I have been making stuff and dreaming of making stuff all kinds of stuff. My followers may remember the Urban fabric I designed using photos from my trip to NYC earlier this summer (see post https://lisathorpeartist.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/). But I’ve been making more stuff. Here’s my latest.
This fabric fun inspired me to design a San Francisco fabric. Having lived in SF for over 10 years the images of spiral metal gates and stone work from Golden Gate park are near and dear to my heart. So here is a knit top I made with the featured fabric.
Now that I’m on this I just can’t stop. I created a photo montage fabric of old barn wood that I have just ordered to be printed and can’t wait to get my hands on it to sew up. I also was commissioned to create a photo montage fabric of a camp in upstate New York, the fabric includes wonderful old signs, worn door handles, window frames and more…. I’ll keep you posted on what comes next!
For months I’ve wanted to try out a fabric marbling technique that I read about. I got all the materials I needed and there it sat. I couldn’t carve enough time out, another stumbling block was the fact that to do the fabric marbling the fabric had to be soaked and dried ahead and a thickener needed to be mixed and rest for 24 hours. So when I did have the time I hadn’t done the prep and so it went for months. But this week I got it together and had a great time. It’s a fascinating process where you drip colors onto thickened water and the color spreads in radiating circles, then you add more color and more. There is very little control (at least in this novice foray) and I liked that. Letting go control and expectations was liberating. I wasn’t doing this for work or a magazine article or even any specific end goal, it was pure play and it felt good. I love, love, love the fabrics I came up with. I loved it so much that that evening I went on-line to order a bigger tray to work with so that I could make bigger swaths of fabric. The tray I had was 14” x 22” so that is the size of each fabric piece.
Although I didn’t have a goal in mind, after I printed my fabric I was inspired to make something with it. My excitement over the fabric combined with the spring weather and time change to longer days motivated me to make myself something wearable. So this blouse is what came of it! It’s been a long time since I sewed something for myself, and I love how this came out. It was a week with pockets of play and I’m looking forward to more like it. So give yourself some time to play.
This week I spent most of the week in my studio sewing. I have a couple of commissions that involve sewing the first being a processional banner for St Paul’s Church in Burlingame. Part way into the week my beloved, and much abused, Bernina sewing machine stopped sewing. I have to admit that I work this dear old friend hard and rarely oil or service her and I have high expectations that she will never stop; this week she could go no more, so off to the repair shop she went (sewing machines are one of the few mechanical things you can get repaired anymore). I dropped my faithful friend off with my fingers crossed that I hadn’t pushed her too hard this time. It got me reflecting on significant sewing machines in my life. Early on I was drawn to sewing, my mom always sewed for the family, especially special occasion dresses for my sister and I. It wasn’t long before I was sewing clothes for our tangle haired Barbies and other dolls. Somewhere along the way I was given a little kiddie hand crank sewing machine and away I went. My visions were bigger than that little machine and soon I was allowed to use my mom’s mocha brown Singer (like the one pictured on the left). When you sew you have to learn the ins and outs of your machine; the bobbin, the threading, the tension, to know your machine, to deftly put in the bobbin and thread it up in a snap is a true bond. When I left home of course I couldn’t take my mom’s favorite friend, that mocha Singer is still the sewing machine she sews on. So when my grandma offered me a typewriter as a graduation gift as she had done for my two siblings I declined and had the audacity to ask for a sewing machine instead. She agreed and I was given my first full-fledged sewing machine. It was a 1980 Kenmore, I tried to find a photo on the Internet but these were not the sturdiest machines and I’m not surprised no one is selling on one eBay. That Kenmore served me well but I dreamed of a German Bernina. At the time it was the premium of sewing machines sturdy and solid and full of stitches, just what a sewing machine should be. I bought this Bernina from a little old German man on Geary Street in San Francisco. It was the biggest purchase I have ever made. Mr. Bernina let me make bimonthly payments and I would bring in my check every two weeks and give my machine a stroke, the salesman finally felt so sorry for me he let me take it home two payments early, I guess after so many weeks he decided I was good for it. That machine (the middle one pictured) has been my companion ever since, sewing not just cloth but cardboard and paper and anything else I could think of. While it was in the shop I borrowed my friend Stephanie’s Bernina. This machine was given to Stephanie by my mother-in-law, right before she died. As I sewed on it this week, I felt I channeled Leonora in the whirly of the motor and the stepping of the stitches. It came to me that a great many church banners had been sewn by her on this machine, in fact the banners that grace the refectory here at The Bishop’s Ranch were sewn on this machine as well. What a gift to revisit my dear friend and mother-in-law through the hum of her machine (on the right). My machine is back from the shop working again but with a warning that replacement parts are no longer made so who knows how long we will be together. But with each stitch, zig and zag, this old stalwart comrade helps me sew together my passions and gifts, so thank you to all the sewing machines that stitched their way into my heart, this post is for you.
I spent the week at The Bishop’s Ranch Quilt Retreat. I have watched the myriad of quilting groups that come through, wandering the rows of tables piled high with colorful fabrics and tools of the trade; sewing machines, scissors, rolling cutters, rulers, on and on and on. Along with all the stuff and stash at these retreats there is an abundance of accumulated wisdom, practiced advice, and a flowing fount of ideas. I have been threatening to attend one of these bursting, bustling events myself for a few years and this week I finally did. I have a lot of sewing experience and have even done a bit of quilting but never seriously and never with all the tools and information. I tend to launch into things with a lot of enthusiasm but little knowledge and muddle my way through, with mixed results. This retreat provided me with two things I don’t usually have: 1. a wealth of shared tools and space, 2. more importantly, a generous community of experience and encouragement. Almost everything I do these days I do alone, my graphics work is just me and the computer and the rest of the time I am stashed away in my tiny bursting at the seams studio. I am something of an introvert so mostly I don’t mind the alone time, but this week I got to experience the joy of the sewing circle, the draw of the modern quilting bee. Back in the day when quilting bees were a part of life, church ladies and neighbors would get together to work on quilts, each in turn helping the other with wedding quilts, and baby quilts, anniversary quilts and quilts for the county fair. Women would chat and share, gossip and support. It was a productive excuse to take a break from the hard isolated work of keeping a household running back in those days. And today the needs are different but the draw is the same. We all are running full tilt in our own little worlds, getting snippets of friends on facebook, learning new things off of youtube. Don’t get me wrong I use those resources too, and it’s amazing what you can learn out there floating in the world wide web, but you are floating alone. I know we’ve got our “friends” and our “links” and our “bookmarks” and our “pinterest” but we are still sitting alone with our device….or more likely sitting with other people who are all searching their devices (I know because it happens all the time in my house ….myself included). But this week community was incarnate, we were there in the flesh, ideas, comments, instruction, feedback, sharing, help all happening in real time. It was invigorating and exhausting all at once. Although we were all working on our own projects, unlike the quilting bees of old, there was still a strong sense of collective effort. I went in with an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and managed to achieve that but gained much more from the passion and practice and patience of this modern sewing circle.
It was good to get out of my little box, otherwise know as my studio, and try something new. I made the bird banner (pictured above) members of the sewing circle and stitchery (picture below) The bird images are ipad drawings that I printed on fabric on my home printer then pieced in a traditional way and machine quilted. I am going to donate the wall hanging to The Bishop’s Ranch to raffle off for the 2012 annual fund. When there is a link for raffle tickets I’ll let you know.