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.

Q notes 7: Black in Fashion

If you can spare the time, Michel Pastoureau’s Black: The History of a Color will take us from the beginning of recorded history through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and on into modern times. He argues quite credibly, that up until Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments in optics in the 17th Century, proved that colours were made by “breaking up” white light, and that black wasn’t even on the spectrum, people DID think of black as a colour.

It’s a fascinating and accessible read, with lots of lovely images from various types of Art through the ages – I never thought it would be so interesting to find out about how artists and artisans mixed black, or worked to dye cloth a deep black, and how the meanings that Europeans attached to black would swing back and forth.

Funnily enough Pastoureau’s book took me back to a Coursera course I just completed: Magic in the Middle Ages. Not just the connection between Black, the devil and witches, but also how Islamic magic contributed to European/Western rediscovery of Greek science writing, which inspired Newton and as a result modern science.

Other links:

Blogger Manrepeller talks about black as a fashion uniform,

Dazed has a brief history of the shade in fashion,

Bourncreativ discusses several modern meanings  of black as a colour; and

This Jungian Life Podcast goes deeper and explains the psychological meanings associated with one particular type of black, Nigredo

Interweave’s Ten Tips for working with dark yarn.

Stay safe and healthy.

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 4: Online inspiration

Puttering around the website of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, I learned that multimedia collage artist, Wangechi Mutu was commissioned to create sculptures for the Museum facade. She explains the inspiration behind her 4 pieces, titled The New Ones, will free us in her artist interview.

They have a regal, ethereal, otherworldly beauty that reminds me of the Watchers/ Monitors from comic books, who observe humanity.

The texture of these modern caryatids‘ tunics remind me not only of ribbing, but of brioche, which has been on my to do list for YEARS. As Dana of Yards of Happiness recently said, now is the time to learn it. Because we have the time now.

 

Ribbed Cowlet by Shannon Charles
Ribbed Capelet by StevenBe
Horizontal Ribbed Cowl by Maxine Levinson

Very Pink Knits‘ brioche tutorial.
Felicia from Sweet Georgia yarn has a very soothing, well-shot and clear video on how to do 2 color brioche.

Links to online content @ Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Coco Chanel: Romanticism
Christian Dior‘s The New Look
The Millicent Rogers Collection of Schiaparelli at the Brooklyn Museum
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between
Charles James Muslins
At the Tate Britain: Re.Create with Tate Britain: Fashion

More links to virtual museum offerings.

And CreativeLive is offering free health and wellness courses.

Stay well.

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?

 

Iceland and Lopapeysa

 


Two weekends ago, I stopped by the Bücherschau (annual publisher’s Book exhibition) in Karlsruhe. Instead of the Book Fair in Frankfurt, I decided to stay regional this year. There was a mix of local and international books, but the event is much smaller, so it was possible to walk around, look at books, write down the names of books to order later on (an ever-evolving to-read list is a thing of beauty) and even sign up for one of the workshops. The Guest country this year was Iceland. 

891534F9-9C91-41B1-8582-DF7222EBE97ANow, ever since I dipped into Kate Davies’ 2014 book Yokes, which has a chapter on Icelandic knitting called ‘Perspectives on Lopapeysa’*, I’ve wanted to do some knitting with Lopi. So, of course, I took my knitting friend with me to a workshop on Icelandic knitting!

The workshop was run by Anna Dhom, who also works in a Icelandic Tour company. She had a lot of examples of her icelandic knits with her. Which were so inspiring. I’ll be putting a dress/tunic on my to-knit list very soon!
Let me confess, I learned a lot:

1) Continental knitters can knit insanely fast, especially when a workshop is ‘only’ 3 hours long.

2) Don’t spend too much time agonizing over colour choices, just get to the knitting, to use the time efficiently.

3) Do ask questions and pay attention to the demos. I completely missed the tip on weaving in ends. But I found a great Marly Bird video to catch me up.

4) Do carry an extra pair of needles one size up. Just in case.

5) Do carry an extra pair of needles in another material. Lopi wool knits up better on bamboo rather than metal needles. This, I finally figured out after the workshop had ended.

6) Do carry a tape measure with you, as lending it out is a great way to make new knitting friends.

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I am well-pleased with my headband. All that is left to do, is weave in those ends and sew in a piece of fleece or satin (otherwise I’ll be picking bits of Lopi out of my hair).

I definitely see more colourwork in my future.

 


Grèis by Kate Davies, Merla by Bergrós Kjartansdóttir, and Vormorgun Létt-Lopavesti by Védis Jónsdóttir both for Istex. Of note, several knitters have taken the Vormorgun pattern as the basis for making tunics/dress-length garments.

And maybe a trip to Iceland itself soon.

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Source: wegoplaces.me

 

*Interview with (French-)Icelandic Knitter, Hélène Magnússon.

 

Fashion for Future

 

Last week, while a bunch of people went to the Fridays for Future Climate Strike in their nearest city, a friend and I took part in a Future Fashion tour in Stuttgart.

A complaint I often hear, especially living out in the countryside, is that people would support fair and sustainable designers or clothing lines, but they have absolutely no clue where to get it. It’s hard to find. It’s loads easier to grab that fast fashion, because it’s right there. It’s everywhere. Plus it takes a bit of work to find organic, sustainable, or fair clothing and accessory makers unless someone tells you where to look.

And that’s what this tour did. While thrift and vintage was also a part of the tour, we also learned which new recycle bins (see “Fair-Wertung” pic above) we should use. I was also pleasantly surprised by how many new young designers are sustainable, organic, vegan, and fair (or a combination of these – there still isn’t one perfect solution yet). Each consumer has to invest the time to think about which values are most important and worthy of support.

There’s a whole new world out there, of people making good things: so if you happen to be passing through Germany, check out the Fair Fashion Network for interesting small boutiques and makers near you.

It’s all part of each person’s developing a personal future fashion strategy:

  • making
  • upcycling
  • mending
  • thrifting/vintage
  • leasing
  • new purchases

 

I even learned a new tip on airing clothes between wears in order to cut down on water usage and microplastics in the water. I’m no expert, and it’ll take a while to add to the routine, but it’s worth a shot.

More tips on how to remove odors from Brooklyn Fashion Accelerator.

 

In other news: Pierre Cardin exhibition at the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf until January 5, 2020. Exhibition trailer here.

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Back to School: Bauhaus

Anker’s Summer Shirt
Anker‘s Summer Shirt

Fiber season is upon us again, as September has started and temperatures cool down. What a summer! I’m pretty sure it’s the hottest summer on record in Germany. Even hotter than last year. Not so good for the forests – the forester has been into the woods near us to remove some of the sun-damaged

At the moment, I have Petite Knit‘s Anker‘s Summer Shirt on the needles. I love the clear lines on this pullover, but I‘ve taken a break to ask the Internet what the pattern means with Marker stitches. I‘ll add an update when I figure it out.

I originally thought of pairing this fairly easy knit with easy-on-the-eye binge-watching, but as the German saying goes: things always go a little differently as planned. I cannot tear my eyes away from the screen to keep track of my needles. I‘ll have to work on that.

I‘m watching „Die Neue Zeit,“ (Bauhaus: A New Era) about the start of the Bauhaus movement. Yes, Bauhaus-Autumn has started, with a six part series. It’s got more content than the film „Lotte am Bauhaus“ (English: Bauhaus), which was ‚inspired‘ by the experiences of Bauhaus designer Alma Siedhof-Buscher.

I am absolutely thrilled that these stories are being told from the perspective of female characters. That’s one way in which the #MeToo movement has affected Germany.

Already, I‘m one episode in (5 to go), and they get straight to the point: how could a movement so committed to overturning the old order, continued repressing women.

Speaking of old order, it‘s amazing to see the fashions on the different characters, 1890s, 1910s and pre-1920s, which position the female characters exactly.

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The old guard /source: screenshot arte.tv

The Weimar old guard, in the form of old school artist Hans Gros painting the Baroness von Freytag-Loringhofen’s portrait painted on her lawn. There are gardners in the background clipping shrubs. Her guest and political co-conspirator is drinking lemonade (I hope!) from a gold-rimmed glass, while she poses in a sunhat on a striking rattan chair). Interesting the power she yields because of her wealth and engagement in Weimar art circles.

In terms of art, they want to defend the old way of doing things. They believe they know everything they need to know, and resist any new ways of seeing or doing art. In terms of fashion, it absolutely fits that she’s ten years out of fashion, holding on to the past. Reminds me of the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey.

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The new / source: screenshots arte.tv

Then we have these two young students who at the start couldn’t be more different: Dörte Helm, who is still wearing corsets and 1900s skirt-suits, trying to please her father and all the professors. Gunta Stölzl, who is wearing a knit jacket over free flowing clothes sans corset and who isn’t afraid to answer back to a professor.

We get a fairly good idea of what Weimar student life looked like, but also the little details of what it meant to be a woman in this time of transition. On the one hand, Dörte is escorted to school by her father, and seems to dread getting married. On the other, Gunta comes into the train compartment and proceeds to cut off her (wartime Red Cross nurse uniform) dress sleeves because she‘s hot. In front of several strangers. She’s not afraid to shock folks.

There‘s a scene where Gunta is doing some light evening weaving, and although they start talking about guys, the conversation shifts to crafts. Gunta asks Dörte if she knows how to do any handcrafts (knitting or weaving). Dörte shows her scarred hands and replies that she learned in her girls‘ school, where mistakes were punished. And I thought it was amazing how much was packed in there about class, wealth, women‘s education, handcrafts and even our ideas of creativity (pattern vs intuitive process).

So yes, passes the Bechdel test. I‘m looking forward to bingeing this at some point this month.