Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Busy Back

Some people are very particular about pattern matching. I'm not one of them. I do match occasionally but unless it's a stripe or a plaid, I prefer the pattern mixed up. What I'm very particular about is the distribution of color and the evenness of the layout - balance, rhythm, and repetition. This point of view - I think - is from my textile art days when pattern matching was rarely a consideration.

And it's a good thing with this blouse because there was barely enough of the floral fabric to cut the new sections and even then, I had to piece the center back panel with some of the black plaid. It's a narrow strip and works to trick the eye into believing that the floral continues underneath.

Just in case there is a problem area, I overlap the pieces to check before sewing them together. Again, I didn't have a lot of options but I'm pleased with how the pink moves around the piece and with how the plaid strip provides a resting place. It's a busy back.

Here it is seamed together on Millicent with the collar pinned in place. I think this is a huge improvement on yesterday's skunk option and I like how there is a main print and a little bit of the other two. Just enough to blend and not enough to overwhelm while meeting the challenge of using all three fabrics. I sewed in five minute increments crawling from the couch to the studio and back again yesterday. I had to. My curiosity just wanted to know how this would work out.

While "lounging" around, one of the things I thought about is the way in which I sew and the pace I sew at.  Some Monday mornings when I'm reading blogs it seems like writer sewed an entire closet full of clothing over the weekend and I wonder why I can't finish a blouse a week. Ann just sewed this same blouse. She cut out the pieces on the 16th and is wearing the finished blouse on the 19th.

I cut this blouse out on the 18th, and spent two days figuring out the back which meant I cut it out again yesterday. But that final choice of what fabric goes where is now settled. The back is together, the front is mostly together, the sleeves, collar and collar band are ready to stitch in, and I can see the the finished look. There won't be any major changes at this point. I just need to finish stitching it together.

Now that I write it out, that's actually not that much different unless you add in the blouse before, the muslin. It took another week but it was a week worth taking in my opinion because now I have a pattern I can sew over and over - a T & T blank canvas. And THAT is the conclusion I always come back to when I'm reassessing the state of sewing.

These aren't new thoughts. I've reviewed them a few times and it seems that my preferable method is to first develop a muslin and then make a basic prototype and after that play with creative elements. And that's okay. I'm very finicky about fit and this is the path that works. It's just that sometimes I get stuck in the first two stages and sometimes I'm doing so much playing in the last stage that the garment never finishes or doesn't finish in a wearable way BUT...

... when I was cleaning up the images on my computer I noticed something. Growing confidence. I'm more sure of myself with fabric and pattern choices. I make fewer mistakes and when I do it's typically because I'm pushing the envelope which I see as good. I've narrowed the necessary pattern adjustments down to the few that really matter and they are working consistently garment to garment leading me to believe I have those choices correct. I've determined a base size to work from. I've learned to add in sufficient ease and back off on over-fitting. I've developed a flow and my hands are starting to move with ease which is the fabulous point at which my mind starts to bubble with creativity. This blouse illustrates that point. AND - most importantly - fashion sewing is becoming more fun and less paint by number.

On Monday, when I met with three other artists, I talked about where I'm going with fashion sewing. One thing I want to do is create art cloth. Not cloth so beautiful that I don't want to cut it up but beautiful cloth for fashion sewing. Focusing on stamping and screen printing at this summer's workshop will be a start and I've added studying with Jane Dunnewold to my wish list. She's more commonly a big name in textile art but the transfer of those techniques to clothing is entirely doable. What have you noticed with your sewing? What goals are you working on?

Right now, back to the couch.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a workable amount of the floral, a couch, incremental progress


  1. Hi Myrna, I hope you are feeling better! I am also a textile artist who has returned to garment sewing. If you're thinking about art cloth for garments, you might give paintstiks a try. I've used them on silk,linen and cotton with success; plus, rubbings and stencils are fun to play with

    1. Fabulous idea. On one of my favourite art pieces, I used paintstiks over exposed aggregate stepping stones and it gave a wonderful texture of irregular dots. Linen is on my list of preferred fabrics. The two go well together.

  2. I love the way you so often give me food for thought. Though I am deep in the middle of refurbishing my very small wardrobe, I had not thought much about what my sewing "goals" are currently. That will give me plenty to think about today while I am riding around on public transit to and fro... Might be time for me to think about what new thing I want to learn this year! Thank you for the link to Jane Dunnewold, there is a lot of inspiration there. I read in her newsletter that this will be the last year that Marcy Tilton will be teaching her workshops, so you are lucky that you will be able to attend. I look forward to reading about your explorations

    1. You're welcome. Having something to learn or work toward or perfect engages my mind and becomes a component of not being bored or boring. I hope. That's how I see it.

      I was very thankful that I'd already paid my deposit when Marcy made her announcement. It'll be the last time she teaches the DOL workshop but she alluded to changes for the future. I'm hoping she'll share her plans. Many of the participants are regulars which means it'll be happy/sad. Even so, I'm really looking forward to it.

  3. I too am a pattern "coordinator" rather than "matcher". I just don't have the patience (of course, that's not your issue!). In fact, I intend to give away some really lovely plaid fabric that's been in my stash since I started sewing. I bought it before I understood pattern matching, and now that I realize I couldn't handle making a garment with unaligned plaid - and yet I can't be bothered to do the matching - that it isn't the fabric for me :-)

    1. LOL - I love the way you think I'm patient. You'll note that word wasn't on the birthday list of characteristics that describe me.

      Before you give away that plaid, it makes FABULOUS binding when cut on the diagonal plus I just watched a video on knitting with "yarn" made from fabric. Possibilities exist.

  4. There are times when quick sewing is a good thing. SWAP contests and a steady parade of new garments from some bloggers seem to promote that as an ideal. But I know that when I try to work too quickly that is when I make mistakes or create garments that don't satisfy me for one reason or another. I sew because I love the process. I've learned to take the time so my sewing truly is enjoyable.

    I've noticed that one of the first questions people ask when they learn that you have made something is "How long did it take?" I've learned to sidestep that question and talk instead about the joy I find in creating.

    Lois K

    1. I get asked how long did it take and how much did it cost as if quick and cheap is good. That's definitely the philosophy that was highlighted in Over-Dressed.

      I want to invest time in my garments and really enjoy sewing and wearing them. I think that's why I make so many muslins to get the fit right first. A recent awarenss is that if I want a quality wardrobe of well sewn and creative garments, I am going to have to do something about my fluctuating weight. It destroys the whole concept.

  5. Just a few days ago, I ordered Diane Ericson's book and video on stenciling. I've never tried it, and really want to add it to my art cloth repertoire. I learned how to silk screen from Marcy's video and written instructions, and have been doing it for nearly 3 years. It's time to give myself another tool for embellishing fabric.
    Your shirt is coming along nicely. Isn't it funny how we tend to overdesign? You started with a quilty shirt with balance in where the three fabrics were placed, now you end up with a floral shirt with a cool center plaid panel and a quiet collar and placket. You traveled from way too much to just over the top, which is perfect. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished garment.
    I hope you get feeling better real soon. Take care!

    1. I hope you'll write about the stenciling on your blog. I'll be interested to see how that goes. I've been thinking of dying, stamping, stenciling, painting as parts of surface design. Your comment makes me wonder if I should be playing with them one at a time. Thoughts?

      Thanks for the comments on the shirt. Let me know what you think when you see the front. Hopefully it's still perfect.

      What do you mean by overdesign? How does this happen for you? For me, the process of design is to start with something and then respond to the developing piece so overdesigned is not a thought that has occured simply because I don't see whatever it is I'm creating as designed until it's finished. I'm designing it in the process of creating it. In this case, I started with the three fabric and the idea of where to place them and then I responded by saying too much, too quilty, tone it down, how, and moved in that direction. With my textile work, the thread always adds another dimension. I have to remember not to think in thread and to remember to think of details like buttons.

    2. My brain works "one thing at a time", which is why I learned silk screening by itself instead of along with stenciling. I'd say your approach depends on how your brain is happiest.
      Re. overdesign, it happens to me when I have something planned out in my head, only to find it is way too much. It IS part of the design process, but it seems I often start with too much and have to whittle down, rather than the opposite. "Adding more" is not as frequent a term as "using less" in my studio work. It's like on Project Runway, when a mentor tells the designer there's too much going on in a garment, that she needs to tone it down.
      I hope I'm clearer than mud. :)

    3. My brain would be happiest if I quit talking about exploring surface design and actually did something. I think it might be good to take a period of time - several weeks, a month - and simply play at it until I get to the point where I can see how it can be incorporated into my pieces.

      I see what you mean with overdesign. Because I lean more toward the minimalist side I often have to add in. Too much is an infrequent occurence for me.

      I was at an art show earlier this week where I saw both. Some pieces were overdone and you couldn't find the point amidst the "stuff" but there were more than a few with no tension or focal point so they didn't hold the viewer's attention. The addition of a contrasting dot would have made the pieces zing. I found that interesting when I was teaching - helping each student to find their level of balance. LOVE it.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.