Julie Bowersett


Blog Writing Course Alumni

From Guide to Art Schools




Today, I joined in a Facebook discussion about what term those of us who sew like to be called: sewist, seamstress, sewer, etc.  I have adopted the term Maker (from Natalie Chanin) as I think it best describes what I do.  I make things.  These things might come from my sewing studio (which I have not set foot in for weeks) or my kitchen, workshop, garden, computer, camera, the list goes on.  (I love how Southerners say, "make a picture" for taking a photo). 

So, while I haven't been sewing much, I have been making.  I made cupcakes for a friend's birthday (using my favorite icing recipe).  I made an attempt to organize my garage.  But mostly I have been making my garden.

I started with a greens garden in a spot where there used to be lovely flowering perennials.  Unfortunately, they were also tasty to our resident deer, and I decided that if I had to have an ugly fence to protect them, it somwhat defeted the purpose of the flowers. So instead, I planted all sorts of early spring greens along with other early vegetables and annual herbs.

Next I tackled the beds in the front of my house which contain mostly perennial herbs and deer-resistant plants.

That holly bush next to the front door houses this little home at the moment:

My apologies to mama cardinal who feels the need to retreat everytime I open the front door.

I also planted mint in an existing bed of irises

but most of the work has been going on in our new vegetable garden.  To get there, you have to meander down a woodland path

across the bridge

to the garden on the other side of the creek.

My husband has been busy making, too.  Those raised beds, made from white oak lumber, are his handiwork.

The beds have short pieces of PVC pipe attached to the inside which allows me to place long, arching sections of flexible pipe in them.  These can then be covered with protection for the plants (against bugs or weather) or to create an arbor of sorts.  I used cable ties to attach a length of fencing to the pipes.

These are summer squash plants that will grow up and over the arbor, allowing me to use less space and also improving air circulation around the plants and keeping the fruit off the ground.  Underneath the arbor I have planted carrots which can tolerate some shade.  I tried a nifty little technique to make my own seed "tape" to plant my carrots.

I started with a paper napkin, unfolded and reduced to a single ply.  I drew a 3" grid on the napkin with pencil.  Using a flour/water paste, I "glued down" 1-2 carrot seeds at the intersection of each grid line (16 spots on each napkin.)  I labeled the napkin with the variety of the carrot and let the paste dry.

Planting my seeds was as easy as laying out the napkins over the soil

and covering them with additional soil.  This ensures that the plants are optimally spaced and very little, if any, thinning will be needed.

This past weekend my husband and I really got into the making spirit and put together these bean trellises.

These were built from stock lumber and took three times as long to paint as to build.  I found the directions at this site

I did have the chance to do a little sewing a few weeks ago when I joined my sister near Surrey, Virginia for "sewing camp".  I enjoyed the company of many nice women, some fine cooking and a chance to relax in a beautiful setting.  I completed a couple of projects, a pair of pajamas which you will see soon (I'm working on a tutorial to accompany that post) and some much-needed storage for the plastic bags that seem to accummulate at my house.

These are nothing more than fabric tubes with elastic at one end and a ribbon for hanging at the other.  Plastic grocery bags are stored inside until needed, and then can be easily removed through the elastic opening.

I'm still going to be making my garden for a few more weeks, and I'm sure I'll share some pictures once it is in all its glory.  And that treehouse really needs a special flag, don't you think?  What are you making?


Take That, Winter

Most of you in the United States have seen some harsh winter weather in the last month (special shout out to those of you in New England).  Here's what my back yard looked like last week:

and that was before the next storm dropped about 8 more inches of the white stuff.  Kids have been home from school and underfoot which has made it difficult to get anything productive done.  But, in the last few days we've seen some warm temperatures and lots of melting, and it has put me in the mood from some gardening. The snow actually helped a bit in the garden, allowing us to tramp out various ideas for future beds and see what they would look like.  So while the weather outside was frightful, I spent some time with seed catalogs and graph paper, dreaming of gardening weather to come.

This weekend I decided to start a few seeds, mostly annual flowers to intersperse with the vegetables.  I needed some quick plant markers so I punched some colored card stock (the colors conjuring up Easter eggs) in flower shapes, wrote the plant names on the front and added a tiny dot of hot glue and a toothpick to the back.

Very quick and easy.

That's Slim Pick'ns (or Slim, for short) in the background, my garden kitty.

It still seems a long way off, which is probably a good thing given the amount of tasks that I need to accomplish before the last frost, but these little seedlings warming on my window sill (and a lone crocus) remind me that spring is just around the corner.


A Crown for the Birthday Queen

Sometime shortly before Christmas I was having coffee with some of the moms from our school and one of them mentioned that they have started the tradition of giving only hand made gifts for the holiday. I was so impressed with this idea, and it made me realize that with all of the making that I do, my kids and husband aren't often the beneficiaries. I'm going to work on that. 

The youngest girl in this hand-making family is one of my youngest son's favorite classmates and, when her birthday rolled around this month, I did not want to miss the opportunity to make something wonderfully girly as a gift.  After all, I suspected that this was one kid who would appreciate something handmade.

Earlier this fall I purchased the pattern Queen of the Party by The Quilted Fish which includes patterns for party hats and crowns.  I am always on the look out for patterns and embroidery designs that can be used for imaginary play long after the party is over (these masks that I made for friends fit that bill, too).  The embellishment possibilities for these hats are limitless.  The instructions give some ideas but this is a spot to really unleash your creativity.

The pattern calls for a gathered cotton ruffle along the upper edge of the crown but I pulled out a piece of ribbon trim and used that.  The ruffle strip topped with buttons was created with two stacked strips with pinked edges.  Silk flower petals and more buttons finished off the bling. This was quick to make and I had so much fun with all of the decorations.  One tip: plastic buttons will stay glued in place much more securely if you use the glue Jewel-It made by Aleene's.  I find that shiny and hard objects like the buttons will often pop off when glued on with hot glue.  Jewel-It takes quite a long time to dry so plan accordingly.

The birthday girl's mom tells me that this was proclaimed, "the best gift ever" and, given that I've seen it being worn at school on two separate occasions, I guess it was, indeed, a hit.  I know there is someone in your life who would love one, too.


Fingerless Gloves in Sculpted Fleece

I recently wrote about some fingerless gloves that I made for a friend for Christmas using the techniques of Alabama Chanin.  I really liked how they turned out, and they started me thinking about making a pair for myself to slip on when I am stitching (or typing blog posts).  One thing I love about being a maker is taking inspiration from one source and using other, different techniques to create an entirely new product.  I did just that with my houndstooth/paisley skirt, combining an Alabama Chanin stencil with wool felt applique instead of the more expected cotton jersey.

For my own gloves I again started with a Chanin stencil but I used an entirely different technique for the applique, sculpted fleece.  I love Lyla Messinger's technique for making polar fleece appear carved or sculpted.  I have made a number of items using this technique and blogged about those pieces here. 

The pattern for the gloves comes from Alabama Stuido Sewing + Design with a slight modification.  Instead of cutting two pieces for each glove, I eliminated one seam and cut the glove as a single piece.  This made the applique process much easier and reduced some bulk but I did lose some shaping from that seam.

For this technique, it's important to use a fleece that has two distinctly different faces.  The black fleece I used had one side with a micro-grid design and the other with a berber-like finish.  Once the gloves were cut out I began by applying the stenciled design.

I used temporary spray adhesive to hold the stencil in place.  I transfered the design to the smooth (right) side of the fabric using Quilter's Stencil Marking Spray, a chalk-like spray that washes out with water. 

This marked the placement for the applique pieces.  I also transfered the stencil to another piece of fleece; these pieces were the shapes that were appliqued onto the gloves.  Here's what the various pieces looked like after the stenciling was finished.

Working one section at a time, I cut out the pieces for the applique and pinned them in place over the corresponding design on the gloves.  The nubby back-side was placed face up on top of the smoother side of the fleece.  I used black sewing thread on top and in the bobbin (you can also use invisible thread) and zigzagged around the edge of each shape.

That's really all there is to it.  It is a very simple and forgiving technique that leaves people wondering how you accomplished it.

To finish off my gloves I took some lycra fabric strips and applied them like binding to the thumb and finger openings as well as the bottom edge.  Knits are notorious for stretching out along cut edges, fleece being no exception.  I felt this would give those edges some stability.

Once the binding was applied I stitched the seams, right sides together, and my gloves were complete.

I hope you will try this technique on a project of your own or use my ideas as a jumping off point to combine two (or more) ideas into a new and unique project all your own.


Tabula Rasa Jacket, Take One

I have been wanting to make this Tabula Rasa jacket pattern for such a long time.  So many of my friends have turned out version after version of this wonderfully-drafted, casual fit jacket (with a fabulous square armhole!).  Plus, I really love the gals who designed this jacket and who have come up with so many variations that it never looks like the same jacket twice.  Rae Cumbie and Carrie Emerson are the gals behind Fit for Art Patterns, the independent pattern company that produced the Tabula Rasa Jacket and variations, plus several other patterns.  Not only have they designed a stylish jacket with exceptionally good instructions, they also provide fitting services through their booth at the sewing expos they frequent.  When I purchased my pattern at one of these shows I was able to try on a muslin version of the jacket to determine the correct size.  Then Rae offered other suggestions for me to try (move the shoulder line forward 1/2-inch, shorten the hem lenght 1", etc.).  This gave me enough confidence to cut out my first jacket from some good (though not precious) fabric.

I chose a brown silk noil which has been in my stash for years.  I knew that the fabric would need some help to keep the jacket from looking flat and boring.  I decided that the band and optional cuffs would be the perfect place to add a little embellishment.  I love hand stitching and decided to pull out my sashiko stencils and return to a technique I learned years ago from Nancy Shriber.  I traced the design onto a layer of flannel that I then used to underline the various pieces. 

The thread I chose is a beautiful, hand-dyed perle cotton with a wide range of colors from cream through camel to dark brown, with some pink specks and even occasionally some aqua.  As many of you know, I like a very tone-on-tone look and this project is no exception.  In fact, this stitching is extremely subtle, even for me. 

I also decided to stitch the same design on the side panels, and used the same thread to saddle stitch the hems and around the bands and cuffs.

I am very pleased with how this jacket turned out and have another planned using a lovely kimono panel I bought at a sewing expo last fall.  I think this versatile pattern will see a lot of use from me.