Thursday, October 8, 2015

An Ex Voto Frame of Mind

Back from Oaxaca and noticing that lately when I return from Mexico I tend to be in an ex voto frame of mind, as evidenced by the following piece. As a lapsed Presbyterian I have no saints on call, but that doesn't stop me from making promises to divinities unknown for promises delivered.

Click to enlarge

    An ex-voto is a votive offering to a saint or to a divinity. It is given in fulfillment of a vow (hence the Latin term, short for ex voto suscepto, "from the vow made") or in gratitude or devotion. - Wikipedia

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Paranoid's Perfect Travel Vest: Upcycled Men's Shirt #26 or So



The latest take on upcycling men's shirts sourced from my favorite thrift store right around the corner.  (to see earlier upcycling go to Repurposed Men's Shirts). I travel a lot and when I do, I always don a trusty travel vest with lots of pockets, some of them hidden. This time I'm traveling to a hot and humid location so I've used two 100% cotton men's shirts, jigsawing them together to make an unlined, lightweight vest. If you want to try a similar upcycle project, start with a basic vest pattern ( I like loose and oversize) and play with your upcycled fabric, piecing it together so you have enough for your pattern sections. Then with any leftover material, go crazy with pockets.

Front exterior pocket

The pocket above uses a piece from the front of one of the upcycled shirts, re-using the shirt's pocket to create a double pocket for the vest.

Front exterior pocket

A second exterior pocket (originally a section of shirt sleeve), extends from the front of the vest past the side seam towards the back. A dividing seam separates this giant pocket into two more serviceable pockets. There is a final, absolutely mandatory external pocket, sized to fit eyeglasses.

Three external front pockets

There are also two hidden internal security pockets. 

Security pockets

The first, more traditionally placed, keeps passport, air tickets, some cash, and ATM card handy. Includes a velcro closure

Traditional security pocket

The second, completely hidden, is invisibly stitched inside the upper back of the vest. This is for credit cards and larger amounts of cash. This pocket also has a velcro closure. The closures are there so that when it's necessary to take the vest off for airport security, stuff in the security pockets doesn't come tumbling out.

Hidden security pocket
This is the fourth travel vest I've had. I also use them at home to avoid carrying a handbag, and with heavy use they tend to wear out quickly. To see how I cannibalized one travel vest make repairs on another, see Extreme Mending (Uber Boro).

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Stitched Selfies: On the Road

"On the Road": photo transfer, hand-embroidery, eco-dyed silk

Here is the last in the Stitched Selfies series for the foreseeable future. This is from an old passport picture from the early 1970s, and my passport number from that era appears along the upper right edge. 

The left half of this piece is based on a photo transfer onto cloth of the original snapshot, reduced to line drawing through the miracle of Photoshop. The right side of the piece is freehand drawing. 

The background for this work is a piece of blue silk, eco-dyed with the leaves of a rose bush.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Seaweed Shoe and a Failed Experiment

Seaweed shoe

Another round of experiments with stitched seaweed, ending largely in failure. Not to worry; failure is often a crucial step in the creative process, and as I've learned so far with a range of seaweed experiments, this material has a steep learning curve. (See Seaweed for past creations.)

Bowl of seaweed

This round of experiments began with an assortment of seaweed collected in early August along the tide line just north of Point Lobos in California. The vision was that of a seaweed chandelier, comprised of an assortment of small seaweed lamps, clustered together and illuminated from within by Christmas lights. 

Seaweed lamps, drying on paper cup molds

Seaweed lamp

Seaweed lamp

The lamps above are stitched at the top and then encircled with thread to help them retain their shape while they dried. At this stage they look spectacular, but as they dried I learned a couple of valuable lessons. I expected vertical shrinkage, figuring on lamps about a half to a third of the beginning height. What I failed to account for was horizontal shrinkage, resulting in the lovely overlapping layers separating into individual strands with gaps in between. This whole concept needs a major conceptual overhaul, but I plan to revisit this idea. I have such a clear image of the final seaweed chandelier in my head.

Seaweed shoe

To console myself I stitched the diminutive seaweed shoe shown here. Based on the gorgeous variety of seaweeds to be found in Carmel and Monterey, one could conceivably design an entire lie of seaweed shoes, to be left on the shore back on the tide line for unwary beachcombers to find.

Seaweed shoe

Friday, July 31, 2015

For the Love of Stones

Bathroom medicine chest installation: found stones

In this world there are those who love stones. Not special stones, not scientifically significant stones, not valuable stones ... just stones. They pick them up, they put them in their pockets, they have stones all over their house. I am one of those people. 

When plumbers arrived to tear out my bathroom walls, it presented an opportunity to resort some of my stones into new configurations while leaving others solidly in place. Here are the results.

New wall arrangement

Vintage, rusted scale; found stones; "pillow rock," once a San Francisco cobblestone, used for ship's ballast after the big 'quake and washed up on shore

Framed stone A

Close-up: found, rusted metal; stone; steel wire

Framed Stone B

Close-up: found, broken transistor; stone; knitted steel

Unframed hanging stone: found scrap metal, knitted steel, stone

Close-up of stone and knitted steel

Medicine cabinet installation: Stones on the Move and Bottled Emotions

Close-up: Bottled Emotions

Window arrangement: Pillow rocks, knitted steel, found stones, old branches and air plants.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stitched Selfies: Jersey Shore

A trio of hopeful optimists posting at the shore

This is the next-to-last piece in the Stitched Selfies series, executed in the tradition of Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and the millions of people with iPhones and time to kill who find the capture and contemplation of their own image more fascinating than anything else the world has on offer.

Click to enlarge

The image is from a snapshot taken at Ship Ahoy beach club in Seabright, New Jersey. At left, cousin Peggy; at right, my annoyingly adorable little sister Susy acting out "I'm a little teapot"; and at center, myself, in a bathing suit I wish I still owned. Materials: photo transfer, cotton, embroidery, vintage Jersey Shore lifeguard patch.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Playing with Corn Husk Creations

Corn husk flower

In the past I've made corn husk dolls, a relatively easy craft. Look for a how-to sometime near the New Year because for me, making, drying and then burning corn husk dolls is an end-of-the-year ritual.

This time around I decided to noodle around with corn husks and see what else could be done. If you've never worked with corn husks before, head for your nearest Mexican grocery store, buy a bundle of dried corn husks, and separate a bunch of them to soak in cold water in a large pot for a couple of hours. This makes them soft, pliable, and easy to work with. Once you've finished your creation let it dry and the husks once again become rigid and fixed in whatever shape you've created.

Corn husks: a very cheap craft supply

You can also dye the husks using a natural dye of your choice, from onion skins and beets to red cabbage, turmeric, or blueberries. This time around I experimented with pure cranberry juice, letting the husks soak overnight, and got the lovely rose shade you see here. Rinse the dyed husk thoroughly before using to get rid of the juice; the dyed color remains.

Corn husk necklace

My initial goal was to experiment with corn husk jewelry and I came up with this creation, comprised of cranberry-dyed corn husk disks and a couple of woven corn husk spheres, strung onto thin string. When wet, corn husks are easy to sew, which opens up lots of other future possibilities.

Corn husk necklace close-up

Because I couldn't stop there, I experimented with making a couple of miniature boxes, using a smaller version the recycled cereal box pattern I've posted previously, and an alternate pattern I found on the Web.

Corn husk boxes: natural and cranberry-dyed

Corn husk boxes

Finally, with a few remaining husks, I made a couple of corn husk flowers. These were assembled and then stitched together to secure the petals.

Corn husk flower

Corn husk flower

Expect more corn husk experiments in future months. I will be experimenting with more natural dyes, with stitching, and with corn husk flower brooches.

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