Monday, April 24, 2017

Organic Cotton - Good or Bad?

Organic Cotton is not the perfect solution and whether it is good or bad can get confusing. It is a good alternative to many other options but one must always be aware of labeling. Unless an item is labeled with accreditation from an appropriate third party the word organic can mean just about any thing. The two most common labels are "Made with Organic" this will normally mean that it is 70% certified organic, the other is "Cerified Organic" this means it was made from 95% organic materials. But until there is a standardized global accreditation that everyone follows this cannot be guaranteed. One of the most common uses for organic cotton presently is large fashion companies using it for about 50% of their blends in t-shirts, some are making an effort to reach "Certified Organic" status. Underwear and infant wear are also areas of fashion where it is consistently becoming more prominant.

Many people living in the United States who are concerned about organics will probably recognize the above logo. This is from the United States Agriculture Department Organics and you may see this occassionally on clothing in the US. This would ensure that the raw cotton was organic but not that the rest of the process involved in the making of the garment was enviromentally conscious.

GOTS goal is to help standardize regulation between countries on what constitutes an organic textile. Organizations from Canada, United States, Japan and Britian etc belong to this larger international accreditation board. In a lot of ways organic clothing is like organic food, make sure you read the labels for fibres/ingredients. Garments that  are labeled FairTrade plus Organic are the most enviromentally conscious, that is unless you are also concerned about your carbon footprint. As I said it can all get confusing. The basic thing to remember is Knowledge is Power. Every individual needs to decide what their priorities are when it comes to Eco Fashion and often they may use some form of a sliding scale. I also include whether it is Made Local and the companies general business practices in my equation which can confuse things even more.

Now on to some basic pros and cons of raw organic cotton.
-Farmers exposure to toxins greatly reduced
-cotton is a breathable, lightweight fabric choice for a large variety of clothing eg. t-shirts, jeans and other casuals
-normally done as a rotaing crop which helps maintain soil fertility
-better for protection of local wildlife as no leeching of chemicals into surrounding enviroment 
-premium normally paid to farmers approx. 20% more
-if FairTrade farmers are also guaranteed better wages and conditions
- a variety of cooperatives are being created in developing countries to help small farmers
-hypo allergenic

-whether organic cotton or conventional cotton it is one of the most water intensive crops. It is the 2nd thirstiest crop in industrialized countries and 4th in developing countries
-organic agriculture at the moment is still less efficient, meaning same amount of resources produce a lower volume of product - organic yields are often 25% less then conventional
-weed control can be an issue - thus more labour intensive, often greater fuel emissions and wear and tear on equipment which equals higher carbon footprint
-a bug infestation can cause devastating effects and can lead to 50% or greater loss in total yield
-must be cleaned before processing so this can be an added expense
-certification is normally to expensive for farmers, especially in developing countries. It also takes a minimum of three years to attain
-cost of finished garment more expensive for consumer
-limitation of colourways available to keep finished textiles organic

Is any type of cotton garment truly sustainable? This question can open up a whole new debate. Over the last century Cotton Growers have often been under scrutiny on various practices. There has been issues of poor working conditions, slave labour, child labour etc. It is also said that fashion manufacturing is only 2nd to the oil as the most polluting industry. Many fashion companies are making a conscious effort to become more eco friendly and this is a great movement to support. We all need to think how our purchasing actions effect others and the world we live in so any knowledge of where, what, how and who made our clothing is a wonderful base for this. A good hashtag to check out for this on social media is #whomademyclothes 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Eco Chic

"Eco Chic The Savvy Shoppers guide to ethical fashion" by Matilda Lee was published in 2007. Being published in 2007 many of the companies that are covered are sadly gone. This is partially due to the recession of 2008 that continued until 2010 and beyond. Many fledgling eco companies were effected by this as often profit margins are less in these types of businesses. People also weren't willing to pay a bit more for what was often considered a luxury item. Enviromental concerns often loose out to personal finances, a main factor in why fast fashion is so popular. 

Matilda Lee covers the topic of Fast Fashion and our Throwaway Culture throughout the book. Which one came first? This is a question that will never be resolved, I think they go hand in hand and it is a difficult cycle to break. There has been advancement in attempts to break this cycle since things like the Bangladesh factory collapse in 2013. The news coverage and resulting documentaries including "The True Cost" have made the general public more aware. People are becoming more concerned with how and where their clothing is made and companies are becoming more transparent with the details. A good example is People Tree, they are an enviromentally friendly fair trade pioneer in the fashion world, founded in 1991 and still going strong. They have a wonderful website which clearly states their mission, has a meet the maker section and presently they are running the #5 Looks Challenge. 
PeopleTree #5Look Challenge 

What constitues a Green Fabric? Is cotton a good option? These are questions asked in the book and no there are no defintive answers. Knowledge and making informed decisions are the two most important things when it comes to eco fashion. Matilda Lee obviously did a lot of research to write this book and she passes her knowledge to the reader.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Staycation for Spring Break - Marimekko & Ballard

Yesterday as part of our Staycation during my daughter's Spring break, her and I went to the Nordic Heritage Museum. This is a museum in the Ballard area of Seattle. It's main focus is the Nordic people who moved to this area of the NorthWest and it is presently located in an old school. It is a very informational museum and I love the fact that they quite often have exhibits related to textiles in some manner.The draw for me this time was the Marimekko with love exhibit.

This exhibit is on loan from the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. This is also an excellent museum tho it seemed I never made it there often when living in Ontario, I guess my excuse is it was approx. a 3 hour drive from home. Marimekko is a Finnish home furnishings, textiles and fashion company based in Helsinki. They are known for their graphic bold prints, we both fell in love with the x-large beanbags that were situated around the exhibit. I am thinking I shall have to put one on my wishlist.

Pictures were not allowed in the main exhibit area, but there was a variety of fabrics and clothing on display along with a short film. One area I found interesting was the bios for some of the head textile designers over the years along with examples of their work. It is on until July 9th so if you happen to be in Seattle and like textiles check it out.

After the exhibit my daughter and I walked down to the Ballard Locks, first stopping at Totem Red Mill Burgers for lunch. The locks are nice but the novelty is lost on us. We come from an area in Canada referred to the Land O Lakes with a lot of waterways and canals so are quite accustomed to the workings of a lock. Will probably go back once the botanical gardens are in full bloom as it is a very nice area to walk around in.

Before heading home we decided to wander around a bit in downtown Ballard. We discovered a cool little art place called Push/Pull which carries indie comics and local artists work. They have a couple of pinball machines, something which we both always approve of. It looks like they also do a variety of comic and drawing classes which I may have to look into. Another place we had fun wandering around in was the Ballyhoo Curiousity Shop, if you ever have a need for some taxidermy, skulls, bones or  quirky antiques this is the place to go. From here we went to Space Oddity Vintage, here I was tempted by test tubes, flasks and some vintage card catalogues. Our last stop before catching the bus was Lucca Great Finds, here I purchased some new pencils and was tempted by a pair of Merchant & Mills scissors.

My New Pencils :)
Our day in Ballard was a nice way to spend part of our Staycation and the weather even cooperated.

Friday, April 7, 2017

What is a Toque?

So since moving to Seattle I have discovered I use words that the average person here does not know. Toque is just one of them but it is one that often results in a conversation started with What is a Toque?

Being Canadian means I have a different meaning for this word then some other people. And No a Beanie and a Toque are NOT the SAME.

a close-fitting knitted hat, often with a tassel or pom-pom on the crown

So this is about the closet definition to what I would define as a toque. It also needs enough length so that you can turn up the edge so you can have an extra layer of warmth for your ears. And a proper toque should definitely be knit, personally I crochet more but a crocheted toque just don't seem right somehow.

A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles

Type: 1. Origin - Toque was borrowed into English from French and has been used to designate certain kinds of hats since the 16th century, including chefs' hats and lawyers' hats. Toque may also refer to a style of women's hat fashionable in North America in the late 19th century. In Canada, this word and the spelling tuque was likely borrowed from Canadian French, as the hat was associated with French Canadians. Voyageurs and lumbermen wore tuques with long tails, later the meaning was generalized to include those without tails. Toque is also culturally significant as one of the most widely known Canadianisms and is often used as a generic name for winter hats, at least by younger residents.

Here is the type of picture I would of been given in elementary school in either french class or social studies of the traditional French Canadian Voyageur. I remember kids joking that he was wearing Santa's hat. You can also see that the French spelling is tuque here, sometimes you will also see touque.

So here is an image of a very basic toque with a moderate size pompom. You can pull it down to cover the back of your neck some or you can fold the edge and get double thickness over the ears.

If you were lucky maybe you would have one with an oversize pompom. Those were the ones I loved. It was an awesome Snow Day if you came back in and it looked like you had a snowball attached to the top of your head. You were then told to take it back outside and you knocked it onto the side of the house to remove the snow and ice.Then you brought it in and put it on the radiator/woodstove or somewhere to complete melting and be nice and toasty next time you ventured outside.

Here's one that actually says Canada. Not handmade but it is technically a toque and I these are the type I most commonly see here on the West Coast, though normally with a sports team written on them instead of Canada.

Without the pompom or at least a tassel the toque then becomes a watchmans hat to me. And then from there they can start to develop into a beanie. A beanie is most commonly crocheted, does not fold up at edge, and fits tight to the skull. If it is made from fabric it becomes a skullcap. Or if it is loose at the back of the head it is then a slouchy beanie. I know I am being particular but it is one of those things I always thought of as pretty common knowledge. I admit this may be because clothing definitions are important to me. I also have a tendency to be a little specific about colour terms, both are side effects of an education in fashion. But the main thing that I am reminded of when a conversation like this starts is how people from different regions and generations can call things such different names or be confused by anothers terminology. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"The Game Believes In You" - Computers, Coding + Education

 "The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter" by Greg Toppo sucked me in. I ended up finishing this quickly, read the first couple of chapters on the bus. Then last Thursday after my dentist appointment I sat down and read the rest, thus didn't get a lot else done that day. So I guess officially I read the book in March but since I had already decided it was part of my April list ;). 

So this book does a very good job of supporting it's title, it starts with the topic of how math games such as ST Math and it's mascot JiJi the pengion have entered many American elementary schools. One of the best features of this game which I feel is a very strong feature is that there are no language barriers as most of the game is based on visuals. So children who haven't learnt to read or have english as a second language can improve on their math skills also.

Greg also touches on the history of programming and how it has delved into the field of education throughout this. Educational psychologists as early as 1950s-1960s were suggesting that pre-programmed "teaching machines" be brought into the classrooms, they were even going as far as to suggest they replace teachers completely. They felt that the machines would be better equipped in dealing with students differences of learning. Each child would be working at their own speed and learning to their full potential, it was a very idealsitic dream at the time as technology was still not advanced enough to accomodate the concept.

1960s Teaching machine designed by Sidney Pressey & Burrhus Skinner

1960s Jetsons TV Series
This whole topic lead me down the slippery slope of reading about different teaching machines which were being created as early as the 1910s. They have changed greatly over the eras but the basic concept is normally the same, how to teach children efficiently and the most effectively. Greg discusses both the pros and cons of these devices in his book.

 One of the quotes I really liked was from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi "The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile" or "Optimal experience is thus something we make happen". In the 1980s Csikszentmihalyi developed the notion of "optimal experience" or "flow" a state when a person's abilities match the task at hand so perfectly that the work necessary becomes invisible.

Greg also covers a variety of schools which are known for utilizing game design and computers heavily in their curriculiums. Quest To Learn in New York is a good example in this category. There have been many revamps throughout its development and no the kids don't just play computer games all day. A feature at the school is project intensives and what I would call cross pollination of subjects. A very strong feature is that students are required to question how things are constructed and why they are made that way, then asked to reconstruct them. Everyone should always question Why? and How?. Reading the book probably creates as many questions as it answers, but I personally think that is a good sign in a book and a school.

Monday, April 3, 2017

April's Reading List

For the month of April I have choosen three books to read. This is something I am going to try to do each month, read at least two or three non-fiction books. I read a lot so it shouldn't be that difficult but I have decided to be a bit more organized about it. I also purchase a lot of books so this will be a good way to go through some of the backlog.

The first is "Eco Chic - The Savvy shoppers guide to ethical fashion" by Matilda Lee. This is a book many other books reference and I finally ordered a used copy from England. It was published in 2007 so I am sure some of it will be dated. What has attracted me was the fact that it is one of the early books to deal with the topic of Eco Fashion or ethical fashion. Before 2007 these were not terms the average consumer would of been aware of.

"The Lost Art of Dresses - The Women Who Once Made America Stylish" by Linda Pryzybyszewski is a book I picked up at University Bookstore. It was first published in 2014 and is the history of the "Dress Doctors" and fashion from about 1910-1960. It also discusses and laments the loss of home economics being taught in school. I also think it is a shame that home economics is no longer considered worthy of being taught in school, this is one of the things that attracted me to the book. I also love the concept of a "Dress Doctor" partially due to the fact that I think many people should see one, mostly so they could learn how clothing should fit.

The third book I have picked is "The Game Believes In You - How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter" by Greg Topppo, published in 2015. I have been fascinated for a while by how computers and coding can benefit the youth of today and have been researching it in a variety of ways. My research has taken me down a variety of paths including learning some programming languages, experimenting with a Raspberry Pi and electronics, and of course gaming. Gaming is a topic that causes very strong reactions in most people. I have always seen both benefits and disadvantages from gaming so am curious how it is approached. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Reorganizing - Books Etc

I have been reorganizing a lot lately. I needed to make room for a desk in my studio and finish sorting boxes that were still unsorted from the move. So the task was successful. I now have many of my books in my bedroom and some of them in my husband's home office. While going through the many books I own I eliminated some, they made their way into some of the local Little Free Libraries( I love these, and there are quite a few in the area). As you can see from the following picture I still have a few books. My studio is also nicely organized at the present with all notions sorted by type and then colour.

As I went through my books, I decided some were worth rereading and others I just didn't want to give up. I also have many fashion reference books which I use off and on. Some of them quite frequently, often it is for a particular design I may have in my mind and I want to refresh myself on a technique or fabric compatibility. I now have books picked out for the next few months to be read, because of course I found some books that had been boughten and not read yet. About once a year I check my books for this, you know the ones that got misplaced in a pile somewhere.

One of the books I pick up and reread parts of now and then is "how to start a home-based Fashion Design Business" by Angela Wolf. This is partially due to the advice Angela has at the end of the book that it is a good idea to reevaluate your business every 6 months.

I have a tendency to be neglectful of doing proper paperwork at times, which is the main reason it is very good for me to reference Angela's book. It helps remind me to fill out my worksheets when working on a new design, or when I am doing some custom work for a client. Many clients don't care about a detailed invoice explaining every cost involved but I find they work well for my records in the end when giving a new client a quote.

This time I picked it up because I am presently setting up a US business bank account, registering my businees in Seattle and working on a new eCommerce site. Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. Thought it was a good way to help make sure I wasn't forgetting anything. Going back to the basics  is something we should all do occassionally. Right now I am dealing with the differences of business in Canada and the US, there has been a bit of a learning curve. This whole move has helped remind me how complacent you can get and how easy it is to pick up bad habits.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Simplicity 0591 - Cosplay

This was a free pattern that came with an issue of Cosplay Culture 
magazine. I have been enjoying reading the Cosplay Culture magazine for the last three issues. I am even considering getting an actual subscription instead of picking them up at Barnes & Noble when I notice a new one. I partially decided to pick up the first one I bought because it had a free pattern with it. Cross promotion and free things worked on me this time. My daughter had been telling me she needed a new cloak so I decided to get the magazine and give the pattern a whirl. Since then I have purchsed two more magazines.

When I was digging through some of the numerous bins of fabric stored in the basement trying to sort them, I happened to come across some black crushed velvet. It was enough fabric for the cape with hood, Score!! There was also a piece of sparkly fabric just big enough to line the hood. I decided lining the cape wasn't really necessary if I serged all the seams and the velvet had enough weight.

 Then I dug some more and found a patterned burgundy velvet to make the hat. I used a piece of black felt on the underside of the brim to give it some more structure and finished the edge with some satin bias tape.

I opted to make the medium cape with hood so either my daughter or I could wear it. It is about 10" shorter then the original pattern as she is 5'1", it ended up being about ankle length on her. On me it is below the knees so it works for both of us. The cape has a yoke piece which I always prefer as it helps with the drape of the fabric.
The hat has a piece of wire in the back seam so you can shape the crown some, which my daughter and her bestie thought was wonderful.

I had made these partly so they could be worn at Mythicworlds but we had Seattle weather that weekend, actually it was raining harder then normal for here. Anyways they did not get worn but the cape has presently taken up residence on my mannequin which lives by the front door. We switch up her outfits off and on. The hat has made its way to my daughters chest of dress up clothes aka cosplay outfits. Dressup clothes is no longer an acceptable term in the house, terminology sometimes has to change as they get older ;).

Monday, March 27, 2017

Getting Established in Seattle

In the last while I have been reworking things for my business. The first hurdle was to get an employment card in the US so I could legimitely earn money there. It has been a bit of a learning curve sorting out immigration status,fillling out it seems scads of paperwork, filing for a business licence, getting a US social etc. Something the average person doesn't really concern themselves with, though in today's culture is becoming more common. 

A nice view of Seattle from Kerry Park outlook

For the last while I have been continuing with my some of my established clientele in Ontario but customs often throws a hurdle in my way there. When shipping items across country and into a different country, customs and other shipping costs throw a whole new expense into your world. So keeping those relationships viable is sometimes a challenge. I do greatly appreciate my Ontario clientele but we all have to admit I am no longer residing in Canada. Made In Canada has long been one of my selling points and it is no longer true presently. Also Made Locally does not work in that sense anymore. I am a strong supporter of Made Locally so thus while in Seattle, well Seattle is my Made Locally :).

Another focus of my business is ethical/eco fashion and I have very mixed opinions on shipping when I consider this. Are you really maintaining a small carbon footprint when you include all the shipping that is often part of creating and supplying ethical/eco fashion?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Documentary - Code Debugging the Gender Gap

Code Debugging The Gender Gap by filmaker Robin Hauser Reynolds. My husband, daughter and I went to a screening of this documentary hosted by Amazon last night. My husband falls into the category of the concerned father of a daughter who may enter the world of coding and computers. He is also a strong believer that you should pursue what you love and it shouldn't be hindered by gender or colour. In the panel and Q&A after the movie Robin mentions that Dad's often question her how they can help change things so it is easier for their daughters when they enter the workforce. Her main recommendation is to add your voice and support to encouraging diversity. The tech world is like many other careers out there, if you happen to be a women or a person of colour it is most likely you are treated differently then the white males at the same company. A variety of groups and individuals are trying to change this in the fast growing world of tech.

Something that stood out to me throughout the film was that coding and computers have become an important part of life. So why aren't kids being taught more about it throughout their school years? I come from the world of fashion in my career choice and computers have become an integral part of this world also. Knowing the basics of coding and how computers work has practically become a neccessity, be it for your website, design and production or marketing. I find that there is more blurring of the lines between what is tech/business and tech/creativity. Computers have become another essential tool to becoming successful in practically any type of career. Knowing the basics of computers is about equal to knowing how to read and write nowadays.

This documentary does a great job discussing this matter with a good variety of people both male and female. It has people from Etsy, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and more all talking about how they are trying to make their teams more diverse. Thus far it has been an uphill battle with many potholes but progress is being made. Etsy has went so far as to start their own intensive training courses to increase the job pool. I know Amazon has a few organizations within the company to help and encourage female employees along with their diversity team. Anything that helps people to be treated as an individual instead of being accessed for their gender, colour or cultural background is wonderful. In an ideal world it wouldn't be necessary but I think we have a ways to go before that happens.

If you have a chance to view the movie - Go for It. 

The movie is a great conversation starter and provides a variety of potential ways to decrease the gender gap. It is encouraging to see a range of organizations debunking the myth that a career in tech is for white males. Training is gradually being made more accessible to the general person and girls are being encouraged to persue a computer science education. There is still a long ways to go and this is something everyone should be aware of. But if you know someone whose interest is twigged by coding start checking for local oppportunites for them to learn. CoderDojo is one I like or check out

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Review - Unmentionable The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners

Therese Oneill's book Unmentionable The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners is a fun light hearted read. One of those books you pick up and read a chapter, giggle a bit and put aside for some amusement another day. It will burst many idealized views of the Victorian era something which Horrible Histories has been doing for a while. The nice thing about this books is that it focuses on women and their plights.

It strips away much of the glamour that is shown in the standard movie set during the Victorian times. Most of the movies show the people as looking very glamourous in their dress and freshly bathed. Both these things were not really part of the Victorian life. Therese Oneill gets down to much of the nitty gritty about a Victorian life, lack of clean water being a big part of that. People very seldom bathed and their general cleanliness or lack there of would make most of us shudder. We must always remember they did not have the general conveniences of running water let alone showers.

She also covers menstruation, cosmetics, undergarments and the many perils connected with them. Each of these things could result in sickness and perhaps even death. Often women were institutionalized when they suffered from maladies of womanhood, though this was a method more affluent society used to deal with their women. Women of the working class had to learn how to deal with strenous labour, being responsible for the running of the household and during this have multiple children. Once you start studying any era, class distinction becomes an important part of it. Therese's use of historical publications through their pictures and ads is a humourous addition to many of the chapters.

A fun addition to my collection of fashion related books as many of them are very textbook like. This is a more accessible book to the average reader(someone who isn't fascinated with the history of textile mills) as long as you are ok with the humour and snarkiness it contains. The chapter titles reveal a lot about the book - The Treacherous Art of Bathing, Being a Good Wife: How to Avoid His Eventual Resentment for as Long as Possible, Public Behaviour:Avoiding Scorn, Dangers and Museums just being some examples. This was a wonderful book to take with me on transit as it is perfect for reading in snippets, and not so acedemic that being surrounded by distractions is a problem.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


 (ICI) developed and trademarked Crimplene in the 1950s. The thick polyester yarn is called Crimplene as is fabric made from this yarn. The yarn can be woven, but was most usually seen in a double knit. Crimplene fabric is heavy, wrinkle-resistant, wash-and-wear and easy to sew.
Crimplene will always give me fond memories. As a young child I remember having numerous outfits and other things made from the fabric. We lived in an area where various family friends worked at the Celenese plant in Millhaven. It was the Millhaven Fibers Plant and was the third polyester plant in the world opening in the fall of 1955. I always just remembered it as Celenese in Millhaven but see that name entered in 1972. It had started life as a polyester tire plant but in the late 60's early 70's it switched to yarns. The reason I had numerous things made from crimplene was the fact that the plant sold ends by the pound. I remember digging through a garbage bag, picking out colours, and then cutting squares so a blanket could be made. It seemed everyone in the neighbourhood had one of these blankets in their car, on the porch, with the picnic basket. It was something that could be thrown on the ground and easily washed out and then hung on the line if it got dirty.
During the 80's lines kept shutting down in the plant and they became one of the many textiles plants that closed or were retrofitted to create something else. Millhaven Fibers ceased to exist and now Celenese creates emulsion polymers and medical molds etc, not crimplene.

 Various adverts can be found like the one above showing men's shirts made from the fabric. I mostly just remember men wearing the pants and seeing what was referred to as leisure suits on TV. Like Mr Furley on Three's Company, this is how I practically always picture Don Knotts.

This following pattern picture is one of the most common looks I remember. These are also similar to what you can mostly find at vintage or thrift shops now. The vibrancy of the colours and prints were exceptional and it is one of the reasons crimplene is so recognizable and still has a following. Much of the clothing you can find nowaday looks new, the main thing when looking at it is to check for pilling, snags and pulls. But then if you are a purchaser of vintage or used clothing this is one of the standards to check for on anything.

 This is more similar to what I would of been wearing. Though by the time I reached the age of the girls in the advert I refused to wear crimplene. It may be extremely easy to care for because it was wash and wear but I assure you on a hot day it is not your friend.

Now if I could of had an outfit like Diana Riggs/Emma Peel from The Avengers I probably would of lived in it. This is one of the iconic looks of Emma Peel. I always was envious of her wardrobe and I have to admit I still am. She was one of the first strong self-sufficient women I remember from TV and she had the coolest clothes and boots.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Educational Commercials & Slippery Slopes

Yesterday I went down that slippery slope that happens sometimes when you start researching something. Intially I was looking for a particular documentary (Bra Wars: Boom or Bust) which I never did find. Will have to keep searching for that and maybe eventually I will get to watch it. But I did start finding a variety of what is classified as educational commercials put out during the 40's. 

These are actually quite fascinating in a surreal sort of way. Many of them start with a plot very reminescent of the movies of that decade. You Tube has scads of these commercials posted once you start looking or if you just click on a few of the suggestions on the sidebar. I am aware that my sidebar is probably quite different then many people out there. That thing called search history is sometimes a benefit, sometimes not.

Here is an example that I found quite surreal, it involves a dream sequence and time travel. I will warn you it is around a 1/2 hour to watch and at the end you may question why you kept watching but hopefully not. It is titled Tomorrow Always Comes and you will be introduced to Bur-Mil Rayon Fabric and Newform slips. It is interesting to see how greatly advertising has changed and in many ways the customer was probably better informed then today. They even cover the best way to wash Bur-Mil Rayon and discuss its colour fastness. This is only one of many I ended up watching and it led to a variety of research into fabrics and their creation. The history of textiles is a very fascinating topic to me and I don't need much encouragment to increase my education on the topic. I am sure this may result in a few more blog posts.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pattern Review - Butterick B5997

The other day at Barnes & Noble I decided to pick up the latest SewStyle magazine as a treat for myself. It had a variety of patterns packaged with it, the Butterick B5997 was one of them along with a wrap dress which I may try eventually. I had been thinking of making myself a simple cotton sleeveless blouse so I started digging through some of my fabric.

I knew I had purchased some cottons when I was last at Esther's Fabrics on Bainbridge Island. Esther's is well worth the visit but be warned you will mostly likely find something you have to buy ;). Across the street there is also a wonderful yarn shop called Churchmouse Yarns & Teas. Bainbridge Island also has a marvelous museum -Bainbridge Island Museum of Art- which has a special focus on local area artists. Going across on the ferry and just walking a short distance can make for a great afternoon. (That's my commercial for a trip to Bainbridge Island done lol)

After digging for a while I found my pile of prewashed cottons. The fabric I decided to use was the end of a bolt I had got at Esther's and there was just enough with a little creative pattern outlay.

I modified the pattern slightly by only doing one pin tuck on the front instead of the three on the pattern. I also extended it down further. Another tweak was merging sizes a bit as I have hips and I don't like my tops to get caught on them. Side slits were another addition for the same reason.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

It Started With Some Fabric From Spoonflower

Tiny Steampunk Octopuses 6 by Jade Gordon which I purchased from Spoonflower Fabrics. At first I wasn't sure what colours to pick up and then I decided to just go for it. So the results was a very punchy bright bra and pantie set. The panties have a bright orange back.

I am quite happy with the bra and it fits well. Used the Simplicity 8229 by Madalynne as my starting point for the bra. Changed the strap by making them from the same fabric as frame. Also decided to use some colourful elastics I had and treat it like FOE(fold over elastic). Otherwise used the pattern with a few fitting tweaks that I have documented and included in the pattern sleeve for future reference. It has been a challenge for me but I have been doing a better job of keeping my notes for each pattern organized and all together. When I get working I have a tendency to create piles that then get set aside and sometimes piled with another pile. Have finally realized digging through piles and searching for loose notes is not the best use of my time and guess what sometimes it is really frustrating ;).

Now the panties were not such a success. I manged to pin them on the mannequin so they fit more like what I was going for but they need some alterations. The main problem was the heavy elastic I used on the waist and legs. Basically it makes both too loose aka too large. The leg in the back actually sits away from my bum, I really hate pantie lines, but this is definitely not a solution. Perhaps if I cut them apart at the side seam and change the angle of the seam and remove some excess fabric I can make them wearable. Already determined it was way too much work to rip off the elastic and start anew but I refuse to just toss them. The elastic may of been fine if I had used different fabric for the back but I went for a stretch mesh - Note to self Stretch mesh and heavy elastic don't play well together.

Stretch mesh has been my go to fabric lately for panties especially when I am trying to match another fabric. I bought a nice variety of colours at Pacific Fabric and it is something they consistently have. But stretch mesh doesn't work with everything no matter how hard I try to make it. The issue with making panties is that I don't really like tricot that much for them. Other options are stretch laces but sometimes that is more textured then I want. As for a nice light cotton spandex mix I haven't been having much luck finding that. To create a nice basic pair of panties sometimes seems quite elusive. Something with no prints, no texture and breathable fabric.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Review - Demystifying Bra Fitting & Construction

This is a book by Norma Loehr of Orange Lingerie. I read it originally close to two years ago when I initially purchased a copy but when I decided to finally use her Marlborough bra pattern I decided a reread would be good. The layout is simple and concise and works well for reference. Norma covers various fitting issues and her suggestions of alterations to a full frame bra pattern are presented well. She covers simple tricks for sewing with bra fabrics and how to fit an underwire correctly. The fact that she stresses well fitting underwire is essential is something I strongly agree with. Just switching out underwire in a ready to wear bra can create a drastic difference in its fit. This is something I have done for clients so they can actually get some wear out of bras that otherwise would just remain in their lingerie drawer.

A chapter which I think anyone making bras can benefit from is The Bridge Test. Norma does a great job of explaining in great detail how to do this while stressing that the space between an individuals breasts can vary greatly from person to person. The ideal fit for a bra is for the bridge to rest flat against your body. Now this is a bit difficult to do yourself so this is where a bra fitting buddy can be beneficial. Anyone who has tried to take accurate measurements themselves can attest to the fact it is better if you a have a measuring buddy when sizing a pattern.

A good friend and I had an amusing time following Norma's instructions to the tee. We actually followed her fitting techniques from start to finish. It was the perfect way to truly test the book. It helped my friend understand how a bra should correctly fit and I got to prove some points by attempting to fit what I knew to be totally wrong. She came away with a lot more knowledge on why she had a hard time finding bras that fit correctly and I got to practice how to best phrase certain questions when dealing with a client. Many people are not comfortable discussing measurements let alone ones for their intimate wear. Fitting ready to wear bras can be a challenge due to the intimacy involved but custom bra fitting can be even more intimate.

I would recommend this book it actually does Demystify various aspects of bras. The layout also makes it easy to reference when wanting to double check something be it for your own creations or to help explain the procedure of bra fitting to a client.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pattern Review - Marlborough Bra

The Marlborough Bra by Orange Lingerie. This is a pattern I actually got a while ago but for some reason didn't get around to trying out. It is a nice pattern though the fit is a bit off for me. I changed up the pattern some by doing two straps. As I have mentioned I often have an issue with my straps sliding. So I revamped the pattern a bit and did two straps with them attached separately on the back band.

One of the other alterations I did to the pattern is using the bra frame for a 38", this provides a better fit for me. It seems in general that the 38" underwires sit better on my body, that is after I shorten them ;) so I thought lets just start with that size in the frame also and see how that fares. In general I have a tendency to like experimenting and testing theories of my own. So my experiment worked with this pattern on the band fit. I also went with the 38 cup size but I should of remembered to take a bit out of the arc of the cup as there is a smidge too much room there aka I don't quite fill them. The top of the cup fits smoothly and I like how they sit otherwise so next time I will reduce the arc slightly.    

To go with the bra I also made a basic pair of panties with a plain blue mesh back. The Marlborough pattern is good for someone who has some previous experience sewing bras, I wouldn't recommend it for a novice. Something that I like about it is that you can end up with very different looks without changing the pattern much.

Something to remember with bras is that no two women have the exact same proportions. I personally prefer a band size that is technically at least two sizes too big. I can get away with this partially due to the fact that I do not need much support compared to many women. As I have been experimenting with a variety of patterns I find what fits me best (most comfortably and still provides support) is not the recommended size by the designer. This is an issue I have with clothing in general, I have never been able to find something just off the rack that fits correctly without alterations. So my tendency is to buy too large and then alter as needed. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sourcing Supplies - Our Fabric Stash

Since moving to Seattle I have been constantly looking for new places to buy my supplies. I admit I had been a bit spoiled before as I had a wholesale account with H.A. Kidd who I got my thread from along with the majority of my basic elastics. Something I still have not discovered here in the US. It is very strange but no one in Seattle seems to carry Gutterman thread which has been my favourite thread for years. Thankfully I had done an order just before moving but certain colours have come to an end or are nearing that state. Coats seems to be the standard carried by the shops here, I have given in and bought a few. They are better then I remember but the spools don't work as well on my machines.Well enough lamenting my thread habit, I know the average person would think I had enough to last years if not decades. 

This is where I store my many colours of thread, approx 75% of the drawers contain them. The other 25% is made up of lingerie elastic, underwires, bra sliders/rings and underwire chaneling. I am so happy with these drawers(IKEA) as they keep many essentials conveniently by my sewing machines.

During my search for supplies I came across a treasure of a store. Our Fabric Stash which has a location lower level 3 in Seattle's Pike Place Market
If you happen to be in downtown Seattle and are a lover of fabric make sure you drop by. It is always a mystery of what they may have and give yourself minimum 1/2 hour to just dig amongst the textiles. I have been quite lucky at times, one time I found some offcuts of cotton t-shirts which I then used to try a variety of underwear designs. Here is a sampling.

It was a wonderful way to have an assortment of colour options and it was also keeping fabric out of landfill where offcuts often end up.

I have also found a variety of vintage fabrics at Our Fabric Stash. It is so exciting when one of her vendors have decided to part with some of their stash. I love vintage fabrics. I must admit I have a few totes of them in my basement but that doesn't mean I can't get more. Often they are small pieces but they have been inspiration at times for me to create.

This Marlborough Bra was created using a late 60's perhaps early 70's printed floral that I discovered at Our Fabric Stash. It sat for a while in my studio until I discovered some vintage lace I had overdyed when tidying. I am quite happy with the combination the only issue is that it is a small fit partially due to the fabric ;). The next thing on my worktable is the colourway of the recommended fabrics to try a true test of the pattern. One of my best and worst characteristics is that I am not a strict follower of recommendations. Having this trait means I need to get better about doing an accurate stretch test of my fabric when experimenting. Not just a quick one but actually measure stretch and then compare with standard fabric I use. It would have been a tragedy if this was meant for a client and it hadn't fit. Though the positive side is I have enough fabric left to do at least one more bra and it has reminded me to be more stringent with doing fabric stretch tests.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Florence from Seamwork - Pattern Review

Florence a lounge bra available from the online magazine Seamwork. It is promoted as a simple and comfortable soft bra, it is definitely both of these things. Basic sewing skills are needed and of course some nice stretch lace. 

I had some very soft comfy black stretch lace that I bought from Sew Sassy Fabrics and some scraps of duoplex from a previous project. 

Front view

Side view

Back view

The pattern consists of three pieces which creates ease of construction. The band is nice and wide in the back with only a centre seam. I did one of my standard revamps and extended the straps down into the band, this time by at about 2 1/2 inches. Still liking the added stability this creates and my straps slip less on my shoulders. The cup is two pieces with a vertical seam which is then sewn into the band. For a little added structure elastic is sewn along the top of the outer cup pieces, the inner cup uses the scalloped edge of the lace for the top. This bra is not going to provide much support to the well endowed but then that is why it is labeled as a lounge bra. For us ladies who are in the A to C range of cup size it is perfect for those days you want a bra but not the structure.

I would recommend this pattern for anyone who wants to dip their toes into the art of making lingerie. It has the basic structural details of a bra frame/band, cups and straps. The Florence is one of those nice introductory projects which won't scare off a novice. But it is also one of those projects perfect for a more experienced sewer who just wants to whip something up. I am also thinking it may make a nice starter bra for someone new to the concept of wearing them.