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In Hot Water – Awkward Mess to Costume Cool

in hot water

In early 2017, I designed In Hot Water for the sixth annual wearable art competition sponsored by the Museum of Art in Deland, FL.  It was one of three entries I had in the show, one of many “best of times, worst of times” I’ve had in my life.  The show itself was fun and exciting. Unfortunately, it was also pretty embarrassing!  Read all about the experience in my blog Wearable Art – My First Juried Competition.

The most noteworthy thing about the experience was that none of my three designs were complete when they hit the runway.  Too much on my plate, too little time.  Consequently, the show was one of my most cringe-worthy experiences!

Right after the show, I started to work redesigning In Hot Water.  I think I went with this one because it was my favorite of the three designs. It’s whimsical, bright, and colorful, and just quirky enough. In my mind, the tea cup skirt and the tea bag top are the most important features of the design.  They were also the most challenging to put together.  For both of those reasons, I’d like to share a bit of the redesign and construction process with you now!

Tea Cup and Saucer

The oversized tea cup skirt tilts as the model walks, and a bit of fabric “tea” spills over the edge.  My original plan was to create a soft sculpture cup and saucer, embellished with applique and embroidery.  Unfortunately, soft sculpture didn’t provide enough structure to keep the saucer up!  As a result, the redesign included a wire infrastructure for flexibility and support.

Once the infrastructure was in place, I stitched the pieces together at the top (cup) and outside edge (saucer), right sides facing.  After turning them right side out, I stitched cup and saucer together, adding a stretchy inner skirt.  The inner skirt allows for sizing flexibility and comfort.   I used mercerized cotton for the cup and saucer, and power net for the inner skirt.

Tea Bag

My next step was to redesign the tea bag top.  The original was too heavy, too opaque, and not “tea baggy” enough.  I decided to create a stand alone tea bag with ribbon straps.  Bare in the back, but still a bit covered in front. I used silk organza for the top and the tea leaves. (The first photo below is my muslin practice piece.) I hand dyed the organza to achieve just the right leaf colors. Next, I cut them into leaf shapes.  I placed a layer of leaves in a strategic manner, then layered a few more here and there.  White organza created a tea bag sandwich for the leaves.

I inserted a few ribbon loops to the sides of the tea bag, and stitched ribbon ties to the sides and neck.  A decorative satin cord string and card stock tag complete the top.  I love how it turned out!

Completing In Hot Water

I completed the look with a sly nod to Mad Hatter style, adding a shrunken jacket, jaunty top hat, and ankle boots with spats.

I purchased all of my fabrics for this design from Dharma Trading.  They offer great quality at reasonable prices, and provide wonderful customer service.  I wish they had an affiliate program!  All of the fabrics were hand dyed to get just the right color, except for the white vinyl I used for the spats.  I have so much fun dyeing fabric!

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through my construction process.  Let me know if you would like me to develop a pattern for In Hot Water!


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Wearable Art – Going Down the Rabbit Hole

wearable art

Call it awkward, call it uncomfortable, call it a learning experience.  My first adventure into the world of wearable art competitions was all of these, and more.  It was exciting, new, and pretty embarrassing.  In the end, I came away with a better understanding of myself and what I need to do before getting into another show like this one.  I also know what I want to do when I grow up – make wearable art.  Before I get into the story, I’d like to share a  definition of wearable art.

What is Wearable Art?

Individual, often extremely personal, and generally conforming to no unifying aesthetic criteria, wearable art is by its very nature difficult to define. It could be called artwork for the body, but this does not acknowledge its complex relationship to the art world, the fashion world, and the world of craft. It is separate from mainstream fashion, yet remains related to it. Although it takes varied forms— sculptural or flat—and employs diverse techniques such as knitting, leather tooling, weaving, dyeing, and sewing, it shares a spirit of fantasy, craftsmanship, and commitment to personal vision.  Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion COPYRIGHT 2005 The Gale Group, Inc.

The Adventure Begins

Back in November 2016, my daughter-in-law (and love) forwarded me a call for artists for a wearable art juried exhibition put on by the Museum of Art (MOA) Deland.  Her message?  “I think you should do this, momma.”  We had talked about the show the year before, but found out about the competition too late.  This time, I decided to go for it!

The theme for the exhibition was “Surreality – From Dali to Deland.”  I have to tell you, the theme itself was a bit intimidating.  I didn’t see myself as a surrealist by any means, but I knew I could come up with some good designs if I let go and went with the flow.

Now, I have never been in a wearable art competition or anything like it, but I didn’t see any real problems.  I’m an experienced designer, pattern maker, and seamstress. I’m creative, love to experiment and learn new techniques, and I’m a hard worker.  No worries.  I was excited, I was prepared, and I was ready to go! At least that’s what I thought.

The Process

Step 1? Get those designs going! I researched surreal art, thought outside my normal box, and bounced ideas off family and friends.  I came up with three designs that I thought were kind of out there, and got to work on the application.  Here are my designs:

I think in the back of my mind I expected ONE to get in.  Imagine my surprise and excitement when all three were accepted! I was a little nervous, but mostly just kind of thrilled.  I was going to have the opportunity of a lifetime.  A chance to go kind of crazy, create some fabulous pieces, and find fame and fortune as an artist!  I look back on it now, and realize that was just nuts.  I would have only 25 days to plan, gather supplies, develop patterns, and figure out how the heck I was going to bring the designs to life.  Broken down, that meant 8.33 days for each piece. What, me worry?  No way.  I dove right in.

Long Story Short(er)

I had so much fun working on these three pieces, right up to the time I realized I couldn’t possibly finish them in time. I hand dyed fabrics, designed appliques, and made glittery polymer clay fish scales.  The closer I got to show time, the harder I worked.  The more I accepted help from my amazing sweetheart Ray, our moms Mim and Joyce, and my dear friend Joyce.  I’m pretty sure by the end of week two, they were all having second thoughts about my chances of success, but they hid them well.  I was mission focused, and would not admit defeat.  A few of us even pulled an all nighter the night before the exhibition.  For whatever reason, I still thought I could pull it off.

Problem was, none of the pieces were anywhere near finished.  Here are a few pics of the night before the show.

As I recall, these pics were taken around 2am.  I’m working on the teacup skirt, trying to figure out how to stabilize it.  Mim is pitching in to help with some sewing. Ray was taking pics, and helping in any way he could.  He even ran to Walmart at some point for more straight pins.

Show Time

By the next morning , the best I could say is that each of my models would have something to cover their bodies on the runway.  After about two hours of sleep and a minor breakdown on my part, we pulled it together and got ready to head to the show.  I have to admit I thought about backing out, but I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do.  Ray and I packed up the designs along with my sewing machine, tools, and supplies.  We set up shop in the green room, and I kept sewing.

We hit a few snags with model fittings, but our models were amazing.  They were extremely supportive and helpful, and they rocked their unfinished looks on the runway!

As I sat in the front row and watched my designs come down the runway, I wanted to crawl under my chair.  My greatest hope was that no one would know they were my designs.  I am so grateful for the wonderful friends and family in the audience who cheered me on, clapped for my pieces, and pretended I might have a shot at a prize.  They are so appreciated.  I love each and every one of them for being there, and for loving me enough to support me unconditionally.

Looking Back & Moving Forward

Would I ever do it again? You bet! All things considered, I really had an amazing time.  I loved the process, and the freedom to create something totally out of the box.  Every day for 25 days, I came to work energized, and excited to get to work.  Maybe I’ll be able to make wearable art my main focus at some point.

My plan is to continue designing and creating wearable art pieces.  If and when a show comes along, I hope to have one or more pieces in the works that I can tailor to fit the current theme.

By the way, I finished In Hot Water several months after the show.  Check out my blog post on that process! The costume itself is currently available in my Etsy shop, if you’re looking for something adorably different!

Finally, I’ve promised myself that I will finish Orchid Tree and Becoming by the end of 2018.  They might be a bit different than the original designs, but I am confident they will be all the better for the difference.

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Applique Tutorial: Make Easy Appliques

applique tutorial featured image

This easy applique tutorial was originally part of my Team Spirit quilt pattern.  Now I share it as a separate FREE tutorial for anyone to use.  Create your own applique patterns of any size! As far as I know, it’s fine to create a pattern/project from any image you like.  Just don’t try to sell it, as licensing fees might kick in.

My applique tutorial will help you create an applique pattern using a picture or graphic you find online. Use just about ANY picture or graphic.  Follow the detailed but very basic process with lots of visuals.  Are you familiar with  Adobe Illustrator or PhotoShop? You can save yourself several steps and quite a bit of time.  This tutorial is designed for those who don’t have any experience with those software programs.

Do you have a hard copy of your chosen design printed up? You may be able to skip the beginning steps of this process. Take it to a local printer that can blow it up to the correct dimensions and print it out for you.  If you choose to do this, pick up the applique tutorial at Step 13, on page 29.

Here are a few suggestions/guidelines before we get started:

  • Find the simplest version of the picture or graphic you want to use, with the fewest colors and details.
  • Be prepared to further simplify as you go through the process to make the final steps easier on yourself!
  • I decided to follow a visual route when walking you the process.  Screen shots and photos are accompanied by brief descriptions.
  • I’m using Windows Live Photo Gallery and Paint to create this pattern.
  • Please send me an email at if you have any questions or need any help!

Applique Tutorial

Step 1

Find a picture or graphic online that works for you.  Right click with mouse or mouse pad and select Save Image As…to save it.  Be sure to name it and save it in a file where you can easily find it!

applique tutorial step1

Step 2

Double-click on the image you’ve saved to open in Photo Gallery.  If you are using a JPG file, you can open it directly in Paint and skip to Step 5.  My image is a PNG file, so I have to use Photo Gallery first.

applique tutorial step 2

Step 3

Click on Edit, organize or share to open your image for editing.  If this action opens a window with multiple images, simply double click on your image to complete the process.

applique tutorial step 3

Step 4

Click on Make a copy to save your file in JPG format.  As far as I know, you cannot work with a PNG file in Paint.

applique tutorial step 4

applique tutorial step 4.1

Step 5

Locate the JPG image file and double click on the image.  When you come to the Edit, organize or share screen, go to File and select Open with and Paint.

applique tutorial step 5

Step 6

With your image open in Paint, click in the upper left corner and select Properties.

applique tutorial step 6

Step 7

Change the Units selection to Inches and select OK

applique tutorial step 7

Step 8

Now comes the fun!  If you use Illustrator or PhotoShop, you know that changing dimensions is quick and easy.  With Paint, we have to resize the image by percentages, and no more than 500% at a time.  The dimensions (at the bottom of the screen) start at 3.02″ x 2.64″.  For demonstration purposes, we will say that the quilt panel we are working with measures 35.75″w x 24″h, so we need to get closer to that!

applique tutorial step 8

Step 9

Select Resize at the top of your screen…

applique tutorial step9

…and enter 500 in the Horizontal and Vertical resize boxes.  Make sure you have Percentage selected.  Select OK

applique tutorial step 9.1

You can see how much bigger the image is now!  Check the dimensions at the bottom of the screen…15.11″ x 13.19″.  Better, but we’re not there yet.  You may need to resize several times to get the size you need.  For this quilt’s center panel, I found that a first resize of 500% and second resize of 165% seemed to do the trick…

applique tutorial step 9.2

…24.92″ x 21.77″ – I think we are good to go!  At this point, you can save your file as a JPG and take it or send it to a print shop to have it printed up actual size, then skip to Step 13 for tracing and fine-tuning.  If you prefer to print it up yourself on your home printer, follow along…

applique tutorial step 9.3

Now it’s time to print.  Don’t worry about perfection at this point!  We still have to print the image up actual size, put it together and retrace it.  It’s much easier to fine tune in later steps.

Step 10

Go back to the upper left of the screen and select Print and Print Preview.

applique tutorial step 10

Step 11

Review your Page Setup selections to be sure you get the best results…

applique tutorial step 11

…Set your margins at .25″ on all sides, and make sure Scaling is set at Adjust to:  100% normal size.  Select OK.

applique tutorial step 11.1

Follow along with the next several screen shots to ensure your printer is set up properly and print your image.

applique tutorial step 11.2

applique tutorial step 11.3

applique tutorial step 11.4


applique tutorial step 11.5

If you’ve used your home printer, you probably have several pages.  Now it’s time to put your puzzle together!

Step 12

Lay your printed pages on a table and put them in the correct order.  Tape them together, trimming off edges as needed.

applique tutorial step 12

Step 13

Trace your design onto plain white paper.  Create a black and white outline by eliminating any unnecessary details.  This will make your fabric appliqué process much easier!

  • Use a light box for smoother tracing.  If you don’t have a light box, you can tape your image to a large window.  Tape the pattern paper over it to trace.  Daylight works really well!!
  • Rolls of pattern paper (plain white paper) are available from most office and art supply stores.  You may still need to piece it a little, but you won’t have multiple pieces of printer paper to deal with.

Once you have finished tracing your image, you can retrace it using a fine tip black marker – but that’s optional.  You might also want to make a second tracing to have a back-up copy on hand.

applique tutorial step 13

Step 14

Cut out your appliqué pieces.  Lay them out and measure to determine fabric requirements.

I hope you find this applique tutorial helpful.  Please feel free to contact me at if you have any questions or suggestions for improvement!




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DIY Pillow Idea: Add Decorative Cord

diy pillow

Adding decorative cord is an easy DIY pillow idea that can really dress up a pillow!  There are so many beautiful decorative cords available.  Visit your local fabric store or shop online.  Don’t limit yourself to home decor trims. You’ll find fashion trims that will do very nicely!  I’m sure you’ll find the perfect finishing touch for your project.

Follow a few simple steps to apply your purchased cord like a pro.  If you’d like to make custom bias covered cord, visit my tutorial (click here) and you’ll find it’s a breeze!

Pillow Prep

  1. Stitch around the pillow using desired seam allowance, leaving 5-6” on the bottom edge for stuffing.  Round your corners as shown in this illustration for square (but not too pointy!) finished corners.  NOTE:  If using a pillow form, I suggest you leave an 8-10” opening.
  2. Trim and clip corners.  Turn pillow right side out.  IF corners are too sharp, restitch them.  Stuff with Polyfill to desired fullness or insert pillow form.  Slip-stitch bottom closed, leaving about 1″ open to insert cord end.

    Applying decorative cord

  3. Insert starting edge of cord in opening space.
  4. Slip-stitch cording around pillow.
  5. Wrap tape around the end of cord to prevent raveling.  Cut off excess in the middle of tape.
  6. Insert end into opening and finish stitching cord to pillow.  Close opening and connect ends smoothly.

    I hope you like this easy DIY pillow idea! Adding a decorative finishing touch to a pillow doesn’t come any easier than this.

    My Love You the Most pillow cover design makes a great gift, and adds a romantic touch to any room. Make one for your sweetheart, or make a few in coordinating prints.  Make them modern and colorful, make them traditional, make them with boho style!  Just make them.  Purchase the Love You the Most pillow cover pattern HERE