December 17, 2011

Holiday Treats

Oftentimes, beginning quilters start with what I've heard entitled "The Pillow and Placemat Stage".  I certainly did!  But now, all these years later, I've really gotten away from making little quilty doo-dads, focusing more on the quilt repair and art quilt realms.  But sometimes these things are still fun, and sometimes gifts are called for.  So here are my holiday treats:

Last weekend, I joined a couple of other local artists in a holiday open studio sale.  For that, I made two little wall quilts, each about 12" square.

December 15, 2011

more Little Women: On Stage!

Success!  All those rebuilt dresses, altered suit jackets, added sashes, replaced buttons, and redesigned hats later, the show was a great success.  And, while you're at it, please enjoy the wonderful set built by Joyce and her crew.

The iconic pose of the daughters listening to Marmee read a letter from Mr. March:

December 13, 2011

more Little Women: Before, After, and In-between

Welcome to my first guest posting!  This is Annie Guter, Thin Ice Theater's great costume re-builder.  You saw lots of her work on the gowns worn in last year's "An Ideal Husband".  So - take it away, Annie:

On a thrift store excursion, as this is THE place to find yards of fabric extra cheap, I came across three voluminous plus size dresses, all yoked, with enough skirt for any respectable Civil War era lass.  I set to dismantling all three and then realized a before photo might be in order.  Two were already too far gone for a photo but I caught Beth’s winter dress, so I think you can at least get an idea of what the float dresses looked like.  

November 25, 2011

more Little Women: Beth

A Plaid Dress for Beth

For this dress, like Amy's, I also needed to make undersleeves.  Also, the skirt was too short, so I lengthened it by adding a wide strip that matched the new sleeves.

November 22, 2011

more Little Women: Amy

A Sweet Dress for Amy

This dress had the odd set-up of a (worn-out) velcro closure on the front, and a (broken) zipper on the back.  Let's just say, it was pretty hard to wear in its original state.  I took off the old velcro and closed the front seam.  I replaced the zipper in back.

Then, it came to restyling the dress more in keeping with 1860s fashion.  I took off the lace.  I took off the sleeve cuffs.  I found a super good match in a remnant fabric.

November 19, 2011

more Little Women: Aunt March

Here's Aunt March wearing the vintage black lace blouse discussed in a previous post.

(And yes, the actress is really just 13 years old.....)

I Never Really Did Like That Pattern

My longtime friend Leigh Gaitskill used one of my quilts to illustrate a recent post on her blog.  Thanks, Leigh!!  Leigh is a yoga and spiritual teacher with many years of practice and healing and learning.  You can read her post, about how we may have hidden the diamond heart, our central spiritual essence, at:

I Never Really Did Like That Pattern

Here's my artist statement about the quilt.  Yes, it certainly has many similarities to the concepts that Leigh is describing.

November 11, 2011

A Beaded Wedding Dress

Here's a vintage dress I worked on for my friend's Etsy shop, Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions -

This beautiful, 1940s beaded wedding dress is in nearly perfect condition, save for some snags in the net yoke.  Rather than try to remove beads, replace the net, and re-bead, we decided that I should try adding new beads to cover the snags.  The rolled edge neckline was a bit tattered as well, and I decided to roll it once again.

November 2, 2011

For the Record - Photographing My Quilts

I photographed my marvelous bog quilt, in the hour or so between the sky clouding over and the winds and rain beginning.  I get the best results by photographing outdoors in natural light.  That means, I have to wait for the right weather conditions to materialize, and then be ready to drop everything else and head outdoors.  I need:

1. a day that's overcast, so the lighting is diffuse (minimizing the texturing of the quilting so the design of the quilt shows well)

October 31, 2011

It's Done!

It's done!  It's done!  The fen quilt is all finished!

It will be hanging this coming weekend at the Fine Art of Fiber show at the Botanic Garden up in Glencoe:  That's what I needed, a deadline, and now it's done.  Nothing like a deadline to make things happen.

In celebration of this great event, here is a tour of my rendition of the landscape and the creatures who dwell there. I am so happy!

Little Women costuming

The show is coming soon!  Shows are November 18-20, with a sneak peek promo at the main Evanston library on November 8.

I'll be posting projects as these next couple of weeks roll along.

Vintage Black Lace blouse for Aunt March

Look at how lovely this lace is!

October 10, 2011

Fashion Show

I'll be helping my friend Rare Jule with a fashion show on Friday night. She's my friend with the Etsy shop selling vintage clothing, the one I help out / learn with by repairing things as needed.  Me - at a fashion show - imagine that!  This will be especially fun for the young and hip (and I'm hoping some of both will rub off on me).

October 1, 2011

Rhombic Hexecontahedron

Well, obviously there's a fair amount of math and geometry involved in quilt patterns.  But what happens when an actual mathematician is also a quilter?  A friend sent me a link to such a person's website.  One of the things she played around with is a rhombic hexecontahedron.  Yup.  

September 11, 2011

Fall Theater Events

Production #1:

Thin Ice Theater's fall season is on a roll.

We are hosting our first-ever benefit party this Friday evening, the 16th.  This is one of many steps we are taking to expand and solidify our programs.  Location and ticket and donation info is on our website.

Our fall production will be "Little Women" with the middle school age group, on November 18-20.  We've begun by measuring the cast members (they do grow from one show to the next!), and next week will begin the process of selecting and fitting costume items.

August 31, 2011

Repair of a Grand­mother's Flower Garden Quilt

This is a 1930s Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt.  This pattern was very popular in this era, and often made like this one, with a variety of pastel scrap fabrics on white.

What makes this one special is that it is owned by the woman who used it on her bed as a young girl.  At that time, her mother altered the shape of the quilt to fit on her bed.  Originally, it had two scalloped edges and two straight edges, bound in green.  The alteration took the scallops that used to be along the edge at the top of the photo, and attached it to the green-bound edge on the right.  The new top edge was turned and hemmed.

August 17, 2011

More and More Buttons

I visited my friend Gloria today.  In amongst the memorabilia she pulled out, she showed me her mom's button collection.  And then she let me take it home!!

Gloria's mom was a fantastic seamstress.  And had a button box to prove it.

I'm going to make some kind of button project for Gloria - to memorialize her mom, and to get me started figuring out what kind of art I can make with all the buttons I am acquiring.  I am a happy, happy person tonight.

Here they are:

August 10, 2011

Back to the Fen

In the home stretch now!

I've completed (I think....) the final detailing and embroidering on the bog quilt.  Here's the scoop:

I did, indeed, make another kayak, so that it is long enough to extend across the border.  This is the third and hopefully, hopefully final attempt at the kayak!  I managed to salvage the grey bits this time, and reattach them to the new kayak body.  But I did need to embroider the detailing on them again.  I also, added a black cord and attachments.

August 7, 2011

Buttons, Buttons, Buttons

I've been strongly drawn to old button collections lately.  At an estate sale a couple of weeks ago, I found a delightful baggie of buttons.  Here are some of them, washed, and sorted.

August 1, 2011

Magic Transformations

Thin Ice Theater's fall 2010 production was "An Ideal Husband" by Oscar Wilde.

This necessitated upper crust British formal wear c. 1895.  My research showed that this was the era of the largest mutton chop sleeves ever seen on Earth.  Plus froo-froos and lace and ribbons and feathers.  Definitely a "more is more" look.

We wanted the look to be over the top.  It's Oscar Wilde after all, and the theme has a lot to do with how over the top these people are, while at the same time maintaing that stiff upper lip in the face of actual Life happening to them.  But we were certainly not going to make new dresses for everyone!

July 24, 2011

Fen Quilt Update

Recent developments at the fen:

My friend asked if I could make the kayak smoother.  I've been interfacing everything with a super-light interfacing, just for a bit of substance in handling and to help secure the tiny tips of the shapes, but it didn't really give the charmeuse much more stiffness.  This is nice for a blouse of course, but didn't help the illusion of being a fiberglass kayak.  So, I took off the kayak and make another with a very heavy interfacing.

July 21, 2011

Repair of a Log Cabin Quilt

I've been working on a log cabin quilt.  It's maybe Mennonite, purchased in Ontario a while ago.  It's not very, very old.  Probably made in the mid to later part of the 1900s.  (When I started quilting, that's how I referred to "The 1800s".  It stills sounds so strange to me to say "The 1900s"......)  The current owner uses the quilt on her bed.  It's been repaired once before.

July 18, 2011

About Wool Storage

I've been repairing an Amish or Mennonite log cabin quilt made with many wool fabrics.  The story of the quilt is here.  As I pulled out my wools to find patching fabrics, I thought I'd post a bit on wool storage.

I have several piles of old wool fabrics in my stash of scraps for quilt repair.  Quite a few years ago, I suffered an invasion of wool moths.  Not fun!!!  I dumped all my wools in the wash and a hot dryer, no matter if they would survive or not.  Many did not.  But neither did the moth eggs.

July 8, 2011

Thin Ice Theater's Costume Collection

This is long.  Make a cup of tea, and sit back and relax for a while.

A few years ago, Thin Ice Theater inherited a humongous set of costumes from another community/youth theater.  The word "humongous" is not used lightly.  It is stored in three houses in over 50 large storage bins and several closets.  It includes not only the clothing, but a huge box of trims and another of feathers, quite a few prop items, and a crate of period patterns.  We are forever grateful to the woman who built the collection over 25 years of theater work, and to her husband, who searched for someone to take it all and love it for her after she passed away.  We do love it.

When we were invited to come see if we wanted the costumes, a few of us went, thinking we'd pick a few interesting things.  I wish someone had taken a picture of our faces when we walked into the basement there, and saw the extent and the quality of the Stuff.  And then, we found out there was just as much in the garage, too!

July 2, 2011

The Butler and The Maid

Here's my latest estate sale needlework find.  I am soooo happy!  A set of two adorable appliquéd and embroidered tea towels:

June 30, 2011

Costume Portraits

More production photos from Four Acts / One Night can be found at:

Costume portraits of each character are at:

A few stories, and examples of the teamwork involved to put on a show:

June 26, 2011

The Aloe Plant

Here's the story of the bloom on my aloe plant:

May 9

June 25, 2011

Animals of the Fen

As promised, here come the animals to populate the fen quilt.  

My friend, as I said earlier, specified particular species of each animal.  It wasn't hard to find photos of each via google.  I also found info on each animal's size, so I could reproduce them somewhat in scale.  

I put each photo into Illustrator (I imagine any program would work somewhat the same, but I'm nowheres near a computer expert).  I drew a box the size I wanted the animal to be, and scaled the photo accordingly.  Then I printed them out, traced each onto paper, pinned them on the quilt, and checked it out with my friend.  I posted a photo of the quilt with paper animals in place in a previous post.

When the sizing was all set, I used the tracings as patterns to cut the fabrics for the basis of each animal.  Again, the fabrics were all stabilized with iron-on interfacing before I cut.  I stitched the animals in place, using a zig-zag with invisible thread.

June 20, 2011

Quilting in the Fen

My current art quilt project is a major one.  I've been working on this quilt for longer than I'd like to admit.  So this rather lengthy, photo-filled post will serve to bring you up to date with an overview of the steps I've taken so far.  This is a very condensed version of the process.  There were many detailed decision points and adjustments along the way, of course.

A friend of mine from college days, who is a zoologist, asked me to create a quilt depicting the fen in upstate New York where she does her fieldwork.  She sent me many photos that she has taken there.  Here's the overview shot that became the basis for the quilt.  In it, you will see three bog buckmoths, one of the creatures she studies there.

June 12, 2011

In The Theater

Our lovely show, Four Acts / One Night, has opened and closed.  Here are a few backstage highlights.

Here are our dressing rooms, at a pretty well organized moment.

June 6, 2011

Blue Shoes

The Blue Shoes.  We found these shoes for one of our actresses.  They are to go with a sort of royal blue dress, and we figured we could take them somewhere to be dyed to match.  Well, after much research, it seems that the only shoe dying folks will do these days is either black or –– or black.

So we did a bunch of brainstorming, and decided to decorate the shoes somehow with some of the same blue and maybe some pearls, because the hat that she'll be wearing with the dress is blue with some pearl trim, and silver lamé.  The character is a diva sort, the era is the 1940s.  In other words, she needs to be very well "put together".  

June 1, 2011

Log Cabin Blocks

I am part of the Thin Ice Theater costume crew.  Thin Ice is the theater program of our homeschool group.  There are 4 other moms plus myself.  Between us, we have a wide variety of sewing, costuming, and fashion experience, which adds up to having a plain old good time learning from each other and creating together.

Our next production is Four Acts / One Night, a set of four one-act plays.  We are in the homestretch - performances will be June 9 and 10.  Those of you who live nearby - show times and directions to the theater are at:

One of the plays is "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell.  It requires some log cabin blocks, an important part of the plot actually.  Well, of course, I am the person who volunteered to make them.  

May 30, 2011

Hello, out there!

All sorts of people have been telling me I should have a blog.  So, here I am, a step further into the 21st century.  Having a website has been very fun, so maybe having a blog will be fun, too.  Hmmm.  It's a nothing-ventured-nothing-gained moment.

The basic plan, such as it is, is to share my sewing adventures - antique quilt and vintage clothing repair, fiber art, and costuming - with additional bits and pieces about other aspects of my Life.

Current projects in progress:

– fiber art: Creating a landscape quilt for a zoologist, portraying the bog where she does her research, and the critters who live there.

– costuming: Altering and embellishing costumes for a student production of four one-act plays, to be produced June 9 and 10.
– vintage clothing: I have a handful of interesting items right now, at least one needing some extra special TLC. My most intense repair job to date was recently posted at:

– homeschooling: My daughter, launched, just completed her sophomore year of college. My son, at home finishing his junior year of high school.

– life after homeschooling: Exploring ways to solidify and expand my various sewing interests.

As time goes by, I will post photos and tell stories and tall tales about these projects as they progress.

Here is an amazing thing.  My aloe plant is blooming!  For the first time ever in umpteen years of having houseplants!  I had no idea they could bloom indoors.