Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fabric of the week: Crepon

One of the fabrics with a look reminiscent of tree bark...elegant tree bark that is. 

Crepon and its close cousin bark crepe are characterized by lengthwise wrinkles. Bark crepe resembles the bark of a tree and is usually cotton, linen or rayon. Crepon, too, has a sturdy, vertically-rippled textured and may be silk, manufactured fiber, wool or cotton. The fabrics are compound fabrics, woven on dobby or jacquard looms.
Uses: Dresses, blouses, suits, interior decorating 
See also:

I am fortunate to have this 1960s Helga dress in my Etsy shop right now...I don’t see crepon often. This one was made on a jacquard loom (look at the complexity in the closeup).

©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text and photos by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who are these mermaids?

Manatees are of the order Sirenia, deriving their name from the sirens of Greek mythology. Legend has it that Columbus wrote of seeing mermaids along the coast of the New World. Later he realized his mistake...these beautiful sirens were manatees.

If you don’t already know, I have the very tall order of raising nearly $800 for a manatee tracking monitor. (Please read my previous blogs for more information). I have just heard that 10% of the population of this magnificent endangered animal has perished this year. The manatee’s situation is critical...please hear their siren song!

Click to see the real mermaids

—1/3 of your purchase price in my shops (Etsy and web shop) will go to this cause (look for some items with 100% donation)

—You may also donate on my youcaring page

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vintage clothing, the French horn...and manatees?

Every now and then the odd collection of my interests and pastimes seems to baffle people. Take manatees: Why am I, a woman living in Washington State, passionate about the plight of the manatee, which lives nowhere near me?

I have always had a great concern and fondness for endangered creatures of all kinds. I vividly recall first becoming aware of manatees as a little girl, before much publicity was being brought to their plight. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of them before, and was fascinated by such awesomely large, perfectly gentle creatures, the corners of their mouths always turned up like little smiles. How could anything so wonderful be at risk of extinction?

Then in 2000 I got the opportunity to visit my relatives in Florida, and they took my husband and I for a short boat tour at Blue Spring State Park. We saw amazing plant life and any number of alligators, but what we really yearned to see was a manatee. There were hints that they were near—

—but it wasn’t until we got off the boat and were just standing watching the river that we saw some clamor, as a group of volunteers met a van. Out of the van the group of people hoisted a manatee which had been rescued and rehabilitated. 

When this manatee was released into the water, another manatee immediately came up from the bottom of the river and nudged the newcomer, unmistakably like a greeting.

I had tears streaming down my face...I was IN LOVE with manatees!

Since then I’ve tried to find out all I can about this creature, and have been amazed. For instance, manatees are intelligent (“capable of understanding discrimination tasks, and show signs of complex associated learning and advanced long term memory.” [Gerstein, E. R. (1994). The manatee mind: Discrimination training for sensory perception testing of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus). Marine Mammals 1: 10–21.] They demonstrate complex discrimination and task-learning similar to dolphins and pinnipeds in acoustic and visual studies. [Marine Mammal Medicine, 2001, Leslie Dierauf & Frances Gulland, CRC Press]. The manatee’s closest land relation is the elephant, not the cow, despite their being called sea cows in many parts of the world. They are thought to have evolved from four-legged land animals some 60 million years ago.

With no natural predators, their “enemies” are humans. Every year many manatees (slow moving as they are and with a habitat that hugs the shoreline) are killed or injured by boat and ship strikes. Many more die from boat strikes than natural causes such as cold stress and red tide.

With humans so responsible for the grave endangerment of the manatee, we must also be responsible for their survival.

As I wrote about in a blog a few posts back, I am currently working on raising $795 for a monitor to keep track of re-released manatees. The monitor (shown here) will help the Florida-based Save the Manatee Club’s partners at Wildtracks in Belize, supporting their efforts to make sure that rehabilitated manatees are getting acclimated to the wild once they are released. This was a fundraising request specifically made of me.

Is it worth nearly $800? With so few manatees, each individual animal is of the greatest importance to the species. If the monitor helps rescue or save a single manatee, it is priceless to me.

Please consider donating directly at my YouCaring donation page. YouCaring takes no money out of your In addition, 1/3 of my sales will go to this important purpose until the total is met. If you have no money (I can sympathize!) please consider helping me by spreading the word about this fundraiser. The sooner we reach the goal of raising $795, the sooner the monitor can get to the important work of helping save manatees.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A small reminder of a big project

An Etsy treasury as a wee reminder of a large project for a large endangered animal:

We are at just about 14% of the $795 needed for a manatee tracking monitor. Read more in my blog from a few posts ago: The manatee hugger is back

Please help me help this great cause!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fabric of the week: Batik

Even if you haven’t heard the name, I’m sure you have seen this famous fabric. What some may not know is how batik gets its uniquely marbled appearance. 
An ancient form of resist printing from Indonesia in which wax is used in patterns where dye is not desired. The wax resist is then removed and the process may continue, creating rich multicolored patterns—most often in blues, browns and oranges. Characteristic of batik are tiny lines where the wax has cracked and the dye has seeped into the resist pattern. This is not considered a flaw, rather part of the fabric’s distinct beauty. Originally almost always made of cotton, batiks today are usually cotton can be made of silk or blends. 
Imitation batik is machine printed to resemble true batik. 
Uses: Apparel, household decor 
See also:
Batik-printed handwoven silk from India
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text and photo by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain

Currently in my web store is a fascinating silk batik 7-piece outfit

A beautiful short video showing some of the batik-making process, courtesy of Maiyet

Monday, July 15, 2013

The manatee hugger is back!

If you know me at all, you know I love manatees.

Humans are the gentle herbivores’ only enemy, with our fishing lines ensnaring them, our pollution poisoning them, our boats striking them and our living space encroaching upon theirs. Heather Sellick of the US Scuba Center wrote “the manatee is one of the most magnificent marine is also the one that tugs at our heart strings and reminds us of the great damage humans have inflicted on the creatures with whom we share this planet.”

It has been a very hard year for the manatee, with a deeply troubling number of deaths. Some of you may remember that my customers and I were able to raise $525 for the Emergency Rescue Fund of the Save the Manatee Club in late March/early April of this year, to help with injured and sickened animals.

That brings us to today.

I invited Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation for the Save the Manatee Club to suggest fundraising projects to help manatees. Dr. Tripp asked if I could come up with $795 for a tracking box for the SMC’s Belize colleagues to track tagged manatees that have been rehabilitated and released. These manatees are being monitored after their release to help ensure their acclimation to life in the wild.

You know the Manatee Hugger can’t refuse!

Direct donations to this cause may be made on my page, and will be greatly appreciated. At the same time, one-third of my vintage clothing sales at and will go toward the monitor until the goal is reached.

I will add the vintage clothing sales tally to the total on YouCaring so you can see where we stand on reaching the goal. The widget at the upper right of this page will take you to the YouCaring page if you’d like. YouCaring does not charge for fundraising...all the money earned will go to the cause of manatee protection.

I was told the monitor is needed ASAP in Belize. The lives of these gentle, intelligent—and endangered—animals are at risk.

Dr. Tripp bottle feeds Twiggy, an orphaned manatee calf, at Wildtracks, a manatee rehabilitation center in Belize. - See more at Save the Manatee Club news

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fabric of the week: Linen

It’s high summer, shouldn’t we best talk about linen? 

I am fascinated by this fabric, in part because in my yard I have small blue flowers nodding on their delicate stalks—flax. It is hard for me to imagine the process by which sturdy linen is made from the flax plant, and how it ever got created in the first place. Do click on the flax link below for more information on this very useful plant.

A field of flax in bloom

Both a fabric and a fiber, linen is one of the oldest of textiles, with examples dating from many thousands of years B.C.E. 
The fabric is made of the fibers of the flax plant, and because of the natural variations in the fibers, characteristic slubs occur in both warp and weft. It is of a balanced plain weave. Linen is coveted for its absorbency, strength even when wet, being lint-free and quick-drying. It is famous for its use in making garments worn in hot climates. The name linen is derived from linon, the Greek word for the flax plant, and linum, the Roman word. 
Bedding and table coverings can be called linens, no matter what their fabric. 
Uses: Suits, slacks, skirts, dresses, tablecloths, dish towels 
See also:
Butcher cloth 
Butcher linen 
Handkerchief linen

Two examples of linen
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter

Early 60s Jane Derby linen dress in my web store

For more great examples of vintage clothing made of linen, visit the Vintage Fashion Guild parade this week: Linen Time of Year.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fabric of the week: Organdy

Beautiful, sheer, crisp and innocent, organdy makes an item with elegant body. The first vintage item of organdy that comes to mind for me is one of Delores del Rio’s gowns (by Irene) in Flying Down to Rio. Just look at the loft in her sleeve!


Very sheer, thin, crisp fabric usually (and historically) made of cotton, but also sometimes in a blend with polyester. Organdy is given its crisp finish by various means, some very costly and permanent, while others are likely to wash out eventually. In the most expensive treatment (known as Swiss finish), the fibers are allowed to partially melt in acid and then harden again to a crisp and transparent finish that is permanent. Less lasting finishes may be achieved with resin or starch. Organdy is a balanced plain weave fabric. 
Uses: Blouses, bridal wear, evening wear (particular when a sheer, dramatically full look is wanted, such as puffed sleeves), interfacing, trim such as collar and cuffs, girl’s party frocks, fancy aprons, curtains 
See also:
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter
Organdies from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s (
Currently in my Etsy shop: A 1950s white cotton organdy dress with eyelet embroidery