Here is the update I promised you of the vest-creation-adventure in December, 2015. Below you can see some of the other wild and crazy things women created for our guild event. Our grand winner was Natalie on the left. I am pictured with sisters Adele and Suzanne.
“Among women the giving of gifts creates the magic of addition and reciprocity and of special identification with one another.” Arlene Raven, (1944-2006) feminist art historian, author, critic, educator, and curator. Raven was a co-founder of numerous feminist art organizations in Los Angeles in the 1970s.
“You never know what is around the corner.” This observation has comforted me in difficult situations and has energized me at other times in my life. I could not have guessed at the string of events that would follow, when Sally L. sent me an email last spring asking if I wanted this appliqued vest. She was offering it to me before planning to donate it to her guild auction. Sally moved from northwest Arkansas in 2006 and found new quilting friends in Washington state. We had stayed in touch sharing some of our quilting adventures online.
I quickly let her know I would be delighted to wear her creation. She had put together a raw edge appliqué collage of interesting fabrics. I recognized the central basket with tropical foliage as a piece of fabric I, too, had discovered in the recent past. Lush, tropical foliage was a central feature of my girlhood growing up in Miami Springs, Florida, and this bit of the tropical paradise appealed to me. The panel of this fabric that I had discovered had languished, as you can see below. I had added only a narrow dark border to my fabric waiting for more inspiration to strike.
With these close-ups, you can see Sally used a black and ivory check for the binding that contrasts with the soft hues and curved shapes. She stabilized everything with dense free motion machine quilting. I was so enamored of this vest that I began adding glass beads to enhance the flowers and stems. I spent hours choosing the right beads from my stash for each section, adding my own creativity. It was such fun, and I received compliments from friends when I wore it. I emailed Sally a picture of her vest with the bead work.
Same bold print central to her vest and to my panel–in a sheath dress!
Months later, in one of my weekly thrift store jaunts, I discovered a slim sheath dress featuring the same bold print central to the vest and to my panel, but in a different colorway! The green/gray background is one of my favored colors. And this dress already featured beading on the bodice along the bird-of-paradise flowers emerging from the woven basket. I bought it for less than $5 not knowing exactly what I would do with it.
That size 12 sheath dress became a vest. I cut a newspaper pattern using Sally’s vest and carefully took the dress apart. The beaded front of the dress became the back of the vest. The fabric for the front of the vest was cut from the back of the dress where the zipper was placed. Because of the subdued colors in this vest I wanted a binding without too much contrast, but with personality. I found a tobacco-colored fabric printed with small gold leaves to finish all the edges.
I added an inside pocket and the labels from the original dress as well as a name tag identifying me as the designer and maker of this vest.
Vests are easy to wear and relatively easy to fit. Because I have lots of experience doing bindings as a quilter, I find a binding the quickest way to finish the edges. Also, I like the opportunity to add a bit of contrasting fabric to the edges. These were not the only vests in my closet, but they quickly became favorites. Since I had a second mastectomy in 2011, I have become more aware of finding clothes that make my flat chest less obvious. Knits are comfortable, but knits do cling.
“Make visual decisions visually.” Great quilting advice!
I wasn’t planning another vest in my future, but in September I visited a thrift shop in Bentonville, AR that I rarely get to visit. There I found a jacket pattern with a shawl collar designed by quilter Lorraine Torrence. Several years ago she provided me with a favorite quote. She advised us in an article in Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine to “make visual decisions visually”. I used her advice that day standing in the thrift store: I liked the looks of the jacket, so invested 25 cents in the pattern.
Several days later I cut out the pattern pieces using a floral fabric of a heavier weight decorator cotton from my stash. After following the directions to sew the front sections to the back section, I tried it on and realized I could sew a shawl collared vest from this pattern and skip the sleeves that would make it a jacket (and make it much more work). This was an inspired discovery! I love this new vest and it’s flattering collar—I’ve even loaned the pattern to a friend who admired my vest.
Reversible too! I wanted to feature the luxurious marbled lining.
I’m not planning any beadwork on this vest, but I found a spectacular lining of a marbled fabric labeled ” ‘Marbled Alchemy’ by the Woodrow Studio, Licensed by Cockerell Papers, Cambridge, England, The U.K.’s Oldest Established Marblers”. The gold leaf fabric I used on my first vest worked perfectly here too!
I am convinced that creativity is “lurking inside all of us”. Our creative impulses are constantly seeking a means of expression. Some people are creative musicians, some of cannot carry a tune–like me! Look for your strengths and build on each skill. Karen Page in Creative Collage for Crafters describes her experience, “Once the ideas begin to pour in, one thing leads to another. The excitement builds, time becomes nonexistent and a dialogue occurs. Things are unexpected–there are surprises.”
Surprise Yourself: This is the Essence of Creativity
I surprised myself in early September with a quick trip to Lawrence, Kansas (where we once lived). I planned my whirlwind roadtrip around the moving sale of quilt historian Barbara Brackman. I learned of the sale in her blog post I saw on Tuesday morning September 2. I saw it as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity since I respected her work and enjoyed the reproduction fabrics she designed. The post assured us that there was lots of fabric and other quilt-related items.
Note the quilt tops draped on the porch rail at the front of Brackman’s house. I was the early-bird for this 8:00 a.m. sale three days later. I spent much of the morning in the studio behind the house culling through boxes of fabric that excited my senses. I picked what I wanted to add to my own collection. In the frenzy, one of my treasures was a length of deep purple (perhaps heliotrope?) cotton fabric I guessed to be a vintage drapery fabric because of its heavier weight.
Vintage Drapery Fabric Transformed (as did Scarlett…)
When Brackman saw me admiring the long, but narrow fragment, she too admired it. Then she explained that she had used the vintage fabric years ago to cover chair seats enjoying them until the fabric wore out from use. Before I left Lawrence I visited the food coop there that Jeanne and I had once belonged to. The Community Mercantile has thrived and grown, I bought organic sweet corn to take back to Arkansas.
Perhaps you have guessed by now that I this velvet fabric would find its way into a vest. Yes, but it was a challenge because the fragment was only 8 1/2″ wide and about 70″ long–not enough for a vest. My quilter self said, “Well, piece it, and make it interesting!”
I started this project in late October, six months after Sally sent me her vest! Both front panels are pieced to make each wide enough for the pattern. By using the narrow velvet strip down the center of the back, I preserved the limited velvet for the front. On the back, I used the dramatic tobacco-color fabric printed with small gold leaves for contrast as well as a strip of the peach color batik used for the lining. If you are observant, you will see that the gold leaf is the same one used for the binding in the earlier vests.
Inside the lining I sewed an elaborate round label to recount the entire story of this vest. The pocket features another batik fabric which I trimmed in gold lame rickrack I found in my stash. Can you tell I had fun pulling this all together?
Sally’s gift began this journey! Thank you, Sally, for knowing that your creation would find a good home with me. We, who play with fabric, do have a special identification with one another. Do you have a story about this idea that you would like to share–please leave me a comment.
P.S. There is another vest of green shiny lame with red trim and chartreuse feathers that I have made for our guild’s “Ugly Xmas Sweater” contest. I’ll post that photo after our December guild meeting.