December 31, 2015

Darn It! - Creative Mending

This post about creative mending is in honor of my personal New Year's tradition of mending everything I can during this week.  (I don't just do sewing mends, but I'm not going to tell you here about the new seat in my bentwood rocker and stuff like that.)  I like the symbolism of starting the year with a clean slate.  Or mostly clean slate.  I'm coming to terms with the reality that Life is never fully mended....

A short while ago, my blog was mentioned on a site called "Sew Mama Sew" - nice name, huh?  The article is called "All About Textile Repair: How to Repair with Stitching".  The theme is about making repairs that add something new - sparks of color, whimsy, a new design element, etc.

The photos in the article show loads of ways to use darning, sashiko stitching, and the like.  It looks really fun!  It makes me reminisce about the good ol' hippie days, when jeans were patched/embellished with colorful fabrics and embroidery.

This is a very different goal than what I usually hope for in my quilt and vintage clothing repair work.  I almost always focus either on restoration, bringing the piece back to its original appearance as closely as possible, or conservation, protecting and supporting the item in its current state.

But sometimes, using a repair to add something new is just the ticket.

The Sew Mama Sew article linked to the repair I did on a 1940s snowflake quilt, in which the patch over an iron scorch also became a label honoring the quilt's maker.  Part 1 tells the story of the quilt, which was inherited along with a diary with entries about how the quilt was made.  Part 2 details how my repair work was done.

Here are stories of other times I've made repairs that add something new to the piece.  I've done this more often with clothing than with quilts.  The following lovely vintage clothing items are available at my friend Julia's Etsy shop

This classy green silk dress had a spot on the bodice, with no way to make an invisible patch.  So I added a bias strip V in an antique gold fabric, echoing the seams on the bodice, and also added bias trim to the bow at the waist, so the necessary strip wouldn't look so out of place.

This perky little knit dress also had a stain, a brown blotch on the white neckline edging.  Since I'm so in love with buttons these days, I thought it'd be fun to use some of them.  I added enough to continue with the fun ambiance of the dress.

I added more beads to this wedding dress to cover holes in the netting at the front bodice.  It's a lovely dress, with the scalloped edge theme carried throughout.

This sweet dress was missing the zipper pull on the back.  Rather than replace the zipper (and because I didn't have a matching vintage zipper on hand), I made a new pull with an earring post, split rings, and pearls.

The jacket of this pink suit was missing all its buttons.  I chose some square white ones from my stash, and placed them on point to echo the triangle detailing of the pocket.

And finally, a couple of mends that don't add anything new, but that I'm really proud of.  This is a gorgeous wool cape.  The collar had a significant number of holes.  I found a nearly matching wool (in some lighting, very matching) and appliqued it on.  (Yes, to do so, I had to remove and reset the fringe dangles.)  It's a real beauty!

And to justify my current love of buying button collections at estate sales:  A tuxedo coat was missing just one button.  The photo shows one of the originals and the one I had in my stash.  You shoulda seen me grinning while I was sewing!

 And now I'm off to mend what I can of 2015 and get ready for new blogging adventures in 2016!

December 22, 2015

More About Conversation Prints

The previous post is about a 1940s hexagon quilt that has opened my eyes to mid-century conversation prints.  Barbara Brackman in her book Clues in the Calico defines conversation (aka conversational) prints as prints with recognizable objects other than flowers.

There are conversation prints from the late 1800s onward.  Brackman distinguishes the 20th century prints as less detailed and having more colors than the 19th century prints.  I would add that they tend to be very whimsical.

While poking around for info on these fabrics, I discovered a book that I think is going on my wish list:  Conversational Prints: Decorative Fabrics of the 1950s by Joy Shih

Here's a look back at some other blog posts of quilts I've repaired that I now realize have some very fun conversation prints:

There are conversation prints in my first quilt, which has fabrics from clothes my Mom and I made during the 1950s-70s.

The following print is very near and dear to my heart.  My Mom made me a blouse with this Egyptian print fabric because by the time I was about 10, I'd gotten really interested in archaeology, particularly inspired by the mysteries of ancient Egypt.  I ended up studying archaeology in college.  I still haven't made it to Egypt.  All my college excavation experience was Illinois.  And I didn't become an archaeologist, but I remain fascinated by ancient times and by the excitement of excavation.

I bought this little child-size pillow case at an estate sale as a source of aged white fabric.  Now I realize that it has a cute conversation print edging.

Here's another hexagons quilt, 1930s-40s, with a fun elephant print, cats in bloomers, and anchors and sailing ships.

This quilt has just a few triangles of a kids at play fabric.  I love that era where girls wore hairbows as big as their faces!  I have some photos of my mom dressed that way.


Here's a conversation print, upper right, in an Attic Windows quilt, dated 1959.

This mid-century Bow Tie quilt has a William Tell apple print!  And a kitchen utensils print.

I highlighted conversation prints in this Double 4-Patch quilt, straw-wrapped wine bottles, and especially the hysterical ears of corn.

This Spools quilt, dated 1965, has a print with large insects!

I bought a duster at an estate sale, specifically because of this fabric homage to Van Gogh.

Here's another large, representational print - cats!

Looking further back in time, this Capital T quilt, dated 1896, has a flag print commemorating, I'm pretty sure, the US support of the Cuban fight for independence from Spain.

I can see that conversation prints are going to be a fun topic for a long time to come!

December 21, 2015

The Joy of Conversation Prints

I recently repaired a 1940s hexagon quilt.  It was made by the owner's mother when she was a teen.  It's a smallish quilt, quite likely made for a twin bed.  There are cottons, rayons, and also, I think, a couple of silks.  It's what is generally called a summer quilt because it has no batting.  It needed several hexagons patched and a whole new back.

To be honest, this mid-century period is just not my favorite design-wise.  This is true of the fabrics and colors in the quilts as well as furniture design, and so on.  In other words, when an estate sale is full of supposedly exciting mid-century items, I usually don't go.

But this quilt taught me that I actually do like some of the fabrics from this era!  This is a good thing, since quilts of this age are coming to me more and more often for repair.

I am in love with conversation prints!  The most succinct definition of conversation (aka conversational) prints I've found (Barbara Brackman's Clues in the Calico) is that they have renditions of recognizable objects other than flowers.

Here are some goodies from this quilt:

This one fabric is a mini-world tour:

The rest of the fabrics are solids, plaids, and stripes, and what I'd call dreamy florals, medium-sized flowers made with soft brush strokes.  These kinds of prints don't seem to be very popular among the companies that print reproduction fabrics.  I'm going to have to keep an eye out for them at estate sales.

I'm including quite a few photos of these dreamy florals, because it's a look that I haven't been familiar with.




Here are swatches of the fabrics I used to patch over the torn hexagons.

My final photo is just for fun - the inside of the top after I removed the very torn backing fabric.  I like the texture, a sea of color. 

I'm glad to find a way to find fun in the mid-century style!  It reminds me of the lightbulb moment I had one fall - that instead of regretting the end of summer and dreading the coming winter, I could start to enjoy cooking soups and stews and lasagnas and breads that just can't be done in the hot weather.  And now, I'm a much happier person during the cold months.  Not warmer, just happier!  

The next post has photos of conversation prints I've found in other quilts I've repaired.

December 18, 2015

Favorite Quotes #11 - So Many Truths

Musings as we spin from the old year to the new one.....

I've liked this quote for many, many years.  It is from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.

" patience towards everything in your heart that has not been resolved and to try to cherish the questions themselves....  Do not hunt for the answers just now -- they cannot be given to you because you cannot live them.  What matters is to live everything.  And you must now live the questions.  One day perhaps you will gradually and imperceptibly live your way into the answer. "

Recently, I came across the words within a longer excerpt.  I think the short bit above appealed to me as a young adult, so full of questions and so wishing for answers.  The longer context, almost symbolically, now appeals to me as an older adult, having a broader perspective perhaps (hopefully!), but still looking for an understanding of my life's path.

"...if you stick with things such as those that refresh my eyes; if you stick with nature, with whatever is straightforward in it, with those small objects that hardly anyone ever sees and that can suddenly turn into something great and immeasurable; if you truly have such a love for the insignificant and, quite simply, as someone who wishes to serve, seek to gain the confidence of the seemingly impoverished, then you will find that everything will become easier, more consistent and somehow more malleable, perhaps not your intellect, which astonished, will fall behind, but in your innermost consciousness, alertness, and knowledge.

I should like to ask you dear sir, as well as I can, to show patience towards everything in your heart that has not been resolved and to try to cherish the questions themselves, like sealed rooms and books written in a language that is very foreign.  Do not hunt for the answers just now -- they cannot be given to you because you cannot live them.  What matters is to live everything.  And you must now live the questions.  One day perhaps you will gradually and imperceptibly live your way into the answer.  ....accept whatever comes with complete confidence  ....almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious.

Do you recall how ever since childhood this life has yearned for 'great things?'  I can see it now yearning further, from the great to the greater.  That is why it will not cease being difficult, and is also why it will not cease growing.

All that is necessary is that we should be in situations that work upon us and that put is from time to time in front of great natural things.

There are so many thoughts here for me to love!

The small and apparently insignificant relate to the grand and meaningful if we look long enough to accept the communion.

Our inner work will never cease.  And shouldn't.

And now, I particularly like this concept - " will find that everything will become easier, more consistent and somehow more malleable, perhaps not your intellect, which astonished, will fall behind, but in your innermost consciousness, alertness, and knowledge."   

This gives me a bunch of lovely, peaceful thoughts at this time of my life when I am finding myself especially curious about my path forward form here, and more and more aware that Life will always be a mystery, unsolved by the intellect, full of still unanswered questions.  Coming to terms with that as a beautiful thing.  Letting the intellect "fall behind", being with whatever presents itself, seems to be a constant challenge for me.