Sunday, September 30, 2012

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 11

Episode 11 was another muddled, confusing challenge. The six remaining designers must all make outfits for toddlers, and the winners (there will be a winner for each target gender) will be added to Heidi's new line of baby clothes for Babies R Us. That's simple enough. However, they are actually each assigned a specific toddler, who they meet in a line up of moms and tots. The moms and designers get some time to talk and get some ideas about what outfits the moms like. Dmitry compares this task to making an outfit for a cat, since the kids can't talk. Aren't we all relieved that foot-in-mouth Ven isn't around for this one?

The babies are all between 12 and 18 months old. My son is 17 months right now, so I definitely recognized his behavior in these other babies - switching between walking and crawling, stealing the designers' pens, etc. Chris is initially really happy with his pairing, since he really likes what the little girl is wearing - but quickly regrets it since the mom is very picky and opinionated. She tells him exactly what she wants him to make, notably a three-quarter sleeve white denim jacket (with NO POCKETS!).

Before they go back to the workroom, Tim emits the most ominous chuckle he's ever produced when he tells them they'll have a surprise. The next twist is revealed: they each have one of those newborn simulators they give to high school students, that cries all the time and has to be changed, fed, and rocked. I didn't really get this bit at all. Are they being judged on how well they take care of the baby? It sure didn't seem like it, since it never came up later. We were led to believe they even had to take them back to their apartments at night, but I'm pretty skeptical on that count. As for the supposed goal of this whole exercise - if a grown adult can't think of how to design clothes to make life easy for the parents of toddlers, I can't imagine that having them watch a newborn doll for part of a day would some how enlighten them.

In any case, Fabio takes it very seriously. He talks to his doll very sweetly and is reluctant to put it down and work. The other designers mock him for this, to which I say, sure - but why didn't the rest of you take it further? If it's not part of the judging, why do it at all? Just leave it in the bathroom or something so you can't hear it cry! It's just a doll! Or at least try to come up with a "babysitting" agreement, where one designer watches a few babies at once so the others can work uninterrupted, and then trade off. I can only think that there were rules preventing these sorts of things, or else surely someone would have tried.

Heidi joins Tim for his workroom rounds. The only conversation that really stands out is the one with Chris. He has been busily making the white jacket as requested, but Heidi has a totally different idea for the rest - she wants to see a skirt made out of some textile with dimensional flowers. So, correctly realizing that Heidi's opinion matters and the mom's actually doesn't, he changes direction and does exactly what Heidi asks for.

Heidi then introduces the next twist: they have one more day and also have to make an outfit for the moms. However, as it becomes very clear later, these outfits are actually not being considered in the judging either, since the prize is solely about which toddler outfits will get added to Heidi's line. So again, why did the producers do it? For their second day in the workroom, their dolls are taken to "day care" - and never mentioned again.

At the judging, Heidi is in her weirdest minidress yet - a black sheath with a negative-space Peter Pan collar and double thigh-slits. Crazy! The runway show is very cute, as each mom walks down, either carrying or holding hands with her child. During the critique, they just bring out one mom/baby pair at a time to discuss the clothes.

Chris' mom does not at all like what Chris ended up making - not the white flowery dress for the baby, and not the bright floral dress for her. But both are a clear favorite of the judges, who love that it's a dressy look for both without being matchy. Sonjia has a huge advantage in that the little boy she worked with is such a charmer - he smiles and waves at the judges, and is otherwise unbearably adorable. She made him a little matching blazer and sweatpants, with a bright print onesie underneath.

Dmitry and Fabio both make somewhat retro one-piece body suits for their little boys. Dmitry's has a hood that's a little too pointy, making him look a little like a crayon, as Michael Kors points out. Michael also objects to the hood looking too much like a cape when down, but Nina and Heidi quickly correct him and say the kids like it that way! By the end of the judging, the little crayon is asleep on his mother's shoulder. Fabio makes a little hat that matches his, and the judges like all the details.

Elena makes a little jacket with an interesting pleated collar, and a plain shirt and pants to go with it. The judges don't like that it looks like mixed separates, rather than a specific outfit. Mellisa makes a vest, and a too-short, too-narrow white dress (with exposed zipper!) that rides up.

Nobody mentions the moms' outfits all that much. None of them are terrible, and none of them are really remarkable either - since they don't actually affect the competition.

Unsurprisingly, Chris and Sonjia are the winners! Interestingly, in the actual production outfit, the main color in Chris' has been changed from white to navy.

Elena and Mellisa are in the bottom, and in the end Elena is eliminated.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Old as dirt

This week's fabric design theme was "earth science." I knew instantly what I wanted to do - dirt! Something I've always been fascinated with is how dirt is made - I know it's partly rock, partly organic matter, but it seems so unlike either. My parents always had a big herb and vegetable garden out in the backyard, and my dad has made compost for many years. All those moist, hot, smelly piles covered with black tarp! Leaves and sticks go in, amazing dirt comes out. I used to help him strain out the big non-decomposed chunks before he spread it around. Also in the backyard was a large segment where my brother and I were allowed to play in the mud. We'd run the hose and make a big puddle, and as the dirt got saturated we'd dig it out and pile it up on the sides. We got some bricks too, and eventually made a whole city with a covered river running through it. I loved to see how the different consistencies of dirt would turn into varying kinds of mud. The layer on top had lots of leaves and other detritus, and below that it got very fine and smooth. Lower down it got sandy, and in some places a little claylike.

Later, in college, I took geology in hopes of learning more about soil formation. Teacher: "we're not going to get into soil formation, because it's pretty complicated." Disappointing, but intriguing! Nowadays, I have Google whenever I want to find out a little about things like this.

For the fabric design, I abstracted out the different stages and processes into stripes. There are two sequences - one is the darker green leaf litter, with worms below it, that turns into clay and then bedrock. The other starts with grass and roots, has ants, and also ends up with bedrock.

Soil Formation Stripes

It came in 63 out of 160 with 153 votes. In a similar "vein" as mine, I liked the geologic strata print (that won) and these core samples. On a more macro scale, I liked these cutesy globe cutaways and magnetospheres. Of the crystal/mineral entries this was my favorite, and out of weather themes I thought this was best. This ocean depth map that came in fourth is neat and has a really large repeat.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 10

In Episode 10, the competition is down to seven designers. As the day starts, some of them discuss how Elena is the only one left who hasn't won a challenge. She vows to change her approach from now on - less freaking out, more staying calm and relaxed. Good luck with that!

The challenge is introduced in quite possibly the cheesiest and most embarrassing way yet: they are all taken to Radio City Music Hall where the Rockettes do a routine, at the end of which who should appear but Heidi herself. She even joins in the kicking! Funny, cringe-inducing, unclear what any of it has to do with "fashion." Of course, they will have to make costumes for the Rockettes.

Elena immediately blows up her low-stress pledge by going $150 over budget at Mood, and I feel very sorry for the clerk who has to help her fluster through her fabrics and notions to figure out what to get rid of. Back at the workroom everyone else is just counting the minutes until she goes into another full meltdown, as they listen to her rage about how much she hates the fabric she got.

Happily, this is broken up by Chris, who decides to imitate what Sonjia is wearing - turban, sunglasses, and dark lipstick. Then everyone starts to turn the skeptic's eye on Ven, who keeps stressing that he wants his costume to have clean lines and not "beads and stones all over."

The workday ends early so that they can all go out to dinner! Sometimes I think the producers must take stress-level readings for everybody when they do their camera interviews, and when the group reaches some threshhold they finally let a tiny bit of pressure off like this. Most of them seem to have reached the point of mental exhaustion where their sympathy for each other as fellow human beings going through the same ordeal is starting to override their desire to defeat each other.  At dinner, everybody drinks a bunch and opens up. Elena apologizes to Dmitry for directing so much anger towards him, and Ven explains how, being far younger than the rest of his siblings, he felt isolated as a child, and that's why he's the way he is. As Dmitry says, "it's the wine!"

Elena and Ven are still not doing great on their costumes, though. Elena, upon picking out her fabric, immediately said it looked like stuff for a band uniform, and promptly makes an ultra-blinged out bandleader/cheerleader look. She ends up putting it on herself, and dances and jumps around the workroom. Tim tells her she should just look for a baton when she styles the outfit. He also tries to get Ven to somehow increase the impact of his, since it's just a short dress, and is met with the Ven Wall of Ignorage. Ven thinks the pale blue sparkly netting he has is "loud." That's like saying bell peppers are spicy.

Dmitry uses his childhood/young-adulthood experience as a ballroom dancer to create a dress that, as Chris says, looks a lot like a high school dance team costume. Fabio and Tim get into an extended jam session on the theme of "bitches" and "bitchslapping," inspired by Fabio's frustration with his sequined fabric. Sonjia is struggling with her piles of purple feathers and Mellisa is unhappy with her pile of colorblocked pattern pieces.

Chris is happy with how his is going - the bodice has the NYC skyline on it. The others, especially Sonjia, are quite jealous of his great idea. However, he wishes he had enough illusion with sparkles on it for the sleeves and neckline, instead of just the plain illusion he got. His wish is granted, as Tim says that everybody seems enough in need of help that they all get another $100 and a trip to Mood! Ven, Dmitry, and Fabio decline, since they are happy enough with their fabrics and want more time to keep working.

Mellisa has a few last minute panic-inducing moments. First, the pull of her zipper comes off, without enough time to sew a new zipper in. It's not clear what she ends up doing, but I think her model just gets sewn in the dress. Then once it's on the runway, she realizes that from a distance, the colorblocking reads like a giant numeral 1!

At the top are Chris and Dmitry. At first the judges sound very mixed about Mellisa, but then they finally admit she's in the top three too. Fabio is the one out of seven who ends up exactly in the middle and therefore safe. Sonjia and Elena are in the bottom, as is Ven, though they are clearly less critical of him than the other two.

The judges have only positive comments for Chris - it would look great on thirty-six dancers in a row and smacks of Bob Mackie. They all like Dmitry's except that guest judge Debra Messing thinks it might be too sexy for "the little, little, little ones." Do people take kids that young to Rockettes shows??? And what is sexier about that costume that the others? They really like the graphic qualities of Mellisa's, but think it's too short.

Sonjia's is boxy and too fragile. The judges go into a long riff about how the feathers would fly everywhere and end up calling it a "disco turkey." Ven's has no design and looks like a glam Mother of the Bride dress cut short. Elena's is busy, tacky, and like a Las Vegas cheerleader or circus costume.

Chris is the winner! And Ven, now that his story arc from arrogant to cluelessly cruel to lonely has run its course, is out - prompting a round of "survivor's guilt" from Elena.

Next week, the designers have to make an outfit for a baby, for Heidi Klum's line of baby clothes.

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 9

Episode 9 begins with the men discussing their feelings of dread about unceasing eliminations, and the women cattily agreeing that Dmitry should be eliminated because he's only ever made dresses. This week is the digital fabric challenge, in which the designers have a hour (!) to make a repeating design, and then make it into a look when they get it printed on fabric. This time, in a desperate attempt to recapture the magic when Mondo won this challenge by creating a fabric with a very moving and personal story behind it, the producers add that their looks must be based on their "cultural heritage." This leads into a very cute segment where each designer has either his or her mom or significant other brings them a slideshow of family pictures, I guess to refresh their memories of their heritage. Then they get the evening off to hang out with those family members, so there's time for the printing.

Gunnar bases his design on his personal history of being bullied - it's the most emo print ever, of birds being menaced by skeleton hands. He and Chris bond over bullying stories, and finally bury the hatchet. Chris makes a print based on ladybugs, which have a connection to his grandmother - and he secretly hates Gunnar's print.

Mellisa makes a red vine pattern for the bloodlines of her Polish family, Dmitry makes a red, black, and white geometric design based on traditional Belarusian textiles, and Elena makes a purple-and-yellow scribble that has something to do with her childhood in Ukraine. Fabio also makes scribbles on black, and claims that it shows, uh, genitals. Nobody else can see them, though. Sonjia makes a red, blue, black, and white tribal-ish pattern, and Ven makes very boring dark pink hibiscus flowers.

The high point of the episode is Tim's check-in with the designers. He sees how Ven is using his print - fan-pleating the parts with flowers and cascading them down the front - and says "I see an homage to a menstrual cycle!" Ven is speechless. Tim even calls out to the rest of the room to back him up. This actually makes Ven tear up a little when he recounts it in the interview. I guess if he hadn't already shown himself to be an insensitive boob I might feel bad!

Elena makes a jacket. Fabio makes a vest. They are both safe so sadly we don't get to see how Fabio would explain his print or how the judges would react.

Christopher makes a cocktail dress by covering his print with black organza, because he doesn't like to work with prints. Gunnar makes an Amish band jacket. Ven makes a dress with the same pleating he does over and over - and this was his second dress, since he totally scrapped the one Tim criticized.

Dmitry makes a shirt from his print, which goes with a plain black jacket and skirt, and the jacket has some amazing cutouts to show the print from underneath. Mellisa makes a dress. Sonjia makes pants.

Chris, Gunnar, and Ven are in the bottom. Dmitry, Mellisa, and Sonjia are in the top. The judges like how, even though you can't see much of Dmitry's print, it's still the part of the outfit that makes it special and "phenomenal." They like that Mellisa's dress is very unexpected from her, but feel it needs more edge. Guest judge Mondo like Sonjia's the best - those pants were rather Mondo-like.

They find Chris' to be the most disappointing and wish he had skipped the shrouding layer of organza. Gunnar's is called out to be "not cool, edgy, or modern." But the worst criticism is for Ven - Heidi says it looks like a Hawaiian Airlines hostess outfit, and they finally, finally, finally call him out for doing the pleating he's done over and over and over, and even express amazement that nobody else warned him off of it. In fact, once the designers go back to the waiting room so the judges can deliberate, they summon Tim Gunn to explain how Ven could have come put with the pleating again. So Tim gets to tell the whole hilarious story of the first "maxi pad' dress, since that's the reason he didn't see Ven do the pleats on his eventual look. (And he says he HAS warned Ven about repeating that element so much, in fact - just not for this challenge.) As the judges erupt into belly laughs over the whole thing, you can't help but think this is amazing karmic payback. Ven, a nobody who humiliated his "makeover client" even though there was no reason she had to respect his opinion or design abilities at all, is in turn being utterly humiliated by all of the people whose good opinion he most wants to have right now.

Dmitry is named the winner! For, as he says, NOT A DRESS. Ven and Gunnar are the last two, and this time there is no second (third? fourth?) chance for Gunnar - he is out.

Next week - costumes for the Rockettes? Oh well, at least that's better than costumes for wrestlers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Clop clop stomp stomp

In "honor" of election season, this week's design had to include donkeys and elephants. I figured the majority of entries would go for patriotic colors, so I wanted to avoid that in hopes of standing out a little more. Also I thought of just doing the foot and hoof prints of the animals instead of the animals themselves. I tried to google for images of such prints to get the spacing of the tracks right, but I couldn't think of the word "hoofprint" for an embarrassingly long time. "What's the word for the marks that a donkey's feet make, darnit?!"

Originally I was going to have the trails just criss-crossing each other randomly. However, I had a hard time getting it to look right as a repeat. Eventually I noticed that my layout sketch looked like a wonky argyle, so I thought, heck, why make it so hard on myself? Who doesn't like an argyle?

It was my husband who had the brilliant idea of having the Constitution be the background. I was trying to come up with something that would add a little depth but still be sort of "ground' colored. Since I had the framework of the argyle, I could use diamond-shaped segments of the document and not try to blend the edges together for the purpose of making a repeat.

Election Year Argyle - elephant and donkey hoofprints

It came out pretty close to how I envisioned it, so I'm pleased in that regard. Also the concept is still cracking me up! It came in 53 out of 103 with 68 votes.

There was another footprint entry, which I liked. For straightforward takes on the contest, I liked these watercolors and this tessellation (which came in second). I also liked this cutesy, more generally USA-themed one (which came in eighth).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Clack clack clack clack DING!

This week's contest was to create a black-and-white repeat having to do with typewriters. My initial thought was to arrange typed characters into some fancy pattern - something like a damask. That quickly morphed into doing something like ASCII art. Then, I thought, why not a simple ASCII rose?

Typed Roses

I like that it looks like it could have been typed directly on the fabric. I tried out a bunch of "typewriter" fonts and settled on this one. It came in 73 out of 169 with 84 votes. I've now made it into the top half of the results for four in a row!

I liked this ikat pattern made from x's; sort of a similar idea to what I was thinking of trying. In the same vein was this plaid. There were quite a few entries of typewriter keys, of which my favorites were these two (the first of which came in fifth). My favorite entry overall was the repeat of ribbon tin labels, which came in second.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Project Runway Season 10, Episodes 7 and 8

Due to Labor Day travel, I didn't have a chance to watch either of the previous two episodes until recently, so I have a double update (just in time to be ahead of this week's episode...)

In Episode 7, the remaining women reaffirm their desire to have one of the male contestants eliminated next. Throughout the subsequent challenge, though, all of the female designers struggle and feel like they're out of their comfort zone, whereas all of the men feel confident and feel they are all contenders for the win - especially perennial rivals Chris and Gunnar. Several of the designers comment on this gender divide, and Ven wraps it up with a bizarre generalization: "I feel that generally men are stronger designers, and women are more practical." I'm not even sure what that means, and given that Ven has revealed what a thoughtless person he is, I'm not able to imagine any positive connotation for it either.

The challenge itself is the "Lord and Taylor" challenge - that being the store that supplies all the accessories they have to use for styling their looks. The specific setup is that L-n-T has gotten one designer from each of the previous nine seasons to design a look for them - all either cocktail dresses or evening gowns - and the winning dress from this challenge will get to join those as the tenth dress in the collection. They are all actually going to be produced and sold! This means they can't use any techniques that are too hard to reproduce and they have to choose from specific fabrics already given to them, and it has to be able to be sold in the $200-$300 range. Overall, though, very little time is spent talking about exactly how their designs have to be constrained for this, especially in comparison to the Project Runway All-Stars challenge where they had to do something similar.

All the designers make black cocktail dresses, except for Dmitry, who makes a sparkly greige one, and Christopher, who makes a gown with a light pink t-shirt top (covered with the same shredded technique he has done before). Gunnar's take is covered in sequins, and he is sure he's going to win. Elena worked herself up into several freakouts in the workroom and is sure she's going to be eliminated for her harness-babydoll.

First off, Sonjia, Ven, and Dmitry are safe. Sonjia had some rough moments during construction herself, especially when sewing the dress onto her model at the very last minute, and is over the moon at being safe. Ven and Dmitry both felt they were definite contenders and are miffed.

The judges say that of the remaining, there are actually four in the top and two in the bottom. Fabio, Chris, and Mellisa are in the top. Alicia is in the bottom. Gunnar is shocked to be in the bottom as well, but not nearly as much as Elena is to be in the top!

Christopher is named the winner. As the usual judging continues apace, eventually Gunnar is left as the last on the runway, which would normally mean he's out. But since the competition is still short a competitor (after having two quit and only bringing Raul back), the judges decide everyone gets an E for Effort this time and nobody gets eliminated!

This sets us up for Episode 8, another team challenge. Chris, cheesed that the perfect opportunity to be rid of Gunnar fell apart, gets teamed up with Gunnar. Stuck with them is Sonjia. Dmitry and Elena, who have also had their share of clashes, end up together, with Alicia as the third wheel. That leaves Ven, Fabio, and Melissa on the last team.

First, the teams must make "merchandise" using craft supplies, then go and sell it on the streets to raise funds to buy the fabric and notions for the challenge proper. It's sort of like kids running a lemonade stand, since they don't have to reimburse for the supplies...but ah well. They're allowed to sell anything they can come up with - fashion advice, other services, any accessories or "irresistible things" they can come up with. So they all sell T-shirts they've dyed or painted. Team "VMF" makes $800.48, team "CSG" makes $684.00, and team "DEA" makes exactly $500.00.

Now, to the actual challenge. Each team must make two looks for fall, including outerwear in at least one. The team dynamics play out like something from Goldilocks - Team DEA has too much conflict, Team VMF has too much friendship, and Team CSG is just right. Amazingly, Chris and Gunnar are able to tamp down their claws and work together, and overall all three seem able to speak up and collaborate in such a way as to elevate all their work. Team VMF seems to get along well on the surface, but everybody just kind of does his or her own thing and there's nothing special. Team DEA works out exactly like everyone predicts - Elena does her usual freakouts and all three spend their time jockeying for position and trying to have the most visible surface area displayed on their garments.

To be honest I thought all the clothes were boring. They were all safe, neutral, and as far as I could tell have all been from the same collection, across all the teams. The judges like Team CSG best. As is customary for team challenges, members of the winning team have to name which individual should win, and the other teams have to name who should be eliminated. Chris and Gunnar both pick Gunnar to win, and Sonjia picks herself.

On the non-winning teams, Elena and Dmitry of course rehash their every argument in front of the judges, and pick each other to go. Alicia picks Dmitry. Nobody on Team VMF wants to make a pick, but finally the judges batter them down and Ven and Melissa both pick Fabio. Fabio evades the question by picking Ven, because, as he says, he knows there's no way they'll eliminate him.

In the end, Sonjia is named the winner for her jacket, and Alicia is eliminated for her pants (which were largely covered up by Elena's jacket). Next week, it's the digital print challenge, where we are reminded that one of the few things more ridiculous than creating an outfit in a day is creating a fashion print in an hour.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Zig-zagging down stairs

The contest this week was to make another one-yard "cheater" print, this time with a zig-zag design of some kind. I started off by browsing "zig zag quilts" on Pinterest and found this one I liked. I decided to use previously created designs as all the subdesigns. So, using the handy-dandy stats I gathered about which of my contest entries were the most popular, I decided to base it around the cake collage repeat, and change the colors of the other designs to go with it.

In fact, I already had that scheme in mind when I was creating the camping design, so it already uses colors sampled from the cake slices. Also included in their original forms are the dancing dinosaurs, family crests, sewing pattern, and Daft Punk cameos. Well, the dinosaurs and the crests didn't do that well in their contests, but they're some of my personal favorites and the colors went well already.

I produced newly colored versions of the Gemini astronauts, pitchers, the ginger (that was also used in Maren's quilt), seadragons, kites, and the programming languages from the baby hats (which were inspired by the ones in the baby book). I also re-used the military uniforms, but redesigned them slightly to be civilian suits so that the colors could be different.

The only design that was really new for this was a new version of the "hand-drawn" design - I wasn't satisfied with how the shapes flowed into each other, so I redrew it. Also for this usage it's just in two shades of green - I didn't add the other scattered colors.

I filled it out with some smaller-scale patterns I've used in a few places: the gingham/check that got used with the pie calendar, hipster piglet, and memory game; and the knit that showed up with the reversible bag and the bells.

So once I had those 16 designs, it was just a matter of pasting them into place.

Zig Zagging Cheater

The overall design is thirty-two inches square. I learned a hard lesson before when I made the reversible bag, which is a yard (36 by 42 inches) - my computer has a hard time handling more than just a couple layers with files that large. It got slower & slower as I was working on it, and ended up freezing entirely - while it was saving. Arrrrg! When I opened it back up, it had lost three or four of the bottom layers.  Alas! Also, that was very late at night on the last night to enter, so I just had to quickly redo it, and of course didn't have time to add any of the additional details I was hoping to.  So anyway, I worked on this design just four "zigs" at a time, and then combined it all into one flat file at the end. No freezes this time!

My entry came in 106 out of 216 with 96 votes. There were a bunch of really neat entries this week. This one really reminds me of Mary Englebreit. For a mostly straightforward take on the idea, I also liked this sea-themed one and this one with vintage graphics. With a little more of a twist, this one has pieced flowers and I really like the combination of prints and solids here. These zig-zag turtles make a nice fabric all on their own, and my favorite entry is this one which combines geometric prints with organic zig-zags. I also really like all of the top ten.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Paper Squares

This week's contest was for school supplies. I thought of putting a bunch of different papers into a patchwork pattern - lined paper, graph paper, etc. I'm very happy with this design. This is one of the few I've made that came out EXACTLY like I pictured it in my head.

School Paper Patchwork

When creating the Scantron-style answer bubble sheets, I ended up just drawing them by hand. However, I did consider trying to use the official Scantron font. I Googled for it, and found an actual corporate Scantron "style sheet," which pointed me to a font named Interstate. So there you have it, if you should ever want to make something look like a Scantron.

My design came in 58 out of 171 with 139 votes. There were an astonishing number of entries having primarily to do with pencils, my favorite of which was the cross-sections (which came in fifth). I also liked this photo print of crayons.