Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Persephone Returns

My home is dreary, drab, and suffocating in winter. It too often looks like the picture below and when an inversion sets in it can stay for weeks at a time. Right about now I start climbing the walls... longing, aching, just dying for spring to come.

I often think of the legend of Persephone and how winter is the earth in it’s sadness. It’s withered because she has left. One of the things that helps me get through the rough patch of winter darkness, is immersing myself in beautiful art. Photography is the most realistic, but I prefer paintings. They draw out my imagination and pull me into their magical landscapes.

The textures and colors envelop me and soon all my senses are at work. I can smell the damp, life giving earth, the fragrant perfume of all the flowers in bloom, and the indescribable freshness of the air. I can feel that delicious air rushing down to meet my face and playing through my hair. I feel the coolness of the grass on my bare feet and the sparkling water on my toes. 

I can taste the sweet crispness of a mint sprig I've popped into my mouth and the refreshing chill of the clean water in the stream. I hear the chirping of the happy birds and the busy droning of the sun warmed bees. It all comes to me through beautiful paintings. It’s a reminder that Persephone’s woe won’t last forever, she won't be locked away forever, spring exists and it will one day be here again.
When I found out what the theme for the Foundation's Revealed contest was this year, it wasn't hard for me to come up with an idea. The execution of it, well, that's another I'll get on with it shall I?

(Warning, this is the whole process..this is going to be a long post).

I decided that since this was going to be my masterpiece of spring, I would need a good sized canvas. I chose to make a body suit since it would give me the most surface area. I'd never made a body suit before. Now was as good a time as any to learn. 

I'm still relatively new to corset making, but I've had a lifetimes worth of experience with sewing. Patterns can be combined, so that's what I did. I used an under bust pattern I hadn't quite perfected and put it with a pantie I made a while ago. I then added an extension up into the bust.

I liked the look of the flat bust area (I don't really have much there anyway), so instead of wasting time trying to get a curve right, I decided to forgo that step. These pictures are not the final design, I did a little more tweaking after this.

This picture, however, is my final pattern. Rib cage rounded, waistline found, and tummy flattened. 
I  fused the two front pattern pieces so that it would be easier to make a continuous picture on it. I wasn't sure what the decorating process was going to entail.

Every Artist needs a vision, so I cut out a template of my pattern pieces and drew my idea out. I then gathered all the colorful bits of this and that around me for further inspiration. My ideas always evolve, so if you compare the end result with this you will see it's not exact. 
Seeing what you end up with is part of the fun!

All the preliminaries being finished, it was now time to cut out and get to work. I used an old cotton table cloth with a flora motif woven into it. I wanted to add as much dimension to the piece as possible. I cut the pieces out on their seam lines, but left extra around the pieces so I'd have a little to work with if I needed. I marked the pattern lines out with a fabric marker, it won't wash off during the dying process. Lastly, I used a product called Magik Batik that I got from Dharma Trading Co. to apply a resist for the areas I wanted to remain white. 

Dying in progress
Oh.. I just LOVE Blue. Turquoise on the top and Sky Blue on the bottom.

After rinsing the blue out, I added green. It bled into the blue, which wasn't what I wanted, but it didn't hurt it. I was going for a water color type feel anyway. Magik Batik worked well enough, but I would suggest the real stuff if you need solid lines. I didn't however, so it was just fine for me.

Since I was making this a floating outer layer design, I needed to make that layer stable. What I've done a couple times before is to add a stabilizer to the back of the fashion fabric and then roll pin it to the strength layer. But, this needed to stand on it's own as a separate layer. The table cloth was flimsy and shifty, a little bit of fused interfacing wasn't going to do the trick. 
 I decided to make a SUPER FABRIC!. 
Here's the formula: 

Cotton Sateen with interfacing fused to the back.

Add Fashion Fabric and Fusible Web

Melt it all together into a super strong layer. 

See how those little marks from the fabric marker came in handy? I was able to put the pieces together just where they were supposed to be. 
Perhaps, this could have been done differently, but it worked out well, so I'm happy.

With my pieces now in a bionic state, it was time to add the other elements. The template that I made earlier became a pattern for my earth sections. I have an ugly taupe-ish blah fabric that I dyed with flecks of gold, green, and chocolate color, this became my dirt.

Dye reacts differently with different processes and fibers. I ended up with some burgundy pigment. 
I like to be organic in the design process, it's part of the evolution of it all. Even though it wasn't what I originally wanted, I just went with it, it adds more interest.

I decided to try something else organic and brought out the matches. I held the fabric over my craft room sink and lit up. This cloth is a silk wool blend so I knew it wouldn't melt the edges and keep it from raveling. I wanted to see what kind of finish it would produce.  It was smooth and dark, created a distinct line, and actually stayed rather solid (for awhile). 

I put the earth pieces where they were supposed to be and secured them with a small strip of fusible web. Just enough to keep them in place, the rest was held by seams. Now that the construction was done, I could finally start on the embellishment process.

I know I told you that I love paintings, but I failed to mention that I also love to paint as well. This part of things was so much fun for me. I used Pebeo fabric paints. I usually just buy black, white, brown, and the primaries because mixing colors makes me so giddy.  Silly me, I get so much from color mixing. I could go on and on about it, but bless you all, I won't. Just look at the picture and we'll both move on.

The next step was to prep the layer for embroidery, but I also wanted to make sure this layer was strong enough to handle the stress of being worn. I double stitched all the seams, just like I would a strength layer. Then I added a little extra by fusing all the seams at the waistline. The last thing I wanted was for one of them to pop once it was all put together.

Let the lazy daisies begin. That's the stitch I used the most, it's rather versatile in it's representations. I'm not an experienced needle artist, I won't elaborate more. Haha. Pretty pictures, enjoy!

At this point I was starting to curse my choice of project, I think we all do it from time to time. My fingers hurt so bad and I was wearing bandages on most of them. It was good to finally be done with the embroidery.  You are probably wondering if the thickness of the fabric had something to do with it? No.... it was the amount I had decided to do and the lack of proper calluses for the job. 

I was so happy when I could start on the last part of the design. I found that my wimpy fingers where starting to toughen up, and it's always fun to finish and be satisfied with what you've done. So on to the next thing. POPPIES! I adore poppies. I've included every spring flower I love into this body suit. 
I started with a polyester satin that I cut into circles of varied sizes. I then clipped little pieces out to make the petal shapes. 

I went back to my craft sink to play with matches again. I melted the sides of the circles to keep them from raveling and kept the match close until it created the shape I wanted. 

I cut down one side of a black ribbon and unraveled it, then sewed it in a rounded fashion to the middle of two stacked blooms. 

I cut circles out of velvet and sewed around the edges so that it gathered into a little pouch and stuffed it with a tiny bit of fiber fill.

I sewed up through the middle of each little stuffed pouch multiple times... going each way until it looked like a poppy pod. Then I attached them all to the blossoms and then to the body suit.

Last but not least, the Roses. I used Heat-n-Bond for my applique work. The buds, the stems, and the leaves were all applied this way. I then reinforced it all with some more embroidery stitches. My fingers were tough now, I could do that. 

I cut out more circles (really round is the most beautiful shape) and folded them in half to make petals.
I sewed on the rounded edge and gather it slightly so they would tuck under when I put them on the fused buds.

I pinned them down and used an invisible stitch to secure them to the surrounding fabric.
I cut some more leaves out of the same green as the stems and used the same process to apply them. Finishing the buds off with a bit more embroidery. 

The full Roses where made with bias strips sewn down to some non woven stabilizer. You sew the end down and then twist and tack over and over until you're done. As if by magic a rose is created. It's so easy. Unless you're tired, then you need to take a nap and come back to it later.

I had a few more things to finish up...the grass, the water, and the little grape hyacinths. was finally finished!
I put it down for the day and went to a movie. 

Three weeks is what it took to get to this point.
I'm pretty proud of myself, I'm not going to lie. 

The movie was good, but now I could see the end of my project and I was excited to get it done.  I cut off  the excess fabric (that it turns out I didn't need, better safe then sorry though) and put the finished outer layer aside.

I cut out my strength layer and my middle layer. I decided to use the sandwich method for the boning and because my outer layer was so thick and my inner layer was my strength layer, I decided to use a thin cotton sateen for my middle layer. Since this is a body suit, the boning doesn't go all the way to the end of the panel, so I stabilized the bones with machine stitching at their end points.

My seam lines were finished for strength. I double stitched, trimmed and ironed to one side, and stitched down to be a mock flat felled/bone casing seam. I put two ½” steel flats at center front, six steel flats in the front panels, and distributed eight steel spirals around the rest of the body. I have ½” steel flats on both sides of the grommets at center back.

I put the waist stay in as I was sewing the body suit together. It is anchored at every seam, that baby isn't going anywhere. 

I attached the two layers at center back and used clear sulky for the top stitch thread. It blends in very nicely.

I decided to try it on at this point, which was a good move, because I couldn't pull it on over my hips. I had to take some of the back seam out and was actually amazed at how far towards the crotch I had to go to make it over my bum. 

Because I already had the boning in, I couldn't use my machine to put the two layers back together at center back, so I hand stitched them together. 
No problem, because I'm a pro at hand stitching now.

I put in grommets. Someday I want one of those fancy machines, but for now  the above system works great. I chose a bronze color grommet, I thought it looked much better then gold or white.

Grommets finished and top finished with a bias strip of turquoise blue cotton table cloth.
The big question of this whole project was "What color of lacing should I use"? Yes, that was the tricky part for me, who knows why.

Luckily I have dyable lacing so the sky's the limit.
Once I thought about it, green seemed logical. It goes with everything and hello, it's spring time. Green it was!

I put the laces in and sewed up the crotch seam. I tried it on for one last fitting and pinned the under layer to the outer layer so I could get the leg bindings on with no bubbling. I used blue and green bias to bind the leg holes. 

It's Finished!

Here's my Masterpiece, my Beauty, and my Tribute to Spring. 

Here's my Hope, my Distraction, and my Prayer to the Gods. 

That Persephone will escape her hellish prison.  That the world will be reborn. That I will feel alive again.

This was so much fun to make! Thank you Foundations Revealed for the motivation and opportunity to stretch and challenge myself.


  1. This is SUCH a gorgeous piece! Thanks for sharing your inspiration and your process - I really enjoyed reading it!

    1. Thank You Becky, that means a lot coming from such a trained eye ;)