Saturday, July 25, 2009

Details I Forgot to Consider

Planning HOW to Make This Next Artwear Vest
I knew I had to plan what I was making. I forgot to plan HOW I was making it.
I happened to catch sight of a book that I have turned to as a reference over the years. Embroidery with Beads by Angela Thompson was originally a B.T. Batsford Ltd. book, but in 1992 it was republished by Lacis, 3163 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703. ISBN 0-916896-38-2 It is listed for sale (same price) both on Amazon, and at the Lacis website It's mostly a black and white book with drawings and photos detailed enough to teach me what I need to know. It feels a bit dated but these are the timeless basics. It moves from beading for theater, church, and fashion, through beaded quilting and smocking, and tambour beading. It's got general instructions across the spectrum of bead embroidery. Angela very quickly convinced me that I have to bead before I sew. Oops.

I had forgotten that beading, like embroidery and quilting, will pull up the fabric. I was thinking the fabric would be heavy enough to work it in my hands, but this book convinced me that I would have to use a frame. I need to do the beading first, then cut out the pieces of pattern. I'm in trouble--I'm a slow embroiderer. I'll start out, see how it goes, and look for a Plan B if need be. I already had planned to machine applique part of the design so maybe this will help tremendously.

When I'd met with Rachel Clark who is the curator/coordinator for the exhibit of artwear next December at Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove, CA, I realized she wanted garments that were more quilterly than what I had planned. I knew I wanted to do beading and embroidery. Then after talking to Rachel, I had to rethink this. I didn't want to mess with my final design, so I decided to piece the foundation as a nod to quiltmaking. I would piece the fabric then stitch away. Silly me. I didn't think about the details of how--after all, I've been doing embroidery for years, I was just going to jump in with needle, Sylamide thread, and beads. Sometimes we need a reminder, don't we? I'm so glad for reference books!

Finding Just the Right Fabric for that Vest
Black broadcloth would not do. I wanted textures to mix together since the foundation was all black. So I got online to and proceeded to spend a lot of time looking at black fabric. You can't see a thing except a black box but at least they have fabric descriptions that work if you know your fabrics. I ordered a cotton jacquard, a cotton pique, suiting, 100% linen, and a quilted cotton. Since I didn't want to pay high shipping costs, and they were having a sale, it seemed to take forever for the fabrics to arrive via "snail-mail." Of course I wanted it next day but I wouldn't pay for the service.

This is a quick photo of my choices right after I took them out of the drier--funny how the black fades in a photo taken in the sunlight. You can see the variations in color and texture. Across the bottom (L to R) that's the cotton pique, the cotton jacquard, and just peeking out, the suiting. Top row is a poly-rayon that has a weight I like, a linen blend, andd the brownish linen. That was a double-faced quilted cotton--nice texture and good color but heavier than what I wanted to cut up. The suiting looks like shiny polyester but has a good texture with lots of straight lines (now I'm clearer on what "suiting" can mean). The linen is a disappointment. First, it looks more like a very dark brown. That happens with black, you're getting different dyes going into these things and so there's a wide variety in the resulting black. On its own it's ok as a black, so I can use it for a wholecloth garment. But I was tempted to return it because it didn't look or feel like linen. I don't like doing a burn test because I never get it right, so I took a gamble and washed it (not returnable then) and yes, once washed, it definitely had more of the texture of linen, phew!

A Pattern Would be Helpful
I have been through my pattern stash and found two possibilities for this garment. I had a hard time steering away from patterns with a Japanese feel. I didn't realize just how partial I am to kimono jackets or anything approximating the kimono shape. I was about to take a chance on an old Vogue pattern I hadn't used before, but I suspect it too would come across as Japanese, as in Issey Miyake. I came across more photos of ethnic garments and that steered me into a more traditional pattern shape. I hope to have it drafted tomorrow.

In Other News:
ArtFest Fort Myers accepting entries for the 10th annual downtown Fort Myers outdoor juried fine art festival. This juried art show features the work of 200 artists. All artwork exhibited must be created solely by the displaying artists. Entries are accepted in 16 categories: Ceramics, Digital, Drawing, Fiber, Glass, Jewelry, Metal, Mixed Media 2-D, Mixed Media 3-D, Painting-Watercolor, Painting-Oil/Acrylic, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, WEARABLE and Wood.

Artists are selected to participate through a jury rating of artistic conception, originality and workmanship. Cash prizes totaling $5,000 will be awarded at the festival. Apply online by e-mailing, or visit the Web site at The application deadline is Sept. 16.

Artwear By Christen
Christen began her career in Wearable Art in 1986. Her work has been shown in galleries and fashion shows throughout the world. Her blog shows many beaded pieces that you might enjoy and lists the classes she teaches.

Quilt Festival in Long Beach
The International Quilt Festival/Long Beach is taking place at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA. The festival began with a special preview night on July 23 from 5pm to 9pm. Friday and Saturday hours are from 10am to 7pm, and Sunday, 10am to 3pm. General admission is $10, students and seniors are $8, and children age 10 and under are free with adult. The Bernina Fashion Show will not be the stage show, but they will have a daily exhibit where you can have a good close look at the fashions. Expect some 450 vendors--my favorites are books, fabric, patterns, and unusual notions. Did I mention fabric? This is where you can find the rare and unusual. You can also enroll in some classes when you get there. Wish I were going!

Last year was the first year for The International Quilt Festival/Long Beach. I heard that the businesses of Long Beach didn't know what hit them. Many were taken unawares with the sheer volume of people. You can be sure they're ready for the onslaught this year. This show follows the show in Houston and in Chicago. My understanding is that each show has a bit of it's own local flavor and the lucky ones are those who travel around to all three!

Samurai Exhibit in San Francisco
News from Carole Parker of PenWAG: The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco has a Samurai exhibit through September 20th. This is the *only* U.S. stop for this exhibit. I attended a large Asian exhibit some years ago in Oakland where the first part of the show included several variations of Samurai warrior garments. Absolutely fascinating how beautifully they were made with fine stitching and narrow binding. Just as interesting was that their closures we now often duplicate in artwear. I'm going to have to get to this exhibit!

The Clothing Show in Toronto (Sept. 25-27)
Come to the Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto. For over 30 years, The Clothing Show has hosted a show & sale for local designers and artisans exhibiting the hottest new designs and vintage treasures. Runway shows will be happening throughout the weekend; plus a large gallery displaying work by local up-and-coming artists. Shop from over 300 booths of unique handmade clothing & accessories, antique to contemporary design jewellery, shoes, home accessories, vintage records, etc.
Fri, Sept. 25: 3-9pm, Sat, Sept. 26: 11am-9pm, Sun, Sept. 27: 11am-7pm Tickets: $8 advance, $10 at the door. for advance tickets and information. For vendor inquiries, please call 416.516.9859 or email – We’d love to hear from you!

Fabric Shopping?Fridays are Farmer's Market time for me. In Clearlake we have wonderful live bands entertaining us on the shores of Clear Lake as we visit among the produce and jars of jam and salsa. Two farmers are my favorites--one brings tree fruit and the other the best tomatoes and cucumbers. I live on these all summer long. Now a new vendor brings in whole grain bread. Yum!! I like to sit and talk to Rose about her sheep and other critters while she spins her yarns. Last week Trina joined us. Here are photos of Trina's natural dyes on silk, indigo on cotton, and also local clay on cotton. Would you be interested in buying yardage?

By next time I should have Trina's blog before me to share with you. Please let me know if you want me to show more like this. I think her silk dyed with grasses or pennies is delicate and interesting (not shown here). The pink silk at the end is a composted piece. It's hard to find natural dyers. Also Trina is into recycle and reuse. I bet she'd dye/overdye your fabrics or garments for you. Contact me in comments please. Till next time, Rosalie

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Plan, Design, Create

The Planning is Crucial
I know that when we're in the excitement of making a new piece of wearable art, we're hot to jump in and get started. We're usually wanting to try a new technique, fabric, color combination, pattern, design, or any of a million things that go into artwear--and just want to get on with it. I know people who do that and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. My time is too short and valuable to waste making something I can't wear, so I'm more methodical. Do you stop to think about the process? Top of my list is making sure the thing is going to fit right.

If don't have my latest measurements and body shape, I can't get started. That's why I put so much time into making a moulage and sloper last spring. Now I trust that I can compare those vinyl copies of sloper pieces against any pattern I use. You probably can't see the detail in this photo but I buy size 10 patterns because that's what fits my neck and shoulders. Then you see where I have to redraw the sides to make the rest of the garment fit my body. Even if you're planning to make an oversized jacket for example, you should still check the fit. This is where you also consider proportions. If you're short, you don't want this jacket hanging below your knees, or have the shoulder drop near your elbow.

Getting My Plans Together
I'm still in the first stage of my next garment. It's the planning that I have to be sure of before I let myself design and create. I thought I was in the design stage until I realized that I keep backing away from the final vision. It's getting clearer, as of today I'm certain I'm making a long vest, but I haven't got a feeling for what it should be. (Actually, having said that, I sat out in the night and now I know what I want--lots of sparkle this time--probably influenced a bit this week by Michael Jackson's outfits.) I also know I'm making a black foundation. I know some of it won't come together until I have the pieces before me, ready to be stitched permanently. What colors of embellishing thread do I want to use, what color and types of beads, or which flower am I going to fussy cut--I don't know yet. But right now it doesn't matter, because at least I know I'm going to be doing some freemotion stitching as well as hand embroidery, I know I will be adding beads and even sequins, maybe even crystals, and I know I'm going to applique flowers. Knowing that and collecting the supplies to choose from is my planning process.

Sketching is Key
I've gotten my black fabrics by mail, I've met with Rachel and gotten her input on what techniques she wants, I've perused patterns and selected three I will combine, and I've sketched my ideas a couple of times. So I'm just about out of the planning stage. As you will see, I've been building the design simultaneously. I don't normally show them to anyone but I know these are not final, so I'll give you an idea of how I sketch. If I can't sketch it, I can't make it. It's just how it works in my brain. (And now that I've looked at the scanned copy as I'm editing this blog, I see that I'd better make sure that the vest is 2/3 of the entire length, including pants, otherwise my proportions are disastrous.)

Collecting Ideas
I had planned all along that I would make some sample pieces, to see just how the appliques and beading will look. But part of my creative process is the breathless excitement at seeing what happens in the doing. I like some of it to be spontaneous. This weekend I'm taking the class on ethnic embellishment so I'm going to get back to my handstitching skills and maybe even pick up a new idea or two.

Practice, Practice, Practice
I need to practice first when it comes to some skills. I always have to warm up for freemotion stitching. That's when I make the foundations of little purses, cell phone holders, or postcards. I prepare a fabric sandwich in an appropriate size and start to stitch--no goals, no worries, just play--if it turns out well, it gets used. This is my way to practice techniques and work out problems. To learn more about making quilted postcards, go to I just love making those. I use them for holiday and greeting cards all year round. But now I'm prepared to go even smaller: ATCs (art trading cards) which are the size of playing cards, and would you believe "inchies" which are one inch square. Here's information about ATCs with samples of people's work:

Inchie Quilts
As soon as I saw little beaded items on the cover, I had to buy Inchie Quilts by Nadine Ruggles. American Quilter's Society, 2009. ISBN 978-1-57432-991-9. ( Mostly the author explains how she makes inchies to apply to a quilt (with velcro, glue, etc.). She does explain clearly how to make inchies and provides many embellishment techniques including embroidery, beading, freemotion quilting, and more. She tells you what supplies to buy and how to finish these off. I kept thinking about how you could use them in wearable art. An obvious choice would be as a removable and interchangeable brooch or charm. I can see these tucked away in a collage vest or used as part of a closure. I can also see them as a focal point, though an inchie is probably way too small on it's own unless you expand the design beyond the inchie (for example, start a seam under an inchie seam and continue it across the garment). The idea of making them sounds like such fun, requiring even less designing than you have to do on a postcard or ATC. It's the beading I'm looking forward to because it doesn't take much to create a design. Yes, this is where planning and design overlap but then can carry you to a more successful creation.

Hmm, I'm going to try to make my posts shorter when possible so they aren't overwhelming to read. So I'll stop for now. I'll leave you with a view of who visits my husband who is cooped up at home.
This is Woodrow Woodpecker sipping out of the hummingbird feeder! He announces that he's about to come over so we can't miss his visit. Charming! Till later, Rosalie