Friday, October 21, 2016

Eco-Dyeing Party

Do you get as happy and as excited as I do when you meet a very creative person for the first time?  That's how I was about meeting Carole at a fall sewing retreat last year.  She was a relatively new member to a Maryland wearable art group and I immediately loved her creative aesthetic and thoughtful approach to sewing/creating.  She shared that one of the things that interested her was eco-dyeing and a big inspiration was a woman from Australia, India Flint.  India Flint  
Now, dyeing fabric has never interested me, mostly because I don't have a decent work space for using chemicals and dyes.  But when I got the India Flint book,   Eco Colour  I saw that this dyeing was rather more "natural" and relied upon more common ingredients for the dyeing and for the mordants.  I was even more excited when Carole offered to show us how to do eco-dyeing at her home/studio.  What a spectacularly fun day and I love the result

Eco Dyeing silk scarves
Eco dyeing relies upon leaves, flowers and organic materials which are used to dye fabric chiefly by wrapping them into tight bundles, leaving them to "cook" in hot water and a mordant then unveiling them in their colorful and surprising splendor.  Certainly there are prescribed formulae if someone wants to produce a predictable outcome, say for dyeing wool for a project.  But I love the totally surprising but always organic look of random arrangements of materials.  One wise member of our group did remind us to keep careful notes for each result since the combination of fabric, plant materials and mordants is almost unlimited.  
Here's what our fun day looked like:

My scarf unwrapped and hanging to dry

I went out into my garden that morning and clipped leaves and ferns and flowers to take to the session.  I added Trader Joe's eucalyptus leaves since we were told they are a good consistent plant for print effects.  We used silk scarf "blanks" from Dharma Trading since silk is one of the easiest natural fibers to accept a dye.  You can use rayon as well and cotton or wool but they would require some preparation beforehand.  
We wet our scarves with water then laid out the leaves, flower petals, berries, and stems in organized or random ways.  For denser colors and patterns you do want to lay them closely together since this is chiefly a transfer process.  
We folded the silk upon itself and tightly wound it around a stick, tying it with string to keep the plant material in close contact with the silk scarf.  We placed them in pots of hot water.  The mordant....what makes the dye transfer and stay in place in the silk....was sometimes the metal of the pot (mine was in a cast iron pot) or sometimes rusty items like old nails and screws or perhaps the addition of alum or copper pennies/pipe.  The fibers need a mineral in order for the plant dye to "take."

I enjoyed my day and first attempt at eco dyeing so much that I am offering it as an activity for my church auction next month.  Next fall four people can come to my house and yard to pick the materials from the garden.  I will supply the silk scarf blanks and we will do the same as Carole did for us...have fun sharing a creative activity with an organic, nature-inspired surprise at the conclusion.  Thanks to Carole for introducing me to another designing enterprise and to you dear readers and fellow bloggers for joining in the journey.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Right Dress, Wrong Season

In mid-August I brought several samples garments to a sewing weekend with fitting guru Sarah Veblen and this dress was the overwhelming favorite among all of us.  What a fabulous pattern and I am loving the final result....but not the fact that I won't be wearing it in public until we head to Florida later this winter.  But if you sew clothes, you know the joy and excitement of a new, versatile TNT pattern.  
Oh, Vogue 8997, how do I love thee?

Vogue 8997
I like the open neckline, the raised underbust seaming, the cup size options, the fun flare in this flared version and this fun stretch sateen from Fabric Mart.  It's the perfect dress for the summer winery outdoor dances that Mr. Lucky and I go to and I only regret that I didn't try this pattern out in late spring.

Here's the fabulous pattern...note that it comes with a two piece sleeve (wonderful in a dress and unusual), a flutter sleeve and a straight sheath version.  I will be making an entire wardrobe of these dresses in all their variation.
When Sarah helped me fit my mock-up, this is what I had to work with:
The pattern has eight pattern pieces for the sleeveless version.  I am so asymmetrical that I had to cut the dress in single layers and had to make adjustments on 12 of the 16 pieces.  So yes, it is a slow process for someone like me.  I am not temperamentally a particularly detailed or precise person. But working with Sarah has shown me the benefits of slowly making these adjustments and working carefully.  I would fail as a custom dressmaker but thankfully my style works for my casual life.  
Eight bodice pieces each with its own little adjustment

I self lined the bodice and then used a rayon lining for the bottom panels.
The stretch woven I used was quite lightweight so I applied light interfacing on the lining edges of the neckline and armholes to keep them stable.  I line sleeveless dresses using a sort of "burrito" method.  I  meant to take good pictures illustrating this technique again but instead will refer you to my original post...lining a sleeveless sheath  
Now let me show you how I will be wearing this dress in public...always with a little shrug.

I brought this project to my sewing retreat in August and one evening went shopping at the local Stein Mart store. (We don't have them in Maryland but they are one of my favorites for Florida casual wear.) I found this lacey little tie shrug for $8 on clearance and it looks like I coordinated it perfectly.
I may end up tracing the shrug because it's perfect for this dress.  And this is how I feel wearing this fun,  girly,swirly, twirly dress...let's get this party started.
Here's hoping that your sewing projects make you feel like dancing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fabric, Fun and Friends

Since this blog is ostensibly about my sewing adventures I will start with what interests you the most, sweet readers.  Did she go to that Colorado fabric store?  Did she buy any fabric?  What is she going to do with it?
Oh, so many questions.  Yes, when Mr. Lucky and I headed west to Colorado ten days ago I had added Elfriede's Fine Fabrics  Elfriede's  to our travel itinerary, particularly once Grace at badmomgoodmom blog enabled me offered to meet up in person.  I'm honored that someone so skilled and learned would even read my blog much less offer to help me select fabric from this wonderful emporium.  
So that was settled, we were heading out to Colorado to reacquaint ourselves with Mr. Lucky's family, take some local walks in town, meet up for more adventurous hikes with Maryland friends in the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park and yes, add to my fabric resource center.

Grace, Elfriede, Jane
 The fabrics:

 On the left is a lightweight wool loosely woven knit.  No, I have no idea but it is just spectacular and my real splurge.  

 Not a wonderful cell phone pic on my dress form but I am thinking cozy jacket wrap. The middle burgundy/merlot is an Eileen Fisher ponte.  Wonderful drape and I am thinking maybe a bottom piece but it too would be gorgeous as a flowing jacket.  (Don't forget, Elfriede has great mail order as well and these pontes are on her site.)
The next piece was my first choice and if I were limited would have been my only purchase.  It is a rayon knit in my mid to fair colors, with that touch of black, and I think the abstract print looks like mountains so it will be a great souvenir garment in the future.
The two fabrics on the left were remnants I just could not resist, a yard and quarter of the soft wool and less than two of another rayon knit.  

I'm thinking shawl collared vest from the wool

and a very versatile knit top that would be a wonderful travel garment to coordinate with many others.

That concludes the sewing portion of our action packed seven day trip.  Mr. Lucky and I did two 10k walks through the University of Denver campus and neighborhoods and then thru the small town of Arvada which is becoming a bit trendier as the downtown is updated and the light rail is moving out there.  We find these great walks through the website for the local Volksmarch club. 
Volksmarches are mapped out by clubs all over the world and are a wonderful way to actively explore a town or natural area.  You look up the public "start point," a hotel or eating establishment or in this case, a local gym.  The Volksmarch Club leaves a registration box and you can pick up a map.  No schedule or racing but it does mean you are parked in a safe area and will be on a circular walk that gets you back to the start point.  If you really get into it, you can do the record keeping and earn pins and awards for mileage and quantity of walks you take.  We stopped that process years ago (reocrdkeeping of any kind is not our forte) and just enjoy knowing that we will always be an interesting place and be able to find our way back.  In the US, it's or internationally
After the lovely fabric and blogging friend diversion in Boulder, Mr. Lucky and I headed to Estes Park to meet up with Maryland friends just completing 5 1/2 weeks on an RV trip seeing ten western national parks.  What a true delight to catch up with them in a gorgeous place and hear about their adventures on the trip of a lifetime.  The weather turned cold overnight and there was snow up on the mountaintops the next morning.  At their advice (perfect advice, it turned out) we got an early start into the park and onto a trail for our first hike of the day, up Deer Mountain, about a 1000 foot ascent with each view becoming more beautiful.  Wow is such a small word for such majestic sights.  

Aspen trees just starting to peak in the fall

Summit of Deer Mountain video

More hikes....marked with sewing pins...
more scenery....

Wildlife...elk rutting time...
The bicyclist did wisely move behind a car as the bull elk was bellowing for the rest of his harem.
I even had the very special experience of catching up with a friend from more than thirty years ago when we were both single career gals with heavy travel schedules.  We haven't seen each other or spoken directly in more than 20 years but when we got together on our last evening in town, the decades melted away and it was as if we had just met up yesterday.  Isn't that the most wonderful thing when that happens!
Still fun and crazy after all these years
If you stayed with me all through this long travel tale, you get to see another sewing surprise.  When we were looking at the Rocky Mountain National Park newspaper of events and hike information, I saw a blurb for a quilt show.  Yes, there is a beautifully curated small 13 quilt show making the rounds of the US national parks as another part of their centennial celebration this year.  Just so happened the the visitor center we stopped at had the display and I was able to capture the shot of the quilt designed for this particular park before my camera battery ran out.  The display is traveling to other parks this year so check your closest location if you would like to see more of them.  NPS Centennial Quilts

Now it's time for me to get into my own sewing room and finish a dress I will be wearing this weekend for a  family gathering.  Here's hoping you are enjoying adventures in or out of your sewing space.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rocky Mountain High Fabric Shopping

My latest sewing project is still under construction so I'll just drop in to ask about your travels and fabric hoarding shopping.  If you've read this blog for more than five minutes you know that I have more than enough fabric for several lifetimes of sewing, particularly at my slow pace.  So unlike some of you who reside in true "fabric store deserts," I don't have any need to visit a fashion fabric store when I am out of town.  But.....I find them irresistible and this coming week I just may have to find this one to explore.  
About 16 years ago I was just starting to think that I could actually learn to sew well enough to create wearable garments for myself.  It happened that year that we were on a trip with a woman from the Denver area and she mentioned her sewing interest and a shop called Elfriede's Fine Fabrics  Ironically enough, I had spent many earlier days in Colorado during the west coast portion of my career in the early 80s. Made a great friend there, Mr. Lucky has some family in the area and I have visited another friend in the mountains several times....but all of those were before my interest in sewing exploded.  Many opportunities, in other words, to learn about this store but all before I took up this hobby seriously.  

Now we are boarding a plane on Wednesday for a visit to those family members before we meet up with Maryland friends at Rocky Mountain National Park for several days of hiking and fun.  
Green Mountain by Shellie Mitchell  
I'm not committing myself to getting to Elfriede's since family and friends come first, but if time allows it would be a nice pit stop on our drive and Boulder is a beautiful area anyway and they just might have something I cannot find anywhere else and we should support independent fabric stores and it's not like some useless tchotkes and Southwest includes "free" luggage and I will only be in there for a few minutes and...and...and.  Yes, that's how my mind operates near a wonderful fabric store.  

Will she, won't she?  I'll let you know in the next installment.  In the meantime, I said I was an old hippie and Colorado was in a lot of our music back then including this sweet one
Here's hoping friends, family and fabric are making you happy, too.

PS  Look at this artist's beautiful work: Shellieartist  and her beautiful fabric on wood pieces.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

McCalls 7357 and Another Vogue 8691

Weather is frequently one of the first things I want to remark upon when I sit down to write a blog post even though I know talking about the weather is just about the most boring topic imaginable.  But weather does affect what we wear and that means it has to do with what I am sewing.  All that said, it is cooler and less humid in the Baltimore area which means I was able to wear this McCalls boho tunic top this week, hooray.  

I brought this project to the Northern Virginia American Sewing Guild chapter's summer "Taste of Retreat" in mid-August.  The summer retreat is slightly smaller, about two dozen participants, but just as much fun.  The conference room we use is light and airy and quite large so we have great table set ups.  After supervising our kitchen renovation (thank you for your kind comments on the results) I enjoyed being with sewing girlfriends and working on projects without deadlines.  I've been embracing the tunic top look in knits and now would like to have two or more tried and true woven versions to play around with.  This pattern fills the bill and I am quite happy with the first result.

The fabric was a border print that I have had for years (I should make a keyboard shortcut for that phrase since I use it so often.)  I think it may have been from Joann's and not from my usual Fabric Mart source.  It's a medium lightweight 100% polyester and I think I originally had in mind a skirt.  I don't overheat easily (menopause just meant that I reached room temperature now and then) but I don't like close fitting poly because of the clammy factor.  This top has side panels, a slight shirttail curve and a side seam dart so even though it is loose fitting there is some shape and I have not been bothered by the poly fabric.  It also has a three piece sleeve that suggests all sorts of techniques for future versions.

Since I had only planned a skirt originally there wasn't a lot of fabric to play with when I was cutting it out.  I didn't want the border circling my hips widest part but I did like the color blending.  I carefully cut out the front and back yoke and the facings to use that blue section in the border area.  I didn't have enough fabric to do the lined yoke as they recommend but it doesn't matter on this blouse.  I could have used an extra two or three inches in length but for my first version it turned out to be acceptable.
I also didn't want to wear a tank top with it so I slipstitched the bottom three inches to keep it shut while I move.  This area will probably get some decorative closure in the future versions.

I'm saying first version because I really like the fit and lines of this pattern.  I will drop the bust dart about 1/2 on the next one and add length but it really is a TNT woven pattern for me know.  I have a decent collection of Susan McCauley's Cambodian ikat fabrics Mekong River Textiles and have never used them successfully.  I thought at the time I purchased them that I would be joining my more art-to-wear sewing friends and make a pieced jacket or two.  Turns out that's not really my look.  I'm an old hippie, yes, but I never feel like myself when I wear something that arty or pieced. But a tunic top in ikat fabrics with jeans or leggings, that's a look I embrace, or maybe lengthened into a summer cotton dress. 
Another relatively easy retreat project was a second version of Vogue 8691, a Katherine Tilton pattern when she was associated with Vogue

 It took me awhile but I like this pattern more and more.  The shoulder princess seams allow for some nice fitting up top, the loose below the bust swing-y part is feminine and comfortable but I don't think I look inappropriately pregnant as I have in some other tops I have made.  This time I did a little contrast with some brown swimsuit lining fabric that I cut 1 inch shorter to a second ruffle and also for the neck binding.  
Vogue 8691 going to the farmers' market

Vogue 8691 and Style Arc Elle pants in a thin knit
I still didn't follow the Vogue instructions for applying the ruffle and next time will do what they say.  Their useful recommendation is to use fusible tape to attach the ruffles before stitching.  The heck with that I said, that fusible stuff is sticky on my hands in the recent heat, I'll just pin and sew.  Yes, I got the layers attached but this particular ITY knit (from Fabric Mart) does that curly thing at the edges so I had to trim that section anyway.  Would have taken just about the same time to use the tape.
Had to trim this area anyway so next time use the tape.
The sewing retreat was productive and relaxing and I still have one more pattern to finish and share with you.  But I also wanted to share what I seem to always bring back when I am in northern Virginia....
No, it's not the Trader Joe's "$2 buck Chuck" although that is a Charles Shaw case.  Maryland doesn't sell wine or beer in grocery stores so I had to re-supply after a summer of fun at home.  This might get us through until I return to VA for the next retreat in January.  Oh yeah, and maybe I won't buy any more fabric this year either.