"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bolero...A Shrug, Not The Sultry Music.

In my ongoing experiment with the Alabama Chanin patterns, I decided to try the bolero next. And, since Robert gets more free red and black pet food promo T-shirts than any other color, other than maybe dark blue and an icky tan (he's now asking for extra large shirts just so I can cut them up, as he only wears a large), naturally, the bolero ended up red and black. I almost managed to work around the logos on the shirt, but still ended up with a bit on one sleeve. The binding got sewn on with, at this point, my rough execution of the herringbone embroidery stitch. Later I will add stencils to the front and back, but I need to get some black fabric paint. I may also add red beads to the black binding.

For future boleros, I think I'll make the sleeves a tad longer, and make the armholes a bit looser. They felt a little tight to me. Oh, and I used the size large on the pattern sheets, even though most of the time I wear a medium. The bolero still fit snug. I'm going to wear it a few tines before I make the next one, and decide whether I want to make the next size larger to get a looser fit. I think they are supposed to fit snug, but it felt a little too snug for my comfort zone—I have wide shoulders for my size. Anyway, time will tell.

I should also state that I didn't have a rotary cutter at the time I made this (I just bought one yesterday, along with a small mat board), so the binding is cut with regular scissors, which don't always leave a clean edge when cutting long, narrow strips.

 The hint of pet food logo I couldn't quite work around. Oh well.

So that's it. My first AC bolero. I like it because = I can get a bolero out of only one extra large T-shirt (other than contrasting binding), I like the feel of it, it's comfy to wear, easy to sew up, and makes a great little canvas for artwork. Can't beat that.

For further bolero inspiration, check out these amazing ones made by Rice, over at the Voodoo Cafe. They will knock your socks off!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I think I've stated before, somewhere in this blog, that I really like vintage/antique jewelry, In particular, Edwardian. It has a cleaner, more graceful line than Victorian, which to me can seem overly fussy. On the other extreme, I like the look and colors of religious icons, medallions, and medals. So, to that end, I danced off to the library and brought home two books that have tons of inspirational ideas in them. You just gotta love the library!

Vintage Jewelry Design by Caroline Cox
Relicarios—Devotional Miniatures From the Americas by Martha J. Egan

I have long wanted to be able to reproduce, at least in feel, the Edwardian jewelry that I love. Since most of it is made in finely crafted gold, silver, diamonds, and various jewels—not something I could readily afford or reproduce, even if I wanted to—my quest was to reinterpret those designs in something, well, let's face it, more mundane—wire, beads, crystals, pearls. I'm not attempting to copy these jewels, but get their, for lack of a better tern, aura, using fairly inexpensive supplies, easily acquired.

Today was my first attempt at this, trying to replicate the lines and feel of a beautiful Edwardian pendant done in white gold, pave diamonds, and pearls. After five hours, and four failed prototypes, I finally got one pendant that is close to what I am after. It's not quite "there" yet, but I'm getting close. More work and experimentation is needed, but I have to confess, I kinda like the way this last one of the day turned out. It showed me that progress had, indeed, been made. However, a lot of wire ended up in the trash before I could get this design to work, even at this early stage. Lots more playing is needed. But here is the pendant = Hammered "silver" wire, steel wire, slider with crystal, faceted AB crystal bead, drop crystal, and emerald-green glass beads. Pendant is about 3 inches long.

More pendant ideas are floating around in my head. I want to do one in "gold" wire and one in black wire. Well, actually, lots more in silver, gold, and black. As "they" say (who are "they" anyway?) practice, practice, practice.

Next I'm going to play around with the relicario pendants...maybe do small works of collage/drawings on wood, and put them in metal bezel frames? Not sure. More playing is needed.

Playing...it's a good thing. :=)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Here is one of my cats, Celeste, stalking birds through the dinning room's sliding screen door. They are just on the other side, and she is sure she can pounce on them...if she could just get a bit closer. Actually, she is so "round" that she'd be too slow to catch anything, but it's the thought that counts.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Finished Tank Top—Review

Okay, here is the finished tank top, with the new reverse applique covering the pink blob/stencil mistake.

My conclusions after this first attempt are:

My embroidery skills suck! I hadn't done any in, oh, about 20+ years, so this first attempt back into it looks pretty rough. Also, I've decided that, in the future, for most of the sewing of the shirts, and the decorative stitching, I don't want to use embroidery floss. For the designs I like, it looks too primitive. Actually, the whole design on this shirt is more primitive than I would normally like or wear, but since it was an experiment, I kept things simple...for now.

Don't use the blanket stitch to sew on the facings. Because of the way it is sewn, it tends to make the facings fall outward. Next time I'll use either a chain stitch or a Cretan stitch.

I liked doing the reverse applique, and I really liked the stenciling, even if in this case it got covered up. I also enjoyed the beading. So, I figure the pieces I do in the future will have more stenciling and beading, with less embroidery.

Next, I really want to experiment with refining the color combinations betweeen the fabric, thread, stencil color, and beads. It's one of the things I like about the Alabama Chanin clothing...it looks sophisticated and classy, rather than primitive. Nothing at all wrong with more primitive-type designs. Lots of people love them and look good in them, they just aren't my thing.

 A few weeks back I picked up some really nice XXL T-shirts at the Goodwill (I wanted something that did NOT have a pet food logo on it). One was a lovely pale grey/green, and two others were rich purple. Those will be the next ones I play around with. One of the purple shirts had a great machine embroidered picture of a Tibetan temple on it, which I'll use on something. When I was enthusing over it at the checkout counter, the lady ringing it up kinda just nodded her head and mumbled something like, "Oh yes, very nice." Obviously, Tibetan temples don't float her boat.

The picture makes the green shirt look more mint-greenish, but it's actually a soft pale green.

Final word is, I love the idea of recycling T-shirts. I like that I can use beads and embroidery floss I already have, although the fact that the floss is 20+ years old might have had something to do with the fact it tended to tangle...A LOT.  I want to try working with quilting thread, and also metallic threads, or adding beaded stitching.  I NEED NEW GLASSES OR I WILL GO BLIND DOING THIS STUFF.

For fun, I'd like to incorporate rubber stamping, or drawing directly on the fabric to add to the stencil design. They do a bit of the drawing on fabric with some of the Alabama Chanin clothing, and I loved the look. I'm also wondering if some of the techniques used on T-shirt material could be used with recycled sweatshirts, since it's cold so many months of the year where I live. Lots and lots of things to think about and play around with, to keep me busy during the hot summer—As if making jewelry, writing, gardening, and working horses wasn't enough. LOL