For those wondering about the radio silence lately, it’s all due to a major move: house and studio all packed up, moved and unpacked (mostly). Normal transmission should now resume.
The first UFO (unfinished object) submitted to the UFO Project is a beauty: hand dyed, quilted and embroidered. The artist, Ulrike, is not so much in need of technical advice (she’s clearly highly accomplished), but seems to have become stuck in getting it to a point where it feels ‘finished’, at least for now. Ulrike’s adventures in dying, weaving and other textile crafts are beautifully chronicled on her bilingual blog, Handspindel.
Not sure if my biggest UFO is actually an UFO or more like an eternal WiP [work in progress]. But where’s the difference there anyway? It’s a coat I started to sew nearly four years ago. A summer coat in kimono shape. It was kind of finished Sept ’08, when I was on a spinners and knitters meeting; you can actually see me posing in it on one of the photos there [see below]. And I wore it a few times, but something was amiss. It didn’t feel quite right.
I think what gave it away was that I never actually finished the bottom hem and some other minor details like a closure and such. But I added some pockets the next year. Last month, I unburrowed it, ripped off the sleeves, cut them open and redyed the rest of the coat. In its redyed and sleeveless state, it now lies again burrowed under a heap of freshly dyed fabrics. And waits for some inspiration to come.
The reason I don’t get it finished? I guess I want too much. I want it to be a piece of art as well as a wearable object, a piece I like to get to when chilly summer winds blow my way. And to think, I was so proud of it the first time.
As an aside, the writer in me is liking the use of the verbs ‘burrow’ and ‘unburrow’ in this context!
I too have a silk, kimono-ish coat that I started years ago, and haven’t finished either. Made from kimono silk, it was intended to be quilted and double sided. I think I just ran out of time with it one day, and then other projects took over. And I wanted it to be wearable art, too. On principle, however, I don’t think that’s wanting too much!
The coat is made from old linen shirts (you know, those old night dresses from 1800 something you get rather cheap on flea markets) [Not in Australia you don't! - Kapinny], taken apart, dyed in my first indigo fermentation vat with a huge block on the back dyed with brazilwood. This was in my natural dyer’s beginner’s days and I didn’t know that brazilwood fades rather quick on linen or cotton. So a few months ago, I started another fermentation vat and just dipped the whole coat in several times. Since the fermentation vat is rather alkalic and since I use it with a rather low temperature, the silk patches of the reverse applique don’t take on the dye (or at least not that much) and just retained their colour while the rest of the fabric got a bit darker.
Some of the motifs are actually part of the dyeing process, I experimented a little with different shibori techniques and used practically everything that could clamp fabric.
I think I will put the sleeves back on. Or rather some other sleeves. This time, I actually cut out a pattern on paper and I already cut some different coloured strips of fabric. I thought to make the whole thing bolder. So I guess, my problem is more a matter of courage. Usually, I’m more the black always fits-type. Though lately I became bolder and actually wear colour. In small patches, but colour nonetheless. Inspiration is not my problem, I have so many ideas, I just lack the time to bring them all into reality. And I stopped buying new clothes two years ago. And slowly I’m in need of some new ones. Which I make myself, which is wonderful but takes time, especially since I only rarely use my sewing machine; I prefer sewing by hand. But in the end, I think, it really is a matter of courage. A matter of just doing it.
I’ll be interested to see what she does with those new sleeves. Ulrike also plans to add more appliqué.
Though there is always something very special for me about a blue and white combination, I love the splash of pinky-red that was on the back before the over-dying process. I’m all for colour in clothing: I actually can’t wear black ever since I used to work in theatre, and had to wear nothing but. For some reason it gives me the willies.
It’s hard to know what to suggest. I’m wondering if the issue isn’t something to do with the proportions. Perhaps the length is not quite right. I would experiment with pinning up the hem at different lengths to see what difference it made. I’d think about maybe adding some kind of mandarin collar? And perhaps the new sleeves could be shorter, as well.
It’s something that requires some playing around, I think, to see what works.
If you have any comments or suggestions on what might work, we’d love to hear them!