Travel Style: London

I love London. The last time we visited was in the summer, so it was great to be able to experience London in the spring. Even though the weather was still a bit chilly in April, it was such a treat to walk around and be inspired by such a charming city! 


Spring tulips at Victoria Embankment Gardens. We stumbled upon this small sliver of a garden during a walk along the Thames River -- and were so glad we did! It was the perfect place to relax on a bench and enjoy the colorful blooms.


Interesting tulip variety at Victoria Embankment Gardens. Nature really is the master of colorwork. I especially loved how the tulips were arranged with groundcover-like flowers to create a blanket of colorful flowers -- definitely need to do that in my own garden.



More gorgeous blooms in St. James Park, on the path to Buckingham Palace. The beauty of the well-tended parks and gardens made the hordes of fellow tourists somewhat bearable!


Mutton sleeves at Harvey Nichols. I love the sleeves (of course!) and also the vibrant color combinations -- yellow, purple, fuschia, robin's egg blue -- that have taken a cue from nature's spring season.


Laduree macarons at Harrod's. Is there anything more beautiful -- or more delicious? We bought macarons for takeaway, but they have a pretty tea room as well, which would be a fabulous way to take a break from shopping.


Decadent baked goods at Harrod's food hall. The crowds were intense, but it was so fun to see artfully arranged foods of all kinds -- pastries, cakes, chocolates, produce, meats, prepared foods, etc. -- everything imaginable. One of the more interesting foods I encountered were dates stuffed with different fillings, such as pistachio and ginger. 


West End production of 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. This performance, in one of the oldest theaters in London (since 1663!), was stellar. And for a blast from the 80s, Sheena Easton was a part of the cast, and it was quite a treat to hear her sing. The theater is located in the Covent Garden area, which was buzzing pre- and post-theater. It was well worth getting to the area early to browse around and take in the scene.



Trafalgar Square at sunset. I love the mix of historical and modern -- how elements of the past can be preserved and incorporated into the modern world. 


Fabric shopping at Liberty of London. For me, no trip to London would be complete without a browse through the beautiful Liberty prints. As I was making some selections, including this wonderful "under the sea" print, I saw this little guy -- a stunning sewing machine that would look absolutely perfect in my work room! In addition to the fabrics, I love looking at the soaps, stationery and housewares -- such unique finds at this one-of-a-kind store.


I love taking afternoon tea. At the Corinthia Hotel's tea service, they brought out samplers of their teas on offer so you could smell and choose the ones you would like to try. It was such a relaxing and refined way to spend an afternoon. 



Westminster Abbey on Easter Sunday. It was a very crowded time in London, as you can see from the hordes surrounding the Abbey. But we had a fantastic time, especially because we chose to take in the city at a slow pace rather than rush around to all of the major sites. While we didn't make it to the Tower of London or ride the London Eye, we left the city with a full heart -- and a list of things to see on future trips!






Custom Tailoring: Bell Sleeve Jacket

Dramatic bell sleeves are the shape of the moment, and I absolutely adore them, but they aren't the most practical choice when you actually wear the style. Driving, eating, writing, texting -- voluminous bell sleeves can definitely get in the way of these must-do  tasks of daily life! So I designed a jacket with a baby bell sleeve -- one that captures the beautiful shape without so much volume that it gets in the way. 


Bell Sleeve Jacket: Here's the toile with a paper pattern of the bell-shaped cuff. I played around with different lengths and volumes for the bell shape, and thought this one would be just right. It has a delicately flared shape without too much drama -- definitely has the vibe of an updated classic style. 


Shawl Collar: Just to keep things interesting, I added a wide shawl collar, which looked especially cozy (and feminine) in this blush pink textured wool fabric. The raglan sleeves also make it comfortable to wear and a bit casual in vibe. 


Buttons: Choosing the right buttons -- the finishing touch on any outerwear garment -- is always challenging. I had four "finalists" for this jacket and ended up going with the smooth silver metallic one on the bottom left. It felt the most elegant of the four and I loved how, in the right light, the button would reflect some of the blush color. Lovely!


Hand-Stitching: I added a line of hand-worked feather stitches that served to hold down the back lining pleat and add a decorative, couture touch. In ready-to-wear, you won't see this detail -- if the jacket has a pleat (which all good jackets should, as it provides extra room across the back to alleviate any stress on the garment), it will be sewn down by machine. I also hand-tacked my label, which is something I like to do with all of my custom garments. 


Bell Sleeve Jacket: Here is the finished jacket. The bell detail is demure but still beautiful. It has rounded patch pockets and a two-button closure, complete with bound buttonholes. The length is a bit longer than a typical jacket.


The Bell Sleeve Jacket is one of my current fave styles. The raglan sleeves and longer length make it an easy to wear, "throw on and go" jacket, but it still has a lot of pulled-together style, thanks to the oversized shawl collar and bell sleeves. 


Custom Tailoring: Navy Jacket with a Twist (or Actually, a Ruffle)

A navy blue jacket is a must-have staple in every woman's wardrobe. It gives instant polish to a casual jeans outfit; becomes work-appropriate when paired with trousers and a blouse; and lends a cool preppy vibe to a pencil skirt and turtleneck. Because this is such a wardrobe workhorse, it is definitely worth the investment to select something unique, whether as ready-to-wear or as a custom-designed piece. 


I recently completed a custom-tailored project of a navy jacket with a cool ruffle collar in place of a more traditional notched collar. The jacket fabric is a wool/camel hair blend and the lining is silk charmeuse (of course!). 


Ruffle Collar Detail: The stand-up collar gently cascades down the deep v-neckline in front. Both elements help to elongate the neckline area and draw the eye up to the face. I love how the ruffles soften the seriousness of the navy blue blazer -- a truly feminine detail. 



Contrast-Color Buttonholes: Fun! In an effort to lighten up the navy blue, I worked bright pink buttonholes along the sleeve cuffs to add a subtle pop of color in a most unexpected place. Details like this are rare or non-existent in the ready-to-wear world -- but easily done in custom or couture.


Hand-Dyed Silk Charmeuse Lining: This is a very luxurious choice for the lining, but it is so wonderful against the skin. Only in a custom-made garment!


Matching Top: A benefit of creating a custom garment is being able to secure enough fabric to make a matching top. The gorgeous silk charmeuse used for the lining was also used to make a simple sleeveless top. 


Custom-Tailored Jacket: It is close-fitting with slim sleeves and princess seams. Two double-welt pockets are in front and the sleeve cuffs feature an elongated button placket. 


I love how this jacket turned out. It has a classic style but with a couple of interesting details that make it a true stand-out piece. For more information about tailoring, here's a blog post I wrote!



Custom Couture: Classic French Jacket

The Classic French Jacket is pure couture -- a classic piece inspired by Coco Chanel's iconic style. 


Coco Chanel: This classic will never go out of style. A clean silhouette and impeccable fit combined with luxurious fabrics and fabulous trims -- the perfect mix of comfort and relaxed elegance. 


I recently created a version of this classic style using a unique wool blend fabric. The inside is lined with luxurious silk charmeuse -- a soft, silky and shiny fabric that feels amazing against the skin.


Pink and Blue Wool Fabric: Strands of yarn and thread of varying thicknesses and textures -- some strands are kinked like a crepe; some are thick plies of wool yarn; and others are smooth threads -- are woven together to create this stunning fabric. If you look closely, you can see the pattern repeats that run vertically as well as horizontally. While the pattern variation is amazing, it made matching the patterns difficult!


A Classic French Jacket is comfortable to wear and has a nice relaxed look because it is generally made using a loosely woven, soft fabric; the lining is quilted to the main fabric to create one layer; and there is no traditional "inner construction" -- shoulder pads, reinforcements at the chest and back, etc. -- to add bulk and structure. 


Silk Charmeuse Lining: Here is an "inside" shot of the jacket, where the quilting lines are visible. Once each piece of the jacket is quilted, the main jacket pieces are sewn together and the lining seams are hand-stitched in place. This photo shows the hand-basting stitches -- long, temporary stitches that hold the fabric in place until it is permanently sewn. 


Because the silhouette is so simple, this jacket lends itself to embellishment. For this jacket, I chose to add something unexpected -- a length of braided denim!


Braided Denim Trim: I created a four-strand braid using lengths of repurposed denim fabric and "distressed" it with steam for a more frayed look. The main jacket fabric had  a lot going on, with the different textures, colors, etc., so I wanted a trim that would have some texture but could also frame the fabric and provide definition to certain areas, such as the pockets.


Buttons: I love the addition of metallic buttons to the cuffs and pocket tops. I think they lend elegance to the jacket, as well as a bit of bling! There are so many buttons to choose from, but these were the perfect complement to the busy print and the casual vibe of the denim trim. 


While it seems a waste to wear a couture-sewn garment as an every day piece, I think the fact that it will be worn often is the reason it should be a garment made with care. 



I love couture sewing -- it is the ultimate type of Slow Fashion, one that requires attention to even the smallest details to ensure a truly one-of-a-kind design. If you are interested, here's a blog post about couture sewing I wrote a while back!


Just the Details: Braided Denim Trims

A few years ago, a friend of mine made a trim using scraps of denim fabric. Such a creative idea -- and a great way to recycle old denim! 


Playing with Denim: I made three sample braids using bias strips of denim from a couple of pairs of old jeans. The top braid is a traditional three-strand braid; the middle braid is a four-strand braid; and the bottom one is a four-strand braid that mixed light and dark denim. I steamed each braid with an iron, which allowed the strips to fray a bit to create a more worn look -- which I love!


I cut two widths of bias strips -- 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch to see which one would work better. I found the 1/2-inch strips to be a bit bulky when braided and preferred the narrower 3/8-inch strips (shown in photo above). The look of the trim -- and therefore the "vibe" -- can be adjusted by changing the width of each strip; mixing colors; playing with different types of braiding; and tightening or loosening the tension while braiding. 


Braided Trim Vibes: Each braid has its own "personality". The loosely braided three-strand trim has a quiet simplicity -- it is narrower than the others and less complicated, and would be a good choice for a standout design that requires a non-competitive trim. The single-color, four-strand braid has more presence -- its tighter tension allows more of the braided texture to be visible, and its wider width makes it a perfect choice for a design that needs a prominent trim. The two-color, four-strand braid is the fun one of the three, I think. The intertwined colors and looser tension make it a bit more casual and would be a playful detail on any design.


If you are interested in learning more about making trims, there is a wonderful book with thorough instructions and tons of ideas. Check it out and be inspired!


Here's a link for the book: 200 Braids to Twist, Knot, Loop or Weave.

In the Studio: Making Patterns, Part 2

Using the right types of paper are important in making patterns, but marking tools such as tracing wheels and pens/pencils are just as important. Precise measurements and accurate lines/marks are critical in making patterns that provide the perfect fit, which is why tools such as tracing wheels and pens/pencils play a critical role in pattern drafting. Stable tracing wheels and perfectly sharp pencils ensure that notches marked on each pattern piece match; the grainlines are perfectly straight; and placement details such as buttons, buttonholes, belt loops, pockets, etc. are accurate. 


Tracing Wheels

Tracing wheels are handy little tools. They are used to trace lines, notches, points, etc. and, when used with tracing paper, transfer those marks to paper or fabric. For draped designs, any fitting changes marked on the muslin or test garment can be transferred to a flat paper pattern using a tracing wheel. They are indispensable and must be stable (no wobbling while tracing) and comfortable to hold -- both to ensure accuracy.


Tracing Wheels: Here are four tracing wheels that are commonly used for making patterns. I prefer using the bottom two, as they are the most stable (they don't wobble when I trace) and accurate. The one on the bottom, a needlepoint tracing wheel, is especially useful, as it yields are fine and precise perforated line, and can be used on fabric without tracing paper. The Clover version comes with two wheels that can be detached and moved to different slots on the holder to easily trace the stitching line and the parallel seam allowance width. Clever! 


Pencils and Pens

Believe it or not, the right pencils and pens can make a big difference in pattern making. The main thing to remember is that the points need to be kept sharp -- sharp points mean thin, accurate lines. 


Pencils and Pens: Mechanical pencils are the best for pattern making, at least in my opinion. They yield a sharp, precise line every single time, without having to be sharpened. Red pencils are needed to mark grainlines and notches. Fine Sharpie markers are great for noting special instructions on the patterns, such as plaid fabric patterns, stripe patterns, etc. Extra fine pens are perfect for writing the reference information for each pattern piece (name, size, etc.). 






In the Studio: Making Patterns, Part 1

One of the less glamorous aspects of making clothes is making patterns -- the process of taking an idea and drafting a set of pattern pieces that, when sewn in fabric, will reflect the original idea and fit the curves of a body. Paper is one of the most important tools, so there are different types for every stage of the pattern-making process.


When I work on patterns, I tend to use three types of paper: medical paper, alpha-numeric dotted paper and manila tag board.


Medical paper -- a thin, slightly transparent paper that is often used in medical offices -- is ideal for design testing. It is delicate and tears easily, but it is the least expensive option, so it is easy to make mistakes and toss them into the recycling bin without feeling guilty! Medical paper is also great for tracing commercial patterns, so you can keep the original patterns uncut and pristine, in case you need to make different sizes in the future.


For patterns with folded details, such as pleats, medical paper would work well for the pleated inserts. In the pattern piece above, the folded pleats were kind of stiff to work with -- medical paper would have made it easier and neater to fold. 


After the patterns have been refined, they can be traced to alpha-numeric dotted paper, which is thicker and has "dots" of letters and numbers that can be used as guides for grainlines, CF and CB lines, etc. The weight of this paper is similar to standard printing paper, so the patterns made from this paper are much sturdier than those made with medical paper. It is more expensive, so it is ideal for near-final patterns as well as for the final set of pattern pieces for a design. 


Manila tag board is a stiff paper that is perfect for pattern pieces that will be used often, such as slopers (base patterns for a given size). In this photo, the tag board sloper is beneath the pattern pieces that were drafted from the sloper. 


Manila tag board is an indispensable paper for slopers (base patterns) and designs that are made multiple times. Because tag board is as stiff as card stock, it is sturdy and can be used many times. It comes in different weights, but the heavyweight variety (150 weight) seems to be the most versatile. It is more expensive than the lighter weight varieties (100 or 125), but it is worth it, because patterns transferred to tag are meant for heavy use and longevity. 


Here are some resources if you are interested!

Medical Paper: Medline Exam Table Paper (Amazon)

Alpha-Numeric Dotted Paper: IDS (International Design Supplies)

Manila Tag Board: Atlas Levy Sewing Machine Co.








Behind the Scenes: GEV Magazine Photo Shoot

Last month, I was fortunate enough to participate in a fashion editorial photo shoot for GEV Magazine, a quarterly lifestyle magazine focused on food and fashion -- two of my faves! The issue was just published last week, and it is very exciting to see some of my designs. Thank you to the GEV team, especially Vincent Gotti Photography, Onset with Josette and Mayra Christina Swatt for including my designs and working so hard to create such beautiful images. 


Stunning Mayra Christina Swatt modeled my Leather-Trim Swing Coat (left) and Flounce Cape (right), both available as made-to-measure designs. In addition to showing off my designs beautifully, Mayra is a perfectly petite model at 5'4" in height.


The photo shoot location was the Swatt House in Lafayette, CA, an iconic, architect-designed home that also serves as the family's residence. 


Candid shot during the photo shoot. The indoor and outdoor spaces of the house flowed seamlessly and provided a number of opportunities for different types of shots. 



Hair and make-up artist, Onset with Josette, creating a dramatic make-up look for this gorgeous gown.


This editorial shoot highlighed the theme of "Chroma" -- purity of color -- a new makeup trend for the season. Josette selected three main color themes, beige, aubergine and auburn, and played with shades within each theme to create monochromatic looks that tied together eyes, cheeks and lips. 


Candid shot of my Shawl-Collar Swing Coat paired with an evening gown. While it didn't make the cut for the editorial, I love the nonchalance of draping a tailored coat over something dressy. The combination is unexpected and a natural statement-maker. 






Just the Details: Coats with Pleated Linings

It's coat season! When looking for a new coat or warm jacket, be sure to look for a detail that is often overlooked -- a lining with a pleat along the center back. Well-made coats and jackets will have this pleat, because it reduced strain on the garment and provides additional wearing ease. 


Lining with Back Pleat: Decorated with a line of feather-stitches, a hand-stitch technique that is pretty to look at and functional, as it serves to hold down the pleat in intervals along the center back.


Another detail to look for is extra stitching that secures small sections of the pleat. Without this extra stitching, the back pleat could billow out and bunch up inside. Generally, these sections are stitched by machine, but in couture garments, hand-stitching techniques are used, which can be decorative as well as functional. Feather-stitch is commonly used for back pleats, as it is decorative, secure and relatively easy to do. Here's a great tutorial on how to do this stitch -- it would be a fun way to jazz up a RTW coat lining, especially if you use a metallic or contrast-color thread. Give it a try!

Just the Details: Choosing Buttons

I love buttons and how they come in so many shapes, sizes, colors and materials. They can be plain and functional, such as simple shell buttons on a button-down shirt, or statement-makers, such as handmade or vintage buttons on a special coat or cape. So many options!



Pleat Collar Shirt: The simple shell buttons on this blouse do not detract from the design details -- they are simple, classic and functional. 


Pleat Collar Shirt Detail: Especially on a shirt with a vibrant print, these simple buttons become purely functional. 


Curvy Coat: These textured silver metal buttons enhance the cool tone of the pink wool coating fabric and the silver snaps underneath the buttons. The raised neckline and shorter sleeves have a mod vibe to them, which I think is carried through with the button choice. 


Curvy Coat Detail: The buttons stand out and are attractive on their own, but they do not distract from the curved seams -- which are the main design features of this coat.


One thing you may not have thought about is how much buttons can enhance or detract from a garment. An expensive blouse with inexpensive-looking buttons can cheapen the look of the entire blouse. Conversely, a less expensive coat with special buttons can serve to elevate the entire look. If you find a garment you love but are not all that excited about the buttons, one option is to buy it anyway and replace the buttons!



Lantern Coat: Even though this coat is all black, the shiny glass buttons still stand out as a cool detail. 


Lantern Coat Detail: Here's a detail shot of the glass buttons and custom-covered snaps that function as the closure (so the beautiful buttons can stay decorative). I think the buttons add a quiet elegance to the entire garment.


 When choosing buttons, here are some tips!


Pick out a few different button options in a variety of colors and materials -- metal, plastic, shell, nut, fabric, etc. Explore different shapes as well, such as round, rectangular, square, flower-shaped, if they suit the overall design. You never know what might work once you place the button on the fabric, step back and scrutinize!


Measure the length of the buttonholes and choose buttons that are either the same length (if the buttons you are considering are flat and small, such as for a shirt or top) or 1/8" smaller than the buttonhole opening (important for buttons with shanks, larger buttons and thicker fabrics). Make sure to test out the buttons to ensure they fit the buttonholes without strain.


If you live near a fabric store with a large button selection (Britex Fabrics in San Francisco and Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley are the places I like to go to here in the Bay Area), take your garment and spend some time exploring the options. You never know -- you may discover the perfect button in a color, texture or shape that you never considered before!











Just the Details: Bound Buttonholes

A bound buttonhole is one of my favorite couture details because it is functional but also beautiful. It is a strong design element that stands out, makes a definite statement and adds polish to any garment.


Jean Kaori Custom-Tailored Wool Coat: These bound buttonholes are immensely more interesting than typical machine-sewn buttonholes because a contrast fabric that coordinates perfectly with the trim is used to create the "lips" of the buttonholes.


Bound buttonholes are generally rectangular in shape, with pieces of folded fabric -- the "lips" -- that meet in the middle to create the opening. No threads are visible, which is why this type of buttonhole looks so clean and neat. They are most often found on outerwear or on garments where button closures are a key aspect of the design. 


Jean Kaori Made-to-Measure Long Jacket: Bound buttonholes can look more discreet when the "lips" are made in the same fabric as the garment.


Bound buttonholes are considered a couture detail because they require skill and practice to make well. Hallmarks of a beautiful bound buttonhole are evenly sized "lips" and perfectly square and sharp corners -- easier to write about than create! 



Jean Kaori Custom-Tailored Wool Coat: I used bound buttonholes for the back belt of this coat -- a fun way to add a pop of color and continue the design detail from the front of the coat. 



Raising Awareness: Today is NET Cancer Day

Physicians are often taught that "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." When confronted with a set of fairly generic symptoms, physicians will tend to identify common conditions as the cause rather than something rare or exotic. However, if the cause is a "zebra", the consequences can be devastating. 


Today, November 10, is NET Cancer Day -- a day dedicated to raising awareness of this rare disease -- a zebra rather than a horse. My family has been impacted this year, so this cause is particularly significant for me.



Neuroendocrine tumors -- NET Cancer -- is a rare cancer type that is often misdiagnosed until it reaches advanced stages. Because It can affect younger people in their 30s and 40s, typical symptoms that signal NET cancer -- excessive diarrhea, abdominal pain, flushing -- are often thought to be due to conditions other than cancer, leading to a delay in a diagnosis and treatment. 


Awareness is key. An imaging scan can confirm if abdominal pain is just acid reflux or something as serious -- and rare -- as NET cancer. Ask questions and be proactive about the possibilities. For more information, check out Net Cancer Day -- and spread the word!



Making Clothes: Shaped Hem Facing

One of my favorite techniques for hemming skirts is to sew a shaped hem facing. Unlike the more common method of folding up the hem to the wrong side and sewing it in place, a shaped hem facing is a separate piece that is fitted precisely to the hem of the skirt to create a flat and beautifully finished band along the hem. 


Shaped Hem Band: A two-inch wide band finishes the hem of a flared wool skirt. This technique is useful when the main fabric is bulky, as the shaped hem band can be made using a thinner fabric that will not add additional bulk at the hem. 


A shaped hem band works best for flared styles that are difficult to fold up and hem, but the technique can also be used to reduce bulk when the main fabric is thick; to add a design detail by using a contrast color or a fancy trim; and to add shaping or weight by using horsehair braid. 


Shaped Hem Band Pattern Drafting: Any skirt pattern can be used to draft a shaped hem facing. Take the pattern piece and trace the hem, including seam allowances all around. Determine how high you want the band to be -- typically skirt hems are 1 to 1.5 inches, but can be higher as desired. Make sure to mark the correct grain line. 


Generally, facings are interfaced to provide stability, but for this technique, it would be a good idea to test whether interfacing would provide too much bulk or stiffness to the hem. The facing is understitched -- an extra row of stitches sewn to the facing to encourage it to stay on the wrong side of the skirt -- which means there are extra stitches that could make the hem stiffer than what you want. 


Shaped Hem Facing Sewing: For my sample skirt, I chose not to interface the facing because I underlined the main fabric with fusible weft interfacing to stabilize the wool. Keeping the facing soft allowed the flared hem to maintain drape. 


After sewing the facing to the hem, understitching the seam allowance to the facing and trimming away the excess seam allowance, press the facing to the inside of the skirt, using steam to perfect the shape. For my sample skirt, I chose to fold under the seam allowance along the upper edge of the facing and sew it by hand. This creates the cleanest finish. Another option is to serge the upper edge and stitch in place. 


This technique is a bit more time consuming, but I think the results are worth it! 





Travel Style: Germany and Switzerland

I just returned from an awesome trip to southern Germany and Zurich, Switzerland! It was a short trip, so I didn't have a lot of time for sight-seeing and, regrettably, did not shop for fabrics, trims, etc.  I hope I have the opportunity to visit this beautiful region of the world again.


Sewing Magazine: I found this at the train station -- a Burda-like sewing magazine! The designs are simpler and more basic, but it includes pattern sheets, so I may try a style or two.


Ulm Munster: This imposing Gothic cathedral is one of the tallest in this area of Germany. It is the main sight in the city of Ulm -- its lofty spires can be seen from all parts of the city. 


Climbing to the Top of Ulm Munster: For breathtaking views of Ulm and its environs, I climbed to the top of the Ulm Munster by way of steep, corkscrew staircases -- nearly 800 steps to the top! The staircases were very narrow and the climb was pretty strenuous, so I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. 


Views from the Top of Ulm Munster: That said, the views from the top were stunning, even on a cloudy and foggy day.


Kaffee und Kuchen: The German tradition of coffee and cake in the afternoon is something I can definitely support! I had a delicious apple hazelnut cake + latte macchiato at Cafe Troglen, a beautiful cafe across from the Ulm Munster. The storefront downstairs had fabulous chocolates and marzipan treats that were perfect takeaways for later.


Wiblingen Monastery: Just a short bus ride away from Ulm, this imposing structure (and expansive grounds) is best known for its beautiful library. 


Library at Wiblingen Monastery: It was pretty over the top, but beautiful in its ornate-ness. Interestingly, the statues are carved of wood and painted white to resemble marble -- different from the ones in Italy that are actually marble!


Esslingen am Neckar: This super cute town is in Germany's wine country, so the slopes surrounding the town are covered in beautiful grapevines. This gorgeous medieval building houses the unexpected -- a yarn shop + cafe!


Esslingen am Neckar: Climbing part of the old city wall reveals gorgeous views of the city. 


Lake Constance (Bodensee): Views of the lake from the car ferry that connects Meersburg with Konstanz would have been more striking on a sunny day, but it was still beautiful nevertheless. 


Zurich: St. Peter's Church is best known for its imposing clock tower, which has the largest clock face in Europe. The fall colors were just beautiful throughout the city.


Zurich: Strolling Bahnofstrasse, a shopping avenue that links the main train station with Lake Zurich, was such a treat. I couldn't resist taking a photo of these amazingly cute shoes -- a fun interpretation of ballerinas!




FW16/17: Transitioning To Fall

While autumn officially begins in just a couple of days, it still feels like summer around here in the SF Bay Area! But the weather will definitely begin to cool soon, so I know that my thoughts will quickly begin to turn to cozy hand-knits, chic outerwear and tailored basics. 



Because I like to make outerwear and I like to knit, the cooler months of fall and winter tend to be my fave times of year. I'm also more of a mix-and-match kind of person, so I think it is fun to try to style pieces and outfits to be appropriate for different kinds of occasions and seasons. In addition to throwing on a coat or a cape, other ways to extend pieces into the fall and winter seasons are with layering and accessorizing. Here are some of our looks that will work well for the transitional season. 


Pleat-Collar Shirt + High-Low Swing Skirt: A classic button-down shirt is pretty much an all-season piece, but the elevated pleat collar and long gathered sleeves make this one a bit more fall-ready. Select a cool cotton -- solid or print -- for the most versatility. A swingy skirt will always be a fun addition to any wardrobe. This one can be made as an unlined version in a stretch cotton sateen or it can be lined and made in a cotton/poly woven pattern. 


High-Low Swing Skirt + Special Order Long Vest: Cotton fabric, especially a bottom-weight stretch sateen like this one, is a perfect transitional fabric. A lining isn't needed -- just a beautiful finish on the inside with bias binding! -- so you don't have an extra layer of fabric to add warmth. When the weather is warm, wear it like this; when the weather cools, layer on a turtleneck and some tights!


In the meantime, I'll be waiting for the day when I can start to wear one of my beloved hand-knits!


A selection of hand-knits in preparation for the seasonal transition (from top to bottom): Bright Pink Peplum Vest, Variegated Burgundy Cardi, Cropped and Cabled Fisherman's Funnel Neck, Chunky Turquoise Sleeveless Turtleneck, and Gray Duster Coat.


 Thanks for reading!





Food Style: Strawberry Cream Pie from Merriman's Hawaii

I love food. I love to cook and eat, but I wouldn't really call myself a foodie -- maybe a sort-of-a foodie, as I have a deep appreciation for good food and fine dining, but have been known to chow down on things with "Cheez" in their names (not often, but sometimes!). I know food isn't really fashion, but I love it so much that I'd like to share some of my food-related musings here with you, just to mix things up a bit.


For the last several years, every trip to Hawaii has included a special dinner at Merriman's Restaurant in Waimea on the Island of Hawaii. The cuisine is Hawaiian regional and every dish reflects their strong commitment to using and showcasing locally sourced ingredients. Everything I've tried there has been excellent -- just can't go wrong with any dish. This past July, I was fortunate enough to purchase their new cookbook titled, "Merriman's Hawaii" -- and lugged it home in my carry-on bag. 


Took a quick shot of the cookbook while still dining at Merriman's Waimea!


Well, it was well worth the lugging, as my first try -- the Strawberry Cream Pie -- turned out to be absolutely delicious! I wanted to make this before the strawberries began to dwindle at the local farmer's market. So glad I did. 

My version: a tartlet, which was a great choice, as it made it easier to eat and looked so pretty on each plate.


I made a few adjustments. Instead of a full 9-inch pie, I made 6 tartlets, each generously filled and mounded with the tasty cream cheese - whipped cream - powdered sugar mixture and topped with sliced strawberries. Unfortunately, I didn't have guava jelly to use as a glaze, so my strawberries are naked. Still tasted good though, just not as attractive to look at as the photo in the cookbook. 


The cookbook is full of recipes for starters, meats, fish and veggies as well -- not just desserts. Some recipes, like the Wok-Charred Ahi, is one that I've enjoyed at the restaurant, so I'm looking forward to tackling that one!






FW16/17: Color-Blocked Capelet

A capelet is one of the most versatile pieces to wear. It isn't too long and cumbersome. It can be dressed up or made more casual, depending on how you style it. There are no sleeves or closures to fuss with -- just toss it over your shoulders and head out the door!


Our Color-Blocked Capelet in navy wool with bright pink wool contrast. Fully lined.



The design is a shorter and more versatile version of our Flounce Cape, which was a luxurious, long-length garment for more formal occasions. 


Flounce Cape from FW15.


The shorter length makes it easier to toss on, and with less fabric to manage, it is much more wearable with different outfits. There are no closures, so when putting it on, just line up the topstitched shoulder seams with your shoulders and you are ready to go. The drama of this capelet comes from the generous flounce collar, which can be worn up or folded down. 



For this version, which can work for day or night, we used a beautiful wool flannel in a rich navy blue, and added a contrast facing along the flounce collar in a bright pink wool. For dressier options, a heavy-weight silk or cashmere coating would be luxurious choices. 


Lining for the Color-Blocked Capelet.


Contact us so we can help you create your own Color-Blocked Capelet. Thanks for stopping by!


Fall/Winter 16/17 Preview: Classic and Feminine Details

For Fall/Winter 16/17, we were inspired by classic styles -- capelet, coat, button-down shirt and flared skirt -- and added feminine details to make them special for the new season.



We love flounces because they are fun and add just the right amount of movement to a garment. For this season, we added a small flounce to our Color-Blocked Capelet -- a classic style that can dress up an outfit in an instant. 


Color-Blocked Capelet: The flounce at the collar isn't overwhelming (perfect for petite frames!) and adds just the right amount of interest to the face and neckline. 



While we are big fans of tailored pencil skirts, sometimes a bit of swing created from flares is a vibrant way to cheer up a work day. Our High-Low Swing Skirt was designed with this in mind -- serious enough for work but perfect for some mid-day twirling!


High-Low Swing Skirt: The fitted yoke that extends from waist to high hip (where your hip bone is located) ensures a flattering fit. The skirt gets its movement from the all-around flares and the wide hem band on the inside hem of the skirt, which gives the hem weight and enough body to provide serious twirl.


Pleats and Gathers

We took a basic button-down shirt and made it more feminine with a fitted shape, a stand-up pleated collar and gathered sleeves. It has a bit of an Elizabethan feel, which seems right in line with the romantic looks of the season.


Pleat-Collar Shirt: We love how the collar serves to frame the face -- it almost looks like a flower!


Pleat-Collar Shirt: The gathered sleeves aren't as full as true Bishop Sleeves, but there's enough gathering to give it a beautiful shape at the wrist.  


Shawl Collars

We think that shawl collars are one of the most feminine collar types out there. They are rounded in shape and their soft, curved lines elongate and enhance the neckline. Our Shawl-Collar Swing Coat features a wide version of this collar (wide but still flattering for petite frames).


Shawl-Collar Swing Coat: This knee-length coat can be worn without the tie belt for a loose and swingy feel. When belted, the waist shaping creates a beautiful feminine silhouette. 


We're excited for the FW16 season!

Journeys: Behind-the-Scenes of FW15, Final

As I’ve written about in my series, Journeys: Behind-the-Scenes of FW15, making beautiful clothes is a process that requires many specialized skills. 


There is so much knowledge needed to choose the right fabrics for a given design; draft patterns that fit real bodies; grade patterns to fit different sizes proportionally while maintaining the original design; and sewing garments that are beautifully finished.



Part 1 focused on finding inspiration and choosing fabrics for the FW15 collection.


Part 2 covered the nuts and bolts of transforming the vision of FW15 into reality – testing sewing details; drafting patterns; and making many, many samples.


Part 3 discussed pattern grading and how every original design is proportionally translated, without distortion, to smaller and larger sizes. Once graded, the patterns are made into markers – efficient layouts of the pattern pieces that are used as a guide for cutting out the fabric.


Part 4 reviewed the sewing process and the different types of sewing – from couture, which is the most highly skilled, to production, which is how all of the ready-to-wear clothes sold in stores are made.


The result? A beautiful FW15 collection!



I hope this series was helpful in giving you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of designing and making clothes. Send me a note if you have any questions -- would love to hear from you! As always, stay connected with us on PinterestInstagramTwitter or Facebook