Arts and Crafts Experimentally

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Michele Howard of "Vintage Instyle", vintage purses.

We just got back from traveling in Oregon where we stopped by to visit with Michele Howard of "Vintage Instyle" the vintage and not quite vintage purse site. I have known her for many years. She and her husband used to live near us in California. They have since moved to Oregon about 6 years ago. I had an informal interview with her over cocktails.

How "Vintage InStyle" came about:

Michele said she had been collecting purses and vintage woman's accessories for quite a few years when her collection began outgrowing her places to store them. She then decided that it might be a fun idea to sell some of the purses. She is also a web designer so it was easy for her to design a web site for herself to sell the purses. That is how "Vintage Instyle" began. Through the years Michele has found many sources for collecting her purses, some of them locally where she lives. She hand selects all of her purses for their outstanding quality and condition. As long as I have known Michele, she has always had a flair for acquiring things vintage, mostly I remember her things from the 1950s. Her collections included pieces from the 1930-40s when style of a woman's accessories were unique and something that made the outfit. But she also likes the mod uniqueness of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Whatever year they are from, her purses are fabulous.

Michele likes to find purses that have been as she says "lovingly handled". Sometimes there is a need for a little TLC. After all the purse has been around for maybe as long as 70 years. She has access to a cobbler, a seamstress and others who can do needed repairs. She does a lot of the cleaning and minor repairs herself. As she says on her web site to new people who wish to purchase her bags. "The leather has been treated; fabric, vinyl and interiors have been cleaned. An expert in the field handles any repairs if needed." What she tries to do is everything they need to bring them back to their former beauty. Making them something you would enjoy wearing on your arm and making your friends envious of their beauty. As Michele states "these delightful handbags, totes and clutches are not copies but ORIGINAL DESIGNER** bags".

Sometimes the purse is not yet quite vintage but she has added it because it is unique. Like her "Patricia Smith Moon Bags". They are actually wearable works of art. She has found though, now instead of her purse stash getting smaller, it has grown with lots of unique and gorgeous pieces. Grown, also, she told me are all the wonderful people she has met all over the world who have purchased and appreciate her vintage purses.

As I mentioned earlier, Michele is a web designer and has taken up the task of designing sites for her husband and daughter along with many other customers. You can check out "Flathead City" at and "Howard Motorsports Racing" at designed for her husband's auto restoration web sites. He is a flat head engine builder for vintage cars and custom engine builder for racing cars.
And he also, like Michele, has a love for things vintage. I remember that just before they moved to Oregon he had a vintage Ford T-Bird restored for Michele. A car she had always admired.

Michele has also designed a site for her daughter Nancy Iannois. The web site is "Lia-Michele's Baby Boutique at Nancy hand crochets vintage style baby booties and blankets. Her things are so beautiful and precious. I have never seen such cute designs.


Michele has always been a creative person and it shows in her work as a web designer and purse collector.

We all had a great time remembering old times and old trips together. I must say after having our trip be a literal wash out. (It rained every day we were gone.) Visiting again with Michele and her purses was a lovely highlight to our trip.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Visting Oregon and Quilting for the Fair

Well we're finally back from our short trip. It rained the whole two weeks we were gone. I tried to get some pictures to use for my art but not many came out. We took a short trip along the Columbia gorge. I specifically wanted to get some great pictures of the landscape and falls. Not much luck. I think I only have about two pictures that inspire me to do anything.

I am now madly working to complete my art quilts that I have entered in our Sonoma County Fair.
I have one pinned ready to quilt and bind. The other is ready to quilt then bind it but I took a detour and am now trying another idea.

The quilt that is almost ready is from the one in my recent writing that I entered in the Bernina "Stitch this" challenge at Quilting Arts. I was not the winner, so I had no need to keep the quilt as it was.

I un-stitched the binding and the backing. My plan was to do some silk ribbon embroidery and then add another wider border and binding. I have finished all the embroidery. It looks fine and now I have to do the quilting. I am planning to only quilt a few places. Just enough to hold the backing and batting from shifting. Maybe only around the swan and the lilies and then stitch around the inside of the border.

July 28,2010

One thing that almost stopped my progress was something I was not aware of about fusible batting. I was having a gay old time ironing and steaming everything when suddenly I noticed that the batting was shrinking. It only did it where it wasn't stitched. It seems that the glue for fusing the batting to the project was the shrinking culprit. I would advise any one who hasn't discovered this that they don't use the fusible batting or don't use steam in the iron. Spray glue should work just as well to secure your fabric to the batting. I have found that this keeps the quilt softer too. I had to take the time to cut away the offensive batting. It soon became a sort of a trapunto look. As you can see by the pictures the swan and the lilies are puffed up and I also added extra stuffing. Everything has turned out better. All of the wrinkled fabric was in the puffed area and the wrinkles steamed out when I backed it with the extra stuffing. This was not my idea. Diane Milne (sp) of Colorado wrote into Nancy Zieman about a quilt she had done for a landscape quilt. She had done the same thing with Huntley Castle, Scotland in her quilt as I was doing with my quilt. She gave me the idea. See Nancy's episode #3 on Landscape Quilting with Natalie Sewell. (You can see Natalie's quilts at and get more of her ideas on landscape quilts). As you can see from the picture on the left I finished it. I did free motion quilt the border. It needed it after all of the needlework in the primary scene.

The second quilt is one I did for a friend of her ancestral home. She had asked me if I would do a watercolor of it but I decided to do a landscape quilt of it instead. I printed the home on fabric after colorizing it and removing unwanted portions on Adobe Photoshop. My friend told me what she remembered the color to be when she visited it as a girl. I added trees and flowers from the some of the left over fabric I used for the swan. This one was simpler. I didn't want to take away from the house so I kept to the darker fabric. The picture I used is from around the 1930's and had looked pretty much the same since it was built in the 1880s. On this quilt I did all of the stitching on the stabilizer (dress pattern making fabric). I attached all of the pieces I had added and stitched around the house and car. I also added decorative stitches and free motion to the quilt.

After composing, quilting and adding borders to the scene I decided I really needed to add something else. I had pictures of the original owners (my friends great grandparents). I decided to add them. I then found their census page for when they lived there in the 1890s and also a map of the state of Missouri and the Missouri state flower. I found these on line. I printed them out on fabric the same as the house. I then used applique to put them at the lower edge of the quilt and into the border.

This house is still there and still occupied. They have since painted it all white and added a carport. It still looks just as grand.

Now for the not so good news. After all that work and trying to meet my deadline I was ready to take my things to the fair. I was double checking where I was supposed to drop off everything. I had entered some of my jewelry also. Looking at the quilt entry I noticed that they were due on July 8th, this is now July 12th. Last year I took all of my things in on the same day and unfortunately thought it was the same this year. I guess I wasn't the only one who missed. The fair people said others had missed that date too. So, the jewelry went in but the quilts did not. I guess they will have wait and be entered next year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bernina "stitch this" Challenge

Been busy with my new sewing machine and entering the world of 'Art Quilts'.

I entered my newest accomplishment in the Quilting Arts Bernina challenge. You can see the entries at .

There have been a lot of entries besides mine. Some are really clever. We were given a picture of a swan by some water with a clutch of eggs as our subject. It is really interesting how people can interpret the same subject so differently. I used my computer to help me start by manipulating the photo of the swan and clutch of eggs only and using the watercolor filter in photoshop to change it. I then printed it out on printer ready fabric. The rest of the quilt was a collage from different fabrics into a landscape of a garden pond.

I was inspired by the "Master's Golf Tournament" in Augusta, GA. The grounds and the gardens around the course are so beautiful. I thought my swan should be living in that setting. I then stitched everything down and free motioned the water and the foliage around the swan and her nest. Leaving her practically unstitched gave her and the rocks a trapunto quilted look. I have lots of looks and some votes but some of the others are way ahead of me in the voters liking their work enough to vote on them. This was quite a learning experience for me. I got frustrated a lot with the way my machine did free motion. It skipped stitches a lot. Add that to the ones I managed to skip on me own and you have ripping out as your next chore. No fun. I now have a better machine. They informed me that other people had the same problem with their Babylock Ellure as I did. I even puchased an old Viking to do my free motion. (it's 15 years old) I now have an Ellageo Plus. It seems to be a much better machine and set up more for quilting than the Ellure was. This is probably my last machine. Although, I will need to sew up whole wardrobes and things for my grand kids to justify it. I have a lot of them. My sons married women who already had children and then one of mys sons had three of his own. They live all over the world. I also have now four great grand kids. It is fun and it helps give me ideas on what I want to experiment with. I am now working on a portrait quilt for my Grandson and his family of their daughter. Since I was originally a portrait artist, I fell into this new desire quite easily. I am still trying to get better at free motion and the quilting process. The thing I have learned so far is to have patience with myself and the materials. And to try not to do too much. Back to keep it simple stupid!! I sound frustrated but really am having a ball.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I am back at last. Been busy making clothes and embroidering a quilt for step granddaughters who live in the Phillipines. They have just added a new step great grandson. I made a quilt and embroidered some 'onesies' for him. Tough learning experience embroidering on t-shirt fabric. Had to actually get out my 'Sulky' book and follow the directions step by step.

The towel I was working on for my friend is coming along. My first stitch out did ok but finally got engulfed with the nap of the towel. I may have to redesign it to be less narrow. I am doing better at designing my own embroideries. I have managed to really simplify my drawings so it doesn't try to put too many stitches on them. I tried one of my own for the baby quilt but couldn't get it simple enough. Finally, I went with commercial ones.

My newest goody is Electric Quilt 6. It's a dream. I designed the baby quilt on it as my first design. I was able to scan the fabrics into a library and then use them for my blocks. It was fun and quick. I could reposition the blocks for the amount of fabric I had and color combination. I know there are more complicated things to do on it but haven't had the time yet. I was hoping to design some blocks for my art quilts. It will also let me design any piecing or applicates. It then tells you how much fabric you will need and also gives you the piecing templates. Much easier to use than Amazing Designs embroidery. Although, I am not giving up yet.

I tried making a reconstructed sweat shirt for St. Patricks day. It was awful. It sagged and fit oddly. I did keep the embroidery I put on it. I cut it out, stabilized it and applicated it onto another sweat shirt. I them free motion stitched around the designed. I was much happier with the results. Just in time for St. Pat's.

I did not stay with Ruby Lane. I just wasn't keeping up with new designs and no sales also helped my decision to leave.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dyeing iron on stabilizer


I went on line thinking that some one would come up with a solution for dyeing iron-on stabilizer. I wanted to stabilize a piece of silk that I did not want to dye. I like the new 'tender touch' stabilizer by "Sulky" but did not want that bright white showing through my silk. I thought, I wonder if it is possible to dye the stabilizer and not lose the stabilizing glue? I went on line and Googled dyeing stabilizer..... nothing. I then went to "Sulky's" site and they had nothing about dyeing stabilizer. So, since I am supposed to be into experimenting, I decided to see for myself if you could dye it and not lose the iron-on ability. I then dyed it and let it dry. The hue was not very strong. But it did change the garishness of the stabilizer. Now for the final test. I cut pieces and ironed them onto my silk. The glue dots seemed to still be there..... It worked!!. Not as firmly as the original but it worked. It stuck. I had managed to stabilized the silk without losing the hand and now could sew it on to the purse I am making and not have that garish white showing through. I was going to add some small embroidery on the silk also for more decoration. So, being stabilized will help them easier to put on the silk.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I did some more experiments during the Christmas season. A friend had made some stockings for another friend years ago, 20 we think. She was asked to make another for the new granddaughter of the same family. Since the originals they had also added a new son in-law, father to the little girl. My friend didn't want to make more than one and was going to recycle another for the son-in-law to save time. I offered to make one for him. Asked his interests and found out he loved to play golf. I used my friends pattern and added my own embellishments. I found a free clip art on line of a bear. Changed it some to make an applique for it. Then free motioned through a tissue paper drawing of it to attach and bring up the details. Added an extra applique for his golf club. It came out cute and the recipient was thrilled that he had a stocking also to hang up for Santa.

We also had to toy with my new sewing/embroidery machine to put letters on the granddaughter's stocking. I had a couple of Cd's with font designs on them but nothing would show up on the fabric we chose. I tried several combinations. Finally, it was stitched just like the Brad on the bear stocking, only in black.

After all of this I designed stockings for my grandson, granddaughter-in-law and great-granddaughter. I had fun downloading and looking for embroidery designs just for them. And made golf towels for my husband and brother and sister-in-law. All in all, you might say I managed to make myself busy this Christmas. Had fun too!!!

Another golfing friend had a birthday in January. They requested no gifts for her party, so I complied. I wish I had gone ahead with a towel for her too. Others had ignored the request and I could have too. Her towel when we played golf was a mess. I am now working on my own design for her. How hard is that to design your own embroidery design? So far the digitizing program and I are fighting. I think I am forcing it to do what I want but is complicated getting it to interpret my design the way I see it in my mind. I am just starting to try and simplify my drawings so the program can interpret it better. Coming close........... Maybe someone out there can help me. I have Amazing Designs digitizing programs. So far I have found no tutorial to go with it except how to open and close things. The very basics anyone should know about a computer program. It is so far hours and hours of trial and error.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Things are changing a lot

It has been a long time away from here for me. I realize that I need to get back to experimenting and blogging. I have been way-laid by cleaning and cooking. Some experiments and some just putting up my summer harvest. I entered some of my jewelry in the Sonoma County Fair this summer. Got four blue ribbons (first place) and one red ribbon (second place) on my entries.

I finished the painting of my dogs. It got a blue ribbon (first place, mixed media).

Since I lost my older female, Princess Snowwhite, it has become a favorite and non salable. She passed away from cancer. We miss her but have since added another female, Shasta. She has been keeping us very very busy. She is more active than Snowwhite ever thought of being.

I tried some Quilting art. It was the piece that got a red ribbon(second place) in the Fair. It started as a silk painting of a butterfly on a flower. I then free motion stitched around the butterfly and the butterfly. Leaving some space to show the silk painting still underneath. I was happy with my first attempt at free motion stitching. I like the affect of working on the silk fabric. I think I may try another on silk. I have since found that an English artist, Alison Holt also paints on silk and then free motions flowers and landscapes on it. Her under-painting is less detailed than mine.

The other pieces entered in the Fair are as follows: A pair of earrings called Cleopatra's Veil. (first place) A necklace which started as a vintage 'Star' bracelet (first place). A bracelet created just for the entry in the Fair (first place) Finally, a necklace set (no award)