100 Acts of Sewing, Shirt No. 1

I've been eyeing Sonya Philip's 100 Acts of Sewing, Shirt No. 1 pattern for quite some time now. The simplicity of Sonya's patterns makes trying something new so very easy and approachable. I made a quick basic top in no time flat (cut and stitched in less than two hours). I hand stitched the two seams (yes, only two seams!!), because stitching by hand was quicker than getting out my sewing machine and setting it up. Plus, I prefer sewing in the evenings without the extra noise of the machine.

I used a lovely lightweight cotton/linen jersey. The drape is beautiful, and it feels whisper soft on the skin. I decided not to bind anything to keep the edges light.

My second go of this shirt was made with a white organic cotton jersey base layer from Organic Cotton Plus, and some gorgeous naturally hand-dyed madder, organic cotton from Alabama Chanin that I have been saving for something special. I wanted to try using the negative reverse applique technique with this top to keep it lighter, but I didn't have quite enough of the madder fabric to make one complete layer of the shirt. I did have just enough fabric for straight up applique though.

I cut out the white fabric, the base layer, and painted it using my poppy stencil. I used Tulip brand colorshot fabric spray in camel. This project was a bit of a stash buster, trying to use up what I already had, so when I stenciled my remnants of madder fabric, I used up my camel paint and finished up with silver glitter paint.

Now, when I was stenciling this project there were five of us ladies painting together and chatting up a storm. I forgot to flip the stencil over (uh-oh), which would have created the mirror image of the poppy stencil and allowed me to use the flip side or non-painted sides of the elements, and thus the two different colored paints wouldn't show. At first I was disappointed that I made the mistake. I didn't have enough madder fabric to redo the painting, so I had to work with what I had. I actually really like the results. I like the two different colors of paint, and further mixed things up by flipping some of the elements to the non-painted side. Phew, lucky I didn't grab that leftover lime green color I had, but instead inadvertently used two complimentary shades!

In the above photo, the element on the left is painted with the silver paint; the element on the bottom right is painted with the camel paint; and small element on the top right is unpainted. I also appliqued white centers on some of the flowers. I used embroidery floss to whipstitch the elements down and embellish with French knots and random stitches. Button craft thread was used for construction.

I downsized the shirt no. 1 pattern to an XS, and it's still pretty roomy for my normally small to medium sized top. The first single layered, lightweight shirt is much more drapey. The embellished shirt, with it's medium weight base and added applique feels more like a comfy sweatshirt. The sleeves hit about 1" above my inner elbow and 2-3" above my elbow. I dipped the neckline of the second shirt slightly, about 1-2". I did not bind either shirt.

Here are a couple ways I might wear this fun top. I think my favorite will be to pull it over a white tank top and pair it with my jean cut offs with white sandals. What are you making for this hot summer weather?

Wildfower Plaster Castings

Conundrum number 278: What to do about old lighting? (Yes, we're in need of a remodel, so there really are 277 other conundrums.) With about 30 lights needing to be replaced and/or updated, I'm trying to pinch pennies wherever I can.

These fixtures still work fine, but this look needs freshening up. My brain has been churning trying to come up with a solution. I saw this fossil on a trip to Sedona earlier this year.

I've been following some amazing artists on Instagram, especially Rachel Dien. Her beautiful flower castings are simply enchanting. I've pinned a lot of inspiring photos onto my Plaster Foliage Pinterest board. I researched plaster castings, and decided to give it a go, hoping to incorporate that into the "freshening up" of those light fixtures.

I could find no truly comprehensive tutorials, but the gist of all the information I came across on the web was pretty similar.

1) Roll out your clay about 3/4" thick.
2) Lay your wildflowers onto the clay.
3) Roll the flowers gently into the clay with a rolling pin, then carefully peel them out.
4) Set a picture frame on top of the clay.
5) Pour plaster of Paris into the form, approximately 1/2", and let set for about 30 minutes.
6) Remove frame; peel off the clay.

Voila, now you have a gorgeous plaster casting of flowers.

With the extra rain we've had this year, our wildflowers are prolific. I wanted to make molds of the wildflowers that I collected from our property for my sconces. Each week there are new varieties popping up everywhere. Eventually, I'd like to make a collection of all the different flowers that bloom on our property.

I made a template for size and arranged my flowers on my template. I rolled out my clay and transferred my flowers onto my clay slab.

I needed very specific dimensions for my light fixtures and couldn't find any picture frames the exact size I needed. Also, sometimes the plaster will adhere to the frame, be it wood or plastic. I looked high and low for something that would work at the thrift stores and our local re-store with no luck. Then the idea hit, why not make clay walls??? Then I could make the mold whatever size AND shape I wanted. It worked like a charm.

Think of the possibilities! All different shapes and sizes.

Notice the plaster comes out the mirror image of the mold. The picture frames will give you a cleaner edge, but I actually prefer this rough hewn edge.

I made these hangers from binding wire. Just put them in the back of the plaster while it's setting up. I wait about 5 minutes after I pour, and that seems to be about right. If they drop down or you push them all the way down to the clay you'll be able to see the wire on the front side of the plaster (not so pretty). The plaster needs to be set just enough so the wires don't sink down all the way.

When I mounted my first trial plaster onto the light, I couldn't see a lot of the detail because the light fixture was so high up on the wall and far away. I needed to accent the flowers. How to paint the plaster? I had no idea what type of techniques to use. I had taken a class years ago with Stephanie Lee and knew she would have just the information I needed.I watched the ecourse Simple Sculpting by Stephanie Lee through Jeanne Oliver's website, and learned everything I needed, plus was inspired by all the immensely cool projects she taught. I highly recommend her ecourse.

After playing around with a variety of  paints and techniques, I found the one that worked for me.

I used house paint to coat the porous plaster so the highlighting paint could be wiped off and wouldn't just soak straight into the plaster.

The edges weren't perfect, but were fairly snugged up. Again, I like the cragginess. I did go in and cover any paint drips on the edges so it didn't look sloppy.

Welcome to my new obsession! I'll be picking wildflowers all summer and making castings of them. Perhaps I'll mount a collection on wood....or mount each individual cast onto wood....or coat them in encaustic wax....or make a paper clay base for them....the sky is the limit on just what can be played with. For now, I'm very happy to have solved conundrum number 278.

Indigo with Valerie Wells and Kelly Sheets

I've been wanting to make an indigo vat for ages, but just haven't gotten around to it. When my friend asked me if I wanted to join her for a weekend of indigo dying with Valerie Wells and Kelly Sheets at the Stitchin' Post in Sisters, I was all in.

Val and Kelly had many samples of indigo shibori (Japanese manual resist dying technique, which produces patterns on fabric) and explained how they achieved the results for each of them, including folding, tying, clamping, stitching, using rubber bands, rocks, glass globs, slinkies, rope, chopsticks, cords, cardboard, plastic shapes......the sky is the limit!! I had a handful of flour sack towels plus other fabrics to try my hand and experiment with all these great ideas.

This piece was using the "ghost" technique. You grab the piece by the center, and use a string to tie it up into a bundle. I'll use these pieces made from drop cloth to make some more square corner bags like this one:

Here's a bundle with chopsticks rolled up and tied.

Perhaps it created something like the piece hanging on the far right:

This next piece reminds me of fish scales. It was rolled onto a rope, then you tie the rope, causing the sides to squish into each other, kind of like a scrunchy hair band.

These are glass globs tied with rubber bands.

They create the "circles". The lines are achieved by stitching a simple running stitch.

I think it may be my favorite piece. I watched some youtube videos about shibori stitching. I like how you can use the stitches to "draw" something specific on the fabric. There is a lot of control over details.

This is a quilt top Valerie brought in to show us as another idea of what we might do with all of our samples.

We talked about different types of indigo, with tips on how to successfully set up our own vats if we choose.

I was able to dye a couple yards of organic cotton jersey fabric and some pieces of clothing as well. I had stitched this top a few years ago. I loved the Burgundy and gold combination.....on someone else. I did not like the color combination on me, and so I hardly ever wore it. It was a little scary dipping it into the vat, not knowing if I would like the results. But hey, I hardly wore it, so it was worth the risk. Here is the original top.

Here is the first dip. Not too bad, but a little muddy for me.

And the last dip....

Soooooo much better! Don't you agree? It was darker before I washed it. I don't think I had the water hot enough to set it properly. If I do my own vat one day, who knows, I may dip it again, but for now, I love the results and I know I'll get a ton of wear out of this top now.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day. Seeing all these beautiful indigo pieces, gently swaying in the breeze created a most impressive vision. Creating together is very inspiring. Community artwork, for sure.