Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Coloring "Books" for Grown-Ups

Coloring books offer children hours of fun staying inside the lines (or not). Black and white clothing, while nice, can be a canvas for colorful creativity. Over a few months time I picked up several examples at thrift stores to explore six different methods to brighten up the monochrome. Trips to the craft store and quilt shop provided many possible methods:

1. A white on black cotton dress is dyed with a tie-dye kit from Tulip.
Rainbow Dress Before

Rainbow Dress After

I read the instructions on the Tulip Tie-Dye Kit box. I lined the bathtub with plastic bags, dampened the dress, inserted a plastic bag between the front and back, and laid it on the plastic. I applied the dye from the squirt bottles randomly, starting with yellow, then blue, then red. The blue created greens where it touched the yellow, and the red created some oranges. Turn the dress over and do the other side. Cover the dress with another plastic bag, and let the dress restfor 6-8 hours or overnight. Rinse it out and dry it. I found a pretty rainbow hued ribbon to use as the belt.

2. A white on black cotton sun dress is colored with fabric markers.

This one is easy. Just buy a colorful selection of fabric markers and color away.

Marker Dress Before

Marker Dress After

I have more to show in future posts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Menswear-Stainless Steel Jeans, Shirt, and Tie

I have been aware of the silk covered stainless steel yarn from Habu Textiles for a couple of years, but I didn’t know what to make with it. Then I saw the metallic stainless steel paint from Golden Paints, and the idea clicked: apply these to menswear. The thrift store jeans are painted, a belt added, and the jeans are embellished with three chains to which items can be hooked for convenience. A free-hand design was drawn on fiber glass screening from the hardware store. After zigzagging around the design through the shirt and screening, the shirt was cut away. A red silk handkerchief enlivens the pocket. The tie was knitted with three strands of the stainless steel yarn held together, as it is very thin yarn.

What You Will Need
½ yard red silk
Golden acrylic metallic stainless steel paint, fine grain
Golden GAC900 medium for fabric to soften the painted fabric
Spray bottle for water
Paint brush, either foam or stiff bristle, 2” wide
Fiberglass screening
Thread, scissors, sewing machine
Sharpie pen
3 different chains
Metal eyelet kit
2 pliers
2 knitting needles size 5
2 empty toilet paper rolls
Masking tape
Seam ripper
2 carabiner type hooks
3 hooks to attach items to chain

How To Do It

For the pants, mask off the Levi’s logos on the back of the jeans. Mix the paint and GAC900 about 50/50 and stir. Spray the jeans with water as you paint them with a brush. Do not try to be too neat, as a little imperfection makes them look like painted jeans, rather than jeans made of metallic material. They will be stiff when dry, but time in the dryer (about 45 minutes on high) softens them a bit, and gentle washing with the hand cycle of the washing machine softens them more.

Cut the screening slightly larger than the design you want. Draw a free-hand design on the screening. Remember to check the orientation. Pin it to the shirt and zigzag around the design with contrasting thread. Then cut out the shirting inside the design. For the pocket, remove with a seam ripper. Pin on the screening, zigzag around the shape, and cut out the shirting. Resew the pocket on the shirt with contrasting thread. Cut out a square of silk 15” by 15” and zigzag the raw edges. Insert into the pocket.

For the tie, divide the cone of yarn into three parts. I wound off onto 2 empty toilet paper rolls, estimating how much I would need. Hold the three strands together, cast on 13 stitches. Knitting each row, work until it measures 28”. Decrease one stitch and work 10 more rows. Repeat 3 more times until there are 9 stitches. Work until the tie measures 60” or the desired length. Bind off. Points can be made by dividing the cast on and bound off stitches in half and sewing together the two halves.

Install a metal eyelet on the pocket near the side seam. Put a caribiner through this eyelet and another one through a belt loop. Attach the three chains of three varying lengths to the caribiners, and attach useful items to the chains with hooks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chair Back Storage Bags for Schoolchildren out of Jeans

                                                Storage bags made from backs of jeans

Storage bags made from the fronts of jeans

Some schoolchildren have tables and chairs rather than desks, so storage for school supplies needs to be provided. This is true in my son-in-law's first grade class this year. This solution uses upcycled jeans. I made 25 chair back bags and used 12 1/2 pairs of jeans plus 5 yards of denim fabric. The chairs were 17" wide across the back. Each bag took approximately 1 hour to make. Here is how I did it.

I shopped at thrift stores where the jeans were $5 or less, so each bag cost no more than $3 in materials. I looked especially for jeans with cute names on their labels. Just about any size jeans can be made to work, even children's jeans. Extremely large jeans would probably not work as well. I used the front and back pockets of each jean. For the bags made out of the backs of jeans, I used the material from the legs for the rest of the design. It used all of the material. So for the bags made out of the fronts of jeans, I used the purchased denim yardage for the rest of the design.

I also purchased 8 different colored bandanas for $.99 each. They were cut into four pieces with pinking shears. I cut off half of the plain border around the outside so that the bandana design would show above the pockets. These were ironed into triangles with 4 points showing and stitched to the pocket flap so that the pocket can still be used.

I used Schmetz Universal needles and went through about 10 of them on this project.

Most measurements depend on the size of the jeans being worked with. The part that fits over the back of the chair needs to be 18" wide by 20" long for a 17" chair and 1/2" seams. The pencil pocket just above the jeans back or front needs to be 13" wide by 4" long. A narrow slot about 1 1/2 " in from the edge of the pencil pocket is sewn in. I used a commercial sample as a guide.

First I cut out the jeans back and front. I cut straight across about 1" below the tip of the back pocket. This usually resulted in a depth of 10-12". I cut the front the same amount. I separated the back from the front. I cut out the heavy seam between and back and front of jeans. Anything to save having to sew over the heavy seams.

Next I trimmed back the width  on each side of the pockets, usually to parallel with the sides of the pockets. The width of the back needs to match the 18" of the piece going over the back of the chair. Since I had many different sizes of jeans, most with a waistband smaller than 18", I had to make up the difference with the backing piece. The top width of the backing piece is 18" plus 18-waist size plus 1". For example, if the waistband were 15", the top width of the backing piece would be 18 + 3 + 1=22". The 3 is 18" minus 15". The bottom of the backing piece would be the bottom width of the jeans front or back. The depth of the backing piece would be the jeans piece plus 1/2". Here is what it looked like before being sewn together.

To make the 18x20" piece from the legs of the jeans, I cut the legs apart at the non-topstitched seam. I usually had to piece the legs to get that size, especially with the skinny jeans. This took a lot of extra time. If I had it to do over, I think I would use the denim yardage instead. So much easier. I used the bottoms of the legs to make the tops of the pencil pockets whenever I could.

All seam edges were left raw. Sew the 18x20 inch piece to the backing of the jeans pockets. Sew the pencil pocket about 1 1/2" above the jeans pockets. With right sides together sew the sides of the 18x20" piece. I lapped the end of the piece about 1 1/2" over the jeans waistband. Turn the chair back part right side out. Sew down the overlapping flaps.

I ran the jeans through the washer and dryer. Then I clipped the ravellings from the seams. The resulting soft fuzzy edges should wear well. Voila, it's done!

Children's jeans can be used, as shown in the picture of the jeans backs, third from the left. I removed the zipper and used both the back and front pockets to get the width I needed.

I enjoyed working on this project and hope to hear soon how the kids like them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Delightful Praying Mantis Sculpture

We took the kids to Fort Collins today. One stop was the Gardens at Spring Creek where we saw this sculpture by Joshua Jones. It uses recycled materials to create a praying mantis.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Clothes in "Letters to Juliet"

Vanessa Redgrave plays the senior love interest in "Letters to Juliet." Her outfits were always pastel natural fabrics in simple, flowing shapes. I think they are really lovely.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Article in Summer 2010 Altered Couture Magazine

"Victorian Ladies Coat" is the name of my article in the May/June/July 2010 issue of Altered Couture magazine. It is on page 73.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Girl's Hanky Skirt and Vest

Skirt and Vest Front                                 Skirt and Vest Back


Skirt Front                                                   Skirt Back

This handkerchief outfit uses the hankies gathered into a ruffle like a skirt. Four hankies sewn together make the vest.

Sew ½” lace ruffle around the legs of the shorts. Sew casing on the backs of five hankies 1 ½” from the top. The hankies are not sewn together, but I overlapped them ¼” where they join. Run the ribbon through the casing and adjust the hanky skirt to fit the shorts just below the waist. Cut the ribbon leaving ends long enough for a nice bow. Hand sew this skirt to the shorts so that the pockets remain usable.

Sew four hankies together diagonally except at the front to make the vest. The triangular flaps in the seam allowance on the inside were just sewn down, not cut off. This made the vest a little more substantial. Sew ribbons across the shoulders and ribbons at the front opening for a bow.

Items used to make this outfit are as follows:

Bermuda shorts and top
3 yards 5/8” ribbon
9 hankies
1 yard 7/8” ribbon for casing
1 yard ½” lace ruffle

I had enough hankies left over to make another vest:

          Vest Front                                             Vest Back

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jacket + Sweater = Cropped Jacket + Dress

A good quality but rather boring plaid jacket is spiced up by being cut under the bust into two pieces. The sleeves are cut at the same line. Trim is sewn around the cut edges. The bottom of the jacket is sewn on to the bottom of the sweater. The sleeve bottoms are opened up and sewn together in a square. Triangles are sewn at the side seams to create a bottom for the handbag. A stiff insert is fit into the bottom of the handbag. Eyelets are made at the top of the handbag seams. Split key rings insert into the eyelets, and the handle attaches to the rings.

Tools and Materials

2 yards trim
2 eyelets
2 split key rings
Stiff insert for handbag bottom
Handbag handle
Thread, scissors, pins, sewing machine

Cut the jacket, lining and sleeves under the bust, adding ½” seam allowance for the trim, and sew the trim on top. The bottom of the jacket and lining is sewn on to the bottom of the sweater just above the ribbing. Place right sides together and stitch.

The sleeve bottoms are opened up at the seam opposite the buttons, which will be at the top of the handbag. Pull the lining up out of the way, and sew the jacket sleeves together down the sides and across the bottom. Triangles are sewn at the inside bottom of the two side seams to create a flat bottom for the handbag. A stiff insert is fit into the bottom of the handbag. Then sew the lining together around three sides, add the triangles, and push the lining into the handbag. Eyelets are made at the top of the handbag seams according to the package directions. Split key rings insert into the eyelets, and the handle attaches to the rings.

The cropped jacket and handbag were shown in the 2009 Summer Issue of Altered Couture Magazine.

      Jacket and sweater before



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fringed Tweed Jacket

A thrift store tweed jacket gets a new look similar to a jackets seen on the current Chanel runway. The sleeves are cropped just below elbow length and fringed 1". The sleeve linings are turned under and sewn together with the coordinating braid attached just above the fringe.

The  bottom of the jacket is cropped at the waistline, fringed 1", lining turned under and sewn together with the braid around the bottom, front openings and neckline. Some of the cropped off material is cut 4" wide and pieced to about 48" long, and gathered to form the ruffle around the neckline.

Chest pockets are removed from the original jacket and replaced on the new design.

Because the tweed is busy and a loose weave, it turned out OK to zigzag stitch the buttonholes closed. They really don't show. I used 3 yards of upholstery braid. The one thing I would do differently is to taper the back a bit lower than the front.

Jacket Before

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two Sweater Hoodies for a Little Girl and Her Doll

As a donation to the Tiny Tim School silent auction I knitted two sweaters in a cashmere blend yarn. The patterns came from a book called Knits for Girls and Dolls by Charlene Schurch. Each pattern includes the matching sweater for an 18" doll, in this case Fancy Nancy. The doll's dress was decorated with butterflies, so I used butterfly buttons for the closures and smaller ones on the pockets. The pockets were not part of the pattern. I added them myself, and included a hanky for the girl and her doll.

Here are the directions for the pockets, using the same yarn and needles as used for the sweaters:

For the Girl (4T)                                                
Cast on 3 stitches                                            
K 3
K front and back of stitch (KFB), K, KFB (5)
KFB, K3, KFB (7)
KFB, K5, KFB (9)
KFB, K7, KFB (11)
KFB, K9, KFB (13)
KFB, K11, KFB (15)
P (This ends the flap of the pocket)
P a row, K a row for 21 rows, end on wrong
side, bind off.

For the Doll
Cast on 3 stitches
KFB, K, KFB (5)
KFB, K3, KFB (7)
KFB, K5, KFB (9)
P (End of pocket flap)
P a row, K a row for 13 rows, end on wrong side, bind off.

For both sweaters
Weave in tails. Sew flaps down with buttons. Sew to sweater fronts using mattress and shoulder seam stitches.

Another pattern I used from this book for an 18" doll is shown below. I really like the concept of matching clothes for a girl and her doll.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Harumika Fashions

For a Christmas present I gave granddaughter Hannah, age 6, a Harumika fashion design system. It includes a Barbie-size dress form, a tiny camera with a USB connection, and a few assorted pieces of fabric. I added to her fabric selection from my stash of fabrics and trims from years of sewing and quilting.

The dress form has a slit in the back to hold the fabric on the form without need for sewing.

When photos of the designs are taken with the camera and the Harumika software, they automatically upload to the Harumika Web site. The pics must be approved by them, which takes a couple of days, the then they can be added to the users lookbook. Any digital camera can be used and the pics uploaded to the site.

Hannah loves to design fashion for the dress form and she loves to pick out cute and interesting combinations of clothing for herself.

Craft stores sell self sticking crystals and pearls that make great embellishments. I gave her some mixes of different buttons. She sticks the buttons on with straight pins.

Monday, February 8, 2010

DC Fashion Week January 15-21

The DC Fashion Week, held January 15-21, 2010,  had an international viewpoint. I saw several new designers (new to me) that I liked. The Web site is

 All photos are credited to Damion Miller/

The majority of fashions are very wearable, and the models were not all size 0 (refreshing). The slide system is the balkiest I have seen, but I made it work.

This outfit is by HeyDari.

Lili Forrest designed this confection.

Atelier Gianni Lilliu designed this interesting handling of satin draping.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stockholm Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2010

I just looked at all of the designers featured in Stockholm Fashion Week, February 1-3:

Overall I think they are excellent. The shows had a very youthful, vibrant vibe to them. I enjoyed watching the videos more than the slide shows. I especially liked the following designers:

Ewa i Walla


Filippa K

The amazing thing about the Filippa K show was the music by singer/songwriter Hajen. She blew me away. She is not on iTunes, but she is on MySpace:

I have to hear more from her.

Watching this made me want to visit Sweden.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quilting and Art-to-wear Projects Go Together

Over the years those who sew and never throw anything away amass quite a collection of fabric scraps. Our foremothers knew exactly what to do with them--make quilts. I have made two completed watercolor quilts, and one quilt top awaiting finishing, all intended to be quilt hangings. Watercolor quilts can be made with 2" square pieces of fabric arranged so that the colors and values are graded like a watercolor wash. I used a pre-gridded piece of flannel fabric pinned to a large piece of styrofoam board set up vertically so that the fabric pieces could be placed on it and viewed from a distance, essential to getting the graded effect. Full instructions are in the book Watercolor Quilts by Pat Maixner Magaret and Donna Ingram Slusser.

"Floral Heart I", 27" x 27"

"Light and Shadow" 25"x32"

This is the unfinished quilt top. In the years since I began the quilt, my quilting taste has become more freeform and spontaneous. Now I am thinking that the quilting should be with sparkly threads and yarns in an exuberant pattern. Well, it's on my list.
"Denver Dawn" (unfinished) 24"x36" (approx.)