Wearable Art Creation All About The Fabric

GCC students create special, one of a kind jackets


Arlynne Roth shows off the back of her Southwest-themed black vest. The class presented a fashion show upon completion of the course and their garments.

Arlynne Roth shows off the back of her Southwest-themed black vest. The class presented a fashion show upon completion of the course and their garments. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Everywhere you looked at the second Annual Wearable Art and Quilt Show, your eyes were met with a cacophonous of patterned coats, intricately pieced and embroidered to fit each wearer’s taste.

Course instructor Leslie Peacock donned a colorful frock of red, black and vibrant green fabrics with embroidered chili peppers to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

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Leslie Peacock, a teacher of wearable art at Gila Community College in Payson, mentions that the colorful coat is from many different car shirts she had acquired and made into this standout jacket.

Student Marque Jacobs’ “Asian Fusion” coat featured 30 red and black patterned fabrics sewn together using traditional quilting and embroidery techniques, including the flying geese pattern on a sleeve, pin tucks, fans on a back panel, barggelo stitches and flat biscuits. Inside, $22 yard fabric from Australia finished the coat off with a bang.

Student Donna Daly’s coat, “Magic of Madikwe,” was covered in rich earth tone fabrics and beading to celebrate a safari, she took to Africa in 2007.

Dozens of other colorful coats dotted the event with each coat holding a story unique to the wearer.

Peacock said creating wearable art isn’t an exact science, but one where the sewer allows the fabric to dictate how the project comes together.

“I let the fabric talk to me,” she said, noting that might sound crazy to some.

However, unlike traditional “flat” quilts, wearable quilts follow no rules. While traditional quilting techniques are used in their construction, designing a jacket is often done free-form, with student and instructor working together to piece together a piece that is one of a kind.

This is the second year Peacock has taught the wearable art course at Gila Community College. In the first year, 16 students stitched up jackets with 23 students participating this year.

Most students in the course are amateur quilters and almost all have never created “wearable art.”

Peacock explained students affix fabrics to a foundation fabric, often muslin, creating a jacket that is then decorated with embroidery, paint, trims, decorative stitching, beads and other embellishments.

When constructing their coats and finishing them with embellishments, Peacock tells students to take a risk and step outside their box.

“If some is good, more is better,” she said of coat flourishes.

A mantra students write in their notebooks at the beginning of the course explains Peacock’s design philosophy.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

“I want them to explore,” Peacock said. If students mess up, they simply rip out a few stitches and try again.

Daly said when she signed up for the course, at the encouragement of her neighbor, she knew the basics of sewing, but quickly found out “that I don’t know everything about quilting.”

After creating her first jacket, which closely followed one of Peacock’s patterns, Daly decided to step outside her box and create a jacket based on trip to Africa. After looking through batiks, Daly settled on several rich brown fabrics, which she highlighted later with beading.

Creating the jacket wasn’t easy for Daly, who said she often became stuck after creating one section because she didn’t know where to take the jacket next.

With Peacock’s guidance, Daly completed the coat, which turned out beyond Daly’s expectations. After showing a picture of the coat to her sister, Daly said she has even been commissioned to create a coat for her.

Student Louise Snow echoed Daly’s sentiments, saying working with Peacock has taken her out of her creative box and helped her lose 30 pounds.

“You can’t eat and sew,” she joked.

Jacobs, who teaches beginning and advanced quilting courses at GCC, said she loves creating wearable art because it is something no one else has.

“Leslie always says, ‘make sure you are not in a hurry when you go out, because people will always stop and ask you about your jacket,’” Jacobs said.

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Pat Bray’s vest is a stunning representation of Southwest culture.

Students of the class often joke that after creating a wonderful jacket, they have nowhere to wear it but Walmart.

Peacock said she wears her jackets everywhere, including special events, where she wears one of her formal evening coats.

Several of Peacock’s designs have won awards and throughout May, Peacock is the featured artist at Artists of the Rim Gallery, 408 W. Main St.

“She has so much talent to offer,” Snow said of Peacock.

For more information on Peacock or her classes, contact her at (928) 468-1866.

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