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
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!

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.

The hey-day of the crazy quilt was the Victorian era, the 1880s and 1890s.  Silk satins, ribbon, and velvets, and tons of intricate embroidery, like this one that I repaired a short while ago:

The crazy quilt tradition continued into the 20th century, often in wools and cottons, often with less embroidery.  Here's an example:

The quilt in the first photo maintains the look of the Victorian quilts, but was made in the 1920s or 1930s.  Some of the fabrics are silk (and needed patching because of splitting, just like a Victorian-era quilt).  But some of the fabrics are early rayons - evidenced by their condition, and even more, by the colors and print styles.

The embroidery is really fun.  This quilter certainly loved her French knots!  Also, she devised some interesting geometric patterns.  To me, these also echo the 1920s-30s esthetic.  Less floral, less traditional stitches, more contemporary and heading towards the Art Deco era.

These next 3 photos show more examples of these things: 1920s-30s-style rayon prints, modernistic geometric embroidery patterns, and some Victorian-like hand-painted flowers.  This quilter was really straddling the centuries!

I include these little corners, because I love the way the embroidery echoes the prints in both color and design, and adds that little something extra as well.

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.

Stephanie has kindly put up a guest post by me, an overview of basic quilt repair concepts.  Lots of what I've learned with quilts over all these years is equally useful for any sort of vintage or antique textile item, so I hope will be helpful to her readers.

Here are two of her most popular posts:

Spencerian Lady's Hand

Civil War Men's Shirt Pattern

And here are photos from a few of her posts that I found really fun:

She experiments with vintage recipes, like this one from 1799 for potash cakes.

Peterson's Magazine published instructions for this talma shawl in 1859.  Stephanie is a knitter, and is working on an updated wording.

I love this dinner menu from 1860.  This is quite a meal indeed!

And, here's a selection of photos from the Middletown Peach Festival.  These folks really know their stuff.   

These photos remind me of something I've come to realize from the costuming I've been doing - isn't it interesting that for so much of history, everyone always wore a hat outdoors.

Well, making contacts like this is what makes the "interwebs" such fun!  

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.

The initial inspiration was the 1940s quilt I recently repaired.  I was really drawn to the Art Deco style of the block, and then I stumbled upon the name - Cleopatra's Fan.  This is such a perfect pairing of influences for me, because Ancient Egyptian artifacts and culture were what inspired me to major in archeology in college.

In keeping with my challenge, which "requires" the patchwork design of the quilt to relate to the prints on the fabrics, I decided to combine the block with a single, large, fabric sample featuring palm trees.  I went from there, choosing fabrics that had some of the look and feel of Egyptian design and royal gold.

This is the layout concept, pinned to my design wall. The white paper squares represent the Cleopatra's Fan blocks.  The layout was limited by the size of the fabrics.  I would've liked to show more tan space around the trees, but what you see there is pretty much all there was, i.e. not much on the right side.  And the fabrics behind the blocks are also limited in width to what you see.  So I had to make the blocks fit on top of that.  I used the on-line pattern discovered by a wonderful reader of this blog, and printed it at a reduced percentage.

I pinned up fabric combos for the fan blocks.  You'll notice the combos changed a lot as I actually designed the blocks.  At this point, I was just happy to meet my goal of having the the colors pop against the more neutral colors everywhere else.

Somehow all of a sudden, I got the idea to create temple pillars on each side of the center panel.  I reversed placement of the soft green and the tan/rust print.

Next, I cut and pinned the fan blocks, checking color and balance.  I narrowed the fabrics down to three in each block.  I also was auditioning another fabric for the top panel background.  The first one seemed too light and too pink.  I didn't like this second one either; the print was too bold and detracted from the blocks.

Here's another piece auditioning at the top.  Too bright.  I thought maybe putting some on the sides as well would help.  Nope.

The top piece I settled on is still not exactly what I wanted, but I can make a case for it.  It's pale blue, so kind of sky-ish, also shiny like a crazy-hot Egyptian sunny day. I can stretch a point, and say that the design is kind of Greco-Roman-ish.  That's OK because in Cleopatra's time, Egypt was within the Grecian empire; Cleopatra was Macedonian, not Egyptian.

I really enjoy the challenge of working with what I've got.  I kept wishing there were two pieces of the fabric behind the bottom blocks.  But then again, that might have made the quilt just a little more predictable and boring.  Right?

Also, I started playing with shapes and fabrics for the capitals and bases of the columns.  I looked online for photos of temple pillar proportions and decorations.

Here's the final, pinned-up design before the actual stitching began. The little striped edge to the palm trees was a last minute inspiration.  It gives the quiet center panel just a little bit of extra brightness, which draws the eye there better, instead of having the fans and columns totally steal the show.

All the sewing is appliqué.  These fabrics are various weights, and many are too thick and stiff to lay well after piecing.  I used invisible nylon thread with a zig-zag stitch, not too open, not too close, but juuuust right.

And - the finished quilt.  The woven lines of the palm tree fabric made me think of wind, and became the theme of the quilting pattern.  The blocks and columns have quilting around the fabric pieces.

All this from the inspiration of one 1940s quilt plus a box of random fabrics!