Friday, December 17, 2010

Overcoming Artist Block

One of the hazards of working with donated, repurposed fabric swatches is that sometimes you just don't have enough for the project you have in mind.  That happened to me earlier this week and at that point I felt like I'd hit a wall.

I'd finished another Free Lace scarf and was ready to get going on another jacket.  I remembered some fabric that I'd received in my last batch of donations that I really liked and wanted to work with.  I knew there wasn't a lot, but I hoped I'd be able to find some other fabrics that would work well with it.  I proceeded to dig through almost all the fabric that I had but I couldn't find anything of the right weight, color and texture.  I was so disappointed, that I just couldn't think of anything else I wanted to do.  It took a while for me to climb out of the box I'd created for myself and move on.

Once again I was grateful for my large fabric stash.  I realized that in order to pick up my spirits again I just needed to start on something.  I knew that if I could just find any coordinating fabrics that constituted enough for a jacket and started to put them together, the creative ideas would come.  Thankfully, that truism--Just Start Something--worked for me again.

I found a set of fabrics of similar weight and brown, gold and beige colors all with linear patterns--plaids, stripes, and boxes--that I thought I could work with.  I started putting strips together and then started couching threads over the top to pull it all together.  I started with a sparkly copper & brown thread similar to the main colors in the fabrics.  Then I found another heavier "yarn" that helped bring out the blue in the stripe.  As is usual for me, I wasn't too sure of my selections until I got fairly well into the process.  Luckily, once I got a large section done and was able to step back and look at it as a whole, I started to relax.  
I think I'll call this one Crazy Brown Study.  I think it looks much better "in person" than in my picture.  I'll let you know how it comes along.

Finally just to put closure on my last post, here's a picture of the completed Free Lace scarf with the silk cocoon flowers.  It definitely has the delicate lacey look I was envisioning when I started.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting Bolder with my Free Lace Scarves

Today is another day for "mindless" stitching.  Working on Free Lace scarves is a good way to spend the Monday after a busy Open Studios weekend.  I can be productive doing the machine stitching without using much brain-power.

Lately I've started incorporating more things into my scarves.  For a while I had been staying pretty basic--just playing with colors and textures in pretty straightforward stripes.  That was fun for a while, but I needed to do more. In my last few, I've been working in other shapes and textures through the use of fabric bits and silk cocoons and carrier rods.

I had stayed away from incorporating fabric bits because I couldn't decide how I would treat the edges to keep them from fraying excessively.  Then when I was digging through a drawer looking for something else, I discovered that we had a rotary cutter with a wavy blade.  I decided to try that on some sheers.  I thought the wavy edge would be interesting and control some of the fraying.

Here's what I came up with.  I cut lots of sheer triangles and then overlaid them with a thin green ribbon and a brown yarn that included a sparkly copper colored thread.  The edges of the sheer fabrics did roughen up some in the rinsing process, but just enough to give the bits a sort of distressed look. I guess it was a successful experiment because it sold within a day or two of putting it in The Loading Dock Gallery.
From there I went on to try adding other shapes and textures using the rods and cocoons.  We get so many questions from our studio visitors as to what the rods and cocoons are and how you use them, that we're always looking for new applications.  I knew that the silk wouldn't be hurt by the water needed to dissolve the stabilizer so I thought these scarves might be a good use for them.  

I figured that even if the process of dissolving the stabilizer dissolved some of the "starch" holding the cocoon and rod pieces together, I'd have enough machine stitching to hold the fibers in place.  I thought I might get some fluffy bits in the scarf, but that was okay with me.  Somewhat to my surprise the pieces I used held together very well and the look didn't change very much at all after the rinsing process.  Here's my first attempt.

I cut flower shapes from the silk cocoons and used the rods in their basic rectangular shape.  With both the cocoons and the rods, I separated them into layers to make them softer and more fabric like.  Separating them into layers also gives you color and texture variations that still blend all together.  Some of the layers are very thin and sheer, while others are thicker and more opaque.

For the next one, I again used the rods in their basic rectangular shape, but I cut the cocoons into spirals.  Pulling the layers apart and flattening them gives some great funky shapes--not spirals really, but more like waves and question marks.

For the one I'm stitching on today, I've again made flowers from the cocoons.  Instead of using the silk rods, I've used wavy bits of silk.  This one is going to be very lacy and soft looking.  I haven't finished the stitching yet, so the stabilizer is still there, but the picture will give you an idea.  
I really like using the Mokuba stabilizer for this work.  Even when they are separated into layers, neither the cocoon shapes or the carrier rods are totally flat.  The clear film included in the Mokuba packages holds them flat enough to make the stitching easy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Big Weekend for Art

I stayed home for a while this morning, trying to catch up on some of the cleaning that I didn't get done this weekend.  I spent just about the entire weekend at the studio.  Friday night was the opening reception for Winter Lights III at The Loading Dock Gallery downstairs.  All the artists in the show wore my jackets and two others along with two other young women did some walk-through modeling. It was a great time.  As I've said before it is great fun to see your work on real people.

Here's Peter Zimmerman in my new wescot.  He's in his studio just before the reception began.  As you can see he's a glass artist.  Peter is looking pretty serious and "grown up," but it wasn't all seriousness at the party.  Here are the two youngest models.  They really got into it.

 The rest of the weekend was taken up with Open Studios here.  We were open both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  Saturday especially it was really hopping around here.  I hope that bodes well for next weekend too.  We'll be open both Saturday and Sunday afternoons again.  (December 11 and 12 noon to 5)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Man's Wescot

Yesterday I managed to finish the man's vest I committed to for tomorrow night's opening reception for the Winter Lights III show here at The Loading Dock Gallery.  What a relief when I took it down for Peter to try on and it fit.  He hadn't been around at the times during the construction when I needed a basic fitting.  With the timing of the reception I didn't have the luxury of waiting for him before going on.  At those points I nabbed whoever crossed my path and made them try it on.  Luckily at both points I ran into a man who was at least somewhat similar in size and build.  Based on those "fittings" and the basic boxy style of the vest, I was just trusting to luck that it would work out all right.  Thankfully luck was on my side.

So here's what I put together from the fabrics I discussed last time.
I call it "Off the Beaten Track" since it is not my usual woman's jacket.  I learned a lot from creating it.  Although the basic pattern is in the book Making Kimono and Japanese Clothing by Jenni Dobson, I do not follow her construction methods.  In order to create a piece that will look really good for many years to come, I incorporate fine tailoring techniques.  Thus each new style requires a lot of careful thought about how it all goes together and each time I make it the process gets refined.  This is definitely not quick production work, but I sure enjoy myself.

I'm pleased with this result and will make more of this style.  With this one, the main fabric is heavily textured, while the neckband and insets are a mid-weight cotton.  This means that the decorative bars on the front have a depth that helps them stand out.

If you are in the area, I hope you can join us at the reception tomorrow night - 6 to 9 p.m.  Details are available on Facebook.  If you can't make it tomorrow night, we will be open both Saturday and Sunday for the next two weekends for our annual Holiday Open Studios.  Please stop by to see us.