Monday, November 10, 2008

Been Gone Too Long...

It has been a long, difficult and painful summer and I am glad it's over! In January my right knee minuscus spontaneously tore one day while I stooped down to the lower part of a filing cabinet and I could hardly walk at all.
I figured the body would heal itself, so I waited and hobbled around, living with pain all the time. The worst part of it was not being able to go for my morning walks! My body got depressed. I got depressed. I was teary a lot of the time. I am addicted to my own endorphans!

Well, by May I had had enough and went to see an orthopedic MD. He gave me a cortisone shot and said if that didn't clear up the pain, surgery was the next step.
The shot did not help. At all.


I waited some more. I worked and limped through the office. And getting up from a chair was not fun at all. Think about how many times a day you get up and down from a chair or the commode. Not Fun!

Since I was stuck in a non-moving-much mode, I started to make these multitiered skirts. And, in doing so I learned how to use my gathering foot. What a neat tool for my sewing machine. I've had it for years but never used it because I figured you could never know exactly how much fabric to cut for a project ( and I honestly didn't think the little foot could posible work, it's so simple looking)

WRONG. It works great!

So I began by cutting lots and lots of 6 in wide strips, sewing them together and letting the foot have at it.

It turned out to be great fun! It was easy sewing and it didn't take me long to cut out the strips, which was the other reason why I got into making these skirts. I just could not stand and bend over my table to cut out anything complicated when I was in so much pain.

The knee crisis came crashing down on me one day in the office when all of a sudden, I just could not walk without support. We got crutches out of storage and I had the surgery two days later.

The surgery wasn't bad at all, but the healing time after it has been HORRIBLE. And, long and drawn out and seemingly neverending.

However, two weeks ago, I realized that I no longer had pain when walking or getting up from a chair. Halleluya! I actually began to feel good everyday. It's been ten long months of limitation and I am so glad it's over. No more tears for me!

And, by the way, I have made a total of 27, YES, COUNT THEM, 27 multitied skirts. Comfy to wear and now my new uniform.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Altered Tee Shirt

Okay, so everybody and their grandmother (me) are now doing Tee Shirt surgery to any piece of knitted tee, old or new, that they can find.

This was my first. A very nice garment dyed blue tee that started life at $4.99 and a size Men's 2XL.

I know, I know. THAT'S SO BIG! However, I like that size because I can wash it, shrink it and then cut it out to fit me using a pattern that is the size I want for the project.

I've talked to a lot of women about their tee shirts and many have the complaint that I have; too big on top, too tight at the hip. grrrrr.

Well, if you have a pattern that you like, you can just lay it out on this big sucker and cut. You then end up with a tee that is more fitted across the top and sleeves, make the side curve in and out and have a perfect fit at the hips.

This is the front. I wanted to use it as an off the shoulder cover up and it is, indeed, off the shoulder. But just right for me. And, cool to wear here in hot, humid south Florida.

This is the back.

I used a commercial stamp and plain old craft paint to stamp the leaves and just love the way they tumble down the front and back, too.

Adding the word, "leaf" adds to the interest, the design balance, and as my hubby says, makes it unmistakably "leafy".

I didn't want the sleeves to hang down to my elbows, even though I cut them to a rather short length, so I added cut strips of fabric to the inside and outside of the sleeve to tie them up and keep them up.

The bottom is just raw edged and it rolls nicely.

A close up of the neckline shows that it, too, is raw edged with some embroidery to stabilize the edge and give it some additional interest.

Doing the embroidery by hand was a lot of fun. I hadn't been doing much hand work lately and getting back into my collection of embroidery floss, needles and thimbles reminded me again of how much I used to embroider my creations when I was a teen.

Some activities are fun forever.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Jackson Pollack Wearable Art Skirt-part 3

Remembering that I started out with all my pieces laid out on a big piece of plastic on the driveway, I am getting itchy to do another project soon. Throwing paint is so much fun!

Here, I am changing the Jackson Pollack design to something else. I've added really big butterfly stamping across the front and back of the skirt. By sewing only one seam together, I can arrange the butterfly design going across the back of the skirt and around the front where it flutters in an upward motion.

Additionally, I've placed the top above the skirt front to stamp butterflies there also. Hopefully, when I wear them together, it will look like a natural movement.

At this point, I really didn't like the skirt too much. Those butterflies are really big and really bright. Oh well, as I said to myself before I started all of this, I can just toss it if I really, really hate it.

Every project has an adolescent stage that is awkward. Sometimes it's hard to push through it to see how it is going to turn out. There are days when I still wonder if I am still in that stage myself, but there isn't anything to do but to keep on trying things out.

So, now the skirt has been sewn together, hemmed and the elastic inserted into the waistband.

Since I've made this pattern so many times, I haven't even tried it on yet. I know it fits and I know the hem is perfect.

How good is that? Do you know how much pleasure it is to get so familiar with a pattern, you don't even have to fool with the fitting anymore?

It's great, that's what it is. No worry, no internal fussing, no changing in and out of clothes during the project at all!

If you look closely, you can see that I added the text to the skirt also. In black fabric ink, using a fuzzy typewriter font, I let the words drift across the front to the back: "Change is to give up what we are to become what we could be."

This is the back of the skirt.

Red paint predominates here as opposed to the front where dark blue is slashed sideways. I could have used either side as front or back since there is only one pattern piece for this bias A line skirt. That's another reason why I like using this McCall's 2172 so much.

And, simplicity in a pattern lets you go wild in every choice you make.

Sure, everyone can use a plain white skirt, or a simple black skirt to wear with a great top or an interesting jacket. But, once you get those out of the way, every skirt you make can be full of new design choices and "what ifs".

This skirt was a fun adventure. And, I did wear it. And, two strangers called to me across the street and said, "Great skirt!"

Now, how good is that?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jackson Pollack Wearable Art Skirt-part 2

Getting ready to change my "blank canvas" of color splashed linen fabric was a bit of a challenge because I didn't know ahead of time what I wanted to do with it.
I could have left it like it was and finished sewing everything up, but decided that since this was an experiment, I should just go further along.
Lately, I've been liking the color red. Wearing it is fun! So I said to myself, "if I were me, what color would I like to play with?" and there it was, red.
I have several bottles of Setacolor fabric paint that are at least 5 years old and mostly full. Again, figuring, "what have I got to lose?", I committed to the red and decided to actually use some of the many commercial stamps I've been collecting over the years. See this butterfly? It's big. Really big. It's over 6 inches across and really makes a statement. Yes, butterflies are reminders of ongoing transformation, change and beauty, but this thing is kind of blocky. Oh well. Letting it sit in a plastic bag in my garage isn't using it, is it?

I was kind of happy with how well the Setacolor by Pebeo covered the stamp and really did show up like, "WoW!" on the spattered fabric. Once I put one down, I had a hard time stopping. The little kid inside kept saying, "more, more!", but I managed to keep it down to about nine impressions across the front and back of the skirt.

Since the paint dried so fast, I hung it up and went to work on the top while the stamp was still damp. Partial butterflies were fun to do, but I wasn't all that sure about the actual design of the front of the top, so I washed out the stamp and took a break to think.

Going away from a project is sometimes the best thing you can do. While having some tea and finishing up some billing for the office, I remembered a phrase about change that really appealed to me. "Change is to give up what we are to become what we could be." I'm sorry I don't know who said or wrote that, but it stuck in my head and arrived for this project. I found a set of really neat typewriter font stamps in my stamp box and stamped the phrase out on pieces of paper. Then, it was just a matter of laying them out to see how it would look. What fun! No committment, just a chance to see how it might look!

The butterfly was the center and the words, both small and large size, fit nicely on the top.

Of course, as I looked at it, I couldn't imagine wearing the thing, but it was pretty!

I used some black fabric paint for the letters and did one word at a time. Easy!

I got so good at it, I put the phrase on the skirt too, though it doesn't show up as well because the drops and splotches have more of a pattern that pulls on your eyes, but that just doesn't matter.

This is the skirt laid out on my work table with one seam sewn and the butterflies scattered all over.

That's the nice thing about sewing something yourself. You can work with the piece nice and flat and place images over seams very easily.

I let everything dry for a few days, then pressed the painted and stamped fabric to set the paint.

The butterflies are really bright, and this is a little more garish than I am used to, but hey, who really cares? I doubt if the fashion police even have a station here in south Florida, so I will wear this thing with red dangly earrings and forget that I am over 62.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jackson Pollack Wearable Art Skirt-part 1

It was a warm and windy day here in south Florida and it seemed like a perfect day to do something I've imagined for a long time. How would it be to just throw paint at fabric?
So, here you see my initial setup. A bias cut skirt and top, just four beautiful linen pieces laid out so nicely on a tarp, held down with my usual fabric weights.
It was a sun, sun, sunny day and I was ready to go.
However, as I went back into the garage to mix up some thinned fabric paints, I came out to find my pieces flip-flopped all over and getting ready to fly down the drive way! Yikes! March winds are some serious winds, I tell ya!

Since my studio/garage is full to the brim with stuff, I was able to reach back and pull out lots of half empty paint cans to use to weigh down the linen pieces.

The fun part was the flinging of paint. All you need is a willing arm and a drippy brush to slam color down in drips and spots and slashes of color. What a surprise!
And, since it was about 70 degrees and sunny, the fabric paint dried very fast. My biggest worry was just how sneaky the wind could be. The driveway surface is uneven and little teasers of wind kept finding the smallest places to lift up the skirt and flop it over. grrrr!
I had to keep my eye on it all the time as I was mixing water into the next color or else I'd have smudges of drips and spots. Yes, I know, I know, the whole thing is supposed to be free form, but being new to this, I wanted CONTROL.


Flinging paint on an angle started to make a pattern that I liked, so I just kept slashing blue, blue and more blue. It's amazing how much paint I used. Walking around the tarp with paint brush in hand is so freeing! No wonder Jackson Pollack made so many pieces of art this way. It is mesmerizing to just fling and go.

Sometimes it's hard to know when to stop. I used about five colors and left a lot of the natural linen background.
The other thing I wasn't sure of was how the paint would feel on the fabric. I didn't want thick, stiff spots on whole areas of the skirt or top.

Considering this whole project a complete trial is the only way for me to stay comfortable and continue to change the fabric with paint. My mind set was, "it's only a few yards of fabric ($16.00 on sale) and a little bit of paint, So What iF I Ruin it! Or hate it. I can always just throw it all away....!" I have to fight my Puritan ethic of economy concerning time and money by telling it to SHUT UP for just a little while so I can have some FUN. Believe me, this voice is a nagging one that gets in the way of a lot of what I do, or a lot of times, don't do.

I tend to get hyper when I start a technique that is new to me (because of that VOICE), so after about an hour of flinging and color changes, I stopped to let the sun dry it very well, indeed.
I sat at my table inside the garage/studio and worked on carving a few rubber stamps to wile away the time and let myself be sure that I really had put as much paint on the pieces that I wanted. It wouldn't be fun to set it all up again, so I just sat for about an hour. And, besides, the weather was great! Spring in Florida means lots and lots of birdsong in the early part of the day, and my messy butterfly garden to the right of the driveway brought beautiful Monarchs careening past my head as I worked. Very cool.

Now, I just can't wait to sew the skirt together and add something to this new "blank canvas" of fabric.

Note to self: wear sneakers and socks next time.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tie Dye - Art to Wear

This is Jade Green. A beautiful blue green color that dyes up so nicely. It has a lot of the turquoise in it, so rinsing it out is a long, long process, but worth the trouble. I tried mixing up some greens this past weekend and it does take awhile to get something that is just right.
That's the thing about this dye stuff. Mixing the colors is the most challenging part of it all. Unless you are willing to measure by grams and cc's, no too dye batches will ever be the same. A good thing when you like variety.

Another item that is fun to make is this
sleep sack, a very, very soft cotton.
Made for my newest grandchild, I hope he enjoys lounging around in it day or night.

And finally, I made this little applique with just a piece of cotton stamped with one of my hand carved heart stamps. What fun to do! And, the doing only takes a few minutes!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Tie Dye - a first!

Yes, it had to happen. At some point in a crafter's life, one has to give in to the impulse to use cold water dyes. I've done silk painting and dye work in the past, but that was different. There, you just pour premixed dye, heat set the fabric in a steamer and rinse. Done!
With fiber reactive dyes, there is chemistry involved!

That chemistry, though not really difficult, had put me off for quite some time. Some of the reason is that in every book or article I've read about how to mix up the chemicals and dye, the proportions for each ingredient were different. If no two authors agreed, how was I to choose what to do???

In doing my research using 6 different tie dye books, or booklets, and a two CD instruction models, not one of the authors agreed on how much dye should be used to make the stock dye solution. Nor did they agree on how much Urea should be added.

I kept reading, taking notes, comparing and so on for quite a while. Eventually, after buying all my supplies at , I just found a Saturday when I was completely alone with nothing to do and I set about this task.

I only used a few rubber bands on each article of clothing to keep things simple and decided to just do an ombre effect with one color of dye, going dark to light on the fabric.

This little set is a size 6 Toddler, 100% cotton, lettuce edge top and pants. It was easy to lay each piece down and dab the dye on with a sponge brush. I wrapped everything up in big plastic bags and waited, impatiently, for 24 hours before the big rinse in hot, hot water.

As it turned out, I really liked the process and the results! It was a lot of work, but it was also fun!

This tee for our newborn grandson shows a close up of the ragged heart applique that I sewed onto three of the outfits I dyed.

I made these by digitizing the design on my Janome embroidery software and then machine embroidered them out on my Janome 10000 as free standing appliques.

Hand sewing them onto the soft dyed cotton was very satisfying.

I did three colors that day. This is peacock blue. It truly is a beautiful color.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Yellow Linen Butterfly Applique Skirt

This is the time of year when linen can be found in bright colors and I have been going to the Joann's Fabric and Crafts store near the office and getting their beautiful linen/rayon blends with a 40% off coupon! This color is too bright for me to wear near my face, but it's great for a skirt.

This is the front.

As you can see, I filled the skirt up with really big and simple appliques of butterflies. I have lots of butterfly attracting plants in my very messy garden and the milk weed pods have been exploding with seedlings this week. I've collected a few pods and am going to plant them in pots to replant them in different parts of the garden so I have a view of butterfly activities no matter what window I am near. They are so delightful in their dance upon the air.

This is the back.

In order to figure out the placement of these really big appliques, I layed the skirt out on my big table in the garage/studio to see how it would look. It turned out that what I had planned for the back became the front of the skirt. Somehow I just didnt' want that big butterfly that is so high to be winging its' way so near my old bottom.

Fortunately, this bias skirt is a one piece pattern. The front and back are cut out from the same pattern piece, so all I had to do was switch out the label that I sew to the inner waistband to the opposite side.

I embroider the pattern number onto the label so I know what I used later on. Three years from now I may not remember which pattern I used and that can be frustrating if I want to start up a new project using a pattern that still fits.

Although I liked the way it looked, I felt the skirt design was too empty. I took a lunch break and leafed through a couple of my painting on fabric books. One of them reminded me that I could stamp on fabric!

Now, I have never, ever stamped on a finished project. Been to intimidated I guess. What if I screw it up??? OH WELL! What do I have to lose? $10.00 and two days of fooling around? That's not going to change my universe by much, so I went back into the garage.

After looking over my carving supplies and previously made stamps, I decided simpler is better.

I ended up using two left over rectangles of carving block and mixed up some black acrylic paint with fabric medium.

Fantastic! So easy and so satisfying. All I wanted to do was add movement, a suggestion of movement, and in art one doesn't have to be specific.
The minds' eye finishes the idea that is started with just a stroke or a mark.

And, the linen took the paint up well. I liked the unevenness of it and was happy just using two sizes of stamps.

I think this is why I keep on trying stuff out. I never, ever know where a project is going to take me. It seems to develop as I go along. I have tried to plan things out, but that never works. For me, the ideas fill in as the images show up on the fabric. I have to learn to trust myself more and I think that is what I am learning. Take the inspiration, do the work and see what happens.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Animal Applique Jacket

Continuing on with the animal applique motif, I made a jacket, too.

This pattern is also an old favorite, McCall's 3073, which I have used over and over again. In its' original form it is super easy to cut out and sew. The pattern has only five pieces; front, back, sleeve, neck facing and front facing and it sews together really fast!

Have you ever used the permanent pattern material that's available? I really like it! Once you have made a copy of your favorite pattern with all the changes you want, you have a pattern that doesn't rip, wrinkle or tear like the tissue paper found in most clothing pattern envelopes. AND, the best part of all - it doesn't move around on the fabric once you've placed it. No Pins! I use a few large washers to keep it on the straight of grain, but that's all. It's so easy to cut the pattern out, I just zip right through it.

Since the black linen/rayon blend provides such a nice contrast to the colorful applique, I sewed these animals on as if they are tumbling down from G-d's own hand to find a place in this part of the universe. I like the way the colors really stand out.

The back of the jacket shows a styelized(spelling?) Tree of Life giving this art to wear a hint of Genesis 1:1.

One of the things I did to this pattern before I made this jacket was to take it apart so I could sew together blocks of contrasting color.

Of course the front is easy, just cut one of each side from two different colors. For the back, I made two half patterns by adding a 5/8 inch seam to the middle fold line. I did the same thing with the sleeves. I folded them in half and made a half pattern with a 5/8 inche seam along the top edge.

Since this is such a easy fit pattern, I didn't have to worry about how the sleeve would sew into the front and back. It's not at all fitted, so it sews in perfectly if you add the sleeve right after you sew together the front and back at the shoulder.

To add more color and to make the thing look more rustic, I sewed all the seams facing the outside and finished them off with red thread in my serger. This took a little planning because I am so used to sewing everything right sides together. In fact, this was one of the few projects that I actually planned out before I cut and sewed. I did sew the facings on in the standard fashion, but I used red thread to top stitch all around.

When cutting, I had to make sure the colors would be opposite when the parts were sewn together. I drew out the jacket on a piece of paper and then numbered the pattern before I cut out each piece. That will save me time in the future when I want to make another version of this piece.

This is a closeup of the sleeve cuff. After folding it up, I added this heart applique to keep it up and I really am proud of myself... I didn't fold over the patch, I just sewed it on as is. As it frays it will be more "interesting".

Even my husband was surprised to see all of these unfinished edges. With threads already coming loose, he said, "Did you mean to do it like that?"

Mission Accomplished!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Animal Applique Skirt

It seems I am now obsessed with applique.

This bias A-line skirt is a nice linen/rayon blend that is really easy to sew. I've made several of this McCall's 2172 and I like it because it's a bit narrower at the hem than McCall's 2255.

This is the front.

My usual approach to things is to try to make whatever it is in the usual way; neat, clean- edged and perfect. No messy, untrained or unkempt look to the project at all.

However, this past year or two I have been trying my darndest to loosen up! This skirt is one of those projects. Instead of trying to applique these animals onto the skirt itself, I just slapped them on some gorgeous batik rectangles and zigzagged in a loose stitch setting.

This is the back of the skirt.

One pass around the unturned edges with an open zigzag is really enough to keep the applique in place. And, it takes a whole lot less time to get each motif done. Nice!

After I had a pile of animals sewn onto the four different batik prints, I just sewed them onto the skirt with a straight stitch. I didn't even hem the rectangles.

I am so proud of myself! I am letting these fabric squares ravel and wrinkle and just do what soft cotton fabric likes to do.
And, boy oh boy, do I like this skirt?


It looks almost as if a newbie made it and that is just what I was going for.