Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Modern Kimono at the Met & さよなら

If you'll be anywhere near the Metropolitan Museum any time soon, I can heartily recommend 2 exhibits.  First, Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, huge tapestries, all from the 16th century, with amazing colors & details still gorgeous after all these years.  It runs thru 11 January 2015.  But I couldn't take photos.  

However, we also made it to another great exhibit, also currently at the Met, Kimono in Modern History, which runs thru 1/19/15, and we could take pictures.   So I thought I'd share a few with you (the Roommate took most of them).  

First off, the patterns were amazing.  Wonderful & graphic, just the way we like 'em!  Keyboards & sheet music, stained glass, circuit boards (?). So much fun.  

And one with cameras!  The text says FILMCAMERAFILMCAMERAFILMCAMERAFILM...

Many were classically Japanese (or what I think of as classic).  Stylized nature, with striking colors & interesting scale & repetition.  I love these unrealistic red & white waves with the little water drops in turquoise.   

Below is a chrysanthemum, but forgive yourself if you think it's fireworks...I think the artist was playing with us, especially by putting them against that dark blue background.  

Old kimono & yukata were made into new with some wonderful recycling. The first is a farmer's jacket from 1925-1950.  Using old yukata, which were cut into strips & re-woven, it's a heavy jacket with a wonderful abstract pattern.  

Next is another farmer's jacket (probably belonging to a woman) made using a patchwork of old silk kimono.  Yukata & kimono wouldn't be thrown away when they were worn out...instead they were re-used & turned into something as good as (or better?) than they were before.  

This is just a small taste (I wish the photos came out better, but of course we were taking them thru glass), and I didn't show any of the heavily embroidered and ornate kimono that were for weddings or the upper class.  All lovely.  Just a wonderful show, with many different styles and many examples.  

I must also mention the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibit at the MoMA, too.  It's amazing (I've been twice), but not really textile-related (though Matisse loved them & painted them a lot, there aren't really any in this show).  It is inspiration-related, though, so worth the lines.  

Finally, I'm saying さよなら. In English that's goodbye.  I started this blog over three years ago (6/19/11) because Tilly encouraged me to.  Although I enjoy her blog, along with many other sewing blogs, I really hate writing!  (And I have to say I avoid it at all costs...so why did I start a blog!?)  I have lots of things to write about, but often struggle to come up with something, or an angle on what I'm writing about, and it feels like torture.

Many sewing bloggers have developed their passion into a business. They seem to be able to turn out lovely finished items as quickly as a factory.  Although I admire their business-savvy & hard work, I don't want a business (I love my government librarian job), and I don't complete that many items in a given year because I love working in my garden, riding bikes with the Roommate, cooking, reading, etc.  I really hate the idea of turning my hobby into a scheduled deadline-driven activity.  I love deadlines at work; at home, not so much.

The last year or so I've really dreaded trying to come up with something to blog about!  Even this blog post took me a few weeks (thank the gods for two recent NYC trips!).  I'd really rather be sewing than blogging. So in the words of the immortal Gary Larson, "Adios, Amoebas!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A few notes about fabric shopping in NYC and Yinka Shonibare

Last Friday I went along on a fun field trip with other students & teachers from Bits of Threads, to the NYC Garment District.  Hard to believe how much is jam-packed into this 1/3 square mile.  Besides Elliot Berman & Mood, the notions shops are irresistible.  (I took one regular-sized backpack: when it was full, I stopped shopping & headed to the MoMA to see the Matisse cut-outs show again.)  And if you get tired of fabrics (or are traveling with a Roommate who might get bored), the Empire State Building & the main branch of the New York Public Library & Bryant Park are all close by.  NOTE: Bryant Park is especially fun this time of year with a Christmas shopping festival & an ice skating rink!  

Here is the Garment District's official map (in PDF form), if you're headed there yourself.

Right next to Elliot Berman, at 237 W 35th St, I found Butterfly Fabrics, and they had an amazing selection of West African wax prints, along with wonderful embroidered Indian silk, sari fabrics, and raw silk (reminded me a lot of being in a fabric store in Abu Dhabi).  I *only* bought 27 yards of the wax prints, and the only reason I didn't buy more was because I couldn't figure out how to carry it!

Speaking of wax prints, Yinka Shonibare has an interesting take on these fabrics and their meaning. He's a Nigerian-English artist, who uses West African wax prints to show the legacy of colonialism.  (Here's the page about him on Wikipedia.) I can't ever resist wax prints (as you've noticed), and love his use of them in his artistic commentaries!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When the Roommate Gets Mad...

For some reason, I have a lot of sunglasses.  Actually, I know quite well why: I'm a fair-haired, blue-eyed human who's lived most of her life at high altitudes or in very sunny places, or both.  Skin & eye cancer are both worries, so I always wear sunglasses.  However, I never pay more than $8-10/pair (honest, guv!), and sometimes even less (i.e., free Bike To Work Day specs!). 

But where to keep them has always been a problem. At various times they've lived on top of shelves, in a small table by the front door, or in a cardboard box in a shoe cabinet.  I have scoured the web & Etsy, looking for one great idea, and typically only found something that stored 2-3 pairs (haha!).  My last try at organization was this hanging shelf/hook/bin combo, no longer available at Crate & Barrel, which is pretty great and worked okay. Except trying to get one pair out usually meant 2-3 other pairs fell out; not the best way to have a smooth entry at 6:45 a.m. And there are hooks underneath those specs, which go to waste.  Plus everything was unstable, so the slightest flounce of a raincoat or scarf often meant a cascade of glasses, scaring the cat & irritating the Roommate.  

(This is all in the mudroom, BTW.  We have almost no storage by our front door, so it would be even messier if I tried to move them out there.)

Which brings me to the Roommate.  He rarely makes any type of negative comment about something I'm doing (I really have to be doing something bad or ridiculous), so when he became quite irritated last week & said, "Well, it wouldn't be such a problem if you didn't have so many. And we can't even use the hooks!"  Which is a reasonable comment.  So I got to thinking about what I could make that would fit all my sunglasses, but not take up too much space and would work with the hooks on the bottom of a mirror we already have there.  

I had some heavy duty interfacing (possibly for a smocking idea), so decided to use that, plus scraps. At first I was thinking I'd make narrow pockets.  But I ran that idea by a coworker who suggested grosgrain ribbon sewed at varying widths and angles. I don't have any grosgrain, so decided instead to make strips, also out of scraps.  I'm so glad I got her opinion (thanks!).  

You can see it here, on the left.  I made a little strap with a snap to go through the triangle-shaped hangers that were on the mirror when we bought it (I've never figured out what they could be for), so it didn't make a new hole in the wall.  

It's not super pretty, but I just wanted to use up stuff, so wasn't worrying too much about matching.  I also suspected (and I was correct) that once I got all the sunglasses on it, the mismatched fabrics wouldn't show.  

As you can see, it's got plenty of work to do! When I showed the Roommate, he was super impressed (he always is--enthusiasm honed from years of being an elementary teacher).  

Now they are easy to find, easy to take out and put away & there's plenty of room for more!  

Best of all, the original organizer is more useful, now, too.  We're making good use of the hooks and the pockets, as you can see below...  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meanwhile...back in DC

Apologies for not having anything to show in the way of sewing; I'm hoping to do some finishing this weekend. 

 In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about ScrapDC's Rebel Craft Rumble, which is this Saturday evening, 9/27/14, in DC's hoppin' Columbia Heights!  If you've ever wondered what Project Runway would look like when crossed with Iron Chef, here's your chance to help out plus support ScrapDC, a non-profit which inspires environmentally sustainable creative re-use!  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What I'm Working on (More on Vintage Pledge 4) #vintagepledge

Brief update on my Vintage Pledge 4, McCall's 5297. (See last week's post for my rant on fitting.) You can see the gorgeous batik I'm using for the jacket (on sale at Hancock), and the blue is some silk I've dyed to match for the lining.  And speaking of linings, there's Connie Long's masterpiece, Easy Guide to Sewing Linings.  

About that silk (which I also used on this Vintage Pledge item), it's silk habotai, 5mm weight, from Dharma Trading.  In order to get a "deal," I bought a whole bolt (about 50 yards).  I must be nuts!/But it was a deal!  I'm slowly getting through the 50 yards, but it will take a while.  If I ever get all the projects done that are in my head, it will be used up; I promise.

I also would like a bolt of 8mm habotai.  This 5mm silk is lovely, but very light, and it needs to be sewed down as it doesn't have enough weight for gravity to keep it down.  For example, I'm thinking of making a slip with it.  And I will probably just double the fabric for all the parts, so there's a bit more weight and it will behave under a dress.  

Also, I mostly buy my dyes from Dharma, too, because silk dyes are special.  Meaning that if you buy non-silk dye (like Rit), it will work great on cotton, but won't do a thing for your silk.  Follow directions carefully, and don't use your dying utensils for anything but dying.  I keep all these items in our basement, well away from the kitchen.  

Finally, I'm still having a few more fitting issues, but I think I'm pretty close to getting this pattern modified to suit me.  If I get a princess-seamed jacket that fits me out of this torturous fitting process, I will be pretty darn happy.  Wish me luck!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vintage Make Four Progress Report: McCall's 5297 from 1976!

Sometimes I'm not sure why I sew.  It makes me pay a lot more attention to my body much more than I like to and I usually end up feeling like I'm a freak because NO pattern ever fits right out of the envelope!  And then I decide, "Well, I can modify this so it will fit really well."  Even though previous fitting experiences have been quite frustrating, with no clear lessons learned, and no actual pattern at the end that I feel can be used again...so frustration without reward.  As I said, why do I sew?!  And why do I think I can make something fit?!  

Sorry for the rant!  Onward!  
This dress needs a matching jacket.  I have tried a couple of different versions of the one in the pattern (See & Sew B5699), but wasn't thrilled with them.  They're okay, but not that great.  So I was getting ready to go ahead & cut my lovely navy wool & silk/rayon lining (thank you, Mood!), and decided, no, let's try something else.  Digging through my pattern boxes, I came across McCall's 5297 from 1976, which my mom gave me recently. (I think she might have made it for my sister?  I don't remember it being for me.)  Anyway, the jacket looks good, it's with princess seams (which always work better for me), and I just want to shorten it & round it a bit, so it's a bit more like this Mohammed-Make out of some of my beloved West African fabric. I get a lot of use out of this jacket, wearing it over tops or by itself with skirts and dresses.  

So I started a toile/muslin.  And was quickly reminded that even though princess seams are pretty good for fitting me, they're not perfect either...even this wonderful jacket from Mohammed is too loose at the waist.  So, I started playing with 5297 & ended up making it a bit more like the one above. Specifically, that meant turning the front side piece into 2 pieces, like the jacket above.  Essentially I went from 4 jacket front pieces (not including lining & interfacing) to 6.  It took lots of cutting & trimming & pinning, and of course I'm not 100% sure it's right, but I found some free cotton I'd been given & decided to try it all out.  If that works, then I'll get to work with the wool.  You can see to the right that I did lots of tracing/drawing and modifying.  

I used lots of scraps from other projects & from old sheets I get at Goodwill.  You can see my Frankentoile to the left, using 4 different pieces. 

One thing that is good (I guess) is that most pattern pieces fit me perfectly through the back.  It's sort of amazing how I match that part so well.  At least I don't have to fuss with that.  Just the sides & front!   

By the end of the day, I had the cotton version cut out, put in a new needle, wound a bobbin & did the back neck darts & center back seam.  A day spent fitting & cutting out & even making a bit of a start on the actual sewing...not too bad!  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Few Small Items Finished

I really need to get cracking on See & Sew B5699, the jacket anyway, so I've got something new to wear this winter.  However, I got some free fabric a few weeks ago and decided to use some to make a new nightgown, and to finish up a smocked pillow that has been laying around for months.  So here are those 2 items, which have cleaned off my sewing table, giving me plenty of room to get that wool out & start cutting!  

The mother of a colleague taught Home Ec & Sewing in a public school in Pennsylvania for years.  And she has a ton of fabric.  My colleague is trying to get her to start cleaning out her basement, so she brought me a bag.  

This 100% polyester is something I'd never buy.  But since it's pretty & feels silky, I thought it would make a good nightgown...and I can always use more nightgowns.  Years ago I bought a nightgown which I really liked, but it finally wore out.  Since then I've made 3 which are essentially copies of it.  This is one of them.  It's a quick project & I like how slick & silky the fabric feels. 

And this morning I finished another smocked pillow!  Again, some fabric I got free (on www.freecycle.org); it's a light denim and there wasn't much (less than 1/2 yard), so a pillow seemed like an obvious project.  As with nightgowns, I can always use another cushion cover & I enjoy all the different textures created by the smocking around the house.  

I have only been using smocking on household items, but here's an amazing example of smocking on a dress, from a sister-blogger, from a 1960s pattern.