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More thoughts on imitation, inspiration and insight.

8 Mar

In which I attempt to organise my thoughts… into neat, manageable compartments very unlike my fabric storage system.

Hello everyone! Hope you had a lovely weekend ! After a week sitting at the sewing machine for school I took a break, went for a lovely country drive and planted a fig tree. Sometimes even I don’t want to look at the machine for a while.

So thank you all for leaving such insightful comments on my last post. I’m glad to hear lots of us crafty types are wrestling with this problem, and it’s not just me feeling like a dirty copycat. The main points I got out of this were:

•  As long as you are not claiming ownership of an idea to sell, or hand up at school for assessment, being ‘inspired’ by other’s art is not a bad thing at all.

• There is no harm done if we were never going to buy the item in the first place. Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery!

• We very rarely copy something outright. We see a neat idea and tweak it, or else it ends up evolving into a new beast altogether. Hurrah for creativity!

• In the merging, mingling, tangling stream of inspiration that is the internet fashion world, it is almost impossible to define the origin of any one idea. The items we love were probably inspired by someone else, and it is only a natural evolution that we ourselves are inspired in turn.

In the end, whether you feel good about copying someone else’s idea is a totally personal thing. I know I don’t, but I also feel rather proud when I can ‘reverse engineer’ something and discover how it works, how it was put together, or how I could improve it. You learn so much! Like re-creating a recipe you loved in a restaurant or digging around in computer code, you begin to understand much more about construction and the design process – which in turn fuels new inspiration.

I found this fantastic post by Peter of Male Pattern Boldness discussing the idea of sewing as protest. I identify so much with this. I sew because it gives me the option to ‘not buy’. I sew because then I can decide how I should look and how I should present myself in the world rather than some corporation. I don’t want to be told how to look, whether I am ‘in’ or not, or that I am unwittingly supporting a system that promotes sweatshop labour. Working out how something is made gives me power. It makes me self-sufficient. It makes me recognise the effort (or lack therof) that went into creating it, and in turn I value the craft/art of others so much more.

I could go on for pages here, but I think I’m going to leave it for a while to simmer. This subject is so completely at the root of my ‘crafty ethic’ that I want to get it straight in my head first. The next post will be something frivolous and pretty, I promise!

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The Sincerest Form of Flattery.

2 Mar

Or, what happens when looking at Etsy too much gets your brain stuck in an ‘I can make that!’ rut.

Image thanks to Guin's View

This is a difficult topic for me to write about, but I’ve been thinking about it lately and feel like blogging about it might help me to clarify where I stand. As a crafter, perhaps even a ‘fabric artist’, I’m terribly passionate about making sure fellow crafters and artists are paid fairly for their work. Not only for materials and the time it takes to make something, but also intellectual property rights.

The craft-web is full of gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, innovative creations that artists are rightly asking high prices for. You should be paid for the effort you put into making that hand-knitted sweater, as well as for dreaming up the design and innovative construction. When you buy a handmade item, you’re paying for the intellectual as well as physical labour that went into creating it. However, as crafty people, it is also in our nature to look at something and wonder how it was made, or if we could perhaps make something similar. My student budget doesn’t allow me to spend hundreds on beautiful handmade dresses, but often I can create that look for myself using materials in my price range.

To put it bluntly, sometimes I can copy something that I can’t afford to buy.

How do I feel about this? I have no troubles looking at a site like Anthropologie and knocking off a skirt that costs $300 with my own thrift store fabric, but when it comes to copying the ideas of a fellow craftsperson- a small-business operation- I feel rather differently about it. I know mass marketers of fashion are always copying new designs from emerging artists and that fact makes me angry, so am I any better when I use my crafty knowledge to re-create a garment I can’t afford otherwise? I would never sell the item, or make the process known for others to use commercially. The result is a one-off creation for my own personal use. It doesn’t make me feel fantastic that I have ‘stolen’ someone else’s idea, but cross-pollination of trends and ideas is part of what makes the internet such an interesting place, and a vital source of inspiration for a girl living in a backwater town.

As much as I would like to think of myself as an incredibly cutting-edge, imaginative designer who makes clothes that are completely unlike anything else that’s out there, I know that’s so far from the truth it’s laughable. Sometimes I just have to think, ‘Gee, I wish I’d thought of that’. Being a moderately crafty and resourceful person sure helps when I can’t afford amazing clothes!

Is this a dilemma every crafter and fiber artist wrestles with? At uni, when writing essays for my Media/Arts degrees, I always learnt to ‘acknowledge my sources’ – is this something we should do in our crafty lives as well? I’m not sure I can come up with a satisfactory answer to this, but I’d love to know how others deal with it.

All I want is a closet of vintage sweaters for winter…

22 Feb

Or, dust on the sewing machine means my needles are flying!


Cute Needle Photo by KerryW

It’s February!! That means, for all you fellow Aussie ladies (and gents?), there are about three or four months left to go before you can seriously break out the hot winter styles. Seriously, readers, I am dreaming of the day when I can pull on a jumper and a tartan wool skirt. In my eagerness, I have been scouring Ravelry for cute vintage-inspired patterns to knit, because if I start now I might actually have something finished when it starts getting chilly!

For your knitterly delectation, I have gathered here some of my favourite patterns. I tried to pick something to cover most parts of you! Best of all, they’re all free! Just click on the pictures to get to the patterns. Start knitting! Now! What are you waiting for?!

Joan Crawford Cardigan

3-Hour Sweater

From a 1930’s knitting pattern booklet.

Lady Jodie Hat

Gorgeous little flapper-style hat!

Bow-Knot Scarf

I have made several of these and they are insanely cute & warm!

Women’s Long Gloves

You better believe I will be knitting some long gloves this winter. They are so fantastic.

Bell Curve Skirt

Hot. Hot. Hot. 1940’s suit, anyone?

1930 Tap Bra and Panties

I have loved these forever, still have to get around to making some!

Is there something here that tickles your fancy? Maybe start with the gorgeous underwear! I might go with the cute cloche hat, it’s just too adorable for words. Happy knitting (or dreaming of knitting)! xox

A clean house is the sign of a bored mind…

20 Feb

Or, creative forces do not allow for tidy stacks of fabric!


After neglecting my sewing room for the well-stocked costume classroom at school (steam irons! industrial machines! NO SWEEPING AFTER!), I finally cleaned up and tried to wrestle my monstrous stash back into order. Seriously, the only way I could do this was by taking pictures as I went so I had documentation that my unruly piles can actually look like something out of a Reputable Craft Blog (TM). Of all things, messy piles of fabric really step on my creative buzz. I need to see how colours and patterns sit next to each other, to be able to touch and re-arrange. Often colour combinations are the starting point for an design that I would never have thought of before.

I know that a jumble of oddments, notions, swatches and trims can be really inspiring, but there come a point where it is just MESS! So I ask you – what are your favourite tips for sewing room organisation? How do you tame the stash? How do you deal with the boring mess – the threads on the carpet and the dust – to make sure you have time for the ‘fun’ mess?