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Be a Student

Yep...how all students feel

It’s hard to give yourself permission to learn new things.  Especially once you’ve obtained that almighty degree, and have obtained the status of Graduate.  It’s slightly easier to be a student when it’s entirely for fun.  When I’m in dance class, I can be fully focused and in the moment.  I can concentrate on the lesson and what the take away is.  Not so easy when the only teacher is me, and I also happen to be the only student in the class.

Forcing focus when I know I need to be concentrating on learning all the things is probably the hardest adult thing I’ve had to do.  I get why so few people chose to trod the path of self-employment.  When you have to learn something new to move in to the next phase of your business, but all you want to do is watch re-runs of The Last Airbender and not adult today…it’s damn hard.

So I’ve been kind of slacking these last two weeks.  Oh, I can say I’ve been working.  I’ve been diligently making things to sell as “end cap” items at events I vend.  Not really the main attraction, but cute little items people will look at, smile, and buy, hopefully along with a couple of yards of silk or some silk thread.  And I had a brilliant break through for an idea my boyfriend had.  But as far as being a student and learning the things I need to learn for Damask Raven?  Yeah, I’m a total slacker.

But that’s ok, sometimes.  The slacking is coming to an end.  It sort of has to.  Not because I’ve never failed.  You can’t live life without experiencing some failure.  It has to end because I know what I’m capable of.  But I can’t do the things I know I can, when I slack for too long.  So it’s time to hit the books again.  Time to learn all the things.  Time to educate myself…to be a student.

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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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That’s a Moire

That's a Moire

Watered silk.  Moire.  And all it’s variations (moire antique, moire francaise, moire ineraillable, etc….)  According to Wikipedia, Moire was available as early as the Middle Ages. This is certainly possible, as the earliest mangle found has been dated 1444, and was located in Bergen Norway.  Now Norway is pretty far removed from China.  Which logically says that the first moire was probably linen or wool.

This is just supposition.  The Chinese invented everything else so it is not impossible that they invented watered silk, and I just haven’t uncovered the term they use for it.  I was wrong about crepe, I could be wrong about this.  But if China did not invent this technique, and the earliest mangle was located in Norway, than most likely moire was first linen, possibly wool, with silk being discovered by a foolhardy chamber maid who was probably beaten for putting the very expensive silk through a mangle.  Yeah the effect was cool, but what the hell!

Alternatively, the meaning has changed over the years.  According to Fairchild, Moire was “formerly applied to various fabrics of great value and luster.  Gold, silver, and silk fabrics are called moire in 15th and 16th century French documents (p. 393).”

Now, what does all this mean?  Well it means that language is a living thing and meaning changes over time.

Conversely, Calendering is when a piece of fabric is passed through a calender, a machine with two or more cylinders which touch.  As the fabric passes through, heat and/or water is added, creating stretch and pull along the grain line of the fabric.  This creates a rippling, embossed, effect on the fabric surface.  This effect is not permanent unless specifically set using heat or chemicals.

Which is why this is one of the few fabrics I recommend for dry clean only.  If you don’t want to dry clean (because, hey…who does?) then make very sure you wash a test piece first.  Verify that the calendering effect is permanent.  If it’s not, then your options are to dry clean. Or make very sure it’s not going to rain the day you wear your dress.

 

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Taffeta–from the Persian

Taffeta

As silk made it’s way along the silk road and down in to Persia, the Persian’s added their own twist.  Literally.  Taffeta is from the Persian word Taftah, meaning “twisted woven,” Taffeta was first woven in the Third Century in Persia (p. 68, Parker).  Taffeta is a smooth, tightly woven, plain weave fabric, created by adding additional twist to the threads during weaving.  This adds strength to the fabric so that this is a very stable weave, with minimal fraying.  It still frays, but not as bad as organza or chiffon would.  Typically, the weft threads are slightly heavier than the warp threads, which also adds the smooth luster and face of this heavy fabric (p. 604, Fairchild).

Taffeta is produced using two effects, already discussed in my post on True Damask, silk pieces can be created by piece dying or by thread dying.  When Taffeta is piece dyed, it tends to have a slightly softer hand.  If it is thread dyed for shot silk effects or for stripes, the fabric tends to be slightly stiffer and have a bit more body.

Regardless of piece dyed or thread dyed, silk taffeta is where scroop originated.  Now, the dictionary definition provides that scroop is added artificially by treatment with dilute acid.  This is true for nylon or rayon taffetas, but scroop is a natural property found in silk (Fairchild, p. 540), and especially noticeable in Taffeta.  That rustling sound is what let Rhett Butler know that Mammy had accepted his gift of a red silk petticoat.  It is that noticeable.

Because it is a plain weave silk, it will crease, pleat, and gather, beautifully.  It drapes fantastically, and is relatively easy to work with, when compared to satin or lightweight organza.  And if the scroop bugs you too much?  Wash it in warm soapy water.  Missing the scroop.  Return it…with dilute acid!  From Julie Parker “…soak it in a solution of 5% white vinegar and water. (p. 68).  Huh….I guess dilute acid does add the scroop!

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Shot Silk

Shot Silk

No, this is not another reference to Silk in Warfare.  Shot silk is a specific effect which is created when the warp threads are one color and the weft threads are a second, complimentary or contrasting color.  Most commonly found in Taffeta’s, shot silks require a bit of forethought to manufacture.

Now, the reason for the forethought isn’t just what colors do I want to use.  Typically, when a length of fabric is woven, the looms do their job, and the end product is then dip dyed in a large vat, to produce an all over color.  Or in cases of calico prints, they’ll be sent through the printers to have the design printed on them.  But in shot silk, the threads must be dyed before weaving can commence.  This requires calculation at the manufacturers end.  How much thread will actually be needed in each color to make the ordered yardage.  And then that much thread must be dyed in separate vats, then placed in mordants for the dyes to set.

Then the weaving commences.  The result is pure iridescence.

Purple on the Warp, Blue on the Weft

Today this effect is called shot silk.  However, historically it has been called changeant, changeable silk, and shadow silk.  Now, this effect is by no means a 21st century innovation.  The wikipedia article on shot silk reports a 12th century description of liturgical vestments from the 7th century of purple and yellow.  So this technique dates back to the middle ages, at least to the 12th century, and as far back as the 7th, if the article is described accurately from that time.

It was unquestionably fashionable in the 19th century, as shown in this image from The Met.

Changeante Silk 1840s

And there is reference to changeante silk throughout many books on 18th century dress.  I suspect that much like all things, the trend comes and goes.  So while shot silk is referenced in the 12th century clergy wear, it’s popularity waxed and waned over the intervening centuries, sometimes en vogue, sometimes not.  Such are the vagaries of haute couture.  As Heidi Klum would say, one day you’re in, the next, you’re out.  Auf Wiedersehen!

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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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Silk and Static

Static

Yesterday, I commented in my blog that silk was anti-static.  This bears further explanation, especially as googling “silk anti static” will get you no where.  Or more specifically, it will get you many pages of how to discharge a static charge from your silk.  And it’s all good advice.  I think my favorite was from a physics blog, which shows silk has a moderate charge.

But that’s not the whole story.  If you live in a dry area, like, for example, the high desert of Nevada, than silk tends to be very static-y.  There isn’t enough moisture in the air to prevent a static charge from building up.  Which, yes, will cause a static charge to build up.  If you live somewhere with a bit more natural humidity, like, say, New Orleans, LA, then silk will almost never build up a static charge.  Why is that?

Silk is essentially a protein fiber, consisting of fibroin and sericin.  Like hair, it will go crazy with static in dry weather or when an electrical storm is on the way.  But also like hair, silk is NOT prone to static in high humidity environments, due to the way it absorbs moisture.  So to prevent static in silk, you “water” it.  Water is in quotes, in this instance, because you don’t to actually put water on the silk.  Water won’t hurt silk, but if you’ve starched it, it will leave spots and require re-starching.

So how do you “water” your silk?  With steam.  If you have a steam press, that works.  Provided it does not leak water on a starched garment, you can steam press your silk.  If you don’t have a steam press, you can hang your silk over a humidifier.  Lacking that, hang it in the bathroom, turn the shower on hot, and close the door.  Let it steam for five to ten minutes.  Please note, do not hang your silk IN the shower.  The goal is not to actually get the silk wet.  The goal is to allow the silk to absorb moisture from the air (Parker, p. 42).

Now, if you don’t have time to steam your silk, that doesn’t mean you don’t wear it.  There are other options to discharge the static build up.  Wearing layers, with either a silk or cotton under garment, can prevent static.  Wikihow recommends running a metal hanger through the garment, placing a safety pin in an inconspicuous location, or using a metal thimble, all of which will work just as well.  And the old standby, which works for everything, is running a dryer sheet over your garment.  All of these work to discharge a static build up in your silk.  But to avoid it in the first place, try watering your silk ahead of wearing it.

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On Failure

On Failure

Yesterday, I wrote about Success.  But what about failure?  Statistically, any business or venture is more likely to fail than to succeed.  But really, it depends on your definition of failure.  If you take the dictionary definition: an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful.  All told, that’s a pretty nebulous definition, given that success means different things to different people.  For one, success may mean being able to cut your day job to part time.  In which case, enough sales to supplement your day job would count as a success.  For another, being fully self-sustaining so you can QUIT the day job…in which case, only enough sales to supplement the income would be a failure.

But again, is it?  In a more nebulous sense (meaning NOT the dictionary definition) failure is a state of mind.  You only truly fail when  you fail to learn from mistakes.  Did you overspend on marketing, cutting in to your operating budget?  That’s a mistake to learn from, and not even necessarily fatal.  It’s just something to learn and move on.

Did you not practice as much as you could have, leading you to not even placing in the competition?  Or what if you practiced til your feet bled, but the first place winner just had that extra spark?  How you react in that situation determines whether or not you are a success or a failure.  You can scream about how unfair it was, how much you practiced, how you feel robbed of your opportunity.  Or you can acknowledge that today was not your day.  Go home, do more, try harder.  And maybe next time it will be your day.

Failure is very much a state of mind.  You can let life’s set backs hold you down, you can rail and scream about what went wrong.  Or you can acknowledge it happened, dust yourself off, and move forward with plan b….c…d…and plan e.  However many plans it takes for you to reach your personal definition of success.  You’re only a failure when you quit trying.

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On Success

On Success

You’ve done it!  You’ve fed the muses and kept them happy.  They in turn are feeding you inspiration.  And all that hard work is starting to pay off.  Maybe it starts with a bang, you launch your business, and it’s an overnight success story.  Or maybe it’s a slower burn.  A post like here, a sale there…it’s more gradual, but ever upward.  It’s slow, but you know you’re on the right path.

As wonderful as success is, it also comes with a side dish of bitterness.  See, success will show you who’s really in your corner.  You’re true friends will continue to support you.  They’ll cheer on every post like, every sample sold, every customer response, good or bad.  They may offer critique, but it will always be constructive (hey, have you thought of this?)

You’re not so true friends and full on haters will start with venom.  It probably won’t be as obvious at first.  Snide asides.  Hints that something is off or less than perfect.  The trick is to weed out the genuine pieces of helpful advice, the things that can help you move your business forward and in to your next level of success, from the bitter remarks of a jealous friend.

I don’t say former friend, because even jealousy can pass and someone can find they are genuinely happy for your success.  Or it’s entirely possible that in your flush of success, you turn in to a bit of a snot, and what is offered as genuine critique is blown all out of proportion by you.  In which case, pull your head out!  Seriously, success gets awfully lonely and if you turn in to a snot, you will chase all your friends away.  Then when you need a friendly ear to run an idea by, all you’re left with are sycophants.  And there is no way to improve when surrounded by yes men (or yes women).

So celebrate the wins, big or small.  Keep your friends close, but listen to the haters.  Sometimes your next direction will come from the most unexpected source.

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What’s in a Weave?

Amethyst Glass Silk Satin

In a blog post earlier this year, I asked the question What’s that Fiber?  I provided a brief list of different fibers, then a slightly more thorough detailing of the three different weaving techniques most commonly used.  I’m going to write a (long) series of posts describing what specifically each weave is.  The three weaves are Plain, Twill, Satin.  But there is TREMENDOUS variety within those three categories.  So what’s in a weave?

Just in a silk fiber, plain weaving is used to create Batiste de Soie, Broadcloth, Chiffon, China Silk, Cloque, Crepe, Crepe de Chine, Dupioni, Four Ply, Georgette, Habotai, Matka, Noil, Organza, Peau de Soie, Pongee, Shantung, Taffeta, and Shot Silk.  Seriously!  All of those DIFFERENT fabrics utilize a plain weave to create different drape, different hand, different look.  Which says remarkable things about the ingenuity of Man.  And none of that includes weaves that are specific to cotton, wool, or linen!

Utilizing a Twill weaving technique creates Gabardine, Surah, and Tweed.  Satin is it’s own weave, but you use satin techniques to create brocade, charmeuse, damask, and matelasse.  And silk can be knitted!

Plain weave, as defined by The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles 8th Edition, is as follows:

Simplest and most important of the three basic weaves, used in about 80% of all woven fabric…is executed by passing each filling yarn successively over and under each warp yarn, alternating each row (p. 463).

plain weave
Like this. This is a blown up, close example, of what a plain weave is.

EIGHTY PERCENT OF ALL WOVEN FABRICS!  That’s a pretty big number!  Also means the variety found in plain weaving is a result of thread spin, and treatment.

Twill’s, according to Fairchild, are “A basic weave characterized by a diagonal rib, or twill line, generally running upward from left to right…Each end floats over or under at least two consecutive picks (p. 643).

Twill weave
Basic twill weave

The third most common weave is Satin. From Fairchild, “A smooth, generally lustrous fabric, with a thick, close texture made of silk…Generally, there is a higher number of yarns on the face than the back (p. 531).  With Satin, the face of the fabric is very smooth and lustrous, while the back is dull with no shine.  A blown up line drawing of a warp faced satin would look like this:

Warp faced Satin
Warp faced Satin

So that’s a little better explanation of what’s in a weave.  Future posts will go in to each particular weave and explain the differences between china silk and batiste de soie, chiffon and organza.

Until next time…

Welcome to Damask Raven…where we do History in Style