10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out With Candace Kling, Ribbon Worker Extraordinaire

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's Studio
How wonderful are these pretty blossoms? I absolutely love the satiny texture of the ribbons and their colors.

1.  Candace Kling, the subject of my Tuesday post, has a wonderful studio with plenty of room to spread out works-in-progress and storage for supplies, tools, and everything else. It’s a shared warehouse space with a surface design artist/art professor, a print maker, and a fashion designer.

Candace's main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.
Candace’s main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.

2.  Candace is wonderfully organized in the best-possible, non-anal way. Shelves display labeled boxes filled with wondrous flowery and ribbony treasures; a re-purposed set of map drawers in her primary work area holds her most useful supplies and tools; and file drawers stock class curricula and other material for her life as a working artist. The atmosphere is hip-creative and yet not precious or overwrought with “studio” design.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

3.  She’s well connected. After 30 years in pursuit of her craft, she’s got ties with a huge community of artists, collectors, crafters, collaborators, curators, peers, students, suppliers, and so forth. There’s a lot of activity in her orbit–a vintage hat discovery by a friend in an L.A. resale shop could be the start of a new exploration.

Straight from her worktable--a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace
Straight from her worktable–a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace

4.  Relatedly, Candace knows her way through private and museum costume collections.  Much of her work and teaching derives from close-up study of these garments. Her detailed analysis and documentation preserves our understanding of historic clothing and our appreciation of antique workmanship.

A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.
A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.

5.  Speaking of learning from vintage goods, she has an incredibly precise eye when she examines these fragile wares and has developed a variety of hands-off techniques for measurement. Often all she can use is a piece of thread for determining the dimensions of each element she’s studying. Her academic background in figure drawing and garment design/construction certainly honed her skills and raised her comfort level, and gave her the confidence to tackle even an 18th-century gown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2" in diameter
Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2″ in diameter.

6.  Candace has a sublime resource library of ribbon, stamens, leaves, etc. A good portion of her stock is vintage goods culled from her finds and purchases from collectors. The new materials come from specialty shops and online stores. Everything is sorted, categorized, and labeled. And she’ll also custom make some of the elements, like stamens, when she needs a particular color or shape.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's ribbon collectionInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's StudioInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's ribbon drawer7.  All told, she takes a fine-arts approach to her work, which is very thoughtfully composed, almost as though she’s painting a portrait or still life. There’s great deliberation in placement, proportion, size, depth, and shadowing.

This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers--the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag
This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers–the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag.

8.  Candace goes to extremes. Really? Yes! Most of her work can fit in the palm of a hand, but she’s been known to blow the roof off fine-art installations. Her sculpture, Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls, is 17 feet tall. Countless yards of hand-pleated and pressed sateen wrap a constructed plinth and cascade across the floor in sculpted, undulating waves.

"Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls" by Candace Kling
“Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls” by Candace Kling
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats, and sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats that have been sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.

9.  She has all the material, research, and images for a new book . . .

What's on Candace's work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.
What’s on Candace’s work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.

10.  Meeting her changed me. (No, I’m not a vampire now, Twilight fans.) I’m about to turn my dimensional applique process on its head by paying much more attention to how I use fabric on the bias and straight of grain when building my flowers. Using a bias-cut pattern piece on the back side and a straight-grained piece on the front will enhance my ability to sculpt my flowers–I guess I should’ve paid more attention in Home Ec.

Oh yes, the giveaway of a copy of The Artful Ribbon . . . did you read my reply to yesterday’s comments? Candace Kling has bestowed 2 autographed copies on me for the giveaway. And so, without further ado the winners are Pam S. and Laura Tawney! Congratulations, you’ve won a fantastic book!

I will now repair to my small, uncool studio/laundry room to work on flowers ala Candace Kling . . . later crafters, quilters, and sewists!



Fabric, Embellishments & Books = The Bookmark Project (+ a TRIPLE Giveaway!)

(Note: This is–as promised–the post that got “displaced” by my March Madness.)

The only collection in my house that challenges (maybe even exceeds) my fabric stash is my library of books. Cabinets and shelves; table and desk tops; even the space under my bureau—any vacant real estate is fair game for storage. I typically read about three books a week.

One stash of books waiting to be read; as you can see from the bottom shelf, stacked two deep.

Then, of course, there are my books about quilting, sewing, art, and creativity. I am an unrepentant bibliophile.

A sampling from my quilting/sewing/creativity bookshelf. Do you see any titles you recognize?
I call this collection, stacked under the bureau next to my bed, my "reading runway." They're the books most likely to be read next.

Of course, with all this reading, I’m constantly reaching for something to hold my place. I recently discovered–doh!–I could make my own bookmarks. The format fits perfectly with my on-going, “30-minutes-minimum-of-creative-activity-a-day” experiment, the elongated landscape gives me a new geometry to explore, and the technique I use to make them hides all the stitching on the back for a nice, clean finish.

These little treasures are so easy to make, require little in the way of materials, and–best of all–can be customized to reflect your personal tastes and interests. They also make wonderful gifts.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. The abstract design on the far right was inspired by a pillow I saw in a mail-order catalog!

To make your custom bookmark, you’ll need fabric, double-sided fusible interfacing (I used Fast2Fuse, a nifty product from C&T Publishing), scraps of fusible web (such as Lite Steam-A-Seam 2), and a variety of threads. Potential embellishment includes ribbon and/or other flat trims, fabric stamps and ink, photo transfers, charms and/or decorative buttons and beads.

You’ll also need your rotary equipment, scissors, iron and pressing surface, and a pressing cloth such as June Tailor’s Non-Stick Pressing Sheet.

1. Cut a piece of double-sided fusible interfacing to the desired finished size of your bookmark.

2. Double the finished width of your bookmark, and add 1″. Add 1″ to the finished length. Cut a piece of fabric to these measurements. (For example, for a 2 1/2″ x 8″ finished bookmark, cut the fabric 6″ x 9″). This fabric will cover both the front and back of your bookmark.

3. Turn a 1/2″ hem to the wrong side on the top edge of the fabric; press. With the fabric wrong-side up, tuck the interfacing into the hemmed edge, approximately 1/2″ from the left raw edge of the fabric.

4. Use the tip of your iron to carefully press the hem to the interfacing, avoiding the exposed interfacing. Fold over the bottom fabric edge; press to fuse. Repeat for the left edge of the fabric.

5. Turn the unit over, place it on a non-stick pressing sheet, and follow the manufacturer’s directions to fuse the fabric to the interfacing. The fused area will be the front of the bookmark.

6. Use fabric scraps and/or other flat embellishments to decorate as desired.

I cut shapes freehand from fabric scraps and topstitched the edges with rayon thread to create my California poppy.

7. Fold the unfused fabric flap to the exposed side of the interfacing, aligning the top and bottom edges. If you’d like, insert a tail (or tails) of ribbon or trim to create a “dangler.” If desired, add a charm, beads, or decorative button.

For this bookmark, I doubled a length of decorative eyelash trim and ran in through the center of the bookmark "sandwich."

8. Turn under the remaining raw edge 1/2″ and fuse the fabric to the interfacing. Topstitch close to the edges all around the perimeter of the bookmark with matching or contrasting thread.


I knotted the "tails" at the bottom edge of the bookmark to secure them.

The creative options for this easy little project are virtually unlimited. Here are a few more examples to (hopefully) inspire you.

Wouldn't that apple bookmark make a great little remembrance for your child's teacher?

Finally, I couldn’t resist adding this last one, my most recent. My dear, dear British friend (and co-author) Chris Porter, knowing what I’ve been up to, sent me a special ribbon and button in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, which our friends across the pond are celebrating this year.

This one is perfect for all those set-in-England historical novels, histories, and biographies I love to read!

Are you ready to jump in? Well, three generous companies are making it even easier for you to get started. In a super triple giveaway, June Tailor has donated a Non-Stick Pressing Sheet, C&T Publishing has contributed a craft pack of standard weight Fast2Fuse (enough for a couple of bookmarks), and The Warm Company has added a five-sheet pack of Lite Steam-A-Seam 2! Just leave a comment by midnight (PDT), May 2, sharing the name of one of your favorite books (novel or nonfiction, including quilting, sewing, or crafting titles) and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win all three prizes! I’ll announce the winner in my May 4 post.

‘Til then, happy sewing…

A Valentine’s Gift for You: Stitch Up a Romantic Boudoir Pillow (Free Pattern)

Here’s a lovely little (6″ x 12″) valentine that you can make for yourself in a single afternoon…so easy and so much fun that you’ll probably want to make more than one. It’s a thoughtful gift for a family member or friend to mark a special occasion–a birthday, engagement, bridal shower, or anniversary–or even, depending upon your choice of fabric and embellishment, to use as a ringbearer’s pillow.

This is a great project for using those bits of “exotic” fabric and beautiful trims, beads, and buttons that are so tempting at the quilt and craft shops and shows, and so perplexing when we get them home! Best of all, you don’t need much of anything. A little extravagance goes a long way.

From background fabric, cut 1 piece, 6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″.

From complementary fabric, cut 2 side panels, 3 1/2″ x 6 1/2″.

From heart fabric, cut 4 hearts using the Boudoir Heart Pattern; if you plan to hand applique, add a scant 1/4″ when cutting the fabric hearts.

From backing fabric, cut 2 pieces, 6 1/2″ x 8″.

You’ll also need a 6″ x 12″ pillow form; embellishments, trims, and decorative threads as desired; and scraps of lightweight fusible web if you plan to fuse the hearts as I did. (Instructions appear later in the post if you prefer to make your own pillow form.)

Pillow Front

1. Fold the background square in half horizontally and vertically; press lightly. Center one heart on each crease line, points to the center. Use your preferred method to applique the hearts to the background. I fused the hearts using lightweight fusible web, and finished the edges with a straight stitch and metallic thread. Easy, easy, easy!

2. Using a 1/4″ seam, sew the appliqued square between the 3 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ side pieces; press toward the side pieces. This completes the basic pillow front.

3. Now comes the fun! Embellish the pillow front as desired. I stitched beads and silk leaves to the appliqued block, and garnished the center with a decorative button and my trusty glue gun. I also topstitched a jacquard ribbon over a lace-edged satin ribbon and added them to both sides of the appliqued square.

Pillow Assembly

1. Turn under one 6 1/2″ edge of one backing piece 1/4″ to the wrong side; press. Fold over a second 1/4″; press and topstitch. Repeat with the other backing piece.

2. Layer the pillow front and the backing pieces, right sides together, aligning the raw edges; pin. (The hemmed edges of the pillow backing will overlap about 2″ – 3″.) With your machine set in the needle-down position, stitch 1/4″ from the raw edges all around the perimeter, pivoting at each corner. Clip the corners at an angle, taking care not to cut into the seam.

3. Turn the pillow cover right side out, making sure the corners are nice and crisp; press. (Another job for my 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool). Insert the pillow form, and you’re all set!

To Make a Pillow Form

Cut 2 pieces of muslin, 6 1/2″ x 12 1/2″. Place right sides together. Stitch around the perimeter with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 6″ opening along the bottom edge. Clip the corners, turn right side out, and press. Stuff to desired firmness with your favorite filler, pin the opening, and slipstitch to close.

Here’s an up-close look at my second take on this versatile little pillow: same pattern and instructions, just different fabrics and embellishments, and a slightly different layout.

For this version, I folded the background block on the diagonal in both directions (rather than vertically and horizontally) to create guidelines for the alternate placement of the heart appliques, and I embellished the pillow with two layers of ribbon, oval pearl beads, and a narrow satin bow.

If you’re looking for a good book on basic pillow construction, as well as lots of ideas for simple-yet-stylish decorative pillows, I highly recommend Oh Sew Easy Pillows by the dynamic mother-daughter team, Jean and Valori Wells. This colorful, 64-page book includes 29 projects, or pillow “recipes.” I particularly love the chapter called “Decorative Details,” which features nicely illustrated, step-by-step instructions for flanged edges, ruffles, cording, piping, and more.

On the subject of books, congratulations to Evelyn O’Brien, winner of Gwen Marston’s book, 37 Sketches, from my January 27 post. Evelyn, if you’ll email us with your mailing address at seehowwesew@gmail.com, we’ll have your autographed copy on its way from Gwen asap!

By the way, I was intrigued by the comment from Deborah, in which she noted that she has been making a series of little 3″ x 5″ collages per my May 6 (2011) post. Has anyone else out there been experimenting with this creativity exercise? If so, please let me know at seehowwesew@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about and see what you are doing.

January 22: Another 3" x 5" collage from my personal creativity challenge

‘Til next time, happy sewing!

Spill Your Heart Out with Our Valentine Challenge! (There’s a FREE Pattern as Well)

It’s probably not a shocker that someone who confesses to an obsession with rosy colors, as I did in my last post, might be pretty hot on Valentine’s Day as well. What with pink and red heart-bedecked cards, chocolates, and rosebud posies, February 14 is a silly, sentimental diversion that I absolutely adore.

Beyond that, though, Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating aching, hopeful, yearning . . . hearts. I can’t help it: I love a romantic ending. To me, every heart beat is an opportunity. As long as your heart thumps in your chest, you’re alive and you can do anything–like sending us a valentine for our challenge (click that heart icon for details!). We’ll award prizes and display the collection of entries in our newly inaugurated See How We Sew gallery (click for a preview) through the end of February.

Now that my sons are grown and I don’t get the vicarious pleasure of a school valentine exchange, I try to think of ways to keep the spirit of the day. My latest diversion is making little heart pillows to hang on doorknobs or drawer pulls. Sometimes they’re sachets as well, but mostly they’re just pretty bibelot (good seven-letter Scrabble word, BTW). This year, though, I’ve been sidetracked by a quest to list  heart words and phrases and that, in turn, has inspired a “black-hearted” piratical valentine. (Gotta admit to loving sea-faring, bodice-ripper romances with sword-wielding corsairs and damsels in distress. What’s not to like–other than embarrassingly cheesy book covers that I want to hide?)

Be mine Jack Sparrow, you black-hearted rogue!

Jack Sparrow’s valentine (click here to download PDF) was so much fun to make that I’ve placed the instructions in our Pattern Library to share. Also, take a look at my list of heart words and phrases before you start; you just might find unexpected inspiration for your own riff. At last count, after an evening spent in hearty brainwork, my snarky eldest son and I came up with an easy 114, and we’re still finding stupidly obvious ones we missed.

If I’ve whet your appetite for valentine fare, you can find much theme-appropriate creativity online. It’s astonishing to see the extent of the heart-shaped craft and quilting universe collected on image-compiling websites like Pinterest and Google Images. And that’s just the inedible category. Check out the mouthwatering heart-themed foods and candies at Google Images.

Craft & Quilting Valentine Resources

Sisters Marina and Daryl Lyn at Quilt Inspiration gather links to free quilt patterns from top designers at their fabulous blog:

Hearts & Valentines Part I:  http://quiltinspiration.blogspot.com/2012/01/free-pattern-day-hearts-and-valentines.html

Hearts & Valentine Part II:  http://quiltinspiration.blogspot.com/2012/01/free-pattern-day-hearts-and-valentines_04.html

The go-to page for the full Martha Stewart valentine array:  http://www.marthastewart.com/276967/valentines-day?tab=index

So now that I’ve delivered a multifaceted valentine experience to you,  do send us a photo of a heartfelt valentine that you’ve created by February 10, 2012, and perhaps you’ll win a prize?!?

FREE Pattern Download: Easy, Last-Minute Ornament/Gift-Card Holder

Despite what the calendar might be telling you, it’s not too late to add a handmade touch to your tree trimming or gift giving this holiday season. These easy-as-pie felt stockings measure approximately 4″ x 6″, and require little in the way of time and materials. You probably have most–if not everything–you’ll need right in your sewing room. 

Because they’re so quick and easy to make, these festive and versatile tree ornaments can help satisfy the “creative itch” that this oh-so-busy season may otherwise curtail. Fill them with a few sweet treats as a surprise find for little ones, or tuck a gift card, check, or other small gift item inside for the bigger kids on your list. Don’t be surprised if other family members want to get in on the act! In fact, this is a good activity for that long, out-of-school week before the holiday.

Here’s how to get started. Download the full-sized stocking pattern by clicking here. Print the pattern on sturdy white paper (e.g., printer paper), making sure that the page-scaling option on your printer is set to “none.” Use paper scissors to cut out the pattern on the black outline.

Each stocking requires just one 9″ x 12″ piece of craft felt (red, green, or white) and thread to match. You’ll also need fabric scissors, pins, and–eventually–your favorite embellishments. A glue gun and rotary cutter are optional.

1. Fold the felt in half to measure approximately 9″ x 6″. (No worries; there is no right or wrong side to felt!) Pin the pattern to the felt, allowing enough room to add a 1/4″ seam allowance. Cut out the stocking shape, adding approximately 1/4″ extra on all sides except the top for seam allowance. Cut a strip, approximately 1/2″ x 4″ from the leftover felt. (Use a scrap of felt in a contrasting color if you wish.)

2.  Fold the strip in half and finger-press. Unpin the upper-right portion of the stocking shape and insert the folded strip so that the raw edges are even with the raw edges of the stocking. Re-pin.

3. Using the pinned pattern as a guide, sew around the stocking shape with matching colored thread. (I used contrasting thread in the sample so you can see the stitches.) Leave the top of the stocking unstitched.

Hint: If you prefer to embellish before sewing the stocking together, sew the long straight seam along the right edge of the stocking only, inserting the hanging loop as described in step 2. Remove the paper pattern, hinge the unit open, and embellish. When you’ve finished, refold the unit, re-pin the pattern, and complete the sewing.

4. Trim the seam allowances to a scant 1/4″, taking care not to cut into the seam. Turn the stocking right side out, smoothing the curved edges. (I used my trusty 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool for this task; worked perfectly!) If necessary, trim the top edge of the stocking to straighten it, and make careful diagonal clips in the seam allowances on the inside top edges.

Now comes the fun part! Enhance your stocking with shapes cut freehand from felt scraps, and/or with simple embroidery, beads, buttons, glitter, rickrack, or any other embellishments that catch your fancy. You can stitch the embellishments to the stocking, tack them down with beads or French knots; couch them; or even use a glue gun!

Here are three more examples of what you can do, although I’m sure you’ll come up with tons of ideas of your own. 

This won’t be our last post of the year–Christie and Jennifer will post as usual next week, and we have some special things planned for the last week of 2011–but this is my last  post before the “serious” holidays set in. I wish you all a peaceful, joyous, safe, and happy holiday…whatever you might be celebrating at this time of year!

"Deck the Halls with Sunbonnet Sue" (22" x 26") from the book, "A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue" (Martingale & Co.), co-written by Darra Williamson and Christine Porter.