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The downside

Downside

Want to know the dark, downside of being a business owner?  Especially in the early days, when it’s just you and a dedicated band of loyal friends who have more faith than common sense (love you guys…you know who you are).  It all falls on you.  As advertised, I am vending at Cairo Shimmy Quake this weekend.  And boy do I not want to go.  Scratch that.  I want to go.  The spirit is more than willing.  The flesh, however, says that in this year of the plague, my cold logged, snot drenched, behind, should seriously spend the weekend in bed, resting.

But I can’t.  I have committed to vending this event.  I have committed to the 8 hour drive through Death Valley in a car with no air conditioning.  I have committed to at least one 14 hour day (Saturday).  And I do want to go.  I enjoy vending.  I enjoy meeting new people, and talking about silk.  I like the surprise when I tell people all the things I do to silk.  I like hearing about people’s projects and what they are making.  I like guiding them to a good silk for their project.

But there is that downside.  The side that says “I’m sick, I should be sleeping.”  And that is the downside of company ownership.  Yes, I’m sick.  But I can’t take the weekend off to sleep it off.  Because as the owner, good company representation ultimately falls on me.  So I am packed.  The hobo-mobile is ready to go.  My helper bee knows what time to expect me tomorrow.  Now to sleep as well as possible, and hope tomorrow brings better energy levels.

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Costume College

Costume College

This is an annual event held in Southern California at the end of July.  I’ve been twice, once just to go, then last year I taught.  And the class was so wonderful and open, I decided to teach again.  So, here is what I am teaching at Costume College 2017.  All three classes are on Sunday, July 30.

9am to 10am What’s in a Weave.  This class is designed to talk about different weaving techniques, specifically silk weaves; however many techniques are universal (plain weave, satin weave, twill). And this class will teach you which weave is which.

11:30am to 1pm From Street to Stage: A History of Oriental Dance Costuming in Egypt.  Called by many the oldest dance, Raqs Sharqi has a long performance history. But what did they wear? While the standard costume is well known today, they didn’t always wear Bedlah when performing. Learn the differences between street wear and stage wear used in this lovely art form.

4pm to 5pm Care and Feeding of Silk.  This is the class I taught last year and in it, I answer all your questions about working with silk.  How delicate is silk? Can it be washed? Can you iron silk, and if so, how? Do you use starch? Bring your questions to Care and Feeding of Silk and I will answer them (if you can’t make it to Costume College, you can always contact me and I am happy to help by email).

So that’s it for what I am teaching.  However, on the flip side of teaching is studying.  And class schedules are set to mail out this week!  And then there are the parties!  Each night holds a different event.  So traditionally, Thursday night is the pool party.  This years theme is Happiest Place on Earth. Now, since the overarching theme is the ‘6o’s, this one is specifically meant for vintage Disney.  But wait!  There’s more!  You don’t have to dress on theme.  And this year, I’m going half theme.  I am going Disney…just not vintage.

Friday morning is Freshman Orientation, for those new to Costume College.  Now, I didn’t go to Freshman Orientation, even when I WAS in college, so I have yet to attend this event.  But it looks to be full of excellent information.

Friday night, is the ice cream social.  The theme this year is Casino Royale, and all spies are welcome.  I am again, interestingly enough, going with a Disney themed character.  Not from the Spy angle, more from the Casino angle.  Hey, I worked twelve years in a casino…I know a little bit about what customer service is like in that dark den of iniquity.

Saturday before entering the Gala party, you get to walk the red carpet in your finest dress.  This years Gala is Dinner at Tiffany’s, a nod to the fabulous Audrey Hepburn’s Little Black Dress.  And here is the crux of my problem. Not quite four months out, and I have no idea what Cinderella (me) is wearing to the ball.  I have ideas…but nothing set in stone.  I know sort of what I’d like to do, but not sure I have time to do it, with my other vending events between now and then.  And the day job.  So I’m working on it.  It may end up being vintage and vaguely couture.  Or it could be fully designed, draped and drafted to me.  It all depends on how well outside forces work with my schedule to make it all happen.  So fingers crossed, I get it all done.

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My other Love

My Other Love

So, if you open your mind beyond Facebooklandia, it turns out you really can learn something new every day.  While I have been All Things Silk for about two years now, my other love is Raqs Sharqi.  And since I like to blend my passions to cut down on confusion, I thought I’d see when silk first hit Egypt.

Now, there are references to it in travel literature, that dancers wore Silks, mostly plain woven, but with accent pieces of satin or crepe (Fraser, 197…a most excellent read).  So definitely by the 19th century, silk was in Egypt.  But silk was EVERYWHERE by the 19th century, so that really isn’t much of a leap.  China has had silk for 8500 years.

The Silk Road has been around for 2200 years and was a major trade route across all of Asia, and certainly had contact with Persia and Rome.  But Egypt ALSO has a long and storied civilization behind it.  Egyptians were active traders and conquerors.  Surely they must have had some notion of China and the wonders of silk.  So I Googled it.

And had two rather surprising hits.  The first was a letter from 1993, response it seems, to an inquiry about some fibers located in a mummy.  It references Cleopatra and it would not be surprising to find she had access to silk, given her contact with the Romans and we know the Romans certainly had silk by the time Cleopatra reigned.  However, the letter reveals that scanning determined the fibers were in fact silk filaments, from China…and they had been found on a mummy dated to 1000 BCE.  This puts silk, in Egypt, 1000 years earlier than initially believed.

The second was a New York Times article, also dated from 1993.  This article begins by commenting on the letter about silk filaments found on very old mummies, but also includes references to silk being excavated from 7th century BC graves in Germany and 5th century BC graves in Greece.  So we know silk was a tightly controlled commodity by the Chinese prior to the Byzantines stealing it.  But even tightly controlled commodities can get out to the general market…if the price is right.

The NYT article concludes by guessing that border guards bribed nomads with silk.  I contend it could just as easily have gone the other way.  Maybe the border guards were offered incredible sums of money for silk.  Either way it happened, silk was likely in Egypt 3000 years ago.  And certainly available for Raqs Sharqi costuming when that dance hit the stage.

And so this happy little book worm is delighted at the successful marriage of my two passions…Silk and Dance.

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Softly Chiffon

Pink chiffon top layers this dress worn by Audrey Hepburn

Nothing is as softly elegant as chiffon.  Typically sheer, and very filmy and lightweight, Julie Parker in All About Silk says that Chiffon is French for rag. Which is hard to believe given that this is easily one of the most elegant fabrics available.  When I hear the word rag, I think of the dictionary definition, and chiffon is not worthless.  Typically used as a top layer in prom or wedding dresses, chiffon adds fabulous sway and drape to any gown.

Now, on a technical level, chiffon is “A very lightweight sheer silk…made in a plain weave with fine, hard spun yarns of approximately the same size in warp and filling and the same number of ends and picks per inch.” Fairchilds p. 117.  Now, what the hell does all that mean.  Hard Spun means that the fibers, or in this case filaments, are spun very tightly so that they are squeezed together to allow for a very tight, fine weave.

Same size in warp and filling means that the hard spun is not just on the warp, but also the weft threads.  Everything is woven using the same number of threads on the warp and west to provide a very even, all over, plain woven fabric.  All of this creates the lovely, elegant fabric that we all know and love as chiffon.  But for the bad news.  Chiffon is VERY difficult to work with.  There is not a lot of give in this fabric and because of the sheerness of the fabric, you want to use this as a top layer, a la the cover image for this post, the inimitable Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

If you are determined to work with this very drape-y fabric, try starching with gelatin before cutting and sewing. While I have not yet tried this myself, I’m eager to give it a shot when Damask Raven starts carrying Silk Chiffon….and Silk Charmeuse.