Tuesday, July 31, 2007

99% Inspiration, 1% Perspiration




"As to color in dress, there are three things to be considered by the individual: the effect of color on yourself, on those around you, and on your background. Health, spirits and efficiency are affected by the colors you wear. Drab, hopeless, tasteless shades turn the whole course of your life one way just as inevitably as gay, stimulating, pleasure-giving colors will turn it another."

-The New Butterick Dressmaker (Butterick Publishing Company, 1927)

Well, that's really a rather dramatic way of putting it, dontcha think?

Color and its influence on my mood is undeniable. The inspiration for the project shown below was immediate, but it took almost a year for it to manifest itself into a garment...




Now, to you, it may simply be a shirt. But to me.... well, if you've been reading my other posts, you know already...

Conicidentally - Yes, I only read the paper after writing today's post...

Today's Wall Street Journal article on Claude Monet starts with a lovely quote from William Butler Yeats. It refers to the illusion that art, if it achieves its goal, looks as if it were easy for the artist.

"A line may take us hours, maybe
But if it does not seem a moment's thought
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Success, Significance, and Legacy




"Like lace and embroidery,(drawn-work's) first traces were discovered hundreds of years ago when, according to present history, the countries known to man were yet in a primitive condition, and the times were those now referred to as "the dark ages."

Even in those days, needle-work of various descriptions, though of rude contruction, was found in the tombs of those who had lived in other centuries even then long since passed."

- The Art of Drawn Work (Butterick Publishing Company, 1896)

This is a motivational message to all creative procrastinators...

If you never take out the machine, you will never begin the sewing project. If you never pull out the knitting needles, your grandchild won't have the blankie. If you never start typing, that screenplay will never exist. As they say, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

Why do you sew/knit/embroider? It is so much trouble! To the casual observer, it may seem a waste of time to repeadly stab a piece of cloth, making a delicate swirl on a collar, that will be nearly imperceptible to passers-by. When you finish a successful garment or accessory, that beautifully calm feeling is priceless. But it really isn't about the finished product. No, it isn't. It is about the process; the journey, really. You can't buy that at Target!

Seriously though, when you make something for someone you love, it has a special significance that trancends the object's function. When made carefully, and made to last, every detail, every slight irregularity, adds to its beauty, character and uniqueness. That project educates you along the way. Not only did you need to make it; it needed to be made. When you create something that will outlive you, that extends your reach into future generations, that is where legacy comes in. It is a gift, a service...


Vernice Armour, the first African-American female combat pilot in the US Marines, is a beautiful example of how viewing one's life goal as a service to others can lead to self-discovery. She is a big picture thinker, and presented such a motivating description of her life's calling in a TV interview ith Tavis Smiley, that I felt compelled to share the link.

On a personal note, my grandmother is 95, and lives in a nursing home in PA. She has had an Altzheimer-like condition for most of my life, so we have never really had a conversation that made any sense. Her nurse told me that, although my grandmother no longer speaks, she seems to be doing something all the time... a repetitive motion... "It looks like sewing", she said.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Cro-Shea (Baseball and Knitting - genius!)


"The secret of any undertaking is -- first, complete mastery of details from the very first preliminaries; second, sufficient perseverance to grasp and conquer difficulties through a knowledge of detail, thus bringing harmonious results from puzzling or complicated conditions"

-The Art of Knitting (Butterick Publishing Company, 1892 - companion book to the Art of Crocheting)

This is true for knitting... and baseball... and anything worth pursuing, really. Through perseverance and mastery of fine motor skills, a great knitter develops the beautiful, dancelike rythm of a star pitcher.

I don't know how many people see any connection between needle-arts and baseball, but isn't it just fantastic that some visionary has seen a way to make that family outing at Shea Stadium a happy day for everyone? They are calling it "Cro-Shea"!

Stitch 'n' Pitch, as it is described in the week's New York Magazine, as "an entertaining if odd pairing of interests sponsored by the National Needle Arts Association" This one (coming up -- August 8th) was actually organized to let knitters and crocheters meet up to see the Mets vs. Braves game. So, if your kids and hubby, wife, or other beloved companion(s) love the game, but you'd rather be knitting, now you don't have to choose, and bringing your supplies is actually part of the event. Now, that's marketing genius at work - hooray for whoever thought of that!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On Manners and Wealth

A rare occurance...

I was inspired by Peggy Noonan's particularly timely piece in today's Wall Street Journal, entitled "Rich Man, Boor Man" to write today's entry. The key to her article is that "the pursuit of riches has made us ruder". Absolutely.



One of my new favorite books is Good Manners, which actually isn't new, but from the late 19th century. While reading it, I discovered that manners are constant, and what consitutes good manners has barely changed in the past two centuries. As we become more disconnected, the loss of manners creates considerably more room for misunderstanding, conflict, and evasion to avoid discomfort.

As I alluded to in my recent post on the White House dress code, the loss of manners has made it easy to dismiss the basic level of respect owed to sites of historic significance and prestige.


The Wall Street Journal article "What I Wore to the Takeover" combines the ideas of manners, respect and clothing as communication. In this article, Donald Trump mentions that he respects his colleagues and business associates by dressing harmoniously with their culture and environment. While clothes alone do not make the man, I think the WSJ is on to something here...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No flip-flops in the White House

"The President of the United States and his wife, are, by courtesy, the first lady and gentlemen in the land; and this courteous designation is given them irrespective of personal party or feeling, and is in every consonance with the republican idea that it is the office, and not the incumbent, to which obeisance is offered. … To day receptions, ladies wear visiting toilettes, and gentlemen morning dress. At an evening reception, evening dress only is good form.”

Good Manners (Butterick Publishing Company: New York, 1888)

This post was inspired by today's news bit, which refers to the enforcement of a dress code for White House visitors. Odd as it may seem, I applaud this effort! Of course, there will always be "bigger fish to fry" in Washington, but can't we all just insist on a basic level of respect, and an acknowledgement that it isn't just another trip to the beach? Is it too much to ask that people simply put a little thought into what they wear when they plant themselves in such impressive, historic surroundings?

Clearly, this was on the minds of at least one author in 1888. I'm glad to see that this is a discussion worth having in 2007.

See this video for some "man on the street" comments. What do you think?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Paul Simon on Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose recently interviewed Paul Simon , who spoke about the creative process and how he has navigated the path of creativity in the white-hot glare of fame. It struck me at a particularly ripe moment in my creative life; the points he makes about "imitating who you once were" resonated so beautifully. Watch it online, if you are able. It is wonderful nourishment for the brain and heart!

On running a custom sewing business

Running a custom sewing business can be an enormously satisfying way to earn a living, supplement the family income, or simply contribute your skills to the community. Alterations and repairs are fairly straightforward transactions, pretty well understood by most clients. However, selling invisible products and labor (e.g. a custom dress) can be far more complex arrangements. There are some great resources out there to get you started, or help you grow.

Below, are the basics to consider, whether you are or want to be a custom sewing professional.

Join a professional organization. Being a member of a professional organization will help you get the information you need to run your business effectively, and it will give you credibility with your clients, while letting them know that you are committed to the growth and improvement of your business. The Professional Association of Custom Clothiers is a great one to join, especially if you would like the support and guidance of long-established sewing professionals. The Costume Society of America is another, and there are more groups for tailors, researchers, bridal professionals, and other specialties. If you want to work in certain fields (like Broadway costume design in New York City), you may need to join a union to get work.

Continue your education. Take classes taught by quality teachers, and learn the best methods for the types of projects you intend to pursue. Develop your own techniques, and seek to constantly improve your skills.

Develop a web presence. Don’t rely on the yellow pages or the local paper for all of your business. Most people with disposable income (who are more likely to be your clients) have internet access and use the web to find what they are looking for. If you offer something particularly unique, being listed on a website or developing your own website is particularly worthwhile. A professional organization like PACC offers listings for its members, and Find a Dressmaker and A Vintage Wedding are sites that will list the businesses which meet their criteria.

Invest in quality equipment, and keep existing equipment well maintained. Old, temperamental equipment will cost you time and money, and affect the quality of your projects. If you are just beginning, be project-oriented, not income oriented, at first. Establishing your rates will take time, and you will need to keep a time and expense log for a wide variety of projects before you will know how much you need to charge. There are many books that promise “foolproof” methods, but only you know your own pace and work style.

Love what you do, and love your clients. Let’s face it – there are far easier ways to earn a buck. If this isn’t something you are passionate about, you will grow to hate it, and lament the loss of your hobby. Know that things can and will go wrong. Establish a business policy and procedures for when these things happen. Difficult clients, poor time management, and projects gone awry happen to even the best of dressmakers. Whatever the agreement or disagreement, make sure that those policies honor the client, while maintaining your own integrity.

Make things! The best advertising is word-of-mouth, since most custom sewing businesses are local. Make, alter and repair great things for yourself, your friends and your family, and do not hesitate to let people know that you are in business, and how to contact you. Don't fall for the idea that the key to success is that wealthy people will want to overpay for your services, as many of the cheerleading-type start-up information would have you believe. Strive to make what you offer worth the price.