Monday, December 31, 2012

New ゆかた (浴衣) - Xmas Present a Big Hit!

You may remember I made the Roommate a new yukata (cotton kimono) ゆかた (浴衣) for xmas.  Well, here's a quick update showing the only gift I made this year on the handsome model.  He has not taken it off much since he opened the package xmas morning, so I think that's a good sign.  

He was thoroughly surprised...hadn't missed his old one (which I used to line this new one), and had forgotten about picking out the nigiri sushi fabric, too!  Which means he's the perfect person to make presents for.  ;-)

I lucked out, sort of, in that he was stranded in SFO during Hurricane Sandy & I had 2 days off work, so not only did I have time to get it done, I didn't have to hide what I was working on!  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Handmade Quilty Xmas

We dug out our Xmas stuff this year (we were in the Galapagos last year), and though we didn't do much decorating (Little Miss Bella appears to be fairly dangerous to trees and ornaments), I got out a couple of items I made when I was quilting a lot (and Mohammed was making my clothes, not me!).

This first was a quilt I saw someplace, but I decided to turn it into a Christmas item, using up some of my red & green & Christmas fabric. 

The second, a table runner, is made using some quilt blocks I really like because you can do so much with them.  The Around the World Quilt I made uses the same quilt block.  I'm still amazed at the amount of xmas fabric I was able to buy in Abu Dhabi!  

Happy Holidays & Best for 2013.  And a 1963 TV clip to get you in the mood!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A little project with some Japanese silk

Don't get me wrong, I like Ikea.  But there are some things they do better than others.  Bathmats - YES!  Lights - NO!  All their lights, especially the table lights, only allow very low wattage light bulbs, which means that you need about twelve to get enough light to read.  
Our front room/living room is fairly dark because it just has one main light in the center of the ceiling.  We already replaced what was there with a much better, brighter, light, but still, if you're in the corners, you need more light.  An Ikea floor lamp serves us well behind our love seat (also Ikea!).  But even though we had two cool lime green table lamps on our dining room table, we still couldn't see worth a darn when reading or eating.  

So last weekend we headed over to Lowe's and bought a better lamp with a plain off-white shade.  And then used a piece of kimono silk to recover it, using Momtastic's instructions.  I recommend looking the instructions over before you get started...a flat piece of fabric won't work unless you want pleats.  You have to make a curvy pattern to make it fit the shade smoothly.

The before (use your imagination), an off-white shade.  The after?  See below.  And no comments on the photography, please!  ;-)

Music?!  How about Shine a Light?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Even more! Can't stop the paper dresses

I'm doing my best to show what's on display at the Hillwood House Museum in the Prêt-à-Papier exhibit, but really, you need to head over there before December 31 & see it yourself!  

Isabelle de Borchgrave, a Belgian artist, creates paper clothing based on historic & modern fashion.  She often doesn't have the real item in front of her, instead she creates based on paintings & photographs.  

Below are a bunch of photos that the Roommate & I took last weekend.  As a reminder, you can always click on the photo to see the original (usually much larger) size.  

Did I mention I was fascinated by the lace?!

One of Empress Josephine's many dresses--classic Empire
waist & extra-long train to indicate her status.
Detail - Josephine's dress
Train from Empress Josephine's dress.

This purse was part of the above ensemble.
In my opinion, 1920s style doesn't look any better in paper!
Mrs. Post was married 4 times--in fact there was
an exhibition of her wedding dresses last fall!
This is one of her wedding dresses, recreated by de Borchgrave.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Paper Dresses from Isabelle de Borchgrave

I wanted to share a few more photos the Roommate & I took @ Hillwood House Museum.  The Prêt-à-Papier exhibition, by Isabelle de Borchgrave is on view thru December 2012 and I definitely recommend it if you are interested in fashion, designing, textile art, non-traditional art, or tromp l'oeil.
You'll see a man's & woman's traditional costumes from Provence.  The woman's shoes were part of this piece.  I thought they were fun, but what really impressed me was the lace.  It looked real to me!  I couldn't touch to make 100% sure, but I believe them that it was really paper.  

The man's costume was great, too; I just love the layers of paint built up to resemble fabric.  I think it shows really well here on this green jacket.  

We got a kick out of this throw, too...which is also paper!  But it looked real.  I wanted to pick it up & unfold it to see if she'd only painted the parts that show?  I also wanted to fold it more neatly.  We have plenty of fabrics lying around our house--but we tend to display them differently!  Do you see why I began thinking all the fabrics in the house were made of paper?!  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Last Quilt Update

A photo to show you the quilt, which is now finished & on our bed.  I had to bind it, which required lots of handwork (and you know I hate that stuff).  I am trying to take a Gertie approach to handwork & think of it as, zen stitching!  

even finished up after our yoga class this morning!  Everybody say, "Ommmmmm!"  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Isabelle de Borchgrave - Paper Dresses!

Have you ever folded & refolded a piece of paper so many times it becomes soft & pliable?  Or played with a piece of paper when bored and folded it into tiny squares one direction and then another, over and over?  And noticed that it has suddenly changed from a stiff printer-worthy sheet to being almost textile-like?  Well, that's what Isabelle de Borchgrave does.  

Her process is quite lengthy, but it begins with crumpled pieces of paper, she then paints the paper & re-crumples.  Then she paints the back & re-crumples and then the front with another color & some more re-crumpling.  If that sounds easy, I'm sure it's not.  She also studies fashion & design & dresses in museums & then creates 3D clothing using pattern pieces--but no sewing.  I'm guessing glue?!  

I first heard about her on a trip to Istanbul 7-8 years ago.  Unfortunately we'd just missed an exhibition of her work there.  But we lucked out recently because the Hillwood House & Museum in DC (home of Marjorie Merriweather Post) had an exhibition of her work, and even commissioned de Borchgrave to create a few pieces based on paintings in the house.  

Hillwood House is not especially interesting to us otherwise, I do have to admit; probably why we've never been there.  She was a collector (and I totally get that!), and it's fun to see how much she had & how it's displayed.  But for a house re-modeled in the late 1950s (one of my favorite architectural/furnishings time periods) it's rather Victorian...LOTS of stuff.  Carpets, bookcases, furniture, tables, little tables, paintings, gewgaws and lamps and candlesticks on tables and shelves full of stuff.  Mostly Russian stuff--Faberge, dinnerware, snuff boxes, etc. etc. etc.  Her husband was the ambassador in Moscow after the Revolution--the Russians had no regard for anything to do with the Romanov family (or anything from their palaces) and she bought loads of stuff and shipped it back home.  Perhaps I'm not interested because I'm just jealous!  I'd love to have loads of money & free shipping, but send me to India, Bolivia or West Africa, please!  

However, the exhibit is called Prêt-à-Papier and is just wonderful.  Highly's there thru the end of December.  If you go to the artist's home page, you can book a tour of her new studio, useful if you'll be in Brussels anytime soon!

Here's a painting of Countess Samoilova, and the paper dress created based on the painting.  I was especially impressed with the looked very real unless you got too close.  In fact all the paper clothing looked so real that I began thinking that all the fabrics in the house (draperies, bedspreads) were paper, too!  And I had to keep reminding myself that the drapes draped beautifully because they were fabric--not paper!  

Notice to the left that she also creates paper shoes!  I'll show more of those later in another post.  (I took loads of pictures--I love museums where they let you take photos as long as you don't use flash).  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Last Quilt (?)

I made this quilt when we lived in Abu Dhabi.  I'm calling it the Last Quilt because I don't really plan on making many more quilts. (How many do you need? We only have 2 beds!)

A friend helped pick out the main fabric & then I did a bunch of tests w/ the leaves, green swirly, dark purple & the pale purple to see which showed off the pattern the best.  I originally thought I'd use the dark purple, too, but though it matched, it was just too dark, & because it is solid, too boring w/ the pale purple (which has a pattern, but hard to see in these photos).  You can see which version won out above.  I really like how it's sort of an optical illusion:  is the green floating on the pale purple?  

Here are a few more up close photos which show the swirly machine quilting.  I like it because it matches the swirliness of the green fabric, too.  Denise at Upstairs Quilting machine-quilted it for me & it looks amazing.  It has bamboo/cotton batting inside, which she said was really nice to work with.

Below you can see that the actual quilt top was rather small, so I added three borders. First the checkerboard using the dark purple.  Then I (fortunately) had plenty of the leaf fabric, so made that border nice & wide.  But even then, when I pulled it out of the box in the basement a while back, I could see it wouldn't be big enough for our queen-sized beds.  So I found the plain purple border (far right in photo below) at Hancock Fabric and added that.  That's the fabric I'll do the binding with, too.  
For the back, again, I was thinking Last Quilt, so I made an attempt to use up as many scraps & fat quarter sets as I could.  It's very scrappy & doesn't match at all, but I think it's sort of fun.  And we can flip over the quilt every once in a while for a change.

I had so many great sets that friends have given me over the years; you can see two of them here, but we don't really have the sort of house where I have lots of quilted things laying around or hanging, and so I attempted to use a small percentage of them up--at least I'll see them a bit more now that they are no longer living in a box of fat quarters!

Tilly always does such a good job remembering to add a song...I often forget, but there is always music in my head--my big problem is getting that song out so I can concentrate!  

Here's a fun one:  Travis Tritt, Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Simplicity 3994 - Karen Makes a Coat!? The Muslin

I found this pattern, Simplicity 3944, on etsy.  It's from 1941!  It cost 15 cents back then! 

It's a little bit of a weird first I was freaked out because I couldn't tell whether it had been used & I thought that the markings on the pattern pieces had faded because I couldn't see any...then I realized that it had been used (there are markings in pencil & some lovely old-fashioned writing) so the pieces are ready to go.  But there still aren't any markings (darts, grain lines, etc).  I don't know how the original owner figured out how what shape & size the pieces should be and I can't tell if the 5/8" seams have been added.  

The instructions do say to add the 5/8" seam, so I'm guessing the previous owner did so.  

Not many markings on
the pattern pieces!
The patterns have only one mark, which you can see in the photo to the left. (It's part of the pocket.)

Can you see the G & the small & large dots?  I'm guessing the G & the small dots are clues; I'll look at the instructions more closely to see what the small dots mean.  I expect the large ones are just part of the pattern-making process.

Finally, here's the back of the pattern.  

I'm using an old sheet I got at the Salvation Army for the muslin...we'll see how it goes.  I still haven't decided what to do w/ my amazing double-sided fabric Marc Jacobs' wool from Mood: lined or unlined?  Reversible?  Is that even possible?  Or make contrasting cuffs & pockets to show the reverse?  I may have to head over the Allison @ Bits of Thread to help me with these decisions...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Roommate Gets a New ゆかた (浴衣)

We lived in Japan from 1993-1994, teaching English at an eikaiwa (conversation school).  The Roommate got this yukata (cotton kimono) there and we both love it because of the writing and the graphic quality of that writing.  I have no idea what it says, but I love writing systems, and this satisfies on so many levels. 

However, it's wearing out.  The seams are holding up, but the fabric is worn through in many places.  I have new fabric for another, but am dismantling this yukata so that I can re-use it as lining for the new one (at least the parts I can re-use...probably just the lower half.  I started dismantling (okay, seam-ripping!) and then began to wonder just how long it had been since I'd washed it.  So it's in the dryer right now...just to be sure I'm working with a clean version.  

I dug out my Japanese kimono pattern book (see below), and have been using the proportions from that, along with measurements from the existing robe.  Japanese kimono use most of the fabric because the pattern pieces are essentially just rectangles; they're also fairly easy to make because there is not really fitting in terms of width, it's the length that has to be modified, depending on the wearer's height.  If you're at all interested in purchasing used kimono to re-use for fabric, it is a pretty good idea--you won't get a bunch of tiny pieces that you can't do much with.  Lots of rectangles, and the back is often one large piece, not 2 pieces sewn together.  
Very little wasted fabric with a kimono pattern!
I finished it!  I had lots of time (Hurricane Sandy means no work today or tomorrow), plus I couldn't go anywhere (not safe to be on the streets), and the Roommate was out of town (stuck in SFO & couldn't get a flight back), so it was a great time to work on a present that wasn't meant to be a surprise, but why not?  The situation definitely called for it.  

See what you think...he picked out the fabric.  I wanted to use one of my West African wax prints (thinking "What a crazy mix--African batik & Japanese clothing!"), but he didn't like that idea.  It's an Alexander Henry print (I was going thru my scrap box & noticed his name was on a LOT of selvages!), that I got from an Etsy Shop, Lucky Frog (Lucky Kaeru).

Nigiri Sushi Yukata

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hallowe'en Fun!

 Happy Hallowe'en! 

This is a quick & relatively easy project.  I wish I had time to do one for everyone at work!  

I found the pattern on

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Hallowe'en Knitting Guess What!

Look at this photo & see if you can guess what I'm knitting. It's for the roommate to wear to work. It's just part of the project...

I just finished the test version, which took about 1 hour of knitting, & when he tried it on he laughed out loud! I suspect his students will, too. I'll update this post in the next week or so & then you'll find out if you are correct or not.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Keep Calm & Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell

Speaking of fashion in movies (were we? of course we were!), here are a few outfits I love...two suits (and some amazing hats) from His Girl Friday, one of our favorites.  

This hat gets a few comments in the film...
Like Charade & Some Like It Hot, we've seen it over & over & it does not get old.  The dialogue is so snappy & fast that it's hard to catch it all; might as well watch it again and pick up what you missed the first time!    

I love this hat!
According to, Rosalind Russell's clothing for the film was designed by Robert Kalloch.  

I actually think these clothes don't look dated at all.  However, all these stripes--you'd have to be quite slim to get away with it.