What I did this last weekend…

Because, you know, I had nothing else to do…

Back when I did the Magnolia dress I wondered half out loud about seasonal dresses, and Laura Mae of LauraMaeDesigns.com chimed in with suggesting I have a look at the J. Peterman catalog covers. Well! That did it : )

(And seriously, go look at her latest project. She BEADED her belt, jacket, pin… it just goes on and on..the girl loves her handwork and is amazing at it!)

I want to do one of those Christmas “dresses” with bark and branches but first up is Fall!! While out walking the dogs the leaves are falling this time of year and I just can’t help but LOVE those reds.

The back : )

I started this project on Saturday morning. I’d experimented with the leaves for a few days during the week to see if I could extend their ‘shelf’ life by refrigerating them, see if they’d stay moist. They did but, like a cloned sheep, they aged quickly to catch up to their “real” age once out in the world, that is to say they dried up and looked the same as if I’d gathered them a few days before. Not good.

So during Romera’s walk  first thing Saturday morning we stopped by the plaza in town which has MANY red leaf covered trees. Thought we’d save the city gardeners a little time with their leaf wrangling activities this week, dontcha know : ) Picture this – dog sniffing in one direction while owner is scrambling around on her hands and knees pulling leaves out of bushes, the gutter and behind the trash cans and stuffing them into a bag.

Leaves back home, sorted them by color and dug out my wire strands. I had to literally rip the old magnolia leaves off the skirt to start this project! The only leaves that had left the form were from the time the dogs were doing zoomies in the yard and knocked the mannequin over, otherwise every single leaf was staying on that frame forever. Lessons learned – If you want to make a dress out of magnolia leaves to really wear, as long as you don’t sit or fall down, it will hold up for your event; AND those suckers aren’t going into my compost heap. They’ll do as well as ivy which means they’ll take longer than the potato plastic silverwear we use at work to break down.

Once the magnolia leaves were off I started playing. I didn’t figure out until I was done with the yellow leaves that I needed to use TWO leaves for every one magnolia leaf. And I used at least quadruple the amount of leaves in this skirt as the magnolia skirt because I untwisted the wires that had held on the magnolia leaves and had enough to do one quarter of the skirt.

By Sunday afternoon my fingers were scratched and felt like I had sanded them. I had poked myself under my thumb nail so many times it was numb and throbbing at the same time. I KNEW that if I didn’t finish this up before 5pm on Sunday afternoon then all my effort would be wasted! Now that the sun goes down just after 5 I wouldn’t get home in time to take photos during the week and by Tuesday the leaves would be very sad and I’d have to start all over again.

 I worked most of the day on Saturday just matching colors and twisting pairs of leaves onto the chicken wire skirt base. It’s pretty soothing work and the weather right now is FABULOUS. 74 degrees, just a hint of a breeze, dogs snoozing in the sun, chickens clucking away…if I didn’t have a To Do list of 9 things that HAD to be done by Sunday evening it would have been down right meditative : )


I had to run up the street three times to various trees gathering more leaves. Sunday morning Romera and I were searching the plaza once again, this time she wouldn’t leave my side since a dog tried to attack her so it was shuffle/dog press butt to leg/shuffle/dog press butt to leg. Poor girl.

Here’s where the whole life thing fits in – I’m busy. We’re all busy I surmise. I recently had a lovely conversation with our friend Vicki of Another Sewing Scientist (more on that in the next blog post I swear!!)  about how we don’t post very often sometimes, or we’re tempted to post something like “our lives are SO busy!” which just sounds like we’re boasting but that’s not what we mean. We ARE busy, that’s just the way of things right now! So we read late into the night, or get sick, or make dresses out of leaves to hang onto our sanity…


It took literally thousands of leaves to complete this. The “belt” around the waist is grape leaves and those suckers dry out faster than the elm leaves! I don’t know why but somehow I got it into my head that doing any part of this project using a glue gun was “bad”.

In the end I glued the tips of the leaves on the top together so they’d hold the shape. I wanted to use these little red and orange spiky fruit balls I found on a tree along one of the paths but when Jim went to pick them they were very smushy and not going to work at all so no necklace : (

The underside : )

Other than being stupidly busy ALL the time I’ve got tons of stuff to post. I did finally get pictures of some of the latest projects, and school is going really well. And if you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed a picture I posted of me and the incomparable Vicki Muise. Oh yes, we had a fabric store play date and went to a party. More to come!!


11 thoughts on “What I did this last weekend…

  1. Wow – absolutely stunning, Loran! This is an amazing creation. I just love how you layered the leaves and your color choices. I can’t imagine how much time it must have taken. Congrats on a beautiful dress!

  2. The spiky fruit balls are from “strawberry tree” aka arbutus unedo. They have little bell-shaped flowers and, interestingly, are in the same family as heather: yes, “erica”.

    I love love love this dress!!! You are the Andy Goldsworthy of haute couture.

    I want to try making a corset out of twigs, for show, not for wear. Because i’m not insane. The flexible kind used for wicker basketry.

    I wonder if you were to wax the leaves would they stay soft longer, i.e. like when you iron them onto wax paper, they hold their color and stay flexible. Not that you want to wax 1000 leaves but if you had a warm tumble dryer you never wanted to use again and threw in some wax microbeads my god I’m out of my mind, but the explosion would be very pretty.

    I love thinking of how to do things.

    • I had to look up Andy Goldsworthy and am touched you think my stuff is anywhere close to his creations : )
      I want to make a corset out of twigs too, I think I have some on a Pinterest page.
      I’m curious now about the whole waxing-of-leaves thing and am going to have to try that. Could come in useful for future projects…Clever girl : )

  3. This is spectacular!! If Peterman used actual photos in their catalog, they would be contacting you to do the next cover for sure!

    I was just talking to a lady in the office yesterday about the color-changing leaves this year. We don’t often see a rainbow of color in Marin, but I guess the weather this year is cooperating and the change of seasons is truly beautiful for it!

    • Thank you Laura! I’m already trying to figure out the Christmas dress and am hoping I can train on of my kitties to help with part of it : )
      I think the color of the leaves depends on the air temperature – the colder it is for certain types of trees the more reds we get. Which explains why the sides of the trees at my parents house that were closet to the house and laundry room were always only yellow while the other side was red. It’s pretty out there this year!

    • I’d be happy to – you just won’t be able to sit down for a few hours : ) The actual weight of this dress is pretty minimal, when I moved the mannequin to its place it was only a couple of pounds heavier than when she’s naked. The Christmas dress will be a tad ‘larger’ and ‘weightier’.

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