Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New Studio Space

Working out of your home has good and bad points. The convenience is awesome but I personally find it is hard to maintain focus. Thus I have finally given in and rented a studio space away from home. It is walkable, approximately 1 mile from the house and it has natural light. These were two of my main criteria when I started looking. I am still getting settled in but I am getting there. .

Eventually a schedule will develop and all the bins will be sorted.

One of the things that is amazing about the studio is we can now move in the storage area in our basement, it is no longer wall to wall totes :). I still have some things to transfer over to the new space but I have been going through a type of separation anxiety (What if I end up not having something at the house when I need it). Trims, buttons, elastics are all things I still haven't moved. So far only threads have made it to the studio, Oh and my grommet press and accessories. What I really want is the best of all worlds, which is why I still have some sewing machines at the house. Maybe someday I will reach a point where I will be able to separate work and freetime. Truthfully this will never happen but it doesn't keep me from dreaming about that sort of structure.

A beanbag, TV and a DVD player means it is easy to have Bring Your Daughter to Work Days.  The TV/DVD player is also perfect for me to binge watch TV series while I am creating. It has been great rewatching some old series, just finished Cleopatra 2025, am currently watching Pushing Daisies and next on the playlist is Warehouse 13.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Creative Update

Posts have been a bit scarce in the last while. This is partially due to the fact that I have been taking a variety of courses while I determine which direction IsaTe's Designs should take in the future. Since moving to Seattle I have had to rethink how and what I want to create and it has taken much longer then expected to sort out the logistics of my business. It has been a time of refocus, learning and change.

Creating new designs that are less dependent on sizing has been a goal during this time. IsaTe's Designs has always been focused around repurposing clothing, comfort and one of a kind. Often a client would fall in love with an article of clothing and it wouldn't fit. This has always created some difficulties as more often then not I could not recreate the garment in their size. This is a definite problem in how I create. A problem that became more prominent when I moved from Ontario to Seattle. It became much harder to satisfy clients who had now become long distance, the one on one aspect differed greatly. No longer was I as attuned to their body fluctuations or changes in their lives and wardrobe needs. So lots of thought as to what direction IsaTe's should go has been occurring. 

One of the changes that has occurred is the creation of CleavageandGeekage. This is going to be focused more on custom clothing, lingerie, cosplay and my interest in pop culture. You can check it out at CleavageandGeekage 

Below is a sample of two new designs which are not dependent on sizing. Both just slide over your head and provide drape and layering to any outfit. The one on the left is made from repurposed golf shirts and has the feel of a shawl. The one on the left made from repurposed t-shirts has actually become a staple in my wardrobe. It is perfect for those overcast cool mornings and evenings in Seattle. It provides a bit of warmth without bulk around the neck and/or adds a little flair to an otherwise basic ensemble. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Who? or What? Is A Luddite

Nowadays a Luddite means someone who is not good with technology, only uses old technology, or dislikes technology. It is a term which has been revamped numerous times and taken on a life of its own, you can hear it used as an insult or as a label used proudly. But if we look at the history of the word it has an important place in the history of the Industrial Revolution.

Ned Ludd was the leader of the Luddites but he is in the same place in history as Robin Hood, was he really a person or a fictional character? Ned Ludd was a young apprentice who was rumoured to have wrecked a textile apparatus in the late 18th century. The Luddite movement could be seen as an early form of branding as they created a whole backstory. They signed letters with "Ned Lud's Office, Sherwood Forest", declaring it was the poor against the rich. Protesters often marched wearing women's clothing claiming to be "General Ludd's wives". In Yorkshire they attacked frames with massive sledgehammers they called "Great Enoch", after a local blacksmith who had made both the sledgehammers and the frames. If this was occurring today they would be social media darlings and constantly getting news coverage.

 The Luddite Triangle represents where the main occurrences of activism happened, the Counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. These Counties were greatly affected by the Industrial Revolution and the middle classes vastly changed. The Luddites in the Midland Counties were comprised mostly of workers in the framework - knitting and lace trades. The Yorkshire Luddites were croppers from the woolen industry, who were supported by other skilled workers such as the saddle-makers.

 After centuries skilled, middle-class workers lives were being upended by the machines replacing them with low-skilled, low-wage labourers in dismal factories. Thus early incarnations of "Fast Fashion". The workforce was changing and most artisans were unprepared. They had been accustomed to working limited hours, spending time with family, and making decent wages for their skills. Now with the introduction of automated looms and knitting machines being run by unskilled labour their livelihoods were being threatened. Also due to Trade being barred to Napoleonic France and any nations friendly to them the British Textile Industry was suffering a economic decline, this along with the rise of food prices caused anger among textile artisans. 

Most Luddites were not actually opposed to machinery aka Technology. They felt the use of machinery was a way to get around standard labour practices and only benefited the factory owners financially. Negotiations to acquire minimum wage, minimum labour standards and the possibilities of workers pensions were rebuffed by factory owners and the government met any protests/strikes with military action. Protesters who were arrested were often imprisoned, exiled to penal colonies or even executed. At one point there were more British soldiers fighting the war against Luddites then fighting Napoleon. 

Many types of handbills were posted  offering rewards for the capture of participants of the movement. The resistance movement escalated and in 1812 the death penalty was introduced by The Frame Breaking Act. The most intense activity occurred between 1811 - 1813, activity started to decrease with the rescinding of the Orders in Council(1812), some wage and usage concessions, and some reduction in food prices. Though attacks were still documented until the end of 1816.

This movement brought the rights of workers to the attention of England. People were forced to look more closely at the positive and negative effects of having an industrial society. It also brought about the idea that technology is never neutral and some can even be harmful. Karl Marx in 1867 noted that it would be some time before workers were able to distinguish between the machines and the form of society which utilizes these "instruments" and their ideas. The era of the Industrial Revolution and the Luddite Movement are still pertinent to today's society and can help us understand our diverse reactions to technology today.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Who? Nelly Don Part 2

The Nelly Don Handy Dandy Apron was a genius of manufacturing. The seamstress never had to remove the garment from the machine to sew seams and this cut down greatly on production time. These aprons are the main reason Nelly Don managed to stay afloat during the Great Depression and keep most of her employees working year around.

By 1930 Nelly and her husband Paul were only married by name alone and Nelly was keeping company with her married neighbour James Reed. Reed was a three time Senator of Missouri and fought strongly for what he believed- "Rather Be Right Than President"- which prevented him being supported by his party as their presidential candidate. He retired from politics in 1929 and returned to his private law practice. 

In the summer of 1931 Nelly supposedly went to Europe to adopt a baby. Her husband Paul had always been opposed to the idea of children and was known for threatening to kill himself if she ever became pregnant. When she returned she had a baby boy named David Quinlan Donnelly born Sept 1931. It was accepted in most circles that he was the biological son of James Reed. 
During this period Paul seldom left the house due to illness and on Dec 16, 1931 Nelly and her chauffeur were kidnapped at the front gate of the house. It was thought that Paul was to be the intended abductee. When Reed heard of the kidnapping he was in trial in Jefferson City Missouri and he rushed to the Donnelly home from the courtroom. He forced Johnny Lazia a political gangster to find Nelly with a 24 hour time limit. Lazia is rumoured to have sent 25 carloads of hoodlums to find Nell, they found Nell and her chauffeur within 34 hours of the initial abduction.
Nell divorced Paul in 1932 after 26 years of marriage, in Oct of 1932 Reed's wife died of pneumonia at the age of 88(she was Reed's senior by 14 years). December 1933 at a dinner party Reed and Nell were married by a federal judge, Nell and Reed had a happy marriage and Reed officially adopted David. After 11 years of marriage Reed died of bronchitis September 1944 just a few days before David's 13th birthday. Nell never remarried but had a successful business for many years until selling her interest in the Donnelly Garment Company in 1956 at the age of 67.

Throughout her career in the world of fashion Nell was known for treating her employees well. She always said that anyone who worked at the company was part of her family. She established a pension plan for employees, provided morning and afternoon snacks, subsidized a cafeteria so staff could eat well but inexpensively. She also encouraged education by paying for any employee who wanted to do night courses for college and establishing a scholarship fund for employees children. She had a full medical clinic on site, paid for group hospitalization benefits and life insurance. Nell installed air conditioning as soon as it was provided to make working conditions more pleasant. Donnelly Garment Company also had a farm and mansion which were made available to employees for picnics, hiking and a rec centre. In 1947 Nelly Don was posting $14 million in annual sales and was the largest company of its kind in the world.
In the 50's Nelly Don's were famous for fit and how well they were made considering they were mass produced, employees were paid some of the highest wages in the industry. The Donnelly Garment Company was an example of what ready-to-wear manufacturing could and should be, high quality garments made by skilled workers in a supportive environment. After selling the business in 57' Nelly continued her involvement in business and civic affairs in Kansas City. She served on the school board, Kansas City Art Institute and many other social and cultural institutions. 
Nelly Don died Sept 8, 1991 at the age of 102, 47 years after her beloved Reed.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August Reading List

So July has come and gone and the blog was neglected during this time ;). My daughter and I were in Ontario, Canada for a month and our available internet was lacking during this time. It was good for both of us to not have constant access to high speed but we are both enjoying having it again now that we are back in Seattle.

The Coat Route - Craft, Luxury & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat by Meg Lukens Noonan is actually a book I picked up at Chapters from the sales racks while away, I then managed to misplace it when I was half way through it. I have a tendency to carry a book with me most of the time and occasionally one gets left behind, I always hope whomever finds my misplaced book enjoys it. This was a book I was enjoying so I ordered a new one as soon as arriving home. The Coat Route is written from the viewpoint of a reporter who was inspired to research how one particular coat was created and the many artisans involved in the process. This book was relevant presently because I was taking a MOOC called Who Made My Clothes on Futurelearn, the course was about discovering what and who is involved in all the clothing we wear. This is a topic near and dear to me and something more people should care about, I am looking forward to finishing the book.

Alligators, Old Mink & New Money by Alison Houtte & Melissa Houtte is something I picked up used in West Seattle at Merryweather Books. Alison Houtte is a former model turned vintage store owner and this is a book about her love for vintage clothing, their stories and adventures. It looks like a light read and it will be my transit book this week. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't misplace it.

Fixing Fashion - Rethinking the Way We Make, Market and Buy Our Clothes by Michael Lavergne is another book I picked up used in West Seattle, it was a good book buying day. This book looks like a drier read but I have come across the author's name before in reference. Michael Lavergne is known as an expert on global fashion and an ethical supply chain professional. It was published in 2015 in Canada so I am looking forward to his viewpoints as many books on similar topics are British based and not published as recently. It will be refreshing to read a Canadian perspective instead of the standard British viewpoint.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: Girling Up & Girl Code

Girling Up by Mayim Bialik was a quick read, it is written for tweens and young women but I enjoyed her humour and anecdotes even though I belong in neither category. She does a wonderful job of emphasizing that everyone feels the odd man out at times. Mayim references many different points of her life, personal and professional(actress and neuroscientist) throughout the book She stresses that she was a late bloomer and jokes that her first kiss was on screen during a Blossom episode and we can now see her portrayal of an socially awkward adult on Big Bang Theory. The book is broken down into six chapters starting with How Our Bodies Work and concluding with How We Matter. She discusses hormones, sexuality, education, respect, self worth and how to deal with life. Mayim does all this in a down to earth manner and it was an enjoyable read.

Girl Code by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser is a book I would strongly recommend to any girl who is considering coding as a career. Both Andrea and Sophie talk about what their perceptions of coding were before and after their experiences within this world. They discuss many preconceptions they started with and how they were altered. Their summer together at Girls Who Code totally changed their lives, the final project resulted in Tampon Run which then went viral and they both learnt a lot about themselves during this time. It will be interesting to see if either girl persues coding or computer science careers later in life. Andrea and Sophie are very different girls and come from very different backgrounds but they found a similar love in coding and striving for social change. Coding provided them both with a voice and a strong sense of accomplishment. 

Both books are very positive and would be a great read for any young women who is struggling to find herself or just needs that little extra support in knowing they are not alone in their struggle. They are being put in the pile of books for my daughter to read which lives beside her bed. I hope she discovers and reads these when the time is right.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Who? Nelly Don the Company and the Woman Part 1

Nelly Don born Ellen Quinlan(1889) in Parsons, Kansas the 12th child of Irish-Americans. After finishing high school at the age of 16 she moved to Kansas City and got a job as a stenographer where she met Paul Donnelly a fellow stenographer whom she married at the age of 17. Nelly wanted to continue her education so when she was 19 Paul helped pay for her to attend Lindenwood College in Missouri, she was the only married student. After graduation in 1909 she returned to being a housewife. Nelly hated the standard fashions available for a housewife at the time so she started to design and create her own housedresses. After being continually asked by neighbours and friends about her clothing she decided to go into business.

At the time housedresses sold for .69 cents and Nelly dresses sold for $1.00 each.  She had a hard time convincing any retailers to sell her dresses until Peck's Dry Goods agreed to take 18 dozen dresses on consignment in 1916. Paul managed to scrape enough money together to buy fabric and some foot pedal sewing machines.It took Nell and two friends sewing for two months to get the order finished. Her pink gingham empire-style housedress which was fitted and trimmed with ruffles sold out in a few days. 

From the very beginning Nelly believed that dresses should look stylish and flattering on women of a wide range of sizing. 

Each design was prototyped in every size to ensure that it fit correctly and little alteration would be needed beyond what Nelly worked into the design of the garment. The dresses often had slide fasteners and adjustable waistlines and belts. Another feature was "Double stitching at the waistline tape in one piece dresses. Rip out the top row of stitching for added shoulder-to-waist length". Most of the dresses could be washed and drip dried with minimum ironing and had at leat one pocket.

Nelly made her first million dollars by 27 by reinventing the housedress. She pioneered clothing piecing production by taking inspiration from aviation and car manufacturing industries on production. By 1923 she employed 250 people(mainly women) and her dresses were sold in most department stores across the U.S. She was always a great publicist as she understood the benefits of cross promotion. She provided all stores with extensive marketing support through pamphlets, radio and newspaper ads but also insisted they agree to exclusivity and sell no other dresses. Many department stores had a whole area which was labeled the Nelly Don Shop.