Saturday, April 30, 2016

Seasonal Boro Mending with Gingko Leaves: Year Three





In preparation for the first of May, I have just completed the third year of seasonal sashiko stitching and boro mending on a set of hand-crafted Japanese-style garments. To see years one and two of this project, follow these links: Year One (Happi Coat)Year One (Kimono)Year Two.

This is a piece of process art and, as with my beloved Thread Cupcake, either you get it or you don't. Each subsequent year of this seasonal boro project gets more delicate and difficult, as the leaves from earlier years become more brittle. The focus and attention required are all-absorbing.

Happi Coat front with leaf color code

Happi Coat back

Stitching detail

Kimono front

Kimono back

Stitching detail

Monday, April 25, 2016

Repurposed Men's Shirts #s 27 - 31 (and a little upcycling math)



How many men's shirts do you need to create one dress for a seven-year-old? A hell of a lot more than I would have thought. The 3-layered skirt of this adapted New Look pattern (#6319) requires volumes and volumes of fabric. Luckily, my local thrift store has daily color-coded sales with the lowest coded price set at just one dollar, so total materials price for this creation was $5.

Dress front

This is a moderately challenging jigsaw-puzzle-type project that can be used when recycling old garments for use in any pattern. You simply need to study, turn, and twist your original garments, cutting them open as needed, to come up with fabric for your new project. The voluminous circle skirt layers required for this dress meant having to piece and stitch together fabric from the shirts before cutting out the pattern.

Hidden pocket

One adaptation was a hidden pocket underneath the first circle skirt layer, addressing that perpetual problem I have with the fact that garments for little girls always lack pockets...and pockets are power!

Shirt back

Other adaptations included dropping the waist a bit more than was called for in the original pattern, and substituting a shirt placket with buttons from one of the original garments for use as a back closure instead of the zipper called for in the pattern.


I liked the 7-year-old version so much, I decided to make one for her 5-year-old sister as well. Just repeat the upcycle math above: 5 shirts for one dress at the cost of $5.

Dress front

Piecing together the jigsaw for this dress involved using one of the shirt fronts, positioned sideways, for the front of the dress. Because I didn't want this set of buttons to open, I sewed the placket closed about an inch and a half down from the edge. This dress, unlike the one above, does not have a dropped waist.

Added polkadots

Because I found the finished dress a little somber and boring, I added some stitched on polka dots.

Hidden pocket

And again, a garment for a little girl that has no pockets is no garment of mine. A hidden pocket was positioned underneath the first layer of ruffles.

Dress back

Once again, the original placket and buttons from one of the men's shirts serves as a handy back opening.

Now the question: What to put in those hidden pockets? I decided to put a little gift package inside each of the hidden pockets, and each package contains...a coyote toe bone. This seems like a useful talisman for the child who wants to invoke some general, all-around spirit magic. These were purchased at Paxton Gates on Valencia in San Francisco, and I'm going to assume the coyotes in question had a good life and a peaceful death.

Wrapping up the bones

Coyote toe bone

And there you have it — upcycled couture for two little girls skipping into the 21st century, with a small measure of magic thrown into the mix.

21st century children's couture

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pigeons Encounter Miracle Tortillas



I originally figured out how to create Miracle Tortillas back in 2010, and reprised them this past December for a holiday studio sale. Now, several months later, I am wondering what to do with the leftovers. These tortillas truly are miraculous in that they seem to stay preserved forever. I still have an original from 2010, perfectly intact. On a walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland, I decided to share the miracle with the pigeons.




I never did reveal the how-to secret for these Miracle Tortillas back in 2010, but have now decided to tell all. Note that Jesus isn't the only miracle in town. You may use any miraculous image you like, depending on what you find astounding, awe inspiring, or culturally iconic.

1. Choose and download a non copyright image from the Web. Resize it as needed using Photoshop or other graphic software. I also altered the image using a sepia tint at this stage.

2. Place multiple copies of your image on a single page in either Word or the page layout software of your choice (mine is InDesign).

3. Print image onto iron-on photo transfer paper.

4. Cut out individual images leaving a scant 1/4" border around the image.

5. Iron the image onto a tortilla by first placing a large piece of plain white paper on a hard surface, then the tortilla, then the iron-on image (face down), then another sheet of white paper on top. You will have to experiment with the iron temperature. Begin by following your photo transfer paper instructions, and then make slight adjustments from there. Don't get frustrated if your first tortilla or two tears away a bit on the surface; it just makes the tortilla look more like an ancient artifact. With a little experimentation you'll find the perfect temperature. You will need to change the top and bottom white paper fairly frequently.

6. To keep tortillas soft, place them individually into plastic sealed baggies. Even inside the bag they will slowly harden after a month or two. Once hard, they will last for years, or maybe forever.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Unspeakable Secrets of a Bad Hat


The Bad Hat Bag O' Secrets

I have an old friend with whom I dine once a week, during which we share our darkest views regarding current affairs, popular culture, and the universe in general. Recently we concluded that, based on our views, we are not very nice people. Thus, the Bad Hat Bag O' Secrets. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the term "bad hat," it means a person of unsavory character. My grandmother used the term often, as in, "He is a really bad hat." One of the more iconic bad hats in literature may be found in the children's book, "Madeline and the Bad Hat." In that case, the bad hat was the son of the Spanish ambassador, a very nasty little boy.

I made this bag so that instead of sharing his black thoughts and unacceptable opinions with the rest of the world and becoming known far and wide as a bad hat, he may instead scribble them on bits of paper and place them in this bag, which will presumably be cremated along with his body at the time of his death.

Bag back

Inside: "the unspeakable secrets of a very bad hat"

The exterior of the bag is linen, the inside is crushed velvet. 

Full bag, unfolded

I have shared a final photo below showing the flip side with the stitching revealed before the bag was completed, just because I find stitching fascinating.






Monday, March 7, 2016

Sock Pocket Couture for Fashion-Forward Adults


Sock pockets in action

For an introduction to the concept of sock pockets see the previous post, An "Aha" Sewing Moment: Sock Pockets. In that post I pointed out that sock pockets solve two problems: lost socks and lack of pockets. In the course of adapting the concept to couture for savvy adults who don't give a crap if they look like victims of static cling, I have tackled a third problem: socks with worn heels. We all have them — favorite socks that have become so worn at the back of the heel from shoes rubbing that they become an embarrassment in the security line at the airport. And yet we don't want to throw them away. Voila — sock pockets!

How-to details

As explained in the last sock pocket post, when using an adult sock you will want to stitch horizontally across the sock somewhere that makes sense in terms of creating a functional pocket. See the gray sock above for an example. If you don't do this, whatever you put in the pocket will work its way down into the toe and be impossible to get back out.

The new innovation is illustrated by the red sock above. This was a sock with a badly worn heel. The sock was cut off at the ankle, inserted into the large pocket on the shirt, and then the cut bottom of the sock was stitched horizontally inside the shirt pocket (only to the back of the shirt pocket, leaving the original pocket free and fully functional) to create the sock pocket bottom. With this shirt, this also solved the problem of large, floppy, non-functional pockets. Before, if you tried to stash a pair of glasses in the original pocket they would fall to one side, get snagged, and be a hassle to remove. Now, with the addition of a snug sock pocket, the glasses are easily accessible while the original large pocket remains free to store other things.

How-to details

Following the procedure outlined above, here a sock with a worn heel has been cut at the ankle and then again at the arch of the foot. The worn heel section was discarded. The top section of the sock is used to create a snug pocket-within-a-pocket, while the toe of the sock forms another little pocket. See close-up photos below.

Sock pocket inside original pocket

Pocket from toe of sock

Sock pocket inside of original pocket

Sunday, March 6, 2016

An "Aha" Sewing Moment: Sock Pockets

We all have a sock drawer that includes several lone socks. The missing halves of these pairs entered the laundering process and went on a walkabout, joining the mysterious pilgrimage of lost socks. We keep the lonely remaining sock because we hope in vain that the other half will somehow find its way back to us, even though that has never happened.

An artful solution to lost socks

This sewing/mending/upcycle solution addresses two common problems: lost socks and lack of pockets. Combine the two and you have sock pockets. 

Sock pockets in action

The children's shirts shown here were purchased for a few dollars each from a thrift store and were the focus of this proof-of-concept stage. In the next post I will move the sock pocket concept into adult couture. The two children's shirts shown here do utilize lone sole-survivors from my sock drawer but also include a few children's socks I picked up dirt cheap in Chinatown because I have no four-year-olds running around my house and was too impatient to launch into this project to track a child down and rummage through his or her sock drawer.

How-to close-up

With the genuine orphan sock above, I realized that anything put in the opening of the pocket would fall down into the toe and become inaccessible unless I created a pocket bottom by stitching across the base of the ribbing, as shown above.

Detail of sock pocket

For the much smaller children's socks no added pocket bottom was necessary. As a bonus, I realized the small flexible cuff on the child's sock serves as an added security measure to keep contents securely inside.

Close-up

I stitched the blue sock above so that half of the sock extends below the hem of the shirt, adding to that "just tumbled out of the laundry" look.

Shirt back

The socks on the back of the shirt aren't meant to be functional pockets (experience has taught me that it is extremely uncomfortable to sit back against a full pocket). Instead they add to that tumbled, lost sock, static cling look that I am going for here.

A second proof-of-concept children's shirt is shown below.

Shirt front: sock pockets loaded with toys, shells, and drawing pens

Detail

Detail: Perfect for beach combing

Detail how-to

Shirt back

Stay tuned for the adult version of the sock pocket in action. Meanwhile, here are snapshots of girls in sock shirts below.

Front view

Back view

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ecofairies: Sixth Extinction Children's Fantasy Wear


Ecofairy One: Front

Ecofairy One: Back

A set of fairy vests for the generation that is going to inherit this amazing planet of ours along with all of its ills. The basic vest pattern comes utterly free from Zsazsazilet (use an online translation site to figure out what the pattern says). I had to make a few measurement adjustments and also cut the front of each vest in a wavy pattern for whimsical interest. The basic vest shell is made of felt. All embellishments are recycled materials.

Ecofairy Two: Front

Materials on the front of the vest include recycled ribbon, pocket from thrift store cargo pants, old typewriter keys, recycled vintage buttons and rosettes, and a removable Recycled Ribbon Award embellished with an old bottle cap (follow that link to an earlier post for how-to instructions). 

Ecofairy Two: Back

The back of each vest features an image of a passenger pigeon printed onto transfer paper and then ironed onto a scrap of fabric. The passenger pigeon went extinct just over a hundred years ago, a perfect symbol for the Sixth Extinction that underscores the urgency of an ecofairy's mission. The wings are tulle. From past experience I've learned that free-form tulle wings hold their airy, fluffy nature remarkably well. 

Close-up, front

Old typewriter keys let the world know exactly what this fairy is all about.

Close-up, front

Removable award pin made from recycled ribbon features an old smashed bottle cap found on the street. The surrounding rosettes and other ribbons came from the last hour of the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale when you get everything you can stuff into a bag for a dollar.

Close-up, back

Passenger pigeon patch on back of each vest reminds us that we are now in the midst of a mass species extinction, the sixth our planet has suffered and one caused entirely by humans (the last, caused by a meteor, wiped out the dinosaurs).

Close-up, back

A cone of felt at the base of the tulle wings, cut and stitched free-form, hides the stitching that secures the wings to the vest and keeps the wings slightly aloft.

And here are the fairies, ready for eco-action.

Ecofairy One

Ecofairy Two taking a walk with a serval at the zoo

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