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Holding Pattern(s) and Landing

Posted on: Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Alabama Chanin DIY t-shirt in a holding pattern over lower Manhattan

I am taking off from NYC for Bulgaria today and this past week feels like a dream state of conversations scraps, beautiful new threads, and uncanny metaphors. I used to be a good traveler but after years of being an avid adventurer and nesting in various pockets of the globe, being in flight makes me more nervous than it used to. I now have to visualize positive things at the end of the journey – reconnecting with my boys, sharing presents from the road, eating a good meal and having a glass of bootleg Bulgarian red wine upon arrival. I also love how my husband and I walk around the house for a few hours sharing stories and anecdotes while I unpack and settle in.

This week was definitely one of overlapping patterns and deep-seated memories that wanted to surface. Many of these sensations were heightened by my time at New York Design Week's MAKESHIFT 2012 events created by the hugely generous Natalie and team at Alabama Chanin. From the hum of the carnival-like atmosphere during Tuesday night's talk at The Standard East Village to the Crafting Fashion Pop Up at Billy Reid to the DIY sewing circle on Friday afternoon in the Standard's penthouse – all were fertile ground for both digging deep and finding a freshly torqued groove. 

It's a lot to take in when you are also processing the vibrant textures of an urban environment like NYC. I honestly felt like more of a farm girl again marveling at the vast spread of eclectic offerings and hues after being in Eastern Europe for close to a year. What I do know is that participating in Friday's sewing circle with Natalie Chanin and friends left me charged in a way that reconfirmed why I came to a place like NYC in the first place. The view from The Standard East Village reminded me more of fields and plots that need cultivating than of urban patches of nutrient-depleted soil or spirit.

Reverse appliqué out in the open by Alabama Chanin

Decades ago (as a teenager, that is),  I would sneak into the city by train to map out a plan of action that included seeing art shows, people watching (fashion included), as well as sketching the outlines of things in Central Park or along the Hudson River. It was all quite dangerous at times, but it seemed like something that I had to do in order to understand the road ahead. The next morning I would wake up at home again in a farmhouse that had a spinning wheel or two, sheep grazing outside, and some neglected chores to get done.

It took me decades to find a way to make this all overlap in a manner or lifestyle that might make sense to myself and others. Working with fiber and caring for the environment (both rural, urban, and in-between) helps me to do this. Living in a far off place like Bulgaria is perhaps the new soil that I need to till. Using my hands to sew an appliqué t-shirt at Friday's workshop was the holding pattern over the city that allowed me to take it all in again and remember why there is goodness in just about every square block and stitch of a densely settled community. So much of our time is spent in thinking about how to move forward, create a perfect product, and even touch down before we know where we really want to go. Perhaps this is why flying is so scary sometimes. It is the landing that reminds us of what we have to deal with once we arrive.

Fiber form in-progress with recycled fiber, moss and lace from Bulgaria, hand-spun wool,
a vintage bead from another decade and a new bead on top from Heath Ceramics

I say that, in addition to humming, we consider extending our holding pattern(s) so that we might take in the full view, expand the conversation, let some other folks pick up the thread, and in turn craft a better course of action. It's not just a quilt that we are making or a sparkling green city for that matter, but rather identifying the space in between so that new things might grow and surprise us as the needle skims the horizon or pokes up through the organic cotton jersey that has it's own natural properties.

Consider the runway as every day. The community as a definition of what is needed – not what you are needing or fearing.

Things will open up and seem so much more fashionable in ways that offer reverse patterns and random threads that often look better hanging loose on the outside than neatly clipped underneath the garment or shiny wing's surface.


MAKESHIFT 2012 /  Alabama Chanin events


To learn more about community and Holding Pattern, read more about this project by Interboro at PS1 last summer.


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