Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Dye Pot Tales

I haven't been getting much sewing done lately.  I've been holed up in my freezing garage, hunkered down over the dye pots (I now have three...) freezing my patootie off and getting addicted to eco-printing.

Fall is a wonderful time to be introduced to dyeing with plants because the colors are so wonderful and the windfall is plentiful.  I've been all over town collecting fallen nectarine leaves (thank you Lisa), decorative plum leaves (thank you Diane), eucalyptus of several varieties (thank you Joanie), persimmon (thank you Daniella), apple, locust, dodinea, maple, name it.

I have managed to get some sewing done.  I was left with dozens of small pieces of cashmere that I used to test the color of different plants so I made them into scarves.   
Above I used plum, eucalyptus and apple in an iron/eucalyptus bath.

A closer look at the same scarf.

The above scarf is made from a sweater that had quite a bit more pile so the images are softer.  I used apple, eucalyptus and orange onion skins.  Iron/eucalyptus bath.

This one I tried bougainvillea, not too strong a print, I'll have to work on that.  The lower edge is maple.  Scarves give a good opportunity for hand stitching because it will be seen up close.  You can really see the raw edges on this one.  They will felt and soften quite a bit after just a couple of wearings.

This one I think I used (oops, I learned later not to trust my memory and have been taking better notes!) things from the Pacific Northwest in the India Flint class.

I'm enjoying the idea of using the pieces from sweaters in their original shape instead of cutting them into perfect squares.  I got this idea from Gwen Spencer who is using this technique to spur her creative process.  At the bottom of this scarf you can see the armhole on the edge.

I have dozens of new samples and pieces, mostly in the lime green/yellows from nectarine leaves, fig leaves and apple leaves.  I'll show those after the holidays.  Stay warm and enjoy the season.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Blue Jean Lady~L.A . Baby, Seamstress For The Band~~Elton John

I'm not a blue jean lady, L.A. lady or a seamstress for a band (I kinda missed that window of opportunity!) but here I find myself with a new denim jacket.

My sewing pal, Janet, collected dozens of old jeans for a project she has now abandoned and is gifting her stash of cut-up, pre-washed and ironed pieces to lucky friends.  All of the hard work was done!

I've been "off" jeans for many years; one day they were just uncomfortable so I stopped wearing them.  And I don't think blue denim looks particularly good on me.  But when an opportunity presents itself it could be looked on as a challenge.

That was the case when I visited my friend Sharon in Seattle last month.  On my guest bed lay two huge bundles of denim, shipped by Janet who knew I'd be there.  She gave some to Sharon, too.  At first I groaned.  Oy, denim...
But then I lived with them for another week while on Lopez Island and they grew on me.  So I shipped them home to Capitola, knowing exactly what I would do with them.

Vogue 8709 is one of my favorite Marcy Tilton patterns. Sad to say it is out of print.  What a shame, it's so versatile!   I've used it for jackets, vests and shirts.  I've lengthened it permanently now because my favorite silhouette is longer.  I've also omitted a pleat in the lower center back.

I had fun piecing the scraps and had tons of help from a new pal, JM, who made the job so much easier.  We both worked on the layout and sewing the scraps, it would have taken me twice as long to finish that part without her!  JM, you are a true friend!  I love collaborating, it's one of my favorite things to do.

I decided I wanted to topstitch in heavy black thread.  I didn't have my new, trusty Bernina 560 with me when I started so most of the topstitching is done single thickness with a slightly heavy thread.  When I got home I did the hem and collar detail with the Bernina stitch that goes over each stitch twice making a more pronounced line of stitching.

It's all flat sewn so that the raw edges show on all of the interior pattern piecing, then sewn together with closed seams.  I purposely tried not to match anything.  I wanted this to seem more casual, less designer-ish.

I tried several closures, originally wanting black buttons which overtook the thing like a swarm of huge beetles.  Next I tried some toggle closures for purses, they were too heavy and weird to install.  I settled with these copper buttons, not sure I love them but I can always find something else if they start really bugging me.  I just had to git her done!

I made the sleeves using a very deep hem so that I can turn up them for warmer weather.

Overall, I'm really happy with this jacket.  Tonight is First Friday in Santa Cruz.  We'll be wandering around downtown looking at art in what has turned cold weather.  I think I might inaugurate this beast!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Drawn to the Dyepot

When I signed up for an India Flint class on Lopez Island last September I thought I was taking it for the "experience".  I had no intention of plant dyeing fabrics and clothing in the future, I just wanted to experience a person I knew would be inspiring.  And, after all, the title of the class indicated it would focus on making a garment from previously worn of my passions.

Oh, how naive could I have been?  So many have been seduced in the past, it was inevitable.  About the second day of class I began to think, "Hmmm, this could become addictive."  Yeah, right...

I've been out in my garage over the dyepot ever since.  I liken this process to painting in the dark.  You know which colors you picked but until you see how they all come together on the page you don't know what you're going to get.

That's what I love about this process, it takes me away from the person residing in me that has to know everything!  So, it's not only doing something fun but good for me, right?

These photos are in no particular order.  The results are difficult to describe because I worked with various dye baths and materials at the same time.  I should probably have taken notes but that would be so contrary to what I wanted to achieve with this process.

I'm blessed to live on the Central Coast of California where we have variety of eucalyptus trees.  So first I worked with those.  Then I worked with copper, apple, maple and citrus, I have 5 citrus trees.  Then I asked the cooks in my rosticceria to save me all of the onions skins and worked with those.  

My dye bath varied from old chains with eucalyptus to copper with citrus leaves.

India also taught us a brilliant garment design where she sews two top garments together.  In these photos I used my abundant stash of old cashmere sweaters.
I love this design, it's simple but lends itself to lots of variation.  

This sweater is from onion skins, Bloodgood maple and some eucalyptus.

This was my first sweater, eucalyptus and Bloodgood maple.

This is the back of the same sweater.

This is my first attempt with copper, citrus leaves and apple leaves.

The back of the same sweater.

And here they are together so that you can see the variation a bit more.  It's subtle.  I'm still learning so much.  I'd like to get a bit brighter with future sweaters.

 My dye bath that awaits me in the garage this morning is a fresh batch of a type of eucalyptus leaf I've never used before and copper pipes.  I'm headed out there right now to see what that does!

Thank you, India.  You're one of the most brilliant, funny and endearing people I've ever met.  Plus you hooked me on my latest addiction!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dreaming of Lopez Island

I got back from the India Flint class on Lopez Island late Wednesday but I don't think I'll ever quite get back from that experience.

Sharon and I kept pinching ourselves the whole time.  First, the organizer, Christi Carter of Sweet Pea Path blog, was such a lovely woman, so welcoming and helpful.  And Patsy, who let us use her beautiful studio, garden and house, was a delightful hostess.  We felt pampered and loved the whole three days.

And then there was India.  Original people are scarce.  She's one of them.  Totally herself and, boy, is herself swell.  She's witty, funny, a great storyteller, poem reader, soup maker and free-thinker, in the best sense of the word.  Being in her presence and learning from her was life changing for me.

I slowed down, or tried to...I think I finally achieved it a bit the last day!  Watching how she works, listening intently to how she phrases thoughts, getting used to the wonder of experimenting without attachment to outcome...all lessons this baby bear needs!

The perennial garden designed by Patsy, perfect in it's early fall outfit.

India reading us a poem every morning.  She picked some of my favorite poets, even one from a Santa Cruz poet, Ellen Bass.

The class was called The Wayfinder's Wanderjacket.  In addition to being the master of eco-dyeing India Flint is one heck of a designer.  In this case it was all re-design as we used old garments to create either a jacket or, in the photo above, a pinafore...we call it an apron, out of a man's shirt or jacket.  Above you can see a participant's pinafore under construction as India explains the little bits on her own garment.

She's a very generous and thoughtful teacher.  And sees shapes in an unexpected way.  I learned so much from watching her pin pieces of cloth together!

And then we walked up to the house each noon-time for a lunch prepared by our three hosts...Patsy, Christi and India.  Such good food, so beautifully prepared and displayed.

Breads from the island that were some of the best I've ever eaten, soup made by India each day, every one earthy and tasty.

Our first dye baths, excitement!

This bath had some metal bits in it I think.  Hence the darker color.

Here's what our bundles looked like while they cooled overnight in the dye bath.

I've always wondered why there are so many pictures of India's hands online.  Now I know.  Her hands are so expressive you just WANT to take pictures of them!  She is really a gorgeous woman in all ways but her arms and hands are mesmerizing and take you to other places!

She laid our cool bundles out on a dress she intended to dye later.  We had a jolly time opening them, one by one, to see how each of our's had turned out.

This is what's left after I opened my first bundle.  Rusted metal pieces, string and binding plus my little label so I could tell which was mine.

First day's pieces drying in the breeze.

I wish I knew who's cloth this was, I hope it's ok with her that I posted it.  I loved the green.  I think it's from apple leaves.

More bundles!'s like opening packages on Christmas though we all agreed these were all presents we WANTED!

Again, these are pieces that someone created in class, I know not who.  Just beautiful!

The path leading to the house...what a magical walk that is!

Patsy and Christi bringing our last day celebration, sad day for all of us to be leaving this dream.

But there was this chocolate cake made by Christi (and champagne) that eased the pain somewhat.

And every night when we came home to our rented house we could sit out on our patio with a  Negroni and watch THIS!

One of the best weeks of my life!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Long Time Coming

Well, I've been sewing, taking classes and creating lots of stuff but the photos I've been taking so great.

But this morning I decided to send them out anyway.  It's been so long since I last posted I was missing you!

So, here goes.  It's a hodgepodge for sure!

Several years ago a made a vest from a skirt panel I purchased from Marcy Tilton.  It's a very sheer cotton with a lovely burnout pattern.  I never liked the fit of that vest so I tore it apart and made ANOTHER vest!  Never say die!  I found the best little black buttons, so lightweight, the perfect size.  

Like I said, my photos suck...what can I say.  I need to work on that! This is a self drafted vest pattern that I use often.  I make lots of changes to each version so they don't look alike.   I may be taking it to steamy NYC on Tuesday to catch my husband Joe's musical, Escaping Queens, off-off Broadway!  Very exciting!

And here is my first go at Marcy's Cirque dress.  I made it from a funky, slinky, slightly stretchy woven that I got who-knows-where for pennies...I know it was pennies because I have about 20 yards of it!  I use it for checking the fit of a pattern the first time.
Jenny and I re-drafted the top to fit tighter because I anticipate using knits for this tunic from now on.

For me, it's too long.  I think I'm going to do what Domestic Deb did and shorten it by about 4 inches.  I love the knit fabric I used for the sleeves.  I had JUST enough.  I wish I could remember who gave me this remnant...I've had it for a few years.

 The neckband is a remnant, too.  A sheer stripe that I love for neckbands.  This was a fun pattern to make.  I can see it in black...of course.

I was lucky enough to catch the Alabama Chanin exhibit at Heath Ceramics in San Francisco last month.  It was memorable.  Heath used their exhibit space called The Boiler Room which has a beautiful high ceiling, industrial windows on one wall and two gorgeous old copper tanks on another wall.

There were several components to the show.  A table was set up so that visitors could sit down and add to a piece that was in progress.  I wish I could see it done.  There were old tattered quilts that had been over-dyed and then stitched into, clothes to try on and buy (didn't find anything, darn it!), and several of her swatch books that were available to wander through, touch, gasp and dream over.

There were two other Alabama artists showing at the same time.  Above you see one of Butch Anthony's paintings.  I was besotted.  Check out this artist's work, he's really something.  This piece, like several others, was a replica of a famous painting (Sargent's Madame X which I will visit while seeing the Sargent show at the Met in NYC!) done in China, shipped back to the US and embroidered, manipulated, whatever by Mr. Anthony.  Magical.

Here's a piece from my studio.  A work in progress or done--not sure...that I started in a class by an artist named Victoria May.  Loved the class, love her work, not sure what this will grow up to be.  It's champagne toppers, cashmere, silk organza and cashmere, stitched into with red Pearl Cotton.  One of my passions is crosses, X's, plus signs, whatever you want to call them.

And then finally, after a week in NYC with Joe I fly to Seattle, meet up with sewing pal Sharon to ferry over to Lopez Island for a class with India Flint.  I don't know how we got in, sheer luck.  But we are two very excited women!  Here's my stash for that class.  The class is called The Wayfarer's Wanderjacket.  We are bringing two or three old garments and several scrap pieces of cloth to construct a jacket with many pockets from the eco-dyed pieces we make.  Pant-pant-pant...can't wait!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bunkhouse Roundup

The Bunkhouse is what we call the little cottage next to our home.  I use it for my workspace and it also serves as our guest quarters.  It's a sweet little 500 Sq. Ft. beach cottage, single wall construction so in the summer it's baking in there. 
But I have managed to slide in a few sewing days so far this summer. 

A few of my sewing pals and I went up to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago to catch High Style at The Legion of Honor.  The show has ended now, I hope you got a chance to see it.  Very instructive and interesting.  A curator's take on the history of certain designers, eras and fashions.

After seeing the show we gathered in the museum's restaurant and had a lovely lunch.  And then, of course, we went shopping for fabric.  Satin Moon was closed, darn it.  Such a jewel or a fabric shop owned by two very discerning sisters (who happened to know my husband in high school!).  So we moseyed on over to Fabrix on the same street.

I think all of us got something.  I was desperate, I wanted a lightweight shirting for another of Marcy Tilton's Vogue 9089 long shirt (out of print it seems, what a shame!)  The first one I made is wonderful but the fabric is very heavy, even though it's cotton.  Our California coastal weather is a bit warm this year and I needed something breezier.

So, I convinced myself this fabric was a madras....yeah, it was a stretch.  And I don't usually wear such bright plaids.  Plus I didn't really know how to match plaids. So my pal, Jenny, the uber sewing queen came over and gave me a lesson.  The front turned out pretty well but the back was more difficult with the offset bias.

I inserted another side pocket, this one is only one layer of fabric sewn onto the front panels.

As I mentioned, the back is just so-so, this pattern really shouldn't have been attempted with a plaid, I think....or we just couldn't figure out the best way to lay it out.  I can live with it.  And I love the shirt since it's perfect for our new and improved Capitola weather!

More kantha jewelry.  These are the styrofoam cubes I cut and cover with little pieces of kantha.  I strung them with elastic cord and inserted little lava beads.  I wore it yesterday and it feels good.

This kind of hand stitching is so fun.  I'm basically hand stitching OVER old hand stitching.

My jewelry making group that I attend about once a month is so much fun.  We sit around a table in a beautiful art studio, surrounded by beautiful works of art and the most amazing cache of tools you could ever ask for.

I love these times because it's a chance for me to let myself just play and make things randomly, exploring different mediums and ideas.  It may never go anywhere but that's not the point of the process.

Here you see another old bicycle inner tube made into a necklace.  I used the part where you blow it up plus several trinkets off of a pair of old earrings I don't wear anymore.

Here's the closure.  I need to take a class on findings, connections and closures for soft jewelry.  I'm working on that!

And here is a project I've been working on for a year and a half...and I'm not sure it's getting any better!  It's Lynn Mizono's classic tunic again.  I really love this pattern.  I used an old silk and linen pants/shell outfit I wasn't wearing anymore plus other random fabrics.  The buttons are vintage, carved and mismatched mother-of-pearl.

It was not quite right at first, it sat in my closet for a year.  I didn't like the pieces of fabric I'd sewn on the front so I took most of them off.   Then I decided to silk screen it with Marcy's silk screens.  I might just have gone overboard-ya think?  I'm trying to figure out what to do with it now.  Maybe overdue it with grey?

I love the drape.

I also used discharge in the circle silk screen on the back and it turned almost the same color as the front pieces...just lucky.

My wonderful friend, Annie, came over and I asked her how I could tone it down a bit.  She suggested free motion stitching on the aqua circles to mute them a bit.  I like it, not sure it helped but...

This stitching was done after the other photos so I'm sorry you can't see that change on the whole garment.  It helped some.

Any and all suggestions welcome.