Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In the spirit of yukata ("I gotta make a yukata...")

A few months ago, a close friend introduced me to the products of a  lovely business, named Okan Arts, dedicated to artisan quilts and vintage Japanese textiles.  Located in Seattle Washington, and owned by the lovely Patricia Belyea, this shop offers beautiful fabrics designed for specific traditional Japanese casual garments, called "yukata". Both a brick-and-mortar and e-commerce business, the uniqueness and quality of the textiles offered translate well without much explanation.  Why?  The strong, sturdy 100% cotton fabrics are functionally perfect for their category of Okan Arts' recommended uses, whether yukata-making, or quilting.

I held on to my yukata pieces, not knowing what they should become. I had a million ideas in my head, and wanted to somehow respect the intention of the fabric in my use of it.  I consulted my best friend's dad, who spent a good number of years living in Japan, who told me what the characters on one of my yukata pieces meant. (And thank God, really, because I didn't realize that the fabric was one length with a motif upside down on one end, and right side up on the other, so it could traverse the shoulder without needing a seam.)  

Because I like to think about my pieces before creating them, I considered the definitions of two traditional Japanese garments before deciding.

The kimono (着物?, きもの) is a Japanese traditional garment. The word "kimono", which actually means a "thing to wear" (ki "wear" and mono "thing"), has come to denote these full-length robes. The standard plural of the word kimono in English is kimonos, but the unmarked Japanese plural kimonois also sometimes used.

yukata (浴衣?) is a Japanese garment, a casual summer kimono[1] usually made of cotton or synthetic fabric, and unlined.


I do not know how accurate the explanations are in this video I found while perusing YouTube (the video is under the heading of "Life in Korea", although she does seem to be taking a wider scope view of her Asian experience, which includes yukata. I can certainly say that this level of complication and adornment would never fly in American culture.  But it fascinates me nonetheless...



So what would this mean in my American life?  What information can/should I use?  What should I take away?

I pondered this...


So, I thought, if there were such a thing, what would the American equivalent of yukata be?  Well, we currently embrace athleisure, which adds sport or movement to the idea of casual loungewear, but takes away tradition and beauty (for the most part).  Summer  weather might not be the garment's focus for me, since I spend so much time in climate-controlled environments.  Personally, I would need something that straddles the worlds of hot and cold, so the most versatile garment would be ideal. For my family, trips to take the kids to various activities, or to the supermarket/library/mall equals no audience, and thus, no effort, really.  Truth be told, comfort is key, and beauty is a plus. To create a relatively shapeless, soft, roomy garment that prettily responds to the body, but not necessarily the dress form, became my mission.  What would make this particular garment unique?  The beauty of the yukata fabric.

Planning to ignore much of the essence of the yukata, I did investigate some interesting yukata links (below), which informed my making:

  1. In Japan, students given a special school day to wear yukata.
  2. How to wear a yukata.
  3. How to make a yukata.



In a very happy moment of east meeting west, I looked at one of the great yukata fabrics I have, and was reminded of a favorite cotton from B&J Fabrics here in NYC.  Combined with a powerful green unifying fabric to join pieces, these three fabrics will sing together to become project #2.  Project #2 will embrace a bit more of the yukata idea, especially in the sleeve design.

Yukata fabric (base) looks like matches, right?

Before beginning, there were things I had to/wanted to notice/avoid/embrace: 

Noticed:

A yukata is a great travel garment because it folds neatly into a square, effortlessly.
Body movement is unrestricted, and there is no "fitting" required.

Avoided:

No belts or closures needed.  Any dressing complication would take away the "easy" wear for me.
T-shirt fabric for body, with only a lower border, allows me to cut the yukata piece differently, to allow faces to be upright and comical on the finished piece.

Embraced: 

The oversized sleeve trend reminiscent of yukata
Even in Asia, this Denim yukata evokes western culture


Historically, these funny Japanese characters, represent wisdom and foolishness, according to my friend's dad.
Prettier on the body than on the dressform, the epitome of loungewear.
It folds up into a flat rectangle.  Perfect for travel.


So, in a nutshell, the irony/humor of this much thought to sew four rectangles together.  But, I promise you,  these will be some very well-loved rectangles!

You can shop for yukata fabrics on the Okan arts website - www.okanarts.com!




















Tuesday, December 13, 2016

McCalls gets it absolutely right! Holiday gift ideas, too!




On location right here in our fair city, the perfect design choices, model, and fabric suggestions - all at once!  You can't beat that!  Seriously. Not at all.

So here's a holiday gift idea for the sewing enthusiast in your life!  How about one (or all!) of these patterns, and a gift certificate and a map of locations for the fabric to sew them up!?

You can buy patterns here.

You can buy fabric (without leaving home) here or here or here or here (among many others).

You can buy a map here.

This is all just too exciting for me...



Sweating the small stuff. My fabricaholic confession...

On a recent trip into the garment district, I stopped into a store I have visited many times before, and at times, have had some mixed feelings about.  True to my "if you don't have something nice to say..." philosophy, I won't make this post about that store, specifically.  It has more to do with just a "Are there any rules in business anymore?" kinda feeling this encounter left me with.

This particular store has a small bin of leather scraps. I was looking through them, just out of curiosity. I found some very pretty matching scraps, which, with some creativity, could have been incorporated into some projects I have in my head. Now, the shape of these scraps did not disguise their journey.  They were clearly just waste from a small factory, but... flip them over, and they were each marked with what were clearly OUTRAGEOUS prices, considering they clearly otherwise should have been trash.

So fine.  Don't buy them, and move on... right? Why am I complaining?

Here's the thing.  The staffer comes over to me, notes my sad adoration, and offers me the stack, at what would have been at least an 80% discount.  Maybe he recognized me from past visits... maybe not.

In any case... WHAT????!!!!

And sadly, it is gonna take everything I've got not to just run there on Thursday and buy those scraps, even if the discount is less steep...

That shows you just how crazy I am... dreaming of trash!

Nevermind.  I'm going back.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Shopping for Leather and Suede in the Garment District

An aisle of skins at Global Leathers on W. 35th Street.

Updated post - originally posted in September of 2011, but the district's offerings have expanded since then!

Updated again (2/27/15) - Here's a link to some great information on leather preparation processes that bring great leather to you...

Updated again (10/17/16) - Some stores have closed, moved, changed their offerings, and new ones have arrived.  You can view the leather map for an updated view of what's available.


Note: Check out a fairly recent post on a new place (NAT leather) to find leather in the garment district.

Come along on "The Hard Stuff" Tour on June 21, 2013 (past) - there will be more tours in the future!  Click the link to see what tours are happening soon!

Good news: Leather and suede skins and trims are still plentiful in the Garment District.
Bad news: They aren't cheap and you need to know what you are doing before you sit down to sew with leather or suede.

To the best of my knowledge, there are three stores in NYC's Garment District that deal primarily in leather and suede skins: Global Leathers; Leather Impact; and Leather, Suede, Skins. A few other stores in the area sell some leather and suede in addition to their regular offerings, such as Mood Fabrics and Botani Trims. Prices for skins appear to be similar among all the stores: approximately $35 to $55 and up per skin, depending on size and type of skin. At any of these stores you will have no problem finding beautiful skins of all types: cattle, pig and hog, deer, sheep and lamb, goat and kid, and exotic and fancy leathers.

The best advice I can give budding leather sewists is to know before you go. Don't expect the leather stores' staff to have the time or inclination to teach you how to sew animal skins or to advise you on which type of skin to use, and none of them sell books or tools for sewing with leather. I read the out-of-print book Sewing with Leather and Suede by Sandy Scrivano (Lark Books, 1998) before I bought my first skin two weeks ago, and found it very helpful. A fellow shopper at one of the stores told me FIT offers classes on leather sewing. If you don't know what type of skin to buy for your project you'll walk into one of these stores and be overwhelmed by all the choices, or you'll buy the wrong type of skin and won't be happy with your garment's outcome. You also buy leather by the whole skin, so I strongly recommend you have your pattern with you so you can determine exactly how many skins you're going to need.

Here are my quick impressions of the three leather and suede stores:

Global Leathers (253 W. 35th St., 9th Fl, 212-244-5190, M-F 9 am - 5pm): The largest of the three stores in terms of retail square footage. Helpful signage identifying the types of skins. I bought a roughly 10-inch square of uber-soft black lambskin for $2 from the scrap bin in the back of the store. Annoyed by two Parsons students who were cutting huge swatches from skins when the staff wasn't looking.

Leather Impact (256 W. 38th St., 212-302-2332, M-F 9 am - 5pm): The best selection of leather and suede trims and bindings. Thought it would be the busiest of the three stores since it's on the street level and can attract walk-by traffic, but it's quieter than the others. With prices at parity with the other leather dealers, this is a good thing if you want fast service.

Leather, Suede, Skins, Inc. 261 W. 35th St., 11th Fl, 212-967-6616, M-F 9 am - 5pm): By far the busiest and liveliest of the three leather stores. Run by a knowledgeable family--mother, father, adult daughter--who are helpful if they think you are serious about buying from them. The mother is not above a little friendly sales pressure, but if you ask she'll also tell you if she thinks you'd look better in the buff leather than you would in the dark tan. No photos allowed.

Other stores that sell a limited selection of leather and suede skins: Botani Trims on W. 36th (they actually just opened a leather department to court the handbag market), Mood Fabrics on W. 37th (decent selection in a small corner on their lower floor), Prime Fabrics on W. 35th (just a handful of real skins but a good selection of fakes too), G&R Fabrics on W. 39th (there's a pile of seconds and damaged skins at reduced prices near the store's front window), and M&J Trims on Sixth Ave. (for leather and suede trims).

Right now (1/30/15) - Metro Textiles, Fabrics & Fabrics, B&J Fabrics, Day to Day (closing soon) and Paron Fabrics have some exciting offerings, too!

Let me know if I'm missing any stores, ok?

I loved the leather trims at Leather Impact. Five dollars a yard per trim seemed to be about the average price.

Another view of Leather Impact

A scrap bin at Global Leathers. Suggestion: Buy some leather or suede scraps and practice sewing on these before you commit to buying an entire skin.

The skins corner at Mood Fabrics.



M & J Trimming Fall Clearance is here! 50% Off Select Styles of Ribbons Trims Buttons and more! Valid 9/2/14-12/21/14. Shop now!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Too pretty to cut...


Long ago, I went to visit Kashi at Metro Textiles, fell in love with this beautifully soft teal knit fabric, and split the last bit of remaining yardage he had with Kyle (of the Vacumming the Lawn blog), who made a great dress for herself and wore hers at the Pattern Review party that same year!

Whew... just realized how long ago that was...

So, as I considered, reconsidered and rejected ideas for exactly what to do with my fabric, years passed.  Just to pretty to cut into anything shaped or tailored, I feared not making the perfect decision, and not being able to get more fabric.  So... I never did.  Not even now.  I made a mere two cuts to make this ensemble happen. Now, mine is a soft skirt/ scarf-like combo that can be multiple ways to give the fabric multiple lives (to be worn with a simple, close-fitting shirt underneath).



And really, more than anything, I really want to wear this outdoors with tights, boots, and a denim coat or jacket.  We'll see where the adventure takes me.






Friday, November 18, 2016

Velvet mobius tube - Sometimes your neck needs a hug...

I've been holding my tongue after this election, trying to say something that doesn't trivialize this moment, and I've started lots of posts since then, which will gradually appear in the coming days and weeks, as regular life resumes...

I'm noticing beauty all around us. The trees are glowing beautifully in NYC right now.  A very late peak to the fall foliage transformation.




A wonderful friend dyed some cozy, soft velvet for me some time ago.  Too beautiful to cut, it just recently whispered to me that it wanted to become a mobius tube scarf for the Thanksgiving holiday.  A true, zero-waste project!


In a moment when many of us just want to curl up in a blanket, a mobius scarf is the next best option!

Wanna know how to make one? It is very easy, but instructions are needed to make it turn right side out, and bend correctly when worn.  

Some examples below:



Note: this is just the easiest how-to I could find...

And here's a great post by the wonderful Shams, showing off her versions of the scarf, once made!






Tuesday, November 8, 2016

About the future, your great-grandkids... Sustainability

Yesterday, during the church sermon, seated next to my daughter, our Rev. used this passage...

Luke 12:33 
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

She happened to be carrying a purse I made years before she was born, which we still giggle about whenever someone says to her, "Nice purse!" because it simply refuses to age.  While the meaning of that passage is bigger than a simple purse, it really resonated with us.


Should you choose to watch the video above, it describes a labor-intensive task that no one unfamiliar with its cultural relevance or history would likely undertake, but the meaning and future-oriented perspective of this process remains strikingly profound.

As sewing has become a genuine love, habit, and talent I nourish ceaselessly, it has found a new meaning for me, as I do far less of it professionally than I once did.  It isn't just clothing and accessories; it really is part of life-building.  Like a farmer farms and grows livestock to sustain himself, his family, and his business, the endeavor is is productive as it is eucharistic. (Side note: use of the word "eucharistic", inspired by an episode of "My Mother's Ravioli" with Mo Rocca, that really touched me deeply.)

So, what lasts? If I look around at things I made long ago, that seem to NEVER die, and I can tell you what I've learned from experience:

Rosen & Chadick - the wools, the pant weight twills, washed linens and fantastic shirtings have lived a million lives as clothing in my house.  I've made coats from their fantastic wools, and have never been at all disappointed with the quality.  Never. Someone may say to me "Nice pants", and I start my answer with... "You will never believe this, but I made these 15 years ago..." 

NY Elegant - Their stretch knits, jerseys, and soft, drapey knits have some kinda magical powers that they wash and last so well.  I have been amazed by how long even my most abused tops and comfort clothes made from their fabrics have lasted.

Metro Textiles - Not only does he have a good eye for beautiful fabrics, Kashi has a great eye for quality fabrics. I've got many older pieces in my closet, made from goods purchased with him.


This is not to say that other things don't last, but these are the three places that amaze me with the quality of their goods. I don't know that many people set out to make a shirt with a 15 year life span, but what fun when it happens accidentally!





Monday, November 7, 2016

"Urban superhero" aesthetic

A superhero name for my daughter? Let's call her "NatureGirl"

I'm making made a new dress for my teen.  Her aesthetic is very much "urban superhero", which is this wildly creative, strength-exuding way of dressing that is uniquely her own.  I have become so immersed in my own head that I forgot that the things I make are now unapologetically odd - happily, she embraces them wholeheartedly... thank God!

Thanks to a beautiful nature-themed knit panel from Elliott Berman, and a great purple twill from Rosen & Chadick (now making its second or third appearance since I've owned this yardage), this dress started to sing my daughter's name, and became her own!

Complete with a (required, at least in our lives) MetroCard and random stuff pocket and a tough, denim-like underdress, when worn with boots, this getup will be impervious to the rough NYC elements.






Update:  She wore it yesterday (bare-legged with ankle boots, and a leather jacket) - and loved it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fuse, glue, adhere



Reposting: originally posted 8/29/13 - some stores have changed, disappeared, popped up... I have discovered some new ones, and some more options have appeared since then...

Why write this post?

Because you can't deny the time and anguish-saving fabulousness fusing or gluing something properly can bring, as an alternative to hand-stitching...

AND...

I am glue-challenged.  My fear of adhesion, the process, my inability to properly launder, my disappointment when it fails, frustration when I press, maintain, and secure things to other things, has long made me seek other solutions, in an effort to  avoid all of the products associated with it.  But these are the things I have tried and loved/liked/dealt with, whether for clients, or for myself. 

Now, I share my experiences with you, and invite you to share your own.

So, here are some things I've tried, and how they have worked.  Chime in on this one, 'cause all input helps here...

One of the best sources for glue of all kinds is Manhattan Wardrobe Supply, because of their wide range of glue options and constant, healthy supply of products in the brick and mortar store!



The official spiel:


E-6000 is a unique adhesive formulated to meet high-performance industrial requirements. It adheres to more surfaces than virtually any other adhesive. E-6000 has exceptional adhesion to wood, metal, glass, fiberglass, ceramics, masonry and concrete. Not for use on Styrofoam. It also adheres strongly to leather, rubber, vinyl and many plastics. Because it is abrasion-resistant E-6000 may be used on high-wear surfaces. E-6000 maintains its flexible bond in cold temperatures and may be used to bond items subject to vibration. The clear E-6000 is not formulated for exposure to sunlight. For these applications, paint over E-6000 after it has cured.




In my experience:

This is great if you have a costume to assemble.  When stuff needs to stay put, without the real considerations of real life issues, like laundering and stiffness after adhesion, this stuff is great.  Not a lot of need for it in my life, but come Halloween, that stuff is gonna get a lot of use!



Sobo
This glue is a general-purpose glue for school, craft, and household use. Sobo withstands multiple freeze-thaw cycles and dries fast and clear.


Got craft projects and/or kids?  This is the fiber artists equivalent of a stronger Elmer's Glue, in my opinion.  Works great, if that's what you need!


Barge cement

Great for leather, rubber, fixing your shoes, and in my experience, some home dec purposes, too!  This stuff is super strong, and professional quality.

Aleene's Tacky Glue




The official spiel:


Aleene’s® Original Tacky Glue™ is the most recognized and trusted crafting adhesive. The familiar gold bottle is found in almost every household in America, and the line of Aleene’s Crafting Adhesives includes glues for every imaginable purpose. The famous Original Tacky Glue™ is considered the ultimate in glues because it is incredibly versatile and reliable. This popular formula is also available in a jar with a built-in brush and an easy-to-squeeze tube. Aleene’s® Brush-On Tacky Glue™ gives you quality Aleene’s® Tacky Glue with the convenience of a built-in brush. And the easy-to-squeeze tube makes application super easy. Aleene’s® Original Tacky Glue™ * dries clear and flexible * cleans up with water * is the #1 choice of crafters! The nontoxic formula is recommended for all craft and hobby surfaces, including: * paper * fabric * ribbon * arts and crafts

In my experience:  A temporary craft glue.  Think holiday ornaments, kids' projects, and party decorations.


Other sticky stuff...

Interfacing

Just my own preference, but I don't use much fusible interfacing.  When I do get interfacing of any kind, I get mine from Steinlauf & Stoller. I am usually buying small quantities, so they are the best option for me. The rest of the time, I use woven interfacings, and sometimes fabrics that aren't necessarily sold as "interfacing", when I'm sculpting a garment.  Really depends on my opinion on whatever the garment requires.  Too much to explain here, but I do notice drastic differences in interfacing quality from store to store, so really, don't just buy it anywhere.  I've learned the hard way.

It gets far more complicated, though.  You might want to do something special, and you need something that only a really tough or specific fusible product can do for you.  I just had a very happy experience with thick, firm Fuse-A-Shade, which I bought from a local Jo Ann store (yes, really), and it was perfect!  Jo Ann is also good for shipping elsewhere, if you're not in NYC. Also easy to find Wonder-Under, Stitch Witchery, and spray-on or heat-set adhesives (turning something previously not fusible, into something fusible). 

A note about JoAnn, and why I mention the store here on this blog:

While the NYC garment district has a wealth of notions, tools, and things you can use, Jo Ann's products can help bridge the expertise gap, bringing some no-sew ideas to life, making use of the fabulous fabric you find in the garment district's stores. Not a betrayal of my mission here, but rather, a complement to it.

Also, see my post on Quick Fusing, if you want to bond or fuse yardage!


Rhinestones

There are an amazingly large bunch of people who glue rhinestones.  I won't even ask why... but I have do some ideas, people...  Anyway, Joyce Trimming has got you covered for that stuff.  If you can't go in person, see their website.

Crystal Rhinestones...

M&J Trimming is a wonderland.  Visit the Swarovski counter, and I defy you to leave without a bag of something.  Silver foil backing, with adhesive already in place.  Easy to apply! If you need a Hot Fixer tutorial, M&J offers an instructional video on their site! 

Monograms and well, just letters...



M&J and Jonathan Embroidery both offer some great fusible letters.  They stay on so securely, you don't need to worry!  And, you've gotta check out the rhinestone script letters M&J offers.  If it didn't require so many letters, I would love to spell out "High Maintenance" across a cashmere sweatshirt... but people wouldn't know I was kidding, so...


And a personal Mommy recommendation from me...

I have learned to pre-fortify the knees of my son's jeans with iron-on patches BEFORE the hole begins.  Yup.  That's what it is to have an extremely active boy!  (He's no longer a "little" boy, but man... it's still true!)



Friday, October 21, 2016

Fashion Design Books - Update

Update:  This store is closing, but there is currently a big 50% off sale going on!

Fashion Design Books (click the link for pictures of the store and their offerings) is a great bookstore, nestled within the campus of Fashion Institute of Technology on West 27th Street.  Open to the public, whether you are a student or not!

With both a website, and their brick and mortar location, they offer much more than simply books.

Fashion Design Books
250 W 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 633-9646

Store Hours:


    Monday: 8:30AM - 7:00PM 
    Tuesday: 8:30AM - 7:00PM 
    Wednesday: 8:30AM - 7:00PM 
    Thursday: 8:30AM - 7:00PM 
    Friday: 9:00AM - 6:00PM 
    Saturday: 10:00AM - 4:00PM 
    Sunday: CLOSED




    One of the beautiful things about this store, (and there are many), is that the names of the products they offer are clearly labeled, letting you know exactly what they are for. In many garment district stores, mystery products abound, but here, you know what you're looking at.


    Walk over to the notions area and you will find shirring thread for example, and plastic bags offering 100 zippers for $4.99 (not a typo), quality sewing scissors, screen printing kits, oversized waxed carbon paper and yarn. Aimed at the person who wants to create small quantities with high-quality results, you can get good bang for your buck here.


    In addition to that, let's say you want some books. Some of the books they offer are also used for classes taught at FIT. But ANYONE Can buy them, and no, you don't have to be enrolled in a course to do so!


    Need drawing supplies? Portfolios? Fashion Art supplies? Books to help you become a better illustrator? It's all here, in a quieter, less hustley-bustley environment (depending on when you choose to go, of course).


    They also have a nicely curated selection of high end fashion magazines, from which I had to rip myself away... since I have often wondered if there was a rehab for magazine addicts I could attend in the past. Now I abstain almost entirely!


    Anyway... if you've never been to this store, or actually, even if you have, it is worth a second (or ten thousandth) look!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Once upon a time... at City Quilter...

The lonely City Quilter sign, amid the constant construction/destruction on the block.

I wrote this post to tell you that the beloved City Quilter is closing (10/26/16).  They will still maintain an online presence, but we will miss the brick and mortar store!

I visited the store yesterday, stopping in to see if they were still carrying the umbrella kits I've always loved, but never quite committed to... (Note: they only had one left... I still haven't committed to that project).  The store was busy and happy, with lots of hustle-bustle... and they still have plenty of lovely quilting cottons and tools available for purchase.

But... their looming departure makes me feel sad.

Why? This is sad news for the sewing community, especially since there are so few stores who really approach the more crafty, non-professional, artistic and skilled sewer in such a respectful way. Community is vital to inspiration, motivation, and creativity. Unless you are a relatively rare breed of creative energy, what inspires you to make the things you make?  Generally speaking, what others have made/are making/what supplies there are to use - right? The layout and inventory of this particular store has always been warm and inviting, the staff has always been particularly helpful and welcoming, and they did not hesitate to answer questions in a patient, professional way.

But, it also sad for another reason.  What will replace City Quilter for the the people who love this store?  That is the question.  I have heard a few suggestions, and, while I will research them and put them here on the blog, I fear that there is no true substitute for this place.

Once upon a time, I wrote this post...

Even if you don't specifically care about "quilts" in general, I sincerely urge you to visit this particular show.  The New York Historical Society Museum, located on scenic Central Park West at 78th Street, is one of our city's fabulous visits of the moment.  On view until August 24th, this exhibit lets you get up close and personal with the beautiful quilted specimens on display.  While it is truly about our American history, it is also a very interesting textile study.  The fabric used to make quilts made two centuries ago have stood the test of time, and hold the same beauty today as when they were made.


At first glance, this exhibition might seem a bit quaint, its subject — textiles and the Civil War — evoking Americana more than American history. But this show, “Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War,” which opened last month at the New-York Historical Society after originating at the American Textile History Museumin Lowell, Mass., does much more: It turns Americana back into history.

-  a quote from the article "King Cotton and His Bloody Surrogates" - New York Times


“Reconciliation Quilt,” 1867. Made by Lucinda Ward Honstain (1820-1904) of Brooklyn, New York. Cotton; appliquéd.

Examples of wools and cottons of the time are shown in the display cases throughout the exhibit, and examples of items made using these fabrics reveal their quality, durability, and beauty. The stitches in the quilts really spoke to me as I examined them, feeling the patient skill of quilt makers who worked thousands of careful hand stitches into those pieces, with no idea of how they would one day be displayed, and what they would mean in the context of our nation's history.  Truly, what a beautiful exhibit...

Also note on the plan your visit page of the museum's website, the museum also offers a "pay what you wish" admission on Friday evenings, and children under age 5 are free.

If you love quilting?

Try City Quilter or Purl for great quilting cottons.  Try Rosen and Chadick, and B&J for great cotton prints in general.

If you would like to know more about this blog, obtain a map of the garment district stores, or upcoming Speakeasy tours, just follow the links for more information!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion" This fall at the MET



Mark your calendars now... this one looks like it will be another beautiful masterpiece of an exhibit!

From the Metropolitan Museum's website:

The Costume Institute's fall 2016 exhibition will feature significant acquisitions of the past 10 years and explore how the department has honed its collecting strategy to amass masterworks of the highest aesthetic and technical quality, including iconic works by designers who have changed fashion history and advanced fashion as an art form. During the seven decades since The Costume Institute became part of The Met in 1946, that collecting strategy has shifted from creating a collection of Western high fashion that is encyclopedic in breadth to one focused on acquiring masterworks.
The exhibition, in the Anna Wintour Costume Center, will highlight approximately 60 of these masterworks from the early 18th century to the present. The Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery will be organized chronologically with ensembles shown in packing crates and on palettes, as though they have just arrived at The Met. Each object—primarily women's wear, as well as some men's wear ensembles and a selection of accessories—will be accompanied by an in-depth explanation of its significance within the canon of fashion history.
The Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery will feature some of the ensembles donated by designers in honor of Harold Koda upon his retirement as curator in charge of The Costume Institute in January 2016.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Proust's Muse



What a beautiful exhibit!  I took a quick survey today, but I know I have to come and drink it all in without a time limit on another day.

With no photo or video allowed for this particular show, all I can say is "GO" (in all caps).  This show is beautiful, and it makes me think of what seems to me to be a forgotten demographic.  Mature women of means who want to dress exquisitely... does any such thing exist at this level?

The garments will take your breath away. I don't think any more needs to be said.  This exhibit is perfection. 

See more photos here.

Note: The October 20th symposium is sold out.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

On privacy, anonymity, scarcity, and exclusivity

"The Garment Worker" by Judith Heller

I've been particularly interested in unasked questions lately.  You know... those nagging issues that pop up in our heads, spawn interesting dinner conversation, and make us wonder how to even begin researching the answer(s), that is... assuming we can properly articulate the question.

This is an aside, but trust me... it helps me explain my point here. 

A friend of a friend has a Twitter account.  I didn't know this friend-once-removed well at all, and she didn't directly share her Twitter account info with me, but she told me a story that referenced a celebrity and the response she got to a tweet she'd made, which I later looked at, and then casually explored her other tweets.  I had no particular feeling about this person, not knowing her at all, but, after looking at the shrine to self absorption and profanity her Twitter account revealed, I now have a somewhat negative opinion of her.  Before I explored her Twitter account, this alter-ego would have been anonymous.  But now, she has a name, and a face. 

But she also has the right to semi-anonymously express herself, right?

In the USA, I can say with confidence that we all pretty much assume we have a general right to privacy.  But, do we also have a right to anonymity? If not, should we?

Sure we do, in my opinion, but... what is this anonymity spawning?

Anonymity creates new and imagined "people" with other agendas, lives, needs and ideas.  It takes the "human being" right out of humanness. That Twitter persona you create?  Is it you?  Is it uncensored you? Is it just a character?  Does it matter?

So here's where it all comes full circle.  Last week, a family member said to me, "Oh, I bought this great sweatshirt at Old Navy.  It was kinda pricey, you know, for Old Navy"  She pulled it from the bag and showed me  the pricey sweatshirt.  It was a good-looking sweatshirt, but I too, was surprised by the price.  "Where was that made?" I asked her.  "Hmmm... I dunno..." she said.  "Look at the tag," I pointed to it. "It will say." 

"Hmmm... Don't see it..."

"Hand it to me."

"Ok.  (tiny print) Cambodia."

She rolls her eyes, knowing what I am about to say.

"That's okay," I said. "You don't have to care who made your clothes, much like no one cared that your enslaved great-grandfather picked their cotton, or that your grandmother..."

Her hand goes up to me, protesting my objection.  

"Listen, I care.  But you don't have to. I can make a choice not to buy that sweatshirt.  I can also make a sweatshirt... but the reason you don't care, is that you don't know those people, those conditions, the situation that led you to buy THAT shirt. Who knows?  Maybe it was made by a Cambodian who is doing just fine, living well, and enjoying life! Or... Maybe I'm completely wrong, and that person is in tears... right now, wondering how long they can keep this up... right now."

Conversation done.  Now, that sweatshirt hangs, unworn, in her closet. I think I made my point. Am I being overly dramatic?  I don't think so.

But there are endless layers to this type of problem.  The biggest, and most important, is that we just DON'T know what we DON'T know.  Where does my fabric come from?  How was it dyed? And if I expand this line of questioning to ask where my handbag came from/Where did my dinner come from?/Where/How for most things I own... There are layers and layers of anonymous labor and resources.  We can cherry-pick causes until we're blue in the face... and to what end?

In the current media environment, everyone has an opinion.  Often with a profit motive. Some people scream their thoughts.  Loudly. Offensively. Mean-spirited thoughts people feel compelled to share. To that, I say, feel free to broadcast whatever you want to say, but you absolutely MUST OWN IT.  Show us who you are. Our activism is backward.  We need to work on the things that give voices to the voiceless. 

If you ask me, oppressors have no right to oppress anonymously. If asked who is making the clothes, specific answers should be required. Do I mean that people should be allowed to wander up to your doorstep and confront you?  Peer in your windows? 

Absolutely not.  That would be about privacy. But there should be space for everyone to express their thoughts, without being stifled... as well as a firmly protected right to publicly disagree with you.  

"Where was that shirt made?" Like it or not, this question has an answer. "Who made that shirt?" definitely has an answer.  Remember when you could open a package of underwear and see na inspector's number tag enclosed?

Frankly, I don't have time to make my whole wardrobe.  Nor do I have the time to make yours. Nor do I want to. Nor do I have time to research every step my clothing has taken before arriving at the store where I buy it.  The vast majority of us don't.

So what do we do about that?

Personally, for now, I plan to let my heart lead the way.  I'm gonna continue to seek the stories of the long established fabric shops in the district - places where the vendors have been deeply involved in the business in a very organic and true way, for a long time. I'll share those stories. I'll let you  know what I find.