A few years ago I saw a scarf in a shop window on the Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe in Paris that changed the way I thought about sewing or constructing things from fabric. Draped over a branch, the scarf was made of many thin strips of cashmere. The strips were in two colors, deep gray and deep magenta, sandwiched together and then tacked together, and separated into an open circle, then tacked again. The scarf cascaded in many loops of positive and negative spaces. Bubbles. Ripples. I can pinpoint that day as the beginning of a sewing obsession, and I haven’t yet exhausted the excitement that I got from seeing that interesting scarf.
That year the women of Paris were wearing ruffles on their collars, the edges of their skirts, and in rippling, ethereal layers around their necks. I hadn’t seen so many ruffles since the days of Gunny Sack dresses in the 1980s. These were a much more elegant and palatable interpretation. I had knitting needles and yarn on the trip and began to knit a ruffled scarf immediately. I longed to have a sewing machine in my little attic hotel room. I’d have gotten right down to business. Instead I sketched and read and left my room early to wander past the window and look at that scarf again.
About six months later ruffles, ruched fabric and gathered embellishments arrived in fashion Stateside. I started to be a student of garments, deconstructing them in my mind and on paper. What flat shape could be gathering into that full shape? A lot of cutting, ruching, and experimenting helped me refine and understand how to work with gathered fabric. Heck, I’m still learning.
And I’m still obsessing with ruffles. This week was particularly productive. My studio is knee deep in threads and fragments. I’ve decided to go deep into my collection of clothes and fabric instead of buying new materials. I could clothe the populations of several small countries with the textiles I have, so I may as well be thrifty and step up ingenuity a notch. Therefore everything I’m making brings up stories and memories.
Since Christmas I’ve made a dozen or more fluffy raw-edge brooches. This week I finished two more (shown). These brooches include pieces cut from two skirts I’ve worn for many years, fabric from a winter scarf, and some satiny pajamas.
The ruffled adornment on the gray paisley jacket is cut from a threadbare silk scarf that I’ve had since the early 1990s. The gray jacket is a hand-sewn vintage item I found in a thrift store a few years ago. The little gray sweater needed a facelift, so I cut some spiral strips out of a button-down shirt and raided my scraps for the polka dot and pink bits to finish it off.
The sewn composition book cover uses the best of the scrap bin. The Eiffel Tower fabric came from a skirt that I’ve cut up so much it no longer resembles a garment.
And the flowered purse is made from two pant-legs, cut open, with ruffled T-shirt bits covering the seam.
I took all of these things to Zuzu’s, a boutique in Norwich, Vermont, where I sell my work. Now back to the fabric bin.