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Inspiring Quilting: Elly's blog to boost your creative IQ

Archive for the ‘Wearable Art’ Category

Serging Ahead

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

My mother taught me to sew my own clothing when I was in 4th grade. (Thanks, Ma!) For the very first time in 55 years, the insides of a garment don’t look quite so wrong. I bought a used Baby Lock serger a few years back, struggled with it, put it away, took a class on serging, put it away, and finally brought it out to use. My inspiration–er, task-master, was some gorgeous hand-blocked fabric from the now-out-of-business Textile Workshop, some smart, dotted linen purchased at a SAQA conference last year, and Pattern #11212 from the Cutting Line Designs, by Louise Cutting. Warning: Directions include tips and tricks for really fastidious finishing. And for once, the Queen of the Quick & Dirty, aka yours truly, did due diligence, and serged all the raw edges, then topstitched them, first from the inside, then from the outside.












I mixed features from both View A (collar) and View B (longer length, pockets). I included a buttonhole tab, using bright African fabrics, but the jacket ended up bigger than I expected, so I ditched the tab in exchange for a belt. Until I grow into it, which seems highly likely.  Or even more likely, give it to a larger  person who can carry off the fullness. And then, I’ll add that tab back in…













And oh yeah, because this blog is about quilting, check out the collar. A soft interfacing used for firmness provided the middle layer for free-motion-quilting, following the chain-link lines of the batik fabric.


Out of Africa? Wearable Art

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Stunning fashion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art stirs up passions…and questions. Those who know global fabrics have long recognized that the colorful fabrics long associated with Africa come from Europe, particularly the Netherlands. Which begs for an understanding of colonialism and economic exploitation. In any case, Africans as well as Europeans have embraced the fabrics, combining them in ways wild but wearable, even for large ladies.


From its website (http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/845.html):
Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage, April 30, 2016 – January 22, 2017

Explore how the Dutch company Vlisco became one of the most influential textile brands in West and Central African fashion and a design inspiration around the world. Known for its bold and colorful patterns, Vlisco creates fabrics that marry tradition with luxury. This exhibition highlights the company’s classic and new designs, follows the creation of a textile, and showcases a selection of contemporary fashions by African and European makers as well as Vlisco’s in-house design team.
The wax printed textiles associated with Central and West Africa have a surprising history. Although consumers in Africa and the diaspora embrace them as African, the fabrics have long been designed and manufactured in Europe, and now in China and India. The most luxurious are the wax prints designed and made in the Netherlands by Vlisco. Shortly after its founding in 1846, the company began exporting imitation batiks to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Three decades later, Vlisco found a new market in West Africa. This exhibition is offered in conjunction with Creative Africa, a season devoted to African art and design.”
Have a look!


























Sumptuous, right? Would you wear any of these wow’ems?


Boring vs. badly made

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

True confessions, and I’m not embarrassed to tell: One, I’m addicted to TV’s Project Runway. You know, the reality show where creative clothing makers compete in challenges week after week until one is chosen as tomorrow’s top designer, and lavished with cash and prizes to set up a biznez.  And two, I LOVE the Quiltart network — the longtime listserv for contemporary art quilters. Many of my “best friends I’ve never met” are fans–and fanatical–about PR (Project Runway, though it has a LOT in common with Public Relations–more on that later). In fact, they are the ones who turned me onto this show in the first place. After each weekly challenge–and we’ve now seen two of season 12, quilt artists rush to post critiques, not only on what the the designers put on the runway, but also on the validity of the judges’ decisions.  It’s all totally relevant to what we do as art quilters: cuz we understand that the rules of great design apply to art in the medium of quilting as easily as they do to wearable art and artful fashion.

The most recent discussion on quiltart was at first devoted to expressing horror that designers with really, really, really lousy workmanship were kept in the competition, while those whose clothes were well constructed but ho-hum got an auf Wiedersehen (kiss goodbye). And I totally agreed with them.

But then Toni of Milwaukee posted on quiltart, and I totally agreed with her: “In all the changes with PR over the years, one rule has prevailed. When confronted with two really atrocious outfits–one dull and one crazy-dull and boring ALWAYS goes home. The thinking is that a designer who does boring work will never amount to much, while one with a promising idea but is over-the-top crazy, can be “molded” or trained. Bad execution can often be overlooked with a good design, but skillful execution will never rescue a poor or boring design. The gal who stayed had a great idea, albeit very ambitious for a one-day challenge.”

Yup, art and design are about concepts that resonate, innovation that’s daring. That’s why, my sisters and brothers, we take delight in the Gees Bend quilts…or other masterpieces where intent and individuality and composition trump traditional rules of quilt construction. That’s why we art quilters require venues out of the mainstream, where our work can be seen and judged without adherence to rules about number of layers, type of stitching, precise 90 degree corners,  perfectly mitered bindings, and neat backs. Our Seamsters’ Union (sic) welcomes outlaws of the outfit and sewing subversives, and we treasure Quilt National, Visions, Art Quilt Elements. Such highly selective venues pay us the honor of defining art quilts broadly.

OK, now: To check out the Project Runway fashions and read the mostly delightfully snarky, no-holds-back commentary, meet me in Tom & Lorenzo’s Lounge.

The vast majority of watchers were sad to see Kahindo Mateene  kicked off Project Runway this past week. She has a wonderful way with African fabrics, and will go far staying true to her Ugandan roots. Just not as a TV contestant forced to work with parachute fabric and precious old-world Euro jewels. We also saw promise in Angela Bacskocky who was sent home the week before.

But PR is about PR. Project Runway has to be aware of relating to the public,  grabbing their attention and keeping them glued. Both the entertainment and the fashion industry have insatiable needs for showmanship as well as for creativity. For new for the sake of new and for surprises. And that extends to the designers themselves. The judges–and the show producers and directors behind them–demand crazy, larger than life personalities on camera. They’ll forgive bad fashion for a while at least, as long as the designers avoid committing the cardinal sin of being boring.

It took me a while to learn this lesson for my presentations for quilt guilds and quilt shops. That’s especially true for my Quilting Project Runway program. I am more than willing to make a complete fool out of myself. And invariably, the quilt guild members who blindly agree to model for me are incredibly good sports. They get to wear my slightly over-the-top fashions along with some absolutely ludicrous accessories. And I get to hope my audiences are so busy laughing over the wacky outfits that no one peers too closely at my workmanship. ..let alone looks at the insides and linings! Here I am in my appliqued kimono that has the word wit repeated in embroidery along the leaf tendrils.  I have all my wits about me, folks! And there’s no business like show business!jester-me

wits jacket



Costume Review!

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Gotta gear up.

Oct. 20, the hubster and I host our Halloween Party, held only every four years, when a presidential election is looming. Guests are asked to come in mask or costume…which must reflect a political figure…or a political concept.  Some friends take the easy road, and buy masks: Nixon and Kennedy, for example. Others find simple props: Bill Clinton brought his saxophone, and Sandra Day O’Connor donned a graduation robe and white wig. Then there was the guy, a hunter, whose wife sewed curvy oblongs of brown fake fur to his sweatshirt, so he could be the Right to Bear Arms.  She wore a giant tapered cylinder that had Slushie on it, with monopoly money taped all over…Slush Funds. Carl, my hubby, wears a swing and a boater with a red, white, and blue hat band…he’s a swing voter. This year, he’s thinking an oven mitt and a couple of steaks, but after the last debate, Romney’s “Mitt-steaks” seem less pronounced.

We’re partying early, cuz  I’ll be hawking my new book, Quilt Blocks Go Wild! at Quilt Market in Houston the following weekend. And there, too, I’m prone to making an ass out of myself, for the sake of drawing attention to this book. (I’ll be at Schoolhouse, demoing at the Fairfield World booth, and doing a show-‘n-tell and book-signing at Brewer’s booth. Haven’t quite figured out that costume yet, but it’s gotta be wild. Welcome your suggestions!

This photo album begins with a few pics from the last political Halloween bash, in 2008. That’s Jane Biberman as the Dems Donkey with a GOP elephant behind, and Sarah Stoll as Sarah Palin (remember her?). The rest are assorted costumes I’ve created for partying — beginning with Blind Justice–my quadriennial political spook…er, spoof. And then, lots more garbled garb for purposes of shameless self promotion at quilters’ gatherings and Purim celebrations. The rule of thumb is quick and clever, rather than appealing artistry!

Precious little quilting this time, but possibly some tongue-in-cheekiness to inspire your own upscale wearable statement–personal or political, at Halloween or anytime you wanna play the fool.


What have we wrought here?

Sunday, July 8th, 2012


While producing the book, Choosing Quilting Designs–one of the volumes of the Rodale’s Successful Quilting Library Series, I really got jazzed fleshing out unexpected sources of inspiration as suggested by Elsie Campbell in the chapter, “Great Inspirations.” Since then, I have frequently snapped architectural details with an eye toward how I might find good candidates for quilting. Here are some elegant ones, all in wrought iron, from my trip to Brussels, Belgium earlier this year:

My hubby and our friends walked the Art Nouveau neighborhoods, and I could hardly stop snapping:























But here’s my all-time favorite design:




That window design was the one that inspired my latest piece of wearable art. As I was designing for summer, it unfurls itself as free-motion stitchery and applique rather than quilting. I used it to embellish–and rescue–a sort of kimono top that I got at Loehmann’s decades ago. It came with a skirt that no longer fits–go figure! (Cuz my figure has already gone!).

Oh so blah!

Oh so blah!


Click on this to enlarge for an embarrassing bootie call!

Click on this to enlarge for an embarrassing bootie call!

Traced the blown-up window image onto Sulky Solvey.

Traced the blown-up window image onto Sulky Solvey.

So now I had a pattern to follow, and a stabilizer. Once the lines were free-motion stitched with a heavy thread--like King Tut, the kimono was rinsed, and the Sulky Solvey dissolved.

So now I had a pattern to follow, and a stabilizer. Once the lines were free-motion stitched with a heavy thread–like King Tut, the kimono was rinsed, and the Sulky Solvey dissolved.

Next, I added circle and leaf shapes: pulling from my black and white fabrics, with Wonder-Under to fuse, a lighter-weight thread to outline and secure.

Next, I added circle and leaf shapes: pulling from my black and white fabrics, with Wonder-Under to fuse, a lighter-weight thread to outline and secure.





Doncha like the modesty panel I added to the bottom--to cover my bottom? Also lengthened the sleeves--cuz what's the good of a short-sleeve jacket, anyway?

Doncha like the modesty panel I added to the bottom–to cover my bottom? Also lengthened the sleeves–cuz what’s the good of a short-sleeve jacket, anyway?

If you’d like to hear more about Choosing Quilting Designs, learn about it here.


Wanna bring a fun program to your quilt guild? I’ve got lots of wearable art pieces that fit a multitude of body shapes, so YOU get to be the runway models for Quilt Wearabouts: Strut Your Stuff. Tons of inspiration and laughs! Add a Show ‘n Tell where guild members bring their wearables–tote bags and purses, too.  Just click on the colored text above, and I’ll take you there (so to speak).

Comments always welcome!! No gobblety-gook to type in to prove you’re not a robot! Tell me what you think! Tell me what unlikely sources of inspiration rock your quilting designs!