Friday, August 30, 2013

Project Runway Season 12 Episode 7

At the start of the episode, everyone seems happy to have Justin continuing on, as they reflect over morning coffee. Kate points out that this is the seventh challenge, which is when she was eliminated last time. Alexandria, basking in her immunity, hopes it's a really hard challenge this time.

The challenge turns out to be designing an outfit around a pair of shoes. But of course they have to try to make the assignment of the shoes interesting. They get to go to the Marie Claire offices, where they have a giant shoe "library." The producers try to make it look like they can choose from anything off all the shelves in this giant closet, but it becomes clear they only have eleven pairs in one little area that they have to choose from (obviously so it's easier to have all the possible sizes available to fit their models).

And then, because it can't be too easy, the designers each get a buzzer and have to answer a fashion trivia question before they can pick a pair. Alexandria gets to choose first, though, without having to answer. Ken is worried that he's at a disadvantage, being self-educated, but he's fast on the buzzer and gets the first question right. Dom and Miranda struggle the most, with Miranda being the absolute last - so she just gets the last pair of shoes without ever answering a question right. Ken and Jeremy have many chuckles over neither of those ladies knowing that Coco Chanel was the one who introduced the term "little black dress."

At Mood, both Miranda and Alexander end up going for red plaid. Neither of them declines this game of fashion chicken, though, so red plaid it is. They both make it into pants, causing much heartache and sideways glances, but neither wavers so two very similar pairs of red plaid pants go down the runway.

But before that, Tim's workroom visit. Miranda declines to take any of his advice, as she feels like following his suggestions instead of her own instinct is what has landed her at the bottom before. Tim warns Justin and Karen about making theirs too matchy-matchy with the shoes, and Ken and Helen about being too dated/matronly. Karen think's Alexandria's is "weaksauce" but really wants Helen's. Bradon thinks a casual outfit would go better with his shoes, but for some reason only wants to send something dressy down the runway. Tim asks him where someone wearing his look would go - a complete stumper. So he has to rethink.

Ken tries a little psychological warfare by pretending to be concerned to Miranda that the judges might object to the places where her plaid doesn't match up. He objects to any designers that are still being helpful to each other (like Jeremy) and thinks it's time to "bring out the knives and play the game as it was meant to be played." Maybe he's getting confused with the Hunger Games?

Jeremy is very confident about his look. Bradon is struggling with his and is feeling very homesick, and the others think his look makes his 19-year-old model look far older than that. Alexander has to sew his model into his skinny plaid pants, but still calls Miranda's look an "ugly mess." Ken says Miranda's model, after the outfit and styling are in place, looks like Amy Winehouse "after she OD'd." Then we get a little montage of all the last minute "hurry hurry sew sew tuck tuck augh" things going on.

On the runway:
  • Ken
    • Shoes: lace-up stilettos
    • Outfit: a black dress, made of a highly textured fabric, that has a big peplum but a raglan sleeve construction makes it look a bit too much like luxe workout gear to me
  • Alexander
    • Shoes: Beigie peep-toe platforms
    • Outfit: the slim-fit red plaid pants look pretty good, but the big pleats on the white shirt seem a bit awkward and forced
  • Miranda
    • Shoes: red loafers with gold details
    • Outfit: her red plaid pants and higher-waisted than Alexander's and pleated, with a belly shirt and jacket that look remarkably similar to the ones she made for the bow tie challenge.
  • Dom
    • Shoes: multicolored creepers
    • Outfit: an all-over pieced and quilted dress in the same colors as the creepers. Sailor Moon as a motocross driver. Her model seemed weirdly uncomfortable and tentative on the runway.
  • Justin
    • Shoes: platforms with tile-like print
    • Outfit: All black, so the details are hard to see. Pants with some volume at the hips, black corset top, and a leather shrug. Kind of looks like an anime villain - perhaps Dom's would be the protagonist.
  • Alexandria
    • Shoes: thigh-high gladiator boots, which appeared to be too short for the model's legs and too small for her feet
    • Outfit: little black toga dress with lace insets.
  • Karen
    • Shoes: beige and yellow pumps with wide crossing straps over the ankle
    • Outfit: A bland colorless jacket over a colorblocked yellow and black dress
  • Bradon
    • Shoes: gold-beaded flats (my favorite of the shoes)
    • Outfit: Circle skirt over halter top with a wavy pleated treatment.
  • Kate
    • Shoes: surreal, sculptural red and yellow shoes that appear to coil around the feet
    • Outfit: high waisted pants with thigh-high slits up the fronts, with a too-tight shirt with too many busy details
  • Jeremy
    • Shoes: Over the knee black boots with chain detail. Are these in style right now??? They look very dated to me - I don't even know how a normal person in the present time would pair them with clothes.
    • Outfit: a very, very, VERY 80's giant white sweater with faux cable knit applique over a gold lame camisole and a black miniskirt
  • Helen
    • Shoes: black booties with studded toes
    • Outfit: A boring black sheath dress with a cape
Kate, Karen, Dom, Justin, and Alexander are safe. Kate gets to remark for the second episode in a row that they're now officially in the top ten. And speaking of things that get repeated, let me just say I'm getting incredibly sick of the auto-tuned Yoplait commercial they've been playing at nearly every commercial break, every episode. I hear "I WANNA MEET THE COW THAT MADE THIS!" in my sleep.

In the top: The Heidi and Nina love Alexandria's and appreciate that she chose such a dramatic shoe. It's cool, editorial, and the soft, whimsical dress plays off the hard shoes. Zac, however, is not wowed. The judges are unanimous about Helen's, though - everything from the fit to the styling is great, though they agree the cape is the crucial element, not the dress. I was distracted during the discussion of Ken's, because it looked like his model was shivering whenever they did a close-up. They like the fact that the top is covered up to balance out all the leg, and think it's nicely done and rich-looking. 

In the bottom, they immediately call out Jeremy's as being a bang-on homage to Pretty Woman, which he denies. It's not pretty or modern, and verges on trampy. For Miranda's, Zac likes the nerdiness but thinks it didn't go far enough, Nina thinks it's Christmas all the way, and Heidi just says it isn't cool. Bradon's swing dancer is too old school, overworked, and frumpy. It's a bad bridesmaid's dress! 

Helen is the winner! Exhausted, wrung-out Miranda is out. She lasted longer than I thought she would, but it seems like she didn't have much left to give the competition. At least she left on something she actually liked.

Next time - Tim dressed as a referee, three-legged races, and a visit from Heidi in the workroom!

Papers for pencils

This week's contest was to make a cut-and-sew pattern, fitting on a fat quarter, that could be made into a pencil case. I decided to base mine on the design I made for last year's back-to-school theme - the paper patchwork. The pattern is based on the one by Sew Mama Sew, here. I thought it would be fun to put a school-desk-like wood background behind the instructions.

Paper Patchwork Case

This came in 47 out of 81 with 96 votes. Most entries did a fairly plan rectangular shape, my favorites of which were this very colorful one and this mellow mail-themed roll-up case. As for cases that had more representational shapes, I liked the cartoony cat (which won) and the calmer chickadee roll.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Project Runway Season 12 Episode 6

As the episode begins, Ken is still fuming that Alexandria would dare imply that she had to be careful in speaking to him, lest he should become angry. Mm-hm. When they get to the runway, Tim is wearing a camo suit to introduce the next activity. First, we learn that Jeremy can't tell the difference between hunting and military camo, and then we learn that they will all get to go "glamping" over night! As it happens, there really is no trick (as I kept expecting) - they get to hang out at a lovely campsite night next to a stream, relax in hammocks, go rafting and ziplining, have a lovely catered picnic dinner, and sleep on cushy cots in canvas tents. The only stressful part was that they only got 30 minutes to pack. Well, Ken hates being outdoors so he hates the whole experience, but he manages to warm up to it by the end.

It's very nice of the producers to give them this break. In previous seasons, they've brought in loved ones for a day for a similar purpose, but that sometimes seems to backfire - some of the designers collapse under the pressure once the challenge resumes. It's almost as if it gives them a bit too much of a break and reminds them what life is like outside of the insane crucible of sleep-deprived reality TV contestants and omnipresent cameras. So this is an interesting tweak - they are still only around each other, but get a day off from competing. It does seem to have been more uniformly refreshing rather than emotionally crushing.

Justin in particular has a great time "glamping." He explains that his hearing impairment make it essentially impossible to work and communicate at the same time, so he hasn't been able to get to know everyone else until now. There's a very cute scene of him teaching everyone else swear words in sign language.

Interlude over - the actual challenge is to make a high-end fashion look, something editorial. They can use the glamping experience as inspiration, but they don't have to. Their suggested Mood budget is $300.

Justin buys a bunch of glue gun cartridges and proceeds to make it into lace - Tim approves of what he sees so far. Bradon has been "painting" with thread to create his own textile, irritating the other designers with how much constant noise he's making in the sewing room, and unfortunately Tim thinks it looks like a kid's drawing. Dun dun dun! Tim is also very skeptical of the drop-crotch pants Dom is working on. Her model says that pants like that are used as underwear in her culture - a reassuring notion, to be sure! Tim thinks Karen's dress may be too boring and urges her to go for the ombre dye effect she'd been contemplating. Bradon and his model joke that it looks like a nightgown. Everybody really likes Helen's moth-inspired dress.

Overall, at the end of Tim's visit, he's actually very pleased with how things are going in the workroom and thinks it seems like one of their best overall efforts so far.

As we get through the model fitting and the final rush before the runway, the editors unleash a wave of snark from the interview rooms. Jeremy in particular, riding high from having immunity, is enjoying endulging in name calling and compares Alexander's leather train to an "oil slick" and Kate's poufy concoction to "a pregnant fairy in a shiny harness." Ken jokes to Jeremy that he wants to buy the immunity off of him! (And if he did, I'm sure they'd do it with those pre-paid cards they've been using all season!) He's also shown being great pals with Justin, and compliments Miranda's work so far ("is that Miranda or Christian Dior???") which makes me start wondering if the editors are doing a little "reputation repair" to make us feel bad if Ken gets eliminated.

Alexandria is behind where she wants to be and Ken thinks she should go home. Helen thinks the judges will hate Justin's lace and she hates the silhouette of the top of Ken's dress. Poor Bradon is getting stuck on his draping, is running around frantically, then has terrible static cling issues with the dress. But in the end they all manage to get something walking down the runway.

Karen sends out a beige red carpet dress that seems verrrrry "safe." Bradon's dress is loud and kind of wacky, but I could actually picture in an a teen magazine. Miranda's dark petaled dress is my favorite this time, though also a bit on the safe side. Ken has made a sheath dress using several colors of the same heathery print, with a very heavy blob of folded fabric on the top. Alexandria's outfit is a denim jacket with a dramatic back and those dreaded drop-crotch pants - the styling does a good job of selling it, though, and I could picture it in an editorial settig. Alexander's long, dark, tree-printed dress seems like too literal a take on their inspiration. Justin's is very messy, and he acknowledges that he took a risk. Dom's watery print dress would be better if the collar had just one color instead of two. Karen's buckle-top ombre maxi dress and Kate's poofy "fairy in a shiny harness" dress both seem like things that could be in an editorial but would never be worn by a person out in real life. Jeremy's slinky dress, made of fabric on which he painted a love letter to his husband, seems a bit too much like lingerie.

Dom, Bradon, Kate, Helen, and Miranda are all safe - and they realize that means they've made it into the top ten!

The jugdes hate Karen's - it's trashy and looks like a duvet or muumuu. She had her model wear it with cowboy style boots, making it look like she can't decide between the beach or the rodeo. They don't like the Easter-egg yellow or the figure-hiding shape. Ken's prompts Nina to shout B! O! R! I! N! G! and they loath the weird heavy wad of fabric he put on the bodice. He claims it was inspired by layers of exposed sediment near the stream, and the swept back hair was supposed to evoke Mother Nature, but Zac Posen says it looks like a frog queen. (Cue a huge smirk from Alexandria.) Justin's doesn't fare much better. Heidi compares it to a cheap Halloween costume and Zac says the lace gives the effect that the model is "foaming from the hips." Nina takes this even further and mirthfully utters the deadly phrase "FOAMING VAGINA." But then they do try to find some nice things to sac - Zac likes the color and Nina likes the varying layers of transparency in the skirt. Backstage, Karen and Justin are reduced to tears over their critiques.

At the top, the judges melt for Jeremy's sweet love letter dress. It's chic, personal, emotional, and breathtaking. When they get to see it up close they love it even more, for the details like the buttons up the side and the tulle around the sleeves and neckline. They also like similar details on Alexander's dress, and the great fit (achieved with a zipper, not sewn on the model!). Zac is not wowed, however. As for Alexandria's, he's also in the "no drop crotch pants!" camp, but she's managed to sell them to him. Nina indicates that her outfit would definitely be a good fit for an editorial.

Alexandria is named the winner! And despite all the screen time he got, Ken is safe. In fact, Justin is out. Bah! Backstage, everyone is upset and crying when this happens. I can't remember ever seeing any group so universally affected by the elimination. And then, Tim comes in...and announces he's using his save! So nobody will leave this week. Of course now everyone is crying even more.

Next week looks like shoes, shoes, and more shoes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blue jeans

This week's theme was "fashion." This includes anything from novelty prints having to do with fashion to prints actually appropriate for garments. I browsed through important moments in fashion, looking for something interesting but also recognizable to most people. Then I came across a mention of the rise (no pun intended) of denim blue jeans. I immediately thought of doing a faux patchwork that looked like it was made of jeans, and decided on hexagons instead of squares for more visual interest.

Blue Jean Details

This came in 59 out of 314 with 127 votes. My favorite entry was the cute assortment of pockets. I also really liked the menswear argyle. Buttons were a popular theme, and I liked this stripe of buttons and other notions (which came in ninth) best of that bunch. As for designs I could imagine wearing as clothes, I liked the lotus pods the best, though I would love it even more in blue. As for designs I could see as kids' clothes, I think the ties and the sock birds would both be adorable pajamas.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Project Runway Season 12 Episode 5

At the beginning of the fifth episode, we get a little montage of the designers in their apartments, with some of the boys saying they miss Sandro, and some of the girls not missing him in the slightest.

This episode's challenge is one of those where they have a whole bunch of complicated product placements - I mean conditions. I had to watch it three times before I understood what they were doing. They are split into teams of three (since there are twelve left at this point). Each team must make a high-end mini collection, with each designer individually responsible for a single look - but together the three must look cohesive.

Then we start with the product placement. Each team gets a Lexus (of a different color) they can drive around to the places where they will get their materials for the challenge. They can also use the Lexus as inspiration if they so choose. Since this is yet another unconventional materials challenge (the third one, just five episodes in!), the stores they can go to are a combination homegoods/party store, a vintage wallpaper store, and a specialty food store. But they can only go to two out of the three). And the locations of all three have been programmed into the Lexus navigation system, in order to show it off.

Finally, they are instructed on how they must pay for materials - one of each team must be the chosen treasurer, and spend all of the (suggested) $1500 from just his or her card. And then later the other two will reimburse that person 1/3 of the amount from their cards. I was unclear on why they specified that, since there are other ways to prevent someone from getting ripped off by their team members, but then it became clear - it's so they can show off the ability to transfer between the cards via smartphone. Ahhhh.

The teams are:

  • Ken, Alexandria, and Sue (everyone, including these three, immediately decide this is the worst trio possible - nobody thinks they'll be able to get along)
  • Kate, Jeremy, and Karen
  • Justin, Dom, and Helen
  • Alexander, Miranda, and Bradon
The only events of note during the shopping phase happen on the doomed Ken/Alexandria/Sue team. Ken is particularly up-front about hating being on the team. He disagrees with what the other two want to do, such as choosing the wallpaper store as a destination, but when they continue to disagree with him, he just rolls his eyes and purses his lips and doesn't press the point. Here's a hint, Ken - if you don't stand up for what you want, or even bother to present reasons for your viewpoint, people are going to assume you actually don't care all that much!

In the workroom, Ken becomes even more furious with his team when he realizes Sue's ability to sew and make patterns are well below what he considers passable. Then we get taken in a different emotional direction entirely when Tim brings in...Sandro! To make his goodbyes. He does apologize to Ken and Helen, who had received the brunt of his tirade, but it's the hedged kind of apology (I'm sorry, but you DID make me mad!) that leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. I certainly hope he gave a good apology to the crew too, for threatening them and destroying things back stage!

When Tim comes back later for his usual visit, we get one of those little moments that make me love the editors so much. Jeremy is working with some placemats that he describes as being a little "madame" so he's doing something to counteract that - and then when get a quick cut to Ken, working with the exact same placemats, looking over at him with an outraged expression. Tim likes what he sees so far from Jeremy/Kate/Karen, but given the materials they have, feels like they're only at a "two out of ten" in terms of taking advantage of them.

Tim is very concerned about Ken/Alexandria/Sue. He sees that Sue is doing her usual draped/smocked black dress using curtains, and that he is "sick" seeing this - "you've thrown the challenge! Haven't you seen Project Runway before?" The judges do not appreciate use of fabric in unconventional materials challenges. Sue will have to start over. But they don't have much material to use, since they spent so much money on the wallpaper that I guess they've decided now doesn't fit in with their planned collection. Ken is smirking constantly through this, drawing the ire of Tim, who tries to get him to pitch in. Ken of course just uses this as another chance to insult his team, and reaching out as if to a rotten piece of fruit, touches Sue's dress and says it's "the best [she] can do right now." Cut to wide-eyed "glad I'm not on that team!" facial expressions around the room. 

Things only go downhill from there. Ken is talking to Alexandria, and when she, at some point, doesn't give the exact response he wanted at the exact time he wanted, he decides she wasn't listening to him at all and walks off in a snit. From there he pulls Kate aside and asks about how team eliminations go, to try to come up with a strategy to save himself. Kate's advice boils down to "save yourself."

Nobody is ready to leave the workroom when Tim comes to take them to the show. Sue, in fact, has to be stopped from further sewing out in the hallway. Tim says that nobody has had a model so far from having a wearable garment before. It's later revealed that the model herself actually keeps sewing back stage so that the dress will actually stay on.

Alexander, Miranda, and Bradon make looks using mostly white and silver wallpaper. Alexander makes pants and a shirt, with a giant puffy stole. Miranda makes a sheath dress. Bradon finishes it off with an exuberant bridal look.

Justin, Dom, and Helen anchor their collection with cream patterned wallpaper and goji berries. Justin makes a tunic and pants, which Dom disparagingly dismisses with "goji berry overload," which confuses me since her sheath dress with giant crystalline shoulder forms has almost as many berries on the waistband. Helen makes a dress with a panniered skirt and corsage.

The doomed trio has a boring collection of black foam mesh and gray placemats. Sue acknowledges hers is a disaster and it inspires an epic stink-eye from Nina as it goes by. Ken's dress looks stiff and pleathery. Alexandria's skirt is hilariously loud walking down the runway. SQUEAK CREAK GURK CHMIRK

Jeremy, Karen, and Kate have a black, white and silver collection, with a large variety of textures. Jeremy's white dress has tinsel down the sides. Karen's drop-waist dress is a patchwork of different materials. Kate's dress is edgier than she usually does, with thigh slits and lots of little cut outs.

Jeremy/Kate/Karen are the top team, with Alexander, Miranda, and Bradon a close second. Ken/Alexandria/Sue are obviously on the bottom.

For the winners, the judges gush over it all and want to know what materials they used and where they are. A patch of poppy seeds mixed with glitter! Pieced placemats! They love the tailoring Jeremy did and Heidi points out how great the model's cleavage looks. They captured luxury and they captured the spirit of the Lexus. 

For the losing team, of course they have to recap all their drama for the judges. Ken and Alexandria blame Sue for not being able to sew - and Ken makes sure everyone knows the model finished sewing Sue's dress. However, the judges counter by saying that all three looks are terrible: bad proportions, bad taste, bad, weird, funky, ugly! "NONE OF YOU CAN SEW!" Alexandria also brings up how hard it was to work with Ken, and that she had to "walk on glass." Ken tries to claim that can't possibly be true, but shows his true nature to the judges. First, he calls her "AlexanDRA," then when she starts talking after he has very plausibly stopped talking, he snaps "I'm still talking, so I need you to be quiet!" Oh yeah, nobody will believe you were hard to work with after THAT!

He continues this behavior back stage, telling Alexandria how furious he is that she would dare imply she had to be careful in how she spoke to him. So furious, that he orders her to not talk or even look in his direction! Yeah, he's really disproving Alexandria there...

Meanwhile, the judges are pooh-poohing Ken's garment, saying that his duct-tape-over-cloth skirt doesn't really meet the challenge of using unconventional materials. Then they tease that they might eliminate more than one person this week!

Jeremy is named the winner. Alexandria, for being the only one who tried to make the team work, is safe. Sue is out. also safe. So, just a normal elimination. Nobody backstage seems all that enthused that Ken is back.

Next week - glamping, and Tim gets teary trying to make some kind of announcement.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulphur

This week's contest theme was fireflies. I figured there would be plenty of representations of fireflies, so I wanted to do something more abstract. (Come to think of it, fireflies are themselves a fairly abstract concept to me - like the classic snowy Christmas, an iconic, nostalgic image I see referenced frequently but have never experienced myself.) I looked up what it is that makes fireflies glow, and saw that the key compound in their bioluminescence is called luciferin. So I decided to draw the molecule instead of the beetle.

As for the colors, I recently discovered a group of Spoonflower designers who formed the "Synergy Project," where they come up with their own themes and color schemes for designs. There's no time limit - you can add your fabrics to the individual themes (by tagging them) whenever you want. One of the hopes is that people wishing to buy coordinating fabrics can browse the whole theme, and see work from designers they might otherwise never find.

An additional goal of the group is to avoid treading on any intellectual property, so no explicit Dr Who or Star Trek or other references here. And as a step further, most of their themes are reclaiming over-exposed words (like "Vampire") to prove that we can make designs based on those words that don't have anything to do with pop culture.

I had been pondering joining the group, and this week ended up being a perfect opportunity, because one of their themes is "Firefly!' (having nothing to do with the sci-fi show, of course.) The colors they chose are yellow and a dark blue (plus you can also have black and white).

At first, I put my yellow and blue molecule in a denser, smaller-scale print, but that made it look like I just mashed up a bunch of circles and it didn't read as molecules. So contrary to my usual preference for making everything teeny-weeny, I decided instead to make it as large as possible while still fitting on a fat quarter. It almost reminds me of a Marimekko print.

luciferin makes fireflies glow

This came in 151 out of 246 with 62 votes. There were a ton of really good entries in this one. All the top ten are great. The trees-at-dusk pattern that came in second is also part of the Synergy set, and I also really liked the very similar, but more graphic, one that came in fourth. My absolute favorite is probably the geometric take that came in ninth. It might have been this swirly abstract design instead, but unfortunately that one is just a fat-quarter-sized illustration and not a repeat. Also making good use of transparency was this one with a magical feel. Fireflies in jars were of course a popular theme, my favorite of which was this very simple take. Another good one was the fireflies on wheat. (Huh, that sounds like a very weird sandwich...) And in the realm of very cutesy designs, I liked this glowy one and this sunny one.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Project Runway Season 12 Episode 4

Well, Tim Gunn sure wasn't wrong when he warned us on Facebook ahead of this episode that it was a doozy. The editors give us a heads-up right away with an action-movie technique - Sandro is shown backstage, yelling at the other designers, then storming out. Then - "36 hours earlier..."

In the morning montage of the designers in their apartments, we learn that Sandro wants more direction from the judges, Helen is glad she has immunity, and sadly Jeremy's grandmother has unexpectedly died. And of course, since he's on the show, he's not going to be able to attend the funeral.

The challenge this week is one of the simpler ones - they have a bajillion bowties in the workroom, which they must use as inspiration. And of course, they have to use at least one in the outfit (but not in a traditional way).

At Mood, their suggested budget is $200 - and we get to see that Miranda only spent $120, whereas Sue dished out a whopping $400. Either could spell trouble. Back in the workroom, Sandro is still ranting to himself about the judges. We are treated to a number of delicious shots of him grousing, with someone else sneering or eyerolling just over his shoulder.

Dom is making a dress out of narrow black and white stripes that, at least on my TV, interfered with the refresh rate and caused crazy moire patterns every time it appeared. When Tim shows up, he warns Miranda that her design is veering too far towards prim fussiness, and that she should do something to sex it up. When he gets to Helen, he gives her what seems to be only the very mildest criticism (such as he sees the outfit as being more feminine than she does), but for some reason it completely derails her and she has no idea where to go next.

When Tim gets to Sandro, Sandro makes it weird right away by deciding to call him "Top Gunn." They have a long discussion about Sandro's apparent delimma, of wanting to win the challenge, but feeling like the judges (Zac Posen especially) have it in for him. If he does his own style, then they'll keep telling him "too much, too much!" He is essentially trying to get Tim to tell him exactly what to do that the judges will like, but Tim of course tells him that he needs to be himself.

Ten minutes before the runway show, Miranda decides that the needed sexiness will come from her blouse becoming a crop top. Hmm. Also in the sewing-until-te-last-minute club are Bradon and Sandro.

Dom's striped dress comes out great, with graphic piecing and well-chosen bowtie patterns. It's my favorite of the bunch. Jeremy produces a red jacket and brown pants, in a thirties/forties style as a tribute to his Grandmother, which makes it hard to dislike. Bradon's is a bra top pieced entirely from bowties, paired with a shorts suit. It's a striking look, but falls into that category of things I don't understand where you could actually wear it.

Ken's leather dress looks ok but the halter neck looks awkward. And speaking of awkward, Miranda's! Ugh, houndstooth suit with a weird gappy waistband and that terrible green crop-top. Helen's dress has some elements I like - the piecing in the shape of a bowtie outline, and the harness made of ties - but those two elements overlap exactly and interfere with each other, so it just looks fussy instead of graphic. Alexander makes a black suit with a big rainbow bowtie collar. Interesting idea but I find it unappealingly clown-like.

Sandro has made a big pink red-carpet dress with gray ties that just look like they were slapped on at the very end. (We did get to see him placing them there early on in the design process, but there still seems to have been no thought put into making them make sense there.) Sue's also appears to have very little ideas or time behind it, even though we also got to see her working on it for a long time - a basic black dress with an octopus of bowties draped over it.

Justin makes a very sharply tailored black dress, with an interesting pieced line in an hourglass shape. Kate's is also very polished - a belted tunic and equestrian pants. On the other side of the pants spectrum are Karen's, which have a weird belly bulge. Alexandria's colorblocked dress is nice enough but unremarkable.

Ken, Helen, Alexander, Sandro, Justin, Karen, and Alexandria are named safe. However, the judges warn Helen that had she not had immunity, she would definitely have been in the bottom three. Then to add insult to injury, Heidi implies that perhaps the only reason Helen did well in the last challenge was because of Kate.

Then, Sandro brings all the proceedings to a halt by demanding that the judges give him some feedback. After some back-and-forth, Zac Posen tells him that his looks like the walk of shame after an awards show, and that overall his work has good construction but a bad taste level. They don't see "any designer" in his work. He tries to counter by saying he's still learning, and Zac counters by saying this isn't a show for students. They eventually manage to pry him off the runway, and Heidi tells him that if he wants detailed feedback then he should end up in the top three next time.

Backstage, Sandro gets more and more upset as the other designers try to talk him down. He proves himself to be the kind of bully who has no problem yelling at everyone around him with no provocation, but if anyone else dares to raise their voices to him, then he feels justified in threatening physical violence in return. We're back to the rampage at the beginning of the episode: he storms out of the room, knocking down curtains and rigging and whatnot on his way out of the building, and finally punches a camera as a huffs across the street. At that point the camera guys wisely stop trying to follow him.

Back to the judging - they love Bradon's colors and textures. Kate's is sexy and modern, and Heidi wants to wear it. Dom's is amazing and adorable, and the piecing is fabulous.

In the bottom, Sue's gets compared to Alien, an octopus, and kelp. It's a disappointing mess. Jeremy's is lackluster and not modern, and very unfortunately highlights the model's bellybutton. Miranda's is too eighties, has too little of the bowtie, and is completely killed by the crop top. Plus they call her out for always making pencil skirts.

At this point, Tim comes in to break the news that Sandro has run off, and that they'll be updated if they manage to track him down. The judges seem amused and exasperated, and not at all worried or upset.

Bradon is named the winner! In a very sweet moment, he takes the opportunity to propose to his long-time partner Josh. Heidi backs him up and promises to go to the wedding. At first he plans to wait until the episode airs, but then gets to have a video chat with Josh a few days after this was filmed, and they settle the business then.

When it comes time to name a loser, they announce that Sandro has eliminated himself (though they never make it clear whether they actually managed to find him again or not), so none of the bottom three will be out this time. Miranda has decided that she would have been the one out if not for Sandro, doubling her burden of survivor's guilt after last week's debacle with Timothy. I have a feeling she's going to be too far off her game to make it much longer under such pressure, especially since next week is yet another team challenge, as well as yet another 'unconventional materials" challenge.

Friday, August 9, 2013


This week's contest had higher stakes than usual - the winning design would get picked up by Betabrand and used in producing pants (or some other product, such as socks). Betabrand is the company that brought us cordarounds and meat feet, along with many other interesting experiments in unexpected textiles on everyday clothes. In addition, the design was to be inspired by an 8-bit style. I used this gallery of fighting game backgrounds as a mood board - so atmospheric!

I figured they wouldn't actually want something that was too crazy-bright of a novelty print. I made a stone lattice with a starry sky visible behind, and I'm pretty happy with how it came out.

Stone lattice, night sky

This came in 138 out of 242 with 55 votes. In terms of entries I might conceivably wear on real pants (as opposed to something like pajama pants, on which I would be more willing to wear a zippier print), my favorite by far was the starfighter pinstripe, but I could also imagine these cuboids. In fact, the pinstripe was the one that won the whole thing! Betabrand got to pick from the top ten (so it was partly votes and partly selection that won the day). I'm actually a little disappointed they picked one so subdued - I'm pretty sure it was the most subdued entry in the whole thing. But, it is a very clever and effective print that you could get away with as pants in some workplaces, and I'm going to be very tempted to buy whatever they end up making.

Not considering the possibility of garments, my favorite print was these cartoony birds (which came in fifth), followed by the collage of consoles and yearbook photos. And as for entries that didn't take the 8-bit theme as literally, I really liked this colorful stripe and 3-D floral.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Project Runway Season 12 Episode 3

As we could see from last week's series of meltdowns, the designers are already starting to buckle under the stress and lack of sleep. So it definitely seemed that this challenge's conceit, that they get to go to Coney Island and play carnival games, using the prizes as the material, is well-timed to function as a nice break. However, apparently it's already time in the season for the "too many inputs at once" challenge. We are also treated to an extremely gratuitous Yoplait product placement. Before they can play the games, the designers have to operate stands and give out frozen Yoplait samples, and ask people for words to describe the treat. And let's not forget that they were split into pairs for this, because why not have a team challenge, and each pair has to choose three of those words as inspiration for their garment. But they're all super-generic (adventurous! awesome!) and didn't seem to have any impact on the judging, so let's just pretend that didn't happen.

What did happen, though, is that Heidi goes in personally to the apartments in the morning to surprise everyone awake. Random! Also funny is seeing everyone loaded up with bulging bags of giant stuffed and inflated toys, shuffling into the workroom. They aren't allowed to go to Mood for more fabric (though they did have to spend $100 each from their prepaid cards to get unlimited tokens for the games).

The pairs, assigned by button bag, are:

  • Alexander and Justin
  • Kate and Helen
  • Jeremy and Ken
  • Sue and Sandro
  • Bradon and Karen
  • Dom and Alexandria
  • Miranda and Timothy
Of note: before they showed the selection process, Miranda says that she really hopes she doesn't end up with Timothy. So of course that happens. But, to his face, Miranda says she's happy, and Timothy actually is genuinely happy. Also, Helen regrets having called Kate a [lady dog] when she was revealed as the "second chance" designer, and now that she's been in the bottom and Kate won the last challenge, she's quite happy to try to learn from her.

They all make a tremendous mess of the workroom when the stuffed items get destuffed, and terrible clingy foam goes everywhere. Sue and Sandro take an early lead for worst team dynamic when they get into a fight about threading the sewing machine right away. He gets more and more abusive towards Sue's suggestions, finally flatly calling her ideas [excrement], drawing hairy eyeballs from all around the room. Also Sandro apparently thinks Zac Posen is out to get him. 

But then, after Tim's visit where he calls their garment both "Disney" and "hospital gown-y," Miranda goes into a silent mental downhill spiral. Then, in the sewing room, she jets their pair into the "bad team" lead by trash talking Timothy in front of everyone else there. She keeps talking as he comes in - Sandro tries to warn her but she plows right ahead. Poor Timothy - as far as he knew, everything was going ok, and he was really touched because their model brought him a sweet little card, and then he had to walk into that.

Timothy goes and hides in a hallway for a while to have a cry and console himself with the card. Meanwhile, Sandro is also crying at the sewing machine. Sue, in exasperation, finally just says "I'll be your assistant" and gives up trying to make any suggestions.

The next morning, Miranda tells Timothy that she feels terrible for what happened, but stops short of actually apologizing. Timothy points out he did nothing to deserve what she did and that he handled the whole thing much better than she did. They end up exchanging a feeble hug and think their garment is not too terrible. Now it's time for the runway.

Bradon and Karen's is a dress made mostly of blue and green plastic, with a big gathered plastic poof at the hip and and a big white polyester stuffing poof at the shoulder. Dom and Alexandria have a more casual outfit, consisting of a giant blue sweater with a mustachioed Domokun face, layered with a frilly little skirt - plus they've given their model deelybopper hair. Sandro and Sue seem to have made that big poofy cliched dress I was mentioning last episode that at least one person makes for every unconventional materials challenge (out of the blue plastic used by many of the teams). Also the model is fluffing the front of it very awkwardly so I really wonder what bizarre directions they gave her for the walk. Helen and Kate make a nicely shaped red dress out of sombreros, which guest judge Kelly Osborne takes to right away. 

Alexander and Justin produce a completely ridiculous look (also out of that green and blue plastic) with way too much going on - mermaid hem at knee length, peplum at the waist, leaves at the shoulder, peekaboo holes at the cleavage and belly button. Jeremy and Ken have blue pants, a wicker bustier, and a stuffed-animal-skin shrug, which has an unfortunate trashy whiff about the whole thing. Miranda and Timothy's dress has improved since Tim Gunn's visit, but it's still costumey, and the shrug looks very Mother of the Bride.

Bradon and Karen, Ken and Jeremy, and thankfully Sue and Sandro, are all named safe. I can already tell that Timothy and Miranda are going to have drama during the judging, so having an airing from Sue and Sandro too would be just too much to endure. But I almost miss the rest of the judging anyway, because I almost sprained my face from how hard I rolled my eyes when Sandro gets unbearably smug about how "genius" it was that he finally browbeat Sue enough that she stopped trying to contribute anything meaningful and just dully followed his orders.

Heidi and Kelly both want to wear Dom and Alexandria's sweater. Zac Posen describes it as an "instagram moment," which sounds good, and they all love how it is fun, inventive, adorable, and made them all smile. Making a casual outfit was smart and they styled it well. Both designers say that Alexandria would deserve the win if this outfit is at the top.

In the other direction, they are blown away by Helen and Kate's dress. It is high fashion, but also has fun and whimsy. When they get to see it close up, they're even more impressed at the workmanship. Both of the designers agree that Helen should be the winner.

In the bottom are two pairs that actually felt moderately good about their looks. The judges agree that there is too, too, TOO much going on in Alexander and Justin's. I knew somebody was going to use the phrase "hot mess," and Posen did not let me down. He also describes all the touches as kelp on the skirt, dorsal fins on her hips, and seaweed on her shoulders. They styling is bad too, as they've matched the model's eyeshadow to her hot pink shoes. Tim makes sure the judges know that they had initally made just a top and skirt, but after he had urged them to try to make it more sophisticated, they added the jacket. So they ask to have the jacket taken off, hilarously revealing pink stuffed lumps underneath the peplum, looking like nothing so much as testicles. So they rip those off too. They agree it's better that way, but that the problems all stem from Alexander and Justin not being able to decide if they were going to make it fun or glamorous. Neither of the designers will pick who should be eliminated if they end up the bottom two.

And then we get to Miranda and Timothy. The judges main issue here is that it is soooooo boring. It looks like a deflated pool toy, in biohazard colors. They appreciate that Timothy did intensive work on the texture on the jacket, but it wasn't effective. I actually have some hope that we're going to get through this without them bringing up their workroom drama, but alas, Miranda has to bring up the topic when explaining that she would pick herself to be out. Timothy then launches into a long confusing metaphor about the Titanic, but I did catch when he made a comment like "if I had been working with a stronger designer..." They obviously edited the whole thing down to a fraction of what it must have been (thank goodness for that) but it seems the judges eventually get a whole account of the sorry affair.

Backstage during the final deliberation, Miranda and Timothy have it out once again. In the end, Miranda feels that Timothy, in complaining to the judges, did the same thing to her that she did to him by complaining to the whole workroom. Sure, in the sense of "bringing up complaints to third parties rather than talking to me directly," but the things Timothy said didn't seem to approach the level of viciousness that Miranda had. They seem to reach an understanding though.

Helen is named the winner! I though that the Alexander/Justin outfit was far, far worse than the Timothy/Miranda effort, but there's no contest as far as the judges are concerned. It comes down to the dress being mostly Miranda, and the jacket mostly Timothy, and they hate the dress a little less, so Timothy is out.

Next time, it looks like something with bowties, and Sandro continuing his escalating series of meltdowns.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

300 miles, twenty times a year

This week's contest theme was "highways and byways." We recently moved up to northern California, where my husband and I both grew up, after having lived in southern California for around ten years. What with visiting family, we drove up and down the state about eight to ten times per year for all that time, so we've become very familiar with the signs you can see on that route. This design is a tribute to my favorite signs, and the four major north-south routes in general (1, 5, 99 and 101). Once, when we had to make last-minute change to a weekend trip, we ended up driving on all four in the course of a single day.

California Highway Patchwork

I've long had an idea of making a faux-applique cheater quilt using these motifs (as in, making it look like all the signs and lettering have been pieced out of other prints), so it was fun to be able to do a relatively quick and simplified iteration of that. I like how the little roads and intersections between the signs turned out. I also feel like the repeat came out pretty well, even with all those big blocks of color that can be hard to balance.

This came in 63 out of 146 with 105 votes. Traffic signs were obviously a major theme, and my favorite besides mine was this one that tweaked the color scheme to be a bit more feminine. There were also many entries formatted as a stylized landscape, of which I liked this mountainous take and this diagrammatic display of landmarks (which came in fourth). In the realm of slightly less representational entries, I really liked these rolling hills, gridded roads on the bias, and most abstract of all, the nicely textured loops.