Tag Archives: sewing

Work in Progress

Palm fronds
Gelli plate print
from hand-cut stencil

Work in progress.  Under construction.  Delayed. 

Sometimes that’s all there is. Nothing is finished. Projects are at a standstill waiting for something.  That’s my story this week.  It’s frustrating, but I know that eventually I’ll finish and check off several things at the same time.  

This week I cut another three-part stencil based on an abstraction of palm frond and printed some tests with the Gelli plate.  It was cold in the studio in the mornings, so I moved some projects into another room.  I started sewing a bag but put it aside waiting for a hardware order to work its way through customs from Canada.

Bag fabric waiting for hardware

I started fitting a muslin for a french jacket and realized I didn’t know what I was doing so had to stop and study.  

Dreaming of a jacket beyond my skill level


Making a muslin for the french jacket


In the meantime, there were computer problems that I don’t have resolved yet. 

So there it is.  Lots of action, not much progress.   Hope your work is going more smoothly!


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Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern in New Mexico

Last week I wrote about seeing “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” at Reynolda House Museum. This is part 2 of the series.

There have been many exhibits of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings and books about her life. Her biographical details are well documented, so I won’t repeat much of that here. My interest is mainly in her wardrobe and how her clothing style remained fairly consistent throughout her life.

During her marriage to Alfred Stieglitz (1924-1946), O’Keeffe lived in New York City. In 1929 she started spending part of each year in New Mexico. After Stieglitz’s death in 1946, she moved in New Mexico permanently.

In New Mexico she expanded her wardrobe to include denim and colorful cotton dresses that were more practical in the dessert environment.

A favorite style was a simple wrap dress called an “artist’s smock” introduced by Neiman Marcus in 1950. She had more than 20 of these dresses in her wardrobe. She also bought multiples of simple flat shoes.


One of the most striking dresses in this exhibit is a 1954 “chute” (parachute) dress by Emilio Pucci that O’Keeffe purchased around the same time she was experimenting with abstracting natural and architectural forms in a V-shape. The dress was displayed near O’Keeffe’s Polaroid photos of v-shaped canyons and her painting “In the Patio, IX”.

O’Keeffe was introduced to Asian art as a student and continued a life-long study of it. The label says, “Unlike most of her peers, who came to modern, abstract art through encounters with Expressionism and Cubism in Paris, O’Keeffe developed a modern aesthetic from a lasting immersion in Eastern arts. Evident in these galleries is the powerful role of emptiness in Asian paintings, and the beauty of spaces defined or activated by lines that are not filled in. The voids in her art, as in Zen practices, are often spaces that quiet the mind and invite inwardness.”

She collected kimonos on her travels and may have made some of them herself.

She also had dresses with frog button closures and mandarin collars.

O’Keeffe also collected a few pieces of jewelry, Native American silver pieces and an Alexander Calder pin shaped like OK, the first two letters of her last name.

Later in life she continued to wear black suits and to sit for photos in black garments and her signature jewelry. In 1983, at the age of ninety-six, she ordered a black suit consisting of pants, skirt, vest, and jacket from a men’s tailor in New York. The inclusion of pants was step toward the feminism of the era and in keeping with the androgynous look of the wise elder that Georgia O’Keeffe cultivated in her later life. 

This exhibition shows how one artist integrated a personal aesthetic into her life and work. Georgia O’Keeffe developed her style early in life and stayed consistent throughout her life. She followed fashion, but brought it into her wardrobe only when it fit with her style. She combined influences from fashion, architecture, and oriental art into her clothing, lifestyle, and art.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s popularity and influence continues today, more than 30 years after her death at age 98. While she has always been well known in the art world, this exhibit has expanded her influence to the fashion world. In a fashion show in May of this year, Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director for Christian Dior, cited the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition (when it was at the Brooklyn Museum) as one of the influences for the Christian Dior 2018 Resort collection.

Some of the looks appear to be very similar to specific items from Georgia O’Keeffe’s wardrobe, including her favored gaucho hats. (Click here to see a slideshow of the collection.) I’m not sure that she would have added tassels to her vest and forgotten to wear a skirt, but I think she would appreciated knowing that her style is still Living Modern.

If you want to see “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” before it closes on November 19, 2017, click here for more information.

[P.S. On a personal note: When I was a student at Wake Forest University in the 1970’s, Reynolda House was used for some functions of the school. I remember attending a poetry class in an upstairs bedroom that currently functions as a gallery for part of the Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibition. The Reynolda House Museum is quite fabulous and has an impressive collection of American art.  My favorite part is the party basement… bar, lounge, squash court, bowling alley, and indoor swimming pool. It’s worth a visit any time you’re in Winston-Salem.]


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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. 

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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.


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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. 

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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)

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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.  

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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

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

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.

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