Flowers, Light, Shadows and How to Change Your Life

Am I going to blog about wilted flowers today?

Nope. However, I do like to observe when flowers slowly change and become unique in their decay. Some collapse looking quite sad, while others fight and try to stay on top of things. Just like people when they get older.

These tulips were the inspiration for an idea, which was meant to become this month’s fabric manipulation. But then, while stitching I had another idea, and so it goes.

My last attempt to create a curtain wasn’t at all what I was hoping for, but I still wanted to give the idea one more try. There was an old flowery bed sheet in my stack and I started to cut out and applique some individual flowers on a hand-made curtain. I like when light and shadow are an integral part of the design.
What you see on the left is the appliqued fabric with the light shining from behind. The top flower and butterfly are not cut yet. The image above right shows the reverse side, with the flowers being a bit blurred, but still recognizable. Reality beats blog pictures in this case, but you get the idea.

And here is one more impression in the morning light:

I’ve used reverse applique, because the stems and leaves are quite delicate and too much work to cut, pin and sew into place. Instead, I cut the flowers roughly from the bed sheet, sew them on and cut the excess away like in the image below. Will I ever applique the entire curtain? I don’t think so, but it doesn’t matter. Even just one flower or two make the curtain special in a humble way and I can always add more and let it grow slowly.

The important thing was to start and that can sometimes be difficult. Everyone is familiar with procrastination. Think of all the attempts to eat better, exercise more or clean the closet. Inertia sets in and…

Starting a creative project can be similar.

But last week, I made an interesting discovery, a technique to change one’s behavior. BJ Fogg  of Stanford University works with the principle that every permanent change starts with a small step. The concept is to create a tiny habit and attach it to the end of an existing one.

The unique feature is that the new behavior shouldn’t take longer than 30 seconds. Once the 30 seconds are over, it can be expanded if you feel like it. With that, procrastination is  out of the picture, because everyone has 30 seconds. Surprisingly, it really works. They were the best spent 30 seconds of last week.

What did I use it for? One of the things I did was to tackle the second biggest chaos zone in the house. You know, the kind, that looked like a thrift store had exploded into the 50 square feet of my front foyer. It was so big and messy that every time I passed I had to close my eyes. Well, not anymore.

If you feel the need for a change go to: http://tinyhabits.com/

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Stitching and a Second of Eternity

Do you know the tale of the Shepherd Boy by the Brothers Grimm? It’s what parents in Germany tell their kids when asked the impossible to answer question about the immenseness of time:

A king asked a very smart shepherd boy, how many seconds there were in eternity. The boy thought for a minute and said: “In the hinterlands of Pommerania, there’s a mountain made from the hardest diamond.  It’s one hour deep into the earth, one hour up toward the sky, one hour long and one hour wide.  To this mountain comes a little bird, once every hundred years, to sharpen its beak.  And when this bird has worn away the whole mountain, the first second of eternity has passed.”

This tale from 1819 has always been one of my favorites. Every time I start to sew I feel like that little bird.

I’m using quilting thread and filling my doodle piece with stitches takes forever. I started this piece, because my repertoire of stitches is fairly limited. Judith Baker Montano’s “Elegant Stitches” is perfect for helping me learn something new!
The book teaches all the stitches one can possibly imagine,…
…how to combine them:

and how to make flowers and trees:
It’s a great book to broaden one’s ‘stitch vocabulary’.

For your own practice:
Elegant Stitches (with preview)
by Judith Baker Montano

Finishing Touch Done

It’s done! It’s done! Its done! I am ready to attach binding to everything that won’t complain or run away. Eventually all of my husband’s shirts will feature beautiful necklines, because I’ve a new found love for adding trim. And best of all, there is an easy way to do it.

But, if you have no intention of adding trim to anything anytime soon, jump to the last paragraph and have a great weekend.
Adding trim has always been my most dreaded task. I’m no master stitcher. My stitches often behave like toddlers when I don’t pay attention. They would rummage in the neighbor’s garden, if I take my eyes off them for even a second. See a nice example below right.

The image on the left shows my new back-side with less wandering stitches (but using the same amount of attention). So how did I do it?
Here is my easy addition to Chanin‘s marvelous instructions: In her book the binding strip is folded in the middle, then ironed and attached. Mine has an added 1/4″ of width on the back: Add it to the binding, fold and iron it like the image below.

Position the wider side to the back so that all the stitches will land properly.

It makes attaching trim so much easier and and more pleasurable. If you don’t have enough time to sew one of Chanin’s incredible dresses, it’s an easy way to add that little something special to an existing or thrifted t-shirt or blouse.

It’s almost like wearing a necklace.

On another note, I went to see “The Artist” yesterday and was very disappointed. I was prepared to like it; because, what’s not to like about a black and white silent film with great acting, artfully done. But I didn’t like it, not even a bit. That makes me one of the 3 people in the world who didn’t. Have you seen it? What do you think?

Any film you’ve seen recently, that is a must-see?

Fabric Manipulation

I’ve always admired smocked surfaces, but never tried it before. For our fabric manipulation challenge I thought a great opportunity to experiment with the technique. Jersey is not an obvious fabric choice, but it turned out much better than expected; another example of the versatility of t-shirts.

I made some pleats in preparation for the smocking, but realized that a few pins could do the job just as well.

This is the (unfinished) result. It’s essentially English smocking with larger pleats than what is used in traditional honeycomb stitching.

Conclusion: I can definitely see this technique utilizing colored threads and different smocking patterns to convert a thrifted t-shirt into pillows, scarves or accents on clothing.

Let’s see what my fellow stitchers created: Suschna, Griselda, siebensachen, frifris, siebensachen, Kathrin, Katie, Petra and Namitha are all part of the challenge and feature many links to other fabric manipulation aficionados.

T-Shirt + Small Stitches = ?

This weekend my daughter agreed to model my latest scarf. Initially the tiny irregular stitches and the not so inventive circles seemed a waste of time. But often, when many small stitches come together the eye creates a pattern, so when the scarf was finished and assembled, it looked as if it was planned. Threading [...] Read more »

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design

When Natalie Chanin’s latest book “Alabama Studio Sewing + Design” arrived at my mailbox yesterday, my heart skipped several beats (don’t worry, I’m fine now). It’s her third book about hand-sewing and creating a sustainable wardrobe; and although I said this about her last book, this one is my all time favorite. It features an [...] Read more »

When Manipulation is a Good Thing

Let’s manipulate together!  German bloggers Suschna, Nahtzugabe, Griselda, Karen, Tally, frifris and Kathrin are interested in experimenting with fabric manipulation.  Anything goes; included are embroidery, couching, shirring, quilting, pleating and smocking.  If you don’t know what some – or any – of these mean, don’t worry, it’s whatever you can do to alter a fabric’s [...] Read more »

Erin Endicott: Dowry and Wounds

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When I saw Erin Endicott’s garments for the first time from afar, I immediately thought of the violence of war. She uses antique linen to create the stunning art pieces above. And what looks like wounds and bullet holes are actually walnut [...] Read more »

Colorful Tuesday – Soulful Stitching from the Siddis in India

These remarkable quilts are made by Siddi women of India who are part of the African diaspora. Aren’t they extraordinary?  Nahtzugabe, a German blogger friend made a beautiful Kantha piece, inspired me to wander the web looking for different styles of Kantha stitching. Scholar Henry John Drewal has been researching the arts, identities, cultures, and [...] Read more »

Japanese Tunics and Muumuus

Remember the Japanese tunic patterns from the Nani Iro website? I finally decided to make this tunic over the weekend. Japanese patterns are supposed to run small, right? Well, this one did not. Instead I’ve created what seems to be a “Muumuu”. In case you don’t know, a muumuu is a dress of Hawaiian origin [...] Read more »