August 26, 2015

Photographs, Embroidery, and Everything

Last week I had a great walk-and-talk in the woods with my good friend Rin.  We talked about "life, the universe, and everything" (as we like to say at my house, hearkening back to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). 

And I took pictures.  Lots of pictures.  For the last year I've been keeping what I call a photo diary, taking photos (mostly) every day that are either lovely or meaningful to the day's activities or hopefully both.  It's an exercise in mindfulness, being present.

I love this color combination.  Well, green is my favorite color to begin with.  The addition of yellow and purple is vibrant, even in the shade.

Then later that day, I did some more embroidering on my long-term tablecloth project, and lo and behold, the colors are.......

It's cutwork embroidery, started by my mother-in-law.  My husband thinks she probably made a dozen of these for family and friends.  I brought it home when we closed out my in-laws' apartment, and have been working on it off and on for the last few years.  I wonder if she started making this one with me in mind.  The colors certainly suit my tastes!  In any case, I am very grateful to have it, and to be sewing on it. 

Posts about the progress of the tablecloth are at:  June 2012 and April 2014

And here are a few other woodsy photos.
spring green leaves in late August

caterpillar traversing the leaf litter

reflection alá Monet

the heron, owning it all

August 24, 2015

Sharing Some Fun Blogging

Stephanie Ann, over at her blog World Turn'd Upside Down, posted two really fun items last week.
Stephanie Ann is a re-enactor, historian, crafter, and cook whose blog has tons of great info on all these things, well worth a visit.

One -
Her new 1940s dress.
Photo: World Turn'd Upside Down
I just love the 40s styling.  It has some pretty detailed patterning and extra seams, but the end result is much more exciting than shaping the look just with basic darts.  (Be sure to scroll down to the end of the post.  Stephanie has included links to other folks who've used the same pattern, so you can see it in a variety of fabrics.)

I'm reminded of a dress I mended for Basya Berkman not long ago.  It's a 1930s-40s rayon.  I don't have photos of the whole dress yet, but here are a couple of construction details.  And I just love the fabric.  (You can see from the seam allowances along the zipper how much it's faded over the years.  I think I like it both ways, new and aged.)

Shirring at the neckline.

Bust fullness made by gathering into a shaped midriff panel.

Sleeve cuff shape and gathering echoes the midriff.

On the model.

Two -
Stephanie shared a post from a conservation site called In The Artifact Lab in which a conservator details her tool kit.  Most surprising tool - a porcupine quill!

I'm fascinated by the knowledge and skill of top-notch conservators.  The Conservation Center in Chicago is an amazing conservation lab.  Their newsletter highlights their most interesting projects and is great fun to read.

If I had it to do all over again, I might pursue a conservation degree.  For me, "the older the better" has always been my motto!

August 20, 2015

Yep, I'm Crowing - Publicity Came Looking For Me

They say that the best kind of publicity is a free write-up, and they say that it doesn't matter what the reporter actually says as long as she spells your name right.  Well, I'm sailing along with both of those today, and what she said was pretty nice, too!

I just got written up in an article in Crain's Chicago Business!  I am happy to say that I'm one of only seven "old-school artisans" in the piece.

The Fixers: Meet the Area's Top Artisans and Restorers

The article certainly puts my name in front of lots of people in a very different realm.  Best yet, I've already been contacted by someone who saw the article! 

The backstage story behind my bit of the article belies the calm, to-the-point presentation.  We were returning home from Philly, having had a wonderful weekend seeing our daughter's choreography performed at a pretty big-name dance festival.  We had a quick change of planes in Cincinnati.  When we landed there and I turned on my phone, I was met by multiple urgent texts and missed calls from my daughter Katrina and my friend Julia.

The reporter, having not been able to reach me while in airplane-mode, had sleuthed around in my blog and pursued my vintage clothes connection with Julia at her Etsy shop address.  Julia contacted Katrina, because she knew we'd been with her in Philly.

I had absolutely no time to call the reporter from Cincinnati, with just barely enough time to scoot across the airport to the second flight.  Katrina called the reporter and told her when I'd be on the ground in Chicago.

The urgency was that the reporter's deadline was that evening and she needed to interview me before 5:00 and it was already something like 3:00 when we landed!  I gave her a quick call as we trundled through the airport, and then I called for real from the cab and she interviewed me en route from the airport to our house!  I was pretty amazed that I was able to focus and sound even remotely intelligent.

Talk about a wild and wacky day!

August 17, 2015

Mending a 1950s Party Dress

A lovely 1950s vintage, pink lace party dress....

....with a huge rip in the pleated net skirt panel.  It's this pleated panel that gives the dress its special styling.  (I stuck a piece of blue fabric underneath so the net shows better in the photos.)  One side of the net was torn more or less horizontally and about 18" up from the hem.

I mentioned this dress a while ago in a previous post called "When Mending a Dress is More Like Engineering than Sewing."  Julia, my vintage clothing buddy, captured the "oh-yeah" moment in which I discovered that the plan I'd imagined was probably going to actually work!

What I finally decided to do was cut out the vertical section of the net that contained the tear.  Because of the pleats, there is enough net that losing that piece wasn't going to make a terribly huge difference.  In the photo here, I'm cutting along the seam that joined the net to the lace.  Then I also cut along the pleat just past the end of the tear.  Thanks to the pleating, I had a built-in cutting line - no measuring or marking required!

Here, my husband is holding the piece of torn netting that I removed.  It's still attached at the waistline at this point.

Next I stitched the new edge of the net to the lace.  It took just a little finagling up at the waistline.

 And here's the completed dress, ready to party again.

Just imagine how much fun it'd be, spinning across the dance floor!  (Julia's got my engineering project up for sale on eBay.) 

August 10, 2015

One of Those Amazing Coincidences

So, the other day, my husband and I were at the bank to sign some papers on a financial thingy.  We were ushered into a conference room and ---

The very first thing I saw was the chairs.  The chairs!  I whipped out my camera and took a couple of pictures.

For the last few years, I've been working on a series of quilts called "Something From Nothing", my own personal challenge project using decorator fabric samples. 

And........  The chairs are upholstered in one of the fabrics I used in one of the quilts!  Such fun!

The quilt is called "Something From Nothing -- Off Center".  It's 27" x 35".

In keeping with the challenge I set myself for this series, I used all the colorways of this pattern that I had, and I designed the quilt to relate to the pattern.  The appliqued rings and dots are all made with other circle prints, all from the stash of decorator samples.  The dots and the buttons I added are the same size as the design elements in the print.

Those chairs made my day, for sure!

For more on this series of quilts check out these previous posts:
--  the story of how the series came about
-- photos of some recently completed quilts
-- descriptions of the design process and step-by-step photos for two of the larger and more complex quilts - Something From Nothing -- Cleopatra's Fan and Something From Nothing -- What the Birds See

August 3, 2015

History Comes to Life on a Quilt - Part 4

Part 4.  A Window on Life in 1897

(Part 1 tells the background of a quilt inscribed with many names, and how I started my search for the details of its history.  Part 2 details some of the interesting family stories.  Part 3 tells a long story about three intertwined families.)

In general, I'm noticing that many households included more than our typical nuclear families.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that most families took in extended family members when the need arose, single or widowed aunts and uncles and parents, for example.  Many households took in boarders, and many hired servants, often recently arrived from Ireland, especially during the early childbearing years.  Hardly anyone lived alone.

Most people didn't move around much.  Most people were born in Massachusetts or other New England states.  And they pretty much stayed put in Melrose or the nearby area.  Some people were immigrants from Europe, generally British, or from Canada.  The most far-flung I've found is Sarah Hart Hunt and her brother Sidney Hart.  One of their parents came from Nova Scotia and the other came from Cuba.

The Workaday World

It's fun also to note the professions of the time.  Some sound very familiar - physician, clergyman, carpenter, superintendent, accountant, mechanic, vocal teacher, professor at training school.  Some are probably careers that are still around today, just expressed somewhat differently - sea captain, real estate dealer, lumber camp laborer, clerk, proprietor of a grocery store, retail merchant of home furnishings, sewer inspector.  Salesmen are listed with the particular product - tea and coffee, beef, lace curtains.  Clerks and bookkeepers worked at an elevator company, railroad, bank, state prison, and manufacturing company.

But some professions are clearly from a different era:
leather cutter
drawbridge operator
paper hanger
rubber shoe maker
clerk, patent medicine
brass finishing
comb manufacturer

And some will take some research to understand:
clerk, patterns

These lists concern the men.  The most common listing for women is "keeping house".  Sometimes, when unmarried or widowed, they owned the houses in which they lived and took in boarders.  Women sometimes had careers outside the home, too.  The women of Melrose were:
teacher, public school
supervisor, public school
cashier, dry goods
music teacher
milliner, department store
owner, millinery shop

In 1880, Harriet Cobb was living in Cambridge, MA, age 41.  She was a widow and a physician.  She was living with her mother and two younger brothers, one a store clerk and one (if I'm reading it correctly) a manufacturer of straw goods.  In 1900, she was still living in Cambridge and still a physician.  She was living with two of her sisters, seven boarders, and two servants.  She is notable as the only woman I've found so far that has entered what was then so clearly a man's profession.  Both she and Jenny Howes who owned a millinery shop were widows.


And then there are the names!  Such wonderful names, just right, not surprisingly, for a period novel!
My favorite: Charlotte Saltmarsh
Clara Fogg
Fannie Macomber
Sophronia A. Ford
Reginald Wooldridge
Belle M. Montgomery
Augustus L. Holmes
Sarah M. Lavender
Ella Laviolette

I intend to keep researching until I've found everyone I can.  I'm having such a good time!

(Part 5 sums up my research.  Part 6 shares the first information from librarians and historians in Melrose.  And a little aside about the fun of being able to look at original records online.)