Knitting Vintage With A Futurist Aesthetic

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It’s hard to find good quality fingering weight yarns in a wide variety of solids, so I’ve been meaning to give KnitPicks’ “Palette” a try for all the vintage patterns I want to try out. I finally saw my chance with their holiday sale, and will be posting my loot along with the patterns I’ll use it on over the coming weeks. To start out, I’ve been lusting after this twinset for some time now. I was very tempted to make it in one of Palette’s more vibrant purples like “Aster” or “French Lavender” to match the color in the photo, but I’m a little scared it’ll look ridiculous on me, so I’m going with “Eggplant”:

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I may love vintage patterns, but my interest in them often comes from a futurist aesthetic. The 40s saw a lot of edgy designs that would look at home on the set of a modern day sci-fi movie set, and it’s too bad women’s fashion largely lost that sensibility in the 50s. So I keep an eye out for the patterns that set themselves apart from the rest, the ones that have that little extra design detail that makes the artist’s hand recognizable. This Bairns Wear Ladies Twinset would be ordinary save for the very relevant-to-fashion-now chevron detailing on the yoke and either sides of the button bands. (I’m going to out myself as a former goth girl here, but they remind me a little of VnV Nation’s logo) Hopefully after I’ve sized it down (I am decidedly smaller than a 38″ bust) and paired it with the right ensemble, this luscious deep purple will have the desired effect.

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Using luxury yarn as motivation

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Illustration by Celine Loup (hey, that’s me!)

I have a shitload of work to get done, but it’s hard to stay focused when the work just isn’t coming together like I’d hoped. So I’ve had to set up a reward system to keep my motivated. At first I was using a bar of rosemary salted white chocolate you can tear this open and devour it whole if you complete this project—-but that wasn’t working, I needed something I lusted after on a deeper level. That thing is always going to be yarn—-I had to completely stop buying it after my stash began to resemble a dragon’s hoard and I’d had enough of Erik’s disappointed glances (hahahaha just kidding—knit picks is having a sale). But if it gets me over a creative hump, I don’t mind using it as a motivational tool.

Ondawa by Michele Wang

Enter Ondawa, a sweater I’ve been obsessing over for months now. If I can finish this book proposal, I’ll gift myself the gorgeous Brooklyn Tweed yarn used to make it. So far this wooly reward is having the desired effect. Should I knit it in Snowbound as shown, or maybe another neutral?

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Do you use a motivational system to get through difficult creative projects?

 

Summer sewing in winter

Well, my previous blogging schedule clearly went out the window 😦 Please be patient with me as I get back into the habit!

Winter officially arrived today with the first snowfall (and even some thunder!). Unfortunately my summer sewing was just one project, and I’m still working on it—though it’s nearly finished, and just needs the seams finished + a pair of shoulderpads. I couldn’t believe how many boneheaded mistakes I made, but since it’s the first garment I’ve sewn in 8 years I forgave myself! I’m very happy with it, and know I’ll look amazing next spring in it! Expect a full post once it’s finished 🙂

Pollen

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I have been working like crazy to get ready for the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD—I’m lucky to have a table again this year and I need to be on top of my game. I’ll be selling copies of my comic “Honey”, as well as hopefully one or two zines, buttons, and even some screen printed totebags. If you’ve never been to SPX and are in the area September 13 and 14, it’s worth coming for at least an hour. There is truly something for everyone there!

That being said, my boyfriend Erik and I realized we had not been to the beach once this summer, so I am pausing my preparations to take a two-day vacation to Ocean City tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will be as advertised!

I’m nearly done the front of my Rocky Pond top, but I’ve decided to put it into hibernation until the spring. What I need to focus on now, knitting wise, is cold-weather garments.  If you ever want to spend $200 and have a giant shipping crate full of yarn arrive at your door, I highly recommend the Craftsy Black Friday sale. I have enough yarn to keep me knitting for the next several years! This sunny yellow worsted-weight wool yarn was from last year’s sale, and I knew what sort of project I wanted to use it for—something fitted, with an all over seed-stitch pattern. Sadly for me, yellow is SO not my color (something about not wearing a color that is the same value as both your skin and hair) so I need to be able to wear it with a deep blue scarf to keep it from making my face look sallow. I came close with Harrison by Amy Miller, but that cowl neck presents a problem for wearing a scarf. Not to mention the fit and length aren’t ideal, and the seed stitch is only on the front.

I’ve already re-designed one vintage sweater, my Koi-colored victory sweater from this post. I changed the gauge from fingering to sport weight, and was happy with the result (I’ll do a post tackling this simple alteration soon).

So last night I picked a suitable fair-isle 1940s sweater, wrote out the instructions, whipped up a gauge swatch, rewrote the pattern, and thus “Pollen” was born. It’s worked flat and seamed, and has a five button closure at the back. If the sweater is a success I’ll look into grading it so others can try it out. The yarn I’m using, Cascade 220, is delightfully stiff and springy, perfect for a nubbly textured pattern. In yellow it’s cheerful and eccentric, but I could see “Pollen” becoming sophisticated and a little mysterious in cool greys and blacks.

Maybe I’ll see you at SPX next month, but if not have a wonderful end to your summer!

 

Victory + Rocky Pond

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Above: my completed Victory Sweater, modeled at the opening party of my LYS in their new location. I can’t wait until the weather cools down so I can wear it with all my nice wool skirts.

Below: progress on my “Rocky Pond” top. The pyramid pattern is so beautiful but it was tough to get comfortable with. I still have to have my ipad open with the chart on the screen when I’m working on it.

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What projects are you currently working on?

Looking forward to fall

I know, it’s been months. Blogging used to come really easy to me, back when it was just an LJ and no one besides my friends read it. Keeping up a fashion/crafting blog is so much harder! What topics should I write about? What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Who honestly cares what I think about anything? Is what I have to say relevant anymore?

Since my last post I have:

  • Finished the Knit for Victory sweater I was knitting (it is slowly drying on the blocking rack)
  • Sewn a muslin for the Advance 5911 top in the last post; I can’t really tell if it fits me around the shoulders/upper bust area
  • Found my Spoonflower swatch book, so I can start thinking about designing custom fabric again.
  • Resumed knitting my Rocky Pond silk/rayon summer top after finally untangling a massive snarl in the very snaggy yarn (feels like a silk stocking and snags just as bad)

That doesn’t seem like a whole lot :/ Part of it is due to the fact that I’ve been working late and then I only have the energy to knit in front of the TV, and I’ve been busy with various obligations on the weekends. Illustration is a really demanding life! But I *think* about fashion pretty much every moment of the day. So I’m going to commit to doing at least one post a week to start, even if I have nothing to show when it comes to my own projects. There’s still plenty to talk about!

Fall : sweater piles, scarves, and hot drinks

Today I want to talk about how this is the first year of my life I’ve truly looked forward to Fall returning. Everyone can admit things tend to slow down in the knitting world over the summer; my local yarn store feels the lack of traffic and the ravelry forums go quiet. Since I’ve started knitting I’ve begun to enjoy the thought of cold weather again; it doesn’t seem like an unbearable stretch of the year to suffer through anymore. Nothing can compare to the warmth of wool garments! Baltimore usually has a long summer; things don’t really cool down until late October. But until the weather changes, at least I can enjoy the fall releases of my favorite designers!

If you knit, you probably know about Rowan. They produce luxury yarns and put out collections each season. They’re known for the quality of their product and the beauty of their pattern books. My favorite designer at Rowan is Marie Wallin. She consistently puts out designs that speak to me, and it doesn’t hurt that they are photographed so exquisitely.

Her latest lookbook is called “Lakeland: Collection Two”, and she doesn’t disappoint. I love any photoshoot that allows me to fantasize about being an Irish shepherdess! The yarn used looks incredible, I wish I could touch each piece. I’m not crazy about the crochet details, but fortunately they are very optional. My queue is full enough that I won’t be buying yarn for a very long time, but lookbooks like these inspire me to work through the projects on my plate so I can get to these sooner!

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What projects and designers make you excited for the coming Fall?

The Summer Mini-Capsule Project

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Well, by the time I had figured out every stage of my Winter Wardrobe Project, done all the diagrams and color studies, and bought all the patterns, it was summer! And while there’s nothing wrong with getting a head start on building a winter wardrobe in the summer, I’ve decided to spend the next few months making weather-appropriate garments, for a few reasons. The first one is it’s HOT OUT and I don’t want to touch or think about wool if I can help it (knitting with it is tolerable). The second reason is that I’ve learned when it comes to garment construction that it is a cumulative skill, and it’s best to start out slow and easy. Summer garments will be the best choice for re-learning the basics of sewing. By the time winter comes I’ll be ready to tackle the more demanding cold-weather projects. Note: this post only tackles sewing; I’ll have another post up about knitting soon.

The Books

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On the left is the book I’ll be using to re-acquaint myself with sewing (not pictured: a few books on pattern alteration and tailoring), on the right is the ultimate sourcebook for the decade that speaks the most to me.

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“The early Forties might have been years of make-do-and-mending and fashionable inventiveness, but the latter half of the decade saw an explosion of contemporary forward-looking fashions. 1940s Fashion: the Definitive Sourcebook is an extensive survey that brings together previously unpublished photography and beautifully drawn illustrations to provide a comprehensive overview of the period, from the austerity fashion of the war years to the introduction of Dior’s revolutionary “”New Look””, and the rise of Hollywood glamour.

From haute couture to ready-to-wear, this publication comprehensively documents the season-by-season fashions of the WWII era and the immediate postwar period. The images feature prominent stars of the decade such as Joan Bennett, Veronica Lake and Barbara Stanwyck, and designers including Dior, Lucien Lelong, Balmain, Nina Ricci, and Worth.

1940s Fashion: the Definitive Sourcebook covers every aspect of female fashions from the period, from lacy evening gowns, tailored skirt-suits and luxurious fur jackets to figure-sculpting undergarments, satin negligees and glamorous swimwear. The introduction outlines the different themes of the period and each chapter is given an introduction. Biographies of major designers of the time are included, for an in-depth look at who shaped the 1940s fashion world.”

The Patterns

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On the left is the simplest top pattern I own, and the one I’ll be starting with. It might seem unremarkable, but to me it’s the perfect basic summer top, and there are tons of possibilities there. We’ll see if the top adequately defines the bust area; I may experiment with darts. I might design my own fabric using Spoonflower to give it a completely personal feel, or after a few versions made on linen I might try to make a vintage version of this top. (At which point I will finally have an excuse to buy this book to learn the required embroidery techniques)

On the right is a pattern for Bermuda Shorts (view 4). Together with the simple top, these two garments perfectly express the summer silhouette I want.  At the moment, I have 2 or three pairs of storebought shorts, but none of them come up to my waist, and so do nothing for my figure. It’s also very hard for me to find shorts that cover my bottom without buying gross khaki mom-shorts 😦  These shorts show a lot of possibility; a scalloped hem or a heart shaped waistband will add interest to the design, and I’d like to make them in a wide range of neutrals along with a few bold colors.

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When I feel ready to move on, this darted short sleeved shirt will be the perfect addition. Solid colors will work best, I think. A pencil skirt in a summery fabric will be an important step (I can’t wear pin-up shorts everywhere, unfortunately) but I will probably shorten it to be above the knee; we’ll see how the muslin turns out. Plaids, neutrals, and a few bold colors are the best choices here.

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No summer would be summer, in my opinion, without an adorable play-suit like in view #1 above! The 40’s weren’t the best decade for summer dresses (they just look too hot, or at least I haven’t been able to find all that many that look breathable) but I love the 40s playsuit so much! Silky florals and breezy linens will be just right.

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When I’m feeling ready for a real challenge, I’ll tackle these Gibson Girl inspired blouses in a range of sheer fabrics. This is a new blog but let me just say here and now, this is as frou-frou as I get!

My sewing machine is in the shop for servicing, but in the mean time I’ll be spending my evenings and weekends tracing and cutting muslins.

What This is All About

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Who am I?

My name is Celine Loup. I’m an illustrator and comics artist, living in Baltimore, MD.

How did I become interested in vintage fashion?

Fashion has been a part of my life from the start. My father is an opera singer, and so understanding the importance of costume was part of my upbringing. My mother has always had elegant taste, and sitting beside her after her shower at her vanity and watching her go through her beauty rituals is still a childhood memory that instantly makes me feel warm and safe.  My mother was an excellent mother and home-maker, as was her mother, who taught her how to sew and knit. My mother loves watching classic movies, and I think I absorbed her appreciation of the fashion in them slowly over the years. I took a few sewing classes as a child, and my mother helped me in high school and college to sew a few dresses as I cultivated my own sense of style, but I mostly wore storebought or thrifted clothes and had no interest in knitting.

Why start a blog?

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That all changed after series of particularly brutal winters, when I realized the cons of buying storebought clothes:

  • Subject to trends that don’t last; everything looks dated by the next year. A consumerist mentality that actually devalues the importance of fashion.
  • Inferior materials: H&M will charge $30 for a “winter sweater” that is made out of acrylic yarn, which provides very little insulation compared to natural wools.
  • Ill fitting: I am a size six, it’s very easy to find clothes that were made for my size. Even so, no mass produced garment can perfectly fit my measurements exactly, and it shows.
  • Poorly made: this almost goes without saying if you are shopping on a budget. I’ve paid $25 for a cardigan that had gaping holes in the armpits after a month of wear.
  • Unflattering: this isn’t necessarily true for many garments, but modern fashion’s overall silhouette, in my opinion, does not do me any favors.
  • Environmentally devastating garment industry practices, with a high cost in human life.

I was tired of freezing in the winter, I was tired of wearing a million sweaty thin layers because I didn’t realize that quantity is no substitute for quality, I was tired of watching all my clothes unravel in my hands. I was also tired of contributing to an unsustainable, exploitative off shore garment industry. I was tired of feeling like I had better taste than what I was wearing.  I had always meant to make more clothes, but now I realized it was the only way to go forward. I stopped buying new clothes, and instead sat down to my drafting table and, over several months, began asking myself some important questions:

  • What was important to me, in terms of building a wardrobe?
  • What lines flatter my figure best?
  • What decade features the best examples of the silhouette I wanted?
  • What specific garments were essential to my lifestyle?

I made many drawings, did a lot of research, and gained a better grasp of my practical as well as aesthetic needs. Out of this came The Winter Wardrobe Project, a plan for a hand-made capsule collection of vintage garments that serves my needs for function as well as form. I created this blog in order to document my progress through the project, as well as to document my general growth as a knitter and seamstress. I hope my process here will inspire others to re-examine their relationship to the clothes they wear, and the social, political, and ecological context in which they wear them. I live in America and am watching my country crawl its way out of a devastating recession, and believe that bringing back American textile mills and fiber industries would significantly boost our economy. I also think sewing and knitting is fun, and teaches one to really value the work that goes into doing something well.

– C