Friday, September 23, 2016

Rounding out Summer 2016: A Large Garden "Ant," and a Sewing Upgrade

It is now September, and the activities of my second summer of retirement are ending. For 45 years I was self-employed. The tradition continues! (But now, not to earn money.) Here is a recap of how I spent the last two months, mid-July to mid-September, involved in two of my favorite activities.

Garden, garden, garden---all through the sticky 90-plus degree weather. Usually I worked in the evenings from 6-8:30 PM when at least there was shade. The only real discomfort was the many insects experimentally biting me for blood, as I usually eschewed the hated repellant. Anyway, there was much work to be done. 

Once outside, we gardeners always know what to do, because the plants scream at us: 
"Weed around my roots!"
"Get rid of this vine crawling on me."
"Spray the white fly off of me!"
"If you don't harvest me soon, I'm going to produce big tough disgusting okra/string beans/ squash."
"The finches are giving me fungus infections. The harlequin bugs are eating me alive."  
Et cetera.

I did as I was told, the garden grew itself, and  we ate fresh produce every day. Still, there was enough to freeze to last us through next year.

A new turn of events: I have decided to rest my vegetable plots in the coming year, and enrich them with "green compost:" crops of nutrient-rich legumes and grasses that I will dig into the soil after a few months. And then plant some more and repeat the process. After ten years of production, all of those beds need to take a year off, and so do I. 

Here are some photos:
A typical garden meal: "green soup," fresh cucumbers, and blackberries. Only the peaches are not from the garden.

The first successful year with thornless blackberries

Panorama shot of the garden at the end of August. If you see this on a phone, you can enlarge it, and swipe across the photo to see many details!

My beloved Borlotti beans. I await a giant harvest in early October...

Okra! How beautiful can a vegetable be?

Beets and Swiss Chard---scant, but delicious.

On the left are cabbages; on the right are volunteer cardinal flower plants

Crops in the freezer, beginning of June

And by the second week of September. Usually there have even been THREE shelves!

For cover crops: green manure to enrich the soil

Cover crops sprouting: grasses and legumes

A close up. I planted them in rows so I could identify and pluck any nasty weeds.

Asters, New England variety 

From top: paw paw tree, asters, and goldenrod "Fireworks"

Asters, goldenrod, and American beauty berry 

Beauty berry close up

Cardinal flowers in front of the compost bin

Close up

Treasure! A monarch butterfly

Sewing! My identity as a bona fide seamstress is gradually forming with a leap of inspirational help: a teacher and a class with other sewists. Our local fabric store, G Street Fabrics, provides many classes, so I joined an open sewing studio. Eight other women meet once a week to work independently on their own projects, as the teacher moves from one to the other to help things along. Most of my classmates have been together for 3-10 years; I am the new kid, but warmly welcomed by all. They sew with skillful aplomb, and their creations astound me. Before this, I learned everything from online classes, so this was a big change.

The best part? Our teacher is elegant,  graceful, kind, and expertly artistic. She took one look at the practice garment for a blouse I wanted to make, and spotted each area where the fit was off, or my technique was flawed. She took my pattern and drafted the corrections instinctively, surely, quickly. "How can you do that?" I asked. "Sweetheart," she said, "I have been doing this all my life." 

I became smitten with such charmingly effortless expertise. The atmosphere of an atelier! I breathed it in, willing it become part of me, too. I want to construct exquisite garments, wear them, and create more and more and more! It is so NOT like setting up my iPad to watch an online instructor show me how to sew on a button correctly. I felt that I had gone from a beginning intermediate level to the misty summits of "the artiste." Oh---not me: I'm not the "artiste." But you know what? My imagination tells me I will be!

Please enjoy the pictures below.

A circle skirt, front



A silk skirt from birthday fabric from my sister!

Here's the inside view of the lining

I made my very first cushion cover...

This is the back, showing where the cushion can be removed for laundering.

Starting my midnight blue-themed travel clothing with pull-on trousers

Then I tried to sew a blouse which looked easy, but even by this second muslin, the fit was terrible. The pattern is by an independent designer: Sewaholic 1502, the "Oakridge Blouse."

Enter my elegant teacher, who effortlessly redrafted my faulty pattern to fit me.

Et voilà! A perfect fit!

A beautiful dress created by my new teacher: a fine wool, lined in silk.

And yet another: Italian wool with silk panels. Note the pockets!

So, a second version of my blouse, with a cotton brocade fabric and French buttons!

Close up of fabric, button holes and buttons, as well as self-facing.

The back

The side


Thursday, July 21, 2016

New York City à la Dorée, Part Two: Fashion Exhibitions, the Garment District and "Street"

 New York's museums are world class, and this was certainly evident during my visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

At the "Met," I went to Andrew Bolton's show in the Costume Institute called "Manus X Machina." It explored the intersection of hand and machine work in fashion design with many amazing examples.

The show opened with this wedding gown, with the explanation following:

In this garment, it's hard to tell what was done by hand, and what done by machine!

Here are two Dior gowns from 1952-3, machine sewn and hand finished:

I didn't note the creators of these magnificent gowns:

This Proenza Schuler dress fabric was created with sequins glued on end instead of flat!

And this Iris van Herpen fabric is made from iron filings on neoprene (scuba diving fabric) dusted with dried enamel paint:

Gareth Pugh made these dresses from 3000 plastic drinking straws, each cut individually by hand. There was a swishy rustle when they were worn:

In a section devoted to pleats, two gowns from the 50's by Madame Gres were contrasted by Iris van Herpen's pleats created by a digital 3-D printer. The material is goatskin, believe it or not!

Following are three examples of laser-cut "new" lace:
Proenza Schuler

Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

Raf Simmons for Dior

Check out this dress by Junya Watanabe:
Machine sewn, heat molded polyester satin---what inventiveness!

The show at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum was called "Uniformity," and explored the relationship between uniforms and fashion.

Army jackets become street clothes. On the left is a Marc Jacobs.

Vera Maxwell "speed dress:" "Just pull it on," she instructed.

Oscar de la Renta and Jean Paul Gautier play around with sailor uniforms.

Karl Lagerford (Chanel) did a riff on a French brasserie waiter's uniform.

And finally:
From a World War I army uniform.I want to try to make this!!!

In the garment district, I visited fabric stores, and had a visual and tactile feast.

Next I went to the made-famous-by-Project-Runway Mood Fabrics. I took a picture of the store mascot, Swatch:
He's not very lively these days....

Finally, the real entertainment in New York comes from The Street. Here are my photos, a poor homage to the late and great Bill Cunningham, street photographer extraordinaire. He passed away a few weeks ago, age 87, after photographing street style for The New York Times for 33 years!

The famous department store Bergdorf Goodman devoted a window to Bill Cunningham's memory, corner of 5th Ave. and 57th Street.

On the way to the Church Street subway in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

In DUMBO, "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass"

Another DUMBO view: framing the Empire State Building!

Finally, a series of REAL NY "street." Enjoy!

In the subway

The End!