Posted on: July 21st, 2014
Posted on: July 18th, 2014
The way sewing used to be is the not the way sewing is today. That’s what we discuss last week, and for the most part, that’s what we agreed. Is that a good or a bad thing? The feelings were mixed. Roni made a good point, writing that because packaging gets thrown away, why spend time and money on the design, which causes more waste and increases the price? Very true. There was another opinion, and it came from one of my favorite sewing gals, Marce (have you joined Oonapalooza yet?). “I find myself picking these beauties up for display rather than use, though, to me, if something is beautiful or useful, it is not wasteful.” Touche. Since I was given a box full of vintage sewing notions, I haven’t used them. Just like Marce, I find myself wanting to save them, like a Laura Ashley or Lily Pulitzer dress.
But the vintage world has a message for us: be proud of your history. These mostly midcentury items fall into a category of hallowed design and should be highlighted. In the ready-to-wear fashion industry, archiving is important. Hello, vintage clothing? Even Cher Horowitz knew the value of a good Alaïa dress. “It’s like a totally important designer.”
I felt slightly guilty about not using the notions in my sewing, but photographing each one. But I’m not wasting them, actually, I’m using them, just in a different way. With each photograph, I’m savoring old-world sewing and showing others our history.
Do you have old sewing notions? Take a photo and upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #thewaysewingusedtobe
Posted on: July 16th, 2014
On November 8, 2014, thousands of sewers and DIY-ers worldwide will gather together for The Sewing Party, an online conference with over 30 classes relating to sewing and crafting. One of those classes, get ready for this, will be taught by me. And what will I be teaching? A live, step-by-step tutorial on how to make a bra from start to finish. Bramaking with Madalynne is the formal title.
For the last several months, I’ve been working behind-the-scenes like a madwoman to develop a course where I can bring my knowledge to you. The category of lingerie is a secret and heavily guarded, but it shouldn’t be. In one hour, I’ll cover choosing a bra pattern, finding your size, fabrics and trims, tips for tracing and cutting and constructing a full band, underwired bra. It is my goal that you “leave” not only understanding how to sew a bra, but why it is sewn the way it is. The why is important to me.
I’m a mixed bag of emotions. Nervous, excited, nervous and… nervous. When you start teaching, you put yourself out there to be criticized. Am I good at bra making? Do I know enough to teach others? What if people this I’m bogus? Those thoughts and more have been infiltrating my mind. I’ve been keeping these thoughts at bay by immersing myself in developing the course content, researching and sewing. The most difficult part, as I told Lauren, was defining my theories of bramaking. I’ve studied Beverly’s method, Amy’s method, Norma’s method and Novita’s method, but it is time to figure out my own.
I’ve always wanted to teach – one of my many mottos in life is it “pass it on” – and this experience was a great opportunity finally fulfill that goal. I also hope it will be a stepping stone to host in-person classes (don’t tell anyone, but that’s in the works for this fall/winter!).
Let’s talk more about The Sewing Party. To start, there is truly something for every crafter. Classes include home décor, fashion sewing, quilting and upcycling, crafting, costume design, techniques for turning your craft into an entrepreneurial venture, and more. For just $40, participants can attend workshops, chat with participants from across the country, interact with top bloggers and educational experts who are teaching and explore the latest crafting and sewing tips, techniques and products in our hobby.
As a teacher, I am offering free tickets to 5 Madalynne readers. To enter, like Madalynne and The Sewing Party on Facebook. For additional entries, follow Madalynne on Bloglovin and/or share the contest on one of your social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, twitter, etc). When you have entered, tell me so in the comments below. And be sure to leave your contact information! Winners will be chosen at random and notified on July 23rd. Contest is open domestically. Good luck!
Also, anyone who registers for The Sewing Party from Madalynne between July 15 and July 31 will receive a free The Sewing Party t-shirt. The t-shirts are super cute and valued at $20. Simply enter LETSPARTY in the promo code box when you register.
Posted on: July 14th, 2014
From my first step inside Perry Ercolino’s atelier, which sits two blocks west of Main Street in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the dedication to craftsmanship was evident. The smell of leather was intoxicating and so was the display of museum-worthy, bespoke shoes and their lasts. It was porn for any handmaker. Hidden behind the main worktable was Perry, one of the best, maybe the best, shoe maker around. His tale is uncomplicated and non-convoluted. His father was a shoemaker and he followed suit, no qualms or reservations about it. Today, his business is in the vanguard of a still-living-and-breathing, old-world trade. With each pair of shoes, he brings fresh verve to established styles and marries traditional tailoring with dandy designs. Opening prices are high, but men and women who pay top dollar for the most refined clothing shouldn’t fail at the final hurdle – shoes. For these customers, Perry is offering them a way to get out of the monochromatic maze of Cole Haan and Coach.
My history is simple. I grew up in the business. My father was a shoemaker here in Doylestown during the depression and his shop was a half a block away from mine. When he retired in the late 1970s, I took over the business and I’ve been here ever since.
The shoemaking process begins by tracing and measuring the customer’s right and left foot. We then take that tracing and overlay it with a 2-dimensional pattern of what the bottom of the shoe last should look like. For those unfamiliar, a last is a 3-dimensional model of the foot; like a dress form but for shoemakers. Once this is finished, we send it to a lastmaker in the U.K., who creates a carved, wooden mold. Once he send it back, I begin the process of making the pattern for the shoes by drawing the style line directly on to the last. After, I use those style lines to create the pattern pieces, including the lining (a shoe as two separate layers: one for the top of the shoe and one for the inside lining).
The leather pieces are cut and sewn together to make the “uppers,” or top layer, of the shoes. The uppers are then humidify and stretched over a wooden form so that they can take shape and mold to the wood before final assembly. After, we take special pieces of leather for the back as well as for the toe area and insert them between the top and lining with a special wheat paste. This helps form the heel and toe areas as well as keeps them rigid for the life of the shoes.
The final phase is to attach a wooden, shank piece to the bottom for support under the heel. At the same time, pieces of cork are added, which provide cushion under the ball of the foot. The leather outsole covers all of that and is sewn onto a strip of leather (welt) at the bottom edge. Once the outsole is permanently attached, it is shaped to the contours of the shoe’s bottom. The heel pieces are then attached and the shoes are polished and fitted for a pair of wood shoe trees that replicate the shape of the shoe lasts that the shoe was built on.
The whole process from start to finish takes approximately 65 hours (actual work time).
I source all my leathers overseas. I use French, English, Italian and German calf as well as some English suede. I use mostly French because it’s more durable. Italian leather is a softer, but that’s because they remove the “bottom crust,” which takes away some of the fiber structure and compromises durability.
In garment sewing, there are various fit points on the human figure: shoulder, waist, hip, etc. In shoemaking, we have the same thing, but our fit points are the inside ball joint, the outside ball joint, the fifth metatarsal head and the long heel joint.
President Obama. I didn’t meet him, but I was given his measurements/size to make a pair of shoes – oxfords.
I’m sure I’ve had aspirations to do something else. Host The Tonight Show…