Stitch V: Would You Like Some Glam in Your DIY?

November 10, Austin Convention Center

When we left the Stitch Fashion Show and Guerrilla Craft Bazaar in the last gasps of Saturday night with the spats-like leg-warmers we had reclaimed from some other soul's long-forgotten sweater sleeves, we weren't feeling thrifty or clever, or even a little crunchy. Instead, the event, considered as the sum of its impressive and varied parts, brought sexy back to the sewing table. Women of every age, shape, size, and level of style-consciousness could, for once, all feel sexy for the same reason. What used to be, "It's not how you look, it's what you think," mutated to, "It's not how you look, it's who you wear," tonight becomes, "We like how you look, but it's really about what you make." Just to note, there were some beautiful male creatures there as well, but you know who you are.

What follows here is a fairly straight recounting of our impressions, as the sudden need for surger, notions, and abandoned knitwear is too seductive to ignore. On the way out we actually heard people musing about what they could do with their bright green admit-bracelets.

Foremost, we'd like to dissuade any notion to the uninitiated of a frumpy, "loving-hands-at-home" clatch-fest. Not here. Calico hens would have been terribly out-of-place at Stitch. But not the friendly felt owls hooting over the edge of their basket at LuckyKitty Design, wanting to go home with you for Christmas. But the newsflash in felt was the fresh handmade scarf and flower selection over at our newest obsession from Louisiana, supermaggie. By the way, if you're still thinking how nice it is to see interesting shapes pieced together in felt, again, not here. When they say "handmade," they mean handmade felt. More fantasy felt could be seen in the organic, sculptural forms of Tennessee's Breanna Rockstad-Kincaid. These are lovingly thoughtful pieces that include romantic frame handbags with stamped, velvet-like trimming. Screened T-shirts could be found in every shape and color, and stand-out bibs for the wee at the chaos that was Sheriff Peanut's tabletop party.

There was so much industry and style evident in every display space here, especially among the jewelry designers. Even sponsor Carlo Rossi's Jug Simple Disco Jug sparkled proudly as it rotated on a pink pedestal. Poking past the maribou tap pants at Austin's Boudoir Queen we found unique Victorian cuffs fashioned from vintage and found beaded elements. There were also lovely silhouettes and other "handmade artifacts" at photographer l.e.lake's opticwaste. We were sorry to have missed the free updos at Bird's, but resolve to stop by for a Ladybird special before the holidays (shampoo, cut, blow, $39). Flashback: Last year's resolve to get a Chia hat for those bad-hair holidays, and surely someone on your list deserves the same advantage. If not, grace them with 22" arm-warmers (by the time we've outfitted our extremities, what will become of the middle?).

The tireless folks from were on hand along with office-mates BurdaStyle, a virtual on-line sewing circle, that, like Etsy, is about perpetuating old-school craft with new technology. Take a few minutes to check out the site, you'll be glad you did. If you just couldn't wait to get home before jumping behind a machine, there were several set up in the First Samples space. A sewing and design school here in Austin, First Samples offers advanced sewing as well as a six-hour Sewing Boot Camp for beginners.

Stitch is a two-part event ending with a fashion show. An appearance by Project Runway alum Bradley Baumkirchner and the trailer for the wonderful upcoming documentary and book, Handmade Nation (Princeton Architectural Press) preceded the show. Faythe Levine and her crew have visited 15 cities and held more than fifty interviews with artists, curators, and collectives for a snapshot of the ice-flow known as DIY.

The volume of assorted finery produced by the 15 designers showcased in this year 's line-up is too much to convey here; you must make it next year to fully appreciate the show, as emceed this year by Matt Bearden, and rocked by DJ Big Face. The anticipated Indie Upstart Award went to Denton-based House of Dang!, which couldn't surprise anyone, considering their cunning career-grrrl looks. The most striking thing in general about the show is the good news: workaholic, young, insouciant designers are focusing on engineering with fabric, not simply finding new ways to decorate the "currently-done" proportions. Garments here were sculpted from beautifully fluid jerseys, Rebecca Yaker's sock monkey knits, stiff Victorian mourning taffeta, shredded satin flapper-fringe from Boudoir Queen, silk crepe that appeared to have been frosted on the body with a paper knife. Tucks, darts, pleats, and drape, all used in new ways that transcend the predictable. It was a great night for design.

We have to wonder, though, if the lost owner of these sleeves-turned-spats ever thinks about that sweater.

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More by Anne Harris
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