March 31, 2015

Zipper and Pearls

My friend Julia found this really cute 1950's party dress - in perfect condition except for missing the zipper pull.  Rather than replace the vintage metal zip with a new-fangled nylon one, I crafted a replacement pull from my stash of jewelry-making supplies.

bodice back

I used a sturdier split ring rather than a single jump ring.

Sometimes repair work is more like engineering than sewing!  This is certainly true of costuming as well, what with needs for crafting hidden closures for clothes that need to handle quick costume changes and so on.

See more photos and get more info about the dress at Basya Berkman Vintage Fashion.

March 26, 2015

This Baby Quilt is Already Nearly 35 Years Old

One of the great perks of the quilt repair biz is taking in quilts that come with great stories.  Here's one.

This quilt was begun nearly 35 years ago, in 1980.  A woman started making it for her godson, but never quite got it finished.  All quilters know what that is like, right?  Over the years, it traveled with her on many, many cross-country moves.

Now, her 35-year-old godson is about to become a father.  She brought the quilt to me for completion.

She had completed all the appliqué and embroidered her godson's name in the top border.  She had layered the quilt and stitched around the edges.  She had done a bit of the quilting, by machine.

What was left was to close up the open edge where she had turned the quilt and to complete the machine quilting.

Also, she asked me to embroider the new baby's name on a separate piece of new fabric and add it to the bottom border.

I found a font very similar to the one she had used for her godson's name and made a few alterations to it.  I printed out the name and traced the letters onto the fabric.  I posted about that technique when I added a dedication to a vintage snowflake quilt.  (While you're checking out the technique, you might also want to go to read the story of that quilt - it's amazing.)

I quilted parallel lines in the borders and outlined the appliqué shapes.  I traced one of the heart appliqués and used that as a template for more quilting in the blue gingham background.

It's really a sweet design, isn't it?  I especially like use of eyelet fabric and lace for the lamb's fluffy fur.  I also like that the butterflies are made from hearts.  And yes, those ears and the tail are 3-D.

And I like that it's a family heirloom right from the start!

p.s.  A month or so after finishing this quilt, I found the pattern at an estate sale!  Here's the info on that. 

March 21, 2015

A Quilt Stitched by Many Hands

This quilt now belongs to an 11 year old girl.  The quilt was made in 1987 by her mom's sister, her aunt, in a high school Home Ec class as a gift for her mom's high school graduation.  Her mom took it to college with her.  She has now given the quilt to her daughter, who shares the name of the aunt who made the quilt.

In the early 90s or so, it needed some repairs.  It was sent down to Georgia to a family friend who belonged to a quilting circle.  The Georgia ladies also added a lot of hand-quilting to the original machine work.

The next time it needed help, it went to a college friend of the girl's mother.  She has a business making curtain and other home dec items, called While Teddy Sleeps.

The next person to stitch on the quilt was a caregiver who had emigrated from Thailand.  She and her husband now own a popular restaurant called Montera's Thai.  (I'm going to have to eat there soon!)

Finally, a more recent caregiver picked out fabrics, adding her own inspirations to the overall design, but didn't want to do the sewing.  So she did some research and found me.

She chose fabrics to add a night and day theme to the center squares in each block.  Sometimes, the underlying fabric was really OK, but I went ahead and put her night and day fabrics in all the blocks to keep her theme intact.

She also gave me scraps of fabric left over from making the girl's baby quilt.  Besides adding a memento, these fabrics also added more blue which is the girl's favorite color.  I used them to patch some of the triangles.

By now, there is quite a bit of patching!  The quilt combines the artistry of the family and friends who have touched the lives of this girl and her mother.  It is soft with age, and so very well loved.

Much of the orginal work had been done on the machine with a zig-zag stitch, so that is what I did, too.  There was a lot of wear on the quilt, sometimes also needing batting to be patched in.  It went from this look....: this:

Here's the mending process on one block:



Just recently, I learned about a Japanese tradition called "boro".  Boro is the repeated mending of clothing and bedding, an art born of necessity by Japanese peasants over many generations.  The word actually means rags or scraps of cloth.  Clothing and bedding were mended, and the mends mended, for decades.  The result is a patchwork of various shades of worn fabrics, often with criss-cross stitching to add support and strength.  Today, boro have become collectable.  

For good descriptions of the boro tradition, see these articles:

Here is a photo from another article which has several nice pictures:

The quilt I repaired has an entirely different look of course, but I think the result is the same - an object that carries many stories, the work of many hands, and a depth of family history.

March 13, 2015

Hexagons and Elephants

There are soooooo many Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts out there, that it's really fun to see someone doing something else with the good ol' hexagon!

This is like the hexagon version of the Trip Around the World pattern, isn't it?

I think that this quilt was made in the late 1930s / early 1940s, and has the usual variety of colorful prints and the signature solid pastels of that era.  This quilt was made by the owner's grandmother.  She was a professional seamstress.  This is quite clear.  The piecing is great and the quilting is especially notable for those coveted small and even stitches.

One of the prints just tickled me - elephants!

Here are some photos of the other fabrics in the quilt, but as you can see, I was so taken with the friendly little elephants, that I decided to include them in every photo!  To the right of the elephants are some little cats in bloomers.  And above the animals, a print of tiny sailboats and anchors.

Here are florals, both large and small, checks and stripes, and a geometric circles print.

This photo also shows the deep binding strip that I used to cover up the edges that had lots and lots of tears.  Occasionally, I also patched some of the tips of the purple hexagons, when the tears went further into the quilt.

March 8, 2015

Favorite Quotes #8 - The Patchwork Girl of Oz

My son and I, when he was around 10 or so, read through the whole series of Oz books by L. Frank Baum.  There is so much more to the world he created than what is in the movie classic.  First off, the movie is based on just the first of the 14 books in his series.  And really, the movie is even not much like that first original book.  The Oz in the books is much less fantasy and, I think, more of a utopian vision by Baum.  My son and I had many long discussions about how the Oz world differs from our own.

There are lots and lots of characters that Dorothy encounters during her multi-volume journey through Oz.  Of course, I was most drawn to this character, the Patchwork Girl of Oz.  She has her own book, and even her own movie, produced in 1914 by Baum himself.

Her name is "Scraps".  She was made from an old quilt by the wife of a magician who had a powder that brought her to life.  She is more than a little bit floppy.  She is naive (her head is filled with cotton, after all) and comical and very energetic.  I have had this picture of her, one of the illustrations in the book, in my collection of refrigerator philosophy for quite a while now.  (She doesn't appear on my refrigerator quilt though, since I met her after I made that quilt.)

Scraps says of herself, ""Patches, patches, pick some pretty patches! Put the pretty patches in the patchwork quilt! Patches, patches, pick some pretty patches! I'm sewn and stuffed with cotton, they added yarn for hair, the one thing they forgot is a heart I do declare! But who needs a heart? Not me, I swear! From velvet to satin in blue or pink, and every fabric you could possibly think! Because when you're made of patches, life is giddy all day! So I'll be singing my song, and dancing along, on my happy little patchwork way! "

This crazy quilt looks a bit like Scraps herself and was made c. 1900, not too far from 1913 when the book was published.
more info about this quilt