Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time


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The Thing I Do Best …………

I shop. I am very good at shopping. Particularly with the internet. I know there are lots of you who are too young to remember taking a bus downtown (that’s a place where they used to have stores and now they are bringing them back again because everyone’s sick of the mall) or going to the mall to find what you want. Or having to go to a store to get a music album you want. Can you imagine? How odd …….

I was doing my usual check of fabric at one of my favorite sites – http://www.marcytilton.com and I came across this fabric that I must have or I will die – seriously. She has it in black and navy. I sighed because I have no money until payday to be shooting toward some lovely fabric. I have tons of lovely fabric that caught my eye earlier this summer. I’m just praying the fabric lasts on her site until I can get some ………… if not – I might have to make it myself.

Here it is

NAVY BLUE SWEATER KNIT DETAIL

This is a merino wool sweater knit that is all puckered and has wonderful square areas and lots of poof. I hope you can see this on the photo. I immediately started to plan a fantastic loose top – and it could either be a great cardigan which I would wear over everything all the time or a nice boatneck loose tee. Either way – it’s fantastic.

I also checked out elliottbermantextiles.com because of their unusual collection of digital prints. There are two now that I would snap up in a minute. One of them is a pictorial skyline of New York with the multitude of people and skyscrapers. The other is a pictorial knit panel of Venice. Both of these fabrics lend themselves to a simple style – nothing complex because the fabric speaks for itself.

Years ago, as part of my extreme love of textiles and dyeing and marking up and just generally playing with fabric, I would make textured fabric to use in my wall art. When I saw the fabric on Marcy’s site and figured that it would be gone before I can afford it, I thought about how I would emulate this fabric on my own. A needle, some embroidery floss or other strong thread and I could pucker navy jersey to my heart’s delight. I hopefully won’t have to do that – but if I do – who knows? It could be cooler than the original inspiration ……….. you never know ……………..

 


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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 –


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Shopping

I love to shop. I have always loved shopping. I am so glad the days are gone when I have to leave my home to shop! No more trying to find a parking spot at the mall – although these days you can get right up to the door – NOT the great economy of the 90s or even after the millenium. With the internet – I have found a whole new universe of STUFF to look at, if not to buy.e

Step back just a sec. Whenever my family and I went on vacation – I went to shop. We went to Toronto to see Phantom of the Opera. I shopped. We went to Niagara Falls to see well, the falls – and I went to shop. We went to Santa Fe – I went to shop. We went to Paris and my soul exploded with the sights and sounds and smells. I shopped. I went to Souleaido. The shop girls spoke no English and I spoke no French – I bought so much fabric I think they thought I was nuts. I am. Certifiable.

Souleaido

Souleaido

I looked at quilts. Being in the quilt business. A lady in Paris tried to sell me American quilts. Non non non. Provincial quilts – that’s what I wanted –

I bought a Limoges egg with fantastical painting on it and a little teensy perfume bottle inside. I bought art supplies at Sennelier – can you imagine? I need to go back to Paris. I really really do ………………

Ok back to shopping. I actually spend some time pretend shopping. I used to do this with catalogs – now I do it via the web. I see something I want and poof it’s in my shopping cart. And I keep going – adding everything I want from that site. You see just in case I win the lottery, I want to know what I’m going to do with that money besides buy a home on the ocean and one somewhere warm and go to New York and …………….

So I pretend shop. I do a fair bit of real shopping too – especially for my sewing hobby. Fabric is enticing and it is so cool to be able to look at fabric and buy it online. I don’t need to travel 2 hours to see if fabric stores in Portland have any fabric I want. I just go to my favorite fabric websites and troll for beauties.

Shoes are great fun too. I’ve always liked shoes. Ever since I got my first pair of red rubber boots when I was 5 years old. I got up in the middle of the night and put them on. Then I went back to bed. Mom thought that was funny. I thought it was normal and that everybody did that. Cheez.shoes

And then there’s underwear. I don’t know about you but I hate ratty underwear. And for some reason it doesn’t last long. I recently purchased 15 briefs. I decided to skip white because you just can’t keep it white no matter what you do and I don’t use bleach. My mom died from cleaning fluids. I don’t use nasty cleaning fluids. So the white underwear looks nasty in a few weeks. I went with blues and lavender and purple. I hand wash my underwear.

I graduated from high school in 1969. 🙂 Believe it or not, while I was in school we couldn’t wear pants to class. We had to wear skirts or dresses and they had to come to our knees – until I got to be a junior in high school. Then they could be shorter – thank God – one of my skirts was 17″ long – and blue jeans – flared-leg blue jeans – became really popular. I don’t know if Champaign was behind the times but I remember wearing my first tee shirt in 1969. It was maroon with white lettering – my high school’s colors. I have pictures of me in that and damn I was cute. I was cuter than I knew …………

Nowadays I like shopping for anti-aging creams and make-up to hid the wrinkles – although I do have less than I expected at this age. I like shopping for hair color – although not totally gray I do have these annoying white strings on my sides. And my hair is dark brown with I swear every other strand white or silver. Yetch. Nasty.

And I like shopping for socks. Have you seen the cost of socks lately? Gawd. I have to buy several pair at a time ……….. and there’s another foible of mine –

I buy in bulk. Say there’s a tee shirt I like. I get it in every color – or try to. How about a sweater? I buy those in bulk too. And socks, done that.

And fabric – oh boy fabric – ever since I started making quilts and wall hangings I started buying fabric in clumps. It was kind of hard then to co-ordinate them together into a quilt. Sometimes I wouldn’t have enough of one that I wanted to use so I would go to the stash and start pulling out possibilities. My friend once said I used more different fabrics in a quilt than anyone she knew. And she owned a quilting shop. I could always use bits. Fat quarters were the staff of life.

And then there’s fabric to sew into clothes. I make a lot of tee shirts. And jackets and pants …………. if I see something I like I buy it. If it’s 60″ wide I buy 2 yards for a tee and if it’s something I like a lot I’ll get 3 yards. If I find great fabric for a cami I’ll buy a yard. Pants need 3 yards for the length I find. And woven shirts – I like floaty so I’ll get 3 if it’s wide and 4 if it’s 45″. On and on and on …………

Whenever I want to make something I just have to go to my stash. And decide which one to use. If I have any time left from pretend shopping on the internet ……………….

A Flea Market in Paris

A Flea Market in Paris