Monday, September 08, 2014

Two More Salvages

I showed you the beginnings of this one:
With its big clunky armhole and its tacky white serging
 and its fraying neckline.
It started out white and had a yellow stain on the bottom and that fraying at the neckline. Here's what I did to fix it:

 It looks spotty because it's thinner linen and has a black tank top underneath
 I rolled the hem of both flounces up (to the outside) and stitched by hand:
 I also stitched over the seams that were on the outside; they were white polyester thread and didn't take the dye:
 Because the shoulders were too wide and the underarm part too boxy, I cut down that part and stay-stitched it on the machine and then added the binding.

 I'm really pleased with it. At some point I may add pockets, but not now. I'll wait and see if I love to wear it (it fits differently than the ones I make myself, so I have to Test Wear it).

Then there was this:
It's an old hospital sheet, textured and very cool. It was white when I got it years and years ago at an estate sale. I know it was from a hospital because it had a stamp along the hem: King's Daughters' Hospital (only they left out the apostrophes, which I can't bring myself to do). I looked it up; it was a charity hospital in Temple, Texas, that opened in that 1890s and is now a clinic of some sort.

It was heavy-ish, and I loved the texture, so I brought it home and bleached it and used it for years as an over-sheet on our bed in the summer time, when you sleep under a fan and might need an extra layer but nothing at all heavy. Then I dyed it pink and used it some more, and then it started wearing out, and finally it ripped. I tore it in half (this Jumpron has a seam down the middle of the front and back because of that) and lined it with bleached muslin and made this:


 I didn't plan this, but I love how it lined up, so I emphasized that with stitching.
 This was a hole at the hem that someone had mended clumsily by machine. I loved that, so I made sure to salvage it (normally I would have laid it out to avoid that edge part of the fabric and would have worked from the other end). I reinforced the mending, of course, so it would hold.
 I mended other holes, using variegated floss. It isn't some I dyed; it's expensive stuff from the local stitch shop, which I am apparently helping to keep in business by my obsession fascination with hand-dyed floss. I justify this by saying it's research and by studying what makes variegation work and what makes it a fail (like, for instance, the white spots that occur when you tie it off too tightly when you're skeining it).

 When I photographed it this morning I realized I have one more hole to mend:

 My fully lined pocket design. This one isn't colorful, but it's for stability. The pink fabric is too old to hold up by itself.
So there are my two salvaged things: a jumper thing and a hospital sheet. I'm now trying to work through all the bits and pieces of stuff (mending old stuff I love and still wear after decades, cleaning a leather bag, stuff like that) to get it all out of the way. I'm doing pretty well, and I've got a project just starting that's really exciting: making a shawl out of an ancient linen tablecloth. I spent a couple days getting the designs on it (had to size some stencils and then trace them onto the fabric on a light box with frequent stops to rest my fingers). I like having it hooped and ready for me: it spurs me to get this other stuff out of the way. When the rack of stuff that's "in line" gets full, I know it's time to do triage and tackle the simplest, fastest stuff just to get it out of the way, and I'm doing pretty well.

Hope your week is starting off grandly! XO

Friday, September 05, 2014

Totally Jazzed

it may not look like much to be jazzed about, and I'm guessing there's more than one person in the world who's going to take one look and go, "Omigawd, it's a clown costume!" but this thing right here:
 is a really big deal for me.

Like all the Jumprons, it's made from a sort of anti-pattern, a piece of paper with the neckline and armholes and then lines and notes so I know where to lay the yardstick and how far down to cut. I made this anti-pattern myself, with no pattern to follow.

The fabric was lightweight linen on clearance. White, of course. I mixed the dye colors from Procion dyes. They're mostly Deep Orange and Grape, but I add a little red to the orange and a little raspberry—just a tiny bit—to the grape to get the colors to pop.
 I made the flounce not because I like ruffles and stuff—I don't; I'm not a ruffle kind of woman and wasn't a ruffle kind of girl—but because I wanted purple on the bottom and just adding a strip of binding wasn't enough. It needed to be "heavier," visually. Plus the flounce gives it some actual, physical weight, which it needs because the fabric is so light.
 The pockets are my own design: I drew the shape I wanted and made them completely double-sided, so technically, if they weren't stitched on, they'd be reversible. Why? They needed to be thicker than one layer of lightweight linen, but also: I love pockets, and looking down and seeing a lined, colorful pocket just makes me happy.

 And, yeah, I'm pretty dang pleased with the double-fold bias tape around the neck and armholes that I created from the same purple fabric. It turned out fabulous considering it was my first time ever to try it and I did it quickly. It was super simple to sew through, and it's a lot less stiff than I feared it would be. I am so loving this tape binding, I can't even tell you.
 I didn't dye the floss, but I *could* have (I see no point in dyeing solid colors of DMC because I have pretty much every color I could ever need. Oh! Except pink and purple: I will probably someday dye those because DMC doesn't have the exact colors I like. (Mostly I use Anchor purple floss; more expensive to get locally but much, MUCH better purples)).

So here it is, kind of a culmination of everything I love, and it's my own creation. Oh, sure: it's like other stuff you could buy somewhere, and the things I did weren't rocket science, and blah, blah, blah. That's not the point. I'm not saying I'm uber-creative or that this is some amazing creation. I'm saying this: I imagined something I wanted and I figured out how to make it, every bit of it, my own self. It's not that I have mad sewing skills or am a talented designer. It's that I have learned to believe in my ability to do stuff, no matter that I'm not trained and don't have all the fancy gadgets and stuff. And I'm learning to do it out of the most minimal things—not ordering $40 a yard custom-dyed linen or using a serger or having someone draft a complicated pattern.

And you can, too. You can figure out how to do what you want to do to make stuff you love. It doesn't have to be done The Right Way, and it doesn't have to please anyone else but you. It's not about perfection, or making things to sell (I'd rather stab myself in the ear than make these to sell) or impressing anyone or anything. It's about wondering, "What if?" and "How would that work?" and—perhaps the most important: "Why not?" Just "Why the hell not?"

We're not talking about just clothes here. Think about handmade books. Jewelry. Cakes. Walking sticks. Coloring books. Shoes. Bags. Hats.
So, yeah, this is a big deal for me. I kind of wish I *had* dyed the floss, just so I could say I did. Heck, I kind of wish I'd planted the flax and harvested it and spun it and woven it—oh, I'm so lying. I can't grow flax; I can't even grow weeds.

But you know what I mean. And it is, indeed, a joy. And I want you to stop and think about how that feels for me, because you can feel that, too. You just need to think about what would do it for you, make some notes, do some thinking. And then jump in. What have you got to lose? Plant a garden, carve a stick, make a flag for your front porch.

Now for a walk and then on to my next adventure: making a shawl out of a hole-y linen table cloth.

Why the hell not, right?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Markers for Dark Fabric FAIL

Bleah. This sucked. I hated it because I had high hopes that one of these would be Perfect In Every Way.

Hahahahahahahaha.

Here goes. I bought these:
 From L to R: GellyRoll Pen, Clover White Marking Pen for fabric, Ranger opaque white pens, silver fabric marking pencils, Pen-Touch white paint pen.
 These two look identical, but they aren't:
 The Clover pen looks like it works OK, but it doesn't, not for me: the ink doesn't show up when you make the mark; it shows up when it dries a few seconds later. This would be fine if you were making a single mark, or a long line. But for writing text, no. I couldn't see where I'd put one mark before I made another. Those scribbles? That's because I thought no ink was coming out. It wasn't until later I realized it had to dry. This won't work for what I want to do: write a letter. Wait. Write another letter. Wait some more. I'd never finish, and if I can't see the spacing, I can't get it right for embroidering the letters (I guess if I were just writing, it wouldn't matter, but for stitching, the spaces are important to make it legible).

 Below, the first one on the left is the Ranger pen. I didn't like it because it caught in the fabric and was kind of spotty and took a while to start writing, which to me is always a bad sign with an ink pen. The big "Now" in the lower middle is the silver fabric pencil, and I hate it: the tip catches in the fabric and it's not as visible as the white pencil I have already. The most legible is the paint pen, on the right, but bleah: it stinks just like paint pens do, and I don't know that it's worth it to me. It might be for you, though, so I tested it.
What I'm doing: I'll keep the GellyRoll and try it on a project, but all the rest are going back for a refund. I'm really disappointed that they didn't do what I wanted them to the way I wanted them to.

Sorry I didn't find an amazing solution. You know: writes smoothly on fabric (so no sharp point; it would need to be rounded like the larger tips on permanent markers, maybe the .05), shows up, will wash out if it's not heat set but will not smear while you're stitching. In short, I want a white pen exactly like the black Pigma Micron or Zig Millineum, which I use interchangeably on all other fabric and LOVE. I use the .05 and .08 the most. The 1.0 is too thick for me, and the smaller points catch in the fabric too much and don't leave a bold enough line for me most of the time. They're good for more finely-woven fabric, though.

You know, I guess this should just be a lesson to me that there's one more reason I don't like dark fabrics. Once I get this Dream Jumper project out of the way, I think I'll go back to avoiding anything darker than a brilliant purple. Huh.

And Here in The Voodoo Lounge. . . .

I don't even know where to start. It's been fabulous here lately, with lots of experiments I've been wanting to tackle forever. I'm sorry to admit that I still haven't gotten to the experiments with the white pens and pencils, but I hope to do that this week. In the meantime, here's what's been going on—I hope something here sparks an idea for you, too!



 First off is the dress I was working on last time. I washed it, and the ink came out—yay!—and I decided not to do anything else to it right now other than some random stitching. Yes, the embroidery is crooked. Yes, once upon a time that would have made me nuts. Now? Not at all. Of course, it helps that nothing about this dress is symmetrical in the first place, and that was *before* I re-did the bottom, which I didn't like. So this dress has had that done, and it's been dyed (twice, I think) and had the embroidery done on the front and then random-ish stitching on various parts, as you can see below:




 This is a pocket, above.
 The back center seam, below:
 Then there's this Heart's Desire by Mary Grace, out of San Antonio. I love the linen she uses. I don't love the patterns of her clothes: she uses a lot of bust darts, which I loathe, and her tops are very big and boxy (even the "small" sizes). This was white, and it had a yellow stain on the ruffled part, and there was a flaw in the center of the front neck where the stitching hadn't been placed properly and the fabric is fraying. So I got it for very cheap, and I brought it home and washed it and then dyed it right off. I can't even tell it was ever stained.
 I'll remake the top part, removing some of that excess fabric at the armholes.
 I'll have to do something to get rid of the white around the ruffles. I hate that. Damn polyester thread. And damn serging. I'm sorry, but I think serging is butt-ugly. I understand its utility on knit and fabrics that fray, but it's just ugly, like shrink plastic wrap or Wal-Mart flip-flops: it makes me think of laziness and industrially-produced plastic crap.

OK, end of rant. Maybe I'm just envious and want a serger of my own.

Nah.
 Here's the front of the neck. I would have covered that up anyway with binding, even without the fraying.
 Then my favorite Birthday Find (we went to San Angelo last Monday on my birthday). This is a Cynthia Ashby duster, and I love it. It was white, and it had stains on it—black smudges—and pink stains on the sleeves. There's a woman who has a lot of fabulous clothes and, in her work, gets stuff all over them and then brings them in for resale. This had been taken home on approval—I'm guessing someone took it home and laundered it to see if it would come clean—and was brought back while I was there. I fell in love with it and knew immediately that I Can Fix That. Do any of y'all know that thrill? Of seeing something that could be oh-so-fabulous but, as it is, isn't good at all? And knowing exactly what to do to fix it? I LOVE that. Like crack to me.

Well, I have no idea what crack would be like because it sounds quite hideous, and even if I did drugs, I wouldn't do something called "crack." I'd always be thinking of a plumber's butt and then gagging. I feel kind of queasy right now, in fact.

Anyway, so I took off the buttons—Cynthia Ashby stuff lately has these matt black buttons, and I don't know where they come from or who thought they were a good idea, but the color comes off in the wash, and then you can't remove it from the fabric. Hideous. If you ever get any CA stuff with these, remove them IMMEDIATELY.

So I did that and then used a stain stick everywhere and then laundered it and then dyed it and then put on cheapo plastic buttons that are The Perfect Color. I may replace them at some point with antique shell/bone ones, of which I have a huge stash, but for now, it's fun to have things all matchy-matchy.
 That's the orange jumper underneath, not part of the duster.
 I can't wait to start playing with this thing. I have no idea what I'll do to it, but it will be way fun even if I just wear it like it is.

 I think I've finally figured out how to get the denim-y, chambray-y color I love. For a long time I'd been using Sky Blue and Wedgewood Blue, adding the second, darker color into the dye bath after half an hour or so. But Wedgewood Blue is a pain in the butt: no matter how long and how thoroughly I mixed it and carefully squished out every. single. lump, it still made dots of red (it has some fuchsia in it). I've switched over to Blue Gray as the second, less-blue color, and it worked really nicely for me this time.

The pockets and collar were a pale tan; that's why they dyed darker. I love that.
 Here you can see a bit of the stain that didn't come out. No prob: I have maybe a dozen different ways I can fix this eventually. It isn't very visible, and I know it's just a stain, not dirt or ickiness.
 Then there's this project, which took about four days. I've been gearing up to dye my own variegated floss, and I finally took the plunge. I had the floss—all different kinds of cotton thread and floss—all skeined up and ready to go, so I spent one day letting it soak in soda ash and drain, and then the next day I laid out a ton of plastic and mixed up dye and painted it and wrapped it in plastic—lots and lots of plastic so the colors wouldn't mix—and batched it by putting bundles into big plastic containers—I think they're Glad disposable food containers, and I bought three of them years ago to dye socks in.

I left them on the front porch (Funk and Wagnalls' front porch in a mayonnaise jar—Heeeeeere's Johnny!) for 24 hours and then unwrapped all the little bundles—like Christmas!—and started rinsing. And rinsing and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing. Cold water. Hot water. Detergent.

And those suckers were still running. So I put them in a lingerie bag and ran them through a cycle in the washer and then finally called them done and put them out to dry.
 Yeah, I squealed a little.
 Then, the next day, I started winding the skeins on antique wooden clothespins. I discovered the easiest way to do this:
 You need two full (so they're heavy enough) bottles of red wine (not white: red wine bottles have shoulders to hold up the floss). The glass is slick, so the floss moves freely. It made the process SO much easier I couldn't believe it.
 Here's the result, below. Not all of these are the ones I dyed: I didn't do blues or yellows, and there were some I had wound already. But this was several days of winding. About 200 clothespins altogether. My hands are still unhappy about it, but it looks fabulous, and I'm all jazzed about coming up with projects to use every single last one of these.
 Bwahahahahahahahaha. This is just one of the drawers of extra floss. By "extra," I mean not the regular non-variegated DMC floss, of which I have hundreds of skeins, in drawers by color. Yeah, just the tiniest bit anal-retentive about the floss. . . .

Then there's this:
 It's a Ralph Lauren linen blouse I thrifted years ago and over dyed. I wear it to walk in in the summer: I have to have long sleeves, but it's hotter than Satan in a Speedo out there, so linen is a lifesaver. I've dyed this thing several times, as the sun bleaches it out. Plus the sun is starting to eat away at the fabric. I do not want to find another shirt; part of my plan for the rest of my life is to mend and patch and make do, making each garment a sort of collage, layered and rich and wonderful. For this, I didn't want thick layers; the patches needed to be linen, too, so it's a light-weight as possible.
 The edges of the cuffs (which are, amazingly, lined with stabilizer; it's a well-made blouse) were fraying where my walking gloves had rubbed them, so I did a lot of stitching there.
 Another hole:
 Fraying along the collar:

This was very, very satisfying to me. I have hope that I can make it last many more years, and that's fabulous. I don't particularly love the blouse—I don't actually wear "blouses," and I'm not a fan of things with collars and cuffs and stuff. But it's exactly what I need for walking.

Emboldened, I started on the rugs. Years ago I amassed a collection of cotton rugs, buying them on clearance at The Dreaded Wal-Mart and various dollar stores. If you have cats, you know the necessity of rugs that can be laundered. Cats make a hobby out of puking, I swear. I've dyed all these rugs, some more than once. And over the years, they've started to fall apart in the wash, understandably (these are used mostly on furniture, so they haven't been walked on a lot, but they're sat on and slept on all the time). I bought a bunch of cheap yarn-like cotton floss in the craft section—I think it's for some kind of kids' weaving project. I'd over-dyed the colors I didn't much like, and I have a whole drawer of it because I knew it would work for something. I just didn't know for *what*.

And here it is: it's PERFECT for this, just fuzzy enough to look like it belongs. I have some tapestry needles (blunt tips), and I used a medium-sized one and sat with the rug while we watched Netflix and just randomly and roughly stitched along the edges, where the rugs had begun to come unwoven, and over the holes, where I tried various mending things, like trying to weave in one hole. It was easy and relaxing, and by not having A Plan, it didn't seem I was repairing something so much as just Making It Better. I think it's stabilized enough now that it can be laundered several more times before I have to work on it again. I have probably a dozen of these, and with luck I can make them all last.
 I used fuchsia thread and pink and orange and a kind of raspberry.  That orange, below, is another rug (not cotton; one of the cats' rugs).


 Then there's this (yes, I've been industrious!) red linen skirt I wear at home all the time and out and about. It may be my current favorite everyday-go-to garment. It's CP Shades, second (or 3rd or 4th) hand, over-dyed to an orange-y red (the color below isn't really true). I'd done some edge stitching, and then last week I was looking at this pillow that was falling apart and shedding batting everywhere. The top of the pillow was made from a quilt one of my grandmothers made. My parents had used it as a mattress pad (yes, that makes me whimper, too) for decades, so it had big worn spots in it by the time I got it almost 40 years ago. I'd laundered it and use parts of it for an appliqué on a dress, a vest to go with the dress (this was in the 80s, OK? Don't judge), a bag I love, and this pillow. Now the batting was shedding everywhere, and most of the appliqués were worn through and just shreds. But there was one flower left that could be salvaged. I carefully removed the stitching (all those tiny handmade stitches) and pinned it to the skirt and started stitching with my newly-dyed floss, and oh, honeys! It was so, so satisfying. I can't even tell you. Can you imagine? A bit of a quilt that's older than I am, floss I dyed myself, a skirt that's had a series of owners, all of it put together by hand. It was blissful. (And I have it on right now as I write this.)
 I grabbed a pen and drew some more lines and stitched those, too, just playing around.

OK, here's the last thing I have to show you from this spurt of getting-stuff-done. Months ago I ordered some bias tape guides, those metal and plastic things you use to fold strips of fabric into bias tape. I wanted to see what I could do with them, but of course I hadn't gotten around to doing anything. I'm working on a Jumpron made out of light-weight linen (I almost always use the heaviest weight I can find, but I wanted to see how this works up). I dyed the linen, of course, and I had some left over after I cut out the Jumpron, so I hauled out the stuff—the big table, the largest cutting matt, the quilter's clear plastic ruler, the rotary cutter, the iron and ironing board—and cut the linen into a big square (so I could get the bias) and started cutting. I took the strips to the ironing board and used the guide to fold them, and voilá:
This was also very, very satisfying. I haven't used it yet, but I'm working on the Jumpron and want to try this at the neck and armholes. I don't know if I'll like it or if it's too stiff—I'm used to cotton jersey, so it may well be. But being able to create it from scratch? Dyeing the linen, cutting it, folding it? So totally satisfying.  Even if I don't ever use it, I will be happy.

OK! Whew, right? I've obviously had a blast over here, trying out stuff, learning how to do stuff. I've got a couple projects underway right now: the lightweight linen Jumpron, another Jumpron I'm making out of the old hospital sheet I showed you a while back, that experiment with the white markers and pens—so I've got plenty to do. For now, though, I'm working on an article, and that's fun, too; but it's time to get to work.

The next thing I want to tackle? I want to make my own hand-dyed variegated/ombre silk velvet ribbon. That means: ordering the silk velvet, cutting it into bias strips, soaking it, dyeing it, batching it. I have some stuff I want to do with it—in fact, I have a couple pieces of silk velvet I've dyed already, and I'm going to try to play with those this week, too, and see if it's worth ordering more velvet to play with. 

Thanks for coming by! I hope something inspired you—I'd love to hear (and see photos, hint, hint). XO