Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The 1912 Project

La mode illustrée
Jannuary 1915

We had a nice, restful and serene Holiday season. I wish you that much, and a healthy, happy new year.

We put away champagne flutes, the Christmas tree and all its trimmings. We removed the extensions from our dining room table and replaced the "best" linen table cloth with a sturdier, practical and well padded everyday oilcloth. It is now ready to accomodate my sewing activities. I begin this year very practically, adding to a growing stash of cloth diapers for a couple of new and proud mothers in my family. After completion of a dozen of them, I felt I needed a break so not to burn-out on the highly useful but still tedious and repetitive job. So I put aside the diapers until next week-end, at which time I'll resume growing this most important stock.

While I make sure to do all I can helping the new mothers in my family to liberate themselves from the disposable diapers unsustainable wreck, I apply the same principle to my own wardrobe. Granted, women's apparel can't really be considered as "disposable", although sometimes the quality of what is offered in malls makes you wonder. I'm lucky enough to be able to sew my clothes and take full advantage of that skill to further remove myself from the extractive economy. Two years ago I decided to try and make everything I wear myself, including underwear. I'm glad to say I'm almost there, having only to shop for bras once a year.  I don't need an extensive wardrobe nor do I need it replenished often, and that certainly helps achieve my "no-clothes-shopping" rule.

This afternoon I starded working on the wrap top 121 from October 2011 issue of Burda Style Magazine. I needed something relatively easy, quick to sew (cloth diaper project oblige) to wear at a birthday party this coming Saturday. This shirt seems to fit the bill. It's stylish yet simple, perfect for the occasion. I made Style Arc's Linda Stretch Pant last month in a dark chocolate colored gabardine. It'll go very well with the midnight blue georgette I intend to use for the wrap shirt.

Wrap Shirt 121
Burda Style Tendance Mode - Octobre 2011

An other project I have for the coming weeks is a corset I would like to wear with an A-line silk skirt and a cotton organdi shirt at a wedding next summer. To avoid a "costume" effect I'll be carefull with the styling, choice of silhouette and colors. Few weeks ago I borrowed Jill Salen's  "Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques" and read it cover to cover in one sitting.

I didn't feel competent enough to reproduce, grade and fit a pattern from the book just yet. I decided to order commercial patterns this past week-end (more on that in the coming weeks). So when I opened Threads magazine's newsletter and found it linked to The 1912 Project, I thought it was a pleasant coincidance. Here's a quote from the vpll blog:


The 1912 Project needs your help!
Through out the next few months, leading up to the Titanic Anniversary I will be transcribing patterns, graphics and information from the 1912 editions of La Mode Illustree – a beautiful French fashion journal of the period – with the goal of making all of the patterns from the entire year available.

I've always been interested in the history of fashion but never actually sew anything vintage. The corset would have been my very first attempt. I happen to have grown in France and of course, I'm very partial to La mode illustrée "The Families' Journal".  Eric has been fascinated by the Titanic history for years. He never misses an event, a book, a documentary about it. The 1912 Project seems to make our respective interests converge. I thought about it for the entire evening and I can't see how I can resist participating. I lack experience in vintage sewing, to say the least, and that made me ponder participating. But then, what better incentive to take on the challenge than helping bring such a valuable historical collection to life through accessibility of the patterns?

I'm emailing vpll, hoping my offer interesting enough despite my lack of vintage-sewing experience.

I'll leave you with these images of 1912 pieces from the Kyoto Costume Institute collection, pictured from a wonderful gift I recieved last year, the gorgeous 2 volumes (more than 700 pages, most of them with full page photographs) Taschen's special 25th anniversary edition of Fashion (XVIII through XX century).

Jeanne Paquin  Evening Coat
Label: Paquin-Paris-London Summer 1912
Blue silk charmeuse and black silk chiffon: Flowers and ondulation embroideries
 Japanese Style design, reminiscent of Nukiemon kimonos

Lafferière Evening Dress and Coat
Les Modes, 1912 

Martial & Armand Evening Coat
Les Modes, 1912 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adapting to the New Normal

Finally, life is allowing me to get back to this blog. There has been progress on the house of course. But not in the way we thought it would be at the time I wrote my first (and only) post 2 years ago. We had to adapt our plan when we became aware of the profound changes underway on the planet. Yes, that's right: changes on the planet, no less, had a direct effect on our life these last 2 years.

Granted, looking at it superficially, nothing in our circumstances seems to have changed much since December 2009 when I began to organize this blog. But actually, a major shift of paradigm took place since then and with it obviously, all aspects of our life is under construction so they fit the new reality we perceive while coincidentally, our house is also under renovation.

Like millions of North-Americans, we live in the suburbs. I remember when we decided to buy our first house we had to discuss a lot about where it would be. I was a city girl for more than 15 years, and had left a Parisian flat, wonderfully located at a 15 minutes walk from l'Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées just a year prior my conversation with Eric. He was a classic offspring of the North-American suburbs who grew up in his parent's bungalow-style home built in the 60s and then moved to his first apartment just 5 minutes away from his parents. To him, downtown felt drab, dirty, unsafe, unsanitary, crowded and claustrophobic. I felt he would probably get depressed if he had to live downtown. He felt I would probably get depressed if I lived in a manicured house on a manicured lawn in a dorm-town ("ville dortoir" is the French expression). We felt we had cut that pear in two when we settled for a house in a suburb very close to downtown, 20 minutes drive in the best conditions and up to 1.5 hours in the rush hours or in the dead of winter during the most terrible snowstorm.

That was back in 1996. Now we know we had it all wrong, well, maybe 98% wrong. And we realised that, fortunately for us, way before the vast majority of people around us. But unfortunately, too late to make progressively the major changes that would allow us to adapt to the "New Normal". We're making the bet of Thriving in the Age of Collapse right here, where we are, in what others consider to be doomed, the North-American Suburbia at the age of peak oil.

Journal Actif is supposed to be the narrative of the lifestyle we chose, viewed through the lens of our project of renovating our 156-years old home. But since its creation, our activities kept changing focus constantly as we kept informing ourselves about the Three "E"s and the impending collapse. It took us almost 2 years to re-assess our priorities and redirect our efforts. I could have wrote about it, but I didn't know what we were doing, literally. Whenever I tried to write, I felt I was not sharing something useful nor helpful and more importantly, our feeling of insecurity, sometimes even shock, stopped our renovation projects in their tracks. We sometimes felt like deers standing in the middle of a road, facing the blinding lights of an 18-wheelers heading straight on us. This sounds a bit dramatic? Let's say we were growingly anxious then.

The only way to cast off the anxiety when looking to the future, we thought, was to prepare as much as we could, both physically and psychologically to survive the coming years decade (decades?). Googling either "preparedness" or "survival" was helpfull only up to a point. We're not fit for guns, Kevlar, combat knives, remote cache in the woods, etc. Moving to the country and start living on a self-sufficient homestead is very appealing and when we considered that idea, we realised it would be doable only if we took on debt, which is is not an option in this economic melt-down. Stash of gold and silver? Even if we had the money to buy enough to survive the deep economic collapse we're heading, there's still the question of protecting it not only from common thieves, but also from cash-strapped governments. While we do not reject the idea of stashing wealth in precious metals, it just doesn't make sense in our particular case to use cash for that before we cover other more pressing needs. In short, that doesn't work for us at this time.

Since it would be terribly irresponsible to rely on hope alone when it comes to making decisions about surviving the profound changes we face, we decided to focus on the basics we can afford and can adapt to our particular situation. Nothing revolutionary here, although when we got to it seriously few months ago, we found out that it's no small challenge.

On the side bar, you will find links to resources that helps us tremendously going through this global, national, local and private transition period. Some say the collapse already began. We don't feel it personally, yet, but we clearly can see it happening around us. Everything moves so fast, we feel we need to be able to re-assess our preparations' progress and evaluate priorities more often lately. Access to sound information keeps us on our toes.

I said at the beginning of this post that I left this blog dormant after the first post because we had to adapt our life when we became aware of profound changes underway. I feel it's time to document our journey, now that we know better about what we want to do to adapt to the new normal.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Renovating a 1855 house in Quebec

In this journal I'll tell you about our 1855 house renovation, a project we began three years ago. We expect it wil take few years to complete. I think it'll be interesting to share our experience in this journal.

The house was almost in ruins when we bought it. Our new neghbours expected us ot just demolish it entirely and start over whith a new construction. Family members openly stated we were nuts, others didn't take us seriously and friends got worried, informing us renovations are one of the most prevalent causes for divorce. We didn't care, we were and we still are dedicated to our project.

Now, three years later, even if we wanted to, it would be difficult to quit since our three sons (aged 15, 12 and 8) threatened us of running away if ever we did so. They love their house.

We didn't borrow to renovate. We rather dedicate a part of our regular income to it. This means we have to be very patient and especially careful with our spending choices. I'll develop about this through my updates.