Thursday, September 1, 2016

How to Grow Fat Gracefully: The Double Shirt

The completed double shirt

The problem? Two shirts, each okay in their own way but each a bit too narrow to gracefully drape an expanding mid-section.

The solution? Double them up! (Note that one of the shirts had already been altered in the past with the addition of gorgeous vintage buttons.) Here are a couple of how-to diagrams that those with sewing savvy will hopefully be able to follow.

How-to A (click to enlarge)

Because I tend to get hot, one strategy was to remove the sleeves and back of the shirt underneath so that I wouldn't be suffering under a double layer of cloth. The only place the shirt ends up double is the front, and the top shirt always remains open, eliminating the problem there. Begin by slitting the shirt that will be underneath up the back. This is simply for fitting - this back will be completely removed in the final product. Put the two shirts on together, and move about until the combo is hanging in a comfortable, flattering fit. Pin the top shirt to the bottom shirt along the top shirt's side seams. Take the shirts off together, and pin along the top shirt's shoulder and back collar seams. Cut away the bottom shirt's sleeves and back.

How-to B (click to enlarge)
The end result is that you gain several inches at either side of the shirt, and the whole thing is airy and comfortable because you'e removed the back and sleeves of the bottom shirt. And with all of that extra material, you can create a new pocket and...add polka dots!

How-to C

Finished shirt front

Finished shirt back

Bonus Polka-Dots How-To

Lately I am loving polka-dots and have come up with an easy way to crank out perfect polka-dots every time. Start by creating a bunch of polka-dot templates on light cardboard (advertising postcards work perfectly). Use the rim of a glass, jar or cup that matches the size of the polka-dots you want, and trace around the rim with pen or pencil on the cardboard to create a series of circles. Cut them out. Cut the cloth you're going to use for your polka-dots into rough circles with about a half-inch extra all around.

Cardboard template and cloth

Ironing around the template

You'll find you can work in sections, folding part of the cloth circle over the template, ironing, and then folding and ironing the next section of the cloth circle. Takes a little practice, but you get more nimble very fast.

Fully ironed polka-dot

Just before stitching, slide the cardboard template out and save for later use. Pin down and stitch the polka-dot.

Stitched polka-dot

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Monsters: A Stitching Saga

A gripping monster story unfolds

You sometimes need little more incentive than an utterly boring shirt to trigger a sewing project. It helps to have a five-year-old and seven-year-old on hand who are masters in art naif. I put in a request for monsters and they delivered, as shown in the test embroideries below.

Test monsters and victims

Big armless monster with horns

Fleeing victim with one arm and head on fire

Victim who looks ready to fight back

Small monster with lots of hair, no arms, and a beak

Before showing off the monster shirt, here is a quick how-to regarding altering and transferring a child's crayon scribbles into an embroidery template.

Here are the original drawings:

AJ's monsters and victims

Cici's monster and victims

The first step was to scan the pictures and then convert them from color to grayscale. I used Photoshop, but you can use any graphic software. I also played a bit with sizes of the figures, and arranged them on a sheet for printing out using InDesign. You could print directly from your graphic program or place them into a Word document or whatever.

Page full of monsters for printing

I then cut the monsters out individually, readying them for transfer. For the test monsters at the start of this post, I simply used a sheet of carbon paper to trace the black and white monster image onto the linen. For the monster shirt, which is dark gray, I used transfer paper specifically designed for use in transferring marks onto cloth. It rubs right away (in fact, you have to be careful not to smudge it away while hand stitching) and comes in a pack of five sheets of different colors. I used white to transfer onto gray.

Using chalky transfer paper to trace the image onto the cloth

The transferred image

Stitching the transferred image

And now for the final product: the monster shirt. The front of the shirt remains completely plain with no embroidery, offering no clues to the turmoil happening on the back.

Shirt front

On the back, a losing battle is in progress.

Shirt back
At the top, we see a monster in the center, surrounded by victims who are screaming, panicking and trying to flee.

Upper shirt back

Victims are fleeing to the back of either sleeve, and a bunch of victims think they've found a way out, running diagonally down the shirt and trying to escape at the lower corner. What they don't realize is that the small, beaked, hairy monster lies in wait for them there.

Victims try to escape

Little monster lying in wait

And there you have it — the shirt is no longer boring.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rise and Shine 2: Working with Scraps

Rise and Shine card

When you are gifted with something as wondrous as Tennessee Williams' mother's curtains you want to share the wealth. For the back story on the curtains and a look at the primary art piece created for those curtains use this link: Rise and Shine: Tennessee Williams' Mother's Curtains. With lots of extra material and loads of scraps left over, I created a limited run of these Rise and Shine cards.

Card front

Card back

Card back text enlarged

Opening the card

Card fully open, sitting in natural light

I love the way the curtain scrap creates a little room with light shining in the windows, reinforcing the "rise and shine" theme.

Card with lamp nearby casting yellow light through lower "window"

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rise and Shine: Tennessee Williams' Mother's Curtains

Rise and Shine, front

The nice thing about being known for producing an eclectic assortment of odd art pieces is that when people stumble across something odd, they give it to you. That was the case here, when my sister's friend's sister's friend bought Tennessee Williams' mother's old house in St. Louis and discovered that the mother's sheer curtains still hung in the windows. She took them down and eventually they passed along the chain of provenance described above and came to me. The resulting art piece, called Rise and Shine, is a gauzy child's dress embedded with quotes from Tennessee Williams plays.

Close-up, top front

Close-up, bottom front

Close-up, collar

The title of the piece, Rise and Shine, appears on the front collars of the dress and is taken from a quote from The Glass Menagerie: "Every time you come in yelling that God damn 'Rise and Shine!' 'Rise and Shine!' I say to myself, 'How lucky dead people are.'"

Front sleeve

Bottom front detail

Dress back

Back left collar

Back right collar

Back right sleeve

Back zipper

Back ruffle detail

There will be more to this Rise and Shine series in coming weeks — there were a lot of curtains. Meanwhile, here are the Tennessee Williams quotes used on this piece:

"Nothing human disgusts me unless it's unkind." - Night of the Iguana

"I'll be all right in a minute, I'm just bewildered — by life." - The Glass Menagerie

"I don't want realism. I want magic.!" - A Streetcar Named Desire

"Silence about a thing just magnifies it." - A Streetcar Named Desire

"We have to distrust each other. It is our only defense against betrayal." - Camino Real

"There is a time for departure, even when there is no certain place to go." - Camino Real

"We are all of us sentenced to solitary confinement within our own skins, for life." - Orpheus Rising

"We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it." - The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Creative Obliteration of Corporate Logos

Enough with all of the branding, a misbegotten idea that works very well for the businesses involved but a sadly humiliating prospect for human beings who are reduced to little more than ambulatory billboards. And let's not even discuss the type of branding that sends the signal to everyone else: "I have lots and lots of money as indicated by the logo appearing prominently on this item of clothing."

It is time to obliterate corporate logos and stand proud as the raw, unlabeled human beings we were meant to be. I have played with this idea before in an earlier post: Geek Chic: QR Code Patches (click for a complete how-to). There the idea was to take advantage of all of those wonderful nearly-new men's shirts at thrift stores that are sadly marred by logos (often of failed software start-ups here in the Bay Area). Simply cover the logos over with QR code patches that you create yourself to send whatever message you want. I believe the one below, if scanned with a smartphone, will say, "Eat the Rich."

QR code patch: "Eat the Rich"

The person for whom I converted a lot of those QR code shirts has clearly gotten the message. Or rather, he has gotten the message and now considers logos distasteful. He recently handed me a Smith & Hawken vest, purchased new, with the request that I cover the logo somehow.

Patching in progress over brand logo

I leafed through a packet of random iron-on images I had created in the past, and decided to go with the following, found in an old Scientific American magazine at a thrift store.

Three ways of tying your shoes

I cropped the image and converted it to sepia tone and then printed it onto iron-on paper (remembering, of course, to reverse the image before printing so that, when ironed, the words read correctly).

A little bit of stitching, and Smith & Hawken was no more.

Sewing on patch with iron-on image

The recipient of this handiwork is currently hiking around Yosemite, happy in the knowledge that he is not a walking advertisement for a clothing company.

Time for you to go out and start obliterating a few logos on your own.

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