Friday, December 27, 2013

Ee-i-ee-i-o: Embroidered Sonagrams

The ee-i-ee-i-o dress

For the back story on embroidering sonograms see the post: Embroidered Sound Waves (and Upcycled Shirt Number 13). This current, more ambitious effort involves an upcycled black linen dress found at a local thrift store. The white embroidery on the dress is stitched sonagrams, representing all of the animals on Old MacDonald's Farm (including a llama and a frog). The end result is a versatile, over-size, huiple-style garment suitable for layering in climes that range from chilly to tropical, guaranteed to wow children around the world. In virtually every culture there is a version of an animal sound song.

Layered winter version, left; tropical sun dress version, right.
The How-To:
A. Record your voice singing the animal-sound lines from the song, "Old MacDonald's Farm" in Garage Band or similar music software program. Capture the graphic sonagrams of the soundwaves of the individual animal-related lines by taking screen shots (Command, shift, 4 on the Mac).

Some of the animal sounds (click to enlarge)

B. Adjust size of the sonagrams in a graphic program, print out.
C. Use carbon paper (available in range of colors at any fabric store) to transfer image of sonagram to fabric.

Transferring sonagram to fabric

D. Stitch the traced sonagram pattern.

Traced sonagram: "with an oink oink here, an oink oink there"

Stitch edges first, then fill in.

As I stitched, I drew a little cheat sheet on an index card and now keep that in the dress pocket so that I can remember what the various sonagrams are. My vision involves sitting with a child in Colorado or Chiapas or the Mexico City airport and "singing the dress" with them, going through all of the different animal sounds.

In my studio, wearing the ee-i-ee-i-o dress.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Advent Calendar Haute Couture

This year's advent calendar kicks it up a notch, past the 2011 Spectacular Walnut Advent Calendar and the 2012 Greener-Than-Thou Advent Calendar. In fact, this year there are two calendars. Inspired by Italian fashion designer Daniela Gregis and her annual advent skirts produced in collaboration each year with a different artist, this year's advent calendars are two skirts which I've upcycled, designed, and hand-stitched in a fit of pre-holiday insanity. The clients are a four-year-old and a two-year-old.

Not a Creature Was Stirring

The advent skirt "unopened" and stuffed with chocolate and toys

This calendar began with a thrift store ruffled mini-skirt, slit up one side and then overlapped with velcro tabs to produce a wrap-around skirt. It was also reduced in size to fit a 23-inch waist by accordion-pleating the extra inches at the back into a bustle. Copper colored ribbon with bells at the end were added for decoration and jingle bell sound effects when the skirt is worn. Scrap fabric was used to create a lining which was then stitched (with the stitching hidden by the ruffles) to create 25 sections. Those sections were turned into pockets by lifting a ruffle and slitting the skirt fabric just underneath the ruffle. Copper fabric paint (Liquid Pearls) was used to number the pockets on the ruffles above in random order. Hunting for the numbers is part of the game.

Pocket hidden under a ruffle; tulle stitched to top back of pocket

A swath of tulle is stitched underneath the ruffle at the top of the pocket. In its starting state, each pocket contains a foil-wrapped chocolate coin, and every fourth pocket or so also contains a little gift. Each day as the pockets are opened the tulle is pulled out of the pocket, creating the final advent couture look.

The skirt on the final day, with presents removed and tulle unfurled.

Not Even a Mouse

The advent skirt styled for a two-year-old began with another thrift store find: a green satin wrap-around dance skirt. After cutting several inches off the bottom, wrapping the skirt to fit a 17-inch waist, and adding velcro tab fasteners, 25 swathes of tulle were added. Each swath of tulle is gathered at the top and stitched to the skirt, along with a ribbon that is stitched to the top of the tulle half-way down its length.

Skirt in its starting state, with bundles of little gifts

For this skirt, the foil-wrapped chocolates and little gifts were wrapped in scraps of light green satin and numbered from 1 to 25. Each bundle was then wrapped in one of the tulle swathes as shown below, and tied with a ribbon.

Swath of tulle with ribbon secured to top

Numbered gift bundle placed on tulle

Tulle folded up and around bundle and tied with ribbon

Once again, the skirt is a work of interactive couture. As each bundle is unwrapped and the ribbon untied, the tulle and ribbons are unfurled and become part of the final look as shown below.

The skirt on the last day, with all gift bundles untied

The Gifts - Lots of Mice

You may have noticed the Night Before Christmas theme going on in the skirt titles on the waistbands: "Not a creature was stirring," and "not even a mouse." All of the little surprise gifts in the skirts were hand-stitched from felt and all have a mouse theme. Little notes with vintage holiday mouse-themed pictures are included with the gifts in the four-year-old's skirt explaining what they are. The gifts in each skirt are identical (except for color) and fall on the same day, to avoid any fights between the models as they sprint or toddle down the runway.

Wear a Mouse in Your Hair: Mouse Barrettes

Mouse barrettes

Wear a Mouse on Your Finger: Mouse Rings

Mouse rings: finger slips into belly band underneath mouse

Put a Mouse to Bed
The little mice in these beds are tiny puppets, worn on the tip of a finger or the tip of a pencil

Mice in their matchbox beds

Mouse puppet out of bed

Hang a Mouse on the Tree: Christmas Ornaments

Mice Christmas Ornaments

Be a Mouse: Mouse Masks
The recipients are encouraged to don their masks and practice curling up like mice and not stirring.

Mouse masks

On the last day, December 25, a final note tells the recipients to put on their completed advent skirts (which have magically become tutus), don their mouse masks, and put on a mouse ballet.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Angry Mice

I'm ready for a rumble in the mean city in my Angry Mice Jacket.

This is an example of pushing past a mistake into something entirely unexpected. While trying to make two felt masks for young children as part of an extreme advent calendar (stay tuned), I turned out a mask so small it would only be appropriate on a day-old infant. I set it aside, but liked it so much that I had to use it on something.

Happily, I had an Oska gray linen jacket on hand, a thrift store find just waiting to be fiddled with.

The addition of the felt mouse mask and a little hand embroidery made all the difference.

The Angry Mice Jacket

Friday, November 8, 2013

Flotsam, Jetsam and All-around Junk

An embarrasment of garbage

The three pieces shown below were assembled from junk found along the edge of the San Francisco Bay. For the rules and regs of garbage walks see the previous post, Going On a Garbage Walk. The rubble utilized for these assemblages was collected at a site I call "Glass Beach," which is really a section of a nature reserve on the shores of the bay that is built on landfill. Waves against the shore slowly erode the edge of the landfill exposing bits and pieces of the past including bottles and broken pottery. Once glass is exposed the waves work like a rock tumbler, smoothing the pieces down into sea glass.
Cup handle, eroded seashell, glass

As per garbage walk rules, the attachment used to hang these on a wall is also garbage from the site. In the assemblage above it is an eroded seashell. In the assemblage below it is fluted circular piece that looks like a miniature bundt cake mold.

7 shards of pottery and a circular piece of jetsam

Wood, glass, barnacle, and cup handle

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Going on a Garbage Walk

This is the first of a series of garbage walks, resulting in a series of works to be artfully hung on one wall. The wall itself is pretty well trashed from past water leakage, so it's garbage all around!

This first piece is made entirely from found crap at the Port of Oakland 7th Street Park, picked up during a walk along a barbed wire fence armed with cameras guarding the high-security shipping terminal and customs booths, out to a fishing pier that juts into the Bay with spectacular views of San Francisco.

Garbage walk #1, 10/23/13 (click to enlarge)

Garbage walk rules are simple. 
1. Take a walk and collect garbage along the way.
2. Assemble a piece (including backing and hanging mechanism) entirely from the garbage.

The piece above contains some nifty finds, including a fish hook, Port security regulations, the oaktag label, and fishing line, from which the piece is hung. Fishing line was also used to secure the hook to the card.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stuffed Animals and Quantum Physics

Hobbes (right) and boB

I seldom take requests, but when the request comes from a four-year-old I sometimes give in. In this case, the project involved making a Hobbes doll, an undertaking made far easier by a talented young maker called "seamster," who figured out the pattern and posted it as a free download on Instructables: Generally I find sewing someone else's pattern a little boring, and in this case the drudgery involved hand-sewing 29 stripes. In the process, I figured the four-year-old's sister, age two, also deserved a doll, so I made one out of Hobbes scraps.

Meet boB, a stuffed animal with a back story involving parallel universes, string theory, a palindrome, the quantum theory of superposition (via Shrödinger’s cat), and a twist on sub-equatorial folklore. Clearly I don't believe in talking down to two-year-olds.

Meet boB

boB's back pocket (note string)

Since the Hobbes doll has its own comic strip, I decided to create a little spiral-bound boB booklet to accompany the doll, a quick-and-dirty process that took about two hours. What does all of this prove? Hand sewing is an ideal realm for letting the mind roam free. Consider making your own nonsense animal and in the process, figure out its story. All of the images used are copyright-free pictures from the Web, except the photos of boB.

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