This “have a clothing line” business is crazy, and I am constantly discovering that I am not following, or often even aware of, the rules. I don’t release collections on a seasonal schedule– largely because it’s just me here and I seem to get too distracted to be on a such a calendar, but also because I like releasing things whenever I damn well feel like it and whenever I get the photos done. I do not read fashion magazines or follow fashion blogs. I find that a lot of “fashion” doesn’t interest me that much, the same way that much of what was in the galleries in NYC while I was in school left me cold. Don’t get me wrong, there is some beautiful stuff coming out of the design houses (especially the haute couture stuff, when everyone is allowed to get weird), but I guess it doesn’t seem all that relevant to my world most of the time. Maybe because I really, really don’t like it when clothes are described as chic.
I like clothes with a narrative. I like costumey pieces. Not in a cheap Halloween-store way, but in the sense of a piece that builds your character, even if it’s just your character of the moment. I like clothes that I am excited to put on– these are my warrior leggings, my gypsy pants, my empress dress, my pixie skirt, my fairy tale jacket. I find cosplay generally much more exciting and inspirational than high fashion.
Speaking of cosplay, a wonderful thing about that genre is the DIY nature of it. I love seeing the incredible things people create, and so many of them share process photos the whole way. Ask Versace to do that! Somehow, the open, community attitude of the cosplay culture doesn’t ruin the mystery or monument of the final piece at all; it serves to make it more personal somehow. By the final reveal I am INVESTED in how that Skyrim armor came out!
Right, that’s a lot of rambling; I’ve been getting very philosophical lately on the nature of my work. It is clear to me I MUST MAKE STUFF; the question is what to make, why make it, and where does it go? Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?
So…I’m finally starting in on a project I’ve had in mind for a long time; coats. Technicolor dreamcoats, actually. I’m going to take a class on making coats and jackets from scratch, as I would like to learn more tailoring and be able to make whatever I want, but I also have an interest in reviving old coats; working magic with something pre-existing, something with history. Very green, right? Coats and jackets are probably my favorite garment in existence. There’s something wonderful about a good coat. NOTE: This may be my years as an angsty goth teenager rearing their black-lipsticked, dog-collar wearing heads, the years when a coat (black, trench) was both fashion statement and security blanket. Never mind that…
The crux of the project, however, even more than just foraying into a new garment, is to dig back into my fine art roots. I have been wanting to experiment with taking some of the techniques, ideas and moods of my paintings and apply them to my clothing. Make some pieces that are truly unique and unrepeatable; blur the lines between art and attire. Spend more time on one truly fantastic creation and really go all-out on it, rather than concern myself with it being easily reproducible. Sounds a bit like my rant about the faun costume from last year, doesn’t it? Hmmm I sense a theme.
Anyway, I’ve never done this before, so despite all my pretty thoughts it may all go down in flames. Boom. It’s all learning, right? LET’S MAKE SOMETHING, PEOPLE!
Right, so I found this coat in my basement:
I bought it at a thrift store in Boulder a few years ago when I was suddenly invited to an Bacchanalian revelry in the mountains and had nothing warm to wear. It has nice bones, but the lining is kind of ratty, I don’t love the color, it’s too big and it smells a bit like mothballs. See why it’s been in the basement?
First I removed the lining, then cut off part of the hem. I should have done this later, but I didn’t realize what else I was going to do to the thing and just jumped in. Ah well. Somewhere in this process I started ripping out the seams on the sleeves, which resulted in a very flappy coat, which resulted in a fit of silliness. The dogs are clearly working hard to contain their wild enthusiasm for my sweet moves.
Anyway, it was too long for my tastes, so I cut off the front to give it a shorter-front/long-back hem. Then I altered it a bit– the shoulders fit fine, but the whole body was too big, so I took in the side and back seams to slim it down to fit me. Then I decided I couldn’t stand the color and dyed the thing. This took about 3 dye baths, which made the cut hem go all scraggly– see, should have done that last. Here it is, sans buttons and with gross hem. Weird cuff details have been removed, as have the belt loops (I don’t like belts on my coats)
It’s a much more interesting color now– sort of a mottled deep purple. Also it no longer smells funny.
On to the artsy part. My concept for this coat actually came from a dream I had recently. In classic dream style, it doesn’t really translate well, but a key feature was that I had a dragon. A purple/blue iridescent DRAGON. Yes, I am about 8 years old, what? Anyway, I shan’t bore you with my subconscious, but the end result is that I want to make a dragon-rider coat–something that draws from fantasy armor designs and might both decorate the rider and also blend and match them to their dragon. Nerd alert, I know.
Some rough sketches:
I am very inspired by Selene Gibbous’ work, along with some other textile, quilt and collage artists I’ve been looking at recently and wanted to try a fabric collage technique. Something that will allow me to use fabric more like I use paint. I have no idea what I’m doing, as this is a new technique for me, but nothing else to do but jump in and pray you don’t muck it up too badly.
Here it is as I start to lay down fabric. I drew chalk lines to block out the general shape. I’ve removed the sleeves and undone the side-back seams for ease of movement with the machine.
Close up of this panel. It’s more or less done I think, but I keep coming back to pieces and adding more as I go.
Starting at the middle back, I’ve been working my way down and around. I think there will be more to the back, but it made the most sense to keep moving around the body at the time. Here are the back and side panels.
Here’s the chalk-marks sketching in one of the front panels.
And the panels coming together…
…And more detail shots of the whole piece…
So far I’m only about halfway around the body and haven’t even touched the sleeves yet. Long way to go. It’s been really interesting and satisfying so far though– it is wonderful to play with the fabric in such an organic way.
In keeping with the season, Jason and I went to a holiday party last night. It was a potluck-style affair, and I had a hankering for challah bread (kind of funny to bring a traditional Jewish food item to a Pagan affair, but what the hey, I’m a modern gal). I couldn’t remember my favorite recipe so of course I went to the googles, where I stumbled upon THIS magical concept from WhatJewWannaEat (hah)– RAINBOW FREAKING CHALLAH!
This is Amy’s photo. From her liberal use of puns, coupled with her affinity for bright colors, I conclude that she is awesome and we should be friends. In fact I have decided we already are, whether she knows it or not. I heart you, Amy!
My step-mother asked if there was a reason for the rainbow, such as Pride, or Rainbow Brite Day, or what have you, to which I replied,
“Because I can!”
I used a slightly different recipe (I wanted an eggier version), but went with Amy’s steps and color-guidance (double thanks for the note to use gloves when kneading– I would have just stuck my mitts in there). Here’s the result:
First you whip up a batch of challah dough. I’m not a real food blogger so I won’t try to poetically describe the individual steps– find a challah recipe that looks good to you and go with it. Once the dough comes together, right at the point you would turn it out and knead it into oblivion, stop and divide it into 6 balls. I weighed them on my postal scale (because Amy recommended it and I lurrrve her) to get them pretty close to equal. Add gel food coloring to each ball, don some rubber gloves, and knead each one individually. Really work the color in and get it completely blended into the dough or you get streaky bread, unless you like that sort of thing.
Pro: you get kneading and color in one go.
Con: you have to knead 6 times instead of one. Give yourself extra time if you make this!!!
Ooooh look at my beautiful little dough-lumps– so precious! Place them in a greased bowl, cover them with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1.5 hours.
After the first rise they were not so precious and had ballooned to monster rainbow globs. They stuck together a bit but since they got good and rolled up again later it really didn’t seem worth separating them. Plus they get lonely.
Separate the color balls, punch them down, re-cover and let rise again about 1/2 hour. This time I separated them onto 2 cookie sheets covered in plastic wrap because they had gotten too big for their britches.
After the second rise, it’s braiding time!!! Most challah recipes make 2 loaves, so divide each color ball into 2 pieces. Now you have 12 color balls, unless something has gone very mathematically wrong. Pretend you are in kindergarten and roll each ball into a snake. If your dough is sticky, flour your surface a bit.
Shorter fatter snakes will make shorter fatter bread– I went for supermodel snakes because I wanted to get more color-braid action. Here are my snakes ready for braiding. I call them Kate, Giselle, Heidi, Naomi, Cindy and Alphonse.
Arrange them in proper rainbow order and pinch lightly at the top. I say lightly because you may want to tighten the top end once your braid is done.
To do a 6-strand braid, you start with the right-most strand and take it over 2, under 1, over 2. Then do it again, always with the right-most strand This sounds hard but is really quite simple and goes fast, and the color coding makes it extra-easy. So, purple goes OVER blue and green, UNDER yellow, OVER orange and red. Then blue goes OVER green and yellow, UNDER orange, OVER red and purple, and so on. The dough is pretty strong stuff, but be gentle and try to get your braid pretty tight to get the most color changing effect. When you get to the end, pinch all the strands together tightly and roll them under your loaf to form a solid end. Go back to your top end and tighten the braid if necessary, then pinch that end together as well.
My super-model braid ended up quite long. Perhaps more than is necessary since it is spilling off the sheet but I love it anyway.
I just want to wrap my head in it.
Once your loaves are braided, give them a quick egg-wash, cover again and let rise in a warm place until double-to-triple the size; about one to 1.5 hours.
Here it is after the egg wash. I had to take another picture because it was so shiny it didn’t look real.
Here’s the same loaf after the last rise. The light is not as pretty because I’d been working on this so long it went and got dark. Also, a live-and-learn note: I baked this on the cookie sheet despite it being too big. It worked out alright but I should have just put it on an appropriately-sized greased piece of foil, as it kind of draped over the edges in a not-so-grand way. Also, I think next time I’l sprinkle corn meal on my baking surface to avoid any sticking. Learn from my mistakes, oh ye people!
Once the last rise is done, preheat the oven to 350 and give the loaves one last egg-wash. I sprinkled mine with some sugar for a slight glaze but you could use poppy seeds, salt, nothing…
Into the oven it goes!
Here they are post-oven. The recipe I used recommended a bake time of 30-40 minutes. I recommend watching that shit like a hawk. Remember how we made supermodel bread? Turns out supermodels don’t take as long to bake (there’s a joke in there somewhere). My bread had a lot less bulk than most standard challah loaves, and it was done in 15 minutes, easy. If I had left it in the recommended time I would have been one sad unicorn! So watch it. My recipe recommended using an instant read thermometer and removing the bread when the middle is 190, but I don’t have such fancy things in my life, so I remove it when the top feels like it has formed a nice crust, the bottom is golden brown and taping on the bread gives you that hollow sound.
When in doubt, my feeling is that slightly underbaked challah is always better than slightly overbaked challah, as that sucker gets dry FAST.
Here’s a better shot in the light of day. It’s so pretty I don’t want to eat it.
Since I was feeling both crafty and kinergarteny, I made some butter from scratch. I guess I was feeling a bit Jewish .”OY, the things I go through for you people!” whipped it with salt, vanilla, honey and cinnamon. And then I ate myself into a glorious, rainbow colored carbohydrate coma. And it was glorious.