July 2013

New digs

Careful readers of the previous post may have noticed the books disappearing from the bookcase behind me.  That’s because we were packing them up.  Or rather, David was packing them up.  I was busy packing up a shockingly large collection of textiles.

This new apartment is kind of awesome.  Which is too bad because we will probably only be here a short while.  In the meantime though I have managed to claim the front third of the living room as a studio, as well as commandeering our former pantry shelves to house my art and sewing supplies:

Close up of the fabric collection.  I took quite a bit of pleasure in organizing these.  And no, it hasn’t escaped my notice that the distribution of colors in my fabric collection almost perfectly matches the distribution of colors in my paintings.  I have some thoughts about this.  More on that later.

Other features of the place include a room of his own for Joey and a dining room big enough to unpack our table.  Having an actual table to eat at has inspired me to kick up my dinner game.  At least on the weekend, or when we have guests.  This was chickpea salad, poached eggs with leeks, home-made hummus, and fried haloumi cheese.  Really, how can you go wrong with fried cheese?



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A gathering of t-shirts

For about a year now I have been collecting knit prints.  I am very particular about prints— a lot of them do nothing for me but when one appeals to me I tend to like it a lot.  I had only about a yard of each of these four fabrics so I thought a short-sleeved top would be ideal.

I stole the idea for this design from a RTW top of mine, but made the pattern from a basic Burda t-shirt.  I started with this sketch:

Next, I traced the pattern front and back and extended the shoulders to make sleeves.  I experimented with a couple different versions of the gathers:

The left-most was my first attempt, where I sliced the pattern straight across and spread.  Something didn’t seem right about this one and at dinner that night it occured to me why this wouldn’t work.  Next I made the slice lines radiate out from the gathered side of the pattern to the un-gathered side (like in the sketch).  I used this pattern for the blue top at the far right in the first picture, but after I had cut out the fabric I thought maybe I had added too much fullness.  So for the last version I narrowed up the slices a little and changed their distribution so the top of the pattern is relatively unaltered.

What I didn’t count on is that the extra fabric sags because of the weight of the knit, so my gathers are more droopy than what I had envisioned in my sketch.  It occurred to me afterwards that the RTW version is cut with negative ease and this must be so that the gathers stay taut and straight.  I would love to work through a real pattern drafting textbook (or take a class) one of these days.  Once again it strikes me that I like playing with patterns more than the actual sewing.  I have a suspicion that this is because it is basically math in disguise.

In the past I’ve had some struggles with sewing gathers but I’d read about using clear elastic for this and checked out a few tutorials on the web before starting.  After experimenting with both the serger and the straight-stitch machine I settled on a method.  First I cut the elastic to the finished gather length plus an inch on each side.  I marked both the fabric to be gathered and the elastic in fourths to make them easy to line up.  I used the my regular sewing machine to attach the elastic, using the longest stitch length and a narrow-ish zig-zag (narrow enough that both sides of the zig-zag fell within the width of the elastic).  I took a few stitches at the end to anchor the elastic to the fabric, then stretched the elastic as I was stitching to line up the marks I had made.  Perfect gathers!  So awesome!  And inherently stretchy (because of the zig-zag).  After gathering I could then serge over the gathered piece + elastic + the un-gathered back for a nice clean finish.

The only problem I have with these T’s is that the neck bands on some are a bit loose and so sag a little.  I’m not sure why this is since I cut them all the same length.  Very likely it is the difference in stretch between the different knits.  I’m tempted to go back and fix them but also tempted to just let things be.  Overall I am very pleased with this set of tops, which I find to be flattering and an easy way to introduce variation in spatial frequency into my wardrobe.


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Cities of the dead

I am a sucker for ruins.  The idea of cities of the dead was the inspiration for this print I did several years ago.  This most recent series was inspired by reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse last winter, especially the section about the Anasazi.  These four were painted in the opposite order but this sequence more closely matches the narrative in the book.

I painted these mostly with these silicone palette knives— since I am also a sucker for new painting tools, and always on the lookout for ways to add texture to my paintings.  I like them a lot.  I keep meaning to try to bring this kind of texture back into larger or more realistic paintings. I had the idea of trying to rework some of my earliest oil paintings, which are rather anemic, and look (accurately!) like the work of a watercolorist who is afraid to use too much paint.  I think I’m still afraid of using too much paint which is why these small paintings (each of these is about 4″ by 10″) are so useful.



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A blazer

I think it is a mark of aging that I can now wear a blazer without feeling totally ridiculous.  Mind you, I made this jacket to wear to job interviews this past winter and I did not land any of the jobs for which I wore the blazer, so maybe I look more ridiculous than I thought.

I used Burdastyle 01-2011-127, a cropped blazer with a neat wrap-around peplum.  The muslin fit well with only a small shortening of the sleeves.  I followed Sherry’s wonderful RTW jacket tutorial to alter the collar, lapel, and facing pieces so they would fold and sit correctly.  The jacket is made from a high-end remnant of black ponte knit from Marcy Tilton, unlined, the corners and collar parts interfaced with some black tricot interfacing from Pam Erny and the facings finished with olive bias tape.  Because it is knit and unlined, it stretches and wears well.  I can wear it easily with the sleeves pushed up and it doesn’t feel (too much) like wearing a jacket.

As for the job search, sadly I can’t give you any updates as the whole thing is still up in the air.  If anyone out there is looking for an academic job in science I highly recommend the following guide:

David and I borrowed this from the library to read to Joey this past winter and both independently concluded that it was about the job search.  Let’s just say that at the moment we are having some issues with a key-slapping slippard.

Here’s the inside, pre-buttons, -buttonholes and -shoulderpads.  I think leaving out a lining was a good move in terms of flexibility and wearing ease although it did get chilly for a few visits to Chicago.  Will I make another one?  I guess it depends on whether this job thing comes through…



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