Thursday, September 27, 2012

Studio Time

Do you have some sewing experience? Have you ever taken a sewing class and then gone home started a project and never finished? If so, come join me at Meandering Design in Lincoln Square. Every Wednesday from October 3rd- December 19th I will be hosting studio time from 6:30-8:30PM at Meandering Design. You can drop in for a couple of hours to use a sewing machine and receive some assistance from me. This is the perfect opportunity for people who have taken a class, either from me, or from someone else, but never quite managed to keep sewing. 

Drop me  a line at to let me know when you want to come by. I look forward to sewing with you. 

Ravenswood Art Walk

I'm jumping right in with very little preparation (so unlike me) and sharing a booth with LaLa Line at the Ravenswood Art Walk. Even if you weren't planning on visiting me, the Art Walk is fabulous. So, stop by Saturday, September 29th and Sunday, September 30th from 11-6 and say hi. Oh, and maybe buy something. Hey- that Christmas thing is coming up soon....

Ravenswood Art Walk Info

Why do we buy?

I decided to move from Wicker Park up North to Lincoln Square. My first reaction was to look for an apartment to rent and for just one moment it crossed my mind to buy a place. It was gone in the next moment because a) I really don't want to buy a home/condo/space b) I want to buy a space for Meandering Design, not just a place to live. Ultimately, I chose not to buy, even though many people were urging me to do so.

I will admit that sometimes I buy something because ooo shiny, but generally I try to have a need for it and then I usually research what I want to buy and look around first. I try to support local shops and local artisans. I say try, because I do not always succeed. I found this article interesting in Apartment Therapy because it looks at the reason behind why we buy things.

It is no longer just to have 'stuff', but to have a connection to our stuff. That connection can lead to a broader platform because as the author states, "if our purchasing truly is spurred by a desire for communication and mastery, it might be leading us to re-think and re-tool our environments so they better suit our lives, to take more control of our homes, and to communicate freely about some of our most personal spaces, moments, and needs."

Until that day we use our homes as communication hubs, I do believe that the connection we have with our things is important. For example, my grandfather made this workbench and I think of him when I use it. 

My friend saw this teacup saucer and glass turned plate stand and thought of me and bought it for me for my birthday. When I look at it I think about how ingenious of an idea it is and also how sweet it was of my friend to think of me.

The acquisition of my dress form is a story in and of itself  and the scarf is made out of Uzbekistani Ikat that I bought from a gentleman in Istanbul where I went on vacation with a friend. That trip gave me so many memories and treasures.

Scarf is available here

Almost everything in my house tells a story about a friend, beloved family member, a trip, or a time in my life. The things I own connect me to the people who made them and I in turn share their stories.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's In a Name?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet..." Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

In the traditional sense of the word what I do is called crafting. Except, that word has come to encompass anything handmade. For me, craft implies not only handmade, but made by an artisan. Somebody who has honed their skills to be good at their 'craft'.

Alexandra Lange in an article in the New York Times called, "Don't Put a Bird on it: Saving 'Craft' from Cuteness" reviews the recent tv show Craft Wars and the phenomena that lead to its creation. Lange states,

"Craft used to mean something, and it would never have been made with Mod Podge*. You can buy a tea towel with the William Morris quotation, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (It is a hundred per cent linen, so it is both.) What Morris, a designer, entrepreneur, futurist, and leader of the late nineteenth century Arts and Crafts Movement, proposed was a return to the medieval craft tradition, in which objects were made by hand by skilled workmen, and priced accordingly...Reformers like Morris proposed that we live with less, but better, much as the unconsumption movement does today."
I love the D.I.Y. movement and I love the fact that people are getting their hands dirty and learning new skills and making new things. What Lange points out is that it needs to be coupled with the unconsumption movement. Unfortunately Craft Wars invites you to consume products to make some more (arguably) useless products.

For example, I needed a television stand and I could have gone to some big box store and picked one up, but I went down the street to the antique store and found a gorgeous Danish teak television stand**. It is beautifully crafted and something that I will have for years to come. I had to make the decision though to look for something that I loved, as opposed to buying something to make do. Buy what you love and make what you love.

* I do have a fondness for mod podge, but in moderation!
**Oh, and I did look around first at local designers and also on Etsy for a television stand. Unfortunately most of them were too big. The only spot for the tv was a very narraw wall between the bathroom and kitchen. I did find a beautiful reclaimed cypress wood headboard on Etsy, but I'll save that for another post.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wardrobe Revamp

I looked at an old list of things to do and it said 'find a teaching job'. At that point in time I was thinking of using my Masters in English to find an adjunct teaching position. Now, a year later, I am fulfilling that desire in a slightly different manner. Last Saturday night I had a trial run of the "Wardrobe Revamp" class and it was so much fun.

Teaching 'Wardrobe Revamp' is an extension of what I do at Meandering Design, which is to salvage items and give them a new lease on life. Whether that is hemming a pair of pants, turning up a sleeve so that it doesn't look quite so matronly, completely revamping an overlarge tshirt that has sentimental meaning (some of the things we did that night) or finding vintage fabric and turning it into something new. Wardrobe Revamp provides very basic hand sewing skills so that anyone can fix, mend, or revamp something in their closet. This is not an exclusively female domain, men can just as easily learn these skills. If a man in the military can sew a button on his dress blues, then I think civilians can too!

Jenn brought a pair of pants that she rarely wore because they were too long and we prepped them for her to take home and hem. She also admitted that hand sewing was kind of relaxing.

Elaina, from Lala Line, and my cohort in crime, turned a tshirt from her uncle who is a Chicago cop that was too big into a very sexy little number.

In the course of an evening we learned basic stitches and talked about things that can be done to freshen up an article of clothing. One of the participants texted me later and was very excited because she successfully sewed a button onto her coat. I cannot tell you how proud that made me!

Everyone who takes Wardrobe Revamp gets a complimentary studio session. The studio sessions are designed for people who have basic sewing skills and  have started something and never finished it, or gotten stuck and need assistance.For two hours, every Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 (until December 19th), you get to come and sew with me.

If you are interested in taking a class or individual lessons, or coming to a studio session, then 'like' Meandering Design on Facebook where I will be posting information on upcoming classes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


While one would think I am going to tell you an amusing anecdote about how I showed up for an event seriously overdressed, sadly no, although that has happened. I read the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline and it confirmed with facts and figures what I already knew to be true-that the way we view fashion has changed, and while in the past we would invest in core pieces and buy a couple of 'trendy' items, now most people only buy what is on trend. That means that we buy more cheaply made clothing and we get rid of more clothing annually.

This has a two prong effect on the environment: the textile industry is notorious for environmental pollution, especially since most textiles are made in developing countries where there is little to no environmental regulation and most clothes end up in the landfill. It also has a devastating effect on labor, which is being felt even in the United States because so much of our manufacturing has been outsourced, which means jobs have been lost in the United States and labor overseas is underpaid, overworked and working in unsafe conditions. Once again, there is little to no labor regulation for manufacturers to contend with overseas.

Not all the clothing we consume ends up in the landfill, because we are such charitable people, we donate it. Cline states:
"I once thought that for every garment I grew bored of and donated, there was either some poor, shivering person in need of it or a thrifty woman out there thrilled to give it a second life. I've come to call this logic the "clothing deficit myth"...Most Americans are thoroughly convinced there is another person in their direct vicinity who truly needs and wants all of our unwanted clothes. This couldn't be further from the truth" (127).
To visualize how much waste there is Cline points out that the "Quincy Street Salvation Army builds a completed wall made of eighteen tons, or thirty-six bales, of unwanted clothing every three days" (page 126). An average male elephant weighs around six imagine one, just one, Salvation Army store needs to get rid of three elephants worth of clothes every three days.

That only takes into account the clothes that have been donated. Not all of us take the time to donate our clothes and some of it ends up in the trash.

I could go on and on, but I won't. If you have time read the book, or even this review by Business Week which gives a tasty sample of the book.

Not to be all Chicken Little and cry "the sky is falling, the sky is falling", but the sky is falling. There are many small changes that you can make that will have a large impact.
  • Next time you need clothes look first for something classic and well made that is meant to last.
  • Support local or independent designers 
    • Keep your eyes out because I'll have a post on this in the future.
  • Complement your wardrobe with pops of trendy design. I think the analogy would be you can have ice cream on the side, but you can't live on ice cream (except I don't know who could possibly say such a thing!). 
  • Fix it, zip it, nip it or revamp it before getting rid of an article of clothing. 
    • I'll be having classes starting next month to help you do just that.

Ironically as I am reading how knocking off fashion has created a cesspool of clothes, NPR reports on a book that is stating knockoffs are good for the fashion industry.