(un)Fashion: Creativity and Translations

Hard to believe that the book (un)Fashion hadn’t yet made its appearance  into my house and blog until this weekend when a friend brought it to my attention.

(un)Fashion presents a kaleidoscope of people from different cultures and portrays how they dress and adorn themselves away from the fashion shows and chain stores.  It refreshingly ignores  the Western conventional view of what’s beautiful and what’s not. Tibor Kalman, one of the graphic geniuses of the 20th century and  editor-in-chief of Colors magazine and his wife, illustrator Maia Kalman created this stunning gem of a book.

Take a look:

Some of the images remind me vaguely of this book: Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester, which I blogged about in one of my first posts back in 2010. I’ve always been fascinated by culture and its expressions through fashion, music, film, art  and language.

Right now I’m busy working with languages;  another area that fascinates me since I first learned English 35 years ago in small town Germany . Currently I’m exploring different ways and avenues how to make language learning more accessible, fun and effective using a variety of tools including technology/art/music etc. (Which, by the way is a great excuse for reading French Vogue extensively and spend time watching foreign language soap operas on Netflix.)

Trying to understand what it takes to learn a language is fun and frankly quite creative.  Creating is closely linked to the process of translating or transforming an idea into “an expression”. Without a doubt, creating and translating have a close relationship.

These days I’m in the process of re-orienting myself and re-evaluating this blog, looking into ways of making it more into a cultural exploration.

As an example, here is one interesting clip from the Indonesian version of “The X-Factor”.  The clash between the singer’s voice, her selected music, the format of the show (exported to more than 40 countries)  and her dress display exactly the kind of cultural mélange that interests me.

Once I have a clearer picture of where this exploration takes me I’ll be back.

ISBN-10: 0810992299
ISBN-13: 978-0810992290
Tibor Kalman (Author), Maira Kalman (Author)


Fabric Play: Thimbles and The Lord of the Rings

Over the break during the wee hours of the morning, I watched “The Lord of the Rings” while finishing a small embroidery.  And in between, while Frodo spent hours of screen time drudging through Mordor struggling with that darn ring, I drudged through the internet and discovered these very beautiful Japanese thimbles, called yubinuki.  The whole ring theme seemed apt for this month’s fabric play.

The thimbles below are from the Kaga region of Japan, which is known for its textile work and the making of fine kimonos. In the true spirit of Mottainai, to not let anything go to waste the leftover silk threads were used to make beautifully designed thimbles like those below.

Isn’t it amazing to produce such marvelous embroidery on such a humble item as a thimble.

These thimbles are worn between the second and third knuckle on the middle finger of your stitching hand with the needle pushing against the fabric just like in the illustration below from John Marshall’s book, ‘Make Your  Own Japanese Clothes’.

Of course, I had to give that a try. I found great information with easy to follow instructions on Shishi Girl’s blog here. Of course, the Japanese versions are measured to the millimeter and mine are measured with my failing eyesight, but that’s how I like it.

The “real ones” are built and embroidered around a foundation of rice paper and silk batting, and mine are recycling t-shirts and linen, because that’s what I had on hand. I also didn’t follow the instructions, as you can see below, because mine don’t have any batting and are clearly a peasant version of a true yubinaki. Honestly, it’s even a far stretch to connect the two.

I ended up with very few thimbles, as they do require a bit of trial and error.

I specifically like these beautiful and humble vintage thimbles below found on the Wafu Works blog, a shop and enterprise specializing in vintage Japanese art and textiles. Aren’t these beautiful?

Image (c) Wafu Works

I think they are really more like jewelry. The concept would also work for making bracelets or beads…..ah, the possibilities!

Visit Nahtzugabe to see what else has been played with during this month fabric play.

Fabric Play Date

Now that we are in the darkest time of the year,  I decided on light and shadow as this month’s fabric manipulation theme, but given my limited success, it soon morphed into a surface and texture exploration.

It started small. A balloon, some wool and a combination of white glue and cornstarch to create…. a light perhaps. It didn’t work.  It wasn’t that exciting and not manipulated fabric either.

Usually I don’t combine fabric and glue. For some reason they don’t go together in my world and if it wasn’t for fabric “exploration” I might not have ventured further. However, there is something quite satisfying about sculpting with threads and paste, which I discovered by making this rather strange sheet of “fabric” below.  It’s not soft, but I think it would qualify as fabric in a broader sense:

There is no real application for this, other than shining a light from behind and make a “light sculpture”,  but the pliable texture is interesting. I essentially embedded different threads into a concoction of white glue and cornstarch. The cornstarch made the end result somewhat flexible. It’s also possible to cut it into different shapes or forms.

Below was more interesting, not in terms of the outcome, but as a technique to be explored further:

I cut a random piece from an Urban Outfitter catalog which was then pasted onto a finely woven piece of handkerchief linen.

The result is a foggy image which seems like a memory,  faded and barely accessible. However, as the paper was printed on both sides, it came to life when lit from behind:

Ahhhh – suddenly there is another guy in the story. So this is what happens when things come to light, a whole new dimension.

My next attempt will be adding text on the last layer instead of an image. It would make a perfect table light or lampshade. It is also a great project with kids and very satisfying because of its quick results.

This image below is from the same catalog and pasted on the linen. Some hand stitches would be interesting on the texture.

Here is the original to see how it changes:

And then I found Chris K. Palmer on the web, master of playing with light and shadow. Look at what he does by folding starched fabric:

His book is called: “Shadowfolds: Surprisingly Easy-to-Make Geometric Designs in Fabric”, if you would like to give this a try. It doesn’t look so “surprisingly easy”, but I want to believe it is.

I thought Pojagi would result in a similar effect and it does:

But then Thanksgiving arrived with its requirement of cooking rather than concocting fabric manipulations; so that’s where I left it.

Hope you had fun with your own ideas!


Let’s take a look who has experimented this month:

kaze played with the concept of fabric as origami

t.tally folded fabric into a beautiful representation of November

suschna converted fabric into berries and a light purple November flower

siebensachen experimented with embossing velvet

nahtzugabe created a beautiful accessory inspired by light and shadow.

machwerk was inspired by cording and made a beautiful “Utensilo”

KunstundKleider artfully combined crochet and felting in unexpected ways

tinitaschen created a pretty pouch using pleating and a silk


Now that the election is finally over, I can go back and finish my dining room instead of reading polls all day.  I’m still in the midst of plastering and filling holes and my ambition is to celebrate Thanksgiving in a newly painted decent dining room. Wish me luck.

Election time is a reminder how much we’re all connected and that each of us can make a difference when we join forces. This also applies to our monthly fabric explorations, which so far was hosted by the German blogger suschna all by herself. To share in that responsibility, some of us ‘manipulators’ have decided to help out by hosting the monthly event on our respective blogs.

On November 25th, it is my turn. I’m thinking of exploring with either origami or shadow and light. If nothing interesting happens out of that, I’m just picking a random word from the dictionary for inspiration. If you would like to participate, just send me the link to your post at kathrin@annekata.com or leave a comment on Nov. 25 and I’ll link you in. Any projects finished or not, big or small are welcome and very much appreciated.

Speaking of networks and cross cultural projects – last month talented Danish knitter Thea from http://the-knitting-bee.blogspot.com/ (see top image) contacted me . On November 13th she’s organizing  google+ hangout regarding –  in her words – “what is a net, a web, a network and how do we make a blanket symbolizing a net…

If you would like to be part of this, see Thea’s invitation. I’m not a knitter or crocheter (is that a word?), but I’ll be there on Nov. 13th, because I’m interested.

Who knows who we’re going to meet? It will also be a great way to understand google+ better and, as I’m still not on facebook, but love the idea of connecting and meeting people from all over the world, I am going to give google+ a try.

Will you join?

Tucholsky’s Holes and Goldsworthy’s Time

It’s astounding what you can do with a bunch of wood pieces when you are Andy Goldsworthy. For this month’s fabric play I chose to think about/stitch and create holes. Goldworthy’s book “Time” was my first inspiration: The image on the left is a river bed where the mud has been removed and sticks put […] Read more »

Fabric Manipulation or Hallandssöm Is Not A Place In Sweden

This week I encountered Hallandssöm embroidery. At first I thought Hallandssöm was a quaint village somewhere in Sweden, birthplace of this interesting technique, but google maps didn’t  back me up. So I’m not sure from where it derives its name. Embroidery manipulates a fabric’s surface. What I did here, using this process, is not true […] Read more »

From Fabric Manipulation to Dimension

This month’s fabric manipulation is back to dimensional. I’ve made a simple form that can be twisted and folded into many different shapes. Here is how it works. First cut the shape below from sturdy paper: Transfer it onto sturdy fabric and cut a few. Sew them together with rough stitches and without overlapping the […] Read more »

Stitching, Books and the Human Experience

Isn’t it interesting how hard it is to stitch freestyle? Or is it just me? After a few more stitches on my practice piece, I once again realized that stitching is only meditative when I know where the needle should go next. Free style stitching without any plan is not relaxing, but there is something […] Read more »

Knitting While Walking and Sitting

Look at these multi-taskers above, especially the right one. Balancing in clogs with a vessel on her head and knitting at the same time is admirable. Sia commented the other day that she fell into a ditch while trying to walk and knit simultaneously and it made me laugh out loud. Not because of a […] Read more »