May 31, 2016

New Quilts

I'm so excited!  Over the last couple of months, I've finished 6 new quilts for my Something From Nothing series.  And I have 4 more in varying stages of design and stitching.  I am bound and determined to get this series to a place that feels like completion.

The series is made mostly with decorator fabric samples, plus other bits and pieces of otherwise unwanted fabrics.  You can see the whole series on my website and the stories of making some of the quilts here on the blog.

Here are the newbies:

4 By 4
14 1/2" x 14 1/2"

 Leaded Glass

North South East West
33 1/2" x 33 1/2"
(In which I learned that it not wise to try to machine appliqué on velvet.....)


 Squares, Mostly
20 1/2" x 20 1/2"

(Made from silk fabric sample squares.)

Next up:  using floral prints to make a flowerbed of kanzashi flowers, Oriental-style and bamboo prints as a three-panel screen, neutral and olive botanic prints to evoke a garden at dusk, something or other with an interesting collection of antique gold and navy prints, and so on, and on, and on......

May 16, 2016

Formal Wear Quilt: BowTies and Tuxedos

This quilt combines many of my criteria for a wonderful quilt - it has a creative design, a great story, and it's signed and dated!

The story is that the quilt disappeared about 12 years ago, quite distressing of course.  Then this fall, Richard's partner and sister found the quilt in a storage shed on the family farm.  They snuck the quilt out of the house, found me, I cleaned and repaired it, and then they happily returned the quilt to Richard.  I just love this!

Given the long-term storage in very poor conditions, the quilt was in great shape.  Miraculously, there were no awful stains or mildewing, even though the box it was found in had gotten wet on the bottom.  There was very little damage aside from the disintegrating border fabric, just a few small tears here and there.

My first step was giving it a good bath.  Let’s just say it *really* needed a bath.  I gave it two rounds of soaping since the first one produced water the color of tea.  After the second wash, the rinse water finally ran clear.  Fabrics that used to be white or cream have still got a bit of a tan cast to them, but the discoloration is even and not distracting.

soak in plain water

first soap

second soap


I covered the borders with a new black.  The original quilting was still intact and not restitched.  I stitched closed about 10 little slits and patched over one little square in a 9-patch.

The design:  The combination of the bow tie and 9-patch blocks makes a fun rhythm.  The bowties are 5" blocks; the 9-patches are 4".  The fabrics are a great collection of 1970-ish black, white, and grey prints.


The light print here is my favorite - circles and squares and color gradation all accomplished by the clever use of tiny dots.

Richard's mother sewed tucks in the fabric of the alternate blocks.  After a bit, I realized she had made an homage to tuxedo shirts.  Love it!

Rescuing a quilt with so much love and joy in it is just the best.

May 5, 2016

Dressing Downton


My friend Mary and I had the absolutely best day at the Dressing Downton exhibit.  We saw costumes from the series on display at the Driehaus Museum.  The Driehaus is in a huge stone mansion just off the Magnificent Mile in Chicago.  It provided the wonderful, wonderful clothing with the perfect setting - an American counterpart of the upper-upper crust life that was showcased on the series.  Mary and I treated ourselves to the scrumptious high tea served in a most amazing hall within the mansion.  I just can't find enough superlative adjectives for the day we had!  Honestly, I just can't stop looking at these photos.  Wooooo!!

The gowns on the left and right in this photo were worn when the Downton ladies went to court and curtsied to the King.  There were strict rules about what was to be worn, such a headdress with three white Prince of Wales plumes and a short train.

As with many of the costumes, vintage beaded trims were applied to newly made gowns.  One note said that these trims were often removed and reused on new gowns.  No wonder!

This is the center gown.  It is a vintage beaded overdress that was stitched onto a new netting for support.  The underdress is newly made.

The well turned out country gentleman.

Footman and housekeeper.

The countess maintaining a late 19th century styling while fashion moves on in the next generations. I really like that Edwardian style of the long layering.  I think it's quite feminine and flatters many figures.  I learned that it was called the "lampshade silhouette".  And then, there are Those Hats!




Wartime.  Skirts became narrower and shorter to conserve fabric.

Oh my, the beading on this one!



The notes on this one tell that the jacket was made from a vintage tablecloth.  That's the kind of costuming ingenuity that I just love!


Our ladies going out in the daytime.  Handbags were a new thing as was the more tailored styling.


More use of vintage laces and trims.





The ladies maid, evening style dress.

Many of the costume pieces were stitched and managed by the London company Cosprop.  This place sounds like the ultimate costume heaven.  

The museum also displayed photos of Chicago's grand ladies of the 1920s. 


And here are shots of the lovely mansion itself.


The most amazing tea room!  So grand!

Walls:  tiles (I want to do a quilt based on the first one) and wallpapers.



Grand staircases.


Woodwork and detailing. 


Stained glass.


Fireplaces and mantels.  The first photo is a faceted glass fireplace screen.  The second includes the World Without End block in marble on the hearth.  And the third..... well, just wow.




The exhibit is touring the US.  Can you tell that I highly recommend this show?  Well worth an outing if it's coming anywhere near you.