Fiber in the North State: Fiber Fusion 2013

Sheep at Fiber Fusion 2013 (Chico, CA)

A few weekends ago I treated myself to a trip to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico for  Fiber Fusion 2013, an event put on by the Mount Lassen Fiber Guild. So yes, I mostly went because of my obsession with knitting – but much to my surprise, the spinners and weavers nearly out-numbered the knitters. Though I do own a spinning wheel, and even have fleece yet to spin, I’m fairly new at that.

There were sheep, and full fleeces, spinning and weaving displays, lace and tatting displays, as well as an adorable Angora rabbit that almost ended up coming home with me. Participants learned to make rope, what tatting was, and how to dye fabric using natural materials (like avocado pits, oak leaves, and tree bark).

It was a feast for both the eyes and for the hands (unlike most museum exhibits, the exhibitors invite you to touch!). I came home with far too much yarn, a brain full of inspiration, and perhaps even a desire to raise some fiber animals myself. Many of the vendor’s mentioned their plans to go to Lamb Town in Dixon on October 6 – so if you missed Fiber Fusion, or live closer to the SF Bay Area, give Lamb Town a try.



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Victorian dress at Fort Vancouver and the McLoughlin House


Chain-stitch sewing machine at the McLoughlin House
Historic clothing at the McLoughlin House

A few weeks ago, I was one of a lucky few to travel to Oregon City, Oregon and Fort Vancouver, Washington to participate in the Costume Society of America Western Region‘s program on Victorian clothing on the west coast. Along with twenty or so other attendees, the program included a visit to the Fort Vancouver costume shop and the historic home of John McLoughlin (who presided over the Hudson’s Bay Company, and was later known as the ‘father of Oregon’).

At the costume shop, we learned about the process of dressing the volunteer re-enactors who play a large role in making history come alive at the fort-including a look at the reproduction costumes, their trimmings library, and sewing shop.

The Fort has over 700 volunteers and over 100 under the age of 18, due in large part to the Dame School and Young Engage School – a special youth volunteer interpretive program that teaches local youth in hand work and living skills from the 19th century.

Jewelry on display at the McLoughlin house

At the historic McLoughlin House, back in Oregon City, we were able to view of some historic garments from the 1820s-1870s from a private collection, as well as some of the textiles, home-craft tools, and jewelry related to the McLoughlin family – who were known for their skills at embroidery, knitting, and other hand work. I was particularly intrigued by the jewelry in a small display case downstairs – that included a mourning ring.

The tour ended with attendees being invited to learn fish scale embroidery or “Imitation Pearl Work” using scales from Carp (Salmon, it turns out, have scales that are much too small). I spent the better part of an hour nearly one-on-one with the instructor, who told me the details of how she obtained the scales, and researched which were the best to use. It was a fascinating process. According to Erin Gilday, “most surviving fish-scale embroideries, which adorned everything from mantel draperies to lampshades, cushions, scarves, needle books, and purses, were made in England, researchers also have found examples in France, the West Indies, Barbados, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. (Those who want to know more about it should checkout Gilday’s article “Sew Fishy: The Use of Fish Scales in Victorian Embroidery” in the July/August 2012 issue of Piecework Magazine).

Fish Scale Embroideries at the McLoughlin House (This one by Heather Vaughan)


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Upcoming Event: Fiber Fusion on September 28

Angora Blizzard with Cormo Wool! (Bungalow Angora Farms)

What is purported to be the largest Fiber and Quilt Show in Northern California will take place on September 28 at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, CA. Fiber Fusion 2013 will include an array of Northern California-based fiber related artists (plant and animal fibers), and vendors, as well as well as quilters. It looks like a great way for fiber-and-yarn lovers (like me) to get to know where to find locally produced products. I’m especially keep on the Alpaca and Angora vendors… According to the Mount Lassen Fiber Guild, it will include:

Vendors, demonstrations, and hands-on activities as well as FREE door prizes and fabulous raffle baskets for everything fiber – weaving, knitting, spinning, crochet, felting, dyeing, native basketry, fleeces, yarn, books, patterns, connections for instruction and workshops. Vendors and demonstrators include breeders, yarn shops, and fiber artists.

The best part ? It’s free. Participants include:

Pit River Wool Company (McArthur, CA)

Meridian Jacobs (Vacaville, CA)

Menagerie Hill Ranch (Vacaville, CA)

Bungalow Farm Angora (No. California)

Arbuckle Fiber Company (Arbuckle, CA)

For more information, and a complete list of vendors/participants, visit the Mt. Lassen Fiber Guild’s website or Facebook page.

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Victorian Fashion History (including Embroidery) on Sept. 15

The Costume Society of America, Western Region has an exciting and unique opportunity for members and guests alike: Costumes, Campfires, and Candlelight on Saturday, September 14 at Ft. Vancouver, WA (just a few minutes from Portland, OR).

Seamstress Brigid Nelson lets down the hem of a dress. The dye that produced the color -- chrome orange -- was formulated in the early 1800s.

This full-day event will include a private tour of the Costume Center, a visit to historical Oregon City, (“the end of the Oregon Trail”), a demonstration of Victorian Fish Scale Embroidery, and much more. The registration deadline is August 30, 2013. CSA members cost is $35.00,non-members $40.00, students receive discounts.

I’ve just registered – and hope to see you there!

More Information: Costumes, Campfires, and Candlelight



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“Punk:Chaos to Couture” A crowd-sourced review

McQueen Bubble-wrap ensemble (2009-2010)

During my very busy trip to New York last week, I was able to squeeze in visits to two fashion exhibitions. FIT’s RetroSpective (briefly reviewed here), and the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture.

Much has already been said about the Met’s show – what it has, and what it doesn’t have, what it should be, and what it is not. But many of those reviewers were allowed access to the show in a special media-only preview, without the ‘common man/woman’ present. One of my favorite parts of seeing a fashion exhibition is hearing the reactions of lay-people to shocking designs. Punk: Chaos to Couture, is nothing if not a showcase of extreme styles.

The introductory text reminds viewers of the key elements of punk that have been adopted by couturiers, notably the “sexual and political energy” and the “do it yourself legacy.” Curator Andrew Bolton also acknowledges that “the ethos of punk is at odds with couture” and that “punk caused a breaking of barriers between production and consumption.” This introductory text was read by only a handful of people while I was there – a Wednesday early afternoon. The exhibition drew people from many different walks of life: young, old, men, women, New Yorkers and visitors. It wasn’t overly packed, but it wasn’t empty either.

Facsimile of CBGB bathroom, New York, 1975 Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

As I came upon the first major ‘wow’ of the show, the recreation of the infamous CBGBs bathroom (with toilet seats up and cigarettes on the floor), two twenty or thirty-something blonde girls snarked, “Really?” and wandered off towards the first gallery of couture. Sure, at first glance, one might not immediately see the connection to fashion. But later rooms reveal that the distressed, deconstructed, graffiti-ed bathroom is easily referenced in the organization of the show – and seems to provide the guiding outline for the rest of the show.

As I walked past the requisite Westwood t-shirts (the 1%ers), saw the quote from journalist Caroline Coon that called Malcolm McLaren the Diaghilev of punk, and the recreation of the Seditionaires shop, I came to the Rodarte knitwear in the “Clothes for Heroes section. I am a sucker for couture knit and crochet, and this 2008 red and black dress over tights (in synthetic, itchy-looking yarn), caught my eye. An adult woman supervising some pre-teens  said to her charges, “I could see you in something like that” – perhaps as a way to engage them. But I wondered about the seemingly innocuous comment.

I was engrossed in the DIY hardware section – Zandra Rhodes, Versace, and Givenchy, with the always-clever Moschino (but secretly I wondered where the Donna Karan hardware dresses were). Focused on my own thoughts in this long hall, I didn’t overhear much (especially given the loud disruptive beeping that was surprisingly audible over the equally loud music and video-loops).

D.I.Y.: Bricolage Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I immediately liked the D.I.Y. Bricolage featured in the next room, with the softer textured pink walls, and equally softened clothes. As I was noticing the differences from the last room,  I heard an older man say “I like this room, I like this lighting.” I noticed others nodding and relaxing here – though the clothes had volume, there was less volume in the music, videos, and lighting – as the gentleman pointed out. In particular, I liked the fluffy Pugh trash bag dresses (2013-2014), and the Margiela jackets. As I noticed the Moschino plastic shopping bag dress, I wondered if that might be a historic piece now that plastic shopping bags were being banned in California (and perhaps elsewhere soon). I crushed hard on the McQueen Bubble-wrap dress (2009-2010) as I left the room.

Designs by Ann Demeulemeester

The graffiti room held more famous McQueen’s, and beautiful painted Dolce and Gabbana ball-gowns (2008) but I was intrigued by the Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester. As I was checking those out, an older woman in a wheelchair said “these are fantastic” and had her assistant push her closer so that she could see more detail in the dark room with dark walls.

Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel, 2011

The next room (D.I.Y. Destroy) somehow reminded of the Vivienne Westwood show at the V & A, and of the Gaultier show at the de Young. As I walked down the lines of static mannequins, I came upon what turned out to be the signature piece of the show.

Some young girls guffawed out loud at the sight of the distressed Chanel suit from 2011. I had mixed feelings that I couldn’t nail down. I could see the humor and irony of finely-made couture being torn to shreds, but there was also something very wrong about such fine craftsmanship being distressed to meet a passing trend. It seemed desperate and didn’t match the well-established Chanel tradition.

Ultimately, that might be my feelings about the whole show – clever, but trying too hard. I don’t know – I’m still sorting it out. Interestingly, the people whose comments I heard were all positive – I like this, that’s beautiful, I could see wearing this. What I don’t know is what those people thought of the show overall. Did you see the show? What did you think?

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Go behind the scenes at Pageant of the Masters with CSA Western Region

The Costume Society of America, Western region is adding a bonus event for 2013 (and this is your one place to find out about it!) The Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach is  “ninety minutes of ‘living pictures’ – incredibly faithful art re-creations of classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces.”

Join us behind the scenes at Pageant of the Masters on August 18

Celebrating it’s 80th anniversary, Diane Challis Davy, director of the Pageant of the Masters, notes “We’ll have Vermeer, Gainsborough, Michelangelo, Gerome, Seurat, Rodin, Norman Rockwell. Designers for both stage and screen look to paintings and sculpture for historical information and inspiration. I thought it would be a new twist for the Pageant to take a look back at the work of the Masters that inspired great works of cinema.” And, of course, the show will once again conclude with its traditional finale, Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”

To be held on August 18, those who register for the CSA program will be treated to:

  • a talk by Pageant Costume and Headpiece Director and CSA Member, Mary LaVenture
  • a performance of The Big Picture (a salute to classic art that inspired legendary filmmakers)
  • a post-performance backstage tour
Download the REGISTRATION FLYER here, to sign-up.  Discount tickets are available to those who register by June 8 (final deadline is July 12).

Below are some photos from past years of the show to entice you:

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CSA Meet-Up at UC Davis: Structures, Signifiers and Society with Mary Schoeser

Yesterday I had the unique opportunity to go to a Costume Society of America Meet – Up (an informal and free event giving CSA members the opportunity to mix and mingle with their fellow enthusiasts) at the UC Davis Design Museum. Organized by past-president, Jo Ann C. Stabb, we had gathered together to see Structures, Signifiers and Society: People and Textiles which happened to include a curators walk-through with Mary Schoeser, a UC Davis alumna.

Schoeser, who also has a beautiful new book out Textiles: The Art of Mankind provided an amazing depth to the exhibition — highlighting unique objects and connections within the UC Davis collections. Objects ranged in age, country, technique and quality. It  included both hand and machine-made textiles intended for both the art connoisseur and mass market consumers. The exhibition included groupings of historic and ethnographic textiles as they related to environment, identity, and other groupings. In her walk-through, Schoeser drew fascinating connections between the development of the loom and the development of the computer; the rise of the QR Code and it’s connections to textile weaving; in addition to the links between brain chemistry and textile production. It was truly a unique experience.

Making the meet-up all the better were the people in attendance. CSA past presidents, board members, conservators, professors, curators, as well as current students in attendance made for a valuable exchange of ideas. Following the tour, attendees mingled in the hallway over two pieces of historic clothing and examined their ins and outs. Melissa Leventon and Meg Geiss-Mooney pored over the two garments (one from c.1917, the other from c.1894) discussing their ideas about their history while attendees listened in, hovering nearby and asking questions. It was a marvelous day, and a wonderful opportunity.

Structures, Signifiers and Society: People and Textiles is on view through March 18, at the UC Davis Design Museum.  Below are some photos to further tempt you:

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Museum of Performance & Design Rummage Sale January 26



Rummage SaleFirst Rummage Sale in 20 years! 

Saturday, January 26th

Veteran’s Building, Fourth Floor, MPD main gallery – Come see what treasures you could snap up for a great deal.

Thousands of theatre, dance, music, opera, musical theatre, and film-related books and memorabilia as well as exhibition materials, office and audio/video equipment, and other odds and ends will be available for purchase.

Guests will pay one admission each time they pass through the sale and can take away all they can carry in one arm load (does not apply to specially priced items).


Admission Prices

Members $20

Non-Members $25


Be sure to arrive early to get first pick of these treasures!

Museum members will be allowed in at 11 am.

The sale will open to the public from Noon to 4 PM.

Proceeds from the sale go toward preservation of the Museum’s collections.
Special Note: MPD sells only duplicates of  material already in the collection, material donated specifically to be sold, or material which falls outside the scope of our collecting policy.
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9th North American Textile Conservation Conference in SF

CONFERENCE: “Conserving Modernity: the Articulation of Innovation,” 9th North American Textile Conservation Conference
San Francisco, California
November 12th – 15th, 2013

Synthetics. New ideas to old problems. Wearable art. Creative treatment solutions. Evolving installations. Collaborations with contemporary artists. These are some of the topics that will be addressed in two days of papers and posters presented in the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park for the 9th biennial North American Textile Conservation Conference.

Two days of workshops will precede the presentations and will cover aqueous cleaning solutions for textiles, natural and synthetic fiber identification, and progressive display techniques. There will also be workshops offered by San Francisco artists on innovative techniques for resist dyeing and working with ribbon to custom design trims and other embellishments.

The opening reception will take place in the Jackson Square District hosted by Peter Pap Oriental Rugs and the Lotus gallery. The closing gala will be held at the Asian Art Museum.

Following the conference, two additional tours will be offered: a cultural adventure throughout the East Bay and a tour of the Levi Strauss & Co Archives.

For more information contact:

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