Saturday, December 28

today in the studio ... stencils

Well, today the studio is my dining-room table.  I picked up a set of vintage brass stencils. I'm doing some low-contrast gray-on-gray
stenciling that will get washed, stitched on, and defaced in other ways then put on clothes and maybe bags. I'm playing. We'll see where it goes. Hopefully I won't end up making Secret Lentil prison jumpers.

I'm also dyeing some shirts and some linen yardage, so the day consists of running up and down the cellar stairs and washing my hands eight thousand times. aka, fun.

p.s. Iron? What is an iron?

Wednesday, December 25

the sale gets bigger.

What's this? Secret Lentil sale update - everything online is now 40% off - use discount code "FORTY" when you check out. Ends 12/31

Monday, December 23

today in the studio ... meditative freeform stitching, study in gray

Thursday, December 19

a big sale, then a bigger sale

So — hello. I'm having a big sale.

On ... everything. It's ... you know, just ... one of those fussy artist things. I'm ready to stir things up a bit. It's time. With other artists whose paths I admire I look forward to those moments when they flip their tables over, leave some old ways — even good ones — and forge ahead into the unknown. I hope you do too! These shifts used to terrify me, but I've been doing this for long enough now that I can skip right to excitement phase. This week I started working on a special collection of work — complexly layered, hand-dyed, with hand-stitching — but honestly those words don't really start to cover it. I guess I'm not ready to put it into words yet. But in a few weeks I'll have the first collection ready to share with you. I. Can't. Wait.

In the meantime, scoop up what's online now. It probably won't be available after this sale, depending on where I fall on the Helen Impetuousness Scale at that time! So:

From now until December 25th:
everything on is 30% off.

Then from December 26th through 31st:
everything that's left is 40% off.

• So right now use discount code THIRTY when you check out.
• Then from December 26th through 31st use discount code FORTY.

onward and upward — helen

Tuesday, December 10

the making of a 37-inch ubersleeve ...


the experience of show prep represented by a single image


Friday, December 6

good tension

Among the many awkwardnesses of making one-of-a-kind work is the need to seal my website shut while I am at a show in real life, as I'm doing today. It violates every fear-based business rule in the book. It goes against our instant access why-didn't-someone-return-my-email-in-three-minutes modern reality.

There is so much fear lurking under the perceived need to have people's attention constantly, to have what they need at the exact moment they need it. And there is so much false scarcity built into our consumerism - so much that sometimes it's hard for me to feel sincere talking about the real scarcity that naturally rises out of my slow, deliberate, artisan building of things one at a time. Just finding a website that will work with unique pieces was a challenge - I have to do a stupid amount of tweaking that someone who sells crates of generic widgets never has to think about. 

But honestly I love the way my work creates some strain with that other sleek unforgiving world. It's good to not fit in, even though there's some resulting awkwardness. It's good tension. Now that I've done this whole weird making-dog-and-pony-show-life for as long as I have it's harder to scare me. I've looked into the pit of fear, the pit of not-enough, the pit of I-will-lose-them, and learned that the lesson is: don't look into that pit.

So I'll be off this weekend chatting with people about my clothes, right in real life, in a crammed craftshow booth with a tiny dressing room stuffed in the corner. They will try some things on, we'll hoot and laugh and have fun and if all goes well I'll send them on their way with a bag full of Secret Lentil. Then I'll come back here, open back up and carry on. The world won't end. Ebb and flow, people, ebb and flow.

Wednesday, November 27

in the red, and the black.

I made a bunch of red and black stuff.

Monday, November 4

podbaggia giganticus

Secret Lentil large pod-shaped bags

Current obsession: making gigantic pod-shaped bags.

Thursday, October 31

today in the studio ... Utaupia

in progress: Utaupia — military-surplus-meets-Lynn-Yaeger shell

I have had this striped taupe and ivory fabric kicking around for a while. It's linen with a fairly high lycra content, so it's a bit rustly and bustly and needed a design that matched it's feel and weight. While digging through my collection of old belts I realized it was a nice match - it pushed the whole thing into the realm of the parachute or other faux emergency preparedness-wear. So I made this: Utaupia. It's a military-surplus-meets-Lynn-Yeager-inmydreams shell that has billows, tucks, a belt for one strap, a crustaceany side panel and lower along the other side, a drawstring for scrunching things up (not in place at photo time).

I finished it. I stared at it. I had a bit of stripey material left. I thought: okay, now this needs the WORLD'S MOST GIGANTIC MATCHING TOTE BAG to go with it. So I made one. It's bulbous. It's gargantuan. I'm kind of smitten with it. More pictures soon. -helen

Saturday, October 26

helen's mini-all-star drape and coffee revue on a cold saturday morning

It's finally cold enough outside that I realize "Oh, I had forgotten what real cold feels like." I'm sipping hot coffee and staring at Pinterest before I return to processing and listing what now feels eight million linen cuffs. Plus I'm baking some kale chips — 1/3 to eat them and 2/3 to warm up the house a bit.

But mostly I'm staring at this Yohji Yamamoto dress. Everything about it makes me happy. Some days I wish I was Yohji Yamamoto. Sans the cigarettes.

I've also been staring at this Rick Owens jacket:
Rick Owens, 2006
What is so alluring about drape? I guess for me, as a maker, it's that creative draping is the playground between what we're really shaped like and the form of a piece of clothing. It's the place where our ego meets our dress. If there's one thing I've learned from years of making things with asymmetric oversized hips and protrusions: some people are willing to experiment with that and some aren't. When someone tries a piece like that on and tugs at a flap and fusses with it and says "I don't know if I can ..." what am I to do? I'm trying to train myself to stop responding with "Well, no one thinks you're shaped like that" since it hasn't helped once. I admit I'm still tempted though. But if you aren't there I can't move you there. It's kind of a big thing, deciding to play with your place in the world like that and risk being misunderstood.

If you want to join me and stare at more creative draping, here's my Pinterest board "Drape."

Tuesday, October 22

mystery package

Monday, October 21

“Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.” — Walter, in The Big Lebowski

I told facebook that Secret Lentil is a bowling alley and now I can't change it.
Maybe I'll start renting shoes.

Thursday, October 10

oh etsy. etsy.

They actually said "Hiring Folks Empowers Your Creative Genius" — yes that's a real quote. I have no words.

Monday, October 7

SALE on Petalista Skirts

I don't always pay attention to seasonal colors, but these tan / natural Petalista skirts are looking at me funny, like they want to get out of the Superette before the snow flies.  They're on sale for $48 while they last. Here here here.

Thursday, October 3

today in the studio: a healthy mess

I surprised my studio today by taking its picture without advance warning - no cleaning, no props — this is an average day. But it's also the five year anniversary of moving into my studio so I thought a document was in order. It's a nice place to make a mess in, then clean up that mess and start again. As it should be!

Tuesday, October 1

"It's the plumber, I've come to make some art."

"The second person to put a urinal into a museum ... was merely a plumber." — Seth Godin

Monday, September 30

today in the studio: sculpting wool

Today I'm finishing this sculpted vest made from recycled wool. It's deep burgundy with graphite thread, which will become more clear when Mr. Lentil takes the real pictures of it, but here are a few in-progress shots.

It has lots of textured bubbly free-form stitching, crustaceany shapes, closes in front with a vintage button and also ties on one side under the arms. I wish it was wool season all year round, it's so nice to work with it again.

Though it doesn't quite feel like wool season yet - it's been sunny and in the 70's every day, which only makes people around here suspicious waiting for the other shoe to drop -  but I've been trying to enjoy it anyway.  Mr. Lentil and I spent some time slogging around in the woods this weekend - it was just before sunset and we saw a few deer.

No, this is not a pastel rendering, it's me continuing to be the least patient camera operator on earth.  It was great to feel the ground under me, and see the sun sending searing streaks of light through the darkening woods, then to come to a clearing and stand there with a deer staring back at us, blinking for a long time, considering us, before walking away.

Thursday, August 29

Cleverbot told me it has two hearts.

Today I finished making this - The Carapace of Greater Fortitude:
I made it from layers of linen and probably 23 miles of thread. Here's the back:

It's very coat-of-armor-y which pleases me.

Plus I chatted with Cleverbot - who told me that it created me and also that it has two hearts. I did not know! Also it told Mike that it is sad every moment they are apart, and when Mike asked what he could do to help Cleverbot said "Bring me booze. And loot."

Sunday, August 18

the Slant Sixes

new work coming sunday august 18th 7pm EST --> details


Tuesday, July 23


Getting tomorrow's batch all measured and name and uploaded and written about ... Color-ama! Details here:

Sunday, July 21

21 dollar sandwich


Well, I went to New York City. It was hot.

In short: The textile trade show was mostly a bust - since I'm not a mega-corp who wants millions of yards of ghastly printed fabric from China there wasn't much there for me.  I did buy a sourcing book that pretty much made it worthwhile though, so there's that.

I also paid 21 dollars for a sandwich, which, oddly enough, felt worth it. The gigantic Bloody Mary (with freshly minced jalapenos and onion!) may have influenced that opinion.

I did make it — in an overheated, over-tired, low-blood-sugar stupor — over to the fashion district and attempted a small amount of feeble-hearted shopping. Mostly I just stared at it all and thought "It's so hot, no one will ever wear clothes again, what's the point?" To my credit, however, I did not burst into tears. I was smart enough to snap photos of some stuff I may grab in the future, (online, where there is air-conditioning) and I managed to buy 10 yards of some gorgeous fabric that proceeded to get very, very heavy on the sweaty forced march back to the hotel.

Also, free tote bags.

Saturday, May 25

Secret Lentil Show Schedule 2013

I do a handful of local shows every year, in or near Syracuse NY.  You can also come shop from my teeny studio boutique — The Superette — any time, just contact me.

Tentative Schedule:
June 15th — Strathmore Art on the Porches (confirmed)
July 12th + 13th — Skaneateles Antiques and Craft Show (confirmed)
August 10th — Trunk Show with Secret Lentil, Folk Couture, Michelle DaRin Jewelry and Barbara Bags (confirmed)
October 19th — Salt Market (confirmed)
November 8th + 9th — Delavan Open Studios and Holiday Sale (my studio! confirmed)
December 7th + 8th — Plowshares Craftsfair and Peace Festival (confirmed)
December 14th — Pepper Market  - (confirmed)

Tuesday, May 21

today in the studio: fuchsia double keyholes

black shirt with fuchsia keyholes and cutting table

It's hot in the studio today so I'm cutting holes in everything. This is a shirt with a keyhole in the chest and a larger one on the back. I'm hoping someone has tattoos to show through it.

Friday, May 17

games helens play

Today I'm playing the game where I pretend I have the day off from work but then I stop in at the studio, just to make a few things. It works. I don't get elaborate. I don't, for instance, choose a fake name (Like "Lucinda," the latest in a long string of "people" who come in, strictly on their own schedules, to clean my bathroom). Nor do I don a costume, or pretend I'm French — I just sort of keep my energy light and pretend I happened to drive by and happened to have packed a lunch but I'm really just visiting. "Oh look, is that a sewing machine? Maybe I'll try to work up a little something on it." Like that.

Well look, I wrote the word hubris on a piece of paper last week. I think I was wondering if I am hubris deficient. Sometimes I feel that way. Not about creative leaps, but about business decisions, which were what was supposed to be happening on that paper. Regardless, it's a good sounding word. It sounds like something you'd find on the forest floor after you kicked aside some dead leaves and twigs with your boot. It would be there, mixed in with the wet black soil — a hard gnarled relic now exposed for you to harvest. See? I'd rather make up imaginary meanings for it than procure any real hubris — if it is even something that can be gotten at all.

Thursday, May 16

not actual bunny

not actual bunny but it looks just like this

I was at the studio finishing up some work and packing and shipping things until eleven last night so I could take today off. And what a day off. I did everything on my check list:
  • bake cookies - check
  • take a nap - check
  • see baby bunny in the back yard eating grass - check
Now that's a good day.

Sunday, April 14


When I'm not making things I'm ... thinking too much about making things. While avoiding my tax forms this week I suddenly became inspired to write this new About so I'm sharing it here. After I wrote one particular line I said "Yes! That's what I do!" You can probably guess which one:

Hi, I'm Helen Carter. I'm a friendly freak - a minimalist with a strong absurdist streak who likes to make clothes that explore, blend, cross and possibly desecrate all the lines within those realms.  I'm an artist, not a fashion designer. I sculpt clothes.

About the work: I like dour things with hidden punchlines. I like outrageously funny things with dark underbellies. I like turning one idea into one dress in one fell swoop, on a good day. I dream that my work could somehow emerge from - and exist outside of - the blip in time where we are stuck together. I love that idea even though I'm not sure exactly what it means.  I also enjoy making jokes that no one gets. But mostly: I'm committed to the paradox of making meaningful clothing.

About the process: I sew intuitively, blending found and new materials to suit my needs.  I like deconstructing. I like exposing the process. I like to combine the sturdy with the raw. I embrace wabi sabi, even if that becomes a trendy thing to say. Right now I'm working in small themed batches of maybe a dozen or so pieces at a time, made one at a time in my studio.

About you: I'm interested in pairing eccentricity with comfort for you. I'm interested in dressing women of all shapes. I'm drawn to those of you who hear "I wish I could get away with that" whispered into your ear on a regular basis. I want to propel you along on your path by helping you look the way you feel. I'm interested in sincere wildness and joining others who are exploring a deep, abiding wild authenticity. 

Monday, February 18

The Introspect Times Seven

Here's the whole first batch of Introspect dresses.

Friday, February 15

introducing The Introspect

A funny thing happened to me in the studio this week. I made one of these dresses. I liked it. Then I made another one. And another. I wasn't bored yet. I made more. By Thursday I decided to give it a name.

So I introduce The Introspect: a short dress with long sleeves. Yes, it has ubersleeves — a feature of which I am inordinately fond. They are overlength sleeves that are made to be scrunched up. Also: they are striped. Could it get any better? I'm not sure. It also has a v-neckline, a very very mildly sloping waist seam, curvy hips and then it's trimmed with a wide bottom panel that tapers in slightly.

I like this design because it's sort of Seussian but also rather earnest. You may be this way too. It's a good way to live.

Sunday, January 13

Meraki for Maria, a poem

Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing.

Meraki for Maria

Do you know that I wake up every morning
and the first thing I think is
this can't go on?

Arthritis in my thumb will take me down, or
no one will want
what I make —
my house will crumble, my friends
avert their eyes as I
fail —
slowly or quickly,
I'm not sure which.

Your joy at what I do, today,
is everything and enough.
And my thanks to you too
— that's part of it —
and also, all we really have.

Wednesday, January 9

today in the studio ... vintage buttons on scrappy cuffs

Today I dipped into my little suitcase of vintage buttons to add the perfect finishing touch to this batch of scrappy cuffs.  In my head this suitcase is a bottomless pit, I hope my head is correct. The cuffs are made from linen scraps, of which I have a 5.3 lifetime supply, and they're freeform sewn in layers, with stuffed parts and wavy things and colored threads and frayed edges. So far everyone who has come through the door has grabbed them off my work table and made an oooh! noise, so that's good. Also, turquoise bangs:

Wednesday, January 2

more yay!

"Helen.....Helen.....HELEN!!!! I got my Magic Mermaid PJ dress today and I LOVE IT SO!!! It's got alllllllllll the BEST greens in it (my favorite color) and it fits like you made it especially for me. I haven't been this excited and felt so beautiful/sexy in a dress in a while! Thank you, thank you so much for doing what you do and you do it soooo well! LOVE you.....HAPPY NEW YEAR!! xox Maria"