Edge Binding Instead of Satin Stitching

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Written by Mary Hackenberg, first posted on IDD:

I couldn’t find an embroidery thread that matched right for satin stitching the edges of my five petals.  I chose to try to wrap the edges with velvet instead.  Many dresses in this style use the same velvet as the bodice to flash under the petals in a solid support panel across the front. I was using a sequin fabric underneath, so I had no connection of the velvet from the bodice into the skirt.  I was hoping that binding the edges of my petals in the velvet would help pull the look of it all together, and I think it worked out pretty well.

After some experimentation, this is what I came up with:

I cut a strip of velvet about 1.25 inches wide along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. I wanted to get the most stretch from it so that I could form it around the edges without wrinkling.

My petals were prepared with all the layers basted together near the edge and cut to the exact shape.  Then I applied a strip of Wonder Tape all the way around the top of the petal right at the edge. I stuck my velvet right side down lining up the edge of the cut strip with the outer edge of the petal. Then I straight stitched about 3/8″ in from the edge.

Next I applied Wonder Tape all around the edge on the back, but a little bit in from the edge.  I folded my velvet strip in on itself like a bias tape and stuck it down so that I had about a half inch strip showing in back with the raw edge folded in.  I made the most of the velvet’s stretch to shape it around the edges.  I used pins in the two tricky corners to make sure the velvet was pulled all the way into the corner, and would still be caught in my seam.  I turned the piece over and straight-stitched from the top carefully along the edge of the binding where the stitch wouldn’t show.
I got in a good groove after a couple practice pieces and was able to get through the work pretty quickly. It came out looking smooth and really works with my dress design, I think.

I felt a bit like I was breaking new ground, although I am sure others have come up with this too.  I can say for sure that the small investment in the Wonder Tape made all the difference in getting a professionally finished look. Pins just didn’t cut it by themselves.

I hope this helps someone else 🙂

Happy Sewing,
Mary Hackenberg

Griping & trying to Grin

So… I borrowed the following quotes from another blog because I have never read them:

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. –Helen Keller

To stand in your now, looking forward with deliberate intent and anticipation of what is to come, is infinitely more satisfying than to stand in your now, looking back, retracing your steps as to how you got where you are.–Abraham-Hicks

They were part of a nice blog post…that did not speak to me…but these little quotes spoke to me.  They rather rattled my cage and the thoughts stuck in it.  Let’s see if I can articulate…

I will be honest here and say that sticking to my resolution that I will no longer post on Celtic Flame at all and only rarely on the others is difficult for me.  My practical Buddhist brain asks me why I bother then if I am not going to add anything helpful to the discussions.  My cranky lizard brain demands that I stop reading at all since it can have no satisfaction by setting some of the stupidity to rights…or at least by calling it out for the stupidity it is!!!  But, I am starting to find I am becoming more removed from it since I am not using valuable energy to formulate hopefully helpful answers anymore.

When this blog went private, so many of you told me of your reasons for no longer posting on or even reading the boards anymore…I understand even better now.

Why do I keep reading?  Part habit, part wanting to stay informed about the happenings, the opinions…the occasional altercation…I know, I am a rubber-necker!  But who can resist the morons when they tap dance on a train wreck?!?!?!

But since I changed the blog, other doors have opened for my energy, even in my own head.  Other thoughts are formulating in different ways because we are a smaller more open group.  (I feel the need here to apologize to anyone who was gearing up for a very active group here…we have slowed down…mainly because I wanted it to.  Don’t get me wrong – the number of members that we have is incredibly gratifying…I feel more like a rock star than a loser now that there are so many “friends!”  But I did feel very overwhelmed there for a bit.  I am figuring this out, and we can be as active as we want.)

My current thoughts are spawned by the continuing questions about how the BNs do things, make and design dresses, etc., as if there are rules that must be followed…fsm forbid anyone should be creative on her own…

You may remember this from my response to the first CCD:  [A] thing I have stopped doing is letting the nebulous “rules” about how these dresses are “supposed” to look influence me.  The only thing that influences me anymore is what the client wants.  I suppose if I made OTRs I would pay more attention to the trends…or maybe not.  The fact that the dress styles actually have very little to do with the dancing offends my artistic sense of what is supposed to be important!  The costume should complement the dancing, not hinder it.  The heavy, stiff dresses that have developed over the past 20 years are actually quite astounding to me.  As a choreographer, dancer, artistic director and professor, I stood my ground many a time with a costume designer who tried to force an undanceable design onto a dance!  The dance and dancer are most important and the role of the costume is to enhance the message and look that the choreographer wants.  It is not the role of the costume designer to force change and accommodation…I fired or failed those designers who could not understand their complementary role! 

Don’t get me wrong…I love making these wild, amazing, “ridiculous” pieces of wearable art.  These fanciful confections have developed in a very specific environment and would not be worn by anyone else!  But I find that I am increasingly interested in the comfort of the dancer.

I would very interested in that particular moment in time when someone decided that the ID dress needed to be more prominent in the dancing picture, because from there ID costuming evolved with no real thought as to the dancer or the dancing.  I think this strange mindset is what informs the creation of these dresses still.  So many questions about dress construction make it clear that the triangular, wide, flat, stiff shape of the dresses is considered to be traditional!  Granted, there also seems to be a renewed interest in the history of ID costuming which may or may not shoot that thought down…

But what is interesting to me are the objections, subtle or not, to dresses moving towards the soft skirt again, and my fascination is partially because it is still in my head that the dresses still need to be wider than any normal person would wear…although some of the fashion links on the boards have shown the fashionistas to be wearing pretty poofy skirts!

There is also, and still, this irritating idea that somehow the BNs are the gods of ID costuming who must be emulated at all costs!  Why?  Not too long ago, someone who claimed to just be making a comeback to ID pointed out that all of the current dresses look the same, no matter who made them!!!  I have to agree!  We are ALL doing panel dresses right now.  There are more folks trying to solve the soft skirt problem in many creative ways…but how many times have you read the same question on the boards:  “How do ED/Gavin/SR, etc, etc, etc…make their skirts look like that?”

Susan said something to me about how the harder people try to be different, the more they conform…  Wouldn’t you say that most dancers want to set themselves apart from the other dancers?  So out come the wild colors, the sequins, the crystals, the feathers, the 3-d flowers, etc, etc, etc…and what happens?  They not only all get lost in the cacophany of dazzling color, they all look the same!!

I have no earth shattering solution…I love making these dresses.  Each one is my baby.  When one client says subtle and elegant, that’s what I do.  When another asks for more sparkle, I do that, too.

I love our new tunic dresses mainly because I think they are constructed with the MOVING dancer in mind.  But being panel dresses, am I a sheep, too?  I think Susan and I, like so many other dressmakers, were interested in a different shape for designs so we were drawn to the panel look at probably the same time as everyone else!  I am quite sure it was a lone dressmaker somewhere who came out with the first one, but the second that a BN produced one, they were given the credit and proclaimed GODS once again…gag.

What is my freaking point?  Well, maybe it is that we all as dressmakers ought to slam the door on what OUGHT to be and open a new one doing what we want to do.  Yeah, when a client comes in asking for a dress like ED, you have to deal (or not), but when I expressed that I wanted to explore these soft tunic dresses, we got 3 clients in a row!  And we just turned down someone who wanted us to make a new jacket to match her ED skirt…I understand what she wants, but I am the wrong dressmaker for her!  I am not interested and told her the reasons why.  I suppose I could simply have said that we are booked up for quite a while (as we are), but I actually felt a bit insulted that I would be asked to essentially recreate someone else’s work, so I explained why I was not interested in taking her on.

Maybe this is it…newbies or not, we are each valuable artisans in our own right.  Perhaps not every one of us calls ourselves an artist, but we are.  Maybe our first attempts are less than stellar and actually petrify brain cells when we look back, but they are still created by us is “artiste mode,” sublime or not!

When a young choreographer is beginning her journey, yes she looks to the masters for information, inspiration, and guidelines, but she is also taught and guided to find her own voice.  The point is to bring to life her OWN vision.  We as dressmakers need to change our mindsets to #1 realize that the BNs are NOT the masters (far from it), and #2 that our visions are just as valid as any one else’s!  Maybe they are not all ready for prime-time right out of the gate, but we have to start somewhere.

So, open a door…and I’ll get off my soapbox before the swelling music in my head deafens me…

Letter to Dressmakers…or…Cogitating on Popcorn Thoughts…whatever

Dear Dressmakers:

I have been thinking…or rather percolating which is an ongoing activity that I do not have to be consciously aware of. 

Sparking events:

*A family member asked again if people use the info on this blog and if I get paid for it. 

Yes.  No.  My choice.

*Last night, Susan pointed out to me that Rebecca W’s ID dressmaking website and blog had disappeared.  My email to her bounced right back.  Called out to her on the dressmaker’s board…and she emailed me.  Her email got me thinking and the percolations began to rise…do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do {twilight zone}…

*I have noticed recently how many times folks have tried to start positive thought trends on the ID message boards.  They are lauded for their efforts and folks chime in and add wonderful things to the discussion.  There were a few postings about our new tunic dresses, which I found gratifying, and some interesting comments.  But, so much of the boards are taken up by screaming, mind-numbing, destructive negativity…why?  Are more endorphins produced by causing trouble rather than inspiring laughter? 

*Today on the knitting site Ravelry (I am SOOO enamored of this incredibly creative site!), someone brought up the issue of others using her photos without permission.  She said all anyone had to do was ASK!!!  I was very flattered when I was asked by a designer to use one of my pics to illustrate a pattern…in my hermit universe, I felt like a rock star!!!  The discussion was wonderfully constructive and educational…someone wrote about the benign internet mentality that what we can so easily find in the ether must be free!!!!  Most folks really do not seem to mind while understanding that some others are really bothered by it.  And technically, the law is on the side of first documentation. 

*And prior to this,  Susan and I had a conversation about the “sharing” of ideas that happens in ID dressmaking.  Folks in the ID world “share” differently than the rest of the children on the block.  Knitters do not “share” ideas the ID way because everyone calls them on it!  Every message board calls out the offender as the idiot they are!  The offended designer will visit you in your dreams!!!  Consequently, very, very few share without asking, attributing and/or pointing out VERY specifically how they changed things.  It creates a very open culture of folks that share in the true sense of the word.

And then there is my other world…dance.  If you borrow from another choreographer and yet present it as your own, you are very quickly nothing more than mud.  Everyone knows… a critic will take you to task in print.  In dance, as in so many other art fields, a true artist talks openly and with pride about who and what influenced them.  Training and working and studying with different artists are encouraged.  There is dignity in discussing the lineage of your artistry, if that makes sense. 

Plagiarism in all fields, artistic or not, ruins your DNA for generations to come.  In the performing arts, literature & art worlds, artists publicly acknowledge their influences as badges of honor! 

But ID is different.  We are not allowed to videotape competitions for fear steps will be stolen (how many different ways can you do a batter/treble?!).  Dancers can only train at their ONE sanctioned school (although I do find the rise of ID summer camps to be wonderful).  Transferring schools is cause for much teeth gnashing, many bad feelings, and nasty bad mouthing!  The case for the over-use of the trinity knot is before the Supreme Court…knot not.

All of that, and public and private dressmaker angst (I use that word for its power, not as parody) brings me here: even ID dressmaking is very weird…still.  I do think that it is much more open now than it used to be because of the great influx of newbies over the past year or so.  Yeehaw, Newbies!!!!  When I finally discovered the boards (a year or so after I started) getting real help was difficult as the secrecy thing was still in full force.  There were a couple of websites to go to for info…I still see them in my head as I studied them with awe and absolutely zero comprehension. 

My first foray onto a board went something like this:

“Are there patterns for Irish dance dresses?”

“Yes”

…after a length of time… “Where can I find them?”

 “IT.”

…after another length of time…”What is ‘IT’?”

…doo-do-doo, twiddling thumbs…”Irish Threads.”

“Great!  Where can I buy it?”

…time…”Search on Google.” 

My frustration knew no bounds.

I will say that the first ID dressmaking person I ever talked to was Pat at Irish Threads.  She was extremely knowledgeable about all things ID, and very helpful & patient, especially considering I really knew nothing.  She was the first to warn me that getting info and help from others would prove difficult…to put it mildly.  She was also encouraging and I appreciated that.  So I plugged along in my frustration until I met Susan…and she blew my mind.  That experience here.

Even now, still, the old guard seem to continue to be very quiet folks.  Perhaps they pay us no heed at all, but I do think they are there, listening and even contributing to the boards and groups, anonymously for the most part, though I imagine the old culture of secrecy, of “guard your trademark secrets for they are your identity” is still at work.  And yet, as Susan pointed out to me, everyone used to use mainly the designs from Seven Gates!!!  The designs had the same source but no one would talk about it!!!

My blog was the first ID dressmaking blog, and I only started it in March 2006 {what a hoot this is now…notice my tiny font…did not want to seem presumptuous}.  I searched and searched and I was really surprised at the time that there were no ID dressmaking blogs (update: turns out there was one t I did not find!).  I started mine because I was encouraged by reading knitting blogs, and I was so tired of feeling alone in the ID virtual reality.  But, I did it with much trepidation because I was afraid I would be perceived as an interloper, a fraud too big for her britches even though I really only started it as a way to share things with my family who live way off in California and Louisiana!! 

So…what is my freaking point?  I dunno…do I have to have one?  [[[whine, whinge, snarf, snurf…]]]

I feel like there is an elephant in the room…only I can’t see it to point it out.  It is part of what drove my whinging about no one talking to me a while back…it is part of the mild surprise that we at Feisdress felt when we actually heard very little from our fellow dressmakers about our tunic dresses because we value those discussions, those insights.  We do thank those of you who responded with such enthusiasm!  Kisses!  We also want to hear from those of you who did not feel enthusiasm…there is nothing better than a good, thorough, Irish dissection and debate!  My favorite “criticism” of the tunics from the boards was that they resembled Renaissance armour, and then pics were provided.  It was specific, and I understood.  My laughter was appreciative as well as highly amused.

ID is a very strange and irrational world.  I really do not understand because my Irish heritage is filled with people who looked/look you in the eye and told/tell you when you were/are full of shit!  Quite frankly, if it weren’t for Susan I would not be doing this.  I truly appreciate her blunt, take-no-prisoners attitude as my tendency is to take most things to heart.  Even though I can be perceived as a hard ass, once you get past what is a facade wrought by stellar teenage shyness coupled with the rigid ballerina posture, I am basically a marshmallow (as my sister Katie puts it).  I do think Susan and I make a good great team, and that is why I continue.  My former dance life was about collaboration… this dressmaking life is also a collaboration.

That’s it…collaboration.  We dressmakers are in collaboration.  We share and borrow, spy and steal, evaluate and re-format.  The Celtic Flame dressmaker’s message board has become quite a wonderful thing…except when we feel there is a sacred cow/elephant in the room.  We have become pretty wonderful about sharing in the true sense of the word…except when we don’t.  We are so giving…except when we aren’t.  We are supportive and funny and forthright…except when we are silent.  And we do all of this in packs.

Am I making sense?

I, for one, vow to start thanking any dressmaker that shows me something new.  I vow to look at all pics. I vow to answer all specific questions if I have something even remotely valuable to add. I vow to give feedback if asked.  I vow to help/support/validate/educate any dressmaker in conflict with a TC or client.  I vow to get over myself and be the collaborator I know I can be.

That is what this blog has evolved into.

The ID world, the TCs and parents, can be hard on dressmakers.  (So far my experience has been nothing but good, great and amazing…I KNOW I am lucky.)  Human psychology is a bitch to begin with, but the psychology of an art form that finds its validation in competition is so freaking complicated!!!!  So much of their anxiety gets taken out on us…we are ONLY people who ONLY work with our hands and EVERYONE knows that takes no brain power, for goodness sake!  (I am stopping there as THAT crap is a sure-fire way to get my juices flowing in a non-constructive way…)

We as dressmakers have a rarefied, immensely stratified and separated support system.  When we are dismissive and uncommunicative, we hurt each other.  When we are good, we help people fly.  I was so struck by the support Rebecca W received in the IDD group…it was not only wonderful, it was ‘us’ at our best.

I vow to try to support everyone who asks for it.

Sincerely,

me