December 30, 2016

Favorite Quotes #14 - Martha Graham

Inspiration for the New Year of living and creating:

Martha Graham gave this advice to Agnes de Mille shortly after she choreographed Oklahoma! in 1943.  The story is that de Mille was curious as to why this work had captured the critics' attention even though she thought much of her other work was much more complete and valuable.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

Here's to all of you and your very own vitality, the light of your life!

Signature on a Victorian crazy quilt

December 24, 2016


This is Celestina.  She was born at my house, as a special treat for my friend Debbie's birthday.  I'm really happy with her!  She is inspired by the Waldorf-style creations at The Puppenstube, a place Debbie loves very much.  Debbie is really fond of blue and white patterns, hence the clothes and jewel that Celestina picked out.  She has fuzzy grey hair, just like I do. 

She now lives at Debbie's house, with lovely friends, stones, art, and other magical items.  I visited her there today.  She asked that I send her photo out along with my wishes to you all for a sparkly and loving holiday, whichever of the winter festivals of lights is the one that you love to celebrate.

Thanks to all of you that read my blog and best wishes to all in the coming year and thereafter!


December 20, 2016

Heirloom Quilt with Family Photos and Some Flashy Peacocks

One of my favorite parts of the quilt repair biz is when someone brings a family heirloom quilt and shares the story and occasionally even photos of the quiltmaker.  More often, people tell me sadly that none of their offspring care very much about "old things" or the family history.  But here's a quilt brought to me by a young woman who is very, very much in love with the family story.  Warms my heart!

Here is her story of the quilt and the quilter. 

Attached are photos of my Manx great-grandma. The first one is from just before she left the Isle of Man, she is in her early 20’s. The second photo was from the early 60’s.


Eleanor Jane Cleator was born in the Isle of Man on August 11, 1891. She was known by family and friends as Janie.

She migrated to the United Sates in 1915. Upon arriving she married her sweetheart from the Isle of Man. They settled in Kansas.

She was a woman of her times. Doing all a housewife and mother did. She raised 2 children, tended the family vegetable garden, raised chickens, tended house, cooked everything from scratch and more.

When the cooking and cleaning were done there was no rest for her. She spent her evenings quilting, knitting, sewing, doing embroidery and crocheting. Everything was practical. Quilts were made from old worn out clothing. Sweaters, hats, mittens and such were not bought but knitted. And the home was decorated with furniture made by her husband and decorated with embroidered fabric and crochet doilies and tablecloths made by Janie.

I am not sure where she learned her crafts. Her mother died when she was 8 and a few years later she had a step mother. So perhaps it was mainly the stepmother that taught her and, of course, necessity. Janie’s only daughter and my grandmother only learned to knit, but never with the skill that her mother had.

I never got to met her. She died when I was one. I currently own many items made by her including a quilt, 2 button down sweaters, 3 embroidered and  framed images of flowers, some crocheted items, and a stool that was made by my great-grandfather with an embroidered cover made by Janie.

And about the quilt itself:

I found the name of the pattern, Pointed Tile, in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.  It's kind of fun, because it's not an actual block.  It's an overall pattern made up of squares and what might be called house-shaped pieces. 

The fabrics are a really nice collection of 1950s and 1960s prints.  I'll start with my favorite - these great peacocks and roses on a flashy magenta background.

In the rest of these photos, you'll see such 1950s color combinations as salmon pink-olive green-grey and the prints with repeating square medallions which I always call men's pajama prints.

Big thanks to this lovely young woman for taking the time to send the family story and sweet photos of her great-grandma and letting me share it all with you!

Here's another quilt I repaired, a c.1890 crib quilt, with the story and family photos supplied by the quilt's current owner.

December 13, 2016

Log Cabin Magnified

This quilt is one of a collection of family heirloom quilts that I've been repairing. 

Years ago, I worked with the Illinois quilt documentation days, one of the projects that produced so many statewide data bases and books.  I remember some talk about quilts with extra large blocks like this being regional styles in some areas.

The quilt was made in Louisiana.  I'm dating it to the 1950s.  These photos show colors and prints that are really indicative of that decade.

To paraphrase Dorothy in Oz - Turquoise, salmon, and grey!  Oh, my!

December 7, 2016

Whirling Hexagons

Here's a pattern I'd never seen before having this quilt come in for repairs.  And green is my favorite color.  So I had a good time working on it!

Barbara Brackman's book shows it with two names - Whirling Hexagons and Texas Trellis. The block has a really simple geometry that makes a vibrant overall pattern.  It might work well as a scrap quilt, too.

This quilt is one of several family heirlooms that I've been repairing.  The quilts were made in Louisiana, and the family is now having me mend as many as possible after a long time in storage.  This one needed a new binding, a couple of patches (for which fabric from one of my husband's vintage shirts was a perfect match), and quite a few open seams closed.  I imagine the quilt was made in the 1960s or so. 

This quilter had an interesting solution to the ever-curious question of how to finish off the uneven edges of a hexagon quilt.  The two most jagged of the uneven sides were appliqued onto border strips.  The binding along the other two sides was finished with a scalloped inner edge which fills in the waviness between the hexagons (see the top photo). 

The original binding was the turquoise back fabric brought around to the front of the quilt. Here's a "before" picture of the torn edge.

December 1, 2016

Edwardian Bodice, Embroidery and Fine Detailing

My friend Julia, proprietress of Basya Berkman Vintage Fashion, comes across some really marvelous old pieces during her search for marvelous old clothing.  This one is a super marvelous, old, old piece that is too delicate and troubled to be mended and worn.  It will be lovely as a decorative piece, just to marvel over.  And I also get to share it here with you.

It is a silk Victorian era shirtwaist, to be worn with a skirt.  There is a cream-colored blouse attached inside the black shirtwaist with an embroidered panel tucked inside the lower half of the opening.  Each layer closes with its own set of hooks and eyes. 

The center edges of the black silk are decorated with a double silk trim with delicate edge stitching, attached with a faggoted seam.

Unfortunately, the trim is in pretty bad shape in quite a few places.

The cuffs have more of the embroidery and trim, plus lovely thread-covered buttons.

The sleeves and yokes are cut in one piece.  The shirtwaist is shaped by pleated midriff panels.  The seam between the two sections is outlined with a small covered cording.

Made in Paris!  How fun!

I found a picture of dresses for a garden party, printed in 1900.  At the bottom is the name of this dress shop.  I also found a receipt for a sale at the shop in 1906.  (These are both items for sale, so the links may not stay active for very long.)

This is the lovely embroidered center panel.  (I learned more about the history and origin of the embroidery from one of my followers, and wrote a second post.)  The buttons are clear, with tiny pink flowers embedded inside.

I remain convinced that my favorite women's fashions come from the Edwardian era!