Wednesday, January 13, 2021


Peony vest in silk-cashmere, Swing tee in cotton knit, Helix pants in ponte

Back in Lubbock TX (USA), my first BFF and I loved to play dress-up. I expect we played other games, but my clearest memories are of dress-up. Our mothers and maybe our grandmothers supplied us with their castoffs and we had a blast. Our favorite item was the purple skirt. There were many negotiations around who would wear it on any given day, but I think I owned it. Or maybe she owned it and I bullied her into letting me wearing it. 

Peony vest, Odette shirt, Picasso pants

When my family moved to Dallas TX for my father's job, I ceremonially bequeathed it to her. I was sure that I would be too sophisticated in Big D to play dress-up any more. I was 8 years old.

Peony vest, Odette shirt, Helix pants

I have no memories of playing dress-up again. But today I'm thinking maybe I never stopped. I called it going-to-class, or date-night, or going-to-work. More recently I called it going-to-lunch with friends or DH, or maybe attending-a-meeting, and certainly going-to-church, as that has been a constant for me.

Peony vest, Now shirt

Now that we've been in lock-down for about 10 months, I guess I must come clean. I still like playing dress-up. I enjoy dressing my dress form, and most days I enjoy dressing myself, even though I generally stay at home.

Peony vest, Detour jacket

I have just finished a Peony vest (TSW the Sewing Workshop) in a silk-cashmere blend double cloth. I bought this at our wonderful local fabric store, Gail K. It's a scrumptious color that is hard to nail down. It is orange but also deep raspberry.

The Peony vest is super simple - three or even two pieces. TSW's gallery has some lovely artful examples. The pattern is no longer available in print form but is available as a download. The original envelope includes a second very different vest, plus lining pieces for the Peony. The left and right fronts of the Peony are different, creating an asymmetrical closure. I have made it with two right fronts on occasion. For this one I used the original and added a collar by cutting a rectangle the length of the neckline.

The fabric is very soft, yet quite firm. I initially convinced myself I could go with completely raw edges, making this a very quick make. I seem to be cold all the time right now so I looked forward to being warmed by this layer of clothing.

But once I had made some real progress, as in I almost completed it, I realized that I was wrong. This fabric will always look a bit shaggy if the edges are not finished. I had layered the center back seam that I added to the pattern. I had layered the shoulder seams and a collar I had drafted for it. Oof! Lots of reverse sewing. 


The more I ripped, the more I re-sewed, the more I knew it needed more finishing. First I cut up a piece of kimono silk purchased from Anne Williamson to use as a bias binding on the collar and front edge. That was a fail. It was too stiff and the print did not show well in bias.



I found some fabrics in stash that would blend with this interesting color. I chose the orange silk-cotton remnant for the interior edges, and the burnt orange silk dupioni for edges that would show. The pink-red batik was not used.

I machine stitched the hem and hated it, so back to the seam ripper. My favorite running stitch (sashiko) to the rescue.

I may add some more hand-stitches and I definitely want to add a little something to the back neckline. 

After wearing it a bit, I think I might like a closure or two. It is totally yummy to wear. I do not think I've sewn or worn a more comfy fabric. 

For now, I'm enjoying playing dress-up with it.

Monday, January 11, 2021


Brown is my favorite color. When I was first playing with paint, I always created brown. Of course, I did not yet understand the way colors blend. I'm still working on that but have realized that I love brown anyway. I also live for chocolate.

So here is my chocolate column. It is composed of a swing tee in cotton (plus a little lycra maybe) jersey, and modified Helix pants in a very firm darker brown ponte. 

I was pleased to find a really good cotton jersey at Gail K, my go-to local fabric store. I think it has a little lycra in it because it recovers nicely. My burn test showed only cotton.

It was easy to manipulate without a lot of curling. I chose the Swing Tee from the Sewing Workshop. I've made this a number of times extended into a dress, and once as a tunic. It's a longish tunic so I thought I'd need to shorten it. Evidently when I cut it I extended it. So this time, I went with the original downloaded pattern plus sleeves extended to full length.

Using a combination of rotary cutters and scissors, I cut it out single layer. First I cut one side with center front pins extending into the fabric to prevent me from accidentally cutting down CF. I also placed a nip at center front at the neckline and at the hemline. This allowed me to then flip the pattern tissue and precisely line it up down center front. 

I used Linda Lee's standard of making the neck binding 7/8 of the neck opening and it worked like a charm. I wanted to keep the seam allowance pressed down, so I added some feather stitch to this area. For balance, I added this to the sleeve hems.

I intended to make a collar but was having such a good time that I forgot about that. Oh, well. Next time.

I added a little kantha scrap to the back neckline. That's it. So satisfying.

I also made some new brown ponte Helix pants. My standard change to that is to simply add a waistband. I like the fit so much better this way.

Here with Odette tee shirt in cotton knit 

These are very simple makes and basic garments, but still amazingly enjoyable to me.

So what are you sewing to take your mind off the current state of the world?

Friday, January 8, 2021

Vestments - a new stole

In the Episcopal church, priests and other clergy wear vestments. Vestments also adorn the lectern and the altar, and sometimes other places in the main worship area, the nave. These are heavy in symbolism and can be ornate or quite simple.  

Over the years, in various churches, I've made vestments. Some were made with the most exquisite, expensive silk brocades I've ever cut into and others were made with easily available materials, most often silk or wool.

Recently my priest asked me to make a new priest's stole for the church. I am not sure how old the existing stole is but it's very worn and not worth repair at this point. This does not show up in the pictures I have.

the old stole

A stole is a shaped scarf of sorts that is worn around the neck of the priest and drapes to about calf length. It should be quite simple to make, right? I took the old one home to trace onto pattern tissue.

The old one has an interesting back neckline, with a cord inserted on the longer side of the stole to hold it away from the neck. I have no idea if this has meaning or is just a way to keep it away from the body. It looks odd to me. 

I justified omitting this detail after finding many examples online without it. All the previous stoles I've made were made without this detail. This means that the stole fits snugly to the neck. Other garments are worn next under it, so I'm not terribly worried about this.

Of course, it will be easy to add the cord if my priest wants it. He is easy going and I doubt he'll care one way or the other.

Naturally I made the construction more difficult than necessary. This is entirely my fault, as I took my usual approach to sewing. I just jumped in, making design decisions on the fly.

the new stole

I'm lucky to have quite a nice stash of silks from other projects, remnants from clothes as well as previous sewing for my church. This particular stole must be green. The episcopal church follows a seasonal color scheme in its use of textiles with green the most frequently used color. It is referenced as "ordinary times." Generally this green is almost a clear almost-apple green and I always have trouble finding it. Greens can be quite tricky. There are so many different hues of green and they follow popular trends in other textiles. For a while, only olive greens were available, for example. 

I used a variety of green silks in the hopes of avoiding a clash by creating a blended effect. The original stole (and coordinating vestments) included shades of purple too, so I added two shades of purple as well. I'm in high hopes this works!

The process was interesting and actually quite centering for me. I especially enjoyed the design process and my priest gave me total freedom. I also enjoyed adding a little embellishment. 

a little embroidery separating these pieces

Our church organizes much activity around four words: welcome, love, nurture and feed. So I enjoyed adding those on the back side.

Traditionally the stole has a visible cross on the back neck. I think these are often machine embroidered. After making a few samples, I appliqued a gold silk cross (two bias tubes) and added some silk threads to the center. Ok, ok, I made samples after messing up on the finished stole first!

But now I want to make a chasuble to match it. The chasuble is the outer poncho-like garment worn over the stole. The existing one looks quite shabby next to the new stole.

Hmmm...this may be a continuing project.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

New Year's Amulet

my New Year's Amulet 2021

NOTE - much of the art displayed in this post is NOT MY WORK. I have referenced it where I know the source. If you know sources I've missed, please let me know. The final pictures are of my work.

Fiber Art Fusion is a little group I sort of lead. Each month we have a program, typically taught by a member. Our topics range from weaving to painting to paper arts, though there is a bias to quilting arts. Now that we have to meet over zoom, there is no hands-on piece but it does lend itself to slide shows.

Hindu goddess amulet

Last night I presented a short program on amulets. My interest in this started with an article in Quilting Arts magazine a couple of years ago and so I volunteered to do a little research and present something.

I am unable to distinguish between amulets, talismans, and charms. I found several articles on the subject and came away with more questions than answers. I do think that the common theme is a spiritual exploration using a concrete object to guide the senses. 

One of the bloggers I follow - Che'usa Sienna Wend - posted in late December on her tradition of a New Year's bag. In her family tradition, she wraps a penny in cloth and stitches it together - seed money for the coming year. And then she enjoys having them in her studio where she can pick them up and just enjoy their simple beauty.

Susan Brubaker Knapp has a free downloadable pattern for her amulets. These are worn around the neck and use lots of little scraps of fabric, beads and other embellishments. They look like little bags but do not actually have an opening.

Of course there are many amulet style symbols found in most religions. My church, St Patrick's Episcopal Church, is rich in religious symbolism such as flying Jesus seen below. I have just finished a new priest's stole with related symbols. I'll post about that next.

Children's kimono often had amulets sewn to the back neck to ward off evil spirits. I enjoy adding a little piece of something to the back of my handmade garments though I don't tend to think much about evil spirits. I was probably influenced by my fascination with kimono though.

Naturally I wanted to make at least one sample after doing my research. While binge watching PBS's Grantchester, I made this one entirely by hand. Very satisfying work - I recommend it!

my work

I started with a scrap of natural colored linen and folded it with my fingers to about 6" x 4". Then I pieced three other scraps of fabric together and attached them to the linen surface. I do love linen - so lovely for hand work.

Linen base, silk on the right, kantha scrap upper left, red linen lower left

Next I folded it in half and stitched two sides together with a contrasting thread. I also added a little random sashiko stitching. My finished amulet is 4x3.

I fashioned a lining with a small piece of coral silk, making it just slightly smaller. This time I just used a running stitch to attach two sides, right sides together.

Then I dropped the lining in place, folding a hem for the amulet top, as well as the lining top. I stitched the two folded edges together with visible stitching.

In order to attach a cord for wearing, I used the blanket stitch to create a little thread bar on each side of the top of the amulet. 

I shopped the stash for leather cord to slide through the thread bars. I secured the cord with wrapped Pearl cotton thread. I found my hemostat quite handy for this.

I hope to wear it as a necklace. For now it is full of wishes and hopes for 2021. Maybe I'll go somewhere in 2021 and put some mad money in it. Or maybe just a penny.