Interview with Designer Lara Cameron

Lara Cameron Fabric

You all know Lara Cameron, right? The wonderful Australian textile designer? Proprietress of the Kirin & Co textiles and crafts online shop? Moo Card designer?

She was gracious enough to grant me an interview, and I hope you all enjoy her answers as much as I did …

Q. I read on your site that you started out as a web designer. How did you transition from web to textiles? What was the hardest part?

The transition from web to textile was somewhat accidental really 🙂 It began when I started up my blog, as a means of encouraging myself to experiment with different things. After a while I started experimenting with patterns, and found that I loved the technical challenge of getting designs to repeat. I got such good feedback from my blog readers about my patterns that I decided to keep on designing, and then decided it was time to make something from them. Textiles were actually the most accessible medium that was financially viable.

Q. Finding suppliers has been tricky for people who are somewhere between handmade and mass production. From your blog posts you seem to have a very good relationship with your textile printer. How did you find them? Were there bumps along the way? What do you recommend people do who are looking to find suppliers or printers?

This question actually answers the second half of the above question! The hardest part by far was sourcing suppliers. It took me ages to find someone who could print fabric for me. I managed to find them by asking around other people in the screen printing industry. After being sent from one business to the next the lead eventually brought me to my printers! The most fortunate thing however was that they happened to be just around the corner from my house, so I could go and meet with them face to face rather than having an awkward telephone conversation (which I was really apprehensive about at the time). The fact that they're so close also helps with our working relationship I guess as I can go over there to discuss things really easily.

I recommend a similar approach for anyone else looking for a textile printer. I found that business in this industry rarely advertise or have any much of a web presence, so the 'lazy' avenues that we've become accustomed to use (google, email) aren't available. It's all about word of mouth.

Q. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your work in textile design and production, what would it be?

To have a bit more confidence and not fret so much. My first ever print run was only 20m and I was so scared that it wouldn't sell. So funny to think back on that now.

Q. Your designs manage to be modern and organic at the same time, and the colors you choose seem to be very much of the zeitgeist in home design. Do you 'feel' what colors you want to use, or is there more calculation involved?

Sometimes I feel like every part of the process is very 'calculated'—from choosing the colours through to conceiving the design itself. This probably isn't actually the case and is just something I tell myself when I'm feeling 'not creative enough'. I think it's all a process of exposing myself to a lot of modern design and current trends, absorbing it all, and then whatever comes out is an inspired rendition of all of that.

Q. What's your favorite thing anyone's ever made from your fabric?

Oh there have been sooooo many gorgeous things made with my fabric, it's my favourite part of the whole process—seeing what other creative people make from something I've made. It's such a good feeling. My favourite thing definitely has to be Salsa the 'Peg Bear' by Jhoanna of One Red Robin. I loved him so much I just had to buy him to have at home with me.

Q. What do you see yourself doing next? Any "dream" fabrics you'd like to make real?

This is a very good question! I'm really a bit unclear on it all at the moment. I would definitely like to grow my business, and probably branch into the production of homewares etc… I also imagine sharing a nice big warehouse space with a few of my fellow textile designers and setting up an area where we can do some of the printing ourselves. One of the most frustrating things for me at the moment is the lack of control over the process or ability to experiment with different things. I feel kind of guilty too when I have to tell people that no, I don't do the printing myself.

Q. What do you turn to for inspiration?

Blogs, blogs and more blogs, nature / plant life, and urban landscapes – I love walking around the city of Melbourne absorbing the mix of period architecture and contemporary design 🙂

Many thanks to Lara for her time and her inspiring answers … go check out her blog, you won't be sorry you did!

It's not a shirtdress, but …

Butterick 6183

I had to have it. You understand why, don't you?

First off — those little button flaps! Adorable! I really, really hope they actually button, but if they don't, well, I have ways of MAKING them button.

I've made variations of this pattern every summer for years — short kimono-sleeved bodice and big full skirt. They're cool and breezy to wear and make up great in lightweight cottons — even quilting cottons, which often don't hang right in a narrower skirt.

And the six-gore skirt is just ideal for adding pockets; it's so easy. (Figure out where you want the pocket to hit on the side gore. Trace the side gore pattern from that spot down to where you want the pocket to stop. Add seam allowances to the top and the bottom of traced pocket piece. You can either line/face the pocket or finish the top with bias binding. Finish the top of the pocket — may I suggest piping? — and turn under the bottom seam allowance. Top-stitch turned-under bottom of pocket to gore. If you don't like the top-stitched look, sew pocket to gore across bottom, right sides together, and press the pocket up. Sides of pocket will be secured when you sew the side seams. See? Easy!)

Whew. Sorry for that pocket-making digression. Anyway, I can't wait to get this pattern (from Best Vintage Patterns) and go to town.

And — as for what the women in the picture are saying — I think Yellow Dress just said something like "Check out that guy's butt!" and Black Dress is about to inform Yellow Dress that "That Guy" is in fact the boyfriend of Black Dress. But that's just my take. What's yours?

What's Up, Buttercup?

Butterick 3548

Now, usually I'm a fan of the florals. I like flowers (and puppies, and babies, and long walks on the beach …) but I like them in their place. Not as the place. This dress gives me Day of the Triffids flashbacks, which are not good things to have.

Of course, it's technically not a dress, but a beach coverup (which explains the barefooted model, if not her biceps bracelet; nothing short of enslavement by Jabba the Hut explains the biceps bracelet). Perhaps the petaled hat (and petaled cape collar) keeps out the sun (and gives you REALLY odd tan lines).

I like how the full-on daisy on the left is labeled "JUNIORS" while the yellow version, ostensibly more sedate, is labeled "MISSES". Yes, you need this guidance, because heaven forbid you dress up as a TOO-YOUNG Giant Flower. A scandalized hiss would run through the cabanas!

Thanks to Stacie for the link … the pattern is from Etsy seller joules (and has already sold, but she has OTHER patterns …)

Say It Ain't So

Old Navy Safari Romper

I saw these on the TV screen last week. Old Navy was advertising this particular style during LOST — and OMG, did you see LOST this past week? — and I believe that I jumped higher, screamed louder, and got scared-er during the Old Navy ad that featured this horror than I did during the Stunning Conclusion To This Week's Episode.

Because, frankly, short-shorts rompers? Are enough to give anyone nightmares.

For the moment, let's leave out how you are possibly going to use public restrooms in this thing without dragging part or all of it into the toilet; that simply goes without saying.

Instead, concentrate on just how wrong the proportions of this thing are. The dropped waist! The below-elbow, but not three-quarters, sleeves! The teeny, weeny inseam of Doom! The very weirdly placed breast (or maybe, floating-rib) pocket!

Old Navy was advertising this using their skinniest and leggiest models, and they still all looked like a plate of Hot Mistake with a side of Mental Deficient. There is absolutely no way to wear this and be taken seriously. There are very few ways to wear this and not look as if you lost a particularly disastrous bet. (One would be wrapped around your head as a turban.)

And please, people, believe me. I know whereof I speak. I was a young teen, in Florida, in the early 1980s. I know all of the enticing forms that jumpsuits can take, and the few times that I 'experimented' — well, let's just say that the flashbacks are debilitating. I can scarcely pass a tropical-print-floral rayon without vomiting, even today.

To sum up, this romper:

— does not allow for the speedy completion of necessary bodily functions
— makes you look like you're playing Tweedledee in the "Out of Africa" version of Alice in Wonderland
— drains personal dignity faster than Jello body shots
— is guaranteed to disflatter 99.99% of women (and most men, barring a few really in-shape go-go dancers)
— doesn't even get the POCKETS right

Now, you're all grownups. You can wear what you like. But if I see you wearing this …. I will just be very disappointed, that's all.

Giant Friday Link-o-Rama

First Love comic

I have been feeling mildly guilty because you guys have been sending me so many great links — much more than I could ever write about individually, even if I posted with BoingBoing-like frequency. BUT: they are so good that I don't want to deprive you of them, so I'm thinking about doing Linktastic Fridays. What do you all think?

First off, Jen sent me the awesome comic image up above. Who needs a two-timing guy when you have an outfit that great, I ask you?

Also: everyone's heard that Isaac Mizrahi is leaving Target to go to Liz Claiborne, right? I'm so excited about this; I really want to see what he can do at a slightly higher price point and a bigger collection. And I'm hoping maybe he'll choose some fit models that aren't so dern long-waisted …

Check out this ADORABLE corduroy windowpane-check jumper/dress (thanks to Lisa for the link). This one might show up as a Secret Lives someday, I think.

NYTimes reports on (recycled) juice box dress! Yes, I said juice box dress! (thanks to Barbara for the link)

Lisa at Miss Helene's found this great Home-Ec quiz in a pattern. Some of the questions stumped me, for sure. Try your luck … or just get a hit of sweet nostalgia off the mimeograph format.

Laura Skidmore of the Vintage Fashion Library was featured on CNN! And she gave a shout-out to Dress A Day! (And her hair in the picture is perfect …)

Robin sent a link to this truly terrifying 1970s jumper dress with the worst case of crotch-pocket I've ever seen. It takes quite a bit to make me dislike a pocket; this dress succeeded in doing so where so many others have failed.

And two sales for you: a bunch of sellers at Specialist Auctions are having a Vintage Blowout Sale — everything $19.99 or less! It started yesterday but I'm sure there's a ton of great stuff left (including lots of large-size patterns). More details are here

If you have been looking for the original version of the Butterick Walk-Away Dress (6015) Jen has a copy right now (B30) available AND has a different shirtdress-like version with a narrow skirt! (And if you use the coupon code love15 you will save 15% off any sized order through the end of the month!)

Whew. Did I forget anything? If I did, that's why Blogger made comments …

Happy Valentine's Day!

bandanna rick rack dress

I admit, I am kinda a fan of Valentine's Day. (And not just because I got woken up this morning by a seven-year-old giving me a card and a heart-shaped box of See's. In my house, if you haven't completed your celebration of any particular holiday — Easter, Christmas, Arbor Day — before seven a.m., you obviously shouldn't be allowed to participate.)

I like Valentine's as an excuse to wear red, obviously, and also because I think it's a great day to just be nice to people for no reason. Pick the grumpiest-looking random person you can find, and hold a door open for them today, or pay them a compliment. You can find something to compliment ANYONE about, I promise. (I'm very much looking forward to being an cheerfully eccentric old lady and can give people pieces of candy out of my pockets without them thinking it's creepy and weird.)

If only it were warm enough to wear the above dress in Chicago today (projected high: 39) I would be all over it. You should really click on the image to see the full effect, because this photo concentrates on the glorious rick-rack to the exclusion of the equally magnificent bandanna-print ruffle at the hem. Rick-rack and bandanna: does it get any better? (Well, I don't see any pockets on this one, but otherwise …)

It's $50 at Penelope Pup's Vintage. B36/W28. I think that if there's someone who was going to send you roses today (ESPECIALLY if that someone was yourself — hey, we've all been there, and it's not a bad place to be; when you're buying your own Valentine you never give yourself scratchy cheesy underwear) you should hint to that person to send you this instead. It will last longer, and probably isn't drenched in pesticide. A win all around!

If you want to see my last-year's Valentine's Dress, please to be clicking here.

Brand Extension

Liberty scarf

You all know the hippo effect, don't you? You have one ceramic hippo on your desk, because you thought it was a bit silly and cute, and then in some kind of group delusion (and over your feeble protests) everyone suddenly thinks you collect hippos? And you get hippo-related items at every gift-giving occasion for the rest of your life (or until you put a ceramic owl on your mantel …)

Anyway, I think that I have now benefited from the hippo effect, since Anna kindly pointed out to me the eBay auction for a Liberty scarf (don't bother clicking, I bid and won already). On the one hand, I don't really wear scarves (although I have a Scrabble-print one I'm understandably fond of). Printed scarves usually need a plain outfit, and you know how many of THOSE I have (not many). But, on the other hand: Liberty! Fountain pens! In bright colors!

So perhaps I have transitioned from someone who merely sews with Liberty fabrics to being someone who collects Liberty-print *things*. (With any luck only flat ones …)

And did I ever tell y'all that my darling husband got me THESE for Christmas? And that the current state of "Always winter and never Christmas" here in Chicago is pushing back the date when I can start wearing them every day?

Too bad I can't conceive of an outfit (other than a Halloweeny "Homage to Liberty" costume) that could include BOTH these items. Suggestions welcome in the comments.