Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stitching Up Bibs, Vintage Aussie Style

Recently, I was given the privilege to construct and review the "Beryl" land overalls pattern from The Tailor's Apprentice. I'd never constructed a pair of bibs, so this sewing adventure was new territory for me and a lot of fun! Rather than use myself as the model, I asked Maria (my youngest). I allowed her to choose her material (anticipating her choice because her style is so unique), and don't you know she chose good old dark blue denim (yes, I expected something a little over the top from her, and yet she surprised me more by sticking to an American fabric classic)!

The "Beryl" pattern is in digital format. I know that many dressmakers prefer paper patterns, but there are real benefits to digital: 1) They are space saving and can be stored by the hundreds on a simple flash drive (Is anyone else having difficulty finding pattern storage boxes in their local fabric haunts? I can't find any, except online at Amazon.); 2) they save paper (unused sheets of paper from your printer can be reused rather than thrown away, unlike traditional paper patterns); 3) they are less expensive than traditional paper patterns and can be reprinted inexpensively in case of loss or damage; and 4) pattern designers and their customers are not limited to domestic sales due to postage and duty fees - it's simply a matter of paying for the pattern and downloading it no matter where you are in the world. It's for these reasons that digital patterns are quickly gaining popularity - I am certainly a proponent! 

When I first downloaded the "Beryl" PDF, I was delighted to find that each of the pattern pages were conveniently numbered and lettered by row. The pages fit together very well, all the pattern lines matched up exactly and the pattern pieces were well labeled for construction. The instructions were clear and included illustrations for each step of the construction process. I experienced no construction issues - aside from the basic adjustments made in the first fitting (seat, inseam, and waist belt lengths, etc.), the overalls came together seamlessly. For the waist belt, rather than go with the traditional dog chain hook (as illustrated in the pattern), I opted to use an overall buckle - a little modern twist to a vintage look. 

Have a look!


Finished Overalls

Blessings and happy sewing!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Radical (Yet Wonderful) Change in Course

~Me (2006), my shop at Renfair, studying for my Master's~
I've been in the academic business for most of my adult life - if I wasn't a student, I was an instructor, often both simultaneously. My research focus has always centered around ethical controversies, particularly those regarding genetics and assisted reproduction technologies. While I enjoy these topics and know them well, I have come to realize that I do not love them, I would not pursue them (or any bioethical issue) outside of an academic environment, and researching and writing about them would not benefit me professionally. An ironic realization, since I recently decided to finish a large research project on emerging assisted reproduction technologies through Wright State University with intent to publish. 

Imagine my dread, if you will, when I decided last week to approach my chair and tell him that my heart wasn't in the project, that I felt as though I was going against the grain, against my own nature - the project didn't feel right. Imagine his disappointemnt when I told him I had an alternative project, one that he could not advise me on because it was too far removed from his expertise.

"What's it about?" He asked, intrigued.

"Millinery," I said.

"What's that?" He frowned.

"Hat making," I said.

His immediate expression was one of bewilderment. Hat making, indeed! A far cry from Aristotelean ethics, to be sure! You'd have thought that I'd handed him a screaming baby! It was at this moment that I opened my purse and whipped out a 160-page handwritten millinery notebook I discovered some 15-years ago at an antique shop in Westerville, Ohio. It didn't take me more than two minutes to explain the new project to him (based on this notebook), and when I was done, he was convinced of my sincerity and passion - moreover, he was convinced of the project's validity: it is an original work with local historical relevance. My regret is that I will lose him as my chair, but he assured me that when my project proposal is brought before the COLA committee for approval, I will have his vote. 

This afternoon, the department director approved the new project for preliminary research and she agreed that I need to focus my energies on a topic that I am passionate about. The project's scope is historically significant to the Dayton area, fashion history, and pulls from several academic disciplines, including public history, women's studies, African-American studies, and Progressive Era industry (relative to the garment, textile, and millinery trades). Interestingly, I began the research for this new project last summer (apart from my initial project), viewing it as a personal endeavor rather than a professional one. It had not occurred to me then that I was not bound to bioethical controversies (I have been immersed in the topic for so long) or that my passion for fashion had any academic merit. I am delighted to say that I am reformed and ever thankful for the support and encouragement of my academic counsel! 

Can you believe it? I get to research, write, and publish on a topic that I love with university backing - Holy Moly! :)

For more information on my new research topic and to follow along, please visit the S.D. Barker Project.

Blessings and happy sewing!