My Yearly Shot of Inspiration

By Mary Boalt

When was the last time you had a “pinch me” moment? You know that instant in time where you were exceedingly happy beyond belief and thought it could never be repeated? I just experienced one and happily for me, it’s repeated every year.  I consider myself one of the luckiest people because I have been invited and included in a small group of women who meet yearly do to nothing but inspire, encourage, assist and share with each other our sewing projects. Donated fabrics and patterns are piled high on a table to which we can help ourselves. Clothing is sold, traded and given away.  Designer clothes are brought to be traced and reproduced. Demonstrations are offered. Fitting assistance is available. Everyday is a fashion show since we all wear clothing we have sewn or jewelry we have made during the year. It is five days of overwhelming joy and inspirational ideas I have come to rely on to carry me through the rest of the year. Let me introduce a few of the women.

Our newest member, Gwen, brought this motivational wall hanging. Looking at this each morning was such a great way to start each day.img_2827

Gwen is an extraordinary sewist. Her work is very organic and contemplative. She’s a master at hand stitching. And I don’t mean big sashiko stitches. She stitches row after row of tiny stitches using sewing thread. It’s just beautiful and very improvisational. In fact, she didn’t even bring a sewing machine but managed to work on many projects while she was there. From the pile of donated scraps she found a bag of cashmere leftovers. Feast your eyes on the beautiful shawl she made from them.img_2895

And speaking of sashiko, our newly retired home ec teacher, Terry, has started working at a quilt shop/sewing machine store. She was able to bring the store’s sashiko machine for all to use. What beautiful work this machine produces! Here’s Terry wearing her store sample. She was inspired to use Christine’s Kimono Cloth Vest pattern. The changes she made included removing the collar and replacing the side seams with a simple overlap.img_2896Here’s the vest she made while at the retreat, modeled by Annie. The pattern is Vogue 8713.img_2834img_2836img_2837Terry also worked on a Kantha cloth vest. She very thoughtfully decided where to put each piece to highlight the borders and design pattern. For the bias trim, a striped men’s shirt was taken from the give away table, cut into strips and then soaked in coffee to give it an aged look. Isn’t she resourceful?img_2909This was made from an out of print Vogue pattern by Mary Tilton, #7474.img_2907And then there’s Helen. Helen is an unending source of design that is outside of the box. She is fearless. One of her prime sources for materials is the thrift shop. No task is too big for her. She’ll remake almost anything adding her unique sense of humor and eliciting smiles from everyone. Here’s one of her creations. Be sure to notice the plastic shoes.img_2743We just love Helen. She is so fortunate to have her two daughters attend with her.   While at the retreat, she tried out Diane Ericson’s new pattern. Called The River Tunic #329, it is a zero waste pattern. As is Diane’s generous custom, she includes sizing ideas, adjusted silhouettes, ideas for pleating, alternate sleeve treatments and different lengths.img_2818img_2814img_2816

Our prolific jewelry creator is Janet. She introduced me to inner tube necklaces and continues to work with rubber as her medium. Here’s Helen wearing one of Janet’s rubber band necklaces. I love how colorful it is.img_2832

And here’s Kay wearing another one in lime green.img_2899

Another hot item is jewelry made from Kantha cloth scraps.This is Janet wearing a  good example of these little stuffed pillows mixed with beads. img_2898img_2846

And Kays Kantha cloth necklace is adorning her dress form.img_2812

While this may not be considered jewelry, it definitely is an interesting accessory. Simply a repurposed suit lapel, it looks stunning on Lynn and we’re grateful she brought it to share.img_2900

Kay is amazing. She can make anything. Really…ANTHING! She is a costume designer for theater productions in San Jose.  She wore this darling vest during the week. It’s a Katherine Tilton vest from Butterick #6138.img_2793

The hand stitching details add so much personality to this vest.img_2794

The simple addition of painted dots.img_2796img_2795

One of the cutest items modeled was a piece brought by Lynn. Made from light gray knit, it had very clever wearing options. Wear it long and drapey or pull it up, twist it, pull it over your head and wear as a scarf or up on your head as a hoodie. Lynn gave us a demonstration of how it works. I’d love to have one of these for the chilly months ahead.img_2759img_2754img_2755img_2756img_2760img_2758

 My sister, Patty, has been searching thrift shops for black t shirts with white logos. This is an idea we got from Helen last year. After amassing a pile of these, they are cut up and made into a “new” t shirt. Patty used Butterick 6377.img_2851img_2852

And here’s the one I made last year after being inspired by Helen. I used Butterick 6287.img_2883img_2884

The following pictures are some of the pieces I liked the best and have potential as future sewing projects. This is Sharon and it looks like she’s wearing a vest made from Louise Cutting, Light and Shadow.img_2833

Sarah brings the most amazing and beautiful garments. She was busy replacing a panel on the back.img_2811img_2801img_2802img_2848

Look what the simple addition of some paint and stitching can do! This really gets my creative juices flowing.img_2744

Do you have a beautiful scarf or panel of fabric that would just finish off a simple dress?img_2776img_2806Although the color may be considered drab, I loved the layers and flaps. The one on the back reminds me of a giant fish tail.img_2807img_2810I’m including this because I thought the neckline was very clever. There’s a piece of elastic inserted in a neckline channel.img_2804

Here’s the front. Unexpected, eh?img_2803

Although this vest is a purchased piece, our inhouse pattern drafter (we are so lucky to have Jenny) had this pattern for sale. I snagged the last one on hand and can’t wait to make it.img_2798img_2799img_2800

My projects for the week were fairly simple. I brought fabrics and patterns from my stash and the never ending “to do” pile. The red knit vest was from my sisters donated scraps and I used Louise Cutting’s pattern Artist in Motion. I like this pattern and have made it before.img_2255img_2881img_2882This last piece is copied from a sweater a friend loaned me. I liked the raw edges, lack of hemming and the seams on the outside. I’ve had this double sided knit fabric for years and am happy how it turned out. img_2912img_2886img_2913Although I love sewing alone, this group of women makes it so rewarding to leave my cocoon. The diverse talents they bring inspires me to try new things. I never thought I’d wear jewelry made from bicycle tire tubes and now I do!  Do you have sewing buddies? What are you learning from each other? Do you have creative friends who can show you something new? It can make you look at your wardrobe in a new way and feel  supported by like minded sewing enthusiasts.img_2906

29 thoughts on “My Yearly Shot of Inspiration

  1. Well, I give up. The high water mark just went up a few notches. What a remarkable group, and treasure-trove of bright, original and oh, so exceptional pieces!! Mary, I’m sooo happy you were a part of it and I’m even happier you shared it.
    Many thanks.

    • These women are amazing. So generous with their knowledge and help. I hope I can get just some of the ideas done for you to see.

    • I’m glad you liked it.There were just so many garments to photograph and choose from. Did you see something new to try?

  2. Wow. just wow-what cool wearables! I wonder, is there a pattern for Lynn’s gray knit with “clever wearing options”? Great post!

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. About the gray snuggly wrap….I will ask if Jenny is making a pattern from it. I would love to have one too. I will let you know if she has plans to copy it.

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I hope I didn’t make you late for an appointment! Yes, there were like 55 pictures in that post. 😜

  3. Wow, wow, WOW!!! Mary Boalt! Your blog post is THE BEST!!! Thank you so much for turning up the inspiration dial! What a great “tribe” you have found. Your picture story was just what I needed today.
    Hugs, Heidi

  4. I can’t even digest this is so rich with inspiration!!!! Thank you so much for sharing! Did I see my upcycled t-shirt queen in these photos? I think so!!!!! And, Patty, your’s turned out GREAT!!!! Can’t wait to see IT and YOU!!!

    • Yes, Patty’s shirt turned out really well. She had a huge stash to pull from…..all with sarcastic sayings on them. Sort of a theme.

    • It’s like a sewing machine but the resulting stitch looks like sashiko. You know, a broken line of stitching. Like a running stitch. It looks perfect!

  5. Mary, you are so lucky to have that tribe to inspire you! Your post inspired me! One day I will have time to make some creative clothes. Thanks so much for the great post.

  6. What an inspirational post. Gives one so-o many ideas. Is there a pattern available to purchase for the grey button closed vest that Jenny made a pattern from? I could see this as a jacket with sleeves!

  7. Hey Mary! oh, oh, oh, – wow – how very inspirational. this workshop looked over the top amazing. I would love to attend your class next year. I’ll see how things bump along with life between now and then.

    • Hi Leslie! It would be wonderful to have you attend Zephyr next year. We are just starting to work out the details and will be releasing the information in a January post. Stay tuned…..

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