Archive for March, 2007


March 22, 2007

Precious Cream



To cuff or not to cuff?

March 22, 2007

Today’s post was going to be about how to hem your pants, but the subject-pants in question, which belong to Spouse Phor, remain unhemmed, due to a compelling question.


I was half way through measuring the pants when he mentioned that of course he wanted cuffs on the pants. I recoiled in horror.

Furious internet searching ensued, with each of us claiming fashion knowledge superiority. The level of debate slowly sunk lower and lower until Spouse realized that he was claiming victory based on a bulletin board post in a Cooking Lite forum.

So, what say you, internets? These are dress pants; one half of a suit, in a charcoal worsted wool. They have pleats in front. Are cuffs on such pants de rigeur, or completely passe?

Men’s pleated pants: To cuff or not to cuff?

1. Yes. Definitely.
2. Ew. No.

View Results

Make your own poll



March 20, 2007


Tie fabric


Hinke Osinga, Crocheting Mathematician

March 19, 2007

When I was about fifteen or sixteen, I was a math geek. I became entranced by the complex and strange geometries of fractals in James Gleick’s beautifully illustrated Chaos: Making a New Science. Mandelbrot sets showed up in screen prints for a while back in the late 80s — I recall coveting a fractal-printed hemp skirt from a little store in Margaret River.

Imagine my delight when I read in the Washington Post this morning about the crocheting project of Hinke Osinga and Bernd Krauskopf, two professors of mathematics at the University of Bristol. Together, they have produced a crocheted model of a Lorenz attractor.

The Lorenz attractor is a model of an equation which is originally based on modelling patterns of convection currents in the earth’s atmosphere.

Lorenz attractor

The equation is supposed to simulate the behaviour of a system — like weather — when numbers representing a given initial state are fed into the equation. It has two neat properties. First, it never settles down into a steady state — that’s what makes it chaotic — and second, very slight changes in the initial state result in big changes in the shape of the model. Because some versions of the model look like a butterfly’s wings, the Lorenz attractor is often used to illustrate the idea of the butterfly effect.

Osinga & Krauskopf have been working on the geometry of these systems, and Osinga, who is a crocheter, decided that the interlocking knot pattern of crochet was an ideal medium to produce a three-dimensional model of the equation.

Osinga's Lorenz Manifold

Their paper on the project (pdf) includes an appendix with detailed crocheting instructions, if you want to try it yourself. If you do so, tell them!

We would be thrilled to hear from anybody who produces another crocheted
model of the Lorenz manifold. As an incentive we offer a bottle of champagne to the person who produces model number three. So do get in touch when you are done with the needle work!

Next, we will make shoes from cheese mold

March 17, 2007

Researchers at UWA have made a dress from the skin that forms on top of red wine when it goes bad.

Apparently “Their creation smells like wine and feels like sludge when its wet.”


The broader aim is to create fabrics using microbes — to grow whole cloth, more or less — which is kind of cool, but I hope this is just a first step. They are also currently working on making a fabric from the bacteria found in beer.

I have to wonder, where are they getting their booze from? I hope they aren’t wasting good wine on this. I’m sure if they wander around the UWA campus on a Monday morning, they can find a few half-empty flagons of goon lying about.

Hat tip to Fashion Incubator.

p.s. Notice the comment on the Telegraph page? The Grapes of Cloth? Rhymes with wrath? Ha. You know who you are. (Although, shouldn’t it be the cloth of grapes?)

Lace Hoodie?

March 16, 2007

So the pinstriped skirt project has hit a couple of stumbling blocks.

First, the bias strips are so much fussier than I had imagined. The satin does not want to hold a crease, and pressing in the folds is time-consuming, finicky, and slow. Also I keep singeing my fingers.

Second, I thought I had about a half yard of black corduroy which would be a great backing for the pattern pieces, and would also support a zipper. But I don’t. Well, I do, but most if it is part of another skirt.

So I went hunting around in my stash for something else suitable. I didn’t find anything, so I guess a trip to the fabric store is in order. But what I did find was this:

Lace from stash


TV is weird

March 15, 2007

Bet you can’t guess what this woman is holding.




March 14, 2007

I was wandering through a downtown department store the other day looking for a pair of socks. I prefer socks in natural fibers, so I usually check the fiber content — and I was intrigued when I came across a pair made from 100% bamboo.

Bamboo is beginning to get a foothold in the construction industry. It was widely featured as a material in the Green House exhibit at the National Building Museum here in Washington DC, where it had a wide variety of applications, from floor planking to carpeting to furniture. It’s been praised by advocates of green technologies as more sustainable than wood because of its short growth cycle.

I don’t doubt that some of the claims made by folks using bamboo in their manufacturing are quite true. It does have a faster growth cycle than timber. It may very possibly “generate more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees”, as is claimed at SFGate. That’s an odd claim, though. Do we need more oxygen? We certainly need less CO2, but if that’s what it does, why not say so? (And what’s an “equivalent” stand of trees, anyway?)

Maybe it’s just incompetence on my part, but among all of these claims, I can’t find a whole lot of links to actual studies which provide evidence for the claims. Now a good number of the claims come from advertisers (including a decent number of the claims made by the Green House exhibit, which very prominently lists the commercial suppliers for the products used to produce the house). Some of the claims from advertisers verge on the absurd.

For instance, from Bambu, which makes bamboo kitchenware:

“Bamboo shoots provide a nutritional source of food which can be made into bread, cakes scones and cookies.”

Well. Hell. If there’s gonna be cakes, scones and cookies!! Must be good. They don’t say how much of the bamboo grown for their product line makes it into the secondary baked goods market, but I’m sure most of it does.

There are a ton of companies now offering bamboo clothing. One of the claims specific to clothing is the “antibacterial” properties of bamboo:

Its test results shows over 70% death rate after bacteria was incubated on bamboo fibre fabric. In addition, tests by the Japanese Textile Inspection Association found that, even after fifty times of washing, bamboo fabric still possessed these functions.

Science! At last! I figured that maybe I could find this Japanese Textile Inspection Association online. Oddly, they don’t get many hits on google — a scant 25, many of which appear to be repeating claims from the Bambrotex manufacturing plant in China.

Now, I’ll buy that there could possibly be translation problems going on here — if the “Japanese Textile Inspection Association” is a translation from Japanese to Chinese to English, it’s entirely possible that the science is available online, and I just can’t find it, because that’s not the name of the research institute. And it’s also entirely possible that it’s not available in English. (This doesn’t count.)

Something of a bigger problem for me is that a lot of the bamboo milled and woven into fabric appears to be coming out of China. I’m very skeptical about environmental claims coming from advertisers anywhere, but China isn’t exactly an international star of environmental regulation.

I also have to wonder — if I were to buy those renewable, sustainable, bamboo socks, how much money went to the worker who made the fiber? What sort of factory does she work in? What sort of labor protections does she have?

Travel Wardrobe

March 14, 2007

So, my brother is getting married in two weeks. In Australia — which is (more or less) where I’m from, although not where I live. So it seems like the time for reflection on travel wardrobes.

Now, I don’t always travel light. When I was 22 years old, I emigrated to the United States with four suitcases. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wasn’t actually intending to emigrate, and four suitcases is a lot when you have to schlepp them up several flights of stairs from the parking lot because your cab driver has peeled out in a fit of pique because, hello? Tipping. Is not a city in China, ignorant foreign woman.

And when I go to stay with the in-laws in Buffalo I take lots of stuff, but that’s because I have to wear ten pounds of clothes because the whole town is surrounded by malevolent drifts of snow and ice.

This trip, however, will be minimalist in nature, mostly because we have a tiny tiny connection window to squeak through in Singapore, and so we’re strictly carry-on baggage only. So this is a packing mission with some structural constraints and some aesthetic aims — really, it’s just like a design project. (more…)


March 12, 2007

The latest fashion trend to come down the pipes is shaping up to be cocoon silhouettes, in various forms from the sublime to the ridiculous. Designers everywhere are adding volume into their cuts — some of them in interesting and flattering ways, and some of them in ways that look fine on the particular constrained body type that is allowed on the runway but gives one pause for the way the garment will look on women with curves.

The basic shape in a jacket seems unobjectionable enough — here’s a version (spotted by in a brown silk print.

Cocoon Silk Jacket

I don’t personally love it, but I think the shape is adaptable to a professional wardrobe, and I like it rather more than the wee wasp-waisted shrunken jackets we’ve been seeing in women’s suits lately.

Michael Kors (who I will never forgive for giving the Project Runway win to Jeffrey Sebelia, who misogynist and gruesome, but Kors is a good example for current trends since you can buy these clothes at Macy’s) has a version where the coccooning lives in the skirt.

Michael Kors cocoon skirt & peasant blouse

It looks fine on this model. I suspect that if I wore it, it would make me look like I had a disease where my legs were wasting away. Cut right, it might look good on pear-shaped women, but I’d want to see the skirt cut so that it’s not too tight right under the hips.

The empire waist lends itself nicely to the cocoon trend, giving designers a chance to nip a dress in at the bottom and let it cocoon around the waist and hips. Personally I happen to think that a gathered empire waistline is a monstrosity that makes every single woman who wears it look like she is pregnant. But. This dress puts the empire waist to shame.

Belted neckline dress by Noir


This dress is very ugly. And unless you have the figure of a pre-pubescent girl, it will make you look ugly. Besides which, it costs £770, which is fourteen hundred US dollars. If you really must have this look, I suggest that you grab an eighties style cummerbund belt from the nearest thrift store, and jury-rig the look with an old bedsheet. You’ll not want to wear it more than once.

From the ridiculous to the sublime. This dress is by the Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee. It’s gorgeous.

Sabyasachi dress


The cut is very simple — a high empire waistline, but shaping achieved with bust darts and the cut of the skirt, rather than with gathering. The colors harmonize beautifully. And there’s a cocoon there, but Sabyasachi is subtle, slipping it into a sleeve detail in a garment that will age well rather than looking hopelessly dated two summers from now.