Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Junk mail haiku 2

I wrote several weeks ago about the "found haiku" I've been getting from our daily pile of junk mail.  I will point out that this project makes me happy to see a bunch of junk mail, perhaps the only way known to mankind to achieve that end.

When the appeal is for the starving and suffering of the earth, I don't like to find smartass poems in the letter, but when it comes from a less worthy cause I have no compunctions.  Here are some of the ironic or humorous haiku I've found in the junk.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I have finished all my Christmas ornaments, except for The New Guy, as we refer to him around the dinner table -- who we hope will have the good graces to be born this week and receive a name that I could embroider on his ornament.  As with so many other projects,  I finished just about the time I was getting really good at it.

Toward the end, it was taking me half the time to produce an ornament as it did at the start.  I figured  out exactly how to do the embroidery, which threads and decorations worked better than others, how to attach the hanging loops and finish the ends.

At the start, when I was still experimenting, some of the ornaments looked better than others.  Later on, they all looked great.  When I got to the end (except of course for The New Guy) I was on a roll, and kind of sad to be finished.

But I had a good idea.  I have pretty much cleaned off my work area, except for what I'll need for TNG's ornament, put away the tulle (which I only used on a few pieces), wrapped up the decorative braids and stowed the quilt batting.  Still, one more ornament would be kind of fun, and relatively effortless.

So here's a holiday giveaway to thank my faithful blog readers for faithfully reading.  Leave me a comment before Thursday morning (the day TNG is supposed to arrive) and one of you will get an ornament, embroidered with whatever name you tell me.  I hope you'll keep it for yourself, but I would understand the urge to get something sweet for your grandchild.  (I won't make ornaments for cats, dogs or goldfish.)  USA only, please, but I promise I'll have equal opportunities for international readers in the future.

Thanks to you all, and let me be the first to wish you Merry Christmas!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Underthings at Kent State 2

I wrote yesterday about some of the older undergarments on display at Kent State.  As we move through the 20th century women progressively got freed from much of the confinements of earlier days, but perhaps not as quickly as we might have wished.

A corset from 1910, silk with steel front closures and stiffening.  No wonder gentlemen would leap into action to pick up a lady's dropped hankie -- she sure couldn't do it herself!

Here's a brassiere from about 1915.  Silk and elastic stiffened with four horizontal rows of steel across the front, with a hook to attach to the girdle.

The famous nose-cone bra of the 1950s.

Emilio Pucci girdle from the 1960s; lycra was the whalebone of the hippie era.

On to 1985 and a fashion oxymoron: a girdle with extra fanny padding.

But ladies, don't despair!  It's not just us who are marketed into boa-constrictor costumes!  Check out this equal-opportunity torture for guys:

The show continues through next September 1.  I haven't shown you all the gorgeous negligees, slips, nighties and other lingerie but you'd love them.  Check it out if you're in northeastern Ohio anytime in the next year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Underthings at Kent State 1

I wrote earlier about my visit to the Kent State University Museum to see the exhibit on resist dye techniques.  Upstairs was another fascinating exhibit, on lingerie and underthings across the centuries.  Kent State has a world-class fashion program and its museum has lots of shows on clothing and design. This one, called "Undress," will be up through next September 1.  Not sure I'd recommend a special trip, unless you're into garment history, but it's certainly fun if you're in the neighborhood.

I was both fascinated and appalled at the undergarments that our foremothers had to wear.  Apparently deep breathing and bending over were not activities that clothing was designed to encourage.

Here's a set of stays, from the end of the 1700s.  Linen trimmed with leather and stiffened with baleen (whalebone).

Here's a corset from 1836.

From the 1880s, a corset from Poland.

Toward the end of the century, here's a nursing corset.  You can unbutton to get to the breast, and there's (allegedly) lots of room for the postpartum tummy.

Another corset, from about 1900.  Made of ribbons stiffened with steel.  The notes say that this corset, "much lighter and with less boning, would probably have been worn as undress or negligee.  Similar corsets were also worn when participating in active sports."

From the same year, here's a "mono-bosom style" of cotton with boning.  This style pushed your chest out in front and your fanny out in back for the fashionable S silhouette.

Presumably female modesty was a big deal in these days, judging from the claustrophobic nature of these undergarments.  I couldn't help but wonder whether the boobs fit inside these corsets or just rested on top as on a shelf.  Which seems pretty risque, not to mention courting wardrobe malfunction.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Christmas ornaments

If fall comes, can Christmas be far behind?  While the jury is still out on whether fall has come -- we're having temperatures in the 80s all week -- I have noted the calendar and determined to get going on my annual Christmas ornaments.

For almost 40 years I've been making Christmas ornaments for family and friends, and as both groups have expanded in numbers, the annual task has taken on a life of its own.  Not only does the list get longer -- this year we're awaiting a new baby in a couple of weeks -- but the challenge of coming up with something kind of new gets more daunting.

I've been through several different ideas this year before I settled on my actual plan.  I can't show you the finished product because many of the recipients have been known to look at this blog, but I can tell you a bit about my thought process.

After two years of paper ornaments, I'm back to the sewing machine.  Rooting around in my back storage room, I found a book of upholstery samples that were just the right size for what I had in mind.

For the first time in decades I've decided to put people's full names on the ornaments instead of just their initials.  That means a bunch more sewing but a new design twist.

This isn't the earliest I've ever gotten started on my ornaments -- several years ago I took a bead loom along on a long freighter voyage to New Zealand and got most of them done in  late summer -- but I'm feeling pretty good about my progress.

I miscalculated and have to make another trip to Home Depot for some more raw materials, but have two-thirds of the ornaments finished so far.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to have everything done by Halloween except for the so-far-nameless new baby?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Resistance at Kent State 3

The third method of resist dyeing shown at Kent State Museum is ikat, a technique in which threads are bound and dyed in patterns before weaving.  As accurate as the artisans can be, there is nevertheless some characteristic raggedness around the edges of the designs.

They had a loom set up with ikat in process, also showing how the threads are tied for dyeing.

This skirt from Guatemala has ikat in both warp and weft. but the pattern is complicated by areas of plain thread, which makes sharp edges to contrast with the fuzzy-edged ikat patterns.

Some of the textiles on display had elaborate patterns, like this wrap from Indonesia (ikat on the warp only).

This robe from Uzbekistan, from the late 19th century, has ikat on its silk warp but not on the cotton weft.  The process was elaborate: wind the warp on a frame as if to weave; mark the pattern and tie the threads into bundles; dye, rinse and dry; repeat for each subsequent color.

I loved the way this Uzbek vest was finished.

 Check out this sumptuous ikat-lined man's vest from the Ottoman empire!  Seems that Islamic law forbids men to wear silk, but if you put silk in the warp only, then do a satin weave with cotton as the weft, that puts the silk on one side of the fabric and cotton on the other.  Wear the cotton side against the body and  you're mashru -- permitted.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sign of the week

all other substances welcome??

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Resistance at Kent State 2

I wrote yesterday about an exhibit of resist dye techniques at the Kent State University Museum.  Today I'll show you some examples of what the curators call "chemical resists," although I would quibble with that term.  (There's no chemistry involved in putting a paste or wax onto fabric and letting it dry before you bring out the dye.)  I'd probably call them "dried-on resists" but I guess this kind of wording doesn't cut it in academic circles.

Anyway, here are some batik sarongs from Indonesia in traditional patterns.  In the first photo, the melted-wax resist was applied with a wood or metal stamp.  In the second and third, it was put on with a tjanting, a metal-tipped pen-like tube that allows the artisan to draw designs and make tiny dots.  The drawn patterns are considered more valuable than the stamped ones, because the color can be placed more precisely.

Here's indigo-dyed cotton from Japan, late 19th century, where the resist was a thick rice paste, applied using a paper tube with a bamboo or brass tip.

More indigo-dyed cotton, this from Nigeria in the 1960s.  The resist was a starch paste, made from cassava or yam flour, applied with feathers or sticks.

From Slovakia, the pleated cotton of a traditional skirt from the late 19th century was also dyed in indigo.  The resist was a mixture of clay, gum arabic, alum, in some kind of gooey "salve" of tallow, lard or vaseline.  It was applied with wooden printing blocks.

Stay tuned for ikat, next week.