My Complicated Relationship With Color

It’s pretty obvious to anyone who reads this blog or has known me for any length of time that I gravitate toward a muted color palette.

A few years back I treated myself to a color analysis. Afterwards, I was reminded of something the organization development guru Peter Block said in a lecture: Most people go to therapy, not to change, but hoping they will get confirmation. The result of my color analysis was definitely confirmation.

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I get a lot of unsolicited advice about branching out to more vibrant colors. Much of this leaves me grumbling about “the color police” and wondering why it matters to people I barely know what I choose to wear. It’s different when I ask for an opinion. Or at least I think so.

It’s been just over a year since I attended Sarah Veblen’s six-day workshop, Exploring Fashion Design: Design 1. That was a wonderful, but difficult experience for me. I was full of anxiety going in and I reached anxiety overload mid-way through the week. What got to me most wasn’t the stuff I was concerned about before I started (which was sketching and developing a personal croquis with everyone weighing in on the process). Instead, it was the exercises having to do with putting colors together. I just don’t feel I do it well and I’m amazed when other sewists combine colors, patterns and textures with great results. This is the sort of thing that, in the wrong hands can go horribly wrong and I’m convinced that any attempt I make at it will fall into that second category.

Of course, one of the reasons Sarah is such a gifted teacher is because she can zero in on the things her students are unsure about and challenge them to push those limits in a way that is not completely overwhelming. So, one of the exercises she gave me was to find fabrics I like in a color she has long believed would look good on me but I never wear. She calls it salmon. I call it coral. She gave me this assignment on the day we spent at the fabulous store, A Fabric Place. We selected fabrics for our exercises, Sarah cut swatches of them and we presented our assignments to the rest of the group at lunch and at the end of the day (after time for actual shopping, of course). Here is what I came up with for this particular exercise:

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These were the top three swatches once everyone looked them draped over my blouse so they could see them close to my face. (I can’t find that picture. Sorry.) At my request, Sarah and the class ranked them in order of preference so I could use them as a guide.

Since then I’ve bought fabrics in that general color – and sometimes beyond – but I’ve yet to do anything with them.

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I have plans for this lovely cotton I bought from Louise Cutting’s Cutting Line Designs last summer at the ASG National Conference (bottom center in the picture). I know I want to make another “campish” shirt out of it, but I didn’t get to it last summer. I’m hoping I’l get to it this summer.

This subject came into focus recently when I was working on a linen blouse to go with a bias skirt I’m going to make out of this pretty rayon challis from Stone Mountain & Daughter.

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The bright colors and high contrast are definitely unusual for me, but when it came to a color to wear near my face, I reverted to my usual blue.

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Unfortunately, I discovered some flaws in the blue linen when I was pressing it before sewing. There are streaks and little splotches that are quite a bit lighter than the rest of the fabric, as if the dye didn’t “take” in this spots. It isn’t a question of fading, because the swatch I tested and retested in very hot water and with a hot iron remained colorfast. I looked at the rest of the blouse-weight linen I have, but I felt that none of them would work as well. You know how you just get an image in your head for a project and can’t let it go? So, I took a risk and laid out my pattern pieces to avoid the problem areas, or so I thought. After pre-tucking in the places that needed it, cutting everything out and putting in the final tuck, I started to assemble. In my next pressing, I noticed another streak.

That started a search for another linen I could be excited about for this skirt. Of course, getting the right color online is a tricky proposition. Not everyone goes to the trouble of giving us Pantone colors the way Linda Podietz does on her site, EmmaOneSock.com (thank you Linda!). The result is that I now have an extra supply of linen for future projects. All are very nice, but none of the blues sang out to me. It was the disappointment over the one that didn’t work out, I’m sure, because this one is perfectly fine.

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But you can see that it’s darker than the fabric I wanted to use.
So I tried branching out into the coral area. At first I thought a bright coral might work because the flowers in the skirt are bright, but that didn’t quite cut it. Besides, it’s a medium weight and more suited to a jacket.

Then I found this cross-dye linen in just the right weight.

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This was my Goldilocks moment.

I can’t wait to cut into both of these fabrics and get this project back on track.

In the Sketchbook – March 2017

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

Another month has flown by and it’s time to see what’s in the Sketchbook. I promise I’m sewing and I’ll have a finished garment ready to show and discuss with you next week. In fact, there should be three in rapid succession. Please bear with me a little longer.

To start off I’d like to show you a sketch I did first thing Monday morning after attending another fabulous hands-on workshop with Sarah Veblen over the weekend.

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Sarah  shared some inspiration pictures with us and when I was going over my class notes to solidify what I’d learned and compile a list of follow-up things I needed to do (a good habit I’m trying to cultivate), I found my copy of those pictures folded into my notebook. Looking at one of the pictures again, I immediately thought about making this casual tunic to wear with black pants.

Also during the workshop I happened to mention to Sarah that I’m struggling with sketching fullness at the hems of garments. She showed me her method step-by-step on a sticky note and I practiced it right away to get the hang of it.

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Apart from sewing my business travel wardrobe this month, I have bias on the brain. Our ASG neighborhood group, Sew Chicago, has adopted “Show Your Bias” as the group challenge for next fall’s fashion show and Stephanie King and I are doing a bias presentation to the group in May.

Ever since I saw the exhibit “Making Mainbocher” at the Chicago History Museum, I’ve been thinking about how skilled Mainbocher was at giving serious work suits and even uniforms a feminine flair. None of his skirts were restrictive pencil skirts and most, if not all of them, were cut on the bias. One tweed suit in particular caught my eye. I noticed that he not only made the skirt on the bias, but he also inserted godets. I’m not convinced I need godets to get the effect I’m after, so I sketched this skirt to make with a lovely gray tweed wool I found last month at Haberman’s Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan.

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Then I started wondering where else I could use bias and whether just part of a garment on the bias would work. So I played around with this skirt and top combination.

I think it looks better with the skirt echoing the hem of the top.

I tried this ensemble with a sheer on top, but the jury is still out on it.

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That’s it for now. Be sure to check out what fabulous designs my dear friend Stephanie King of Siouxzeegirl Designs is showing at 10 Sewing Machines & a Serger. We’d love to see and hear about what you’re sketching, so  please leave a comment.

 

In the Sketchbook – November 2016

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

I’m pretty sure everyone who undertakes creative projects hits a wall or goes through a dry patch from time to time. I’m painfully familiar with writer’s block, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that something similar has been happening with my sewing and personal design efforts.

While working my way out of this slump with a project that should be completed in a few days, I’ve been giving some thought about the French jacket that I started in a workshop more than three years ago. When something has been sitting untouched for that long and the only emotion it evokes is guilt, you have to wonder what’s going on. The fabric is very nice, the fit is great. So what’s the problem?

One thing may be that these jackets are all about the embellishments and I’m not much of an embellisher. Another possibility is that I’ve come to see that collars are an important element of garments for me and French jackets are usually collarless. Usually. Not always. When I mentioned this to Sarah Veblen, she immediately started playing around with the spare fabric I have and suggested a collar for my unfinished jacket. I’m not convinced about putting a collar on this one, partly because I’m not sure it will hold up well when the jacket itself has so little structure and it’s progressed beyond the point where I could build something supportive into it. But that did get me thinking about adding a collar to a future French jacket made from some fabric in my collection that I absolutely adore.

It also got me to thinking about the skirt I’d make to go with the unfinished jacket. The designs I sketched earlier have a lot of pleats and seem to be too heavy or too bulky, but a small pleat inset lower down might be just what I need. Here is that skirt with some possibilities for collared French jackets.

 

I haven’t decided whether I like them better with self-fabric or contrasting fabric.

6Then there’s the possibility of using lace as a collar.

None of these ideas have embellishments yet, but they might be a start.

Be sure to check out what my dear friend Steph King of Siouxzeegirl Designs is up to at 10 Sewing Machines & a Serger. And, we’d love to see and hear about what you’re sketching too.

In The Sketchbook – September 2016

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

I have been busy sewing this month, but not anything that’s quite ready to show here. I did launch what I hoped would be a daily habit of sketching in the morning while sipping coffee and getting ready to start work. The routine was interrupted when I had to start work extra early (making a living can really crimp the creative endeavors), but it’s something I’m hoping to get back to. Here is what I came up with while trying to form a daily habit.

It started with having to sketch a tailored shirt I’m working on for the Sew Chicago group entry in next month’s ASG Chicago Chapter fashion show. I’m making a test version of the shirt first and so I didn’t have any pictures to send to the show coordinator. Once I did that, it occurred to me that I should sketch the blouses I’ve been wanting to make this fall and put them together with fabric swatches.

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I need to learn how to sketch soft, drapey fabric better. These look too structured to me. The bold print on the upper left is a lightweight cotton, similar to a cotton lawn. The swatch in the middle is a lovely silk double georgette and the teal on the bottom is hammered silk that has a lovely floaty quality.

I also played some more with a jacket design that can coordinate with a soft or soft-and-sheer skirt.

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Then there’s the idea that I want to make a blouse with tulip sleeves.

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I made a sheer blouse with tulip sleeves a while back that wasn’t right. Now that my skills have improved and I have Sarah Veblen as a mentor, I want to give it another try. This sketch is an attempt to echo the tulip theme in the body of the blouse. The petal collar seems like it’s too much to me, so that’s something I’ll have to test out in a mock-up.

Finally, remember that unstructured jacket I sketched last month? To remind you, here it is again.

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It was on my mind days later and so I decided to play around with what might make a nice personalized version, starting with set-in sleeves.

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That looks better to me. Then I thought about adding a collar. Collars seem to make a big difference in my garments.

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Oh yeah. That’s something I would enjoy wearing. (Please ignore the fact that the croquis and the back of the jacket are both visible.) Actually, I think I like it either way. The set-in sleeves make all the difference.

Of course, I’m probably not going to be able to find fabric that’s right for this jacket and I’ll end up having to learn how to do online digital fabric printing. Or worse, like piecing fabric together to make the stripes. Not my thing at all. Maybe the fabric gods will be kind to me and the perfect fabric will appear online.

That’s it for now. Be sure to visit my dear friend Steph King of Siouxzeegirl Designs at https://10sewingmachines.blogspot.com to see what amazing things are in her sketchbook this month. And if you’d like to join in on the fun, please leave a comment for one of us.

 

In The Sketchbook

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

If you had told me two weeks ago that I would look forward to sketching, I would have been convinced you were delusional. That was before I participated in Sarah Veblen’s six-day class, Exploring Fashion Design – Design 1. A review of that class will be the subject of a blog post coming up soon, but Steph King and I couldn’t wait to start sharing what we have in our sketchbooks.

One of my class assignments was to find a length for a cropped jacket to wear with a coordinating or matching dress. I started with my basic armscye princess seamed sheath dress on the personal croquis developed in class.

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After trying out different lengths, I decided this one has the most pleasing proportions.

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Next, I sketched out a few different jacket designs I might try.

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Since returning from class, I’ve decided I’d really like to develop a pattern for a linen jacket dress in two shades of blue that I’ve been thinking about for years. I know I want to incorporate both fabrics in the jacket by making a double collar and contrasting cuffs on short sleeves. I’d like the collar to be a rolled collar that stops well short of center front and frames the buttons, which may or may not be covered. Here is what I’ve come up with.

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I like the shape of the collar on the left better than the one on the right. If you look closely at the sketch, you can see that I’m playing with an Empire waist for the dress so I can make that two-toned as well with the lighter color on top. I haven’t come to a final decision on the shape of the dress neckline. That will take some more sketching to work out.

Getting this down on paper is so much better than trying to work it all out in my head. This is a very exciting step for me.

We would love to have this monthly feature grow into a link-up with other sewing bloggers. If you’re interested in joining in this creative adventure, please leave a comment to this post.