Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Funky Little Duster

Did I maybe mention I have developed A Huge Thang for linen dusters? I know it's silly, because, really: how many dusters can you possibly need?  What I love about them is, well, um (and I was trying to think here, really): everything. I love the extra layer, because I love layers of clothes. I love that they're warm(er) without being bulky. I love the wrinkly-ness and the pockets and the way they kind of flow out behind you when you walk. I like them because they feel kind of like a lab coat, and in My Secret Life, I'm a mad scientist doing amazing experiments with the chemistry set my parents never bought me as a child. Smart parents, but still: there's a lot of making up for lost time, at least in my head (because as long as I'm a mad scientist only in my head, there's no danger of my blowing up the house).

Most of all, I love finding dresses that, as dresses, kind of suck, and then turning them into dusters that are funky and cool. Like this one I finished this morning. It's a Bodil dress, and I love Bodil, but this was a mess of a dress. It had been in the shop for, I think, over a year. I tried it on once, and I grimaced. What were they thinking? It was a pale, pale green. It had belt loops and a wide tie belt  around the waist. The sleeves were gathered at the bottom and had a band sewn on. It was a hideous dress. But then, this last trip, I realized that a hideous dress could become a groovy duster to wear over jeans or another dress or leggings, or a skirt or, well, pretty much anything. Because it had been there, hanging around looking ugly, for so long, I got a really great deal on it (like maybe $10, I think). And I brought it home, washed it, dyed it, and did this:
 Sorry I didn't take "before" photos, but I didn't even think about it.

I took off the belt loops (before dyeing, so there wouldn't be lighter spots where they'd been sewn) and cut off the cuff-things on the sleeves and cut the sleeves evenly and hemmed them, Dusters demand rolled up sleeves, so that part doesn't matter as long as it's hemmed.
 I took off the wood buttons and replaced them with some I had. I can't find good, rich, olive green or chartreuse buttons, so I make do with what I *can* find. I can replace these later, if I find something I like better. Since all the handwork was done with variegated floss I'd dyed, almost any green that wasn't pure bright green will work.

After I sewed them on and tried it on, I decided I might actually want to button it sometimes (probably not, but you never know), so I cut the second buttonhole bigger and did some funky stitching, just because I could. I know it looks beyong sloppy, but it's very secure, and it's one of my favorite parts. Why? Because it's Just Do It, just try it and see what happens, just rip in and then mend or fix or whatever, but don't dither. Don't be timid. Anything can be made to work, somehow. It's a life lesson in that ripped-out buttonhole.

 Last night at The Wine Rack I did the necessary stitching. The back pleat never lay well, and that part always stuck out over the butt in a very unappealing way and Astronaut Diaper-ish way, so I stitched it all flat, finger pressing as I went:

 The collar always flipped up, and although I thought about removing it (and still might), for now I just stitched it down at the top and then added a row of decorative stitching at the bottom free edge part:

 I topstitched the tops of all the pockets:

 And then my very favorite part, the part I'm most pleased with: I cut the belt into strips and made a nice big pocket out of them:
I love this pocket; it's nice and sturdy and roomy:
Now I've got a dark grey linen jacket to appliqué with wool felt: I've cut out the appliqué and pinned it in place, and this morning I hope to get it stitched on and then find (in my stash) some coordinating buttons and replace those. See how cleverly I tell you these things, forcing myself (theoretically) into accountability? 

Yeah. Right. I'd better get cracking. . . .,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Seafoam Cuff

Because that's what the name of the wool-silk blend yarn is: seafoam. It sounds lovely, doesn't it? Never mind that actual seafoam is pretty nasty stuff, all churned up and specked with the waste dumped by cruise ships and the seasick people leaning over the railings and shark poop and lord knows what else that we don't EVEN want to think about.

But "seafoam." Yeah, sounds nice, so we're calling it that. This one was an experiment using silk ribbon. There were a couple pieces I bought years ago—the iridescent one—and there were some I cut from thrifted garments—the green and the blue (kind of purplish). There aren't any from saris yet; I've cut some, but not in these colors. Then there was the wool/silk blend yarn I got for 50 cents a skein just to play with (I'll never buy it again, as the 100% merino wool (the turquoise) is way softer than the blend. I have no idea why, but it is. Plus the colors aren't that great in the blend. But, hey, it's all an experiment).

This time I decided to use the entire loom, from side to side and all the way to both ends, just to see what happened:
 I had to move the button after I sewed it on because the cuff was still too loose, so it wraps around almost twice.
Just a cheapo plastic button, but I wanted green instead of the old worn shell ones:
 That ribbon in the middle below, the multi-colored one: I had no idea it looked like that until I took these photos out in the sun. Huh. Pretty cool, and I wonder where I got it.
 I tied all the knots on the outside. I like them; I like the slight fraying of the silk ribbon, adding even more texture:

 I laid soft green suede down along the outside thread, and I used the looped end to form this, below. I learned that from Tonia. I was going to use the other ends as ties, but the length was wrong, so I just knotted each one close to the cuff and cut off the excess.
 The weave is very tight, very anal. I'm going to work on loosening up on the next one I do. I think working with the silk will help there because it resists being beaten into place.
 I like this long shot:

So there's the newest one. Now to take time and string up all the looms; I've pulled old ribbon and yarn and random floss and stuff to play with, and I have enough bagged up for 6-7 cuffs. After that I think I'll move on to something more ambitious.


Sharon's Fabulous Sweater

Remember the sweater I showed you? Wool with some felted-in designs and some appliquéd ones, given to me by Sharon at Art is You in Stamford. So it's not actually Sharon's Fabulous Sweater, but *My* Fabulous Sweater:
I loved it: warm, not itchy, colorful, full of good vibes. But, of course, I had to Do Stuff To It. Sharon told me to! So I did, and here it is. I think I'm finished with it, at least for now:

 More wool felt appliqués, stitching in cotton and wool, some beads.
 I stitched around some of the existing flowers:
 I added stacks of wool circles:
 I added beads into the trim all the way around and then added some orange stitching next to parts of it:
 I had to work in some purple because the sweater didn't have any, and of course you have to have purple. Of course!

 I finished that yesterday, and this morning I finished another cuff bracelet. I'll show that later today, I hope. Now to go start playing with my Tina Givens pattern. Oh, yeah, baby. . . .

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weaving on My Mind

I'm still just playing with the woven bracelets, but something bigger in perking in there; I'm just not exactly sure what it is yet. In the meantime, I've been working diligently to get some projects finished, and here's the one I finished this weekend. I still don't like the color, but I love the fit and drape of this—I have developed A Hardcore Thang for dusters, and although I think this is supposed to be a dress, I wear them (I have two both thrifted; the other one I just dyed a richer green), I wear them as dusters over skinny jeans or a dress or whatever. I was thinking about weaving while I was working on it, so here goes—

Here's what I showed y'all last time:
with the purple and reddish weave:
And here it is now, after an appliqué and stitching to try to bring out the colors. I have to say I don't like this two-color weaving; it just looks muddy to me. But I got this Flax piece for about $10 and I love everything about it except the weave, so I'm not going to complain too much. Maybe.
 After I dyed it, I replaced the buttons with old shell ones I love:
 I couldn't get the camera to recognize the colors on this one, but I wanted to show the placement of the circles at the waist (there was a little belt-let there, but I removed it first):
 I wanted to make the stitching look like weaving, and I'm pleased with the way it turned out. I tried and tried to get the camera to get the colors on this shot, but it just wouldn't until I zoomed in. I blame it on that damn weave.
 For the three circles, I wanted to think about three different patterns of weaving, very loosely:

I'm finished with that, and I'm working to finish up this one I showed you, the wool gift sweater. I've had a bunch of fun with it and am putting the finishing stitching on it, so I hope to have it ready to show soon.
I would say I'd have it done by tomorrow, but that makes me sweat, being that specific. I'm really trying to be super disciplined here because I have 11 projects started (bagged up and ready to work on) and half a dozen more I can't wait to jump in to and. . . .wait: not half a dozen; more like a dozen. Maybe two dozen. I've bagged up a bunch of fibers for a bunch of woven bracelets. I have linen for three more aprons. And then this morning I bought a PDF pattern from Tina Givens Couture, and I printed out all 30+ pages and can't wait to tape it together and cut out the pattern because I have ideas for three more projects using that pattern. I've been wanting to make my own dusters, but I have no idea how to make a pattern with sleeves because of the curve and easing and stuff. I can do dolman sleeves, no problem. And I can do sleeveless and straps, but not sleeves unless I have a pattern. So I looked through all her patterns and found the one closest to what I want to do, and I can change any of the rest: make it a shorter coat with a longer front, make it a shorter jacket, like a bed jacket, make it in chambray from old shirts and then line it—I have a TON of ideas. But: I still have these other projects awaiting me.

See how it goes? The more I have to do, the more I *want* to do. The more I learn how to do, the more that it's possible to do. Now I just need a good steady source of good, inexpensive linen. I don't much like the DharmaTrading linen, as it's not as soft and drapey. I love the heavy linen I get from Hancock's, but it's seasonal, and this 'tis not the season. I bought the remains of a bolt last time and got a great deal on it, but I'm almost out of it and can feel withdrawal setting in already. I'll have to ask for help on Facebook, I think. If any of y'all know of a source, let me know, please. I am NOT paying $45 a yard for dyed linen from Alabama Chanin, by the way. I'll plant some flax and weave the damn linen myself before I spend that much on yardage, I swear.

Back to work; hope you're doing something that rivets you~~

Thursday, October 23, 2014


I don't think I'll ever be A Real Weaver; that's not what this is all about. This is about learning another technique I can use on garments and bags, maybe. A way to use the threads and fibers I have and learn something new. Learning new stuff is just fun, no matter what I do (or don't do) with it.

So here's the story.

Back in the spring at Art is You in Olive Branch, Mississippi, Julianna Hudgins came to play. I hadn't met her before, and she is delightful. A tiny, high-powered, high-maintenance hoot. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Her hair has its own zip code. She brought a bunch of Jewel Looms, the bead-weaving looms she designed, and she did an afternoon tutorial in The Voodoo Lounge. I sat and watched and stitched because I didn't really imagine any time I'd ever want to make a woven bead bracelet, and then I forgot about it  because that's just how my brain works.

Move ahead to September, at Art is You in Petaluma, and Tonia Jenny, who had done the tutorial with Juliana back in the spring, let me tag along to a workshop she was taking (thanks to Jane LaFazio for letting me come hang out that day; it was delightful), and opened up a bag and let me look through all the bracelets she'd made in the interim. They were gorgeous. Most of them were intricately beaded, but there was this one:
 woven without beads, out of bits of leftover sock yarn (I think). I fell in love with it, and Tonia gave it to me, along with a spare loom.

We met in the hotel lobby the night of Art Trunk, before we could go in and actually, you know, shop, and she taught me how to weave fibers: set up and string the loom, weave the fibers, weave in the ends, finish it off—all of the steps. You saw the rest yesterday: the loom Tonia gave me, one Julianna gave me (at Art is You in Stamford—yes, it's just like family, meeting up at Art is You retreats all across the country), and 4 more that I bought. I know my obsessions well, and I know this is the only way I learn to do stuff: do multiples, compare, tweak, start over, try another way.

Below you can see the ones I've made for myself so far. They all wrap around twice—the loom is exactly long enough to make one this length, and it's exactly long enough to go around my (skinny) wrists two times, which I love.
 I use ancient shell buttons from my stash as closures for now; I have some other ideas I plan to try.
I've also made maybe half a dozen for The EGE and one for a guy who works at The Wine Rack and wanted one. For those, I use cotton cord and make them sized to fit and close with a hidden snap. Very plain, just a band of color. For The EGE, I've been making them in combinations to go with his appliquéd t-shirts, and he's having fun with those. 

OK, now look up at the loom photo again and see the two over on the left. Those are the latest experiment: woven cuffs from a wool/silk blend I got on clearance. I finished those yesterday:

 When Tonia taught me this technique, she was adamant: "No knots!" So I learned to weave the ends back in so things were all nice and smooth and finished. Now, however, I'm breaking that rule and putting knots on the outside. I like that; it breaks up the smooth sameness and adds more texture.

 I secured these with hooks and eyes, which I also had on hand, apparently from my mother's sewing stash. I'm interested in seeing if this will keep the cuffs lying flat when I wear them or if the very ends will curl up. It's all a learning process.
 They're kind of itchy, but they're warm, and I'm wondering if having your wrists warm is enough to, you know, actually feel warm. Like warm up your hands? Or your arms? I mean, there are wrist warmers, right? So there must be a reason they exist, unless it's just because they're cute.
 Now I'm going to try one with some silk ribbon woven in. I have some more of the clearance wool/silk stuff in blues and greens, and I have an old piece of silk ribbon in those colors. I want to cut it in several pieces and insert a bit every now and then, just to see how that looks. If I like it, I have more silk ribbons I bought long ago; they turned out to be too thin to use on garments because it just disappears to nothing. Plus now that I know how to cut fabric on the bias to make my own silk and velvet ribbon, well! I have all those scraps and pieces of saris (not the full-sized ones, but a bag of scraps Janice, of Felt Sutra, gave me), and I'm thinking of cutting some of those into ribbon (wider than the ones I have here) and weaving those. If that works, I'm thinking woven pockets for garments. Carol (she doesn't have a website) sent me a box of wonderfulness, and there were two woven pieces in it that made me think, "Pockets!" and that set off a whole new thread of ideas. I've got a ton of stretcher bars (bought mostly in bundles at estate sales long ago) in all different lengths, and I'm thinking I'll try making a bag-sized loom out of 4 of those, with some reinforcement (I'm thinking of those little angle brackets you can screw in, maybe) to make it steady; or I could glue two layers of stretcher bars together.) I was sitting in The Voodoo Lounge yesterday (the original Voodoo Lounge, here in my house, not the one that appears at retreats when we set up a room for hanging out), looking around, and my eyes caught on the built-in shelves set into an alcove in the wall. I hung a curtain rod for orange and pink curtains, and sitting there looking at it, I thought of how easily that space could convert into a loom long enough for a scarf: replace the curtain rod with a sturdier wooden dowel, put another one, reversed, at floor level (reversed so the tension wouldn't pull the dowel from the brackets, since this would all be temporary), make it however wide I wanted and as long as the opening (the height of a doorway, so what? 7'?). I wouldn't have to remove the books or anything; all I'd have to do is slide off the curtains and set up the dowels. Hmmmmmmm.

But for now, I'm going to just play with the blue and green fiber and ribbon and let the possibilities for more experiments simmer on the back burner: I have enough to keep me more than occupied for the next little while.

Oh, I did just snort. Yes, I did, here all alone by myself. I have enough projects going that I should clone myself half a dozen times. I have more I want to start—I dug out a linen top I was going to return to Lana because I suddenly realized how I could totally remake it in size and length, and EASILY. But I'm forcing myself to hold off until I get at least one more thing finished. Just one more, that's all. Then I can start the next three I want to do. Yeah, I know the math doesn't work, but that's the best I can do; I'm disciplined about pretty much everything except projects and cookies, and I'm really trying to work on the cookies. . . .

Thanks for coming by! XO