Archive for the ‘wearable art’ Category

When I last wrote about this project, I had just finished embellishing the seams on what would be the front of the bag. That was on May 24th! Good heavens! Much has happened since then, including lots of time with family; but when I could, I was “still stitching” on Tangie’s bag. Now it’s just about finished.

Step-by-step: after I had embellished what would become the back and the flap, I decided to add beads and sequins to the patches which I had used with some on them.

You can see the need for them here.

More needed

Having used all the beads and sequins I had harvested from the patches I’d cut,

All gone

I had to go back for more. You wouldn’t believe how long it takes to get those tiny bits off the fabric and the threads removed from them.

The patches filled with more beads-on-sequins, I was ready to remove the work from the frames and stitch the front and back together.

Seams finished

Then I lined the bag and the flap and made a shoulder strap. I have not yet attached one end of the strap because I want the length to suit Tangie.

Flap liningLining

And here’s the finished (almost finished) bag.

Finished front

Closer look

Here’s the back and bottom.

Back and bottom

And the button that doesn’t really close the bag. There’s Velcro inside.


I found this button when I was shopping for beads and a button for my black jacket. Works perfectly here.

Here’s what’s left of Tangie’s top, from the front, the back, and one sleeve.


And here is Tangie herself, having just adjusted the shoulder strap to the right length. I’ll stitch that tonight and she shall have it to take to Atlantic City this weekend.

(I’ll be  in New Jersey myself, this weekend.)



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It’s not all kayaking; I’ve been stitching, too. I couldn’t blog about it because it’s a gift. Grandson Josh is graduating high school this spring. He has everything on earth he could want or need. He definitely doesn’t need money. Casting about for what I could give him, I thought about embroidering an article of clothing for him. He likes my needleart a lot. When I asked him, he said that he loved the idea and he would be thinking about what he would want me to embellish with stitching.

On April 2nd  he showed me two jackets and told me I could choose which I wanted to work on.


I chose the military-style tunic. It is dark brown, sort of grayish-brown. When I asked Josh whether he had any ideas, requests, preferences, or specifications, he said he wanted me to do whatever I wanted with it, as that is the way he does his best work. He did mention, however, that maroon is the color of College of Charleston, where he will matriculate this year. To my question about wearability, he said it had to be dry-cleanable, as he likes to wear it regularly.

As soon as I had decided on the tunic, I got out all my darkest red threads and draped them over the jacket. DMC cotton pearl 902 looked wonderful against the dark brown—subtle and rich. Putting stitching on the button tabs and epaulettes seemed obvious. But to do that, I’d have to be able to remove the tabs from the tunic. Immediately I set to work to see whether I could do that. It was scary. What if I damaged the tunic? What if I got it off and couldn’t get it back on invisibly?

With my seam ripper, I cautiously, slowly, found the stitching behind the cording and clipped the stitches.

Removing tab

So far, so good. At this point I was trying out ideas to see whether they would work. Just to find out how stitching through this very dense, heavy fabric would be, I began to chain-stitch with DMC pearl cotton #8 along the cording, over the line of visible stitching you can see above. It looked great so I continued, but the pre-existing stitching began to come out. What effect would this have? Was it necessary to the construction of the tab? I just kept on. It was the stitching I had snipped.

First border

Next I thought about trying a row of diamond stitches down the middle of the tab.

Now the diamond stitch is a complex stitch requiring seven steps to complete. The examples below are from Sharon Boggon’s TAST 2010, where I learned it.


As you can see, working this stitch precisely requires evenweave fabric on which you can count the threads. The jacket is definitely not evenweave fabric.

Since I needed to refresh my memory of how to do the diamond stitch, and because I wanted to see how it would look, I got out a piece of brown raw silk noil—the  fabric closest in color I found in my stash, and practiced the stitch. Since it is not evenweave either, I used waste canvas to keep my stitches even. Waste canvas is an evenweave material. You stitch over it, then remove it—one thread at a time, from under the stitching. I tried two weights of thread—pearl cotton #5 and #3.

Practice cloth

This project is a learning process, technically challenging, all the way. At each step, I’ve had to figure out how to do what I wanted to do. Tweezers were an important tool for this project, as you will see—tweezers and magnifying lenses.

Eager to see how this stitching would look on the jacket, I pinned waste canvas to the tab I’d outlined in chain-stitch and began making diamond stitches. But the waste canvas had shifted a bit and the line wasn’t straight.

Trimmed waste canvas

That was very obvious after the waste canvas had been removed. I unstitched and tried again.

Removing waste canvas, one thread at a time:

Removing waste canvas

After I had stitched the row of diamond stitches on the second tab, I saw that it was not identical to that stitching on the first tab, which I had spent 1 1/2 hours re-attaching to the tunic. Uh-oh, I thought, I may have to re-do this stitching, too, and so I pinned the tab to the tunic. Then I unattached the next tab and chain-stitched the border.


Okay, this was good. I decided to keep doing that—getting the tab off the tunic, tweezing out the snipped threads, and putting in the chain-stitched border. In production mode, I chain stitched around all the tabs.

Then I went into production mode for the diamond stitching—attaching waste canvas to all the tabs and putting diamond stitch on all of them. Once I had figured out how to get perfectly straight rows, it was easy to do; but it took me a long time to get there. I know. It looks so easy.

First to last_edited-1

When I’d stitched all the tabs, it was clear that the second tab was, in fact, not acceptable.


I unstitched it and did it again.

Taking out

Here, all the tabs have been embellished and attached to the jacked.

Tabs done

Next I embroidered the epaulettes, using #3 pearl cotton and making the stitches larger. The thread is not this red. It is deep maroon, but I couldn’t get that with my camera.


These are the threads I used in truer color.


Around the collar and cuffs, I chain-stitched a line of #8 pearl cotton against the cording. Getting the needle through this tough fabric sometimes required pliers. And making sure the stitches went only through the outer layer of fabric was fiddly work. Very slow.


Okay, the exterior was finished. Inside, I wanted to put Josh’s name and mine. I tried several ways of stitching the names:

Label trials

On the black fabric (which had had a previous life as the lining of a suede belt) I stitched over Sulky tearaway foundation, then found out I couldn’t get the Sulky out of the inside of these small letters. Not for love nor money nor an hour of trying. Why didn’t I think of white transfer paper first, instead of last?

After I finally got Josh’s label satisfactorily stitched, I struggled with my signature, having to completely unstitch the tiny single silk floss stitches I’d used to couch #8 pearl cotton in trailing stitch.


But success came at last:


I made my labels match the original jacket label.


Done at last.

All done

I gave it to Josh yesterday. He loves it. Here he’d just discovered the detail of the stitching on the cuff  and was exclaiming over it.


With the jacket closed:


I think it looks terrific on him.

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On Tuesday I went to a neighbor’s apartment for a private showing of her quilts. Little did I know what was in store for me. Deborah showed us 14 quilts she had designed and made and some other needleart of hers. First up was one of her earliest quilts, a crib quilt for a granddaughter made 20 years ago. (Click on the images to enlarge.)


In this detail, you can see the heart-print fabric and ribbon included in this quilt.

Heart detail

Below is the label on the back of the well-worn quilt.

Next came her entry in the Hoffman challenge, an annual event in which people are invited to submit textile art using a particular Hoffman print fabric.

Here’s the print with which Deb worked. She described it as hideous.


But after she had cut it up and pieced it in her own design, it looked like this.


In this detail you can see the hand stitching she added for texture and to modify the colors.

Challenge detail

Here’s the label on the back of the challlenge quilt.

Label on challenge

Next she showed us the H quilt she had made for granddaughter Hannah, whose favorite color is green. Notice the interlocking “Hs”. This is a double-bed size quilt. I could not get far enough away to photograph the whole quilt.

H quilt

Then came this gorgeous full bed quilt made with neckties. When Deb’s sister’s husband died, he left a huge collection of neckties, which the widow wanted to use as a quilt. Never having made a quilt, she sought Deb’s advice but she simply couldn’t do it. Finally Deb, who had not wanted to take away this grief-work from her sister, delicately asked whether she would like Deb to make the quilt. Her sister said, “I thought you’d never ask!” To the 100+ neckties sent to Deb, she added some blue and blue star-printed material—all silk. And she found scores of poems about stars which she sent to her sister, who chose ones she most liked. Deb embroidered these poems as part of the border.


In this close-up of a corner of the quilt, you can recognize the tie silks.

The design is Deb’s.

Necktie close up

Here’s one of the poems:

Star quotes

Each time the word “star” appeared, Deb highlighted it with metallic thread.

After that we saw another large bed quilt made in celebration of her grandson’s high school graduation. Like my own sons, he’s been sailing all his life. Because I had my camera on the wrong setting, I failed to get a picture of most of the quilt, but I can show you the central motif—an historically accurate representation of a sailing ship, worked after much research.

Sailing ship

All the details of masts, sails, and rigging are correct. There were waves below and a starry sky above.

On the back of the quilt  Deb had created two little sailboats to carry her words.


Sail label

Here she credits the source of her image.


Also on the back of the quilt is a message in semaphore.


Each character was pieced.

Pieced semaphor

One of Deb’s sons had a leaky fireplace—in winter it leaked heat out and in summer the heat leaked in. He asked Deb if she could create a quilt to use as a fire-screen. Here’s the summer fireplace quilt:

Summer fireplace

and here’s the winter fireplace quilt:

Copy of Winter fireplace

Since the edge of the fireplace is iron, Deb put magnets on the backs of the quilts. They hug the fireplace smoothly.

Here’s a detail of the fire, made with satiny shiny and metallic fabrics.

Fireplace detail

For the son who had no use for a quilt, Deb made this little pillow. She printed a photograph of his children on fabric, then used tiny straight stitches to outline some of their features, creating the illusion of three dimensions, In fact, the baby’s nose is actually dimensional.

Photo pillow_edited-1

Another pillow was made from a paper collage Deb created and photographed or scanned into her computer, then printed on fabric and stitched to outline.

Here’s the paper collage:

Collage paper

Here’s the pillow:

Collage pillow

After Hannah’s mother died a few years ago, she asked her grandmother to make a quilt in her memory. Hannah had very definite  specifications. She wanted the quilt to be exclusively red, black, and white. She had some concepts she wanted represented on one side and on the other side she wanted images of memories she treasured of her mother.

Deb rendered the concepts symbolically as a stylized flower.

In memory of mother

On the other side of the quilt she created four images. This  one is of Hannah’s mother dancing in the kitchen with Hannah in her arms. Deb’s finger is pointing to the tiaras worn by mother and daughter.


In this close-up you may be able to see the joyful expression on Hannah’s face and her mother’s high-heeled shoe she is wearing.

Dancing close up

Another memory of playing with her mother, wearing the tiaras again.

Close up

Beneath are shoes, which both of them especially liked.


This image was based on a photograph of mother and daughter on a beach.


Hannah’s mother loved polar bears, so Hannah wanted one on the quilt. Deb added the cub, much to Hannah’s delight. The bears are a light-weight velvety velour, as best Deb and I can describe the fabric.

Polar bears

Four years after his wife’s death, Deb’s son asked her to create a quilt using his wife’s clothing, which he still possessed. He delivered several bags full of clothing for Deb to work with. She made this wall-hanging quilt:

DIL memorial

The fabrics are embellished with buttons from the clothing, with other ornamentation from the clothing such as lace, with charms and pins of special meaning, and with beads and Swarovski crystals. Some details follow.

Detail 1Detail 2Detail 3

This shoe pin was one of several that Deb and her DIL exchanged with each other.


The image on the other side of the quilt was cut from the DIL’s t-shirt. A nurse, she admired midwives and this image celebrates midwifery. Although Deb didn’t intentionally do this, the concentric hearts design reflects back to the heart crib quilt at the beginning of this show.

DIL memorial back

Deb makes things other than quilts. For her bat mitzvah Hannah asked her grandmother to make her a prayer shawl, a talles. As with the memorial quilt, Hannah knew what she wanted on her talles—the Biblical story of Miriam, Moses’ sister, who saved his life. On one end of the shawl, Deb created the scene of Miriam placing the infant Moses in an ark among the bullrushes where the Egyptian princess bathed. The bullrushes are silk ribbons.

Talles 2

On the other end of the talles she created the scene of Miriam and other women singing, dancing, and rejoicing after the princess took Moses to be brought  up in the palace.


A close-up of Miriam and another woman with the infant Moses in the bullrushes:

Talles detail

Over the mid-section of the shawl, Deb placed branches with buds on one side and full blossoms on the other. The bat mitzvah signifies that a girl has become a woman in the eyes of her community. Here are some buds:

Talles detail 2

Silk ribbon embroidery, I think.

And here is Hannah wearing her talles. Note the opened blossoms on her right.

Hannah in her talles

That’s not all. Following is a shot of Deb’s husband, Dr. Phil London, wearing a shirt pieced by Deb.

Dr. Phil London

And the artist herself, wearing a mob-cap made by her sister while her hair grows out following chemotherapy.


After the show, we enjoyed refreshments and good conversation.


What a delightful afternoon!

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I have had the great good fortune of feeling love, concern, and interest from many people in other parts of the world whom I’ve not met in person. What a blessing the Internet can be.

In the depths of my troubled time this year, in the first week of February when I was very sick and we had just moved Ernie into RGT the week before, I received a small padded envelope in the mail, addressed thus:

On the back was this greeting:

Inside was a small envelope:

which contained this beautiful textile card.

The card read:

And with the card was this magnificent textile brooch:

It is 3 X 2 inches. Dyed, scrunched, painted, and gilded (gilted?) silk has been applied on to a copper-painted fabric the texture of fine linen. Teeny tiny stitches and a copper elephant charm have been added. Nothing could be more to my taste! Remember my black jacket with the coppery embellishment?

This brooch came pinned to the front of a black card. Here I’m showing it pinned to the back of the card:

Jill, a gifted textile artist, sent me this beautiful, extraordinary, and heartwarming gift. Further, she has kept encouraging, hand-holding messages coming throughout this tough time.

Jill, I can’t thank you enough for the brooch and for your support. All you lovers of textile art, needleart, mixed media art–do go see more of Jill’s work.

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The “year of living on the edge” continues. While I’m dealing with Ernie’s “transition” (Charlestown-speak) to the care center (and breaking down in the process), I had an occasion to celebrate.

A few weeks ago I received this invitation:

Ara, you may remember,  is my Nigerian friend. She’s been in America as long as we have lived at Charlestown, and she works here. In 2009, we both participated in the Charlestown mini-triathlon.

In January 2010 Ara, her boyfriend, and two sisters took me to a movie theater to see Avatar. It was my first time in a movie theater in 20 years. And to see Avatar in 3-D! What an experience. In fact, when I said the experience had been too overwhelming and I wanted to see the film again, they took  me a second time. Since Ara and Yemi had already seen Avatar twice, this gave 12-year-old sister Ebun a chance to see the film a second time, too. Ara and Yemi saw another film. So much fun doing that with Ebun.

Last spring Ara and I were teammates in the mini-triathlon, and Ara won the gold medal as fastest runner.

The invitation was to celebrate three special events–Ara’s graduation from nursing school, her 23rd birthday, and her sister Ola’s 21st birthday. Ara already has a baccalaureate degree, and she aims for a doctorate in nursing. Last week she became licensed as an R.N. so we were celebrating that, too.

As soon as I saw the invitation, I began thinking of what I could make for Ara and Ola. I blogged about that but can’t link to it.(Why?)

How to make a fabric card the hard way

Here’s the finished card.

Of course, I signed it. And I added the edging after this scan.

Here’s Ola’s card.

I finished it at 3:30 Saturday afternoon–just in time!

Not only am I not good at piecing. I am even worse at edging. I have repeatedly put heavy stitching or beads too close to the edge, making it very difficult to finish. For Ara’s card, which was too stiff and resistant for me to stitch through, I added three rows of gold Raj cord.

I used Tacky glue and this tool

to painstakingly apply narrow strips of glue to the edge of the card. It took three hours.

For the edge of Ola’s card, which had lighter backing, I thought I might be able to do machine stitching. I made myself a practice piece with the same materials and tried it.

With more practice, I might have been able to do it. I also tested hand stitching at the bottom and I could do that. But I couldn’t use the sewing machine because after I cut the card to size, there were beads too close to the edge. This is how I buttonhole stitched the edge.

It took four hours. I have friends who can machine-stitch the edge of a fabric card in a minute or two. If there’s a quick, easy, simple way to do something, I am incapable of it. If it’s slow, hard, tedious, and time-consuming, I go for it.

Here are some details of Ara’s card. A grid made using waste canvas.

Raised chain stitch

Some details from Ola’s card. A seam treatment

Beads, beads, and more beads

While I was working on these cards, Ernie had two brain attacks and admission to the care center became urgent. I was a wreck, and by Friday I was very sick with severe cold/flu symptoms. On Saturday I had laryngitis and couldn’t speak. But I was determined to show up at the gala and present the cards to Ara and Ola.

Of course I was going to go. This was my first opportunity to wear my black jacket and the earrings Nina made for me to wear with it.

Never mind the black eye. More stress, I guess. Doesn’t hurt.

I arrived early for the party. Ara and Ola with some other early guests.

This was definitely a party for their friends. No other 73-year-old great-grandmothers there! Me with Ara and Ola.

I managed to stay long enough to dance a little, then home to bed. Sorry I missed the real partying.

I feel honored to have been included among Ara’s and Ola’s friends.

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Just look

Just look at these earrings.


Aren’t they magnificent? Crystal beads and copper charms.

They were designed and made for me by dear friend Nina to wear with my black jacket ensemble.


The feather is meaningful, as the gift was sent “from one soaring spirit to another.”

Thank you so much, Nina. I will love wearing them, knowing they came with love from you.

Now, go look at more of her work.

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This year the theme of Charlestown’s annual gala is “Masquerade Ball.” The invitation said, “No costumes. This is a black-tie event. Please wear a mask.” For those who  arrive without a mask, one will be provided for them.

I decided to make my own. Here’s the design.


The red motifs are from the top I beaded and wore to last year’s gala. I scanned the top, resized the elements I wanted to use, printed them, and cut them out. Funny how the S shape keeps recurring in my designs.

I chose a white and ivory print cotton as the ground fabric and found a dark red print that is almost identical to the motifs on the top from last year that  I will be wearing again.

After fusing the cotton fabric to Pellon fusible fleece, for body, I transferred the design and tacked it to a frame. For the motifs, I used Misty Fuse, which made them fusible to the ground fabric.

One eye

All the time I was using a practice cloth—for testing the fusibles, trying out threads and stitches. On the back, you can see the fusible fleece to which I then tested fusing the same print fabric to cover the back.

Practice back

I wasn’t sure how I could get a gold edge around the mask, so I tested that here as well. Also, I wanted to make sure the metallic threads wouldn’t melt during fusing.

Practice front

The work in progress. Unfortunately, you can’t see in the photo the seed beads that outline the motifs and the eye holes. The S shapes are heavy chain stitch, AKA braided chain stitch in Caron hand-dyed cotton.


And the finished mask:


Made entirely from materials found in my stash.

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