Art Journal

Nature Ramblings ~ Past Times Time Travel ~ Romancing Daily Life

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fairy House, Toad's Stool, or Simply Spoors End? (Haiku)

Fairy houses or merely seats for a toad
Fungi dwell on the path I often walk, along the railroad tracks
towards San Francisquito Creek.

Thread-like hyphae spread,
Find food decomposing here.
Your spoors drop and fly.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Audio Podcast - Marie Antoinette Meets Betty Crocker (Aprons, Ench By Sew-14 )

Hey! The latest Enchanted by Sewing Podcast has been published!
Two Ways to Listen
i)You can listen to the show right on the web by clicking on the this link

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~ OR ~
ii)  Click on this link to iTunes  to download this and other Enchanted by Sewing shows to your mobile device (iPhone, Android, etc.) free from iTunes 
Did I miss any links mentioned in the show? If so, please post here and let me know, or else email me ,  EnchantedBySewing AT gmail DOT com
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Apronology – Or Marie Antoinette Meets Betty Crocker

A good time of year to consider how rethinking of women’s societal roles and life choices has affected attitudes towards the use of aprons. Free apron pattern download and discussion of sewing techniques.

Porque Aprons? – Why study the social and technical science of apron creation in late November? (In some years Ramadan occurs in December. Due to the lunar and Julian calendar's not being in sync, that won't/didn't happen this year).

Marie Antoinette Meets Betty Crocker – How and why I got inspired to start making and wearing aprons, kinda late in life and despite strong family concerns about what apron wearing symbolized!

Technicos –A basic free download 3 Apron style pattern on the web. How I create and sew  my favorite style  apron

- Threads Three Free Apron Pattern Download

- Variety of vintage and other aprons that may inspire your own apron designs

Final Pensamientos - The Red Headed Chicken Apron
Aprons can tie into representing and reminding us of the emotions involved in a friendship.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Marie Antoinette Would Wear This (Time Traveling Apron)

Nothing nicer than sewing and wearing a toile apron
Like Marie, I like to indulge in a few low-key,
agrarian pleasures - like visiting with local chickens-
 when I wear one.
You may also enjoy reading The Red Headed Chicken Apron

I'm so happy you followed up on my invitation for another time travel jaunt!

For this visit to past times, we need to visit the old merman fountain in the park down the street. They say that fountain came from the old Flood Estate, and Flood picked it up somewhere in Europe – somewhere in France perhaps? Anyway, It was an antique when he got it….

Maybe you can hop over the spouting turtle first and give me a hand up there on the top of this mer- fellows big tail. Oh yeah, that’s doing the trick. A nice way to travel, don’t you think ? and Versailles is lovely at this time of the year – quite roomy and so distant from that little trouble that’s been brewing out in the city. I’m sure the Parisian rabble is just a little confused about what’s really keeping them short of food. Surely it couldn’t have anything to do with the cost of keeping this place well planted and running smoothly.

If you’re a regular reader of this sewing journal or the Enchanted by Sewing Audio Podcast, you may have noticed that I’m intrigued by Marie Antoinette’s life and her wardrobe. I know she’s a hedonist and not exactly a woman of the people. I’m not saying I actually respect her, but her image as a fashion icon still has tremendous appeal.

Marie still attends public functions in the full splendor of big hair and those ultra wide skirted gowns she first donned as a young girl  when she arrived here in France to marry the future Louis Seize - when she had little choice about her garb. Like Cinderella going to the ball she’s a real presence moving along in the Versailles glide, that slithering walking style that’s de reguiere for the upper class,  clad in rustling silken sack back gowns. That Silk is produced in France, of course, and the nobilities requirements for ell upon ell of that home spun stuff, provide an important benefit to the economy. That gold Lyonnaise silk with the Roccoco chinoiserie pattern and the Berlin floss trimming that the queen is wearing today really catches the eye, non?

Of course I’m also hoping to get  in with the right people here, and score an invite offered to only a privileged few at one of her majesty’s little pied-a-terre , just down the alleyway here, at Le Petite Trianon. Does she go by her childhood name of Antonia in that little hideaway ,with her intimates, I wonder?  I find it totally chic that Marie has began to develop her own sense of style. In this relaxed setting - hanging out with a few tidy farmyard animals and her closest friends - she favors naturalistic Rousseau-inspired high waisted muslins dresses with wide ribbon sashes, and cute little decorative aprons. These gowns, about which there is a great deal of controversy (People say it looks she is going out in public in her undergarments!), will lead to a styles favored by a whole new generation of women . Unfortunately for the economy , and Marie’s reputation, that muslin is the product of her Austrian country of birth and not at all French. Two strikes against her majesty.

Despite daydreaming about recreating a luxurious sack back gown (in yellow silk perhaps? So practical for a bike ride to the park don’t you think?), or a sheer floating white muslin dress with a crimson sash – hum..... I might reinterpret that in a nightgown- The fashion that has actually most inspired my modern day fashion creations, is Marie Antoinette’s interest in promoting and popularizing the use of toile de Jouy fabric. I hear that the queen actually honored the business establishment, where this new fabric is produced, with a visit, and it’s now been proclaimed a “royal factory”.

The Jouy  (actually Jouy-en-Josas ) is, as you may already know, a place in France ten miles south of Paris. The toile part refers to the fabric popularized by Christophe Philippe Oberkampf who started a factory at Jouy to print cotton toile. Toile is, of course, a French word referring to cloth. (Linen cloth for example is toile de lin. )

Toile de Jouy is and will continue to be despite the trials and tribulations of revolution and war ,a heavy cotton fabric printed with scenes of an idyllic simple country life and stylized nature –  trees, simple vegetation, birds and other animals. The kind of romanticization that followers of Rousseau’s back to nature movement create for themselves, no matter how little connection there is between the realities of the agrarian scene and the pretty pictures on the fabric.

During Marie’s era, and for many in modern times, the ones I come from, toile is and was typically used for home dec items like pillows, bedspreads, curtains.

But, back in my own time, my favorite thing to sew up with this heavy weight, beautifully figured, story-telling fabric is an apron.

Sewing aprons, especially in toile, is the kind of thing that keeps me
Enchanted by Sewing!
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I highly recommend the lovely, and informative, bookQueen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. It's a great read about what Marie Antoinette actually did wear to masquerades , grand balls, or just toddling around Le Petit Trianon with the dear little daughter, she nicknamed Mousseline, a fun allusion to the fashions that Marie herself made popular at the time. 

Since I like to keep my iPad happy, I bought the Kindle version of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution.
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* Thanks Sponsors! *
* Thanks so much, to readers who sponsor the work of this blog and the Enchanted by Sewing Podcast, by purchasing books, ebooks and other products through links in this blog.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Aprons: The Red Headed Chicken Apron

I sewed my chicken apron up using a basic
butchers/chefs apron style.
It's not all sunshine and light when it comes to the wearing and production of aprons in my family.

This month the Enchanted by Sewing Podcast will be about sewing aprons, and my mother's attitudes towards them. 

I sewed my now well-worn chicken apron, in celebration of my neighbors flock. One of the chickens, who her young son named "Laurel Chicken" because we both had red hair (!),
used to make it through the fence between our houses and come to mine to spend the day and lay eggs. I once found a nest under a redwood tree in the back with ten eggs, eight of which were still in good shape and made a very nice pear soufflé.

Laurel Chicken has been gathered to her fore-mothers now, but the apron lives on. Every time I tie on my chicken apron, I think I can see a little flick of red tail feathers beneath the farthest back redwood tree. I wonder how a soufflé would go over on the Thanksgiving table :-)

Sewing garments that reflect on my life and my friends is the kind of thing that keeps me....

Enchanted by Sewing!
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The apron episode will be published on November 26'th. You can signup for a reminder email when new monthly episodes are released, by visiting the show notes at

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Waistlines:Inspired by the Classics - Time Travel to the Italian Renaissance

The Combat of Love and Chastity
If I'd been an all around, well educated, know-it all Renaissance women, an uomo universale  (the modern term is a polymath), I bet I'd have been dreaming in Greek - in my Greek-inspired, just-below-the-bustline waistlines that is!

The Renaissance , or rebirth, was about fifteenth and sixteenth century Italians dreaming about being reborn - as imaginary Greeks. Men and women of this era (at least those who could afford the luxury of being well educated) prided themselves on their breadth of knowledge in the arts and sciences - music, conversation, mathematics, machines, equipment, painting, architecture, books, languages, and what else..... or yeah, the art of warfare.

I'm pretty sure that if I travelled back through time to sometime in the sixteenth century, I'd have been particularly caught up in the excitement over the creation of new technology. And it seems to me that the creation of a telescope would have provided me with much of the same pleasure as my modern times enthusiasm for software development.

But I wouldn't have been crouching over my design table all day long. After all  I would have been an uomo universale, 
a woman capable of engaging in and demonstrating many accomplishments.

Whilst singing and playing my viola or lute (always with a fine air of
Woman Playing the Viola, Solario
sprezzatura),  bandying over the significance of the positions of the constellations with a fellow courtier ("But look at Mars through my new telescope Andrea!"), and planning the next poetic verse in my current composition, I'm pretty sure  I'd also have been hard at work on another mental composition, a gown inspired, of course, by 
my supposed Grecian roots*. I might have already been wearing something that took me back to those times past,   something with a twisted shoulder element perhaps, like the one in Solario's painting of a musician.
Chaste Women in a Landscape

While I was fiddling, singing and discoursing among my fellows,  I would have been contemplating the creation of a dress with a substantial dose of color. My classical interests would go for something with simple, fluid lines. No fussy necklines or over embellishment for my gown. It would speak for itself in the way it flowed from a high waistline set just below the bust, creating long lines of naturally occurring seamless folds over the body,  in hues of russet or red. In cooler weather I might pair it with a cloak of deep forest green.

Whether it was dress design or a new ability to view the heavens, I'd have been stretching my interests just as far afield back in the sixteenth century, as I do today. 

You know, it's time travel like this that keeps me...
Enchanted by Sewing!

* * * 
Thank you for sponsoring the regular work of this sewing journal site, and the Enchanted by Sewing Podcast when you buy products linked from this page!

"Prince of Foxes", set in the Italian Renaissance, is one of my all time favorite movies. It's based on a classic Samuel Shellabarger novel of the same name.  The movie is adventurous and romantic. The costumes are historically accurate and gorgeous.

* Of course women's position in Greek society didn't tend towards the well educated. These gals tended to be more like domestic appurtenances with no equal standing alongside the boys. A well-educated, monied Renaissance women could hope for a lot more when it came to society, education and an attitude of respect from her menfolk.

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Uomo Universale/The Polymath

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Waistlines: A Little Old-Time Revival (Greek Influence on Fashion)

Give me that old-time revival style!
Greek Revival that is....

As all of us time travelin' sewists know.... women just never seem to get enough of that high-waisted Greek look.

The ladies of ancient Grecian times are well known for draping their Doric chitons so that the weight of the primary fabric folds hung from just below the bust, though you'll find other waistline draping effects on Greek artifacts as well (including the no-waistline look ). Their counterparts in other ancient lands may well have draped their frocks in similar styles, but when it comes to these Mediterranean islands we have access to the detritus of their civilization to paw through, and other places - not so much. Relicts of Greek culture have made their way into modern museums, and that gives us an opportunity to window shop through these styles, and pickup a few pointers when it comes to draping and styling fluid high-waisted dresses and tunics.

An appreciation for all things classically Greek inspired people of many eras to try out democracy, create public buildings with columns, and get down with getting philosophical. It has also led ladies of many succeeding historical periods to pull up their waistlines and let their fabric of their dresses flow smoothly and fluidly from just beneath a fitted bosom. What's not to like about a waistline that avoids your waist? 

This classical raised waist image from ancient times, meant that Renaissance ladies like Madonna Lucrezia Borgia, Intimates of Marie Antoinette at  Le Petit Trianon, Napoleon's Josephine, Jane Austen's heroines, Vionnet's put-away-those-corsets Parisian beauties, and Betsey Johnson's 1970's Alley Cat pattern sewists, could shed their corsets and girdles, breathe a little easier, and get comfortable when they pulled a high-waisted frock out of the wardrobe.

We're still sewing 'em today!
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Feeling Like A Little Greek Inspiration?
Hot Pattern's Trudy, has designed a great top and dress pattern, the Metropolitan Verano Dress that is strongly reminiscent of an updated Greek chiton.


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I love using layers in Photoshop! Usually I create my illustrations from my own art work, but it's also fun to incorporate other people's creations as well. In my Greek Revival illustration above I borrowed and incorporated the following free downloads...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Autumnal Drama Queen - Pistache Fall Foliage

A Pistache Tree in full Autumn Dress
Walking along the in-town path that leads to one of the bike bridges that crosses San Francisquito Creek (the middle bridge, closest to El Camino) I met up with this Pistache tree. She's full of airs in her fall dress.

You know how those Pistache sisters are, don't you? They are such drama queens!

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Start out at Burgess Park, Ravenswood and Alma
Walking Path runs along the railroad tracks on Alma Street, Menlo Park. The bike bridge will take you into Palo Alto (if you turn left) or Stanford Shopping Center (turn right)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sewing or Crafty? Do I Want to be a Part of That Movement?

Is draping a skirt pattern
a crafty activity?
Wow, you are just so crafty!

A Facebook friend recently commented that she disliked the word crafty, being applied to the complex design and construction skills she, and others, have developed to complete well-fitting, masterfully sewn garments and precisely detailed quilt projects.

For many of us,
Crafty-ness evokes images of
toilet paper tube creations
more so than sewing garments.
It seemed to my buddy, that a crafty project is one that she might indulge in for a little fun on a rainy afternoon - something like the DIY projects we like to imagine completing on a rainy Crafternoon with a much-loved child, or a dear friend. Toilet paper tube art, is the premiere example of this kind of craftiness, though crepe-paper covered juice cans might run second place.

I knew what my buddy was talking about. I've had my own share of fussiness when non-sewing cohorts responses to my work seemed to imply there was probably no big difference between whipping up a pair of well-fitting trousers and a two-egg cake from a boxed mix.

But if I take the y off the word, I end up with craft. And craft has a significant sense of history. Craftspeople worked as apprentices to crafts masters to develop their own expertise and mastery. All over the world, and to this very day, craftsmen and craftswomen work leather, weave fabric, paint, tile,  print books,  and create intricate designs. 

Craftspeople learn the ins and outs of working with specialized materials, designing intricate goods, and know the secrets of operating complex machinery to produce their craft. 

If you're a sewist, that last bit might sound a little familiar.

And one more thought. Crafty can mean sly, but it can also mean somebody who comes up with a clever solution to a problem that has challenged other people. A good detective can be thought of as being crafty. And how many times have you had to come up with a clever solution to a sewing challenge? Sure you did. Remember that dress that was too short, and how you added the alternately colored band to the hem, to make it look like a design feature? Or that time you cut the buttonhole too long, and so you added a decorative corner over one end? That absolutely made the garment, and people always commented on the look!

A couple of craftsmen at work
Bet they had to come up with the
occasional crafty solution to a problem.
Not only am I proud to be a modern day craftswoman, I like to think I'm a crafty one.

After all, I think that craftiness is one of the things that keeps me...
Enchanted by Sewing!
Who says there's something wrong with a little crafternoon'ing?
Not me!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Waistlines: Designing Without - The No-Waistline Look

This gorgeous no-waistline frock is from the
This month I'm musing on the different waistline levels I select to sew.

The no-waistline look in this Dolce & Gabbana dress, sets off the gorgeous fabric* the designer used. No sewist would want to cut through this print!

When we choose a waistline style - or lack of one - by selecting a pattern, designing a flat pattern, or designing by draping our own pattern, we are choosing where the garment, or a part of the garment, hangs from on the body for which we are sewing. 

In this case, where there is no waistline, the garment hangs from the shoulders. The folds of this garment drape from the high bust point. If the model were more curvaceous in that area, the folds could hang differently, and the way that the print is displayed might be different too. 

We drape material on human-shaped dress forms, to see how different body types affect the fall - or drape- of a particular piece of fabric. We also look at how the material's textures and prints will hang on a similarly shaped human form.

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I'm just beginning to learn the historic and modern art of draping. It's a very artistic experience !  I've begun to develop my skill set in a class taught through the Cañada College Fashion Department. I'll be continuing my draping journey by continuing to follow the richly illustrated draping tutorials and examples in our class textbook, The Art of Fashion Draping. This excellent, and highly regarded book, by Connie Amaden-Crawford has been in use for decades. both within the industry, and by home sewists. 

Thanks Sponsors! 
When you buy products through links in this blog, you support the regular work of this blog and The Enchanted by Sewing Podcast.

Fabric Notes
* The print in the Dolce & Gabbana frock above is quite reminiscent of one of the Alexander McQueen fashions I talked about in the fashion gallery audio podcast tour I shared from the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London last summer. In that tour, I give catalog information, so that listeners can use links from the show notes to look up further museum cataloging information about, and find images of, garments that were mentioned during that tour. 

For links to the V&A collections database, follow the show notes link at

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You May Also Like 

Waistlines:  What's Natural? (Haiku)

Enchanted By Sewing Audio Podcast: Dress Forms

My Virtual Bulletin Boards on Pinterest

Draping Inspiration Images and Articles -

Dress Forms Articles, Arty, Make Your Own, Etc -

I have several other sewing related Pinterest boards -

Monday, November 4, 2013

Vintage Threads: Katherine Hepburn in Stripes, Godets and Timeless Style (Movie - Bringing up Baby)

Hipline godets added to the side, and princess seams
 flattered Hepburn's slim hips.
The contrasting horizontal stripes on the sleeves really make the dress.

Though the glorious satin evening frock that Katherine Hepburn or "Susan" wears in the madcap bar room scene is by far the most famous fashion in one of my all-time favorite, classic movies, "Bringing Up Baby", its this striped daytime frock that wins hands down for me, when it comes to sewing inspiration.

As you may well know, this vintage black-and-white film tells the  humorous story of a series of non-stop adventures and romance between mild-mannered paleontologist "David" (Cary Grant) and a rich (yet not at all snooty about it) girl "Susan", a female who's both a little nutty, and also very sure of herself. 

And did I mention that along the way Susan adopts a leopard (named"Baby")? Don't worry, nothing bad happens to the kitty. There are also some great goofy scenes with a terrier named George to appeal to those of us who love everything about dogs.

The humor is both spot-on slapstick and verbal. The interchange between Grant and Hepburn has both chemistry and focus. It's one I keep in my collection and watch if I'm feeling blue or just need a pick-me-up.

I'd love to recreate this Howard Greer dress. It's a black and white striped beauty, fitting slim over the hips,and with artfully placed godets, falling from the hips at the side seams, and princess seams in front and back. Of course the contrasting horizontal stripes on the sleeves add to the overall effect as well. The bodice front is ornamented by only a simple mandarin collar, that keeps your eye on the swing of the skirt, as the madcap heiress rushes back and forth between Baby-the-leopard and Cary Grant. 

Hepburn's other outfits in "Bringing Up Baby" are fun and luxurious. They speak to the era.  But it's this classic dress that says timeless fashion. It's one I'd love to recreate it for a modern times, perhaps altering a few details to better flatter my own figure type.

Maybe I'll think about that some more, as I pop my dvd back in and watch it just one more time.

The ability to imagine and create timeless fashion based on vintage looks,  is just one of the things that keeps me... 
Enchanted by Sewing.

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Thanks Sponsors! 
When you buy products through direct links from this blog, you support the regular work that goes into the blog, as well as the Enchanted by Sewing Podcast

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall in California (Cornbread Recipe)

It takes until this time of the year to feel like fall here in our part of California. It was finally cool enough to wear a fleecy vest before dark and want to eat a hot supper - baked acorn squash, chicken sausage, tomato basil soup, cornbread (see recipe below) - you know a real fall meal. 

How long has it been feeling like fall where you live? In the Northern Hemisphere that is - OK, I know for you folks way down undAH we're talking springtime gamboling lambs...

* Cornbread from Scratch
Bake at 350 degrees

Dry Stuff
1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 T baking powder (yes really - Tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar (more if you like it sweeter)

Wet Stuff
2 eggs
2 T butter melted
1 cup milk

* Mix the dry stuff together.
* Mix the wet stuff together
* Make a hole in the hollow of the dry stuff and mix the wet stuff in gently. Don't beat it - just till combined.

Bake in a greased square pan till done. Usually 20 - 30 minutes. Also makes good muffins.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Waistlines: What's Natural? (haiku)

Who decides the position of my
natural waistline?
Fashion Trends? A Sewing Book?
Or Me...
Find my waist level.
Must I measure from my back?
Or is it my choice?
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One sewist's suggestions for defining natural waistlines