Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stolen Wearable Art

Meryl Ann Butler reminded me that her ensemble that I mentioned in the previous post was one that was stolen. Here's an image of The Dawn of Remembrance: Egyptian Mysteries Unveiled.

Meryl Ann goes on to say:
"It was in the Fairfield Fashion Show 1997-98 (Ensemble pieces designed and created by Meryl Ann Butler. Headpiece designed by Meryl Ann Butler and Wendy Bush Hackney, and created by Wendy. Staff designed and created by Wendy.) c. 1997
The ensemble was stolen from the trunk of my locked car in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles, August 8, 2001. It is listed at Lost Quilt Come Home:
and on the LAPD Stolen Art website."

Wouldn't I love it if we could find it for Meryl Ann! Sharee Dawn Roberts who was lecturing in Europe, had all her magnificently freemotion-embroidered clothes in one trunk. It disappeared between venues. It's just heartbreaking! If you're not a believer, this is an example of the value of these incredible garments--somebody sure covets them.

In another reference to Meryl Ann and her book, please go to her website which I neglected to mention:

And yes, I'm still up to my eyeballs working on the jacket. For fun I thought I'd try the pattern without my usual adjustments, just to see how wrong I might be in always making changes. First thing to go will be the horizontal pocket line which falls right at the apex of my big diabetic belly. It was like a big arrow pointing. I'll either place the top of the pockets lower or eliminate them entirely. Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"90-Minute Quilts" and more

Meryl Ann Butler was one of five Fairfield/Bernina show designers who co-wrote a book on wearable art. I was asked to edit the book and thus became very familiar with their design styles, their thought processes in working out garment design, and of course with their talents. The book still hasn't been published for reasons beyond our control, but I have the greatest admiration for these women. So I know about Meryl Ann's capabilities, her sense of whimsy, and her efforts to meet the standards of good art. I have also seen the original and interesting ensembles she's made since then--can't recall exact details at the moment but one was of something like an Egyptian princess--stunning and exquisite. Using these same talents, Meryl Ann has now published 90-Minute Quilts, a book of over 15 projects, most of them quilts but also bags and pillows etc., using the 9-patch. It's available in bookstores everywhere I've looked. What I like about the book are the clear instructions, clean layouts, and many diagrams, and of course the bright colors. Plus it's spiral-bound so you can keep it open by the machine as you sew.

Yes, it's a book for beginners who need some easy, fast ideas to get them started. However, I found that even a practiced quilt book editor needs a refresher course at times, and Mery Ann's book helped me get my new baby quilt made. The surprise is that Meryl Ann has included a little bit of wearable art--a luscious silk shawl made just as simply as the quilts.

She preceeds it with a velvet quilt that to me would also make a fantastic shawl. And before that we get a quilt project from Susan Deal, another Fairfield/Bernina designer, who has embroidered blocks. Now wait a minute, wouldn't that also make a great shawl--or even a jacket? This book shows you the basics. It's up to you to take what you learn and use it to make something that can end up on your back!

I'm still working on my jacket that has to be finished by Wednesday, so I will leave you with a peek at the "unpressed" baby quilt I made last summer and finished under Meryl Ann's tutelage. I didn't use the nine-patch, I was just trying to piece together images that would excite a baby. However, I most enjoyed the freemotion quilting I did at the end, making up a different design for every block. It's a bit loud for me and full of "baby" images, but now that I look at it from a distance, sure, I could have cut this up into a vest! I hope I'm giving you ideas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Focus Tips from Another Blog

Hi again, I just added to my list of blogs that I read. I follow Elizabeth Barton because she is so wise as well as talented. Recently Elizabeth made a list of what to do to stay focused. You mean someone of her caliber has the same problems as I do about not getting distracted by the cats or the minutia of life? I agree with her totally that this is how we can manage to get creative work done. My newest trick is to leave work out so that next time I walk by I can just pick up and go on--no preliminaries to slow me down. That's exactly why tonight I got the rest of my strips cut as I watched Charlie Rose. Have you heard Calvin Trillin talking about his epic poem. Deliciously funny! And tomorrow I'm ready to start sewing.

I had a little adventure today. I had to deliver proof of my mom's marriage to Social Security. They wanted the original document which was handwritten and stamped officially 65 years ago. It's yellowed and fragile since this was written on war-time paper in Poland, so I hand-carried it instead of mailing it in. I finished my errand in a heavy downpour and decided my reward would be a visit to a quilt shop. Only I don't really know Napa that well yet. Long story short, my usual sense of direction failed me and somehow I wasn't landing at that mall. I was stopped at a light when I decided to give up, looked to my right and what do I see but Hancocks! At a time like this, any fabric shop will do. It was fate. They had a batik from India in the colors I'd been looking for. A year ago I had bought an African batik that is purple with areas resisted to brown. The large spots are overwhelming for my short body so I've been looking for something else to balance the "weight" of the print. Here it was, the answer to my needs! Don't you just love that kind of serendipity!

Well, now I've scanned it in for you--and it still isn't right, the bright light of the scanner shows me how the color is different, too pink. What do you think? I'm thinking a third fabric, maybe piping, will help. Maybe I'll have to do some surface design directly on the spots. Both the work and the idea will take time. Overdying is another idea. I've added a shred of a yellow/brown/green and it seems to deflect from these two and go off in a whole new direction. Yes, this is usually how it goes for me--that's why it can take me five years to finish a wearable art-style jacket!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adjusting Pattern for wearable art clothing

I've changed my mind. I found some silvery/violet doupioni that looks like it will work with my Australian cottons. It means I have to leave out the lovely bright yellow piece but I'll build something around it that will use more vibrant colors. I've been looking at some of Rachel Clark's clothes and I think her vest pattern would be ideal for this fabric. More on all this later when I round up more photos and facts.

In the meantime, I have made the first cuts in the foundation fabric, and I have looked at the pattern. Yes, it's the usual rectangular shape that does not follow the curves of my body. I can deal with that, I just add bust darts (which play havoc with pieced fabric), and change the slope of the shoulders. (My shoulders are very sloped--I carried tons of books back and forth to high school--at least that's where I was told to put the blame.) The bust darts allow the fabric to hang down straight in front. Changing the shoulder slope usually prevents the back from "pooching" out at the hem.

Elsewhere, I heard that if you have dropped shoulders in a garment, with the seam falling near the bust, that to the eye it exaggerates the width of the bust line. What I've been doing is removing as much as 4 inches of the drop. I can't draw just a straight line, the armhole becomes an inverted V shape. If I curve the line, then I have to draw a curve onto the top of the sleeve. It's my biggest hassle in adjusting patterns now, to the point that I'm tempted to make this one with the big shoulder drop and see just what it does. I hate a lot of excess fabric flopping around either over my shoulder or under it. I welcome your comments. Please write to me at the address that appears on Google.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Priscilla Kibbee, Bernina designer and traveller

Last night I was looking for a piece of silk doupioni I'd bought a few years ago. I don't think I've mentioned the status of my stash. I packed everything in plastic bins when we moved. That includes fabric, books, notions, office notes, you name it. The books were the first to be unpacked and line the long wall of my studio. I have a little sewing area surrounded by cat comforts, and finally set up a cutting table this summer, but all else is bins stacked as high as I can reach. That's why I've been sewing from the stash as much as possible. No, I still didn't find the dupioni, but what I opened had the backpack and dyeing supplies I'd bought on my last trip to Houston. I dug deep and at the bottom found some forgotten rolls of film. They were gems that I'll share with you as time goes on.

I first met Priscilla Kibbee online, then we met in Houston and became roomies. Many delightful hours I have spent with Priscilla who has unlimited energy, a droll sense of humor, and a delightful dry wit. In time she entered the Fairfield and Bernina fashion shows and produced mesmerizing, stunning wearable art ensembles. She draws on the cultures she visits in her distant travels. Because of Priscilla, I've been introduced to ikats, embroideries, and silks from Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Because of her I have molas from Panama, and embroidered blouses from Guatemala. She knows Nepal well and has travelled to both India and Turkey. So to read Priscilla's blog is sometimes to be an armchair traveller to exotic places with fantastic sights. In between her journeys she gives workshops on making pieced wearable art. She photographs the pieces as they go up on the design wall, and she shows us the students wearing their creations. I study proportions, balance, color, and harmony in their designs, and that informs my own work. I find this blog both inspiring and informative. Check it out yourself at:

But back to that bin from 2006--the photos included my closeups of Priscilla's Bernina garment that year. When I looked at my photos, I sensed the influence of India, even though I knew these were Kaffe Fassett fabrics, Seminole patchwork, strips of floral beadwork from China I think, and gold trim and sequins from heavens knows where. How did I get these closeups? Karey Bresenhan and her staff at the International Quilt Festival, in addition to the Bernina runway show with the kleig lights (sparkle, sparkle, sparkle!), provided informal modelling on the exhibit floor. To me it's a brilliant concept. The garments don't get to sparkle as much without the lights, but we get to see up close what the designers have done. Also, some designers would give a half hour presentation and answered questions. We got to put our noses close and see the details. So those are the photos I have here: Priscilla giving her presentation complete with samples of her fabrics and trims, the cocoon coat, the dress underneath, and the muff. I hope my photo of the muff is clear online, because it gives the best view of how much work Priscilla puts into every seam and stitch of these garments. For more details about this and her other work, also go to

As you see, I still haven't figured out how to move the photos. Obviously I have to go into html and fix that but I've been nervous to try. Another time. Meanwhile, if you want to reach me, I've added a note to the end of my profile. I think it's funny, but at least it's one way to get the information.

Wearable art for the new year

No matter how well I plan, time always runs short. I accepted a challenge to make a garment from fabrics from the M&S company. These are from Australian aboriginal designers which have always caught my eye but I didn't particularly like the colors. This batch had much more color so I was eager to begin. I mentioned earlier how I had placed an order with a store in Fort Bragg. I discovered I didn't have enough so drove to a store an hour away, Shelley's Quilted Treasures in Kelseyville, and she had exactly what I needed to round out the stash. So did I start right in with cutting? No. That deadline of Dec 31 is rushing at me!

I think this blog is another form of procrastination, darn it! Actually it took time to think about what technique I wanted to use. This fabric is special and brighter than I normally wear, so that means I want to limit what ends up emphasizing the front of me. Be as it may, I'm going to share with you the pattern I've chosen. More information about the pattern will follow later--right now I'm waiting for permissions. The jacket or vest I'm about to make is the Tombo, but I'm showing you both new patterns from The Mulberry Leaf.

I won't be able to share photos of the jacket in progress or finished until I know if it will be published or not. Normally if a photo is being published the publishers have first rights to the image. But at least I can show you the fabrics I've chosen and then maybe I will finally cut into them this afternoon. It's snowing and raining outside, so except for looking at whiteness on the far slopes, I have no need to be outside and distracted much.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Yves St. Laurent video lecture

Hi, I'm still hunched over my sewing machine, making "quick gifts" for sale. The sale is on Sunday and I have to wonder if anyone will show up, in the meantime, I'm almost ready. But while I sew, interesting things are going on around me. The one event I've been waiting for is the display of fashions from Yves St. Laurent at the De Young museum in San Francisco. It has begun and with all my intense personal stuff going on, I missed rejoining the Textile Arts Council and getting in on the various lectures and docent tours they usual schedule for these events. However, today I got a reminder from the museum and lo and behold, they have made videos of some lectures and so we're in luck! I haven't had time to watch the whole thing yet, it takes 1 hour and 35 minutes, but what a nice way to catch up on an important lecture and slide presentation. Go here to see it:

I've also been delving into finding ethnic fabrics. M&S fabrics have some new collections of Australian aboriginal designs. I used to be less than interested because the colors didn't appeal to me. But now they've discovered the rainbow and pastels and I'm excited to try some of them. If you search M&S fabrics on Google you'll eventually find the one that has a store locator for your state.

An exciting shop that's over the mountains from me in Fort Bragg CA, is Fabric & Art ( You'll find fabric from the world as well as fabric art supplies--and good service both online and by phone. In that same small coastal town you'll find Ananse ( from whom I've bought African fabrics and wonderful handmade baskets. Both websites are worth a look. I have to get myself over those mountains and have a look-see at those shops! cheers, Rosalie