Poppy Things

Concept & Design

Chelsey SawallichComment

I was blessed to have been raised In the magical land of Leelanau County, MI.  Here is where rolling hills of farmland are hugged by miles of sparkling lakes, rows of cherry trees fence the sandy soil, freshwater breezes kiss the cornfields, and the tradition of family farming is passed through generations.  

At the age of twelve, my mother felt that I was old enough to ride my bike on the road without supervision.  I would either turn right out of the driveway and ride down to Solon Park to sit at the lake, or I would turn left and ride down to my grandparent's house to catch up on cable TV.

Each time I went to my grandparent's house I would pass this haunting white farmhouse.  "FOR SALE" it said.  It's been for sale for as long as I can remember.  As a twelve year old I thought, well, let's just see how much it is. $575,000.  Pocket change, right? 

6341 South Lake Shore Drive.  This will be my address someday, you can count on it. Here's the craigslist ad, complete with photos from 1969: https://nmi.craigslist.org/reo/d/south-lake-leelanau-7-acres/6345285744.html


So why is this house so mystical to me?

When my bike tires would ride up the long two track and I approached the imperfect two story white farmhouse, I felt like this was something that was completely mine.  I obviously knew that somebody else owned it, but I felt as if it was a secret that was just for me.

The white siding would chip and weather year after year, revealing grey wood.  Overgrown plants enveloped the back door, lace curtains revealed glimpses of the interior, and poppies grew against the weathered siding every other year, although the garden was neglected.  This was the first time I had ever even seen a poppy.  My favorite flower at the time were tulips, so I thought they were a different breed.


I remember being infatuated by the rich reds and oranges.  The soft poppies against the hard and chipped wood siding.  The multiple layers of the petals, pleating into the most perfect flower I had ever seen.

In the back yard of the house, there is a gorgeous view of Lake Leelanau, huge trees to rest under, and down the hill is the barn and chicken coop.  I would go there and sketch for hours.  I would pray to God about my troubles, about my hopes and dreams.  I would bring my first love there, and then bring my now husband-to-be there, hoping that he could see and understand why this old house meant so much to me.


I've only been inside the house three times in the twelve years that I've been going there. The first time, the back door was magically just swung wide open, like the wind had done it.  The second time, someone had purposefully cut the padlock.  The third time, this past summer, the front door (for the first time ever) was just casually unlocked.  Like the house was saying to me, "hey, I know you're trying to study me for your thesis. Come on in!"

Coffee cups are still in the cupboards, a bar of soap sits on the sink.  Narrow stairs lead to the children's bedrooms.  One of the bedrooms has the most awesome wallpaper.  It also has a hidden closet that leads to a different unfinished room.  I wonder if it was just for storage?


In my collection, I wanted to capture the nostalgia and wonder that I felt my first time discovering this house and the poppy garden.  The collection is about wonder, it's about believing you can do something, and then doing it.

I am using several different fabrics in the collection.  One is an eyelet cotton, which emulates the curtains in the windows of the farmhouse.  I have two different shades of orange and red crinkle silk chiffon, which represent the poppy petals.  I have tencel modal, which is a very soft fabric that is comparable in look to denim, only it is more sustainable and has a nice drape.  And my main fabric is an original printed silk chiffon.  I commissioned a local artist, Kristin Sturdy, to create the illustration of the poppy print.


I also plan to make the print with a navy background and blow up the print to a larger scale to make transitional looks for fall.

I think that's pretty much the best explanation I have!  If you have any further questions about my process, please feel free to contact me!

xoxo Chelsey

1/2 Inspiration mood boards.

1/2 Inspiration mood boards.

2/2 inspiration mood boards.

2/2 inspiration mood boards.



The Beginning

Chelsey Sawallich1 Comment

It's October 14th and it's scary to think that in eight weeks this collection needs to be done, I'll be graduating, and I will hopefully be joining the workforce in the real, adult world of fashion.  Starting now I'll try to be better at updating you in my process--so far this is where I'm at:

My collection is being made for Spring/Summer 2018, titled Poppy House.  I will soon write a blog post explaining the title, the concept, my mood boards, and the reasoning behind my silhouettes, but in this post I will update you on where I'm at thus far.

Every fashion collection starts with what's called a "Mood Board."  I have two because I had a hard time narrowing down the images that inspired me.  My mood board helps to set the tone for my color palette, the details found in the images that reflect on my collection, the "girl" I envision wearing my garments, and key words that suggest the feelings that the collection brings.

After narrowing down my concept, my mood, color palette, and customer, I began sketching silhouettes.  In order to graduate I need to turn in three complete looks.  My goal is to deliver seven.  I couldn't limit myself to just three, I like to challenge myself and really wanted to be able to portray my whole concept which would be hard with just three looks.

What I'm working on now are prototypes or, muslin samples.  I drape my patterns and draft them, and to ensure that the fit works I make the garments in a cheap cotton called muslin first.  Right now pictured, is the "Amelia Dress" in the making.  It was very important for me to make sure that the fit was perfect because I did not want to make any mistakes when cutting and sewing my custom fabric.  

Pictured is my custom fabric that I designed and created.  I commissioned an artist at Kendall College of Art & Design to illustrate the poppies and cornflowers.  Kristin Sturdy is the artist, I chose her because of her extreme attention to detail and her botanical art is just exquisite and really captures exactly what I wanted.   She created the prints using watercolor and pen.  Once the prints were finished I scanned them in and used a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create a repeat print which I then sent in to Spoonflower.  The fabric is silk chiffon.

Throughout my collection I am utilizing couture construction techniques.  All seams are french seams, the zipper seams are bound with a Hong Kong finish, this garment in particular will be fully lined in white silk, and I utilized a rolled hem for this garment because the look of the rolled hem with the ruffles seemed natural.

This collection is going to be a lot of work to balance with my other studio classes and work, but I know it will be so worth it when it's complete.

More information about the concept to follow in a later post.

xoxo Chelsey

Amelia Dress prototype.

Amelia Dress prototype.


Poppy House

Chelsey SawallichComment

The last time my beloved farm house was lived in was sometime in the 70's. Every time I go there I find new inspiration. Things are the same, but different. Sometimes it's bolted shut, sometimes the door is wide open. Sometimes I sit in the back yard and look over Lake Leelanau, envisioning how I'd make the house and property my own if I could ever afford to purchase the $600,000 wonderland. Sometimes I sit and pray for my future, for my dreams to eventually be reality, and for me to continue to have the strength to pursue them. This is my Poppy House. This is my thesis. This is what my collection is about.


More concept development and blog posts to come.

xo Chelsey

Flower Transferring to Fabric

Chelsey Sawallich

I pull a lot of my inspiration for my designs from anything natural or botanical.  For a project for one of my Design classes at Kendall, we had to incorporate an innovative technique or a technology to something that has to do with our major and what we want to do after we graduate from KCAD.  

I've always been drawn to prints and bright colors, and have always wanted to try a method of natural dying or flower pounding on fabric.  For my project I chose to make an outfit using the innovative technique of flower pounding.  Shown below is my process of transferring flowers onto a silk skirt I constructed.

Since it was my first time doing this, there were definitely some errors that I made and some changes I will make for the next time I do this.  My process below was:

  1. Find an arrangement of flowers in your color palette of choice.  The purple and deeper colored flowers transferred the best! The greens and yellows transferred splendidly as well.  Pinks and peaches do not transfer well and end up discoloring to brown. (at least they did for me.)
  2. Lay out your fabric or constructed garment on a hard surface.  Place the flowers strategically in the order you'd like them to be transferred.  I constructed the garment first instead of printing on the fabric before constructing the garment because I wanted to place the print on certain areas of the skirt.
  3. Cover the garment with a cheaper cotton or fabric, or place a fabric you'd like to use for something else to get the complete use out of the flowers.
  4. Take a hammer or mallet, wrap it in a sock or with something to prevent the edge of the tool from transferring onto the fabric.
  5. Hammer away! And reveal the beauty.
  6. I soaked my fabrics in a salt/water/vinegar solution to prevent the colors from distorting and it didn't work, it made my colors fade.  Next time I will try soaking the fabric in the solution before doing the flower pounding.

I did notice that the colors transferred brighter onto the cotton that I layered over the silk.  I'm not sure if that's because it was a natural fabric and the silk was synthetic and had polyester in it, or if the order of hammering had something to do with it.  Either way, more experiments to come!  This was a lot of fun, and I plan to do more over Christmas break.

xoxo Chelsey