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.
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.
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.Here’s the vest she made while at the retreat, modeled by Annie. The pattern is Vogue 8713.Terry 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?This was made from an out of print Vogue pattern by Mary Tilton, #7474.And 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.We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you have a beautiful scarf or panel of fabric that would just finish off a simple dress?Although the color may be considered drab, I loved the layers and flaps. The one on the back reminds me of a giant fish tail.I’m including this because I thought the neckline was very clever. There’s a piece of elastic inserted in a neckline channel.
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.This 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. Although 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.