Monday, November 29, 2010

Harvesting Plaid

Every fall the catalogs and stores bloom with warm and wonderful plaids, and I think, 'why don't I make something plaid?'  (A normal person might think, 'why don't I buy something plaid?')  So this year I went to my big chain fabric store, but they did not offer the plaids of my dreams.  The plaids of my dreams harken back to the day when my Dad, my Mom, my Mom's Twin, and my Uncle all wore matching buffalo check woolen shirts.  At the same time.

Being the fiber bottomfeeder that I am, I found just what I yearned for at my local (Salvation Army) thrift store.  And more.  These plaids either bring me back or they just plain feel fantastic.

They are well on their way to being the shirts that I crave. 

This one is due for more embroidery and white vintage buttons.

And this one has the vibe I was searching for.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Once Upon a Time, I was a Weaver

In 1984, I was the only student in a graduating class of 109 that listed "4 harness weaving" in the activity portion next to her senior portrait.  I would wager I was the only student in Strafford County with that listing, possibly the state.   I went on to study studio art in college, with an emphasis on traditional craft, particularly weaving.  

To everyone's amazement, I landed a job designing and weaving narrow decorative trim right after graduation.  Heritage Trimming was located twenty-five minutes from my house, in a sweet old New England mill.  I loved that job.  I was but one girl in a long rich history of weaving girls. 

Built in the 1800's in Germany and Austria, the beautiful Jaquard Looms were eight feet tall and ten feet wide (or wider), and they were in perfect working order.  They were the ancestors of today's computer, but even I was able to make repairs to them.

Sadly, the mill burned to the ground in 1994.  No people were hurt, but all the looms perished.  I'm thankful to have been able to spend many hours with those magnificent looms (and the people too). I can't walk into an old mill today without stopping to draw in a huge whiff of that delicious oily-dusty-old-mill smell.  Heritage Trimming is woven elsewhere now, I'm guessing on newer looms, but they have saved many of the traditional motifs. 

Today, I present my 48 inch Macomber 8 harness loom, in her prime new location, our guest room.

I'm looking forward to dressing her with some recycled silk for a stole.   In the meantime, you should come sleep with her.  She's big, but there's still room for you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Have Shoes, Will Travel

In my quest to alter all surfaces, I'm experimenting with some painting on leather.  Actually, I'm experimenting with painting on 'all man made materials' at this point.  I've seen it done with fantastic results, such as here, and here.  Below are some shoes from my closet that were on the chopping block.

I primed them with Jacquard Neo Opaque paint and made a carbon of my artwork (that's my rendition of a Shasta).

Then I painted with a combination of simple Apple Barrel acrylics and Jacquard Lumiere paint, and drew in lines with a Sharpie.

I think they still need some words on them, some how, some way.  And I'm not sure if I should give them a protective coating.  And then wear them to a caravan festival.  And bring this sweet camper, too.  And I may as well bring my knitting.

Unrelated, I love this simple hem.  It is on a sweater I bought to unknit, but I've grown to like it the way it is, for now at least.  I think I'll copy it for one of my own sweaters.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Make Stile

Simple words to live by, written by my niece.  I keep this on my fridge to help remember the direction in which I'm pointed.

I don't knit a sweater without sewing a shirt (nor do I eat stuffing without cranberry sauce).  I have a favorite shirt pattern - a modification of a modification of Butterick 4064, which I purchased for 25 cents (note: there is no longer a cents symbol on my keyboard, only dollars).  While I think it's acceptable to wear the same sweater day after day, I do like to change my shirt, so I've made a couple more.

And I've cut out two others.

This one is harvested from a men's XL dress shirt.  I added a western overlay, a la Temple Grandin, and I'm planning some embroidery inspired by a lonesome tree in a scene from the movie Tombstone.

Cutting is fun.  While I am not a victim of startitis in knitting, I think I may be in sewing ... here's a dress all cut out (and there might be another all cut and waiting under the table).  Once sewn, I hope to actually wear it (and thrust my hip out to the side with attitude) with a cardigan.

I've been knitting too.  I'm revising a mitten pattern  I wrote this spring so it can be knit in various gauges and sizes.  The thumb looks like a chicken drumstick.  It will be available on Ravelry on December 1, and as of now is un-named (hopefully there will be a chicken reference - any ideas?).

I have a wicked craving for weaving lately.  And printing, too.  I'm hoping this diversity will bring an unexpected (good) lilt to my knitting design.   So I'm going to be bold (like so many of my friends), and be a cool, relaxed, stile maker. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Still Chewing


Mary Jane and I took a last minute whirlwind trip to NY Sheep & Wool (Rhinebeck) in October.  I wanted to come home with inspiration, not supplies.  It was a success.  Actually, it was inspiring, fascinating, crowded, and overwhelming.  I am still digesting.

Sidenote:  I've met my match in MJ in fear of crowds.  Imagine challenging yourself to swimming across the bottom of the pool in one breath.  Now imagine getting your cute skirted swimming costume stuck in the damn drain at the bottom of the pool.  Worse, imagine your girlfriend's cuter swimming costume is stuck in the same damn drain.  That's about what we felt when we reached the midpoint of the really crowded buildings - we could see the exit signs, but we couldn't reach them.  Now imagine yourself at the beer tent.

I think I've loosened up a little this year (excepting the crowd thing).  I'm all over the map with knit/sew/dye/draw/print/weave cravings. (Does anyone have a good all-encompassing name for these activities? You'd think I could name what I do. I actually have a degree in studio art, emphasis on traditional craft, but that sounds snooty. Useful Fashion/Art ... UFArt? Wearable Fashion/Art ... WeFArt).  I think it's all going to come together in a walking human collage, like this. 

And here's a start, my Sara Luverne design,  made with Ball and Skein's Breckenridge, in concert with Leslie Wind's jewelry.

Fasten your socks.  It's gonna be a fun ride.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do Your Thing

I was in a clothing store recently, and a man held up two items to a woman that worked there and asked, "Do these go?".  Yes.  They go.  And I thought to myself, "Self, this is your quandary." 

I am forty-five years old.  I love being forty-five.  It's really fun.  But what goes with being forty-five?  I can still cartwheel, but I'm not going to wear a leotard.  I'm a big fan of Virginia Tech (my daughter is a student there), but of the 47 different styles of tees they offer, only one suits me (it has a retro applique). I watch the programs that show what fashions are appropriate and flattering on women my age, but I don't have need for heels or blazers in New Hampshire (or rubberized underpants, though I admit to wearing them on special occasions).  Black may be slimming, but it's contradictory to my personality. 

I knit, so I need to wear knitwear.  That I know.  I sew, so I like to wear at least my own homemade shirts.  I love vintage clothing and accessories, anything before 1970.  But at what point do I start looking like I won the blue ribbon at the 4-H show?  Or like a character in a play?  What I really want is to show that I love being my age.  (Incidentally, I did win that blue ribbon).

Flashback, February 14, 1996, 10pm:  My husband is on business in Miami, invites me down.  I fly down in my Mom Jeans, white turtleneck (Rich's department store, senior citizen discount if I go with my mom) and my hand knit Lopi Icelandic sweater.  Contact lenses have been swapped out for my thick glasses in flight.  "Let's go cruise South Beach", he says as we load my bags into the rental car.  We creep down the well lit streets teeming with tall-haired women in black cocktail dresses and $400 shoes who have been working out, waxing, and tanning for this very evening.   And I think to myself, "Gee, I liked these clothes when I put them on ...".  

Flashback #2, 1986:  I'm in the restroom at a fraternity pledge dance, wearing a high waisted calico dress I sewed for the occasion.  My date's old girlfriend comes out of a stall sporting super tall hair, a strapless black cocktail dress and expensive shoes.  She says to me, "Did you make your dress?  It's nice, very understated ... but my friends and I thought you should know you look like you're expecting." And I think to myself, "Gee, I liked this dress when I put it on ...".

Self, here's your answer:   Get over it.  Break the rules.  Wear the stuff that sings your name.  Delight in your Becky-Homecky shirt and second hand coat.  Do Your Thing.  It (almost) always works for you.  And be thankful you'll never have to go to another pledge dance or to South Beach again.