Monday, November 23, 2009

Goodbye to Emma Allebes

Emma Allebes, Artist and Bernina Fashion Designer
Our dear Emma Allebes, an unforgettable Fairfield and Bernina fashion show designer, died of leukemia on October 6, 2009. So much of my stuff is still packed away, but I found a photo album and there was Emma. I think this might have been taken in the year 2000 at the wonderful quilt show we used to have in Marin county. Emma had requested that flowers at her service be tied with black and white checked ribbons. It's serendipity that I have her photo in those checks!

I always remember her NY taxi cab outfit, and the pearly queen (like they have in England). I hope she enjoyed sewing on buttons! She and I met at the party after a Bernina show, both of us feeling a bit shy and out of place, so we spent much of the evening talking and from then on delighted in running into each other. I won't go on, you can read wonderful things about Emma at What a wonderful idea for her daughter Shenna to put up the blog so her wide circle of friends and family could come together in thought.

Here is the jacket that won Emma a red ribbon that year in Marin. Her work was impeccable. Look at the variety of techniques she put into a cohesive whole. At first you just see the intricate, traditional piecing but it is combined in such a variety of sizes and blocks and fabric variations, that it does not look very traditional. It doesn't look bulky or bumpy, and then you see the manipulations with various prairie points and beads.

Always lovely work! I will try to post more photos of her work as I collect them.

More of My Ethnic Embroidery
I stopped working on my vest. Between cats and a new job and the caretaking life, I just didn't have the time or energy to work on the vest for Rachel Clark's exhibit. I had done all that research and all that planning and drawing, but I didn't have chunks of time to work on it. At first it was the sciatica that brought me down. It was too painful to stand at the cutting table, all summer long. I didn't cut anything this year while the sun was shining outside. But I did go to physical therapy and now the pain is gone and the energy is back but I'm out of time. Still, I keep plugging away, hoping to finish something, exhibit or not. My plans have evolved to where I'm no longer thinking in terms of the traditional Polish beaded little vest with peplum. This is good, it just took time to come out.

For now, here's a photo of my embroidery over waste canvas and the end result. Getting the canvas was hard enough. Then I didn't want to take the time to baste it down (time being of the essence) so you see I pinned it down to the hooped fabric. I'm stitching on black silk noil. The thread is DMC 5 Pearl Cotton, and I'm using 8.5 threads to the inch waste canvas.

All this worked just fine though I think a finer thread would have been even better. What didn't work well was my mind. The chart wasn't totally clear and I made mistakes. Next time I will chart on graph paper. That way I'll know when a square refers to a cross stitch and when it means to make an open square. Live and learn.

The Holidays are Coming
In the spirit of the holiday season being upon us, I thought I wouldn't so much do in-depth reviews as let you know what has excited me out there.

The Knitter's Handbook
has been out for a number of years but I think well worth mentioning. It is a small book that you can tuck into your purse or knitting bag for quick reference. There are clear little drawings and short explanations. There are things here I didn't even know I need to know. Just a helpful little book when you can't get to your big reference books. I received it from the people who put out Knitter's Magazine. The Knitter's Handbook, XRX Books, Inc., PO Box 1525 Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 2005. ISBN 1-893762-21-1. www.knittinguniverse

Now why have I been thinking about knitting when I haven't been able to knit or crochet in years (worked at it too hard and hurt my hands)? It all started with spring photos of little lambs being bottle-fed and twins in the field with their mothers. I was hooked on this blog about a farm. Soon I discovered that I've known about Kristen for years. This week I gifted myself with Color by Kristen. It arrived yesterday and oh my, am I glad! It practically forces me to start knitting again.

When you read Kristen's blog (go back through the archives) you learn how she travelled the world and collected ethnic textiles. You should see the socks she picked up in Greece! These textiles inform her work and this book really shows it off. Wait until you see the kimono shaped jacket! This is Fair Isle knitting and she promises to teach us an easy way to do it. I won't spoil the effect. It's colorful, it looks intricate, it definitely looks ethnic, and I love it. The rest of the book is a mix of mittens, tea cozies, children's and adults' sweaters and slippers, scarves and pillows. It's all bright and happy, just my cup of tea! Colors by Kristen, How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits by Kristen Nicholas. Sixth&Spring Books, 233 Spring St., New York, NY 10013.2009. ISBN 978-1-933027-83-8. If you want an autographed copy, go to Kristen's blog to place your order. She and the farm would appreciate it.

I have much more to tell you about but Lolalee still wakes me up too early and I'm tired. I'm the new part-time editor of the newsletter for the Textile Arts Council at the de Young museum in San Francisco. It fits so well with my own interests! I'm also editing a quilt pattern for a first time designer, so my time is full. I'll leave you tonight with the latest photo of our 3 month-old kitten, and how fall looks in Hidden Valley Lake.

It rained last week so the grasses have started to grow even as the leaves are falling down. Till we meet again, Rosalie

Monday, November 9, 2009

Artwear-related Sales and Great Viewing

Quality Fabric Sale!
Tonight I'm doing a bit of artwear catch-up. First, a fabulous fabric sale. The online store is closing and what's left is 75% off. I was too late for the silk dupioni and many other fine fabrics, but I left you some of what's left and there's plenty in colorways that don't appeal to me. I'm considering going back for the cotton baptiste. They're going to send what's left to jobbers so hurry and give your stash a Christmas present.

Kayla Kennington, Bernina designer extraordinaire
Kayla Kennington was at PIQF so we had a chance to chat. She's had a lot going on in her life so she hasn't had time or energy to put up a photo of her latest pattern. But here it is, the Kwan Yin Kimono, #511. I brought it home, had a good look, and can't wait to sew it up. The drawing isn't very clear but it's another of her Modular Design Garments--a type of kimono that ties at the side. Gussets help create that floating points look at the sides. It's more of Kayla's signature style which is to use rectangles of fabric and combine them with little thread tacks (and sometimes beads) to create garments. I'm not explaining this as beautifully as it looks, but if you read Threads magazine, you would have read about the technique ages ago, also her fabric collage technique that creates new fabric yardage from silk scraps. (I tried it and it isn't as easy as it looks!) Kayla had to stop dyeing her fabrics because she was having a reaction to the dyes. Now she has found metal-free acid dyes that don't harm her--Greener Shades. I bought a batch because I'm always aware of the need for safety in using dyes. I especially don't use them anywhere near my cats or birds. These are for animal and other protein fibers and nylon so I won't be using them on my cottons. You can order the pattern and dyes directly from her. Go to her website to get an eyeful!

High Fiber Under Five
The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is running its annual fundraiser, High Fiber Under Five, an invitational benefit art sale, November 3-8. This is your one chance to see and acquire amazing works from some of fiber arts' luminaries. Go to their site to see the details and to see the wearable art by Carol Lee Shanks, Caryne Finlay Mount, and Latifa Medjdoub. Carol Lee always surprises me with her designs. I've been to her Open Studio and she gets mobbed. What looks "different" on the hanger is quite lovely on the body. I always remember her white clothes so was surprised to see these indigo pieces. And as for Caryne, I was there when she created those pieces for a one-woman show. Mostly Caryne works with old kimono which she reworks into intriguing coats. But for that show Caryne created the "kimono" shapes from scratch. The multi-colored patchwork coat she first hand-dyed the fabrics. The white one she crocheted. She worked like a fiend, using all the techniques many of us know and barely use. I wonder if I can find my photos from that exhibit--packed away somewhere. In any case, here's your chance to buy one of these creations for yourself.

Holly Badgley
Yet another sale--Art Reception, Vintage and Ethnic Textile Show & Sale at Sync Salon, 170 Columbus Ave at Pacific, San Francisco. Monday November 16, 5 to 9 pm. RSVP 415-397-1078 or This is a regular art event. I don't know all the participants but I do know Holly Badgley. Fabulous handpainted coats and jackets. I hadn't seen her in a few years and my reaction to what's online is that it's better than ever!

Coco Chanel
Last month I went to a one-woman show about Coco Chanel. I had no idea what to expect, but because I knew mom is a big fan of Chanel, I took her for a night out. She was enthralled! And I was so enchanted by what Annette Baldwin can do on stage, that I want to see it again. Annette Baldwin is a historical actress which means she researches characters she wants to portray, writes the play, and then takes it on the road herself. With nothing more than a simple stage setting of chair and table, she gives us a sense of who the person was. We hear Chanel's opinions and about her attitudes, both about life and her fashion ideas. All this from a woman dressed in a Chanel suit. Then Baldwin presents slides from that life, specifically the clothes Chanel designed. Finally, Baldwin has slides to demonstrate the effect Coco Chanel has had on fashion through the years. We all wear Chanel now. I really liked that final part--and then there was a Q & A session that was also very informative. Annette Baldwin works via her company, Moments in Time. She knows fashion because she worked for Lord & Taylor for many years. I can't remember for sure, but I think she said she used to go to Fashion Week and such, so she was highly immersed in fashion. I recommend her production to wearable art groups, to fashion groups like the ASG, and to fashion departments in schools. She would do well on a large stage also, but I want you to know that this would be suitable for a presentation at a meeting.

Marcy Tilton November Newsletter
Go to Marcy Tilton's website and look for her November newsletter (listed on left side). Marcy talks about her long list of Vogue patterns and recommends fabrics you might use for each one. These are the fabulous, quality fabrics that she sells on her site. She also talks about how she has embellished or enhanced her versions of her own patterns. Interesting reading and lots of wearable art ideas--I have to come back when I can spend the time. I bought her most recent pattern and hope the stretch fabric I have will take stencils. I don't want a shiny all black jacket, but an all-over handmade print would be fun.