i am a community college proud whore. attending a cc allowed my not so ivy league ass to attend a very ivy league university for the last two years of school and graduate amongst a throng of folks much nerdier than myself. and then, years later, while experiencing a mild quarter life crises, a cc allowed me to take affordable classes that fit my work schedule to discover a brand new life passion / part-time career. if it weren’t for portland community college’s (pcc) continuing education department (which is one of the largest in the country – booyah), i know for a fact that i wouldn’t have had banging classes taught by teachers who gave a shit. more than a shit. so much more that, one of my teachers, eileen celentrano, was thoughtful enough to bring me a threads magazine that profiled nicolas caito, the talent behind new york city’s most prestigious pattern making atelier. and oy vey, what a seriously handsome frenchie.
in a heady, naive move, i contacted the atelier via their website asking about internships and after a short interview over the phone the following week, i was asked to come into the studio for an in-person chat and a draping trial. i have never been more motivated in all my days. i draped and re-draped every garment i could in the weeks leading up to the interview and then with money i didn’t have, i flew across the country to compete with students from fit and parsons and central saint martins for one of three internship slots. and then the email came. whatever amount of desperation i exhibited in that studio must’ve been palpable. for the next four glorious months, i worked 40 hours a week (no pay, not a dime) learning my dream trade while at night i slept on an air mattress deep in brooklyn and ate beans and rice for dinner. but holy fuck was it worth it. it was the most exhilarating, nerve wracking and marvelous experience of my life. i still sit sometimes and daydream about climbing those five flights of stairs up to the studio, hanging up my faux fur coat, hat and gloves (dead of winter in nyc is NO. JOKE.) and being handed a design sketch by proenza schouler or creatures of the wind or one of a handful of esteemed nyfw designers and being told in that perfectly curt, i’ll-cut-a-bitch tone by one of the head pattern makers to make it happen (a muslin prototype of the garment). which i would spend the next 8, sweaty, nerve and adrenaline-filled hours doing. i had the esteemed privilege to create a skirt from scratch for proenza schouler and work on the finale runway dress for creatures of the wind. here’s some of the other entrees to come out of nicolas’ studio, most which end up somewhere fancy, like the new york times fashion magazine. and here’s a proenza schouler jacket i spied in the times mag many months after being back home from new york.
i’m telling y’all – internship of a LIFETIME (and last time, i told myself, that i would likely ever work again for free). nicolas is such hot stuff that a fashiony blog interviewed him at the studio while i was knee deep in a muslin draping and this photo ended up being published. i love it because when i feel like the whole experience was something i dreamt up, this reminds me that it did in fact go down.
oh, the things you can do before chillrun!!! dammit. just kidding. sort of. aaanyway, four months later and having had the easy opportunity to stay in new york and get work with my newfound pattern making chops (my mentor at the studio, the incomparable dylan abrams, is now the senior studio manager for alexander wang, NBD), i made the decision to come back to portlandia where my folks and my fuck buddy were patiently waiting. my folks were happy to see me and my fuck buddy proposed two days after my return so you know, all things for a reason.
(another fun piece to the whole nicolas caito story is that after my interview while waiting to hear if i landed the internship or not, i was googling the hell out of caito and stumbled upon a blog portlander hannah flor used to write where she essentially had the exact parallel experience as i, just a few years before me. i became enamored with her after reading her blog posts and after my stint with caito, i ended up contacting hannah and got to meet her lovely self for coffee and pattern making gossip. it was wonderful. i believe she is still in new york, working as a freelance pattern maker out of a studio in brooklyn!)
a recent and welcome addition to my mom life lately was the offer from pcc to teach a beginning sewing class, the very same beginning sewing class that i had taken several years ago. i actually took over the class after my dear friend and sewing mentor of sorts passed away suddenly. it was a bittersweet moment accepting the position but i do it for jean and i think about her each week in that classroom. i’ve enjoyed the teaching so immensely that i started offering new classes so here we are – a shout-out to my side gig! in a totally undeserved move, after teaching just two semesters, pcc interviewed me and put it in their fall 2014 catalog. i also owe this press to jean, as it was the story of how i became a teacher that interested the school. thank you miss jean. here’s that ink and the info for the three summer courses coming down the pipe, if you or anyone you know is interested.
aaanyways, i say all that to say this; i miss sewing. hella hella. i miss cranking up a podcast of the splendid table or fresh air or starting the entire suede-bound box set of sex and the city series over and blacking out for hours on end at my patterning table tweaking a garment. pushing sebe out was definitely a game changer on many levels and not that i’d want to change anything, i just wish for double the amount of hours in the day so that i can be super momtastic and get my seamstress on. i fo sho cherish the sweet sebe-free hours i get every here and there. one of those here and theres was this past weekend, which started with a bike ride to delish vegan eatery vita cafe on alberta street to suck down multiple cups of coffee and indulge with girlfriends. after brunch, we walked across the street to bristlecone, a most adorable vintage shop run by my girl audie.
i’m having the most bubblegum pink moment of my life and the gingham was so springtime-picnic that i snagged it. after trying it on at home, i realized i wasn’t in love with the elastic waistband nor where it was placed (these dresses are never built for the short torso’d among us, are they?) and i wasn’t sure i was into the marmy length. again people, just because you have the chillrun, doesn’t mean you can’t dress like your inner ‘yonce is asking you to. since it’s been fo-ever since i did anything with a needle and thread and i’m hoping this blog will put a stop to that, let’s do a little garment altering shall we? word.
first to go was the waistband. when i turned the dress inside out, i realized that i had in my presence a lovingly handmade piece.
none of the seam allowances were finished, which is a fail and one i’ll have to go back and remedy by zig-zagging all the seam allowance edges so that the fraying doesn’t get so bad that it compromises the sewn seams but other than that, the dress was put together adorably. oh haiii sebe happy playing with his hamburger stickers.
trusty seam ripper in hand, i first undid the elastic casing holding the elastic in place and then took out that casing and elastic. like this.
than the dress looked like this.
getting better! i could have left it like this if i wanted – tented oversize thangs are so on trend right now, right? but i was like, ah to hell with it, i’m already spending time on this, let’s keep going. so next i took out the collar and collar facing. so now the neckline looks like this.
at this point, taking apart the collar and using some of that fabric to make a cute little neckline and then hemming the skirt length to whatever (from ankle-grazing to cho-cha grazing) would finish this off but i really want to turn the long skirt into palazzo’ish pants, throw in a center front zipper and rename this cutie a jumpsuit…i will try and take the appropriate time/photos/explanatory verbiage and do this in a separate post! love you mean it!
* experiment with what your diddy will look like if you decide to a) shorten the hem or b) go for the jumpsuit! *