Djcnor’s Weblog

Archive for the ‘fashion arts’ Category

I’m operating on a schedule. During the week and on Saturday, I spend a good part of each afternoon actually making things at the Centre. In the mornings and evenings, I work on details such as crocheting that I can do at home, and adding things to the St. Lawrence Textile Centre Facebook Page, and adding entries here, and planning, and doing the basics of keeping the home fires burning. It almost feels like when I was back in school at FIT working my tail off but loving every minute. It especially resembles that time because I’m not making any money there at the moment.

Well, there’s not that much of mine to buy yet. But I’ve got a bunch of works in progress. I’ve made my second “Tunique”. Is that too precious a name?

Anyhow, the first one was absolutely plain in “mermaid skin” and the back bottom sort of cups. I didn’t plan that, but it isn’t a problem. The piece looks OK anyhow, so I hung it and put on a price.

The second one, there is no difference between the back and the front bottom. The neckline is a bit different from the first, because I lost track of my row count at one point. I’ve done the crocheting of it in a contrasting color and am adding crocheted sleeves in that same color. I’m still working on the sleeves and am not yet entirely certain whether I like them or not. Whether I like them or not and how fast they are working up may determine how long they are.

The third one is on my own knitting maching, which is a bit  different than Anne’s that I used for the first two. I’ve done the whole tunique part aside from the final cast-off,  but then I’ll steam it, turn it on the machine, and add sleeves on the machine. Because the threads were even lighter and tried to jump off the machine when I was casting on, I started with a  tighter stitch and reduced to a tigher one as well. Therefore, I needed to do more rows of each tightness. I did twice as many. It now looks rather narrow compared to the others, but longer as well, so I’m thinking of adding godet-ed panels to the sides to make it a dress. I’ll be really curious to see how it turns out.

I’m also working on a woven scarf on the little rigid heddle loom. It’s rather a coarse piece, maybe more a table runner than a scarf, but I won’t know that until it’s been washed. It feels good to be weaving again, even plain weave. I do miss the Macomber I worked on at school and the room I had to work. I probably should more the Harrisville to the Centre as well if I really intend to use it here. But something in me hopes for a heated space by the fall that I can move it to.


OK. Here we go again.

A twill woven on a 24-harness dobby

A twill woven on a 24-harness dobby

This scarf was in Handwoven

This scarf was in Handwoven

I believe it was a rosepath weave with waffleweave at the bottom. The article was about a technique I had “invented” for dropping a bead into every waffle.

A point twill woven over a handpainted warp.

A point twill woven over a handpainted warp.

I was very proud of this one and sort of hated to see it sold.  I keep telling myself I will make more and better ones.

A doubleweave done in blocks

A doubleweave done in blocks

I don’t even need to brag about this one.

Several of a set of 20 coordinated samples for upholstery

Several of a set of 20 coordinated samples for upholstery

I did this set of samples with the kinds of ceiling tiles you see in older building in New York City in mind. I was thinking of stories I’d seen in the papers about such buildings being turned into boutique hotels.

A few days ago, I made my first machine-knitted garment since I began to get re-acquainted with the knitting machine. (Gotta thank Anne Lavene for the loan of her machine in doing that.)

It’s a very simple garment, basically a sleeveless tunic, meant to be relatively tight to the body from the arm-holes up but loosening as it falls to the hips where it’s quite floaty. It turned out pretty good, just not good enough to call the prototype the finished pattern. I want to play with the neckline and the arm scrye (to be a bit classier in my wording) and the bottom edge before I finalize it as a part of my line.

I used four thin yarns together, the yarns chosen to produce irridescence because they were opposites on the color wheel, and I’m quite happy with the resulting fabric. In fact, it’s the fabric that everyone who examines the piece comments on. (The little negative nellie person who always sits on one of my shoulders whispers that this is only an indication of how minimally attractive the actual garment is, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself when I post a picture here.)

In any case, I’m perfectly willing not to sell this version until I get a better one done early this week. In the meanwhile, it will serve as a swatch for the fabric. I now have three fabrics in my swatch collection with more to come rapidly. Got to get busy fast with the camera.

It was very easy to name the fabric used for the tunic. I merely draped it over one knee and thought “Mermaid Skin”. Perfect. Now I’ll bet you can’t wait to see the pictures. Soon… very soon.

My aim is to make unique fabrics, using either the knitting machine, my loom, or painting plain fabric. I may do some screen printing later on as well. I will also make garments of these fabrics as I develop the fabrics themselves, to show how they perform in garments, and to sell. But I want the making and selling of bespoke fabrics to be my main business.

And all this will be done out of my space at St. Lawrence Textile Centre.

And I will post pictures and chronicle the progress I make as I have time in this space. Are you interested? Let me know.

I just finished spending a good deal of my time at the Centre for the last three days, and though I did not sell a thing (much to my disappointment, since someone had wanted to buy one or more of my handpainted shopping bags on Wednesday, but I stupidly did not have them priced yet) but I got some work done, and as usual, came away with more ideas and more inspiration than I can possibly carry out with my present level of energy and stamina. Luckily, with any luck, that energy and stamina will build, if only to keep from feeling like I’m operating in a different time frame from the younger members of the group.

Lorna finished the project she was working on for Anne Lavene and, on Saturday, was working on a sewing project, a dress a friend wanted to wear that evening. I’ve got this idea of interviewing the members on their projects and the ideas they are having, but since I once again failed to fulfill that part of my objectives, I’m working on my own perceptions of their ongoing projects, so anything I say could be entirely wrong. You are warned. I believe Lorna’s project was mostly restyling, attaching a recycled white textured (brocade?) bodice to fluffy tulle-supported skirt at hip level.

Jung-a had quite an effective meeting with Anne Francis of BizFizz, which I horned in on to a certain extent via an introduction by Anne Lavene. Facing my long-term-unemployed meeting with the Job Centre on Monday, I’d like to have as much to say and be as self-directed as possible, but I have to admit that I’ve become rather wary of most UK government sponsored projects to help folks start businesses. They tend to be very generous with classes and advice that you don’t have the resources to carry through on (when what you really need is the moeny for rent and food and practical material goods like, in Jung-a’s case, mannequins or dress-making dummies, and in all our cases, a large table to lay out things on, in my case, a table it won’t break my back to work over. (I’ve been spending far too much time hunched over work in my lap and my back is complaining loudly this morning.) Then, to top it off, they require a ton of paperwork (doing which requires abandoning the kind of work you want to be doing). Anyhow, BizFizz seems to be differently oriented, a sort of spider’s nest with a wide-flung net to catch things and move them on to folks who need them to get their dreams off the ground.

Kim was nowhere to be seen, though she sold a set of knitted gauntlets (having gone to the trouble of pricing them, bless her). But it turned out she had an excellent excuse, her van having broken down.

I also didn’t see Kira, myself, though I know she must have been there when I wasn’t because she laid exclusive (and rightful) claim to her working chair (which has had a tendency to wander off here and there, being the only chair not draped with someone’s creations). I did see, too, that she had acquired a second garment to handpaint. A big part of her absense may have been due to the success of her musical enterprises. I seem to remember that she had a big gig scheduled for this weekend. (Note to self: Is there a stage name of some sort folks should be on the lookout for?)

Tatiana fluttered about acting as a muse and aid to all and sundry, seeing that we all had something in the display area outside, modeling a restyled butterfly cutaway jacket of Jung-a’s, and drawing a collection of creative friends and acquaintances (including one beginning jeweler showing considerable talent whose name I should have gotten), and sewing a bit, I’m not sure on what.

Ossie was about too, wearing an extraordinary leather jacket and presenting an impromptu concert of Celtic song, just one more example of the fact that no two visits to the Centre are ever the same. She’ll be setting up a menswear section in the Centre when she manages to fit it in with all the other things she does.

Anne Lavene had a small crowd of visitors spread just thinly enough over the three days for each of them to receive more personal attention and care than they might have expected, here explaining the six ways a particular garment could be worn, or how it could be satisfactorily translated to another size, there teaching an introductory machine knitting lesson, passing on maintenance hints, or coaching Lorna on her machine knitting project, along with seventeen other things. She also managed to sell quite a bit in the process. 

I would include Mickey, who has a healing centre in the front corner, but I don’t know enough about his work so far.

As for me, I did some pricing, painted the Virginia creeping ivy on my third bag, and began the other flint wall side as well. I crocheted some as well, and met quite a few interesting visitors to the center, including a local French teacher who, I believe, has done some embroidery she is quite proud of. My French is limited, as was her English, but we did manage to communcate pretty well, and I hope she comes again to show me her work.

She was only one of the visitors for whom the Centre seemed to draw out, to revive, the creative urge. In my opinion, this is one of the best things that could come from the Centre. I know I will be feeling withdrawal symptoms before I get back to the Centre this week.

I’m rather up in the air at the moment about this blog. I do not want to shut it down, because I have a new purpose I want it to serve. But since I have to make that purpose pay, and writing a blog does not pay, I may decide not to write as often, and my posts may take totally different forms than they have up till now. Perhaps I will be writing on my other blog instead, as it is more relevant to my other subject.

I have spend a good part of today working on a crochet design for a vest or waistcoat in rayon chenille. I wanted it to be a non-traditional shape and row arrangement, something that was in the spirit, more or less, of the kinds of designs Ann Lavene does. I began at what I though of as a middle front point, as I know that is one of her favorite design elements because it disguises any stomach pouch. So I widened from the point, varying my stitches, searching for ones I fill the most space with in the smallest amount of time while not leaving too big holes in the “cloth” I’m forming. When it got wide enough for the front of a garment, perhaps a little more, I started working the rows even alternating two stitches. The edge of the piece began to look rather like a curvy parenthesis, or a face profile. I wasn’t at all impressed until I turned it on it’s side, when it became a cutaway side of a front with a middle front point where the closure would be placed. Now it made sense. I began to shape the armhole and “grow” it towards the center back with the idea that the second half would be its mirror, the two laced together in the back, with a strap coming up either side of the back to meet the curvy parenthesis top.

I stopped, drew a picture in my sketchbook of what I had in mind, and wrote down my notes for the first prototype of the design. I intend it to have the possibility of fitting  a wide range of sizes. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m proud of myself for the concept.

I already have some critiques, though. Anne’s designs are, in general, much more drapey, much looser on the body than this one. I’ll have to give some thought to that.

It’s a pity I don’t have any of my fabric paints at home. I have some idea for other items that I think will fit right in as well, but no way to play and try out my ideas this week. I HAVE to find out when it is OK to go to the centre and work on ideas.

Today has been a good day.

It didn’t start out that way. I had to turn up at the job centre first thing to report that for the 12th two-week period I had not found a job.

That could be a good thing. My next visit to the job centre will be an extra long interview supposedly to figure out what kind of help might actually result in my finding a job. I have two proposals for them: Either send me to teacher training or help me set up my textile business. Wonder which one they’ll support, if either, or will they send me out to take the job in the chicken processing factory with all the other immigrants?

I had a few errands to run, none of which went the way I had hoped. Long lines. Library fines. Place not open. But I survived.

My objective at home was to begin sorting out which things from my “studio” I would take to “live” at the textile centre. Now, understand, this was a joyous task in the first place because the room I call the “studio” is overstuffed and cramped. It’s a tiny little bedroom without much in the way of natural light anyhow, with three bookcases, a floor loom and a folding chair to sit in while weaving, a sewing machine table and sewing machine (from the US which I daren’t risk with UK electricity but I couldn’t part with because it really is a very nice one and was my Mom’s), and endless boxes of fabric, beads, partially completed projects, supplies of many types, completed projects that I don’t quite know what to do with, writings and records, and on and on and on.

Walking into the room is an exercise in balance and precise footing. Accomplishing anything in the room, aside from weaving,  is out of the question. Weaving is uncomfortable, and warping the loom, even for a belt-width warp, was a job for a contortionist, which at 58 I am not.

But there was no place else for the stuff, until now.

So it was a joyous task to start. But in sorting it out and choosing the things to go to the textile centre, I discovered over and over again that I had produced good work, work I still thought was excellent five years or more later, work that I hadn’t thought that much of at the time I did it that I really like now. Finishing jobs that I hesitated to do at the time but now feel perfectly confident in managing. Work that I will be proud to display in my space at the centre to show off what I can do.

There’s a 5 yard 30 inch wide chenille shadow-weave gamp with some really beautiful weaves and color combinations! There are at least five crazy quilt square pillows that are really fine work (though they need to be remounted since the cheap lining fabric I used for the pillow bases has faded.) There are yards of fabric experimentally printed with my three coordinating screens in screen print class. There’s my upholstery weave  and my double-weave projects. There are T-shirts printed with styrofoam blocks that are rather nice (They’d be even better if the T-shirts were black or at least not white. Hmm.) Every corner I excavated, every box I opened held things that deserved to come out into the light and be shown off.

And I had been thinking I might not have enough work ready for a good display! How could I have forgotten so much?

I had been a bit worried about something else, getting the things I wanted to take to the centre there for a price I could afford. A two-mile taxi ride is a significant expense these days.

Halfway through my efforts, long after the mail had come, the mail slot clunked. There was a brochure for a new taxi company offering bargain try-out prices and bragging about their large-size cars.

Jump, and a net shall appear?

A few days ago, I watched a rerun of one of my favorite shows, Monk. Monk had learned to swim…from a book. He’d never taken the risk of actually doing it, of course. Natalie quoted a relative as saying “Jump and a net will appear.” Eventually, of course, Monk was forced to do just that, and there was no net.

Over the last five months, I’ve been blogging from time to time on my hunt of a new job. (Some of these will be under job hunt, some under jobhunt, maybe even under jobhunting. Whatever. I attempt to write “perfect” thoughts. Editing comes later if at all. I learned that from NaNoWriMo.) I haven’t found a job yet, and I will not give up the search. There are things I want to do before leaving the UK, among them some more exploring of the continent, that will not be possible otherwise.

None-the-less, I think I’ve made it clear that what I really would love to be able to do is to make a living from all my various textile skills, preferably all of them at once, something I thought beyond the realm of possibility in the city I live in.

And that not withstanding, I decided to investigate establishing a business using all these skills. I made up a card. I enquired at a department store that sells fabrics and found that they DO get enquiries about having things sewn for customers. I let a tailoring business know I was open to dressmaking commissions. I posted the card on a sort of bulletin board at a local store. I did some research on what local repair and alteration businesses were charging. I enquired about the rental cost for a room in  a community building thinking about offering classes.

Perhaps that’s when there began to be signs that this could work. The room rental was affordable. Considering what is affordable in our present situation, that’s amazing. 

But strangely enough, the best thing I did was to get back in touch with a local organization, WEETU, that I first became involved with when I first got here. They hold courses for women  who are thinking of setting up businesses, and after a spring and summer of not finding a market on my own, I took the course. Things did not get better, and the course materials lie hidden away in a box somewhere on the premises.

Anyhow, I looked them up with the intention of talking about what support might be available and never got a call back, but in looking up their number on the web, I saw an announcement for the establishment of a local textile centre in one of the many unused churches in the area. It had happened in the middle of last month, just about the time I got sick of doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results and decided to do something different, however impractical, based on past experience.

Wow! I researched the person establishing it. I asked WEETU to help me contact her. I arranged to visit the centre today.

I didn’t see many visits from the public. But the people there were my kind of people, designers, inventive folks who do more than one thing,  who make things that don’t really fit well into local prosaic demand. Lovely folks.

I made a deal to donate my time in exchange for having a space there. I’m in. Such an amazing opportunity with such a low monetary investment.

I was wishing I had more space to work with the new-old sewing machine at home. I’ve got it. I can take a lot of what is in my studio and use it to  “decorate” my space there, thus making more space. I can teach there. I can work there in ways that are chancy here at home. I can collaborate and help other members. But the very best of all is:

I have a reason to do what I do.

No, better than that, there’s another best thing of all. In a few weeks, with considerable publicity, the organizer is going to inviter her clients to come and see the place and what we’re doing. I jumped, and a net appeared. It may not be a net that will support me, but just like Monk, I may not sink.

Djcnor’s Weblog

  • @KathrynGoldman Saw your blog post on famous people in fiction. Have character who is supposed to be dead, turns out not to be. OK? 1 year ago
  • I'm back! I haven't posted in a long time, but since Joanie Freeman and I won Charlottesville SOUP, I feel the need to return. 5 years ago
  • Haven't been here on my new iPad. Page looks totally different. Where is the option to reply? And where are the RT's? 6 years ago
  • @The_Puck Same to you. You denial is damaging to yourself and all you care about, assuming there must be some of those. 6 years ago