Sunday, July 29, 2018

Urban Summer Vest for Discerning Gentlemen

Summer vest

What to wear during summer in the city, trying to keep track of glasses, bus passes, money, and other assorted crap one simply must have on hand while simultaneously fighting sweltering heat? The gentleman's summer vest, of course, a lightweight garment fashioned from recycled thrift store men's shirts.

Piecing detail

As always when piecing together thrifted fabric, some of the garment's most alluring details are the result of sheer necessity (i.e., patch this piece over that piece or you will have a gaping hole).

Vest back

Because the recipient of this garment is a man on the move, I've added a small graphic from an ancient Persian text onto the back, created using photo transfer paper.

Swimming against the tide

Monday, July 16, 2018

Indigo Girls: At Play with Shibori

Awash in indigo

Here are the results of a session of shibori dyeing with two young apprentices ages six and eight. Above you see the fruits of our labors, including two t-shirts, two stuffed animals (designed and stitched by the girls), and lots of dyed cloth using a variety of shibori wrapping techniques.

To learn more about traditional Japanese shibori dyeing, just google "shibori," or visit this site, which has one of the best overviews of various shibori techniques in a series of easy-to-follow photos: I highly recomend the Dharma Trading Company shibori dye kit as an easy intro to this technique. We could have dyed a lot more with their kit (, but we simply ran out of cloth.

Dream bear

Dream cat

Note that the stuffed animals are actually "dream animal pillows." This sewing project for the girls was based on the folkloric wisdom that sleeping with your head on something that has been indigo dyed produces deep sleep and pleasant dreams. Other than help drafting the initial pattern and a little stitching assistance with the faces, the girls were on their own.

Once the girls had their animals completed, I packed up the remaining fabric and later pieced together two dresses, combining the indigo-dyed cloth and recycled fabric from thrift store men's shirts. Here is the dress for the eight-year-old:

Dress front

Dress back

Dress detail

Dress in action

And here is the dress for the six-year-old. She has not kept still long enough for a photo.

Dress front

Dress back with surprise pocket

Once you dabble in indigo it is easy to get hooked. 

It's hard to be unhappy in shibori

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.
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