New Beginnings



Oak Trio by Lucinda Howe

Oak Trio
9×12 inches
Acrylic on masonite
©2017 Lucinda Howe

Ah, September!  

Although January is officially the beginning of the year, September always makes me think of starting new projects.  Maybe it’s a holdover from school days.  September is the beginning of the year for many clubs and organizations.  It makes me hope that cooler weather is on the way.  I have some plein air painting trips planned for this fall, so I wanted to get my brushes wet and see if I remembered how to paint. 

Today I set aside my sewing and went over to Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education center to paint.  I was inspired by these old live oaks.  There aren’t many trees this large around my neighborhood.  It’s wonderful to have these beautiful trees nearby.  


Posted in Acrylics, Plein Air Tagged |

Cirque Dress

Cirque Dress

This week I finished the dress that was in progress last week.  This is a Marcy Tilton pattern nicknamed the “cirque dress” because of the gathered bubbles around the bottom third of the dress.  The crisp African print waxed cotton fabric holds the shape nicely.  It’s cool and comfortable to wear for the last few weeks of the summer. 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Sewing in Color

After sewing garments in black fabric the last few weeks, I was ready for a project with bright colors.  It will be hot enough here in South Carolina to wear sleeveless dresses for several more weeks, so I decided to make this “cirque dress” pattern from Marcy Tilton.  I’m using a waxed cotton African print from Mood Fabrics.  It has a crisp finish and looks the same on both sides.  It’s different from quilting cottons that have a definite right and wrong side.  

This print has over-all swirls on top of wide stripes of pink and green.  Because the pattern is asymmetrical, each piece is a different shape and the fabric has to be laid out in a single layer for cutting.  I made several sketches to figure out where I wanted stripes to match or intersect.  As usual, I’m making things more complicated than they need to be.  Wouldn’t it be easier to make this in a solid fabric?   Too late now.

I worked on the dress this week and meant to finish it today, but spent too much time running out to the deck to look at the solar eclipse.  What a treat to see it right in my back yard!

I still have to attach the collar, bind the armholes, and hem.  I’ll have it finished by next week.


Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Sewing Pants

One of my favorite things about sewing my own clothes is adding small details that personalize the design.  This week I made pants using a pattern from Diane Ericson and a woven Indian cotton fabric from Marcy Tilton Fabrics.  The length is slightly cropped to just above the ankle with darts tapering the bottom edge.  Each leg has three small tabs sewn into the darts as a decorative element.  The hem of one leg is shown above. 

When I started sewing again after a long hiatus, I was surprised to learn that there are now a number of independent pattern makers who sell patterns as downloadable pdf files.  You print the pattern and instructions on your own printer on letter size paper, and assemble it into a large sheet using lots of tape.  Usually there is a printed version for sale, too.  The pdf version is less expensive, but I’m not sure it’s much of an advantage unless you don’t have time to wait for the mail. But I had to try some to see how they work.  This pattern from Diane Ericson was a pdf file that included all sizes and instructions for fitting.  I liked the many ideas for different hem options.  It was easy to make once I was happy with the fit, so I expect I’ll be using this pattern again in the future. 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Lace Jacket


Black and white denim lace with red-purple underling and piping

Black and white denim lace
with red-purple underlining and piping

This week I finished the jacket I started last week.  The pattern  is Marcy Tilton for Vogue, V8982.  I used a black and white denim lace underlined and piped with red-purple sateen.  The piping emphasizes the curved seam that runs from the back collar, down the shoulder blade, and around to the side front.  I like the way the jacket turned out and am looking forward to wearing it when the weather cools off a bit.  

Detail of denim lace jacket

Detail of denim lace jacket (detail of side seam and dart)

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Next Sewing Project

Work in progress Jacket in black and white denim lace

Work in progress
Jacket in black and white denim lace

This week, I have started a lightweight jacket from a denim lace underlined with a purple silk and cotton blend and piping on the seams.  What was I thinking?  It should have been easy to make a simple unlined vest from this unusual fabric, but I had to make it complicated.  The fabric is from Marcy Tilton and the pattern is Vogue V8982.  

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Summer Sewing


Black knit with appliqué (front)

With summer weather alternating between extreme heat and thunderstorms this week, it seemed like a good time to stay at home and work in my studio. I finished the black cotton knit top that I was working on last week using Vogue V9254, a knit dress with an asymmetrical design. The neckline is offset at the center front, and the hem is left unfinished to allow the knit to roll to the front. I’m not sure if I like these details that are less precise than the way I learned to finish garments, but I wanted to follow the pattern the first time.

Black knit with appliqué (back)

I added an applique over the shoulder using a technique and stencil from Alabama Chanin. I cut the leaf shapes from white cotton knit and outlined the edges with a parallel whipstitch. I did the hand stitching before putting in the ¾ length sleeves.

Appliqué detail

I’ve also ordered some fabrics and pre-washed them to prepare for sewing fall garments. I have found many black and white fabrics available, but I’m having trouble finding bold colors. Even so, thinking about shapes, organizing a color story, and searching for materials are all invigorating parts of the creative process whether I’m sewing or painting.

How about you? What creative projects are keeping you busy these days?

Fabric stash

Posted in Studio Tagged |

Sewing Resources

Last week I showed you my studio set up for sewing.  I’m making a black cotton knit top using Vogue pattern #V9254 by Marcy Tilton.  Now that I’ve adjusted the fit, I wanted to add some embellishments before sewing the center front seam and sleeves. I made samples of several appliqué techniques and a stencil from Alabama Chanin. 

I decided to go with the simple white-on-white appliqué and rearranged the stencil pieces a little to fit over the left shoulder.  I used a fusible web (Steam-a-seam2) to secure the pieces temporarily while I stitch so I don’t have to work around pins. 

I’m stitching around the appliqué pieces with a basic parallel whipstitch.  

In the process of starting to sew again, I’ve found some resources for patterns and fabrics. Here are links to a few things I’m investigating.  Are you familiar with any of these?  Do you have suggestions for other places I should look?  


Vogue, Butterick, and McCalls  Patterns are expensive these days, but you can find them on sale for $4.99 occasionally. Look for Sandra Bettina, Marcy Tilton, and Katherine Tilton.  


Mood Fabrics in New York City as seen on Project Runway.  All kinds of basic and unusual fabrics, designer leftovers, new arrivals every day.

Marcy Tilton Fabrics Beautiful selection of cottons, linens, and knits that work with her patterns.  


Alabama Chanin Collection of cotton knit garments hand stitched (!) in Alabama.  They also sell 100% organic cotton knit fabric, books, stencils, and patterns for DIY.  

Read the story of Alabama Chanin here.


Posted in Studio Tagged |

Changing It Up

Sewing Inspiration Board

Sewing Inspiration Board

Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I was taught by my mother to sew aprons from handkerchiefs and grosgrain ribbon at age 6.  In junior high and high school, I won prizes in 4-H dress reviews, and I made most of the clothes I wore to college.  I bought a Kenmore sewing machine with summer job money the year after my first year at Wake Forest.  

That machine went with me though early jobs, several moves, marriage, divorce, and another marriage.  I made a tailored wool suits, bridesmaids dresses, and a wedding gown. 

Back then, North Carolina was the center of textile manufacturing.  There were numerous fabric outlets, and quality fabric was available and relatively inexpensive (compared to “‘store-bought” clothes), especially if you rummaged through the remnant barrels. 

Over the intervening years, I did some home decor sewing, but I spent a lot time on career, gardening, painting, and other interests.  I had less free time and more money, so I bought most of my clothes.  The choices weren’t always exciting, but I found things to wear.

Since I retired, I’ve been looking for some different pieces to add more art into my wardrobe.  I’ve discovered a renewed interest in sewing. I saw the costume exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art, met some people on the trip to Canada who are into textile art, and visited an “art to wear” boutique on a recent trip to Asheville.  When I get ready to sew, I found out that… oh my gosh, the fabric stores have closed! Or have only quilting fabrics! No one is sewing anymore! How could this have happened?  

Well, it’s not quite that bad.  Designers are making patterns, and some people are sewing garments.  But fabric shopping is online, patterns are downloadable pdf files, new fabrics have names like digital prints and scuba knits.  It’s going to take some time to figure this out, but I’m ready for a new adventure. In the video below, I invite you to come in and see how I have set up my studio for sewing.

So, what do you think of my new adventure?   Do you make clothes?  What are favorite sources for fabrics and patterns?  Are you interested in hearing more about my experiments, or do you just wish I’d stick to painting.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Quebec City

Quebec City Tulips ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Quebec City
©2017 Lucinda Howe

The second part of Jane LaFazio’s watercolor sketching class was in Quebec City, Canada. After a cool, wet spring, the weather warmed up the week we arrived.  The tulips were in full bloom around the Chateau Frontenac and City Hall, but as the temperature rose to 85 degrees, the petals were dropping even as Jane conducted a lesson in flower painting.


Quebec City Window boxes ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Quebec City
Window boxes
©2017 Lucinda Howe

The city had beautiful old buildings with flower boxes on many of the windows.  I did these sketches quickly in pencil and added watercolor later when I had a few spare minutes. 


Quebec City Boat Tour on St. Lawrence River ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Quebec City
Boat Tour on St. Lawrence River
©2017 Lucinda Howe

One afternoon, we enjoyed a boat tour on the St Lawrence River on the Louis Jolliet, named for the French explorer and cartographer. 


 Île d'Orléans ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Île d’Orléans
©2017 Lucinda Howe

On our last day together, we had a tour of  Île d’Orleans, and island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, a short drive from Quebec City, known as the “garden of Quebec”.  The island has a warm microclimate and is know for its produce including strawberries, apples, wines, and maple syrup. 

Posted in Plein Air, Travel Tagged , |