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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reasons not to buy "Made In China" Products

          As a child growing up in the seventies and eighties, whenever I would look at the tag inside of clothing, I can remember seeing the Union Labels. I believe the union labels usually stated a phrase like "ILGW" (Ladies garment workers)This meant the garment you were about to buy was made in America by a union worker. However, there still was the presence of illegal sweatshops in Downtown L.A. In these sweatshops, many illegal immigrants worked without the benefit of minimum wage; some of my classmates mothers in Los angeles worked in them. Items made in Europe had "status", while items made in parts of Asia were usually snubbed for possessing unacceptably low quality. Whenever an item was bought from stores, such as: LL Bean, Lands End, Ralph Lauren, Gap, or Frye boots: American classics, they were most often made in the US as well.
          In more recent years, the loosening of tariffs and the promotion of global trade have come into existence. Products ranging from Gap to Ralph Lauren; to Lands' End and even the Frye Campus Boots, which will set you back about 300 dollars, are now all made in: China, Thailand or Pakistan. Is it just me, or is there something very wierd about buying "American Classics" made in foreign sweatshops? It makes our old American garment shops seem almost like quaint, distant memories.
           The quest in our, what some people like to call, "throwaway culture" is to find designer knockoffs at stores, such as Forever 21, for cheaper (which results in cheaper quality) clothes; it is a never ending abyss. The more we consume, the more we want; at a cheaper  price. Unfortunately, the quest for a five dollar sweater at Wal-Mart does have a humanitarian cost. Take a quick glimpse inside some of the lives of the people who are making your disposable fashions, let's start with China.
             China is quite the populous country, roughly 1.4 billion people live there; one-fifth of the population lives in China. The Chinese government has had to impose strict rules to limit growth, and has been imposing the "one child per family" policy since 1978. According to an article in the December 2010 issue of  Marie Claire magazine, " . . . officials in China have enforced the one child rule with brutal efficiency". Methods to enforce the law have included: forced abortions on women (up until the ninth month of pregnancy), and smothering newborns and dumping them into the city trash cans. There is the assumption, here in the U.S.,  that China has softened their harsh rules; because in cities like Shanghai and Beijing, where births have fallen too dramatically, two children in some households are now permitted. These small freedoms do not apply to the rest of the country.
          In the region of Puning in Southern China, is a successful manufacturing center with many clothing factories: which have probably made some of the clothes in your closet. In April, the local family planning bureau launched, what it referred to as, an "Iron Fist Campaign". This campaign was put into effect to deal with the more than 10,000 women in the region, who had had more than one child. According to the state owned media, a task force of more than 600 officials were deployed to the offending womens' homes; they took grandparents, siblings, teenagers, and even infants. The relatives of these women were to be jailed indefinitely until the targeted women showed up at government clinics to undergo  forced sterilization. You may think, "By setting up American Factories we are helping people in these impoverished countries to live better lives", and that is true, to a certain extent. The average factory worker in Punang does make about 5, 500 U.S. dollars a year, which is about twice the annual average, but keep in mind the taxes in China are very high. Since the taxes are high, most of the workers' earnings are going directly to support a government who enforces such human right abuses.
My daughter with a Thai woman
               I have never been to China myself, but I did take my daughters to Thailand three years ago. We spent two weeks there, without any tour guides, traveling. There was a giant shopping mall in Bangkok called the "BMG". Many of the worlds clothing factories are also located in Thailand; and the factories are somehow allowed to take some of the designer clothing they make, and sell them dirt cheap to tourists at this giant mall to make extra profit. I can't describe the guilt I felt walking out of that mall with my dirt cheap purchases, which included some obviously counterfeit items, and seeing starving children begging at the entrances to this mall. Nearby, young prostitutes lined the streets. Older white men walked the streets with them; some of the girls were only young teenagers. How do you explain these injustices to a five year old and a twelve year old? The poverty in these streets was almost numbing, but the beauty of the people shone through in their smiles. This is not a simple issue, but it is something we need to be aware of.
A Chinese Clothing Factory

Air Pollution from Factories

One Child Policy Propaganda

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Womens 1950s Retro Dress or Jumper Pattern 3673 Simplicity

Fighting over the soon to be heiress.

Escaping amorous advances

Yours truly on the far left

All is well that ends well.
                        Womens 1950s Retro Dress or Jumper Pattern 3673 Simplicity

I had to share some photos of a play I  was working on at the Santa Paula Theatre Center. It's called Leading Ladies by the playwright Ken Ludwig. A bit like Some Like It Hot. I made three dresses for one of two male characters who have to dress as  women to receive the fortune of an elderly woman who thinks they are her long lost nieces. One of the dresses was a gold lace number. It was probably not the best choice of fabric since the character gets chased around the stage by an amorous suitor who doesn't know he's a man! I've had to mend two holes in it and the play has only been open a week. Live and learn. The play is set in 1958 so we used some reprint patterns and some actual vintage patterns which I no longer have  photos of because I gave the patterns back to the other costume designer working on the play. I used the photo in the middle of the pattern envelope for the gold dress pictured and I added sleeves to hide his hairy arms. The fourth photo is the end of the play when they reveal their true identities to their lady loves.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thrift store fabric finds

 The photos above and below are of a curtain found at the thrift store for 2.50$ . After spending a couple hours picking out all the seams I now have two large panels  to make things out of! It's cotton too.
 Below is a cute 70's owl applique bath towel found the same day.I can't wait to use the cute owl applique somewhere!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Considering making a bridal gown

A friend of my sons' older sister is getting married and has asked if I would make a bridal gown for her. So I've been researching the process. It's a big responsibility . Having just finished a costuming job for a play and making three dresses to fit a character who is a man disguised as a woman a well as lots of alterations on vintage dresses this might be an interesting project to take on. I've been on lots of forums and the book Bridal Couture: Fine sewing for wedding gowns by Susan Khalje is highly recommended but super expensive starting at 50$ for a used copy. Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer  is also recommended and I did order that. The following is a fascinating article about custom dressmakers in New York City that I embedded. Having no idea what to charge , this article is really helpful although I somehow embedded the whole New York  Magazine. Saturday we will go and look at fabric and see how much that will cost.

 From New York Magazine April 1 1991: I have no idea how the whole magazine was downloaded but there you go...Press the plus sign to see better.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to make a rick rack trimmed baby bib - CraftStylish

                                     how to make a rick rack trimmed baby bib - CraftStylish
              Click the link above for my tutorial of how to make your own baby bib like this one.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sewing Class Skirt : Russian doll a-line skirt

This is the A-line skirt we made in our after school sewing class I've been teaching some really COOL high school girls who shall remain unnamed but You know who you are! We made a pattern from an A-line skirt from this really easy book :
Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified
This project was  the darted A-line skirt with a side zipper and a bias tape waistband. I added the pockets but think I did a messy job.

This is the detail from the bias tape waistband. The book said to sew the tape on one side and then sew the other side down with the machine. If I make this skirt again I will sew the bias tape by hand because I think the machine stitching looks sloppy. I also would probably do the hem by hand because a 1/2 inch machine straight stitched hem also looks a little shoddy.

Perfect for jumping rope. I am sort of obsessed with Russian nesting dolls lately. I think I'll make some bibs with them on them to sell!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thrift shop booty

I had to post some of my thrift shop finds.  I love these vintage wool shirt jackets. You have to put your hair up in a kerchief and wear some boyfriend jeans with them if you don't want them to look sort of frumpy however. Above is one I found for three dollars at the Goodwill shop. It had a few moth holes and tears so I darned them up.

Here is another shirt jacket I found by Pendleton. What a coincidence to find these two at the same thrift shop! They must have had the same owner. This one was in perfect shape. They fit perfectly. It was also 3$. I found one just like it at the Pendleton website for 150$ Don't you just love that !
Here is a really old wool jacket I found at the Ventura Flea Market for also three dollars. That's three for three. I think it's from the late thirties or forties. It was made in Mexico. It has some stains so I am going to soak it in Oxi-clean. How did we ever exist before Oxi-Clean?
The labels from the jackets.

Check out these cool 80's pumps I scored for a dollar ! Bronze , silver, and gold. They match everything!

Here are some other bronze heels.  The label says Adriana Caras, Made in Italy but I can't tell how old they are. I thought they were from the 70's but now I'm thinking they might be recent. They are so well made they seem old because most shoes these days aren't this well made.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Our New Shelter Puppy

This is a doggy we adopted from the local Animal Control Shelter yesterday. Going there is a heart wrenching experience because there are SO MANY sweet and beautiful dogs that need homes. The shelter is a kill shelter so you really are rescuing them when you get one. There are also lots of puppies , birds and kitties and bunnies and even horses and turtles. Sadly, because of our economy lots of these animals have lost their homes because their owners' have too through foreclosure or eviction . They have had to move to apartments where they can't keep pets. This little guy above is thought to be a Norfolk Terrier puppy and yes we do have to housetrain him.  He doesn't have a name yet but we are considering Milo, Sparky, or Max. Any other ideas anyone?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fresh Crop Of Baby Bibs

I've been busy making baby stuff to give to a school auction. Above are some retro style bibs I made that come with burp cloths and swaddling blankets.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All Saints Day

I thought I would share a lovely tradition at my childrens' Catholic School. Every year the day after Halloween is All Saints Day , a day in the  Church in which those men and women who have selflessly lived their lives for doing good for God and the people around them are remembered. The children get to study the saint who interests them, then they put together costumes of  and learn a speech about them. Needless to say some of these saints lives' have ended in horrible gruesome deaths and there is something macabre about a seven year old describing the untimely death or torture of the Saint or Martyr they have chosen. Note the bloody Saint Stephen below. It is always educational and I always learn about a new saint or two. My seven year old is Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in the green dress below. She was a 12th Century noblewoman who became a widow and gave all she had to the poor and is the patron saint of hospitals. It was a fun costume to make. I got some glittery green tulle for a dollar a yard in downtown LA and went from there. I have no idea why the whole outfit ended up being bright green but it works!

Can you guess who he is ?

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