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!

Another Zany, Zowie, Zingy, Zesty Zephyr Retreat

Mary Boalt

…has zipped on by. And what an awesome, inspirational time we all had. Some participants dove into their fabric stashes and completed garments. Others went out of their comfort zones and tried a new medium to express their artistic voice, whether polymer or paint. And still others expanded their education in the ever fascinating world of color. In the end, we all came away with some new talents, knowledge, garments or way of expressing ourselves. Isn’t that what we love about the creative process?  And we meet the most interesting people too!

My students are especially brave. Many have not played with paint since grammar school. This is an opportunity to engage with new toys like stencils, stamps, screen prints and Gelli plates. These women continue to amaze me with their abundance of ideas. Let me introduce you to them and show you some of their work.

Here’s Kari, a returning student who’s extremely helpful and creative, and Beachy Pat discussing design ideas. Everyone is so generous in bouncing ideas around. Beachy Pat was one of our brave souls jumping right in and putting paint to canvas.

This is Pat number two!  She is an amazing seamstress with a great design eye. She’s the most pleasant person to meet and to have in class.

Terry really took advantage of all the tools in the toy box. She can screen print like a pro! And she went to work right away, not wasting any time.

Gracie and Victoria were both “noses to the grindstone” and turned out some beautiful pieces. Gracie had some home dec projects in mind. And you could see a quilters hand in Victoria’s designs.

This is Patty a few weeks later showing off some of the finishing touches on one of her three canvasses.

And this is my hard working sister, Patty, who helps me out by washing all the stamps, stencils and screens for the students.  She also helps me set up and tear down. I don’t know what I’d do without her. Last year she completed the steam-a-seam project. This year she was able to complete a canvas.

…in desert colors where she now lives.

After only a few days these very ambitious women made all these canvasses.

A few years ago I gave my sister a painted canvas. I just love the bag she made from it.

We all had such a good time getting to know each other, watch one another’s creative abilities blossom and applaud their successes. What a great group of supportive women! We hope this inspires you to join us next year at beautiful, peaceful Zephyr Point, the place where creative breakthroughs are achieved.




For The Love of Artists

by Mary Boalt

The four of us are down to the wire getting ready for the retreat at Zephyr Point. Paint purchased. Check. Polymer clay. Check. Patterns packed. Check. Fabric folded. Check. Printouts printed. Check. Sewing machines oiled. Check. August has proven to be a month of list making and crossing items off, online ordering and packing up, getting kits ready and buying supplies. We certainly want our students to have the very best experience in the most beautiful location.

Despite being busy with that, my sweet husband drove us to San Francisco so I could attend the American Craft Counsil show at Fort Mason. I’ve wanted to go for years and I wasn’t disappointed. Neither was he since there was an “educational whiskey tasting opportunity” for bored husbands. The building was full of high quality vendors that I’ve only seen advertised in upscale craft magazines. To meet the artists and see their work up close was inspiring to say the least. Beautiful, amazing, head scratching techniques punctuated by comical and thought provoking works of art. I highly recommend it and would love to attend again next August. And if the whiskey “educators” are still there, I think Tom would be on board too.

Photos from every booth would have been nice but that is frowned upon and I didn’t want to ruin a beautiful day with that restraining order stuff. So the best I can do is to share business postcards and websites. These were some of my favorites.

As you can tell, I loved the raincoats made by Mau. I’m a sucker for anything with text on it. Painted, printed, stenciled or silk screened. I love it. And this was all done on Tyvek!

It was my good fortune to run into some extremely creative friends, Shams and Margy. But not so lucky to have a social media person from ACC ask me to pose with them.  I was so underdressed in comparison…I cropped out my cropped pants and black and white converse tennis shoes! Oy! It’s been a while since I’ve “been down off the hill”.

If you aren’t familiar with these artists, you can follow them on their blogs. Shams writes Communing with Fabric and Margy writes A Fool 4 Fabric. Taking a class from Shams and seeing her trunk show was jaw droppingly good. She is a technical wizard. And Margy has exquisite taste in packing a travel wardrobe. I have learned a lot from her and used her ideas for a couple trips to Europe. Another favorite blogger of mine is Gayle Ortiz of Gayle has the willingness to learn any textile technique and then turn it into beautiful creative garments we would all want to wear.  We would love to know who your favorite bloggers are.

Please excuse the lightweight blog this month. Must get back to checking things off the list, crossing the i’s and dotting the t’s!  We look forward to seeing about 40 of you in just a few days. And don’t forget to bring your scissors for sharpening! Tuesday is scissor sharpening day. Also, one student, Patty Blesso, who hails from Orangevale is looking for a ride buddy. Leave all the driving to Patty B. Email her at if you are interested.

We will be posting pictures of our classes over the next month so that none of you will feel left out. In the meantime………

Carry on creatively!



Odds And Ends


Bulging at the seams, I decided to have one of those ” I’m-never-going-to-have-another-garage-sale” garage sale. This time I focused on my sewing room, fabric stash and racks of wearable art that wasn’t being worn. It was time to move on.

As most sewists would agree, we can become emotionally tied to our stashes. When thinking that a fellow artist will appreciate the potential in your pieces, it’s easier to part with it. But when “Mr. Helmet” arrives, it’s another story. A garage sale story.

Mr. Helmet showed up shortly before closing. He made his appearance by parking his old beat up van up on the street above our house and running through the bushes down to our driveway, setting the dog off barking. He was wearing a bicycle helmet, although driving a van with no bicycle attached, a midriff baring fishing vest with no shirt underneath, and some shorts. With his eyes rapidly darting from one item to another, he became fixed on a stack of fabrics. Not knowing their content he asked what they were. “Silk”, I coldly replied. And the next, “Silk”, again. These were 3-4 yards pieces each already reasonably priced. Off he went over to the barely used trampoline. Wanting to set the trampoline free from my possession, I agreed to let him use my phone to ask another party for further instructions. Suddenly my husband and fellow garage salers were on red alert. Receiving the “What were you thinking?” look from all of them, we stood there anxiously waiting for him to finish and return my phone, now needing to be disinfected. And as any good garage sale shopper does, he asked me for a lower price. I mulled it over and gave him a price. Asking that I call him sometime that night or next day, I decided the negotiations with Mr. Helmet had to come to an end. “No, we’ll be done at 2:00 and then our sale will be over.” At this point he said he might be back. Not wanting the unappreciative silk fondler to have possession of my stash, I scooped it up and put it back in the house. It was mine once again! And we never heard from Mr. Helmet after that. Only at a garage sale does one have these experiences. I’ll spare you the long version of the gentleman who provided about twenty minutes of comic relief when he told us that his wife made him wear baggy clothes because of his “man boobs”. His words, not mine. I loved him! It was a fun and successful sale and I’m never having another garage sale……until the next one.

Here’s one item I said goodbye to. It was a man’s large pullover cashmere sweater that I cut up, cut down, and added vintage kimono silk pieces to the front, back and neckline. A very appreciative woman purchased it. I’m so happy she has it.IMG_4004



Now for some more pictures from last year’s Zephyr students. They all did magnificent work turning their paintings into bags and wallhangings.IMG_3136IMG_3142

Here is a before and after story.IMG_2509


IMG_0673This spring a former student purchased one of my canvasses when Artistic Alchemy had a booth at the quilt show. I loved what she did with it.


A huge thanks to all who sent pictures to share their work with you. I am always so impressed and pleased to see what others make.

And another big thanks to all my fellow creators for supporting my garage sale. Oh by the way, I have some silk left!

Claim to Fame Part Deux

by Mary Boalt

The time has come for another major house purging. It gets to feeling claustrophobic when the closets begin to regurgitate their contents. Or the drawers won’t close. Although we can still park our cars in the garage, staging for this garage sale may change all of that as the boxes of discard items placed in the narrow strip between the two cars continues to grow. Soon the only way to exit the cars will be through the sunroofs.

I sew….a lot! What does one do with all these clothes? The Kon Mari method of clearing out clutter asks you if the item “sparks joy”? Most of my stuff sparks emotions but joy is not one of them. When I clean out my closets I ask questions like, ” Really? What was I thinking? Will I ever wear this again, if I ever wore it at all?”  All of this brings me to “The Vest”.

“The Vest” was a joint effort with my sister. It was at her insistence, uh, encouragement, that we entered this into the newly launched Belle Armoire magazine in 2001. They were requesting submissions and she though it would be fun. I admit it was. We had just started to get interested in fabric painting. The results were not what we planned or expected but we entered it anyway. Patty did the painting and I did the sewing. It’s made from black silk matka with black cotton lining. The lining is also painted using stamps.

Some close up views of the paint, stitching and beading.

Asian coins and loops were used for closures on the sides.

So, this is my second claim to fame. Last month I blogged about my self portrait published in Quilting Arts Magazine. Thanks, Patty, for pushing me to do this with you. It was fun. But  that was fifteen years ago and it remains in my closet. I think “The Vest” would enjoy some time in your closet!

I’m happy to show pictures of some finished painted canvas bags. These women took my class at last year’s Zephyr Retreat. Their bags show how these canvasses take on a new life when they are cut up and sewn back together. They look totally different and so cute. Thank you, Lynda and Kari for sharing these. I love them. Here are the befores and afters.

I still have one more opening in my class this September. A great group of women have signed up and I know you would enjoy yourself. In the meantime, I hope you are all having a wonderful summer traveling, vacationing, relaxing, creating and enjoying family and friends. Or having a giant garage sale as I am.