Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wardrobe Wednesday: I Love a Versatile Cardigan

A lovely motif next to
good karma.
Happy Wednesday – and time (albeit late in the day) for another wardrobe installment. It’s been raining most of the day, so I couldn’t take the photos I needed until the end  of daylight. Oh well.

My focus centers around two designs from Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace – my Nichols Cardigan and WASPs Cowl..

I cannot tell you how much I love this cardi. I took a little extra time when making it to ensure I achieved a fit that was right for me (which included rethinking the neckline a bit), and it was so worth it. I’ve worn this with a short black skirt during the end of summer, but since we have a very temperate climate here in the PNW, I
should be able to wear this wool + cotton blend sweater through three seasons. 

So, with that in mind, after rejecting an all-brown foundation (fairly boring, actually), I pulled out some rather utilitarian gray slacks, opted for a well-worn teal cami, and added a simple necklace in the same color, my blue version of the WASPs cowl, added my favorite pair of Mary Janes, et viola! I am extremely pleased with how the teal looks underneath the cream cardi, and the white piping on the shoes echoes the sweater. I can see how some might view this palette as also a little boring, but the blue has a lot more life in real life.

And about those shoes: I have had them for several years, and I’ve worn them in the past a fair bit. They’ve been to the cobbler for work on the heels and the last time, I had the cobbler add those great ying/yang shank buttons I found (the straps are functional, so they are attached with elastic, but I usually don’t ever unbutton them). I call them my karma Mary Janes, and I absolutely love them with this outfit.

Good karma. Oh yeah!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Slow Fashion October's End: What is Known

It is the last week of slow fashion October. My thanks to Karen over at Fringe Association for organizing this month of most excellent blog posts and social media entries around this topic. It has been a pleasant surprise – to find new makers and artisans I like, to read others’ perspectives on this trend, as well as to recognize what I still don’t know about all this.

However, this week is dedicated to what we all do know about the (in my case) fiber and textiles we source. Even as Karen blogs about this being one of the cornerstones of the slow fashion movement, I had to put palm to forehead when I read that obvious nugget. Of course it is, but to think about it consistently when reaching for fiber is quite another matter. The realities of designing for publication don’t always mean I have a choice in the fiber used for a particular project; the realities of my life sometimes dictate a different choice (read: budget constraints, budget constraints, budget constraints). Nevertheless, when it’s been possible, I have and will continue to make fiber choices that reflect my ability to source as many stages as is humanly possible of that fiber’s life. Here’s a rundown of those I like:

Clockwise, from top left: (1) the former lace weight version of Wonder
Why Farm's alpaca silk blend; (2) a beautiful, yarny plate of Wonder Why
Farm's alpaca bamboo blend and Neighborhood Fiber Co.'s Capital Luxury
Lace, a hand-dyed blend of cashmere, silk and nylon; (3) a lace curtain
panel designed with Blonde Chicken Boutique's hemp; (4) the Etched Ice
Cowl, designed with Baa Ram Ewe's Titus in the Aire colorway; (5) Blonde
Chicken Boutique's hemp lace weight; (6) Slouching Towards Tassels cap
designed with Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter and Loft; (7) Wonder Why Farm's
gorgeous yarn with the New Wave Skirt it was becoming; and (8) Noro Taiyo
and Berroco Remix, which became a Buds Bag, complete with the cotton
lining fabric and leather handles prior to design completion.
1.  Wonder Why Farm: Andrea Morrison is a renaissance woman when it comes to sourcing a yarn. She uses fleece from her own farm’s camelids (and since she’s a certified fleece grader, I trust her ability to identify the most excellent fleece from every shearing); she hand spins some of her fleece, and some of it goes out to be commercially spun; she hand dyes all of the skeins as well as batts, and she weaves some really beautiful pieces. I’ve designed with her yarns as well as made her things from handspun that she’s sent to me, and it’s all just great.

2.   Brooklyn Tweed: I’ve designed with both Shelter and Loft and love pretty much anything coming from Jared’s house (as well as Harrisville, where his wool is spun). I’m looking forward to designing with the new yarn.

3.  Neighborhood Fiber Co.: While Karida is technically a dyer, she’s an artist with an activist’s heart, who this summer started a community-sourced fiber box. It had a limited, but incredibly successful run, so I hope she’ll do it again next year (and I’ll be able to get in on the locally-to-her sourced fiber act).

4.  Blonde Chicken Boutique: At one point Tara Swiger used to produce yarns from recycled materials which she dyed using natural dyes. I’m a big fan of recycling things, and I loved the hemp. While it’s currently not the focus of her business, I think you can still find the hemp in certain local yarn shops.

5.  Baa Ram Ewe Titus: Not only do I love the story surrounding this yarn, but the fiber itself was great to design with, which I did as part of a Yarnbox mailing. The yarn bloomed in blocking to something soft and full of texture and character. I cannot say enough good things about this fiber!

6.  Noro: This is another fiber from a source of genius – thank you Mr. Noro. This yarn house isn’t all that big on media coverage, but I have Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton’s book of Noro designs, for which she was given complete access. Noro has been ahead of its time in not only sourcing its raw materials, but in its allowance of “imperfection” in the final product (and anyone who has found vegetative matter in a skein of Kureyon knows exactly of what I speak). I will be on the Noro bandwagon until I or Noro are no longer in existence.

7.   Recycled Yarns (the Berroco Remix in the montage): I realize the inherent issues in sourcing information for such a yarn, but as I said above, I’m a big fan of recycling and I will support such an inclination.

In the end, I think there could be an ability to get too precious with all of this. Mindfulness is key, but so too is balance. I won’t let all the sourcing and questioning detract from my ability to enjoy the art and craft of designing and making. Mindfulness + joy factor provides me with the tools to make the best decisions I can at any given point, but I'm also aware that this is a path. I take steps in both directions; hopefully the steps forward outnumber the steps in opposition.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wardrobe Wednesday: Suede + Fur

Yes, that's a fur collar on that coat.
Happy Wednesday, everyone! In this edition of Wardrobe Wednesday, I’m focusing on the lightweight, yet warm, fur-trimmed Brix Coat I designed for my Romantique collection in autumn 2013 (you can go here to read my previous blog posts on the entire collection).

Late afternoon sun was making hay with the colors on my cowl. If
you see some similarities between the colors in the coat and cowl,
you'd be correct, since some of the yarn used in the cowl were
small bits left from what I used for the main body of the coat.
In case you weren’t aware, there were a lot of coats on the F/W 2015 runway – hey, it was cold last winter. While I’m not necessarily a coat gal (I’ve got two go-to coats, plus a third for really cold weather climes), I have had and continue to have a serious crush on fur embellishments. Fur can be difficult to design with, since a lot of the faux fur yarn out there is … well … less than optimal, shall we say. I haven’t worked with all of them, but one that I really like is Lion Brand Yarn’s Romantic (and my 2013 fall collection name is pure coincidence but it works, oui?).  The fur is silky, very soft, has great drape, and I think just a little bit sexy. For trim and other small elements, I recommend it highly. I’ve incorporated it into several designs, so I’m super thrilled to be able to build an outfit around this coat.

A more complete photo of
the suede skirt.

I’ve taken a long suede skirt I’ve had for several years, topped it with a simple long sleeved tee-shirt, added black suede booties and, with the coat, it’s a vision in purples and burgundies. I’ve also included one of my recently completed Gradient Flower Cowls that I’ll wear when I’m inside and not wearing the coat. I also show a simple necklace (the Sanyu Single Long Necklace that I purchased from a former design student) that not only looks great with the outfit, but is environmentally and socially conscious.

I’m pretty pleased with how this outfit came together, and I’m actually rather looking forward to wearing it, like, very soon.

Monday, October 19, 2015

On Shoes, Wearing, and Memory

I hadn’t paid attention to this week’s prompt when I wrote last week’s slow fashion October post, and I inadvertently provided a segue into this week's topic: worn.

While I was taught from a fairly early age (before double digits) how to hand sew simple things like hems and minor seam repairs on my clothes, I have, relatively speaking, led a repair-free clothing life, with one exception: shoes. I have been a regular visitor to any and all shoe repair shops/cobblers. I have always loved shoes, and while I don’t have too many pairs, I tend to take care of the ones I have. Part of it is definitely a thrift thing, but a large part of it is not wanting to give up on shoes that I love. How can I just glibly toss that pair that I have (quite literally in some instances) walked across entire cities in? Trekked across Route 66 in? Walked along the California coast in? Shoes have always contained deep personal memories for me, and thus my unwillingness to, oddly enough, either buy them used or give them up without a good repair fight. I need to form my own singular memories in those soles, thank you very much.

So my present willingness to repair things in my wardrobe isn’t quite such a stretch. I provide a wee pictorial of the repair I’ve completed on my Rustic Elegance shawl/cowl from last week:

Pardon the nighttime lighting, but here's the yarn I'll be using
to fix that pictured, very relaxed set of button holes on my
Rustic Elegance shawl/cowl.

I removed the buttons I originally used (the shank set
on the right) and will replace them with the round ones
to the left. They are simple mother of pearl buttons,
and I actually like the back of the buttons best.

Here are the new buttons all sewn onto the button band. 

And here's the repaired button hole band. I
used a 5.50 mm hook, worked one row of single
crochet across the entire edge, and then went back
with the mohair threaded into a tapestry needle and
"closed" both sides of each enlarged button hole
using a whip stitch.

Here's what it looks like buttoned.

And the final repair after a quick soak and dry. 

I have no idea if the techniques I used in the above repair are “traditional” or just a reflection of my more common sense approach.However, since this was one of my first prototypes, I actually hadn't perfected the art of blocking, because if I had the button hole band would not have been in quite such a stretched state. I cannot recommend blocking strongly enough - it is magic, really. Really. 

There are, as I’m now reading, several in the slow fashion community that focus on nothing but repair. I readily admit I hadn’t thought of clothing repair in such a deep and focused manner, although from an historical perspective, textile restoration is a specialty unto itself, so why not treat clothing in the same manner, especially when the whole point is to not just throw things away?

Nevertheless, just like my thought evolution on recycling and the environment, I’ve definitely had a shift in how I look at and approach my personal wardrobe.  As Katrina Rodabaugh succinctly put it in her slow fashion IG post last week, “. . . I think the most important thing might actually just be awareness … [a]nd realizing that one small shift can result in a huge change as those small shifts accumulate.”

I completely agree.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wardrobe Wednesday: All Time Favorites

Two of my most worn (as well
as much loved) accessories.
Instead of showing you an outfit incorporating another of my finished designs, I’m going back in the archives to show you two of my much loved and most worn pieces for slow fashion October. This week’s prompt actually made me go and take a look at what I’ve worn most from the things I’ve made, and one of two that made the cut was a surprise even to me.

Can you see how the button holes/band has
stretched (in the upper left of the photo) from
so much wear?
Anyone who has followed this blog or my design career knows how much I love neckware – any and all neckware – so seeing a shawl-cum-cowl make my most worn list should be no surprise. The one I’ve chosen here is the prototype that led to my Rustically Elegant Shoulder Warmer, the first design to make a paid print publication (and not merely an individual pattern for download), so it has a special place in my heart … as well as, obviously, my neck. In fact, I’ve worn it so much that I need to reinforce and/or otherwise take care of the button band on it; I’ve still got a small amount of one of the fibers I originally used, so I’m good to go on the repair. I might also swap out the buttons, I’ll see.

The second item to make my most-worn/loved items is my Woolly Mammoth mittens. This design is not mine, but from a fellow hooker/occasional designer who has played a pivotal role in my design career. This Friendship Mittens design is a real favorite of mine. I love the post stitch cable running up the front of the mitten and the easily customizable yet well-functioning design. While last winter was incredibly mild here in the Pacific Northwest (which is usually fairly temperate even in the worst of winter seasons), we’ve had a few past cold and snowy winters and these mittens absolutely came in handy. I crafted them with a combination of worsted weight mohair and Noro Kureyon and their warmth factor is off the chart.

I made these finished pieces back in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about fiber and grown as a designer since then. While I have no desire to use a sewing machine (sorry, no offense to the sewers out there, but la machine is not for moi), I am amazed at how much I really like my ability to be able to make, as well as repair, things for myself. I have a fair amount of mechanical and spatial abilities, and knowing how to engineer things that fit me and are functional as well as fashionable feeds into that ability. There’s also no better sense of accomplishment than seeing a design come to life from one’s own hands.

Just color me one of the poster children for slow fashion.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Occasional Series: Wardrobe Wednesday

My first new fall outfit using some of my own
designs + repurposed items already in my closet.
I have been preparing behind the scenes for a bit in an effort to start an occasional Wednesday series to highlight how I'm incorporating my own designs into my wardrobe. The fact that it coincides with #slowfashionoctober is a happy accident!

The desire for this series started with a look not only at my stash (which, as I've written many times in the past, I've been aiming at cutting down significantly and/or using up yarns I've had for a while to make way for further fiber exploration), but also what I had in my closet and how I might freshen up both it as well as my personal look. I've been in a serious clothes funk for a while, so this effort comes not a moment too soon. However, getting all of these moving parts to work together and fulfill my final objectives really has been a creative challenge. Nevertheless, I'm pretty darn pleased with my first new outfit, which is pictured at left.

The piece that I wound up building up from and around was my La Coeur Cowl published in the February edition of (and you'll be seeing more about this cowl in the next few months) (top right in the first photo). I had a few skeins left over from the sample cowl I worked up for the e-magazine and, combining it with some yarn I still had in stash from this pullover, I swatched, crunched the gauge numbers, and then whipped up a bulky weight version of my New Wave skirt

Let me tell you, this is a fairly quick skirt to make in the original sport weight yarn I chose, but in this heavier weight, it was even quicker! I love how these colors play with each other, and I am absolutely thrilled with how this skirt fits. You can't get any better than that, folks!

I've paired it with chunky leather booties and black tights (which means I can skip any additional slip or underlayer - the tights do all the heavy lifting), the perfect purple tank (can you see a color theme here?) and an oversized blouse that I've had for while and just didn't have anything that looked right to pair it with. I will most likely make a few quick jewelry pieces, and then I'll be all set.

I feel like I'm getting a new school year wardrobe. So much fun!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Slow Fashion October: My (Small) Approach to Stash

Three different versions of the
Gradient Flower Cowl, all
hanging in a row ...
Hello everyone - happy October. In case you haven't seen anything on social media with the #slowfashionoctober hashtag, all this month Fringe Association is celebrating all facets of DIY clothing and fashion with weekly prompts. I've already started to post some photos to my Pinterest account relating to the topic, so I thought it was about time I did a little blogging about it.

It also coincides with the end of my hosting duties in the Gradient Flower Cowl CAL on Ravelry. I want to thank Crochet! Magazine for hosting the CAL, to Lion Brand for their lovely Amazing Yarn, as well as to the many, many lurkers in the CAL thread (and you know who you are!). I managed to complete three different cowls for myself (yes, mine all mine) using nothing but scraps from stash. This designing with yarn scraps in mind is something that I've been contemplating for over a year. It has been such a treat to not only see some of the outward fruits of this contemplation, but to experience the joy of stalking my own stash and putting together different color combinations. It brings me no small amount of pleasure to know that I am de-stashing in such a mindful (and rather stylish and colorful, if I do say so myself) manner. I've already got ideas on how I will be incorporating these cowls into my everyday wardrobe, and hopefully you'll get to see those ideas here on the blog throughout October.

In the meantime, I'm currently showing off the version in which I used a bucket load of fingering weight yarn (and a few lace weight ends held double). Quite frankly, this version is autumn encapsulated - and my neighborhood trees kindly reinforced the seasonal mood. I've got it paired up with a suede jacket, and I love the texture play. I fully expect I'll get a lot of mileage from this cowl, and I couldn't be happier.

Yeah slow fashion!