Archive for December, 2008

Day #4, I come to suck your blood

December 31, 2008

My humor has never been particularly sophisticated.

This is Cape Dracula, a free pattern on Burdastyle, courtesy of Geri of Sewable.

It’s made with a beautiful heavy black Marc Jacobs wool that I got half off at a designer fabric store closing sale.  The belt buckle comes from Etsy, the buttons from the same aforementioned fabric store, and other than that all I used was a pretty dark blue thread (to add a tiny bit of subtle color) and some medium weight fusible interfacing I got very cheap on Ebay.

This was far easier than I ever would have thought.  Heavy, but smooth wools like this are actually very easy to sew on a machine, which often determines the level of swearing (and ultimate success) of a project.  It took me some time to get some strange bunching in the back to desist, but eventually it settled down.

The ease of making what looks like a pretty tailored piece really stems from the fact that the pattern was drawn, diagrammed and written very clearly and nicely.  For someone just doing this on her own time and for free (!!), it was really quite impressive–and very much appreciated.

The shape is no doubt unusual, but it’s actually very flattering and easy to wear.  It’ll be great when the weather here in DC is just a little warmer…and when I get around to putting in a lovely lining.  One thing I wish I hadn’t done is put interfacing around the hems of the sleeves–which resulted in a strong flared shape.  Without the interfacing, the wool draped very nicely on it’s own.  I may try and rip it out if the flare doesn’t begin to ease.

The result of constructing this was actually a huge boost in my confidence–I would normally shy away from making coats or anything with complicated/tailored construction.  This was simple enough, but tailored enough to get me started.

So onto Day #5!  See you tomorrow, hope you had a fantastic 2008, and Happy New Year!


Day #3, Come a little bit clocher

December 30, 2008

I couldn’t resist.

This is the Sideways Grande Cloche from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits.  The yarn is Berroco Cuzco in Hunter Green, which is a blend of superfine alpaca and Peruvian wool.

I felt I could use this yarn because of the origin of the wool: Peru.  This is important when considering the primary argument of organizations like PETA (one I generally appreciate on the whole) to not use wool, which is that the raising and shearing of sheep for wool is a cruel and inhumane process.  The problem with this argument is that is rests on a practice called “mulesing“, which “is the surgical removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep.”  It’s done to prevent flystrike, which is very gross disease where a fly lays eggs in dirty, moist, protected living tissue (like the bum of a sheep), the eggs hatch, and then the larvae tear up the poor sheep’s tissue causing sores, lesions, bacterial infections and can lead to death.  Flystrike only affects merinos in Australia, since sheep are not naturally supposed to be in the relatively warm Australian environment.

The point is, if mulesing is one’s reason for not using wool (which is completely legitimate), there are ways to guarantee your wool did not come from a mulesed sheep–basically to not buy merino wool that comes from Australia, which is what I try and do. I do want to note that I believe that vegans do not wear wool for reasons beyond this (which are also completely legitimate).  I also want to note that mulesing is being phased out in Australia by 2010, which is right around the corner (!!).

I will fully admit that I don’t actually know if the Cuzco is a good animal-friendly yarn beyond the fact that mulesing did not occur.  The proper thing to have done would be to find a small fiber farm with a good reputation.  Next time.

In any case, I did really like the yarn–soft and beautiful.  And the pattern I thought was genius and very different than any hat pattern I had used in the past.  Knit flat and seamed up the side with a fake cable–I was actually surprised when I read through the pattern.  Not at all what I would have expected.  The shape is quite interesting as well, with a flat top and long body.  It’s surprisingly flattering and functional.

Laura Irwin’s entire book is full of interesting, innovative construction.  Some are things I would never think to make with materials I wouldn’t think to use.  Yet it’s all so much simpler than I would have expected.  Full of surprise, in other words.

Ok, once again, see you tomorrow for Day #4!

Day #2, Candy Canes of Silk

December 29, 2008

This is a simple little dress made from some red and white striped sandwashed silk, thin elastic for the waist, and FOE (fold-over elastic) for the armhole/neckline borders.  FOE is a magical material I discovered through a tutorial at one of most favorite blogs, Angry Chicken.  It made the polished look of the silk more playful and casual, which was exactly what I was looking for.  Using it as a border definitely took some practice to get the right tension, the right amount of gather in the silk, and to get it to just generally sit right.  But it was a nice alternative to having to tailor the dress with darts or princess seams, which can make pieces feel more dressy than was my intention in this case.

This dress was completely improvised as I went along.  I knew I wanted a racerback (which I will cut a little differently the next time around) and that I wanted it to be very simple and casual.    I’m also clearly still obsessed with the blouson shape, and so this is what transpired.

In terms of design, I basically just added an  inch or so to all of my measurements and cut accordingly.  I generally use a top that fits the way I want the new garment to fit as a guide for the armholes and collar.  The elastic was used for shaping and I really didn’t do much more than that.  Very simple and exactly what I wanted.

See you tomorrow for Day #3!

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand Makery, Day 1.

December 28, 2008

In the long writing dry spell I found a considerable amount of time to make things, by hand.  I partook in hand-makery, if you will.  (This is not my high point in my long line of making up of words, but I felt like “crafting” wasn’t the right word anymore–and I couldn’t think of one singular noun that meant “artful making of clothing”–which is how I like to think of it.)

In honor of the holidays I am beginning a journey a la the Twelve Days of Christmas.  However, this will be non-denominational (like me) and will involve the making of things by hand (like I like to do).  The Twelve Days of things I have made and not yet shared.

I don’t think I actually have twelve things to share…but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So here we go.

#1   The St. Tropez Pullover

The pattern comes from Wenlan Chia’s 3rd and rumored final knitting book, Twinkle’s Town and Country Knits.  (Though there are even better rumors about a Twinkle sewing book…hopefully soon…)

The yarn is Twinkle’s super big Soft Chunky in French Grey.

This was wholly successful.  I consider this my most eco-friendly creation because while the yarn is just plain old wool (made in China), it comes recycled from my Shopping Tunic, which I finally accepted made me look like a baby elephant.  So I frogged it to  make this sweater that is one of only two Twinkle creations that I wear with any real frequency.  It’s actually flattering.  The length is perfect, the pattern is simple but pretty, the color is lovely and versatile, and the shape somehow doesn’t add 30 pounds like most of the other Twinkle patterns I’ve made.  I only made one change to the pattern, which was to not add the button on the collar.  It seemed unnecessary.

See you tomorrow, for Day #2 of….

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand-Makery!

Merry Christmas! (I mean, Happy Holidays)

December 23, 2008


Technically I don’t “celebrate” Christmas.  But I love rituals and traditions–particularly those that I know something about and can therefore participate in.   When we can participate in a tradition, it gives us a sense of belonging, which I think most of us desire deeply.
So while I’m not Christian, having grown up with the traditions of Christmas in school, on television and through my friends, I actually really love the holidays–Christmas particularly. Having grown up outside of India where all of the intense festivals and rituals surrounding the holidays of my ethnic heritage and upbringing occur, I tend to feel like they don’t belong to me since I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.    I doubt I know the ins and outs of a true Christmas celebration–and I wouldn’t really want to infuse my holidays with the religious rituals of a religion in which I don’t believe, but everything else–like the ritualistic buying of a tree and decorating it with sparkling balls and tinsel, just has this sweet, warm quality to me.

Above all, I actually like that tomorrow evening and all day Thursday I will be forced to go home and spend time with my parents.  I won’t have a choice to spend that time with my friends or even my significant other, all of whom will be with their families/far away friends/and others that need them at this particular point in time.  Sometimes it’s nice to have my choices taken away and to have the simplicity of life exposed–time with family, cooking, and eating food…and knitting.  Guilt-free time doing the simplest of things.  Maybe even making a wreath of yarn (with leftover organic stuff, of course).

I am resolute

December 22, 2008

The new year is coming.  And I am resolutely exiting a period of mental cloudiness and laziness.  Hence the absence from any recent posting of my (until now) unmeritorious thoughts.   (Hopefully you agree that my thoughts now aren’t quite so unmeritorious.)

The thing is, I have actually been busy…mostly with what I would call uninspired distractions, but also with some finished (mostly sewing) creations that I am more than comfortable calling my art of the past 1 year +.  I am excited to share those, but haven’t yet found the time to make it all presentable…in this medium at least.

I guess I should cut myself some slack.  Since the election (and last time I devoted proper attention to my most intimate connection with my most respected world of creators), I went on vacation for a while to the slightly disarmingly happy country of Costa Rica and had to take an unexpected trip to Toronto for some family sadness.

I suppose those are just excuses.  The truth is my inspiration had waned–but I feel it returning and I have a few creative endeavors that I plan on being much more forthright about–if anything so that I can receive some valuable input from all of you…

So in that spirit I have some resolutions.  Real ones.

1.  I had a great goal in 2008 to only use sustainably sourced yarns (organic fibers, low impact dyes, etc).  I found this to become increasingly easier, but often at odds with other important goals I would like to hold–like supporting my local economy.  Unfortunately my local yarn and fabric shops were not large stockers of sustainably sourced textiles and yarns.  Having accomplished my goal for the year, I plan on expanding my definitions of what I can use and what’s important, but the main goal for the year (and it’s appropriate given the death of the economy) is to CONSUME LESS.  I don’t actually have a large enough stash to just work off of that, but regardless, I will limit my 2009 projects and try to use recycled/creatively sourced materials as much as is humanly possible.

2.  To begin using my own designs.  This is a confidence issue for me.  I tend to believe that I could not achieve the proper fit and construction details that  I would achieve by using a pattern.  Yet I look back to projects I made 10 years ago, that I figured out by examining garments I already owned, and they’re surprisingly well-made with more interesting details than I achieve by following patterns wholly.  Design offers that cerebral connection to craft and the actual practice of creating that seriously fulfills me…sometimes to the point that I wonder why I bother spending time on anything else.  It’s my white collar/blue collar dream…a blue collar with white polka dots.

and 3.   To take the time to write again.  It’s quite healthy and satisfying.  I sometimes forget that making time for things I enjoy must be a conscious decision–and can be hard to make myself do.  It’s like exercise.  Ultimately it feels good.  But it can be difficult to initiate.  Especially when we let ourselves stop for too long…and then have to battle the inertia.  It’s like I can feel the laziness envelop me and eventually put me to sleep…it’s not until I wake up (for whatever reason) that I can shake it all out of me and start energizing again.  I’m admittedly a little hard on myself when it comes to the “L” word.  Being lazy may be my worst fear…and would probably be considered my worst failure if I were to let it strangle me.

Then again, maybe this was all a much needed hibernation.

Good preparation for the creative (and not creative) plans I have ahead for the coming year.

Happy New Year!  I wish you all a year of fulfilling productivity and no unwanted laziness.