October 30, 2012 § 1 Comment
It sure is fall. So much change is in the air, it is unbelievable, and I am hardly able to contain myself. Wow, what a year so far, and it ain’t over yet folks.
I think that October really is my favorite month, and it is quickly drawing to a close! I am very, very, VERY EXCITED to write that my Snoopy costume has won the third and final Bernina We All Sew Challenge! Over the weekend we attended a little pumpkin carving party, where he wore his lovely little ensable, and on Halloween, we are taking the little Buckaroo out for trick-or-treating with some friends, and can’t wait to show him off in his little costume again. We think it’s all pretty super, just like him. He loves costumes, really gets into character!
I have been seriously struggling for over a year with my “project-land” as Ramon calls it. First the morning sickness made it impossible to knit, sew, or, well, even read. Now, after my difficult pregnancy is over, I have an amazing, alert, little Buckaroo. He’s an amazing sleeper at night, but not such a great napper, and “project-land” now almost completely fails to exist. Ramon, God how I love him, is working so hard to make sure that it still happens. Encouraging, and insightful, he helps to keep me grounded, happy, and creative. I think that all three really go hand-in-hand-in-hand.
Since learning that Baby Snoopy has won the third Bernina We All Sew Challenge, I have felt elated and excited again about sewing. My sewing room completely gone, I now trek my machines out of the closet daily to our round kitchen table, during Buckaroo nap time. I felt that in honor of my costume winning, I needed to make a costume for myself. I really wanted to make a costume for Ramon, too, but alas, time didn’t allow. We think that the little guy is teething. Lots of crying means not a lot of sewing. Given that the baby is Snoopy, I decided I should be Lucy, even though I am lacking the black hair. I felt her costume would be more easily recognizable than her blonde little friend, Sally. Plus, I had a crazy, crazy grandmother who collected white show-cats in her garage (no seriously, she had 50-60 of them), and my desire to put work into her namesake … well, let’s just say it was lacking. Ramon came to the only logical conclusion about his costume, he would be Pig Pen.
Given that my figure is a bit altered from the block that I created a year ago for my leather snake-print dress, I decided to buy a pattern. I know! I could hardly believe it myself! But I wanted this to be a fun, quick project, not something extremely involved. (Feel free to just start laughing now, because we all know where this is going). I just don’t have the time for that, or the ability to think clearly about one topic for that long. I bought a really 1950′s pattern from Etsy, as the illustration resembled Lucy’s little dress.
Dropped waist, gathered and flared skirt. I also felt the double darts were quintessentially 1950′s, exactly what I wanted. The pattern arrived from Texas a few days after I ordered it, and I made some slight modifications, traced out a new bodice pattern, and stitched it up. It was good, but … The dropped waist only came to about 2-3 inches below my natural waist. Hardly Lucy like. We needed puffy sleeves, and a puffier skirt. A peter pan collar … I realized that in order to make it really work for the costume, I needed to draft a whole new pattern.
And so I did.
And in the process, I realized that this pattern wasn’t so different from one of my McQueen projects. The drape front dress from his Spring 2008 collection, which Lucy Liu wore, in stunning pink, with an amazing wool cape to an interview at the Letterman Show.
So, I drafted one new block, and two different dresses.
And Lucy came out beautifully. Lucy Liu left a lot to be desired.
I seldom work in cotton, but found that my 60% off coupons for Joann’s lead me down that path. Plus, cotton is so easy to work with, cutting, sewing, pressing. It sure doesn’t drape well, and often doesn’t feel very nice to wear, but it was the right tool for the job for my Lucy dress. To be honest, I really don’t think I could be happier with it. Yes, I probably spent 10 hours creating a new pattern, cutting, and sewing this dress, which is way, way to much for merely a costume. It meant a lot to me though. Not only was I able to do this project, I was able to do it the right way. As my friend Trina says, “A well made pattern sews itself,” and I was very lucky to be able to have not just the time, but also the energy to create one.
And then there is the Lucy Liu dress. I bought this fabric 2 years ago, around the time I originally started Project-Hallway.com. It is cheap, and I had no idea yet how to pick fabric. I had two yards, and no idea where to begin. When drafting my Lucy pattern, I realized that if I moved the side dart to an oh-so-beautiful french dart, and changed the double front darts to a single dart, altered the neckline,and extended the length further through the hip, the sheath for the drape front McQueen dress was essentially done. Then, I just needed to draft new sleeves, drape and create a pattern for that beautiful twisted front panel, and create a quick pattern for the bottom panels of the dress. All of a sudden, just like the leather dress, I realized, holy crap, I can do this! Why have I been so afraid of this dress for so long.
Thus, I began cutting.
Immediately I could see problems in my fabric choice, but it is what I had, and so on I went. I love this color of blue, and it is so on trend right now. A perfect follow-up for my boring cotton in my Lucy dress, the mermaid shine was alluring, and sucked in, I kept on.
In the end, I think I have made a great fancy muslin, but this will certainly not be the final piece. This is why I love sewing. I learned a lot while making this dress, but I learned more after I had “finished” it. My lining is too thin. The neckline doesn’t stand up with the weight of the panel pulling down. My cap sleeves suck, and need to be more well thought out, wider, and more structured. Puckered and pulling, things that don’t lay flat, and things that do, that shouldn’t. Overall, this dress needs a lot more structure, and a lot less disaster.
I feel like I am back to square one, but I am not. I know this, I am just being a Debbie Downer. One of the keys that I learned with the leather dress is the utter importance of structure under the dress, another is to really, really take the time to do it the right way, and not just to get it done. So what do I do next?
I guess that is what my whole blog was started on though, this idea about learning to do things the right way, and not just getting them done for the sake of doing them. The pursuit of quality in the handmade, in my handmade garments. The details. If I can find the time to make my Lucy costume, I can find a way to make this dress work, the right way. I shall start by reviewing my materials, creating more structure underneath, and more soft flowiness on the outside. It takes a lot of work to make something look effortless.
I still can’t believe that I won the Bernina We All Sew Challenge with my Snoopy costume. That costume came right at a time when I really, really needed it. I need my creative projects to get me through the rough patches, and I need the confidence I feel from finishing them. I feel really, really lucky that Snoopy won, because it has pushed me onto not one, but two new projects. One successful, one not, but I still have so much learning to go, and that is a good, no, great feeling.
October 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
Unfortunately, this is going to be one of my shortest blog posts to date as I am leaving for Los Angeles in about 20 minutes…
At long last (My mom will be so happy!) I have finished my leather version of the snake print dress from the Spring 2008 Alexander McQueen runway, a collection in memory of the wonderful Isabella Blow.
After purchasing the leather back in February, I have let my worry get the better of me for the better part of a year. Finally, I got over it, as I wanted to wear this dress to the wedding I am headed out to this weekend. Deadlines. I like deadlines.
With the super low back, undergarments are a tad hard to wear. So Trina helped me in developing a lining that does all of the supporting and lifting necessary. Heavily boned, tight and rigid, I have found that plain ol’ cotton IS actually good for something. Of course, it was only after I finished sewing it did I realize that instead of wanting a white lining, I wanted a pink one. Due to my Fabric Science class, the dyeing process went swimmingly this time. Then I broke the Zipper.
I decided to head into the sewing lab on Monday morning to take advantage of the big tables and self healing cutting mattes. Not that I can’t do this stuff at home, I just decided that a bigger table, bigger weights, and more room would lead to fewer frustrations. I barely, BARELY, had enough in my three hides to get all of the pattern pieces up with the snake print embossing all matching on the pieces and going the same direction.
Sewing was so … simple! Just don’t make any mistakes, right?
Taking my knitting practice in mind, one mistake became a “design element” and one would be hard pressed to find it. Oh, so many sewing puns in this post … so many I could make … no time … must refrain.
I made the shoulder pads last night on one of my dress-forms while watching Project:Runway, and finally finished this goodie up, and just in the nick of time. Finished sewing in the lining and the cap sleeves this morning. In total panic/get-ready-to-go mode, I took 2 (literally, just the two you see) pictures of both the front and the back, as I really, really wanted to share this before leaving for Hollywood, Hollywood (ref. homeless dude in Pretty Woman, I know you know the one). Also exciting to put my Spring 2008 Alexander McQueen Brass Square Toe pumps to good use, too
Such a great, great project. More to come, I promise.
September 1, 2011 § 3 Comments
I have to admit that I am feeling a great amount of ambivalence right alongside disappointment today. I have spent the first half of the week auditing classes, figuring out how I want to fill some of my time with learning. I have concluded to stay enrolled in 3 classes, the first is hand sewing techniques (embroidery, beading, etc), the second is a Fabric Science Class and the third and final is a pattern grading (both by hand and through gerber systems) class. Remaining on the roster until, literally, 3 minutes ago was the History of Fashion class, but I just pressed the drop button, away it went, and now my money is being returned to me, sometime in the next 7–10 business days (even though it only takes 10 minutes to give it to you…). Now, still in possession of my history book, which I purchased on Amazon in June for $50, do I sell it again? I can likely get about $100 for it …
Why do I feel ambivalent? Ramon and I took a good hard look at the Fashion Department curriculum and reviewed what it would really take for me to get a second degree, which I don’t really need. Even with all of my transferred credits I’d still need to take about 80 more units in order to fulfill the Associates Degree requirements, and with everything in my life I am just not sure this coincides with my overall goals. Yes, it be nice, but I’d really need to be going full time for a few years, and doing nothing else. That’s just not really in the cards. I tend to bite off a little more than I can chew, but surely anyone has ever noticed, that though! Part of me didn’t want to drop the History of Fashion class, even though I know it is the right thing to do. In my mind I have plenty of time to do it all, but I know that 6 weeks from now I’d be regretting it, as it would be taking away valuable time from other endeavors. So, I did the right thing, right … right? Ugh, yes. I wish that these decisions were more cut and dry for me, but they’re just not always that way.
Another class I decided not to take was a class focused around creative garment design, though upon going to the first class I learned that this class is primarily developing of what I call Mood Boards, and then designing garment “collections” in sketch-form only from your inspirations in the mood-boards. Given that I have taught a class like this at the Academy of Art, even though the “collections” designed were logos and visual branding, I just can’t see myself super excited about spending 12 hours a week on homework doing something that may not be helping me to get ahead as much as some other topic. The hard part is that if the teacher doesn’t have 20 students then she must teach the class as Directed Study (Independed Study) versus 2 times a week in a classroom environment. Well, guess what number I was. Yep, 20. So, there is some guilt and disappointment there, but at the same time, I can’t go to a class for 16 weeks to make other people happy.
Though, often when I start taking a class, or classes, I quickly notice a common thread running through my life and some special piece of content. What I have noticed this week is structure. Last week I happened to catch a show that has been a long time running, though I’d never previously experienced it. It’s a little show called, SuperNanny. This has, even though I have only seen 3 episodes, become my new favorite show. My immediate take-away is the importance of structure in a young-one’s life, which has caused me to reflect on my own upbringing. While spending a fabulous long weekend in Seattle with Ramon and his equally as fabulous business partner, Nicole, we discussed the concept of structure while raising children in some detail. Ramon had an extremely different upbringing than I did, with complete lack of structure. I had a lot of structure, and was lucky enough to have my mother be a stay-at-home mom until I was in elementary school, and I really think that this helped me to become a happy successful person. Ramon, with very little structure from his parents, even as a young child, worked to put structure in his life, and he is very happy and successful as an adult.
The concept of structure reared it’s head in both the sewing techniques class and the fabric science class earlier in the week. First, the idea was presented that that we won’t buy things unless they are comfortable, and these garments generally lack physical structure, as physical structure in a garment makes us sit-up straighter, restricts motion, etc, as well having clothes that have less structure are more applicable to a variety of body types. Second, in the Fabric Science class, clothes with more structure are generally used in social situations where we are trying to create a better impression of ourselves.
The idea that we won’t buy clothing if it is not comfortable is a very valuable notion. Look at how much knitwear (t-shirts, stretchy dresses, leggings, yoga pants, sweaters, sweatshirts, etc) is in our closets, and look at which things are so easy to get out of the closet first. How many times have you picked the knit top versus the silk blouse … why? Because the knit top is more comfortable and moves with you. And in terms of structured garments helping us to create a better impression of ourselves, think about how many prom dresses, wedding dresses, or men interviewing in suits that look casual and comfortable. But are these points not true with structure in our lives, too?
Remaining on the structure point, I feel like I have been needing more structure in my life to help me stay on track. A fitted bodice if you will. Previously I have really enjoyed taking the classes, even if some of my teachers, or the content have been a little underwhelming. I like the schedule to arrange my day around, but I don’t want it to take over my entire life. And thinking about structure and McQueen (I’ve got to make this thing go full circle), well, if there is one thing that McQueen is all about …even the knitwear … need I say more.
So, after all that, I am feeling a little less ambivalent, but still disappointed, for completely different reasons. A little knitting therapy always helps,but that is part of my current disappointment. I have been trying for a couple of months to find a variegated yarn that works completely harmoniously in my concept for a pattern design. I got new yarn yesterday to try, and yet again, failure. I don’t want to accept that the project isn’t going to work out …
I guess that things just don’t always work out the way you want them to, and instead of throwing things across the room it is better to accept it and move on. Some women think of the strength of Elizabeth Taylor overcoming adversity to emotionally deal with conquering their own. She’s never been quite my style, so I try to channel my inner Audrey Hepburn.
In addition to all of my pattern designs, I try to work on a little something for myself, everyday. Even if it is only for 5 minutes, I still want to make things just for me. I learn a lot by following other people’s patterns, and I have a lot of fun working with other people’s designs, and that is the whole point of knitting, right? To have fun? I think so.
Last year, about this time, I picked up a book called Custom Knits, in which I found a sweater that seems pretty much directly inspired by Audrey Hepburn, even if I am the only one who thinks so. The sweater is called Ingenue. So in one of my recent yarn orders, I bought some yarn that is in my budget (Valley Yarns Northhampton in Fawn) to work on Ingenue, which I am also knitting Continental Style, just as the Owls. This one is coming out much nicer. The wool isn’t my favorite texture, but I just adore the color.
The image at the top of this post is the final project in the book, and just below is an image of the finished collar, and the inside of the garment, where I have (I think) created a beautiful modification:
Instead of sewing the Cast On edge of the collar to the inside, bottom pattern repeat (fold over and sew with Wrong Sides Together), I K2Tog including the CO row and the last row of the last pattern repeat. This has resulted in a very nice finished edge, even hiding the CO row, completely, as it has been turned to the inside of the collar, which is enclosed.
Back to the point here, channeling an individual’s energy and spirit is a lot easier to do with something so reminiscent of them in front of you for so long. This project has become such a joy to work on, it is doing much more for me than knitting something without that outside influence that I am looking for. I think that this project is going to go much quicker than I anticipated, and maybe I can bring some of that influence into more of my own work and pattern development. Audrey is such a great muse and such a beautiful soul.
Oh, I am feeling better already.
- Added Structure? Check!
- Inspiration? Check!
- Knitting Therapy? Check!
I think I know what is coming next.
August 29, 2011 § 4 Comments
This summer has been more of a whirlwind of activity, instead of a whirlwind of creativity. I have been lucky to spend the second half of my summer figuring out how to enjoy my life, trying to take more time to take advantage of the sun and good weather, prioritizing, and adding structure, but still busier than a little bumble bee. A once or twice a week I have been meeting up with Trina to get coffee at our local downtown, then walking to the children’s park to let her daughter play, though, she would rather just swing. Though, of course I am not just drinking coffee, I am working on a knitting project the entire time, as well. There is a used bookstore right near our coffee shop. A local gem. We hopped in one day, after knitting on the bench outside, enjoying our coffee, and the wee one enjoying Curious George on the iPad. No knitting books peaked my interested, but I noticed another that did. Way back a year ago, I read the first book that Julie Powell wrote, Julie & Julia and described how it was one of the three encouraging factors for me to begin my own blog. So, when I saw her second book, Cleaving, which I didn’t even know existed, I had to buy it.
After knitting like a mad-woman day in and day out, trying to get my huge project list under control, I finally set down my sticks to dig into this new piece of literature. I am now only 13 pages in. Frustrated I put it down the other night, and I honestly wonder if I will ever pick it back up. She starts off in her beautiful, poetic writing style. Hooked you read that she gives Eric, her husband, full credit and recognition for her ability to complete both her blog and her first book and then … yeah, I couldn’t believe it either, she describes her currently ongoing affair with another man. Her husband knows, isn’t OK with it, but they remain together anyway. I know that everyone’s relationships are different, but I have very, very little interest in reading about selfish people hurting the ones that they love. I think a big part of t his stems from the fact that now that I have Ramon, I see the world differently, and I just don’t see how if other people felt the way that I do about him, that they could hurt their loved ones the way that Powell is. I feel no sympathy, and no longer want to spend countless hours reading about your journey. I don’t fucking care about your journey anymore, because you don’t care about the same values that are important to me. By no means do I think I am the end-all-be-all, make no mistakes, and that my shit don’t stink. I will repeat that I do understand that every relationship is different, by why, when you know you’re really hurting someone you love, do you continue to do it?
Maybe this is what the book is about, and it can shed some light, but I just don’t really care.This is one of those cases where the more you know, the more you wish you didn’t. I think my pattern-making blog project is going awfully the same way. A year ago I felt like I could do anything, now I sit there, work on a pattern for days, and feel like I have accomplished nothing. The more I learn, I realize the less I know, feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and like I am in an entirely different league that I don’t belong in. I know that I need to keep pushing forward, and I want to, I will, but I have to get over this hump. I did purchase a few patterns mentioned in a previous post,and have made a few pieces. One awesome woman even found my blog, and sold me the jumpsuit pattern—Vogue 2343—she was about to list on Ebay.
The other patterns I ordered from Ebay and Etsy have also arrived, and sort of as a joke, and just to get something made, I wiped out this puppy—Vogue 2157—in about 2 hours.
I used a polyester fabric that doesn’t want to behave, and so I was very sloppy with my sewing. Now that it is made I really wish I’d put more effort into it. Even though I need a slip to wear with it, as it is unbelievably sheer, it is beautiful. This super-simple to sew, with weirdly shaped pattern pieces really is a beautiful garment!
So, patterns in hand even, why do I still feel so glum? Where do I find the confidence to keep going with the sewing?
Maybe, instead I should be asking: Why is this always a problem?
July 22, 2011 § 3 Comments
Come one, come all! We have Real, Yes, that’s right ladies and, well, Ladies, Real Alexander McQueen Patterns! Cleverly hidden, step right up and let Pattern Vault show you the 8th wonder of the world!
From the title of this post I can tell that you are super excited, and you should be. So, they are not straight from London, but I think that they are just about as close as I am going to get.
Last Monday a fellow blogger discovered Project-Hallway.com, and in sharing her/his/there posted a comment, through which I could follow to their own blog on WordPress. PatternVault (real name, identity, gender … everything … still unknown) shares some similar passions, from fabulous Toronto—I seem to have a fair number of followers from this fair region, hooray!—also recently made the voyage to The Met in NYC for McQueen. Only two posts so far in the blog, both focused on McQueen, I have learned something new, and very wonderful.
Back in the day when McQueen was at Givenchy, Vogue patterns published a small number of patterns from the Givenchy line/runway. I HIGHLY doubt that they are identical to the pattern pieces that McQueen created—unlike the one on ShowStudio, shown at the end of this post—but I think that they are as close as I am going to get. With an excellent opportunity to learn I whatever these patterns have to offer, I have located and purchased the few that I could find from Etsy and Ebay, and I am keeping my eyes peeled for the others.
After ordering on Monday afternoon, I have already received this one, which I already have fabric I could use for it.
So, then the question is, do I:
I have these two on the way:
And I am absolutely freaking dying to find one of these patterns …
So excited that I received the information and the insight on these patterns, I recommend reading through Pattern Vault’s blog, nice insight, and so far two great posts on McQueen:
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 1
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 2
Trina also pointed me at this McQueen pattern, which is AUTHENTIC from McQueen. I really need to pop this file over to
Kinko’s Fedex Office.
June 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
Today is the first day since I was laid-off a year ago that I haven’t done anything. I slept in until 10, knit a few rows, watched a movie. Feeling unhappy about my stagnant stance on the day, I decided to get a move on, ate some lunch, and hoped in the shower. My motivation still lacking, my mood actually deteriorated, the many thoughts in my head are coming to a bit of a boiling point, and I am feeling even more at a loss, and I think I need some of the meditation from my knitting, but can’t really find it right now. I know that a number of things are affecting my mood, and some have been affecting it for a while, since New York. Others are more recent, but have cause a lot of introspection. To start off the list, My friend has not been doing well at all. She called while we were in New York, left a message, and even though the verbal content of the message was neither good nor bad, the undertone, hidden deep within her voice had changed. From that time, she has stopped saying, “I am going to get better.” Now only repeating, “I’ve got to get better.” Emotionally but this is a huge blow, not just for my friend, for all of the involved. Something just isn’t right. I feel it. I am not alone.
In an effort to help I have been spending days at her house, and now the hospital again, helping both my friend, her friend, R., who is with her, and has been with her since day one of this adventure. While R.is physically compromised with the ability to only use one lung, she is blessed—or maybe cursed—with a heart bigger than anyone I have ever met. With the physical and emotional strain this terrible situation is putting on her, I am trying to do everything in my power to help, running errands, paperwork, physically moving and lifting things, including my friend, emotional support, listening, waiting. I see the looks on her my friend’s face when she opens the cards from her friends and loved ones, all of whom are absolutely desperate to help their friend, too. I see the tears roll down her cheeks. Each time she says that she is so happy because her friends love her, and she means it. And then I watch her put down the card, and she is back in her own mind. Miserable, without motivation to live, not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Even though we all love her, we all want and need her to be OK, I worry that it is not enough.
My birthday was on Saturday, and it has now been a month since I have used my sewing machine. I have knit one sweater, finished one pattern, and mostly just feel like laying on my back on the carpeted floor when I get home from the house/hospital in the evening, to see if I can get the tension of of my back, spine, legs, arms and feet. It often takes a few days for the fishes of my thoughts to re-form their school. But even with time there is now lacking motivation; the manifestation of the sadness I feel for my friend. Unable to see a way to motivate her, i give her all of mine, and then it is gone when I need it, but it is worth the sacrifice.
Through the years as I get older, and especially since I just had the big two-nine birthday that I have long been fearing, I often wonder of whether or not I am a good person. Sometimes I feel proud of what I have done, sometimes ashamed, or guilty, sometimes I want to give more, but realize that I can be selfish. In this experience thus far, I have seen a side that I have only been vaguely aware of until now. For what it’s worth, I am learning that I am a good person, and that I can do things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I am stronger than I thought, have a bigger heart, have the ability to really, really put others first, and pay the toll myself, without any regret or fear for my own well being. While these are good things, I still feel like I am not doing enough, and even though I am giving her my time, heart and soul, ripping it away from Ramon right now, I am not doing enough.
Last week, after a trip to Mill Valley to deliver the second Little Joey Kangaroo Hoodie that I’d made, I found myself at a nearby mall needing to return a pair of jeans that I didn’t really need. Wandering around for four hours, I found myself in the Neiman Marcus (Needless Markup, as my friend with Leukemia likes to call it) Outlet, The Last Stand, standing in front of a pair of Dior’s that we both loved, and tried on last fall. They fit her foot a bit oddly, and with a $790 price tag, they were a little out of my range.
They had one pair. A 7 1/2. I usually wear a 7, but when I put on the 7 1/2, they fit much better than I’d remembered. Now that they were 70% off, I felt like I could finally afford them, especially since my Grandfather, who actually turned 94 yesterday, sent me a little check for my birthday. I always try to do something rational with it, and not just splurg on something I don’t need. Stupid, because it is a birthday check, I know. So, this year, I went for the splurg, because these shoes, I know will always bring me back to our Neiman Marcus shopping trips, followed by sushi and cocktails. While they are not literally her shoes, I know that we walk in them together.
Also over my birthday, and with my inability to knit, to mediate, and find the calm within myself that I need at home, the calm I give to my friend when we are together, I have managed to get my way through a book in the past couple of weeks. A feat I have mostly failed at through the first five months of this year. Of course McQueen related, I saw it at the Met, mulled over the idea, and picked up a copy of Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion Lauren Goldstein Crowe.
Picky with my reading material, I often find that biography’s assume to much while they in-fact know too little. I didn’t feel that way about this one. I really did feel like I got to know who she was. Isabella is credited with discovering Alexander McQueen and Treacy Phillip. The way that the author talks about her relationships establishes her little recognized impact on the fashion world. The sadness that she feels at the end of her life, for me, is also something that hits close to home.
I think it is common for truly visionary artists to find themselves in dark places, including the likes of Isabella and McQueen. If he had known what would happen—she was going to commit suicide—I am sure that McQueen would have been there in a more profound way for Isabella. After a great period of difference and distance she invited him to her home to reconcile their friendship days before she killed herself. I can’t imagine the love in McQueen’s heart from this event, and the pain he felt from her death which followed. I am sure that he knew that she did love him, but she also lied to him—saying she wasn’t talking about death any longer—so he couldn’t help her, he couldn’t be there.
At the Met I remember looking at the Alexander McQueen pieces from the collection The Girl Who Fell from the Tree, Fall/Winter 2008, which “… told the rags-to-riches story of a girl who lived a life of sadness inside a tree until she found true love and emerged from the show of the tree into light and love.” It is told at the museum that McQueen was inspired by the tree in his backyard of his summer house, I feel like there is a closer comparison to his feelings about his lost friend, and what he wanted for her, and for himself out of life. I doubt that Alexander McQueen felt responsible for her death, but I don’t doubt that he carried the burden of failure from trying to help her, while it was justified, or not.While Isabella lived a rich life, as she could see, it was without others, light or love.
McQueen insisted that Isabella’s death gave him purpose and reason to live, saying, “I learned a lot from her death. I learned a lot about myself. [I learned] that life is worth living. Because I’m just fighting against it, fighting against the establishment. She loved fashion and I loved fashion, and I was just in denial.”
Sadly for all of us, he walked a little to long, a little to far in her shoes, and we know the end to this story.
Recently I have been feeling a little like a mother of the ducklings, but at least I am presented with opportunities to try to help. In addition to my friend in the hospital, both my sister and my oldest friend, E., called me last Thursday crying. I think that both of them just needed someone to listen, which I was happy to do. In respect o my sister’s situation, I have walked in those shoes before, and I found it easy to listen and share my thoughts on her situation, which seemed to make her soul feel more at ease. With E. it was a little more complicated, but in those shoes I have walked as well.
Driving back from Monterey on Saturday morning I rang E. as I knew that he was home in Santa Cruz for the weekend, and we met up for breakfast on my Birthday. I don’t know what it is, but each time I see E. I just feel happy. Perhaps it is because we have known each other for so long, even if we don’t know each other that well. Sometimes months go by without word, but it feels like we are better and better at picking up where we left off each time we see each other after a hiatus, and the trust that is there is strong. We E had called earlier in the week he told me the news that the 2-year relationship he was in has just ended, his heart heavy, and optimism weak. Over breakfast we got caught up on our lives as best as two hours can allow, sharing with me the emotional burdens he suffered from within his recently ended relationship, and the fear and sadness of his lost companion since it’s end. My heart goes out to him and I realize that as time has gone by, and we grow older, we are a lot more similar than I ever thought we’d be. Out of all of the people I knew, I didn’t think that E. would be the one that I’d remain friends with. Though, honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Living in a big city, far away, with a career in a creative industry E is having a hard time finding work, and feels alone, sadly, because he is. I remember being there myself, before Ramon. Even surrounded by “friends” things for me were bad until I made them good, until I fought for it. Even thought he is having a hard time seeing it now, E. knows that he was never in love his lover, though there is no doubt or question that E. does love and care for her greatly. I remember hearing a country song by Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying, “An’ I became a friend a friend would like to have.” I am not big into country music, though I find some of it, like Taylor Swift very easy to listen to, this is the only country music lyric that has ever stuck with me. I wish that E. did live closer so that I could be that friend. Understand that this isn’t possible right now, but I wish that I could find a way to help E. fight for it, too, the same way that with I could MAKE my friend with Leukemia fight for it.
Recently learning things a soap opera could be based on, though it isn’t entertaining, only draining, I think that there are some secrets people want to keep until the day that they die, and just sometimes, when things are really bad, or they’re having a really rough go of it they slip out. Others then walk the line, carry the burden, hoping they can keep the secrets behind their pursed lips and full hearts. These secrets keep us closer together, finding ways to help us relate, help us support and help us fight. Never is it easy to walk in someone else’s shoes, the opportunity is rare, the honor is great, the work is hard and the responsibility is overwhelming. It is with the grace that we do it that defines what we are made of.
I hope that I am doing all that I can. Now, if only I can get something done for myself, and get my next knitting pattern finished. It is so close, but still has so far, and my motivation is still so low.
May 25, 2011 § 8 Comments
After returning from spending a fabulous and very busy week in New York, and making two trips to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I am finally able to find the energy to muse over my adventure, and what an adventure it was. I’ll start with the McQueen bits, and come around to the other bits later.
The first McQueen stop was the boutique in the Meatpacking district. Ramon was too intimidated to go in, but my sister went in with me, and ogled with her eyes, while I groped with my paws.
The second McQueen stop, though, not known at the time, was MOOD on 37th, between 7th and 8th, right around the corner from Parsons, the New School where they film a little show you may have heard about. Three floors of heaven, I quickly became overwhelmed, but stayed for another 45 minutes, my mind, and heart racing. I learned that they still had a few yards of Alexander McQueen silk charmeuse, one of the ones that was out at MOOD in Los Angeles when I went last year. My sister once told me the story of a friend of hers, who went into a two-story Target and found herself, who knows how many hours later, walking around the second floor with a cart full of items. Having no recollection of what the items were, why she had them, or why she needed them, she called her husband for help. His response? “Just back away from the cart … ” I was having one of those moments at Mood. I had to make a trip on Friday to actually purchase fabric. I did buy the McQueen fabric. I think that should go without saying.
And next there was The Met. Closed on Monday, we opted out on Tuesday, as we got off to a late start by trying to get up early, walking 2 miles to Bouchon Bakery for known good coffee—terribly hard to find.
We inadvertently wound up sitting right outside the filming for the Today Show. We walked the two miles back in the rain, then feeling a bit under the weather, needing a nap, we decided to wait on The Met, as it was already noon, and heading off to the New York Public Library—OMG, fucking amazing artifacts on display here—and so Ramon and I went to The Met first thing on Wednesday morning, not long after it opened, before the throngs of locals and tourists would be flooding the gates to avoid the sheeting rain later in the afternoon.
Before the rain, and the crowds, with my Audio Tour in hand/over ear—best $7 spent on the entire trip, other than the admission to the museum—I spent about 3 hours in the exhibit, taking my time in front of each and every piece, sketching, staring, and listening. So many things to think about and so many things learned. Tid-bits and interesting facts interspersed throughout, but in such a way that by the end you actually feel like you could have known him. As if he was the one holding your hand, walking you down the garden path the entire time, and the things you didn’t know you were just too blind to see, because it all became so clear, it is all right in front of you.
Even though I saw countless others taking pictures the entire time, I did my best to remain respectful, but I do shamefully admit that I snapped one—very bad—iPhone picture at the very end of the Gallery. Because my picture really shows, well, nothing, I feel I am not hurting The Met or the Savage Beauty exhibit by posting it, especially because my entire post is so pro go-to-nyc-to-see-this-exhibit-RIGHT-NOW-as-it-is-quite-possibly-the-most-amazing-work-of-modern-art-that-will-be-on-view-to-the-public-for-decades-to-come.
I feel like I am seeing much more of the big picture, which really means that I am asking a lot more questions. I have always looked at McQueen as an artist, who’s medium was garments and fashion, but I now understand that this is much, much deeper than I initially believed. Part of me wonders if he even wanted to create “fashion” at all—fashion that participates in style as opposed to a message, a deeper meaning, something personal, political, loved or feared. I have even started thinking a lot more about other designers, and their goals, as well. McQueen’s work was so personal, and imbued with stories and messages. While at The Met and also at the boutique I read that McQueen wanted the women who wore his garments to feel powerful, a thought from him that I truly feel when I wear something that he created, and often opt for those garments when I need to courage or the power on that particular day. Throughout the exhibit I also heard and read that he didn’t have a specific muse for any of his collections, rather that he imagined powerful women during a time period, but not one woman specifically. Which makes me honestly doubt that he was ever designing for a “specific market,” but creating stories through garments and presentation that women wanted to adopt into their own world as extensions of themselves.
On the way back out airline had Satellite TV, and I started watching a show about a Norwegian base jumper, Karina Hollekim. Fascinating individual, extremely unique personality. An only child with a difficult childhood—a father who didn’t want children, and a mother with a brain injury—she spent all of her free time raising her adrenaline. After thousands of jumps, in 2006 she experienced a parachute failure during a standard skydive, and hit the ground at over 100 km/h. Not only did she survive, but defied the doctors when they said she’d never walk again. In the an interview she says, “It’s ironic how I’ve spent decades of my life trying to be someone special, and now, suddenly, all I want is to be normal.”
I honestly feel like I can say I share some of this feeling, that I have always wanted to be someone special. Going to New York, The Met, and seeing McQueen’s work, I realize that he was a very unique, special breed, and maybe he even shared this feeling. Haunted by his own character, living and breathing only for his work, utterly talented in his craft, and an amazing storyteller, we all know that he was his own demise. And so, maybe it is ok to be “normal,” but this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try like hell to be my best. Who knows the stories in my mind yet untold.
Last year, about this time, someone asked me what I wanted to do with my career and also my life. I remember responding, though I spoke without thinking. My own voice sounded otherworldly as it came from a place of truth, but still unknown to me, “I want to tell interesting stories.”
I will end with one final thought: To anyone thinking of going, spend the thousands of dollars it will cost, take out a loan if you have to, this museum special exhibition has changed my life, forever.
May 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
Today will be spent packing for our big trip to the Big Apple. And yesterday I turned in my final final project, all of which has been preventing me + my projects and, thus, blogging. Let me first say that I just absolutely cannot wait to get to NYC. I have my knitting project (almost) ready to go for the plane ride, as I also need to finish writing the pattern for it, and my sister and I have a boatload of activities to do once we get there, and I make my pilgrimage to Alexander McQueen, all centered around seeing Savage Beauty at the Met.
In all of the hustle and bustle over the great Met Gala on May 2nd, I have also learned that Daphne Guiness’s personal collection of McQueen couture is on display in various Barney’s windows, so we’ll be NEEDING to stop by those, as well. Here is her performance before The Met Gala, dressing in a 2011 Spring Alexander McQueen dress, by Sarah Burton:
Tickets for The Met have already been purchased, and I have been doing my research about the exhibit. So, it looks like photography isn’t allowed, but sketching is. Well, I turned in my Fashion Sketching final on Wednesday, and because I am a crazy over-achiever—not that anyone would have ever guessed that!—I did two. So, even though I have a four year art degree, I must admit that I have never, ever really liked drawing or sketching. I have always felt like it was a chore, and like I have always been bad at it. Currently, I am helping my mom how to crochet, and while this may seem like a departure from the topic, just bare with me. I am mostly helping her by trying to provide encouragement, telling her that it takes a lot of practice with working with the hook and the yarn, and so for a while it is frustrating. You can’t just be good at something right off the bat. And, that being said, you’re likely not not have a good time doing something, until after you get the hang of it, and the frustration subsides. Only after much practice can you sit down and enjoy the process. Well, looks like I need to listen to my own advice. Even though my teacher is the best, most engaging drawing teacher I have ever had (Suck on that AAU. Woo for community college!), and she is incredibly good at breaking down the steps and making them understandable and doable, it was still a lot of work for me to do the work, even though the workload was very reasonable. I have been working on the sketches and drawings for this class for 5 months, and I did still feel like it was a chore through the entire class, that is, until I started my second final. I actually started really enjoying the process, and getting into it, and—gasp—having fun! I am super excited to have broken through the barrier of just getting it done and feeling bad and and frustrated to feeling like I can actually do it. Granted, I still don’t feel like I am good at it, I do feel like I can get there. I would like to work more on developing my own style a bit more, and practicing with different textures. I’d also like to be more able to just sit down and draw without all of my tools which I still use like crutches, but, I have made it over the first hump! And, whew, in the nick of time. As photography is not allowed in special exhibitions at The Met, I am very excited that I’ll be able to—not just physically, but mentally, with my new, learned abilities—take my sketchbook and pencils and sketch while I am there.
While looking for information about the exhibit, I came across this great album on Flicker, published by The Met: Behind the Scenes – Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. A few from the album:
Additionally, in doing my research, I have learned that the Catalog of the exhibit is for sale at the Met and the Met store online for $45 for non members, but it is also for sale on Amazon for $27. Exact same book … So, do I buy it there, and pay more but realize that I am also paying for the memory of the event and the experience, in addition to the ticket price, or do I order from Amazon, and look at it only when I return …
After that, the only question left to answer is: What will I wear to The Met? think that this provides an even greater dilemma …
April 4, 2011 § 2 Comments
Six Days. The food poisoning lasted for six whole days, which was exactly half way into my spring break. Ugh. Finally, after getting the pH balance of my digestive system back in order, I was able to get back to sewing. I thought I was going to be able to dive into my Alexander McQueen projects for the entire week, alas, that was not to be the case.
Last Monday I was able to sit down with my new, and fabulous friend, Trina, who actually has a fashion degree—a real sewing, pattern making and beyond, education—but even better yet, is willing to share. In my desire to learn how to sew knits, and I have let my fear over them overtake me. Yes, I know you need different needles. Yes, I know you include only 3/8″ seam allowance, but, but, but … what about everything else in that vast, dark unknown space? Where does the dart intake go? How do you account for the stretch of the fabric, and they all seem stretchy to different degrees … Whoa is me.
With Trina as excited to teach as I am to learn, the Monday when I felt very green instead of going over a lot, we simply went over the cutting of knit fabric for a pattern, ironically, the fabric was also green. On Wednesday, I sewed an entire PJ set—very cute toddler size— all by myself, also learning how to use her industrial coverstitch machine. ACK! Not easy. She taught me some of her tips and tricks for getting seams to line up perfectly, cleaning up edges, attaching ribbed cuffs, and neckbands, and attaching elastic. The result, thumbs up from all three, Trina, her munchkin, and myself. I feel my fear subsiding.
As it is not my child, I am not showing the whole child, I feel like the duck is safe though.
On Friday we began drafting my first knit pattern. A simple top that involves some new construction techniques. As it turns out she drafts very differently, and much more efficiently than I was taught. Feeling like an indoor cat, watching a tiger catch it’s prey, I realize that my ways will be a-changin’.
In the process of making the pattern for my little knit top, Trina went over just how important it is to really analyze the photo before you begin to make the pattern. While at home over the weekend, I pulled out my Houndstooth fabric, and was just about to start making an 8-gore flared skirt pattern, based on what I remembered from this picture:
Before beginning, I could hear this little voice saying, “Maybe you should go and look at the picture again, before you begin.” After finding a high resolution image of this Fall 2009 Alexander McQueen look, I discovered that I was 100% wrong about how the skirt is made. It isn’t a flared 8-gore at all! It is a classic circle skirt! After dissecting instructions on how to pattern make a perfect circle skirt with a waist radius and the hem, within 2 hours, the entire pattern was drafted, fabric cut, and the skirt was made. The 1/4 inch rolled hem was even completed. Turns out that this is the EASIEST sewing project I have ever done. Though, my sewing skills are getting a lot better, and I think that probably had something to do with it, too. It might be a shame I had put it off for so long if I hadn’t have needed the time to figure out how to look closely at a photo.
And now for the jacket … a pattern making challenge if I ever saw one!
After the green faded from me, I decided that before diving in on the leather dress, that I had some other problems to solve. I have felt for some time that my block needed adjustments, so I began making a lot of those tedious adjustments and test fit muslin garments. As a trial and as a test I made this fun little linen, zebra print dress:
I feel like the cutting added some extra ease to the waist, and that there is a little bit of gaping in the neck. For a $12 project, and a test project at that, I really can’t complain. I am tired of making test fit muslins, so I can only assume that cheap JoAnns 100% linen is going to be making some more appearances. Now knowing what I need to fix, and thank goodness I have wheedled the problems down to very minor ones, I need to figure out how to make my shoulder pads, and then adjust my pattern according, also dropping the back to mullet levels for the leather version … Yes, I am sure I will probably do one more test fit before attempting the leather.
You only get ONE shot to get it right …
February 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
OK So, last week, I had a serious meltdown.
Infact, I think I am still having it. So, I decided I needed to take a long, hard look at my priorities, get some things straight, and weed some projects out.
Ramon determined that I need to start telling people “no” more frequently, so I am trying, now, to put this into effect. Still, I am still feeling completely overwhelmed, and as thought I absolutely can’t get any time for myself to work on my projects. Though, quietly, and through the cracks, I am seeing some progress being made. My sketchbook and swatch-books are filling, slowly, but none-the-less. I have also decided to eliminate one project completely, or, at least until after I have finished my McQueen project, and I am being a little less adventurous with cooking dinner. I still just wish that I had more time though …
While in the midst of my meltdown, I decided to finish the last project that caused a meltdown, the blue Alexander McQueen Sweater Dress. I ripped the collar out for about the sixth time, and it would appear that I have learned a lot in the last few months as I didn’t have any trouble with it this time. I happily finished weaving in all of the ends, and then wore it to Stitches West, where the kind folks at the Cascade Yarns booth took my picture in the dress, and posted it on the Cascade Yarns website.
Having now worn this dress out three times, I feel incredibly proud of my handywork, and pattern-making skills. So soft, and SO WARM!
Also in the middle of the meltdown, I finished a knitting project that should have taken me a week, but instead took three: the Feather tunic from my favorite knitting book of 2011 Modern Top-Down Knitting
Looking falsly lumpy on my crappy dressform, I L O V E this tunic. I have worn it four times since finishing it last week. A fun, easy project and easy to wear. I did make a few changes, and I also learned a few new skills. I changed the shaping of the skirt to be a bit more fitting, spacing out the increases from four rows to four inches. I also had the opportunity to learn how to crochet elastic into the waistband, which was very easy. Additionally, i learned how to double crochet, and while it is a useful skill, I preferred the look of two rounds of double crochet at the bottom, so went with that, instead. I am still looking for trim to put on the inside of the hem, and haven’t yet found anything that I love just yet.
I will do my best to get some hallway images of both of these dresses as soon as I can!