Worn Words

garment labels

I’ve always been drawn to details. Themed touches in store displays, sugar packets in restaurants, tiny little tidbits that draw the eye. I’m especially conscious of all the elements that help make a whole garment or accessory. Fabric texture, fasteners, bits of trim. I notice these things even more so since I started consciously trying to use more recycled goods.

Like garment labels. Those little bits of branding that can be so irritating and itchy at the back of the neck or along the waistband. Such important information–sizes, washing instructions, where an item was made–squeezed onto a tiny tag and sewn into a seam to ensure that the information and item are eternally attached. Until I arrive with my trusty seam ripper.

Worn Words in the making

I save all the interesting bits and pieces when I deconstruct garments for use in other things. Buttons? You betcha. Zippers? Oh, yeah. Labels? Yes, labels, too. You never know when one of those micro-marketing pieces might be just the right addition to a masterpiece in the making…

Just Stitch

Thread and quilted pieceSometimes, I just have to stitch.

By stitch, I mean quilt. I layer batting between two pieces of fabric, lower the feed dogs, and just go. No pattern, no plan. No specific project in mind. Free form designs emerge from my fingertips, kind of like doodling with fabric and thread. The stitched lines may be a little jerky at first, but eventually, I settle into a rhythm, and just have fun. The worries of the day fade away.

Quilted batik

Batiks and mottled hand-dyed fabrics are wonderful for this sort of stitching. Sometimes I outline odd shapes, or stipple in certain areas, taking cues from color changes in the fabric. Variegated threads seem to fade in and out of like-colored fabrics. I like to use plain muslin on the back. The resulting designs are wonderful bits of stitching.

The finished pieces can be used for almost anything. I’ve made totes, small handbags, and tiny little quilts. The leftovers from those pieces are sometimes satin stitched together in a patchwork of pretty stitches.

Quilted patches pieced together


Painted Leaves

Yellow painted leafPaint plus leaf. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. This is a great project if you want to make something, but aren’t feeling too artistically inclined. You’ll be surprised how a tiny bit of paint dabbling recharges and refuels your creative energy. It’s that “What if…?” effect taking place.

To get started, gather up a bit of washed cotton fabric*, fabric paint**, paint brushes and leaves. Green leaves that aren’t too slick seem to work best. I’ve had good luck with maple, oak, and walnut leaves. Holly leaves seem to be a bit too smooth to hold the paint. Dried and fragile end of season leaves usually won’t hold up to the process.

Protect your work surface with a plastic drop cloth or old shower curtain liner and place the fabric right side up on the flat surface. Paint one side of a leaf with fabric paint. Use paint straight out of the jar, mix colors on a palette, or right on the leaf! There’s no right or wrong here. Once the leaf is lightly coated with paint, place it paint side down on the cotton fabric and gently press the painted leaf to the fabric with your fingers. Don’t forget the stem! When you’re sure you’ve finger-pressed the entire leaf, carefully lift the leaf away from the fabric. Congratulations! You’ve just made a print!
Green and yellow painted leafEach leaf can be used several times. Try both sides of leaves to see which works best. Don’t worry about smudged edges–it just adds to the effect. To make the yellow-orange sample shown at top, I painted the leaf, placed it on the fabric, and smoothed the back of the leaf with my brush. While the leaf was still on the fabric, I brushed a bit of extra paint around the leaf edges to help define the shape.

Overlap leaves to create a collage, or use leaf shapes as a resist and paint around the edges. Try both drybrush (not much water) and wet effects. There’s so much you can do with this one simple technique!

Painted leaf


*Washing the fabric removes any manufacturer finishes that might interfere with paint adhesion.
**I used Jacquard’s Textile paints for the samples shown here. A great selection of colors is available, and the paints can be heat set with a few seconds of ironing.