Last winter, when I was making note of the 2015 spring and summer fashion trends, the omnipresence of the white shirt on the pages of the fashion magazine caught my eye. While I am not a slave to fashion, I realized that a new white shirt would be an excellent addition to my wardrobe. I checked my stash and to my delight there was a 2 ¾ yard length of white cotton shirting with heavy pinstripes of dark blue and green.
Trouble is, I could not bring myself to design and make a simple white shirt. My sketches included shirts with various placements of stripes and several surface embellishments. My chosen design concept involved two of these ideas. I decided to run the stripes vertically from the shoulder to the high hip, then add a deep band of horizontal stripes around the hem. The stripe combination would represent water and land. My plan was to create a fish pond scene using some fish and lily pad stencils I had recently purchased with my Artist’s Paint Sticks. Good thing that I was using stash fabric since I had no idea how or if this would work.
Once the design was finalized in my head, I cut out the shirt’s basic pieces. Since there was plenty of fabric, I was left with several large scraps to use for making painted fabric samples.
The first time I worked with paint sticks, I made relief rubbings using rubber stamps. Those rubbings were painted onto cotton broadcloth and then applied to a quilted jacket. This method allowed me to choose the best squares as my appliqués. (Click here to read some posts about that jacket.)
This project would require me to stencil paint directly to the garment so I needed to be confident with the stenciling process. Making my samples allowed me to get comfortable with the paint sticks, test the paint colors on the fabric and learn to use the stencils.
Here is how the sample making process informed my work:
- Bright, strong saturations of paint stood up better to the pinstripe fabric than pastel colors.
- It was easier to work in short spurts than try to paint the entire shirt at one time.
- The shirt would need to be partially constructed so the painted designs could cross over seams.
- The fabric needed to lay flat on the table for the best stenciling results.
- The design would be improved if I found a flower stencil that would add some taller flowers to the scene.
- The fish needed some “sea weed” to keep them from looking isolated.
- Buttons in colors of the painted embellishment would be a good finish.
So I set everything aside until I had a chance to go shopping! At the March Original Sewing and Quilt Expo, I bought a stencil for creating Japanese irises from Laura Murray. Irises grow naturally near fish ponds so it seemed the perfect way to achieve some height in my imagined scene. I also found some tagua nut buttons that complemented the paint colors of my samples.
When I had time to pick up the project again, I needed to partially construct the shirt before I could stencil the pond scene onto the fabric. I totally rearranged the TRJ construction steps to achieve a flat canvas for embellishment. The sides were stitched to each corresponding fronts and the back before the sleeves were applied. I left about 2” of the seams open near the armhole so I could stitch in the sleeves and finish the construction later. I did not sew the shoulder seams or the darts, but I did place a pin at each dart point to inform the placement of the stenciled designs. I serge finished the side seams and pressed them flat. Then I stitched the strip of fabric with the horizontal stripes to the shirt along the bottom. That strip was double wide so I could turn it up and create a deep hem when the painting was complete. I pressed the fold line into the band to keep me from painting on the faced side.
Stay tuned next week to see how it all turned out. It is always surprising to me how long these early design steps take. But if you let the project turn over in your mind for a while, all the pieces will ultimately fall into place. Once the work is done, you have a wonderful, unique garment that was thoughtfully designed and comfortable to wear. What plans do you have for unique jackets and shirts? Do you find sketching to be a good tool as you explore new design ideas? Do you use our endless possibilities page to visualize your new garments? Have you used Artist’s Paint Sticks in a creative way? Share your projects with us all.
Happy Sewing, RAE