Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sewing Expo Puyallup Tour

Hi all, this is late breaking news. I was just reading news from Marsha McClintock of Saf-T-Pockets patterns etc. ( I know that it's hard to get a room in and near Puyallup at the time of the Sewing and Stitching Expo (starts Feb. 27). Marsha says she still has room on her tour. It sounds like a great deal. You fly in or drive to Portland OR, join the tour which takes you by bus to Puyallup, includes a room and some meals for two days, then brings you back to the starting point. Had I paid attention sooner, this would have been ideal--none of the fuss of trying to find a room and transportation to the show. Just go and it's only $209. It's on her website, go have a look. She also has expo registration information at the site.

Marsha also shared information about a tour she's taking to NY. The information took me to the high point of my evening:
Click on all the text on the main page. There are fabulous photos at every turn. Talk about inspired! I love Koos Van Den Aker's ideas, just have to remember to use them when I'm in the fit of creativity and planning wearable art.

Did a little fme (freemotion) practice this week and turned it into a glasses case. I enjoy doing easy circles and they worked so well with the dot print.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Planning Wearable Art

It's time for a new jacket! I am so excited about the success of the last one and the headiness of trying new techniques, that I'm just burning to start the next one. I've laid out a bunch of fabrics on the ironing board. It looks like purple/red is next. I was thinking I'd get more of that batik from Wal-mart but not so, ALL the batiks were gone. Gosh, I'm just going to have to look for something else. I was looking at what was available in a silk doupioni online. Horrors! One place was advertising doupioni but when you read the blurb, it was 80% polyester, 20% silk. No wonder it was discounted! And not all that much.

I don't just jump in, I do a lot of thinking, looking through books for ideas, sifting through patterns, waiting for the aha moment. That got me to thinking about the process for the last jacket and the links surprised me. In the fall I was thinking I'd make tote bags for the bazaar. I did make some tote bags, but first I had to design MY tote bag since all the commercial patterns warn you about selling copies of theirs. I cut out various patterns to see what size suited me, then I read through any number of books. I've carried tote bags since I was walking--that was my security blanket I think, and people still refer to me as the bag lady. So I have a nice library of books about tote bags, particularly the ones that offer wonderful surface design techniques we can use in clothing. One of the latest was Fabulous Fat-Quarter Bags with M'Liss Rae Hawley (
The book is full of photos and one-page galleries for each of her ten styles of bags. Not only do you get straightforward instructions on how to make these easy bags, but also you get tips and lots of ideas for embellishment, and handle how-tos. I flipped through the book in the store, saw something I wanted to try and brought home the book. Oops, that was just a photo of a possible technique, it wasn't part of the instructions. The instructions are for the basic bag and variations on handles which I appreciate. But now what? Fortunately I knew where to look.

Ram Kim is a long time Fairfield and Bernina fashion designer. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area so I've seen countless of her designs. My all-time favorite was when she started to do delicate fabric manipulations. That's what this technique was! As luck would have it, I had bought her book but hadn't had time to review it. Wow, it is all there in Folded Fabric Elegance by Rami Kim ( To make this a project book, Rami presents wallhangings, pillows, totes and bags, but what's important are the instructions for the fabric manipulations. You've probably seen the smocking and continuous prairie points before. The Korean Chopkey designs are familiar as origami shapes. The detailed instructions combining drawings and photographs are excellent--clearly demonstrating every step visually as well as in text. After the manipulations, you get projects using these, and you also get photos of Rami's various garments. Rami's next book is due out soon and I can't wait to see it! See

To end this note, yes indeed, studying tote bags brought me to fabric manipulations from Rami Kim. I knew instantly that this is what I needed to add something special to my jacket. It was so plain and blah at first. I used the continuous prairie points flattened out which is what Rami does. Here's a picture of my first samples. I'm thinking for the upcoming jacket, I'm going to jump in feet first and quilt the fabric. I love doing freemotion quilting (fme) and creating my own designs as I go, but I'm far from perfect. Maybe at the end of this I'll be much better. The last jacket taught me that I also very much enjoy piecing my own fabric. So here goes...!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Creative Crystals on Wearable Art

Hallelujah, I've finished the jacket. Can't show it to you but can talk about the techniques a bit. Today I hot-glued Swarovski crystals for the first time ever. It brought up some issues--why have I never done this before? First, because I was raised to be frugal, that means clothing has to do double duty. You have to be practical, it has to stand repeated washing, be worn for years, and be suitable for any number of occasions. As I look back at my wardrobe of wearable art, it's mostly made on a foundation of black silk noil or black cotton (I'll show you some time). I like whimsy but never add it to my clothes, in case I want to wear them to an office, and on and on.

Now Meryl Ann asked me if I wanted to make something combining cottons and silk doupioni for her book. You betcha, but I'd never have done it for myself. I owned the silk but it sat in the stash like so many other wonderful pieces. Then she asked me if I'd like to try adding crystals. I said yes and ordered the equipment and the crystals with some trepidation. In the photo you can see the 30ss crystals I selected--they're above the pink BeJeweler. They're pretty big actually, but it was my first order and I was guessing.

The BeJeweler is a tool that you plug in to heat up--it heats the crystal and the glue that's already applied to the flat side. My first mistake was that I didn't wait for it to get hot enough so it wasn't picking up my crystals like in the instructions. So my first crystal fell off--but that's what happens when you're trying something new. I kept at it and pretty soon had the hang of it. Easy.

Now I've managed to glue crystals to my jacket, wondering all the while where I'll have the nerve to wear this. Five crystals into it, I was enjoying the sparkle and bling so much (I love shiny things) that I had to hold myself back from putting a crystal on every dot in the print. I do think I will add more, it's fun to sparkle. Just needed a little push to step outside the box! To order your own, go to Hmm, this is going to work on Margot's shoes too!(see earlier blog)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sloper Class Online

Just a quick note to tell you that Donald McCunn is starting an online sloper class on Monday, January 19. I've had his book for years and trust what he offers. Go to for more information including a YouTube demonstration. Here's some of his blurb:

How to Make an Upper Torso (aka Bodice) Sloper
This class shows how to create an Upper Torso Sloper that can be used for either women or men. You can use this sloper to create a wide variety of different styles of tops, shirts, vests, dresses, and gowns from either woven or knit fabrics.

The videos show both how to fit someone else and how to fit yourself without a sewing buddy. The class is structured so that you can view the videos that are appropriate to your needs and skip the portions you are not interested in.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sassy Feet!

Long ago, when I was in lots of weddings, I had a favorite pair of very comfortable heels. I was going to college on a limited budget so I bought paint and repainted those shoes to match each dress. It got to where there were so many layers, the paint was starting to flake off and of course had a "pasty" look. I haven't wanted to paint shoes since. But these economic times are going to take us back there--and Margot Silk Forrest is proving that it can be royal fun.

I don't remember when I first got to know Margot Silk Forrest. I think we connected when she asked about my newsletter, Art You Wear. Then she came to the Peninsula Wearable Arts Group meeting wearing a sweatshirt with interesting embellishments. When we finally sat down over food, we couldn't stop talking. It was one of those soul-mates moments. Now I moved and got busy, knew she was doing something with shoes, and then was giving classes on how to embellish shoes. From a distance it was like ok, but not my cup of tea. Well, she sent me her book last week and I'm a convert!

Margot is a writer from way back so I was expecting lots of text. What she's done instead is filled the book with photos--inspiring photos! I'm thinking I might go buy high heeled shoes at the thrift shop just to have some shoes to play with. I don't have to wear them, I can just look at them. This looks like so much fun. (I already have an idea for my dull black rain boots with the thick soles.) And there's double duty here. The book is about shoes, but I can see translating some of these ideas into embellishing jackets and vests too. Decorate your shoes and then carry the theme into a garment.

Margot is focused on shoes, so she tells you what products to try, what works on leather, how to find the embellishments (who knew you find rabbit fur dyed to look like chinchilla in the fly fishing department?), and what she did to make the shoes on these pages. It won't take long for you to recognize the "wearable art" aspect: piping, fabric scraps, dichroic glass, frogs, metal charms, embroidered appliques, and even shoe laces embroidered on the sewing machine. I'm sold! You're not going to find this book at a big store just yet. Go to to order your copy and other supplies she offers. There are also photos at Margot is scheduled to teach a shoe embellishment class at The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco in June 2009. That should be a treat!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pieced Fabric

Hooray, I finally finished piecing the fabric for the Australian fabric jacket! What I thought looks pretty dull and grayed, comes off pretty psychedelic in the scanner. Maybe I'm making up for what I missed wearing in the 60s? What was supposed to be two 29" square pieces, turned into an 85" square piece. It feels like I've just made a quilt top over the holidays, in between the feasting and carousing (just joking, except for shrill birdie songs we're pretty quiet around here). Next, final fitting of the lining and then cut the jacket out. We're supposed to have temps in the mid-60s so maybe I can spread out on my big tables outside. This is one time I'm grateful to be in California.

I have all kinds of things to tell you about but they'll have to wait while I meet my sewing deadline. One heads up: the new Threads magazine has an article from Sandra Ericson about proportion. It takes study, some pondering, and maybe we can even have a discussion. I took her class, have my notes, used the ideas, and still feel I haven't quite wrapped my head around it. More later...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Shibori wealth

Last year on I came across a DVD titled Arimatsu-Narumi Shibori, Celebrating 400 Years of Japanese Artisan Design. I had to wait until Christmas for this gift, and only just now opened it. My goodness, what a treat! My favorite class in recent years was in how to do arashi (pole wrapped) shibori. For years I have promised myself that I will take the time to hand-stitch some fabric in the other ways of shibori. What we have here is the perfect complement to the book Shibori by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellog Rice, and Jane Barton. The book has detailed drawings showing you how to stitch or otherwise manipulate the fabric to get the effect shown in photos. The DVD is the "action movie" that shows you the same thing. The DVD is in four sections: a historical introduction, the process including designing and mixing techniques, hand shibori techniques, and machine-aided shibori plus photos from the Sekka Dye factory (dyeing with indigo). This DVD proves that a picture is worth a thousand words.

I have had the Shibori book for ages, fully intending to study it, but watching artisans stitch the cloth or dye the folded and clamped fabric, is just so much more. After watching the DVD, I went back to the book and everything was that much more clear. Take a look, you'll see what I mean. By the way, the book has more examples and a gallery so I'm not saying either one is better than the other. I'm saying it's really wonderful to have both together.

I have to admit that while sitting with the cat in my lap, watching ladies carefully and slowly tieing and stitching designs, Yoshiko Wada's soft voice doing the voice-overs, and new-agey music playing in the background, I fell asleep. So I'm going to have to watch the process all over again--next time with a cup of coffee in hand. But no, it's not dull. It compares to those sewing shows where I could watch Fons & Porter endlessly cutting fabric or sewing seams. It's important to see how those Japanese ladies use their hands!