Wearable Art Design Assignments

Guatemalan Infinity Scarf

Wearable Art Design Assignments

I love my Creative Clothing class! The instructor assigns a topic – buttons, pockets, zippers, tucks, color blocking, etc. Then we make something with the topic in mind (even if it doesn’t appear in the final garment), share what we have done and get the next assignment. It’s so much fun to see how everyone interprets the task, and we learn a lot about each other through sharing.

Here is a bit of my “homework”, with the story behind each piece. I have actually worn these – some of my projects don’t see the light of day!


Assignment: Scarves

I love fabrics with a story, and these colorful handwoven textiles have a story that begins in Guatemala and ends in Woodinville. A friend went on a textile tour to Guatemala and brought back 1/3-yard pieces of these 36-inch fabrics that were saturated with vivid dyes. After a while, she decided that she was not going to use them, and I got lucky!

They sat on my shelf for a while, too, until I decided to make a pieced infinity scarf. The fabrics were so intensely dyed that I could feel the excess dye in the fabric, and I wanted to make sure that when washed (or caught in the rain – it is Seattle, after all), the dyes would not migrate to surfaces where I didn’t want them – a white blouse, for instance.

The first step was to treat each piece of fabric with Synthrapol. A bit of it mixed with hot water suspends loose dye molecules so they can be rinsed away. That leaves the dyed fabric safe to play nicely with other fabrics. (There is another product called Retayne, which sets the dye, but I am not as familiar with that. Lots of people swear by it.) It took a few Synthrapol treatments to get the bleeding to stop. (Most fabrics need just one round, if any. Most commercial fabrics are colorfast, but it’s good to test, if you’re not sure.)

After the hot water baths, my rustically-woven 1/3-yard pieces shrank to about 9 inches or 1/4-yard each. Still enough to make my scarf! The red fabric was visually very strong, so I decided to use it in smaller pieces throughout the scarf to set off the color blocks of the other fabrics. It was long enough to wrap loosely around my neck twice.

Construction was simple – just piece it and sew a tube for turning. You may want to leave an opening for turning. I, ahem, did not, and that presented a “design opportunity”. As I had already topstitched EVERY seam, I did not want to unsew. So I just cut across one of the black sections, turned the scarf, and joined the ends. But the join was ugly. So I made a band from a bit of leftover red fabric to conceal the horrid seam, gathering it up a bit to make it more interesting.

Guatemalan Infinity Scarf

It still needed something, so I searched my button collection and found this polymer clay button made by Jane Schreven that was given to me by a friend in a button exchange. The bright colors fit, and the design fit the mood of the ethnic textiles.

Guatemalan Infinity Scarf

Here is the completed Guatemalan Infinity Scarf, doubled as it is designed to be worn. I love that it is a collaboration of handmade, from the weaving to the dyeing to the sewing to the artisan button. I get lots of compliments on this scarf!


Assignment: Ribbons

I found these cute toile jeans on a clearance rack, and they fit and were super comfortable, except for the length. Even though I see pants at a variety of lengths on other people that I think are really cute, I’m just not comfortable wearing the above-the-ankle look myself. I keep wanting to tug at my pants, and I hate tugging at my pants! Time for a Jeans Remake – Ribbon & Button Hem!

jeans remake challenge

My Creative Clothing class came to the rescue in the form of an assignment – do something with ribbons on a garment. I thought that maybe I could add an illusion of length with ribbon. And if that didn’t work, well, I could always whack off some of the length and turn the jeans into capris.

I decided to make kind of a fringe with ribbon, but not too flouncy. I found the perfect ribbon in a clearance bin (score!). After cutting lengths of about 2 inches, I decided I didn’t want rectangles of ribbon bouncing around my ankles. So I trimmed each end into a point. To prevent fraying, I singed the cut edges with an Ultra Thread Zapper. That was fabulous! I had super control when finishing the cut edges of the ribbon, and now my points will stay pointy!

I spaced my little ribbon chunks evenly around the hem of my jeans. Then I topstitched the upper edges so that the points would not curl away from the fabric.

Finished jeans remake challenge

Cute, but didn’t seem done. Buttons. Needed buttons. I had a grab bag of small black and gray buttons leftover from another project. So I stitched a hodge-podge of buttons to the upper ends of my ribbon fringe. I LOVE my “new” jeans! They’re cute as a button (haha), and now they fool me into believing that they reach my ankles!


Assignment: Exposed

I made this Sassy Scalloped Skirt when the challenge, “Exposed”, got us thinking about pattern shapes in new ways and finding unusual ways to incorporate them into a garment. I challenged myself to make a skirt from a sleeve pattern.

Sassy Scalloped Skirt

This is my tissue paper pattern based on the shape of a sleeve. The narrow end is the waist; the deep curve is the hem. I designed a six-gore skirt with an elastic waist, so I measured my hips and divided by six to get the top width of each piece. Your skirt can be as short or as long as you want. For more flare, adjust the width at the hem. I added an inch of length to the top for a fold-over casing.

Sassy Scalloped Skirt

The straight sides let me use a rotary cutter for faster cutting. I needed six identical pieces, but couldn’t cut through six layers of denim at once, so I cut three pieces at a time – I had to cut just twice with three layers.

Sassy Scalloped Skirt

This is the stack of six skirt panels, ready to sew. I sewed right sides together in pairs, then sewed the three pairs together with a 1/2-inch seam.

Sassy Scalloped Skirt

Here is the finished skirt, after inserting elastic into the waistline casing and finishing the hem.

Sassy Scalloped Skirt

The hem is raw edge – I didn’t want to turn under the curves. The decorative stitch at the hem stabilizes the edge, and a bit of fun fringe forms when I wash the skirt! If that doesn’t work out, I can always shorten the skirt and sew a more traditional hem.


Assignment: Stick Your Neck Out

Not really a necklace, not really a scarf, the Circles of Silk Neckpiece is a wearable accent that dresses up a casual t-shirt with silk yo-yos and beads. I wanted to make something colorful – with such a riot of color it would match nothing and go with anything!

I have a basketful of luscious yo-yos that I made from vintage kimono scraps. (One of those “keep my hands busy while watching Law & Order reruns” activities.) Rather than whip stitching the yo-yos together directly (the traditional method), I attached a size 6 seed bead between each intersection. The bead spacing provides a little bit of extra negative space, and the single color of bead used throughout unifies the collection of color and pattern.

I attached the front yo-yos to form a V neck. I prefer that neckline, and the front stitches keep the neckpiece in place when I wear it. It easily slips on and off over my head. It creates a bold (for me, anyway) visual statement with virtually no physical weight.

Silk yo-yo necklace

The detail shot shows the beads that connect the silk yo-yos. I used a neutral color nylon beading thread for this step, but any strong thread will work. Because you will want to keep these joining points strong, make sure you make several thread passes to attach each bead securely. I buried the thread ends inside the folds of the yo-yos.

Yoyos all lined up for a necklace

How about a yo-yo making lesson? I used the small Clover Yo-Yo Maker (the green one that makes 1 1/4-inch finished circles). It is so much faster and easier than tracing and cutting a gazillion circles! You just snap it onto your fabric and trim around it. The cutting doesn’t have to be perfect – the edges will be hidden.

The holes in the template to guide your stitching so you get perfectly spaced, even stitches. Pop off the tool, gather the edges to the center and tie off. Use strong thread, doubled, so it doesn’t break when you pull the gathers.

If you want to make tool-free yo-yos, Positively Splendid has a great tutorial with fun embellishment ideas. This is the method I used on my first yo-yo project, before I knew there was such a thing as a yo-yo maker! You’ll get wonderful results making yo-yos this way – just not as fast.


Browse through more handmade garment ideas and inspiration on Create Whimsy.


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