I was so happy when this threadbare edwardian bodice arrived – it has so much and I love examining the details and scars of these old things. They feel like time travelers to me – emissaries from a world away. It’s easy to find old black garments (ebay) but rare to find the qualities I love best. There is a particular shade of black I like in garments of this age – it fades in a particular way. This bodice has a fantastic range of tones to work with.
The texture is great too and has variety that is useful and inspiring to me – a few tiny moth holes, worn tissue thin in places and darker and more opaque in others – lovely for layering and feathers.The sleeves are gathered and blousy at the shoulder, that fabric usually escapes a lot of wear – has more integrity for sewing and stuffing. And the velvet details – oh boy. It’s my favorite part – little accents of velvet worn to perfection. Feathers for a raven or other dark bird and I have to make an owl just because of that velvet and the remaining black glass buttons. I love it when I can make a creature entirely from a single garment and I think there are at least three here.
It is such a beautifully constructed and designed thing – every detail is careful, thoughtful and precise. It is impossible to handle it and not think about the woman it belonged to and the world she lived in. I see her in that world – her hands in that familiar, unconscious movement of buttoning all those little buttons – looking in the mirror – thinking of something else.
My first encounter with boro textiles was in 2003 in this article in Country Living magazine. I was stunned – instantly in love with them – the color and the composition were perfect. The mending, the layering, the meandering stitch work all spoke to me in a novel way – I related to them at the time as paintings – as compositions that strike that magic balance, my sewing had been mostly put away for years. I cut out the pages and stuck them on my refrigerator – my percolating thoughts place. When I began this blog in 2006 my focus shifted pretty quickly to stitching and through the magic of happenstance I had the opportunity to visit the Sri Threads showroom. Stephen was an instant friend and ever since packages of intriguing old cloth and garments periodically appear unannounced in my vestibule – it’s a beautiful thing.
So much of my inspiration comes from these things I did not choose. I’ll preserve the hand mending in the pieces below in some new creature. I love that those stitches made so long ago, and that traveled so far through so many thoughtful hands will have a new place and meaning and the energy that went into them will impart qualities I could not.
I think the piece below ( it’s quite large ) is part of a futon cover – the color combination is stunning – that intense textured brown and smokey blues and purples.
This package also had lots of kimonos in various states of undone -ness. Intense red and a variety of unexpected melony pink silks. I’ve had an idea for something rolling around for years, one of the back burner ideas I have not gotten off the ground that these are perfect for – the missing piece.
And pale pink, ivory and melancholy lavender – they will also play a part in my afore mentioned stalled idea and I’ve already started a sheer, whispery and pale ship. Thank you Stephen! For all the inspiration and joy I get from these surprises. The Country Living pages remain on my refrigerator as a daily reminder of the good and unexpected things that are just around the corner.
P. S. If you like this sort of thing Sri has a spectacular instagram feed.
It’s a good thing I like to sew. I brought an ambitious amount of work to the Adirondacks with me, partly because it needed to get done and partly because I couldn’t decide what to leave behind – I wanted to do it all. I’ve been getting a ton done on my favorite porch, sewing for happy and peaceful hours and listening to the wind in the pines – it sounds almost too magical and mysterious to be real.
I love the big old house – it’s falling apart and has just the right amount of charm and creepy. I chose a couple of the things I’m working on and a few more glimpses of the place and it’s haunted corners to share.
And a little personal mending – I just can’t let them go….
She danced right in…..
It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve run into a perfect, ruined whisper of a gown. I haven’t been looking, and none have found me. Interests, fascinations have seasons I guess and I wondered if this particular season had faded away forever. This Edwardian lawn dress, perhaps a wedding dress, arrived last week – it has everything and just like that I am in love again.
There are particular qualities I look for in them – the lace is exquisite and the ideal scale for fancy little wedding birds – some of it is ruined by stains and tears but a great deal is in perfect condition. Looking for just this sort of lace is what sent me in search of a new /old gown a couple weeks ago. And there is so much more, the sheer cotton has worn to a silky sheen – it’s so thin and transparent it looks like it would disintegrate if you blew on it but it has a surprising amount of integrity and it makes the most perfect downy feathers for realistic birds, there is a subtle, lifelike iridescence. I’ve only come across it once or twice.
And then there’s everything else, the sweetness, the romance, the heartache, the mystery, if she made a sound it would be a far away, off kilter music box playing Chopin. She had come all undone but I stitched and pinned her together for her last photo.
There have been books that have stayed with me, books that inspire me and make me curious, books I just love looking at- over and over again. I’ve chosen a few of those to share with you.
The first is by photographer Arthur Tress, Fish Tank Sonata. Flea market treasures – knickknacks – arranged in a fish-tank and photographed. I love his others too (Teapot Opera especially).
Next is The Grosset Treasury of Fairytails illustrated by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata. It’s a 3-D puppet book- one of many created by this team in Japan in the 70’s. They were magic for me then and they still are today.
Shadow Theaters and Shadow Films Is a stunningly illustrated instructional book by the master shadow puppeteer Lotte Reiniger. The scenes are magical and every composition is brilliant. You can find some of her shadow films on youtube – I love the scratchy worbly soundtracks.
The last two were gifts that I loved :
Julie Taymor – Playing With Fire by Eileen Blumenthal. It’s a huge book that chronicles the the history and work of artist and directorJulie Taymor – her beginnings, her process and sketches – a window into her thinking – her imagination is giant and her thinking is rigorous. I refer to this book regularly – especially when my thinking feels lazy.
Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday – Essays by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan and Richard Vine. I love Cornell and his dreamlike, melancholy, poetic boxes, those precious objects and little worlds. This is another giant book with images of more than seventy-five boxes and collages, as well as images of the fascinating source material, his treasures.
It has happened – my blog has moved – I am on the other side. I think having everything in one place is a much better and so much simpler solution and I made lots of other improvements that were overdue like secure on-site credit card payments in the shop, an overall better shop experience and backend-wise everything is a lot more user friendly for me.
For the first post at my new blog address one of my favorite subjects: beautiful textiles from Sri Threads. A box arrive a little bit ago (they are always unannounced and unexpected) filled with inspiring treasures gathered by Stephen Szczepanek . I love unpacking the boxes – I make coffee, and put on music, (Johnny Cash for this box) I go very, very slowly and linger over each intriguing thing – thinking of what I might make.
I’m not sure what the piece above is – a cuff I think – I love the shape and the metal closure tabs.
The flannel pieces above are wonderful – the textures and the colors are so striking. There are also some wonderfully textured cream and ivory pieces of heavy cotton – perfect for the pale owl and white rat I’ve been wanting to make. All this color is perfect for toadstools too.
I’m making some little toadstools to take to Squam next week. We’ll be making toadstools in my botanical class and I’ll have some for sale at the Art Fair on Saturday ( at very special fair prices). I’m also bringing paper mache ships – if you’ve been thinking about trying the pattern and you’re in the neighborhhod come by and say hi and check them out.
Update: the little mushroom pattern is now available in the shop.
One of my favorite parts of making paper mache ships ( and other things) is collecting words and parts of words and letters to include. I’m always collecting them and when I’m ready to make something, or sometimes when I’m wandering and inviting inspiration I sort through the box – I love the happenstance of it.
Everything is blooming in Brooklyn – There are blossom trees up and down Union St. and my view is all pink, pale green and white for just a little while.
Spring has not quite happened upstate yet- but it’s thinking about it. I spent a few days wondering around up there and sewing lots of little birds for BHLDN.
I gathered some mosses for a new terrarium I’ll put together this evening – right now they are doing fine in a plastic strawberry container with a damp paper towel on the bottom wrapped loosely in plastic. I picked up some charcoal from the same area as some of the moss to add to the soil. I have had mixed results with my previous terrariums – maintaining the right moisture balance, preventing mold etc. One thing that seems to help is watering only with water from the nearby creek, I wonder if distilled water might be good too? Any tips appreciated. There are a few more photos from the lovely gloomy weekend after the break.
I came across a youtube video recently that stunned me. When I was 5 or 6 My mother took me and my younger sister (who was very small at the time) to the movies. It was a big deal- my mother didn’t drive – not at all – and we lived in the country so a long walk to a bus etc. with little folks – pain in the butt. I was mesmerized by the film and have had images from it floating around in my head ever since. I did not remember the name and it was so long ago and so pre internet I couldn’t imagine I would ever find it. And then I came across this video and recognized it instantly: the tales of beatrix potter
It premiered in 1971 – the Royal Ballet presentation of The Potter tales. There are lots of clips on youtube and you can find it in it’s entirety on DVD on Amazon. My strongest memories are of the Jeremy Fisher and squirrels on paddle boats segments.
I love the moodiness and there is an intersection between pretend and real elements – a particular note – that has always held a huge appeal for me. I believe this film played a huge part in who I became and what I do. You might also enjoy this series of behind the scenes photos by Lara Platman of the making of the costumes ( it is still performed on stage).
I found a large unexpected box in my vestibule last tuesday morning.
Magnificent and inspiring treasures from Stephen Szczepanek. I spent the rest of the morning having a marvelous time, unpacking it very, very slowly. So much to think about.
There is a fascinating post on The Sri blog right now about stitched amulets. I didn’t know about this practice and Stephen writes about it beautifully, it begins ” In Japan, there is a certain magic associated with stitching”.
I love an assignment. This week I’m giving myself a fun mini assignment and you’re invited to participate if you like. The subject is “little mysteries”. The only rules are: that I take a photo ( with my phone) every day that feels a little mysterious to me and post it on instagram. Pretty easy. I have an extra busy week working on orders from my shop and wholesale orders for catbird, BHLDN and Fortuny. I try to encourage myself to experiment in at least small ways regularly and I think that it’s even more important to do that when I’m very, very busy producing. It’s also very easy not to do when crunched for time so I made this a fun, easy and for me, very appealing assignment. In case you’re not instagramy I’ll update this post with them as well. I’d love to see your little mysteries and if you like you can use the hash tag #littlemysteries or leave a link to your photo in the comment section.
Here is little mystery #1
Color, courtesy of Sri Threads – a deeply inspiring pallet.
Stepehen (of Sri Threads) is traveling in Japan right now – I love following his travels on his instagram and facebook .
Stephen Szczepanek of Sri Threads has fabulous timing and he’s also pretty psychic about what I might be needing. His packages are always a surprise and they always seem to turn up at a moment when I’m in need of a boost.
This gorgeous collection of scraps turned up a few days ago and I’ve already begun a mini collection of Sri toadstools, little owls and spiders. Please join the shop mailing list if you would like to be notified when this collection is available.
You can see more of Stephen’s treasures on his blog and the Sri Threads facebook page.
I spent last week in the Adirondack forest, by a lake. The house is called Road’s End and it is among other things, a former turn of the century cure cottage.
There are lots of sleeping porches ( to facilitate the cure) and I used this one for my work room.
It was glorious and I sewed a ton. And when I wasn’t sewing or sleeping or swimming or reading I hiked up things. The views were spectacular.
The view from Whiteface Mountain – a frightening 3,676 ft.
And I collected twigs and whittled some beaks.
The beaks were for two songbirds I finished and photographed there – here’s a peek at those:
It turns out vacations really are good for people. I don’t take vacations. I barely take breaks or days off- partly because it needs to be that way (so far anyway) and partly because I like to work and partly because I’m pretty compulsive. I did make things and sew my ass off but there were breaks and activities outside that and there was almost no internet – that may have been what was really vacationy. What a relief. A discomfort too – but less so after a couple days.
I came home with an organized and clear head; motivated and with something that was puzzling me figured out – I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.
This was a great dress, it was ruined in such magnificent ways. I’ve been making things with it for almost two years and it still has more to give – transparent silk chiffon, a little more lace and bits of shattered silk – not sew-able but perfect for tiny corsages.
I wish I had spent more time photographing it when it arrived so I’m giving it a last hurrah now – it’s last breath in it’s original form.
I can hardly believe I’m included in this book – it is magnificent in every way. I think Olivier Dupon has created something very special. In less expert hands this wealth of information might have been overwhelming or the spirit could have been lost but Olivier presents it with simplicity and real elegance – you are never distracted from the central idea: that this is a book about love of craft, process and materials or Olivier’s true affection for the subject.
Find the book: http://www.thamesandhudsonusa.com/new/fall11/551585.htm
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-New-Artisans/108346249261751
Olivier’s blog: http://dossier37.tumblr.com/
“This book captures the new mood – a return to a preference for the unique and the handmade. Design expert and acclaimed blogger Olivier Dupon has sourced the cream of the contemporary design world from all over Europe, Australia and the United States, profiling 75 artisans who use craft techniques, rather than mass-production methods, to create stylish, whimsical, covetable objects. Hundreds of colour photographs feature a huge variety of crafts, including art, ceramics, furniture, glasswork, jewelry, lighting, metalwork, papercraft, textiles and woodwork. Complete with a directory of products, and Dupon’s personal recommendations for inspiring shops and websites to visit, this is the perfect resource for discovering unique and beautiful objects made by new, talented artisans from all around the world.”
This antique gown arrived a while ago. I think it’s Edwardian but it was definitely reworked at some point – it has fasteners and hardware and repairs that were added later. I guess it has had many lives.
The peach silk is almost all shattered, it’s torn, stained and many of the seams have let go but the gauze, sheer silk lining and lace are still strong. First I’m making a bird.
Two really – one from each lace and tulle sleeve. And maybe later today a little boat with gauzy sails and little peach silk flags.
Finished! snowflake and ashton
This dress turned up here in brown pieces – I’m not even sure how it really goes together. I soaked it for days and days and then had lots of fun pinning it into a dress shape. The under and over skirts are weighted and the overskirt has a lovely tulip shaped hem.
I’m making some things from it now – I’ll show you next week. I’m also working on a new kind of little boat -they’ll be finished and in the shop next tuesday .