Friday, July 17, 2009

Barathyel Bolero: Fit for a Queen

A princess emerged from her Boerum Hill bower. Gabrielle had another dress to try on, but she also had a few more "just in case." More? I didn't ask how many she had, but she said they were returnable. The ivory dress worked well with her Barathyel Bolero. I took a few pre-wedding photos and re-touched them into scenes from LOTR.

Gabbie looks at home in Rivendell, doesn't she?

Wedding plans were still coming together when we met this past Tuesday night for her final fitting. But I think she's more than prepared — she even had back-up jewelry. Gabbie and Paul are lawyers, I wouldn't expect anything less. "Barathyel" is Grey Elvish for Queen. The inspiration for this wedding top came from Galdriel, Queen of Lorien ("Fellowship..."), whose long flowing sleeves capture dream-like movement...

even when just she's standing still scaring the hell out of Frodo. It's obvious Galadriel doesn't do windows, she must have a staff of helper Elves, or some wand of house cleaning.

Gabbie was ecstatic about how well everything came together. She especially loved the sleeves and mantle — they drape like lace curtains over her gown. The flowing bell sleeves are picked up from the cuff and weighted with crocheted silk asters.

The asymmetrical mantle and the sleeves use the same lace pattern, except the mantle is knit on the bias to give it a graceful drape when it's worn open. Her sister Caroline made a Roman pin to close the front — Caroline designs exquisite jewelry. I also made Carolines shrug for her wedding.

Here's Gabbie at the gate of Rivendell overseeing intrepid soujourners and the ring bearer, ciao Frodo.

The sleeves are knit as one piece, from right to left with a continuous fir-cone lace pattern flanked with eyelets. The yarn we chose is Linea Pura "Biosoja" (Buttercream). It's a blend of cotton, bamboo and soy which makes it very breathable and light. It's makes a subtle stridation of cream and ivory. I like the way the soft stripes intersect with the lace.

Even Elron can't take his eyes off her. Get a life buddy! You're about 1000 years way too old for her.

I always think it's funny how a woman will buy an expensive wedding gown but have her back to the guests throughout most of the ceremony. The arrangement of silk Cosmos at the back hem should entertain the guests. They lend an old-world appeal to this very modern bride. I told Gabbie that I can remove them after the wedding and make a keep sake for her.

Saturday July 18, 2009 — today is the big day for Gabrielle and Paul as they exchange vows in upstate New York. It's 72° today and the weather is perfect for a wedding. Good luck Gabbie and Paul, and congratulations!

Source: New Line Cinema, "Fellowship of the Ring"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Flowers on the Mantle

Much of our garden flora is derived from Greek lore and legend — Paeony, Adonis, Narcissus, Rose, Daphne, and Laurel are among them. But all these stories end in tragedy. I found two Greek flowers that have a more auspicious origin: Cosmos and Aster.

Cosmos are one of my favorite garden flowers — mostly known to mean "the universe" in Greek. But it's also the same word for beauty. I guess the ancient Greeks saw beauty in symmetry and order. As I pick loose bits of yarn off my feet I admit I could use some order in my apartment. I wonder if there's a flower called "Chaos." So the words "cosmos" and "cosmetic" actually have common etymologic roots — one word has a more profound heavenly meaning and the later more decorative.

I'm meeting Gabbie tonight for the final fitting of her wedding shrug (Barathyel Bolero). I crocheted some single and double cosmos from ivory silk that I bought from Habu Textiles years ago. It's washed, blocked, and pressed — the last thing to now is to decide where to place the flowers. These flowers are not just decoration, they have a weighty purpose.

This lace shrug is designed to be light and comfortable on a warm July day; the asymmetric construction emphasizes fluid movement. But it also needs ballast. I suggested placing large flowers on mantle's hem at the lowest point to keep it in place. Sounds easy no? Last night I spent about an hour or so pinning them into a composition. The arrangement should look natural, as if the flowers grew into place. But what does that mean when you're working with artificial flowers? A lot of arranging. They look more natural if some of them overlap in clusters.

To add more structure to this garment I used a crab stitch border and some scallops along the entire edge — otherwise the mantle tends to crawl upwards and inwards.

Finally, the bell sleeve cuffs also need some weight so I made four asters for each cuff. Aster is the Greek word for star. The phrase "ad astra" is a metaphor for infinity, it literally means "to the stars." In Greek mythology, flowers sprang from the tears of Asterea, who cried with compassion when she looked down from heaven and saw no stars on earth. This tale of tears makes absolutely no sense to me at all... is this a story about compassion or mania? But I believe cosmos and asters are auspicious symbols of matrimony.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Elvish Summer Casuals

Gabbie wants to wear her Baratheyl Bolero for more than one occasions this summer. I told her I'd strip it down into something more casual after the wedding — she might even have it dyed. I popped into Stitch Therapy to say hey to Maxcine and to ask Brandi for a favor — Brandi was gracious enough to be my fit model for Gabrielle's Barathyel Bolero. My favorite home girl's come home — she's back in Brooklyn while on school break from the Paris program.

The Fly-girl Test
Brandi slipped it on and moved her arms up and around to make sure the sleeves didn't crawl up. The bell sleeves needed more weight, the flap also needed more structure. I like Maxcine's Roman clasp, Brandi used it to close the top. It's funny how girls know what to do with a garment.

"Baby, don't you make anything for the big girls? That top is fly!" a shop patron said as she put down her baby sweater and gestured at her ample decollete. "I used to be Brandi's size but look at me now. You can't hide the pride!"

I have admit, I blushed. I just nodded my head in agreement, I felt anything I'd say might come off offensively.

The Shrug Test
The big girls dilemma — many knit patterns aren't made for the plus size gal, and they're usually displayed by someone who looks like they haven' eaten in days. Many full-bodied beauties knit and sew for themselves because they can't buy something in their size. You just can't take a Barbie-sized concept and simply make it bigger. How do we address America's growing needs?

Brandi shrugged her shoulders up and down and did a runway walk around the shop to make sure the back stayed in place. The mantle needed a few adjustments — the hem turned inwards and clung to her dress. Everything needs a few adjustments.

It's one thing to see a garment sit on a mannequin, but the real test is to see how it behaves and drapes on the body when in motion. I ended up re-knitting the entire mantle — oi gevault, twice.

It's almost ready for an evening out. I wonder if Gabbie will wear it on on their honeymoon. Brandi is my favorite model, the camera loves her and she knows how to move. As I packed everything up, the shop patron waved me down and mouthed "big girls" to me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

In Holey Matrimony

I designed an eyelet lace shrug for my friend Gabrielle, she and Paul are tying the knot on July 18. She's nervous, but at the last fitting she was elated to see her shrug come together. It fits on her as snug as a glove, but it's very comfortable. It's something old and something new, but I didn't want it to look too antique. Earlier we met and did some sketches and looked at yarn samples from Stitch Therapy and pattern books.

The design is inspired by Galadriel's dream sequence from "Fellowship of the Ring." I named both the eyelet pattern and the shrug "Barathyel" (Grey Elvish word for Queen). It's made with Linea Pura Biosoja — a light poly-blend of soy, cotton, and bamboo. It's perfect for a warm July wedding. The subtle strides of cream & ivory and the syncopated lace pattern make the garment appear as if it’s in constant motion — even when it's just resting on the mannequin.

The bell sleeves are very traditional, but the mantle drapes over the body on the bias in an asymmetric cut. It also makes the traditional bell sleeves look more LOTR and less Renaissance Fair.

The body wraps as one piece from the front and around the back. The top of the shrug (arms and shoulders) are also knit across as one piece. The bell sleeves are picked up and knit down. I'm still working on the back panel that join the top and the body.

A Mannequin?! You might be wondering how I ended up with a mannequin body. No, I didn't find it on the street. About two summers ago I stopped into Stacey Joy Elkin's shop Redlipstick. She had seen photos of the shrug I made for Caroline on my blog and read that I used a pillow and duct tape to make a form. She insisted that I need a mannequin body so she generously loaned me one.

But she didn't have a bag large enough to cover it so I walked home with it in it's raw state tucked under my arm through a small crowd of giggling school children and pointing parents. You have to admit, putting a Keyfood bag over the top half of a bare torso would have seemed even more creepy... I digress. But the mannequin helped me a lot. Better finish this up, final fitting with gown is on Tuesday.