3 Ways to Get the Creative Juices Flowing

It’s been some time since I’ve written an article for anewscafe.com. I had a crazybusy wedding season this year (and if crazybusy isn’t a real word, it should be). My “real work” has to come first and even though I love writing, the ideas haven’t exactly been rushing to me.

Writer’s block, stagnation, apathy; whatever you want to call it, anyone who works in a creative career has experienced it.

I thought I would share some of my ideas to remove that block and at the same time, get my own ideas flowing again.

1. Make a list
Sometime earlier this year, I actually made a list of ideas for my writing and guess what? This theme was one of them! So making a list is helpful. Do it when you are feeling especially creative but just can’t find the time to implement your ideas.

This can work for all forms of creative media. I like to draw as well and I always have a mental list of ideas for drawings. I should probably write those ideas down as well so they are readily available when I am experiencing artist’s block.

Making a list can help in other ways. Sometimes, when looking back on an idea, it may not seem like a good one so don’t be afraid to eliminate those.

2. Look at what other creative people are doing
Whether I need ideas for a fashion or tailoring article, a drawing, or drapes for my living room, it helps to see what others are doing. When I was in school, I found students were very good at inspiring each other. I don’t mean copying someone’s ideas but they can jar our own creative flow. This is especially true in the fashion world.

For instance, one of my favorite designers, Georgio Armani, inspired many other designers around the world to make their own version of a woman’s suit. They probably don’t look anything like Armani’s (or at least they shouldn’t) but a designer will take their own fabrics and colors and create their own cuts.

In art classes, one assignment may be exactly the same for each student: make a drawing using two contrasting colors and five lines. It’s amazing how many different variations of that idea will be created from one simple instruction, so don’t be afraid to see what your peers are doing. Use them for inspiration.

3. Think outside your box
This is probably the most important way to stimulate your creativity. We wake up in our comfy little houses (box #1), get into our cars (box #2) and probably take the same route to work.  We spend the day at work (box #3) looking at a computer screen (box #4). After work, we may stop at the grocery store (big box #1) and then spend the evening watching TV (another big box).

Taking a different route to work and back will enable our eyes to see different sights and our ears to hear different sounds. Trying a new restaurant can stimulate our sense of smell and taste.  I’m a big online shopper but even going into an actual brick and mortar store can stimulate the senses in many different ways: touching fabrics, smelling a new perfume, or just seeing the latest in fashion colors.

And if time and budget allow, get out of town! There’s nothing quite like getting out of familiar environments to give us a fresh perspective on our lives. I remember the last time I stood on top of Shasta Bally and looked down on Redding and thinking my “box” was way down in the valley and it seemed so small and insignificant, much like the problems I was facing at the time.

And when I came down from the mountain, I felt brand new and ready to face my problems with a clear mind.

Vincent Van Gogh once said, “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

Those are words of wisdom from an artist who never sold a painting in his lifetime and who I’m sure experienced blocks like we all do.

Vintage Cotton Voile Dress Courtney 10-14 001

Repairing and Altering Antique Clothing

It was quite the wedding season this year! At one point I had to stop answering the phone because all I could do was turn down work. I apologize if you were one of those who called me and couldn’t get through. As a one-person business I have to sometimes choose between completing the projects I already have  and getting more work.

One of the projects I enjoy the most as a dressmaker is working with vintage and antique dresses.  Whether it’s a wedding gown or a suit or coat, I do quite a bit of repairing and altering antique clothing.

As I’ve written about before, when dealing with antiques, I like to really take my time and think through the project before I begin. It’s just too easy to go forward too quickly and make a grievous mistake. Even the most cared for garments are fragile and usually have rips or stains.

The dress pictured above was worn by the bride’s mom in the 1980’s. She bought it at an antique shop and best guess is that it is about 100 years old. The bride wanted to carry on the tradition but it needed a lot of work!


You can see the rust colored stain on the very sheer fabric.

You can see the rust colored stain on the very sheer fabric.

The cotton voile was fragile and had some stains. The lace was delicate and had rips and stains.

Here is one of the many rips in the lace I had to deal with.

Here is one of the many rips in the lace I had to deal with.

The waistband of the dress was completely ripped up but fortunately, the bride planned on wearing a sash. I reinforced the band with silk habotai. I lined the whole dress with the habotai to compensate for the sheerness and  use it to reinforce the stress areas of the dress and yet still keep it light and airy.

For instance, the bottom ruffle (which was shortened so her shoes would show) was re-attached to the skirt and the lining so that it wasn’t hanging from the skirt alone.  I also attached the shoulders and sleeves to the habotai to reinforce those areas.

When dealing with the stains, I tried out a spot that I knew was going to be removed when I hemmed the dress. I VERY GENTLY rubbed a small amount of baking soda into the stain and that was all it took to shred the fabric. I then decided to just try soaking the stains with baking soda and it didn’t remove the stains but it lightened them enough so that they got lost in the volume of fabric.

Here are some details of the gorgeous dress:

This is the back of the dress. You can see the embroidery and the crocheted buttons.

This is a close-up view of the back of the dress. You can see the embroidery and the crocheted buttons.

Here's a close-up of the buttons.

Here’s a close-up of the buttons.

Back View of the Dress

Back View of the Dress



Restyled Vintage Wedding Dress

Vintage Wedding Gown Restyling

It’s so impossible to keep up with my blogging during wedding season and this one was a doozy! Now that I’ve come up for air, I want to share a vintage wedding gown restyling with you. It was interesting because of all the beadwork and the addition of a train.

If you have ever altered a fully beaded gown, you’ll appreciate the work that went into this dress. (Check out my blog on working with beaded gowns.)

The base was a bias-cut silk chiffon covered with glass beads. They cannot be sewn over and so have to be removed and tied off before the alteration can be performed.

BEFORE the dress was a bias-cut "sack" because the bride didn't fill it out.

BEFORE the dress was a bias-cut “sack” because the bride didn’t fill it out.

Back of the dress before the alterations

Back of the dress before the alterations


In this case, the bride wanted the dress more fitted but since there was no zipper or opening of any kind, we had to make sure she could still get the dress on and off. I took in the side seams from the bust to the upper hip and added front darts. I also lifted the shoulders so that the back neckline of the dress fit a long-line backless bra.

The bride wanted some drama added to the back of the gown so we played with some silk chiffon yardage till we got a beautiful train which coordinated with the beaded cowl. I had to tea dye the natural color silk chiffon so that it matched the gown perfectly. I added a simple line of bugle beads to the edge for a little weight and a little sparkle and was still able to stay within the bride’s budget.

AFTER The added train filled in the bottom of the dress from the front and created some drama in the back

AFTER The added train filled in the bottom of the dress from the front and created some drama in the back

I wish I could have gotten picture of the train when she moved. The train kind of “flew” in back of her making a really gorgeous statement. And when it “landed” it wrapped around her like cloud.

And here’s the bride in her gown!

Brittany in her gown

Brittany in her gown

Back view shows the detachable train

Back view shows the detachable train


Here is the finished coat hem.

Double Cloth Coat Hem

Have you have ever wanted to alter a double cloth coat but weren’t sure where to start? I recently hemmed a coat made from a gorgeous wool double cloth and thought I’d share my experience.

Double cloth is basically two different layers of fabrics intertwined to form one heavier fabric which has a supple yet supportive hand to it.  In other words, it is rarely lined because it handles so well on its own. It is mainly used for coats and jackets.

The fabrics can be different or they can be the same. In this case, the fabric is double-faced and it’s the same fabric on the inside as well as the outside.

Because the two layers are treated as one, the hems and seams are handled differently than other fabrics. Many coats and jackets are made reversible because of the construction.

This coat needed to be hemmed about 7 inches, so I first cut off 6 1/4 inches. Then I peeled the two layers apart about 3/4″. You can peel about 1/2″ using your fingers, but then you need a sharp razor blade to cut the fibers to peel more. It’s very easy to peel apart but for your first time, I recommend you practice on the part your scrap first.

Here is the double cloth peeled apart.

Here is the double cloth peeled apart.

After the layers are peeled apart, I stitched some 1/4″ organza ribbon on the outside layer to stay the hem and keep it from stretching. I also stitched the inside layer about 3/8″ from the edge. This helps to keep the fabric from stretching and also gives me a “lip” to fold. I trim about an eighth of an inch from the edge first because in this case, I wanted the inside layer to fold just slightly to the inside of the coat. Some double cloths are folded evenly.

Here you can see the stitching line on the inside layer and the organza ribbon stitched to the outside layer.

Here you can see the stitching line on the inside layer and the organza ribbon stitched to the outside layer.

I pressed the outside layer 3/8 inch to the inside, creating a nice smooth hemline.  I folded the inside layer so that is landed slightly to the inside of the hemline and pinned.

Here are the two layers folded and pinned, awaiting the handstitching

Here are the two layers folded and pinned, awaiting the hand stitching

The entire hem is then hand stitched in place, using 1/4 inch stitches.

Here is the finished hem compared to the original.

Here is the finished hem compared to the original.

Working with double cloth is a lot of work but especially if you like hand work, it’s very satisfying to do.