Category Archives: Sewing & Design

Reverse Appliqué

Last week I spent a day at the MN State Fair demonstrating mending.  Well, it started as demonstrating mending, but watching someone stitch a hem is about as much fun as watching paint dry.  ReUseMN, the organization that was sponsoring the demos is all about reuse and repair and each day they had a different group showing how to fix up something.  I had brought a bunch of little projects with me, but I needed something that would draw people over.  So I started “mending” a t-shirt with reverse appliqué.

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Appliqué means that you take a little piece of fabric and stitch it on top of another piece of fabric, like a patch.  It’s a good way to fix a hole.  Reverse appliqué means that you take  little piece of fabric and stitch it behind another piece of fabric.  When you trim away that top layer, you can make really cool designs and you can get rid of a hole or a bleach stain.  You can see one flower petal in progress on the t-shirt above.  The yellow fabric is another t-shirt that I brought along. I put a piece of yellow behind the red, stitched each petal and then cut away the red t-shirt.  I worked on this shirt all day, making 4 sunflowers with leaves and a butterfly.  (I turned the rest of the yellow t-shirt into some t-shirt yarn and made an infinity scarf.  That’s a fun project for another post.)

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If you love the look, be sure to check out Natalie Chanin’s work.  She has made reverse appliqué (especially with knits) pretty famous.  Molas, a South American art form, are also made using reverse appliqué.  The Hood Museum of Art has a great article about making molas that you can download here.

Frequently asked questions while I was working and chatting with people at the fair:

Won’t that just shred itself where you cut it?  You can’t wash it?

I am always surprised when I get this question.  Why would I make clothing that I couldn’t wash?  For the most part, knits don’t fray or come undone when you cut them.  Especially t-shirt knit.  The edges will curl up a little bit especially on an edge that gets stretched a lot, but it’s going to hold up just fine.

You have to sew it by machine if you really wanted to wear that, right?

I guess there is a perception that if you make it by machine that it is somehow stronger and better.  (If you didn’t check out Natalie Chanin before, let me just say that every stitch of her garments are hand sewn and meant to be worn.)  As long as I use good sturdy thread (perle cotton for this) and make sure I secure my ends, hand sewing can be stronger than sewing by machine.  This kind of stitching is also decorative because I chose to make the stitches somewhat large and in a contrasting color, but those pieces are going to stay together.

Cut then stitch?

Many people assumed that I had cut out the holes first and then stitched something behind.  It’s a lot easier to actually stitch first and cut after because everything stays nice and flat and the holes don’t stretch out of shape.  I did these shapes free-hand, but you could easily draw some light pencil lines as a guide for stitching.  I pinned the two layers of fabric together and used the pins to help me see where the edge of my yellow fabric was so I didn’t accidentally stitch off the edge.

 

On exhibit: Permafrost

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I am absolutely delighted to be one of the artists featured in this regional Surface Design Association show which opens in just a few days.  When I got the announcement of the exhibition call for entry, I thought the concept was intriguing.

The intention of this exhibit is to illustrate things that are transparent, translucent, and/or transformed in this world, OR, things that should be (i.e. government, politics, fundraising, banking, corporate power, policy decisions, healthcare, etc.). You can go for the literal meaning of the words transparent, translucent, transformed… or, you can go with a more conceptual or abstract meaning of the words. We invite both the literal and wide view of this theme.

The piece I made for the show is called “Permafrost”.  We got a great photo (I think) and they must have loved it too because it is there on the flyer.

Rahn_Becka_ttt_Permafrost

To me, the word translucent can be described by layers; something you can see through, but what you look at changes based on the layer you are looking through. This design was created using layers of images: fern frost on a window and a chain link screen. Separately, the two don’t have an obvious relationship, but combined they become a new idea and allow you to see one as it is influenced by the other. “Permafrost” is a geologic term for soil that remains frozen for consecutive years, bound or locked up as ice, and as the title of this piece, describes the connection I see between these two images. The lines of the dress give the feeling of emerging from this image of everlasting winter. The sleeveless style and broken neckline suggest the wearer is cracking and shedding away the ice.

Rahn_Becka_ttt_PermafrostDetailThe fabric is digitally printed, naturally.  It’s a lovely drapey silky faille from Spoonflower. This fabric has a nice weight to it so it hangs well.  A little challenging to sew as it is a bit slippery and tends to shift off grain if you let it.  Hand beaded with vintage flat sequins from Etsy.  Both photos for the design were taken on trips to my hometown.  The frost (which is actually 6 images put together) was on the windows at my mother-in-law’s house.  The chainlink was in a public art space called “Art Alley” and although I faded a lot of the color out for this piece, the fence is painted bright blues and pinks.

Tweed: Spoonflower Performance Knit & Renfrew Mod

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This is affectionately known as the “yarn dress” at my house and I have worn it for about a half a dozen official type functions this winter.  I realized at some point that all of the dresses and things I have made from my Spoonflower fabrics have been very summery – sleeveless tops, summer dresses – and I live in MN, where there was a ridiculous amount of winter this year.  So I wanted a dress that was something I could wear with tights and a cardigan.  Then Spoonflower introduced “performance knit”, which is a stable but drapey kind of polyester knit.  Seemed like a perfect fit.  I LOVE this dress.

The fabric:  The design started from a photo of my friend Jen’s handspun yarn.  The original colors were a little too much for me, so I toned the whole thing down a little bit and made it seamlessly repeat.  Then when I set up the 2 yards of fabric to print, I added a photoshop effect to the edge of each yard, creating a kind of border print where the edge dissolves into polkadots.  I could just barely squeeze the dress on to 2 yards (it’s good that I am short).

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Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 4.36.14 PMThe pattern:  The pattern is my favorite t-shirt  – Renfrew from Sewaholic – just lengthened to add a skirt.  I have another short sleeved one I did this to and I wear that one a lot too. When I do another from this fabric, because it doesn’t stretch much, I would add just a tiny bit over the shoulders/bust width, maybe just going a size up.

 

Rain Storm: Silk screen, digital print, hand embroidery

dripdropThis is my piece that is in the A Common Thread show at Textile Center this year.  It’s a 3 piece “suit” with three different techniques.  It started with the fabric for the skirt.  I taught a class last summer about silk screening and I needed a sample of how  you would create an all over repeat with silk screens.  This is two screens – one printed in dark silver and the other in blue.  So it took many passes to screen it to make sure that I wasn’t touching any of the wet paint where the edges of the screen might overlap.  I made the screens using a thermofax machine and specially treated fabric – you print your design on a laser printer or copier and run it through the machine with the fabric.  The coating on the screen is burned away whereever it touches your artwork.  It is a very cool process.  The fabric is a metallic denim and it is printed in metallic ink, so it is hard to photograph because everything reflects the light.  The pattern is a simple pencil skirt because I didn’t want to do much to interrupt the pattern.

The top is digitally printed “silky faille” which is one of Spoonflower’s newer fabrics.  I needed an excuse to get some and try it out.  The pattern is the same rainclouds from the silk screen, shrunk down and colored using the Spoonflower color chart.  The color chart is a piece of fabric printed with “chips” of about 1600 colors that can be printed.  Each one has a code, so you can choose the color you want and enter the code in Photoshop as you create your design. Since I had already printed the skirt fabric, I could compare colors on the color chart to the paint colors and get a pretty great match.  I forgot when I printed this that the pattern pieces are supposed to be cut on the diagonal grain for this top, but I wanted to keep the design running the same way as on the skirt, so I cut  it with the grain.  This is such a nice drapey fabric that it worked just fine.

The jacket is a simple bolero trimmed with a little blue organza around the collar and cuffs and then hand embroidered with rows of running stitch, matching the rain drops from the design.  I laid out the stitching lines with masking tape that I stitched along the edges of. The buttons are vintage ones I found on Etsy.

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The Thief

IMG_9462The Thief

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Digitally printed fabric with hand embroidery

This piece was my contribution to the art auction in my hometown.  They do a fundraiser every year with a silent auction of 8×8 inch pieces.  The artists are kept anonymous until after the event, so I have been keeping this one under wraps.

This is a collaboration with my mom.  She snapped this photo of one of her neighbor deer. This particular deer had been recently snacking at the neighbors pear tree so I made the repeat pattern behind her with pears and flowers.  I embroidered with shiny rayon thread to addd texture to her nose and ears and then gave her extra thick eyelashes.  I love the “who me?” expression that mom captured.

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Renfrew & Wild Horse Stampede

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This is the Renfrew Top by Sewaholic patterns.  It is seriously one of my favorite patterns ever.  I have made about 6 shirts in several variations and I still love it.  I admit I was a total chicken about working with knits.  I do all kinds of crazy sewing projects but I didn’t even touch knits until about a year ago.  I saw this pattern and I had a piece of vintage knit and it was absolute love.  I bought a serger a few months later and I am now getting brave enough to tackling a few alterations to the pattern – I made a version with what my husband calls “princess sleeves” that are puffed on top with long very fitted cuffs.  This is basically everything I love in a good t-shirt – it’s not too short or too tight or see-through.  It’s cute and flattering and dead easy.

You can just make the short sleeved version in my size with a yard of Spoonflower knit.  They have a new knit fabric out and I so I ordered a yard so I could check it out.  And the most perfect design just jumped in to my cart: Wild Horse Stampede by MulberryTree.  Guys, it has seahorses.  Total love.  The trim I did with a bit of orange rayon/cotton knit from Joanns that has tiny tiny little orange and grey stripes.  It just happened to be just the right orange (there are a few little orange seahorses) and I thought the contrast would make the shirt a little more sophisticated.  I wore this to work on Friday and my summer camp kids loved it.