Knitseason 2020-21

So, I‘ve finally finished my Emma Cardigan, and have cast on directly for another one. At time of writing, I‘m halfway through.
No one will believe that this really is a quick knit because the first one took me more than six months to complete. I spent ages waffling on how to put the pockets in (so chuffed about that bee-print fabric), then I just did it, only to spend more months waffling on how to close up the armpits.
A couple weeks ago, I discovered Søstrene Grene, a small Danish chain in Trier and brought home a sweater quantity of this soft pink bamboo-wool blend. Lana Grossa just put out their winter collection and this fuschia pink turtleneck vest (above, left) grabbed my attention.
Now that the weather is turning chilly, I‘ve started thinking about cowls, dickeys and vests to keep my throat and chest warm.

Kids are back in kindergarten and school, bringing home the sniffles. But for adults, one wrong sniffle or cough can be awkward out in public these days.

Stay healthy.

Summer‘s over

My impressions of summer: The Porta Nigra and other sights to see in Trier, Boutique hotel Jungenwald and the Alte Zunftscheue restaurant in Traben-Trarbach on the Mosel river, my Emma cardigan is finally finished. And harvesting pears.

In and around the Stubaital glacier in Austria. I don’t know how anyone can deny global warming or climate change. The glacier is almost gone. It’s shocking and truly sad to see the efforts the folks in Stubaital are making to protect what’s left…
And now Autumn is upon us. What are you looking forward to this knitting/ crafting season?

Summer Catch-up

Well, school‘s out once again. The temperatures have shot up and most people had to reconsider their holiday plans. Some decided to anyway. We all watched with bated breath. And a few came come with Covid-19, but the health authorities are doing what they can to get people tested at airports and train stations.
A lot of people, unable or unwilling to travel overseas are looking into traveling within Germany or to stable neighboring countries.
This summer we‘ve been chilling at home watching shows like – „Eurovision, The Story of Fire Saga“, which is a must see, not only for the fabulous knits (I was laughing so hard, I only managed to snap this pic), but also for the fairly humorous explanation of what the heck Eurovision is, and why Europeans go gaga every spring.

This year, the show was cancelled, so the film was a lovely replacement. There were a lot of real Eurovision stars from former years to spot, and the music was actually as good as what we would have seen in the show! (Link to the singalong)

All Europeans vote in by telephone or App, but the catch is you can’t vote for your own country. Sort of like regular people wearing cloth masks: you’re not protecting yourself, but other people as a public service.

Stay safe and healthy, and keep on crafting.

Q notes 6.5: Time for Questions

Had time during the week, to ask myself and the Internet about things that puzzled me about Making the Cut, reviewed last time.
We had this “wow” feeling of watching the show, then being able to go straight online to the Amazon Making the Cut store and ordering the winning pieces. It feels like magic, having the possibility to see something, like it and order it right away.

Deedee on Youtube was the first person to post an Unboxing video to show her Esther Perbandt trousers and vest top from episode 2. She seemed well-pleased with her purchases. Unfortunately, quite a few people commented on the pieces being sold out, or not being available in their country.

My questions to Amazon are, what happened between the designer winning and the item popping up in the online store 6-8 months later? They are in a position to provide some transparency to the production process as well.

I’m no expert, so bear with me. As far as I can find out, thanks to Zoe Hong’s educational fashion videos on Youtube:

How to get your Ideas made into clothes

Watch me design 8: Initial Costing

How to Design for Every Price Point

How to Produce a Fashion Collection

I get the idea, that the item gets broken down from the pattern and tech pack, where each piece has a production cost attached. And depending on what Amazon budgeted for the production run, certain details (fabric quality, embellishments, trims, etc) get tweaked until the price is right. That explains why Esther Perbandt designed the trousers using one material, but they are on sale made of polyester and elastane. (For the record, she has stated on her website, that her boutique production takes place in Berlin, Germany and in Poland)

After the number-crunching, fabric, linings and trims are sourced, then off to producers. So, WHERE was it produced? BY WHOM? Under what conditions? All we see is “Imported”. Is that code for they don’t think we want to know the clothing may have been sewn in China?

Amazon missed a chance here to show the world that they can produce fair and sustainably, rather than jumping feet first into Fast Fashion. If any global organization could redefine fashion in this new decade, it could have been Amazon – if they set a new pace with transparency and traceability rather than following the pack.

Stay safe and healthy.

Q Notes 6: Binge watching the future

woman in white bed holding remote control while eating popcorn
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Believe it or not, I’ve had very little time for binging shows. It’s family viewing until the kids withdraw.

As I’ve posted here, I watched Love is Blind, but I’ve also caught Netflix’ Next in Fashion and am now watching Amazon’s Making the Cut.
There’s less drama than Project Runway, there’s more design (even though sewing is still necessary) and more behind the scenes of how the fashion business works, from idea to finished garment in shops or runways.
I also like to watch episode reviews and see what other people are saying about these shows. What shocks me is how little people know about fashion history and often conflate their personal taste with the idea that their way of dressing is the only way and any deviation is wrong. Shoutout to HauteLeMode and SpillitBoytv on Youtube for their analyses. They know their fashion history.

What I’ve learned: Black is a non-color as well as a philosophy in fashion. Museum Galliera has even showed Balenciaga’s work in black. So, a designer who only makes garments in black is a statement. I even found Making the Startup podcast, where my fellow countrywoman Esther Perbandt talks about her experiences on the show (there are no spoilers, though). I’m now looking through her previous collections on Vogue.de.

Thanks to the Internet, we can look up a Betsey Johnson or Japanese street fashion  to learn and understand the aesthetic of contestant Martha. Or we could look up Comme des Garçons or the  Antwerp Six,  to find out why Sander is sending a donut dress (which totally reminded me of Janelle Monae’s Pynk pants) down the runway. It’s great to see him learning in real time, to find the balance between avant-garde and accessibility. Which is basically the question: will this sell?

The fact that Amazon is using the show to attempt to
jumpstart its Fashion category is not surprising given the literally captive audience in lockdown. As a logistics giant, it certainly won’t hurt their bottom line, if they present themselves as good partners for small and emerging designers like those in the competition. For the record though, we have to keep in mind that Amazon has had a muddy track record protecting partners from counterfeits, fakes and copies. Remember Birkenstock?
It’s fitting, now that so many in-person fashion and sustainability conferences and trade fairs have been cancelled or postponed, that we consumers have another way to mull over how this worldwide crisis is going to change fashion.

Tamsin Blanchard also looks at how this might cause the fashion industry players to recalibrate their thinking. Li Edelkoort, my favorite trend forecaster (and the closest we have to a Deplhic Oracle), talks about a quarantine of consumption.

“It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful.”

– Li Edelkoort in Dezeen magazine

We’re looking at what young/small designers can create (hopefully sustainable, green and fair), and we are asking ourselves what do we really want and need. Interestingly enough, I’ve been seeing more online ads for loungewear, blouses (we only need waist-up for teleconferencing, I guess) and sportswear.

Edelkoort also describes what will come next, post-virus, as the Age of the Amateur (which she explains in greater depth on the BoF Podcast). She sees arts and crafts, artisanal production and DIY as a survival mechanism. And that’s where hobby makers firmly sit. So let’s keep on making.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Q notes 5: Bookclub

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The Plague” and author Albert Camus
(Vintage/ Everett/Shutterstock) / source: LA Times

I’ve finished my felted slippers and put in my cardigan pockets. I’m finishing my Ankers Sommer shirt, my last major WIP, while getting used to lockdown life. It helps that the sun is shining. And that we have enough space that we aren’t up under each other all day.

I get the New York Times’ and the Economist’s Corona Daily Briefing Newsletters. The most practical and inspirational is the NYT Cooking newsletter. Not only do I get an idea of what people are cooking under quarantine, but I have learned a lot about what one can do with things I only knew one way of cooking.

Unusually satisfying, almost like a balancing of the daily news, is reading Albert Camus’ Absurdist novel The Plague with the Quillette magazine bookclub.

It sounds morbid, but it is actually soothing that this Franco-Algerian writer wrote this in 1947 and humans in 2020 are acting in exactly the same ways.

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

And it fits right in with news report of a certain US governor saying he had no idea Covid-19 was so dangerous. Here’s also what LA Times writer Stephen Metcalf also had to say about reading this book now…

Stay safe everyone.

 

Q Notes 3: Spring cleaning

gray and brown floor mop on white wall
Photo by Rony Stephen Chowdhury on Pexels.com

Half Germany is using the lockdown/ quarantine time for what probably would have gotten started this weekend: spring cleaning.

On the agenda, even above and beyond a basic Corona wipedown of surfaces and door handles, are windows, blinds, bedsheets and duvets. Every nook and cranny has to be freed of dust and cobwebs that do accumulate in the darker half of the year. If you have a fireplace, you know what I mean. It always amazes me how much dust can accumulate on a heater/radiator.

Now that it’s spring, everyone wants to let the light, fresh air and warmth in.
If you’re working from home, here are some general tips on cleaning your workspace.

I‘m hearing discussions on the Internet about cleaning and cooking as the new wellness. I can well imagine that, as especially in these times, doing something like these simple tasks can help us feel like we are in control of even a small part of our lives. Plus we have the advantage of starting, practicing and getting better over time. Becoming good at it. We talked about micromastery here.

I think on a micro scale, cleaning is deeply satisfying because it’s really creating order from chaos. Like when Marie Kondo says, „I love mess.“ She’s thinking about the pleasure she gets from sorting it all out.

Books:

At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott, who also vlogged about mentally rebranding domestic tasks.

Happy starts at Home by Rebecca West is on my reading list.

Shannon’s The Simple Sophisticate podcast, where I learned about this book.

Other links:

Roy Wood Jr on best pandemic movies to watch after the cleaning is done.

Dana „DWJ“ from Yards of Happiness on what to knit while self-quarantining.

Notes 2: Max Ernst’s Woman in Red

Markus Orth‘s book Max, that I just finished listening to, inspired me to start looking at the art created by the main character Max Ernst, and some of the women he had relationships with: Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning and Luise Straus-Ernst.
Ernst was an unusually versatile and prolific artist working in the early Dadaist and later surrealist. What struck me, was that Max Ernst returned again and again to portraying a woman in red.

 

I particularly struck by the Virgin mother, disciplining her child. She has removed the blue cloak that we normally associate her with (to cushion her son on her lap), and has what we would today call a bodycon skin-tight red garment underneath, revealing every curve of her body. It very much reminds me of several art historians‘ claim that Mary took the place of a more ancient mother goddess.

I‘m no art historian, but I find it fascinating how often he paints women in red. I couldn’t find anything online, so I thought I‘d put them all on one page to see if my hunch was correct.

It‘s interesting how sparingly Ernst used red, but once in the US in the 1940s, he painted so many female figure with these red tones. Despite the fact that they are, with two exceptions masked, the decalcomania technique he uses gives them an earthy, elemental allure.
The tattered garments which hang on nude bodies remind me of what Camille Paglia calls „liquid nature „ in her book Sexual Personae. In every case, he balances the repulsion we feel with the „beautiful“ bodies stepping forward or peeking out from the red. As Paglia writes,
“Beauty is our escape from the murky flesh-envelope that imprisons us.”

Cardi B at Met Gala 2019
Cardi B in Thom Browne gown Met Gala 2019 /source: businessinsider.com

And speaking of our mortality, this morning I woke up to find these Cardi B remixes:

1) by iMarkkeyz and 2) DJ Snake, and this other guy jazz pianist Charles Cornell, I‘ll throw in because NOW we have time, right?

 

Notes from Quarantine: How to stop Face touching

photo of woman in red sweater
Photo by Sound On on Pexels.com

I‘m the kind of person, whose nose starts to itch as soon as someone tells me I shouldn’t touch my face. Are you like that too?

Wired has a great article on why we touch our faces, often without realizing it, up to 23 times an hour.
Good Housekeeping also has good recommendations on how to break the habit.
The New York Times suggests wearing glasses and even makeup to create a barrier and reduce the urge to touch.
I‘ve also seen recommendations to have a clean tissue on hand, if you must touch.

Maybe rubbing that itchy (but not runny!) nose on a sleeve or shoulder will help. Gosh, that big collared textured cowl is looking better every minute y‘all.