Shelved Projects and Completing Them

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Beautiful yellow silk for a camisole, green bakelite beads needing to be restrung, corduroy to make into pants, numerous hats that took a wrong turn and need to be redesigned, bins of colourful fabric that I have marked as potential. The list goes on and on. Patiently these little dreams wait for me to pluck them from the shelf and sculpt them into their intended form. I’ve done a great job of collecting materials. The studio is full of pretty things to play with.

My hands are never still, but with commitments that always take priority, and a consistent stream of new inspirations to distract me, it’s no wonder that many ideas just get shelved, only to be forgotten. Yet they don’t disappear. They take up space, cluttering up my visual field and acting as reminders of inspiration that has yet to be fulfilled.

I live in a small apartment with my husband, and I’m proud to say that we’ve carved out enough space for each of us to have our own creative stations. Due to our tight quarters, it’s crucial for me to keep things efficient and tidy. The biggest challenge to this is ‘projects that I will one day get to.’

When I have new inspiration, my mind lights up, it’s exciting. I want to chase that idea, buy the material and start something fresh. What a rush! Until I get home and put the material on the shelf in order to work on it later. Yikes, here we go again. In the end, I just feel guilty.

I listen to the news on the radio, I’m aware of the effects of mass consumerism on the planet and I want to contribute by being more conscious of my choices, and less reactive. When I look around my work area I want to see open space so my mind feels clear and expansive, rather than contracting under the pressure of all the things I must get done. I want to be more present with ideas as they arrive. Then if I feel like pursuing it, I don’t want to wait for a year to pass before I can take action.

There are a few things that I need to do to make all of this happen. Firstly I see the importance of embracing what I currently have. Which means using materials I have collected over the years, completing projects that have remained untouched or letting go of them altogether. As well as becoming increasingly discerning about which projects I decide to pursue in the first place.

To begin, I’ll start taking one project off the shelf at one time. Here we go!

The first project I selected to complete is a purse with tortoiseshell handles. I found the handles at a thrift store in Orangeville, ON called Seconds Count. It’s one of those places that still charge $1 - $2 for many of their items. It’s run by volunteers, and the proceeds are donated to the community hospital. The handles had to come home with me.

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I rooted through my stash to find a material that would match the handles well, but nothing jumped out at me. So I took the handles fabric shopping. Once I was in the store it dawned on me how many different directions I could go. It was a bit daunting and I will admit that it took me awhile to decide. I kept texting a girlfriend who’s taste I implicitly trust, the options that I was mulling over. We settled on the same one, thankfully.

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The next decision up to bat was the shape of the bag. I cut out different paper patterns in order to figure out the size and shape that suited the handles and the fabric. It was all very rough, but they acted as a helpful tool in making a final decision.

Here is the finished bag. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I like that the shape mimics the fabric pattern and I’m confident that I will use it. I did have a little fabric left over so I made a couple of cushions as a bonus.

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Berets and Boots

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My fall fashion inspiration can be summed up in two words, berets and boots. For me, the two go beautifully together. Both are timeless and weather appropriate. I also can’t help but conjure up images of waltzing down the street looking like Faye Dunaway from Bonnie and Clyde.

The traditional beret is made on a knitting loom, then felted mechanically. Once felted they are dried on moulds which determine the size. Since I don’t knit, but wanted to make some berets for my Fall/Winter collection, I created mine out of felt by blocking them on a wooden hat form. This gives them a more structured look than the soft knitted variety. In millinery, we refer to berets not by the material, but instead by their particular shape.

When I say the beret is timeless, it indeed is. Berets have been around since the 17th century, but similar styles date back to the Bronze age and were worn throughout Europe. Beret making became industrialized in the 19th century and was popular amongst the working class in France and Spain. By the 1920’s berets started to become a fashion statement and still are to this day.

To complete my desired look, I treated myself to a pair of ankle boots from Heart and Sole Shoes, a store in Victoria, BC. www.heartandsoleshoes.ca. They are from Earth Footwear and caught my attention because they have a 1960’s look, and of course the colour is unique. It being a stone blue. The ankle boot has always been my weakness. Partially because they pair well with dresses, skirts, and flood pants, which I mainly wear, but also because my skinny calves and ankles seem to suit this style best.

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I don’t know that enough can be said on the versatility of boots. Whether you sport a short, mid-calf, or tall style, they offer options for mixing and matching with your entire wardrobe. Never be afraid to experiment. Different hemlines of pants, skirts or dresses, a flared look or something sleek, it all can work with a favourite pair of boots.

Although boots were regularly worn throughout the 19th century, weren’t considered high fashion until the 1960’s. By the 1970’s they became a staple in women’s wardrobes. Boots were once worn for more practical attire and only gained height when hemlines started to shorten. Taller styles became an acceptable alternative to showing one’s ankles and calves. In 1913, Denise Poiret, wife of couturier Paul Poiret, wore a pair of knee high boots that caused a sensation in both Paris and New York. Designed by her husband, she gave rise to the ‘Russian boot’ that by the 1920’s was being made in a variety of styles. Although this style lost ground in the mid-1930’s, appreciation for a stylish boot was only gaining ground and continues to this day.

Russian Style boot

Russian Style boot

Living in a big city allows me the opportunity to study street styles and I can’t deny that with fall and winter season approaching I see boots, boots, and more boots each and every day! To add to my secret delight, there has also been a sea of berets as well.

Stay warm and have fun with fashion.

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Shaking Off the Rust

Recently I decided to create a small collection of felt hats for Fall and Winter. Although I sew daily, it’s been a while since I’ve designed and produced numerous pieces in a short time-frame. My goal was to complete 13-18 hats. Which required me to shake off some of the rust that had settled into my gears, and to push myself into action despite some mild squeals of protest.

To begin, I spent time looking through my wooden blocks, studying varied shapes and dimensions. I gathered some inspiration from photos and then blocked a few hats to see how this exercise might unfold.

Inspiration: Woman in Biba suits 1960’s

Inspiration: Woman in Biba suits 1960’s

Hats continued to build upon my work desk, and as I took a step back to evaluate the progress, an obvious and familiar style emerged. One that I recognized well. No matter the inspiration, or the intended direction, I saw evidence of my fingerprints on each shape before me. Proving once again that I can’t escape myself.

My directive was to keep the hats simple, thus making them wearable on a day to day basis. I kept colours neutral, despite my love of colour, and I made sure not to overly embellish them, because I wanted their shape to speak for itself.

One of the aspects of millinery that continues to be a struggle is that many women don’t feel at ease wearing a hat. Hats are often viewed as ‘too dressy,’ or that they make too much of a statement, or women believe they just don’t look good in hats. Hence my desire to keep to simple shapes.

I love it when a hat is both beautiful and functional. I want to speak to the modern woman, to provide her with something that is useful, and which enhances her sense of style without scaring her away.

Whether I achieved all of this with my current designs is still to be seen. I did manage to complete 15 pieces and feel very good about working through the process. I had moments where I fully embraced each step and others where I fought the tedious hours of hand-stitching. I stayed the course and am happy and ready to present my newest work.

I called the collection ‘Facile’, not because it was the easiest collection to create, but because I dream about women once again finding it easy to place a beautiful chapeau upon her lovely head.

I will be presenting many hats from this collection at East Village Hats in New York on October 19th, 2018.

Enjoy!

Photography by Keith Haist  www.keithhaist.com

Photography by Keith Haist www.keithhaist.com

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