Revisiting Garment Sewing

I grew up with a mother and grandmother who sewed all kinds of garments, and taught me the rudiments of making my own clothes. Attention to detail ran a distant second to speed in my work. It always had to get done for a deadline and a basted hem worked just fine.

In college I stopped sewing as much. Button fly Levis became my uniform along with chambray shirts, and the army/navy surplus store supplied my clothing needs. Once I was working, it was a thrill to shop for clothes that someone else had made. I loved being free of the dorky homemade look my own efforts produced.

Over the years I noticed that patterns became much more expensive, as did nice fabric. I grew up used to fine woolens and fully lined jackets and skirts. To reproduce such garments became cost prohibitive, so I wasn’t tempted to even try to make my clothes. In fact, some of my first quilts used old fabric from my clothing sewing days.

All this is by way of saying it’s been a long time since I sewed any clothing other than Halloween costumes.

Fast forward to my growing collection of silk fabrics, capped by bits of hand dyed kimono silk I bought from Laura Murray. I’ve made quilts with neck ties and intended to make one with all that silk, but when I saw this pattern by Barb Callahan at a quilt show I decided to make myself a flowing vest instead.

silk-vest

Because I had been away from this kind of sewing for so long (I don’t count my theatrical costume making stint as I simply followed orders) I bought some pattern tracing material to make a trial vest before cutting into my pretties. The result seemed large so I took fullness off the back and side seams.

Once I thought I had the right fit, it was time to cut the silk. Now, because I had many different weights of silk I decided to interface the lightest with a product called French Fuse, a fusible nylon tricot. I found the tricot was difficult to sew on which caused a few difficulties, but nothing I couldn’t force my machine through. The real problem I faced was the huge amount of fabric the vest needed – about 2.5 yards for the exterior and 2 yards for the lining. The largest piece of fabric I had was about 3/4 of a yard so I got creative in patching the segments, which of course created more seams to sew through.

The pattern calls for a process known as bagging out to sew the exterior and lining together. That worked pretty well, except for the armpits. I chanted Tim Gunn’s “make it work” mantra as I forced my fabric into a semblance of submission. I also changed the way of sewing the shoulder seams together, opting for a tabbed tuck method I sort of made up.

So, here’s front and back views of my vest in all its harlequin glory.

img_8904

You’re wondering about the lining fabric? It’s a silk Bill Blass scarf I bought at a women’s organization fund raising sale It’s also faced with French Fuse.

img_8906The finished product makes quite a statement and is very full, even though I removed about 8 inches from the original pattern. I plan to wear it to gatherings of art quilters, though it would make a great garment for shoplifting. I could hide a lot of merchandise in those folds.

 

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Filed under Completed Projects, Techniques

Around Here Week 11

I’m surely not about to show a photo of my daffodils right now. The poor things look like poster children for lost hopes. Instead, here’s a photo I took last week of a retaining wall by my driveway. I thought it had quite a two color modern vibe, with the regular dollops of white on top of the bricks, and an asymmetric pattern. My favorite element is the ruffly band of snow on the left bottom edge.

And happy first day of spring.

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Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

Circular Abstractions Exhibit

Earlier this month I traveled to Lancaster, Ohio, to see the Circular Abstractions exhibit curated by Nancy Crow, and had my eyeballs bombarded by intense color and pattern, in a very good way. The Ohio Decorative Arts Center there is hosting the exhibit until April 23, 2017, after which it will move on to other venues in the east and northeast.

The 51 quilts in the show were made at Crow’s invitation by some of her former students. Like most of Crow’s work, they are large (at least 60 inches square,) feature highly contrasting solid colors, and follow the bulls eye quilt format. They are pieced, with no raw edge applique. Most also feature matchstick type quilting, sometimes spaced as little as an eighth inch apart.

I went around the show three times and could have spent even more time, but my group had lunch reservations. The venue was tight and the quilts were large, as I mentioned, so displays were creative. Some quilts were wrapped around large pillars so the quilts showed in the round. Others were grouped by fours on L shaped metal frames, so the quilt mid lines met at the center. Luckily, our group had the place to ourselves for a while, so we could peer at details and back up to see the quilts from a distance.

We weren’t allowed to photograph the show, but I found photos online by some of the quilters and the museum that organized the show. I’ll start with room shots, and then show some of my favorites.

The above photos were taken by Heather Pregger, one of the artists, at the Muskegon Museum of Art.

Here you can see the quilts wrapped around the pillars. This photo and others below are from WOUB Digital.

The black and white quilts are all pieced, not appliqued.

One of my favorites, Maren Johnston’s Emergence, is against the far wall. It features beautiful small pieces skillfully blended with each other. I found it more refined than some of the other quilts.

This is one of two quilts by Ohioan Maria Elkins. We spent a lot of time puzzling over whether she painted all those dots or used fabric. Turns out she used fabric, which had to be bias cut and pieced.

Finally, here’s my favorite by a whisker. It’s Rise by Carol Hazen. The bull’s eye elements are secondary to the letters, but give a lovely transparency effect. The light colored quilting thread also enhances that effect.

More photos are available at the Muskegon Museum of Art’s website.

Special Ohio events related to this show are a lecture by Nancy Crow on April 2, and a day long workshop on making bull’s eye motifs on April 1. You’ll need a reservation for either.

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Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

Around Here Week 10

I love to see the tracks animals leave in snow, one of the few aspects of snow I like. The deer hoof prints are obvious, but what made those paw marks lined up neatly behind each other that came right up to our french door?

The holly bushes by our front porch attracted a flock of robins who squabbled over the berries this past Sunday. I was impressed at their efficiency in gulping berries. They used our porch to stage attacks on each other, and left lots of little birdy feet tracks behind. I keep meaning to carve a stamp or two of bird feet and use it to enliven dull fabric.

little-birdy-feet

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Play With Surface Design

Well, it was actually play with paint, but surface design sounds fancier. One of my goals for 2017 was to build on fabric I had printed with thickened dyes at a workshop last fall. For no reason I can explain, the dyes faded a lot on some of my fabric when I washed it, especially ones made with a soy wax resist.

soy-wax-1I had three that looked a lot like this; the vibrant greens had mostly washed out.

A recent paint play date gave me a chance to improve them. Participants brought a wild assortment of objects to print with. Some were ad hoc such as springs, cat toys, chop sticks, bubble wrap, and rubber door stoppers; while others were purpose made, such as stencils and fancy foam brushes. I availed myself of many of these tools, plus empty toilet paper tubes, truly the Swiss army knife of printing.

silk-screen-with-paintThe results are definitely more colorful than what I started with. I may add more to them at the next painting session.

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Filed under Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

Around Here Week 9

rain-on-screenA sleet storm left ice drops on my screen porch screen, The drops were being melted by the sun when I took this photo. A possible idea for an overlay on an Impressionistic landscape. This photo would be fun to enhance with all sorts of photo editing tools, but for now I’m keeping it real

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Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life

From time to time I enjoy browsing books on graphic design as I’m always on the lookout for ways to simplify but capture the essence of a design. Charley Harper, who died in 2007, had a long career in graphic design, and is best known for his wildlife illustrations, especially posters. I bought some prints of his posters for the national parks from the government sometime back in the 1970s, and still have some in the original mailing tube. (Let me say I watch way too much Antiques Road Show so I hope that provenance will help the value.)

Because I love his work so much, this post is more of a mash note than a book review. The book is short on text and long on pictures, an excellent balance I think. Most of the text is an interview Todd Oldham, the books’ compiler, had with Charley in 2007. Charley comes across as unassuming, not given to philosophizing about art.

img_8887But enough talk. The pictures are grouped by his book and magazine illustration work (in chronological order), advertising and promotions, mosaics and murals, paintings, and posters. Out of his large body of work, only some were done for himself.  Most were commissions. The book’s index shows thumbnail pictures of work, helpful for quickly finding a work’s title.

Here are some of his pieces that appeal to me especially.

bear_in_birtchesBear In Birches makes you work for the bear.

king-salmonKing Salmon would translate beautifully into a stitched piece, with translucent fabrics for the water and the fish’s body.

grand_canyonGrand Canyon was the July 1952 cover of “Ford Times” magazine. Move over, modern quilters.

unzipped-cryfish-moltingUnzipped shows a crayfish molting, just under the water’s surface. The leaf and water ring shadows economically convey the water’s transparency.

ruby-throated-hummingbirdRuby Throated Hummingbird captures the essence of the bird’s quickness without getting bogged down in ornithological details.

serengeti-spaghettiSerengeti Spaghetti is a herd of zebra reduced to pattern – maybe the way it appears to a lion.

snowy-egretSnowy Egret has wonderful plumage, again quite doable in stitch.

I hope you’re inspired to page through this book. Your public library may have a copy. If you feel like spending $30, treat yourself. You can see (and purchase) many of Charley’s works at https://charleyharperartstudio.com/

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