Justine Dennis creates her own sewing style

-A A +A
By Spencer Jenkins

Justine Dennis, of New Haven, calls herself a fiber artist, and continues learning about her style of sewing she invented about 20 years ago, called Torsion Sewing.


“As far as I know, nobody else does the same thing and it’s all done on the sewing machine,” she said.

She added that many artist and gallery owners have told her that her style is unique and that they’ve never seen anything like it before.

The style consists of yarn that’s sewn into a spiral and that spiral tension changes while she sews and it creates a convex or concave curve, she said. The thread squeezes everything together and the less you squeeze the flatter the piece is.

“It makes a bowel shape,” Dennis said. “That’s the basic form of everything I make.”

From her technique she creates hair ornaments, hats, scarves, sculptures and wall pieces, she said.

She compared her art to pottery, but on a sewing machine. She also uses recycled and repurposed materials.

“It’s sort of my religion,” she said. “I’m an old hippie and reuse everything. I’m glad I can recycle stuff, giving it a second, third or fourth life.”

She originally used a yarn that came from a company that went out of business, she said, and that’s why she started using reusable products.

“It’s time consuming because it starts out as a sweater and I pick it apart and unravel it and turn it into basic material,” Dennis said.

She said she’s even sewn plastic, rope and metallic materials.

To sew her art, she uses a very old sewing machine with no plastic parts.

“It’s an industrial machine, but I also use an antique machine called a featherweight,” she said.

She added that her work is always something new and she’s always working on something.

“I won’t live long enough for all the things I make because I have a brain-full and only so much time,” Dennis said. “I like the surprise too — I have a plan, but it doesn’t end up the way I envisioned it.”

Unfortunately, her favorite creation, a horse rearing back, was stolen at an art show, she said. However, right now her favorite is a uniquely designed eagle she named “Albert Eaglestein.”

He’s made from a stuffed dog animal, wire and leather.

“He’s just so expressive that he looks like he could have been a real being,” Dennis said. “He’s got a lot of personality.”

Making her art is very tactile, she said.

“You have to touch it and the colors are important,” Dennis said. “Colors are one of my main drives and that says just as much as what it is — feeling it and seeing the colors work together makes the piece.”

Besides her fiber art, Dennis said she’s dabbled in pottery, drawing, painting, weaving, crocheting and knitting.

“You name it, I’ve tried it,” she said.

For the moment though, Dennis said she has begun to slow down her production of art.

“The art world has slowed down an awful lot as far as making money,” she said. “I went to about nine shows last year and about seven of them were total losses.”

She’s beginning to get discouraged with the art show circuit and says art life in Nelson County has slowed a lot, too.

Her prices vary based on where she is selling her work, she said. Some pieces could run from $50 to collector prices of $1,000 and up.

“Usually when I do an outdoor show they run $50 to $200,” Dennis said. “The average sale is about $75 and $150.

Right now, people can find her work at The Shed, and although she has a website, she doesn’t sell anything from it.

“We’ll be spending more time at The Shed when it gets warmer,” Dennis said.

SPENCER JENKINS can be contacted at sjenkins@kystandard.com