Monday, July 18, 2011

farewell to blogging

“She came tonight as I sat alone, the girl I used to be…
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye and questioned reproachfully;
Have you forgotten the many plans and hopes that I had for you?
The career, the splendid fame, and all the wonderful things to do?
Where is the mansion of stately height with all of its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you and the jewels in your hair?
And as she spoke, I was very sad for I wanted her pleased with me…
This slender girl from the shadowy past, the girl that I used to be.
So gently rising, I took her hand, and guided her up the stair.
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay innocent, sweet, and fair.
And I told her that these are my only gems, and precious they are to me;
That silken robe is my motherhood of costly simplicity.
And my mansion of stately height is love, and the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls for the dear ones who come and go.
And as I spoke to my shadowy guest, she smiled through her tears at me.
And I saw that the woman that I am now, pleased the girl I used to be.
- Author Unknown

Sunday, June 5, 2011


A few weeks ago I was asked to do a comission project: a mobile for a nursery. A friend of a friend wanted one and... long story short now I'm making her one. I'd never made any owls before, only birds from the Spool pattern. But I found some super cute illustrations of owls for inspiration and made my own pattern and came up with this! Here is my test bird and I think she turned out so cute.

I just did an outline of the body with an elliptical shape on the bottom so it can sit. The wings are quilted and then hot glued onto the body, as are the felt eyes and beak. It's a great way to mix and match fabrics.

The mobile is for a boy and I was sent fabrics they had picked out. Just a word of advice, if you ever do a comission piece, always have the person pick out their fabric. There is no chance you will ever agree on colors, patterns, anything. Trust me.

I had never balanced sticks in a tier pattern before. That was an interesting learning curve. I finally realized that each stick needed a tripod of fishing line to balance, at least the way I did it.

I made 3 extra owls for a diaper cake they wanted to decorate. And then a flat version for a bib decoration.

I really am satisfied with how they came out.

Now I know what you're thinking... You should sell these! Sorry, I've had enough owl sewing to last at least a year. But let me encourage you to make your own stuffed creatures--it's really a lot easier than it looks!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Smocked Dresses

I decided to try using elastic thread to make a smocked/shirred dress for my daughter to wear this summer. I followed Dana's instructions from her blog MADE. Both versions I made were from tank tops that don't fit me very well. This blue one was too big for me, and is consequently too big around for my daughter. The yellow tanktop is too small for me, and the dress came out too small for her too!

Using a tank top instead of starting from scratch made the project take less than 45 minutes to make. I am not kidding, start to finish was under 45 minutes--and that was the first time I'd ever used elastic thread in my machine!

Just cut off the straps, turn down the top edge, do your shirring, make a big hem, then sew the straps back on only much shorter. Super easy! And super cute! Can you believe I haven't taken a picture of her in it yet?

I ended up giving the yellow one to a friend whose daughter is smaller than mine. And the blue one looks fine, she just has some room to grow.

I'm really contemplating making a shirred dress for myself, but I'm trying to figure out how to prevent it from looking too juvenile. Any ideas on an adult version?

Monday, April 18, 2011


I was teaching Gustav Klimt's portrait art to my junior high class last fall and was inspired to paint a family portrait just for fun. When I was teaching my students, I really stressed Klimt's style of blending the person with the background. So I had a little fun with this one. Can you tell I was lazy and didn't want to paint the rest of the table?

I looked up some old fashioned family portraits for inspiration, this was one of my favorites. I staged a photo session to use for reference. I wanted us to look like an old-fashioned family, but not from a specific time period. Just sometime in the 1800's. I wore my wedding dress and put a huge comforter underneath to poof it out. I might try another family portrait in a couple of years in another artist's style. Maybe N.C. Wyeth...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Color Workshop

Our guild hosted another workshop on the most popular topic in the weaving world: color! Our instructor was Ruby Leslie and her topic was how weave structure effects visual color blending. We all brought our own loom set up with a specific weave structure (all different ones) and then had a round robin weave-a-thon so that everyone got to weave each of the different structures.

Ruby did an excellent job explaining the different structures and their effects on color. The possibilities really are endless since you can change your vertical (warp) stripes and your horizontal (weft) color. She has done an incredible amount of sampling and research and was highly qualified to teach on this subject. I learned so much!

We were able to take home all of the samples we wove. Here are the two versions of plaid that I just loved. I would never think of putting these colors together, but they really are a beautiful combination. As much as I hate hot pink, that one stripe really brings it together!

This sample was really fun to weave. It is an 8-shaft advancing twill pattern--something I can't do on my 4-shaft loom.

This is the weave structure from my loom, called "bumberet". I had never seen anything like it before. It forms a sort of chain in rows and looks really nice with lots of warp stripes. My weft in this was just the medium green.

If you ever have the chance to take a weaving workshop, don't pass it up! You get so much knowledge and extra tips. In addition to all the workshop information, I learned how to tie a weaver's knot (very helpful for my next project). And I learned how to stop weaving in the middle of a project to cut off what you've woven and then be able to start right back up again. Those two tips were worth the price of the class!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sewing with Handwoven Fabric

Here are a few highlights of my process. The main problems with handwoven fabric come from its loose and unstable state compared to store-bought fabric. First of all, the edges ravel almost immediately after cutting and so they must be secured as soon as possible. I have used a serger before on handwoven, but those were all rather straight edges. I cut out a test piece, one part of the sleeve, and serged it. As you can see in the photo above, compared to the pattern, it has been skewed out of shape by the serging. I was actually able to stretch it back into the right size and use it, but it was a good indicator that serging was out for this project.

I would highly recommend using as large of a table for cutting as possible. I used to just lay fabric out on the floor to cut, but that is a huge pain--mostly for your back!

I ended up doing two things to stabilize and secure the edges. After cutting out all of the pieces, I fused very thin interfacing strips along every cut edge. This worked wonderfully to prevent the fabric from becoming pulled out of shape, and it kept the fraying to a minimum while I was working with it.

Here you can see how different the fabric looks after pressing, compared to unpressed. It was extremely shiny after pressing. Because of that, I did as little pressing of the finished garment that I could.

The other finishing technique I used was to cover all the raw edges inside with bias tape. This makes the inside look very clean and neat, and it prevents any sort of fraying. The only drawback is that the already somewhat bulky seams are now bulkier. Surprisingly, it's not visibly noticeable, only when you're wearing it do you notice.

My other tip for the day is: follow directions and stay-stitch the neckline! I don't know about you, but I always skipped stay-stitching. It seems like such a worthless step if you're going to sew it anyway, right? Well, remember my stretched out/wonky neckline on the brown version of this? I did not change the pattern at all, I just stay-stiched it and my neckline came out perfect. Live and learn!

Do you have a sewing tip that's either a short cut or something you've learned cannot be skipped? Share it with us!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inheritance Dress

It's finished and my entry form is submitted! Whew!

I'll post details about making it soon. Below is my artist's statement.

I feel the need to make clothing that tells a story. When I wear a garment, I imagine places I could travel to and adventures I could have in it. In my Inheritance dress, I can picture myself climbing ancient trees somewhere in Europe, maybe I’m sailing the Mediterranean… Although I might imagine incredible adventures about this garment, I will still wear it in my normal, everyday life. Clothing that is made to wear in everyday life, yet has a unique and extraordinary quality is what excites me. I could make an evening gown, but I couldn’t wear it whenever I felt like taking a walk down the street. I find myself embracing Anita Mayer’s idea of wearing something magical and unique every day.

There is something magical about the word inheritance. It conjures up thoughts of finding a hidden treasure; like a gift of something ancient. At first glance the fabric seems plain, but it has a surprising subtlety of iridescence that gives rich depth to the cloth. Like it could have been from a royal robe unearthed after centuries. For me this ancient gift takes the form of a new life through faith in Jesus Christ. I have recently been studying with my church Paul’s letter to the Colossians and this passage had an impression on me: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Being so immersed in making clothing, I am always intrigued by the role of clothing in the Bible. During our discussion, we talked about the ancient custom of putting on a new garment when receiving an inheritance. Believers in Christ have been made God’s children and thus receive His inheritance, so we put on the new clothing of serving Him with joy. When I wear this garment, I want to be encouraged to show compassion and kindness, no matter what adventures life brings. I want to be reminded of the hidden beauty of God’s kingdom and my identity in Him. That is the real story being told every day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pattern making

I'm trying pattern making again. Of course I'm self-taught so it's all a guessing game and past results have not been pretty. Ah, the challenge! This time is different because I'm using a shirt/tunic that I own to "rub" the pattern from.

I absolutely love this tunic. It goes with everything. It can be dressed up or down. And best of all, I can nurse the baby in it because of those handy buttons in front. I can't remember if I've ranted on here before about how my wardrobe pre-baby was all pull over dresses and, well, that just doesn't work when you're nursing. So this was a great find last summer and I want to duplicate it with my handwoven fabric.

Making this pattern has been very time consuming. In the picture above you can see the three different versions of the front bodice, from left to right, 1) traced from the flat garment, 2) traced on the dressform, 3) combined the two and retraced on the dressform. I was checking and rechecking the measurements--"measure twice, cut once" turned into measure 50 times, cut once.

Here is a "mock-up" that I made to check my pattern fit from fabric I had laying around. It came out surprisingly well with one major problem. As you can see in the above picture, the neckline is completely stretched out and wonky. And the button placket is not centered at all! Sometimes I will make the buttons off center on purpose.... this was not on purpose.

The best thing about this pattern is that it isn't precisely fitted. The back has a tie that cinches and makes the front tight. That made getting the fit right a lot easier.
I still haven't gotten the neckline quite right. I'm wondering if it was the bias tape stretching it and because I didn't stay-stitch it like you're supposed to. Any thoughts on getting necklines to behave?
Stay tuned for the handwoven version of this... it's in progress!

Friday, February 25, 2011


I wish you could reach through your computer screen and feel my cloth. It is by far my favorite thing I've woven just because of the sumptuous texture. It drapes beautifully and feels like a textured silk. All 3 1/2 yards of it!

Washing it was different than I usually treat handwoven items. I have sewed with machine made tencel fabric before and so I knew that if you let it drip dry it feels like cardboard. But if you put it in the dryer--voila!--it turns into the loveliest softness.

I tried to capture the iridescence in this picture. I can tell the fabric is a little warp-faced (meaning more of the warp is showing than the weft) since the brown is definitely in the "background" and the blue is dominant. I still would have liked a darker coffee brown better, but it's too late to fix that so... stop thinking about it, right?
Now, on to the sewing!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Winter has been busy! I've begun a new weaving project which will end up being yardage for a garment to be entered in this garment contest at Handwoven magazine. Whew... I'm worn out just writing about it. Considering I started working on this before Thanksgiving, it's taking longer than usual, although Christmas kind of got in the way of working on it.

I wanted to share some of the things I'm doing differently with this project to help it go more smoothly than the tartan did. First of all I got myself a lamp to clip on the loom, as you can see in the picture. Don't underestimate the importance of lighting!

This is a shot of the main cloth, it's one of the treadling patterns from a German Bird's Eye (in Marguerite Davison's book). The warp is this bold royal blue (the closest thing I could find to what I wanted--still not happy) in 8/2 tencel. The weft is a medium cardboard brown--the only brown tencel I could find anywhere! My original color ideas were completely different and I'm still not completely satisfied with this combination... but I didn't want to bore you with my 3 month thought process on colors. Do you ever have difficulty picking color combinations? Do you have trouble finding the color, that elusive perfect shade that does not exist? I do.

One thing that I learned from weaving the tartan cloth was making sturdy selvedges to prevent warp threads from breaking. Here you can see this green 5/2 perle cotton on my selvedge. I put a good 1/2 inch of it doubled up so there is no chance of the tencel being rubbed and snapped. With a 30 inch wide warp, this is essential since it will be drawing in to around 27 inches.

The other plan for this project is that I will be able to tie on to the warp threads again after I cut off the fabric. Basically that means I won't have to take each thread and put it through the reed and the heddles again, I'll just have to tie a new thread on to the old ones. Another reason why I chose the German Bird's Eye pattern--it has 5 different treadling patterns. In the picture above you can see what you get when you do the plain weave treadling. It's sort of a plain weave with a group of 3 every 1/2 inch or so.
More on this soon!