July 24, 2011

Fen Quilt Update

Recent developments at the fen:

My friend asked if I could make the kayak smoother.  I've been interfacing everything with a super-light interfacing, just for a bit of substance in handling and to help secure the tiny tips of the shapes, but it didn't really give the charmeuse much more stiffness.  This is nice for a blouse of course, but didn't help the illusion of being a fiberglass kayak.  So, I took off the kayak and make another with a very heavy interfacing.

I added a bit more color to the embroidery on the turtle, and added a couple of water lily blossoms.

Next, I began playing with some ideas for borders.  I don't like to put solid frames on landscape quilts, because, to me, it ruins the sense of a wide vista.  On the other hand, sometimes the quilt seems to need a bit to finish it off, make it seem more complete.

Years and years and years ago, I made this quilt, called "Snowscape".  It now resides in Washington state with a friend who grew up in Illinois and misses the wide open prairie.

For "Snowscape", I made a narrow "same but different" border and then a wider border of the same fabrics as in the body of the quilt.  I decided to try to border the bog in a similar way.

First I tried a narrow border using the reverse of the quilt fabrics.  With some being paler than others, it seemed hard to tell what was going on.  Plus, my decision is somewhat constrained by the small piece of water fabric I have left, not enough to cut the narrow reversed border.  I could buy some more, but the reverse is so light, I don't think I'd like the effect anyway.

Then I tried finding a solid for each that would echo the colors in the print.  I think I'm liking this idea better.  And so does the rest of my family.  In the sky, I'm thinking of making the narrow border the same fabric as the sky itself.  The border will show up just because of the seam lines.  I think that's less distracting, and I can also make a case for it creating a light and airy effect.

I'm deciding between the two solid browns.  I think I like the darker one on the right better.  The other is a good value, but too red.

Another issue is what to do with the kayak.  

I could add another piece in the border area (it's pinned on in the above photo).  But what about the seam between the old and the new?  

I decided right away that I don't want a narrow inner border of a different fabric cutting across the kayak.  It would look very silly, plus I think having the kayak ride "over " the border would give a nice illusion of the viewer paddling into the scene.  But I really don't want to remove and replace the kayak again!  

I looked back at the photos, and saw that there is a cord that runs across the kayak just about where the edge of the extension fabric would be happening.  

I'm considering putting on a lower piece of fabric and hiding the join with this cord.  But just starting all over again again with one piece of fabric might be easier in the long run.  I hope the suspense isn't going to be terrible, as you wait for my decision!

July 21, 2011

Repair of a Log Cabin Quilt

I've been working on a log cabin quilt.  It's maybe Mennonite, purchased in Ontario a while ago.  It's not very, very old.  Probably made in the mid to later part of the 1900s.  (When I started quilting, that's how I referred to "The 1800s".  It stills sounds so strange to me to say "The 1900s"......)  The current owner uses the quilt on her bed.  It's been repaired once before.

Here's the neat plaid fabric that's on the back.

Several of the darker fabrics have worn out, and many made of the lighter, brown fabaric are gone or going soon.

I gave the owner two estimates, one for just the really bad spots, and one that also includes the brown fabrics that are still mostly intact but have some splits starting.  She chose to go for the full job, because she intends to keep using the quilt.

In the spaces of the missing logs, it's possible to see the funky little orange spread that was used to fill the quilt.  That and the plaid on the back lead me to date the quilt c. 1960.  Officially, "circa" means it could have been made 10 years either side of the given date.  The plaid seems 60s to me, the orange spread could be 70s.  So, what "circa" means to me is "somewhere in around there".

Here are the vintage fabrics I had on hand.  The brown is a cotton, but the original fabric is probably a rayon.  The thicker green wool is too thick, and the thinner one has only a few spots that are not already weak.  I only had black cottons, which in a heavier weave can replace a dress-weight black wool in a pinch.  (Read about storing wool fabrics here.)

I decided to go shopping to see if I could find something better, and did.  I bought a dark, forest green and a black wool crepe.  It's often hard to find wools light weight enough to work well in these quilts.  These are still a touch thick, but not bad.  I didn't find anything better for the brown.  I decided to try sewing them on and see how I liked them.  I liked them.

Here's the finished repair job.

And here are before and after pix of some of the repaired logs.

(The brown fabric I added comes off quite a bit yellower than the original in these photos.  Yes, it is yellower, but not quite so much yellower.  Some of this is because of the quality of the light when I photographed. You can seen that the blues are also a very different shade in the before and after pix.  I could have spent a while in photoshop adjusting, but thought I just write simple disclaimer instead!)

July 18, 2011

About Wool Storage

I've been repairing an Amish or Mennonite log cabin quilt made with many wool fabrics.  The story of the quilt is here.  As I pulled out my wools to find patching fabrics, I thought I'd post a bit on wool storage.

I have several piles of old wool fabrics in my stash of scraps for quilt repair.  Quite a few years ago, I suffered an invasion of wool moths.  Not fun!!!  I dumped all my wools in the wash and a hot dryer, no matter if they would survive or not.  Many did not.  But neither did the moth eggs.

So now, for the survivors, I have devised this storage technique.  I made bags out of some cotton flannel sheets I bought at a garage sale.  That's on the assumption that the moths don't eat cotton, so it's a barrier to them.  

The bags are tied at the top with a yarn bow, so they are simple to open and close.  

I made little sachets filled with lavender that I stuff in the hole after I tie the top shut.  Moths don't like the smell, so they don't come in through that opening.  I refresh the lavender every now and then, when a sniff test tells me it's getting weaker.  

It has worked so far! 

I also store any quilts in my collection that have wool fabrics or wool batting similarly.  Within their acid-free boxes, I wrap them in cotton and put in a few lavender sachets (with plenty of cotton between them and the quilt to protect the quilt from lavender oil).

How nice that moths are turned away by something that smells so sweet to us!

July 8, 2011

Thin Ice Theater's Costume Collection

This is long.  Make a cup of tea, and sit back and relax for a while.

A few years ago, Thin Ice Theater inherited a humongous set of costumes from another community/youth theater.  The word "humongous" is not used lightly.  It is stored in three houses in over 50 large storage bins and several closets.  It includes not only the clothing, but a huge box of trims and another of feathers, quite a few prop items, and a crate of period patterns.  We are forever grateful to the woman who built the collection over 25 years of theater work, and to her husband, who searched for someone to take it all and love it for her after she passed away.  We do love it.

When we were invited to come see if we wanted the costumes, a few of us went, thinking we'd pick a few interesting things.  I wish someone had taken a picture of our faces when we walked into the basement there, and saw the extent and the quality of the Stuff.  And then, we found out there was just as much in the garage, too!

We got everyone possible to caravan back up there with vans and cars, and trucked the whole kit and kaboodle down to a rented storage compartment.  Then, we spent many, many hours sorting and inventorying everything - like days and days and days worth of opening birthday presents.  And then, I entered the info into a data base.

We have since added quite a few things, as each play has its own needs.  But the collection is always a marvelous base of pieces to use as is, restructure, and re-embellish.  Generally, well over half of what we use in any play comes from the Lake Forest Collection, as we like to call it (Lake Forest being the suburb where our wonderful donor lived).

How do we manage all these costume pieces?  See a bit about our storage and inventory set-up here.

Here are some costumes built entirely or almost entirely with items from the Lake Forest Collection:

Diary of Anne Frank - A lovely yellow gingham wrap-around dress, that needed cleaning, repair, and major alteration.  The Collection has a nearly unending number of ladies' hats.

Diary of Anne Frank - This started out as a hospital smock, was shortened, buttons were added, and it ended up as Mr. Dussel's dentist smock.

Charlotte's Web - This is one of four 1960s maternity blouses.  We added the band at the bottom and a narrow belt, plus a flowery hat, and this 6-year-old became a lady wearing her best outfit to the county fair.

Charlotte's Web - Mob cap plus ears, gauze tunic and harem pants, and the pinafore from a pinafore/dress set became the lamb at Zuckerman's farm.

Charlotte's Web - All we needed to add to create Mrs. Zuckerman's outfit was the belt.  The dress was altered by raising the waist with a large tuck, plus other cinching in and adjusting.  We do our alterations without cutting as much as possible, so we can re-alter for the next actor.

Charlotte's Web - The pants are actually knickers, but the actor here is 7, so they became baggy pants for Uncle, the huge pig.

The Man Who Came to Dinner - Here's Beverly, very suave (my absolutely favorite character in the play).  The cape is velvet, satin-lined.

The Man Who Came to Dinner - Black velvet dress and hat.  We added green trim and accessories to liven it up for Mrs. Dexter.

The Man Who Came to Dinner - White piqué blouse, wine velvet jacket, and black velvet pencil skirt, for the daughter, June Stanley.  And even better, the black and red shoes actually fit her - how cool is that!

The Man Who Came to Dinner - Here's Mrs. Stanley in a lovely brocade satin dress.

The Man Who Came to Dinner - The Stanley's maid, Sarah.  There were several maid dresses in the boxes.  Several had green sequin trim, originally used in the Emerald City of Oz.  They were too short for a proper 1940s maid though.  So we used two dresses, cut the bottom from one skirt and added it to the other.  White lace was added to hide the seam, and also replaced the sequins.

The Man Who Came to Dinner - The Collection has many men's suits, coats, fedoras, ties, and shirts.  Here is Sheridan Whiteside.

As You Like It - Our "As You Like It" was costumed in 1950s styles.  Here is Touchstone, looking like the clown he is, in a 1950s sort of way.

As You Like It - Here is Audrey, circle skirt and little white blouse.  The saddle shoes are Annie's.

As You Like It - Rosalind's lacy wedding dress.

As You Like It - Celia's act 1 dress, in her father's mansion.  This is a lovely, two-piece outfit, jacket over a sleeveless dress.  Pretty much everything takes a bit or a lot of altering.  But as I remember, this dress fit "like it was made for her".

Much Ado About Nothing - The Collection has a set of red-lined, black capes, that we figure were originally used in "Guys and Dolls" for the Salvation Army characters.  (We have Salvation Army bonnets, too.  That's the big clue.)  We used them for the soldiers, and were more easily able to dress them all alike.  We had a few tunics, and made a few more, plus the sashes.  The sash fabric was a bedspread bought resale.

Much Ado About Nothing - We even have a few monk's robes.  Here is Friar Francis.  This was huge.  About a mile of extra fabric had to be chunked out of the sides and underarms.  This is one time we happily cut away the extra fabric.  Most of our actors are young and small, plus there are still two huge robes left.

Much Ado About Nothing - Here is Leonato.  The robe was probably purchased at a used costume sale at either the Lyric Opera or the Goodman Theater.  The sash looks like it came from a window treatment.  The beret is velvet.  We added the trim.  And put it over a chemise.

Much Ado About Nothing - Here is Margaret in a white chemise under a maroon dress, with a fancy belt.

Much Ado About Nothing - For Dogberry and his crew, we combined tunics (some of which had to be shortened), belts, capelets with attached huge hoods, and stocking caps that we have dubbed "smurf hats".  This is Verges.

Our Town - Here is George.  We turned the collar inside to leave just the band showing.  The Collection includes slacks like these, newsboy caps, and suspenders.

Our Town - Emily's wedding dress needed cleaning and alteration.  There are a couple of veils in the Collection, but we used this one that belongs to one of us, because it was so pretty.

Our Town - Mrs. Soames, dressed to attend Emily and George's wedding.  The cape actually belongs to another outfit.  The dress is not at all the right style for the era, but the cape disguises the bodice, and we added the bands at the bottom to make a calf-length dress reach the floor.

Our Town - Sam Craig, looking very dapper.

Our Town - One of the dead, who welcomes Emily to the cemetery.  This lady lived in colonial times, one of the early settlers at Grover's Corners.

Servant of Two Masters - Here's Pantalone.  The vest just needed a new lacing cord.  The knickers are the ones you saw earlier in this post, on Uncle the pig in "Charlotte's Web".

Servant of Two Masters - Clarice.  We chose this dress for her because it was a hodge-podge of decorations, striped band at the hem, purple fringe, and all.  We added the satin flowers at the front hem, and put it over hoops.  The dress is marked "Goodman Theater" inside.

Servant of Two Masters - Here is Beatrice, disguised as Federigo.  We had to shorten the green vest a lot, and adjust the knickers.  The gold sash has glued on multi-colored jewels on the ends, but we tied it so those didn't show.  Love the huge hat.

Taming of the Shrew - Here are two of Petruchio's servants.

Taming of the Shrew - Here is Biondello.  The shoulders of the tunic had to be made much narrower.  The hat is a very heavy felt.  After this photo was taken, we cut the brim back a bit so it didn't shade his face so much.

Taming of the Shrew - Here are Lucentio and his servant Tranio.  We added a skirt and shoulder rolls to a shirt to make Lucentio's tunic, and replaced the white fabric and ribbon V front because the fabric was stained and disintegrating.  The cape needed nearly constant repair; the fabric, a raspberry velvet, is very old and fragile.  Tranio's tunic is leather.  The hat is really a woman's hat with an elastic ski ear warmer added to the base.  We used it previously, without the ear warmer, as Nurse Preen's hat in "The Man Who Came to Dinner".  I made the wineskin with fake leather left over from recovering my dining room chairs.

Taming of the Shrew - Gremio, Hortensio, the merchant, and several other characters wore outfits purchased at Lyric Opera sales.  They really made the play look fantastic.  They required much mending and new elastic for all the legs.  Of course.  The opera wouldn't have been selling them if they were still in fine shape.  Mina did most of that work.

For all these guys, we used the plainest shoes we had, and added clip-on froo-froos to hide the modern-looking laces and simultaneously add a little flair.  And we put them all in tights.  You can imagine how pleased they were with that!

We stitched a grey wig to Gremio's beret.

Hortensio's hat was a winter hat donated by Eileen.  We added the jewel.  We did not add this hair.  It is attached to the actor.

The merchant's cape had an unappealing, plain elastic neck.  We covered it with another of the hooded capelets (like the one worn by Verges, seen above).  We used a Pilgrim style hat, took off the little silver buckle and added a red band.

Taming of the Shrew - Here is Bianca in her wedding outfit.  The dress started out as a sleeveless prom dress with lace ruffles and a huge bow at the back.  I took off the bow, spun the skirt around, which necessitated re-setting the side zipper, added an overskirt made from old, sheer café curtains, and added pouf sleeves made with ribbon over elastic.  The cathedral hat was built by Annie from a pattern.

That's the end of the history "lesson".  New plays will be happening in the fall.

All the costumes from all the plays can be seen at http://www.annquilts.com/costumes.html and at http://thinicetheater.com/past-shows

If you like, you can entertain yourself by tracking some of the costume pieces from show to show.  It's a mix and match kind of thing.  The tailor in Shrew wears that big blue hat.  Truffaldino in Servant wears Tranio's leather tunic.  Gremio in Shrew wears one of the Salvation Army capes.  The maid in Hands Across the Sea wears the same maid outfit.  Celia wears Mrs. Zuckerman's plaid dress when she is fleeing to the forest in As You Like It.  And so on.  And on.