October 8, 2018

Twisty Turny Genealogy Research

So, here's how I had fun on a cool, grey, damp Saturday afternoon.

I’m taking the next step in the research into the names on a quilt that was most likely made in Melrose MA, in the late 1890s.  The story of all the previous work is on this blog, starting with Part 1 and linking along for several more posts.

Alanna Nelson, a Melrose fiber enthusiast and community builder, has taken it upon herself to plan a "homecoming" for the quilt in December, with all sorts of creative associated programming.  The quilt and I will be there, of course! 

Now, I'm looking up other people who have listed these folks on their family trees.  I'm writing to them in hopes that they'll be excited to learn about the quilt, and that they might have some cool old photos or family stories to add to the info I've found.  And I hope some of these folks I contact will be able to come and be guests of honor alongside their ancestors' names on the quilt.

Anyhow, here's the Story of the Day.  I looked up Sarah Lavender.  (Such a great name!)  At the time the quilt was made, she was nearing 70 years of age, widowed, and living with her married daughter.

I found one family tree with Sarah Lavender on it, but her spouse doesn’t match up with the spouse (John) I had found.  All of the other trees that showed up, 16 of them, are for a Sally Mayo Dyer, who did indeed marry a John Lavender.  

Wrong first name, right?  No, right first name!  I looked it up, and Sally was in this era a common nickname for Sarah.  (Similarly, Molly was a nickname for Mary.)

But the really stunning thing is that the Mayo and Dyer names are super familiar to me, because they are two of three or four Melrose families who were huge and hugely intertwined.  This includes one of my favorite people on the quilt Eunice B. Phinney, who had married a man named Erastus Phinney late in their lives.  Her maiden name was Dyer.  Sally Mayo Dyer is already on the tree I’ve built while identifying them, purty as you please, and is apparently "my friend" Eunice’s sister!!!

(I haven’t explored further, because the names aren’t on the quilt, but Sarah/Sally and John had a daughter also named Sarah Lavender, so I’m guessing that first entry is about her and her non-John husband….)

A small world in Melrose, MA, in the 1890s wasn't it? 

October 1, 2018

That's One Magnificent Button!

For me, buttons are just about the coolest things in the world.  I am constantly amazed by how many kinds of buttons people have managed to design and produce over the course of time.  Absolutely amazed.

Well, this one stands out from the crowd.  This one is magnificent. 

It resides on this lovely suit.  Just one button.  Demanding all the attention.  But there's more than just this button to appreciate.

1.  The fabric is a wonderful "changeable" fabric - meaning that the warp threads are one color and the weft threads another.  In this suit, the threads are red and black.  Yes, a true red and a true black, and together they make this lovely changeable purple.  The color is hard to pinpoint since it changes depending on how the light hits it.
2.  The lapels are made of a gorgeous black silk velvet.
3.  The welt pockets have those cool little tailoring triangles.

4.  And then...building suspense....The Button.

I am seeing something in outer space, swirling orbits around a planet perhaps.

I met this button while dong a bit of mending on the suit for my friend Julia's shop.  You've read stories on this blog of quite a few vintage items that I've mended.  The shop is RareJuleVintage (nee Basya Berkman Vintage Clothing).  Same proprietress, same lovingly selected and presented clothes and accessories, new name. 

September 27, 2018

The Social Justice Sewing Academy


I must admit that the quilt repair process can get kind of boring when it gets down to the actual sewing.  Once I figure out what needs to be done and how to do it, it can be pretty repetitive.  One resource I fall back on a lot is listening to podcasts.  And one interview that really sparked my interest was with Sara Trail, founder of the Social Justice Sewing Academy, on the Just Wanna Quilt podcast.

Sara is a most amazing young woman, and her project has drawn me in totally, fulfilling my wish to find ways to do Good in the world while using the skills I have and love to do.  (In other words, I am totally not the person who likes to make political calls or knock on doors.)

Here is the short bio that's on the podcast page:
"Sara Trail is the Executive Director of Social Justice Sewing Academy.  She wrote her first book at 13, "Sew with Sara," and her own DVDs at 15.  She designed two fabric collections.  She attended UC Berkeley, where she made a quilt in memory of Trayvon Martin.  She says that it was this moment that social justice and sewing came together.  She went to Harvard for graduate school in education."

The SJSA works with teens and young adults in schools, prisons, and community centers, teaching fiber art skills as personal and social expression.  Students glue their design pieces down.  Then people like me receive a block and embroider the edges and otherwise decorate the block, creating a virtual community of artists from many backgrounds and of all ages.  Then other volunteers piece the tops, and longarm quilt.  Then the quilts travel and are exhibited, and the students who normally would not have access to gallery exhibitions can know that their voices are being heard in the wider world.

I've done two blocks so far, and am so fond of these two budding artists whose work I have embellished, even though we've never met!

Here's the first block I did.  First, as I received it, and then the finished effect.


And here's my second block.  It came with a note from the maker explaining that the topic is the great sacrifice that many parents make so that their children can get a higher education. 

Mind you, Sara pulled all this process together in under a year!  She is a "phenom" for sure, as you will hear if you listen to this ball of energy and excitement in her interview. 

You can listen to the whole podcast here.

You can join/support the project in all sorts of ways.  Visit the website to see previous projects.  There, you can sign up to be an embroiderer.  You can sign up to host a workshop in your area.  You can find the address and mail in fabric and equipment donations.  And there is a Go Fund Me also. 

September 17, 2018

Yes, Yes, More Buttons

You guys, I just can't say no to a batch of mystery buttons.  No matter how bland it looks at first glance, there are sure to be treasures in amongst the basics.  And if one or two treasures are peeking out, I'm a goner.  And so.....

This batch came from the giveaway table at my local needlework guild.  There are always people de-stashing and we reap the benefits.  It'a a great, albeit dangerously tempting, tradition.

And here are my favorites:

These are relatively thin and make a really satisfying little clacky sound.  Aren't the sounds buttons make when in a big pile a big part of the fun?  It is for me, for sure.

This color combo really inspires me.  And just look at the glow in the ones on the lower left!  They are always changing.

My favorite color, and such a cool incised design.

And finally, little flying saucer buttons.  Hee, hee.

The aliens are landing in the park!

September 10, 2018

Stylish: Jeanie and Barbie

My mother-in-law Jeanie knew how to dress well and properly.  All the time.  All occasions. 

This photo was taken in 1961.  She is standing with my husband, at 13 years old, on the day of his Bar Mitzvah.  There are two more photos of Jeanie's style at the end of this post.  (Oooops, the white smear is a glare on the photo, not a smear on Larry's suit.) 

Jeanie also loved handwork, including crocheting and knitting.

She put these two loves together and designed and crocheted dresses and gowns for Barbie dolls.

She had made a set of dressed dolls early on, pre-Barbie, for her daughter, my sister-in-law.  Then when my daughter was born in 1990, Jeanie revived the idea, and styled and dressed a dozen dolls for her.  These dresses are crocheted right onto the dolls.  They are mostly for display, not for dress-up and play.

She used a fine cotton crochet thread and seed beads, which are crocheted into the dresses, and other trims.

Most have a netting petticoat, except the very earliest ones whose petticoats are also crocheted.  I love the color combination below, the deep rose petticoat peeking through the turquoise dress.  I also like the rhinestone trim, with one side of the skirt gathered up.


Each doll has matching undies and also a matching purse containing a dime - since a lady should never go out without a dime for a phone call, just in case.  The stole is a scrap of real fur from the collar of a worn out, old coat.

Here is Barbie's famous Marilyn Monroe impersonation....

This purse is particularly clever - the daisy trim turned out to be exactly the right size for the dime.

Here is the rest of the dozen dolls.  I especially love the wide variety of hats and headpieces that Jeanie created.

She was great at making flounces and ruffles!


This is her harem-style outfit.  

Here, she used a metallic thread to liven things up.


Here's one that's different from the fitted bodice / full skirt, 1950s sort of silhouette that Jeanie apparently loved very much. 

And here's a modern, with-it Barbie.

As Jeanie's skills developed, my husband suggested that she start using actual Barbies instead of knock-offs.  Boy, was he right!  They look sooooo much better, and these dresses are certainly worth having prettier and better made dolls to show them off.

Most amazingly, she took these dolls to her weekly hair appointments and had their hair actually styled there!  This one became my daughter's 13th doll.

And she started making fully beaded gowns.  For quite a while, Jeanie and my father-in-law Morry spent every fifth wedding anniversary in Hawaii.  I think both of these are Jeanie's homage the graceful vacations they so enjoyed.   


Jeanie made this extra fancy doll for Morry. The cape is spectacular, isn't it?


And finally, here is Jeanie again, wearing her own lovely gowns - in 1969 in orange and in 1971 in yellow and white.  She was famous among her friends and family for having a style all her own, and you can see why!