Embellished Clothing I did Finish for my Mother

BEST -Red Hat Society purple soft hat w beaded featherNancy Smeltzer, MFA

Over the years, there were a number of things that I did finish for my mother, (unlike some of the UFOs or unfinished objects that I’ve been writing about lately). Her walls were pretty much filled with presents from living in the same house for over fifty years, so embellished clothing items were often what I gave her as gifts throughout the year’s events.

One of her favorite activities was her monthly Red Hat Society gatherings. They are a group of ladies who get together and have lunch at a restaurant or a house and dress up in outrageous hats and feather boas. The organization is based on the poem by Jenny Joseph entitled “Warning”. The first two lines say…. “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.” My mother loved meeting with her friends and her phone conversations with me were often about where they had eaten and what had been served. So, when she bought this purple hat and asked me to make a feather for it, of course, I began on it right away.

Detail of beaded feather for Red Hat for my motherThe beaded “feather” ended up looking more like a leaf than something that came from a bird, but my mother was very proud of it and loved showing it off. The base for the beading is made of purple felt, which made for an “easy to sew through” fabric that wouldn’t ravel. The barbs or side ribs of the feather were stitched in shiny gold metal beads. The whole motif was accented with purple and aqua glass beads lined with larger purple ones. I mailed the feather off to her when I was finished, so she could show it off. However, I needed to see the hat on her before I could stitch it into its final location, as the hat is soft and floppy, and sits differently on each wearer. She liked showing off things that her daughter, “the artist” had made, so I’m glad that she got to wear it for a few years.

Navy sweater embellished with hand and machine embrodiery

This commercially made navy sweater that I embellished with hand and machine embroidery I think I must have given to my mother in the early 90s. (I know that the navy print that’s the main design motif here I was using in some of my art quilts then.) I satin stitched around fabric cutouts with my sewing machine to keep them from unraveling, and then layered them on the shoulders of the sweater along with white lace cut-outs. White buttons and beads were added to add a lush look. As for the pocket, I repeated one of the fabric designs and some of the lace cut-outs. I only did one pocket, as I like asymmetrical looks, but also part of the problem is that the space inside of the pocket was small. That made it hard for me to get my hand inside of the space to attach very much, so I gave up after decorating one pocket. Art decisions are often based on what’s convenient. or at least that’s been my experience.

Commerical white sweater embellished with handmade appliques and buttons and beadsHere is another gift that I made out of a commercially produced white sweater. Here, I used big stitches, done by hand, to go around the outside of the fabric cut-outs. She must not have washed this sweater very much, as the edges of the fabric would certainly have unraveled after repeated washings. Since the fabric was black and white with yellow accents, I added buttons and beads in those colors to add lushness to the shoulders. On neither of these sweaters, did I add any textures to the backs, as that can often be uncomfortable when wearable art is smashed against a chair back.

I was glad that I found these pieces as I was cleaning out my mother’s closets. While I know I’ll wear the hat, the sweaters I might cut up and use as a quilt dedicated to my mother. I have an ink jet printer that can print on prepared fabric and I might make a quilt based on her photos. Then, these appliques could be added to it…or I may not. Still, I’m glad that my presents did not end up being given away to someone who wouldn’t know the history of them.

Hand sewn gifts are just one way that people have given presents over the years. What are some of the presents that you’ve made for your loved ones? Any handprint paintings or popsicle stick creations out there?

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You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my spiritual healing work at www.transitionportals.com and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

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