Monday, February 16, 2015

Swiss Cheese Tee: The Pleasures of the Threadbare

Swiss Tee. Wool jersey and velvet, 2015
Thought about photographing clothing I've worn to bits like teddy bears loved threadbare. Put one tee shirt on the dressform to photograph it. It looked more swiss-cheese than shirt.

Mending only goes so far; there have to be fibers strong enough to support the mend. Recently labeled a small bin: Clothing in Retirement.

For a new tee began with an idea, shaping the pieces without bothering to make a paper pattern first.  Based the sleeves and the U-sweep neckline on a 'retired' shirt. Cut out the front, the back and sleeves in lightweight rose wool jersey. It had the glimmer of a swift project: a tee that could be worn to dinner that evening!

The process of making a garment refuses to be hastened. It's very odd. Even with well-honed skills and practice it is almost as though there's a muse who requires respectful devotion. "Oh, I will just whip this out," is invariably an approach that leads to the opposite results. It's uncanny.

Beautiful back drape
At the end of the day there were perplexing puzzles to solve about the design. Doubts had arisen. Had dinner with friends. (How good to be out and about!) The next day the road blocks were gone. Gathered the sleeve where it meets the shoulder, finished the neckline with pale chiffon. Decided upon a couple modifications. Cut a second version from dark purple wool (shown here). The neckline is bound with velvet, which does in fact glimmer.

All snowflakes are different. What if all tees were unique?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Conscientious Consumer

Announcing a new video!

We're surrounded literally and figuratively by stitched material: the sheets we sleep between, the sofas we sit upon, the clothing we wear. The goal of this video is to share some knowledge with you, giving you the ability to make more considered choices when in the market for sewn goods.

How can you tell whether the bed linens you are buying are well made?
Verysweetlife shows some details to look for before you make a purchase.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Leather and Rhinestones

Cummerbund. Leather with metal/rhinestone ornament, 2015
A cummerbund belt. Made to wrap around the back and cross over the front panel, the tapered ends are secured on either side of the torso. Love a low-riding belt!

The blouse is (rumpled) linen. The leggings, wool knit. Warm and sleek, am wearing them often this winter.  Glad to have made two pairs. When it works, it works!

This making all I wear... have been thinking about the ease of buying, of finding a beautiful item to acquire. The process of imagining, planning, experimenting and making has become second nature. I'm a stronger designer as a result.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Playground Fez

Fez Hats for Kids, 2015
Just the thing for the playground: a dragon fez.

Was making holiday gifts, a trio of hats for three kids. The first one was made of fairly thin red fleece. Being a little too floppy it was put aside. Then one very cold night when it was chilly even under the covers I reached for that fleece fez. It was soft and added a little warmth, plus wearing a hat is soothing. Really, it has a subtle calming effect. Since then on nights when it's chilly indoors I'm wearing a version of one of these (without the dragon, admittedly). Think I'll put it on now!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Letters from a Single Year Lived Beautifully
In a sort of inverse to spring cleaning, am shedding leaves (of paper) and mulching (metaphorically) garments as autumn descends.

Have treasured letters from lengthy correspondences with friends near and far. Prior to the ease of email the arrival in the post of an airmail envelope and a foreign stamp generated excitement and warmth. Leaves of paper were handwritten then folded, traveled a distance to where they were unfolded and the words slurped up. Glorious.

Undeniably there is ample room in a lifetime for a multitude of friendships. These collected letters are cobblestones along the path. A celebratory bonfire is more appropriate than a dustbin.

Bra in Blush Lace (with black straps), 2014
There is always room for metamorphosis in attire. The season of layering has begun. Am in the mood for that which is...
These qualities in mind, have discarded some clothing and made more lingerie.

It is early morning. The pleasant fragrance of toast from a neighboring apartment wafts in. Birds that have yet to migrate are chirping in a community of song. It is a less riotous sound than a summer morning brings. Bra and birdsongs, the foundations of a day?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Receptive to Material

Sewing, 2014
Fabrics made from natural fibers have distinct properties (e.g. density, surface texture, friction, weight, suppleness, crispness...). These determine how best to cut pattern pieces from a material, the type of sewing needle and pins to use, even the way to press the seams. It's a collaborative process--working attuned to the cloth.

In between other projects have bit by bit made a linen shift to wear as a slip. This is a fabric I love. Rarely use pins when working with linen. In the photo my right index finger is tucking under a narrow edge of the linen while my left hand keeps the material aligned as it passes under the sewing needle. A foot on the pedal powers the motor simultaneously. There's a harmony to it.

Lately it's primarily silk taffeta on the cutting and sewing tables. This material! It is magnificent. Taffeta has the subtle sheen of the surface of a lake at dusk. It is so sculptural one could make origami with it. Working with silk taffeta is like entering an elegant home whose hostess' inviting manner makes one at ease in the sumptuous surroundings. A lot of metaphors for one fabric. Honestly, it's poetic stuff.

Synthetic fibers have advantages, of course! Though they aren't quite penicillin, Lycra and its kin have allowed clothing to become softer, more durable and to be adapted to different climate conditions and provide simpler sizing [applauding: stretch].

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Always Room for a Hat

Sun Hat
Scalloped Hem Jacket
Pirate Pants
Wrap Belt
Lace-edged Blouse

Photograph: Robert Lucy
Labor Day Weekend. Summer's last hurrah has been a generous wave of heat and humidity.

Autumn is on the way.

A sun hat, sandals and lightweight linen (blouse, pants). A jacket to usher in the season.

A hat hook on the exterior of a building?! (A matter of perspective.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lingerie and Lemonade

Moonstone Lace Lingerie. (Nylon, cotton) 2014
Fancied new lingerie. Lace. Was headed to the Garment District.

En route popped into a textile trade show. Looked at neatly displayed samples of lace in a manufacturer's booth. Chatted with the sales representative (about laundering the lace, its elasticity). The three day expo was closing. She and her colleagues had hundreds of samples to pack. She spontaneously offered that I should take samples of the lace to try. Thought about which pieces would be useful. Chose a swatch of wide white galloon lace. (Galloon lace has a decorative scalloped border along the top and bottom edges.) There was a black piece too--both with stretch. Perfect for lingerie!

Barely any scrap of white lace remained once it had been patterned, cut and sewn. Combined the black lace with cotton for a different style.

Onyx Lace Lingerie. (Nylon, cotton) 2014
Buying has its merits, yet there's an intangible joy in making. With a desire to share the benefits was practically singing, "I want to teach the world to sew...(tra-la)."

Yesterday passed by a stoop sale. A seven year old boy was pleading with his mother (who was selling the wares) to let him go to the corner deli to buy lemonade. She was explaining to him that he was too young to go on his own.

An hour later walked by the stoop sale on the way home. The boy was drinking lemonade from bottle with a straw. He was smiling widely, his grin extending on both sides of the straw. His mother had relented. To the boy that lemonade must have tasted better than any other. It was flavored with independence. To make what one wears has a similar essence.

(The background in the photos? Fuchsia fabric draped over the ironing board.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Studio Visit

Visited in the studio by the curators of Ground Floor Gallery.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tool Belt

Noticed a handyman standing outside an apartment building holding a large wooden door. He wore a canvas tool belt. On a quest to make a belt to hold daily supplies (keys, phone, pens, etc.) my attention has been drawn to examples of belts with pockets, fanny packs or bags worn around the waist of a passersby. His tool belt looked pretty great--useful and with a soft patina of wear to prove it.

Tool Belt from Home Depot
The tool belt came from Home Depot he said. In the photo is an identical one found there. It is well constructed (in India), made primarily of heavy canvas. The bottoms of the pockets and the edges are bound in suede, the corners reinforced with rivets. An adjustable nylon webbing belt is stitched and riveted in place along the back length of the canvas.

It was a good taking off point.

Tried it on. It was heavy. The nylon webbing used for the actual belt was stiff and scratchy making it difficult to adjust. The belt had to be removed to work the webbing through the plastic fastener. The cotton canvas--a natural, sturdy fabric was ideal. The pockets were spacious and varied in size. That they were open facilitated accessing tools. Having previously made a belt with open pockets, however, decided for the urban landscape it is more practical to have ones that close.

Belt Sketch, 2014

Above is a sketch of the bag I was thinking about. Lidded pockets in a variety of sizes. A hidden back pocket. Water resistant canvas fabric. Two loops for the bag to hang from any belt.

VSL Belt. Water resistant cotton canvas, leather, 2014.

When it was partially sewn I realized the center of the bag would pull away from the body if it only hung from a belt at either end. Decided instead to follow the Home Depot model: sewed a belt to the bag. Made of leather it adjusts easily; the bag may be worn at the waist or slung low around the hips. The pocket edges are pleated so they can expand [think cargo pants pockets]. The entire length is backed with heavy canvas--another echo of the HD belt. 

Athletes use the mind to envision the performance they wish to achieve. (Hurrah for H.A. Dorman's The Mental Game of Baseball.) Is it very different for the artist? There are identical components: acquired skills and practice, planning and spontaneity. Removing the finished belt from the sewing machine and clipping the threads was sort of astonished. Had long been thinking about the design, planning it, paying attention to examples, drawing different versions. Now here it was!