Days 3-10: in which I visit friends and make a purchase (or two)


I spent my last morning in Iceland in the city of Reykjavik. I tracked down the Handknitting Association of Iceland where I purchased 650g of Plotulopi which is an unspun Icelandic yarn. It’s very light and fragile, because it isn’t spun, just pulled out into lengths. I bought three cakes of ivory and one each of bright pink, turquoise and yellow. I think it should be enough for a winter jacket or cardigan. I also bought a little bit of fleece to see if it will spin, though the lady said she thought it would be better for felting. I had tea and the most delicious apple and chocolate cake at the perfect tea rooms, furnished with Victorian sofas, needlepoint cushions and crocheted doilies, with Oscar Wilde plays scattered around the place. For lunch I went to the Laundromat Cafe where I envied the colour-coded bookshelves and was amused to find the Mills and Boon section.

Flight to Dulles was uneventful but passport control at the airport took forever. I did possibly the naughtiest thing I’ve ever done and disobeyed the instruction to join a very long queue when there was a very short queue at the next booth. I had a lovely couple of days with my friends in DC. We went to see the exhibition of First Ladies dresses at the Smithsonian which was fun and also saw the most incredible dolls’ house. Then we walked up to the Library of Congress where I mostly looked at the ceilings which are amazing.

After DC, I had five lovely days with old friends in Philly, before heading up to NYC yesterday. I wanted to go to Mood Fabrics and Karyn (who is coming on the cruise with me) wanted to go to Muji. I bought a ton of fabrics in Mood, where Karyn bought a little bit.

DSCF4096

These are all mine. Two lots of fine knit jersey for summer cardigans (I couldn’t choose between the two colourways), some cotton voile for a blouse, and some absolutely beautiful pink floral silk for a summer dress.

After that we went to Muji where I bought a couple of bits and Karyn bought lots. I especially loved their stamp station near the exit where you could personalise the notebooks and things you’d bought. Here are mine: DSCF4095

Today we went to the Met, mostly to see the Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibition. I admit, I had never heard of Charles James but I’m always happy to see a display of beautiful dresses. As it was, we were both really blown away by the exhibition. We went to the basement rooms first, where they showed coats, evening gowns, suits and even a dressing gown. There was also a display of documents, photos, muslins and dress forms. I adored his list of ‘Clients I Would Have Liked To Dress’ with his notes on why: “Audrey Hepburn: a wisp of iron; Greta Garbo: Need I say more?” but also Mick Jagger, David Bowie (androgynous beauty), Princess Margaret (born a fairy princess but sadness later in life), Lana Turner (underrated actress) and many more.

But, oh, the garments. The construction. The tailoring. And – most of all – the incredible presentation in the exhibition. The garments were displayed in a way that allowed you to see all around them and then there were electronic displays which showed the 3D construction of the garments. Each seam line was so carefully and beautifully placed to highlight the woman’s figure. One quote said that James spent up to 12 hours on a single seam to get it perfectly placed. The displays showed some of the historical garments which inspired the shapes and forms he used as well as giving close ups of the fabrics, the underlinings and linings and other shaping techniques. In the ground floor gallery, which focussed on his dramatic ballgowns, the dresses were scanned to give a 3D rendering which could be turned and zoomed in on, to show the detailing of the seams. They also had X-ray images of different parts of the gown, showing the multiple layers of net, pellon, horsehair braid, boning and fashion fabric. These aren’t just dresses, they are wearable sculptures. I don’t remember ever seeing such a well-displayed exhibition with information that enhanced the experience so much. You didn’t just get to look at beautiful garments, you got an education in design, tailoring and draping. Whoever put it all together deserves all the awards going. If you’re in NYC before August, you really should go and see it.

(c) Metropolitan Museum

(c) Metropolitan Museum

So, they have a shop at the Met. Which sells, among other things, postcards of Charles James dresses (check), books for small children (check), gifts for mothers (check), beautiful necklaces for Ros (check):

necklace

And now President Obama is in NYC, they are closing streets and the place is even more chaotic than usual so we are going to have to walk to the theatre tonight. We’re seeing The Lion King.