Teaching the all-but-lost art of couture – baltimoresun.com

Here’s a story that ran in our local paper today that I thought you would all enjoy.

Teaching the all-but-lost art of couture – baltimoresun.com

Clothing designer helps bring the meticulous craft to Baltimore

By Jill Rosen

March 18, 2010

For most women who shop at Gap and J Crew, maybe Nordstrom or a local boutique for something fancy, couture is simply a foreign concept. They might have caught a glimpse of it during a television awards show, but not many have run their hands over true couture quality, and even fewer have been lucky enough to wear it.

But in a Timonium office building, of all places, women for have been learning for the past few months how to ply the elusive trade.

Ella Pritsker, a Russian native who immigrated to the United States in her 20s, started the Maryland Academy of Couture Arts last year. With the Towson Town Center nearby and York Road’s discount shops around the corner, she is introducing women to the world beyond ready-to-wear, where with fine fabric and meticulous attention to detail, a dress, Pritsker likes to say, “can cost as much as a house.”

With the school, Pritsker hopes to preserve what she considers to be an all-but-lost art, the high art of sewing.

continued through the link above

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She’s Here! She’s Here!

Yesterday, I picked up my express package from St. Louis, one Marji of Fiber Arts Afloat! When I pulled up the BWI Airport, I honestly exclaimed, “You’re so pretty and tall!” Truthfully, I’m 5 ft 5.5 inches. My hair gives me an extra 2. She’s staying with me until heading to NYC on Wednesday.

This is tonight after dinner. I’m totally fascinated that we have about the same figure. Which means she has most of my fit issues figured out (evil grin). What’s funny, is Marji and I became friends through blogging and the internet two years ago. I honestly didn’t know that we would ever meet IRL (In Real Life).

While I had to go to work half the day, Marji spent her time in my sewing studio (*after* organizing it. I’m not kidding. I walked down there and stared for a minute trying to figure out why I could see the basement floor. ) we still managed to take measurements to work on my pants sloper.  After I got home this evening, I took her to A Fabric Place, also home to Michael’s Fabrics.

I’m going to sew up the pant muslin tomorrow and draft my Bunka bodice sloper. It’s impossible to have a Marji and *not* get help with fitting. Seriously, can you imagine? I’m going to have to make something delicious for dinner to say thanks!

So, when you next hear from me, some detailed steps and photos of the pant fitting process! It was like a full class! You can read Marji’s post here.

Bunka Garment Design Textbooks Are Amazing.

I am not selling my books nor do I have access to the discounted price I originally paid. If you are interested in buying these books, please use Amazon Japan. The books are about $40 each plus shipping. If you email asking where to buy the books or asking to purchase mine, I will not respond.

Thank you


You may have gathered from this blog that I have a love of all things international. Through much hard work and calculation, I have struck up a unique relationship with my counterpart in Japan. So unique, that when Trena went to Tokyo, my counterpart actually took her shopping — and we’ve never met!

At anyrate, when this week’s delegation came to Baltimore for three days, with them came four of the five English languageBunka Fashion College textbooks. Ginevra first tipped me off that they were coming and Christina let me know they were out. Oh, BTW, Bunka is pronounce Boon-ka. These look small in the photo, but they are 8×11 size (really A4, but whatev).

I am going to do my best not to gush too hard here. But, I am BEYOND excited about these books. Mostly, because they only cost me $100 for the four. They are selling in the states for $44 each. These are definitely text books. But, what I like about them as textbooks is that they, wait for it, ACTUALLY TEACH SEWING. See that below? Those are directions on how to sew a skirt, where to add lining, how to sew lining, how to cut it out, ways to pretreat, suggested fabrics for garments, places for interfacing, etc.

Yes, home sewers have sewing books that teach you this, but I can tell you that my garment design textbook (which cost $100) DOES NOT tell you *how* to sew.

There is a GREAT deal of information on fit and drafting. Ways to alter your sloper (including for bust)  and EXTENSIVE instructions on drafting one. There is a four page glossary on the little symbols and markings that are used on the Mrs. Stylebook / Japanese drafting patterns

I’m also enjoying reading about the history of garments

And this is all just in ONE BOOK.

Of course, there are things I don’t like. First, according to their charts I’m like the LARGEST size possible. After spending four days with six Japanese women, I would agree. I am huge.

But, what’s interesting about their sizing charts, is they take AGE into consideration. Now, call me crazy, but I suspect I won’t age like a Japanese woman. But, I do like to know that they take that into consideration in their drafts.

The other thing I don’t like, so many new products for me to track down! Mostly a few rulers like the D-curve (which looks like my #6), the reduction ruler, thier sleeve pressing ham (I like that it’s shaped more like an arm than my sleeve roll), and pressing horse.

I am resisting their pressing ham, pressing board, handy mat, crossarm and Yukiwari — our tailoring board. Hmm, but I cannot resist the needle board. It might be good I can’t find it on their website. Or this bobbin holder.

Someone I know is going back to Japan in March. My plan is to save up, do a huge order and pay the $50 extra luggaage fee on Al Nippon Air!

So, to sum up, if you can find at least the first book, Fundamentals of Garment Design, I think it it well worth the money if you are interested in fit and working with the Japanese patterns. If you are interested in drafting on your own, then I would get the remainder. The last, Coats and Capes, comes out in December. And, if you are thinking of ordering from Amazon.com Japan and saving some money. shipping is almost $50 for the four.

I Got a 94

I had to work Sunday — perfect weather and time for my final project dress. Sometimes, when you wear a garment and take photos, you notice stuff you totally didn’t see before (like the fact that I need to get my hair back to one color). First, here’s the most flattering photo of the dress, but I’m not smiling — odd for me :) I was probably trying not to sweat.

I wore it Sunday and it was perfect for celebrating Italian Republic Day. My hemline is usually just below the knee and I’m making a concerted effort to sew shorter skirts. My knees felt all liberated and I feel taller. There are some issues at the armsyce because I forgot to add the shoulder seam allowance!!

Here I am smiling. I also acknowledge that the skirt is too big on me. I was really worried about it being small, so I have a touch more ease than I would were I too sew it again. See all the puckering at ruffle insertion? I think this happened because I sewed in the ruffle from top to bottom, and top stitched from bottom to top. You can’t see that in the original photo below.

I came home from my program tonight, picked out the top stitching, pressed and re-top stitched. It’s now perfect.

When I was in Seattle I got to try on the original Anthropologie dress I copied.

You can see here that they tacked down the ruffle (I didn’t) and they did not insert the ruffle. Just sewed it down along the outside dart. I learned a great deal from this project and will spend the summer perfecting my sloper. It’s a whole new world :)

Finally, are you ready for something crazy? After I blogged Saturday night, I actually went back out and picked up a second Featherweight. Long story short, there was a second one on Craigslist that I had been working on simultaneously and I felt it needed to be rescued. I know I should sell the first when I’m done cleaning up and repairing the carrying case and keep the second. Although I spent most of today wanting to keep both.

I think I’m going to name her Issie. You know, for Issac Singer.

Well, Hello Sailor!

Well, I didn’t want to wait another week or more until I get it back. And, I’m sure I’ve built this dress up so much it won’t live up to expectations, lol.  So, let’s just pull off the band aid? I know this is a simple garment and I wouldn’t think twice about having whipped it up from a straight pattern. But, I am so proud that I took this class and finally ‘get it’.   I’m really looking forward to making garments with more design elements and feeling confident enough to copy RTW.

So, without further ado, here’s the dress on a school dressform (I don’t have one). It’s a size 8 dressform but is lacking my curves. But, it was due and I just took pics at school. I probably should have used a 10. This was the first time I understood why someone makes a small bust adjustment! I also took advantage of the huge bay windows on campus so I could get enough light to get the camera to focus.

All outer fabric is from the Carol Collection (yay!).

Original Garment

Front w. belt

Front w.out belt

Back. There is a problem in my draft in that the bottom of the skirt swing out. Like slightly too much fullness. You can also kind of tell from here how curved my back is compared to the dressform.

Close up of belt and ruffle. Ruffle is 3 inches wide, graduating to 6 inches wide. So much starch there is a new hole in the ozone layer.

French dart at side seam. Excellent info from Els at The Sewing Divas

Lining. Poly silky from Joann’s. $4 a yard on the red tag table. I, love, love, love this lining. Summerset used it for an awesome vintage dress (check the link). We are both polka dot and red fiends.

The best zipper finish I’ve ever had

Silk organza underlining.  This, the twill tape and poly horsehair great recommendations from Ann.

Twill tape along ruffle insertion to keep the ruffle line straight.

Polyester horsehair braid along the hem to prevent wonkiness

I’m going to enter this in to the PatternReview.com ‘My Pattern’ contest. I know at the end of the day that this is a simple garment, but I am so proud of myself I’m bursting at the seams. You know I’ve been dying to do something with red, white and blue for a over a year now. Maybe I’ll build a summer wardrobe around these colors? When I took my project in, I talked to my instructor about my sloper fit issues. When I get back from Portland, I’m bringing in all my muslins and we’re going to work on a new draft! It’s gonna be a great summer!

I won’t be blogging while I’m gone, but I’ll be tweeting. My updates are protected, but you can find me as BaltoCidell on Twitter.

I’m actually done….

with the Orquidea Dress (which apparently means ‘orchid’ in Spanish). And, it is now sold out from Anthropologie.  I made the dress and re-drafted a clean version of the pattern for my final this weekend.

Navy blue is as bad as black for photographing color. I’m going to have to wait until it’s consistently not raining and warm to take pictures outside. In the meantime, this blurry half dress will have to do. I really just wanted to show the lining, dress, ruffle color combo. Mmmmmm. Polka dots.

Before a I forget, special thanks to Marji for her help analyizing the dress and Ann for some brilliant help on the wonky hem. But, more on that when I do an actual reveal.

Guess what? I leave for Portland on Thursday morning!

Final Project: The LAST (and 4th) muslin…

Seriously. This is the fourth and last one for this dress. Honestly, many of my fit issues dealt with my sloper not being correct. I ended up shortening the front waist by a total of two inches, the back by one and the shoulders by 1/2 inch to get the waistline to hit correctly.

For the ruffle, I narrowed it by about three inches and am still going to take out another two I think. Also, I think it’s the weight of the fabric ruffle that’s making the weird fold in the front.

If you look at Muslin #3 (above), there is a slight fold. Muslin #4 ruffle fabric is heavier, so it’s collapsing more.

The fabric I’m using for the final is from the Carol Collection. Heavy navy linen and this red and white striped ruffle. I’ll also be moving the ruffle to the left — like the original. I’m going to interface the insertion point for the ruffle, so hopefully that will prevent the droop. I’m also going to alter the skirt a wee bit to peg it some. That will also help add some structure.

I don’t say it enough, but y’all are the best. I’m sure you’re sick of looking at this as I am. But, your suggestions and ideas have been invaluable. I have to turn it in next week!

Final Project: Muslin #3

Third muslin. I’m all sewn out today.  I like the side fit

The back is still a little long

But, the front waistline appears to be hitting in the right spot. The ruffle is not what I was looking for, but I rather like it. It reminds me of the dress that Amy in WA State told me about. Here

I will sleep on it and hopefully think through the problems this week. The other issue is that I’ve pinned it up an inch on each shoulder and that seems to have helped with fit. It’s due on the 21st, but I leave for PR Weekend in Portland on the 13. Or the 14th. I can’t remember right now :)

Final Project: Muslin #1

So, my first real stab at drafting, eh?

I have skipped the princess seam and gone with a French and waist dart for the bodice which is how the original is drafted. The first problem I have with the sloper is that it looks worse in photos than in real life. I’m not sure how to interpret that. At any rate, the waistline measures two inches below my actual waist.

The back, is more complicated. I still need to raise the waistline and possibly shorten the back.

I also added a  total of four inches to the hips between ease and other adjustments. But, there are still wrinkles around the darts and I think I know why. Boring part forthcoming.

This is my sloper. The darts are angled rather than straight. That’s because of the horizontal dart I take to make my swayback adjustment. My instructor pointed out they should be straight. I think if I straighten them out, those wrinkles will subside. Because there is a ton o’ ease back there.

I’ve already adjusted my pattern pieces and will crank out another muslin tomorrow with those changes and hopefully, the skirt ruffle.

Brilliant Idea Gone Awry

A couple weeks ago I bought this tube for carrying my slopers back and forth from office to class. Smart, right? I can’t take all the credit, AJ in Scotland suggested it. It’s got a handy strap so I just sling it over my shoulder and off I go. Thursday, I rolled up my entire oaktag dress sloper, extra tracing paper and extra oak tag (so I can make my pants sloper) and put them in the tube. I felt very smart walking back to work today. Tres chic, no?

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This morning, I am at my wits end because this $%^ will NOT come out of the *#@% tube. 

Wont. Come. Out.

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I have banged, I have pushed, I have pulled, I have swung with great force, I have begged, pleaded and cried. It’s stuck like a cheating husband caught with his girlfriend. I went at it for over an hour. I even went at it with grill tongs.

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No, I was not thinking and should have rolled it all up and used a rubber band before placing in the tube. Grrrrr. I think. Sigh. I think I’m going to have to cut open the tube.  It is really annoying because I got it on sale for just $8. Sigh. I’m going to spring for the telescoping tube next time and take a minute to use a rubberband.

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