Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A very merry un-birthday

A few weeks ago I began to think about why I started this blog. I have been thinking up a new 2010 project and its relationship to my opening post and the post by Kate Davies that inspired this blog. I have found that I started this blog as my sewing and knitting and all things related haven just over a year ago. Before beginning a new project I thought this would be a good time to check in and give myself a bit of an evaluation of the past year.
I have not been the creator of a mass of perfect garments for myself as I perhaps thought I would be but I did make a few things. More importantly I learned a few things about sewing, knitting, fashion history, the sewing blogger community and most importantly about myself and where I fit in and feel comfortable among all of those things. I had decidedly stated that I was not ready to stop buying clothing for an entire year (with a whole crock of bad excuses) and then that was exactly what I did! At least mentally anyway. I bought a few items during my trip to Israel in August and a couple more in the Fall that still need to be documented so I can get out of Re-Fashionista Jail but I was much more conscious about what I bought and tried to make more than I bought, Being more self-sufficient is an idea that I have grown increasingly attached to, in all aspects of my life. I am trying to be a more conscious (vs. unconscious) consumer. I try to buy from local shops, buy used items when I can, and donate or repurpose what I no longer need before I think of just throwing it away. I am not always perfect in these aspects but I am more aware of them and my 2010 project will continue to explore these ideas.

So the year in review:

Tree dress

Tartan School Tote

Summer Dress

Floral Fall Shirt

Find me on

Art Smock

Corduroy Jumper

I participated in my first clothing swap through which much of my unwanted clothes received new lives and I received:
a cardigan, a little black dress, a wrap-to be used as dress material, and a skirt I liked the design of that I would like to copy

Fixed 2 winter coat pockets and completely replaced one more

Learned how to create faux smocking with elastic thread in my sewing machine (Used to repair Arabian Princess Dress)

I attended 2 natural dyeing workshops and taught my first knitting class (I hope to do more of both of these things)

Jersey dress (I wear this ALL the time. Definitely a good buy if there ever was one) and Belt (often worn like this or a variety of other blouses and other dresses. I wear this a lot. I need more waist fitted belts)

Tunic top (good with skinny jeans or as a beach dress)

Leggings, black (this doesn't need a picture does it?)

Sweatpants (this doesn't need a picture either, right? Haven't owned a pair since high school. I did wear these all winter as they are super comfy for around the house.)

Sweater Coat (This was my main splurge. I just loved it so much and I don't really have a between jacket. I get lots of compliments on it. It isn't wind proof though. I have thought of lining it with a breathable wind breaking liner (also one that is silky as it is currently lined with fleece that sticks to my clothes and makes it sometimes hard to put on))

Bought but does not require a Get Out of Jail Pass:

Cute shoes

Memphis Belle Dress

2 vintage handkerchiefs

Paris Scarf

Monday, March 22, 2010

V is for Victory

and D is for Darning.

I have been wondering and hunting for some darning wool. I was beginning to think it would be impossible to find and I would have to attempt to dig up the stash of it I got at an estate sale when I was a child. If it is still in will all my childhood belongings at my parents' house. Then last week I went to Loopy Yarns to pick some more yarn for my Sartorialiste scarf (which I have completely frogged and have re-started) and there in the sock room in the back corner it was. A whole display of unassuming neutral colored cards of darning yarn looking exactly as I remember them looking when I was a kid. They are selling it more as re-enforcing yarn to carry along with your main yarn when knitting toes and heels but it is also labeled "darning yarn." I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I wanted to buy one of every color. I stuck to just buying one, in a olive green, because I just busted a hole in a pair of green socks and have yet to actually try my hand at darning. I would say that it is relatively inexpensive at $3 a card compared to buying (or knitting) a new pair of socks. And don't forget the priceless joy of learning a new skill and reveling in being a grandma waaay before your time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mauve: the color that changed the world

Fashion plate, day dresses, 1864, Victoria and Albert Museum

I have recently finished reading this book: Mauve: how one man invented a color that changed the worldBy Simon Garfield. I am blown away by the fact that I never heard about this story, not in chemistry class, not in textiles class and not from anyone I know who is a dyer.
In 1856 at the age of eighteen William Perkin discovered the color mauve. Mauve was the first aniline or synthetic dye and the first color to be produced and marketed from a by-product of the coal industry, coal tar. Fifty years after Perkin’s discovery there were 2,000 artificial colors. Originally used to dye wool, silk, cotton and linen, colors stemming from Perkin’s mauve are used as hair dyes, food dyes, wood dyes and medical and scientific dyes. Perkin more than revolutionized the dye industry he revolutionized the field of chemistry. The chemical processes used to create mauve have been used to create the artificial sweetener saccharin, photographic chemistry, perfume and artificial scents, the first plastics (think celluloid and bakelite), synthetic fibers, aspirin and some of the first chemotherapy treatments for cancer as well as explosives, napalm and Zyklon B, one of the gasses used at Birkenau (produced by chemists who were camp prisoners).
Perkin was a student of August Hofmann and was working on creating synthetic quinine to me used as a Malaria treatment. He was working in his home laboratory and not at school at the time. Had he been working under the supervision of his teacher or with another student the black substance he created would most likely been tossed aside and considered to be of no real use. Working on his intuition and curiosity Perkin refined the black substance into the fiver percent of it that contained mauve. Perkin admired the color and proceeded to dye a piece of silk with it. He subsequently learned that the color did not fade or wash out. Aniline had previously been used in the dye trades but most chemists upon discovering a color did not think marketing a dye a worthy practical use of their calling. Perkin did not know what to do with his discovery. Producing a substantial quantity was difficult as aniline was expensive and he had no knowledge of factories and producing chemicals outside of a laboratory. He also knew that Hofmann would not be supportive. Perkin built a bigger laboratory in his garden and worked with his brother, Thomas, to create more mauve each time refining the process and creating a purer color. A friend of Thomas’s knew a dye manufacturer in Scotland. One company produced the only lilac dye of the time. They could ask any price they wished for it. Perkin applied for a patent. Perkin’s intention to produce mauve commercially caused a rift between him and August Hofmann. Hofmann thought it would destroy Perkin’s career as a chemist. Perkin secretly shared this fear. The textile and dye industry in Britain at the time, with ever increasing production rates, was in place fit to exploit Perkin’s color. In 1857 Perkin with financial aid from his father built a factory and within 6 months it was producing mauve aniline dye. Perkin gave speeches about his new color and the process of dyeing material with it. He applied for a French patent and was denied because he had failed to register within six months of his British patent. Perkin became discouraged and seriously wondered if Hofmann had been right. Had he ruined his career? And then Queen Victoria wore mauve to her daughter’s wedding and Empress Eugenie decided that mauve was a color that matched her eyes. And then mauve exploded. It was everywhere. It was as if a strange mauve disease had spread like wildfire amongst the fashionable set. Mauve stayed in fashion until 1861.
Perkin died in 1907. He was celebrated for his contributions during his lifetime and was granted several awards and medals. The Perkin Medal in Chemistry is named for him. Now he is mostly forgotten.
One of the things that I found interesting about Perkin is that he seemed to be a humble man. He became a very wealthy man but he cared for his family and he cared about being a scientist more than about the money. I highly recommend this book. It is easy to read for non-chemists with a bit of chemistry thrown in for those who are chemists (and I just ignored because I am not a chemist). This book is also interesting because it discusses other issues as well, chemical run off from factories, substances in everyday objects that are harmful or dangerous to the general public, intellectual property rights and probably more. The Chicago Public Library has it so other libraries probably will as well. Check it out.

Shades of mauve, found via google search

Sunday, March 7, 2010

(F)inished (O)bject

FINALMENT!!! It feels so good to finish something. I might try and finish things more often :)

So here is the 40's Turban that I started in October.(Ravelry link here.) It is a Bestway pattern from the V&A archives. I used Knitpicks Shadow in a kettle dyed dark green. I bought 4 skeins and held the yarn doubled throughout. I knit 2 of these babies with the idea being that I would sew them together for a double layered extra warm midwest winter hat. But my head is too big for that so fail and I have 2 hats. You could easily knit one hat with 2 skeins and still have a bit left over.

This was pretty quick and easy to knit. You need to know knit, purl, increase, decrease and short rows. It was complicated enough to be interesting but boring enough to watch tv while knitting. I really like the yarn so far and don't have any complaints other than the fact that it is lace weight so balling it was a bitch. I don't own a ball winder or a swift so balling yarn is a bitch anyway. It is also a small project so easy to take with you. The pattern is not too confusing unless you think about it too much instead of just doing. There aren't any images or schematics either so you don't really know what you are knitting until you finish the first half. You wind up with 2 baseball cap shaped pieces like this:

You sew them together around the round cap part and then the ends of the "brim" together to form a loop. It is also the sort of accessory that once you put it on you don't want to take it off because (you look so damn cute!) it is kind of a process to put on. You put the cap part on your head and then twist around the front bands to make a "knot" and pull the loop over your head to the back. Best not to try this with a fancy hairdo. There is also a stocking stitch version that is constructed differently that might be less weird to put on.
I think the hat is a bit small for me. It doesn't stay on my head very well and doesn't quite cover my ears like I hoped it would. Not sure what I am gonna do about that yet. I think that could be easily remedied by using a slightly heavier yarn and going up a needle size. Maybe I will (gasp) frog all of it and knit another one with the yarn held quadruple through out. It is a quick knit so that wouldn't be so bad and it is becoming spring so there is time :) Now more work on the OD Henley I started 2 years ago!