Friday, April 4, 2014

Style Influences and Lack Thereof

I've been thinking hard lately about my design roots -- why do I have such a compulsion to make, and what influences my personal style?

I make because I was raised a maker, by makers. My Mom stitched and weaved and gardened and cooked and baked. My Dad built a tree house and a go-cart (and roads for the go-cart) and a train table and a loom. And that's just my parents -- the rest of my family were makers too.

My style is influenced by nostalgia. I had a simple childhood of sticks and dirt, hand-me-downs, one tattered Pendleton shirt, needles and thread, and four older brothers and sisters that treated me like gold.

We spent our weekends at our woods camp, off the grid, climbing trees and swimming in our pond. If I had forgotten a swim suit my mother said, "Just swim in your underwear". Surely this was not what my friends did, but whatever, okay.  Little did my Mom know what this would lead to.

One Friday when I was a Sophomore in college my friend Jen came to my door and said, "Tonight a couple of the boys downstairs are streaking through the quad. Think about it -- last year you would not dare go streaking because you were a Freshman. Next year you will not go streaking because you will not live here. This is your single opportunity."

Guess who went streaking through the quad that night.

In the following months there was a spate of streakers (not me, I had met my requirement), and when the weather got warmer we resorted to jumping into the Lamprey River at Wiswall Bridge, swim suits optional.

On a dark night my friend Paul was standing at the bridge railing talking to a really pretty gal, a really pretty naked gal. Paul was short like me and tongue tied around girls. I did not want to miss this. But he had drunk some liquid courage, and I was stunned by how cool and collected he was, chatting about class and such. And then the girl climbed onto the railing. Paul's mouth dropped open and his eyes grew huge. He grabbed my arm and blurted, "OH-MY-GOD-SHE'S-NAKED!"

I hope you have a grand weekend. (But don't streak because nowadays it'll earn you a sex offender record!)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Stitcher's Wardrobe: Hat

A scrap happy beret, with a loop-dee-loop on top.  This is one of many ways to use multicolor variegated yarn.  I'll be teaching a Dozen Ways to use Variegated Yarn at Fiber College this year. Class registration opens on April 1st! Do come join me, the class list is fantastic.

In other news, my household is currently a furniture vortex. My Mom downsized to a lakeside condo last year, and we are slowly moving seven lifetimes of goodies out of the family farmhouse and barn. This bookshelf was built for my brothers by my Dad.  It housed books, a potato chip bucket of crayons, and a Habitrail for their gerbils, which was never-ending entertainment for the family dog.

Inky, bad dog.
The bookshelf was eventually demoted to magazine storage in the barn. I recently dragged it home, cleaned and painted it, and promoted it to my bedroom.

And this week we sold our old house/camp up in the Great North Woods, partially furnished (phew).  Still, there are favorite items for which I need to make room.  And when I decide to move a credenza into the house, six other pieces of furniture get moved. And I may as well paint, because moving the furniture reveals grubby walls and inefficient use of space.

Maybe vortex is not the right word.  Furniture Tetris, that is what I'm playing.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Stitcher's Wardrobe: Shirt

A simple shirt that ticks many boxes. The fabric is from the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary Fabric Sale (I'm sorry I cannot find links for this). Thrift, check. I sewed most of this on my regular sewing machine (check), and finished the edges on my serger (check). There are four more of these cut. I enjoy the cutting part.

The buttons are plastic and vintage, from Concord Antique Gallery.  Amy and I have been known to spend many hours there, as well as a couple of bucks.

In other news, and without my own photo evidence, I spent Saturday afternoon at the Common Cod Fiber Guild's FiberCamp Fashion Show.  It was a great opportunity to share my work and meet a lovely crowd of knitters, and I always jump at the chance to spend time with other designers. Everything looks even sunnier after a visit with dear friends. Here are some photo links from Baby Cocktails, and also from Sheeri.  Julia Farwell-Clay put the show together, and she did a bang up job. Thanks Y'all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Stitcher's Wardrobe: Mittens

 Well, almost mittens.

I made these two at a time using my pattern for Fried Chicken Mittens (instructions included for the fingerless version).  The wool was dyed by me, including the embroidered detail around the palm.

Lots more happening around here, including five shirts cut and partially sewn, another denim skirt cut, a sweater underway, socks underway, a hat completed, two brooches thrifted, and not one, but two bathrobes thrifted, and bathrobes were not on the list.

And more!  The Common Cod Fiber Guild is holding their 5th annual FiberCamp Boston on March 14th through the 16th.  I will be there with a few of my designs.  From their website:

 As part of FiberCamp, on Saturday at 4PM, we will host
a Designer Fashion Show with classic and brand-new designs from
Julia Farwell-Clay, Misa Erder, Thea Coleman, Bristol Ivy,
Amy Christoffers, Ellen Mason, and Alison Green.
Location: MIT Tang Center, Building E51, register in 3rd floor lounge,
2 Amherst Street, Cambridge

Maybe you will be there too?  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Shearing at Riverbank Farm

Ron the Dog and the goats
Monday was shearing day at my brother-in-law Matt's farm. He had sixteen sheep on Monday, but that number is about to explode, as most of the girls are due to lamb next week. Looks like there are lots of twins, too.

Pauline gently sheared all the sheep in quick succession. Move slowly to keep them calm, she says, but she works at such a steady pace that we were done in no time. And I would bet that most, if not all of the sheep weighed more than Pauline.

Levi was the working dog of the day. He would select a sheep and nudge it out of the sheep pile so Matt could move it along to the shearing carpet. Then he would wait for his next command, perfectly still.

One of the geese is protective of Matt. It bit me in the leg as I closed myself into the same room as him, and then knocked on the door incessantly. I should mention Matt is a veterinarian, so Riverbank Farm sometimes feels like the Land of Misfit Animals.

Dennis is the new barn cat, a return to the SPCA, on clearance. His cat instincts are hilariously screwy. He has no fear whatsoever.

But the sheep are not misfits. There are registered Clun Forest sheep, black and white Cheviots, and one Border Leicester cross.  I am antsy to get this wool spun, as we have never had Clun Forest wool in the mix.


Last year's clip was recently spun, resulting in forty five pounds of two-ply for me, and a slew of blankets for Matt. He sends the wool to MacAusland's Woollen Mill on Prince Edward Island, one of very few mills that still weaves blankets.  (Side note: Years ago we received a blanket for Christmas in a stapled grain bag.  I had to step away and pull myself together. It remains one of my most cherished items.)

Five bags full
I could not resist a little dyeing on Wednesday.

So I think I'm all set for yarn. I'll have plenty for sale to dye at Fiber College in September!

Have a great weekend, I know I will.

p.s. - forgot to mention new Aussie puppies on the farm, 5 days old.  g a s p.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Stitcher's Wardrobe: Skirt

A basic denim skirt, no frills, pattern drafted using Cal Patch's instructions in her book Design-it-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified. Cal writes bite-sized directions on how to draft a pattern: Truckloads of fun!

This is a wearable muslin -- I am not in the habit of purchasing expensive fabric, so most of my first time work with a pattern gets completed into a garment.  I figure if it doesn't fit me it will fit someone else, and I can practice my facings and zipper installations (which sometimes affect fit).

Can you find the invisible zipper?

I may have overestimated my measurements, thus ending up with a roomy skirt. I'll be trimming my pattern down on the sides and adding another pair of darts in the back, as well as belt loops and a pocket for my phone.

I am good at wearing something handmade every day. I am also good at sending the things I do not wear to the Salvation Army, even the handmade stuff, and without a bit of regret ... gratification really. But I see a few holes in my wardrobe lately, I think mostly due to my ever-changing shape. Not a complaint, this ole body gets me around just fine. I simply need to replace some of my staples, and as a sewer I can rebuild my wardrobe. I have the technology. I have the capability. Ellen Mason will be that woman, better than she was before ... better, stronger, faster. (Cue music: Six Million Dollar Man theme song)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Stitcher's Wardrobe

My household is a textile theme park. My husband says I am poised for anything.  He's right.

I have a long history with textiles (we all do, really), and for each topic I explore I pick up the necessary equipment.  I am happy to say I have a good deal of experience with each of my purchases -- I am not simply a consumer, I dive deep into the process.  But like most artists, I move into another phase. Then the equipment sadly goes dormant.

I miss my old friends. My loom waits in a place of honor, ready at a moment's notice to get to work.

My press is empty and turns smoothly, and the flash cure unit simply needs to be plugged in. 

My spinning wheel is featured in our living area, such a beautiful piece it is.

My knitting machine is back in action, but we need a get-reconnected therapy session.  My sewing machines are ready for more action, including some unusual fabrics.

My dyes, dyepots, and scale are well organized and I have new lighting in my dye space, too.

Here is my Groundhog Day 2015 Goal:
A well rounded wardrobe of basics and not-so-basics, fashioned from the bountiful textile amusements I have been hankering.

I have a checklist of comforting old skills to cover:
hand knit and write patterns
machine knit
screen print
sew on the Bernina
serge with the Husqvarna
serge and mock chain on the Siruba
acid dye
fiber reactive dye
full or felt
reclaim or refashion

Plus a checklist of some new challenges:
discharge print
design my own fabric at Spoonflower
pompom & tassel
applique & patchwork

And I have a checklist of garments and accessories to be included in my wardrobe: 
cardigan sweater, sweater vest, pullover sweater, scarf, hat, mittens, coat, dress, shirt, skirt, leggings, tee, pants, socks, slip, undershirt, bike shorts, apron, handkerchief, and brooch.

I feel sure there will be more than one of some garments (I love a study, after all), and some projects will check more than one item off the list of techniques.

Someday is finally here. Hooray!.