Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Mostly Ugly Bracelet

Two weeks today and I will at my friend Sheri's house in Eugene, Oregon, already working away in her studio. This reality was especially comforting yesterday as I stared out the window at yet still another period of thick snow flurries. I spent two hours on Monday shoveling knee deep snow off the back patio and I am more than done with winter. I think I've said that before. Each time you read it, read it with more emphasis because I AM SO DONE WITH WINTER and really looking forward to my holiday.

After shoveling, I started on the final jewelry piece for The Outfit Project. I wanted a piece that was primarily orange with accents of copper, blue, and turquoise and decided on a bracelet starting with this wooden one I found at the thrift store - 3 for $5.00 - way less expensive than blanks.

I didn't know what to do or how to do what I hoped to do so rather than sit around feeling paralyzed by that fact, I made a decision to just start. I measured the bracelet and then cut interfacing and batting to that width and length and layered those with a strip of the orange fabric. They I played with different beads to see how they looked against the background and right away, felt the work was too flat. I wanted something much more dimensional so I used the sewing machine to make thread scribbles on the orange background and then glued it to the wooden form. Starting is the most important thing and then do one step, and then the next, and then the next, and just keep going until the piece says it's finished. If it's a masterpiece, that's a bonus. Finished is really good. The journey of learning is really amazing.

After gluing, I did a bunch of things without taking pictures. I've been finding it difficult lately to document every step because my brain is in create mode and not document mode. SO here's what happened. I took fifteen 1" wide strips of the orange fabric and tied knots in each one leaving the ends. AND THEN... I used copper paint to touch up the high points of the knots and I thought they looked ugly. AND THEN... I spaced the knots around the bracelet and stitched them in place with the ends hanging out wildly and I thought it looked ugly.

AND THEN... I used orange, turquoise, and pink thread to zigzag over orange cording and blue cording and thought they had potential. AND THEN... I twisted the cords in and out of the knots and tacked them in place and I thought it looked ugly. AND THEN... I twisted and turned the orange ends and tacked them down to the base fabric creating a topography of sorts and I thought it looked ugly. AND THEN... I sewed large orange and blue beads in place and I thought they looked like ugly blobs on an orange background. AND THEN... I wrapped twisted copper wire through the center and around the bracelet and thought it was finally achieving some degree of interest and sophistication. AND THEN... I sewed smaller blue and copper beads in place and thought it was starting to look interesting but need more contrast.

About this time, I thought about how when I create a knitted or sewn garment that I don't like, I just take it apart and make it into something else and I wondered how I'd do that with a bracelet but decided it was actually rather easy - I'd just use a chop saw to cut it in sections and go from there. And so I confidently carried on with my mostly ugly bracelet.

I decided it needed more depth and contrast and that weaving more of the zigzagged orange cord in and around the beads could work for that. About this time, a friend who is also an artist phoned and we discussed it and I drove over to her house and we discussed it some more while both looking at the bracelet and then I came home and worked on it some more. And this is the stage I'm at this morning. There are at least four more stages until the piece is finished, possibly more depending on what comes up, so hopefully I'll be able to show it in Friday's post because after that, I'll prepping for the workshop and starting to pack.

Because I don't want to pack, unpack, and then re-pack my workshop supplies in order to sew at Sheri's studio, we've decided to work on fabric beads. To prep for that, I've been Pintrest-ing and printing out inspiration images and instructions. When I decide to explore a subject, I tend to dive in deep which may be why it can take a while to get going on something I want to do. It can be all talk, no action, for a while because I know that when I go there, I'm going all the way.

While jewelry has been ticking for a long time, it was the wire weaving workshop I took in January 2017 that finally gave me the confidence to move in this direction. It seemed to flip a switch. Last year, I took several on-line wire working classes and made samples as well as pieces of my own. For The Outfit Project, I've made a jewelry piece for each outfit trying different techniques and my mind is bubbling with ideas to explore. It helps that I am seeing more clearly the role of creativity in jewelry as well as the role of jewelry - and in particular statement necklaces - in my fashion personality.

The Outfit Project highlighted - once again - my uniform. Clean lines, architectural interest, prints on the bottom, a relatively plain upper garment, and a statement necklace. I've been sharing with a few friends my ah ha around not wearing even a simple collar and instead wearing huge necklaces. They're shaking their heads in that so Myrna way but they can see why it works. And I did it again. The turquoise vest is hanging up to dry after I washed all the chalk marks out and then I'll add the buttons and then I'll post the finished project... with it's fourth neckline finish... no collar... after I tried three different collars.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the ability to stay with ugly until it begins to shift

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Puzzle Kind Of Playing

At the start of this week, I imagined getting a lot done and that's not at all how it unfolded. I had three things to finish at the beginning and two left to finish at the end. One of them shifted from being a necklace to a bracelet although if I just call it a piece of jewelry it sounds more stable.

I decided to evolve this vest that I started earlier from what it is in to a not-recognizable-as-the-original-pattern direction and wear it as planned with the hand painted pants. The fabric is just too perfect in texture and colour to not at least try. I started by separating all but the four main pieces of the two fronts and the two backs and then assessing what remained.

Refashioning is a combination of thinking and of not thinking. What I mean by that is that even though I think I know where this is going, I really don't and if I don't want to be completely frustrated attempting to get wherever it is I think I'm going, I can't be thinking too many steps down the line. I need to be on the step I'm on. In this case, I started with what I knew which was finishing the armholes. This is a vest. There are no sleeves. The armhole needed to be completed in some way and I chose self-made bias. That was probably the easiest thing I did all yesterday.

Some decisions will be limited by the amount of fabric I have. In this case, the vest is made from some raw silk that I bought several years ago. I have the parts and pieces I took off the original vest and a very small amount of yardage - less than a third of a meter - to work with and that's all. Above, I was looking at the placement of the existing - and already interfaced - front facings to find a way to use them. The folded down part is from a section of now non-existent neckline that was cut off.


I didn't want to retain this open funnel-like collar so I pinned the fronts together at center and then drew a chalk line where I thought the neckline should sit.  Before cutting the extra fabric off, I added a 5/8" seam allowance because all I know is the shape and not whether I'll be adding details of some kind above it. I find it best to err on the side of caution and to give myself room to make changes and further decisions. I've learned that as a piece unfolds, one decision leads to another and it evolves in what at first would have been an unthinkable way. In the last posting I mentioned that I don't like collars that much and here I am thinking of collar-like details - low, mandarin, no collar stand, types of things though. I imagine that'll be the final decision.

There will always be little bits to fine-tune and fix. It's just part of refashioning. The funnel neckline curves up from the shoulder seam. In this case, I want the seam to sit square on the shoulder so I stitched out that curve so it could lay flat.

Mistakes happen. While I was taking out some top stitching, I accidentally cut the fabric. It makes me giggle whenever that happens and I stick an interfacing-bandage over the cut because years ago when I was first sewing, I would have balled up the project and thrown it out thinking I'd ruined it.Years later, I just bandage it, see what happens to that area, and then decide when I need to what to do with it. In this case, the cut will end up within the hemline of one of the sections. If it was more visible, I would most likely have darned over the cut with a very narrow zigzag with well matched thread and no one would have noticed since it's at the side and tucked under the arm. I've learned not to panic, to keep going, to see what happens, and 99.9% of the time, it works out just fine.

Limited fabric is both a challenge and a blessing. It forces you to look at what you have and see it in a new way. While this looks like ruffles, that's only because the pieces are temporarily pinned for the picture to give you an idea of where I'm going. I have redrafted some of the pieces to create to tiers on the right side of the vest. One tier was created with existing pieces that had to be reversed so that what was the wrong side before could become the right side now - which makes me glad it's that kind of fabric - and the other was created by using the top tier pieces to create a pattern and then lengthening it by two inches. These sections can be cut from another bit of fabric that was removed from the original piece.

I try to keep in mind what I know about myself and what I know about design. While I don't like ruffles, I do like architectural interest and texture both of which can be created with layers and I know that layers that go under each other tend to make whatever is at the bottom look thinner... which is this case is me. YES YES.

That little bit of sewing took all of yesterday. Today, I know what I'm doing with those layers and that's it. While I'm stitching them in place, I'll be thinking about the right hemline as well as the neck line and I know the answers will come to me. It's a puzzle kind of playing. Eventually, there's a finished garment.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - one week to finish the outfits and one week to prepare for the trip - I can do this.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Perfect Sew

With over forty years of sewing experience, it is still rare for me to create a piece that is smooth sailing from start to finish and ends up exactly the way I'd envisioned. It happened this past Saturday. The time before that was back in August 2017. You could almost call it the perfect sew except that I also like the journey of not knowing and the journey of mistakes, which I guess means all sewing is perfect, but this experience was smooth in a comforting, hands moving with ease, enjoyable way.

Using a textured linen from my stash, I adapted the shorter length Butterick 5786 by eliminating the button opening, the collar, and the cuffs and making it more of a tunic than a shirt. It's a very comfortable, pop it over your head, and relax into its softness kind of top.

I painted silver shoes to go with this outfit as well as finished the silver necklace. Both the pendant and the beads were made earlier for different pieces that were only okay. By taking both pieces apart and combining them in a new formation with different beads, the end result is SO MUCH BETTER. I really like it.

One of the eccentric things I've learned about myself through this outfit project is that I am completely comfortable wearing a bold, over-sized, outspoken, statement necklace and feel uncomfortable in a collar. I tend toward a simple neckline with a self-made bias edge like I used here. It's an interesting awareness to explore. Is there a collar that would feel comfortable?

We learn to do the work by doing the work and one thing I learn over time and repetition is how to do the work neater and with a higher and higher degree of craftsmanship. Making the knit necklace meant exploring several new concepts from knitted cords, to some sort of clasp, to a way to weight it, to a pendant that played well with the rest of the elements. While I can see ways to do better next time, I'm happy with how these turned out.

Today, I'm working on the final jewelry piece for the sixth outfit. All I know is the starting point and that it may totally deviate from there into whatever it becomes. Letting go and letting creativity flow in the direction it wants to flow in has been one my greatest learning curves as an artist. It was hard a first and now it feels perfectly normal to not have a clue where this piece is going other than orange, a squiggly line, and a necklace. We'll see - VBG.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - new learning

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Single Small Black Purse

There are three more weeks left before I leave on my trip and I'd like to spend the last one organizing travel details and packing which means I have just two weeks to finish the outfits. It's getting to crunch time which is why...

... I've decided to take a single small black purse instead of making a purse to go with each outfit. I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday working on the two of the six purses and the was reminded of how much I hate glue. I painted and quilted the fabric for the second purse and love it so I'll finish that at some time in the future only after I'd pulled apart the purple purse for the third time, it was obvious I didn't have enough time for purses right now HOWEVER...

... at the same time, I started working on the shoes. Of the six pairs, I'm painting four. I picked these Clarks up at the thrift store - LOL, I'm sure you guessed that - and then...

... painted them with two coats of bright orange (right shoe) and then one coat of copper (left shoe). The copper is the same paint used on the pants I'll be wearing these with and the two together have a lot of energy. That's also the outfit with the knitted vest that I was blocking earlier this week. I'm going to a friend's studio later this afternoon and plan to sew it together there.

Two of the outfits are completely complete. Three have a piece of jewelry to be finished. Two need a top finished. And one needs the vest finished. This feels doable especially as one top is sewn and needs tweaking, the other is cut out, and the vest is blocked and needs the shoulder seams sewn. Two of the necklaces are in process (see below) and only one necklace (of the six items left to be finished) needs to be decided from start and I have the beads to begin that process with. Even so, I'll need to be organized and disciplined.


This silver necklace combines parts from two necklaces I'd made earlier. To give the button pendant more depth, I added another metal plate below the first one with clear buttons in-between to space the distance. The glue didn't dry as quickly as I'd hoped so I couldn't finish it yesterday but the parts are ready to be assembled today as are...

... the parts for the lime necklace. I showed the start of this piece before. It's been waiting patiently and yesterday, I stitched the knitting to the cording so it wouldn't shuffle and bunch up and then I added beads to the chain with open spaces and created two larger beads by wrapping yarn around pieces of copper tubing, wetting it with a glue/water mix, and adding metallic paint once that dried. I've wrapped each end of the three chains to hold the knitting tight where I cut the ends to length and all I need to figure out is how they will attach to each other, the closure, and a pendant to hang below the upper chain/smaller bead. I plan to cover an existing pendant but am still deciding whether to stay completely lime or to introduce another colour - definitely more glitter either way.

If all goes as planned today, I will finish the silver necklace, the lime necklace, and the turquoise vest. Over the weekend, I'd like finish the necklace for the orange outfit and painting the shoes so that just the two tops remain. LOL - wish me luck.

Talk soon - Myrna

- a small number of items to finish and a plan

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Orange Chairs & Purple Purses

We had a long - Family Day - and sunny weekend which was quite delightful after a very grey and somewhat depressing winter. It's my third winter here and while I did okay with the first two, this one has been wearing. I'm sure it is a combination of not so wonderful things along with piles of snow and sheets of ice. Thankfully I have such an engaging project to work on and Spring is - supposedly - on the way.

I spent Saturday and Sunday knitting on the couch in the living room with my back to the window because I absolutely was not going to close the blinds and block all that amazing light. It was warm, cozy, and bright. Perfect.

This "new" chair was delivered last Friday. It's the same shape and fabric - different colour - as the blue couch that Howard has in his office and is in perfect condition. I found it at the thrift store which will make my children happy.  Apparently, I don't have enough comfortable seats in the living room - VBG. It's not a colour I'd have chosen given a choice but for $15.00, it goes just fine and is very similar in tone to the other orange chair I picked up several years ago. I love the thrift stores here. I find the most amazing things for not much money... which is very good for someone like myself who is addicted to potential.

I finished knitting the Take Me To Spain vest and now it's blocking. Because of the shape, I had to overlap the back and fronts to get all the edges straight but you can see how it is basically a rectangle with a bodice attached. That gives me ideas for creating one from fabric using scraps and surface design. I used three rows of seed stitch at the hemline to help prevent it from turning but not at the front or armhole so once I sew the shoulders together, I will most likely add an edge of some kind.

As comfortable as it is, this rendition of Sandra Betzina's Vogue 1297 dress is not at all flattering - partly because it shows all my lumps and bumps which could be dealt with with appropriate lingerie but also because it shows the stretching along the seam lines. I won't wear it like this and I won't go around in squeeze-me-smooth-under-garments on a casual day so I plan to take out the pucker seams, stitch them smooth, and then cut it off to top length. It looks fabulous with a vest that I already have so I'm looking forward to wearing it. I'll post it again when and if and as soon as the alteration is done which won't be any time soon because I'm still finishing up The Outfit Project.

I'm hoping to get some really good photos some time soon. I set up the light stands this past weekend only unfortunately the bulbs were both broken when I unpacked them so I've had to order some new ones. When they come, I'll start playing with the light and seeing how to make it work for me rather than against me. I have NO experience. I can learn... lights, photography, and Lightroom. That sounds like a HUGE curve - LOL.

Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8499 is one of my favourite skirts. I've made it a good half dozen times but not the pants. After researching the pattern at, I opted to go down several sizes and even then, I ended up taking the pants apart on the back french seam, taking the side back panel in 1 1/2" each side or 3" in total, and sewing the parts back together. There's a lot of ease in this pattern and too much is not flattering on me. I love them now although they are in the wash getting de-threading from pulling out the seams and top stitching. I had them all done and had to down the hems and off the waistband along with the back seams. It was worth it.

Trying to get pants on a mannequin is hilarious especially when "she" has wide hips and a small waist. Millicent can't shimmy like I can so she kept flopping and flipping until finally I reduced her hip size to get the pants on and avoid broken hips. The denim is a dark blue and the top stitching is a pink-ish-orange. The pictures are overexposed. That's not what I intended but it's part of my learning curve. Also, you can see the check curtains behind the burn out knit so that's not going to work as a backdrop BUT... it gives you an idea of how the pants look and I did promise to post them and it gives me an idea of what to work on with the photo booth. 

I'm taking a short break from garment sewing and to work on completing the outfits that are the closest to finished. The outfit with the tied cardigan only needed the purse. I purchased this black one at the thrift store for $18 which is the most expensive one I've picked up. Three were a dollar each and another was five dollars so divided by six that's $4.33 each which I think is fine. I'm looking at participating in a gallery this summer and once my trip is done, the "need" for these purses will be over so I may put them up for sale there. HOWEVER...

... first I have to finish making them. For this one, I removed the two sides and then created a quilted panel for the front and back by recycling the dress I made months ago that I didn't like enough to fix. There is still LOTS of dress left so I'll do more with it but this is a fun start.

I cut a piece of batting the size of the side panel and spray basted it to the back and then stitched vertical rows of straight stitching every 3/8" up and down the panel in a dark purple thread. Then I added free motion quilting with a dark navy thread between the flowers and then outlined them with black stitching. The centers are thread scribbled with a metallic purple and the points have hand stitches with a black pearl cotton. The center flower is a bead. The purse is almost done. I'm waiting for glue to dry to go on to the next stage.

Talk soon -  Myrna

- grey ends, sun starts