Winter reading: just finished

I just finished reading a book that‘s been on my list for a while now, The Lost Art of Dress by Linda Przybyszewski.

A fascinating work by Professor Przybyszewski, a historian of law, fashion and culture describes the past and the development of fashion, fads (which used to mean For A Day!) and dress codes.

What fascinated me was the decline of Home Economics as women‘s options in academia opened up, and how Pop Art, the feminist movement and the Youth Quake of the 60s and 70s shifted the focus of fashion designers and of society to youth as the ideal of Beauty.

I wonder what she’d think of the Kardashians’ influence on the modern body beauty ideal and athleisure…

Kudos as well to Prof Pski, for integrating African American Dress Doctors into her book. This led me to research African American Dress Doctors Charleszine Spears and Ella Mae Washington, who also penned a teaching text in 1949 called Color in Dress: for Dark-Skinned People. Luckily, I have come across a digital copy archived by the American National Museum of African American History and Culture.

My Pinterest board to accompany the book.

Art in Everyday Life by Harriet and Vetta Goldstein

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Interview:Guilt-free knitting

Knitting as Self-care

The best way to get through winter, especially after the party season is to take time for a little self care.

Dion Evette is a young author, who considers self-care as different from self-centredness. Here’s what she had to say:

Why did you decide to write this book?
It was actually suggested that I write a book on self-care by a couple of friends who were looking to take better care of themselves and stay on top of their pampering skills. Better to help them act ‘as if’.

What was your inspiration?
I wrote this book as the pampered housewife, what I believe to be the pampered housewife. At least the one that lives in my head. She lives a very opulent lifestyle.

So the pampered housewife is being pampered by herself?
Yes. I feel the pampering starts with yourself. When your husband and those around you see how well you take careo of yourself, they know that they need to step up their game and I believe it gets you even more spoiled in the end. They want to be a part of what makes you happy and relaxed, so they go above and beyond to make that happen.

Why do you think women are often afraid of self-care?
I think the we are shamed into being afraid of self-care as if indulgence is a sin. As a black woman in [The United States of] America you often get the “who do you think you are?” look as if it is crazy for you to seek any kind of comfort. I believe women of all backgrounds feel some semblance of this pressure at some point in their lives. As humans we believe the more we work and the less we relax means that we are working hard and doing better when we are actually doing harm to ourselves.

What role do hobbies play in self-care?
I think that hobbies are the most fun and exciting part of self-care! You get to try out all the different crazy things you put on your bucketlist as a teenager and find what suits you the most. Hobbies make you happy and just sitting around and vegging out in the bath tub might not be your thing. Maybe you like to watch movies alone or go hiking with a friend or to a cooking class. So many things to do so always make time in your schedule to try a new thing; you might just find a new hobby.

A lot of people, but knitters in particular use acquisition of things (we call it stash) to feel good. And then hide it from their partner. What’s the difference in your opinion between stash and self-care?
I think the huge difference between stash and self-care is the absence of shame in self-care. No need to hide how well you treat yourself because you have no fear that anyone will look down on you for it or think you selfish. That’s the whole point of self-care – getting comfortable being the receiver that you naturally are.

Other Self-care links:Becky Stewart at KnitOm talks about Knitting to help with stress, depression and chronic pain.

From the archives I

Pilgrim and the Heart of the Rose
Edward Burne-Jones Pilgrim and the Heart of the Rose / 1901, wool and silk tapestry

When it’s as warm as it has been last week in Germany, it’s great museum weather. Well, so I thought. A few days ago, I took part in a Museum night (buy a ticket and have entry to museums, events, tours between 6pm and midnight). To celebrate 20 years of Museum nights, many museums dug deep into their archives to come up with something related to 20. The Natural History Museum for instance had an exhibit about hippos in the Rhine back when the Rhine was 20 degrees Celsius (68F). Very fitting considering the temperatures today.

We went to the City Gallery, the Baden State Museum and the museum of Applied Art in Karlsruhe. While textile museums can be few and far between, Applied Art museums (Angewandte Kunst) will often have a few textile pieces, and are generally great at putting art and design into context.

We caught a tour called ‘The 20 years that influenced Art History- 1890-1910’ and saw this lovely tapestry by Edward Burne-Jones.

Hot weather crafting posts from my archives:

Summer wardrobes

Knitting as Deep Play

Autumn Wardrobe planning

As we haven’t gone on holiday yet, it’s hard to wrap my head around autumn knits just yet.

Stay hydrated dear readers!

 

 

Summer Reading

macro photography of black sunglasses on sand
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

My kids absolutely hate the thought of doing anything remotely school-related during the summer. And that includes reading anything that could possibly be edifying or remotely educating in any way. I, on the other hand, like to stock up on books throughout the year so that I have something nearby to read, when the days get too sticky and muggy for me to even contemplate taking up a knitting needle.

Here are a few books (fiction and non-fiction), that I’ve read in summers past, that I can recommend, and what’s on my ‘reading now’ part of the bookshelf… What are you reading this summer?

Books to Change how we see People
Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The reading of this taught me that gender does not have anything to do with love, friendship and heroism.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Fascinating what behavioral scientists learn about us humans.
Going, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck. Recently translated German bestseller about Germany’s attempt to come to grips with what immigration really means.

Books to Change how we see the world around us
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Another translated bestseller written by a forester about how trees grow, form friendships, raise their kids and have a different sense of time than we do.
The Swarm: A Novel by Frank Schätzing. Packed with research and action, bringing science fiction and environmentalism together. I would love this to be filmed.

On My Bookshelf
Limit by Frank Schatzing. My son gave this to me as a gift, and it’s a bit of a doorstop.
Book of Knitting Patterns by Mary Thomas – I jump backwards and forwards trying to envision these timeless patterns in modern yarns living in my stash at the moment.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin  Nosrat. Because it’s lovely to laze somewhere in the shade and read about food and look at the gorgeous illustrations.

 

 

Other reading lists:

Guardian reading list

TED’s summer reading list

Chaos, Gardens and Knitting

image

I finally got around to seeing This Beautiful Fantastic week, and it‘s got me thinking about Gardens and chaos.

As I wrote earlier, the german title pretty much gave away the idea that they were trying to make an Amelie film, but I was looking forward to the knitwear. Which was a bit of a letdown, but I started thinking about why people love gardening, gardens, and what the film has tried to say about life.

Bella is an orphan, who was abandoned in a box in a park. That would make anyone anxious, I‘d imagine. Bella attempts to control her life by imposing extreme order on every aspect of her life. She doesn‘t want to let in any chaos, which brings us to gardens. Nature can be chaotic, unpredictable and well, wild. That‘s why humans developed order and culture to tame Nature in its various forms: none more lovely than the garden.

A garden is the creation of order from chaos. It’s the creation of a little paradise, or eden. A refuge from the wild or hectic hustle and bustle of daily life. A chance to centre oneself and reconnect with nature and one‘s self. In fact, it is only when Bella is able to reconnect with Nature through her garden, that she is able to connect with her own creativity and attain her goals of becoming a writer, making friends, finding love and overcoming that anxiety.

Although the garden shots were lovely (although whose point of view were the out of focus flowers supposed to represent?), there were too many references (the story in the story brought ‚The Little Prince’ to mind) to other works for this to shine on its own merits. It was predictable, but that can be comforting at times. If you want a little more excitement, look into how many instances of twinning or doubling you can spot throughout the film.

From gardening, it‘s a short jump back to crafting and knitting, because it‘s all about taking that „chaos“ or undefined potential and making something out of it. And that’s why I love knitting.

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Andrew Scott (aka Moriarty from the „Sherlock“ series) in This Beautiful Fantastic

 

 

 

Diversity in German fashion

Fran Summers Vogue Germany 072018

I ran into this Vogue cover today, and of course had to take it home. Not just because it is simply stunning, but also because it is actually quite rare for a black model to get the cover of Vogue Germany. While Vogue in the US and the UK are considered quite groundbreaking in pursuing diversity in Fashion, Vogue Germany hasn’t so much.

After a bit of digging, I found out how rare this is, and yet, there’s still a ways to go.

A Brief History of Diversity of Vogue Germany Covers

Vogue Germany existed briefly toward the end of the Weimar Republic (1929-1930). It came back to Germany in 1979, following the brand’s acquisition by Conde Nast and the following worldwide expansion. The German language edition serves German-speaking Europe: Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Iman (above, left) was the first black model to grace the cover in June 1982. Of the fifteen times a black model has been on the cover (alone, in a collage or a group of models), Naomi Campbell (middle) is the clear winner, with 5 covers to her name. Special mention to Jamaican model Lois Samuels (right), because although she appeared with a group of models, she actually indirectly influenced the Cover title!

Every few years or so, Vogue Germany will have a black model on their cover. After Iman, came Jennifer Beals, Beverly Peele, Naomi Campbell, Lois Samuels, Kiara Kabukuru, Alek Wek (though sadly inside the fold), Arlenis Sosa, Lais Ribeiro, Liya Kebede, Yasmin Wijnaldum and now Nigerian Mayowa Nicholas. The first asian cover model was Ling Tan (November 1998). Not a lot, still nothing to sneeze at.

I’m hoping future covers of Vogue Germany will show how diverse German society has become in the last few years…

 

photosource: Condé Nast/ vogue.de

Trade show overload

Nadelwelt

My knitting friend and I thought we would pop in to Nadelwelt in Karlsruhe, have a quick look and get home in time for lunch. I don’t know why we thought that would be possible. We’re still young. That’s the only excuse I’m prepared to give.

If you’re ever in the area (next year the show falls on May 3-5, 2019) and find you have a full day to spare, definitely check out Nadelwelt. The trade show is held in the same place that the ARTkarlsruhe is held, and it’s just massive. My eyes have been opened to how the needlecrafts have taken off in Germany (despite you not seeing a lot of people knitting, crocheting or otherwise crafting in public here).

There was a distinct focus on quilting, with a quilted art exhibition right out front. We had a lovely chat with two British textile artists Cas Holmes and Gillian Travis, who apparently travel around to exhibit and sell at textile shows and fairs all around Europe.

Cas Holmes treats paper, thread and fabric like paints, and her work has the ethereal quality of memories half forgotten, floating out of the subconscious.

Gillian Travis, on the other hand, makes vibrant, graphic quilts which reflect her travels and other sources of inspiration, and just whisks the viewer away as if on a magic carpet. She has an amazing eye for colour, and a wicked sense of humour. I had a great time talking to her.

Although we were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the show (from fabrics, buttons, yarns, sewing machines of all types, etc), we did make a lovely find: our nearest LYS shut down late last year, and now we’ve found a new one. The owner happened to be on hand and she and one of her staff gave us a mini-workshop on Tunisian Crochet.

So while I am not quite in the mood to knit at the moment, I’ve been practising my tunisian crochet and staring at my boot socks, hoping that they’ll have the decency to finish themselves up without me. Thankfully I did them two at a time (each on two DPNs) so each only has about an inch of ribbing left.

 

 

On the road

About a month ago, I went off with friends on a mystery weekend, and ended up in Bonn (friends willing to plan mystery weekends, and go along on mystery weekends are the best sort, in my opinion!). We went a gorgeous bike tour of the city, and eventually ended up at the University of Bonn’s Arithmeum. Museum of the history of calculating.

We had a great guide, who explained how complicated it had been to create a working adding machine, that would carry all the digits. It used to be complicated work.

These days we can whip out our phones and calculate what 15% off on those fabulous knitting needles will mean to our budgets.

As luck would have it, the Arithmeum (attached to the University Math Department) also had an art exhibit from their works inspired by discrete mathematics.

Absolutely gorgeous. Speaks to the knitter in me. Very much intarsia or mosaic-knitting…

Met Gala: Heavenly Bodies

I look at the Met Gala fashions first and foremost because it’s fun. Tom and Lorenzo always has a great look-through at the Met Exhibition: “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” and the Gala guests. And because as Amanda Heath (née Hallay) of Ultimate Fashion History says, “Fashion is not an Island, it’s a Response.” So I was really curious to see what Fashion was responding to Society.

 

(photo source: Tomandlorenzo.com)

Now while the catholic church has given way to an amazing outpouring of creative Imagination in the arts, it cannot be ignored that the church was a suppressive force in the sciences at one Point: Galileo Galilei, anyone? I thought for sure that the Italian astronomer would get a sartorial clapback on the red carpet. A sequined ‘Eppur si muove‘ to send sharp-eyed watchers to search out the meaning (Galileo challenged the geocentric world view of the time, and proved that the sun is the actual centre of the solar System). Almost 360 years later, he was vindicated in 1992.

So honourable mention to Kim Kardashian on left, for coming as the sun (although she may not have been aware of the Galileo Affair)!

I thought the connections or controversies between Religion and science (in particular astronomy)  would have been right there, because there are so many  hot topics in Society these days. Further honourable mention to Zendaya Coleman for channelling Joan of Arc, a teen girl who was hearing voices (and possibly also hallucinating). Because in the age of #metoo, who doesn’t need to find their inner warrior maiden?

 

joanofarc_julian_bastien_page_met
Joan of Arc, 1879, Jules Bastien-Lepage (French, 1848–1884)
Oil on canvas; 100 x 110 in. (254 x 279.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Funnily enough, my favourite depiction of Joan hangs at the Metropolitan in New York, it actually portrays her as a real person, getting on with her life as a country girl when her visions hit – you can see her discarded spinning wheel on the ground there as she gets overwhelmed by her visions. Carol at watchmepaint goes into the fascinating detail about the painter, the painting and his subject.

At this year’s Met Gala, most of what I saw was opulence as distraction from all the Things we as a Society are going through. That’s why I have to give props to Solange Knowles for bring that weirdly fabulous sci-fi creation that at first glance calls out to space travel, androids, and the like. Yet it’s not as farfetched as one might think…

irisvanherpen-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-Solange-Knowles
Solange Knowles in Iris van Herpen

This dress, by Dutch designer Iris van Herpen is actually called ‘Cathedral Dress’ and was constructed using 3-D printing techniques. It’s from a van Herpen Collection called Hybrid Holism and was inspired by:

“…Hylozoism, the ancient belief that all matter is in some sense alive. van Herpen is intrigued by … possibilities for a future of fashion that might take on quite unimaginable shapes.
Fashion that might be partly alive and growing, and, therefore, existing partly independent from us, which in turn allows for a new treatment by humans: instead of discarding the fashion after use, we cherish, value, and maintain it in its abilities to change constantly.”

-source: www.irisvanherpen.com

This look is therefore talking about the future of imagination and fashion. I sure hope we get there…

 

Finished up: MoMA’s Fashion as Design

knit vest alternate materials
Moma – is Fashion modern?

 

It’s been a while since I finished the MoMA’s online course collaboration with Coursera, “Fashion as Design” which run more or less parallel to their Exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern.”

We looked at various items, we looked at production, inspirational heroes, silhouettes, lifecycles, modesty and expression. There were some tricky quizzes at the end of each week, but all in all, I managed to pull myself together to get it done.

I learned some new things about fashion in the late 19th and 20th centuries. But I won’t lie, it got a bit tedious at times, because I was constantly looking at the course material through the eyes of a knitter.

And there is no easy answer to the question, ‘Is fashion modern?’ because people are doing so many different things with the clothes that they put on their/our backs. Recycling, upcycling or even restyling garments of a bygone decade may feel less than modern, but the actual idea that this should be important to us is a fairly new one.

Or that making (and in particular knitting and crochet) is not old-fashioned or quaint, but a growing niche of forward-thinking activism (where supporting shepherds producing wool locally can help with anti-desertification around the world)…

 

Of note: Coursera blog’s conversation with Curator Paola Antonelli.