Archive for the ‘Handmade’ Category

You complete me.

July 12, 2009

Dear Colette Patterns,

Thank you for making such beautiful patterns in such beautiful packaging with such clear and thought out instructions and such interesting construction where I learn new things.

Thanks to a great pattern, I was able to make something that one particular coworker of mine (and fellow sewer) did not immediately ask: did you make that?  In fact, she never asked.

All because you made a pattern that (a) looks current and chic and super flattering, (b) allowed me to understand proper tailoring just enough to make a work-appropriate, suit-like garment, and (c) had pattern pieces that just made sense and fit together so perfectly that I did not once swear or intentionally break something during the entire construction.  Not once. At least not once as a result of or directed to the garment, the pattern, or the sewing process.

This skirt was also a success because of my fabric choice, which you had nothing to do with, but thanks for making a pattern that complimented my fabric choice so nicely.

So thank you Colette Patterns.

I’m already scouting for fabrics for your other patterns and am anxiously awaiting new designs.


The proud owner of the newly sewn, Green Beignet.

The fabric is a midweight wool that I bought 50% off from Exquisite Fabrics in DC during their most amazing moving sale.  The buttons are Le Petite.

(The bike is my new baby, a Jamis Sputnik single speed–my first real new bike…I keep it in my bedroom…and look at it from time to time…)

The lining is a grey silk habotai bought on ebay for super cheap–which is also used for some awesome pockets at each hip.  Did I mention I LOVE this pattern?  The paneling is gorgeous, the button front is adorable, and the high waist is right on style.


What the what…a month?

May 21, 2009

It’s been almost a month since I wrote last and I really can’t believe how quickly time is passing.

Many things have been going on that deserve blogging, but this is a short little request for help.

You all may recall the homemade deodorant I made and used happily for a few months–note the past tense.  I even made it for others I was so excited about it, including a manly scented version for my partner who still uses it every day.

I, on the other hand, apparently have sensitive skin…which i never ever knew before.  And it’s come to my attention that baking soda is the culprit…being kind of basic and causing all sorts of rashy painfulness when mixing with my kind of acidic sweat.  So I tried a couple of recipes with less baking soda and added glycerin.  Still rashy–even after months of respite and just a day of going back and trying it out again.

So now the question is, what do I do?  I want a cream deodorant, but I obviously don’t really enjoy the rash from hell.  Perhaps I will try even less baking soda…though 95 degree days are going to start here pretty soon and I’m a seriously smelly person and I bike to work every day and don’t have a shower at work…so I’m not sure this is the ideal solution.

I’ll keep you posted on the saga.  Will my armpits ever be satisfied?  Let’s hope so.

Day #7: Smelling the Flowers

January 5, 2009

This a bit of an unusual FO, though I’ve mentioned it before…homemade deodorant.  I have many, many issues with conventional deodorant, particularly that all I can find in the women’s “deodorant” section is antiperspirant.  My problem with antiperspirant is that it is full of chemicals and even metals that may cause me health problems that researchers are unsure about now, but are studying, such as the link between aluminum and alzheimers.

I also just generally find it unhealthy to block the natural, toxin-eliminating process of sweating.  And I find it curious that it is virtually impossible to find just deodorant for women (not the chemical and aluminum filled anti-perspirants), yet the aluminum-free options for men are plentiful.  For some time I was using men’s Speedstick as my only moderately effective option, but I got a little tired of smelling like my dad and a little resentful that as a woman it wasn’t enough to just smell nice, but I wasn’t allowed to even sweat at all either.  There are of course the natural alternatives that don’t impose such mandates, Tom’s, Jason, and many others, but to be perfectly honest they did absolutely nothing for me.  Perhaps I am unusually smelly, but it became a huge problem.

And then I found it.  Amy Karol’s Angry Chicken blog saved my life with this homemade deodorant recipe.  It’s suprisingly simple (shea butter, cocoa butter, baking soda, corn starch, vitamin E, and whatever essential oils you’d like to smell like) and is even more surprisingly effective.  I followed the recipe exactly, with the same oils and using a half pint mason jar, which lasts me a few months.  The only thing I may add for next time is vegetable glycerin, which others had commented would be good for additional softness. The recipe fills the jar with a cream deodorant that you rub on.  A pea-sized ball takes my smelly pits through a whole day and it’s literally the only thing that has ever been 100% effective–no stink. At all. Even through the 100 degree DC summers.

It won’t keep you from sweating, but like I said, for most of us, sweating is meant to happen–and it’s a good thing.

Another great thing about homemade deodorant is eliminating a lot of unnecessary plastic packaging (though you will still have some from the materials to make a few batches of deodorant) and reclaiming certain products for the homemade realm that I think we’ve all been conditioned to believe we must buy from large companies.  This is true of many things that are so laden with chemicals, that I personally actually believed they had to be made that way to be effective–like shampoo, face lotion, lip balm, and many others.  It’s great to break down these products to what we actually need from them and make a product to do just that, simply and naturally.  Like using baking soda to neutralize odor–we all know it does this, but for some reason it’s become difficult to make that next leap of putting it on my pits.

Another plus–I actually find the recipe easier than walking to the store to buy myself deodorant.

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!

Displays of Knitting Affection

April 11, 2008

Are you a knitter and proud? Yo tambien! I love this brooch, which is handmade of recycled yarn. I think it’s got the perfect level of quirk.

Etsy always delivers…I guess I meant that figuratively. But it’s nice that it does literally too.


March 27, 2008

Handmade not by me. But by some Repetto shoe-makers in Paris.

This isn’t an advertisement for Repetto, but I respect craftsmanship, especially when done by the human hand rather than a machine–an art that seems to be becoming obsolete. There are a few episodes of the Twilight Zone (a show I watch every other day or so on YouTube) that stuck in my mind because of this very issue. One in particular is the”The Brain Center at Mr. Whipple’s,” where a factory manager becomes obsessed with replacing his workers with machines. Think of the cost savings–no paid vacations, no sick leave, no family emergencies. He believes that whatever a human can make with her/his hands can readily be replaced and even be made better by the use of a machine. Until the manager himself is replaced and he is confronted with both the obsolescence of the individual and the value of one–the value he sees in himself over another and especially over a machine. A machine couldn’t think, it couldn’t feel and it couldn’t give the thing it was making the character produced by human variation and error.

Even in the 60s, we recognized the romanticism of craftsmanship, but we still continue to ruminate on it in words and ignore it in practice. Several months ago I accompanied a friend to the opening of the new Bloomingdales in Chevy Chase. I was in the height of my China boycott and couldn’t believe how all the expensive Diane von Furstenbergs and Marc Jacobs were made in China…in a factory just like the ones used for the cheap Walmart and Target clothing. Overseen by humans, but mostly run by machines. Apparently I’m paying for the design, but at this point a wrap dress is a wrap dress and the same goes for a canvas jacket with jumbo buttons. I appreciate the innovation to a certain extent, but what makes Chanel Chanel is the couture. The unique and exquisitely artful designs of Karl Lagerfeld may be in a different class the normal, more everyday pieces being designed and sold by the aforementioned designers, but the pieces in the seasonal shows–the couture, the stuff made mostly (or entirely) by hand are what’s stunning. It’s the shockingly complicated and intricate handiwork, the knowing feeling that this could have only been made by a select group of people not because they are the only ones with the owner’s manual to the magic automated sewing machine, but because they have the skill to masterfully manipulate textiles running through their veins. This is why I have an obsession with Hermes–a label that has remained true to its traditional family practices and still makes its $5000 bags with multi-year long wait lists using stitch techniques that can only be done by hand.

I will never buy a $5000 handbag, but in my world, handmade is damn impressive and worth every penny. That price tag may just be justified.
But a machine is a machine and a design alone can’t be worth $500, especially when I can buy a knitting design for $5.

The Knock-off Necklace

March 23, 2008

I made this last night after acquiring all my necessary supplies at a bead store in Dupont Circle and after spotting this necklace in a catalogue of a major chain store that shall remain nameless because I’m kind of embarrassed for shopping somewhere so…generic. I blame having to go to an office in DC. People dress pretty conservatively here and it seems to grab people’s attention when anyone even kind of steps outside the suity box, which isn’t really a good thing when you’re at work.

So here it is. The color is a little off, it’s more of a lapis blue than the turquoise it looks like in the picture. I haven’t strung beads and made a necklace since I was 12. And I didn’t completely know what I was doing. So the clasps are kind of screwy and required an emergency Etsy buy of brass bead tips (which are these fantastic devices that hide your knots, keep them more secure, and generally make the process much easier). So it’s not actually completely finished and will have to be restrung when I get the bead tips, but it’s functional right now.

I like the idea of seeing something in a catalogue and figuring out how to make it instead of buying the thing, which in this case is almost definitely made in China. The China thing is even more important to me these days as the Chinese government trashes the Dalai Lama. It seems shocking that this would be an advisable political move for them considering the worldwide, deserved adoration for him, but apparently invoking the strong nationalist identity of the Chinese is working among the domestic populace and they do in fact seem to agree with the government. That a group of people can be condemned for peaceful protest in the face of persistent human rights abuses against them is something I simply cannot understand.

Unfortunately as a normal American without much political power my identity is little more than consumer, so the power of the purse will be my vehicle for expressing myself.

I have never really made a “nice” necklace so this kind of proves it’s more possible for most (if not all) of us to substitute our ready-made purchases with home- and handmade stuff (not to mention I saved more than $50). And I learned from a coworker the other day that fabrics sold in the US are almost always made in the US because of tariff laws, which do not apply to ready-made clothing. I haven’t checked this statement out, but it sounds like I’ll be sewing a lot more than I have been.

Did you make it yourself?

January 30, 2008

Some of you Esty-ers may know about this already but there’s a cool little contest at StyleMob called Made It Myself.
Submit photos of stuff you’ve sewn, designed, crafted, etc and then they’re voted on. The prizes are Etsy gift certificates.

Not sure if I will enter anything (there are some crazy sewn FOs from a while ago), but I imagine lots of you will have something to contribute to the contest.


December 21, 2007

Things have been very exciting lately. My new Phildar catalogues arrived today!! Meaning the orange cardigan in this Winter’s catalogue is my next project, but it will be the black cardigan I’ve really been needing lately.

About 5 more knitting-related deliveries are expected.

Someday Classic Elite will have more soft chunky and my order of French Grey will arrive in my recycling bin…(Reggie, my postman is amazing and leaves our packages in the recycling bin with a little note slipped under the door so we don’t have to go to the post office to get our packages)

I also just discovered Etsy. I’m late on this I think, but I have 3 packages on the way as a result of this newfound addiction, such as…

Some lovely stitch markers and lovely needle case.

I love this handmade/vintage revolution. It’s such a great idea to have this marketplace for unique things made by actual humans…ones not in a sweatshop or something equally dehumanizing. It also makes sticking to my no-buying-anything-made-in-China rule much easier–though I should say I’ve strayed a few times…Twinkle yarn is made in China…boo.
People always ask why I do this…
Is it the human rights violations?
Is it the lack of environmental standards?
Is it the fact that because of lax US standards we get the stuff from China that the EU rejects? You know…all that stuff with lead in it (like candy and lipstick)?
I always think this is a funny line of questioning. As though I’m supposed to pick one but be alright with the other truths.
They all pretty much suck. So I try to not support it.
I haven’t cut out buying US products made in developing countries altogether, but that may be a next step. The thing is the Chinese share of imports into the US is astonishingly high and overwhelmingly the largest (at least for consumer goods).

In other news, the Fad Classic vest is almost complete and looks fantastic so far…hopefully it fits.
The yarn used was not made in China. We can all rest easy now.