Healthy Fashion

The most recent concern over man-made fabrics vs. animal or plant based fabrics, cheap fashion and slow fashion are not “new” concepts. Have you ever heard of the Rational Dress Exhibition at Kensington Town Hall in 1883, or the Health Exhibition in London during the Spring of 1884?

At the Rational Dress Exhibition, Liberty’s fabrics were described as,

“Playing an essentially prominent part in connection with Rational and Healthy dress.”  The healthiness of the fabrics came from “their purity, their natural dyes, their unadulterated by any finish or dressing, their freedom from any of the usual processes resorted to in order to impart a meretricious appearance of value to worthless materials.”

For the organizers of the Health Exhibition of 1884, Edward William Godwin wrote a handbook where he pointed out, “Some modification to the Greek costume was perfectly applicable to the British climate if it was worn over a sub-stratum of pure wool, such supplied by Dr. Jaeger under the modern German system, explaining,

“The principle was to suspend all apparel from the shoulders and rely for beauty not on the stiff, ready-made ornaments of the modern milliner, bows where there should be no bows, flounces where there should be no flounces, but on the exquisite play of light and line that one gets from rich and rippling folds.”

Was this the beginning of the end of the corset?

English architect Edward William Godwin (May 26, 1833 Bristol – October 6, 1886 London), was best known for his Ruskinian Gothic style of architecture, evidenced in the Guild Hall Northampton.

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Guild Hall Northampton

Starting in the 1870’s through the 1880’s, Godwin was associated with Liberty’s.  He designed wallpaper, printed textiles, tiles, “art furniture” or metal work set the tone in houses of those of an artistic and progressive attitude.  Oscar Wilde said, “Godwin was  one of the most artistic spirits of the century.”  In 1884,  Liberty appointed Godwin to supervise the Costume Department.

Dr. Gustav Jaeger, (June 23, 1832 – May 13, 1917), German naturalist and scientist, gustav-jger-1832-1917-german-zoologist-and-biologist-who-gave-his-jj83bc

believed wearing  wool “close to the skin,” was healthy.  Jaeger began creating wool suits, around the same time he cut ties with Germany around the start of World War I, and became a British brand.  Long johns were the beginning leading to an established clientele looking for British made garments at a reasonable price.  Jaeger’s branded his fashions with wool and exotic fibers such as cashmere, angora and alpaca.  Jaeger’s yarns are also used by the hand knitter.

vintage organge jaeger jacket
Photo from Poshmark

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Here’s a photo of camel hair fabric, natural cashmere yarn undyed and brush tail possum from New Zealand.

We still have the same concerns of those living in the 1800’s, consider the research expressed by Elizabeth L. Cline, in her book Over-Dressed, page 84, “The production of man-made fibers has doubled over the last 15 years…”  How many of your garments are 100% wool?  Do you recognize the fiber content on your garment labels?  Check out the New York Times T Magazine, dated August 19, 2018 and explore, The Shape of Things to Come, pages 168-177.  A visual commentary on fashion with “voluminous proportions layered for maximal impact.”

(I used Wikipedia and Liberty’s A Biography of a Shop by Alison Adburgham for this blog post.  Photographs have been cited above.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let The Yarn Dictate The Project

Lately, I’ve been taking inventory of my yarn collection trying to remember the intended purpose of each purchase.  Well…it’s been quite an exercise.  A great majority of my selections were impulse decisions without a particular project in mind.  I liked the color, feel, or was stimulated by the environment in which I shopped.

Attending Stitches West surrounded by one giant color wheel detailed by the different gauges of yarn, the tactile experience of the many different combinations of plant and/or animal fiber along with the social camaraderie of like-minded individuals, stimulates my senses and wets my appetite for creativity.  Hence, lots of yarn without a project.  Recently, while shopping at one of my favorite yarn stores in the East Bay, a sales person mentioned, “Don’t let the project dictate the yarn.”  Interesting…

While attending Stitches West about five years ago, I purchased two hanks of a bulky/chunky weight hand-dyed yarn from Urban Fauna located in SF (since closed).  I wanted to make sure I found just the right project for the yarn.  Spending time on Ravelry definitely provided a multitude of knitting options.

L’Enveloppe designed by Sally Melville caught my design eye.  “It’s not a  cape, not a poncho, not a shrug, not a shawl, not a cowl.  It’s small enough to wear under a coat, but big enough to wear instead of one, and it envelops us in style.”  The pattern is offered in four different gauges and two different stitch patterns, garter and seed.

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Photo credit:  Mary Lou Fall

Here is my knitted interpretation of L’Enveloppe.  I decided to knit the pattern in garter stitch, which combined with the yarn creates a well-defined three dimensional surface. The pattern is interesting to knit, with straight-forward instructions, and the fit is amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design With A Conscience

Today is a day void of unnecessary noise.  A day so peaceful, I can hear myself think. No streaming Netflix, texting, working out at the gym or listening to music. I can hear myself turn the pages of one of my favorite knitting books looking for something new to knit, along with the tapping of my laptop keyboard as I write this post.

Within the last week, I’ve discovered how small the world of creativity has become.  For the last five years, I’ve attempted to use my blog to fill a large empty space in my heart.  I wanted to channel my energies into something positive, and not dwell on a not so pleasant situation.  So, I exposed my creative self  to the world through this blog.  I viewed my blog as a means of communication and education about what interests me, hoping along the way, someone else would enjoy this journey.  I’ve always been cognizant to give credit where credit is due.  If I post a picture, I site the source.  If I reference a book, I credit the author and publisher.  But of course, I don’t own a large yarn distribution company, and I haven’t written a book (even though I could), nor do I pound the pavement looking to teach at my LYS (been there done that).

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I am flattered that We Are Knitters finds my use of Binary Stitches© worthy of using as a title for their new snood kit.  Check out my blog post of August 9, 2016 where I discuss my development of Binary Stitches©2016.

 

haigire

This is such a beautiful new scarf kit “Hagire” from Habu Textiles.   I too was inspired by Habu yarn in 2013.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall
Stitches and Yarn Textured Scarf #2
Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall
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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

*The above pictured scarf is my design using Habu Textiles and the shawl is Loopy and Luscious found at Knitty.com

Unlike the designers at Habu, I wasn’t trying to use up leftover yarn, my use of Habu Textiles highlighted the unique qualities of combining and playing with texture and color.

It’s been said, “Imitation is the best form of flattering.”  Well, “I’m over it!”  How about, “Give credit where credit is due”  or perhaps “Design with a conscience.”

 

Letting Go

Finally, the heat has subsided and temperatures are back to normal for this time of year.  I decided to take my needles and yarn outside for a change of scenery.

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Photo credit:  Mary Lou Fall

I was greeted by three bromeliad pups.  The plant basically gets ignored, but always seems to provide us with such beauty every year.  I decided to organize my knitting space within eyesight of nature’s gift.

During a recent visit to Avenue Yarns on Solano Avenue in Albany situated not far from Berkeley, I decided to finally embrace short-rows.  Just by coincidence, a pattern I was also checking out on Ravelry was recommended I try, Breathing Space, designed by Veera Valimaki. “The sweater is worked from top-down with a raglan yoke and the asymmetric shaping makes it very stylish and at the same time very easy to wear.”

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

After starting and restarting a few times, I finally figured out short-rows with the help of Purl Bee’s online tutorial   http://www.purlsoho.com/create/2008/06/18/short-rows/.  The main color I selected for Breathing Space  from MJ Yarns, Simple Sock Fingering Weight, 75% Superwash Corriedale/25% Nylon, Col. Fresh Mowed, and the yarn for striping Wollelfe M/S Gradient 400 Fading to Grey, 65% Merino extra fine, 35% Silk.  I did gauge swatch the yarns and found Simple Sock Fingering did shrink a little.  The pattern is written with clear concise directions, and definitely exercises the brain cells.

Just by changing my “breathing space”situating myself in an environment of beauty and calm, in a different space and time, I  was able to reflect on one line in the pattern description that resonates with me in a very personal way, “The art of breathing, something we rarely really pay attention to, is so much like letting go.”

 

 

Machine Knitting 101

Today, I dusted off the box of my Lk150 Kntting Machine and went to class.  The class was an introductory class with guest designer and instructor, Mike Horwath of http://www.onehookproductions.com at Purlescence Yarns in Sunnyvale, CA.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

An introduction to the machine parts and purpose familiarized us with the set-up of the machine. Immediately, the machine was threaded beginning with a cast on edge.  The test swatch included stockinette stitch, increasing, decreasing, performing purl stitches, unknitting, fixing dropped stitches, and binding off.

Switching from knitting needles to using tools was a bit of a challenge for me.  I wanted to manipulate the yarn with my hands, instead of using the transfer tools and tappet tool.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall
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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

By the end of class, I started to get a bit more comfortable working with a machine versus the relationship between knitting needles, the sensory touch of yarn and my own personal rhythm with the needles and yarn.

 

 

Step By Step

Sometimes, the best adventures are those not planned.  On the spur of the moment, my husband and I decided to take a day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

The main attraction for the day was the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

After evaluating the path down to the lighthouse, my husband decided to wait for me at the top.  So, I began the journey step by step.  Along the way, I captured beautiful photographs. Here’s one of them.

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Photo credit:  Mary Lou Fall

I successfully reached the lighthouse, and began the journey back to the top.  On my way up to the top, I noticed each step was numbered.  There are 308 steps down and 308 up.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

It was sheer determination that motivated me to walk down to the lighthouse.  For the last five years, I’ve realized how determined I am.  Specifically when it comes to learning something new with challenges.  Take for instance, I attempted to knit a pattern with short rows twice. I’ve decided to try the pattern again.  Perhaps the third time’s the charm.

Silke designed by Julie Weisenberger of Coco Knits “is a drapey, flattering tunic with front points that hang down lower than the back” in a slip stitch pattern.  With this attempt, I decided to knit and block the swatch due to the linen content in the yarn.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

The damp swatch was pinned vertically  to test the effects of gravity  on the gauge. This makes sense to me because the garment hangs vertically when worn.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

I’ve cast on 226 stitches using a Size 7 needle in  Schoppel Leinen Los 70% wool, 30% linen, Col. 7653M.  The tunic/cardigan is knitted from the bottom up in one piece.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall (Rocks collected from Drake’s Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore)

I need to work straight until piece measures 9″ from the CO edge, and then the cardigan fronts are worked independently. I am determined to knit this pattern step by step.

 

 

In My Happy Place

This week I needed to get a way for a day.  I decided to return to the stacks at the University of California, Berkeley’s Anthropology library.  During my stay as a student, I spent many hours focusing on Art History, with little regard or time for anything else. Now I have the time to explore other disciplines.  I was looking forward to picking up a book I had on hold at Doe Library, Decorative Patterns Of The Ancient World, by Flinders Petrie. On my way, I captured a picture of the infamous Campanile.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

Such a relief to relax and take in the atmosphere without worrying about the next paper or test.  I headed over to the Anthropology library and ventured into the world of prehistoric textiles.  Three books, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 years,  Making Textiles In Pre-Roman And Roman Times, and Textile Production In Pre-Roman Italy,  I was excited to discover because they support my area of interest.

My interest in textile arts began at the age of eight.  Through the guidance of a 4-H leader, I walked the runway in my first sewn dress. I continued to sew through the years and decided to purchase my first weaving loom.  Toting my infant daughter on my hip, I warped my loom for the first time.  From weaving, I moved on to knitting, felting and dyeing yarn.  Throughout the many years of developing my expertise in the textile arts, I didn’t give much thought to the people, places and identities of the individuals that came before me, until now.

On my way across campus to the parking garage, I captured a few more pictures.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

Textiles

While checking my Facebook feed today, I noticed Messy Nessy Chic posted some beautiful photographs taken by photographer/artist Christoper Payne http://www.messynessychic.com/2016/01/13/unexpected-beauty-hiding-inside-americas-last-fabric-factories/   which capture several mills that still operate in the United States.

“In this era of service jobs and office work, most of us have never been inside a factory. Several decades of overseas competition, unequal trade policies, and a flood of cheap imports have decimated American factories. Since 1990, job losses in apparel and textiles have been greater than those in any other type of manufacturing, and today we have little idea where, or how, the shirt on our back is made.

In 2010, I discovered an old yarn mill in Maine that reminded me of the state hospital workshops I had photographed for my book, Asylum. While those places had long been abandoned, this mill was fully operational, a scene from the past miraculously coexisting with the present. I returned to the mill several times, and from conversations with employees, learned of other mills in the Northeast, many still functioning as they had for decades, using vintage equipment now prized for producing the “genuine article”.

In 2013, I toured several mills in the Carolinas, where the majority of textile production eventually migrated from New England, because the labor was cheaper. The mills are vast and mostly automated, and have survived by adapting technologically to the global marketplace. Though they bear little resemblance to their Northern forbearers, they are bound by a common history and are economically dependent on each other. By the time a finished fabric reaches the customer, it has passed through many factories, each a crucial link in the chain of production.

Over the past five years, I have gained access to an industry that continues to thrive, albeit on a much smaller scale, and for the most part, out of public view. With my photographs I aim to show how this iconic symbol of American manufacturing has changed and what its future may hold. I also wish to pay tribute to the undervalued segment of Americans who work in this sector. They are a cross section of young and old, skilled and unskilled, recent immigrants, and veteran employees, some of whom have spent their entire lives in a single factory. Together, they share a quiet pride and dignity, and are proof that manual labor and craftsmanship still have value in today’s economy.”

Here is one of my favorite photographs taken by Christopher Payne. http://www.chrispaynephoto.com/textiles1/3t84aycz3g450y0o6wyk7txxp907mb

Made in USA: Textiles
Leavers Lace, West Greenwich, RI

Design Mine

When I find beautiful yarn and a pattern, I jump right in with both knitting needles.  After knitting a gauge swatch, I begin knitting line by line, increase by decrease reaching the final row of  bind off.  I give very little thought to the process of designing because I love to knit.  Recently, I read an interview of “technical knitter” Catherine Lowe, conducted by Charles D. Gandy for Knit Purl, the Spring/Summer 2015 issue, in which she mentions,

“More often than not, the motivation for the new designer is “I love to knit, so I’ll become a designer and then I’ll knit all the time.  Actually, the new designer ends up spending most of his/her time dealing with business and professional aspects of the industry.”

I’ve had fleeting moments of design grandeur.  Practically every year I enroll in a design class at Stitches West, but when the instructor begins to discuss how to get the numbers for neck shaping and sleeve increases my eyes glaze over and my mind wanders.  Catherine Lowe argues,

“One great regret is that here in America we have no history of formalized apprenticeship in the hand knitting industry.  Technical skills can be transmitted through tradition and workshops-experience cannot.”

Who knew a trip to my local library would help solve some of my knitting woes of design.  Debbie Stoller’s, Stitch “N’ Bitch Superstar Knitting, speaks loud and clear to me.

Drop Sleeve Sweater Pattern_1

I’ve decided to start collecting experience by embracing Debbie Stoller’s “purls of wisdom.” The basic drop-sleeve cardigan from Superstar Knitting appeals to me and looks like a great start.  Locked away in my yarn vault, I found Evita by Online Linie 79, 50% Wool, 15% Nylon, 35% Acrylic.

Drop Sleeve Sweater Pattern #3_1

Using a Size 13 needle, I knitted a gauge swatch.  As I worked through the design process, the relationship between a gauge swatch paired with accurate measurements became quite evident. The whole design is based on at least 4 inches of knitting.

Drop Sleeve Sweater Pattern #2_1

Now, I need to write-up the pattern.