"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meet Inara

Over the years I have often wished for a dress form to make my sewing life easier. Years ago (early 90s, I think) I picked one up at a garage sale, but it was too big, and was so wonky it couldn't be adjusted. I ended up giving it to a friend, who put male clothing on it and stood it in front of her living room window so people would always think there was someone home. Not sure what she used as a head for it, or maybe she just left it headless as a warning to potential burglars. Then I had about a two year hiatus from sewing, mainly because my old White sewing machine finally died, and I couldn't afford a new machine. But also because I had become a bit burnt-out doing costumes, and just didn't want to sew anything...at all.

Now I have a new machine, and lots of ideas for sewing projects. I am also back into making costumes, so I really did need a dress form. My husband is wonderful and willing to help, but his knowledge of how to make garment adjustments on my body are pretty much zilch, and he's gone a lot, so I was really pining for a body double.

I knew I didn't have a big budget for this, so would have to settle for something pretty mundane. That was okay, since I wasn't going to be doing anything super complicated, that would require absolute to the fraction of an inch, exact measurements. But it did have to be sturdy enough to carry the weight of multiple layers of cloth, since some of the costumes I will be doing will be quite heavy.

So, a week ago my Mom and I went through the local Joann's Fabric store and I checked out what they had. The medium quality dress form was between $230 and $260 dollars. Still over my budget. A few days later my Mom called me and said that Joann's had put the dress forms on sale for $100 off. Shazam! I headed back over there, and sure enough, the form I had looked at was now down to $135. Sold! However, I kept the receipt so I could take it back in case the thing turned out to be a piece of junk.

Putting together and adjusting a dress form is kinda weird. You are essentially creating a double of yourself. At one point, when I was standing boob to boob with it, I burst out laughing. Once it was all adjusted and done, I stood back and thought, "Sheesh, is that what I really look like?" At that point, I dug out my Chinese red camisole and put that on "her" along with one of my necklaces.  After all, "she" couldn't just stand there all naked. The thought crossed my mind that "she" looked better in the sexy camisole than I did. Ah well.

Next "she" needed a name. At first I kept referring to her as "That Other Woman." When I posted a picture on Facebook, someone suggested I call her Ruby, but I wasn't too crazy about that one. Then it occurred to me that, with the racy, Chinese camisole and flashy jewelry, she resembled a character on the old TV series Firefly. The character's name was Inara, and she was a beautiful, professional "companion" who always wore lovely, sexy dresses and expensive jewelry. Since the dress form doesn't have my face, or any face, I decided the name would fit without insulting the stunning woman who had played the part in the series. It also crossed my mind that if I named her Inara, she might have a more glamorous life than I do.

So here she is. Meet Inara, wearing my Chinese camisole and leaf necklace. But I still have her receipt, so can send her back if she misbehaves. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pogonip...Yes it really is a word.

For the last week our place has been frozen over. Frozen pond, frozen hoses, plants buried under patches of frozen snow, frozen water buckets in the horse stalls. This time of year that's pretty par for the course, except for the frozen snow. We rarely have snow last more than a day or two, but this year it was heavy, and lingered for weeks. However, pogonip was a whole new deal. Apparently it is a Shoshone word meaning "cloud." It is caused by fine ice crystals suspended in the air, and occurs rarely during cold winter spells. Old settlers referred to it as The White Death because they thought the crystals got into your lungs and could kill you. We have had frost at our place every year, but nothing like this. It was beautiful and weird, coating everything in lethal looking ice-spikes. It made our hot-wire pasture enclosures look like barbed wire. Here are some of the photos I took around our place, showing the effects of pogonip.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Making An Effort

In my previous post, I did a short rant on how people dress these days. I guess it's because clothing can be so much fun, and is one of life's greatest, and most easily accessible, forms of expression, that I kinda don't get it when people won't at least make an effort. Maybe it's because when I was a kid I watched too many of those romantic comedies from the 30s and 40s, where, before stepping out the door, everyone got DRESSED. Yeah, that was movie make believe, and there is no way any of us could match those dresses and that make-up, even if you wanted to. Which I don't. Well, the make-up part anyway. Make-up makes my face itch. But, oh my, those dresses.

But I dither. Back on track. I guess what I really mean is, have fun with your clothes. Don't look at them as just something to keep you covered or warm. And despite what you might think, you make a statement no matter what you wear, by the choices you make. You may not think you do, but even if you throw on the nearest item that isn't in the dirty-clothes hamper, that is also a statement. If you pull dirty clothes out of the hamper to wear, well, that's a whole 'nuther kind of statement, and I won't go there.

For me, since I might only get into town once a week, if that, making an effort is fun. I get tired of looking like a transient most of the time. Working around animals is how I spend most of my day, but let's face it, neither my horses or my cats are going to be impressed with what I have on while cleaning stalls or cat boxes. When I know I am not going anywhere, I live in sweat pants & sweatshirts. Lately, due to the extreme cold, when working outside, I look even sillier, since I'd rather be warm than stylish. But once I head for town, I try, I really try, to make an effort to "clean up good."

This does not mean I throw on a fancy dress. I am a jeans and T-shirt kinda girl. But you can have a hell of a lot of fun with those as well. There are times I wish I was even braver, and a bit more eccentric. But at my age, I can only push the envelope so far before people start wondering if I belong in a padded room. But I still push. If the general reaction is good, then I push a little more next time.

Add to this effort the fact that I am artistic, and a whole new area of expression in clothing opens up. I can sew, bead, embroider, applique, and otherwise restyle all kinds of things. But as stated, since I live in a rural area where getting "dressed to the nines" only happens on New Years Eve, if then, it makes sense that all that embellishment has to go on something more practical than a fancy gown.

So here is an example of how I "make an effort" without looking like I'm trying too hard (a cardinal sin), or without ending up looking ridiculous, 'cause I've been there and done that, believe me!

The hat is felted wool and was custom made for me by a good friend. The long, handwoven scarf was gifted to me by another good friend. The sweatshirt is the embellished one I just finished. And, courtesy of The Gap, my go-to store for basics that I wear FOR YEARS, is the nylon bomber jacket and skinny jeans. I have on short street boots that kinda look like hiking boots. And jewelry. There is always jewelry.

On the arm of the couch is Sabine, who approved the outfit.

A better shot of the hat and scarf. Lots of times I will put jewelry pins on the hat, but I had just taken off the vintage Christmas-ish looking one, and haven't decided yet what to put back on. My husband, who took the pictures, thought I looked quite dashing.

So, there is a small example of what I mean by making an effort when you go out the door. Assuming of course you're not going out the door to work in the garden, clean stalls, or mow the lawn...although that last one has possibilities (visions of my first husband mowing our large lawn in a lime-green Speedo butt-huger comes glaringly to mind, alas).

Bottom line. Have fun with your clothes. Why not? You have to wear them every day, anyway.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Embellished Sweatshirt

I confess, I love vintage and period clothing (also jewelry, but that's no secret either). I love the craftsmanship, the artistry, and the embellishments that make those pieces of clothing so wonderful. However, I live my life in sweatshirts, T-shirts, tank tops and jeans. Add to that list an ever-growing number of jackets, and that is my wardrobe. Most of the time those sweatshirts, T-shirts, tanks and jeans are full of cat or horse hair, hay flakes and pine shavings, and during the summer, bits of garden vegetation, seed pods, and oak twigs.

I love the idea of skirts and dresses. I really do. I buy them, thinking I'll wear them, but I rarely do. Instead they linger at the back of my closet, forlorn and neglected.

The conclusion I came to was, if I want to attempt to incorporate any kind of embellishment on my clothing, it would have to be on the garments I wear all the time. Granted, I'm not going to go clean stalls in something I've labored over for hours, but when I do head into town, or my husband and I go out to dinner or the movies, I will have something unique to wear. Because, the bottom line is, I am bored with most of the clothing I see in stores.

**Insert quick rant here**

 Let's bring back "dressing." Making an effort. Don't just slouch off to town or to dinner in tatty old T-shirts, grubby jeans, and messy hair. I'm not advocating the Barbie look, or expect people to dress like Donna Reed in My Three Sons. But yikes, some of the stuff I see people wearing while out and about makes my teeth hurt. Look in a mirror, people!

**Rant over** 

Back to embellished clothing. The Alabama Chanin books, and Rice over at the Voodoo Cafe, have been a huge influence on my quest for unique clothing. The techniques in the book are easy, but time-consuming. The results are grand. Even in small doses, the embellishments add so much to any piece you put them on. They also lend themselves very well to individual styles. My pieces, even using the same techniques, look very different from, say, what Rice, or anyone else, will create. I have made two boleros from the pattern included in the book, and one tank top. In this case, I attacked a $4 sweatshirt I bought at the Goodwill.

Here is the sweatshirt, and the stenciled bit of purple T-shirt sleeve I had left over from the Tibetan Bolero. The gold paint is by Lumiere.

The start of the stitching, and the reverse applique done. And some beads sew on. I blush to admit it, but, other than the metallic thread, I just used doubled regular sewing thread. Whatever I had on hand. The purple thread is poly, and the turquoise is cotton. In all honesty, these pieces I still consider experiments, so I'm not overly concerned with their longevity. If the center piece manages to last longer than the sweatshirt, I will cut it out and sew it to something else.

Here it is with the stitched curlicues. It took me awhile to figure out how to tie in the center design with the rest of the shirt. The curlicues are what I finally ended up with. They turned out so nice, I decided I would use them again on something else. Eventually I will add stitching, curlicues and beads to the back neckline, so that it sorta matches the front neckline. By the time I got done doing this, my eyes were crossed and my fingers tender. I needed to take a break and do something else. I will come back to this and tie up that one loose end.

Here are a couple of closeups of the curlicues and beading as they progressed. The curlicues were done freehand, like doodling with thread. Lots of fun.

So, now that this little project is almost done, I'm off to do something else. I have three costumes to work on, and an experiment I want to try with stitching on the stenciled T-shirt material. I figure I'm on a quest to stamp out boring clothes. At least in my own closet. If I'm lucky, I might inspire someone else to give it a go, branch out...make an effort. Not sure my pieces will be that influential, but wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake!

Go, be creative. Make an effort. It's not that hard, I promise.