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.

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