Thank you all for your suggestions! I feel like I am at a crossroads and need to sit back and let things percolate. I can see several ways to go with this garment, but (of course) can only pick one.
At the moment I am leaning towards a single brooch pinned at the top, maybe a polymer clay maple leaf and maybe something more curvy and streamlined. This is partly for design reasons and partly for technical reasons: appliqueing fabric shapes becomes harder and harder as the shapes grow smaller, especially with a relatively thick, loosely woven fabric. (As compared to quilter’s fabric, which is a tightly woven, fine cotton fabric traditionally used for applique). I’m not sure I can get the smaller leaves looking the way I’d like.
Embroidery is another option for the leaves, but it scares me since embroidery generally damages the underneath fabric and I’m not that skilled at embroidery design/execution. In short, there’d be a good chance of screwing up, which would be awful. I’d rather not go there unless I have to.
I did briefly toy with another idea – putting the previously shown swoopy lines on the top to create “tree branches” and adding falling leaves in the dark section – thus making the autumn-ness overt. A totally different look, with less emphasis on the curve and more on the autumn theme. However, I decided that it looked too cluttered – and if I changed the front so radically, I’d have to change the back – and I like the back the way it is. This garment feels streamlined, and I like that look, so no tree with leaves for now!
So I am percolating my way towards a decision. I’ve ordered some books on polymer clay, which should arrive tomorrow, and will read through them to get an idea of what can be done with polymer clay. Meanwhile, I’m going to experiment with various shapes and colors to see roughly what I want in a brooch. I think I’ll wind up going with a slightly-crinkled maple leaf, but I’m not sure yet. It depends on whether I want to emphasize the autumn theme or go more abstract and curvy.
Ann mentioned in a comment on my last blog post that she was amazed by how I could maintain focus on a single project for so long. The answer is quite simple: my projects aren’t actually a single project, but a compendium of many smaller projects. So far in Autumn Splendor I’ve been through several weaving techniques (devore, knitted blanks, various Photoshop design methods), machine knitting, dyeing, fashion design, and couture sewing. Each of these is a separate project in its own right, and I’m just stringing them together into a single project. Because each is different, there’s plenty of variety, so I don’t get bored the way I would if, say, I were knitting a lace shawl for a year, off a pattern – all handwork, no thought involved. That would drive me nuts.
(And yes, I did spin and knit a ring shawl once – but that was my own design, and I designed it as I went – which made it much more interesting.)
So, anyway, I am percolating, and meanwhile will start doing some of the less exciting work – marking and cutting the lining fabric. I plan to leave generous seam allowances, since Sharon and I may adjust the fit of the garment slightly, which would also mean changing the lining pattern.