Wearable Art in Full Flower

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wearble art journal dress
Detail of Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's
winning art journal dress at CHA.

Whenever I go to an art show or craft fair, I like to wear something artsy. Not so I'll stand outso I'll fit in.

It seems everyone there wears their art,or someone else'son their sleeve, their ears, their feet, or around their necks. I love looking at all those artistic adornments and striking up conversations with the wearer: Did they make it? How? Or where did they buy it?

Wearing art is a great advertisement for your own or someone else's creations. Making wearable art is also a terrific exercise in using materials in an unusual way. Like one of those crazy "Project Runway" challenges.

At the Craft and Hobby Association Summer 2011 show in Chicago, members were challenged to create a mixed-media "Crafty Couture" non-wearable gown worthy of the runway and red carpet. The gown had to incorporate at least two different craft products from different segments of the industry.

Our own Jenn Mason was one of the judges, and the winning designs will be shown in the Jan./Feb. 2012 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.

wearable art sneakers
Julie's artified sneakers.

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's art journal dress took the Fan Favorite award. Though this inventive (and readable!) gown is not meant to be worn, Julie has a lot of experience creating art you can actually wearas well as turning wearables into art. She rocked some very artistic sneakers at the taping of her "Collage Fast & Furious" video and also makes mixed-media jewelry and accessories.

Jenn reports that wearable art flowers were all the rage among CHA attendees. They wore them in their hair, as brooches, and as handbag accessories.

Jenn and I are already on top of that trend (yes, we are SO trendy!). She often sports a zipper flower brooch I envy, and I'm fond of the denim carnation brooches I made from my husband's clean, but painty, jeans.

wearable art brooch denim
Painty denim brooches.

Here's how to make one of your own.


  • Old pair of denim jeans
  • Needle and strong thread (or sewing machine with a denim needle)
  • Pin back
  • Small piece of sturdy felt, about 1" in diameter
  • Fabric  or tacky glue
  • Acrylic paints, permanent markers, bold rubber stamps (optional)
  • Beads and sequins (optional)


1. Rip the denim lengthwise into strips about 1-1½ wide. You'll need about 18", depending on the size and style of your flower. If you want a fluffier edge, fray one side of the strip.

2. Because my husband is a painter, his jeans come to me pre-embellished. However, I've found that I usually need to pump up the contrast a bit. So I spatter, draw, and stamp onto the strips. You can use any kind of paint, but fabric paint will be easier to stitch through later. Let dry. (You can skip this step if you want.)

wearable zipper pin
Jenn's zipper pin.

3. Hand sew 2 parallel running stitches along the bottom (unfrayed) edge of one of the strips or machine stitch using a long, basting stitch. Pull the fabric along the threads to gather the denim into a ruffle.

4. Starting at one end of the strip, curl it in on itself until you have the size and shape flower you desire. Then, with a needle and thread, whipstitch the bottom edges together.

5. If you think your flower needs a bit more pizzazz, sew small beads or sequins onto the "petals" here and there.

6. Glue or stitch the pin back onto the piece of felt, about 1/3" down from what will be the top edge. Then, apply glue to the other side of the felt and set the back (stitched) side of the flower on top of the glue. Make sure it's positioned so that it "grows" the way you want when worn. Let dry completely.

You can make Jenn's zipper pin in a similar fashion. Just omit the part where you gather the fabric into a ruffle. If you don't have any spare zippers lying around, you can find a rainbow of them ready for crafting, as well as inspiration from Julie and other art journalers for making mixed-media wearable merriment in the Cloth Paper Scissors Shop.


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