Friday, March 26, 2010

Susan Avila Workshop

I attended a workshop,Building a Three-dimensional surface with Solvy & Stitching, at UNL this week, as I mentioned before. The presenter was Susan Taber Avila. You can see her above showing us the digitally-printed chiffon behind her piece, Garden Metaphors. The top layer is the negative pieces left after cutting out the leaves for the largest work in the show, Garden Wall.

We didn't get quite so conceptual in our samples, but I was surprised how many of us found ourselves telling a little story in our work.

The main technique she discussed and demonstrated was creating a 'fabric' of thread and scraps using Solvy as a medium to keep it all together until the stitching is done.

She suggests drawing a grid on the solvy and stitching it over a few times, then beginning to attach your 'stuff'. You can use literally anything that can stand getting wet (since you will be dissolving the Solvy in water). That included paper, thread, serger trimmings, dryer lint, etc. She said she almost literally never throws anything away, and many of her large projects are done with materials that someone was going to throw away.

We each were sent home with a large piece of Solvy, and told to create 3 identical 8"x8" pieces, and bring them back.

The range was very wide since there were no other instructions. Just to use your machine, the solvy and whatever else you wanted, probably with free-motion stitching, although in one case, that didn't happen, and the result was quite nice, and not noticeably different from the rest in that respect.

Technically, it was hard to stitch the grid without its drawing up and getting smaller. Stitching in a hoop made that easier, but of course it's easier and faster to stitch without a hoop. It turns out that those of us who had to 'patch' our Solvy anywhere with an extra layer, found out that 2 layers (or more) made it much easier to stitch in general.

Once the grid was done, attaching things was easier for the most part. Susan makes a point that perfect tension is not nearly as interesting or desirable as 'bad' tension. This is a definite plus when you're new to this, and if, as in my case, it's been a long time since you did any free-motion stitching. Even some quilters in attendance who do free-motion stitching all the time with ease had trouble with this. I think it has a lot to do with the single-layer you're stitching on a lot of the time. A machine guy told me once that machines are not made to sew on a single layer and don't do it well because there's nowhere for the stitch to form. It usually takes place between the layers, and there isn't any between here.

Once you're all done, you dip it in water of any temperature, and the solvy dissolves. Then we blocked the pieces to the required 8".

Back in class last night we took time to view and discuss everyone's work, and then we passed one of our pieces to the people on either side of us, and took one each of theirs. We had to merge all 3 pieces into a pleasing whole. We had about an hour to do this.

Susan taking photos of the finished work.

It was not as easy as you might think to come up with a good idea quickly enough to have time to work on it. It was a little intimidating to realize that you were possibly going to have to cut up your own or someone else's work, too.

Here are the 3 pieces I had to work with. My original 'creation' is in the center. The next photo shows you what I finally ended up with when I put them all together,

Mine is the one about in the center. I cut my original piece into a long, garland-like piece and used it around the outside of the heavier piece on the right of the first photo. It was made of upholstery fabric and was quite heavy. The center lines are very thin copper foil. The piece with the black lace around it was also cut up, but more into groups of 4 squares that I then stitched onto the base. I cut the upholstery base in a few places and stitched them back together giving it a bit of 'elevation'. It doesn't lie flat anymore, and that's what we wanted.

This was a very fun workshop, and I enjoyed very much the cutting up and putting back together, which surprised me, although I've always thought that one of the interesting parts of quilting was the piecing and then cutting up to get something completely different. I think this was a little like that in effect. One of the nicest things about the class was the people taking it. Everyone was great fun to get to know a little bit, and there's always shared experience when you're with a group for a specific niche purpose.

Here are a few more finished (3 part) pieces from the group.

Tonight it's the opera. I'm going to Hansel & Gretel at Nebraska Wesleyan University (my alma mater) with 2 good friends. It should be fun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Netbook Sleeve

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I have a little netbook computer that's great for carrying around with me, but I didn't have a sleeve for it. I decided this would be a fun project where I could go pretty wild if I wanted to. I think this is pretty wild, and I even got to use my new jewelry anvil to flatten the ends of the metal pieces (heavy gauge wire) so that I could stitch them to the pocket and appliques. There's beading, I stitched small triangles of fabrics to the appliques, and one of the metal pieces is wrapped with fine wire. All of the ends are turned toward the sleeve so there isn't much chance of scratching anything with the metal. I have to say that this was SO much fun to do, though.

There are lots of photos in this post, and you can either click on the individual links and choose a larger size to see them better, or click on the first photo link, and then click through them that way if you like. By the way, the netbook is in the sleeve in all of these photos. It fits very nicely.

I used some heavyweight buckram for the inner layer,

and wrapped it with several layers of cloth, then added a silk outer layer with stitching, and a needlefelted embellished pocket on one side, and appliques on the other.

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I originally thought I would use the purple cotton with embossed circles for the whole thing, but after doing the needlefelting and free motion stitching on the pocket, I thought that would be too boring and dark. I recalled the lime silk I had left from a pair of summer pants, and it proved to be the bright punch I wanted. I did some stitching on it, and added a few narrow ribbons as well, but it stayed fairly plain.

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This is a close up of the pocket and the appliques.

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Finally, you can see it with the cord 'in' the pocket as well. I wanted the sleeve to just fit the netbook, but I swear the cord and transformer, etc. takes more room because it's so bulky. Anyway, it's in no danger of falling out. I'd probably have the cord in my purse separately anyway, since one doesn't always need it.

I'm going to a workshop at UNL tonight and Thursday. It's being given by Susan Taber Avila, and is called Building a Three-dimensional surface with Solvy & Stitching. She has a show in the Hillestad Gallery right now which is worth seeing, and I'm hoping this will be a useful workshop as well. I'm sure it's going to be fun anyway.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Anvil for Me

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I never thought I'd want my own anvil, but I don't have access to one anymore, and I don't need a full-size one anyway. I asked my brother, source of my lovely pattern weights, what he could come up with. He made me what looks like a hockey-puck out of stainless steel scrap, polished the top, and put cork on the bottom. I want to use it for jewelry type pounding, so it didn't need to be too large. I'm not sure when you'll see anything I've used it for, but I have some things in mind at least.

You can see what the pattern weights he makes for me look like below.

More Aqua

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I thought I'd do a couple more panties for the Aqua Set while I was on a roll. These have little scraps of lace as embellishment, with some narrow ribbon couched onto the cut lace edges.

I cut one complete pair from the Frosted Lycra and one from the Satin Lycra, and then 'mixed and matched' to combine both fabrics in each pair. The front and crotch-piece are one fabric and the back and upper-left front are the other. The lace was attached, and then the fabric was cut out behind it. I used plain picot elastic for these, as I did the previous pair.

More lace details below.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Skew Sock & Broken Glass

The day started out strangely. I've become a real coffee person, especially mocha with frothed milk, etc., and I happen to have a coffee maker with a frothing wand. I never used it until recently, but it's great. I usually use a smallish straight-sided glass for the milk, which works well. This morning, I made my coffee, frothed the milk, and put the glass in the sink after I poured the milk out of it. Then I unthinkingly ran water in the glass. The bottom of the glass immediately popped off.

I had forgotten what my Grandmother told us years ago. She told us that when handwashing crystal, especially very thin, delicate glassware, never put the glass into the hot water bottom first. Always put the side in first, so that the glass has room to expand and not crack. I had just proven that it also is true for non-delicate glass. It probably just takes more applications of the hot/cold cycle to break it. So, be careful, and don't do what I did.

A couple weeks ago I talked about an unusual sock pattern I've been knitting, and Claire S.asked if it was Skew from Knitty, and yes it was. I have a photo of the first sock, and I'm actually pretty close to done with the second one.

I used a not-wonderful yarn since I didn't know how it was going to go, and I needed a striping sock yarn which I didn't have. It's Bernat's Satin Sport, which is acrylic. I'm not sure how it's going to hold up, but it's nice to knit and kind of pretty, and okay for a test. I've already bought a nice sock yarn to try another pair. That's the plan anyway.

Finally, I had a really nice lunch at the National Gallery that was kind of a crackery-type base with feta, grilled asparagus, artichoke heart, etc., on caesar salad. I thought I could do something similar, and settled on lahvosh as a good choice for the base. I found a recipe and made some. It turned out really good, but it seems like a lot of work for something that doesn't last long. I've been experimenting around, and I've found that a flour tortilla toasted in the toaster oven works just as well, maybe better, as it's not quite so brittle. Anyway, here's the result of my lahvosh baking.

And thank you all for the very kind hair comments!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Aqua Lingerie

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I've lost a little weight in the last few months, and I thought a new bra would be a good idea. I used the Freya pattern I copied, and made the band about an inch shorter. Next time I will also take a little out of the lower cup, although this is perfectly wearable, and if I were not now so picky from having beautifully-fitting bras, I would think it was just fine.

I used an aqua lycra from Fabric Depot that has kind of a frosted look, and is a very nice weight. I dyed the closure and the strap elastic, which is a double-sided plush with Natori woven into it.

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I used this on the lower band edge as well. I used a white picot edge elastic for the upper band edge, and clear elastic inside the lace upper cups. The lace was already dyed to match.

The panties have the same lace at the sides, and I used my favorite boy-leg method with simply a cut edge at the bottom, and bar-tacks at the lower edge of the lace-joining seams. The front of the panty is made from a Victoria's Secret satin lycra fabric I got from a co-op. I got several colors of this, and it's pretty, and very shiny, but it had a lot of fold lines which do not seem to want to come out easily. I'm hoping they'll finally relax and fall out on their own, as they're from the shipping, not a bolt fold. It also snags very easily, so I'll have to be careful with it.

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I thought a half-slip would be fun as well, as my favorite one (from an old Nancy's Notions kit) is getting pretty tired looking. I measured it for the dimensions of this one, and also added a strip of the frosty lycra for a little oomph, as well as to tie it into the bra a little more. The lace hem is so easy to do when you use scotch magic tape to hold it while you sew. This is when a knee-lift for your presser foot really comes in handy, as you'll be repositioning your fabric each time your lace takes another turn.

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After you have the lace attached, remove the tape slowly, first on one side of the stitching line, and then the other. I then stitch a second time maybe 1/4" away from the first line, for security. You can see the finished inside here, including the frosted lycra strip. I used a serpentine stitch to flatten the seam allowances. You can use any decorative stitch for this, and lingerie is one of the places you can use all the decorative stitches on your machine that usually look a little juvenile on adult clothing, so go wild! If you click on the photo link below, you'll be able to see a much larger photo, and the stitching will show much better.

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I sewed the side seam of the slip after attaching the lace to the hem, and I left the lace side seam area unstitched, for a slit, and just turned the edge of the lace twice to finish.
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I used the same white picot elastic for the waist of the panties and the slip.

I have a couple more panties cut out, and another bra as well, in a different color. I need to be thinking of lighter colored sets for spring and summer, but this was fun to make.

I've Been Busy

Since I last posted, I've been on another trip to visit a dear friend and her family. This time I went to Maryland, and had a marvelous time. We hit some great yarn shops, a bead shop, G Street Fabrics (my fabric is sitting at my post office at this very moment, since I was performing at Morning Musical Review when they tried to deliver it today) and of course various parts of the Smithsonian group of museums as well as other places of interest, such as the National Cathedral. On a completely frivolous note, she also took me to see Ricardo, her hairdresser, and I got my hair cut. (Drumroll!) It's not a complete departure from my former look, but it's a little more modern looking (I hope) and definitely 'cleaned up'. Here's me last Sunday.

I spent one day in DC by myself, traipsing through the National Gallery, Archives, Sculpture Garden, Portrait Gallery and the Renwick Gallery. I still feel like I'm filled to the brim with the sights I saw and the ideas I got.

Before she turned me loose on my own, Linda kindly went with me to DC, and we toured Arlington Cemetery, including Arlington House, which is beginning a major renovation soon, the National Building Museum, and the Textile Museum.

This last stop will be of special interest to most of you, and I would urge anyone who's handy, to go there now, as their current show is Contemporary Japanese Fashion: The Mary Baskett Collection.

It runs for about another month, and yes, it was wonderful. All of the items are from the wardrobe (as in, she still wears them regularly) of a woman from Ohio who lived in Japan near the beginning of the Japanese designer phenomenon. She spotted these intriguing designs and began buying and wearing them. She was there for quite a few years, so her collection spans a considerable time. You can get quite close to most of the pieces, and they're displayed very well for the most part, with the accessories meant to be worn with them, and on 3-D 'forms' inside so that the shapes are clearly shown. We could have done with a little more information about some of the pieces, but really, it's a great show, and quite interesting to see the pieces close up.

There's another interesting show there as well. It's Fabrics of Feathers and Steel:
The Innovation of Nuno
and is a collection of very unusual pieces of fabric. I know you've seen some of these before, but the innovation of these is awesome. Of course you can't touch the fabrics on display, but they do have small 'touchable' samples by the description of each group, so you can get a sense of the tactile quality of the fabrics.

In case you wonder what I was singing this morning, it was 3 songs for a performance club. It's been about 2 years since I was able to go and perform, or even attend, so this was very nice. "V'adoro, pupille" from Giulio Cesare by Handel, and 2 of the Six Songs of Emily Dickinson by John Duke. 5. "Nobody Knows This Little Rose" and 6. "Bee! I'm Expecting You". My wonderful accompanist and friend, Diana, made it all possible, as always.