December 31, 2014

On Beauty - Favorite Quotes #7


I've spent some lovely hours on a sad and comforting task, helping a dear friend plan a memorial for her father by looking for good words to share.  I re-read many poems collected in my young adulthood that have been un-re-read for years and years.  I wandered into Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, because that has good words for everything in Life.  And I stayed and wandered in those words for a good long time.  Ahhhhhhh..........



On Beauty

      And a poet said, "Speak to us of Beauty."
      Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
      And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?
      The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.
      Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."
      And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
      Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."
      The tired and the weary say, "beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
      Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."
      But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
      And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."
      At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."
      And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, "we have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."
      In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."
      And in the summer heat the reapers say, "We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair."
      All these things have you said of beauty.
      Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
      And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
      It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
      But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
      It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
      But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
      It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
      But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.
      People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
      But you are life and you are the veil.
      Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
      But you are eternity and you are the mirror.




December 21, 2014

Unique Sunbonnet Sue

Here's a creative rendition of the well-known Sunbonnet Sue pattern.

This little girl with her bonnet is most often made with an almost cartoon-like simplicity, just a few pattern pieces - dress, arm, hat, and shoe - and most often as a repeated block.

In this lovely quilt, however, she is larger than usual and more fully drawn, with the addition of ribbon ties, a reticule, and lots of embroidered detailing.

I'm thinking that the bonnet, bow, and reticule were probably not originally white.  If I try hard, I think I see a very slight blue cast to those fabrics, so I'm guessing they were originally blue.

She is standing in a lovely flower garden of little gathered fabric circles and embroidery. 

All the stitching is really well-done.  I really enjoyed having her at my house for this short visit, and that is saying something, because quite honestly, I've never been a Sunbonnet Sue fan.

This Sue was made in the 1930s, at the height of the pattern's popularity.  She came to me to be re-bound before being presented to the next new baby in the family.  Such a sweet tradition!

And I present her to you today as a breath of spring, here on the winter solstice, ancient day of Sun Return.  Yes, spring will come!



December 18, 2014

Egyptian Appliqué Art

Welcome to Egypt!

Having just visited Turkey during the ancient Roman era in my previous post, let's continue the tour with a stop in Egypt for a little needlework history.

A friend brought over a gracefully appliquéd pillow case that had been purchased for her in Egypt. It's about 33" square, for a floor cushion.  She asked me to put a sleeve on it so she can hang it on her wall.

This prompts me to also share a wall hanging that I found at an estate sale, quite clearly also made in Egypt.  It is about 40" x 17" - the camels are about 12" tall.

Sharing the photos of course meant that I needed to research the art.  Over the years, I've heard about the Egyptian appliqué tradition, but hadn't ever taken the time to learn more about it.  So.

The art of Egyptian appliqué, known as khayamiya, has long and deep roots as the decorated interior side of the canvas walls of large desert tents.  Now, the art is often seen in smaller pieces like these that are made for sale to tourists.

The designs are in the ancient decorative art tradition that is common all over the Muslim world.

The work is traditionally, and still, done by men.  There is a street in Cairo called Khayamiya Street which continues as the center of the appliqué industry, often a family business passed from generation to generation.  It is, unfortunately, in danger of becoming a dying art.  These pieces are used locally for interior decor and often commissioned for celebrations.  But people are now also buying printed knock-offs of the design style.

My hanging was found at an estate sale in a collection of camels in all sorts of media.  It was a no-brainer for me to buy it - wonderful needlework plus an ancient Egyptian theme.  You can see that the cotton is appliquéd onto the traditional heavy linen used for the tents.  The linen is there as a base fabric in the pillow cover, too.  A cream cotton was layered on before the appliqués were added.



A google search will lead you to many resources about the Egyptian tentmakers.  
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/applique.htm
http://www.quiltviews.com/meet-the-tentmakers-of-cairo
http://almashriq.hiof.no/egypt/600/670/677/cairo_tentmakers/

An interesting tidbit is that the stitches go into, but not through, the linen.  In other words, no stitches are to show on what would be the outside of the tent.

I found a video showing the process including pattern making, pattern transfer, and stitching.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNzTXZiXN00

Definitely check out the technique.  The appliqué patches are just rough cut, i.e. no shapes drawn on them.  They are not even pinned on.  They are cut to the exact shape bit by bit as the stitching happens.  All the work is done in the lap, thigh becomes table top.  And these guys sew really fast!  One video I watched told of a well-known aphorism something like this - "A slow tentmaker has a hungry family".



December 12, 2014

More Ancient Mosaics


For those of you who were intrigued by my post about Roman era mosaics in France, here is another great collection of mosaic floors, these from the Roman era in Turkey, at the ancient city of Zeugma.

http://laughingsquid.com/archaeologists-unearth-three-ancient-greek-mosaics-in-the-ongoing-excavation-in-zeugma-turkey/

There are a couple of lovely photos in the article, but I also recommend the video towards the bottom of the page.  It details the incredible rescue and conservation of many large floors as a new dam was under construction on the Euphrates River.  The conservators and archeologists were working to remove mosaics and seal and protect ones that would remain on the site as the rising waters were mere inches away.

The photo above is a detail of a floor depicting the nine muses.  This is Thalia, muse of music, comedy, and dance.  No wonder I like her!  I am totally intrigued by the 3-D rippling ribbon.


December 8, 2014

Hand-Rolled Hems


Repairing vintage clothing for Basya Berkman Vintage for these last few years has lead me to learn about all sorts of clothing construction techniques that I've never had to use before.

My mentors have been the generous folks who post how-to's on the internet.  I have learned how to mend holes in sweaters, so far just with bulky knits.  I have learned how to make swing tacks.  And just recently I learned how to sew a hand-rolled hem.  Let me tell you, I am now addicted to hand-rolled hems.  They are nearly magical!  I honestly was grinning the whole time.

I always feel it is great to be totally enchanted by the small things in Life!

Here is the saga of the rolled hem, starring a lovely Edwardian dress.

There was a small area at the back waist of this dress that had torn, and someone in the past had darned across the tear.  The area around it was weak, and we thought it wise to back it somehow to help prevent further tearing.

The fabric is a super light weight cotton.  After some trial and error, I settled on using a patch of white organza. And then I thought I'd look into a rolled hem, so as to finish the edge of the patch with as narrow an outline as possible.

And here comes the magic.

A narrow single turn.  Stitches alternate between going horizontally within the fold and horizontally in the flat of the patch, just outside the fold.  The key element is to keep the thread going pretty much perpendicular between the two rows of horizontal stitches.

And the magic word:  Pull.  A gentle pull straightens out the thread which magically rolls the fabric over itself.  Done.

Here is the patch applied to the inside of the dress with a running stitch, longer on the inside and short on the outside.  I stitched around the damaged area as well as the edge of the patch.

View with light behind, so you can see the patch:


And just for pure enjoyment, a couple of shots of the lovely embroidery detailing.  There's nothing that says garden party quite so well as a floaty Edwardian dress!





December 3, 2014

Silly, Silly

So here I am, having spent the day napping and nursing my incredibly sore sinuses and sometimes sore ears and throat.  And my mind, well, it's gone all silly.

My blog visitors graph is the culprit, and the cat head you all made by visiting my blog inspired me to add a little cartooning.  I hope you enjoy, and I'll be heading back to the couch now.



November 27, 2014

String Star

It's Thanksgiving here in the US.  This quilt combines stars and hearts and family mementos, so by way of giving thanks for brightness and love, here is its story.


This quilt came to me for minor repairs.  I find it very well balanced and visually pleasing.  The blocks are 25" square, so the overall effect is quite strong and graphic, but is balanced by the soft pink sashing and scrappy piecing of the stars.

One black plaid fabric was weak and worn throughout the quilt. Another fabric was totally missing from two places, not even a shred left to help understand what to patch with.  I found replacement fabrics that blended in, while giving some contrast to the fabrics directly on either side.  As I auditioned fabrics, I realized that the quilter had been pretty careful to not put similar fabrics as neighbors.

The pattern is called String Star.  A "new" fabric was made with strips of scrap fabric for each star point.  The diamond template was laid on that and then cut out.  These long, narrow strips of fabric are often the left overs from clothing construction.  When she bought the quilt, the owner was told that the stars were pieced with scraps from the dresses of the women and girls in just one family! That's inspiration for a great family memory quilt, isn't it?

The quilt dates to the 1940s or so.

The quilting is notable.  There are hearts in both the white corner squares of the blocks, and the white squares at the intersections of the sashing.


Sometimes, hearts on a quilt mean it was made for a wedding.  Whether or not that's true in this case, hearts are certainly a lovely sentiment!

November 24, 2014

Ballet Costumes and Inspiration

Welcome to some pre-holiday fun.


I recently visited Victoria Dancewear, a local ballet costume company.  Victoria designs ballet costumes, and has been in the clothing and costume biz all her life.  Victoria is my friend Julia's aunt, "the" Julia who sends me all the fun vintage clothing to repair for her Etsy shop.

Both Victoria and Julia credit their ancestor Basya Berkman for their love of clothing and design.  In fact, Julia named the Etsy shop in her honor.  It is so heartwarming that such an obviously creative and loving woman has such a wonderful legacy.

Here are photos from the visit.  Such a wonderful stash of fabrics, trims, colors and beautifully designed dresses and tutus!  I came away totally inspired!


These are boxes and boxes of completed costumes, ready for sale.

Here's the sewing area, where samples of new designs are made and sized.  


Here's the lovely, long worktable, and Victoria at her desk.

Here we are, looking over the wonderful fabrics.  So much ballerina sparkle and fluff!

What could be cuter than a poufy purple little girl dress and a bear to match?

Thanks, Victoria, for such an inspirational visit!




November 18, 2014

Blog Celebration

Thanks to everyone out there in internet-land who subscribes to and visits my blog!


Here's what happened today:


50,000 page views!!  There have been visitors from 131 countries!!

I started blogging because both my kids told me that anyone who's in business these days absolutely must have a blog.  I resisted for quite a while.  My impression of the blogging world was one of boring, self-serving rambles.  And I had no idea that I could come up with anything worthwhile to post about.

But eventually, they convinced me to get started.  And now I really enjoy blogging!  I do like to write.  I enjoy being able to document and share the wonderful quilts and vintage garments that pass through my studio.  I enjoy sharing design and technique ideas - mostly because I've gained lots of knowledge and inspiration from other people's postings, so I feel good giving ideas as well as taking them.  And finally, my kids were right, blogging has been good for business.  It helps introduce me and what I do, which is especially important for me, because lots of my business comes via my website and the internet.  

About the quilt:
Lighten Up!side Down
Made in 2001
41" x 42"
Fabrics - cotton, organza, velvet, acetate, lamé, polyester, floss. 
Techniques - machine appliquéd and quilted. hand embroidered.

I was given the challenge to make a quilt about joy. In this self-portrait, I am wearing some silly clothes I wore to go trick-or-treating with my kids.  I'm not really this good at cartwheels, though!  I inherited many of the fabrics from the stash of folksinger Gerry Armstrong.  I grew up listening to her glorious voice and the folk music of her family.  She showed up unexpectedly at my little quilting circle one evening, and became a friend.  One of my most treasured memories is the time she sang my newborn daughter to sleep.  She taught me alot about many things in life, joy included, so this quilt is also a tribute to her.


Smiling Corn


Here's a 1950s Double 4-Patch comforter.  

It's got a fine collection of 1950s colors and prints.  Here are my favorites, with the best saved until last.

 straw-wrapped chianti bottles

little boy and kittens (probably older than the '50s)

grey lattice print with stars and flowers

cheerful backing fabric

and.......the fabric which gives this post its title:
smiling ears of corn
really!
I am totally in love with this fabric!  I laugh every time I look at it.



I hope I can stumble upon a full piece of it someday.  Wouldn't that be a happy find!

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