Monday, December 27, 2010

Winding down

As far as creative crafty matters go, the year has been rather busy. Numerous mitts and caps were completed, along with another pair of socks for gift giving. I do believe I've mastered heels and gussets at last, and have a goal of learning to do cables and bobbles, among other interesting things, to make the leg portion more interesting for myself. I have just put down my needles after playing with a scrap of yarn and realizing that I can manage a candle flame design as well. I've got enough different colors from Knit Picks sampler packs that I've ordered over the past couple of years, that I may just use all that lace yarn to make multiple scarves for NEXT year's holiday gifts (or birthday gifts) as the case may be.

I am rather proud of myself for making a mans 1820 tail coat, alterations and all, to fit. Knocked out a Regency waistcoat in a day, and will knock out another one before the next Jane Austen Ball, scheduled for January 22nd. Speaking of which, I have ordered an additional two yards of the beautiful sea blue silk taffeta, and will start on my new ballgown soon. I want to have it finished well before the week of the ball, unlike last year, where I was sewing hooks on the bodice back about the time we were supposed to be leaving. So we were an hour late to the afternoon tea and entertainment before the ball. We still got to eat anyway. Not doing it again this next time around.

I brainstormed while sitting on the museum terrace yesterday on my lunch break. I noticed a couple of different visitors were wearing 3/4 length coats that closely resembled Spencer jackets as they had higher waistlines. If I were to make a 3/4 length pelisse with the Spencer waist, it just wouldn't look right. But if I were to make a Spencer and find a way to attach a separate full length skirt to the waistband - say an arrangement of hidden buttons and velcro - I might have a two in one solution to the need for a coat. I've been looking at past ball photos, along with thinking about what some of the other ladies have worn, and while it might be nice to have a full length pelisse in something scrumptious like a silk dupioni, or an evening cape in black velvet, neither would be really practical. This year I carried a paisley shawl made of wool, which was period correct, albeit for daytime. I may have to resort to my black pashmina for the sake of coordinating with my new dress. However, if I could find a nice navy wool gabardine, I think it might work for the 2/1 coat. I could go the other route and make a black velvet Spencer, but considering how cold it is late on a January night in Pasadena, I want something warm and practical.

I had a request for a dupioni rose pin, much like Winky's Christmas Rose, which I made last year for the Immy Homemade Craft Exchange. I haven't had time to knock it out yet - will get it done next week before my next museum shift, and after I'm feeling better. I think I may have picked something up at the last Regency dance practice evening. All that taking partners and neighbors by the hand as we're doing the various figures - someone was bound to have the Winter cold.

I made money doing custom sewing this year; however those jobs were not coming often enough. I took a fashion illustration course, and the instructor suggested that I find a way to sell my artwork on notecards, or some other such thing. She also thinks that I should be illustrating pattern envelopes, so if my hands hold out, it could be something to look into. With all the holiday knitting and baking, my carpal tunnel was really irritated, and I was in pain in a way that I haven't been in years. I have to find my splint that immobilizes my hand/wrist/forearm just in case. I had to produce so many drawings this past term, that I was starting to feel the wrist irritation, and on top of that, my hands were cramping up. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't sew/knit/draw/paint/embroider. I'd be lost. Aside from leading tours at the museum, it's about the only pleasure I really get these days.

I doubt that anyone will miss them, so I did not get photos of a lot of my most recent knitting projects. I had too much to do, and they were all made on deadlines. I think I shall photograph the candle flame once that gets going - it's a 24 row repeat, and I figure I can break at rows 12 or 24 if I'm smart - those would be the natural breaks. The pattern seems logical enough, with nothing but y/o's, ssk's, k2tog's, and the old k's or p's, so I shouldn't get too bamboozled. Number 4 needles seem awfully big for lace yarn, but I suppose they're make the thing grow faster.

That is all...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to?

- make a creative business profitable. That's what I want to know. I know what I would prefer to make per hour ($20). I'm looking at craft sites to see what the going rate is for certain things that I do. And aside from finding a way to dial up my productivity and make things fast (without losing quality), I think it would be hard to price in such a way that I could make the sort of money I want to make in this economy.

On top of that, how does one sell on Etsy or other craft sites without having original ideas stolen or undercut. I still haven't forgotten the experience of our table at the Claremont Colleges arts and crafts fair last year - we thought we were pricing our knit goods, jewelry, paper goods fairly. Then there was some table up the way with some folks selling the same sorts of things using crap materials and selling for rock bottom prices. How is someone supposed to compete with crap like that? I'd like to say quality will out, but think of the questions from women asking what we'd done then having them walk away, probably to try and replicate what we'd made on their own.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Reality check

I suppose there's a reason Hollywood used to be called "the dream factory." We go to movies for escape from the mundane monotony of day to day living. I saw mixed reviews for Sex and the City 2, but a colleague said to go ahead and see it anyway, that the wardrobe alone was worth the price of admission. So a friend an I entered the current iteration of the dream factory.

When you remove the elements that we can all relate to - problems with the boss, relationship issues, kid issues, marriage transitioning to the stage "between the wild sex and the screaming baby," SATC has always been about the fantasy life that viewers experience vicariously through Carrie et al. In a way, SATC is a throwback to those glorious, silver lit films of the 1930's, when Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant lived in grand homes and Fred and Ginger danced their way through the glossiest version of Venice that never was. Every visual detail of SATC temporarily makes us forget that while our heroines might be shopping at Bonwit Teller, we find Target suits our budgets much better, thank you very much.

Seeing Carrie walking around her apartment in her do-nothing outfit of baggy silver and white tee shirt layered over a peach mini, accessorized by skyscraper heels makes me wonder who *really* wears those kind of shoes at home? When no one is around. Honestly. For those of us who are frantically juggling as fast as we can, Charlotte's mommy meltdown while baking cupcakes with her girls rings true, but again, who wears winter white vintage Valentino baking with the kiddies? Is this stuff based on reality? Honestly, I don't know anyone who weekends in the Hamptons or who has to worry about the hot live-in nanny. Most of the nannies around here barely speak English and they're picked up by their husbands at the end of the workday. O.K., so the protagonists have the fantasy life that some of us wish we had, and score points for Charlotte and Miranda toasting the moms who don't have help, but are the stereotypes of the ugly American in the form of Samantha really necessary?

Anyone with any passing familiarity with the character of Samantha just knows that putting her in the Middle East, albeit the "new" Middle East, is asking for trouble. The continual reminders for Samantha to cover up, to not act provocatively are just falling on deaf ears. The "ripped from the headlines" moment of the character being arrested for kissing another hotel guest in public was one of those things you saw coming a mile away. It's a sort of fish out of water narrative, where the fish just wants to be a fish and swim her way, but really. You would think that this woman got to be a powerhouse PR exec by having a brain. By understanding how people think, because how can she sell a client if she doesn't have an innate sense of how other minds work?

Samantha has always been the ballsy character, for lack of a better word. The woman who is all woman, but acts like one of the guys in being open about wanting to get laid and demanding respect or her moment in the spotlight. She's fiercely protective of her friends, but she looks out for number one. Samantha wants what she wants and isn't afraid to ask for it. But at what point does self-respect trump respect for the country in which you are a guest? You might not like the customs, you might not like how women must act, but at the same time, you don't live there and have to deal long term with the consequences of your behavior. Seeing Samantha screaming at the crowd of men that, "I have sex," and then flipping them off was funny in an uncomfortable way. But I couldn't help think that the scene was relying on every stereotype of cougar versus Middle Eastern morality that the writers could come up with. I don't know how many young women watching the movie would have the opportunity to visit a resort in a Muslim country, but I'd like to hope that they wouldn't have the idea that it's o.k. to go and flout the mores of another culture.

I often say why travel if you expect everything to be just like home? You look for the differences and savor the sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of this new world you're exploring. But at the same time one must be aware of the differences and respect the traditions of the hosts. Because otherwise, one does become that rude, ugly American who yells and fusses and complains because things aren't exactly the way they are at home.

I find myself with mixed feelings about the fantasy that I witnessed on the screen. Celebrating friendship and being ever supportive of your girls is a good thing. Maybe it's a sign of midlife that I no longer find fashion the enticement that it once was to my eyes. Sitting there watching the endless parade of floaty fabrics and jewelry, I just kept thinking, "is it practical?" When I was a teenager, I wanted to live in one of those glossy movies. Maybe not so much anymore. Maybe it's a good thing to be able to differentiate between the product placement fantasy world of the Upper East Side and what works for my real life in the real world.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is wrong with us?

Like a lot of other creative folk, I'm hooked on Project Runway. Having a background in home sewing and theatrical costuming gives me a little sense of what the PR designers are going through, at least in terms of working with deadlines and the actual construction process. As I've gotten more and more sucked in by the world wide web, I've found communities that focus on PR and other favorite things and find myself posting often, sharing opinions.

Let me backtrack a little about my web experience by saying that I've been part of a Harry Potter themed community since 2004. This particular community requires that people use proper grammar and spelling, and an application process with essay type questions must be passed in order to be considered a full fledged member of that community. So I am used to thoughtful discourse where evidence and reason were employed to make a case. Now that the book series is complete, the more intellectual side of the community has given way to seasonal activities and less formality so I've drifted away from active participation.

Stepping into the world of Lifetime and Facebook discussion boards on PR has been a shock, first for the juvenile behavior, and second for the animosity directed at a particularly capable designer, Mila Hermanovski. The woman's work was impeccable. Her tailoring second to none, her point of view clear and consistent from the first episode through the finale. Yet younger viewers seemed to dislike her. Judging from some of the antipathy on some of the posts, there were people who absolutely hated her. Any post that I made defending her work was met with derision. I was called old, grandmother, and was called the Spanish term Doña, which is more or less the equivalent of Lady, used in a backhanded way indicating an absolute lack of respect. All this from users I would estimate to be teenagers at the eldest.

I get that the internet allows users a degree of freedom and anonymity to write things about other people that they might not have said to someone's face in another age. That inhibition seems to be fading; witness the recent suicide of the Irish high school girl on the East coast after being relentlessly bullied online and in school by her Massachusetts classmates. There is no thought given to how words on a screen will affect another person. I know - I have been just as guilty when I have been forcefully promoting my own opinion, rationalizing that we all have a right to an opinion. However, do we think about where to draw the line between stating that opinion on an action, or on the result of an individual's work and stopping short of personal attacks? I don't know if I'm being over-sensitive, but it seems to me that young people consider the web their own, and they seem to gang up en mass when it comes to mounting an attack on whatever they consider old.

So when did it become a crime to be a woman over the age of 40 to have a creative vision and a desire to share that vision with the rest of the world? If Mila's clothes had simply been presented in a forum where they were shown on mannequins, without any of the people browsing the collection knowing anything about her, would they have gotten the same reception as they were getting from the kids on line? I saw the phrases, "one note" and "one trick pony" bandied about, parroted from some of Michael Kors' critiques, but let's not kid ourselves. Michael Kors was born in 1959. He's not exactly the hot, young, rising star anymore either.

Other posts I saw included thoughts that teenagers and twenty-somethings should be the ones creating fashion, since they consider themselves the future, and that who better to create modern, edgy clothes. Obviously, one can't argue that maturity lends an editing eye that saves freshness from being bizarre, out of proportion, or just plain unwearable. I realize that there are designers out there who thrive on being different. The whole Japanese deconstructionist movement of the late 20th century, including Comme des garçons. Victor and Rolf with the latest iterations of garments that make editorial copy, but are out of the realm of practicality for 99% of all occasions. These designers aren't making clothing for street wear or special occasion wear, they are using textiles as a form of three dimensional art, something to be seen in a display at the Costume Institute of the Met, rather than on the back of someone browsing the galleries at the Met. However, I think it takes a seasoned designer to pull those looks off successfully. As in modern art, one has to be thoroughly versed in the rules in order to break them in a way that will still be harmonious to the eye.

The arrogance of youth ensures that they never consider that they too will become what we are - older. Mature. Youth forgets that there is more than one market in the fashion world. Would Damon & Draper's be in business if there still weren't the women who want conservative, plain, simple clothes in pastel colors that scream Orange County Republican? For every woman who buys Prada, there are dozens who are buying Cherokee at Target. Are the women who shop at chain stores considered less worthy because their taste isn't as sophisticated or their budgets not as large? In a way, Target and J.C. Penney have answered the need for budget priced stylish clothing by bringing in limited edition cheap chic lines by Rodarte and others. Fine - the materials are not as luxurious, the workmanship is obviously not what one sees in couture or even bridge wear, but it's got the label that everyone covets.

What of the woman who is out of her 20's. The woman who wants to be stylish, but isn't ready to resign herself to the boxier lines of manufacturers who are considered "old." However stylish she wants to be, she isn't kidding herself. She knows she's not 25 anymore, she doesn't want to look like she's trying too hard, but she wants clothes that have an edge, show some leg or shoulder, but don't flash too much. Where are the clothes for those of us who aren't ready to jump into the tar pits and admit we're dinosaurs but we don't want to embarrass ourselves in the "mutton dressed as lamb" mode? Designers like Mila, Gordana Gelhausen, or Laura Bennett is a godsend, because it's not the same old boxy clothes - they're more polished and elegant, but they are in the realm of reality as well. All of those Project Runway alumni could give well known designers like Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, and Miuccia Prada a run for their money. I asked one of my fashion instructors why is it that in mass market lines, one sees the same silhouettes in every season. The embellishment and fabrications might change, but the basic garments don't vary. A sheath dress. A variation on a blazer. Straight leg trousers. Basic blouses, sweaters, and skirts. She said that there are a lot of complaints, but still no changes. And so my instincts tell me that the "garmentos," as Amy Fine Collins once labeled manufacturers, have their factories set up in such a way that it's easier to repeat basic shapes from season to season, so that clothes can be banged out in mass quantities cheaply, if not stylishly. So if we want new in our closets, if we want the edginess of Mila, the polish of Laura, the ethereal femininity of Gordana, we are going to have to be willing to pay a bit more to support those women than what we would pay for cheap chic at the mall or at the local big box store. Sad, but true. Quality costs money.

In the meantime, I would wish that we would stop holding a grudge against anyone brave enough to follow their dream. Why do we attack women who are confident and go after what they want? Do any of us really want to go back to a reality of no opportunity, and no roles other than wife/mother/secretary/teacher/nurse? Weren't those battles already fought? Why should Mila be considered unworthy of support if her character is somewhat reserved, yet she is strong enough to state what she wants and who/what she doesn't like? Did she loose her chick card for having an opinion and not being fluffy enough? What gives? I think of all the backlash against Martha Stewart when she was on trial for financial irregularities. If anyone thinks about how things work in the real world, do you honestly believe that a warm, retiring housewife could become the head of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate by being all sweetness and light? You don't get that far by being a shrinking violet. Men in the corporate world are known to be sharks. Why would we expect high powered women to be anything less? Where is it written that all women have to be comforting and nurturing all the time? It's 2010 - why are we asking other women to pretend that they're Carol Brady? Could we be a little more supportive of straightforward women without labeling them as bitches? Could we respect the hard won wisdom that comes with experience and years rather than labeling them as washed up? Could we just allow each of us the freedom of our own choices, our own paths, and our own character without pointing an accusing finger and saying that every woman should be the same?

I hope Mila kicks butt in the fashion world. I hope she becomes successful, that her clothes sell in the millions, and that women all over the world support her business. I want her to succeed and thrive to show those smug kids on the message boards that 40 is relevant. 40 is hitting your stride. 40 matters, as do 50 and 60. We're not invisible, we're not going away. Let's wish each other well on our individual journeys rather than trying to pigeon hole ourselves into irrelevance.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sewing photos

Eva Dress pattern #6611, front (without button or snaps), collar and strap holding collar finally in place. This is so flattering to the face - it just frames the wearer beautifully. Absolutely worth all the work.

Finished coat with the fur all attached.

Dianna's underdress.

Back of Dianna's dress.

Yep, I made these...

My pink dress for the Jane Austen evening.

I really need a dress form for hanging my finished pieces on before I photograph them. A hanger doesn't do it for me - they need to be molded over the body...

Now - I'll refrain from sewing or crafting for two weeks, then plow back in at the beginning of March. Well, I might sneak some knitting in next week...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Busy, busy

Safe to say that I have been sewing non-stop since January 2nd. I will eventually get photos posted of costumes from the Jane Austen Ball, as well as the coat I'm working on now for a play that's about to open. I'm getting paid $10 per hour for the thing, and I'm up to $400 in invoicing - it's been that much of a devil. Having said that, now that the lining is tacked in and the front facings are on, it's looking pretty good. This is the first time I've made an overcoat, let alone worked with fur. I found someone's review of the project (Eva Dress 6611 - 1929 Coat) on, and she had the same sort of challenges I've been experiencing. Fortunately for me, she posted more complete information about how she made and attached the collar, which rather reminds me of a Flintstones version of Elvis (standing fur). The other problem I had was my cutters. They were first year theater students, and I happened to be in the costume shop, working with the designer on another dress, while the kids were cutting, and they were more interested in their conversation than mindful of what they were doing. This coat has a lot of long seams, curved pintucks, matching curves for an intricate effect - it's really precision sewing, and because they weren't cautious, some of the seam allowances were off, and so I had to take portions of the seams apart and abut them by hand in order to have proper spacing between the curved seam, and the echo in the pintuck. The girl also cut the lining wrong, but in this case, it's an error that worked out in my favor, because in the pattern review, the other seamstress mentioned that when cutting the lining as shown on the pattern piece, it's about 1" too narrow to fit with the front facing, so I may actually be able to turn this inside out and close that part up by machine later this morning. This project has been a real challenge, but it's pushed me hard, and I've learned so much. I know the designer wouldn't have given it to me if she didn't think I could handle it, and I've been slllllloooooooowwwww (which is working just fine for my budget), but I'm seeing what I'm capable of doing, and despite my grumbles, the fur really makes the coat look beautiful. Hope to finish by 3:00 in the afternoon, or before it starts raining - whichever comes first. I've just done a last press of the interior seams before I close up the innards, and I don't want to go to all the trouble of pressing it and making it look just so, then have to go and wad it up in a plastic bag to prevent it from being ruined so I can go the three blocks to the company costume shop.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Off and running

I have started a new cap in Knit Picks Main Line yarn (now discontinued) - about halfway there now, and also going to attempt making mitts with partial fingers. I figured thumbs are no problem, so fingers should be more of the same. In the meantime, I am happy with my new yarn ball winder and swift, my favorite Yule gifts. I'm a fiber geek, I admit it.

Now, I won't be checking in for at least three weeks, because I have two ballgowns and a man's evening suit to make, circa 1800, for the Jane Austen Evening. Took my friend fabric shopping tonight, and she spent $125 on fabric so that I can have fun sewing. I will post photos of completed outfits at the ball (is my Darcy fangirl geek showing?) so that I can share the Regency love. Her dress is going to be ecru eyelet that has rayon embroidery on it, giving the fabric a slightly more dressy sheen than typical eyelet. The underdress is aqua cotton lawn. The sash is a turquoise shot dupioni that has gold/taupe cross threads in the weave. I'll use that fabric for the trim around the neckline as well as the reticule. I have a changent silk taffeta in navy/sea green, but I'm not sure I want to cut it and make it up into a dress, since I've been losing weight. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I have a pink cotton that has a stripe weave with teeny faggoting bordering the stripes. I have white lawn to use as an underdress, and that may just be my ballgown. The plan is to make false sleeves so that I can wear it as a day dress some other time. I brought the costume tiaras down off the storage shelves tonight. The ball is on the 23rd - can't wait. I plan on having a lot of fun sewing, even if I've only got a week and a half free before the Spring semester starts on January 19th. It usually only takes me about eight hours to make a dress, so I'm not stressing too much. It's the men's outfit that I've got to be more careful with. "Puffy shirt," no problem, waistcoat, no problem. Fall front breeches - never made them before, but they don't look too tricky. Regency dresscoat? It's been awhile since I've done any serious tailoring. Black is good. Black is forgiving of any bobbles that might happen, but truth be told, I'm sure that if I am just cautious and carefully follow the directions in my book of men's costume tailoring, I should be o.k. I figure I can pretty much make anything I want to make. I'm that experienced that I don't get freaked out about trying something out for the first time. I can sew a straight line, I can sew curves. I think I shall do more basting than I normally do when I get to the jacket. That should make my life much easier...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Goals for 2010

More projects in yarn, ribbon, paper and fiber.

Learn pattern drafting.

Make money off my avocation.