Two Halves Make a Whole

Mary Boalt

When I return from my October retreat, I think I’m the most edgy, brave and “out of the box” fashionista. My mind says I’m 23, I weigh 123 pounds, I’m 6’3″, can wear all those funky clothes and look magnificent! While all those thoughts are far FAR FAR from the truth, it doesn’t stop me from going into my studio and believing the fantasy. I want mastery over material, power over patterns and taming of the tissues! The desire to create is a more powerful force than the sensible and reasonable, but very tiny voice, that says, “Who do you think you’re kidding?” That voice speaks loudly only after the project is finished. It screams “WHAT were you thinking?” “Where will you EVER wear this?”  And then the whole ritual is repeated.  But all of you creative readers know that the trial and error process is something we all go through and that sooner or later you get it right and there’s no better feeling. You have mastered a skill. You’ve made something from nothing. You’re 23 again and “struttin your stuff “.

This pattern from The Sewing Workshop has been in my pattern trunk for about 15 years. But as strange as it is, I couldn’t let it go.  I’ve been intrigued by it since I bought it.img_2919

Doesn’t she look 6’3″?  It is the combination of two dresses, each with one sleeve. One dress slips over the other. Made to look like men’s suiting and saying “wool” on the selvedge edge, I bought about four yards of this black fabric at a discount fabric store near San Jose. After setting fire to it, a match test, it melted. Disappointed but determined, I continued on. The painting and sewn circles were inspired by Gwen Spencer and Gayle Ortiz.img_3010 img_3009I used a highly specialized tool for the painting, a slice of pool noodle with its guts carved out.img_2932img_2934

Jacquard Lumiere paint was used in metallic silver and with a little black added, I got a more charcoal color for a contrast. img_2933

The topstitching was added using mystery thread found in my thread drawer. I think it is some sort of heavy duty shiny upholstery thread. It was perfect for this.img_2948img_2947img_2946

And then there were decisions about the closures. I wanted the sleeves to be taken in at the wrists and I didn’t want the pockets hanging quite so loose. Buttons, Velcro, snaps, snap tape, hooks and eyes, or parachute clips? They were all auditioned. It was finally decided when I checked my jewelry findings. Bracelet closures! They too were round and shiny and silver. img_2955img_2958img_2965img_2990This will be darling with black boots………..and might remain under a large coat! I haven’t decided if I love it or hate it. I’ll wait until that brave, edgy “out of the box” fashionista shows up and we’ll discuss it.

Last month I posted a picture of a purchased vest Sharon brought to our retreat. The details were unique and Jenny had made copies of this to buy. Once home, the auditioning began again. Silks and scraps layed out on the table started coming together.img_2977The plaid and the orange are tie silks from Fabrix in San Francisco. The black dots are a scrap snatched from the freebie table last month. Not all of these fabrics were used but this is how I start a project.

The pattern tissues were simply marked and fit together perfectly. Thank you, Jenny. The instructions are minimal and assume you know the basics of sewing. No problem. However, I had some trouble with finishing the insides and decided to wing it to the best of my ability. These dilemmas are good incentive to try new techniques. I think it turned out nicely inside.img_2980img_2981img_2982img_2983

I love the face framing pleated collar on this vest. Very flattering.img_2985

And here’s one of those interesting details that serves no purpose other than to look cute. A banded gusset. In the end, it got buttonholes and covered buttons to keep it in place.img_2979img_3005img_3003img_3007img_3006img_3002I am ready to make this again. Wouldn’t it be cute in denim? It’s already on the auditioning table. If you are interested in this pattern, you can contact Jenny Freedman at The pattern is 20.00.

Before I wrap up, I just wanted to share what some of my students from the September Zephyr retreat have done with their painted canvas. Some became beautiful wallhangings and some became functional bags. I am so proud of the work they all did. Great work Janet and Kari.img_3013img_3012

I hope your inner, edgy, brave fashionista comes to visit and you’ll make something out of the box that you’ve been secretly wanting to try for a while. And if she makes you 23 again, send her my way.

12 thoughts on “Two Halves Make a Whole

    • Thanks Trish! Who knows, someday it may be yours! I’ve been known to pass along unworn garments when I’m wavering in boldness and nerve.

  1. Oh Mary ! You are such an inspiration to me! I love the “highly specialized tool!” And your always creative skill at paring fabrics to make them hum in harmony!! OK SELF get in there to your stash and risk and play ! Fondly, Kari

    • Thanks, Kari. I don’t know anyone braver than you when it comes to trying out new techniques and products. I always look forward to your show and tell at SWAG because I know you’ve put a lot of thought into your projects.

  2. I am 6 feet tall but I am decades from being 23. I also love that Sewing Workshop pattern. Some years ago, I made it in a lightweight faux batik cotton fabric for summer. I don’t wear dresses but I did wear this dress on many occasions. I love the closures-and now I’m thinking of new ways to adapt closures- thank you!

    • Oh I’d love to see your version of this dress. I’ve never seen it made up by anyone. Yes, I think it has many possibilities as far as fabric choices and closures. I hope you make it again and can share it.

  3. I love that orange piece. It looked fabulous on you last week. You are brave Mary no matter what you think. I wish I had your talent.

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