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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

November 18, 2014

Blog Celebration

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

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.

November 15, 2014

Crazy Quilt, c. 1925

Here's another beautiful crazy quilt to add to all the collection of crazies I've documented on this blog.  What makes this crazy quilt stand out from the crowd is the era and the fabric choices.

November 10, 2014

World Turn'd Upside Down

Dancing the Virginia Reel, 1897

Here's a great person I met via the internet.  She wrote to me about a post, and upon reading her blog and her "all about me", I saw that we have many, many interests in common.

Her name is Stephanie Ann and her blog, World Turn'd Upside Down, is a wonderful collection of all things historic.  She is a re-enacter, and so is interested in absolutely all aspects of historical lifeways.  There are hours of great reading here!  The illustrations in this post can be found, along with many others, on her blog.

November 5, 2014

Cleopatra's Fan

My entry in this year's Fine Art of Fiber show is another in my series of quilts called Something From Nothing.  This is my own little challenge project, made with decorator fabric samples and other "found object" fabrics and trims.  You can find photos of the whole collection on my website.

What follows are the steps I took to create this quilt.

October 31, 2014

My Quilt Care Book - Update

Hey, hey!  I am sooooo excited!!!  My book on caring for antique quilts is having just kind of success I hoped for!  

I heard recently from a quilt restorer who has been using the info in my book, and having great results.  She wrote, "I've consulted your book many times, so thanks again for the great advice."  

Here are her before and after photos, and comments.  I am extremely grateful for her permission to share them with you.  Just look at her beautiful work!

"The red, black and white quilt was used and much loved by the owner and her dog.  The dog had taken several areas away from the edges. I was extremely lucky to find fabrics that were very close in color.  I was able to add a little batting and stitch in the replacement pieces."

October 26, 2014

Favorite Quotes #6 - It's The Little Things

I've been caught up in a book by Elizabeth Goudge called "The Bird in the Tree".

It's a rather slow moving story - one that in the book group we had with homeschooling teens and their parents would have elicited the oft-heard comment, "But nothing happened."  So far, and I'm a third of the way into it, it's much more of a character study with lovely, lovely poetic descriptions of Nature and Life.  And I always love a good tale told in poetic language.

Here are a few noteworthy quotes, about art, and therefore about Life ......

October 20, 2014

Kampsville Quilts

What does this:

(photo IL State Museum)

have to do with this?

Answer:  Kampsville, Illinois.

October 10, 2014

Twinkle, Twinkle

Twinkle, Twinkle, Kathy's Star

This happy quilt came to me with several tears and some weak and splitting fabrics, which I patched.  The owner is taking the quilt to someone in her area that does long arm machine quilting, who can help replace at least some of the missing quilting.  The thread has weakened and snapped throughout the quilt.

There's nothing unusual to tell about the repairs.  It's the design and story that make this quilt special.

Here's the inscription on the label:

October 6, 2014

Three Pine Trees

The quiltmaker's name was Jeanette Cooper.  She was the second wife of the owner's great-grandfather, Herbert Dudley.  His first wife had died in childbirth and Jeanette was employed as the housekeeper.  She then married Herbert, and the owner's grandmother was their only child.  Jeanette died just two weeks before the owner's mother was born, in July 1933.

An additional family story tells that Jeanette's stepmother had tried to poison her when she was a child!  She certainly added some interesting tales to the family "story book."

September 30, 2014

Narrative Portraits

My Grandma, Marion Straus, c. 1899-1900
My previous post introduced you to a vintage collector I've just met via blogging, and some lovely old French fabrics.  Here's an intro to another friend of mine.

My friend Barbara Novak has a really interesting and unusual business.  She makes audio recordings of elders speaking about their lives and experiences so that they can review and interpret their lives, and so that families can keep and share family tales and memories.  She's just recently been starting up a second theme - stories about birthing babies.  Barb has loads of experience as an oral historian and interviewer, and is able to gently draw out lots of information and thoughtful insights.  I love the name she's given her business.

September 25, 2014

Vintage French Fabrics

A short while ago, I came across a really nice blog that I'd like to share with you.  Actually, to be more precise, this blogger came across my blog and wrote to me with a question.  I, of course, visited her blog as I was answering her, and was really excited by her posts.

The blog is called "Treasures From A French Attic".

September 20, 2014

Shipping Quilts

Over the last couple of months, I've had quilts arrive from customers in some pretty badly battered boxes.  So I decided to write some guidelines for packing for safe shipping.

Here's one battered box.  It's quite crumpled and almost bashed in.  Also, one digit was missing from my house number on the address label.

September 15, 2014

Ice Skating Costume

This friendship goes way back, 14 years and counting.  My son met Chris Davis in a gymnastics class when they were 6 or so, and his mom and I struck up a great friendship sitting on the benches outside class each week.

Chris has gotten seriously into competition level ice dance.  At this point, I consider him another son, so when they come to me for costume help, I am right there!

September 11, 2014

Embroidery Mistresspiece part 3

Here's how I replaced and re-embroidered a couple of patches on this wonderful crazy quilt.

Usually, I patch just up to the embroidery, so the original stitches are maintained.  But there were a couple of patches where the embroidery covered nearly the whole fabric, so the owner and I decided that I should replace both.

The worn patch.
This photo became my reference for reproducing the embroidery.

September 10, 2014

Embroidery Mistresspiece part 2

Here is a wonderful story from the owner of this wonderful, mistresspiece crazy quilt:

"When I was a teenager I mowed a lawn for a very nice elderly lady in St. Petersburg Florida. She had a very large Spanish home that had been built in the 1920’s and was beautifully maintained. In the summers she had me do various things around the house and always brought me inside to talk to me before I left to go home. At the age of 78 she was courted by a gentleman who had owned the first Ford dealership in Philadelphia and was very wealthy, he swept her off her feet and they were married and moved to his home in Palm Springs Florida. Before she left she told me she had something special for me and gave me the quilt.

September 9, 2014

Embroidery Mistresspiece part 1

This quilt is a full-out embodiment of the height of the crazy quilt style.  The embroidery is off the charts for precision and creativity.  

Here are some pieces where the maker toyed with and built upon the designs on the fabrics:

September 1, 2014

1920s Beads and Fringe

A good friend of mine is sharing these lovely family heirloom pieces with us.  They belonged to her mother, as flapper style as you can get!  Shapeless, drapey, and embellished like crazy.

Dress No. 1
chiffon with underdress
beaded with seed beads and pearls
pearl dangles at the shoulders
ruched flowers at the waist

Dress No. 2
fringed and tasseled
I can only imagine how stupendous this dress must've been for dancing the Charleston!


Beaded bag No. 1
beaded loops
closed by a drawstring chain through metal loops

Beaded bag #2
solidly beaded, including the handle
beaded fringe - note how the fringe loops intertwine

August 26, 2014

First Prize Quilt

This surely is a "collector's dream" quilt.

It pretty certainly dates to the 1930s.  The peach and soft green were both new and popular colors at the time. I think the cream background is fairly close to the original color, i.e. not a yellowing of a truer white.

The appliqué and quilting are both masterfully stitched.  Actually, maybe I should say super fantastically out-of-this-world stitched.

Not surprisingly, this is a prize-winning quilt.

There is a rectangular area at one edge, about 1.5 by 2 feet, where the fabrics are generally worn.  The fabric may be slightly stained there, a bit of a yellowish tint, so maybe there was a spill of something that mostly washed out.  Washing it might help avoid further damage, but also always has the potential to cause more damage.  I would not attempt to wash a quilt of this value at home, and instead take it to a conservation lab.

I would never actually patch over this area either, because there is no way ever to reproduce the fabrics and workwomanship well enough to have a pleasing outcome.  The owner and I discussed having me put a layer of crepeline silk over the area, but in the end I decided against that, too.  Right now, the quilt is just going back into storage, so there is not going to be any stress or rubbing that could make matters worse.  Adding crepeline would add stitches and extra handling, and also would be more visible than the damage, as a lightening of the area.  The documented history of the quilt adds to the reasons to leave it alone.

The only thing this quilt really needs is to be re-folded periodically in different places, and to have the folds padded.  You can see the prominent creases from long-time storage.  Eventually, the fabrics will be more likely to break along creases.  So it's always best to leave the neat, orderly, housewifely folding behind, and re-fold often and randomly.  It's also highly recommended to pad the folds with acid-free tissue paper (available at conservation supply stores, such as Talas) rolled into"logs".  This avoids those sharp fold lines.
(The quilt measures 82" x 98", too big for me to spread out without moving furniture and too big anyway to get effectively all in the shot, so that's why the right edge is folded in.)

I posted about a vintage photo of some visitors at an Illinois state fair quilt display in 1947, a little later than this quilt, but it's fun to imagine the stir this one probably made at its public appearance.

I took this view of the quilt just so we can all imagine waking up on a gentle, sunny morning with this quilt spread over us and spring birds chirping.  Or maybe it's even better to imagine it on a grey, drizzly late winter morning when we need a little color and gracefulness to help us get out of bed.