Monday, July 9, 2018

Nesting: A Study in Stitching Scraps

Have sewing kit, will travel — and I never, ever travel without my sewing kit. In recent years that kit has included a baggie full of assorted patches, ranging from intriguing scraps of material to photo transfers on fabric using images gleaned from a treasure trove of ancient illustrated texts from around the world. As a house guest, it is nice to be able to stitch in idle moments, repair your hosts' favorite clothing, and leave a little creative patching in your wake after you depart.

I was recently back visiting in London (see Mending Mania: London for an earlier bout of patching for the same hosts) and as I stitched away in their solarium I regularly herded stray bits of cloth and thread together for easy removal, using a random patch with an image of a rabbit on it from an old Persian textbook as a base to gather all the scraps.

At one point I glanced over and saw that the rabbit now appeared to be sheltering in a very cozy nest, and promptly stitched all the random components of that nest in place, adding a lucky find I discovered while rummaging through a kitchen drawer looking for glue: an old label my hosts used to identify their children's clothing when they went away to camp in years gone by.




The house in London is a lovely nest, and this was another way to thank my hosts for being kind enough to share it with me.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Power Cuffs: Become a Fashionista Superhero!


I have fiddled around with cuffs before, recycling the cuffs from thrift store men's shirts and embellishing them (see examples here). My current cuff obsession, however, addresses a specific need: protecting and concealing bruised wrists. As one ages, skin gets thinner and more apt to tear and bruise, an unsightly inconvenience that is exacerbated if one also happens to be taking any kind of steroid medication.

Presented with this dilemma, one can choose to either look like a frail victim, or....opt for the role of fashion-forward superhero, in the spirit of Wonder Woman or the Black Panther. If you thought the Wakanda crossed-wrists chest thump was cool before, wait until you try it with cuffs.

For this series of cuffs I've utilized a range of materials and stitching techniques, identified in the photo captions below.

Recycled man's shirt cuffs, scraps of West African indigo, Japanese sashiko stitching.


Recycled truck inner tubes lined with scraps from recycled men's shirts, embellished with vintage buttons.

Buttery soft vinyl, top-stitched with spirals, lined with scraps from recycled men's shirts, and embellished with vintage buttons.

Close-up of spiral stitching.

Recycled man's shirt cuffs and scraps from another recycled shirt.

Just how powerful do these cuffs make you feel?

Very powerful.

I have never seen anyone else wearing anything like these, and they answer a very real need. They would also look fabulous as a fashion accessory for a twenty-year-old. Hell, they would look fabulous on Chadwick Boseman.

So cuff it up!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Celestial Gifts: Bojagin-Wrapped Objects

Scraps of the cosmos

I am rounding out my obsession with Korean-inspired wrapping cloths with photos of two final pieces before moving on to an entirely unrelated project. To learn more about these cloths, called "bojagin," click on this link: Bojagin: The Gift of TravelClick here or in the sidebar to see all of the works in this category: Bojagin.

These two final bojagin are vaguely related to the cosmos and celestial objects. Materials for this first piece include scraps of red silk from a Chinese jacket, pieces of recycled men's shirts from the thrift store, and remnants of indigo-dyed cloth from West Africa. If you look more closely, you will see that there is a frenzy of activity going on as the indigo scraps rocket across the background.

Fabric scraps rocketing through space

The object to be wrapped is a chunk of meteorite from the caves near Cuetzala in Mexico. Local children find them and sell them on the street, and the little girl who sold me this one pointed out how special it is because it looks just like a fat little woman. I think it looks like a spaced-out Venus of Willendorf.

Object continuing on its celestial travels

And finally the point of all of this: the object wrapped. It is a little bundle of mystery, potential, and magic.


The second piece is all about comets, and the end result looks mid-20th-century-industrial-Russian to me. I don't know why, and I'm the one who made it. That is often the case, but in this particular instance I charged myself with suspending (in so far as possible) all cultural baggage regarding color and aesthetic judgement. Materials include pieces from recycled thrift store men's shirts and scraps of gray polkadot fabric from a robe I stitched years ago for the sole purpose of looking glamorous at Northern California hot springs and later cannibalized to make other stuff. Here is the result.

Comets in the night sky

I got admittedly carried away with the comet tails.

Stitched comet tails

The object to be wrapped is a tin container for tea, formed in the shape of a cat, purchased in Japan fifty years ago. Little containers like this liven up a traditional tea ceremony. If you have to ask about the connection between cats and the cosmos, you haven't been paying attention.

The object: a tin cat box

The box in open position

And finally, the object wrapped. And that, my friends, is the end of stitching bojagin for a while.

Wrapped cat

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Time to Go Outside: The Pin Version

Growing animal pins

For the first iteration of this idea and the back-story, see the previous post - Time to Go Outside: Living Jewelry. For the pin version I have used blackboard vinyl (see how you can use chalk on the vinyl below). The simple silhouette shapes of a cat head and a rabbit have been stitched along the perimeter but left open at the top so that you can insert a tab of homemade paper. The paper was produced by throwing junk mail and water into a blender and then embedding seeds in it once the blender mixture was slopped onto a drying screen.

I like the fact that they remind me vaguely of 1930's jewelry shapes, particularly the cat pin.

Bunny pin planted with wheat grass seeded paper

Bunny pin with added chalk drawing

I am showing the pins both blank and after they've been scribbled on a bit with chalk. This is the wonder of blackboard vinyl. It works just like a blackboard, and you can erase whatever you draw and then draw something else. I am wishing I had drawn a mean, evil bunny, and because it is blackboard vinyl, I can do that the next time I wear it.

Cat pin planted with cat grass seeded paper

Cat pin with chalk embellishment

Cat lovers will appreciate the fact that in addition to sending a green, "let's go outside" message, the cat grass is something cats love to nibble.

Delectable cat grass

That is it on growable jewelry for the moment. Time to go out and make some of your own. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Time to Go Outside - Living Jewelry

Here is an updated take on an earlier idea (see Ecowatch) that involved converting a recycled man's watch into my own little plot of land. This time around I've used stichable vinyl to create a more versatile form of living jewelry.

These faux watches remind you that it is time to go outside. Little squares of handmade paper embedded with seeds slip right into a vinyl pocket on each watch. Keep them wet by watering twice a day, and in no time you have your own little secret garden.

To learn how to make the paper simply google "seeded handmade paper" and follow directions. Because I have a highly annoying newsprint advertising circular jamming up my mailbox once a week, I took great satisfaction in using those to create my seeded paper.

Creating a paper blend from junk mail

Cutting tabs from handmade seeded paper

I used two different kinds of seeds to make two different types of paper for this project: wheatgrass and cat grass.

Watches with seeded tabs inserted

Starting to grow

Note the blades of wheatgrass sneaking out of the right side of the pocket above, reminding us that nature has a mind of its own.

Harvest time

While I made most of the watches out of mustard colored vinyl, I also experimented with blackboard vinyl. This nifty material allows you to embellish your watch any way you wish using a stick of chalk, and to erase your embellishments and start over whenever you want.

Fun with blackboard vinyl

The two tiniest watches were made for two cat lovers — a six-year-old and eight-year-old — and are planted with cat grass tabs. Imagine a fey six-year-old extending her delicate arm and letting a cat nibble at the grass growing from her wrist. Childhood doesn't get much more magical than that.

Cat grass watches for two little girls

The photos below show basic wearing and maintenance how-to tips.

Live long and prosper

Trimming the garden
The fun isn't over yet. Stay tuned for some living jewelry pins.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Bojagin 4: Wrapped Fish

Wrapped fish bojagin

Yes folks, my obsession with bojagin continues. To read the back-story on these Korean-inspired wrapping cloths, each tailored to wrap a specific object, go to the first posting — Bojagin: The Gift of Travel, or click on "bojagin" in the index to the right. This time around, we are wrapping fish and the bojagin itself has an underwater theme.

Bojagin unfurled and hanging from branch

Mixing and matching from my bins of fabric are part of the joy of this process. Here, materials include two different scraps of indigo-dyed cloth, a fragment of woven Guatemalan cloth, cotton scraps from a robe I made specifically to wear at hot springs, and a panel of old kikoy fabric from Kenya. It is all bound together with lots and lots of Japanese-style sashiko stitching.

Detail: fabric photo transfer of image from Persian manuscript

Bojagin are all about binding up luck and the object to be wrapped. In this case the object is a ceramic tea ceremony container I found in Japan about fifty years ago.

The object: ceramic tea ceremony container

Container opened

And finally, we have the object wrapped as it was meant to be. I am finding the final wrapped object and the accidental/serendipitous juxtaposition of fabrics and stitching the most aesthetically appealing part of this process.

The object wrapped

Monday, March 5, 2018

Bojagin 3: White on White

Wrapping cloth

Wrapping cloth in use

This is the third in a series of Korean-inspired wrapping cloths called bojagin. For the back story see Bojagin: The Gift of Travel, and to see the whole series click on "bojagin" in the blog index to the right. As with all bojagin, this cloth was created to wrap specific objects. And presumably the good luck that wrapped bojagin contain is safely tucked inside. 

Materials for this bojagin include an assortment of vintage handkerchiefs and napkins. While the title is "white on white," I used tan thread to highlight the stitch work. Below are some close-ups of stitching detail.

Corner and hanging loop detail

Detail: bottom of piece

Detail: white on white

I know I am not the only sewer out there who occasionally gets a thrill from flipping a piece over and looking at the stitching from the back, usually unexposed side. Here is the hidden side of this piece.

Detail: back of piece

A wrapping cloth is all about the object(s) to be wrapped. In this case, a trio of seeds collected from around the world that look like beautiful, polished wood sculptures.

Objects to be wrapped

And finally, once again, the wrapped objects.

Wrapped objects

In my next post, featuring yet another bojagin, I will include a wrapping how-to illustrating how my bojagin design works for both hanging and wrapping.

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