Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekend at Inspiration 2009, Cleveland, Ohio

This weekend I've been teaching at the Machine Knitting seminar called Inspiration 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. This seminar is sponsred by BT Yarns. Here you can see two of the other instructors, and my friends, Lily Chin from New York City (center), and Carol Scott from Chicago (right).

My classes have been great, and I've enjoyed every moment sharing knowledge and learning from the knitters in my classes.

Yesterday, there was a fashion show where garments were shared. Below take a look at several garments designed using my program, Garment Designer software.

Here is Carol Muller

Susan Herricks

Heather Bailey

and Pam Huang (with two garments)

Great work ladies! Love to see what people do with Garment Designer.

Technique: Creative Shibori-Style Sewn Shawls

This summer I designed and created shawls for all the bridesmaids in my son’s wedding. California evenings can get cool (as even though we are on the coast, it is still desert weather). So, given that the bridesmaids were wearing spaghetti-strapped dresses, I thought it would be wise for them to have a shawl.

So, while traveling this summer, I watched for interesting designs, and in the end, I combined a few ideas I had seen in Italy.

The idea was to create a type of ‘smocked shibori” effect. I achieved this by placing a pearl bead on the underside of the shawl, and wrapping the fabric around it. I also used a square of organza on the top, to add a little interest. I called my shibori effect the ‘doo-dahs”.

Thanks to Stephanie, one of my students, for modeling this for me.

Here are the steps:
1. Cut two rectangles of fabric, equal to the length and width you want your shawl. I used two subtle colors of silk satin, a flesh color and a light cappuccino.
2. Cut two-inch square of silk organza in one or two contrast colors. The amount of contrast is up to you.
3. Cut and sew the shawls to completion. These are two rectangles, sewn together, turned, pressed and hand-stitched to close the opening.
4. Plan how many doo-dahs you want on each end of the shawl.
5. Space-plan the layout of the doo-dahs. I made a paper template, as I had a total of eight shawls to make (six for the bridesmaids, one of the bride’s mom and one for me).
6. Using chalk or a marking pencil, mark the placement of the doo-dahs on the wrong side of each end of a shawl.
7. Place the pearl under a mark on the wrong side. Take a small safety pin and pierce it through a square of organza. Then, go through the two layers of the silk shawl, and run the pin through the pearl bead. Come back up to the top and come through the organza again, and then close the pin. This secures all things so that they don’t’ slide around.

8. Repeat until you have all the doo-dahs secured.

9. Now, take matching sewing thread and thread a fairly fine hand-sewing needle.
10. Anchor the thread about 3/8” away from the center of the organza. Now, pinch the fabric through all layers so that the organza square and silk wrap around the bead.
11. Take your sewing thread and wrap around the doo-dah. You can secure this with a couple of stitches, as necessary to hold the binding.
12. Repeat.

Here you can see another shot of the finished shawl.

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Does a Fashion Professor Choose a Car?

I purchased Eros recently, and had my decision fast-tracked when I learned that the “Cash for
clunkers” program was ending early. Jesse Jeep qualified for the Cash for Clunkers deal (by the U.S. government, giving a $4500 credit toward the purchase of a new car).
I was teaching a workshop to other faculty at the college, and learned from one of them that the program was ending in the next couple of days. Fortunately, So.. I had been doing my research for nearly a year, and I knew what I wanted.. a Ford Escape Hybrid SUV. I could get 30/35 miles to the gallon with this car, and still have my utility vehicle to haul all my gardening things as well as my projects and of course Cochenille things when I travel to and from the airport.

I started calling around to various Ford dealers, and very few had Hybrids in stock, and of course, most were quitting the Clunker deal either that day or the next day. One of the dealers had an Escape “en route”, It was a new color… Metallic steel blue. Of course there was not one vehicle on the lot of that color… so I had to “envision” it from a swatch book.

It is a good thing that I am able to envision things.. that is what we do as designers. So, I took a look at the ‘swatch’, and held it up to the leather samples, and made my decision that the blue would be fine. It was a little scary as I keep my cars for a long time. Jesse Jeep was 12 years old.

We did the deal, and I am now back into the world of car payments. But I love Eros, and the great mileage he gives me.

All I can say, is that I am glad that I have a designer’s eye, and that I can visualize things.

On a sad note…
I didn’t realize what they did with the clunker cars, once turned in. And.. I made the mistake of asking the dealer. I cried all the way to the Ford dealer the morning I took Jesse Jeep in to turn him over.

So, in loving memory of my Jesse…
He was a great car. He watched over me, and kept me safe. He helped me lug things everywhere, including the last move to the house I am currently in. He always made me feel secure, and he rarely let me down. I like to think that the powers that be saw a greater use for Jesse, and that he is up there in car heaven, guiding other vehicles in the art of being a great car.

On a happier note…
I had to break the news to Tatianna TT that she was getting a new friend. I think the thing that made it easier for her, was the announcement that Eros is very attractive, and … he is a younger man. She hasn’t seemed to mind his arrival at all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

There's a New Man in my Life!

Yes.. there is. I have a new man in my life, and it is very exciting! Let me tell you about him.

He is American by birth, but has roots in other parts of the world. He is very strong and quite attractive. He loves to wear blue, and combines it with shades of gray and beige. He is very patient with me, and often plays music for me to slow me down. He is teaching me Italian, as he will converse with me in that language. He loves to drive, and we share many hours on the road, enjoying each others’ company. He is actually motivating me to get the garage cleared out.. can you believe it?

So, meet the new man in my life.

His name is Eros…

Eros the Escape.

I named my new SUV Eros for a couple of reasons. First of all, I name my cars, and since the new wheels are a Ford Escape Hybrid, I needed an ‘E’ name. The name Eros came to me, as I was driving down the freeway listening to my favorite Italian singer, Eros Ramazzotti. I listen to him all the time in order to keep working on my study of the Italian language.

If you want to check the Italian Eros out... here is his site.

History of my cars and their names?

Well, my first set of wheels was Max the Maverick. I bought him ‘used’ for $400.
Along the way I have also had..
Millie Mazda
Barry the Boat (a huge large boat-like car)
Henry Honda
Sasha Spitfire
Vivienne Volkswagon (a convertible bug)
Austin Audi
Ted the Taurus
Mid-life Chrysler (red Le Baron Convertible)
Tatianna TT
And… Jesse Jeep.

Eros joins the ranks of “Susan Cars” as my younger son would say.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In honor of Georgia...

O'Keeffe that is.

Tonight I watched a TV movie on the life of Georgia O'Keeffe. I absolutely love to learn about artists, their lives, their struggles and achievements, and their art.

So, the movie was great for that.

Here are a few quote of Georgia's that are inspiring to me.

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.

I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.

Click here to go to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum site.

Also... see an image on

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sister Creative Time

What do two sisters do when they get together? Well, if they are two sisters who grew up learning a variety of textile arts and handcrafts, they will spend their time together “making things”. This is exactly what my sister Chris and I did when I visited her last month.

Chris is a mosaic and clay artist and has installed many large works in and around Whitehorse. Her studio space is probably three times the size of mine, and whereas my space is full of yarn and fabric, hers is full of clay, stones, marble, tiles, and so on.

My brother-in-law left us on our own, while he went to visit family, so we took over the fort. The kitchen table remained covered with beads, a sewing machine, and all sorts of fun things. Just look at the 'creative mess'.

During the weekend, we spent out time creating jewelry. I had been instructed to bring some of my stash, and of course we had hers. Primarily, the types of items we made revolved around the use of bead stringing wire, crimping beads, other jewelry findings and then, all sorts of beads, ranging from seed beads to large pendants.

Here you can see some examples of our play and our results.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quick Top: from Garment Designer

I recently made a fun little top. On Thursday of the week, I showed my Intro Sewing students the fabric, and told them I would wear the garment to the next class. I know... some did not believe me (as they sat there and struggled with a jammed sewing machine... do you remember those days?)

So.. home I went, over the weekend, and sat down to Garment Designer, my software, used to create sewing and knitting patterns. I wanted to explore a function called "Give/Take Symmetry". We had talked about its various uses at the Design Retreat in August, so I decided to let this function be the theme of the garment.

Give/Take symmetry works in such a way, that when you click on a line of a pattern and move it, it gives to one side of the garment and takes from the other. So, take a look at the pattern here, and you can see how I used the function to create a diagonal line across the front of the pattern.

Here you can see that I have printed and taped all pattern pieces together. Then, I cut the fabric (which, by the way, has Italian words on it.. another language lesson for me).

I'm currently in a "non-facing" groove. This means I experiment, and try to find alternatives to facings. For this garment, I used a strip of fabric that was pre-cut for trimming purposes. I stitched this around the entire neckline.

on goes the sleeves...

and here, you can see the completed top.

I did wear it to the next class... (smile)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quote for the Day.. on Creativity

"Creativity is that which is yet to be done. It is that which is inside you, which empowers you, and which wants to be expressed.” — Robert Bosler

I like the idea of this statement. I strongly believe that we all have some creativity inside of us. It is just that not everyone has learned how to get it out.

Many people do not stop to realize the many levels of creativity. When you balance your checkbook, you have to use creative thoughts (to figure out the problem if one exists). When you run out of an ingredient in cooking, and figure out a good substitue, that is creativity.

OR.. like me, this weekend, when your overly-creative mind tries to do something that is destined for failure, you simply have to figure out another approach, and you do. That is part of the creative process. I'll be sharing that one, when I discuss the project.. which is still in progress.

Hint: My creative challenge was wrapped around seersucker fabric.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Creative Scarf Project

I'm always thinking of new things to try. I've designed and created several projects with Nuno felting, and so, have been pondering in that realm. I had been wanting to use the felting capabilities of wool creatively, intermixing this with a fabric that will not shrink.

So, off to the fabric store, to find a fabric that is an open knit. I wanted to be able to thread wool through holes in the fabric, and then felt the project. My idea was that the wool would shrink, and pull in the scarf fabric.

So... here are the basics..

Begin with the choice of fabric. Look for an open knit, or some fabric that will not ravel, and yet has openings that allow you to lace yarn/wool through it. The yarn or roving needs to be 100% wool, and "shrinkable".

Now, decide on the dimensions of your scarf and cut the fabric.

Here you can see two sets of fabric and yarn, plus some of the tools used.

Using a knitting bodkin, thread the yarn and weave it through the openings in the knit.

and pull it tight to ruch the piece.

Now... into the hot soapy water, followed by an ice-bath.

Then, place the scarf in a laundry bag and use the high heat setting on your clothes dryer. This will felt the wool yarn easily.

You can see the final scarf above... This was definitely a quick and fun project.