Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time


Sewing Block

You know how everyone is always talking about writer’s block? Where you sit for hours and just stare at the computer screen – it used to be the blank white page of paper for me – now it’s the screen. Well, I don’t have writer’s block. No. I have Sewer’s Block which looks like something in a sewer but it isn’t. It’s something in my sewing room.

Now I don’t have Sewer’s Block because I don’t have enough wonderful fabric. I sort of went nuts buying fabric in May, June and July – feeling sorry for myself – and I had a splurge. So I have wonderful fabric. And I have great patterns. And I can adjust them.

The problem I have is – I cannot decide what to do. I have looked at all of the patterns at least twice. I have washed the fabrics I could – patted them and folded them nicely. And sat at the table. And done nothing else.

I am awash in frustration. I want to sew. I just don’t want to decide what to cut out. I don’t know if I want to make a top, jacket, pair of pants or a tee. I just don’t know.

My fabric that has been calling to me is this one

This is a nice cotton twill. It will be great for fall and I think for winter too. I’m never too cold so wearing this fabric as a jacket with either a white or black tee-shirt would be great. I have a Flax jacket that I want to copy to make this – or maybe I’ll use a Katherine Tilton jacket pattern. Sigh. See what I mean? I also have other jacket patterns that would work and a couple of blouses. Here’s one:



I would seriously need to leave off the ties on the sleeves. They would drive me crazy. But I like the basic shirt style. It’s got the right feel to it. Also there’s this one:


You know – this is weird but I think I truly love the idea of that fabric in this dress. This is a Marcy Tilton Vogue Pattern. I made it the first time out of a knit and the knit was just too droopy for the pattern. I think it would be GORGEOUS in that print. And I could make the sleeves a tad bit longer because she has the option for a 3/4 sleeve. And I could wear it with leggings in the winter ……………. ooooooh I’m getting excited! Whatcha think? You know I think that’s it! I’m going to measure it out tomorrow and make sure it would all fit well. Wow. To think I almost made a simple little shirt out of that great fabric!!!!!!!


1 Comment

No Lack of Interests For Me!

For those of you uninitiated into the thrill of mindless consumption – these are tjaps. They are Indonesian and they are used to apply wax in batik. I will not be using them for that however. I will be putting paint, foil, whatever onto them and stamping them onto either shirts or fabric. As soon as I decide if I should buy shirts or just buy fabric or what the hell buy both.

I have been dyeing fabric since 1987. My first sold quilt went for whoot $1500 and it was my version of an Amish Center Diamond in indigo, fuchsia and purple. It was hand quilted and I used this batting and muslin that was so HEAVY I created a great case of carpal tunnel finishing that quilt. It was worth every twinge.

This is a new adventure for me although I have been doing surface design regularly. I have never tried stamping or anything like it. I did batik way back longer ago than I can remember and I enjoyed it immensely. It is what started me on my tour of magical textile delights.

I’m anxious to begin the stamping. I use Lumiere paints and Jones Tones foils. These should look wonderful on any color fabric. I like the diminutive prints for clothing as I can put it all over and not look garish. At one point I wanted to silkscreen. It took me reading the instructions to say ah no. I don’t think so. I’m way too messy for silkscreen.

A while back I did try Shiva Paint Sticks – and they’re okay if you’re not going to wear what you paint with them. I could never get the hang of the rubbing plates because they weren’t textured enough for me to see any particular design. I think they’d be great for fabric for a purse or something like that – but they aren’t as usable for clothing.

Stay tuned – I hope to get pictures out to you soon! Oh by the way – you can get these tjaps at Dharma Trading Company – which is the absolute most supremely wonderful supply store for EVERYTHING and ANYTHING you can think of doing. I mean everything – I get my dyes from them, silk paints, my Lumiere paints, my ready to dye fabrics, clothing blanks, purse blanks, silks on and on and on ………….

Leave a comment

Making Art – And Whatever Made You Think Someone Would Buy It?


I’m sure it was Winston Churchill who said that to keep doing the same things and expecting a different outcome is insanity. Consider me insane.

I’ve been some kind of an artist for over 50 years. I started with oil painting, then progressed to batik and ended up with wall hangings. I still paint – I make things – I do not CRAFT. I am not part of the Arts and Crap movement.

My work has been published in Great American Quilts 1992, Best Loved Traditional Quilt Patterns, Our Favorite Scrap Quilts, Better Homes and Gardens Scrap Quilts and Patchwork Quilt Tsushin – a quilting magazine from Japan.

My work is in private collections in Grosse Pointe, MI, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Tokyo and Sydney, Australia. I have a piece entitled “The Wall” on permanent exhibition at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, MI. I have been represented by a gallery on PEI, Canada and in shows throughout the United States

I dye fabrics, paint them – apply stuff to them and occasionally fuse them together. I make what I like. I don’t do commissions although I have sold all of my work with the exception of the one you see above and one other.

I do find that selling my work is burdensome. I had a gallery that represented me on PEI. I sold most everything with the owner’s immense help and hefty percentage cut. That was back in the day when people had money to spend. They don’t now. Or if they do, they don’t spend it on anything they truly can live without.

Which leaves an artist artisting and not eating. I know how Van Gogh felt when he cut off his ear. He should have cut off his arms. Would have made more sense. Or did he do that for the love of his life? Either way – stupid.

We own some pretty cool art too – stuff we bought. We can’t sell it either. A rip-off auction place offered me $100 per item even though they were selling a painting by the same artist whose work we have – for $5000. I didn’t expect $5000 but I sure didn’t expect $100. How much profit margin is that?

I make my clothes now – as most of you who read this know. I don’t make art. I don’t need anymore stuff on my walls and my creative outlet is satisfied with constructing clothes. I knit too. I like sweaters. I like big cozy sweaters and knitting is satisfying – if you don’t screw up – but I now know how to fix a screw up so instead of telling myself I can’t make a mistake – I make them and fix them.

When I’m older – if I live long enough to be older – I might make art again. I always have ideas. My ideas are surely not popular – but they are mine.



Leave a comment

Pictures Today!

I finally brought the Nikon D50 down so I can hook it up to the laptop and transfer pictures.  Somehow I would love to get these on the same floor. Hmm I’ll have to think on that.

First I have some pictures of the progress on the fantastic purple shirt here

McCall's 6605

McCall’s 6605

And here’s mine so far



And I thought you might want to see some of my quilts = traditional ones this time

The quilt in pink was machine pieced and quilted using my Bernina with the BSR (stitch regulator). Doing large quilts on the machine is boring. Really boring. I prefer hand quilting both for the appearance and the pleasure of doing this. The Russian Sunflower quilt is all hand pieced, hand appliqued and hand quilted every 1/4 in the sunflowers and in a rose leaf and crosshatch pattern in the plain setting blocks. Each sunflower has 45 pieces and piecing those tiny little triangles was a pain – so was cutting them out – and then I appliqued the sunflowers onto the base fabric. I must say I do love it!

Many things to do today so I’ll keep this short – have a great day!



Leave a comment

A Few New Designs I’m Going to Steal – well parts of them anyway

I know stealing is bad. But that’s stealing STUFF. Taking apart current couture fashion and using bits of it in design – everybody does this.

Case in point – I’ve noticed that a lot of pattern designers, not to name names, take elements from other designers’ previous patterns and incorporate them in their pattern. Sometimes the pattern is so similar I have to ask myself if there’s anything new at all.

All of those waisted dresses with the little skirts look alike to me. If you have one pattern, you have them all. And some of the “new” shirt patterns look right out of Issey Miyake‘s vintage patterns. Elements are there that are just directly derived from his work.

I’ve also noticed the trend with the god-awful asymmetrical knit shirts and woven shirts. These are not new and I’m really sick of them. Along with waterfall or cascading jackets. Nice for a couple of years ago – now boring.

Once you have a basic pattern for a top that fits you and that you feel comfortable wearing, you can add layers, embellishments, cut the sleeves or one sleeve out of another fabric, slice up the pattern to incorporate different fabrics, paint, silkscreen —— just keep churning out original tops that flatter you.

My training in batik, hand dyeing, art quilting (hate the term – now bunny quilts are “art” quilts – another rant for another time) and color makes clothing construction intensely exciting. Instead of looking like everyone else, I am not trapped in sameness. As long as I have the guts to wear something “out there” the world is my inspiration.

I was born with an interest in clothes. I played with dressing up my kitten. Not a good idea – all sorts of scratches resulted. I made paper dolls and they were  my favorite Christmas present. Remember Colorforms? Sticky plastic things in bright colors with a board to put them on – hours of creative fun.

When I was 13 I had an amazing experience in art class. I’m so sorry most schools have dumped these classes in favor of remedial reading, writing and arithmetic. Making art develops the imagination like no other learning experience. In my class I learned art history and hands-on art. I was able to do an independent study in batik with the noble assistance of my teacher, Mrs. Pond. She was eccentric and we all loved her. The class was a basis for everything I’ve done since then.

I read Glamour magazine back then – as well at Seventeen – and saw ads for Patricia Stevens Schools in New York. I wanted so badly to go to New York and study fashion design. My dad was a carpenter and my mom was a stay-at-home mother who felt her whole life that she could have done something out in the world. She wasn’t ever happy. At the age of 65 she announced that she was living for herself from now on out. She died at the age of 66. Guess she should have lived for herself earlier.

Neither of my parents thought art was a good idea for me. Odd since they had encouraged my sibling to take a correspondence course in commercial art. I was the “brain” with straight As and a bright future in something that would make me independent and financially secure. No art for me. I was encouraged to study teaching – also because I received a teaching scholarship and because it was thought to be “safe” and I would find a job after graduation. I didn’t have the motivation for this and ended up dropping out after 3 years. The grind was mind-numbing. I skipped a lot of classes. I was in disfavor at the house. Big disfavor. I was depressed – and it was viewed as weakness, not as something real.

So my art languished until 1987 when I picked out some fabric and started dyeing again. And I made over 100 quilts. I was published in quilting books and magazines from the US to Japan. I showed my work at exhibitions and I sold. I wrapped myself in little teensy bits of fabric and put them back together. I hand sewed and quilted everything. Every evening I would sit with a piece on my lap and stitch it. I taught myself traditional quilting and the Amish rocker quilting method. And then I branched out into geometric wall hangings of my own design. It was an exciting time.

I didn’t quilt at all or hardly at all while I lived in Canada. I couldn’t get the fabrics we have access to here in the states. The fabric was expensive in Canada – $13 a yard instead of $7 or $8. Being retired, this wasn’t possible to purchase.

I couldn’t mail order a lot of stuff from the US as the import taxes were high. I also concentrated on my antique quilt and used and out of print book business.

After moving to Maine I made 4 quilts in rapid succession. I got a Bernina with the stitch regulator and machine-quilted. I didn’t like the machine quilting and I can only do squiggles, not the intricate patterns I did by hand.

I found myself needing clothes. Badly. I decided I would make them and found an awesome tee shirt pattern by La Fred, who sadly is no longer with us, and started on this journey I am now on. I love sewing. It is the high point of my life right now. It gets me away from the contemplation of what to do for an ill spouse and keeps me steady.

And I get to take elements from every design I see and plan how I will use these in my clothing. Since I work from July to February, I have plenty of time to do this. If only I had room! My sewing ahem studio is 9 x 12 with a large table, three large plastic shelving units, an ironing board and crap all over the floor. My shelves are groaning with fabric. I keep notions, trims and patterns in pink plastic baskets. Sometimes it takes me forever to find something. This room is going to get a major overhaul real soon.

I spin fiber too. Ah like when I can – I don’t do this as much as I want. I need a better wheel. I need it to spin smoothly and easily. I’m going to sell it I think and get one that’s really good. It will be so worth it. I will be able to feed my yarn addiction to. Now instead of quilting at night, I knit. I’m almost done with an oversized dusty pink alpaca sweater that I love and I have one on the back burner that was supposed to be a test knit and I guess still is but I was too slow …………..

Inspiration is everywhere. I even look at sweater patterns and think how I can make this in knitted fabric with the sewing machine. I look at some clothing like skirts and dresses and think how I could adapt them for my wardrobe. I wear casual clothes most of the time. I can wear jeans and a tee shirt to work – but just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to! Wearing unique well-made clothes is my finest ambition – and helps keep me here now –

Leave a comment


I love to shop. I have always loved shopping. I am so glad the days are gone when I have to leave my home to shop! No more trying to find a parking spot at the mall – although these days you can get right up to the door – NOT the great economy of the 90s or even after the millenium. With the internet – I have found a whole new universe of STUFF to look at, if not to buy.e

Step back just a sec. Whenever my family and I went on vacation – I went to shop. We went to Toronto to see Phantom of the Opera. I shopped. We went to Niagara Falls to see well, the falls – and I went to shop. We went to Santa Fe – I went to shop. We went to Paris and my soul exploded with the sights and sounds and smells. I shopped. I went to Souleaido. The shop girls spoke no English and I spoke no French – I bought so much fabric I think they thought I was nuts. I am. Certifiable.



I looked at quilts. Being in the quilt business. A lady in Paris tried to sell me American quilts. Non non non. Provincial quilts – that’s what I wanted –

I bought a Limoges egg with fantastical painting on it and a little teensy perfume bottle inside. I bought art supplies at Sennelier – can you imagine? I need to go back to Paris. I really really do ………………

Ok back to shopping. I actually spend some time pretend shopping. I used to do this with catalogs – now I do it via the web. I see something I want and poof it’s in my shopping cart. And I keep going – adding everything I want from that site. You see just in case I win the lottery, I want to know what I’m going to do with that money besides buy a home on the ocean and one somewhere warm and go to New York and …………….

So I pretend shop. I do a fair bit of real shopping too – especially for my sewing hobby. Fabric is enticing and it is so cool to be able to look at fabric and buy it online. I don’t need to travel 2 hours to see if fabric stores in Portland have any fabric I want. I just go to my favorite fabric websites and troll for beauties.

Shoes are great fun too. I’ve always liked shoes. Ever since I got my first pair of red rubber boots when I was 5 years old. I got up in the middle of the night and put them on. Then I went back to bed. Mom thought that was funny. I thought it was normal and that everybody did that.

And then there’s underwear. I don’t know about you but I hate ratty underwear. And for some reason it doesn’t last long. I recently purchased 15 briefs. I decided to skip white because you just can’t keep it white no matter what you do and I don’t use bleach. My mom died from cleaning fluids. I don’t use nasty cleaning fluids. So the white underwear looks nasty in a few weeks. I went with blues and lavender and purple. I hand wash my underwear.

I graduated from high school in 1969. 🙂 Believe it or not, while I was in school we couldn’t wear pants to class. We had to wear skirts or dresses and they had to come to our knees – until I got to be a junior in high school. Then they could be shorter – thank God – one of my skirts was 17″ long – and blue jeans – flared-leg blue jeans – became really popular. I don’t know if Champaign was behind the times but I remember wearing my first tee shirt in 1969. It was maroon with white lettering – my high school’s colors. I have pictures of me in that and damn I was cute. I was cuter than I knew …………

Nowadays I like shopping for anti-aging creams and make-up to hid the wrinkles – although I do have less than I expected at this age. I like shopping for hair color – although not totally gray I do have these annoying white strings on my sides. And my hair is dark brown with I swear every other strand white or silver. Yetch. Nasty.

And I like shopping for socks. Have you seen the cost of socks lately? Gawd. I have to buy several pair at a time ……….. and there’s another foible of mine –

I buy in bulk. Say there’s a tee shirt I like. I get it in every color – or try to. How about a sweater? I buy those in bulk too. And socks, done that.

And fabric – oh boy fabric – ever since I started making quilts and wall hangings I started buying fabric in clumps. It was kind of hard then to co-ordinate them together into a quilt. Sometimes I wouldn’t have enough of one that I wanted to use so I would go to the stash and start pulling out possibilities. My friend once said I used more different fabrics in a quilt than anyone she knew. And she owned a quilting shop. I could always use bits. Fat quarters were the staff of life.

And then there’s fabric to sew into clothes. I make a lot of tee shirts. And jackets and pants …………. if I see something I like I buy it. If it’s 60″ wide I buy 2 yards for a tee and if it’s something I like a lot I’ll get 3 yards. If I find great fabric for a cami I’ll buy a yard. Pants need 3 yards for the length I find. And woven shirts – I like floaty so I’ll get 3 if it’s wide and 4 if it’s 45″. On and on and on …………

Whenever I want to make something I just have to go to my stash. And decide which one to use. If I have any time left from pretend shopping on the internet ……………….

A Flea Market in Paris

A Flea Market in Paris