Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rags to Riches


First of all, I would like to thank everyone for their incredibly thoughtful and kind words on my last post.  I like to think that I am immune to negativity from cyber strangers, but some days it can prove to be quite challenging.  But now it's time to return to the sewing stuff!


Last month, I decided I would try my hand at making a rag rug.  I recently knit a couple of small rugs for my kitchen and decided that I needed one for my bedroom - but this time I wanted to try something different.  My maternal Grandmother had a braided rug under the dining room table which I believe was made of wool.  Although the colors were not my favorite, I remember being intrigued by the item.  I even made my own version with braided yarn as a small child, though they were more coaster size than rug size.


The first thing I knew that I wanted to avoid was raw edges.  I used a few scraps of muslin to test the best way to go about creating strips.  What I ended up with were three inch torn strips that I folded and ironed to hide those dreaded raw bits.


I rooted around in fabric bureaus, boxes, and bins to find quilting cotton remnants that I thought would work together to create a cohesive color scheme.


Once three of these folded strips of cotton were ready to go, I stitched them together, and started braiding.


Because I wanted a bit of consistency running through the entire rug, I purchased three yards of pink polka dotted cotton.  I was expecting that I would have leftovers, but I ended up using the entire three yards.


Which means that I used up six yards of cotton scraps for the second and third strands of the braid.  It also made me reevaluate some of the tiny scraps of fabric that I have been hoarding - there is a limit to how useful micro remnants can be, and if I save every bit of cotton I will not be able to maneuver around the sewing room at all.


The next, and most time consuming step, was hand stitching the braided cotton into a rug.  I know there are a lot of online versions of rag rugs that use a machine zig zag stitch to attach the coiled braid, but where is the fun in that?!  And to be honest, I am not a huge fan of how that ends up looking.


My finished rug is approximately 36 inches in diameter.  I estimate that I used about 42 yards worth of braided cotton to end up with a fairly small rug, so yes, this is a fabric hog!


But in the end, I cleared out a small portion of my stash and did not add yet another garment to my very full closet(s).  I am by no means finished with garment sewing, but this was a very enjoyable sewing experience that took me a little bit out of my comfort zone.


The final step was to back the rug with felt.  This particular felt contains some rayon and is a little bit lighter weight than I would have liked, but I already had it on hand, so it was another stash buster!  And if the backing deteriorates at some point, I can always replace it - the backing probably took an hour to cut and apply by hand.  The rug, however, took a lot longer than that!


I wasn't sure that this was going to be a totally successful project, but I am thrilled with how it turned out.  And I may have already started another in shades of purple for my living room, this time with a more oblong shape . . .




Thursday, January 11, 2018

In regard . . .

to yesterday’s post, I would like to say a few words.  

I do not share much of my personal life on this blog.  I also do not talk about politics, economics, or current events because that is not what I choose to share in this setting.  Although it was clearly not stated in a manner that everyone heard or understood, I did not want my post on the 2018 Golden Globe red carpet to devolve into a conversation about the political ramifications of the choice so many women made to wear black to the event. 

That, however, does not mean that I am unaware of gender inequality or discrimination or sexual harassment, or that I intended to trivialize these matters.  I did not “miss the point” of women coming together in solidarity to promote a cause through the color of their clothing.  Just because I choose not to discuss such a thing on a sewing blog does not make me tone deaf to the conversation.

Quite frankly, I feel that it is inappropriate to discuss these topics on a blog which focuses on sewing.  I don’t enjoy getting into highly charged political discussions over a medium like the internet where tone and real understanding of complicated issues is particularly difficult.  In fact, I specifically stated my intent to avoid such arguments in my opening remarks. 

I certainly understand that people are very sensitive in the current climate, and perhaps it is too soon to divorce the clothes from the message on a broad scale, but I felt sure that it was possible in the context of this blog, especially considering that I have been writing these types of fashion critiques for years.

And just to clarify, I am aware that it is not 1950.  I am incredibly thankful that I live in a time and place where I can speak my mind.  I also appreciate that others may do the same, but to be so completely misunderstood by readers of my blog makes me very sad.


I enjoy beautiful clothing; I love looking at it, trying to understand how it was constructed, examining what I like about it, and what I don’t.  I find pleasure in figuring out what might be out of place or distracting to me, and how I might change it.  I discuss underlining, and horsehair braid, petticoats, and beautiful fabric here.  I choose to share my love of spending hours with a needle in hand and creating things that add enjoyment to my life.  It may be unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but I live for the creative part of my life.  And I assure you that my mind is filled with things other than pretty dresses, although I may not choose to mention those other things in this venue.  To assume that I am incapable of understanding merely because I do not expound on a particular subject on a blog that focuses on sewing is baffling to me.

I am not asking you to agree with my every thought and word (the world is a lot more interesting because we don't!).  You are welcome to stop visiting if you like, but I would also ask you to accept my right to express or not express my thoughts on the subjects I choose, however limiting you may find them to be.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

In Mourning for The 2018 Golden Globes Red Carpet

[Added January 11, 2018:  I would respectfully ask that you read this post before reading the words below in order to avoid any misunderstandings.]



As everyone knows, the color palette at this year's Golden Globes was extremely limited.  I really don't want to get into the politics of this choice, but I will say that changing the way we dress or what colors we choose to wear in response to something can potentially give power to that something.  I have very mixed feelings about women muting their power of self expression, even if in support of a good cause.  And how long will this blackout continue?

But a single color across the board does create an interesting way to critique these garments - if color is removed from the equation, you really can get back to the basics of silhouette, texture, and fit without the distraction or like/dislike of a particular hue.  Then again, anyone who has attempted to photograph black knows it is challenging . . . so perhaps those details are lost, after all.  

I can't say that any one of these gowns stand out as my favorite (I'm sorry, but I missed the vibrant colors), but I do like this Ralph & Russo on Penelope Cruz.  It is getting dangerously close to Barbie territory with the contrasting train, but in this case, I think the black color saves it.  I do wish, however, that the underlay matched her skin tone better and was not blacked out at the hipline.  If you are going for the illusion of wearing nothing but a thin layer of lace, make sure the illusion is not broken.




Natalie Portman wore Dior, so no big surprise there.  What I really love is the neckline on this dress, and I also appreciate the choice of velvet to add a bit of dimension to basic black.  I just wish she did something more interesting with her hair, and I also would have loved to see more interesting jewelry - the dress is the perfect neutral backdrop for something incredibly dramatic, but all we get are diamond studs?!?  What the heck?  And the curse of the neutral lip makes her look like she just woke up after going to sleep with her makeup on the night before, but I have given up that particular fight since it seems to be a trend that will not die.




Boy oh boy, do I miss Viola Davis in color.  The Brandon Maxwell dress is exquisite, but she makes such interesting choices when it comes to color, and I would have loved to see her pick for this event without the restriction of a single acceptable color, or lack thereof.  The necklace is slightly distracting for me.  Is it a lariat that was put on incorrectly?  It just looks a bit sloppy to me.  And I am dying to know if she has learned to walk in heels yet . . .




Michelle Pfeiffer is wearing Dior.  I loved similar looks by Maria Grazia Chiuri that went down the runway for Spring 2017, and I love this.  The contrast of the tailored jacket with the delicate skirt is really lovely.  I just wish Michelle had chosen a white or cream jacket, or something with a bit of contrast as an updated version of the iconic Bar Jacket.  I don't love the informal hairstyle, but overall, I think she looks amazing.



Meryl Streep looks wonderful in this dress!  I love the glasses and the earrings as accessories, but not the clutch.  Almost perfect, Meryl!  Her red carpet choices are really hit and miss from year to year, but this is one of her best, in my opinion.  Off the shoulder is a really good silhouette for her, as is the color black.




I really like Elizabeth Moss’s dress - I would wear this to the office.  Not sure what it’s doing on the red carpet, though?  Okay, it's Dior Couture, and it's a perfect fit, and I am sure the construction is amazing, but what is this doing on the red carpet?




Angelina Jolie went for a 1960s look, but ends up looking like Big Bird fell into some black paint.  She gets completely lost in all that fabric - where the heck are her hands?  Did Versace not have time to do a fitting of any kind?  Maybe she really does need to expose her entire leg to be interesting.  Perhaps this would work on someone else in a brighter color, but other than the fact that she looks great in a jewel neckline (has she every been this covered up?!), I am calling this one a complete fail.


There were a lot of hostess gown looks on the red carpet this year.  Let's just say, some of them were more successful than others.  

Christina Hendricks is wearing Christian Siriano.  I am not all that familiar with Christian Siriano's work, but each and every one of his dresses that I see has at least one issue - perhaps he should stick with designing $29.99 shoes for Payless and stay off the red carpet.  And here we see one issue with making everyone wear black - it's a difficult color to wear for a lot of people, and I don't think it does Christina any favors.  If this was in a jewel tone, I might feel a bit differently about the ensemble, but there is something not right about this and I can't quite put my finger on it.  Maybe the overskirt should be slightly shorter in front and longer in back, or maybe the pants need to be an inch or two longer?  The draped neckline is a bit of a mess, as well.



Here is another hostess gown on Alison Brie, and this one (designed by Vassals Zoulias) is an even bigger mess than the Siriano.   If you have to pull the skirt apart to show that the pants exist underneath . . . the design is a fail.  Maybe on the runway this might look interesting, or if she had an oversized fan with her wherever she went to gently push the skirt back, but as it stands, this just doesn’t work.  Not to mention the bust that doesn't fit properly, and that necklace that doesn't work with the rest of it. 



And it just keeps getting worse . . . Was Maggie Gyllenhaal a little chilly when she got dressed in Monse?  Because I cannot account for the random pair of pants she threw on.  That, or she forgot to take them off before she stepped out for the evening?  I am so very confused.  No, I've got it - the front of the dress was shredded by Alison Brie's fan and so she had to throw on the pants so she wouldn't reveal too much with the missing chunk of dress.  The shoes work with the "look" if you want to call it that, but what on earth are those earrings about?  At least she can laugh at herself . . .



Oh Debra, what did I tell you about Christian Siriano?  He just doesn't get proportions.  This is not a flattering look.  Maybe with a more extreme shoulder pad and a different sleeve this could be passable, but as-is, this is terrible.  That hair color on her, however, is AMAZING!



Laurie Metcalfe is the final hostess of the night in Sachin & Babi.  1998 wants its shoes back, but with the right necklace, I think this outfit could work for her.  Someone just get that woman a pair of pointy toed pumps, for goodness sake.




I am not sure how petite Sally Hawkins actually is, but I feel that this Dior gown is overwhelming her frame.  The neckline, however, is gorgeous.  I wish this was a skirt/cigarette pants combo, or at the least, not a full length skirt.  I would have liked to see her in something tea length, or something a lot more fitted than this.  And what is going on with that belt?  You know they measured the heck out of everything on this woman's body in the Dior atelier, but they gave her a belt that is twenty sizes too big?  Also, not sure what is happening with the hair.  But that neckline is to die for!!!  



This jumpsuit with the trailing bits has been seen for a few years now in various incarnations, and while this is not my favorite version, I do like the fact that it is not solid black.  It does, however, look like the beaded scarf has not made it down the red carpet obstacle course without injury.  Either make something into an actual train that drags beautifully and dramatically, or hem the darn thing at the proper length so that strings of beads do not become victims of stiletto shoes.



Claire Foy once again goes for pants, this time in Stella McCartney.  The jacket is perfection . . . the pants are not.  I don't like the hem length, and the trousers are neither fitted nor loose which is a bit distracting.  What were they supposed to look like?  The minimal jewelry and that severe hair looks great with the bold lip, though.  Too bad about those pants . . .



I have a really hard time with Chanel.  Up close, the couture is a work of art, but I just do not like Karl Lagerfeld's aesthetic.  How do you make a former model like Caitriona Balfe look short and almost dumpy?  Wear Chanel, I guess.  The proportions on this are not doing her any favors.



This Chanel silhouette on Alessandra Mastronardi is at least an improvement , but what is with the shoe choice? And the sheer fabric and belt look cheap - I know they're not, but they sure do look it.



Some ladies decided to go a little crazy with texture and throw a little bit of everything at the dress.  While we did not have Helena Bonham Carter or Janelle Monae around to spice things up, we have Sarah Jessica Parker in Dolce and Gahanna with a rather whimsical approach.  The dress is a little all over the place and would probably be a bit of a mess on anyone else, but it works for her.  There is definitely a bit of Carrie Bradshaw in this outfit!



And then others decided to throw everything but the kitchen sink in their look.  There is just way too much going on here.  Nicole Kidman wore a caped gown by McQueen to the Met Ball and looked spectacular, so it's not the cape I object to.  But this Prada is a hot mess on Diane Kruger.  She looks like a little girl playing dress up with her goth older sister's wardrobe.  I normally like her out of the box choices when it comes to fashion, but not this time.  And what on earth does that clutch have to do with anything?  I think she must have picked up someone else's purse.



Some people decided to add a splash of color to their basic black.  Unfortunately, this Armani PrivĂ© ends up looking like a really expensive baby bib on Allison Williams, or half of an archery target.  It also appears to be off center on her body . . . but that could just be the angle.  And the diamonds do not go at all.  Too bad, because the silhouette really works for her.



I like this use of color a little more, but Mandy Moore's choice of  Rosie Assoulin begins to look slightly prom-esque upon further inspection.  And what is up with the fit on that sash?  Not so sure black is a great color on her, either, or maybe it's the lipstick color that is making her look slightly sallow. 



And here we have another case of "I found my dress on Macy's clearance rack in the prom section."  The back view improves slightly, but whatever were Dakota Johnson and Gucci thinking with the front of the dress and the glitter tulle from JoAnn Fabrics as a finishing touch?  And don't get me started on the hair.



I really wish Kerry Washington's stylist would stop putting her in looks like this Hrabal Gurung that she simply cannot pull off.  Some women would rock this outfit, she does not.  Stop trying so hard, Kerry!  If you want to wear the shoes, go for it, but not with those earrings and that dress. 



And then there is the downright tacky.  The Zuhair Murad monstrosity on Halle Berry makes her look like a try hard teenager who went shopping at bebe for her high school dance.  I was not sure anything could look tacky on this lady, but I have been proven wrong.  This is just not good, and the shoes make it even worse.


On the other hand, Catherine Zeta Jones looks stunning in Zuhair Murad.  Now, it's not my favorite dress because I really am over these naked embroidered pieces, but she looks incredible.  The plunging neckline with the long sleeves really works for her.  Love her in emeralds, and here is a woman who can wear black. 


Octavia Spencer often chooses Tadashi Tadashi Shoji as a designer, so I would hope that they know how to flatter her figure.  This neckline and sleeve combo does just the opposite.  The v-neck needed to be wider, or maybe the sleeves slightly shorter.  But I do like the shorter skirt length on her.  The accessories, however, do not work with this dress.



Of course, there were one or two ladies who ignored the all black dress code and we got a tiny bit of color.  I actually think that the feathered train is a massive mistake and it looks like Scarlet O'Hara/Barbara Meier got to the curtains again, but at least there was a tiny burst of color in a sea of black. 


I am not sure how long this blackout will last, but a somber mood was achieved for Golden Globe red carpet fashion . . . I'm just not sure who wins when everyone wears a uniform of black.

[Click on image for source]