Sunday, November 25, 2018

The 2018 Indie Designer Gift-a-long - Some Opening Thoughts

Yes, everyone, it is that time of year again – the 2018 Indie Designer Gift-a-long rang the opening bell on Friday, November 23rd, at 8:00 pm EST. This year’s version features a whopping 349 designers, including yours truly.

As usual, we are in the midst of this year’s GAL kick-off sale – each of those 349 designers has designated up to 20 items eligible for a nifty 25% off at checkout (with the giftalong2018 code entered) – and I am not immune to a good sale. No, no siree Bob. Each year I purchase patterns from my fellow designers, and I have (so far, I may or may not be done) picked up three designs that I just may work up during the next six weeks: the Cacophony Shawl from upstart designer Margo Bauman, Annie Modesitt’s awesome Pembroke Jacket, and the Urban Frieze cowl from one of my favorite Italy-based indie designers, Paola Albergamo. These designs figure (to a greater or lesser degree) into my own gift-making plans this season, and I’ll be posting project progress and photos to my Instagram feed (with all appropriate hashtags), so I’d suggest following there for all the good and (goofing!) details.

A sampling from my design sale bundle
As is also my yearly wont, I once again have put together a 2018 GAL Pinterest board of a sampling of totally rockin’ designs from virtually all 349 of my fellow designers. Yup, I spent two days and more mugs of coffee than I can count digging through each designer’s respective sale bundle (which we each designate beforehand), as well as looking through some non-sale items in certain instances, and taking a peek at a seemingly never-ending stream of photos to put together one of the most colorful, eye-catching displays of indie crochet and knit designs, like, ever. And, yes, my entire sale bundle of designs is interspersed in the board (containing almost 800 pins!!!), but that is not why I have, and continue to, engage in this design-pinning marathon.

Designing exclusively in a fiber medium (specifically crochet and knit garments and accessories for both self and home) is, at its most basic, a reflection of self and what animates each of us. My fellow indie designers and I put our hearts and souls and sweat and tears and talent into each and every design we publish.  We put ourselves out there every day in ways big and small. It is all guts and a very teeny, tiny, eensy, weensy amount of glory. This yearly gift-making celebration was conceived as a way to celebrate indie designers and their designs. Curating a Pinterest board every year is my way of contributing to that celebration. It is geared to showing off my fellow designers’ respective designs, and there is an additional happy and long-lasting by-product.

As I think most devotees of Pinterest know, pinners receive various Pinterest emails each week pushing pins and boards. I also receive (along with most other pinners with businesses) a weekly recap of one’s top three pins. For every week during the last oh, at least, two months, one of my most popular pins is one I pinned to my 2015 curated Gift-a-along board. Yes, a pin from 2015 is still getting all kinds of exposure for its designer.  That is one helluva designy half-life, and one I am more than pleased and happy to report and help create.

So, please, I hope everyone will join me in celebrating our yearly tribute to indie design, indie designers who give so much all the time, and makers who embrace the best of the season and make gifts like there’s no tomorrow. ‘Tis the season for it all, people. I raise my coffee mug to that.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

On Veteran's Day ... and Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, Part 2

Jacqueline Cochran, in uniform, 1943. Photo:
We here in the U.S. are set to celebrate Veteran's Day tomorrow, October 11th. Of course, we are not the only country paying tribute to war veterans, as France is currently marking the centenary of the end of WWI.

I thought this might be a fitting time to post the second part of my article on the Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, who was a veteran of WWI: she settled for driving an ambulance on the front, after the French government turned down her request to fly for France. The Baroness gave so much to that particular war effort, and of course she was not alone, although I am uncertain whether France formally recognizes the sacrifice of the women who served in non-traditional capacities.

Of course, this non-recognition of female war contributions continued (at least in the U.S.) through WWII. Notably, Jacqueline Cochran, the head of the WASP - Women's Air Force Service Pilots - which trained many women to fly during WWII, fought hard to get female pilots the official federal government recognition their service and sacrifice so richly deserved. Unfortunately, Cochran was unsuccessful in that attempt, and other attempts since then have also failed. 

So, to honor all veterans' service - both official and non-official - here is the second and final part of the amazing story of the first woman of flight, Baroness Raymonde de Laroche. (If you missed the first part, feel free to access it here.)

Raymonde de Laroche, the Baroness of Flight

The Baroness Raymond de Laroche. Photo
from Airbus.
When we last left the Baroness, she had just successfully competed with male pilots in the first five days at the second Grande Semaine d’Aviation in July, 1910 in Reims, France. On the sixth day, however, she suffered an incredible accident that saw her almost die on the competitive field.

Elise remained grounded for six months after the Reims accident as she recuperated, returning to the airfield on crutches in January 1911. Throughout 1911, she resumed flying and successively traded up to better planes until she was piloting a Farman biplane. By this point, she and Charles were living together. Voisin had left the family plane business to manage a group of the best pilots of the day, including Roland Garros (for whom the French Open tennis match was named).

In the same year, dangerous machines caused another tragedy for de LaRoche even when her feet remained squarely planted on the ground. She and Charles were driving near Lyons when they collided with another car. Charles died at the scene, and Elise sustained serious injuries.

The Baroness turning to flying (in new-to-her plane manufacturers) for solace, and it played an eventful role for her in 1912. Although de Laroche had been working her way through a series of different planes other than Voisins prior to Charles’ death, there was no more relationship with either the Voisin brothers or their planes since Gabriel, Charles’ surviving brother, blamed her for the accident.  Additionally, a French company, Office d’Aviation, was supposed to provide her with a plane as well as secure her flying engagements, which it did not do. As a result, she brought a breach of contract claim against the company, and after initially losing in a lower tribunal, won a 10,000 francs court judgment in the Fourth Chamber.

Then, in 1913, the year in which one of her Belgian contemporaries, Hélène Dutrieu, announced her retirement from flying, the Baroness won the coveted European Femina Cup—and the hefty prize money that came with it—for setting a flight record by a female pilot. She also seemed to fully recover from her loss of Charles Voisin and married Jacques Vial in the same year. Had it not been for the outbreak of WWI, when all non-military flight came to a halt, she would have continued, unabated, to fly.

However, when WWI broke out in 1914, civilian flying – including that of the Baroness - came to a complete stop. Elise actually wanted to fly for France, but had to settle for driving an automobile instead. She survived the war, but these years greatly impacted the rest of her life: the government requisitioned her plane to fight the war, her husband Vial died on the battlefield, and the Spanish flu killed her son.

In the summer of 1919, after setting (for a brief time) a women’s altitude record, de Laroche visited the airfield at Le Crotoy Somme, where she was offered a ride in a new Caudron airplane. Elise was in the process of reimagining a new “first” role for herself- that of test pilot. No other woman had, to that point, qualified for that type of pilot work. At just 33 years old, however, Elise died on that flight, along with the pilot. Flight’s obituary notice on July 24, 1919, approvingly documented her many achievements and closed with a nod to one of many controversies at the time: “A few weeks ago she took a machine up to a height of 4,900 metres (16,170 ft.) but the French Club refused to recognize ‘women’s records,’ a decision which has caused some discussion across the Channel.” Local flying clubs had forbid women to compete with men, but since the FAI was the official international record-keeping body, Elise and all other women had used it as a way to crack the gender flight ceiling.

It is clear that de Laroche loved flying and remained dedicated to it despite the obvious and the all-to-often fatal risks involved in early aviation. The Baroness, in her own words, hauntingly alluded to both her dedication and the associated risk, when she spoke to reporters after she earned her pilot’s license in 1910: “Most of us spread the perils of a lifetime over a number of years. Others may pack them into a matter of only a few hours. In any case, whatever is to happen will happen. It may well be that I shall tempt fate once too often. Who knows? But it is to the air that I have dedicated myself, and I fly always without the slightest fear.”

Further Reading:

Gibson, Karen Bush. Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013
Lavoie, Denise. Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace: Crochet and Knit Designs Inspired by the Early Females of Flight Including Bessie Coleman and Harriet Quimby. Seattle: Tough as Lace Publishing, 2015.
Lebow, Eileen F. Before Amelia. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's Inc., 2002.
Lieberg, Owen S. The First Air Race: The International Competition at Reims, 1909. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1974.
Marck, Bernard. Women Aviators: From Amelia Earhart to Sally Ride, Making History in Air and Space. Paris: Flammariion, 2009.
Pawlak, Debra Ann. “The Baroness of Flight,” Aviation History (July 1, 2008).
Villard, Henry Serrano, and William M. Allen, Jr. Looping the Loop: Posters of Flight. Carlsbad, California: Kales Press, 2000.
Voisin, Gabriel. Men, Women, and 10,000 Kites. London: Putnam, 1963

Magazine articles:
Air Trails, July, 1953 – “The Brave Baroness – First Licensed Ladybird,” Harry Harper, pp. 19-21, 56, 58.
Flying, March, 1957 – “The Intrepid First Lade of Flight,” Harry Harper, pp. 34, 84-85.
Icare, Revue de l’Aviation, edited by SNPL France ALPA (Association des Pilotes de Ligne), December 2012, vol.
            no. 223 – Courses et Meetings Aeriens de la Belle Epoque (1909-1914) – Vol. 2: 1910, pp 12-12, 18, 86-
            88, 95 (a French language publication).
Knitting Traditions, Fall, 2017 - "Aviation's Baroness: Elise Raymonde de Laroche," Denise Lavoie, pp. 22-27.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year ... Almost

Ok, my fellow makers - November is here!!!!! My absolute favorite month of the year, because we now can focus on all things U.S. Thanksgiving ... and Indie Gift-a-long making. 

Oh yes, my maker friends, we are just weeks away from that gifty-making-marathon known as the Indie Gift-a-long. While I will not be a forum moderator this year, I do intend on being a participating designer, and I am getting all of my design-y administrative ducks in a row in time for the designer sign-up period, which starts November 14. 

Of course, I am still completing projects in my hosted make-a-long for Slow Fashion October, featuring the designs from Five(ish) Easy Pieces, as well as finishing up the test for The Lost Tee. Nevertheless, I am still super excited that soon we'll all be a-GALing: celebrating another great year of indie design, making gifts, and eating turkey sandwiches. 

To help get things kicked off, I am now making available to the general public the thank you holiday design I gave to my newsletter subscribers and Ravelry group members last November - the Rustic and Jeweled Winter Snowflake. This one-skein project (compliments of Malabrigo Rasta) works up in an afternoon. If you decide, like me, to hand-bead it after blocking ... well ... then it will take just a leeeeetle bit longer to complete. 

Nevertheless, it looked rather dramatic last year decorating my front door, and I am looking forward to dressing up my space again this year in its holiday finery very soon.

But only after my other projects are completed. Head down, and bloggy update on those very soon.