Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Functional Art


In any case, sometimes I just have to make something. Beginning, middle, end. How about you? Do you ever have that overwhelming urge?

Last week at Fiber Art Fusion, Melinda led us in a workshop on using mystery and other non-quilt-cotton fabrics to make a needle book, or a small bag. She encouraged us to experiment with all the decorative stitches on our machines in the tradition of crazy quilts.

It was such fun. I brought my little patchwork piece home and proceeded to stitch with some rayon thread, using a variety of machine stitches. It was interesting but ultimately I was not entranced with it.

So it went in the trash.

But I was still in the mood, so I started over, using swatches from Sawyer Brook and sewing projects. This time, I used hand-stitches to embellish. I cannot say if I will ever use it, but it was satisfying to make.

Dimensions: about 5.5 x 5.5 inches
Old macrame beads
quilt cotton, wool, knits, linen, silk
embroidery with #5 DMC pearl cotton

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Lagniappe: a small gift.

I've heard it used as a synonym for serendipity. Maybe serendipity is closer to my meaning.

Today I received a small gift of time. Lagniappe? Maybe. Serendipity. Certainly. Time to spend in my workroom to nearly finish a shirt. I savored this sweet bonus time.

The shirt is not perfect, but I won't dwell on that.

There were a few challenging aspects. First the fabric is very different from anything I have sewn. It is a nice cotton shirting with just a little sheen. I purchased it at Heddy's in Las Vegas. It presses beautifully and is easy to handle in most ways. 

The color effect is unusual, composed with seemingly equal parts blue and black in a Moiré pattern. The weave pattern is hard to track. As luck would have it, I failed to notice the Moiré appearance until I had cut it out. As usual, I had very little fabric for my planned project. Had I noticed the Moiré, I might have fretted over matching it and abandoned this.

The second challenge is that this is a very dark color, much darker than it appears in the pictures. Two Ott lamps plus the regular machine light were almost not enough, especially when I had to remove not one, but two, machine stitched buttonholes!

Having seen some really cool versions of Butterick 6026 online, I've wanted to make it again. Last time I used this fabulous pattern, I created the 3/4 sleeves shown in one of the views. I've worn and enjoyed that top.

This time, I decided to graft Louise Cutting's excellent classic sleeves onto Butterick 6026. This sleeve is from her pattern titled The Blouse Perfected. I wanted classic long sleeves with a placket and cuffs to turn back. 

I left off the collar, as I really like a simple collar band. The inside of the collar band, and the inside of the cuffs are made from another cotton shirting. 

In the picture (and in reality), it almost looks faded in the areas where the light threads dominate the dark. I like that effect.

All in all, I think I will enjoy this shirt. I just need to add the buttons. I am still hopeful that real autumn weather will show up in the southeastern US, allowing me to once again wear a long sleeved shirt.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Almost Free

Remember these? 

I lived for many years in Austin TX. At the time, every woman I knew had 3-4 of these. Little girls had them too. Perfect house dresses. Brand new in bright colors, they were pretty enough for many occasions. Just right for Austin in August. You just had to go to Mexico to buy them.

This one is worn and it is tight in the shoulders and bust. I cannot get rid of it. Look at that bright embroidery. The fabric is probably a very inexpensive cotton, and it is faded to white in some places. It was made by machine. The embroidery is hand-sewn. Can you see the smocking that gathers the dress to the yoke? How much more I appreciate that now!

I remember the vendor calling out to me as I tried to walk by - "almost free, lady." I am glad I stopped and bought it. I probably paid too little.

Some years back while attending an ASG conference I had a chance to visit with the owner of I have been a big fan of folkwear patterns for a long time, especially, the Asian garments. 

I mentioned to Kate that they were missing a key piece from Mexico. It was this dress, known to me as the Mexican Wedding dress. She said that might be coming out in the future.

Recently while reading their newsletter I saw it. The Old Mexico dress, which can be made as a dress or a top. I ordered it immediately and began to think about fabrics I should use. Linen? Kona cotton? Silk dupioni. All would be gorgeous, especially with heavy-handed embroidery.

When it arrived, I showed my daughter. After all, she was born in Austin and returned to go the university there. I was certain that she would share my excitement.

She said the top would probably be OK, but the dress veered into mumu territory. Yikes! Mumu territory? That certainly punctured my little balloon trip down memory lane.

So I made it anyway.

Not a mumu. PJs. My new favorite PJs. 

Too big for a dress or a top - I'll size down when I try it again. The sleeves are not quite right. I will make it again. But not now.
wrinkled PJs

This is not my favorite pattern and it did not live up to my fantastical expectations. My daughter was right. But I used fabric I purchased for a song. And it aged in the stash quite a long time.

Almost free.