Many of my friends and family have heard me talk about this collaborative project between fiber artist Judi Jetson and me. Judi has had a long recovery from a serious illness. Early in her recovery process she contemplated the cards she had received from friends and family while in the hospital and thought of making a cloak so she could literally wrap herself in the comforting images and thoughts.
She asked me about printing on fabric and with little more than a few words of guidance from me, was experimenting with the techniques, repeating the images, combining them with prints and upholstery and plain fabrics. She overdyed some of the results, washed them, compared the outcomes and finally decided to mute the disparate colors by lightly tea dying them. Some of her experiments took the shape of pillow covers but not being a quilter or garment maker, Judi's plan to turn the cards into a cloak stalled at that point. Recently, she asked me to get involved in the construction, so she found a pattern that we altered considerably. I then made a "muslin" out of a delightful peach fabric Judi had so that we had a foundation for creating the design. As much garment sewing as I have done, I hardly ever have made a muslin-- but if all muslin were as pretty as that fabric which had a nice texture and didn't ravel a bit, I might always make one just for the fun of it.
I dismantled the muslin and Judi took the pieces home to arrange the fabric "cards" on.
Judi planned to hand-dye the background fabric and had worked on some shades of taupe, but was having a difficult time envisioning the various images and shapes not being too chaotic. Since I have some fabrics in many colors around, we tried putting the muted cards on a variety of them, none of which spoke to Judi. Inexplicably, I suggested she think about a graphic black and white dotted print for the connecting fabric. I say "inexplicably" because I've never used a black and white print in that way. But we dug out some of my black and white prints and we both felt it would work - so last Saturday we visited several local fabric stores and found a spatter-printed batik. This is the above front piece of the cloak, sewn together and ready for the next phase.
It was an interesting process for me to figure out how to cut out the wedges to fill for the flair of the cloak shape. I changed the placement a little so that the cards are perpendicular to the hem and the corners stayed out of the seam allowances I told Judi it was a good thing she had a piecer who never liked working from a pattern, because there certainly is not one for what I was doing!
Judi made all the decisions about which images went where on the garment and in relation to each other. I figured out a practical way to piece them together, trying to balance the spacing. In the shot above, I am being mindful of the placement of the column of cards next to this unique center panel Judi created using some of the images that she really identified with. She used a newly acquired technique of printing the image on silk, slicing it into 1/4 inch pieces, then weaving it into a new textile.
This weaving of sliced up images is something I predict Judi will do more with - she's already been experimenting with black and white family photos.
The cloak still requires a lot of work before it's completed. The trickiest part for me will be behind me in a day or two though - just a couple more of those wedges to figure out and the rest will be straight piecing of rectangles. Judi plans a shibori dye on the lining fabric. She showed me some beautiful examples - any of them will be gorgeous peaking out as a model walks down a runway in this cloak, which is among the plans Judi has for it.