Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Winter Gifts…

Although I have continued to be buried in law school fallout (read: BAR EXAM PREP!), I did manage to pull my head up and make some gifts for winter. This was quite an accomplishment for me because law school kinda killed my sewing/crafty mojo and it’s been a hard fight to bring it back!

First I made 2 little toiletries bags: One is lined in hot pink silk charmeuse for a very chic friend, the other in a math equation cotton print for an engineer friend. The outside fabric is the same on both, a Japanese fabric called ‘inden’ – an ancient technique of raised dots of lacquer, traditionally on doeskin for Samurai armor, now on a special kind of velvet. (All of the fabrics from BeautifulTextiles.com )

 

Then I made a nurses waist bag for a nurse friend: I love this! It features 8 pockets on the outside and a roll clip, inside is a zippered pocket lined with bandaid fabric. I got annoyed with the custom bags for sale online that all feature girly florals or childish prints, but nothing for mature adults, so I chose a Japanese duck cloth (from Beautiful Textiles!)  for the front that was a more sophisticated design that will go with anything, hide stains and blood, and be very sturdy and long-wearing. The back of the bag is a charcoal gray brushed canvas. It fastens around the waist like a fanny pack.

 

Then I made some paintings, all of these feature a papercut of the city skyline I cut first and used as a mask and then painted the ground. I’m not thrilled with the writing and the gold in ‘Yerevan’ should be darker, but my liquid gold pen died and it was on the holiday so the surviving gold marker got the job ūüėČ

 

Neither last nor least, I made this large picnic blanket of cotton velvet (the colors are darker and more complementary in real life), backed with an irridescent rainbow shower curtain so your butt won’t get wet while sitting on a wet lawn, and the whole is quilted with large kitty cats stretching, sitting, laying, and posing (can’t really see in the photo). I also made a bag to carry it in…

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All but one gift was well received and appreciated by the recipient. Did you make any holiday gifts? What was the response?

I’m BAAAACK!!!

Holiday Season

Well that nearly 2-year hiatus from the blog was unintentional, but a combination of some massive, devastating, technology failures plus my punishing schedule of law school… and here we are. To catch you up on my latest “fun”, I recently graduated law school (doing the 3-5 program in just under 2 years! While working full time!), wrote a book on contract law (hoping for publication in Spring of 2020), grew BeautifulTextiles.com (we’ve nearly doubled our inventory this year again, on top of doubling it last year!), and have been working on a variety of other projects. (Phew, right?!)

Most recently, I was honored to be the emcee for the Creative Clothing Club of Detroit’s fashion show at the Sewing and Quilting Expo in Novi on November 14th. You can find the video of that event here: https://www.facebook.com/SewingExpo/videos/421768578729974/

I’m really looking forward to sharing my projects and plans with you again! Enjoy the holidays and if too much time with the family is too much, to paraphrase the immortal Tom Lehrer, It’s only for a day so have no fear, be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!

 

Needlebook Makes Me Happy

As you can see from this blog, I’m crazy busy these days with law school and keeping Beautiful Textiles running!! However, an unexpected class cancellation and need to do SOMETHING creative to preserve my sanity made me decide that this was the perfect time to FINALLY make the little needlebook I’ve been jonesing for over a year for!!

Now, 5 seconds of googling for inspiration will show you all these stunning examples:needlebook banner

This is exactly WHY it had taken me over a year! I’d been agonizing over the design, decoration, and colors. (I have the most amazing ability to make big huge life-changing decisions quickly and easily and get hung up on flavors of ice cream and design choices of tiny inconsequential nonsense. What can I say? It’s a gift, really!!)

I decided this was ridiculous and went through my pile of upholstery scraps. There is no law that needlebooks must be made from felt! I wanted to use up some small scraps I didn’t have another use for rather than angsting about felt colors! Well, you know those cute little color samplers that you can never find a use for?
(Upholstery stores and design centers often have a ton they’re throwing away. That’s also where the little square I picked for my cover came from.)
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The square swatch I chose for a cover was a wonderfully textured velvet, and the color sampler for the inside ‘pages’ were brushed cotton. I decided 4 pages would be enough, and chose 4 colors. I just cut them straight off the sheet, leaving their paper stickers on the back – the sides were already serged and they were ready to go. I stacked them into a book – folded edges to the front, neatly aligned, and did a couple rows of straight stitching 1/4″ from the back cut edges. (Be sure to use a long stitch length – 3.5-4 on my Bernina.) (A note on size: My finished needlebook was 4″ x 3.25″, this was a great size for me, but keep in mind what size you want when you select what swatch sampler you are cutting ‘pages’ from.)
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The paper on the back definitely gives more bulk and stiffness, but it makes it easier for me to flip the pages and because each page is doubled, I can slide my fingers inside the page to make it easier to add needles, and I can tuck the thread in the needles inside its page! If there is a usable length of thread left on my needle, I like to just store it like that so it’s ready to go next time.

If you are particular about the placement of the design on your covers, go ahead and cut out a piece of paper slightly larger than your book so you can play around with that. Use tracing paper if you need to see the design on the fabric for that ideal placement. I planned on only serging the edges of my cover, so I didn’t need to leave very much room around the edges.
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Mark which edge has the stitched ‘spine’ of your book on your paper, and when you place it on the cover fabric, make sure that edge is to the center of the cover fabric and there is enough cover fabric to fold it over and make both front and back covers in one. (If not, you’ll have to plan for a seam allowance.)
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Go ahead and chalk the outline of the first side and then flip your paper over and chalk the outline of the second side – lining up the spine edge. As you can see in my photo, there was a bit of an overlap from the ideal front cover and back cover placement. (I did not check spine alignment, just got my ideal front and back squares and figured I’d wing it.)¬†I was VERY particular about my design placement and really had to work the placement and squish the cover onto the book to ensure it came out exactly right. (And then I went and sewed the book in backwards the first time…)
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Cut your cover fabric a little larger than your chalk line so you can adjust if you need to. I just pinched it together in the proper placement and then took a little slice off each edge to show what was excess. Then I placed the cover flat on my cutting mat and used the ruler to cut off that excess in straight lines.
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Then I took my perfectly (sort of)-measured cover fabric and serged all edges with a tight silver edge to match the silver design on the fabric. I left some thread hanging off the corners, threaded a big-eye needle into the back of the serged row, tucked those loose threads into the eye, and pulled it through. Pull taut and trim. This buries and hides the end and will prevent it from unraveling, keeping your corners nice. Just be sure to pull the serged end of threads smooth before you do this (it comes off the machine in tight loops, just pull it out smooth – 2 threads will be much longer than the third, now you’re ready to bury the ends and trim them all off).
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Trim your book spine even – don’t cut off your 1/4″ seam allowance, just even it up so it’s just a little short of that 1/4″. Place your finished cover around your book, squish it around until you get the alignment right, then DOUBLE-CHECK that you put it together properly, then sew the cover to the book 1/4″ in from the spine, using a long stitch length. You only need to sew once, twice if you really want to reinforce (I went a little nuts with the sewing), since these seams won’t be getting very stressed.

Sew a pretty button to the front, and a little loop of elastic to the back cover. (Make it pretty and use a colorful hair elastic to match your colors!). Admire your handiwork, then fill with the needles you have laying around all over the house in random cereal bowls, spools of thread, on bookshelves, and¬†. TA-DA!!! A 10-minute project (if you don’t screw up repeatedly… ) and I have a FUNCTIONAL, pretty, elegant, needlebook!!
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Law School – A Commiseration Guide

This is not going to turn into a law school blog, there are plenty (and far better!) of those around, but a number of conversations lately have made me realize that people who didn’t go to law school don’t know there are a few key differences that set it apart from any other schooling you’ve done, and in the interests of making you have more sympathy for any suffering law students you know, I thought I would explain:

Law school is a unique beast. There are almost never midterms or other checkpoints, instead your entire grade for the course rides on the final exam. So you have no way of judging how you are doing or what areas you need to focus on before you take the exam. (Which, btw, is hard to study for because in law exams THERE ARE NO RIGHT ANSWERS. You are not learning things to spit back on the test. You are looking for possibilities. The more possibilities you can find, define, explain, argue, the better you will do. That’s very hard to study for. You can’t memorize this.)

This agony is compounded by the fact that the mandatory courses (all of your first year plus 1 or 2 other classes) are graded with a mandatory curve set by the Bar Association. In my school, that means that NO MORE than 30% of the class can have As (A+, A, or A-), no more than 90% can be As and Bs combined, so 10% of the class (or more…) will get Cs… EVEN IF THEY SCORE REALLY WELL ON THE EXAM (so if everyone in the class gets more than a 95, the difference between an A and a C is teeny fraction of a point).

As if this wasn’t enough stress, grades are critically important for certain jobs in a way they aren’t in other industries. Companies and judges looking for summer interns will specify that you must have a 3.7 GPA or be in the top 10% of your class, and since we have to work a certain amount of these jobs before graduation, you must do really well on your first term exams (now!) so you can have your choice of positions when summer interviews begin in FEBRUARY!

Law students, did I leave out any critical points? Non-law people, feel sorry for us yet? We are always receptive to being fed and commiserated with!! (Puppies are good too!)

Cozy Fall Jacket

Good grief, time has really flown by!! I’m in law school full time, while also running my business full time, and that has left precious little for any other projects or even keeping in touch with the outside world!

However, in early October I went to the LA Textile Show and swooned over these incredible fabrics from Italy that blend faux fur and wool together in one fabric. I just had to have some!! Well, on Black Friday they finally came in, and I just had to make a cozy little jacket for our extended fall weather to celebrate!

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I used 1 panel of¬† this new Italian wool-and-fur fabric for the body ($42/panel), plus 1 yard of this quilted faux leather-and-wool fabric for the sleeves ($45/yard). The neckline is finished with 2 yards of the gray snakeskin piping and the black jersey seam binding.¬† The strip of fur along the selvedge is there naturally (I just had to neaten it up a bit – it’s not perfectly even).

I used Burda pattern 8332 as the base and eliminated the side seams and front darts, so the ONLY seams on this jacket are the shoulders and armscyes!!

Total time: 2-3 hours. Total material cost: $101. Finished look: worth at least $250!!

Floaty Chiffon Top for Summer!

I adore a floaty chiffon top for summer.  I pair them with camis and toss over jeans or anything else, they can even be worn over a dress for a different look!  This was my original favorite:

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It was light, comfortable, elegant, and I could (and did!) wear it for weddings, parties, date night, or even just to run errands. ¬†However, it was time to replace it. ¬†I ended up selecting a black and white chiffon with a waving dot pattern that felt a bit art deco to me. ¬†I wanted a design in keeping with that, and I loved the ombre effect and the kimono sleeve of the original….

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(This is me doing my dramatic rendition of “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well!” )

So I made symmetrical squared-off open kimono sleeves, the sides are laced together with ribbon and there are more ribbons sewn onto the shoulders (deep dark secret: the ribbons were added to the shoulders to hide my accident with indelible marker…). ¬†On all corners (sleeves and body), I sewed little stacks of beads to weight the top and create a nice swingy movement. ¬†All in all I’m pretty happy with it, though I got very little opportunity to wear it this summer ( ;( ¬†)

What’s your favorite garment you keep remaking?

Cotton Kimono Top

So, I have not been posting much lately because I seem unable to multitask well enough to do that and make things… ¬†ūüėČ ¬†So please bear with me as I post in fits and starts. ¬†Today I would like to show off my little kimono top. ¬†My shop got in this really interesting, very bold, graphic print cotton lawn, and I decided to make something with it as a shop sample. ¬†So I took 1 yard of this, plus 1 yard of an eggplant cotton sateen and 2 yards of raspberry cotton sateen and 2 yards of cotton bicolor piping in mauve/lavender.

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I used an old Butterick kimono top pattern, 4072 (view B).

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I wanted to break up the impact of the graphic a little, so I sent the back and front at an angle – not on the bias, just at an angle I liked on the design. ¬†It went together very easily, but the end result was a little surprising: I shortened the sleeves both from shoulder to wrist and the depth of the hang, considerably, and yet the sleeves are humongous. ¬†The end result is very voluminous, so if you want to make this, I highly recommend taking careful measurements (something I didn’t bother doing because it was a shop sample). ¬†Also, you are supposed to cut 4 of the front band, and I can’t see how that could possibly work – it’s too wide for that! ¬†So I cut the 4 out, sewed them all together, then ripped it all out again.

In the end, it’s all right, though I’m not sure I would ever wear it if it was in my closet.

Baldwin Center (Act II)

You may recall the remade garments I’m patterning for the Baldwin Center, a community charity in Pontiac, MI. ¬†This has been keeping me too busy to post as much as usual, but here are the latest two garments (which were featured on TV last week!!):

We started with a lovely sandy tan silk shirt (with a wonderful hand!).  I cut it in half from underarm to underarm.

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I liked the idea of preserving the button placket as a functional detail that could be undone all the up (Oooh! ¬†How risque!), but obviously it need a bit of dressing up and if we were going to have the buttons open, there might as well be something to look at! ¬†So I took black lace yardage and made a second skirt a HAIR smaller than the silk – so they laid together nicely and didn’t cramp your movements. ¬†I also took a strip of our French black velvet burnout lace knit (which was a nice blend of a tan base with black velvet flocking), and made an elastic waist casing at the top. ¬†I scalloped the lace and left it long enough to just show underneath, but it still needed a little more…. So I encased a 2″ strip of very narrow elastic in the side seam allowance at the hem to ruch it up a little and added cream and tan satin ribbon bows to each side. ¬†The finished look is ideal for a day-to-evening outfit! ¬†Simply pair with a cream blouse and black jacket!

 

The second garment started life as a lovely blue satin robe with self belt. ¬†I really wanted to use that belt, but there wasn’t much fabric in the robe. ¬†So I cut a whole halter top front out of it, and paired it with some blue and white lace from the shop. ¬†The belt becomes the tie that holds the front and back together in a pretty bow, while the otherwise-plain front gets some drama with some blue-gray ombred fringe!

What do you think?  I want to make this halter top for me!

Embellished Tea Cloth

Recently, one of my sewing groups challenged us to hand sew a project of our choice. ¬†Since I’ve been wanting to improve my embroidery skills (not practiced since childhood), I decided that an embroidered tea cloth would be a great sampler.

I really wanted a tea-themed elaborate design (because why do anything simply?!) of stacked teacups and steam from the pot curling around in a fanciful design of sailing ships and caravans (you know, the exotic spice and tea trade?)… ¬†Yeah, I’m insane.

I had a few small sample swatches of really pretty upholstery fabrics, so I made them into fabric appliques and then used a combination of machine embroidery and hand stitching to secure them to a cheap-but-nice cotton towel I picked up at IKEA.  I then added French knots and a variety of stitches to accent the fabric print design.

Overall, I’m quite pleased and I learned to my surprise that I quite enjoy some hand work. ¬†It gave me hope that I could actually start one of those massive hand-work projects I’ve always wanted to try but was too afraid to….

What have you challenged yourself with lately?

Upcycled Coats!

It has been a CRAZY month and I’m looking forward to showing you what I’ve been working on!

Earlier this year, The Baldwin Center, a local community charity, asked me to develop a line of garments for them based on remade clothing. ¬†You see, among the many services they offer is a clothes closet where clients in need can pick out clothing they need at little or no cost! ¬†Some of the donations they receive, however, are fabulous fabrics but dated styles, or with a spot, or otherwise undesirable to the clients. ¬†I was tasked with taking those items and designing several patterns they could use to make a series of garments they could sell for a higher price. ¬†The money would be used to fund the charity’s other endeavors, and the plan is that down the road we can also offer training to their clients and set up a little workshop so the garments can be made on-site!

For one of my initial two samples, I started with this beige wool coat from London – it had beautiful designer details, but the lining was shredded and the elbows were worn.

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I couldn’t eke out an entire new coat from this, so I paired it with a delightful wool-cashmere blend from my shop and two different sleeve fabrics from my stash and created this stunning beauty:

I reused the back with the original vent, part of the collar, the beautiful pocket flaps, and the cuffs.  I added molded resin rose buttons from Italy, and an eggplant flannel-back satin lining.  Every coat needs pockets, and, mindful of the pattern needing to be accessible for unskilled sewists, I chose patch pockets.  The ribbons swirling over the back and up over one shoulder are an easy and unique touch that adds some lovely drama and interest to the otherwise-plain back.

My second jacket was designed for spring, so I chose a silk Maggy London maxi halter dress with a great floral print.  I managed to get the fronts and back out of the skirt, and took the self-spaghetti straps from the halter for the jacket ties.  I chose an ivory lace shirt to complement it and barely managed to get the sleeves out of the entire front and back of the shirt.  For the facing and cuff bands, I used a sage green Thai silk shantung from my shop.

I had been waiting until the jackets were presented at their annual gala to reveal them, but now that the gala has passed, I am thrilled to share these with you and to say that everyone LOVED them and both garments were snapped up in the fundraising auction.

I’m so honored to have been asked and glad that I could help. ¬†I look forward to sharing the rest of the collection with you at a later time.

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