Sunday, 21 April 2019

Coat for the Recalcitrant Bohemian Princess

This morning I finished the coat that will be the centrepiece for my upcoming exhibtion "Finery", opening at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre on May 11th. The show will be open until late June. This coat is called "Coat for the Recalcitrant Bohemian Princess". However, it will be the only garment I have in the show. The rest of it will be neck adornment.


Front of the coat

front, buttoned



back of the coat





necklace "Spiral in", cloth, plastic beads 2019, Pearl Red Moon










Friday, 22 March 2019

Fido and Bags

Well, I’m crying into my beer again (actually it’s green ginger wine)…
....chalk up yet another curated market that has rejected my application to be at their venue. Sorry Melbourne folks, the Slow Fashion Market, on Saturday 27th April at Coburg Town Hall, won’t be having me present my humble wares. Apparently they were inundated with high quality applications which meant there weren’t enough stall spaces left over to accommodate me. On this occasion of getting the thumbs down I was able to desist sending a bitter and twisted email of acknowledgement, so perhaps I haven’t sunk my boats to make another application sometime in the future….

I’m thinking of instigating a regular “Friday Upcycle Showcase” on this blog except I know my bright ideas always exceed the time I have available to keep up such intentions. So we will do one today and perhaps I’ll have time on another Friday.

Before getting to the inaugural Friday Upcycle Showcase I must show a picture of the completed jacket made from the lime cotton blanket. In honour of that blanket having been salvaged from the thrift shop pile nominated “dog blankets” I’m going to call it the Fido Coat.














Fido Coat, turned inside out

Our local "Vinnies" shop is open 3 days a week - Tuesdays, Fridays and half Saturday - so I try to call in at least once a week. Today I got a couple of nice cotton mens shirts. Well worn, slightly faded and soft but still plenty of wear left in them. Blue prints and denim are always so popular I keep a big bin of these fabrics in my studio so I knew they'd be lots of lovely potential to combine the shirts with.

The picture below is before I start to chop them up. The 2 shirts are on the left, next to them a striped curtain bought at Vinnies 2 weeks ago. Below that some offcuts of stenciled fabric from other garments I've made and next to that some scraps of cotton upholstery fabrics bought on other thrifting trawls. 




Theres a bit of a formula to how I'm going to alter these shirts to remake into dresses. Some styles seem to stay in fashion for a very long time and I was making dresses like this 40 years ago! Back then I called them "bag dresses" and so shall I continue to call them.

To make 2 bag dresses you'll need 2 shirts and a pile of other fabrics to patch together for the skirt.

Step 1, cut off the lower part of each shirt below the patch pockets in a straight line. I also cut off the sleeves of the striped shirt.



#2, cut off the bottom curved part of the shirt in a straight line, so that the shirt is now has a top section, middle and hem section. Sew the placket openings down of each middle section.

#3, swap the middle sections between the 2 shirts.  Right sides together sew each to the bottom of the top (collared) section.

Now a large rectangle of patched together fabric will be made for the skirt and sewed to the bottom of the middle section.

I finished one dress today. Perhaps the second one will get done tomorrow and I'll show how the patch skirt is made.
















Monday, 18 March 2019

dogs breakfast becomes gourmet fare, part 2


The Jacket was lined with a light knit. The lining pieces were cut from the pattern, overlaid on the green cotton and stitched on in a grid pattern. Attaching this lining was intended to make the finished garment reversible. The busy-ness of the print would also help disguise the stitching that was going to show on the inside as the appliques were sewed on.

Going through my pile of fabrics I found some cotton broadcloth in a matching lime green and another in orange. These pieces were selected to make stencil prints on with the intention that they would be cut into patches to applique onto the jacket as an element of the surface decoration.

stenciling orange textile paint onto lime green cotton broadcloth

stenciling cerise onto orange cotton broadcloth

finished stenciling on the lime green background

When completed I was happy with the stenciled prints and decided another print fabric would needed for the right balance. Diving into my piles of "resources" again I re-discovered the partly cannabalised doona cover I'd used for the backing of the Wiksten Haori Jacket a couple of weeks ago. The colours of its print tied in with the lime/orange colour theme so it was selected as the suitable candidate.

In the next step the front bands were cut from the lime green stenciled broadcloth and sewed to the coat. From a bright pink cotton voile I cut circles and sewed them following the front bands and across the back. At home later that evening I stitched the spots with lime green embroidery thread and running stitch. In the picture below you can see squares cut from more of the stenciled broadcloth as I was arranging them on the surface to decide if I liked the collage. They are then pinned in place and sewed.


beginning to arrange appliques on the surface.

laying up more appliques. The large tapered shapes are cut from the same doona cover fabric I used to line the Wiksten Haori Jacket a couple of weeks ago (shown in an earlier blog)


At the end of the day most of the appliques had been attached to the surface.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Dog blanket evolution

A few days ago I bought this lime green cotton blanket at Vinnies for $2. In this blog post today you can start following the evolution of how the dog blanket evolves into an art to wear coat.

lime green cotton blanket in the right corner
Yesterday I cut the blanket out in my as yet unpublished pattern the Jorja Coat. This is a hip length jacket with draping fronts and a flared 3/4 length sleeve. It has bands down the front and on the sleeve hems. I was able to cut the hem edges of the coat back and fronts with the blanket fringing left intact.




The blanket was square, measuring only 1.4m on each side, so I had to do some clever patching together from all the leftover scraps to get enough fabric for the second sleeve. It was very time consuming but I felt it was worth it at the end when there was only that tiny pile of offcut scrap that is shown at the bottom left hand corner of the picture below.




Above is a picture of the coat sewed up. The bands will be cut from the piece of matching colour cotton broadcloth laying folded on the right sleeve. However I'll have to cut the side seams back open as I've decided to do some applique and stitching over the surface. Having the textile flat is the only practical way to both machine and hand stitch the surface. When thats done the side seams will get sewed back up again.

The cotton broadcloth will be stenciled before the bands are cut. The broadcloth is new, unused fabric and I'll have to wash the coat before sewing the bands on. It doesn't have any odour but the fabric is quite dirty.

This is the place I'm up to as as I write this blog. After publishing this in a moment I'll be getting out the textile paints and stencils to do some printing on the broadcloth.

You'll see the results of that in my next blog. 


Murrurundi 14/03/19, over the fence
Before coming to the studio this morning I took the picture above looking over the fence into my neighbours back yard.


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

giving my own halo a bit of a polish...


Steam is coming out of my ears again…Two weeks ago I decided to bite a bullet I’ve been dodging for ages and get on Instagram. With the bullet lodged in my teeth I’ve been enthusiastically signing myself up to all the interesting sewing peeps and tags. Theres masses and masses of tags for sustainability, ethical sewing, recycling, upcycling….rah de rah. However I soon had that horrible sinking feeling you get when you scratch the surface a bit and find your million carat diamond ring is a chip of ornery glass. On closer investigation its apparent so many of them are just green washing pretenders.

I call this the Kermit Syndrome, cos its hard to be green….

Sigh….there is no point in spending my life screeching like a banshee and pointing my claw. I think the best thing I can do is try to regularly remind people what the issues are and educate, educate, educate….

Big point I want to remind people about today is the virtue of buying and consuming local. Buy things that are produced as close to home as possible. You might hope that a big shiny halo is lighting up over your head if you buy something made in a third world country by a village artisan….but if it had to travel 10,000km in big jet plane half away across the world to end up in your high street gift shop….then it’s neither ethical or sustainable. Though I’ll concede its probably a tiny bit more virtuous than buying something plastic from Kmart made in a ginormous polluting Chinese factory…

I don’t want to lecture or harangue and least of all paint myself as a shiny beacon of virtue. Let me own here I continue to buy things and do things that contribute to our waste and pollution problems. But I do it consciously and in other ways try to compensate for those decisions. So by all means if you want to buy something you’re well aware is over packaged, made from synthetic materials and produced in dubious circumstances in a third world country and you don’t care, or think the consequences are somebody elses responsibility to fix – go right ahead and enjoy your purchase. You will dismiss anything I have to say here as the demented ranting of an old hippie crone who fried her brain on illicit substances…(!!!???)

This is the main source of where I get fabrics and clothes to upcycle into the garments I make.

This is a picture of Vinnies Murrurundi, where I was an hour ago sourcing some stuff to upcycle. I like the way Vinnies obviously don't spend a lot on pretentious presentation of the shop front!








Inside the shopfittings and displays are just as unpretentious!





A cabinet of goodies. I get lots of beads, plastic and metal components to upcycle into adornments from this area





After 15 minutes this is my collected booty - a green cotton rug and a magnificent piece of vintage blue/beige brocade from the dog blanket pile @ $1 a piece, 6 skeins of knitting yarn @ $3, a brass bangle for 50c,  2 metres of cotton batik fabric @ $2,  4-5 metres of beaded trim @ $2, the 5x china bowls @ $3, jumper @ $2.....total spent $14.50




wow, pretty china!



The area for sheets and doona covers. I get most of my fabrics for sampling for $2-5 from what is offered here. Sometimes I come across really special ones that have been suitable for lining or making an entire art garment, with the addition of stenciling, applique, stitching etc....



the lovely volunteer Vinnies check out lady showing a jumper I bought

When I got home I added the bowls to my kitchen cabinet of wholly thrift shop collected kitchen ware, except I must confess the glazed dinner plate on the far right is from a 6 piece dinner setting that was a Xmas gift from a friend.





Sunday, 10 March 2019

shearing the old mutton

I spend most of my days cutting into fibre and I don't draw the line at applying the scissors to my own head.

eeeek, that awful hair must go...
The last few days I've been fed up seeing my awful dowdy grey hair in the pictures I've been showing...I haven't been to a hairdresser for 18 months. Though that's no record for me as I didn't go for 10 years when I had dreadlocks. I cut them off 12 years ago as they were almost waistlength but rotting off at the ends. Ten years is long enough to have same hairstyle anyway.

There has always been an issue lately about getting to the hairdresser - I'm too busy, too poor or there has just been too long a wait to get appointment.

This is certainly not the first time I've cut my own hair.

Try it, its fun!








Saturday, 9 March 2019

How to cut the mustard

Yesterday I was thrilled to find this fabulous piece of woven cotton cloth in my local Vinnies. This 1.8m long piece of mustard and black fringed fabric cost $3. Hard to tell how old it may be and there was no label attached to identify where it was made. Usually these lengths are made in India but this one had such a distinctly tribal look I wondered if it might have been South American or African. However old it is, it's in perfect condition; unfaded, no stains or holes and probably never washed because the cotton is still has a stiff hand.

me in the retail area of my studio with the Vinnies $3 woven cotton cloth
The new pattern I'm working on is going to be called the Jorja Coat. I've just finished a knit sample and this lovely mustard cloth seemed to have great potential for the next sample which needed to be in a woven fabric. I could see the potential to incorporate the lovely fringed edge along the back and fronts of the Jorja Coat.

Jorja pattern pieces laid out on the woven cloth prior to cutting to incorporate the fringed edge

this is my knit sample for the Jorja Coat
After cutting the fronts and back in the mustard cloth I needed to choose a contrast fabric for the sleeve and front bands....black seemed the logical choice....as usual. Because it seemed such a predictable choice I decided to take a risk to try something different and pulled out a selection of pieces from my collection of vintage upholstery fabrics. I picked out the tapestry at the top of the picture below that has the small circular motifs to cut as bands.

the 4 fabrics on the right are pieces of salvaged cloth from thrift shops
Below are pictures of the finished Jorja Coat in the woven fabric. I was really pleased with how cutting the natural fringed edge of the original fabric made a wonderful feature on the finished garment. I was also pretty happy with the bands. 

Just a reminder!...the cloth and bands that the coat is made from are both thrift shop salvaged fabrics that cost less than $4 in total. The result is a unique art to wear garment that is durable enough to be worn for decades.



front of the Jorja Coat

back of the Jorja Coat




Wednesday, 6 March 2019

In love with Maynard....


My Maynard Dress is finished…though my version may not be recognisable by its designer Lauren as I’ve taken substantial liberties with the interpretation. The Maynard Dress has only been recently published and designer Lauren of Elbe textiles is currently blogging a sew along so for any of you interested here's the link…


When I saw the dress being promoted on Instagram I was immediately taken with it because it was a zero waste pattern and my personal dressing aesthetic is always drawn to styles that are eastern and tribal. When the designer suggested it may need to be altered to suit a wearer of less than 5’5” (162cm) in stature this was another challenge to rise to as I’m 5’6” (165cm) and a bust size larger at 120cm than the largest grade the Maynard is published for. So essentially my figure is – 6”(15cm) shorter and 6” wider than what the dress is best supposed to suit…heh! we shall see!



The instructions are some of the best I’ve ever seen and the many diagrams are large and technically perfectly illustrated. Lauren writes in clear language that is right to the point for each step of the construction. For those new to the concept of “zero waste” the pattern sheet might look quite confounding! However, it is well explained how to apply it to the fabric and how to cut. I did actually diverge from that and cut my pattern into the sections because I wasn’t using a flat, smooth, continuous piece of textile under the pattern. As outlined in my previous blog I patched fabrics together to make the rectangle of 216cm x 140cm wide that was needed. This made it hard to transfer the markings and chalk lines because my fabric was lumpy and textured with seams so cutting the pattern sections apart to mark them was a more practical method.

I didn’t add any allowances to the side seams for 2 reasons - I knew there was a lot of natural ease allowed for and because I wasn’t going to sew conventional seams which would have taken up 2cm. I used my overlay and sew with 3-step zigzag method which allows for controlled fraying of the cut fabric edges. The seams are only overlaid 1cm so that was going to create a few extra cm of ease all around.

When I sewed the centre back inverted pleat I took note of the designers suggestion that the depth of this could be altered to suit the wearer. I decided to leave the entire middle of the pleat unsewed, sewing it a few cm only at the top and bottom. This allowed for the width of my back and ease of arm movement (always flapping those arms like an old chook). Another annoying thing about being an old chook is having rounded shoulders so I made a little downwards dart on either side of the pleat along the top....voila…the top back now accommodated the hunchback of Murrurundi…

alterations I made to the back

The fronts were constructed as per the pattern without alteration. However, I did add a large triangle gusset at each back shoulder arm opening to allow for my rippling biceps. This an alteration the designer takes into account that may be needed by some people and it is well explained how to go about this. I found it easy to do and a very satisfactory solution to getting a good fit at the armhole.




The length suits me just fine, hemlines above the ankle and at lower calf are my preference so I didn’t add anything to the original pattern.



I did sew a button high on the left breast and a loop to the edge of the right front so it could be looped up to hang off the button. This was done just because I like the folds that are created by doing that and served no other practical purpose. The dress folds very well over the bust and didn't require any closure for modesty. In the picture you can see another button at the centre front, but once again that was only added for embellishment. Where the dress crosses over it stays and doesn't need any assistance from closures.



Here's a picture of how the dress crosses over and is tied at the side...




 I finished the hem by turning it to the outside and over sewing it with all the tiny little strips that were cut off the sides of the fabric when the pieces were cut out at the beginning.  This may sound quite ditzy but I really liked the effect. Over time, as the garment is worn and washed I hope that lots of fibre will fray off to make it like a fuzzy braid.




Worn as a coat with front untied....



I like the garment worn either as a dress or loose and open as a coat. I will sell this first version of the Maynard but are definitely planning to add several versions in the future to my own wardrobe.