Friday, August 17, 2018

Sari Silk Patchwork Belt

The sari silk scraps that are available on Gwen Lafluer's website are irresistible, with their delicious, vibrant colors and glittering embroidery and gemstones. Naturally I ordered them in practically every color. They made gorgeous additions to several of my art pieces. I had quite a selection of scraps left over and thought there would be something magical about combining them with some Turkmen jewelry parts. I tried to visualize just the right project--and while I loved both the vibrant colors of the silks and the unique variety of Turkmen component--I couldn't come up with just the right project. I visualized a blouse, a vest, a skirt and a totebag, but I didn't feel inspired to pull out my sewing supplies and start creating.
My stash of silk scraps, Turkmen jewelry parts and Darn Good Yarn.
One day I was remembering some textile items that were gifted to me and my mother back in the early 1970s. My cousin had been sent to India for a year as a representative from the bank she worked for. Not only did her adventure spark my interest in the designs and fabrics of India, she also became one of my first career-woman role models.

My uncle went to visit her, and brought back exotic gifts for us: perfume and a green silk scarf for my mother, and a yard of yellow linen embroidered fabric (that I made into a fabulous mini-dress) and a hot pink linen embroidered sash for me. The gifts made a huge impression on me--a young "country mouse" who had hardly traveled out of upstate New York.

Fondly remembering the sash from India, I decided to make a belt. First, I put out all the silks to make my color selection.
These were some of the final sari silk selections used for the belt.

Next, I cut them into 2" squares. I had decided that 2" was the perfect width so I would be able to wear the finished belt with my favorite jeans.
I measured the space of the belt loop on my favorite jeans so that the belt would fit through them  just right.

I found some fusible felt interfacing and cut it into long strips, 2" wide.
One side of the fusible interfacing had glue dots that would melt and stick to the silk squares.
A cutting mat, rotary cutter, scissors and a metal ruler were used for precise cutting.
Next, I selected the colors I wanted, and using a rotary cutter with a metal ruler on my cutting mat, carefully cut them into 2" squares.
I arranged the silk pieces in a color gradation and when I had an arrangement I liked, and carefully fused the silk and interfacing together with a hot, dry iron. I used a piece of parchment paper over the silk to prevent scorching, and also to keep the glue of the interfacing from gunking up my iron.
The silk squares were carefully arranged and ironed on to the long,  2" wide strip of interfacing.
A view on my ironing board of one side of the fused squares.
The next step was doing the same thing on the reverse side. Since the fusible interfacing was only sticky on one side (the other side was felt) I used some wonder under lightweight fusible webbing and ironed the squares in place on the flip side. So far, so good!
The fused side was flipped over, and thin fusible webbing used to adhere the rest of the silk pieces.
Unfinished belt, with both sides fused.
I needed to cover up the join marks between the squares, so I decided to connect the pieces with contrasting stitching. I set up my sewing machine with black thread and got to work. My machine has a lot of decorative stitches, so I varied the design. I had never tested some of the stitches so I had fun experimenting.
The stitch choices were all really pretty, but I settled on a few favorites that seemed to go with the silk and Indian theme, and alternated them.
Detail of stitching.
Unfinished belt, fused and stitched.
In a few places, the silk had slipped and the white interfacing showed. I solved the problem by cutting small strips of contrasting colors and stitching on either side. It was a happy accident--the thin patched sections turned out to be some of my favorite parts of the final belt.
Detail shot of small patched and embroidered strips of silk.
The belt was going to need a closure of some kind. I debated about whether to use a buckle or a loop, and opted for the loop since it would allow the belt to be worn both tight around the waist or lower on the hips. I didn't have a D-ring handy, so I pinned some circular binder rings (leftover from my Turmeric Flip Journal project) in place and tested it out.

I tried the unfinished belt on to see how it was looking. So far, so good.
Testing the unfinished belt to see how it fit.
I noticed that the edges were a bit uneven and the silk frayed easily, and debated what to do:
  • I could leave it raggedy and call the design "rustic"
  • I could trim it off, but then the stitching might come undone
  • I could bind it with fabric, but I didn't have enough commercial double-fold binding on hand that would cover both sides and the ends
  • I could make my own binding out of ambitious undertaking...and I was afraid it would overpower the patchwork design
  • I could use some kind of sealant to keep the frayed edges from unraveling
My decision was to try some black gesso along the edges. The black edge would match the black stitching, and the rubberiness of the gesso (when dry) would prevent fraying yet still be flexible.

First, I used a machine blanket stitch along all the edges. Next, I applied the gesso. To keep the line straight and neat, I used a thin, heavy brass bar to block off the center parts. I carefully painted the gesso on with a small round sponge brush, lifted away the bar, cleaned the bar, and continued the process until all edges on both sides were painted black.
The heavy brass bar was positioned so that only a small part of the edge could be painted.
After the bar was carefully removed, the neatly painted black edge was visible.
Black gesso was carefully and slowly applied to the edges on both sides.
Was I done? Almost. It looked pretty good, but the collection of Turkmen jewelry parts was still calling to me.

I "auditioned" the various pieces to see if I wanted to have one on every square, alternate squares, and whether I wanted all round, or additional heart and rectangular shapes.
This "audition" had assorted Turkmen pieces on each silk square.
This "audition" had a round Turkmen piece on every other square.
 After some rummaging around in my sewing supplies, I did manage to find a set of D-rings, and switched the circular rings for the Ds. Before hand sewing the Turkmen accents, I hand stitched the D-rings in place.

I also tried on the belt again so that I would know where to sew the Turkmen pieces. I needed to be sure that, on the reverse side, some of the Turkmen parts would show when the belt was closed and the inside of the belt came through the end of the D-ring. I took care to use very small pieces that might fall near the closure.

The finished belt is colorful, fun, unique, and eye-catching! It can look elegant and festive on a "little black dress" or casual and Boho-chic with a pair of jeans or peasant skirt. I am sure I will get a lot of wear out of it. Although my new belt is really is not at all like the belt my uncle brought back from India in the 1970s (it was wider, hot pink, and had little mirrors embroidered on), it is every bit as pretty and whimsical, and evokes happy memories of my teenage years.


ann barnes said...

Oh Linda, I just love this project. The end result is so vibrant and the Turkish parts are so perfect for accenting your wonderful design. This is a wonderfully creative use of the sari silks, I always love hearing about your thought process and inspiration, it makes it even more special.

Tracey@Hotchpotchcreations said...

This is such an inspirational piece, I love sari fabric and have used it in many different ways but never have I thought to use it like this. A stunning piece of wearable art it looks amazing.
Thank you so much for sharing the process with us.
Creative wishes Tracey x

Kate Yetter said...

This is so beautiful and colorful. I love how you used those scraps of sari fabric and the decorative stitching.

SandeeNC said...

Wow, wow, WOW! I am always impressed with the things you come up with girl! You are simply amazing!

Jill McDowell said...

Linda, I think is my favorite project! How clever you are. What a brilliant idea. I loved how creative you were in solving problems throughout. I love this belt. Did I mention that I love this project? Hugs, Jill

Gwen Lafleur said...

I love this! Such a fabulous idea, and it turned out so great! You could totally sell these :D

Jackie PN said...

Absolutely Amazing Linda!!!! I want one too!!!!
This is really truly fabulous!!
Jackie xx

Lynda Shoup said...

Linda, this belt is the bomb! So lush, so fun and so versatile. I agree that it can really work with many kinds of looks. You will treasure this belt as you did the one from so many years ago.