katherine summer * couturière

Fine Dressmaking in the San Francisco Bay Area

08 April 2013

Discarded 2 Divine Friday April 12, 2013

Please join me on Friday April 12 between 5:30 and 8:30 pm for the Discarded to Divine event benefiting the St. Vincent de Paul Wellness Center.  My gown, along with several other very cool items that other local designers have created and donated, will be on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

The gown is a seafoam green silk faille hybrid trumpet/mermaid silhouette with a bateau neckline and modest chapel train.  The "corset" is French chantilly lace with a subtle metallic silver cordonette and an eyelash scalloped edge. 

Handbeaded trim is mounted on a contrasting french grey grosgrain sash positioned at the natural waist to help create the proportion of a tiny waist.  

vintage faille evening gown

Even though this is really kind of a crappy photo taken in a dark room with only an iphone flash for lighting, this is my favorite picture that I have so far.  I love how the faille shimmers and takes on this  pearlescent quality in evening lighting.  

Here a full front view in the daytime.
handbeaded french trim

In this closeup of the trim you can see the amazonite centers, czech teardrops, seed beads, and "spun sugar" picot fans.  Sorry for the grainy quality. 

hand beaded fan

Closeup of the chantilly.  I don't really know how to describe the color.  It isn't exactly grey--it has a grey green blue tone plus the silver cordonnet.

metallic french chantilly

The measurements are 35, 27,38, but each side seam has a 1" seam allowance, so the gown can be let out about 2", or taken in just as easily.   Hidden on the inside is a crinoline layer to support the fullness of the skirt silhouette, and the lapped zipper is handpicked. 

If I were to sell this gown, I'd ask $3200.  My work generally ranges from $1900-$6500 depending on the materials and level of detail.  

My goal since the beginning has been to create the item that raises the most money for the St. Vincent du Paul Wellness Center, and as such, I'd like to ask you all a huge favor.  Please pass along a link to this post through whatever social media platform you prefer.  You'll see a link for facebook and twitter over to the right or you can always cut and paste.

Thanks so much you guys, and I hope to see you this Friday!

17 January 2013

Best Cartridge Pleat Tutorial Pt. 1

Did you see my other post about Discarded to Divine?  Did you?  Did you?  Huh?

I haven't settled on a finalized design for the gown, although I'm pretty sure about the coat.  But I do know that I'll be utilizing cartridge pleats, which were used extensively in historical costuming from the 16th century onwards.

You can see them on the back of the outer garment in Girl with a Pearl Earring, which is the inspiration image for this year's event.
Vermeer De Young

 It is the technique used to create Elizabethan ruff collars.
Cartridge pleat technique

There are contemporary uses as well.
cadet blue skirt

Cartridge pleats are fabulous for creating fit and then volume.  For instance, the seafoam faille that I am using is 49.5" wide.  When I gathered it with 3/8" deep pleats, that amount compresses down to 5".  So approximately every 10" of flat fabric pleats down into 1".  This means that if you have a fitted waistline of 25", and you do 3/8" pleats, you will have 250" of fabric, which is 6.9 yards.  So thank goodness I have a ton of this stuff.

 You must determine how big you want your pleats.  You can do all the math before beginning, but I personally prefer to create a sample, measure that, and then go from there.

One of the fabulous things about cartridge pleats is that you can stitch the edge down in multiple ways for different effects.  You can situate them so that the flat edge created by the pleats is flush against the surface.  As you can see, they stand out quite a bit when you do it this way.  Since my sample is short, it doesn't fall at all, but if this were a skirt, it would stand out a bit from the body before the fabric would break and fall.  The type of fabric that you use also determines how much resulting volume you will achieve.
 pleating sample

Or you can lay them flat like this.  The small flat egde stands out, but then the fabric falls down without breaking.

positioning pleats

The most common method used for creating cartridge pleats (the only method that I found for numerous online tutorials as well as in my my fabric manipulation book) involves applying two or more rows of evenly spaced gathering stitches, which look like this:

stitching cartridge pleats

I made the marks with a pencil because my white wax crayon doesn't show up well enough on either the muslin or the faille.  This means that the marks are permanant and must go on the underside of the work.  See how the stitches are evenly spaced front and back?  They run on one side for 3/8" and then on the other side for 3/8".

pleats through the center

Here you can clearly see how the gathering threads sit directly in the center of the pleats once compressed.

bad pleats

This was my first sample.  I was experimenting with different pleat depths.  It is 1/2" on the left side and 1" deep on the right side.

The problem was that it was difficult to handle once the pleats were created.  They were shifty, and I felt like I needed to stabilize the fronts and backs.  

pearl grosgrain ribbon

There are certainly good reasons for creating your pleats with this method.  Check out this statement necklace that I found on Pinterest.  In this case you can see that the folds of the pleats need to be loose.

I've been imagining creating trims for this project that are  exactly like this.  The beaded trim that I made a long time ago also has this fan shape with the central spheres.

What I really like about this is that the chunky pearls look to be the same size as the pearl earring in the painting.  Now I just need to find chunky pearls this big and in a grey to match the lace or a seafoam to match the faille. 

amazonite beads 

I had been considering doing the cartridge pleats on the coat with a very similar method as well, thinking that this would be a beautiful detail near the sleeve hem and where the body of the jacket attaches to the yoke, but I didn't care much for the way the sample came out.  Maybe I'd like it better if I had multiple pleats between each bead instead of a 1:1 separation.

best way to cartridge pleat 

Back to basic cartridge pleats.  This is the other way to do it, where the gathering stitches run close to the foldline of the pleat.  I work with 2 threaded needles at once instead of doing the first row of gathers and then the second.  Long thin beading needles pierce the fabric more easily than my regular needles.  They slip right between the weft threads of the faille.

Working with 2 needles like this as opposed to working your stitches around the entire piece of fabric (which is probably huge since it compresses so much in the end) makes it easy to pleat as you go. Your thread length is more manageable this way too.

best pleat tutorial 
When the pleats are gathered at the edge, that edge is more stable and easier to stitch to whatever you end up stitching it to.

The back side of the pleats are unsecured, but if you really want to be psycho, you can run gathering threads through the back of your pleats too.  Even so, I still find this method more stable than the other way.

best pleating tutorial 
As you pleat, this is what it looks like on the right side--the side that will show on the outside.

marking cartridge pleats
This is the wrong side.  You can see my stitch placement marks.

Voila.  50" compressed down to 5".

gathering ratio

So this was part 1 of my cartridge pleat tutorial.  It was all going to be one tutorial, but it was getting so long, so I decided to break it into two parts. Part two deals with more specifics of how to do the measuring and marking for a sample, and I'll link to it as soon as I get it up. 

22 December 2012

Discarded to Divine

This year I'll be participating in the Discarded to Divine charity event! Put on by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the event will be hosted by the de Young Museum, where there will be an exhibit of the entries on April 12, 2013. This year's inspirational theme is Girl With a Pearl Earring, which will also be on display at the  museum as part of the Vermeer exhibit.  

discarded to divine

Yesterday I picked up my fabric from the SVDP Wellness Center, which will be the recipient of the event's fundraising.

"The Ozanam Wellness Center began in 2009 to more effectively and compassionately meet the needs of the most vulnerable individuals in our City who are struggling with addiction and mental health issues. By combining the "best practices" of spirituality and clinical methods, we are addressing the whole person who is suffering, and empowering our guests to make positive changes for ongoing recovery. The overarching vision of the Wellness Center is to foster right relationship: justice, love and peace among all who pass through our doors, with a special focus on those who are struggling with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and mental health issues."

I ended up choosing this pale seafoam faille, and was thrilled to get about 15 yards of it along with at least the same amount of vibrant chlorophyll green shantung silk.  The donor was an event planner who used them to decorate spaces, hence the extravagant amounts.  This will allow me to do something really spectacular, since I can't generally afford to buy nice fabrics in those amounts. 

seafoam silk faille

The faille looks a little bluer than it actually is--has a more minty tone in real life.

I don't want to create a fully historical garment or interpret the theme too literally though.  The look I'm going for is late 1950's early 1960's vintage--very tailored dressmaking with the hair up in a twist, opera gloves, and some kind of beaded clutch.

At first I thought I'd do something similar to this--double breasted with a stand away neckline, but full length.  The lining would have been the emerald silk, and I considered doing an emerald gown underneath.  I wanted to do emerald beading all over the front of the coat and over one of the shoulders.

But then I decided that I wanted to do something extreme with tons of volume.  

faille evening coat

This golden YSL opera coat from the collection of Mrs. Thomas L. Kempner already looks like it could have been inspired by the painting.  It's quite similar to what I am imagining for the outerwear.

 Except I think I'm going to do it with 3/4 length sleeves that are very loose at the hem, as opposed to fitting closely around the forearm. The fullness will be created using cartridge pleats, since that's what's on the back of her garment in the painting.

Depending on the gown, I might even do a funky coordinating hat like the one the man in the red jacket has on in this other Vermeer painting called The Procuress.  Then the look would be more mid-late sixties.

Wait...is he grabbing her boob?  Ooh.  Well yes, apparently he is--Wikipedia tells me that this is a brothel scene.  And I learned that there are not one but two women in this painting. 

dutch brothel scene

Who knew that Discarded to Divine would lead an education on the popularity of Dutch Bordeeltjes in 17th century?  Here's a particularly creepy German example from the 15th century.

german brothel scene

Here are some rough sketches that I have so far.

You want to know something crazy?  I made this beaded trim ages ago, and I bought the lace to go with it, but I never figure out exactly what to use it for.  Having this on hand makes me feel ahead of the game.  Unfortunately this is a terrible terrible photo.  I'll have to take one with the good camera.

beaded fan trim

Here's a cartridge pleat sample that I did last night.

discarded to divine

And an experiment for the cowl on the coat

faille cowl coat

If you can't tell, I'm super excited about this project, and since the semester just ended, I'll be able to devote the kind of attention to it that it deserves. 

But the best part?  If you're a designer anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area, you can do it too!  They have some really awesome donations of fabric and clothing just waiting to be turned into something fabulous.  Because it's still early in the process, it isn't all picked over.  There's a bolt of orange cotton velvet, a bolt of something striped like a pink seersucker but heavier and without the bubbling, huge bags of fleece scraps in several different colors, and much more.

Sally Rosen is the contact person (415-552-5561 X306), and you'll need to call her and make an appointment to go search through what they have set aside for the event.  I know I posted the link already at the top, but here it is again. Hours of the wellness center (Howard between 7th and 8th in the city) are 9am-4pm Monday through Friday.  Do it for a great cause!!!

27 September 2012

Portfolio Images

Accepting the fact that my website is perpetually under construction, I felt it prudent to create a post showcasing some of my more exciting work. 

My strongest professional capabilities are in bridal and eveningwear.  I enjoy the level of diligence and extravagance allowed by the category.

This made-to-measure gown was created completely from concept for Marilee Talkington, a fiery actress with a singular vision for her black-box theater wedding.   The skirt texture, inspired by tropical leaves and flowers, was created from 8 yards of silk organza stitched onto tulle and layered over crepeback satin.  The fully boned bodice is the same satin ruched onto panels of cotton drill. 

offbeat bride red

My other great love is dance costuming.  I find that ballet and bellydance present the most opportunities for creating finely detailed works of art. 

This fully wired and strung classical tutu is made for the professional lead ballerina.  Basque and bodice are satin covered coutil. English cotton bobbinnette knickers support 12 layers of point cut hand pleated tutu net (not tulle) ruffles.  Corset and top-skirt feature black chantilly lace, black point d'esprit, hundreds of black diamond rhinestones, and vintage glass buttons.  You can see and read about the tutu in progress in this post, which I was recently surprised to find has more than 3900 views as of yet!

classical ballet tutu

One of the highlights of my career was designing and creating several key looks for Cari Borja's runway show on the Gala Night of 2006 San Francisco Fashion Week.  The Gala Night celebration also featured runway shows by bay area couturiers Lily Samii and Colleen Quen.  Cari's unorthodox construction methods turn "proper" sewing on it's head and, over the course of my time with her, was a liberating experience in terms of technique.  This gown was created with several circular layers of point d'esprit and printed peau de soie.

San Francisco Fashion

 Here's another look from the same runway show but at a different venue.

wool flounce dress

This trumpet silhouette illusion gown was created for a traditional coastal North Carolina ceremony.   The cotton/rayon bengaline gown features beaded lace hand applied to netting and finished with a silk satin sash.  All crinoline and support layers are built into the gown.

Of course, my portfolio is in no way complete without showing at least a detail one of my bedlahs, the matching bra and belt sets for bellydancers.

Bra and belt bases are first covered with silk dupioni and then lavishly adorned with trims and hand-beaded fringes.   Precious stones, czech glass, delicate beads, and Swarovski rhinestones catch the light, accentuate shimmies, and give extra impact to pops and locks.

raks sharki costume

I'm also available for simpler tasks such as alterations, but I think you can see that my more substantial talents involve one-of-a-kind pieces that are graceful, feminine, and luxurious.

If you, or someone you know is looking for something truly spectacular please feel free to pass along the link to this post. 

Resume and references are available upon request.

05 September 2012

Guide to Bridal Lace

bridal laces

Lately I've been having more bridal inquiries than usual, and lots of these ladies are asking for lace.  
With the intention of familiarizing my current and future clients with the most popular bridal laces, I'm putting together a short picture glossary along with some images of gowns made from them.

(uh LEN sahn)
The distinguishing feature of this lace is the fine cording that is applied to the outlines of the motif.  Although still delicate, this fabric has more body and structure than something like chantilly.
alencon lace
alencon lace bridal gown
Alencon example by Jim Hjelm

Brussels Lace
Very delicate elaborate lace, often lots of raised work like what you see in the centers of the flowers. You don't see this much on modern gowns--it is very old fashioned.

brussels lace

brussels lace

brussels lace gown

A very fine airy lace, usually with lots of detail and elaborate motifs.  Like Alencon, Chantilly often (although not always) has a cord outlining the motifs, but it is much more delicate.  This lace pairs quite nicely with other airy fabrics like tulle, chiffon, and georgette.  It is my personal favorite out of all the laces.

chantilly lace

chantilly lace
chantilly lace bridal gown
Both chantilly examples are by Rosa Clara

Duchesse Lace
Duchesse is supposedly the cheaper version of Brussels lace, but I can't always tell the difference to tell you the truth.  The joins are of cruder constructon or something like that.  It has lots of open space, as opposed to the tighter net background of chantilly and alencon. 
Kate Middleton kept popping up when I was looking for gown examples.  But I think that's because she is a duchess, not because her gown had duchesse lace.
duchesse lace

duchesse lace cape

Not considered a "true" lace because it is worked on a fabric background, eyelet is typically made from cotton. Best suited to casual outdoor weddings, it is also a popular choice for flower girl dresses.

cotton eyelet dress

 Guipure Lace also called Venise Lace
(Gee pee oor...I think...)
*Edit* according to my friend, it is pronounced guy-pure

Guipure is much heavier and more textural than the other laces and as such is often used on gowns for winter weddings.  Often called Venise lace (no, I did not misspell that although I have seen it spelled Venice too), there is no net or mesh background.  It comes in a huge variety of designs and motifs and is also popular as appliques instead of fabric. 
guipure venise lace

venise lace bridal

There are some gorgeous examples of gowns that use venise lace, but if you don't watch out... 
Hey girl, 1982 called and wants her dress back.

Ugly 1980s Wedding

Schiffli Lace 
(SHIF uh lee)
Lace pattern is embroidered onto a net backing fabric.  The patterns in the other laces are created when the lace itself is created.  It is particularly nice as an overlay fabric on top of tulle.  There is some ambiguity when it comes to schiffli lace--the term is used in several different ways.  It is often referred to as tulle lace or organza lace because these are almost always the backing fabrics.

Additionally, if you google schiffli lace, you will see lots of references to something called chemical lace, and you will see photos of what looks like venise lace.  Chemical lace is created by embroidering with one type of fiber onto a fabric of another type of fiber.  Then the fabric background is chemically disolved leaving only the embroidery behind. 

schiffli lace

I thought that Kate Middleton's gown was schiffli.  It certainly has that look from a distance.  But according to Wikipedia the bodice design was created by stitching lace appliques onto the netting.

"The lace bodice design was handmade using a technique that originated in Ireland in the 1820s called Carrickmacross, which involved cutting out rose detailing (symbolising England), thistles (Scotland), daffodils (Wales), and shamrocks (Ireland), individually applying them to the ivory silk tulle." --Wikipedia

 There are of course, dozens more types of lace.  These are just the basics of bridal lace vocabulary.

You might also want to have a look at my post on Bridal Necklines.