The House of Tatterdemalion


Recent Posts



Guess who bought Denver Fabrics?

December 16th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

The FAQ at Denver Fabrics has been updated to reflect it’s new owners. Does it look familiar? No? Maybe you’ve never checked the FAQ for this company.

My first clue was that the new promotionals that Denver Fabrics was sending out had a decidedly familiar ring to them. And then I noticed that the layout for the merchandise descriptions seemed really familiar, too. It took very little poking around to make it very obvious. A friend of mine even went so far as to realize that “Denver Fabrics” and “Fashion Fabrics Club” are carrying the exact same stock. It’s nothing more but a different door to the same store.

This is disappointing on several levels. If Denver Fabrics had to sell out, it would have been nice if they could have sold out to someone new to the business. Then at least there would have been a variety of choices. As it is now, it’s just as though they’ve gone out of business—one less choice.

Then there is the sadness of it having to be FFC that bought it. Denver Fabrics had the most wonderful, warm, encouraging, there’s-no-such-thing-as-a-stupid-question customer service. Although I’ve never experienced being treated poorly by the FFC customer service, it has always struck me as cold and uncaring. I have always been loathe to contact them, and always felt like it would just be a bother because I wouldn’t get any help from them anyway.

There is also the sadness that Denver Fabrics used to highly recommend swatches, and tried very hard to get people to use them. FFC refuses any kind of sampling except buying 1/8th of yard and charges so much for shipping that 1/8th of yard—$4.95, to be exact—that one is strongly discouraged from buying swatches. This leads to many dissappointing purchases.

There is also the problem that FFC is very inconsistent in it’s quality. I could feel confident in buying anything from Denver Fabrics, knowing that they only sold quality stuff I’d be glad to have. Even just seeing the swatch sets that FFC sends out to it’s club members (they choose the fabric that gets swatched, not you) has taught me there is a lot of ugly polyester in the world. I recently bought two pieces of wool from FFC. The both had similar decriptions—they were wool flannel, though one piece was “brushed” and the other was “denim weave” on the back.

The first piece was so “brushed” it’s nap was so pronounced as to almost appear as a “fake fur” (but it felt a lot better!) It was supple and soft. It prewashed up beautifully (I used tepid water and dishsoap).

The other piece was coarse, and stiffer than polyester felt. It leaked dye all over the place as soon as water touched it. And after sending about 6 bathtubs full of emerald green water down the drain, it continued to leak dye. It is now pretty much worthless to me, because I don’t care how many times they “recommend” dry cleaning wool, I’m not going to sew up anything I can’t clean myself.

That made smoke pour out of my ears, I can tell you. If they had sold me plain white wool, I could have dyed it much more color fast myself, and gotten the same (or better) color to boot. I have done enough dying of wool to consider it “not dyed” when as soon as you plunge it into water it releases all of it’s dye. They have utterly no excuse. It was a cruddy, cheap piece of work.

Now how will I be able to tell the difference? Some wool that FFC sells is good. Some is not. Both pieces I bought were the exact same price. It turns into a blind guessing game. Unless you’re willling to pay $5 for the privilidge of finding out it’s a worthless fabric.

I’d really rather just shop some place that sold quality fabric, and had a consistent stock. Let me know if you know of such a place.

Posted in Contemplations, Dyeing, Merchants, Websites | No Comments »

In the news. . .

November 17th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

First off, I’d like to draw your attention to an article in Thursday’s (November 15, 2007) WSJ, entitled Inside a Salon That Serves the Logo-Phobic. As usual, it has been written by Christina Binkley, and as you might have guessed I am highly amused by the traditional couture houses putting themselves out of business while small places like this cater to the people who really are interested in couture.

The article opens by profiling Ms. Markbreiter, who says that “To me, logos speak more of mass merchandising.” When she recently bought an Oscar de la Renta handbag, she removed the logo tag! Horrors! It’s a full-fledged back-lash against pushing of “couture” on the mass market. As the article says, These women want exquisitely made but subtle clothing and accessories that don’t shout “fashion.” What?! People who are interested in quality clothes that don’t want to be gaudy trend-followers and name droppers?! Perish the thought!

It seem so amusing to me because the description of this boutique sounds nearly identical to descriptions I have heard of the couture world in its “glory years”. Intent on chasing larger audiences and making statements and being artistic, the couture world largely alienated its original clientel. So those costumers who are actually interested in some of the properties of what I call “the original couture”—namely, things like quality of workmanship and materials, longevity of design and fabric, personalization in fit, and custom design for individuals—are going elsewhere with their business.

Ms. Powell scours Paris, London and New York for designers–mainly independent of the big luxury chains–whose attention to detail, fine fabrics and workmanship set them apart, in her opinion. She then demands that they work with her by altering their designs or supplying extra fabric for alterations.

Ms. Powell is no stranger to the couture world.

Ms. Powell, a Sweedish woman who speaks seven languages, is a veteran of the Paris-London-New York fashion scene. As a student in Paris, she was hand-plucked by Hubert de Givenchy to work in his atelier, and she later ran the Givenchy franchise on Madison Avenue for 13 years, until Mr. Givenchy retired.

Not only do Ms. Powell and her assistant fit everything to the individual costumer, they are not at all adverse to not sticking with the original designers sacred inspiration—two examples given were taking apart a dress and turning it into a camisole and skirt, and turning a coat into a dress. In some ways, it almost sounds like a second-hand atelier—not that the clothes have been previously worn, but that instead of starting with yardage, they start with garments.

This type of costumer shuns brand names and superfluous amounts of clothing (which is usually a result of trend-following), but instead seeks quality and, perhaps even more rare in today’s clothing world, dignity.


In other news, I recently read the latest HotPatterns newsletter. Although this company produces patterns of which I am most definitely not the target audience (can anyone say “trendy”?), I was interested in seeing how this small, independent pattern company would grow. Or not, depending on the way things went. People did seem to be quite taken by the designs, which were originally quite different than what was offered elsewhere. And they were certainly taken in with the advertising, the whole attitude that the pattern company was selling.

Personally, however, I have been less and less impressed, as each new collection only seems like a tiny variation on the one before it, and often times what designs are not stylistic repeats are very, very simple and basic pieces. If you’re going to buy from HotPatterns, you had better like straight skirts, neck-ties and gathers. And the words “super-stylish,” “totally gorgeous,” “funky,” “fabulous,” and the like, because you will be getting a lot of them.

However, I continue to keep half an eye on HotPatterns, and now I am also (thanks to the newsletter brining it to my attention) keeping half an eye on a new eMagazine, SEWN. Freshly, newly, just barely launched, there isn’t really much on the site yet (which is why one needs to watch to see what this will develop into). This is from their about page:

Why should knitters and quilters have all the fun? Garment sewists demand a magazine of our own. We want something less crunchy than the DIY stuff on the Web, but we don’t want Art to Wear either. We want designer inspiration, designer resources, and ideas for using patterns that are available commercially. We want great fabric even if we live in the middle of nowhere. We love vintage but still need to get dressed to go to work in the real world, not some costume drama. We want to learn great techniques without the schoolmarm tone. If we can get some style and makeup stuff too, that’s fabulous.

This is SEWN Magazine!

This is the fashion magazine for people who make their own fashion. We are big fans of what works. Because of that, you may see things done a little differently here than the way you were taught, if you were ever taught at all. Most of us are trying to squeeze sewing time in between the laundry and a nervous breakdown. So while we can appreciate the artistry of a Gallianno gown, we are not sewing one and don’t get us started on trying to drive to dinner in one. Fashion as an industry is a little catty and very opinionated. And so are we. We’re blunt but we’re more like the battle-axe with a heart of gold than truly mean. You’re going to get the unvarnished truth.
The writers who have been kind enough to allow us to use their work are given credit, even if at this point they aren’t getting paid. What that means is that we are fiercely protective of their work. Everything here is published under a Creative Commons license that does not allow publishing to commercial sites. If you would like to use something on your blog, contact us and we’ll ask them.

Fasten your seat belts, because we are going to be moving fast. This mini-issue is just the start of something big!

Um, how can I not be interested in keeping an eye on a magazine that describes themselves as “a battle-axe with a heart of gold”? Also, it is always a good sign to see someone using a Creative Commons license.

And also, I wonder if I’m going to get in trouble because I didn’t ask before I cut and pasted from their about page? And also, is it common now for people to actually schedule their nervous breakdowns? I always did them rather spontaneously, myself, but I suppose anything is possible in this day and age. I hear some women schedule c-sections because they’re too busy to risk going into labor at a time that doesn’t fit into their schedule.

Kind of curiously, the part of that whole about section that made me stop and consider was the line “still need to get dressed to go to work in the real world.” In that phrase, I heard lash-back against the super-expensive couture and the super-trendy couture. It was rather akin to saying “Hello?! We live in a real world! We want to make real clothes, not trashy novelties or in-your-dreams designs!”

While I very much understand this sentiment, it does lead to the question of what counts as living a real life, and what are real clothes?

I recently had a very similar discussion while knitting with Bub, as we discussed knitting patterns. Although the meaning was mostly the same, the thought in question was “What is Classical?” Because she says she likes clothes with a “classic” style, and I say I like clothes of a “classic” style, and yet I know perfectly well that we are drawn to totally different styles. “Classic” all by itself, does not really communicate much. For instance, you can say you like Classical Music. Naturally, most people would take this to rather evident what it means, but at the same time, people are not at all adverse to using terms like “Classical Rock” or “Classical Country” or any other type of music.

While I was willing to grant that there were several elements that tied us together—for example, simple lines, being understated and subtle, not gaudy or trendy but maybe with a bit of a sense of humor—but fundamentally, our ideas of what constituted “classic” had different roots. Although we both claimed classic taste, we disagreed on everything from shape, neck-lines, texture and formality. Our basic disagreements came from our attitudes toward clothing.

Her idea of “classical” is based on her early life, a life that involved cocktail parties. She would be what I would describe as “Chanel Classic”, of which, as I have mentioned before, has very little appeal to me at all. I, far more comfortable being sweaty and dirty and working hard than I am in any sort of semi-formal or formal atmosphere, much prefer what I would refer to as “rustic” or “country” classic—clothes that would be utterly out of place in cocktail party, even though they would maintain the same “classic-ness” of simple lines, understatement, etc. I would call something like this classic, while her mind is still stuck on a little black dress and a strand of pearls.

So in other words, while everyone might be cheering to hear of something based toward real people with real lives, it is at the same time utterly undescriptive.

Still, we might guess.

But we might be quite wrong.

So we will just have to wait and watch.

Posted in Articles, Contemplations, Couture, Fashion, Magazines, Websites | No Comments »

I feel small. Very small.

November 15th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Everyone always tells me I’m crazy. Everyone always says I do details. Everyone always says I start at square one—the hardest way possible. Everyone is wrong. I have met my match. I have more than met my match.

I am also very jealous, because it looks like a lot of fun. And she actually finished it, unlike a large portion of my projects. And. . .and. . .I feel very small.

Here’s her blog, but mostly you can start reading here as she describes how she made a costume for her daughter. . .starting with undyed silk and no pattern. Or you can just skip ahead to the finished project here.

Posted in Websites | 3 Comments »


September 6th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Do you hound over this site endlessly, day after day, hoping I’ll have written something new or spending time reading archives?!

Me, either. Actually, I never even look at my site if at all possible. I try to write a new post about once a week, and I get all the comments emailed to me. But I never come here and look. I can’t ever look at any of my past writing without thinking it needs a good editor/proofreader, or thinking “I can’t believe I said that!” The only way for me to continue on blogging is if I ignore every thing I’ve ever written.

This means that I didn’t notice, as I’m sure some one you must have, when my site suddenly dissappeared and was replaced with this site. Here’s a little hint: I did not suddenly stop writing about sewing and related subjects and switch over to writing about plumbing, air conditioning and the like.

Here’s what really happened: when the Technical Exorcist uploaded the new resident in the Ethereal Land, he some how accidentally wrote over my entire site. (I say “some how” not because he didn’t reconstruct what went wrong, but because my brain can’t comprehend technical stuff. Suffice it to say, it was an accident.)

Now, when I say “entire site”, I mean “entire site”. What you saw is all there was. My site was 100% gone. All my content. Everything.

More bad news. The Technical Exoricist had also forgotten to make any back-ups of any of the site. Don’t ask a tired guy to do tech work.

So my site was 100% gone, and we had no back-ups! Fun, fun.

T.E. contacts our hosting company and askes if they maybe possibly have back-ups on their servers. Within the hour, my entire site is rolled back from their first-of-the-month back-up. Yay!

Except (you knew there would be an except) for my most recent post. Because I wrote it September first, but after the back-up time.

All of this happens while I’m away for a few hours sewing with a friend. First thing that happens when I come back is I get told my entire site was accidentally written over three days ago. And we had no back-up. But our host did. And now it’s back.

Since everyone reads my blog so regularly (not!), they didn’t realize my most recent post was gone. And there are a lot of posts where it really wouldn’t hurt my feelings any if they disappeared. They added nothing to the greater good of humanity, to say the least. But I kind of liked that last post because I thought I made some half-way decent points about magazines doing themselves more harm than good by narrowing their focus too much.

It was posited I might easily re-write the post. No. Even if I kind of wrote something similar, that was a lot of time spent writing.

Not to be defeated, the T.E. then went and searched through search-engine caches until he found one that had cached my site after I’d written that last post but before my site was written over. He found it, viewed the source code, cut and pasted the post and ta-da! All I need to do now is restore the comments, which I have in an email.

As the T.E. said, that was way too much excitement for one evening.

And yes, we do have back-ups now.

Posted in Websites | 1 Comment »

I can't believe her shirt just said that!

July 2nd, 2007 by tatterdemalion

As I continue to pick apart the Dressaday post and its comments, I come to another oft-revisited (is that a word?) subject. What do your clothes say about you?

In her post, Erin says:

This way, if I end up sitting next to someone interesting, I don’t have to shout over what my clothes are saying. Last night I saw clothes that said “I model for Frederick’s of Hollywood, Lamé Division”; clothes that said “my favorite Saturday morning cartoon and a bowl of chocolate-frosted sugar bombs are what I REALLY need right now”; and clothes that said “I can change the oil in my car — and recently have.” None of those clothes said “Take me seriously, please.”

This prompted Stacy to ask:

does it really matter so much to you what other people think of your clothes? does it really matter so much to you what other people wear? do you really judge people by the clothes they are wearing? do you really think people judge you based upon your clothes? if so, are those the people who really matter?

To which Erin replied:

yes, I actually do judge people by what they wear. It’s not the only thing I judge someone by — kindness is of course FAR more important, you can look amazing but if you’re rude to the waiter I am never going to be your friend — but what you wear is how you choose to present yourself to others. [So is it ix-nay on looking amazing but being rude, and equally verboten to be kind to the waiter but look less than amazing?—ed.] Someone who wears dirty, ill-fitting, inappropriate clothing is someone who has made a bad decision, and I can make my own decisions about people based on seeing theirs. It’s just the same as seeing someone litter, really. It tells you about their character.

I don’t think you have to be a fashion plate (I’m not judging the COST of someone’s clothing nor the STYLISHNESS), but your clothing represents your taste and that’s certainly a worthwhile way to judge people. I know I prefer to be around people with similar tastes (or different tastes that I find interesting!) all other things being equal.

I think people say “oh, no, you can’t JUDGE someone by what they WEAR! That’s so shallow!” but what they really mean is that they don’t want to be judged negatively for anything they do or say, ever. They want to live in a world without consequences. They want to be judged by who they are ‘inside’ without ever figuring out a way to show their ‘inside’ to the outside world. Or they DO want to be judged but in a reverse-snobbism way, getting points for pretending not to care how they’re dressed.

I think Erin is missing a lot here. Either that or she and I frankly disagree.

Erin says she listens to what the clothing says, and people should say something different with their clothes if they don’t want her to hear that. Stacy says you needn’t listen to clothing.

Do people hear clothes talking? Absolutely, 100% of the way, yes. But the real question is, do people hear what the clothes are actually saying?

We can all agree that if we hear someone speaking Chinese, we won’t be able to understand what they’re saying (assuming, that is, that we’ve never learned Chinese). And we can all agree that different places have different mannerisms and customs and standards, right? What is considered dressed up on the west coast is far too lax on the east coast, and vice versa, and all those other wonderful regional things?

So why do people so authoritatively say they know what clothes are saying? What makes you think that you are accurate in hearing what is being said? And furthermore, why do people insist on thinking that all clothing worn is a conscious decision to say something?

Allow me a real-life example.

My brother had this friend from work. This friend was Puerto Rican and over six feet tall. He lifted weights for fun; one time he picked up the engine half of a jeep so someone could get their important piece of paper that had been parked upon. He wore his long hair back in a pony-tail, had several earrings, a goatee, and I think I recall a few tattoos. And he wore All Black Clothing. All the time. And it was always sleeveless, I think even in the middle of winter; you couldn’t miss it that his incredible bulk was due to large amounts of muscle mass.

Naturally, you people are all expecting me to tell you what great guy he was, and of course I shan’t disappoint you. He was very soft-hearted, very generous, and very nice with kids. He was out-going and friendly, and everyone liked him. He cried when he accidentally ran over a possum. But you knew all of that already, or at least guessed it. That’s not the point.

The point is, he was shocked when my brother told him that of course he intimidated people, and that he looked like a really nasty guy.

I had to laugh when I heard of his shock. If he wasn’t trying to look like someone you really, really rather not meet in the middle of the night (or broad daylight, for that matter), why on earth did he give himself the appearance that he did? What did he think people would think?

But see, the thing is is that he wasn’t always a “perfectly sweet” guy, and I’m willing to bet he started dressing like that back in his fighting days. I rather doubt he thought, “Lessee; I gotta wear the most intimidating clothing I can find. How ’bout. . .mmmm. . . BLACK?” Maybe it just seemed cool to him. Maybe that’s what all of his friends were wearing. Maybe black hid the most stains. (Ok, probably not that last one.)

But when the way he acted changed, his clothing did not. Perhaps at one point, people could have accurately “heard” his clothing, but at this point, his clothing said something to everyone that simply wasn’t true. His clothing had simply become habit, not something that reflected who he was.

If you like, I suppose you could take that as an admonishment to scour your closet it and make sure it really said what you wanted it to be saying. But quite frankly, I think it’s a better admonishment that although you can get a “first impression” of someone by their clothing, you really shouldn’t rely on clothing to learn about people.

This, I think, is the fine line. There is “getting a first impression of someone” by their clothes, and there is “judging” someone by their clothes. The first impression says “Whoa! Scary Dude!”, but allows for other things—like mannerisms, words, attitudes, actions, and the like—to change, modify or enforce that impression.

“Judging” someone is when you see “Scary Dude!”, and refuse to have anything more to do with that person, or treat that person differently because of it. I think Erin would probably say that the Scary Dude got the results of his action of dressing that way, and that he deserved it, that it was a consequence of his choices. He deserves people to shun him, or avoid him, or be afraid of him.

But if you don’t put so much weight on appearance, if you allow that it is only a shallow observance, you will treat the Scary Dude with caution, but leave room to learn who he really is. You take warning from what you see, but you will not allow it to be the be all and end all of who you see the person to be.

I think this is what Stacy, and a lot of other people, are trying to get at when they say we shouldn’t judge a person by their clothes. Obviously clothes say something. The question is, how much weight should we put on that voice? How accurate is that voice, and how accurate are our ears, and is it even speaking a language we know?

The problem is, asking questions like that on clothing related sites gives you an unfairly weighted answer. I remember my Dad telling me how all of his graduate professors acted as though their subjects were the most important, and how of course you should put the most effort toward their classes or there wasn’t any point in taking them.

The same thing will happen here, or at Dressaday. Hello! The people who read these sites obviously think clothing is important. Why else would they be wasting their time reading about clothing? So the clothing “experts” will tell you how important clothing is, and how so many aspects of your life depends upon clothing, and so on and so on.

But, if you go off to a different expert, they’ll tell you no, clothing doesn’t make so much of a difference as your manner of speech does; you should go take voice classes. Or no, it isn’t about clothing, it’s about movement, and the way you walk. Or no, it isn’t about clothing, it’s about manners. Or no, it’s not about clothing, it’s your posture. Or no, it’s not about clothing, it’s about the way you smile. Or whatever.

The point is, people are very complex. You can’t rely on any one thing to tell you all about a person, and if you pay attention, you can find out a lot about a person just by observing them.

But the “professors” of clothing expect you to take clothing seriously. They cannot abide the thought that someone might drag themselves out of bed, pull on the first articles of clothing they can find, and say, “Huh. I’m not nekkid anymore, so I guess I’m dressed.” and get on with their lives. That’s just appalling! They cannot come to terms with the fact that a lot of people have what they consider to be much better things to be doing with their time that honing their appearance to the satisfaction of “dress professors”. They have great disgust for people who simply don’t care what they look like.

Erin says you can judge people by what they wear, but I posit that there are two sides to the same coin—you can judge people by the way they judge people. It shows to me where Erin’s values and interests lie, and how we have totally different ways of approaching people.

I would gladly wear my yard clothes to meet Erin, because then I know I find out exactly what Erin thinks of people who wear yard clothes traveling/visiting. I would find out that Erin doesn’t like people who wear unimpressive yard clothes to travel or visit, and then I would know that Erin and I would never be very good friends; I have no problems with people who wear yard clothes to go traveling/visiting.

I suppose Erin and I would be mutually relieved. I suppose Erin would be relieved that she had no further need to deal with this crazy girl who didn’t have the decency to dress properly, and I would be relieved that I wouldn’t need to be hanging out with this lady who was so worried about I looked like. So I suppose there is a good deal to be gained, yes?

There would be those who answer no. No, it is not a gain. It is a loss for both you and Erin. You have so much in common, and you’ve lost it by laying importance on outward appearances. I would answer you that you simply agree with me—outward appearances have so little weight.

But what separates Erin and I is not our outward appearance, it is what we value. If Erin didn’t value outward appearance, it wouldn’t matter that I showed up in yard clothes. And if I didn’t value people who accepted me on terms other than my appearance, it wouldn’t matter to me that Erin disapproved of my choice of clothing. It’s not the fact that my appearance is disapproving to her that bothers me; it is that my appearance is something that is important to her that bothers me.

I have perhaps made Erin into a bit of a straw man, or misrepresented her. I don’t really know her, so I don’t know if I have or not. I do know that I am highly uncomfortable in the presence of those who put weight on outward appearance, and that I tend to avoid them, and that we rarely have much in common or get along well.

And I do know something else, too. You can’t tell a person what to wear without telling them who to be. You can’t tell them what their outside should look like without telling them without telling them what their insides ought to be like. To tell them what they should look like is to tell them what they should care about, what they should value. And it’s a lot harder to change a person than it is to just find a different person, who already shares with you your values.

And that, perhaps, was all that Erin was trying to say about “judging people by their appearance”—that birds of a feather flock together, and that it’s highly unlikely that the girl with perfect nails and short shorts has any interest in hearing about how much time I just spent cleaning out a goat barn or how to gut a chicken.

But I don’t think that was all Erin meant. I agree that birds of a feather tend to flock together, but I would never tell you what to wear on a plane; changing the core of peoples’ beings is just too much work for me.

Posted in Contemplations, Websites | 5 Comments »

« Previous Entries