Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time


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Making Art – And Whatever Made You Think Someone Would Buy It?

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I’m sure it was Winston Churchill who said that to keep doing the same things and expecting a different outcome is insanity. Consider me insane.

I’ve been some kind of an artist for over 50 years. I started with oil painting, then progressed to batik and ended up with wall hangings. I still paint – I make things – I do not CRAFT. I am not part of the Arts and Crap movement.

My work has been published in Great American Quilts 1992, Best Loved Traditional Quilt Patterns, Our Favorite Scrap Quilts, Better Homes and Gardens Scrap Quilts and Patchwork Quilt Tsushin – a quilting magazine from Japan.

 
My work is in private collections in Grosse Pointe, MI, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Tokyo and Sydney, Australia. I have a piece entitled “The Wall” on permanent exhibition at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, MI. I have been represented by a gallery on PEI, Canada and in shows throughout the United States

I dye fabrics, paint them – apply stuff to them and occasionally fuse them together. I make what I like. I don’t do commissions although I have sold all of my work with the exception of the one you see above and one other.

I do find that selling my work is burdensome. I had a gallery that represented me on PEI. I sold most everything with the owner’s immense help and hefty percentage cut. That was back in the day when people had money to spend. They don’t now. Or if they do, they don’t spend it on anything they truly can live without.

Which leaves an artist artisting and not eating. I know how Van Gogh felt when he cut off his ear. He should have cut off his arms. Would have made more sense. Or did he do that for the love of his life? Either way – stupid.

We own some pretty cool art too – stuff we bought. We can’t sell it either. A rip-off auction place offered me $100 per item even though they were selling a painting by the same artist whose work we have – for $5000. I didn’t expect $5000 but I sure didn’t expect $100. How much profit margin is that?

I make my clothes now – as most of you who read this know. I don’t make art. I don’t need anymore stuff on my walls and my creative outlet is satisfied with constructing clothes. I knit too. I like sweaters. I like big cozy sweaters and knitting is satisfying – if you don’t screw up – but I now know how to fix a screw up so instead of telling myself I can’t make a mistake – I make them and fix them.

When I’m older – if I live long enough to be older – I might make art again. I always have ideas. My ideas are surely not popular – but they are mine.

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Sewing Blind ………

I am so amazed at pattern instructions that skip something! McCalls seems to be pretty good at skipping instructions or giving wrong information as in the Hoodie that called for a 24″ zipper and REALLY needed a 28″. Honestly – I had the DAMNED cutest houndstooth zipper in black and white I

Illustration: Magnus Överengen

Illustration: Magnus Överengen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

wanted to use …………. and instead I have to use black snap tape – anyway – on to another pattern whose instructions are loopy – another McCalls.

Here’s the pattern – you’ve all seen it –

Gorgeous Silk Blouse  McCall 6605 Version B

Gorgeous Silk Blouse
McCall 6605 Version B

This is cute. So far my replica in silk is working out just as cute – however there is a nasty instruction problemo. They have you put on the collar/tie before you have sewn the shoulders together – now isn’t that kinda hard? I mean how am I supposed to do that??????????? Luckily I am not a new sewer because if I were I would be pulling my hair out and cussing McCalls up one side and down another. But this is sloppy – first the wrong notions info on the pattern for the zipper for this hoodie

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And then the poor instructions on the shirt. It has me wanting to apply for a job at McCalls. As an editor/proofreader/whatever. Really folks you CAN do better.

So my day in the sewing room ended up with me having to cut out a new collar/tie as the one in the pattern for some reason isn’t long enough – I stitched it onto the neck at the back and I’m going to hand sew it over the seam and then stitch down the tie part. Much simpler than what they say to do.

I am noshing at the reins on this silk shirt – I want to cut something out to serge but I know if I put this away it will be forever until I take it out again. I have the two side seams, buttonholes, buttons and the hem on the bottom and sleeves to do and it will be finished. Hopefully tomorrow and I can go on to something new – and exciting.

Speaking of exciting – I purchased this book

fashion illustration

and it’s 608 pages of fantastic tips and drawing exercises for fashion illustration for designers – hence the weird title – and I am sketching like mad while listening to DH snore. I am enjoying this!

I finally received my 20 yards of pattern material – which is sewable – so my new patterns from this book will be reality too

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I think there’s something organic about the Japanese styles. They aren’t contrived or over the top like runway clothing. The outfits in the book are wearable. Between this and Drape Drape 3 and my fledgling designs on my own – I should be set for sewing patterns for quite a while. Now for more fabric …………….


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The Dream of My Life

 

English: New York City skyline - seen from the...

English: New York City skyline – seen from the Staten Island Ferry Deutsch: New York City Skyline – von der Staten Island Fähre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

There is something I have always wanted to do, ever since I was small. I can remember laying in bed at night in the 60s day dreaming about clothes. Pink and black were my theme then. Jackie Kennedy was the first lady and her fashion sense was amazing to an 11-year-old. I wanted to look good in clothes.

 

I read Glamour magazine and Seventeen in the late 60s. There was a school in New York City that advertised in both magazines. The Patricia Stevens School – for what? I can’t remember but I know they trained models and fashion designers. I wanted to go to that school. I wanted to live in New York City.

 

I hadn’t – at that point – been anywhere other than Champaign, Illinois, a hunting camp in the UP of Michigan and a swampy nasty place in Arkansas. We went to Florida when I was 3 – California when I was 6, but I don’t remember much about those trips. I had also been in Chicago – which involved a long trip, lots of traffic, my dad not minding traffic rules, the car breaking down and not finding a hotel room ————- nightmare.

 

I still had a picture of New York City as exciting, exhilarating and magnetic. I saw myself living in a garden apartment decorated in yellow floral fabrics with a small garden off the back. It had lots of windows. My dream did not happen, but it is still there.

 

I am 61 now. I am the primary caregiver for a spouse who will have to live in a nursing home as soon as we can get him into one. I have been taking care of him at home for 3 years. This past weekend my son and I crossed a line where we knew that we cannot do this anymore. It is a 24/7 job and there are aspects of it that aren’t possible for us. My son is hanging by a thread and would do almost anything to get out of this situation. He is a great help but he is ready to leave just to have a break. I am ready to leave. 

 

In the midst of all of this I dream. I sew and make most of my clothes. I received a serger as a gift from my son for Mother’s Day – to this point I had used my Bernina Aurora 440QE and took double steps to sew and overlock seams. My Bernina is perfect.

 

I have started creating my own patterns, adjusting patterns to fit and draping. I received a dress form from same son for Christmas of 2009 and I have been set free since then. It is the best tool in any sewing room.

 

I just purchased a book on fashion illustration. I got it two days ago and I have already sat down with my pencils (and eraser) and sketched elements of faces. I have glanced through the whole book. I am enthralled.

 

I am back to my dream of being a fashion designer. I will be happy even if the fashions I design are only for me. But I would be happier if they were for everyone. 

 

I have set a goal. Next year I will apply to be on Project Runway – how scary is that? I will make it – and if I don’t – well I will have tried.

 

I like the flow of the top

I like the flow of the top

 


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Decisions Decisions

Ok. I got the serger today. It’s cute. Smaller than I thought it would be – but cute. Now here’s the deal – for twice as much (ahem) I can get the top of the line Juki serger that does everything but brush your teeth. I am tempted.

However – and it’s a big however – I have never used a serger. So I’m not sure about this at all. I have resisted a serger until last week when DS offered it to me for Mother’s Day. Hey, it was free – what the hell. Since then I have been panicking. Every time he sees me he says “Now you take it easy with that Mom. Don’t try to do too much at once.” I could slap him. Really. I should have beat him as a child because now he has absolutely no respect for his poor old mother. He thinks I’m stooooopid.

So – rant – I can get the fancy one by sending this one back and putting the fancy one on layaway for three months. I just don’t know what to do. Do I get fancy one or keep this one? Is this one enough for a beginner? I didn’t buy the top of the line Bernina sewing machine – good god they’re only 12K – and I’m happy with my Aurora 440QE. But I don’t know —– the features of the MO 735 are more AND it has a coverstitch.

So dear reader – what would you do? Please comment and make up my mind. The first or the second?

Cheers.

 

My Mother's Day Present!

My Mother’s Day Present!

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A Few New Designs I’m Going to Steal – well parts of them anyway

I know stealing is bad. But that’s stealing STUFF. Taking apart current couture fashion and using bits of it in design – everybody does this.

Case in point – I’ve noticed that a lot of pattern designers, not to name names, take elements from other designers’ previous patterns and incorporate them in their pattern. Sometimes the pattern is so similar I have to ask myself if there’s anything new at all.

All of those waisted dresses with the little skirts look alike to me. If you have one pattern, you have them all. And some of the “new” shirt patterns look right out of Issey Miyake‘s vintage patterns. Elements are there that are just directly derived from his work.

I’ve also noticed the trend with the god-awful asymmetrical knit shirts and woven shirts. These are not new and I’m really sick of them. Along with waterfall or cascading jackets. Nice for a couple of years ago – now boring.

Once you have a basic pattern for a top that fits you and that you feel comfortable wearing, you can add layers, embellishments, cut the sleeves or one sleeve out of another fabric, slice up the pattern to incorporate different fabrics, paint, silkscreen —— just keep churning out original tops that flatter you.

My training in batik, hand dyeing, art quilting (hate the term – now bunny quilts are “art” quilts – another rant for another time) and color makes clothing construction intensely exciting. Instead of looking like everyone else, I am not trapped in sameness. As long as I have the guts to wear something “out there” the world is my inspiration.

I was born with an interest in clothes. I played with dressing up my kitten. Not a good idea – all sorts of scratches resulted. I made paper dolls and they were  my favorite Christmas present. Remember Colorforms? Sticky plastic things in bright colors with a board to put them on – hours of creative fun.

When I was 13 I had an amazing experience in art class. I’m so sorry most schools have dumped these classes in favor of remedial reading, writing and arithmetic. Making art develops the imagination like no other learning experience. In my class I learned art history and hands-on art. I was able to do an independent study in batik with the noble assistance of my teacher, Mrs. Pond. She was eccentric and we all loved her. The class was a basis for everything I’ve done since then.

I read Glamour magazine back then – as well at Seventeen – and saw ads for Patricia Stevens Schools in New York. I wanted so badly to go to New York and study fashion design. My dad was a carpenter and my mom was a stay-at-home mother who felt her whole life that she could have done something out in the world. She wasn’t ever happy. At the age of 65 she announced that she was living for herself from now on out. She died at the age of 66. Guess she should have lived for herself earlier.

Neither of my parents thought art was a good idea for me. Odd since they had encouraged my sibling to take a correspondence course in commercial art. I was the “brain” with straight As and a bright future in something that would make me independent and financially secure. No art for me. I was encouraged to study teaching – also because I received a teaching scholarship and because it was thought to be “safe” and I would find a job after graduation. I didn’t have the motivation for this and ended up dropping out after 3 years. The grind was mind-numbing. I skipped a lot of classes. I was in disfavor at the house. Big disfavor. I was depressed – and it was viewed as weakness, not as something real.

So my art languished until 1987 when I picked out some fabric and started dyeing again. And I made over 100 quilts. I was published in quilting books and magazines from the US to Japan. I showed my work at exhibitions and I sold. I wrapped myself in little teensy bits of fabric and put them back together. I hand sewed and quilted everything. Every evening I would sit with a piece on my lap and stitch it. I taught myself traditional quilting and the Amish rocker quilting method. And then I branched out into geometric wall hangings of my own design. It was an exciting time.

I didn’t quilt at all or hardly at all while I lived in Canada. I couldn’t get the fabrics we have access to here in the states. The fabric was expensive in Canada – $13 a yard instead of $7 or $8. Being retired, this wasn’t possible to purchase.

I couldn’t mail order a lot of stuff from the US as the import taxes were high. I also concentrated on my antique quilt and used and out of print book business.

After moving to Maine I made 4 quilts in rapid succession. I got a Bernina with the stitch regulator and machine-quilted. I didn’t like the machine quilting and I can only do squiggles, not the intricate patterns I did by hand.

I found myself needing clothes. Badly. I decided I would make them and found an awesome tee shirt pattern by La Fred, who sadly is no longer with us, and started on this journey I am now on. I love sewing. It is the high point of my life right now. It gets me away from the contemplation of what to do for an ill spouse and keeps me steady.

And I get to take elements from every design I see and plan how I will use these in my clothing. Since I work from July to February, I have plenty of time to do this. If only I had room! My sewing ahem studio is 9 x 12 with a large table, three large plastic shelving units, an ironing board and crap all over the floor. My shelves are groaning with fabric. I keep notions, trims and patterns in pink plastic baskets. Sometimes it takes me forever to find something. This room is going to get a major overhaul real soon.

I spin fiber too. Ah like when I can – I don’t do this as much as I want. I need a better wheel. I need it to spin smoothly and easily. I’m going to sell it I think and get one that’s really good. It will be so worth it. I will be able to feed my yarn addiction to. Now instead of quilting at night, I knit. I’m almost done with an oversized dusty pink alpaca sweater that I love and I have one on the back burner that was supposed to be a test knit and I guess still is but I was too slow …………..

Inspiration is everywhere. I even look at sweater patterns and think how I can make this in knitted fabric with the sewing machine. I look at some clothing like skirts and dresses and think how I could adapt them for my wardrobe. I wear casual clothes most of the time. I can wear jeans and a tee shirt to work – but just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to! Wearing unique well-made clothes is my finest ambition – and helps keep me here now –