Sewing


Earlier this year when I prepared to dedicate a worship stole I made for my brother in his memory, I talked to some of his ministry associates about how much I enjoyed creating the piece. There was so much meaning in planning, weaving, dyeing and sewing a stole that would be used for something as important as a church worship service.

I could see Dave’s former associate, Marla, a Lutheran Deaconess, sitting there thinking during the conversation.  “You know,” she said smiling, “I could really use a stole for the Advent season.”  And so it began.

I told her I’d be happy to make one for her.  It would mean a lot, since she and Dave had successfully partnered in a collaborative ministry at St. Paul’s.

It took a few weeks, just to think about the design, but I finally settled on a dyed warp in blue (those are the Protestant colors of Advent).  Over the summer, I painted the warp with three colors of dye and was struck at how much it looked like water, so I quickly named the design “Living Waters.”  While Advent was the goal, this stole could easily double for baptisms.

One of the challenges in making a deaconess stole, is that it is worn across the body and pivots on the hip downward toward the leg. It needed a dart, but it couldn’t show.  So I played around and finally settled on a dart inside the stole which would be covered over by the extra fabric.

I used one of Marla’s other stoles to make sure the dart was deep enough to pivot properly.  It ended up being about an inch.

For the symbol, I settled on a spiral I had seen on the Canadian deaconess website.  The spiral indicates outward movement and activity, something all deaconesses are known for.  They are very active in their communities.  And as the spiral moves out, it bursts forth in love, hence the symbols on the outside.

I used some pale yellow stash yarn and dyed it a deeper yellow on my stove one afternoon. Then I made a crochet chain and stitched it on. The biggest challenge was finding a proper fabric for the spiral bursts.  I wanted metallic, but it was September at the time and nothing was out for Christmas yet in the fabric store.  I wandered for a long time, and then I found it.   Pleather!  Can you believe it?  That cheesy fabric from the 70s was exactly what I needed.  I cut it in triangles and glued it with fabric glue.

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I attended worship services at St. Paul to celebrate the First Sunday in Advent.  Marla talked about the stole and even let people touch it (although she joked that she doesn’t usually encourage that sort of thing). But handwoven fabric begs to be touched and she got that.  It was a great morning to see the stole on the altar.  I know Marla will make good use of it in her abiding ministry.

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I’ve been on a learning binge lately which has been fun. Recently I signed up for an on-line class in Shibori techniques. I’ve done some woven shibori in the past, but never the traditional techniques on silk.

I’m in the second week of a 5-week session and it’s been a blast.  Not only is Glennis a wonderful teacher, the class of people from all over the world has been enthusiastic and very creative.  Glennis designed the on-line class to be a weekly uploaded teaching pdf document with embedded videos and a blog where we all share ideas.

The first class was about using clamped resists on silk samples using ColorHue Dyes.  I wasn’t thrilled with the pale results.

The itajime technique was difficult for me with all the clamps and shapes, but fun nonetheless.

Last week in Lesson 2, Glennis introduced three different techniques using hand stitching–mokume (rows of running stitches, similar to woven shibori), makiage (pattern within a motif), and orinui (overcast stitching on a fold).  This was more my style. I love to sew, these techniques give me much more control, and an additional video gave me much more information on how to increase the intensity of the color.

The photos show the initial stitching, everything gathered and dyed, and the unveiling which I’m crazy about!

I’m very pleased that the color was so intense.  The blue sample was simply dyed, but the other two were immersed up to a point and the rest of was painted.  Fascinating how it all works.

This summer I’ll be attended an indigo dye workshop and I’m sure I’ll be bringing plenty of work from the techniques I learn over the next few weeks to place in the dye pot.

I will continue to post with each new technique learned.  Stay tuned.

When we last visited about weaving and sewing issues, I had managed to salvage some unintentionally felted wool into a vest.  But the original project was supposed to be a winter coat.  Around the Christmas break, after the vest was complete, I bought some terrific wool from my local fabric store to sew the coat that I needed.  This almost felt like handwoven.  I was literally picking out the vegetable matter from the fabric as I worked with it.  But I loved the warmth and drape of the fabric. And I chose a stunning, red, flannel-backed lining to add warmth to the coat.

I chose a Very Easy Vogue coat pattern to use and I had to think long and hard about whether to use the view with the hood.  But in the end, it was my walk to and from the parking lot of my job that sealed the deal.  The hood was a go.

Then I had to consider the buttonhole treatment.  I experimented with a variation on a bound buttonhole.

But after I purchased some terrific and rather large buttons, it was suggested that instead of buttonholes, I use large snaps.  It was a good decision.

I got the coat finished just in time for some pretty wicked winter weather.  My husband took this photo of me in the coat as the winds whipped around us one Saturday after shopping at Cleveland’s West Side Market.  The hood offers great protection against the cold winds.

When I add a knitted scarf, I’m nice and warm during a winter that’s been filled with ice, snow, rough winds and, as I write this post, temperatures that started off this morning in the single digits.

Goodness.  I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long since I visited with you. The holidays, work, and a variety of factors kept me away from Between the Threads for over a month.  But I’m back with some nice projects to show for it.

During October, I spent some time at the loom weaving up 5 yards of material from Harrisville Shetland Wool cones.  It was a very nice twill structure and I used some handspun for a contrast.

Then I decided to full the fabric as I prepared to make a coat.  I threw it into the washer on hot, just for a few minutes. And then…. uh, I got distracted by my daughter who “needed to talk.”  Let’s just say that when I ran frantically to the washing machine to pull the fabric, it was felted beyond belief.  It was toast!  The part with the purple handspun was thick enough to use for a horse blanket.  Weave structure- gone! The magenta part at the top of the picture brightened considerably, but shrunk significantly so that a coat was out of the question.

Time to make lemonade:)  I needed a new purpose.  The purple accent fabric was cut off, doubled over, and now makes a nice surface for pressing on my ironing board. Then I went to a workshop one night at my local, independent fabric shop.  It was all about working with wool.  I raised my hand.  “Anyone have any suggestions for a this?”  I told my story and got ideas for a vest.

I’m not a big vest person.  They tend to look boxy on my short body.  But with little else to use it for, I got a nice pattern from Kwik Sew and set about making a vest.

The first order of business was making something flattering out of a thick wool felt.  It was all about reducing bulk.  I spent hours carefully fitting the pattern with added darts in the front and back and using ideas from Sandra Betzina on working with boiled wool.  In this picture, you can see one of the back pieces.  I used a diamond shaped dart to create shape, but instead of cinching the fabric together like a traditional dart, I cut out all the fabric.

I did this because Sandra says it takes out all the bulk.  It worked beautifully when I pressed the edges together and zig-zagged the seam after backing it with fusible interfacing.

You can’t even see the seam on the right side of the vest.  The thread is buried in the felt.  It was a cool trick.

Well, I eventually finished the vest before the holidays by putting a nice lining in it.

And I wore it for Christmas, adding earrings and a pin my husband gave me that morning which he had picked out specifically for the vest.

Tim Gunn always says, “Make it work.”  I think, this time, I did.

One of the wonderful results of my pursuit of weaving the past few years has been a renewed interest in sewing for myself.  When my children were young, the only sewing time I could muster was the occasional curtain or pillow…squares and rectangles.

But when I discovered I could weave fabric yardage my past world of sewing clothes returned.  Part of the frustration of sewing today is that most fabric stores only sell “craft” material.  You must go to the bigger cities of New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. to find anything approaching a serious fabric store for garment construction.

That’s why I was so delighted to find Marcy Tilton’s website.  She not only sells the terrific patterns she designs for Vogue, but she also searches out the finest fabrics that she makes available for sale. Recently I purchased some stretch woven and double knit fabrics to make into pants.  In addition, I bought two of her fine dvds which feature details related to garment construction in Paris and creative ways to design your own t-shirts.

I have found that the content of her dvds is just like having a workshop at home at a time when it’s convenient for me. I am very excited to put some of her techniques into practice and get my sewing machine going again for my garment needs.

I’d like to announce a new venture I am launching today called Craft a Guild.  This name respresents both a website and an e-book that I have put together to serve the fiber guild community.

Many of us belong to a guild and invest our time and energy into serving it while also enjoying the learning and fellowship that it represents.  Craft a Guild was written to help people have healthy vibrant guilds in their fiber-focused areas.

If you’re a knitter, sewer, weaver, spinner, dyer, felter, lace maker, or beader this site is for you. You’ll find information about starting a guild, finding a guild that meets your interests, or advancing the mission of your existing guild.

On the site, I am offering the book for sale plus the chance to subscribe to a monthly newsletter.  If you subscribe, you’ll get a copy of my 12 Tips for Effective Craft Workshops.

Here’s a look at the front page.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit Craft a Guild and see what you think.  Feel free to leave comments and suggestions.

I will still maintain Between the Threads.  This will always be the place where I can talk about my personal fiber pursuits!

I have a practical side I just can’t seem to shake.  My garden is full of useful plants- herbs, vegetables.  Thankfully my husband likes the beautiful side of flowers so it’s a nice balance.

Even my hobbies have to be useful.

All of my handweaving projects have a practical purpose whether it’s towels, placemats, or clothing. But at the end of a workshop, I’m frequently left with samples and little to do with them. 

After the painted warps workshop, I managed to end up with a table runner I chronicled in another post.  However, I was also left with a lovely scrap of on-the-loom painted fabric.  Rather than watch it sit in my stash, I looked around for a small project to transform into a useful object.

I have an iPod Touch that I covet.  Why not make a holder to protect it from all the nasty stuff in my purse?  Voila.

A little bit of fabric, some batting, a piece of elastic, and a button from my stash and there you have it.  The fabric got a little thick on the right side, so the seam is kind of wonky, but otherwise I’m happy with something that appeals to my practical side.

Sometimes I have to tame the “useful” beast.  Not everything can be practical; some should just be enjoyed for the beauty of it all.  But this little project appeals to both.  It protects my darling iPod and it’s nice to look at too.