I've never been a "do it yourself" (or, for acronym lovers, DIY) kind of girl. I'm of the school of pay someone to do it for you whenever possible. I feel like I have the genes to do something artistic--a knitter who bequeathed a painter who bequeathed a quilter who bequeathed, well, me. All wonderful ways to be productive and creative. I could say my artistic endeavor is being a crafty wordsmith, but that's not the creative outlet I truly want, nor what I've always envied about those other talents: the required trips to arts and crafts stores to buy fun supplies. It's especially hard now that fashion has taken a do-it-yourself turn.
I suppose this trend inadvertently came to my attention a few weeks ago when I mentioned the return of tie-dye in my column. While it was based on factual looks I found in updated fashion collections, I merely commented on it to justify my theory that we dress tackily. I never thought it would actually go into fruition. But then Angelina wore that tie dyed bed sheet to cover her (alleged) baby bump to the SAG Awards; I realized my fashion nightmare was now a reality. If a trend made its way onto the red carpet by a tabloid fodder A-list "actress," then soon we average gals (and probably some guys, too) will follow suit. Buying something tie-dyed seems so wrong, but what about making something tie-dyed? To me, this makes the trend seem not only acceptable, but also superior. Why buy something terrible and trendy when you can have so much more fun making something terribly trendy? Turns out, we are in the midst of fashion trends that we can create ourselves.
I think the practice of making your own clothing is becoming a lost art. Excluding those people who create clothing as a way to make a career of becoming a designer, I would imagine there is only a pocket of the population that really makes clothes for themselves--picking out material, cutting patterns, piecing together and stitching. Even when the majority of society made this its practice, department store items were coveted. Was it the actual look of pre-made clothing that converted the masses, or was it the convenience?
Probably the latter because the most expensive fashionable items you'll find in modern clothing are made by hand. Haute couture is largely hand sewn, especially when it comes to detailing like beadwork. It's this extensive work that makes these items the most original and most costly fashions at the top of the fashion echelon. And I mean, tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollar garments. Made under strict regulations (French laws govern what actually constitutes as "haute couture") and based on someone's precise measurements, they are created for spectacle more so than actual wear; but this still seems a pretty good justification that handmade creations can be pretty badass.
Beady Little Hands
But I realize that many Tulsans are not classically trained artists who create majestic unionized couture pieces.
But you probably have enough talent to create the latest trends--things like tie dye, crochet or macramé t-shirts, light knit cardigans with eclectic stitching, dresses created out of old fabric swatches and bold jewelry compiled out of everything but the kitchen sink. We're switching mall stores for craft stores.
Perhaps you take on this challenge as I do. I can't seam a hem and I'd probably bleed to death sewing on a button; my ability to alter clothes begins and ends with an iron. Rather than diving right into the hard stuff like knitting or sewing, I opted for learning first about jewelry making.
Oklahoma has a local resource for all things crafty. Our state is the original home to a rhyming hobby retailer, but due to its founder's recent financial decisions, you might cut out that store, the middleman, and write your check directly to ORU. Instead of spending hours wandering fluorescent-lit aisles, sit and enjoy perusing and creating at a place like The Bead Merchant, 2745 E. 15th St. I've never been one for jewelry trends because, like a good pair of shoes or a classic bag, if you make the right jewelry choices, they are eternally hip.
Your problem at The Bead Merchant won't be your concerns about how long the trend will last, but what to create and what materials to use. Owner Susanne Barnard has assembled a tremendously well-rounded assortment of materials at her store. Both walls and windows are strewn with stringed beads. Tiny glass and porcelain dishes sit on wooden tables. Prices per bead range from five to 10 cents a piece, all the way to nearly $30 per bead, but you can also buy a strand of one kind of bead. Think of a color, any color... They have it, in practically every size and shape, too. Materials vary as well with beads created from glass, mother of pearl, wood, sea shells, bone, metal, turquoise, an assortment of semi precious stones and even black diamonds.
What's great about The Bead Merchant is the ability to go in, Monday through Saturday 10-6pm, and make your creations. Additional tables are set up with all the needed construction tools. Choose your beads and materials (they also carry a variety of strands, clasps and other essential hardware) and create away! And you can't go wrong, because as I was told, each item you create is personal to you. You can go alone or arrange a personal party, which they do. Or, strike up a conversation with the beadmaster next to you. This, apparently, can be quite inspirational.
Nifty Little Knitter
Ask any person who knits in a group. Knitting is another craft to try a hand at when creating your own fashion trends. If you don't know the first thing about needlework or are already hitting the yarn regularly, try Loops at 2042 Utica Square. Loops offers classes that range from no experience to intermediate/advanced and can teach you everything from the basics cast-on, knit and purl to turning those stitches into hats, socks, sweaters and more. Once you've mastered the techniques, you can branch out on your own or partake in the projects organized by Loops.
And while it's no longer quite sweater season, it is always cardigan time. More so, I've noticed many t-shirts at the moment featuring some type of knit accents, either around the neck, as sleeves or detailing the bottoms of short sleeves. And while these tasks may sound challenging, Loops offers clinic hours to assist you in any missed stitches along the way (Friday 11-8pm and Saturday 10-5pm). Try a class, hold a party, or get your yarn and go. The colors of yarn are vibrant and varied; some are even hand painted or hand dyed. Yes, there are varieties of yarn in wool and cotton blends, but also cashmere, alpaca, organic cotton, silk, bamboo, kimono ribbon and other luxurious materials. Buy supplies, check out a class or read the latest on the blog at www.loopsknitting.com.
And lastly there's our friend tie-dye. This may be the easiest to create and easiest to screw up. Grab one color of fabric dye or several, add some white cotton and a few rubber bands and have at it. Apparently, after a few Google searches, I discovered it's slightly more complicated. Okay, so take these same utensils and add to the mix soda ash, rubber gloves, plastic bags and long handled utensils to stir the dye. And this, folks, is why I've generally avoided the do-it-yourself project; just reading that list and the thought of assembling everything makes me want to toss in the towel before I've even begun.
Don't let it discourage you. Embrace the possible complications and experiment with the basic tees before moving onto fun, trendy items like canvas slip on shoes, skirts or sheets. Tie Dyes of Tulsa can take your dying skills, or lack thereof, to the next level. From colorful spiral designs to vibrant starbursts patterns, the techniques taught by the experts at the studio, 3443 E. 11th St., will leave you with a piece you'll be proud to wear.
And while you might not wear the shirt you dyed, the scarf you knitted or the earrings you made for the remainder of your life, but you'll have had fun learning to do it and a memento of the experience.
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