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Monday, October 15, 2018

New Mexico Colcha Workshop

In August I conducted a workshop on New Mexico Colcha Embroidery for the Embroiderers' Guild Certificate Course. It much followed the format I had used for the session with the Ethnic Embroidery Study Group last year.

Because I don't actually have any examples from New Mexico, I used a lot of photos, a couple of pieces I had embroidered myself, some of the examples worked by the EESG, the wool I had bought from Weaving South West (which, incidentally, I have since knitted into a spectacular cowl, which I'll blog about soon)
and the kit I had from the original Piecework article.

I also prepared new kits, using a very open-weave even-weave linen and motifs from Weaving and Colcha in the Spanish South West

There was great enthusiasm for the embroidery. Everyone got down to the task with energy. I had to be asked to demonstrate the stitch. So long have I thought and talked about this now that I forgot that it might not be familiar to everyone!

I have not found anyone yet who does not enjoy doing this. The flexibility, coverage and result all lead to great satisfaction

and the shapes of the traditional motifs prove  appealing.

Several people have continued working on the pieces and created items of their own volition - in other words, incorporated it into their repertoire of embroidery. Two substantial pieces were displayed in the Guild's recent Members' Exhibition.

This truly beautiful bag was the result of Mary Moore's participation in the workshop

and this coat, by Barbara Mullan, with Colcha embroidery on the pockets and back, is  spectacular.

Participants were entranced and engaged with this embroidery. It is a tribute to the women who have worked so hard to preserve this tradition, especially Esther Vigil, who has been so helpful and supportive of my interest in it.

The Certificate Course Challenge this Christmas is a piece made with couching. I'm guessing many will be made in the tradition of New Mexico Colcha embroidery.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fat Pants

I have quite a stash of fabric purchased over the years in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, mostly batik and ikat. I also have a couple of pieces from Africa, given to me by one of my daughters.  I always intended to make use of this fabric. Although in the past I have used it for cushions and tablecloths, I no longer have much use for furnishing fabric, and intended to use if for clothing. After a recent reorganisation of parts of my stash, I decided to make an effort to sew myself some fat pants for summer.

A friend, with a similar stash, was also keen, so I went in search of a pattern that we could both use. Spotlight were having a pattern sale - three patterns for $12, or $18.50 each!

I bought two patterns with possible elasticised pants  (one pyjamas!) and a third pattern of a top I might use one day.

I selected two pieces of Malaysian batik. The softer of these I think, belonged to my mother.  The other I bought from a beach seller in Bali.

These were both sarong lengths.

I added a piece of Indonesian batik, purchased by the metre in Denpasar.

The pieces I really wanted to make into something wearable were two from Africa, a gift from my daughter.

One is from Ghana

and the other from Morogoro, Tanzania. This one is a slightly heavier, more open weave - exceptional quality.

I began with the largest piece, the Indonesian length,  and the largest pattern - the pyjamas.
 Because I like to carry my phone in a secure pocket, the first thing I did was to design a pouch pocket and attach it to the front left-hand side front. This meant I was not going to confuse the front and the back - in the making or the wearing.

This first one became my first prototype. It was VERY large.

I then made the largest size in the second pattern. This was Prototype 2 - quite wearable, but a little snug.

I then made a pair using Prototype 1 with a few inches removed.

and another of Prototype 2 with a couple of inches added.

At this point my friends tried them on for size, to determine which one would best suit them. Like me, they chose Prototype 2 with a couple of inches added as their preference!

 I used it to make my final pair from the Tanzanian fabric. I didn't have enough for the waist band and got the good idea of using stretch fabric rather than elastic.  While it looks good, the waist needed bringing in further than I could stretch the band, so it also has elastic.

I then removed the elastic from the original pair and inserted a 2" tuck all the way around below the waistband. They are still baggy in the legs, but comfortable and wearable.

The African ones are the smartest and my favourites - but I'm going to enjoy wearing all of these in the coming Summer.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Bag therapy

As I was searching for some pieces of silk to use as lining for my pearl cases recently, I came across some of the sari scraps and Japanese kimono fabrics I did not realise I still had. I purchased these several years ago to make drawstring bags which I use to wrap presents rather than using paper. When I was working I would occasionally take a leave day to stitch the bags - my bag therapy.

Many of the fabrics came from Fabricana's Etsy Shop, and some from a variety of Japan shops. My store of bags for presents was nearly exhausted and I had checked Fabricana's shop a few times but she has been on a break for a couple of years. I was therefore excited to find that I still had a supply of fabric - and set out to use it up!

I try to work with the fabrics as they are, maximising the amount I can use. If they are sheer, as many sari fabrics are, I line them with an appropriate lining - I have a supply of satin linings purchased from a dressmaking friend who gave up her business to study.

Many of the Japanese kimono fabrics have been mended by hand. and I try to incorporate this work into the bag.

It is important, I think, to see the care and economy that went into these recycled fabrics and to maintain the tradition.

I also try to preserve the carefully folded seams and the running stitch used to keep them in place.

Once the bags are stitched, I find ribbon or cord for the drawstring, and buttons or odd earrings to attach to the ribbon ends so they don't disappear into the casing.

It's a lot of fun finding the right ribbon and fixing.

It's a good way to use up buttons

or shells

or earrings;

even ribbons from the Vergani Christmas Panetonne!

The bags vary from quite small,

to quite large and everything in between.

I need a variety of sizes for a variety of presents.

Now the confession.

While checking out whether Fabricana was back in business, I came across RibbonsandSilk -  selling fat quarters from old saris from Byron Bay. To check them out, I bought three packs, which yielded 14 bags. my drive to recycle overrode my desire for economy! The pieces are more regular than Fabricana's were, and most had been nicely edged with an overlocker.

The tally? At last count it was 104 bags. This should get me through at least two or three years of gift giving. Think what I save on wrapping paper!

Saturday, September 22, 2018


I recently succumbed to temptation and ordered two embroidered cotton tops from SunnyColorsStore in Guadalajara, Mexico.  I love the colourful embroidery and the shapes suit me. When they arrived, the black one (XXL)was the right size, but the purple one (XXL/XL) was too small. I should have known better. I have found before that sizes designed to cover two sizes rarely fit me.

Angie Lopez from SunnyColorsStore was  distressed that the top did not fit and wanted to replace it. She has been very supportive and responsive. However, these were not expensive and I could not face returning it to Mexico, partly because of the fuss, partly because I did not want to part with it,  so I decided to try a make-over.

I looked for a matching purple cotton to insert but in the end, decide to go for a bright contrast rather than have an imperfect match.

I undid the side seams and inserted wedges of batik from Batik Fabrics Online. I had purchased it to back a cushion, but didn't use it.

While it looks a bit odd flat, I am very pleased with it when on.

It's a bit out there - just what this elderly woman needs!

I look forward to wearing it as the weather warms up - and one day buying more in the right size from SunnyColorsStore!