Minoan Snakes & Living Yarn

This may be the item that got the whole idea going.

A few years ago I ran across this image and thought about recreating her skirt using a ribbon yarn. The sketch to the right is about 4 years old (I save my sketches, scan them, keep them in a database. Have I mentioned I’m a Virgo…?)

In keeping with the garment structure of the period, the Minoan Shrug, Surplice and Skirt will be based on rectangular shapes with interesting stitch/texture detail.

The shrug is finished, and now onto the sleeveless surplice. Hannah says that the finished shrug looks, “like moss!” and it does.

This is recycled silk, Dharma, from Mango Moon, and it’s a complex, rewarding fiber.

At times this yarn can be infuriating – but only when I let my pre-concieved notions of what silk SHOULD do interfere with what this raw silk wants to do.

When I allow the yarn to have it’s own way we’re both happier. This is a fiber with a strong personality – a living fiber – and like my independently minded friends, it requires a decent amount of respect, space and freedom to live up to it’s potential.

I used a very open lace pattern in the shrug (above) – a fun, geometric and easy to remember repeat. I hope it will be a nice contrast to a more tightly knit fabric for the surplice (swatch shown at right).

This rustic, fuzzy, shining yarn is a contradiction in every inch.

Enhancing the experience in ways that are so visually and tactilely (is that a word?) exciting are the Signature Needles I love. These needles make anything I knit seem more exciting. When the light streams in behind me and illuminates the work in my hands it’s pure delight. I’m afraid I’m getting carried away…

The skirt is still in the thinking-through phase. All I know at this point is that it will involve ruffles (although probably not as many as my 4-year old sketch), will be knit of ribbon, and will be fun to wear.

In graduate school (Rutgers, 1989-1992) I studied Costume & Set Design and spent MANY hours researching period clothing.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the assignments we were given, a lesson in inspiration, was to use figures from “old master” paintings to recreate garments as modern-day runway fashion.

I’ve since learned that this great concept is a pretty common assignment in fashion design programs. The lesson has always stayed with me.

I firmly believe that fashion is not everyone’s friend. Fashion dictates a certain sleeve or skirt length, a bodice shape, a waist height, is what everyone SHOULD be wearing in a specific period.

But not all of us have figures that do well with an 1870’s long-waisted basque bodice, a wide shouldered 1940’s jacket or a 1960’s mini dress. Pity the poor short waisted woman in the 1930’s, or the flat-chested femme in the 1890’s.

Presently, we live in an exceptional time. No matter what your shape, your figure, your height or taste, you CAN find some garment that is flattering and in fashion. You can find a skirt length that suits your leg shape, a pair of pants that suit your hips and bum, a jacket length that emphasizes your good points.

We’ve never been in a situation like this, fashion wise, in all of history. Glory in it, folks!

Previously skirt lengths weren’t just set by designers, but by societal and even government-imposed rules. Wealthy folks & the nobility were permitted to show off. They could wear longer garments of richer fabrics created of more expensive dyes and precious jewels.

Poorer folks were prohibited by various sumptuary laws from dressing above their station. Laws like these were in place to keep social climbers from the merchant classes from outshining the governing noble class, the effect was to stratify society in a very personal way.

But now? Now anyone from any class can wear anything. The main criteria is, “Does this make me look good?” and “Does this make me feel happy?”

What a beautiful place to be!

My hope with History on Two Needles is that folks will see the patterns as a rethinking of accepted garment shapes. Perhaps the modern, western cut of a jacket isn’t terribly flattering for some folks, they may find that a kimono cut is more suited for their shape. So there will be a kimono shaped garment in the book. I hope that folks will continue to move outside of the book and look for shapes that flatter their bodies – shapes they may never have considered before!

The Minoan Snake Goddess pieces are going to be very simple shapes, rectangular pieces that are attached in ways that will allow them to drape over the body, not fitted, looser. By contrast, the Tudor inspired garments in the book will be fitted – tighter – and gauge will be a greater concern.

It’s a fascinating way to think about designing, I’m hoping it creates a very wide range of styles that set some minds flying with possibilities!

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