Monday, May 4, 2015

The Jigsaw Shirt


The formula: Use a favorite sewing pattern (in this case a heavily adapted version of Burda 8710). Lay out the pattern pieces. Cut up a couple of thrift store men's shirts (I've used two shirts and one man's pajama shirt). Using a jigsaw puzzle frame of mind, start playing and laying out shirt pieces over the pattern pieces. Once you have a pleasing arrangement for a particular pattern piece, sew shirt pieces together so that you then have a single piece of fabric that extends beyond the borders of the pattern piece and cut out that piece. Sew the shirt together. Voila!

Shirt back (yes, it's the back)

Here's how I went about piecing these together. I had to add snippets of material to the bottom of the pattern on either side to have enough cloth for the flare, but used matching material so those additions aren't visible.

Click to enlarge

I like the way the opening in the gray pajama material at the bottom is off-center. I also love the way the use of the shirt button plackets for a collar turned out.

Button placket used for collar

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seasonal Boro: Stitched Gingko Leaves, Round Two

2 seasons of stitched leaves

I first used traditional sashimi stitching to apply gingko leaves to small kimonos as a play on the Japanese practice of boro mending about a year ago. (See Happi Coat with Boro Mending and Gingko Leaves.) Now the gingko leaves are in bloom again and in the spirit of boro mending, I decided to freshen the kimonos with new leaves.

Happi coat with new and old leaves

Note how well the old leaves have held up with the sashiko stitching holding them in place. 

Kimono with old and new leaves

Adding new leaves is delicate business, but I find the way the fresh green juxtaposed with the brittle old brown mimics the shades of color in traditional boro very satisfying. I may try to squeeze in another round next season.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Specimens: A Crystalized Assemblage

Specimen jar

Experiments in crystallization continue with the Specimen Jar, an assemblage of stitched leaves, mussel and scallop shells and a few feathers, all crystallized and arranged in a jar, the leaves floating in mid-air with the aid of a little magician's thread. For techniques and how-to's, delve back through the category titled "Crystallization" on this blog.

Crystallized feather


Spiral stitched leaf

Spine and border stitched leaf

Spiral leaf no. 2

Rib-stitched leaf

Shells and feathers

Jar interior

Jar interior

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Stitched Selfies: Rotten to the Core

The third in the Stitched Selfies Series, "Rotten to the Core" echoes a refrain I heard frequently whenever I misbehaved as a child (as in, "You are rotten to the core").

In amidst the textile pattern of repeating little girls (me circa 3 years old on a lawn in Georgia) we see the little girl's rotten inner core. We could go into the deep psychological implications of this piece, but let's not. A sense of humor serves as a balm to the most questionable of memories.

As with the other pieces in this Selfies Series, the techniques include digital photo manipulation, collage, iron-on transfer, cloth, and embroidery.

Still haven't quite figured out why I am doing these or what I am going to do with them, but I don't think I'm done yet. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stitched Selfies: The Solipsistic Nature of Memory

Click to enlarge

The second in the Stitched Selfies series, with a big title for what is a very simple idea: We are each at the center of our own universe. In The Solipsistic Nature of Memory I am featured in a classic kindergarten photo from the early 1950s. My classmates, long since completely forgotten, are shown here as a blurred horde that serves only to highlight my unique wonderfulness. Throughout childhood I kept expecting an adult in a suit to step forward at some point and declare that, after covertly observing me for a period of time, the powers that be had arrived to acknowledge that I was unique and wonderful, at which point they would whisk me away to a far more fabulous world than the seemingly mediocre one I found myself in. 

The fact that I look vaguely like a young, blond Frida Kahlo in this embroidered rendition is sheerly by happenstance.

As with all works in the Selfie Series, materials include photo transfer, fabric, and cotton thread.

Next up in the series: a trip to the dark side.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stitched Selfies: Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors

A new Stitched Selfies series inspired by the long history of artists' self-portraits and the 21st century mania for selfies. The process involves new and old photos, photo transfer paper, Photoshop manipulation, free-hand drawing, and lots of stitching. This is the first in the series: Running with Scissors.

Close-up (click to further enlarge)

One half (the right side) of this self portrait is from an actual selfie - a photo of myself captured with Photo Booth. The image was then converted to grayscale and manipulated in Photoshop and printed onto iron-on transfer paper. Finally, the image was ironed onto a piece of silk fabric. The other half of the portrait (left side) was free drawn directly onto the fabric.

Stitched grayscale 

Stitched free-hand drawing

More in the selfie series is currently under way, using photos that go back in time and explore the nature of memories.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hari-Kuyo: Honoring Old and Broken Needles

Sending old sewing needles and pins to a sweet grave

Ever since I heard about the 400-year-old Japanese festival of  Hari-Kuyo, I have been waiting all year to celebrate. Every year on February 8, Japanese women bring old sewing needles and pins to Buddhist and Shinto shrines and stick them into soft chunks of tofu or jelly to honor them, show gratitude for their hard work, and acknowledge that even the smallest, most ordinary objects have a soul. Burying the needles in tofu or jelly symbolizes rest for the needles, wrapping them in soft tenderness. The festival is also about the sorrows the women experienced and passed on to their needles through many hours of sewing, and about putting those sorrows to rest.

All in all, an absolutely lovely idea. I used a small, antique Jello mold to create a soft, sweet bed for my needles. However, I realized as I was searching through pin cushions and sewing boxes for old worn needles worthy of this honor that I had thoughtlessly tossed out bent pins or dull needles on more than one occasion in the past year. I need a way to save old needles on an ongoing basis, in preparation for the annual Hari-Kuyo celebration.

Resting reliquary for old needles

I stitched a little cloth reliquary that may be worn as a seamstress necklace. As needles dull or pins turn wayward, the reliquary provides a place to store them until the next Hari-Kuyo festival. The interior cloth is silk from a very old temple sari; the exterior is a scrap of black cotton cloth.


One side of the reliquary is stitched with the Japanese symbols for "used." The other side is stitched with the symbols for "old."


Seamstress reliquary necklace

Now none of my needles or pins need ever suffer any anxiety about their future. Happy Hari-Kuyo to all, and to all a good night.

* Postscript: You may be wondering what happens after the Jello or tofu stage. In Japan, the soft substance with needles embedded is wrapped in paper and then placed in water, presumably sending the needles to a watery grave. This doesn't sound entirely ecologically correct 400 years down the road, so I am still trying to figure this out. Meanwhile I may place the needles in the reliquary or in a miniature funerary vase where they can anticipate their sweet immersion in Jello once again next year.

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