May 2010

Bad roo

Went to Sewfisticated yesterday afternoon for thread and elastic.  Came back with fabric.  Of course.  And here I was so proud of myself for keeping my stash of summer fabrics under control.  But they had a whole bunch of new cotton and rayon prints in.  And so cheap, $3-4/yd.  So I think I should feel good for limiting myself to one new print, right?

Here are the summer fabrics I had left from last year:

From left to right: green linen and a rayon print from Sewfisticated, swirly purple silk charmeuse and polka-dot cotton lawn from FFC, and a cotton-lycra print from Gorgeous Fabrics.

And here’s what I got this year:

The 3 on the left are my Sewfisticated purchases.  Far left is a silky black poly-rayon knit.  Not actually a summer fabric, but I’m always looking for nice black knits and its so hard to tell what they feel like from the descriptions online.  Second, a small piece of navy linen for a quick (ha!) wrap skirt.  And finally the one rayon print I couldn’t say no to.  They had this sort of stained-glass pattern in a couple different color combinations but the teal was my favorite.  On the right are two rayon-lycra knits from EOS— lovely blue-gray and a cool bird print—which I treated myself to after I “decided” to stick to knits until the kid arrives and my shape (hopefully) stabilizes.

And here are my modest sewing goals for the summer:

For the blue-gray knit I’m planning to make the very timely maternity wrap dress from the latest Burda magazine, but with the bodice from Burda 5456 which I keep posting plans to make and keep not making.  Really, it’s going to happen this time.  For the stained-glass print, a maxi dress using the bodice from Burda 8071 and a self-drafted skirt.  And for the gray bird knit I’m going to try to knock off this RTW dress which I in fact own, and love, and wear all the time:

Not to mention the wrap skirt, and the blouses I posted previously, and a bunch more city paintings, and some more abstract paintings, and some ideas for fabric sculptures.  And, oh yeah, I also need to get a bunch of science done before September.  Rachel and Allison if you’re reading this, I swear I will get those manuscripts done before September.  Promise.


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Philadelphia Part 2: Artistic Inspirations

The other treat we had in visiting Philadelphia was a chance to visit a bunch of contemporary art galleries.  Oddly we don’t do this much at home, although the one time we trekked down to a gallery in Boston (to see some amazing cityscapes by Ben Aronson) they looked at us funny and seemed offended when I revealed that I’d found out about the artist from the internet.  The fact that David was wearing his five fingers shoes might have had something to do with this.

Anyway, the gallery owners in Philly were very nice.  One of our favorites was the Rodger Lapelle Gallery which had a show by Sandra Hoffman:

(both images from

Like many of the paintings I’m drawn to, I would call these “abstract landscapes.”  The substance of the paint is obvious, and only as you stare at them does the paint resolve itself into a crashing wave, a coral reef, a forest.  I was especially drawn to the texture in these paintings, created both by adding thicker strokes on top, and (I think) by wiping away to reveal layers underneath.

Another really nice place was Artist’s House Gallery, which caught my eye because they were showing some paintings by Carolyn Pyrfrom (another artist I discovered on the internet).  Of course the paintings were even more beautiful in real life.

Many of her paintings feature isolated figures in cavernous concrete spaces.  So there are a lot of big open gray areas. Since I started oil painting it’s been a puzzle to me what to do with these.  In watercolor I could just fill them in with a wash but in larger oil painting they need something more to hold your interest.  In these paintings she gave these areas depth and texture by layering many closely related grays on top of one another.  I will definitely be trying this out in my next paintings (and maybe in clothing as well!).

In the back rooms of the Artist’s House Gallery were cityscapes by Patrick Crofton and Robert Sampson.  Patrick Crofton’s paintings were all done on small zinc or copper plates, and had a detail and delicacy that reminded me of etchings:

Robert Sampson painted streetscapes, with all the colors layered over an underpainting of intense red.  I think this worked best for the summer scenes, where the bits of red showing through gave off the palpable heat of a summer sidewalk.

(Last three images from

Finally, walking through Center City, we stumbled across a building with the intriguing name of Fabric Workshop and Museum.  Despite an unpromising window display (featuring a television, an open rollerboard suitcase, and the disembodied leg of a mannequin) we paid $3 for a tour of the two exhibits— and were not disappointed.  The Workshop has hosted many famous artists (Ed Ruscha, Kiki Smith) who wanted to work with fabric, screen printing, and new materials.  One exhibit collected pieces from each of these artists.  But my favorite was the top floor, with an exhibit by a current artist-in-residence, Paula Wilson.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find any pictures of her latest work, which featured three of my favorite things: cities, printmaking, and fabric.  But she had built several large facades of Philadelphia houses and buildings, all made in different ways from fabric.  In some the bricks were screen-printed onto a single layer of fabric, in others they were made from two layers of fabric, and the shapes of the bricks were cut out of the top layer.  And in some the individual bricks were built from several layers of felt, topstitched down, and cut out in places to mimic the erosion of the wall.  Lovely!  The exhibit also featured some of her older paintings and prints, and they shared the same joyous medley of colors and materials:

(image from

It was a treat to see how one artist had worked in so many media, with the same “voice” present in all of them.  Also, I was totally inspired to think about making artwork from my ever-growing pile of fabric scraps.  Sketches to follow soon…


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Open Studio Recap

Wow.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by last weekend, or sent us a note!  I was amazed at the response we got, with both friends and strangers visiting and tons of positive feedback.  All credit goes to David, who turned our living room into a gallery, handled the cleaning, food, and drink, who for many years has fiercely protected my weekend work time and insisted that time spent on art was worthwhile. (At our wedding, David vowed to make sure I would always have time and resources to do art.  I, on the other hand, promised to wear socks to bed on cold winter nights.  Now who got the better end of that deal?)  Thanks also to Joel and Wendy who helped move all the furniture around.  All I had to do was decide where to hang the paintings!

Here’s a little tour of our living room in gallery mode.  (Apologies for ugly video embedding.  If anyone has a good suggestion of how to embed video in a self-hosted WordPress blog, I’d appreciate it.)


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Open Studio Catalog

I just finished the catalog for this year’s open studio.  You can download either the full version (32MB) or the compressed version (6MB).  Hope to see some of you this weekend!


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Philadelphia part 1: Friends and fabric

We had such a good time on our trip to Philadelphia I can’t describe it all in one post.  First off, with a little hand-hemming in the hotel room the night before, I did manage to finish my spotted dress:

just in time for my dear friend Emily’s wedding:

We also got to see my college roommates Alec and Rosemary

as well as our grad school friends Javier and Jeannie, our post-doc friend Nicole, David’s youngest brother, and my childhood computer gaming buddy Joel.  (How is it that friends from every stage of life ended up in Philly?  Not sure about that one.)  And, through sheer coincidence, David and I booked our room in the same hotel where Pattern Review Weekend was being held.  So I also got to meet a bunch of new internet friends and have breakfast with the lovely Trena and Miss Celie.  Hooray!  It was great to meet you all!

I did pick up this beautiful piece of embroidered cotton on Fabric Row:

I’m thinking it will be a tunic or blouse.  Maybe this one:

Or this one:

Or this one:

What do you think?


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Open Studio 2010

If you are in the Boston area please stop by and see the new paintings!  We’ll be open from 12-6pm, Saturday and Sunday May 22-23.


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Well, maybe

I got a little time to sew on Thursday, so I had time to sew all the pleats and darts, and to join the bodice lining to the bodice.  I sort of wish I’d used a lighter fabric for the lining (this is kona cotton), or moved the darts on the lining so they didn’t take so much fabric, because this feels a little heavy.  But so it goes.  I trimmed the seams but haven’t clipped them yet.  I think clipping the neck- and arm-line seams is the most nerve-wracking part of sewing for me because it feels like the one irreversible step.  I know a lot of people hate cutting their fabric, but I don’t mind that so much.  I can always cut a bit big, and then trim the excess away.  What part of sewing makes you most nervous?


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I started working on the pleated circles dress just before we left on vacation.  I made up the bodice from Butterick 5450 in a straight size 12, which was the largest size in my envelope, and— once upon a time— generally a wee bit too big for me.

Not so much now.

Not only was the bodice far too small (see picture at left), the proportions were all wrong.  Looking back at the envelope photo it looks like this dress is designed for a woman with a small top and narrow, sloping shoulders.  The bodice cuts in at the shoulders, the neckline is almost crew-like, and, much as it disturbs me to say this, I think I need an FBA.

Rather than try to alter the pattern, I thought it would be easier to redraft it to my proportions.  I started by laying the bodice pattern from my last empire dress over my sloper:

They are pretty close, except that the bodice pattern has a little more width at the sides.  Since that dress was a knit and this will be a woven I decided to start by adding about 1/2″ to the side seams on both the front and back bodice pieces.  I made up the muslin, tried it on, and found that with the addition of a second large dart it fit pretty well:

While I had the muslin on, I drew lines from the neckline where I wanted the pleats to go.  (I also drew a neckline for a wrap dress I’m thinking of making.  Might as well draft two things at once, no?)  After fitting the muslin, I transferred the lines and new darts to the flat pattern, cut out the darts, and rotated them to a single big dart/pleat at the neckline:

To draft the center pleat I followed the original pattern: I extended the pattern piece horizontally from CF, folded the pleat, then cut out the neckline to get the right shape.  I made up a second muslin to test my new pattern (see top right).  A better fit and much more flattering.

For comparison, here’s the original pattern piece laid over my new draft:

To draft the skirt I first copied the skirt front directly from my sloper, smoothing out the waistline a little so the narrowest point would be at the empire line rather the natural waist.  Then I drew three vertical lines where the pleats would go.  I put the center-most pleat in the middle of the dart on the pattern and the others 1 1/4″ apart to the side:

Then I cut the skirt pattern apart along the vertical lines, and spread the pieces to make the pleats.  Since I wanted the center-most pleat to extend farther down, I made this pleat twice as deep as the others (2 1/2″ from the edges of the old dart line versus 1 1/4″ for the outer pleats).

I’m really happy with the shape of this dress.  Namely the fact that it has a shape at all, which doesn’t seem to be a prominent feature of dresses designed for expectant women.  My hope is that the skirt pleats will give me some room for expansion and I’ll be able to wear this for a couple months at least.


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