In Hot Water – Awkward Mess to Costume Cool

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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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My focus is on needlepoint design, stitch guides & finishing. We also offer quilting & applique patterns, and a variety of tutorials. In addition to needlepoint, I enjoy designing and making costumes, wearable art, and art quilts. You’ll see some of those pieces show up from time to time!

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