Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The gloves are off...

Reposting: (originally posted 8/28/07)

"A man of honor does not,... compromise a young woman by being her constant escort, and her's alone, for a long time, without having some serious intention. A man who will do this and then tell her of rumors of their supposed engagement which have reached him, at the same time disclaiming any motive except friendship, is not a fit "friend" for any girl; and one who has previously considered him a friend should not need further proof of the undesireableness of such friendship as he is capable of bestowing. The proper course for him to pursue would be to discontinue his attentions, or at least, offer them less frequently."

--Good Manners (Butterick Publishing Company: 1888)

I should be ashamed to admit this... but this post was delayed because I am hopelessly addicted to a reality show. Yes, I have fallen prey to Scott Baio is 45... and Single. Wow, how low can I sink...? Well, I must say, I was riveted until the very last moment of tonight's final episode, and wow, was it worth it! Please tell me I'm not alone...

Thanks to Diane's wonderful gesture of intellectual generosity, I am once again re inspired to try the gloves. While I am in peaceful North Carolina on vacation this week, I will attempt them again. Since this is a hand-sewing project, it is portable...

I'll be visiting the William Ivey Long exhibit I mentioned this week - can't wait. I'll report on it when we get back after Labor Day.

...And the dress is done! It really loses its magic in these rather drab pictures, so I can only convey how it makes me feel in words...

The dress is linen, and I'm a poor photographer, so the fabric really photographs as bumpy, and is hard to read, but here it is on me and on the dress form, since my figure is drastically different at the bust line. I love low cargo pockets - perfect for comfort and easy access.

Monday, November 19, 2018


Reposting (originally posted 8/5/11)

When business (or any other endeavor) becomes difficult or slows down, I am reminded of the advice for surviving a riptide. Stay parallel to the shore, don't fight the "current", preserve your energy, and resume "swimming" when conditions permit.

Decades ago, I was having a conversation with a friend, who was also a celebrity at the time. This person was talking about how difficult it was to be famous, because people didn't want his friendship so much as they wanted a "piece" of him; almost as if his fame was something they wanted to extract from his veins and take a sip... What used to be friendship for him had taken on a sort of parasitic quality that he found very uncomfortable. It was a true psychological burden for him.

I'm no celebrity, and not rich by any means, but I now know that feeling. Having honed a talent that many feel is unattainable for them (although it TOTALLY is!) and almost like magical powers, some clients want and want and want, calling and pushing for more and more and more, even when I explain that I am unavailable. I know that I do not have to carry the weight of this, but modern technology has made everyone so available and reachable, that people often feel it is appropriate to assign urgency to things that simply... aren't. Sometimes things go wrong with projects. It may be my fault, it may be the client's, it may just be more work than expected, it may just be a "riptide" -- but if no one has been wronged financially, we all have to "tread" for a while, and move forward when conditions permit.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Trial of the Century (Revised)

Reposting: (original post date 7/25/11)

My great-grandfather, who is the father of my paternal grandmother, was born in 1895 in the same Hot-As-Heck dismal place in North Carolina as my grandmother was born, and eventually my father. (Although my Dad made a run for it at the age of 16, and never returned.) My grandfather's profession, based on information from Ancestry.com, was "farmer".


Born at a time when birth certificates weren't necessarily issued for Black Americans, he managed to carve out quite a career for himself. He had five children, a wife, and LOTS of land. Nearly 250 acres at his death. None of his children ever had to buy land of their own; they simply built their homes on the land he owned. Large enough to farm, but there was no farming going on. The prevailing rumor (the one I choose to believe), is that he was a bootlegger, and whatever other activities would gain him some cash and kind treatment from a town that didn't welcome his "kind". The town had a lynching tree. Interesting that everyone knew that, especially considering that for a long time, there were only one or two families in the town who would have been candidates for it.

I always imagined this place as a very tense, hostile kind of environment for the family, and I imagine that there probably weren't close personal friendships formed between them and the neighbors. Dating was impossible; you had to leave town to find a mate, especially since you risked being the first casualty on that tree if you pursued romance outside of your race.

So, you understand, as the family grew, and the children had children of their own, they spread out across the United States. Most of the original set of kids stayed and grew old in North Carolina, but the grandkids went north, west, and east. Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles were popular destinations among them.

When you grow up in a town with a lynching tree, it is tough to undo the ideas you have about racism and how you are perceived. One of those grandkids moved to Los Angeles, and, oddly enough, was called to jury duty in LA in the mid-90's. She served as a juror in "The Trial of the Century." Yes, THAT one. Seriously. And we know how that turned out...

So, I'm particularly struck by the text of these pages in an old craft/etiquette/idea book of mine, written around the time of my great-grandfather's birth. Despite the language, it gives a glimpse of what race relations may have been like then, and how there was a certain fascination from the point of view of the author, that reminds me of the way the Grinch watches the "Who"s in Whoville celebrate Christmas with no presents. Note: no comparison intended between the Grinch and white people...

(Taken from Day Entertainments and Other Functions - Metropolitan Handy Series September, 1896)

This passage is about the Easter celebration, from the point of view of the (white) author.

"The little negroes, attired in the the latest styles...wend their ways to Sabbath schools, where they are to repeat verses in public... The children have brought from the woods loads of pink honeysuckle, yellow jasmine and wild laurel, so that the rude walls enclose a measure of sweetness and beauty not to be attained in the city cathedral at many times the cost, and it is safe to presume that the songs assiduously practiced for a week or more are sure to out-distance, in the literal acceptance of the word, any vocal efforts of a surpliced choir.... Singing, paying and preaching go on intermittently the rest of the day and nightfall witnesses the climax of the festival, when Easter becomes a veritable Candlemas... Everybody participates - the venerable, long coated elders, the fat cooks, swagger dining-room boys, house-maids gayly flirtatious, and children by scores, each and every one holding a candle in inverse ratio to the bearer's stature. All other lights are out and the candle beams waver weirdly upon intent, dark faces, as the procession moves along the aisles to the rhythm of of some rich far-sounding chant, such as we may hear only in the south from the lungs of a lusty negro congregation."

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trial by Fire (and Error)

Reposting - (originally posted 7/17/11 - still relevant!)

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, things can go horribly wrong. Failed relationships, disappointments... make you wanna "make lemonade". That lemonade isn't always as sweet as you'd hoped.

On that particularly dismal trip to Hot-As-Heck, NC in the summer when I was 16, my mom distracted "my grandmother" (my own awkward name for her, since it never rolled off my tongue to call her "Grandma", or anything like that.) outside for a bit, my Dad pushed aside a large dresser to reveal a door in the front room that lead deeper into the house. Behind the dresser, in neatly appointed rooms covered by a thick layer of dust, lay the year 1965 or so. Furniture in conversational positions, and a lovely baby grand piano, showing signs that a real life had been lived here. Organized and bright, these lonely rooms had been untouched for at least a decade, I suspected. And the "kid's" rooms (my Dad and his brother) were just as they left them even longer ago. At times, my grandmother talked about her "kids" as if they were still boys, and her husband (my grandfather) who had died before I was born, as if he were still alive. My Dad showed me the rooms, whispering quietly, unemotionally, and factually about what each room represented for him. We tiptoed out, put the dresser back as it was, and pretended to be sitting quietly when she came back in.

Back to the present:

Wiped out after a dressmaking project that went wrong, I decided to work out my dissapointment with a personal project. Because I had used an expensive fabric from my personal stash (a luscious, black double silk organdy) as a lining to help "save" a dress that ultimately didn't work for a client, I decided to reclaim some of that fabric for a new dress, which I would name "Things we lost in the fire". My obsession with flame motifs led me to buy a lovely cotton emblazoned with a firey mix of reds and oranges, and apply it to a summer dress. Set against a smooth, jet-black cotton, I sketched and imagined until a creative frenzy sent me to the dress form to messily drape the design.

These approximate shapes gave me rough templates for cutting my pattern pieces...

I adjusted the pattern to my shape, cut the dress pieces, assembled the dress, and was pleased.

That is, until I put it on. Somehow, I had created what looked like a grandma's nightgown with flames. Hot flashes? Ode to menopause? Not what I was going for. Knowing I would never wear it, I resolved to find the version of this idea that I would/could wear. Okay, the silk organdy has no place on this dress, either. I wanted to place it as a bottom border, sorta giving the illusion that the fabric had been singed as the flames traveled up the dress. Okay, so I could see it in my head... but on the body? Just Terrible.

All of that to get to this. Black skirt, to be worn with a black tank and my favorite red wedge sandals.

Now, if only I had a tattoo...

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