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.

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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?

Organization

I am finally getting ready to move forward on the upgrade to our barn that houses my studio. Since before moving, we've discussed getting the barn up to snuff for working year round comfortably. This means mostly adding insulation and walls. Right now, the barn is all raw wood studs and board which is lovely to look at, but not so lovely climate wise. It turns into an oven on hot days and though we have yet to spend a winter in the new house, I'm sure at that time it will be an ice box. IMG_6817

So after many impasses - emotional, financial and otherwise - we're finally going to finish the barn! For the past month, it's felt a little bit like a teenager's bedroom or secret club house...exciting and fun but a big mess and full of bugs and weird clutter. I still had yet to unpack boxes from our move. Some were half open, contents strewn about gingerly from the most recent dig-about for specific items. The look and feel of this transitional, disorganize state was uncomfortable and disheartening. What is all this stuff? Unpacking, both literal and metaphorical, is hard. IMG_6819 I'd been toying with the idea of one of these tool chests as a way to organize supplies. The barn is quite big, with various 'workstations' in different locations. I wanted all my tools and supplies to be mobile, so I could bring them where they were needed. The appeal of this guy was durability AND looks. Most organizational furniture is hideous or without personality. The red enamel tool chest is hardy, attractive, and looks at home in a barn.

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I'd bought this 'parts organizer' about a month ago hoping to sort all of my buttons by color and size. There are two kinds of people in this world, those who would love this project and those who think of a project like this and cringe. I am the former. I love a simple, mindless task that feels like an incredible accomplishment.

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The first image is an antennae from the abandoned airfield near my house. This is fast becoming one of my favorite places in the neighborhood. There are all sorts of weird things out there, my favorite of which is a corrugated steel shape. It looks like it would be at home in a sculpture park or in the museum of modern art near a Richard Serra or Donald Judd. I go running through this field regularly and I always discover something new.

After living in the city for almost 10 years it's strange to re-acclimate to environmental inspiration. I feel like it's good for creativity

Pattern Storage

In situations where patterns get used a lot, like factories or design studios, they're kept on hangers. These most often resemble the top of a wire hanger, attached to a cord with a metal bar at the bottom. This holds all the pattern pieces together through 3/4" holes cut through each. 20140801-095603-35763491.jpg

I always feel like there must be some way to make pattern hangers in a pinch. In my case, I would have to special order what is essentially the top of a hanger with some string attached. This does not appeal to my DIY sensibilities, nor my hardware store ingenuity. In this case, the latter came to the rescue! The copper hooks above are actually intended to suspend a paint bucket from a ladder, but since copper is pretty and the shape was right, I thought these would make lovely pattern hangers. A bit pricey at a couple bucks each, I'm not sure if this is the prime hardware store solution, but it's certainly a start. This is my favorite way to store patterns, so I'll have to keep perusing the hardware aisles in search of the perfect solution.

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In the mean time, the 1st blueprints release is well on its way (sneak peak of the instructions pictured above). I am aiming for a launch date of October 1st! Unless there is a hold up in printing, you should be able to order our first release at this point. If you want to stay up to date on the latest info, sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of the page!

Useful things

One of my great joys is making something beautiful by hand that is also very useful and mostly unimportant. I think of the weird little things we usually opt to buy, inexpensively. After spending a great deal of the winter pattern making on my 5 year old hand-me-down computer, I decided I needed to invest in an external hard drive. I'm what they call a "leapfrog" consumer of technology. I hold out on purchasing new devices for a few 'generations' and end up with a weird combination of very old and very new devices working together (as I take pictures for this entry with my new - albeit hand-me-down - iPhone 5).

But the cute little 1tb external hard drive came with no case. So of course I had to make one. The hard drive does a noble job and deserves no less.

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Honestly I was a bit relieved it came with no case. The ones they give you usually are usually made of some weird synthetic leather that inevitably starts to deteriorate quickly. (I'm looking at you, weird neoprene-ish pull tab on the bluetooth speaker. You're less than a year old and you're literally melting!)

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I'm pleased with the outcome! I quilted two layers of wool/rayon felt (with cotton batting in between) for the bag, adding a front pocket for the cable. I finished the edges with 1/2" double fold self-made Marimekko seam binding (fancy!). It closes with a velcro tab...Technology cases love velcro and I obviously couldn't use a magnetic snap.

Hand Painted Fabric

Many sewists often find themselves in a dilema: You have a pattern that you would like to make up into a garment, but in haste, you did not buy enough fabric for the project at hand. Nothing in your fabric stash looks quite right. Your favorite store is closed or you don't feel good about buying more fabric.

I was set to create a sample from the first draft of the Blueprints debut pattern in my size and nothing I had available was right for the project.

I had a sheer cotton curtain panel, ecru in color, hanging around in my stash for the potential turn-of-the-century inspired blouse and a few tubs of Jaquard Dye-Na-Flow gifted to me by a friend/fellow textile artist. I have always wanted to create hand dyed or handpainted textiles, but the task always seemed daunting and, honestly, I was worried I would screw up perfectly good fabric in the process.

...But the curtain panel, that was relatively low risk. I pulled out the paints, threw down a dropcloth and got to work.

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My experiments were, thankfully, successful. I created a simple print of color blocks, some of them outlined as small houses. I was very pleased with the scale, and the way the paint performed on the fabric: watered down and sponged allowed the squares to bleed a bit, but full strength on a small brush yielded crisp lines.

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Have you ever tried hand painting fabric?

Personal sloper

Bodies always change. From the time we're born until we die, our body undergoes all sorts of changes. We don't see all of these changes on the outside and there are some that are more obvious than others.

This isn't only gaining or loosing weight. With time, all sorts of things change in our posture, alignment, or stance. In the last year I have been making a concerted effort to avoid the slumping and slouching so common to those in my field. I've become more interested in ergonomics and practicing good siting habits.

I'm pleased with how much I've improved my posture in this time. I have little to no back/neck pain I have previously associated with sewing and computer work. One thing that many might not have realized is that because of this, my clothing fits differently. I have made a lot of blouses with the sloper I drafted in 2012 and have recently started to realize that the fit was off, primarily where length is concerned.

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The biggest difference is the length of both pieces. Each has stretched out by over an inch! I believe this is due to lengthening due to better posture, plus a more prominent bust from lifting my chest instead of having an inward shrug.

It'll be interesting to make this up and see the new fit in action, so perhaps I'll post about this as well.

A New Project

20131009-090817.jpg20131015-111048.jpg This year, I have decided to do something I have always wanted to do: Design sewing patterns.

I have begun working on a first collection of patterns. These patterns will have something more. They will be of a style that is both timeless and of-the-moment. They will be designed for easy and precise alterations. They will be wardrobe staples that play well with your other wearables. They will be styles that will be adaptable to both warm and cool weather by utilizing different fabrics.

These patterns are called Blueprints. Though Blueprints will be paper patterns, rather than print-at-home PDFs, I plan to have my first release be a one-off PDF pattern that will preview the instruction style and overall aesthetic of Blueprints. Keep an eye out for updates on this PDF pattern, planned for release in November.

Settling In

With my new studio comes new ideas and new ways of working. I have taken this opportunity to transition into a brand new project (more on this ahead).20130910-090359.jpg

It was definitely a much slower process developing a practice and a workflow at the Howard Art Project, mostly because it was the first time I have had a dedicated (as in, not shared) sewing studio. I had organized and developed studio practices in an art context but this was certainly the first in a professional sewing context. I think I was able to develop a good system...a layout that felt both functional and inspiring with a good flow of energy.

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I'll admit...I'm a little nervous about re-developing in the new space. As soon as all the pieces are in place - I'm still working on securing a functional cutting table much larger than my old one - I'll be able to really start getting into a groove.

I think real functionality will come with time. I've already started moving and tweaking things. I think re-organization of the home and workplace never stop happening really, as we never stop changing.

Snowstorm

20130210-120844.jpgWe had a blizzard last weekend...lots of fun. I invented some mittens. I will follow up with a pattern

20130210-120858.jpg Daisy loves to play in the snow. We got about 2-3'.

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Our porch got about 5' and had to be shoveled out by J.