But It’s A Dry Heat

….and so is an oven! Despite the clever quip, I decided to visit my sister in Arizona during a record breaking heat wave. The thermometer shot up to 116* and, like a bad smell you can’t find the source of, it stayed around way too long. Dipping down to a less sweltering 94* at night was the real test for a Californian who loves to sleep with the windows open. By the end of the week, there were haboobs and windstorms with 60-70 mph gusts overturning patio furniture, uprooting trees and blowing down street lights. When I ask why on earth people move there, the reply is “You don’t have to shovel heat”.  But I admit to loving the rainstorms with lightning and thunder. And that’s how the week ended. Monsoon season had arrived. I can sleep to that!

I mentioned in an earlier blog that my sister takes me to a fantastic discount fabric warehouse. One without air conditioning. Sometimes they even pass out bottles of water to customers. We refer to it as the “topless bar” fabric store because that is exactly what is around the corner!
It was hard to choose from these pieced batiks but one of them made it into my basket along with four other cuts for my stash. Being limited by luggage restrictions prevented me from buying fabric by the pound.

Because Patty’s next door neighbor also sews, she made arrangements to take her with us. Brenda was a delight and is an excellent seamstress.Before we left, Brenda had us in to show us her beautiful quilts and wall hangings. Since most of you are quilters, you will appreciate the work that goes into her quilts. Brenda manipulates pictures on photo shop and then prints them onto fabric. The details she adds are so amazing that  I took a picture of each from a distance and then “up close and personal for your viewing pleasure”.And now my personal favorite because I love the way it glows.

Thank you Brenda for being so generous in showing us your beautiful and creative quilts. Each one is a masterpiece and reflects the time and thought invested in them.

Now that I’m home, the mad scramble to prepare for Zephyr has started. I’m busy ordering the long list of supplies needed for my students, cutting out patterns, filling paint bottles, serging stacks of canvas and checking my list twice! Do you know of someone who would like to fill my last opening to design their own canvas? How about repurposing thrift finds with Heidi? Or making a portrait quilt of their beloved pet with Jane? It’s just six weeks away. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, stay cool and hydrate.  I’m heading to the coast where it will be a refreshing 70* and there’ll be no chance of spontaneously bursting into flames.

And now I’ll leave you with this:

It Was A Huge Success!

The wearable art pop up sale that I mentioned a few blogs ago was a great success. We had numerous customers from the email list as well as many women who were just passing through the library where it was held. A steady stream of customers all day long resulted in lighter loads on the return trip home.

I was amazed at the quality of workmanship in the art produced by these creative women. There was clothing, jewelry, felted silk scarves, bags and totes. This was the first time I had been exposed to the work of the Roseville group, Sew What. What talented ladies! The wearable art group that I attend is SWAG, Sierra Wearable Art Group. Together we make a great team.

Because it was so successful, we are plannng on a repeat performance sometime in early fall. If you couldn’t make it this last time, please sign up at the email address and get your name on the mailing list.


There were some fantastic stories shared while we were there. Above is a picture of me with Doran, a woman I met while vacationing in Hawaii with my sister last January. Doran and my sister met each other years ago through a mutual friend. Since she lives in Stockton, I thought she might like an invitation to this event. Lo and behold, she arrived with a friend who lives across the street from Heidi!  And then we heard of another seller, who after visiting with one of the customers, realized they were cousins who live in the same neighborhood. Such a small world and a wonderful venue to discover each other. It was just such a delightful day.

Our day as Artistic Alchemy at the Pine Tree Quilt show was another success. We received 5 new sign ups for our Zephyr Retreat. Welcome ladies! We are dwindling down to just a few spaces left in the classes. If you are on the fence, here are some things to consider; there is NOTHING in the creative world as satisfying as being with like minded people. It’s as if you have found your tribe. Your creative juices will be quadrupled by spending time talking and sharing with them. And our show and tell in the evenings will blow your socks off. The weather is beautiful that time of year and the crowds have all gone home for the summer. You will leave with some projects and knowledge you didn’t have before. Perhaps you’re designing something for yourself or just getting ideas for gifts. What a great time to enjoy yourself, make new friends and learn a new technique.

Carry on creatively,



Sugar Pine Quilt Show

May you all be enjoying some beautiful spring weather. It’s going to be fabulously gorgeous this weekend and the four of us will be manning the Artistic Alchemy booth at the Pine Tree Quilt show at the Nevada County fairgrounds. We look forward to showing what we’ve been busy sewing, painting and creating this year. For those who live nearby, please stop in and say “hi” and ask about our show special!

Here’s a peak at some new canvasses I’ve been painting.

These are perfect for bags, Heidi’s Terrific Tabard, table runners or cushions.

Stay tuned for Jane’s blog post on Friday.

What Are The Sew Sistas Sewing?

The spring retreat of Sew Sistas has come and gone. As usual, it was a glorious time of sewing, showing, meeting and eating! After breakfast the mornings are filled with “bring and brag” also known as show and tell. Resources are shared, techniques are explained, new patterns are revealed and old patterns are revisited. And then there’s sewing. And lunch. The afternoons are busy with demonstrations for the curious and more sewing. Dinner is served at 6:00 followed by ……. more sewing! Many garments were started, completed and worn home. So satisfying.

Its always so exciting to see what the others are wearing during the week. What cool items of clothing made the cut for this trip? Here are some garments worn during our five day stay.

Here’s Laura in her darling knit top. This bright color is really so appropriate for the spring season.

Debra in her snuggly top, perfect for the cool weather we were having at the time.

Terry looks like she’s calling me out…but in her red top she looks darling while doing so!

And I’m a sucker for anything with text on it so this top by Sharon is a favorite.

Debra again, wearing this great bicycle blouse. Vogue pattern by Lynn Mizono.

And then there are the details like this button continuing the bicycle/gear theme.

Karen, looking magnificent in her black on black vest.

And now for some show and tell. Does this look familiar?

Yes, that’s Christine. I was so happy to share this event with both Christine and Sandra.

Sandra shared her vintage kitchen linens version of Heidi’s Terrific Tabard pattern.

Sandra also brought Dame Lorraine and worked on her tirelessly.

Sharon has just taken a marbling class and has found a clever way to join her pieces together by inserting single color strips. It works to make her new fabric cohesive.

I loved this bag using a new product called kraft-tex, a washable paper.

This  bag was made from a mans jacket sleeve. Clever! Sometimes we just want a small bag to carry the bare necessities. Or it could be a gift bag of wine! 

This is an excellent example of the steam-a-seam technique. Unfortunately the picture doesn’t capture just how elegant this garment is. Kari was gifted this beautiful jacket from her friend Patty and wore it to her son’s wedding. It’s one classy jacket.

This is my version of Marcy Tilton’s newest jacket pattern. Under black organza are some circles cut from men’s ties and some painted silk trimming the collar, front and pocket.

There’s always at least one hot item that everyone wants. Karen hit the bullseye this year with her out of print Issey Miyake apron dress. We were busy busy busy tracing copies for ourselves. It doesn’t hurt that it was made from the coolest piece of shibori indigo dyed cotton.

Debra contributed to the demonstrations with instructions for her Kantha cloth necklace. Cute, eh?

And Gayle brought her necklace of Kantha cloth square beads. Beautiful!

Here are some garments under construction. Wendy was experimenting with placement of embellishments and pockets. 

These beautiful fabrics are being considered for a garment by Christine. We all know she’s the master of color so there’s no doubt the garment will be stunning.

Then there’s Beachy Pat and Lori who sat side by side, sewed step by step and completed these really cute tops. Well done!

This out of print Sandra Betzina pattern, made in Marcy Tilton’s Kantha cloth, is the most snuggly jacket. Perfect for spring weather. I finished it at the retreat and wore it home…….and many times since.

The day we left, my sister and I met up with Suzanne, another attendee, in Pacific Grove at Back Porch Fabrics. They were having a display of bird themed quilts. These were my favorites.

I hope you enjoyed the photos of the retreat and that they inspire you to try something new. There’s nothing like spending creative time together with like minded people. So if this appeals to you, we still have some spaces left for our Zephyr retreat this September. Click on Workshops. And continue to carry on creatively!


Whatcha Doin’ This Saturday?

Mary Boalt

Do you have plans this weekend? Can I whet your appetite, pique your interest or tempt you to come out in the rain?

Heidi and I will be participating in a wearable art pop-up sale. You read that correctly! Wearable art clothing, jewelry, bags and more will be for sale at the Lincoln Public Library this Saturday April 7 from 1:00-5:00 pm.

This is a group of 30 wearable artists from Grass Valley, Nevada City, Lincoln, Rocklin and Roseville. There will be hundreds of items for sale. Come early for the best selection.

Perhaps you saw this photo of Sandra and Trish wearing some of my favorite jackets they purchased at my personal sale last year.

I’ll try to entice you with some snippets of what will be available should you decide to put us on your calendar for Saturday afternoon. Hope to see you there!

YIPPEE!!! I’m Busting Outta Here!!!

by Mary Boalt

Just a quick note to let you know what this Artistic Alchemy member is doing for the next week. It’s that time of year for my semi annual retreat. I can’t wait!

This is where genius ideas and new patterns are born. I come home recharged with fresh inspiration and renewed energy. I’m excited to be sharing this experience with Sandra and Christine this year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to visit with each other away from the regular meetings of planning the Zephyr Retreat…..although I’m pretty sure Sanda and I will be creatively brainstorming for that too.

So, I’m staging my stash/luggage/projects/giveaways/machines/show and tell by the back door for an early Sunday morning departure when I swing by the airport and add my sister and her luggage to this array of goodies.

If a retreat is what you’re craving to push ahead creatively, we still have some openIngs for Zephyr in September. Retreats are wonderful! I’m a fan! Click on Workshops.

Franken Patterns

Mary Boalt

When looking for a definition of Victor Frankenstein’s monster, I found this: In an unorthodox experiment, an obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses. I couldn’t think of a better way to start this blog!

As wearable artists, we too can become obsessed with assembling disparate parts, incongruous elements that turn our garments into something that brings life to our wardrobes. My sister, a rather new sewist, has become a master at fearlessly blending different pattern parts to make what suits her. She calls these “Franken Patterns”. Don’t we love that option? To leave sleeves off of a coat and make it a vest? Or to add sleeves? Change necklines? Add darts or pleats? Take off a collar or add two collars? Paint, dye, bleach or bead the fabric? And don’t even get me started on pockets! Plus we may even go digging in our graveyard of thrift store scraps to find the perfect details for our creations. Oh what a lucky lot are we!

I’ll start with a pattern I have used many times. Vogue P954. Sadly out of print. Added to that pattern is Sandra Betzina’s drawstring collar from Vogue 1515. Some fabrics that come my way are just asking for some scientific experimentation. This black rayon/tencil like fabric wanted to be bleached. Check my collection of bleach ideas on my Pinterest page. The coordinating rayon was a remnant from Fabrix in San Francisco.

My bleach of choice for this project.

Next up: Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8934. I lengthened it by quite a bit. Long enough for a tall monster. I left the pleats out at the hemline. A different sleeve has been reset into the armhole. I was inspired by a coat made by Carol Lee Shanks who used tone on tone patches in a most elegant way. It’s very difficult to photograph black. 

And now for the triple decker pockets. There are pockets in the side seams. And there are zippered pockets with leather pulls on top of the large deep patch pockets. Hiding places for snacks!  Monsters get hungry.

Here’s another Marcy Tilton pattern, Vogue 9287. This pattern has a most unusual pocket. It’s not just a patch pocket. Fun to add this little gem to your repertoire of sewing tricks. I’ve been wanting to make a jacket from mixed men’s suiting and have been collecting them for awhile. I chose the collar, front band and pocket to add artwork. The circles are made from hand stamped silks (students from my classes will recognize the stamps), men’s ties and checkered taffeta all placed under black silk organza and top stitched in place. Although I can’t remember the brand of the round buttons, they came on a card and can be purchased at a fabric store. They weren’t anything special. The rectangle part came from a bin of odds and ends. I think from Fabrix. They fit! A monsterous surprise! A hardware store might turn up some unknowing parts for a button in your collection.

Last September Sandra Betzina was the guest speaker at Artistry in Fashion at Canada College. I was inspired to try one of her dresses. Vogue 1552. Be sure to make this in something drapey.  I used a navy ponte knit.

This is probably the most complicated piece of jewelry I have ever made. But in the end, all the pieces are where I wanted them and hopefully it doesn’t look like a giant bolt through my chest! Thank you Victor Frankenstein for helping us all be bold in our desire to create.

And for those of you wanting to spend a few days in a peaceful setting indulging in creating art, the Artistic Alchemy website has the new retreat and class descriptions up and running. We already have quite a few sign ups! Be sure to secure your place as class sizes are limited.

And continue to carry on creatively!

Part Two of My Semi Annual Shot of Inspiration

The fall post of my sewing retreat promised photos of clothing created by some of the participants. As was mentioned, the tables are full of yardage and remnants coaxing those who are extremely clever to put them to use. Helen is one of those who has no fear. She bravely goes where no sewist has gone before and emerges as the queen of creativity. I should have a Pinterest board just titled “Helen”. She has repeatedly demonstrated how to recycle clothing in the most unique ways. Here are some of her delightful creations.

Keep in mind that some of the garments in the following pictures are in various stages of being finished.

There is a love/fascination with deconstructed jeans over the last year. Helen and her daughter jump right in and make the most if it.

Its so much fun to have Helen and her two daughters with us. Below is a jacket that Alex is working on. It’s great to see the similarities and differences in their work.

It was Helen who introduced us to piecing thrift store t-shirts together. My sister, Patty, has made several but her latest is her “cocktail hour” t-shirt. After collecting an assortment of blingy shirts, she amazed us with this one. Perfect for happy hour.

Terry is another accomplished sewist. Having taugh Home Ec for many years, she sews at the speed of light and has mastered the pieced t-shirt. Her work is always executed with perfection.

The following tunic was made from two men’s sweatshirts. Looks cozy, eh?

Our group is honored to have such a thoughtful, contemplative sewist as Gwen. She leaves her sewing machine behind and brings handwork for us to drool over. She has mastered hand stitched embellishments on scarves and shawls, a staple in her wardrobe.

Some painted polka dots, some cut out, layered with another fabric and hand stitched. It’s beautiful and drapes wonderfully. Oh such patience!

JM started this piece when we arrived. It was a smallish piece of hand stencilled fabric that she was hand stitching onto a jacket. Oh how I wish I’d taken another photo at the end of our week. It was just so clever and yet so simple, something that I strive for in my work.

Janet was inspired by the wildlife on a recent trip to Africa. I am impressed by anyone who takes on thread painting. Nice work, Janet.

While Kay won the “lottery” for this dress, the woven piece she was creating was fascinating to study.

Vicky always amazes us with something extremely beautiful and thoughtfully engineered.

Annie came to us with just the basic sewing skills. She knocked our socks off this year with this stinking cute, adorable tunic top. Then she revealed that she has been taking sewing lessons! I think she could teach us a thing or two.Such nice work, Annie. And here she is modeling Janet’s purchased green crinkly vest. We loved the wonkyness of this with its asymmetry and tucks. A huge thanks to Jenny who worked to get this pattern copied while at the retreat. Although I made it from similar fabric when I got home, it’s that green color that really gives this vest it’s personality. The pattern is available from Jenny. It’s called Janet’s Green Vest!I hope this post leaves you with some inspiration for the new year. Do you have some creative goals?  Have you thought about how you will achieve them? Will you teach a new technique to an eager student? Will you finally take that class or retreat you’ve been putting off? Whatever it is, I hope it’s realized in a way that brings you joy and and a sense of accomplishment.

My Semi Yearly Shot of Inspiration Fall 2017 Part 1


Having just returned from what is now my semi annual sewing retreat with my tribe of like minded sewists, my mind is full of new ideas and my cabinets have a whole boat load of new fabric in them. Because we have so much fun, share so many wonderful garments and jewelry creations, and infuse each other with fresh ideas, another retreat was added last March. Yay!!!!!!!! Twice a year now!

Although it’s only been seven months since our last retreat, the racks and tables were as full as ever. Here’s just one of the things we look forward to: everyone is invited to bring fabric and/or garments to give away or sell. On Sunday night after check in, we “shop” the garment racks and put our name on the tags of items we would like to buy. If more than one person has their name on the tag, a drawing is held the next night. After dinner, we all gather in the large sewing room in eager anticipation and then applaud the winners good fortune. Here are some of the racks of clothes. Shoes, belts, scarves, etc. also are offered.

And yes, Terry got the Kantha cloth coat she is admiring. It’s reversible! And it looks adorable on her.

The “freebie” table includes all manner of fabric. Scraps, patterns, yardage, patterns, decorator samples, patterns, vintage linens, patterns, old clothing, patterns, a huge container of old buttons, patterns, and then there were some more patterns! One participant moved this year and decided to thin out her collection of patterns. It was divine! Thanks Sharon!

That little corded basket was part of the gift exchange this year and it worked perfectly for gathering a stash of buttons.

Since there is no copyright on clothing, we spend quite a bit of time tracing off garments. What we can’t accomplish on our own, lovely Jenny makes the patterns for us (and anyone else who wants them). These are some of the ones I considered ordering from the box. It probably represents about a quarter of what’s available. And after last week, there will be about five more coming. Thank you Jenny.

Thanks to Janet, this was another year to enjoy her offbeat jewelry making. She uses everything from rubber bands to fabric covered wire to hair ties.

My sister and myself.

These are fabric covered wire balls/flowers. They can be manipulated into whatever shape you’d like.

Aren’t these the cutest lime green rubber bands?

The following picture is a necklace made of rubber bands and three great beads. My sister and I saw the same exact necklace MINUS the beautiful beads in a high end boutique in Berkeley for 79.00!

Who doesn’t like a black and white mix of patterns?

Lisa brought some huge rusty pipes along with some smaller rusted items, a big spray bottle with vinegar and some plastic tarps so we could try our hand at rust dying. No tetanus shots required. It was so simple and because it was quite warm, we got quick results. Terry’s shirt is a good example. Does her husband know that he “donated” that? 

Isn’t that yoke awesome?

It’s really appreciated when ones who have taken classes during the year share the results of what they’ve learned. Although eco dying has been featured before, I thought this was such a beautiful example and Lisa used the best part of it in this knit t-shirt.

This is just so beautiful. It looks 3D.

A huge thanks to Gayle who took a marbling class from a  “Master Marbler”. Who knew there was such a thing. She said that after following the teachers old world technique, she broke out her own esthetic. I love this. The colors, the large print, the garment, the asymmetry. It just looks like the person wearing it is having way more fun than I am.

In my next blog I will share with you some of the wonderfully creative garments that were made while we were there, some made straight from the scrap table! Stay tuned for Part Two in my next blog.

The last pictures are before and after pictures of Victoria’s painted canvas that she made while at Zephyr.  I love what she did with it after she returned home. Please excuse the blurry pictures.

Such a clever idea for a fabric container. Nice work, Victoria. Couldn’t you just see a few of these in your creative space?

Wishing you all fresh sources of inspiration whether it be rust, wire or rubber bands. Carry on and create!