Saturday, October 20, 2012

God Sew the Seam! Craftarchy Upcycled Totebag

I am a Craftarchist, 
Don't know what I want 
But I know how to stitch it. 
I wanna destroy all fabric 
'Cos I wanna be craftarchy!

Call me an Anglophile!  The Beatles invaded my heart at age fashion persuasion swings towards 1960s mod London....Vivienne Westwood and her '70s punks revolutionized my way of diy thinking.....oh and I am always 'loving the alien', err I mean David Bowie.

The imagery of the Union Jack has always been an inspiration to me.  A simple graphic with 3 colors-- the juxtaposition & placement of the various crosses (each representing one of the countries that combined to form the United Kingdom)-- this symbol captivates me!
Origins of the 'Jack'.  Image found off the web.
So powerful!  Be it representing a nation, or representing a rock band, this flag flies across many bounds, continuing to inspire many!!
The Jack Represents!  Clockwise from top left: David Bowie sporting an Alexander McQueen jacket on his 'Earthling' album cover,  Def Leppard in Union Jack '80s exercise gear, Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls wearing her new line of Union Jack inspired fashion- in sequin dress & posing in front of her trademark '90s Spice Girls Ginger Spice get-up, The Rolling Stones at the Alamo in 1975, The Who with Pete Townsend- symbols of a new young Generation, and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols in torn ripped Union Jack sleeveless tee a la 1970s punk.

A few years ago, my aunt sent me a package of some things she had kept of my grandmother's and great-grandmother's.  There were loads of designer scarves from the 1960s and 1970s- my grandmother, Mooty as we called her, was a fashionista in her time.  Always impeccably dressed to the 9's in every situation- I must have gotten my love of fashion from her.  My great-grandmother was a crafty one.  She crocheted and produced many intricately constructed doilies and crochet piecings that would grace the tabletops of many a home.  Perhaps her crafty spirit was passed down to me too!  At the time my aunt sent me these relics, I had no idea what to do with them.  They sat in a storage bin for 2 years.  But lightning struck me one day when I was cleaning out my closet and came across them.  Maybe it was the recent celebration of the Queen's Jubilee or the London Olympics....the Union Jack was on my brain (and in my tummy):

I'm All Lost in the Supermarket....I took this pic of the Union Jack icing on the cake at my local QFC grocery store this past summer.

Sew Inspired was I - I took my Grandmother Mooty's Geoffrey Beene 'Nineteen Hundred Seventy-Six' scarf (how's that for some irony?!) and used it as the base fabric for my Union Jack piecing on the Craftarchy Bag.  I glued it with the spray adhesive on some cream canvas.  Then I added my great-grandmother's crochet rectangle pieces as the white cross seen on the Union Jack.  I used some cotton webbing for the diagonal white crosses, and finally added the red tonal striped seersucker fabric to the red cross (a la St. George).  Crimson lace was topstitched on to the cotton webbing (similar to the St. Patricks cross).

As I began stitching my creation together, I came to the realization that there were 4 generations that were involved in the making of this creation:

  1. My Great-Grandmother's Crochet Pieces
  2. My Grandmother's Geoffrey Beene designer scarf
  3. My Mother's Sewing Machine
  4. Me.....Uniting it all together- breathing new life into past relics.  

Kind of similar to how the symbol of the Union Jack came together.....

Talkin' Bout My Generation!  Four Generations Come Together (right now....)

So here I present, in all its new found glory-- my upcycled CRAFTARCHY totebag!  Front, Back, and Side views shown below.  Safetypins adorn the bag as a nod to my favorite fashion designer- Vivienne Westwood- who was responsible for bringing the anti-fashion punk style of the 1970s to the fashion forefront!
Top to  Bottom:  Front of Bag; Back of Bag; Side view of Bag (note the scarf edge)

And the bag is not complete without a fancy inner lining:

Happy Jack- right down to the inner lining!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Crafty Roots: Finding my Heart & Soul in the Walk of Life

Duck Dynasty: me sporting some vintage '80s 'Aerobics Duck Fonda' applique made by my mom!
The hum of a sewing machine....the scent of UHU glue.....the glow of a lightbox.....and mounds of fabric scattered atop a large craft table teetering upon sawhorses....memories of these things take me back to my crafty roots.  During my early childhood, my mother, a talented seamstress, ran a small cottage industry making crafted items out of calico fabrics.  My mom and her business partner sewed their wares to show & sell on the local craft show circuit.  It was Wisconsin, the early 1980s.  Surrounded by farming communities, they made all sorts of quirky, animal-inspired creations out of fabric: reindeer-heads (resembling their taxidermy cousins) made from poplin fabric stuffed with poly-fil to hang on your wall and baby bibs appliqued with smiling cows with daisies on their heads & real mini-cowbells stitched around the neck, were just a few of these creations that I recall.

My mom and her sewing partner finally struck crafty gold with a simple duck applique design idea.  A request for an applique of a white duck dressed up as a cleaning lady spurred an entire franchise of profession/ personality-themed appliqued ducks. Soon my mom & her business partner were crankin' out all sorts of ducks:  chef ducks, nurse ducks, teacher ducks, doctor ducks, fireman ducks, and whatever the duck you wanted.  It was a bit of a 'quacker factory' at my house.  My mom enlisted my dad, a talented industrial designer who could sketch anything from his head, to draw each themed duck.  After my dad made the master-drawing, my mom would trace it with the lightbox and make templates to use for her applique.  She'd trace the templates onto poplin fabrics fused with interfacing and cut stacks of each applique piece from the fabric.  She'd apply all of her applique pieces together using UHU glue sticks.  Once the applique was glued down to whatever was being duck-orated- a totebag, sweatshirt, apron, mother would stitch everything down using a satin stitch on her sewing machine.  She'd stitch and stitch all day long, down in our basement, with Huey Lewis & the News or a Dire Straits cassette tape blaring out of the boombox.  My journey began here:  finding my 'Heart & Soul' on the 'Walk of Life' (ooo-woo-hoo!).

I wish I had more of her original pieces or pictures of her creations, but I did manage to hold on to this photo below.  In lieu of ducks, my mom appliqued this creation to suit my ever-growing childhood obsession with frogs.
Frogger in Pigtails:  Me at age 6, sportin' a crafty creation drawn by my dad & stitched by my mom!
Creativity has surrounded me since birth.  It's what I'm used to seeing and what I'm used to doing.  It runs in my blood and it's part of my makeup.  My roots go back to those early days of my mother and father collaborating together & creating appliqued duck designs.  As I grew up, I pursued my love of creating & chose to study fashion design in college.  My mother's trusty New Home sewing machine came along with me, so that I could sew all of my school projects (It's the machine pictured in the right side of this blog).  I learned sewing and construction techniques in my college fashion design courses, and sometimes my applique crafty roots would turn up in my projects.  Example-- my first fashion design project- Childrenswear.  Inspired by none other, but another childhood favorite...Legos!  I used applique for the lego bricks in this project below:

Lego Maniacs!  Sophomore year, Summer Qtr in 1998.  My first crit in front of a panel of judges. Check out her purse...I made it from Legos!  The shoes are also hand-painted to resemble Lego bricks.  My dad specially cut the Duplo blocks in his shop, that I used as fasteners on the coveralls.  
Upon graduating with a degree in fashion design from college, I immediately started working for a major corporate fashion retailer of little girls clothing.  It was quite an experience that taught me many valuable lessons about life & work, and also finding the right life & work balance (which was a challenge most of the time).  Being so young; so bright-eyed & bushy-tailed; and my skin so thin, I had burned out on this job.  My mind, heart & soul were in a major state of disarray.  I had lost touch with my creative soul and had turned into a zombie.  It was no bueno.

Lucky me, I had the opportunity to quit that job and move across the country to gain a better perspective on life.  Plenty of nurturing, fresh mountain air, healthy salmon dinners, fresh veggies, cleansing misty rain, long bike rides, salty-scented ocean air, and the best damn coffee in the U.S.of A helped me recover my creative inner child.  What better place to move, but Seattle!  I was so burned out from corporate America that I decided to take a job in a small, boutique-style fabric shop that had just opened a month after I landed in town.

Being surrounded by beautiful fabrics & a like-minded crafty crew of folks nurtured my damaged artist child & brought me back to my crafty roots!  I'd be working in the shop, inspired by the fabrics, and would go home that night to create something spiffy with my sewing machine.  Excitement, ideas, & dreams filled my heart, mind, and soul.  The sewing machine became an extension of my hands and arms, bringing these ideas to life!  I made some clothing, but most of the time, I created appliques.  I realized that I was blessed with both my mom's seamstress abilities and my dad's artistic talent and could combine these skills into my own craft- conceptualizing, drawing, and appliqueing.  And then I cranked out as many ideas that came into my brain:

Just a smattering of my appliqued pieces that have come into my brain and then off of my sewing machine!
Instead of personality-themed ducks, my inspiration was dogs.  I love dogs, grew up with a dachshund, and sometimes would rather be in the company of dogs, than humans. One of my most popular dog designs incorporated a pug dog and my favorite band, Devo, from my adopted home state of Ohio.  The Devo Pug design, or as I like to call it, the 'Pug U Want'.  I read somewhere that Mark Mothersbaugh had a pet pug dog, and thought it would be nifty to personify the pug as Mark.  You can see him above- the middle picture.  The pug is wearing a classic Devo 'Energy Dome' headpiece with geeky glasses- inspired by the Devo frontman, Mark Mothersbaugh.  The pug is even rockin' out on a this case, a 'mini-poog'.  I made several versions of the applique- a few on some totebags, made some wall-hangings, some pillows, and even appliqued it on a dress.  One of my shining moments in life was meeting my inspiration, Mark Mothersbaugh, while wearing my dress:

See the resemblance?  The maker meets her inspiration.....Me in my applique 'Pug U Want' dress with my idol, Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo.
When I heard that Devo and Blondie (2 of my favorite bands!) were coming to town for a concert at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in September, I just about peed my pants!!  I had to make a fun appliqued piece of clothing to wear to the show.  Although I didn't meet up with the bands after the show this time, I did have a lot of fun designing and making my shirt.  I was inspired by some fabric I bought from the discount bin at JoAnn Fabrics- a poppy red/ white cheetah print on french terry knit.  The fabric pattern was perfectly punky mod and just right to use as the base fabric for my applique shirt.  I stuck with dogs as my applique subjects- a Pug for Devo, and a Japanese Chin for Blondie ( I read somewhere that Debbie Harry owns a Japanese Chin).  Below is a brief photo pictorial of my process from start to finish:
Clearance Fabric from JoAnn's, My Applique Sketch, and the actual Applique pieces

Clockwise from bottom left:  Applique placement, Appliques, Garment pattern selection and layout- McCalls M4835,  and me posing in my creation!
My sewing diva friend, Cheryl of Paradiso Designs, accompanied me to the concert.  We picnicked under the beautiful September sunset, and danced our booties into the night.  It was so much fun!

Another applique project that I recently finished up with was a totebag for my former co-worker, Lyndsi.  I worked with her at the giant corporate girls clothing headquarters back in the Midwest.  Lyndsi is an amazing artist and loves her puppies!  She saw some of my work that I posted on my instagram site and asked if I could make her a Sheltie applique on a totebag.  I said...Certainly!  I asked Lyndsi what her favorite colors were and when she said orange, purple, and turquoise, immediately I thought, 1980s!!!  And sew it goes:
Jazzy fabric selection, plotting out my applique sketch, stitching the applique with my mom's trusty sewing machine (which I stole)

Sheltie Applique Creation reminds me of a Duran Duran album posing with the final creation- a totebag!

My roots may be steeped in crafty applique creative goodness...but you can tell from my designs, I've never quite shaken my crazy love of the New Wave '80s.  It makes me go Bow-Wow-Wow-Oh-Chi-Wow-Wow!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Summer Repeats: Welcome Back Crafter!

Day-Glo Neon Paint......sparks my craft mojo!

Greetings, My Groovy Crafters!  Has it been over a year since I last posted here?  My craft mojo was down and I was missing my motivation & inspiration.  It was a tough year for me, but I'm coming out of the craft coma.  During my absence it looks like Blogger made some changes to my blog.  So...I decided to change it up, too.  'Put the Needle to the Fabric' will now be known as Needles Groove!

Welcome Back, Crafter!  A good segue to this post's theme.  This past summer, one of my clients returned back for my services, with a new commission proposition.  My girl, Shaniece, and her twin were in need of funky throwback jackets to wear as part of their get-up to an Old School concert in their hometown of Philly.

Let's back up a bit, here.  Last year around this time, Shaniece contacted me through my website.  She was in awe of my Salt N Pepa jackets & asked me to make 2 jackets- one for her and one for her twin- so they could wear them to an Old School show in December.  With much coaxing, I decided to give it a go.  I was apprehensive at first....I wasn't sure if I could go through another bout of carpal tunnel syndrome-inducing cutting of felt fabric.  But I pulled through and ta-da.....
Shaniece & her twin lookin' fly in my Salt 'n' Pepa jackets
So when Shaniece contacted me this past summer for another throwback jacket proposition for her and her twin to rock at another Old School show....I said of course.
Shaniece was very specific with her idea- she sent me a picture to follow for inspiration, and instructed me to use Neon colors- pink, purple, orange, yellow, green and blue!  Ooooo, fun, I thought!

Throwback '90s jacket- Neon Paint Splat Re-do
Shaniece's inspirational pic, above on the left, propelled me into a craft-fancy!  Originally, I ordered some poly charmeuse jackets in a bomber silhouette- similar to the inspirational pic.  As I started to paint on polyester, using Tulip Soft fabric paints, the paint did not stick.  It looked awful.  Back to the drawing board.  A quick decision in part to my procrastinatory behavior of waiting to the last minute to crank out a project led me to the Men's Dept. of Fred Meyers where I picked up 2 plain colored black fleece athletic sweatshirts that I would fashion into front zip jackets with Neon Paint Splat Print.  The black fleece would be well suited to hold the Tulip Soft fabric prints.

And voila!  Shaniece & her twin are rockin' it again in the flyest of the fly-girl style!
Shaniece and her twin lookin' gorgeous as always! Posing with MC Lyte (top) & Al B. Sure (bottom).  
A big thanks to Shaniece in coming back for my master crafter services!!!  For never having met her or her twin in person, we sure share a common bond with our love of funky throwback fashion!  I'm grateful for Shaniece in giving me the opportunity to get my craft on and supply her with the most stylin' jackets to wear at her Old School shows!  I'm delighted & tickled to see the pictures of her with her twin in my creations, posing with some of my favorite Old School artists.  It makes me smile and let's me know that it's good to be craft in business!  Welcome Back, Crafter!