February 18, 2017

Crazy Quilt Embroideries

In 2009, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum hosted an exhibit called A Fairyland of Fabrics: The Victorian Crazy Quilt.  I just visited the Museum site and read through the great accompanying materials.  There is historical info plus photos of several of the beautiful crazies that were in the exhibit.

What caught my eye was a photo detail of one of the exhibit quilts:

International Quilt Study Center & Museum

I recognized the same two dancing children from a crazy quilt, dated 1883, that I repaired a while ago.  Here they are on that quilt:

Now isn't that fun!

One of the many embroidery traditions associated with crazy quilts are renditions of artwork by the popular author Kate Greenaway.  And here we see two different quilters who chose the same illustration and added their own detailing.

My post about the quilt I repaired shows several other Greenaway designs amongst other crazy quilt staples such as flowers, animals, and fans.  And, we get a more personal glimpse into this particular lady as she shows us several pieces from her favorite china set!

February 8, 2017

Announcing! Quilt Repair Book - 2nd Edition!

Well, if it wasn't exciting enough to be able to say that I wrote and self-published a book, I now get to announce that the first printing has sold out, and I now have made a second edition - hot off the presses! 

This new edition has minor changes from the first - some additional resources, a couple of sections rewritten and expanded, a couple of additional illustrations, and (dare I say it) some typos corrected.  Plus, the cover has been printed with a different technique, and is now much more vibrant!

You can see sample pages and read comments and reviews on my website.  And in an earlier blog post, you can see the great repairs done by a quilter following the instructions in my book.

Kudos go once again to my book designer, my friend Julie at Rivera Design & Communications.  Honestly, I had no idea what a book designer can do!  It's one of those jobs that is invisible when it is well done.  I gave her what looked like a term paper and a file of drawings, and she turned them into a really, truly book.  From general page layout decisions to little details like bullet point shape - all sorts of things I never would have thought of or known how to do.  If you know anyone who's making a book and wants help, Julie can be reached at:  riveradesign@mindspring.com.

Finally, a bit about the process of making a book.  I still am astonished to think of myself as a published author.  As with most things in my life, I kind of slid sideways into the whole concept.  I think if I had tried to be bold and outright decide to write a book, it never would've happened!

My main goal was to write up the techniques I've discovered and used in 30+ years of quilt repair.  I always think it's a shame when someone devotes their energy and soul to making something happen in the world and then dies with no record of what they've created, no matter how large or small their focus or topic.  Surely, repairing antique quilts is fairly minor in the grand scheme of things.  But now that I think of it, the main reason I repair quilts is to honor and maintain the legacies of the quiltmakers, whether known or anonymous.  So it's all of a piece, really.

Just basically, I wrote from a rough outline, and then edited and edited and edited.  For the illustrations, I made little sample pieces to stitch and had a friend photograph my hands sewing.  Then I loaded the photos into Illustrator, and traced the edges of the shapes in the photos and added shading.  I also took all the color photos.  That's what Julie received and then she worked her magic.  We made many decisions on cover design and chapter headings and all that.  And we proofed and proofed.  Finally, it went to the printer that she works with and became an actual book.

It's lots of time and oh so many decisions, but in the end it feels really special!  This is said by someone who still gets a kick out of having her own business cards....

January 31, 2017

Take 2: Optical Illusion With Plaid (complete and with photos this time!)

(I inadvertently posted this a few days ago, long before I was done writing it.  Here it is in it's final form!)

"It just looked like a happy quilt that needed a home!"

That's what the owner of this quilt told me when she sent it to me for repairs.  I think that's a lovely reason to buy a quilt, don't you?

What makes this quilt especially fun for me are the blocks that were pieced with a large red and white plaid.  Piecing that plaid next to a plain white made the seam lines of the patchwork pretty much disappear, creating a syncopated, modernistic pattern in the midst of this otherwise very quaint, old-fashioned quilt!


Honestly, it took me a bit to sort of uncross my eyes and figure out what I was looking at!  I really want to experiment with this in a quilt one day, maybe soon.

This block combines that same effect with three pieces of a different plaid, resulting in yet another eye-crossing look.
The sashing fabric is also playing games and illusions.  This style of fabric is called a double pink.  It looks at first like a darker pink printed on a light pink ground.  But on closer inspection, the floral sprigs are the same ink, printed solid against a ground of fine pink dots on white.

This cute, unassuming little quilt is hiding all sorts of tricks!

The repairs needed were pretty straightforward compared to the trickiness of the fabrics.  I patched over the places where a couple of fabrics had totally worn away.

For this one, I chose a vintage print that was the same sort of overall grey print of the old fabric (at least that's what the minimal amount of remaining and very faded fabric looked like!) plus a bit of red and black.  When choosing repair fabrics, of course it's virtually impossible to find an exact replacement.  This one works nicely since there are still strong reds and blacks elsewhere on the quilt.

This is how I experiment with what color thread to use.

Here's the first patch, pinned on and ready to sew. 

Here are the completed patches.

And here they are again after being re-quilted.  Sometimes, when the original batting and quilting are still intact, re-quilting isn't structurally necessary.  But it generally is a good idea anyway because it helps the new fabric blend in with the surface texture of the quilt.

In this block, I patched the black and the five brown pieces. (And yes, that's how the original fabrics were placed.  I believe that repairs should replicate what the maker intended.  It's still her quilt, not mine!)

And finally, here's my little scrap basket, all full.   I always love that great feeling of accomplishment!  You can also see the swatches of patch fabric hanging on my pincushion.  I make a record of the repairs I've made that includes swatches.  That way, it's clear to future owners what's original and what's not.

January 27, 2017

A 1920s Beaded Velvet Gown - An Absolute Work of Art

Welcome to vintage clothing heaven!

The pedigree of this dress is:
- dates to the 1920s
- made by the Nemser Original Model label, a super high-end designer in New York City
- silk velvet
- heavily, heavily beaded with glass beads
- in near perfect condition, significantly better condition than some of the other Nemser dresses that have appeared online

(For more info on the dress, contact Julia at Basya Berkman Vintage Clothing - basyaberkman@gmail.com - or on Instagram @basyaberkmanvintage, where you can see an adorable little video of Julia's model Megan doing the Charleston.)

My photos and story are going to relate to the bead-beads-beads.  Such incredible design and workmanship!

There were missing beads here and there.  For some, I was ecstatic to have a great match.  For others, I had to do quite a bit of searching.  Here's how my work kit finally ended up. 

One tricky bead was the elongated silver-lined crystal bead on the edges of the hem flaps.  The silver has tarnished over the years, and is now grey.  A modern silver-lined bead was too bright, and I couldn't find grey-lined beads that were a good color match.  At some point in the past, someone had replaced some of these beads with plain, clear beads and I was about to settle for that.  And then, one of those lovely lightbulb moments happened.  I tried stitching the clear beads with a dark grey thread.  Bingo! (original beads below pin)

I saw silver-lined beads like these once before when I was replacing missing beads on a wedding dress.  For that, I found some grey-lined seed beads that were a perfect replacement.  And then, I was able to use some more of those same wedding dress beads on this dress, too, in the bands of beading around the skirt.

The other really tricky beads to match were the tiny (3mm) rhinestones.  Similarly, the old silver mounts had tarnished, and the new silver mounts are too shiny.  Also, it seems that the setting mounts are now much deeper than they were in the 1920s.  I finally found a website with flatter mounts, and crystals in the color "black diamond" which sufficiently disguised the shininess of the new mounts.

In this photo (a shoulder strap), you can distinguish the new from the old rhinestone beads by the color of the mounting prongs - silver for new beads, black for original beads.

Just imagine how the dress looked when it was new.  All that is grey at this point would be sparkling silver.  The dress would positively glow! 

For those of you who have never worked with sew-on stones before, here's how it works.  There are two tiny channels in the mounts, criss-crossing underneath the stones.  It's pretty delicate stitching when the stones are this small!

For those of us who love old stitchery, the reverse side that shows construction details is just as fun, if not more so.  Here you can see the reverse of the straps, and of the heaviest beaded band on the skirt.

I got really excited about the stitching in this second photo.  The long rows of beads are attached with a chain stitch.  This means they were done with a method call tambour embroidery.  It's still used today for one-of-a-kind couture beading and sequins.  A while ago, I bought myself a tambour hook and hoop, just for fun, but have not yet sat down to experiment with it.  I'm feeling a bit inspired now after restoring this dress!

This photo shows how the beads were applied to give depth to some parts of the beading.  I think the strands of beads are a bit too big for the area, so they end up in arcs rather than lying flat on the fabric.  This photo also shows the wonderfully striated olive green beads.

Here are detail shots of the various design elements.  The color palette is rich, the designs are incredibly complex.  There are so many beads that the dress weighs as much as probably 4 or 5 non-beaded dresses. 

Front waist
Back waist
Back straps
Skirt band 1
Skirt band 2
Skirt band 3
Skirt band 3, detail
Those little pearly beads in the last photo aren't actually pearls.  They are hollow, glass bubble beads!  Those were replaced using similar beads from a vintage item that had been too damaged to be saved.

Wouldn't it be so wonderful to know just which elegant gala events this dress has attended?!

January 23, 2017

Edwardian Bodice, Embroidery and Fine Detailing - Addendum

A short while ago, I posted photos and described a wonderful piece of vintage clothing.  You can see more photos and my description of the bodice there.

My friend Martha Spark responded with more info about the embroidered panels.  She wrote:

I recognized this immediately as Chinese in origin, and very distinctive of the embroidery that was done for their own clothes, and for export, in the early 20th century. Peking Knots (small knots) were an integral part of these types of embroideries that were being done before the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. The Clark Museum in Eureka, CA (where I worked as Textiles Curator in the mid-1980s) had a wonderful collection of early 20th cen. Chinese embroidered garments, including a beautiful paneled skirt that had many areas of  this similar type embroidery.  There was a significant population of Oriental immigrants to Northern California in the late 1800s, due to the demand for labor with the railroads. They brought with them the clothing from their country of origin.

The hair silks are SO fine -  the embroiderers were so talented!

The couched gold threads are another clue to oriental embroideries of this time period.

I do wonder how this came about!  Perhaps the panel and cuffs were made to order for this dressmaker to use.  Perhaps these were remnants cut from a precious piece of fabric or from a larger, worn item. A comprehensive article on clothing manufacture and styles in the 1830s by the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park (located just outside Indianapolis) says that silk fabrics were mostly imported from China and India.  Many dyestuffs and other fabrics were also imported from various countries.  It's easy to forget that globalization and trade has been growing for centuries.  It's far from a new dynamic of our modern era! 

January 11, 2017

Buckeye Beauty - A Quilt and A Story

Quilt blocks with this geometry combining half-square triangles and 4-patches go by many names depending on the placement of the colors and the arrangement of the blocks.  This arrangement is called Buckeye Beauty.  (The quilt is way too big (13 x 13 blocks) for me photograph the whole thing!)

The quilt's owner tells this story:

The quilt was a Christmas present to me from my grandmother, Lillian Faatz, in December 1982. I was 25 years old and had just finished grad school and had my first apartment. I believe my grandmother made all of the blocks that make up the quilt. She was a member of a quilting group at the First United Methodist Church of Carbondale, PA for many years. As long as I can remember she would make quilt blocks for the group. Generally, they made quilts which they donated to people who needed but could not afford them. It is possible that some of the blocks were made by other members of the group, but I don't think that is likely.

My grandmother was born in 1896, so when she made the blocks for this quilt she was in her mid 80s. Once she had assembled all the blocks, the end product was hand-quilted by the members of the quilt group.

I used the quilt from January 1983 through 1997 when my wife and I upgraded from a queen bed to a king. At that point we stored the quilt in a closet. The resulting damage was a result of mice getting into the closet. At the time, we had two indoor-outdoor cats. While normally people have cats to catch mice in the house and destroy them, we had the opposite problem. Our cats would bring mice in from outside and let them go in the house. Then they would hunt the mice in the house ... Unfortunately - the cats didn't always catch all their mice - and hence the damage to the quilt.

It's great to have this story about Lillian Faatz and her longtime love of quiltmaking, and the good work of the women of the Carbondale, PA, church.  The quilt is clearly made from a collection of scraps from several decades. 

There are probably 4 decades represented here.  The orange and blue print at the top of this photo looks to be 1940s, the purple and white calico is likely 1970s, and the other prints fall in the decades in between.

But the fabric that made me look twice is this one:
A ducks and strawberries print!?  Yup!  This fabric just makes me giggle.

Lilian made her Buckeye Beauty as a scrap quilt.  At first glance, I thought this was a two block quilt, one block with half-square triangles making a square on point, and one block with four-patches making an X.  But the color placement made me realize that this is actually just one 4-patch block.  It has two each half square triangles and smaller 4-patches of each fabric with white.  Then, half the blocks were rotated 90-degrees, to create the overall pattern that fooled me into seeing two different blocks!

To finish the quilt, Lilian pieced half blocks as borders around the quilt, and in doing so, finished the shapes created where the blocks join together.   So clever!

And another fun little note.  I have almost exactly this white on green floral in my stash.  I bought it in my early quilting years, which began in 1978.  You have to look really, really closely to see that it's a bit different.  This fabric was in fine shape everywhere, so I didn't get to actually use my (almost) perfect match.

Here are several more shots showing the range of colors and prints on the quilt:


Thanks to the quilt owner for writing and sharing his grandmother's story!