Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fabric shopping in Paris

OMG! I was absolutely giddy. Mr. C and I had just descended on the funicular from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre, and there were fabric shops everywhere we looked! A panoply of fabric spilled from the storefronts onto the sidewalks, creating an almost carnival atmosphere while a diverse cast of shoppers bustled along the streets. We were in an area offering what the writer in an article on the Threads website called the “milk” rather than the cream of Paris fabric shopping. I was hoping to get around to some of the “cream” stores, which I never did (next time!), but I couldn't have had more fun than I did that day as I poked and perused and considered the vast array of fabrics in store after store.

Tissus Reine, the store I had especially planned to visit, turned out to be one of the more sedate venues, as befits its name (Fabrics Queen). It offered a good selection of good quality fabrics on four floors, with suggested garments on mini mannequins.

 
       
In a small space organized by fabric type, Les Coupons de Saint Pierre sells three-meter cuts of fabric. Coupon, in addition to the meaning we attach to it in English,  also means “remnant” in French, logically from the verb, couper, to cut, thus something “cut off,” a remnant . I bought some lovely rose-colored abstract printed silk; not sure what I'll do with it but the price was right at 25 euros. (And the young man in there was so very pleasant and helpful.)



My other purchase came from the Marché Saint Pierre, loaded with a huge variety of fabrics at bargain prices, a treasure-hunt sort of place. It was so hard to limit myself, knowing I would have to pack whatever I bought into an already full suitcase. Finally I settled on a tweedy teal that you will hear more about in a future post, because it is destined to be my Couture Cardigan Jacket. (I've already purchased buttons, lining and trim, costing far more than the mere 15.80 euros I paid for the two meters of fabric.)

I had left Mr. C sitting at a sidewalk cafe, but he eventually strolled around snapping most of the pictures you see here. I think he enjoyed himself almost as much as I did.





























Yes, that's me, snapped surreptitiously by Mr. C.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Illustration Friday - Spin

Not the current topic but one from last year that I never finished. Since none of February's topics inspired me, I decided to have another go at this one. I'm sure that the original image came from a Creative Commons search of Flickr, but, unfortunately, I can no longer attribute it. The spinner is wearing an ID tag at her waist (which I had to carefully remove), so I guess she is giving a demonstration at a heritage farm or the like. 




 
I was about to go on and on here, telling you in enthralling detail how I went from that image to this, which I thought was my final result. But, yes, I do realize that you may not be as enthralled by the intricacies of Photoshop as I am. (Mr. C is nodding his head vigorously in agreement with that!). So I'll just say that, after hitting Save one last time around midnight, I snuggled into bed well pleased with what I had wrought with layers and masks and blend modes and filters and.... 

Of course, it's always a good idea to sleep on it. In the morning I saw a more “illustrative” effect in my mind's eye, so I fired up Photoshop once again and some time later (much too much time later), I ended up with this. I probably could work on it more, trying out various other ideas and techniques, but now it really is time to call it completed and move on to my next adventure manipulating pixels for my own personal amusement and edification.

Spin

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

And so to bed...

One reason to  keep a pattern that didn't prove completely satisfactory is that it may have design details that will work on an altered version. So when I wanted a loose-fitting pajama top with raglan sleeves and tucks or pleats on the bodice front, this Vogue pattern came to mind.  

The problem with the top I had made from it in a fine jersey knit was that that lovely pleated neckline would never stay straight across like the illustration; the weight and drape of the jersey made it droop quite a bit, regardless of what I did to try to fix it.

 On my pajama top, I actually wanted a rounded neckline, and also a higher one for warmth. I raised the neckline by 1½ inches at the center back, seguing to 1 inch at the shoulder, and raised the top of the sleeves by 1 inch. On the front, while also raising the neckline by 1 inch, I narrowed it 1½ inches at the beginning at the side top, gently seguing back to the original seamline, I kept the same number of pleats, now spaced closer together. I also stitched the pleats down and bound the entire neckline.

 













I first made a muslin in some old interlock which turned out well, but still drooped slightly in the front, so on my final version, I made the pleats slightly wider, so that each fold abuts the next pleat on the inside. 

 

















 



I tried double-needle tucks on the sleeve bottom on this version also. It's a nice little detail but if I were to do it again, I would make the tucks longer and closer together to snug the sleeve more to the wrist. I bound the bottom just like the neckline, except with a narrower binding. 

I'm very pleased with how this top turned out. It's very soft and warm since the inside of the knit is brushed like a sweatshirt knit.
  
 

 
The pattern for the pajama pants was traced from some Eddie Bauer pjs that I wore until threadbare. I didn't buy quite enough of the cotton flannel to allow for complete placement on the directional print, so by cutting apart the pattern back about 8 inches below the waist, I was able to make a perfect match with this separated piece.


 
Well, I'm tired after so much work, time to test out my new jammies. Nighty-night.


 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reading assignments

So many books out there to read! I used to keep my to-read list on index cards, a fat little stack which I still have. Now I can keep lists right on the Dallas Public Library site as well as on Goodreads, where it's so satisfying to be able to transfer a book over to the “Read Shelf.” But, to face facts, I will never get all those books on my various lists read, however great my longevity. However, bookgroup selections generally make it promptly to that Read Shelf each month because I don't want to miss out on participating fully in our lively discussions. The first of our 2017 selections was delightful and the second a page-turner for me.  I look forward to reading the rest. As always, you are welcome to join us, virtually online, or here in Dallas; just email for location.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

Illustration Friday - Swirl

 
Doing something is certainly more satisfying that merely thinking about doing it. And I have to say I got a lot of satisfaction and pleasure out of composing this piece for this week's Illustration Friday topic – Swirl. I have enjoyed the creative stimulation that Illustration Friday prompts on and off for several years, but there's been too long a hiatus between my last submission and now. So one of my goals for this year is to participate in IF each month.

I never know what I'm going to come up with, or what I'm going to end up with. Because this is nothing like I originally had in mind (which involved swirling smoke). While looking for Photoshop smoke brushes in deviant art, I got sidetracked and came across faestock's series of stock model shots with swirling skirts, and I thought I would just see what I might do with one or several of them.

The technical part for anyone who is interested: I chose three poses and removed the figures from the background. Each figure was duplicated twice. On the bottom copy I used Topaz Labs Simplify with the Pastel II filter (under Sketch), with that layer set to Normal, 100% opacity. On the next copy, I used Akvis Sketch with a Classic Fine Lines filter, with that layer set to Luminosity, 40% opacity. The top layer is the original set to Vivid Light and 100% opacity. I exaggerated the colors and saturation with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and also a violet Photo Filter Adjustment layer.

The red swirls are from Photoshop brushes which I've had for some time and may have also been downloaded from deviant art. The gold corners were done with some old Photoshop brushes called Paper Damage that I have found very useful, source unknown..The background is a Flypaper texture with the layer set to Multiply with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the colors and a circular gradient mask to lighten the center where the figures are.  

As always, I learn something or brush up on something (using channels to make a mask for selecting hair from the background) in Photoshop . Obviously, I could choose a topic or word at random and do this without the Illustration Friday interface. But, as I have said before, I find the deadline that must be met to post in that week's IF an effective spur to finish what I've begun.
 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sewing and going

Yes, I'm still here. I was aiming for a monthly post this year, but as summer went by, my priority became planning a long-anticipated trip to France. Which, of course, involved sewing something absolute essential for my travel wardrobe. 
 
Here I am sewing away on a skirt before my very first trip to Europe in 1985. And here you would have seen me a few months ago, once again sewing madly away.
  
This time I required a lightweight jacket that could take all the scrunching up that travel often inflicts, and that was roomy enough to go over a warmer fleece jacket if necessary. And, of course, would look chic enough for Paris but not out of place while, say, browsing an outdoor market in Brittany.  

I happened to have this 2009 Sandra Betzina pattern, Vogue 1097, which, made up in a fluid polyester peachskin, satisfied all of my criteria. 

 















 
I love the raglan sleeves, the roomy in-seam pockets, the interesting seaming in the body and the placket with the concealed zipper. What I did not love was that particular hood with its gathered edge, nor the excessive fullness of the sleeve at the wrist, so those two features were modified. My jacket has a plain hood which I adapted from an old pattern.  I narrowed the sleeves and replaced the wide sleeve tab with a narrower band, as on a trench coat. You can read all the details here on Pattern Review
 
 






















 
It was a terrific traveling companion. Although it looks better belted, I mostly wore it loose with just the button buttoned. It wasn't a difficult pattern to make, and contrary to my usual practice, I didn't even make a muslin. Well, to tell the truth, I didn't have time to make a muslin. But I'd rather be bent over my sewing machine racing the clock than racing through store after store trying to find something among all those anonymous garments. Or more likely, clicking through website after website. Once again I have to say, I am so glad I sew!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Watercolors in Photoshop

One of my favorite books back when I was young was The Once and Future King by T.H. White. In it, the wizard Merlyn tells the boy who will become King Arthur that “The best thing for being sad is to learn something.” And I have valued that advice all of my life. Set yourself to learning something interesting, and, for a while at least, worries and problems are kept at bay.

I certainly forget myself when I'm delving into magical, marvelous Photoshop. I've been using it since 2001, but there is always something new to learn. Beyond my shelf of Photoshop books, the Web offers what seems like infinite tutorials, videos, online courses. I subscribe to Photoshop Roadmap which compiles tutorials, tips and techniques on all aspects of PS. In the article "5 ways to create Photoshop watercolor effects, explained and compared," I especially liked the technique demonstrated by in this video by Marty Geller from Blue Lightning TV. 

It's uncomplicated, just a few simple steps, but you have final control of the result. I think it worked best on this image.

 
You can compare it with the original photo I took of ferries in Portland, Maine last fall. The plain blue sky became a lot more interesting due to the brushstrokes applied in the main step. I redid that several times until I got an effect that I liked. 


 
The lilies more closely resemble the original photo; I increased the watercolor paper texture to give it less of a photographic appearance. I also played with the colors, intensifying the orange contrast in the center of the flowers. 

























The third photo was taken in Woodstock, Vermont. I like the way the watercolor technique softened the house and put more focus on the gloriously blooming hydrangea. Nothing dramatic, just pretty, but sometimes that's perfectly satisfying. 



 
Of course, with all the complexity that Photoshop offers, these steps could be just one effect in a more elaborate composition. In fact, sometimes it's difficult to stop piling on the effects because you never know when something wonderful will appear. And while your eyes are glued on the screen and your hand is clutching your mouse or stylus, you forget that it's time to fix dinner or way past time for bed. You keep going because, as Meryln concluded “...what a lot of things there are to learn.”