Another Side of Textiles

While I use textiles mostly in fiber art, I love seeing how other people use textiles in garments. Recently I had the chance to ooh and ah at fashions from bygone eras at the Kent State University museum. That museum, which focuses on fashion and textiles, is showing exhibits of 1940s and 1980s fashions. As an unexpected bonus, I also enjoyed an exhibit on southern African fashion.

The 1940s exhibit covered all sorts of clothing: military, nursing, and scouting uniforms; bathing suits; undergarments; women’s day wear; accessories; and gorgeous ball gowns and wedding dresses. Designers represented include Dior, Adrian, Hattie Carnegie, Sophie Gimbel, Charles James, Claire McCardell, and Valentina. I spent some time admiring the period shoes, gloves, and hats. I have dim memories of my mother’s glove collection, and know that everyone wore hats in that era thanks to the movies. Here’s my choice for knockout dress. It’s cunningly engineered, and is by Charles James.

The 1980s exhibit included lots of evening wear, with a few day wear pieces intermingled. Yes, there were big shoulders and some very “Dallas” pieces, but many have stood the test of time well. The big find for me in this exhibit was the work of Zandra Rhodes, a British designer very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. I was spoiled for choice, but here are my top picks.

As I said, the southern African fashion exhibit was a surprise bonus. The Namibian and South African designers blend textiles associated with Africa with western style textiles to create a unique style. A few pieces were quite beige, but most channeled the colors in a roll of Life Savers.

I found additional photos of this exhibit here.

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Around Here Week 20

I like trees so much I’m featuring another one this week, or at least its shadow. I want to wallow in the glorious green of the grass. You can only get that color in the 64 crayon box. In winter the ground is under ice as its flooded and turned into an ice skating pond.

I thought I could cut out the shadow in organza and layer it on pieced or painted green cloth; maybe two layers of shadow as one is crisper than the other.

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Running Out Of Strips

I’m winding down my work on all the strip improv pieces I’ve shown you before. Most are in a drawer awaiting future inspiration. One is kind of done, though it needs more…something.

Only one has made it to the finish line. I call it Stripe 3. I’m still fiddling with the width of the vertical outer yellow stripes. The crookedness on the left side is caused by the felt strips I use to try out different widths.

It was inspired by this $5000 dress advertised in a glossy magazine. How can anyone look so bored while wearing such a pricey outfit?

I tried some variations, such as four circles, but decided that overwhelmed the rest.

The circles are left over from a failed drunkards path quilt from about four years ago. Since I refuse to throw out bits I’ve spent some time making, they were waiting for me in my parts department.

As you can see, I got tired of all solids and added prints to the mix, partly because I had run out of solids that played well with the colors I had already used. As I look at it now, I wonder if I should either make this even larger, or reduce the size by eliminating all of part the top and bottom print strips. Your thoughts?

 

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Around Here Week 19

This week I’m cheating. The photo below was taken by my brother of a tree in his yard. Spring has been slow to show up this year where he lives, so he was glad for a sunny day to admire the new leaves. Well, I never defined exactly where “around here” was.

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UFOs Seeking Forever Homes

Sometimes it’s easier to figure how to finish someone else’s abandoned project than your own. That is the theory behind a UFO swap going on in one of my quilt groups. Each participant was to bring a UFO she would never, ever finish to trade for another’s UFO. The projects were drawn blindly. We get to keep the UFO we finish.

This month we’ll reveal our transformations. I drew a bag of surface design experiments, including some stenciled urns, discharged and overdyed black fabric, and some of the same fabric stitched up with metallic thread.

At first I planned to use the discharged fabric for a space galaxy themed idea, but then I began to work with the urns. The faded edges of the stencils made me think of how we lose our memories over time, if we’re unlucky. I put together a trio of memory jars and laid them on a field that starts out crisp, bright and ordered, and gets progressively more chaotic and torn.

Almost all the background fabrics are repurposed gifts. The lavender tinted silver lame was a gift from someone who used to sew country-western costumes. The silk crepe was from a bolt my grandmother had (I ice dyed it.) The damask was from my MIL’s old tablecloth (again dyed by me,) and the velveteen came from a church janitor.

I did hand stitching with metallic thread and added a few hot fix crystals to stand for escaped memories. I also used fabric paint to give a glow to some areas. All the reflective surfaces make this piece very difficult to photograph. It looks different under different lighting.

I’m ambivalent about this piece. My feelings vary depending on the light in which I view it. It may be that I seldom make a “message” piece, and find it difficult to separate the message from the design.

 

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Around Here Week 18

This week I’m featuring my city’s latest effort to give my neighborhood that special touch. I can now tell people who come to my house to turn left at the port-a-potty. A little background – since last July a major storm water retention/diversion project has been under construction a few blocks from where I live. Now that project has moved closer to my house and my poor neighbors have to put up with a construction vehicle crazed toddler’s dream of heavy equipment parked all over the place.

The pile of dirt to the right is just one of several piles on that lawn, or should I say former lawn.

I’m not too sure what this has to do with inspiration, except that sometimes you create a hot mess that looks hopeless.

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Playing With Solids

The double whammy of the recent Circular Abstractions bulls eye quilt exhibit and a quilt group program on Nancy Crow’s design methods led me to pull out all my saved solid fabric strips and sew them together. I hope this link to Pinterest gives you an idea of the exercises students do in Nancy’s workshops. She offers several multi-day classes that range from beginner to expert.

My design wall became colonized by stripey units in various stages – just stripes, units cut from stripes, units with added cross stripes… As always, it’s fascinating to see which colors enhance each other and which just stick out their tongues at each other. So far I’ve worked only from scraps, though some of the scraps are about fat quarter size. If I want to make larger units I may have to break into stash.

For now I’ll set these assemblages aside to mellow a bit and wait for further inspiration. My fellow group members had fun playing with strips. Here are some of their efforts.

You begin Nancy’s workshop with lots of strip piecing, which you then build into units, and finally you do an overall composition. Since I made my units above before our group program I didn’t exactly follow Nancy’s dictates.

I learned that Nancy takes away everyone’s ruler after a few days; that she wants you to cut towards, rather than away, from you (I find that scary); and that she wants you to backstitch at the start and finish of seams.The ruler thing is amusing as Nancy once lent her name to an acrylic ruler.

I also learned she uses the same rotary cutter blade for a long time, even up to a year. Apparently she doesn’t sharpen it. We all wondered how that was possible, given the amount of cutting involved with her method.

All that cutting is the reason I won’t be adopting Nancy’s methods in a big way. Pressing down to get through multiple fabric layers and seams doesn’t do my shoulder any good. I plan to develop some of my starts further, but after that, who knows.

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