20 January 2012

believe that everything is possible in 2012

Behind the scenes here in Piper Ewan land, I have been slowly coming to terms with the changes that I am needing to make in my business that I have been working on with numerous distractions for the last while. I have finally given up on the idea of an ETA or a deadline. The best I can do is keep on task. I have made every attempt to live my life on my own terms, and have been attempting to run my business on my own terms since I started back in 1998. There has been some straying from this here and there in order to try things out against my better judgment or out of necessity or both. I have followed along my tangled path, and have learned quite a few things along the way:

* Planning ahead makes things easier.

* Things almost never go according to plan.

* Try new things.

* For fun projects often turn into the best product lines.

* If something doesn't work after a million tries, let it go.

* Let go of as many things as possible; letting go of things allows for growth and for them to hang around on their own terms, and their solutions come easier.

* If I feel pulled towards something/someone check it/them out.

* Opportunities will present themselves in strange ways.

* With time design solutions present themselves.

* You can actually meet amazing people on the internets (see below).

* It is good to have hobbies; not everything I make needs to be developed into a product.

* People DO remember when you are nice and handle bad situations gracefully.

* Everything takes longer than you want it to.

* Shortcuts take longer than following all the steps, and end in an inferior end product. (true for sewing, true for business)

That isn't everything, but enough for this post. Writing them down, because it is the advice that I find myself giving others from my own experience, but would do well to follow myself. I have gotten way better. My resolve is firm.

In the photo: I have met some really amazing people on the internet who have turned into IRL in real life friends. My friend Shana Hampton is working on this crazy embroidery project for the new year. I was surprised to receive one, but super excited to have this piece grace my altar of things. Sharing the shelf with the embroidered inspiration is THE LOOKOUT a christmas gift from my best friend who was super excited to give him/her to me; made by the amazing Gesine Kratzner check out some of her sculptures.

18 January 2012

1911 Corset Sew Along Fitting & Altering the Mock Up

Now I am on to the boring and tedious part of the process of things. If you were ever wondering why it takes me so long to get a new design out into the world here it is in a nutshell, AND this isn't a pattern that I am developing. This is an already existing pattern that I am altering to fit myself. No working up a new design. No fitting of numerous different size bodies. Not testing of the durability of particular materials. Just saying.

So back to this lovely 1911 corset. I tried on the muslin, and the bottom half fit too loosely in the hip. Now it is my habit to make my muslins err on the side of to big, because it is easier to take in than let out (though here we have huge 1" seam allowances). It was way too dark to get a photo, but did you really want to see a photo of me in an ill fitting muslin? All of the lines of the main pieces fit in the right places, so I decided go back to the original pattern, and redraft the hip gores.
This time when I put the gores in they weren't as perfectly matched at the corners, so don't judge. The fit here is pretty good. (The back flares a bit because I attached the lacing strips underneath instead of on top of the muslin.) My next step is to re-draft the pattern to reflect all the changes. Pretty simple right? It is kind of nice to only have to do this once. In making a new design, I might have to repeat this process several times before having a final pattern.

I have been doing a bit of research, and making a photo pin board on Pinterest with some inspirations from the era. I am tempted to make a garment to wear over my new corset, because hey, wouldn't it be fun to dress up as a 1911 person, and go to the grocery store?

12 January 2012

1911 Corset Sew Along - The Mock Up

So or those of you who hadn't seen this yet, I am doing this fun sew along project that goes along in bite sized pieces through January and February, and I should end up with a 1911 corset for the Titanic centennial. So far, I have drafted the pattern in my size and have made a mock up which is called a "muslin" which is what one does to ensure proper fit of a garment made in some sort of cheaper fabric to practice on so one doesn't ruin expensive fabric.

As I said before in a previous post, I am only posting a couple of photos of my progress on the mock-up process. You can see the entire how and why on the original blog:

Here is the muslin cut out. I drafted the pattern in my size, but had to add 2" to the bottom to ensure that it was long enough for my long waist. The original was designed for a quite smaller frame. I like to use striped herringbone ticking for my corset mock-ups so that you can see the grain lines, and it holds up to fitting with boning and lacing. The mock-up muslin is being sewn with a 1" seam allowance so that there is room for letting out if needed.

The front all put together.

And the back. I like the look of the stripes.

I had to post a photo of one of the hip gores, because I got all of seams at the point on all of the hip gores to match perfectly. I kind of wonder if I jinxed myself here, and will have to pick out the seams a zillion times on the actual piece.

Here is the fabric I chose. It is an Italian cotton shirting that this photo doesn't do justice. It is a beautiful woven stripe that looks like necktie silk. Not period fabric, but definitely in the spirit of 1911. Let's see if I lose my mind trying to match stripes..

05 January 2012

1911 Corset Project

I came across this blog when I was doing research for my new corset line. I have been reading it here and there. I hadn't checked it in a while, but came across this sew along last week. And because it is in nice bite sized pieces, I decided it would be fun to do. The 1911 corset is to go along with the centennial of the Titanic this year. When I mentioned that to a friend, he asked if there would be any re-enactments. Not sure that is something that I would really like to re-enact, but to each their own I suppose. I am not sure if I will make an outfit to match, though that might be fun too..

I had a bit of a time choosing the fabric, because the period specific ones are kind of boring for my tastes, but I found some really lovely Italian cotton stripe that will be somewhat true to the time, but I am more interested in something that I would wear v. something period correct. It will make for a double layer rather than the single layer that the piece calls for, but every corset I have made has at least three layers, so no big deal.

So often, I am asked what my favourite fashion era is. I like to say RIGHT NOW, because I can pick and choose elements from all my favourite eras. I am not into the whole mish-mash thing, but fashion and personal style are pretty fluid; with things blending together rather than stark lines being drawn between each decade. Each era draws on the past and interprets it in their own fashion. There are those purists out there, but have you watched a period drama from before now that doesn't look dated to the era that it was made?

There is an official flickr pool for this. I will post my progress here on my blog and in the flickr pool when I have something a bit more interesting than pattern pieces made of tracing paper. I am really excited to see what everyone else does. There are people from all over the world participating!

04 January 2012

Holidays in Review

I am not the most fond of the holidays; I have spent too many years in one form of retail or another, and the holidays boil down to two things for me: 1. I have to make a ton of stuff. 2. I have to sell the stuff. A long time ago when I was in college, I started making all of my Christmas gifts myself because I was too burnt out on selling to do much shopping. Nowadays, I still make quite a bit of my holiday gifts, but not all of them. This year was especially cumbersome even though I only did two shows. I spent November getting my ready for these shows with machine-like mindlessness, because that is how I do the holidays. But I also did a little business workshop with some of my fellow I Heart Art: Portland friends. I spent most of my year recovering from 2009 and 2010; regaining a bit of stability in an unstable climate, but I was really ready to focus on what it was that I really wanted to do with Piper Ewan.

For so long I have been fighting the battle with myself about what I really want to make v. what I think will sell since I have to contend with people constantly telling me that what I make is way too expensive, or I have to make a dumbed down version so they can be at an affordable price point. Not that hand crafted ribbon flowers and garters are dumb, but I cannot feed my soul on churning out the same thing over and over and over ad nauseum. I had to admit to myself that I hate doing shows. I agreed to do the shows, because my lovely sales rep, Iris agreed to do them with me. She could talk with enthusiasm about the things that I was so burnt out on. She could be my buffer to the ladies who want to tell me that I should make baby headbands.

Oh the shows. I hate them. I can admit this now. This makes me feel so conflicted. It is always so good to see everyone. This is the only time I get to see so many friends in this community. This is a community that I have been a part of for so long. It is a community that I helped create in a way. I have hosted my own shows. I get to see clients and customers who I truly love. I get to see what everyone is up to, and what they are making. I get to hear how much the lucky recipients of my goods loved their gifts last year, and how they wanted more. I get to hear about the compliments they get when they wear the things I have made. I love this, I do. I have a hard time going to shows that I am not selling in, because I feel like I am missing out. So what is it that I hate so much about shows? They are exhausting for one. Weeks of insanity leading up to them. Dragging in all the things, setting up, tearing down. But the thing that I like the least are some of the bad interactions I have with people. The people who won't make eye contact, the people who are dead set on telling you what is wrong with what I am making, that my prices are too high, and if I would only... I feel like I am on display like some sort of circus freak that has this ability to do something that is out of reach to society at large, and this creeping suspicion that everyone wants a piece of me. Some people get all excited, because they think they found the person that can magically produce the product that they thought of, but think they cannot do themselves. This may or may not be true, but I have ideas of my own; more than I can possibly produce. That is what drives me to do what I do, not to be a vehicle for someone elses' pipe dreams.

Every year I say that this year will be the last. Forever I have doubted as to whether my work fits in this model. I have been coming to terms with the fact that I make LUXURY GOODS. This has been hard for me to admit. But the part that kills me is that I feel like I have been holding myself back, and dumbing myself down in order to try to fit in/make a meagre living off making things. I get most excited when I am challenged by something. I love making detailed work, and it is a tedious time-consuming endeavour.

I have done a good lot of studying tradition business practices over the time I have been in business, and I am not sure that traditional applies. The system that sort of worked is now failing. That failing system has been telling me to compromise forever. I don't really feel that I want to compromise anymore. It doesn't seem to help a whole lot. So I am going for it. Does that mean I won't do another show? Well, I have one coming up in February, so probably not. Not sure what the holidays will bring in 2012; that's a ways away. Will I not be making garters and flowers anymore? Of course not! I will just be more focused on other things. I have to at least try to lead the life I want to live.