Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lace Midi Skirt



Have you ever traveled to an event, packed one outfit, and then felt totally demoralized because you don't look anything like what you envisioned?  

Guilty!  

After the wedding

And of course the wardrobe blahs are all the more poignant when you have spent every extra moment of the last five days finishing the damn thing, including three hours of hand stitching on the plane!  

When my college friend Julia asked me to be a bridesmaid in her Seattle wedding, I was relieved that the only restriction was that I wear purple. I picked up a beautiful synthetic lace from Chic Fabrics several months ago and planned to make a midi skirt with a black silk camisole (RTW).

I have been working on self-drafted skirts the past few months (blog post to come soon), so decided to draft my own midi skirt. A Challenging Sew's five paneled midi-skirts served as primary inspiration for this project. I like mid-skirts and it's a flattering fit for my pear shape.

With only two yards of lace on hand, I drafted a three panel skirt.

Muslin

Although the muslin fit properly, I knew that the base layer of black silk charmeuse and organza was prone to stretching because of the bias panels.  To mitigate distortion, I cut the center back on the straight of grain, stay stitched immediately, and hung the pieces for several days to allow the bias to grow out. I attached 1inch strips of organza on the straight grain to the zipper opening for additional reinforcement.

Organza to stabilize zipper
Organza pockets strengthened by cutting each piece out on the cross grain and straight grain

In spite of my best efforts, when I tried the skirt on it had stretched on the bias and no longer fit at the waist. I added two rather large darts in the back of the skirt.

I finished the waistband with a petersham ribbon using a similar method to Goodbye Valentino here.  Instead of under stitching and trimming, I placed the petersham on the right side of the fabric, above the skirt's waistband finishing line.  I sewed it down and then flipped it to the inside where I used a fell stitch to attach the bottom of the petersham.  

Close up of the lace

I wore the skirt again for dinner the other night to celebrate our third wedding anniversary at Le CouCou.  This time I paired it with a different black top (a refashioned nightgown!), a belt and some suede wedges.  Much preferred the skirt with this outfit than at the wedding. Though I'm not thrilled with the addition of the belt...

Dressed up for Anniversary Dinner 

About Le Coucou:  I had been following the chef, Daniel Rose, since the launch of Spring in Paris many years ago.  Rose's food is decidedly modern with some very strong nods to the 50s/60s cult classics that I associate with Julia Child or Paul Bocuse: Omelette Norvegienne, Quenelles de Brochette with lobster bisque.  But we also dined on some thoroughly modern fare, my favorite being the eel fried in rye flour with a mango curry sauce.  The atmosphere, service, wine, vibe...all excellent.  The chef came over to our table and chatted with us for 10+ minutes and I geeked out over my favorite French nostalgia dish, "coulibiac," which he recently prepared for a private party but does not plan to add to the menu.  A few days before our reservation, Le CouCou won the James Beard Award for best new restaurant (US).  Probably little chance of snagging a reservation again...




Monday, May 1, 2017

NYC Sewing Meetup: Comme des Garçons at the Met


The Met Costume Institute's Spring exhibition, Comme des Garcons Rei Kawakubo | Art of In Between  is finally here!  Rei Kawakubo is a Japanese designer who is best known for designs that result in wearable(ish) art, as opposed to functional garments.  Since there are fewer parallels with traditional garment construction, I must admit I'm not as excited for this one as in years past. Still, it's hard not to get swept up in the glamour of the Met Gala and the celebrity interpretations of the designer's oeuvre...Inspiration needn't come from an item of conventional beauty, right?  

I would like to invite you to visit the exhibition with me on Saturday, May 20  +  a post-exhibition lunch at my apartment a short walk from the Met. Last year's meet up (posted here) was a great success!  It was so energizing to connect with others over our shared interest.  

Please RSVP to domesticcoquinette@gmail.com by Friday, May 12.  I look forward to meeting you!

-Claire (aka Domestic Coquinette)

                                   Schedule of Meet Up Events:

10am: Meet on the North corner of the front steps facing 5th Ave (side closest to 85th St)
 Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue

  • We will plan to visit the galleries from 10am-12:00pm. You are of course welcome to stay for however short or long you would like, or hop to other galleries.  
  • Note on ticket price:  Please bring $ for admission.  Admission to the Met is pay as you wish, with the suggested ticket price of $25.  Official ticketing details from the Met are here.  

12:15pm – 4pm: Drop in for lunch and conversation at Claire's in the Upper West Side

  • Note on food:  Please be my guest for lunch!  Vegetarian options will be provided.  
  • Note on location: My apartment is a 15 minute walk west across Central Park from the Met (5 minutes by crosstown bus).  Address and directions provided when you RSVP to me directly at domesticcoquinette@gmail.com.  

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Please RSVP to Claire at domesticcoquinette@gmail.com 
by Friday, May 12 

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P.S.  Feel free to share the meet up details with others in the sewing community via Instagram, blog, word of mouth, etc.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Winslow Culottes, Take Two

Don't you just love this whole ensemble?


I was so inspired by Teggy French's outfit, that I ordered the top and set out to make gingham culottes this past summer.  Here is my version:




Although I originally intended to copy Teggy French's look wholesale, my friend Carol suggested that I steer away from the cotton gingham used in Teggy's Vivetta skirt because of its tendency to look "Suzy Homemaker."  We searched the Garment District during Male Pattern Boldness Day back in August and came up with this beautiful houndstooth silk charmeuse.  I got the last of the bolt--2.5 yards.

Helen's Closet recommends 4 yards of 54" fabric for view D.  I barely squeezed the culottes out on 2.5 yards by abutting the straight edges and making a single cut.



I previously made the Winslows in a rayon challis here.  Although I always thought that natural fibers were king, I do prefer the drape of the rayon challis version to this latest silk version.   Plus, the challis is travel friendly because it doesn't need to be ironed.

I interfaced the waistband with muslin and used SewKeyse stay tape to interface the zipper area.  I sewed french seams throughout.



The crotch seams didn't line up perfectly because of my own error (I am sure).  Next time I will baste the pant back all the way from crotch to top back before inserting the zip.  Then I will interface and insert the zip, followed by sewing down the waistband.

The waistband is created by simply folding a rectangle in half.  If I make this again, I'd like to change the waistband to two pieces with the edge stitching on the inside facing piece. True Bias has a great tutorial for the Emerson pants.

I was pretty displeased with the stitch in the ditch on my first pair of Winslows, so I opted for a fell-stitched finish here.  Hand sewing produced a much neater result!





Not sure how much use I will get out of this outfit as it is a bit dressy.  The culottes are the proper length with heels but I was constantly worried I was going to trip over myself...;)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Glamorous and Fabulous" Kaftan in Thailand



 

The purpose of my February vacation to Thailand (more on that here) was to attend the Indian beach wedding of one of my oldest friends.  A multi-day Indian wedding can be a bit intimidating from a wardrobe perspective, especially if your only previous experience with a saree involved three YouTube videos and ended with running out the door in a skirt/blouse...



The dress code for the opening night party, Sangeet, specified "glamorous and fabulous."   I opted for an east-west fusion look with a vintage kaftan pattern I had been eyeing since seeing Closet Case Pattern's version in linen.



                                      

From the 70's, Simplicity 5310, is my first vintage pattern. Purchased on Etsy, the pattern is essentially two rectangles with armholes.

I used a full four yards of purple silk crepe de chine from Paron's in the Garment District.  The kaftan is unlined (I wore a slip), though in retrospect I should have lined it as the silk is not entirely opaque. 

My number one complaint about the instructions is that they did not specify the use of interfacing anywhere. Had I followed the instructions as-is, the folded over neckline with no interfacing would have looked decidedly "home ec."  Inventing my own instructions, I added silk organza to the back of the neckline and topstitched it in place by machine.  The trim covers the stitching. When I make this again, I plan to draft an all-in-one facing for the neckline.

Armholes basted and ready to be sewn

I also interfaced the armholes with silk organza and used a combination of fusible and silk organza along the waistband.

                         

Instead of simple ties in the back interior of the dress, I created a back stay with purple petersham and a metal hook and bar.

I omitted the button hole at the back neck and just sewed it up straight, as there was plenty of room for my head to go through the neck opening.

                                    

Sewing by hand, I applied the trim to the waistband and around the neckline.  The trim is from East Coast Trimming in the Garment District and is the result of an impromptu shopping trip with Carol, Carolyn and Grace. (Thanks ladies!)

About the wedding itself?  From fireworks to performances by a troupe of lady boys(!!!) to the groom's arrival on an elephant...it was glamorous, fabulous and completely exhausting.  In the best of ways! Among the four events, I wore RTW to mehendi and the wedding ceremony, the kaftan to Sangeet, and my Asaka Kimono to the other evening event.

LADY BOYS!
                                                

            

The Sunday morning wedding ceremony was Sikh, but the festivities also incorporated traditions from two other dharmic faiths: hindu (groom) and Buddhist (nod to Thailand).

Sikh Wedding Ceremony with incredible "chuppah" of orchids!  
Buddhist blessing by monks

 I loved oggling all of the beautiful sarees, lehenga cholis, kurtis, etc. and the beautiful fabrics, embellishments, and colors worn by many of the female guests.  Most of the men wore embellished linen kurtas (tunics), perfect for the sweltering heat.  I wonder if I can find an Indian fabric store in Jackson Heights??

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To The Races: Steeplechase Take II



In the data-gathering spirit, Michael and I recently started tracking our gym check-ins against one another.  The loser has to cook the winner a dinner of their choosing AND clean up that night. He beat me by 50% in January with 15 check-ins vs. my 10 and even more in February!

You can probably guess which one of us takes competition NYC-style seriously....;)

This is my second version of Fehr Trade's Steeplechase for inseam-less leggings. First version here. The fabric is a Roberto Cavalli spandex purchased at Elliott Berman.  All seams were sewn on my new Brother 1034D serger. 

Although a simple project, I did do some skill building. I discovered a new favorite way to join elastic in the round courtesy of Nancy Zieman.  Nancy uses a zigzag to join elastic over a piece of woven material here.  This method eliminates the bulk of the overlapping elastic ends, making the join undetectable. 

Sewing the elastic over a woven.  After this I trimmed the woven fabric away

I also topstitched the elastic with small vertical machine stitching at the side seams, front and back.  This prevents the elastic from twisting and is virtually undetectable in the busy print.    

Fabric cost exceeded the Danskin leggings I recently purchased on sale, leading me to question whether I will continue experimenting with me-made activewear.  Cost aside, I am always a little worried that me-mades will split down the center back in the middle of a squat!  Anyone else have this fear???     

Monday, March 13, 2017

Thailand 2017



Since high school, my friend Aneesa--originally from Singapore-- has said she would get married in Thailand.  We only had a week in Thailand inclusive of the wedding, so I focused our pre-wedding itinerary on relaxation. Good thing because I never would have had the stamina to survive the non-stop Indian wedding events otherwise!

We began in Ayutthaya, about one hour north of Bangkok.  Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam until it was toppled by the Burmese in the 18th century.  Located on an island at the confluence of three rivers, including the mighty Chao Praya which flows through Bangkok, Ayutthaya's historic wealth was derived from trade and acted as an important meeting point between the Chinese, Indians, and Europeans.

Taking advantage of jet lag, we set out before sunrise on our bikes

We had the Ayutthaya historical park mostly to ourselves

Wat Mahathat: restored ruin of Buddhist monastery

Our base was the Baan Thai House, a lovely hotel just off the island with charming bungalows around a pond.

                                     




Food is one of my favorite aspects of travel!  We tried the Ayutthaya specialties of river prawns as well as roti sai mai.

River prawns--very expensive and not so flavorful.


Roti Sai Mai:  crepes filled with angel hair cotton candy.  I didn't love it.

Next, we traveled five hours south to Sam Roi Yod National Park's Dolphin Bay, just south of Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand.  A palm-fringed beach with fishing boats, Dolphin Bay is little more than a single road along the beach bordered by a handful of small independent hotels. It's the perfect jumping off point to visit surrounding national parks like Sam Roi Yod, Petchaburi, and small islands.  The vibe reminded me of the quiet local beaches on the eastern side of Maui close to Hana.  We stayed at the lovely Long Beach Inn, located a short walk from the beach.

Kayaked to this money island where monkeys aren't at all scared of humans!  

Dolphin Bay beach:  I think these fish are drying for fish sauce.  
On our second day, we visited the Phraya Nakhon Cave.  We biked a little over an hour from Dolphin Bay and then proceeded to hike to Laem Sala Beach, which is only accessible by hike or boat.  From Laem Sala it was another 45 minute hike to the cave mouth.

Laem Sala Beach



Descending into the cave

Looking up from the cave

The temple deep in the cave

This trip we befriended an Israeli classical conductor and his consultant wife who have been coming to the Long Beach Inn for over a decade to unwind.  Not only did they introduce us to a simple beachfront Thai restaurant with the most incredible fried fish and delicate prawn dishes, but they also introduced us to their Thai friend Oote.

The restaurant, not much to look at

A lovely masseuse, Oote spoke enough English to establish a nice rapport and took care of us with the most relaxing massages, facials, etc.



Oote's massage parlor
The Dutch owner of the LongBeach Inn accompanied the Israelis, Oote, Michael and me on a day of exploration to Ao Manao beach, a secluded beach on a Royal Thai Air base and afterward to an elephant safari in Kuiburi elephant sanctuary in Kiri Khan National Park.

Ao Manao
I regret that we didn't do the overnight stay in Kuiburi, home to 250+ wild elephants.  Elephants loathe the heat so they only come out when it is relatively cool, past 4pm and in the early morning.

KuiBuri:  we saw a few elephants from a distance
The wedding took place in Hua Hin, a famous beach town an hour north of Sam Roi Yod on the Gulf which has been a longtime retreat for the Thai royal family.  Hua Hin is mostly made up of large international resorts and has that distinct vibe of a SE Asian beach town that has long since been "discovered."

I noticed Khomopastr Fabrics when we were in the well-appointed truck bed (!!) of our our taxi driving into Hua Hin from Dolphin Bay.

In the truck bed taxi for the 1 hour ride to Hua Hin!
In the Khomopastr store where I purchased several yards
Wedding events were nonstop, but I managed to sneak in a quick hour at Khomopastr for some fabric shopping.  Founded in 1948 in Hua Hin by the Royal Prince Bovoradej, Khomopastr' focus is on handmade screen-printing of traditional Thai designs, some from the Royal collection and archives.

Tablecloth. They only had it in 3.5 meters, so I cut it and pieced together for a 2 meter length.
Cotton is believed to have been chosen instead of silk because of the humid climate and more relaxed atmosphere of Hua Hin. The factory is located in Hua Hin and it can be visited by appointment only.  It's still a small operation, with only 70 workers producing about 900 yards per day.

Southeast Asia is a real pain to get to, but I love it more and more with each trip to the region.  Not sure when we will return on vacation, but Myanmar and Laos are high on the list.  Wanderlust....