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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Project Runway All-Stars: Finale Part 2 Recap

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The final episode. By the end of this hour, someone will have won the whole shebang. I really have no idea which of the three finalists will win this season!

Since the show has to shove three runway collections, judging for all three, and results into only an hour, we get to the runway at a rapid pace. I feel like maybe the show should have done a two-hour finale on a single night rather than splitting it up into two episodes a week apart. Even though I spend a couple of hour every Thursday and Friday recapping this show, I really can’t remember what the designers’ inspirations were or their foibles from last week. Oh well.

One of the guest judges tonight is Tommy Hilfiger. Man, that dude is parading himself on every damn reality tv show, isn’t he? He was on American Idol last night! I’ll borrow (steal) from Joe at The Ruined Auditorium: “He hasn’t been hot since Playstation 1.” His brand got so diluted, he was shilling his gear at K-Mart. I don’t know if I could take seriously the critiques of a guy whose brand was genuinely competing with the brand of ex-Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith. The other guest judge is Ken Downing, the fashion director of Neiman Marcus.

So for this runway show, each of the three designers made six looks. That’s eighteen different garments to critique, and I just don’t feel that I have it in me to write extensively about each and every one. Thus, I’ve decided I’m limiting myself to one single (possibly long and convoluted) sentence for each look, and then an overall impression of the collection. Sound good? Let’s go!

As per usual, all images are from myLifetime.com.

Full coverage is under the cut; 18 images is a whole lot to render for those with slower computers!

Read the rest of this entry

Project Project Runway 2012: Finale Runway

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The end of another PPR season is upon us, which means its time for the finale runway!

Our finale challenge, from the hosts at Just Crafty Enough was to create a single showstopping look or to create a mini collection of as many looks as we so desired. We were encouraged to use leftover fabric from any of our prior challenges for a look if we so wished. We were given a budget of $300 (it’s always 1/10 of what the designers on the show receive) though it seems unlikely any of us would spend that much. We were also given four days to complete our collection, the same as the contestants on the show.

Unlike last season’s finale, it took me no time at all to figure out my inspiration for my final collection. Spring has come very early this year, and along with seasonal allergies and having to run the air conditioner, all the flowers are out in full. And around here (Washington, D.C.) the focus is on one specific kind of flower–the cherry blossoms. If you aren’t familiar, cherry blossoms are a big deal around here–there’s even a cherry blossom festival. So that’s my inspiration. Although I haven’t been to the Tidal Basin yet this year, the trees around my apartment complex are also blooming and it is just beautiful. I took this picture just this morning:

I was very inspired by the colors of the blossoms–the white, the green, and the palest of pinks. I also liked the idea of the petals. They fall to the ground in the most gorgeous way, fluttering down on the lightest breeze. I wanted to do a collection that felt like spring–light, fresh, and airy.

Let the runway begin!

First out we have Gia, my model from last year. She is wearing a pair of tight white leggings, a pale green shell featuring scalloped hem, topped with a pale pink single-breasted coat with scalloped hem featuring white buttons.

I wanted to start the show with something I’ve never done before, a coat. I really love the look of the coat and think the buttons add such a dainty detail to the look. I also tried a new technique for drafting the leggings, and it worked perfectly. The pants fit Gia like a glove. This is the early spring outfit, when the weather is still cool enough to want to wear a jacket.

Next out we have Lys, who is wearing a strapless white cocktail dress featuring a pale pink belt and pink beaded cherry blossoms on the bodice. This garment was the “twist” look, it is made with fabric from previous challenges, specifically the excess fabric from Challenge 8: The Flag Challenge.

This look is quite simple, but I think the beaded flower details keep it from being too boring. This is the party look, showing some skin, but still a bit sophisticated.

Next down the runway is Astrid, wearing a pink sleeveless shell with the scalloped, petal-like hem and beaded neckline and a pale green pencil skirt.

I think the beading at the neckline gives this look something unique, it is almost like a built-in necklace. This look is meant to be the more professional look, something that could be worn to an office and then out for drinks afterward.

Makeda is next on the runway, wearing a long-sleeved scoop-neck shirt featuring pink “cherry blossom” beading and a pair of pale green shorts featuring the petal-like scalloped hem.

I am so happy with how the shirt turned out. The sleeves are inset perfectly, probably my best sleeves to-date. This look was meant to appeal to a younger consumer. The scallop-hem shorts are a trend item, a departure from the more classic look of the prior garments.

Next is Lina, who is wearing a pink strapless cocktail dress featuring a layered skirt meant to represent the petals of the blossoms and a wide white belt to give the eye a rest in that sea of pink.

I love the look of the layers of the skirt. I developed quite the callous trimming so many strips. This look is the “red carpet” look, a dress that is eye-catching and would photograph well.

Finally, May comes down the runway in my final look–a wedding dress. It is a white strapless gown featuring a multi-layered scallop skirt and a pale pink sash.

I think this dress is a nice culmination of the whole collection. It feels fresh and spring-like and features the techniques that define the collection–so many layers. I am really thrilled with how this look turned out.

Now, some pictures of the whole collection–I like to see all the looks together, as I feel they work nicely as a whole.

Don’t you love my risers? Yep, they’re juice glasses.

This picture amuses me greatly. Not every look is perfectly visible, but it’s so fun! I love playing with perspective.

I’m really happy with how my collection came together. Although it probably doesn’t seem like it, I used up a significant portion of my four-day time limit. With a couple of looks featuring separates, I had to draft a lot of pattern pieces, all of which were from done from scratch, except maybe the sleeves, which were based on a pattern piece I drafted previously. I tried to really conceive of this collection as whole; I wanted every look to work with every other look, have repeated techniques and themes in this collection, and make each look fit a different situation or different customer.

The Project Project Runway experience is just the best; the supportive atmosphere amongst the participants cannot be more wonderful. I love this group and all the gorgeous output we, as a whole, come up with. I appreciate and admire every single one of the other designers. There is just something so exhilarating to me about a group of people who all choose to spend their time on a project like this, sharing their hard work and encouraging others to do the same. I am very sad that another season of PPR is now behind me. My designing “muscles” have been greatly stretched, I have learned and taught myself so much, I have shared the experience with such great people. The PPR Flickr group is sure to be on fire today, so make sure to take a look. And hopefully I’ll see everyone again next season!

Project Project Runway 2012: Me-Ology

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As I did last season, I thought it would be fun to do an “-Ology” post, taking a look back at my output from this season, Tom & Lorenzo style. Plus I need a break from working on my final collection!

Hmm, looking at everything I’ve made side-by-side is kind of weird. I guess I didn’t really stretch myself much when it came to silhouette this season. With a few exceptions, most of my garments are more or less the same shape with slight variations—oh my gosh, I’m a Kenley, aren’t I?! On the more positive side, I used a lot of bright colors this season, which I love. I’ve also been a lot more confident when it comes to trims–beads, marabou feathers, metallic braid. Although my silhouettes have been fairly simple, I see myself trying a variety of techniques within that silhouette, such as beading, painting, and paper piecing. I’ve also been a bit braver when it comes to materials. Last season, I don’t think I ever used anything but cotton wovens or poly knits (except maybe in the finale.) This season I tried both crepe and brocade, both of which were very difficult to handle. Overall, I think it’s been a pretty great season, but I really need to get back to work on my final collection–I have a lot to finish up today before I can get to photographing tomorrow!

Project Runway All-Stars Epsiode 11: Finale Part 1 Recap

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(Images from myLifetime.com)

This is the episode that I typically kind of skip over, as it is pretty much a wind-up to the big finale.

The challenge will be announced, however.

Isaac and Georgina come out. The designers are to design a mini-collection of five looks and have four days to put it together.  They receive $3000 to shop at Mood.

The designers head to Marie Claire to meet with Joanna Coles. I wouldn’t bother to mention this except the offices look exactly like the offices of Poise magazine in the movie 13 Going on 30 so much so that I’m wondering if it was actually filmed there.

The designers are sent out to Central Park to sketch for an hour.

They shop at Mood. They only have an hour. Yikes.

They get to work. Everyone but Mondo seems to be taking it in stride. Mondo just seems totally defeated by the proceedings.

The twist comes around 40 minutes into the episode (because of course there has to be a “twist” even though that “twist” is usually the same reality tv show cliché.) Yep: they have to make a sixth look. Okay, the show gets some credit, there is a little bit of a new idea behind it: the sixth look must use some of their leftover fabric from any of the previous 10 challenges. That’s kind of fun. They also (as per usual) pull in the eliminated designers to work as helpers. Each designer gets to pick one person. Mondo picks Mila, Austin picks Anthony (hilarious) and Michael picks April.

I don’t really like this truncated finale. This is All-Stars, the finale shouldn’t be a mini-collection, it should be a bigger-than-usual collection. I really wish the final three were showing at a fashion week. It just seems a bit rinky-dink. And with such a short turnaround (4 days!) I just don’t feel like we will be seeing anywhere near these competitors’ best work. I can’t even fathom how mentally and physically exhausted they are after just having filmed the rest of the season. Part of the reason the finale of Project Runway is usually so fun is that we get to see the wonderful output the designers are able to achieve when given a budget and time, not only for constructing their garments, but also for developing new, interesting ideas. Given the ridiculous time constraints for this finale, it will be more of the same–garments that are basically shorthand for real collections and garments that have an undertone of being chosen for being able to be made quickly rather than being new ideas and ebing impeccably constructed. It’s a real disappointment. But what can I say, with this franchise, I’ve gotten used to disappointment.

Project Project Runway 2012: Challenge 10 Runway

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This week’s Project Runway episode title, and therefore our challenge name at Just Crafty Enough is “Let’s Get Down to Business.” Needless to say, every time I’ve thought about the challenge this week, this song has gotten into my head. (WARNING: This song is catchy as all get-out and will not leave your brain all day.) The actual challenge was to create a ready-to-wear garment that is “irresistible, feminine and timeless under a budget.” In the show, the designers had a coster figure out their budgets, for PPR, we were to work within a budget of $4.65. I decided to take the challenge a step further and try to find inspiration from Nanette Lepore’s collection, as the designers on the show had to use materials from the label’s fabric choices.

As I wanted to work within that additional parameter, I spent a while on her website, looking at what kinds of shapes she used, what kind of color combinations and textiles were available, and what seemed “missing” from the collection. Overall, I found that the collection lacked in separates, but as we were asked to create a single garment, filling in those separates didn’t really make sense. I found that the collection really focused on dresses, so I decided to go that direction as well. Most of her dresses have an easy, wearable quality to them, so I wanted to reflect that. I decided that I wanted to make a dress using the color combination found on a pair of shorts called the Rebel Shorts. I really was drawn to the unusual color combination on the textile and I loved the stripe to it.

(Image from nanettelepore.com)

I knew that there was no way I would find a similar textile, so I went into the store with a plan of creating my own striped textile myself. For the past 9 weeks, I have been taking a quilting course, so I decided it might be fun to apply a technique I learned in the class to this project. I decided to use the quilting technique of paper piecing to recreate Nanette Lepore’s textile.

May heads down the runway in a girly lavender tank dress feature an inset of paper pieced stripe in orange and light red.

Building this garment was actually a lot of fun. I really enjoyed translating the paper piecing technique into apparel. The shape of the garment developed because I didn’t want to make a shape that was already found in Nanette Lepore’s collection. Most of her dresses tended to feature a more flared, a-line silhouette and the more form-fitting skirts were mostly found amongst the separates. So I decided to do the dress with a fitted skirt. During this challenge I was very focused on creating something that would fit in with the already established collection (as on the show the winning design would be sold by the retailer) yet I also wanted to make something that was identifiably  mine. So I fully admit that this look is only a minor variation on one of the dresses I made for last season’s finale. I do like this design better, though, as it is more complex due to the finicky inset.

Oh, so budgeting. I came in well under budget for this garment:

I probably could have done even better had I been able to get away with an eighth of a yard of the knit fabric, but I needed the stretch in the correct direction for the dress to be fitted properly.

For styling I went with something really easy and summery. The weather here has been crazy warm (80 degrees in March? Really?) so I guess I am in a summery, breezy mood. I wanted May to look like a cool girl going out for a day of shopping or out for supper on the patio of a fine restaurant. Unfortunately, I did go quite matchy-matchy. These colors were really difficult to work with, so I felt I pretty much had no choice but to go that direction. I styled the look with a great pair of Prada Suede Cork Wedge Sandals in Coral (which I love) and an Aurelie Bidermann Enamel Coral Bracelet.

For hair, I really would love a low, sleek ponytail, something cool (temperature-wise) yet chic. For makeup, it might be fun to do a very, very pale coral lip and a more subtle eye. Put-together but summery.

As always, a trip over to the Project Project Runway Flickr group is encouraged. Everyone is just so talented!

My Work Space: Behind the Scenes

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As I alluded to last week, I thought it would be fun to show a bit about how I work, what my setup is, etc. Every week for Project Project Runway I show pictures of my finished products and talk about my inspiration or how I made a particular piece. But up until this point, I’ve never really shown what my work space is like.

WARNING: The following is an uncensored, true-to-like depiction of my work spaces. I decided not to tidy up or anything; it’s not very real “behind the scenes” if everything is tidy, well-organized perfection!

My husband Joe and I live in the Washington, D.C. suburbs where cost of living is quite high. We live 2-bedroom apartment. I just wanted to give a bit of context about how my work spaces fit into the whole of our living space

First, a look at my work space:

My work space and sewing area

1. My “studio.” If you haven’t guessed, this is supposed to be the dining room table, but I have commandeered it. As you will see a bit later, I do have a more dedicated work space, but I prefer working in the main part of the apartment. It has better light and feels a bit less claustrophobic. The stuff that’s out now was for hand-painting the bodice of PPR Challenge 9. More often I have a cutting mat in this spot.

2. My sewing machine, a Bernina Record 930 Electric. I’ve named it “The Beast” as it pretty much entirely made of metal and weighs 40 lbs. It was a generous gift from my mom when she received a new (to her) machine from my grandma. I come from a line of sewists. The machine is older than I am and is a wonderful workhorse. I love my machine.

3. My ironing area. Sometimes I pull out a full-sized ironing board when working on bigger, non-PPR projects.

4. Garbage can. For threads, tiny fabric scraps, and unsalvageable project attempts.

5. (Beyond scope of photo) TV. Possibly the primary reason for my moving my craft space out of the “office.” I like having something going on in the background while I work. I typically have on The People’s Court, Judge Judy, or The First 48 while I work. Very high brow.

For context, the door at the top of the photo is the coat closet; our front door is at a 90 degree angle to that. Also directly behind the work space is our microwave.

So that’s where I do my work. It works for me.

Now, I thought I would show where I do my photography and maybe talk a little bit about my camera and its settings.

Photography area

This is really where I should be doing my sewing, but after last season of PPR I got tired of having to switch the space from work space to photography space and vice-versa every week, so I moved to the dining room. This shows about a third of the space in the second bedroom which we call our office. This is “my side” of the space, Joe’s desk is on the other.

1. Background for photography. The background I use is a piece of poster board on the surface of the desk and a second piece of poster board Scotch taped to the hutch of the desk. It creates a great neutral backdrop and it only cost a couple of dollars total.

2. “Runway” for photography. This is a box that I wrapped (like a present) in a white plastic tablecloth. It also is nice and neutral and only cost about a dollar (for the plastic tablecloth.) And I’ve gotten two seasons worth of PPR photography out of it.

3. Lighting. This is an Ott Light I purchased at Costco a while back. Ott lights are full-spectrum bulbs, so this works really well to help light my photography space. When I’m taking pictures, I drape a piece of white jersey fabric (it’s actually a piece left over from last season’s PPR Challenge 4.) This helps diffuse the light a bit. Without this drape, my “model’s” face reflects the light too much and looks really shiny and weird. The Ott light doesn’t run too hot like an incandescent bulb and I don’t spend more than 10-15 minutes photographing, so it isn’t going to burn.

4. Brush. This is a pet brush I picked up at the dollar store during this season’s PPR Challenge 1. It works really well for taming my “model’s” hair which helps give my photos a more crisp look

5. iPod and speaker. I listen to podcasts while I work.

6. (Beyond scope of photo) Window. Brings light from the side not lit by the Ott light. Having light from both sides avoids too many shadows in my pictures. This side of the apartment really only gets light from about 8 am to noon, so I have to make sure I am ready to take pictures during that window of time.

On days where it has been really dark and rainy, I sometimes move my photography area to the kitchen where at least I have a fluorescent ceiling light. I prefer my photos to have a cooler feel to them, so I try to avoid shooting under incandescent bulbs. When I shoot in the kitchen, I create my background by putting a piece of poster board on the floor and taping the other piece to the refrigerator. I also bring in the Ott lamp to help with lighting.

When I shoot on the desk, I don’t use a tripod. The desk isn’t deep enough for one . The camera I use is a Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS3 which is a small-sized point-and-shoot camera. I love this little guy so much. Settings-wise, I put it into a Macro setting for full shots and Macro Zoom for detail shots. I also generally give my pictures a slightly longer exposure time. I have to hold the camera very steady to avoid blur, but the colors come out a lot crisper and true-to-life when I do so.My photo shoots take 10 – 15 minutes and I generally shoot 30-70 pictures.

After I take pictures, I import them onto my computer, pick the best ones, and do some light editing with Photoshop Elements. Up until recently I was using the 5.0 version, but I have upgraded to the 10.0 version. I’m still getting used to the changes between the versions. Photo editing software can be really intimidating and potentially quite expensive. For free, I recommend GIMP. Generally, I start by resizing my photos down to a more manageable size. Then I level correct and sometimes mess with the contrast a little bit. I also play with the “remove color cast” feature to get my whites nice and bright. Then I sharpen my images slightly. I find it just crisps them up a bit and makes them more appealing to me.

So that’s my process for photography.

Finally, I’m going to show you my set up for last week’s PPR Challenge 9; the Glow-in-the-Dark challenge. My usual set up wasn’t going to work because instead of lots of natural light, I needed as little as possible. So here was my set up.

My "dark room."

So I needed to find the darkest place in my apartment, and figured out that the master bedroom walk-in closet would be the darkest location for this photo shoot.

1. Black backdrop. This is actually a large bag I use to hold my cutting mats. You can see the back of the mat up at the top. It is hung onto the top two drawer knobs of my chest-of-drawers, which is shoved into the back of the closet.

2. Plastic Shoe Box (full of paper cranes.) As my backdrop did not reach to the ground, I needed something that would add height to my photo area. So I grabbed this box I had on hand which happened to be the right size.

3. Black “floor area.” This is actually a box lid from Ikea. It was one of the few black surfaces I found in the apartment. It worked.

4. Tripod. Since I knew I would have to try really long exposures for these photos to work, I knew I needed to use my tripod so my pictures wouldn’t be blurry messes.

5. Tripod base (cake pans.) Since my tripod is just a short thing, I had to raise it up somehow. I found that three cake pans stacked on top of each other became the perfect height for my camera to be directly across from my “model.”

I brought in my black light (it was plugged in outside of the closet, as the closet has no outlets) closed the door behind me and shoved a sweatshirt across the crack under the door to keep light from interfering. I set my camera for different exposure intervals, hit the shutter button and waited there in the pitch dark. I felt so silly, but I think it was worth it for some of the great shots I got.

So those are my studio and my photo set-ups, mess and all. I sometimes get into a bit of a funk wishing I had more space, or a more personalized, organized, fancier space. I read magazines and sigh over the gorgeous sewing studios, the amazing craft spaces, the dedicated art lofts. As much as I dream about someday having something so amazing, even in my smallish apartment, my work can be pretty solid. The quality of work doesn’t have to be reflective of the amount of space one has to work in or the level of personalized decor or the perfect organization. Those things are convenient, helpful, and wonderful for those who can manage it, but there is also something to be said for making do with what limitations one has. I feel some level of pride for my slapdash way of doing things, my cobbling together something that works and turning out a passable product. That’s not to say I wouldn’t still love to have nice things, but for now, this works for me, and I should be happy enough with that.

Project Runway All Stars: Episode 10 Recap

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Once again I’m watching this on Friday morning. I’ve had a cold all week and went to bed early last night. Thankfully, I’m feeling quite a bit better today, so let’s get to it.

We’re down to the last challenge before the finale, narrowing down the contestants to the final three, so of course this is going to be a big challenge.

This week they will be designing for a client: Nanette Lepore. The winning design will be produced and sold at Nanette Lepore stores, and it must be manufactured to fit a particular price-point. Interesting. This challenge is a pretty good reflection of “real” designing. I’m not sure if this is a very good final challenge though; it seems a bit odd to expect these designers (who have been encouraged to develop their own styles throughout the show) to create looks based upon and be sold amongst an already established label. It’s a good reflection of what a large portion of fashion school grads will end up doing, but I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense on this show, which hasn’t really placed much of an emphasis on saleability or working with an established company. In fact, it seems to run counter to the persona and personal aesthetic-based quality of the show. This might be a train wreck. We’ll see.

 

The Runway

The guest judge this week, is, of course, Nanette Lepore.

All Images from Rate the Runway on myLifetime.com

 

Austin: The coat starts out looking pretty cute, but when the belt came off, enh. It really needed the shaping of the belt, without it, it looks like a maternity coat. I’m not totally sold on the cranberry color of it. Clearly, the textile is something in Nanette Lepore’s fabric room, but it just doesn’t have the happy exuberance that I think the coat needs. A pinker or more fuchsia color would have really made this coat sing, but as it is, it just looks a bit boring. I also can’t say I’m a fan of the slightly asymmetrical (longer in the back, shorter in the front) hem of the coat. It’s slight enough that it looks more like an error than a purposeful style aspect. All that being said, this coat has a lot of detailing on it, and it was clearly a lot of work, not just another simple dress.

 

Michael: Michael falls back on the same silhouettes over and over when he gets flustered. Yes, this is very much a retread of the gelato challenge in almost every way. It’s like he can’t break out of the techniques and silhouettes he feels like he’s mastered. That being said, he tends to repeat the things that the judges have complimented him on; he’s definitely playing the game. If this dress weren’t an almost exact replica of his previous look, I would probably be a lot more complimentary about it. The textile is very pretty and I think some women would want to buy this dress. I’m not completely on-board with the sleeves; they are a bit awkward in length and shape. Joe does point out that the color combined with the plunging neckline does look quite a bit like Jennifer Lopez’s green Versace from a few years ago. Also, the back is poorly fitted.

 

Mondo: Sorry, Mondo, but no. This is not good. He totally self-destructed this challenge and it shows. The colors are fresh and very much in his wheelhouse, but pretty much everything else about this look is bad. The shape of the dress is way too simple and it doesn’t even fit very well. The sewing looks sloppy along the neckline. The whole thing looks like a pillowcase with head and arm holes cut out. The ruffle at the bottom is the saddest ruffle I think I’ve ever seen; it is so limp and awkwardly attached. This is just a huge pile of fail to me, and it pains me because I have been vehemently rooting for Mondo, and he completely screwed this up.

 

Kenley: As per usual, a very cute dress from Kenley. I agree with Mondo’s “confessional” criticism that it would have been better had she lined up the print better. It does look a bit unfinessed in that regard. I’m also not completely sold on the sleeve treatment; I actually wish they were a bit more fluttery. But really I’m nitpicking. I think this dress would probably sell quite well, it’s one of those dresses that one could just pull on for a myriad of occasions, and the print makes it stand out. Yes, it is a typical Kenley dress, but in this case, it fit the challenge perfectly.

 

My rankings

1. Kenley

2. Austin

3. Michael

4. Mondo

 

The Judges’ Top and Bottom

Mondo: top…?

Michael: bottom

Kenley: bottom

Austin: top

 

The Results

Austin is safe. He’s heading to the finale.

Mondo is…the winner. Whaaaa?! What the heck? His was not good at all. I’ve always been a Mondo fan, but this was really undeserved. I really, really do not understand the judges at all. Whatever.

That means Michael and Kenley are in the bottom.

Michael is…in.

Which means Kenley is out. Enh, I actually thought her dress was saleable this week. This show confuses the crap out of me.