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Laura Bennett DIY: Episode 1 - Nina's Matchstick Belt

By CaitlinBergmann Fri., Oct. 28, 2011 ,1:19 pm EDT

Here is a less flammable version of Nina's winning belt:


5 meters beige 3mm Polyurethane Cord www.tohoshoji-ny.com)
1 meter red 3mm Polyurethane Cord (www.tohoshoji-ny.com)
200@ 6mm red glass beads (www.tohoshoji.com)
2" D ring (www.m&j.com)
2@ ¼" Screw in Studs (www.hardwarelf.com)
4 @ 1" x 4" strips of leather


Sewing machine
Size 14 or 16 leather sewing machine needles
Clear glue (I used Beacon 527 Multi Use Glue)
3M 365 Adhesive Transfer tape, or double stick tape (www.drillspot.com)
Rotary Hole-Punch
Tape measure

1. Using a tape measure, measure around where you want the belt to sit. Deduct two inches from this measurement, and cut five beige pieces of cord this length.

2. Cover the curved section of the 2" D-ring with glue and wrap the ring with the red cord. Set it aside to dry.

3. Cover the back of two 1" x 4" leather strips with the adhesive transfer tape. Burnish and peel off the paper backing. Place the five beige cords, equally spaced, on the back of one leather strip, overlapping by two inches.

4. Place the second leather strip, wrong sides together, on top of the first, carefully lining up the edges. Topstitch around all sides, 1/8" from the edge.

5. Using the smallest size on a rotary leather hole-punch, make a hole 1" from the cord end. Using the largest size on the rotary hole-punch make a hole ½" from the other end. Install the screw in stud into the small hole.

6. With the stud facing up, loop the leather strip through the D-ring and close it by inserting the larger hole on to the stud.

7. String 40 glass beads on each beige cord. You may have to trim the edges to do this.

8. Repeat steps 3 thru 6 on the other end of the beige cords, being careful to prevent the cords from twisting. Attach this end to the D-ring and distribute the beads.

Check back next week for how to recreate Episode 2's winning look ... yourself!

-Laura Bennett

Laura Bennett Shows You How to Do It Yourself

By CaitlinBergmann Fri., Oct. 28, 2011 ,5:07 am EDT

I have a new book coming out titled Handmade Chic: Fashionable Projects That Look High-End, Not Homespun. It is full of accessory projects that are easy to make, but look chic, high-end, and anything but homemade.

In celebration of my new book, I will be turning the winning accessory project from Lifetime's new show, “Project Accessory" into a DIY project, complete with a tools and materials list, directions and diagrams, and a list of internet resources where you can find the same materials I used to recreate it. If you try a project and have any questions, just leave a note in the comments section and I’ll try to help.

Here is a photo of my version of the matchstick belt from Nina's winning look as seen in Episode 1. I need a day or two to catch up, and get the instructions posted, but if you see a winner from "Project Accessory" you love, check in here for my ideas of how you can get the look.

Laura Bennett tips on how to create Project Accessory winning items

-Laura Bennett

Season 9 Premiere Episode Recap

By CaitlinBergmann Fri., Jul. 29, 2011 ,12:33 am EDT

I'm baaaaack! This time as a spectator of this fascinating fashion menagerie of "Project Runway," I finally get a chance to be on the administering end of the comments, thoughts and constructive/creative critiques.

As a designer and veteran contestant, I understand the insecurities of creating under the extreme measures while trying to maintain your aesthetic as an artist. But as a viewer, I expect to be totally engaged and WOWED by the designer's creativity. I WANT TO SEE FASHION! Beautiful fashion! I care less about drama and kookiness, JUST SHOW ME THE GOODS. I want to give you MY REALITY of this season of "Project Runway"! I welcome you into my "Fashion Bar," where the insight is straight up, no chaser!

The Season 9 premiere episode opened with a "Project Runway" first: 20 designers are vying for the spot on the throne! If your thought process is like mine, I'm sure you thought, "How in the hell am I going to remember all these people?!" Well, no need to try. In true "Runway" form, four of the 20 designers are eliminated immediately. David Chum, Gunnar Deathrage, Amanda Perna, and Serena da Conceicao were the unfortunate souls to receive the axe. With the exception of David, I'm not mad at those who got the boot. I must say, I really was intrigued by David's navy frock that I got a quick glance of during the casting. It appeared to be super chic and sophisticated. But, that's how the cookie crumbles. Someone (or some FOUR) had to be the first to go.

So, NOW we're down to 20. Cheers and champagne ensue, not realizing they will literally be awaken later (well, early) that morning! The challenge: Create a look from the PJs off their backs and one of their bed linens! I like this challenge! It felt like my season's (Season 3) first challenge where we had 10 mins to grab everything out of our apartment to construct a garment with. (Shout-out to my coffee filter dress. ;-) Unfortunately, most of the designers didn't make me as excited as the actual challenge.

To be honest, I would love to chat about each of the 16 designers but it's just to damn many! LOL I was able to get a better sense of a FEW of their design aesthetics with their first experience in the Parsons workroom. Immediately, I wanted to see Anya in action. Being that she only has four month's experience sewing, I was interested to see how she was going to "make it work."

I loved that she ambitiously takes on constructing a pant. Not an easy feat for a beginner. Anthony Ryan caught my attention in the workroom as well. I can't really put my finger on it, but there something that intrigues me about him and really makes me want to see him create and view his creative process.

Initially, I'd already discounted Bert just because I figured he was going to give me something very vanilla. But, the peak of his piece being draped TOTALLY shut me up! One to watch? We'll have to see. Rafael caught my attention, not because of his design, but because of the dose of "Tim Gunn medicine."

I totally agreed with Tim. The silk headscarf was the most interesting of his textiles. I did feel Rafael for wanting to stick to his direction, but I do think you should always have an open ear, especially if you're teetering on being ousted! The rest of designers didn't strike my interest while looking at their process in the workroom. It's still very early yet, and the runway is where it counts the most!

The runway show was quite easy for me to sum up. When there are so many designers in one presentation, it's easy for the really good AND really bad designs to stand out. I was pleasantly surprised to see a garment that I didn't notice in the workroom previously: I genuinely liked Danielle Everine's look! I think her pieces were SUPER CUTE, very fresh and now!

Joshua McKinley's look also had a cool factor to it. I was impressed that Laura Kathleen created not a ONE, but a THREE-piece look. Very smart separates, clean and wearable. Anthony Ryan's pieces were great too, but as PIECES. I wish he would've maybe designed another separate for the tank or another piece for the mini.

My favorite look of them all was Bert Keeter's! FAN-EFFIN-TASTIC!!! Uber chic, super sexy! The frock definitely gave me a fashion moment.

There were a few designers on the other end of the spectrum who weren't as successful. Julie Tierney's look was just everywhere. I do appreciate her effort, but the look was CONFUSING. Josh Christensen and Cecilia Motwani's looks weren't necessarily bad (uninspiring, but not bad), but they had issues with the fit! If you are going to do a restrained and simple design, the fit should NEVER be an issue. The lines of the garments were easy. A little more attention to the details would have made a big difference.

The moment of truth finally has arrived: the "first" IN and OUT for a challenge! I was very pleased that Bert won this challenge. He did a fantastic job stepping out of his comfort zone and taking a risk. His design was absolutely amazing! A well deserved and worked-for win!

Julie, Rafael, and Josh C. were the three unlucky designers in the bottom. Just like my thoughts about the initial four designers eliminated at the top of the show, I also agreed with all chosen here, except for Rafael. Although his garment didn't WOW me, I will say that among the three, his pieces showed the most design effort. I mean, really. Josh C.'s shorts were horribly fitted, and Julie's look, in addition to the fit issues, was just not good…at all. But the fashion gods spoke, and Rafael was sent packing. Following your heart sometimes comes with sacrifices. I guess it's just the nature of the beast.

Before I part, I want to leave on a fun note! "Project Runway" is BUILT on quotes. From "You're either in, or you're out" to "Make it work," the show has been an incubator of catch phrases. So for every blog I post, I'll be leaving you with "NOTABLE QUOTABLES"! They will be all the little things said that made me chuckle during the week's episode. So, here they are!

"I see you gulping. I WANT YOU TO GULP!" - Tim Gunn (Hilarious!)
"Are you speaking foreign?" - Laura Kathleen (Huh? LOL!)

Auf Wiedersehen!


Episode 1 Recap

By CaitlinBergmann Thu., Jul. 28, 2011 ,4:06 pm EDT

Ladies and gentlemen, start your sewing machines and get ready!!!!!!! "Project Runway" is changing it up for Season 9. Exciting twist number one is that 20 designers are preliminarily cast from the open call auditions and then flown to New York to audition again for the celebrity judges and Tim.

I truly loved seeing the energy, nerves, passion and excitement each of the designer hopefuls shared within the few moments of watching. I can honestly say that for the first time since I was on Season 3, I started to get nervous for the designers. The whole process of opening yourself up to public praise and humility on an international level and displaying your talent only for it to be judged is a feeling I will never forget. The judges quickly eliminated four designers and sent them packing. Kudos to "Project Runway" for capturing these raw feelings and everyone involved in casting because I predict this season will be one of the most fascinating.

The 16 anxious cast members were able to let their hair down, only for a bit. Just enough time to get acquainted with the other designers and sip down some bubbly. Next was getting all settled into the Atlas apartments. Sure enough, within hours of hitting the hay, Tim wakes the designers at 5 am and asks them to come with him, wearing their pajamas and bringing one bed sheet. (This kind of reminded me of my first challenge where we tore our apartments apart using any materials we could find!)

The first tear was shed by “Han Solo," I like to call him, who shared his story of only having one testicle. Anthony Ryan is a color blind, 28-year-old that battled cancer, leaving him with only one ball. Luckily, this young lad did not lose his talent. I felt he did a splendid job transforming his fluorescent striped pajamas and white sheet into a grey, black, and green flattering ensemble.

A clear favorite of mine for this first episode is, of course, Miss Trinidad and Tobago. I am such a sucker for a pretty former pageant girl with an accent and a wicked sexy hairstyle. Anya Ayoung-Chee had to prove to the judges that she could truly sew after the interview round. She sure did, transforming her kimono sleepwear and bed linen into a sexy, fitted top with amazing back interest. She dyed her white she a steel grey and draped a pretty impressive pair of trouser pants for her model. My only problem with the pants was the bagginess in the crotch area that the judges seemed to overlook.

Now let’s discuss some of the downright awful fits that the judges did NOT overlook. Julie Tierney, a 35-year-old from Colorado, wowed the judges during the interview round with her really cool outerwear, but not so much with her underwear/pajama piece. The pants she made from her sheet were probably some of the worst fitting I have ever seen. She made them fit at the waist with these weird elastic gathered parts. And then there was the one shoulder top that just looked like a kindergartner might wear.

I would have to agree with the judges on this one: Rafael Cox fell far too short on this challenge, sending him home on challenge numero uno. He seemed like a little bit of an odd character. He had a fab leopard print turban that he practically refused using until Tim pointed out to him it was the most exciting textile he had to work with. Then he makes it into nothing, but a “Flintstones Disco Pouch” … is what Michael Kors called it. LMFAO. Michael, you so crazy with your adjectives, but your accessories are killing it in the stores right now, so props to you.

Mega props tonight has to go out to Bert. Bert Keeter is a 57-year-old recovering alcoholic that is making his way back into fashion after a 19-year hiatus. He has an impressive background, working for Bill Blass and Halston in their prime. Bert took his orange and white check boxer shorts and taupe t-shirt, along with his dyed sheet, and made a smart and sophisticated look. I could tell that Heidi, Nina, and Christina Ricci all wanted to get in Bert’s boxers. Hell, Michael Kors loved it so much, he probably wanted to try to squeeze into it as well … as long as he didn’t have to be styled like Bert’s model. The only negative comment for Bert was that his styling was dated. The design was truly exquisite.

There are so many designers and designs that I didn’t get to touch on, from Mormons to bronzed babes and Barbies, but I am sure next week will not disappoint. I will also be waiting on pins and needles to see when the emotions rise and we see the serious competition begin!

When the Sheet Hits the Fan

By CaitlinBergmann Thu., Jul. 28, 2011 ,5:07 am EDT

Well, kids ... time to take a shot of pity-party mouthwash and rinse out the bad taste that the Season 8 Project Runway finale shocker left in your mouths. Mondo is fine, and it's time to get on with it all, because here comes Season 9!

Anya Ayoung-Chee Project Runway4 Down, 13 to Go
We open with a chiseled Heidi and dapper Tim (shocking, I know) announcing that all 20 of the fashion hopefuls must appear before them, Nina and Michael with some of their favorite designs and sing a little song to the tune of "Please Don't Send Me Packing," as four of the designers will go home before the first challenge. Let the tap dancing begin.

And the Tony Goes to ...
The designers unpack and size up the competition. We have Anthony (a front-runner in the "crier" division), who is wearing a fierce scarf. Miss Heidi wants it, but he won't take it off. For God's sake, dude, give her the scarf! Viktor looks promising. Beauty queen Anya presents several expertly made garments and then announces that she learned to sew four months ago (is she a savant?). After she confesses that she had "a lot of help," Tim gives her the "pull on someone else's legs, mine are long enough" look. Time will tell. Olivier also seems to be one to watch. Most cringe-worthy moment: Rafael thinks that Nina keeps giving him a "come-hither" look. Ummmm ... really, dude?

Toga Party
David, Gunnar, Amanda and Serena are out, and the remaining 16 head to Atlas to unpack and crash, only to be dragged out of bed by a chipper Tim Gunn, who leads the string of sleepwalking designers through Manhattan. Arriving at Parsons, Tim announces the challenge: to make a garment using only their pajamas and one sheet from their beds. Thankfully, the contenders are given scrubs to wear as they tear apart the various jammies, sweats and boxers ... because naked ironing is a dangerous thing. Trust me.

Runway or Runaway?
It's runway time, and the designers are greeted by a GORGEOUS but rather subdued Miss Heidi. No short and tight and shiny … maybe next week. Judges are introduced, and Michael and Nina have virtual napkins tied around their necks, waiting for the fashion feeding frenzy. Guest judge Christina Ricci, polished and sweet, seems to be a gentle choice for the first runway — why make them wet their pants on Episode 1? The runway is a mix of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. There's everything from chic dresses to crazy pants, and even a puking clown. But I digress ...

At the Top
Anya's silk-kimono-turned-sexy-top and stovepipe pants put her at the head of the class, along with Bert and his chic dress made from his checked boxer shorts. Michael calls him out for his dated styling, but the dress is strong enough to overcome that lipstick and hair. Anthony Ryan is also tops, for his lace-embellished T-shirt and feather-laden skirt. Please look at that skirt and tell me that it doesn't look like it needs a good waxing ... Tim Gunn saw it. The judges, however, loved the look.

Joshua Christensen Project RunwayIn Deep Sheet (last pun, I promise)
Trembling in their shorts are the bottom three designers: Josh C., Julie and Rafael. Josh clearly struggled with fit and execution, which Nina declares is "garishly off." This leaves Josh wondering why his fellow designers never told him it was less than stellar. Really? Julie's look is a combination of an odd top with tragic pants. Rafael seems unfazed by Michael's remark about the "Flintstone disco patch" around his model's neck. It appears that he took his do-rag and made a "don't"; the sweatpants leggings didn't help. Nina was not amused. Thankfully, Michael Kors, the Mayor of One-Linerville, came this season armed with some great lines. He slays me.

Drum Roll, Please ...
And the win goes to ... Bert! He used a whimsical pair of boxers and a T-shirt to walk a darling little dress down the runway. Julie is sent to safety, which leaves Josh C. and Rafael shaking in their boots. I am a little worried about that puddle of sweat pooling under Josh. However, it is Rafael who is sent to clean up his workroom space by a pocket square–adorned Mr. Gunn.

Coming Attractions
The tension and drama appear to skip Simmer and go straight to Boil ...