Saturday, June 3, 2017

Off The Grid Vest

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on Heidi Emmett's Off The Grid Vest.  In the beginning I was nervous because I'm not a quilter.  After the first hour or so I just went with my gut and forged ahead.

My sewing style isn't one that lends itself to perfection.  I'm incapable of sewing straight, I love raw edges and I don't care when everything isn't quite perfect. 

It's the overall look I go for.  The feel of a garment.  And to be honest, I change my style so often that I wear a piece of clothing for 1-5 years, tire of it and sell it at a garage sale.  It makes no difference if I've spent days or hours on it, when I'm done-I'm done.  My style changes yearly and so do my clothes.

All that said, I loved working on this vest.  It has so many things going for it.  Simple lines mean you can focus on the fabrics which I love.  I used Moda Grunge cotton for the base fabric.  It's black with washes of pinky grey.  

I've had a huge stash of vintage kimono scraps since our trip to Japan about 10 years ago.  Although I've been using them in projects for years I still have lots.   So I decided this was a good project for that.  The pattern calls for quilting cottons and the main fibers in my kimono collection are silk and rayon...much less stable.

Although Heidi recommends using Terial Magic, a kind of starch that quilters use, it still didn't provide all of the sturdiness I needed for this project.  But I forged ahead with a somewhat wonky result.  But I like it anyway!

I think this style qualifies as a tabard, right?  The sides are held together with just one button.  One of the reasons I wanted to make this vest is that I tried it on at a retreat in April and it's VERY flattering. In fact, it was flattering on every single woman who tried it on.

I had a devil of a time figuring out what binding to use.  I wanted something that would remind me of a light summer suit that I would see on a businessman in Tokyo.  A tiny grey on darker grey pattern that read solid from far away.  Understated but elegant.  Couldn't find it.  Finally I went with a purple quilting cotton that has a tiny pattern.  But I wasn't happy so I picked up another couple of fat quarters at The Stitching Post in Sisters, Oregon.  One of them I incorporated into the blocks but I didn't think either would work on the bias trim.

Luckily, I also picked up a bottle of Jacquard Pewter Dye-Na-Flow.  It's kind of like India Ink for clothing.  I thought if I knocked back the purple it might blend in so I painted that on the bias strips.  It came out very uneven but when I folded them in half and laid them under the garment edges to audition the color it worked. 

I found two 30's deco buttons in my stash that felt right...finally had buttons that actually worked on a garment.  Somehow, with hundreds of buttons in my collection none seem to be right!

This vest is a very dramatic look.  I can't wait to wear it.  Joe says I look like a warrior!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wedding Outfit

I haven't been to a wedding in years.  I guess I just don't have enough young people in my life. My goddaughter Laurel is getting married in a couple of weeks and I wanted something new for the occasion.

It's an outdoor wedding here on the Central Coast of California so it could be warm, it could be foggy or it could be just downright cold.  Here's what I came up with.

I bought some gorgeous linen from Carol Lee Shanks at DOL Ashland a month ago.  This Style Arc Jema Panel Dress seemed like a pattern that would be easy to wear but has some cool lines that make it a bit more interesting.  Of course you can't see them here...bad photo...but the lines remind me of a Mondrian painting.  It's really a long tunic so I'll wear grey capri length leggings.
Simple and understated, fade into the background garment so I don't look like I'm trying to compete with the bride...not that I could at 68!

But then, it was a little too I found this gorgeous cotton lace I bought from Marcy Tilton about 87 billion years ago.  It's been fermenting.  I take it out every now and then and dream.  I thought a kimono shaped duster over the grey linen might dress it up just enough.

And now I'm on the hunt for the perfect necklace.

These might do.

I'm just back from a dreamy four days in Tumalo, Oregon with a pack of wonderful quilters.  I'm not a quilter but was inspired by Heidi Emmett's Off The Grid Vest pattern.  I met Heidi at a recent retreat (yes, I'm a retreat addict) and loved her.
I decided to try the vest using my kimono scraps.  I worked on it in Tumalo and have it ready to bind the edges.  Here are the first few pieces up on the design board.

Some of the cuts for the long rectangle pieces that float here and there on the vest.

This is what it takes for me to be a quilter.  Two fingers of Bullet Rye Whiskey.

Heaven.  Thank you Eloise and Victoria for making this happen!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Classes, Retreats and More Retreats

I know it's been a long time since my last post.  It's not because I haven't been sewing cuz I have.  I've sewn in Aptos, Capitola, San Juan Bautista, Santa Barbara and Ashland over the last 4 months.  And there's more to come.  I'm going to a sewing retreat in Oregon and a sewing camp, of sorts, in Tennessee!  And then another retreat and back to Ashland again in October.  Geez...I have what my friend Lisa calls FOMO...or Fear Of Missing Out!  Yeah, I have it bad.

I took another class with Jody Alexander, the book maker, boro queen and all around incredible artist.  This one was on remaking clothes using boro techniques.  I didn't end up using any boro in my piece but did try a Junko Oki embroidery pattern that I've been wanting to learn.  Jody has done a lot of it so the class was a good opportunity to give it a try.

I started with a thrift shop men's grey sweatshirt.  First, I cut off all of the ribbing.  Above you can see the beginning of the Junko Oki embroidery.  I used Pearl Cotton.  Basically, it's the blanket stitch done in a spiral.  Kinda mesmerizing!  

I took this photo to help me remember which direction I was went in!

For the embellishment I took a very small grey tshirt and cut out everything but the neckband, shoulder seams, armhole seams, underarm seams and sleeve cuffs.  Then I hand stitched them onto the sweatshirt.    

It's weird but comfy.  And it does get the looks.  People can't keep their hands off of it.  They have to figure it out.

Then I hand stitched one of the tshirt bodice pieces onto the back and that's where I applied the Junko Oki spider web-y thing.

And THEN, I went up to Ashland, Oregon to attend a Design Outside The Lines with Diane Ericson and Carol Lee Shanks.  I love Ashland more and more each time I go back.  This time my pal, Sharon, and I rented a house which was great fun.

The retreat was wonderful, a great group of gals.  Loved getting to experience Carol Lee's work...and Carol herself, she's a keeper.  And of course being with Diane is always inspiring.  

Above you see a little seersucker shrug; a new Diane pattern that will be out soon I think.  It's super easy and really versatile.  

The back of the shrug.  I sewed it using all raw edges, still not tired of those little guys.

The retreat was about making an outfit for spring.  That is something I've never done before.  I have only made single pieces that I know will go with other things in my wardrobe.  So this was a good exercise for me.  

I tried using only fabrics in my stash.  I almost got there.  The drapy under tunic is a stash piece from way down the pile.  It's a very sheer knit.  The top is a Carol Lee pattern done in a mooched (thank you, Sharon!) grey linen and the pants are a stretch woven from my stash.  I also bought a beautiful mossy green silk top just like this one from Carol to wear instead of the grey one.

I used a fairly new Marcy Tilton pattern for a hoodie.  Marcy blogged about it recently, you should check it out.  There are some great ideas.

This one is made using a beautiful Italian fleece I got at Fabrix in San Francisco. It's thick and soft and yummers!

I'll use this pattern again.  I like the back, I think it would be flattering on many figures.

This is a pattern drafted by a friend.  I've made many of these, they're my morning noodle-around-the-house top.  The fabric is from Marcy Tilton, I got it years ago.

Another Marcy Fabric.  I fell for this one the minute I saw it.  Something I'm trying not to do these days but every once in a while the bug catches me.  This is an exquisite pieced Ikat with colorful vertical stitching that holds down little cotton dots.  All the work that went into this piece of fabric is mind boggling.  I'm just gaga over it.

I made the Lynn Mizono shirt again.  It's a pattern I go back to often.  Certain fabrics just call out for these lines.

It's hot off the machine, think I'll wear it tomorrow!!


I finally got up to UCSC's Sesnon Gallery for the Crochet Coral Reef show.  I'm glad I did.

If your in the Santa Cruz area check out Seymour Marine Discovery Center.  They are showing several pieces that community members have made, very cool!

That's all for now, I'll check in around the beginning of June.  Hopefully I'll have something fun to show's a sewing project completely new to me that has some quilting in it...yeah, I know.  I'm not a quilter.  I couldn't sew two lines of fabric together evenly if my life depended on it!  But hey..I'm game!

Saturday, March 4, 2017


I know I'm blessed to live in such a moderate climate but, boy,  has it been a hum dinger of a winter here on the Central Coast.  One storm after another, trees down, flooding, roads caving in you name it.
But, we do have water now which is such a relief.  I think I can actually hear the trees heaving a huge sigh of relief.

My garden is singing happy songs, one plant after another.  These hyacinths are always the first to arrive.

 Followed by the violets.

I haven't been sewing for a few weeks but here's a vest that was drafted from ready-to-wear that I tried in an upholstery fabric I got on a free table.  It actually works for this but I'll be making it again in a grey ponte.

 Here is one of three tshirts I made from Katherine Tilton's V8817.  I used only scraps and felt so great about reducing my stash.  I love this pattern for that reason but also, it's just a darned good pattern.  I always get compliments when I wear one of these tshirts.

The back only has three section, unlike the front which has three.

And here's Marcy Tilton's V9130...again.  I make this often.  It's super flattering and I just feel good in it.  These were scraps...albeit large ones, too.

I attended my 9th year of DOL (Design Outside The Lines) Santa Barbara.  For those of you who don't know what this is I'll explain.  It's a four or five day retreat, given in three different locations each year.  They are put on by Diane Ericson (above), the pattern designer, re-fashion queen, stencil designer, heavy duty teacher of the century.  This woman can do it all.
She teaches at these retreats and now brings in another teacher, sometimes from around the world, sometimes from here in the states.  I've loved every teacher she's ever brought.

This year she brought Christine Mayer from Berlin.  Christine is a clothing designer who specializes in using old textiles.  She brought a line of garments to show and sell that were made from the cloth used to line the old ironing mangles in Germany.
She also loves to work with military rucksacks, jackets, pants and tents.  Her pieces are exquisite and perfectly executed.  I so wanted to buy a piece but they were all too small on me.  So, what could I do, I asked her to help me make a couple of pieces.  She was happy to oblige, that's what she was there to do.  She helped so many of us during the five days and several women went away with new garments that were co-created with Christine.

Here you see a denim jacket that she draped and I sewed.  I had two very large pairs of men's denims which she showed how to cut in the exact way so as to get the most out of the fabric.  Then she began draping the two pants on my dress form.  She used this piece for instructions purposes in one of the morning classes.  We were all staring at her with our mouths open the whole time.
She, like Diane, has an innate feel for fabric and drape.  They just know what to do.  It is always a revelation to watch.
So, she pinned, tucked, created the armholes and sleeves using what she called the Japanese draping technique.  I learned SO MUCH!  I'm panting to get back in the studio and sew.  I did manage to finish a shirt made from three white men's shirts.  It's good but I have lots to learn.  I'll post those pics soon.
If you haven't had the chance to attend a Design Outside The Lines retreat you should seriously consider putting it on your bucket list.  I don't know of a better way for a creative sewist to spend time.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter Behavior

 California's Central Coast is getting a the rainy season it truly deserves this year.  I'm loving it.  We live by a creek that does overflow at times but this year the rainfall has behaved itself and given us some respite between downpours.  It's only flowed over the dock once.  Maybe tonight though...

Winter is not my favorite season.  I'm not a skier so there's really nothing in it for me except I love seeing the trees sing with happiness when it's wet.  I try to keep myself busy during the winter months while having no true passion for anything in particular.  It's a good time to finish projects, clean out the studio, take stock of my fabrics and patterns and generally get ready for the time of year I go into full swing.

I've been doing a smattering of things.  My friend Lisa and I were out in the garage on New Years Day over-dyeding previously eco-printed pieces.  With eco printing you win some and you lose some.  But you can always do something with the losers.  Now my losers are all a gorgeous shade of Cabernet.

We used a technique we learned from another sewing pal, Janet.  You mix a slurry of dye, about 2 quarts.  Mordant your our case it was old cashmere my case it was ones I'd already mordanted when I eco-printed them.  Then, using a kitty litter tray you pour the slurry over the cloth and "scrunch" it around with your (gloved!) hands.  Wring out any excess dye, place the garment in a lightly sealed plastic bag and steam for about 1 hour or until all of the dye has exhausted (that means you can't wring out any more color).

It makes a really lovely mottled effect that looks interesting when it's cut up and used as pieces.  I made one sweater and one very large scarf/shawl out of my pieces.  I'll get them photographed soon when the sun comes out!

Right now I have a vat of Osage sawdust steeping away in the garage to dye some sweaters and cloth. And I'm dreaming of painting on canvas cuz I went to an art gallery Friday that inspired me....more on that later.

One of my UFO's was a piece of ice dyed stretch cotton.  My attempt at ice dyeing looked like a bad night on Haight Street in the 60's...and I know cuz I was there!  It was truly ugly.  So, I overdyed it with a dark green and this is what happened.  It's now wearable.  The muted over-dye knocked back some of the yellow and got rid of a couple of other colors that were even worse. 

This is a self drafted pattern I've used several times.  Here I hardly had enough for a neckband so I used the fabric single layer and had to piece it in two spots.  It has that deconstructed look which works.  

I'm glad to have this piece of cloth out of my stash and in my closet.  Now, let's see if I wear it!  I'm planning a huge art garage sale with three other artist/sewist friends in the spring and a LOT of my garments are going on sale then.

 This piece is Katherine Tilton's B6381.  It's the first time I've made it but I'll make it again for sure.  I love the fit and shape.  I omitted the pocket in the front and added inseam pockets.

I've had this fabric for about 4 years.  Couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with it.  It's a pretty unique fabric.  I got it from Marcy Tilton.  I think it's a Japanese hand printed piece, I could be wrong but you can really see the printing coming through the back here and there and it looks hand done.  It has a very crisp sort of rough dry hand and it's super stretch in both directions.  Not an easy fabric to find the right pattern for.

I have the fabric going in different directions for the top and bottom.  Not sure it works but I haven't worn it yet so time will tell.

I couldn't find buttons that looked good and I'm not interested in buying more buttons right now (!) so I used this toggle.  Again, I'll see if this works when I wear it.  If not, I'll figure something else out.  It's been so cold it's not vest weather right now.

Joe and I went to the Anderson Collection at Stanford University on Friday.  It's a gem of a museum/gallery.  It's free, huge and focuses on modern and contemporary American art.

Their collection is powerful and very well represented.  Right now there is a Nick Cave show going on that I had to see.  I admit, it's our first time there but we'll go back, we both loved it.

I've wanted to see more of Nick Cave's work and this was my chance.  Mr. Cave makes what he calls Soundsuits. There are 8 pieces and two videos running.   The suits are meant to be worn and the videos show him performing dance movement in them.

Mother of Pearl buttons, wooden sieve with wire.

It reminds me of a sardine somehow.

Mr. Cave uses old textile a lot.  Old crocheted pieces, sweaters, pot holders, socks...
Here he also has beautiful old enameled flowers.

Close up.

Another close up.

Abacus and buttons

The video of the dance movements is mesmerizing.

Sock monkeys (whoohooo I love sock monkeys) and various knitwear

Buttons, sequins and beads.

Close up

Human hair.  I know, this photo looks like it's out of focus, but it's not.  It's just the way the suit is made.  Kinda made me queasy...

Pot holders and crocheted pieces to coordinate.  I noticed that Mr. Cave likes circles and round shapes.

These are two very goofy guys.

This piece was made of various plastics, mostly from the 40's and 50's I think.

Close up of the pot holders.

This is the back of the pot holder suit.  I love this hand stitching!

Pipe cleaners??  The center is one of those plastic bead vases from exactly which era I'm not sure.  I started a collection of them many years ago then had to back away from that idea.  Too bad I didn't know Nick!!

I'm sorry to say I did not take down the name of the artist who painted this.  Bad.  But I love it.  This is the feel I'm trying to get with my painted canvas for purses.

Yum.  I love the layering.  Back to the canvas next weekend!

Well, there you are.  My winter of tying up loose ends.  I'm determined to clean up, clean out and begin the spring with only those materials that are calling to me right now.  Art Garage Sale (otherwise known as You Gotta Have It Garage Sale!) here I come!