feature of the BERNINA, which is so useful. Hemmed the bottom with 2 rows of stitching and then made a binding strip for the neck and attached it with a narrow zig zag of width 1.3 and length 3.0 so it would stretch when putting on.  Done in 2 hours or less and I wore it today!

I wore it to show the husband of the Treasure Trove what I did with his wife’s fabric because I went back again!! My friend wanted a BERNINA and he had a great Virtuoso 155 for sale!  Lucky girl!

You know how I said in my Jan. 6 blog, after buying 80 yards of fabric from him that I wouldn’t buy any more fabric for a while….? Well, that was broken five minutes into the studio door!  My friend got 36 cuts of gorgeous fabrics and I came home with some treasures I missed from the first visit including two really special cuts.

DSC04290DSC04292A Border knit with metallic



and this interesting knit with sheer ‘windows’ and gold metallic ink! I’m going to have to think for a while about what to do with these. The other wools were heavy coatings, a striped linen and some silk to dye. About 25 more yards. That’s all!

And a few antique buttons and buckles….


…and two big bags of roving in dozens of colors!

But now I won’t buy any more fabric, except quilting cottons! At least for a long while…but don’t hold me to it!

I’m going to cut something now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Another Vest


Project #3 for this year finished! It’s a vest for my son with penguin lining. I can’t count how many I’ve made for him in his lifetime but this is the fourth for this year. Below are the two of the others I sent to college in the Fall.


Currently the Cornell red vest is his favorite, naturally!

It was difficult to shop and find penguin fabric over the past years but my friend showed me all the fabulous penguin designs on Spoonflower so now we’ll never run out!  IF you have never been to that site, it is mostly for people who want to print their own designs on cotton, silk etc. but will sell you yardage of designs that they have printed.

So, this vest is nothing to shout about. I’m putting it on to keep track of this year’s work. In my professional life, I strive to learn all I can about advanced sewing techniques and related textile things. I try to make unique art wear or design or complex garments, but then sometimes I just sew. This is a simple 3-piece pattern, not a wedding gown.  It takes a few hours to make but brings my son much joy and pride when he wears them. He is now known for his vests and his love of penguins! I love making him something that he enjoys so much and that’s what sewing is all about!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Silk Blouse

January 7, 2015

  Project #2 for this year finished last night! I cut some of the Treasure Trove (described in yesterday’s post) silk charmeuse into a Vogue blouse pattern that I’ve been wanting to make for a long time but didn’t have the right fabric.


above.Vogue 1415 Tom and Linda Platt designers. It is very simple with only three pieces.



So, I’m known for sewing at a very fast speed which is why I love the new BERNINA 880 with its industrial motor that goes “100 miles per hour” or seems like that.  But I have to sew slower with silk which is slippery and requires precision topstitching.

This blouse had narrow hems on neck, sleeves and bottom hem that were 3/8” turned under twice and then edge stitched. First I pressed under 3/4” and then folded the cut edge into the fold and pressed well. To stitch close to the edge I used the #10 foot and moved the needle over 4 places. I like it CLOSE to the folded edge…see picture below…so I had to test how many places to move the needle and be able to catch the fabric.


With this foot on and using the guide, I found that I could go faster…hee hee!

Next, I’ve selected a beautiful fabric from this Treasure Trove and pattern which will  take me longer than one day to make. But first I have costumes to alter for the high school theatre, Steel Magnolias next weekend and….yucky end-of-year tax accounting stuff/blah!