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’70s Retro Skirt

Among the many projects I have ongoing in connection to Damask Raven is a new wardrobe.  Like many people, I tend to have the wardrobe items I favor and wear over and over again, typically for many years, until they either fall apart, or I out grow them.

Stupid donuts…why do you have to be so tasty?

So decided to make a video of my sewing process.  First up was a new skirt.  And in keeping with my own preference for looser clothing with a little flare, I opted to start with Simplicity Pattern 8019.

Cute right? It turns out REALLY cute in silk.

The first choice was which of the many silks available to me did I want to use?  I opted for Silk Satin, and because I wanted a little body to my skirt, I opted to flat line it with Silk Organza.  In addition to providing flare to the otherwise languid silk satin, by flat lining with silk organza, I am testing a theory about seam slippage.  I think that the organza will add just enough heft and durability to the seams to avoid slippage.  And the only way to see if I’m right is to make the skirt, and wear it a lot.  We’ll see.

On to construction.  Due to how light the individual filaments are, silk can fray quite a bit.  So the first thing I did after cutting out was to serge the lining to the fashion pieces.  This cuts down fraying to none at all and allows for easier construction.  Also allows me to press the seams open in stead of to the sides, which cuts bulk at the waist line.  The other glorious part of flat lining with organza is that I did not need any iron on interfacing at all.  Silk Organza is a FANTASTIC sew in interfacing, so there was no need for additional interfacing pieces to be cut. 

Overall, I love how the skirt turned out; however there are a few things I would do differently.  I would have cut the pieces a little longer so I had room to play with the hem line.  As I plan to wear this skirt often for work, I couldn’t cut it to mini-skirt lengths.  However, with my bodacious-ly curvy butt, I was hard pressed to keep the hem at a decent length.  I also would have cut the organza shorter and brought of the fashion fabric for a blind hem stitch to the organza.  I think the organza added to the difficulty in hemming by adding unneeded bulk at the hem line. 

Things I learned specific to this skirt: How to very carefully create decorative button holes, like the ones I did use from Urban Threads.  You don’t know the meaning of terror until you are on button hole number 5, the other 4 turned out perfectly, and your damn cat jumps on your sewing table

The fuzzy butted jerk face who almost gave me a heart attack.

So here it is.  7 hours of work cut down and sped up to a 20 minute video showing all my hard efforts on this skirt.

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The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman, an entrepreneurial love story

I have no problem reviewing books, but have typically steered clear of reviewing movies.  This is due largely to there are enough blogs out there that review and critique the film industry.  Why should my opinion count in this most selective of fields?  And I mostly want to keep the focus of Damask Raven on silk and sewing.  Yet I find I am unable to stop thinking about The Greatest Showman.

I was a little ambivalent about this movie owing to some early conceptions about PT Barnum.  Then I read a review from an unexpected area,  This made me think I should at least go watch the movie. And I am ever so glad I did.  

Telling the start of PT Barnum’s circus, this movie is a love song to the entrepreneurial spirit.  While certainly set in the 19th century, when PT Barnum started his eponymous circus, the costuming is not historical.  It nods to the early Victorian era, but made no pretenses to accuracy, instead choosing to highlight the overarching story in glorious vibrant color.  All of which was underscored by a fantastic soundtrack.

The movie is, yes, a musical.  And the original score is fantastic, filled with heart pumping rhythms and gorgeous harmonies, easy to sing along with.  I may or may not have purchased the soundtrack.  I may or may not listen to this everyday to get me psyched up about chasing my own dreams.  Musicals tend to be hit or miss with me, but this one was a solid strike.  The songs promote and advance the story line, moving everything along to the finish, when I just kind of wanted to stay and watch it again.  

So yes, I loved this movie.  I loved how it told a story of chasing your dreams, pivoting when needed, and becoming everything you can be.  It told important lessons on focusing on your strengths and not chasing public opinion.  On being true to your own vision.  This light telling made me want to learn more about PT Barnum and what other lessons I might be able to learn from him.  Which is everything a good story should do.  It should leave you wanting to know more, to keep seeing through the eyes of the characters involved.  In this, The Greatest Showman lived up to it’s name.

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A brief review for knits

I will readily admit that sewing knit fabrics is not my strongest skill set.  I understand some fundamentals, I understand the zig zag stitch versus straight stitch.  I know that knits are typically serged when not sewn with zig zag stitch on a standard machine.  I do know that any fiber can be knit, including silk.  And that taps me out. So before I really did anything with knitted fabric (cotton to start, sorry), I reached for Sew Knits with Confidence by Nancy Zieman.

Of course, generations of seamstresses grew up watching Sewing with Nancy, but what really brought the book to mind was the sad announcement of Nancy’s passing on November 14, 2017.  After taking a moment to say a quick prayer for Nancy and her family, I realized I had never actually picked up this book which I purchased to learn how to sew with knits.  It is a very quick read, at 127 pages long.  Half of those pages are easily projects, which of course makes sense.  Once the know how has been described, giving you projects to work on so you can immediately apply that knowledge is just good sense.

And of course it was well written, easy to understand, with clear guidelines of the different supplies that make sewing with knits easy.  Nancy clearly explains what the different knits are, how to identify them, and which projects you would use each knit type for.  Nancy explains how to use either a sewing machine or a serger, which pins to use, double needle use on a standard machine, and how to achieve certain effects with a serger.  A lot of it is common sense stuff, once you understand the basic differences between knit and woven fabrics.  Mostly, reading Sew Knits With Confidence carried with it all the nostalgia of watching Nancy on television. 

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That moment when…

That moment when

That moment when you realize you haven’t written a blog post in over two months.  Yikes!  That’s just bad business.  This was not an intentional disconnect.  I’ve been vacillating between blog and vlog or a hybrid thereof.  I’ve been working consistently behind the scenes.  Which would be fine, except that I am also the in front of the scenes person.

So, bluntly, I need to do better.  I may not have the  largest following, but the people who do follow me deserve a little more attention and communication from me.  So here is an up to date status report of Damask Raven.

I have been working on multiple projects and I have video and photography of all projects.  I have been working on updating the website, making it more user friendly and easier to navigate and shop.  I’ve been planning out which events Damask Raven will be vending at this year.  And as soon as I have confirmed dates, I will post them.  I’ve been reading books so I can add reviews to my blog as well.

I have been creating a bona fide work schedule for myself so that I can get back to a regular posting schedule.  I have been searching out new markets and venues.

Mostly at this point I am annoyed with myself.  Two months is an unacceptable length of time between posts.  So I will do better.  I will be more consistent with posting.  So that those of you who have been following along while I build my business can see what progress I make…and be very aware when I backslide in to two months with no communication or progress.

And I am sorry.  To myself for letting Damask Raven’s voice go silent for so long.  And to you for leaving you in the dark about all things silk related for far to long.

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New Measurements

New Measurements using this Book!

So it’s been awhile since I posted anything.  Not to say I’ve given up on blogging (no…no such luck. Sorry folks!).  But I did have to figure out where I wanted to go with this blog.  And since it’s a blog attached to a site which sells silk fabric, sewing seemed like a logical step.  And while there are tons of sewing blogs out there, none of them have my voice, just like I don’t have their voice and perspective.  It is unquestionably one of the beautiful things about blogging, that ability to share your unique perspective on a subject.  So I decided to start my sewing blogging with new measurements.  

Well…new measurements and a book review.  During my down time from blogging, I reorganized my sewing supplies, including all my books.  And decided to start reading and re-reading some of those books.  The book I started with was How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns: From store bought patterns to drafting your own: a complete guide to fashion sewing with confidence.  Whew!  That’s a lengthy title.  

This is a pretty good beginner’s guide to working with commercial patterns.  It is put out by Barron’s, which is known to produce educational books, and is a pretty simple, straight forward read.  It does include a basic measurement chart, which is the one I used to get my new measurements.  There was one confusing paragraph regarding ease which I read four times before going to a Facebook sewing group for clarification.  The ladies of Facebooklandia were able to explain my confusion to my satisfaction; however, in the end it turns out I was grossly overthinking the point.

Additionally, the graphic for the measurement table was a little misleading, as the line drawing has the model wearing high heels while getting measured.  Which makes no earthly sense, as you don’t need to know the length of your leg PLUS heel height.  Leg to floor then you can adjust individual patterns to allow for heel height if you wish.  Which could cause confusion to someone brand new to sewing who might then put on heels prior to taking measurements. But the rest of the directions for measurements were solid: wear comfortable clothes but not denim, snug shirt for close fit, fullest part of the body measurements, etc.

Overall, a good guide to get started with.  The line drawings were clear and directions were well illustrated.  It is an easy read and a quick reference for general pattern adjustments.  And if you want to follow along at home, here is video of the measuring process (barefooted, thank you!)

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Sewing Machine Sleep Mode

Sleep Mode for Sewing Machines

The Baby Lock Destiny 2 has what they call Eco Mode.  To anyone who has a computer, this is also known as Sleep Mode.  So Eco Mode is a Sewing Machine Sleep Mode.  The Eco Mode has to be set or the machine will just stay on indefinitely, but overall it’s a good function to have.  Activating the Eco Mode allows you to save power if you leave your machine running an embroidery design.  It finishes but you’re working on a different project.  Rather than just staying on indefinitely, after the specified time, the machine goes in to Eco or sleep mode.

Eco Mode can be set from 10 minutes to 120 minutes and you will know the machine is still on because the start/stop button will blink greenly at you.  Press this button and presto!  The machine comes fully awake and is ready for use.

Now the Shutoff Support Mode is a heavy duty version of the sleep mode.  Eco mode is a cat nap.  Shutoff Support Mode is like Snow White.  The only way to start her back up is to kill her entirely, then turn her back on.  Hmmm…that maybe isn’t the best analogy.  You will again know the machine is sleeping by the slow green blink of the start/stop button.  But when you push the button, you will get a message telling you to turn the machine off and on again.

The perpetual question of IT Departments everywhere…

Shutoff Support Mode can be set for 1 to 12 hours.  Both Eco Mode and Shutoff Support Modes are located on settings screen number 5 under General Settings.  To see the functions in action, watch my YouTube clip on this very topic.

And that is how the sleep mode on your Baby Lock Destiny 2 works.  Oops!  I mean Eco Mode and Shutoff Support Mode.



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One of the tricky things about vending is coming up with a lovely presentation.  This is a skill I am more or less comfortable with at indoor events.

Layout at Cairo Shimmy Quake
Miss Fisher Con

Indoors change a lot, but with a defined space, it’s fairly easy to come up with an appealing layout.  More fun, though, is your space.  Outdoor events which utilize your own pavilion allows for some personalization in the presentation.

Vending 2017, to vend
Vending my first outdoor event.

Now, that first little out door set up was a 10×20 easy up with some canvas walls that were tied together with grommets.  The next outdoor event had TWO 10×20 easy ups placed side by side.  Couple more walls and we were good to go.  Except that the second easy up came out of the bag broken.  No joke…it was duck taped together.  So over the next couple of months I thought long and hard and decided I needed a Professional Pavilion.

So I start looking at all the standard places for standard pavilions.  And The Boyfriend says, and this is a direct quote, “Why do you want a pavilion that looks like all the rest?”

Enter Traders of Tamerlane.  After some initial sticker shock when Googling yurts, I found Traders of Tamerlane.  To be fair, the two linked sites are intended for semi to fully permanent residences or guest houses.  But Traders of Tamerlane provided my kind of yurt.  Fully mobile, easy to transport, and within the standard price range of pavilions.  The best part?  No internal poles taking up valuable floor space. BONUS!

So I placed my order and my yurt was received in July.  Due to various work schedules of mine and The Boyfriends, actually putting the yurt up wasn’t accomplished until today.

Voila! A Yurt!

Now, we read through the instructions many times.  Gabriel and Traders of Tamerlane was very nice, asking several times if we had been able to get the yurt set up and offering telephone assistance if needed.  Any difficulties we had were essentially the end result of overthinking the process.  Because seriously, once we did what the directions specified, it went right up.  And honestly, if I had had the foresight to ASK for the help, it probably would have gone even faster.

So now that my professional pavilion is here and I know I can assemble it, I get to figure out the internal layout.  But that’s next weekends project.

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Bespoke–not just a word

Bespoke Tailoring...not a synonym for custom.

While wasting time on that favorite time suck, Facebook, an ad popped across my news feed.  The ad promised bespoke pendants for necklaces.  I blinked at the stupid.  I sighed in exasperation and rolled my eyes at the degradation of understanding.  Somewhere, sometime over the years, the word bespoke has come to be seen as synonymous with custom.  It isn’t.

Bespoke, specifically, is a TAILORING term, i.e. sewing.  And not just loose flowing gowns, but specifically a tailored, carefully fitted garment.  Usually refers to men’s wear, although the argument could absolutely be made that women’s wear demands it’s fair share of tailoring too.  Mostly I weep for the lack of knowledge of finer things.  Bespoke Tailoring was once the sole province of Savile Row in London.  And while one can’t argue that shops have the right to make any claim they want, where is the truth in advertising?  How can you claim to sell Bespoke suits, when you really sell made to measure?  Degradation of the language is, sadly, endemic.

While this sad degradation of language and meaning confuses the masses, here is a quick and dirty breakdown of what exactly Bespoke Tailoring is.  A garment cut specifically to your measurements, without using an existing pattern as a base.  Essentially, it is draped from start to finish, giving you a carefully constructed, one of a kind, fitted garment.  Bespoke tailoring will seek to visually correct any oddities in your body.  Have a drop shoulder from scoliosis?  Bespoke tailoring can mask that.  Have a pot belly from too many nights out?  Bespoke tailoring.

This carefully crafted garment is the end result of MULTIPLE fittings.  Not just one where the tailor gets your measurements.  The multiple fittings are required to allow for adjustments based on fabric selection.  Even fabrics of similar weight can wear differently when custom tailored in a bespoke manner.  A Bespoke garment will cost upwards of $1000.  This is a LOW end Bespoke suit.  $4000 to $5000 is not uncommon.  Everything from the service to the materials is top quality.  It is literally a suit meant to last a lifetime.  It is anathema to the Walmart, Forever 21, buy today, throw it out tomorrow, culture which has permeated our world.

Words matter.  Words have meaning.  Bespoke does not just mean custom.  It is so much more than custom made.  Bespoke entails artistry.  It is poetry in fabric, care in construction, hand crafted.  Bespoke means elegance and refinement.  Recognize!

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Saving Screen Settings

Saving Screen Settings

Saving Screen Settings was not intuitively obvious.  The save icon is pretty universal with computers, but Baby Lock decided to create their own, which looks like this:

Save Screen Settings
Oh yeah….that TOTALLY looks like a save button

However, when reading in the manual, it shows you exactly what the picture looks like.  Directs you where on the machine to plug in your USB or laptop.  Even tells you what the file folder will be when you open your USB on your laptop (bPocket).  You don’t have to think of any clever names.  I hit the save button twice, and the machine saved to screen shots of my settings screen.  And that is basically what this function does.  It takes a screen shot of whatever settings screen you are on, and saves that moment in time to an external device.

Pretty simple, pretty straightforward.  Once you know what you’re looking for.



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Be a Student all students feel

It’s hard to give yourself permission to learn new things.  Especially once you’ve obtained that almighty degree, and have obtained the status of Graduate.  It’s slightly easier to be a student when it’s entirely for fun.  When I’m in dance class, I can be fully focused and in the moment.  I can concentrate on the lesson and what the take away is.  Not so easy when the only teacher is me, and I also happen to be the only student in the class.

Forcing focus when I know I need to be concentrating on learning all the things is probably the hardest adult thing I’ve had to do.  I get why so few people chose to trod the path of self-employment.  When you have to learn something new to move in to the next phase of your business, but all you want to do is watch re-runs of The Last Airbender and not adult today…it’s damn hard.

So I’ve been kind of slacking these last two weeks.  Oh, I can say I’ve been working.  I’ve been diligently making things to sell as “end cap” items at events I vend.  Not really the main attraction, but cute little items people will look at, smile, and buy, hopefully along with a couple of yards of silk or some silk thread.  And I had a brilliant break through for an idea my boyfriend had.  But as far as being a student and learning the things I need to learn for Damask Raven?  Yeah, I’m a total slacker.

But that’s ok, sometimes.  The slacking is coming to an end.  It sort of has to.  Not because I’ve never failed.  You can’t live life without experiencing some failure.  It has to end because I know what I’m capable of.  But I can’t do the things I know I can, when I slack for too long.  So it’s time to hit the books again.  Time to learn all the things.  Time to educate myself…to be a student.