Copper Flutes

These two copper flutes were based on D (small) and Bb (large) 6-hole English tin whistles that I bought years ago.  I played the whistles quite a bit when I was in high school, but quit in college when my asthma became too severe.  The new copper flutes have a larger bore than the tin whistles and a shorter mouthpiece, so the higher notes are easier to blow, and all the notes are quieter and sweeter than a tin whistle.  After some experimenting with hole positions on the old instruments, I added two holes, one at the top and one at the back, so these flutes are fingered like a recorder and are a bit more versatile than a tin whistle.  Unlike the rimblown flute that I posted here a year ago, these are “fipple flutes” and are easier to play (though making them was a lot more work!).  The blocks are carved from manzanita that I collected in the Santa Rita Mountains a couple of years ago.

Flute Mouthpieces

Flute Mouthpieces

The beads on the larger flute are handcarved from local pebbles.  The bluish-green copper ore is from a local abandoned mine dump, the two striped black dolomite beads are from the Empire Mountains, and the pink and grey rhyolite is from the Santa Rita Mountains.

Today I prepared some fabric for an embroidered wall hanging.  This is a sturdy hemp/cotton plainweave left over from a dress that I made several years ago.  At the top of the photo is the natural undyed fabric which is a warm white.  Below that is the same fabric dyed straw yellow with pomegranate hulls (they are rich in tannin, which provides the color; the dried hulls were crushed and the fabric immersed with them in cold water for several days).  I dyed this fabric a few years ago and have used it for a few jewelry bags etc.  At the bottom is some of the pomegranate-dyed fabric that has been “overdyed” with local clay from my yard (once used for making adobe bricks) mixed with powdered red ochre (hematite).  Of course the clay/iron oxide coating isn’t really “dye” since it doesn’t penetrate the fibers – it just sits on top of them.  But the hemp traps it pretty well and the color is quite even and does not rub off.  The fabric was scrubbed in the wet clay/ochre mixture, left to dry while still covered in it, then washed and dried again.  This process was repeated three times.  I was only working with a quarter yard, so it didn’t take long, and now I have a nice piece of warm, earthy-looking adobe-colored fabric for my project.

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I received my Spoonflower fabric order yesterday, which was mostly black and white cat drawings for a wall hanging.  But I also had two designs printed in color.  All the designs were printed on Kona quilter’s cotton.  The swatches are 8×8 inches.

The first swatch is a collage made from four digital photos of copper ore boulders from the mines at Helvetia, Arizona.  Minerals shown in the photos include malachite, chrysocolla, turquoise, iron oxides, etc.  I was quite happy with this and may try a few other colorful rock textures for jewelry bags, spreadcloths, etc.  This one will probably end up on an embroidered cloth for protecting and displaying copper jewelry.

Copper Ore Photos on Cotton Fabric
Copper Ore Photos on Cotton Fabric

The second swatch is a design based on the flowers and pods of Lacepod (Thysanocarpus curvipes), one of our early spring desert wildflowers.  The white flowers are nearly invisible, and the tiny seedpods are only a quarter inch long.  The pods on the fabric design are one inch wide.  The photo shows the fabric on the left and the actual plant (with nearly-ripe pods) on the right.  This swatch will probably end up on an embroidered jewelry bag.

Lacepod with Fabric

Lacepod with Fabric

Spoonflower’s printing process allows for crisp, accurate reproduction of extremely detailed designs.  Unfortunately, it isn’t durable enough to stand up to repeated washing, which makes it unsuitable for everyday clothing, at least for me.  It’s fine for costumes, vests, decorator quilts, and other items that won’t (often) be washed.

Embroidered Cotton Shirt

January 25, 2012

More spiral hook and eyes, smaller than those on the vest.  The clasps on this embroidered cotton shirt are made from 16-gauge yellow brass wire.  I drafted the shirt pattern.  The collar, cuffs, front placket, and back yoke binding are made from tea-dyed muslin secured with handstitched commercial black bias tape.  Sleeves and front placket have pleats, not gathers.  I drew the embroidery motifs to echo the dotted geometric stripe design of the fabric.  I suppose you could call this “pseudo-blackwork” because it’s blackwork-inspired (and uses the same kind of thread) but is more freeform and lacks the precision of counted threadwork.  This is a “special occasion” shirt, very soft and light, with three-quarter length sleeves so I can wear a bracelet with it.  The clasps will soon tarnish to dark brownish-yellow and will look much less gaudy.

Embroidered Cotton Shirt

Embroidered Cotton Shirt

Embroidery Details

Embroidery Details

Embroidered Patchwork Vest

November 25, 2011

I recently finished this vest which had been an intermittent evening project for several months.  I love vests but it is difficult to find one that fits properly, since I have such a short back.  It took me three paper drafts and two muslin ones to get this pattern just right, but it was worth the trouble and I still finished the pattern in one evening.  It looks like a short bolero but the hem sits precisely on my waist and the whole thing is a perfect fit.  The front is wider than the back (not the other way around, like a man’s vest) and the shoulders are wide enough to fit without slipping, even over my usual drop-shouldered dresses.

The vest is brown 100% linen, lined with teadye cotton muslin and bound with black/indigo batik quilter’s cotton.  The binding is entirely handstitched.  The shoulders and side seams are reinforced with commercial black bias tape, embroidered with french knots.  Bias tape (overlain with woven running stitch in several shades of blue) was also used to bind the white/indigo  calico that I used for the center stripes.  The linen fabric is not a very tight weave so it’s rather unstable and needs the tape for a good fit.  Most of the applique patches are from the “blue tiger” and “cat skull” fabrics that I had printed at Spoonflower, so they are my own designs.  The indigo wave and charcoal bird fabrics are Japanese dobby cloth.  There are a couple of flannel scraps and some vintage 1970s trim (peach/brown/white on black).  On the back is half of a crocheted disk that is positioned to look like the moon rising over the waves.  I picked up a bag of these round crocheted pieces (somebody’s abandoned unfinished table runner or something) at a thrift shop about 20 years ago.  I made the front clasps from 14-gauge copper wire; they will look much nicer once they’ve tarnished.  I thought they might be a bit heavy but they work fine.  Each side is designed to be stitched down at four points for stability.  They are slightly oversized for durability and ease of use.

Umber and indigo – used together, often with black and/or deep grayish-purple, are my personal “shaman’s colors”.  Indigo is paired with dark brown in several traditional and/or ceremonial textiles around the world, such as Japanese clothing, Batak ikat weavings from Sumatra, and old Zuni mantas from New Mexico.  It would be easy to say that this is just because these two colors are common in naturally-dyed fabrics everywhere, but there seems to be a bit more to it than that, since the same pattern (brown with a blue border, or vice versa) seems to turn up over and over in “special” garments that have been lavished with extra work, even though they aren’t brightly colored.  The blue/brown combination also occurs in nature in several creatures that are both common and conspicuous, such as Steller’s jay (western U.S.), the blue tiger butterfly (Asia), and the pipevine swallowtail (U.S.).

Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Front

Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Front

 

Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Back

Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Back

 

Copper Clasp

Copper Clasp

Forged Iron Cat Mask

October 19, 2011

This is the forged iron black cat mask that I made for this year’s Tucson All Souls Procession.  I won’t post a photo of me wearing it until after the procession, since I’m still deciding on the rest of my costume.  The mask is hot-forged from heavy steel sheet, and has a riveted nose and whisker spots.  The “snakeskin” pennants were stitched from an undyed Guatemalan cotton sash, ornamented with mica cutouts, copper spirals, vintage pearl buttons, snake vertebrae, and handmade yarn tassels.  This mask is sturdier than the copper masks I’ve made, but not really any heavier.  It’s six inches wide.

Forged Iron Black Cat Mask

Forged Iron Black Cat Mask

Iron Cat Mask Detail

Iron Cat Mask Detail

I also made this embroidered cotton fabric Mountain Lion Mask.  It’s quite wearable but for this event it will be pinned to my costume.  It has a black cotton backing and is stiffened with thin cotton batting (a single layer for the eye and ear portion, and several layers for the muzzle and nose).  The patterned flannel ties, the embroidered stars, and the French knots around the eyes are intended to suggest the Leonid meteor shower that occurs at the end of November.

Mountain Lion Fabric Mask

Mountain Lion Fabric Mask

Calico Jumper

August 8, 2011

Since I make most of my clothes, it means that I don’t have many of them, but they are well-made and last a long time.  They typically have a wearable-in-public life of at least two or three years, a couple more years as hiking outfits, and maybe a year for shop, yard, and housework.

This cotton calico jumper is made from four different brown/black/blue/teadye fabrics from the same collection.  (“Nottingham Village” by Judy Rothermel for Marcus Brothers; marketed as 1860s-style fabric suitable for vintage-inspired quilts, Civil War reenactment clothing, etc.).    The top is lined with tea-dyed muslin, all seams are bound, and the skirt has pockets.  Front and back are decorated with embroidery and a few tiny vintage blue mother-of-pearl buttons.  I have several off-white shirts that go with this.  The fabric that looks pale gray in the photo is actually a dusty greenish blue.

Calico Jumper

Calico Jumper

Here’s a detail of the front, showing the delicate fabric designs, embroidered black bias tape strip, and decorative buttons.

Jumper Front

Jumper Front

The back has a narrower embroidered strip and a folded point detail at the top center.

Jumper Back

Jumper Back

Just got my first three 8″ test swatches of my original designs from Spoonflower, the fabric printing company.  Spoonflower offers several natural-fiber fabric options.  I chose the two that I thought I’d actually use.  Colors for these three designs were all picked from the “preferred colors” chart that Spoonflower provides in an attempt to help designers choose colors that will print accurately.  Apparently some colors, when printed on fabric, look very different from what is shown on the computer monitor that the designer is working with.  Some of this is inevitable, since color monitors show a much wider variety of colors than printing inks do.

PRINTING QUALITY:  The printing is extremely crisp, quite different from commercial silkscreened fabric, and without the “blurry” look that you get with an inkjet printer on paper.  These designs have laser-printed precision and are very faithful to the original drawings.  So I don’t need to worry about whether I can reproduce small and/or detailed designs!

Tiger Tattoos: Lapis Lazuli

Tiger Tattoos:  Lapis Lazuli is printed on linen/cotton canvas.  Individual motifs are 3″.  This is a midweight fabric, similar to English tea towels but a bit smoother and with a tighter weave.  It is a warm white with a slight sheen and a surpisingly nice drape.  I thought it might work for a jumper (a sleeveless dress that is worn with a shirt underneath).  Linen is cool and comfortable here in the desert, but the sun and dry air make it brittle, so the lifespan of a linen garment that gets regular wear is only about 18 months.  So I’d choose this fabric for a dress that I didn’t wear for hiking.

The color is lapis lazuli or ultramarine (a slightly reddish blue), which is a bit off from the dark greenish-indigo that I chose from the chart.  It is a bit bright for my taste but is fine for non-clothing items.  I bought a “fat quarter” of this since the 8″ swatch wasn’t big enough to show all the motifs.  So I have enough for several nice bags for bells etc.

Tiger Tattoos: Black and Red

Tiger Tattoos:  Black and Red is printed on quilter’s cotton.  Individual motifs are 2″.  This is a smooth, high quality but slightly transparent fabric.  As any crafter knows, quilter’s cottons vary widely in weight, thread thickness, and tightness of weave.  I’d put this one somewhere in the middle – it’s not as coarse as some, and not as fragile as the goods that are often used for commercial “designer” fabrics.  I feel confident about working with it and wearing it.  The skulls do look rather weird in red, and I’ll probably change them to black before I order any more of this, but Spoonflower particularly recommends this color on their chart, and I wanted to see what it looked like.  On the chart, it’s a dark red ochre.  The printed version is brighter, more of a “true” red like a ripe New Mexico chili pepper, but not screaming scarlet.  I was concerned that the designs wouldn’t show all the details at this size, but they are fine.

Kitten with Cat Skulls

Kitten with Cat Skull Checkerboard.  The small checks are 2″ and show realistic domestic cat skulls.  The large squares are 4″ and show a newborn kitten sleeping on a cat skull.  This bold and rather large print shows all the details of the original drawings but I think they’d lose their impact if I made them any smaller.  The color that I chose for the background was a light coral pink, because I have always liked the pink/black/white combination but didn’t want a “strawberry” pink that would make it look like a box of GoodNPlentys.  The printed version is definitely NOT pink, but a light peach (or pale, muted, “baby aspirin” orange).  Unlike the black, the peach isn’t a uniform color, but shows the very faint horizontal banding that is typical of inkjets when printing a large area (more than 1″x1″) in a single color.  Hardly noticeable from a few inches away, but I’ll remember to make the background more multicolored in future designs.  Not exactly the color that I wanted, but probably close enough, and finding just the “right pink” in fabric is notoriously difficult.  Overall it’s a stunning fabric and will be a nice addition to my All Souls Procession costume.

WHAT’S NEXT?  I’ll make some more designs and order more swatches, this time using more colors in each design, and without using Spoonflower’s color chart (which wasn’t useful except for the red).  Ultimately I want to design fabrics for my own dresses and for craft projects such as bags and masks.  I also want to make some spreadcloths and/or altar cloths with centered square or circular designs that fit on a yard of fabric, and a couple of those are already in the works.

Rainbow Lion Again

March 22, 2010

Rainbow Lion got another makeover.  I removed all the metal ornaments.  On the blanket, I kept the shisha mirrors but replaced the copper spirals and glass beads with fluffly double tassels.  He finally feels “right”.  He is light, bright, and cuddly now that he’s not weighed down with metal and glass.

Rainbow Lion

Fabric Cat Mask Pattern

February 4, 2010

I recently posted about my Feral Black Cat Mask made from cotton fabric.  Here’s the white version, for which I shortened the pattern so it covers a bit less of the face.  Snowball the Shelter Ghost Mask is made from undyed 60%hemp/40%cotton muslin, a single layer of cotton batting, and a backing of unbleached cotton muslin.  This mask is hand-embroidered with three sizes of pearl cotton thread, handcut polished aluminum shisha mirrors, and tassels of Nepalese undyed recycled silk yarn.  A larger photo is available on my Flickr page.

Snowball the Shelter Ghost

FABRIC MASKS have several advantages over leather, papier-mache, or metal masks.  They are soft, flexible, and comfortable to wear.  They are not messy to make, require no special equipment beyond basic handsewing materials, and are suitable for a variety of quilting, embroidery, and embellishment techniques.

This 2-D half-mask covers only the upper half of the face.  It can be made very simply from a single piece of heavy nonfraying fabric such as leather,ultrasuede, or felt.  But for most fabrics you will need a front piece and a lining, and some way to bind the edges if you don’t want to stitch the two pieces inside out and turn them.  I chose to stitch both masks right side out and bind the edges with buttonhole stitch, which is time-consuming but very elegant looking.  It also adds weight and stiffness to the finished mask.

Below is the pattern for both masks.  You can download a large printable version for free HERE.  The outer line is the cutting line.  There are two variations for the bottom corners of the mask.  I used the longer, downcurved points for the black mask, to anchor for the metal ornaments.  I used the shorter horizontal points for the white mask, to give a lighter look.  The other lines are the quilting pattern that I designed for the black mask.

ADJUSTING THE EYEHOLES:  Before using a pattern, you may need to adjust the size and/or position of the eyeholes.  Trace the pattern onto a piece of scrap paper and cut it out, including the eyeholes.  Hold the pattern up to your face and look in the mirror.  You should have a clear, unobstructed view through the eyeholes.  Mark any needed adjustments, redraw it with your “custom-fitted” eyeholes, and check the fit with a second tracing of the paper pattern.  Once you are satisfied with the position of the eyeholes, you’re ready to make the mask.

Fabric Cat Mask Pattern

Fabric Cat Mask Pattern

Here’s a comparison photo of both masks.  Although the black one was cut from the longer pattern, it’s a smaller mask because I used a wider seam allowance than the one shown on the pattern.

Fabric Cat Masks

New Dresses

January 22, 2010

I made some new clothes to replace several things that wore out last summer.  This is a dress pattern that I made in 2002 and have used several times.  My cotton dresses last for about five years (sometimes more) of regular wear.  They start out as “nice” clothes and are relegated to hiking wear and finally to house and/or shop clothes before they finally fall apart.

The first dress is made of four Bali batiks and is unadorned except for decorative patches above the hem (three small ones in front, one larger one in back).  The second dress is made from a cotton print that is sold for 1860s historical reenactment clothing.  The pattern was modified to give it a larger collar, curved waist, and skirt ruffle.  There is hand embroidery on the collar, cuffs, and skirt.

Purple Batik Dress

Embroidered Calico Dress