December 2011

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2011.

Satin, silk, lace and fur echo layers of frost and snow in these dream-like dresses, coats and capes suitable for a New Year’s Eve Snow Ball.

Satin strapless dress, damask coat with satin bow Sassi Hoiford. Sheepskin wrap, Celtic Sheepskin

Bouclé wool and satin bodice dress, bouclé wool coat with floral collar, Bruce Oldfield

Satin jacket with a bustle trimmed with faux fur and matching satin skirt, Angelina Colarusso. Sheepskin wrap, Celtic Sheepskin

Vintage lace paneled dress, vintage lace coat with appliquéd flowers

Satin Spaghetti strap dress, collarless silk coat with train and silk bar at bust, Amanda Wakley. Fur cape, Vlasta Coilu

Images by Carl Bengtsson via Selvedge 

For more New Year’s inspiration click here


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Don’t you love this card designed by my creative cycling friend, Ann? Have a wonderful weekend everyone. My studio is closed today. I’m taking a few ski runs, decorating my tree and starting my wrapping!

© Ann Howard 2011

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My husband and have been invited to a nighttime wedding, on skis, at the top of a mountain this holiday season. It seems a little dull to don our daily skiwear for such a special occasion. I’ve always love skiing in skirts and I plan to pull something together folkloric or Nordic inspired – and warm.

When I suggested that he wear one of these quilted men’s sport coats, my husband scoffed at the price tags, and the look entirely. However, I think the trend of insulated (down or synthetic) button front jackets with lapels is pretty cool. Designers for these high-end brands most likely see the success of the lightweight down sweaters made by popular outdoor brands and are reinventing them.

Getting your ski bum man into a down sport coat, one turn shy of a parka, is another turn closer to a coat and tie – if that’s where you want him to go.

Jacket | $1,495, Barneys, New York

Nylon Quilted Coat | $1,347, Etro, New York

Z Zegna Outerwear | $1,195,

Moncler Gamme Bleu Jacket | $2,780, Moncler Boutique, New York

Ralph Lauren Black Label Quilted Down Filled Jacket | $995,

Via: Wall Street Journal

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Looking for the perfect gift for the skier in your life? Look no more. Vermont fine artist and passionate skier Tracy Dunphy recycles vintage wooden skis into works of art. She removes ancient pine tar, then sands and stains the wood to its original perfection. Her steady hand then applies a painted garland of colorful folk art flowers inspired by alpine cultures. As a finishing touch, the skis receive a coat of hand rubbed wax, adding depth and warmth.

“Skiing is such an important part of my life, it’s natural for me to use skis as a canvas where I can explore illustrative imagery associated with skiing history and mountain environments,” says Tracy.

Tracy just finished working on these beautiful circa 1970’s 210 cm. cross country skis and dropped by my studio to show them to me. I love the way she remounted the original Rottefella 3-pin bindings. They add a touch of authenticity.

Wouldn’t skis like these make a sweet wedding gift if customized with his and her names? Or be a perfect decorating accent for a chalet or ski town restaurant? Tracy will restore your own wooden skis or select from her stock. Allow plenty of time for custom orders because it’s super time consuming to paint all those delicate flowers.

Admiring her fine brushwork, I find her asking price of $600 for this pair worth every penny. For more information about these skis email Tracy  at




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It’s mid-December in Vermont and there is just the thinnest veneer of snow on the ground. Not much for those of us who live for snow and the recreation it allows us. Perhaps if we all do a snow dance, make offerings to Ullr, and draw a snowflake every day, we may break this unfortunate weather pattern.

Edward L. Platt, a lover of math and physics, is one who does draws a snowflake, by hand, every day and he shares them on his website PenFlakes.

Platt says, “One day while I was out with friends, I saw an eight-sided snowflake decoration, and found myself explaining hydrogen bonding, and why real snowflakes have six sides. Later on, I was doodling, and wound up doodling some snowflakes. I was surprised at how beautiful they looked, and intrigued by the possibility of making them bigger and more intricate.”

You can see his flakes on his site or better yet, make your own on his “Flake Pad”. Make lots – please! Think Snow!

via Adventure Journal

For more winter inspiration click here.

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If you’re an outdoor enthusiast you already know that even a 2-degree drop in body temperature could result in early stage hypothermia. Symptoms include slower heart rate, mental confusion, and lack of coordination. It also means adults find it hard to work and children find it difficult to learn.

As an outerwear designer I have a large assortment of winter coats and jackets. Some are samples, some are for testing and others are from production. I can’t possibly wear them all and I have a certain amount of guilt whenever I open my overstuffed mudroom closets. So donating my “old” coats to winter coat drives has always made me feel a bit better about sporting the latest and greatest.

Did you know that 15% of Americans, those living in poverty, are forced to consider a warm winter coat a budget “extra?”

Here are some startling facts about those who need a warm coat this year:

  • the 1 in 5 children who live in poverty in the U.S.
  • the 31% of U.S. children who live in families where no parent has a full-time job
  • the estimated 671,850 Americans who are homeless on any given winter night

‘One Warm Coat’ was founded with one goal in mind. To collect coats to give to those who need them, free of charge.

If you buy a new coat this winter consider donating your old one. Visit One Warm Coat to find a coat drive near you. There are 17 coat drives listed within a 150 mile radius of where I live.

Your donation will warm needy children, women and men. And your heart as well.

Via: Wild Things Gear



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High in the Swiss Alps between 1900 and 1960 indestructible Swiss Army blankets were hand woven in alpine villages from the grey and brown wool of local sheep. The blankets, woven with the characteristic red stripe and white cross were stored in caves for many peaceful decades until synthetic sleeping bags replaced them. Each blanket bears the initials of the maker and the date it was woven. Sometimes a stainless steel coin or seal is woven into the fabric. Each one is unique.

In the Swiss village of Törbel, cobbler Titus Karlen came up with the idea to reuse the blankets by hand stitching them into heavy-duty tote bags and knapsacks. Their leather straps are recycled from straps and belts from the Swiss army.

Family run Karlen Swiss, the largest employer in the village of Törbel, contributes to the local economy by providing jobs to women who would otherwise have to travel beyond the valley for work. Their work is synonymous with Swiss quality and ingenuity.

My passion for Swiss mountain culture (edelweiss, cheese, skiing, cow bells, mountain huts, yodeling) is embodied in the blanket bags. So many aspects of this collection appeal to me; the recycling of vintage, yet new, blankets into practical, rugged and attractive bags and accessories, all bag components are handmade, and that the “hand” of the original craftsperson is evident in each individual piece. Guess what’s on my Christmas list?


Photos via The Desalpes Company - another Swiss company making bags and household items from vintage Swiss Army blankets.

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We have a winner! Kathleen from the Fashion Incubator blog (check it out!) won my 2nd Anniversary Thank You & Give-Away. A pair of hand knit mittens from Lost Horizons is on the way to her. The mittens, designed by me, are hand knit in Nepal in a woman’s co-operative and can be found at many natural food co-ops around the country (unfortunately the company doesn’t have a website).

Kathleen writes, “I would like to see more of the design process. The real life side of it that laymen don’t understand or know exists. In sum, the boring paperwork, project management of execution. This would be invaluable to any aspiring designer.”

I received similar comments from other readers. I will do more of this. I’ll just need to think ahead, keep my inspiration boards and take photos as projects progress.

I start working on a design project sometimes up to 18 months before the collection arrives in stores. That’s how long it takes to design, make prototypes (usually 2 rounds), to weave and dye the fabrics or yarns, make salesman samples, take orders from retailers at trade shows, make and ship the item from the factory and then send it on to the retail store – whew!

Alas, I’m not able to show product that isn’t in the market yet. I’ve almost forgotten about the stuff I’ve designed by the time it hits the store floor.

Another of Kathleen’s comments: “By all means, be more commercial. By that I mean, flog the products from your job. Let us know about them.” As soon as I am able, I promise I will post more of my work with links to where you can find it here and on my facebook page.

Thank you everyone for all of your thoughtful comments and for your subscriptions. I really enjoy hearing your thoughts and ideas and you’ve introduced me to all sorts of new things – you keep me going!

This is my concept sketch for the mittens Kathleen won. Sometimes I like to get away from my computer and sketch by hand as I’ve done here. My drawing skills have become sloppy because I use a computer all the time, so spending some time hand sketching keeps me limber.


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Last weekend’s jaunt to New York City was just the reinvigorating boost I needed for my creative juices. I was delighted to visit the Met’s new galleries devoted to the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran and Central Asia, wander through the Christmas market at Union Square, check out the over-the-top skiwear at Paragon Sports, eat fresh cannoli in Little Italy, meander along the High Line and to wear out my soles walking every street in Soho.

It’s been so warm and snowless in Vermont I’ve been having a hard time believing the holiday season is upon us. In New York people were dining in outdoor cafes and the roses were blooming!

However, the Bergdorf Goodman holiday window displays on 5th Avenue nudged me into the spirit. They are absolutely magical and it was worth ogling them shoulder to shoulder with the throngs of onlookers.

This year’s theme is “Carnival of the Animals“. Each mannequin is draped with the most exquisite couture dress and surrounded by multitudes of antique and hand crafted animals. Some are taxidermy intricately hand decorated with beading, sumptuous fabrics, papier-mâché, paint or needlework. I could have spent an hour with my nose pressed to each window and still not have seen every intricate detail!

Built around a vintage collection of mixed-metal birds and jungle animals, “The Brass Menagerie” is set in a stylized tropical forest of metal and mirror and glimmers with leafy foliage of brass and steel.  Within this forest is a fantasy recording studio, with vintage microphones and a brass “primate” jazz combo.  The floor is covered several inches deep with a secret quantity of copper pennies and hundreds of fishing lures hang from the walls and ceiling.  For this window, a special dress was created by Naeem Khan.

“Breaking the Ice” is my favorite window.  It invites viewers to a mid-afternoon arctic garden party whose guests include “couture plush” animals such as polar bears, a moose, an arctic mountain goat, a seal, and a of pair wolves.  All the animals have been upholstered in luxe white textiles and appliquéd with icy crystals, beads, and sequins.  A Baccarat chandelier adds luster.  The party hostess is the focus of attention in her specially designed dress and one-of-a-kind cape, all by J. Mendel.

Completely encrusted with hand-cut Italian mosaic tile, this intensely blue window is truly an undersea fantasy.  A single mannequin, in a seashell dress from the Alexander McQueen Spring 2012 collection, appears to be floating amid a massive collection of mosaic sea creatures. Everything is highly patterned, with swirling textures and oceanic colors. The ocean floor is dotted with a treasure chest worth of jewelry. “Testing the Waters” is quite the aquatic triumph as its production was 10 months in the making and is the most labor-intensive single window display in Bergdorf Goodman history.

“Teacher’s Pets” is an inspiration for book artists as it takes viewers inside a 3-dimensional paper classroom filled with black and white paper animals, including a life-sized paper zebra, ostrich, panda bear, aardvark, white peacock, and more.  As the “students” pose within a cascade of zoological textbooks, the teacher – dressed in a black and white lace Marchesa gown – presides over the paper bestiary.  Noted New York calligrapher, Bernard Maisner, provided hand-lettered labels, in Latin, for all the animals.

In the final window, “Artists and Models,” a diverse collection of wood and leather folk-art animals from all continents gathers together.  The setting is a sculptor’s studio out of a folk tale, with an enormous assemblage of wooden creatures and woodworkers hand tools.  A mannequin, dressed in a mélange of designers, assumes the role of sculptor, assisted by several antique wooden artists’ models and by a quartet of antic leather monkeys.

 Bravo to David Hoey, Senior Director of Visual Presentation at Bergdorf’s and his team who devote an entire year to the production of the holiday windows! This qualifies as a dream job!

Info about the windows from 5th/58th. The full window photos were taken by Ricky Zehavi. I took the detailed shots and wish I’d taken more!

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Check these items out at Title Nine!

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People often ask me how I create the color palettes on my blog. Using Photoshop software, I scale a photo that inspires me and then place it into an Adobe Illustrator template that I created for my palettes. The template has an empty box the size of my photo and more empty boxes below for the color swatches. Using the eyedropper tool in Illustrator, I select the colors I like from the photo and fill the little boxes below it with colors.

This works well for me, but it’s not possible for those non-designers without Photoshop or Illustrator or similar software. My friend Judy introduced me to a fun and addicting alternative way of working with color palettes using your own photos called Kuler.

Anyone can sign up and access Kuler on line for free. You pinpoint the colors that you want to highlight in a photo that you have downloaded and voila! they show up in the color bar below it. You can change the colors as many time as you like and then save your palettes to your personal folder or share them. Believe me, you can spend a lot of time playing around with this app! This is what it looks like.

You can also experiment with different analogous, complementary and compound color combinations of your choice as shown below.

Color Scheme Designer is another fun site that also allows you to experiment with various color combinations. It looks like this:

Does anyone have any other interactive color sites that are fun to fool around with? Let me know what you think of these sites.

TODAY is the last day to enter Poppy Gall Design Studio Thank You & Give Away. Click here for details and good luck!

For more color inspiration click here.

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