Monday, January 31, 2011

Fashion Tapas: What Was Up Her Romantic Sleeve?

In the last Fashion Tapas feature we saw some lovely dresses worn during the romantic fashion period which was at its peak during the 1830s. The iconic hourglass figure was seen to an extreme in this silhouettte in which the measurement from shoulder to shoulder on the dresses often would be as much as 27-29 inches across. This extreme width was meant to balance the width of the bell-shaped shirt.

1835 Weiner-Zeitschrift Fashion Plate from Wikipedia Commons

Notice the relative position of these sleeves at the middle of the arm in the middle of the decade. Remember, the poof started high and then worked its way down the arm.

You might well asked how these voluminous sleeves stayed so puffy instead of just collapsing under the pull of gravity. That trick was accomplished by the sleeve undergarment.

One method of supporting the sleeves was a gathered piece of fabric with whalebone at its edge or a hooped undersleeve like the one in the next photo which also shows a corset and a petticoat shaped with pin tucks.

Corset & Petticoat 1830, The Metropolitan Museum

Another favorite method for supporting the sleeves was to wear sleeve plumpers underneath. They were inner sleeves that would be filled with down or feathers. Imagine wearing little pillows on your shoulders. Here's an example:

Sleeve plumpers and corset, Fashioning Fashion Exhibit, LACMA

Also note that the corset has a separate padded compartment for each breast and ties in the front so that the wearer could lace it without an assistant dresser. The corsets of this period created a tiny, higher than natural waist. A fine discussion of corsets from this period, along with illustrations, can be found at the website for Lara's Corsets and Gowns.

If you would like to see a zoomable image of another set of sleeve plumpers, to get a closer look at these charming sleeve pillows, visit this page at the digital archives of the Kyoto Costume Institute.

There were several distinctive sleeve types in this period:

My favorite is the beret sleeve which was cut from a large piece of circular fabric. A hole cut in the middle of the fabric was attached to the arm band and the circumference of the fabric was attached at the shoulder in sharp pleats  that were supported inside by horsehair or buckram. Also inside could be found some ties used to adjust the volume of the sleeve.

Beret Sleeves, Fashioning Fashion Exhibit, LACMA

The puffed sleeve, when really large, became a balloon sleeve. When it billowed from shoulder to wrist, it was sometimes referred to as a imbecile sleeve. You can see an example in the first illustration of this post.

The gigot or leg of mutton sleeve was full at the top and narrow at the lower arm. A daintier, slimmer version appeared later during the Victorian era.

Sleeves were a key feature of this romantic period, but what interests me are the fashion accessories. in the next Fashion Tapas feature we will take a look at some.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dimensional Bead Crochet Samples

Tango Tassel Necklace by KnotChaCha

The interview with Linda Lehman in the last post reminded me that I wanted to reshoot some photos of this tassel necklace from my shop and that another bead crochet necklace that I made last year still needs a clasp. (It's been sitting in the "To Do" basket for some time now.) Both of these necklaces show the dimensionality that comes from combining beads of different sizes.

The necklace above has recessed dimension in a basic spiral. It was created by sparing use of smaller beads in the same two colors as the larger beads around the black spiral. Here is a close-up:

In the African Turquoise necklace below, the dimensionality is raised. This type of dimension is more commonly seen. In this necklace larger dark green beads that alternate with turquoise and brass square beads spiral around a simple rope.

When I was swatching for the turquoise necklace, this was one of the rejected design choices:

This sample uses beads of three sizes in a pattern that creates a ribbon-like spiral wrap. It was a pleasing combination but it overpowered the turquoise focal bead.

I've purchased some patterns from Linda Lehman in order to explore dimensionality that goes beyond simple spirals. Her ZigZag pattern, shown in the last post, has me fascinated.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Linda Lehman, Dimensional Bead Crochet Designer

The first book I ever bought on bead crochet was Bead Crochet Jewelry: Tools, Tips, and 15 Beautiful Projects, by Linda Lehman and Shelley Grant. The projects are fascinating in their use of color and because of the dimensionality of many of the ropes. They were the inspiration for me to learn to do bead crochet.

Linda Lehman has published many designs in magazines such as Bead and Button and has taught many students to do bead crochet at various bead trade shows and guild meetings. She recently opened an Etsy shop called Wearable Art Emporium. It's there that I met her, and after a number of conversations, Linda agreed to be interviewed here.

Double Drops by Linda Lehman

How did you get started working with bead crochet? What inspired you to focus on this area?

I began working with bead crochet as a result of my students in other areas of bead weaving. They all wanted to learn how to do it, and were having no success in trying it for themselves. I found a very old book on it while browsing in an antique (out of print) bookstore, from about the 1920’s. Actually, it was more of a pamphlet, but it did have a decent description of how to do slip stitch bead crochet. I bought it, took it home, and tried. When I found I had difficulty starting with size #11 seed beads and size #20 yarn, I took some size #8 beads and size #5 crochet cotton. Everything I did with the smaller one, I did with the larger one, so I could see how I made my mistakes. After that, it came very easily for me, and within hours I was bead crocheting.

Your dimensional bead crochet designs have a lot of visual impact. How does the process of creating a new design begin for you? What are your methods of visualization?   

Almost immediately after teaching myself to bead crochet, I wanted to add dimension. I started fairly simply with a one row pattern of increasingly larger and smaller beads. I was much happier with the result than when I was using a single size of beads.  I couldn’t find a graph paper that really worked, so I asked my son to make me one on the computer, and I began to figure out how to make the beads go in two different directions at once. And that was the start of designing dimensional bead crochet.  Because I was born with inductive reasoning powers (rather than the usual deductive ones) I usually just see a design in my head and let it “roll” around in there for a while, and then pull out the graph paper. From there I swatch my design. I need to swatch because bead crochet doesn’t completely follow either plain or solid geometry rules, because the rope/tube is more like a spiral staircase, and never “meets” itself evenly. So often, everything looks perfect on the graph paper, but won’t translate into a rope.

Zig Zag by Linda Lehman

Do you have a special creative routine when you are designing or making a project, like listening to your favorite music or working in a special spot?  

No, ideas come to me at no particular time. I could be driving, or even riding my bike. I might even be knitting something where I didn’t have to count. In short, any time where my mind isn’t fully engaged in what I’m doing. And, my favorite music is always on…in my house, my car…every where that I am, and at all times, so I don’t really know if it’s a contributing factor. If it is, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen get an awful lot of credit for my bead crochet.

What part of the process do you enjoy most—the designing, the making, or the pattern writing? 

I enjoy the designing the most, but find the pattern writing the most challenging, and I do love a challenge.

What other types of handwork interest you? 

I like a lot of crafts. I love to knit and crochet, enjoy sewing, decoupage, and have even made little houses out of rocks and had fun with that. I’m currently on a sock kick with my knitting, and an amigurumi kick with my non-beaded crochet.

Multistrand by Linda Lehman

Your book, Bead Crochet Jewelry, was published in 2004 and is still selling well. Do you have plans for another book? 

No, not on Bead Crochet Jewelry. I am working on an e-book that is craft related. I’m hoping to have it finished and for sale on my Etsy site by the end of the year, at the latest.

What do you do when you are feeling "stuck" creatively?  What helps you get back into the creative mode? 

I know this sounds strange, as I’ve been asked that question a lot…it’s never happened to me. I just never get stuck creatively. I’m pretty sure that’s a product of having inductive reasoning. Since it’s more of a gestalt type reasoning, I’m always getting pictures in my head, and then it’s a matter of can I turn those “pictures” into objects d’art.

What are you planning for the coming year that most excites you? 

Again, I guess I have a different answer than most. I love “winging it” and seeing what happens…I tend not to plan a lot, and have learned just to follow where life leads me. It tends to work out the best for me.

What is something you think people would be surprised to know about you? 

In my “previous” career life, I was a financier and owned multiple investment companies.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to learn bead crochet? 

If you learn well from books, buy several and jump from one to another when you get stuck. There aren’t many good ones, but the ones that are good each have their own particular strengths. Buy them used if you can, and then take advantage of each. If you learn better visually, try this animated website.

If classes are your thing, look for a good one in your local bead store, or hire an individual instructor. If you just can’t seem to get it, get a light weight fingering yarn, like Lorna’s Laces sock yarn, stick to size #8 beads, and try it with that.  I think you’ll find your mistakes easily if you use those materials, and then you can move back to something smaller. It’s really the size of the yarn/thread that makes it easier to learn, not the size of the beads. If you attempt to use pony beads, or the equivalent, I think you’ll find that they flop around too much to make it easy to learn, so stick to size #8, and increase your thread size. If necessary, use a slightly heavier fingering weight yarn.

A recent photo of Linda with her new grandbaby, Sonny
Linda, thanks for the great interview and the advice you have shared with us!

Readers, be sure to check out Linda's shop because it contains a lot of exciting dimensional bead crochet patterns and some kits. You can also find some bead weaving instructions and kits, and knitters can find a few excellent knitting patterns, too.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In the Studio: Beaded Fringe for Wisteria Scarf

Now that I am 30% into the hand beading of the fringe on this one-of-a-kind scarf, I marvel at what a dumb idea it was. So time-consuming!

But I like the effect of the random beads on the fringe of this lacy Merino and Pygora scarf. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bead Rope Crochet Class: February 2011

If you are near Portland, Oregon, you can learn to crochet a beaded rope starting next month! In this class that I am teaching at Dava Bead and Trade, you will learn about ways to start a rope, how to crochet the rope, and different ways to finish a bracelet, including an invisible join. The class is in two sessions, one week apart and your finished project will be a bracelet like the one you see here. Click on the link to go to the store's workshop page for more detail. Also, click on my instruction link above for advance notice about what I will be teaching in April.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fashion Tapas: When Puffiness Was In Vogue--The Hourglass Figure

Do you remember ever wearing a dress with puffed sleeves? Perhaps it was a favorite childhood dress or a prom dress or bridesmaid's dress in the 1980's. In any case, you may remember that the dress felt romantic and feminine, befitting the history of those sleeves.

The Romantic Period of clothing is roughly given as the years from 1825-1840. It was the era of the quintessential hourglass figure, and it stood in contrast to the more slender Empire silhouette of 1795-1820 which emulated classical Greek and Roman lines. The clothing was exceedingly bulky and puffy--something most women today would avoid.

A key feature of this period was a sloping, broad-shouldered upper body accented by very large sleeves. The ideal shoulder width was equal to the width of the period's voluminous bell-shaped, ankle-length shirt. Between the two was found that tiny romantic waist that attracted suitors. The style was distinctively round-bosomed with a bare décolleté for evening.

At the beginning of the Romantic period the waistline was lowered slightly from the previous Empire fashion. As the period continued, it moved increasingly downward toward the natural waistline.

In 1830 you would find that most of the sleeve fullness was over the upper arm but by the middle of the decade the fullness has crept down toward the elbow as in this evening dress:

By 1840 the puff is at the lower arm, ending at the wrist, and the waist is finally where is occurs in nature.

In the next decade the sleeve puffiness disappears and is replaced by a natural shoulder line and narrower sleeves. The waist stays tiny and the skirt stay full and lengthens to the floor.

In next week's Fashion Tapas feature, we'll take a look at what the romantic woman had up her sleeve and how she got that itsy-bitsy waist. Meanwhile, if you are interested in reading more, check out the twelve fascinating monthly issues of The Royal Ladies Magazine from 1831.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Blog Features

During the L.A. trip I gave some thought as to what to write about during the coming year on this blog. Most blogging advisors recommend having an editorial plan and a regular posting schedule instead of just writing whenever the mood strikes you and about whatever pops into your head that day.

I've been pretty spontaneous here and have really enjoyed blogging, but a more organized approach during 2011 is certainly worth trying for comparison.

This year you will find some new and some continuing features:

  • In the Studio - photos and discussion of creative projects and general mayhem going on around here
  • Fashion Tapas - little bites of fashion history or tastes of current style with a side dish of opinion, perhaps
  • Technique Exploration - examination of fiberwork techniques and some experimentation which may be brilliant or may be foolhardy
  • Tutorial Corner - some projects based on techniques that have been explored in the previous feature
  • Featured Artists - continued tradition of showcasing those talented individuals that inspire the heck out of me with their work
  • Where Have I Been? Where am I Now? - Literally, as in trip photos or photos of Portland & the Pacific Northwest; figuratively, as in my thoughts and ideas as a designer/maker and an online entrepreneur

Here is a little teaser for the first fashion tapa, which will be in the next post:

Meet Blanche. The year is 1830.  
From the Fashioning Fashion exhibit at LACMA.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the Studio: Carmen Camellia

Camellias are blooming in some places already. We saw some in SoCal when we were at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. It' a little a early for them in Oregon, but by next month they will be showing up.

I got inspired to make some camellia things. Valerie was so excited to model again. She claims she's been sitting around bored out of her skull.

Here she is, modeling a camellia toque and a camelia neckwarmer. Doesn't she look incredibly sweet and huggable? She looks like she's wearing a yarn collaboration made by Carmen Miranda and Frida Kahlo.

The toque turned another direction looks very different.

Neckwarmer the first.

Neckwarmer the second.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chaos and Eros: A Study

Out of the hard edges of chaos evolves the circularity of love, the zest of desire and the flames of passion. Salvage, transform, grow: themes for a new year.

To view the individual items in the collection follow this link.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Difference Between Stash and Inventory

Okay, I know some of you out there have way more yarn than I do. I have seen the pictures that you have posted on your blogs and on Ravelry. The difference between your bundle of yarn and mine may be that yours is a "stash" while mine is an "inventory".

What are the differences?
Stash is for fun. Inventory is for work. You can never have too much stash, but you can have plenty too much inventory.

Stash is beautiful, inspiring material that you can pet in your spare time. Inventory is crap beautiful, inspiring material that you thought you would make up into something to sell this year, but you didn't.

The more stash you have, the more potential for projects to last into your golden years, the more secure you feel. The more inventory you have, the more you have to count at the end of the year, the more cranky you feel.

You can put stash all over the place. Some of that stuff might not surface again for years. Who cares? It will be a surprise when you find it again. On the other hand, you must be able to locate your inventory. Especially at year end when you start cranking out the numbers for Uncle Sam.

Why buy so much inventory if it is such an annoyance to count it?
That is a very good question. It is typical for a new owner of a creative business to invest too much money in inventory and not think of the carrying costs or the disadvantage of a slow inventory turnover. I know this. I taught this stuff to college students. So why do I do it myself?

Part of the problem is that I see yarn that will make a sensational hat, or scarf, or cowl. In my mind's eye it is already made up in a gorgeous design. So I buy the stuff. Never mind that I already have a ton of work in progress for my shop and that I have a ton of raw materials on hand.

I was better this year than last at using up some inventory, but not good enough. So here is my goal: to use current  materials on hands to make over 50% of my goods in 2011 or to use up 50% of my current inventory. Either one would make me happy.

If you hear me complaining again next year about counting inventory, remind me of this post.

Can't too much stash also be bad?
Ah, glad you asked. Let me refer you to a very funny post on this very topic by Eskimimi Knits who writes a seriously cool blog about knitting. Check her out.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Inventory Blues

The dreaded task that comes at the close of the year for a manufacturer or merchandiser is the counting of actual inventory on hand at year end. I started counting my raw materials yesterday and am still at it today. I will still be at it tomorrow.

Next a determination of the value of work-in-process and finished goods needs to be done. All those Excel spreadsheets and job-cost worksheets that I designed to keep track of this stuff sure are coming in handy. Too bad it's not a little more exciting to do these mundane tasks, though.

Old adding machine on display at the Museum of Jurassic Techology in Culver City, CA.

A little blues music playing in the background helps. It also helps to drink plenty of water and take some stretching breaks. I actually just had to head out to the gym because I was getting so bored with it all. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mission, the Figurative

A peacefulness fills Mission San Juan Capistano. Perhaps you can feel that by viewing the photos from yesterday's final post of 2010.

While walking through the mission at sunset, I was thinking about my own figurative mission, wondering about my future, and trying to picture what immediate path I need to follow in 2011. Why do we often leave this kind of thinking for the end of the year? Is it because we suddenly realize that another calendar is ready to be thrown out while it seems that it was only yesterday we hung it on the wall?

An interesting discussion about the difference between mission and vision begins with this Japanese Proverb:
Vision without Action is a daydream. Action without Vision is a nightmare.

If you follow the link to the above article, you will see mission defined as enduring purpose. One can spend a lot of years trying to figure out one's purpose. Your purpose can be discovered, but you usually find out that it is something you have always known.

My purpose is to be creative and to be of service. For the next year I have a vision of becoming more known. I tend to be a private person, so that feels a little scary; however, for both business and personal growth, expansion is needed.

One of my goals for this year is to be more on purpose. To live with intention. To think before acting. In order to do that I plan to first revisit my values, then set some measurable goals and objectives, and next start getting the word out. Heck, that might even mean this is the year I must finally give in and embrace a little Facebook. Shoot.

Thank you all for stopping by to visit my blog. Your comments are always valued. It is marvelous knowing that you are out there.

Happy New Year!