New York Times Article: Don’t Put a Bird On It: Saving “Craft” From Cuteness

gone_crafting_1Though this article went live awhile ago on the New York Times, I just recently came across it.  It’s an article that is part review of the disappointing “Craft Wars” TV reality show with Tori Spelling; part indictment of the crafting movement in modern times.

Read Don’t Put a Bird On It: Saving “Craft” From Cuteness

Is the term “crafting” now synonymous with hobbyists making piles of junk, as the author of this article maintains?  Does DIY only have value as an antidote to mass-manufacturing?  Is Etsy a “False Feminist Fantasy,” as another author accuses in an article [from 2009] quoted in the above? And just how awful was Craft Wars?

What do you guys think? 

Stay crafty!


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Socks for Japan Featured in the Tualatin / Tigard / Beaverton Valley Times

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In today’s local newspaper here in the suburbs outside of Portland (circ. 26,000) they ran an article about local people and their efforts for disaster relief in the wake of last Friday’s events in Japan.  A small photo of me happened to land on the front page – and hopefully this will be able to attract more attention to everyone’s efforts and encourage people in their support for Japan during this dark time.

Read the Full Article “Locals Jump to Japan’s Aid”

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Thanks so much to Angela, Jaime, and the whole team over there for making the effort to get the word out about this!  I am so indebted to all of you.

Additionally, I emailed the head of my son’s school on Sunday and let him know about Socks for Japan, and he decided to share it with the entire community of parents, staff, and students, asking for monetary donations to be collected and given to Mercy Corps, and collecting a pair of new socks and a care note from each child if people wished to donate that as well.  Sock Dreams, a local Portland retailer of socks and legwear, set up a table selling socks (really nice ones, too) for $2 a pair in front of the school for parents who hadn’t had time to go out and buy a pair…and then donated all the money received to Mercy Corps.  This morning as I came into school and bought another pair to send with a care letter from my son, I saw people buying 4 and 5 pairs of socks at a time, and all of them being sorted into boxes ready to ship out for tomorrow.

Despite the obnoxious, petty, and ill-informed voices of critics that have brought so much sorrow to my heart since last week, the events of today brought tears to my eyes when I saw the goodwill and good intentions of so many people manifest.


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The New York Times Really Doesn’t Understand the Meaning of DIY…

 all photos by Kava Gorna,

Or at least the blame shall fall to Chelsea Zalopany, who wrote the Dec. 30 article “Feathered Friends / D.I.Y. Headbands.”

Oh, New York Times.  I appreciate your efforts to make DIY more accessible to everyone, I truly do.  But you’re approaching it wrong.

To make DIY appeal to a large audience, you need to showcase something that’s easy and that anyone can do (at least to start off with; though you can totally go off on a tangent into cray-cray complicated projects once you’ve whet the appetite).

The opening paragraph is almost a contradiction in terms.  How many of you spend the time between Christmas and New Year’s “just sitting around?”  Me, I spend it with family, running to New Year’s get-togethers, send out thank-you cards for Christmas presents, exchanging gifts that were the wrong size or broken when I opened the box, cleaning out my email inbox, taking down the decorations, throwing out all the extra Christmas cookies…and that’s just for starters.  But even in the spare time I do have…if I’m considering a DIY project, well…

It takes Behr three hours to create each spring 2011 twig headpiece, and she’s broken it down into four easy steps. Now that’s time well spent.

Now there’s one sentence guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of anyone even dabbling in DIY…and enough to send me back to my Christmas cookies.

Why spend 3 hours on a single hand-dyed, hand-shaped, hand-wrapped feather headpiece?  (Unless you enjoy the process that much.)  I’d rather use those 3 hours to make:

*2 Polka-Dot Shoe-Clips
*1 Magazine Clutch
*1 Cage Cuff
*2 Scroll Earrings
*and a Woven Ribbon Bow Tunic

Kind of like the 12 Days of Christmas. You can even set it to music (start with the tune from the “5 Golden rings” part), if you like.;-)  [And all these quick-and-easy projects are coming up here on Chic Steals…stay tuned!]

And all that will probably only take an hour and a half, so you can also make a feathered headband using my tutorial here, just for good measure.:-) [Use a “hat pad” instead of hand-gluing all the feathers like I did; there’s some great choices here.)

photo from

So leave the involved, 4-step process using unbleached coq feathers, setting with vinegar, drying with a hair-dryer, steaming over a kitchen teakettle, hand-stripping, and hand-wrapping painstakingly in wire…to the experts.  That’s what you pay $148 for.  (But if you ever wanted to attempt it, now you know how the designer actually does it.)

The NYTimes also needs to interview someone who actually understands how to translate a hand-crafted, couture piece into something satisfyingly simple (and cheap!) to replicate.  (Probably not the original designer of the piece, unless they can design for the budget market.  It’s a different skill-set to address the questions of “how can we imitate the luxe look and where can we cut corners? How can someone make this at home easily, with readily-available materials?”  These aren’t usually questions up-market designers are asking themselves as they design, which makes someone like this probably not the best source when it comes to a post-holiday DIY.)

And for the love of Mike, have someone modeling the finished product.  A designer (and writer!) should know that the hesitant reader (and DIY’er looking for her next project to tempt her away from those cookies) can be swayed by a well-executed $$$money shot.

What do you guys think?  Are you DYING to try this 3-hour DIY?  Or does it negate the meaning of D.I.Y….a veritable contradiction-in-terms, if you will?


P.S. Thank you all for your kind words and well-wishes to my mother during this difficult time for her and our family. Regularly-scheduled blog content will return tomorrow.  Thank you.

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Guilt-Free Fur?

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As many of you may have read, the New York Times posted an article online last month about nutria fur currently being marketed as the new “guilt-free fur.”  The argument is that since the nutria (giant swamp-rodents) are a threat to Louisana swampland and are being killed anyway in order to protect this fragile ecosystem, then instead of thoughtlessly discarding the carcasses it’s better to utilize the fur.  …And make it into fashion.

Found on Flicker

A designer makes necklaces out of the teeth, Etsyans craft merkin panties and jewelry out of the fur…oh, and Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta also incorporated nutria fur into trims and linings in their recent collections.  Saks is currently the largest retailer in the United States that carries nutria fur items (check out this Nutria Fur Jacket from Maison Martin Margiela!).

Remember Elaine’s “rat hat” from that episode of Seinfeld?  That Russian “sable-esque” hat was supposedly nutria, according to the storyline.  And maligned as “not even a good rat-hat.”

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So what do you guys think?  Is real fur in fashion items okay if the animal is killed as a pest anyway?  Is it right to attempt to wipe out a species if it threatens a long-established ecosystem?  Will people begin to embrace nutria and being to rank it on par with fur in general – or is the “ick” factor too strong?

What are your thoughts?  And would you ever buy or wear nutria?


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Copyright Protection is Bad for Fashion! PBS Coverage

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PBS journalist Johanna Blakely posted an opinion piece the other day on how copyright protection with literally “cramp our style.”  It’s a fascinating article, and one I COMPLETELY agree with.  (And the crux of why I began Chic Steals in the first place!)  My take on this:

The fashion industry must have knockoffs or else it won’t survive.  

Nothing is truly new or original anymore, it’s all been done.  To claim copyright to a design (i.e., allow big, powerful companies with lawyers and tons of $ to claim copyright to a design) will only cause the industry to stagnate and truly destroy any innovation whatsoever.  It will prevent the formation of new businesses, the rise of new designers, and everything will be a mess of copyrights and infringement lawsuits and settlement payments to companies that are ALREADY rich. 

Fashion is aspirational and there always need to be designers that distill the pieces from the fashion-forward mega-brands and bring them to the public at an affordable price.  

Copying or “being inspired by” is completely necessary to the industry – and to consumers.  An exact copy – logos and everything?  Stitching and all?  Same materials, same size, same design – created by rubbing off the original?  Wrong.  There’s a fine line between “inspiration” and “copy.”  “Copiers” will never be as revered as those who devise the trends and are always pushing the boundaries: the forward-thinkers of fashion.  But they’re equally as necessary to the dissemination of fashion to the public and the health of the industry as a whole.

It’s like I always say – if you’re going to copy, PAY HOMAGE and say “inspired by.”  If you’re a company beyond a certain size and doing a certain volume a year, don’t rip off from the little guys.  You’re supposed to be the innovators.  Innovate.  Don’t hide behind a mistaken and self-righteous “I did it first, so there!  It’s mine!”  And I’m looking at YOU, Ms. von Furstenberg.  Bah.

Thanks, Jenn, for the link!  You are always so on top of things:-)

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