Posts Tagged ‘handmade’

The Celestial Quilt – Sleeping Under the Stars

Today we bring you a very special Lab project from a member of our team, artist Caitlin! This is Caitlin’s first Lab project and she jumped in with gusto. She helped design the new Ecliptic Constellations pack and wanted to take the use of these designs to a whole new level. Here she is to talk about her experiences with this fun and ambitious project…

Here at Urban Threads, we are always searching to explore new frontiers, and this Celestial Quilt is no exception. I wanted to explore the final frontier, in fact … space! When we first started scheming about space designs, I was drawn to the idea of making a quilt. Quilts are many tiny pieces joined together to make a whole, just as billions and gazillions of tiny stars and planets and asteroids and space debris and comets and satellites and UFOs come together to make the whole night sky.

Celestial Quilt

As I began to plan out the quilt, I used the circle of the ecliptic as a starting point. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the sun on the celestial sphere as seen from the earth’s center. These constellations are based on all the constellations that appear on that line (which is why there are 13 constellations instead of the 12 from astrology), and so it was a natural place to start.

My mom is an avid quilter, and I grilled her with questions about the space quilt scheme. Could I applique the embroidery on after I pieced? Could I stop and start quilting as many times as I needed? Do you trim batting before or after you start quilting? She was an invaluable resource in getting this project completed. I researched star charts and celestial maps, and found they showed stars in various sizes to describe their brightness. I realized, with the availability of various individual star sizes, I could build any constellation, from any corner of space I desired! No hoop was standing in my way, I was free to add as many twinkly stars to my design as I could handle. Since I was building a quilt, I hooped up each square one at a time and began stitch stars, one by one. This process was nice, because if I had any fabric tearing, or some crazy thing happened with my embroidery, I was only risking a little piece at time.

Celestial Quilt

I worked with a fabulous new UT artist, Danielle, and we began by illustrating the 13 constellations that fall on the ecliptic. This is path of the sun from our viewpoint on earth, as it travels across the sky throughout the year. These are also known as the signs of the zodiac, along with the addition of the Ophiuchus, the 13th constellation on the ecliptic line. We wanted to keep the actual stars prominent, since they have inspired stargazers throughout time. Then we added the zodiac imagery with a dreamy, celestial quality that stayed light and airy. Each sign of the zodiac has such a fantastic story and feeling, it was fun to try and capture it with embroidery thread.

Celestial Quilt Celestial Quilt

Since I had such beautiful embroidery to feature, I decided I would keep the actual quilting stitches to a minimum, and use the imaginary lines between stars to quilt the top and bottom together. Here I faced an interesting learning curve. I was doing free motion quilting for the first time on our UT embroidery/sewing machine, and didn’t realize I could move my fabric backwards, forwards and sideways, without turning the entire piece! I was slowly rolling up, and pushing parts of the quilt though the machine over and over before I realized it was unnecessary.

Celestial Quilt

Quilt stitches are similar to embroidery running stitches, and the can be decorative and complicated, while also functioning to hold the quilt together. The effervescent swirls behind each zodiac design could easily be used to quilt with, and I tried to replicate the swirls and loops with my free motion quilting.

Celestial Quilt

Since it’s too cold in January to sleep out under the stars, I am super excited to have brought the stars inside, to a much warmer and snuggly place: my bed.

This project is part of The Lab, a UT initiative to experiment, collaborate and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery.
Check out our other projects by searching for the UT Lab tag.

The Maker

A little beautiful maker melancholy for your Tuesday morning, featuring the amazing dolls of Amanda Louise Spayd. Watch it, you won’t regret it.

Spotted over on Mr X Stitch

Anja’s Embroidered Shoes

Machine embroidery artist Anja Reiger is at it again with these amazing embroidered shoes. The swallow and leaves are her own design which she made into a pair of handmade shoes, not unlike our own lovely UT stitcher Marna Jean, who picked out some Urban Threads designs and showed us how she made her shoes step by step.

Gah, am I like seriously the only person who doesn’t know how to do this? You all make it look so easy. I really want a pair of my own embroidered shoes now. Or boots. Oohh, boots.

Hear more about the boots and see her super cute matching embroidered dress over on Anja’s blog.

Birds of a Feather

Get stitched together! No, seriously, these amazing embroidered creations are from artist Catherine Frere-Smith, who created a fabric pattern for the birds (which is what that top is made out of) and then stitched them together and beautifully embroidered them by hand. She sells the finished creations through her Etsy page.

If you want to see more of her amazing fabric and embroidery work, check out her website. The lookbook alone is worth it.


Baroque Punk Behind the Scenes

If you guys loved our new Baroque Punk Blazer feature we shared on Friday (which you can check out in full here), today I’ve got a fun peek behind-the-scenes at the creation of this amazing jacket and the fun shoot that brought it to life. There were sit down meetings in coffee shops, color tests, late nights, oodles of texts send back and forth, zombie gnomes (I’ll explain), one big oops I managed to fix (see if you can spot it on the final jacket before I point it out!) and of course the fun of the final shoot.

Ready to take a peek? Let’s dive in…

While working on my initial designs, Laura and I were already in talks about the jacket. This sparrow design was maybe one of four done at this point, so we used it to mock up some color tests.

We had picked out a dye color on our first meeting, as she had decided she wanted to hand dye all our fabrics. We had initially thought our dye was going to come out more of a gray green, so when it came out a pale blue instead, we had to reevaluate our original color scheme.

Laura mailed me a swatch of hand dyed fabric, which I embroidered with three different brown/blue thread colors, to test out our new color ideas. When she got it back, she did a second test dye (you can see where there’s a darker are of color around the two right sparrows) to find out how the fabric and the embroidery thread would react.  The embroidery thread, being a rayon floss, took only the slightest hint of dye, which was perfect to pull all the colors together. Laura found some matching lining for the jacket, and some awesome buttons, and we had our colors.

It was time to start making the jacket.

A large packet of fabric arrived a day or so later, with all of it marked and dyed the first initial light blue pass. She had carefully marked on the fabric where the pattern for each piece was, so I could know where to put the embroidery to get it to lay right on the jacket.

The first embroidery I tackled was the roses high up on the shoulders. I took the same rose design, but in two sizes, and mirrored the smaller one to create a cascading effect. You can see left, is how I laid out my patterns, and right, the finished embroidery.

When laying out the second rose shoulder, I made by big mistake. I was loading and reloading many of the same files, and didn’t realize that my machine had kept the previous mirrored layout of one of our roses. In another classic example of machine embroidery mishaps, I made the other big mistake of leaving the room while your project is embroidering. Yup, even I still make this mistake. And trust me, I know better.

By the time I got back, the rose had embroidered itself sideways, and it was far enough along that there was no saving it. Alone in the studio, I tried my best impression of an angry sailor, then let it finish and stared at it dejectedly for a long time.

Sad Niamh.

Thankfully, the next day I remembered a key part of the jacket’s styling was this raw, layered effect. Laura and I had talked about the idea of countering the jackets modern, clearn styling with a raw tapestry of fabric strips, to really bring the texture of the jacket and the embroidery forward, as well as add a bit of punk to the mix. I had already layered a raw strip of fabric under the first rose…could I perhaps?

Yes I could!

I patched over the first rose, cut away the excess bulk underneath, then embroidered a brand new rose on top of it, in the right orientation this time. Crisis averted! You have to get creative with these things sometimes.

Here’s hoping that no one noticed when you looked at the blazer the first time. Right? Right.

I continued on with the sleeves, measuring downward to try to get the right placement with the pistols. Thankfully, these didn’t require any mirroring or fancy effects, but you can bet I was on my guard at this point.

The back of the jacket was a bit more experimental. I knew I wanted a cascade of designs, and I wanted a slight overlap, to create the impression of one large embroidered tapestry. I tried out all kinds of layouts, sending ideas back and forth to Laura. We finally settled on this one, featuring our sparrow, skull and the heart locket design. I got to work setting up my hoops.

Even on our big fancy industrial machines in back (we call this one Victor) these things take awhile, so I kept myself occupied by playing a little Plants and Zombies. It was also in part to keep myself distracted from the creepy banging noises our office makes at night when you’re alone in there. I tried going on our facebook page to get some comfort from the fans, and I was promptly told it was likely a serial killer, gnomes, zombies, or serial killer zombie gnomes, and I would likely die that evening. Great.

I went back to killing virtual zombies with cute plants and hoped that would dissuade any observing ceiling zombies that I was not to be trifled with. It appears to have worked.

Finally, the last of the embroidery was done. The pieces had all been laid out and layered on, and I had not left the room, embroidered something on sideways, or been eaten by zombie gnomes since. I packaged up the fabric and dropped it off to Laura the next day.

Laura took some lovely in-progress shots so you could see just how the jacket took shape. This is it before its second dye bath. You can see she’s attached the sleeves and started to shape the coat and lapels.

Once the main sewing on the coat was done, jacket, embroidery and all went in for a second dye. This helped darken the coat to bring it a deeper, grungier color, and pulled just a little of the blue dye into the brown embroidery, which worked beautifully to pull everything together and allow the colors to sit just right next to each other.

Here’s the coat after the second dye bath, starting to get some final touches to the collar and label. If you want to know just how crazy good Laura is at this stuff, this was pretty much done in a day.

Nearly done! Just some hems and some button work and the jacket is there.

A final shot of the back. The coat is completed, and Laura can finally go get some sleep for the big shoot the next day.

We all meet up over the weekend at the studio of Burt Edwards Photography. Laura is there with the jacket, and I meet our lovely model, Lucie Mulligan, who will be rocking our coat for this shoot. I had a blast modeling for our last project, but I find I’m much better behind the camera. Best to leave these things to the professionals these days, eh?

I brought back our rockstar stylist from our last shoot, Sara Capers, who made me look like a model, so I knew she had to be good. She got to work transforming our all-American beauty into the elegant punk she needed to be.

Many of you have been commenting on the hair, and I have to agree Sara did an absolutely amazing job. We were looking at everything from updos, warrior braids, mohawks, and ’50s greaser hairstyles, and she managed to pull all those ideas into one rocking hairstyle. You can see it in progress above.

Once everything was set, Lucie got to work looking hardcore and somehow still refined in that beautiful jacket, and Burt did an amazing job photographing it so all those lovely embroidery details wouldn’t get lost.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Want to see the full results? Check out the original post to see all the amazing photos and hear the inspiration behind this new embroidery series. I hope you enjoyed this little peek into all the hard work and talent that went into bringing this project to life!


Painted Thread Spools

Categorize this as things I didn’t know I should never throw away (that is, if all thread were awesome enough to be on wooden spools)…

If you’re unlucky like me to pretty much have all plastic thread spools, especially ones completely devoid of charming illustrations , then lucky enough for you there’s Amy Blackwell. She paints and sells these adorable additions to anyone’s craft room, and has given me serious inspiration if I ever DO get a spool that isn’t a wad of plastic.

Check out the local color

You in or around the Twin Cities this upcoming weekend and looking for something to do?

We have some stitchy fun you should really check out. First up is the Re-Tread Threads, a show of fiber art made from recycled materials, opening this weekend with a reception Friday night.

Thanks to Mr X Stitch for the heads up!

Once you’ve looked at enough stitchy art, why not go buy some? This upcoming weekend is also one of our local craft fairs, Craftstravaganza!

I’m going to be wandering around, taking some photos, and looking for some handmade goods to buy. Come find me and say hi! Oh, and our most recent featured artist Adam Turman will be there, so be sure to check out his booth and buy some Twin Cities flavored prints.