Findings: Inventory and making the most of things

In the throws of pattern testing, I haven't had much exciting news to report aside from the fact that the new pattern will be ready this month.

But so as to not shirk my blogging responsibilities, here's another edition of Findings!

Precious Plastic is an open source program designed to allow anybody to build their own plastic recycling and fabrication studio. I can imagine all sorts of cool objects you could make with this stuff...all their examples are awesome.

I'm always thinking about the disposability of things like seam rippers and plastic spools (and, honestly, disposable culture in general) and this project has me dreaming about a line of recycled sewing tools and notions. Now if only somebody could invent a consumer level machine that could quickly process scraps of fabric into raw material to be woven/spun/etc.

While we're on the topic of 'stuff'...

I recently came across this piece by artist Simon Evans (well, artist duo really, as his wife has been his collaborator for years under his name...a discussion for another time) that got me thinking about inventory. As I work through my wardrobe revamping and thinking about living with less, slow everything, Marie Kondo, etc, the idea of creating an inventory is extremely appealing to me.

Simon Evans  Everything I Have

Simon Evans Everything I Have

This Evans piece is more than just a visual inventory of course...if you examine the text below each item you'll find a variety of odd references and social commentaries, which is typical of their work. For the purposes of this blog post, I'm thinking about the work in a visual and loosely conceptual context.

I've tried to do projects like this in the past...making a visual catalog of all my clothing & accessories. I've actually helped other people do this as well, with varying success and levels of commitment. I'm such a visual person in terms of thought processes and organization, that I think seeing all my clothing at once would allow me to better curate. I could think of the collection as a whole. But the daunting process of photographing everything leaves me uninspired. If I were more of an illustrator, I might do drawings of everything, but that would take time I don't have. However, I think creating a visual wardrobe lexicon is a nice long term goal to have. Maybe on a long weekend...

Detail: Simon Evans  Everything I Have

Detail: Simon Evans Everything I Have

It gets me thinking though...how will people in the future remember us and what our lives were like? Will they examine our culture through facebook updates and vine videos?

That brings me to my next finding....

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I'm currently reading a book called The Making of Home by Judith Flanders. The book examines how our idea of 'home' in America & Europe was conjured over the course of the last few centuries, through developments in technology, practice, and culture. I'm only half way through it (I'm a slow reader, especially when I'm not taking public transportation: my preferred reading scenario) and in each chapter I've already discovered some wonderful thought seeds about women & work, homesteading, the social power of furniture, etc. I'm a total nerd about the history of domestic experience.

A detail from  The Arnolfini Portrait  by Jan Van Eyck

A detail from The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck

Archaeologists and historians often rely on legal documents from the time (such as probate inventories taken at the time of death to value an estate) to figure out what kinds of items people had and draw inferences about how they lived. Part of this is because paintings, though reflective of their times in a variety of ways, are not always direct representations of 'the real life'. Things change a bit when photography is invented.

Inventory from 1792, including 1 pair leather shoes, 1 yard black gauze, 1 oz white thread, and a thimble.

Inventory from 1792, including 1 pair leather shoes, 1 yard black gauze, 1 oz white thread, and a thimble.

So, how would future cultures interpret our lives by watching episodes of the Kardashians and reading an Ikea catalog VS. looking at a collection of photos of everything somebody owned? Or reading a sewing blog? Or looking at your amazon purchase history? Of course, all of this relies on our technology surviving us ;)

Anyway, a bit of a rambling of what my brain is doing when it's not thinking about pattern layouts. I like thinking about the future in relationship to history...it gets me thinking.

Do you have any creative methods for recycling your sewing leftovers? Have you ever created an inventory of your clothes or anything else?

It's that time of year

The holidays are upon us. Whatever holidays you celebrate, nearly all of them involved food and/or gifts.

I love all the holiday stuff. I was raised in a fairly secular household. My extended family runs the gamut from born again christian to orthodox jew, with a few Buddhists thrown into the mix. But family has always been important, so that is what holidays have always meant to me. Plus food.

While I love food and cooking, I'll save my arsenal of recipes for another time. Today we'll talk about the later: Gifts.

I love giving gifts. In fact, I'm a year round gift giver. When I find something that reminds me of someone, I like to give it to them right then and there, without having to wait for a designated time. This, however, probably makes me a bad holiday gift giver. As soon as I need to find gifts for somebody, inspiration vanishes.

My business is new. I wish I had all sorts of fun promotions and specials to offer you all, but I do not - though believe me, my brain has been bursting with ideas for next year! Since I only have one pattern, Black Friday and other holiday promotions seemed like overkill.

So I thought instead, my gift to you would be a collection of gift ideas for all types of people. This collection includes things you can make and (for those who have yet to realize their true crafting potential) things lovingly crafted by others.

A note about this list: These are all online resources for gifts, since this is a blog gift guide. I've tried to show only items by artists, craftspeople, and small businesses. If you are able, shop local for some of your holidays gifts and help out your local economy! Also, this list is far from complete, so if you have awesome shops you'd like to recommend, leave them in the comments!

Don't forget to check the links page for more places to find awesome, ethical, fair trade, usa made, and more!

*Click the image to reach its retail page*

Art

Art is an awesome gift. People can always use more art in their life, regardless of what type of person they are. Most people have a few empty walls to call their own. Art is not always expensive, but it is always valuable. Plus, isn't it cool to give your gift money to an artist trying to make a living instead of throwing it at Target or Walmart?

Dogs Watercolor Painting  by  LizzyStewart  (etsy.com)

Dogs Watercolor Painting by LizzyStewart (etsy.com)

Golden State of Mind  by  Jenny Sharaf   (thetappancollective.com)

Golden State of Mind by Jenny Sharaf (thetappancollective.com)

The Dream Catcher III  by    fricdementol   (etsy.com)

The Dream Catcher III by fricdementol (etsy.com)

The Old Frontier - Las Vegas  by  stoopidgerl  (etsy.com)

The Old Frontier - Las Vegas by stoopidgerl (etsy.com)

Etsy is a great place to find all kinds of art in any size or medium. The nice thing about Etsy is, due to the volume of artwork on it, it is easy to search for "boat" for a fisherman uncle or "Pomeranian" for a pooch loving aunt to get a truly personal gift.

Other websites like The Tappan Collective and Saatchi Online are places to buy art at a range of prices as well. Look for local galleries in your area if you want to support your community.

Are you an artist (even if it's just after work and a few cocktails)? Be bold and make some art for your friends and family!

Useful Things

It's often tempting to get somebody something super cool and exciting, but one thought that rarely crosses the gift giver's mind in this instance is, "is this useful to the recipient?" Why not get somebody a super nice/cool version of something they will absolutely, 100% use?

German made dustpan and brush set from  Schoolhouse Electric

German made dustpan and brush set from Schoolhouse Electric

Brass Scissors from  Present & Correct

Brass Scissors from Present & Correct

Net Grocery Bag from  Kiosk NY

Net Grocery Bag from Kiosk NY

Pallarès-Solsona Aragon Knife from  QuitoKeeto

Pallarès-Solsona Aragon Knife from QuitoKeeto

Clockwise from top left, a selection of super useful gifts from some of my favorite places:

Schoolhouse Electric- Lighting, as well all all sorts of other fine home goods and accessories. Well made useful thingd

Kiosk - A shop in NY that sources all sorts of interesting objects from around the globe. Sort of like a globally curated general store.

Quitokeeto- A kitchen supply shop run by one of my favorite chefs, Heidi Swanson. You may know her from her recipe blog 101 Cookbooks (if you don't, there's a start on the recipe guide mentioned above)

Present & Correct - The most delightful stationary and accessories to brighten up any desk or office.

Clothes & Accessories

Now I know what you're saying: A. How do you buy clothes for other people and B. Aren't you supposed to tell me to make the clothes? Well, certain kinds of clothes are supposed to make good gifts. Here's some novel clothing type gifts:

Settlers of Catan Socks by  Betabrand

Settlers of Catan Socks by Betabrand

The Ten Year Hoodie from  Flint & Tinder

The Ten Year Hoodie from Flint & Tinder

Seed Stitch Raglan Sweater by  Everlane

Seed Stitch Raglan Sweater by Everlane

The Albatross Skirt  from  Paridaez

The Albatross Skirt from Paridaez

Betabrand is based in San Fransisco and makes all sorts of clothing novelties (and not so novelties) including bike-to-work pants, discoball hoodies, and brain-scan print dresses. Everything is made in SF. The Catan socks above come with sock insurance, meaning they will replace your lost socks!

How about the most basic, comfy, and lovely sweater from Everlane, a clothing company that makes awesome basics and preaches radical transparency. Their webshop used profits from Black Friday to build recreational facilities for their factory workers. Awesome.

I recently helped a friend Launch Paridaez, a yoga apparel company geared towards women who need more versatile clothing that works both inside and out of the studio. The kickstarter ends Christmas Eve, so you have plenty of time to get the yogi in your life something special. While items won't be delivered before Christmas (you'll receive a nice 'coming soon' postcard), they'll help you get a good start on your new years resolution ;)

Made in the USA, Flint & Tinder's 10 Year Hoodie is guaranteed for 10 years. They even offer free mending service!

Books

When I was a kid, the rule was that I only received toys on holidays or my birthday, but I could buy a book anytime I wanted to. Books are awesome...and in a day and age where so much is digital, kind of special? Here are some cool ones:

We received this book one year from my grandparents in Maine. It is an awesome visual dictionary of farming illustrated by Julia Rothman. Always a pleasure to pick up and peruse.

We received this book one year from my grandparents in Maine. It is an awesome visual dictionary of farming illustrated by Julia Rothman. Always a pleasure to pick up and peruse.

A gateway book for those who don't read yet. This dollhouse book has pages for kids to draw their own interiors by   Rock and Pebble

A gateway book for those who don't read yet. This dollhouse book has pages for kids to draw their own interiors by Rock and Pebble

Home Comforts  by  Cheryl Mendelson  is to housekeeping as Emily Post is to etiquette. This is a great gift for those who are too old to live with their parents, but too young to have taken home economics in High School. Maybe even for anybody who's just bought their first home. I use it as a reference for how long certain types of leftovers stay good in the fridge and pre-treating stains.

Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson is to housekeeping as Emily Post is to etiquette. This is a great gift for those who are too old to live with their parents, but too young to have taken home economics in High School. Maybe even for anybody who's just bought their first home. I use it as a reference for how long certain types of leftovers stay good in the fridge and pre-treating stains.

Full disclosure: I helped write this book on Knittings, Crochet, and Sports. However, I think it would make an awesome gift to anybody interested in crafts, activism and/or basketball. As a bonus, 50% proceeds before x-mas go to sister organization  Voces de Cambio .

Full disclosure: I helped write this book on Knittings, Crochet, and Sports. However, I think it would make an awesome gift to anybody interested in crafts, activism and/or basketball. As a bonus, 50% proceeds before x-mas go to sister organization Voces de Cambio.

Subscriptions

Call me old school, but there's something really cool about somebody gifting you a magazine subscription. I also recall as a family getting fruit-of-the-month which is a little weird but pretty cool. Here are some subscriptions for all kinds of people in your life.

The old school gift subsciptions:  Fruit of the Month Club from  Harry & David

The old school gift subsciptions: Fruit of the Month Club from Harry & David

Why get somebody a tie when you can get them a tie-of-the-month subscription where ties are mailed back for new ones, a la original netflix:  Monthly Tie Subscription from  Tie Society

Why get somebody a tie when you can get them a tie-of-the-month subscription where ties are mailed back for new ones, a la original netflix: Monthly Tie Subscription from Tie Society

For the Green Thumb or aspiring greenish/grey thumb:  Green Box Subscription from  Homegrown Collective

For the Green Thumb or aspiring greenish/grey thumb: Green Box Subscription from Homegrown Collective

Or go with the traditional print based magazine (we have to keep them alive!!). Wired and Frankie are two of my favorites.

Last Minute Handmade Gifts

You love making things, especially for other people. But you lead a busy life, are working on a budget, or need a gift for a ton of people. Here's some quick and awesome DIYs.

Tea towels are super quick to sew and most people use them. The above tutorial from Spoonflower shows you how to create fabric of beloved family recipes and create tea towels. They also have a great selection of yearly calendar tea towels by designers...or design your own tea towel. One yard of fabric will make four!

Tea towels are super quick to sew and most people use them. The above tutorial from Spoonflower shows you how to create fabric of beloved family recipes and create tea towels. They also have a great selection of yearly calendar tea towels by designers...or design your own tea towel. One yard of fabric will make four!

Fancy washcloths are a lovely gift and very classy. These are designed by Kate Alvis and you can find the free pattern on  Ravelry .

Fancy washcloths are a lovely gift and very classy. These are designed by Kate Alvis and you can find the free pattern on Ravelry.

Coasters are always nice, and this tutorial from  Purl Bee  is no exception. Their website is a treasure trove of DIYS, so check it out if you have not already fallen in love with their style!

Coasters are always nice, and this tutorial from Purl Bee is no exception. Their website is a treasure trove of DIYS, so check it out if you have not already fallen in love with their style!

Diy Pet pillow, easy to make one of any of your furry friends, or friends furry friends. Here's a  tutorial !

Diy Pet pillow, easy to make one of any of your furry friends, or friends furry friends. Here's a tutorial!

I wish you the best of luck in all your gifting this season. But remember, it's the thought that counts! (No, seriously...it's the thought that counts). If you know of lovely stores in your area or awesome items, share them in the comments!

Stay tuned...next week I hope to offer up some cool and super last minute DIY gifts and corresponding tutorials!

Thinking about personal style

One's personal style is constantly evolving (I've talked about this before) and before you know it, you need a whole new wardrobe to accurately outfit who you are in the present, feeling as though you're only left with articles of clothing from the past. This is particularly challenging when you are embarking on a new chapter in your life. This, however, is not a terrible conundrum to be in, my friend. It is one of the major reasons I got into sewing. I have always felt that there was something special, spiritual, and intangible to me about clothing. As I grow older, I slowly unfold these mysteries. I have realized that quality of materials explains in part the depth of tactile feeling I experience. For example, feel a nylon knit slip and a silk charmeuse chemise- you'll know what I mean then. As a lifelong patron of the used clothing trade, I have always felt the histories of the clothing I wear, though I have learned the rich stories behind different styles, materials, and wear&tear. Overtime, my personal history of learning clothing effects how seriously I take wearing clothing now. It is because of this that I find the challenge of outfitting an ever changing style to be so complex. Not only do I take it seriously from an aesthetic perspective, but I feel it when my outfit is not quite right...like I'm subtly misrepresenting myself. It also makes it INCREDIBLY hard to get rid of clothing, especially things I have made. (The Coletterie has done some great posts on this topic, check out their wardrobe architect series as well!)

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Holding up some lovely fabric

My style is constantly changing. I discover new sides of my aesthetic personality. Though these new feelings tend to take center stage, parts of my short-in-comparison personal history still cling. In my teens, I was very active in the punk scene and was particularly enamored with the diy aesthetic, iconoclast imagery, and performative costuming. The art school punk scene of the early 70's had a spirit of experimentation that to this day is a component of my personal stye.

RIMG0064

Me and my high school station wagon (and platinum blonde hair)

After college I also worked in a Vintage clothing store and amassed an excellent collection of vintage stuff. The craftsmanship of the pieces, as well as their aura of time, drew me to them.

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Posing for a goofy ad campaign at 'Mercedez Benz Fashion Week'. 1960's wool dress and coat, 1930's handbag, shoes

Finally, some bits have crystallized - I always maintain a touch of vintage and punk - but others remain fluid. The more I read and research and experience life, the more history I have to draw from. As my life and lifestyle changes, I find new ways to incorporate these old loves into a style that feels right in the present.

One thing I've thought a lot about lately is being 'understated'. I've been very visually flamboyant in different times of my life. Nowadays, I'm interested in dressing more 'conventionally' for lack of a better term, but with something strange or special to set it off. I find these nuances more compelling at my age than 'making a statement' like I did when I was younger... though I may be so deep in a weirdo fashion bubble that my dressing 'conventionally' still looks weird to most people. I have been especially curious since moving out of the city.

These days, I am a pretty utilitarian dresser. (One of the things I have been negotiating lately is how to relate to athletic activities. I've never been big on the aesthetics of athletic clothing, and frequently make my own running gear. There's still a learning curve for me there, but it's progressing. ) The problem comes for me in how to dress simply while still maintaining a unique style. I'll tell ya, it's pretty tricky. I'm not a jeans and tshirt kind of gal, but that tends to be the uniform in rural New England and I've found myself gravitating in that direction. I actually bought a pair of stretch jeans, which I have been adamantly opposed to in the past (BUT OMG they are so COMFORTABLE and make your butt look awesome). If you'll ever find me in a Patriots/Red Sox/Bruins jersey is yet to be seen...

This month I wore some of my Cabin samples around and found them to work well with my new lifestyle. I see myself making a few in different fabrics to update my wardrobe for my 'new life' in the country. I know, the suspense is too much to bear. Hang in there! Cabin comes out in October!

How often does your style seem to evolve? Do you have a solid uniform or do you like to mix it up? Do styles of your past still find themselves in your present look?