Textile Art at the Powerhouse…

Moving to a new apartment put me on a new bus line, with new bus stops. At the stop at Fremont and 39th, I walked past this artsy building every day on my way home, until one day, I found the door open. So I walked in.

And I said: “What is this place?”

Norma explained that it was the Powerhouse – named because it supplied the power to the B.F. Day Elementary School next door when it was built in 1899. The historic structure now functions as the community art center for the Fremont Arts Council. They were getting ready for the community Solstice Parade, and invited me back to their Open House that Saturday.

I returned, and liked what I saw, and started dropping by on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work. I had gone through my newly set up home studio in the meantime, and grabbed stuff to donate, which I helped to shelf on those first few trips. By my third trip, I was cleaning the textile loft, organizing tools and sorting fabrics and threads and what-not, and trying to make better use of the very limited space. By my 4th trip, I was asked to join the Powerhouse Team. I have now made the Textile Loft my domain.

Organizing a textile studio, is in itself an art form…

I started taking deeper dives into the bins so I could make a mental inventory of what was there, and so I could further refine the organization and general layout. Once that was done, I took a look at the costume rack, and grabbed a dress, and just for fun, challenged myself to make it into something new…

The wedding dress was beautiful but about a size 4 or 6, its size limiting its usability. So I took out the back zipper, pulled out the bin of grommets, and installed lacing up the back which extended the width of the waist and bodice by a few inches. I tried several lacings on site, before making a braid at home that I was happier with. I also bustled the train in back and held it in place with wired gold bows that I found in a bin, and brass paper brads I brought from home. On a subsequent trip, I ran a wire up the back to prevent the lacing from gaping, which also allowed me to suspend a broken necklace like mini-wings out from the top of the lacing.

While organizing the fabric shelves, I found a square of electric blue brocade that was just big enough to insert into the front of the bodice. I took it home, and sewed strips of elastic across the back (that I had cut from old respirators), which gave the effect of shirring. It would add a few inches to the bust as well as give some visual interest. I stitched it in by hand, leaving the selvedge along the top as a mock-lace edging. I didn’t properly finish the seams on the front and shoulders but should probably do that at some point.

I replaced the tight lace sleeves with capelets made from a table runner that I cut in half. Without any planning or measuring on my part, the table runner was exactly the width it needed to be to extend from the bodice insert to the back lacing (!?!). I edged the armholes in blue lace seam binding so it would be more comfortable to wear.

The front skirt of the gown had been cut away, and after some thought, I decided to leave it that way. I evened up the hem of the satin undergown, and added passementerie in gold cord around the front. This gown is now ready for anyone to pull off the rack and wear at some future Fremont Arts Council event, or deconstruct yet again for some other use.

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