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.

These are made of wool, machine appliquéd and quilted in the same step, with a hand-done running stitch at the edge.  With the blue one, I dipped into my growing button collection!  Boy, was that fun!

I also made a few ornaments.  The cottages are a pattern I've had forever, and don't remember where I got it.  So apologies to the designer, because I think they are super adorable, and she should get full credit.  They are wool, with fringed thatch roofs, felt doors and windows, and embroidered posies.

This next style is made with two cathedral window pieces put back to back, and a few more finds from the button collection.  They are by far the most time consuming of the bunch.  

These fun ones are patterned after Christmas ribbon candies!  I found the idea at:

And these are made using little fabric stars and bells I found at estate sales.  The spacer beads are pearls left over from the beaded wedding dress I mended this fall.

And finally - Baby gifts for a sweet 8 month old.  These little balls are also made with a pattern I've had so long that I have no idea where I got it.  They make great little baby toys that can be thrown, caught, or sat on without danger.  They also made great pincushions for older folks.  

And a size 2 vest that he'll grow into, made with a pattern published way back in 1979 by a company called Patch Press, which seems to be no longer in business.  The little elephants are taken from a wrapping paper design from about the same era.  The remnants of the grass fabrics used in the bog quilt also make a great African savannah.  I am pleased with the two colors, so the inside of the vest looks like it's in the shade.  

As you can see from all my pattern sources, I really haven't updated my collection of cute things in quite a while.  The ones I like, I really like.  I am loyal, I guess.  

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:

Mr. March's Christmas toast, with both our casts:

From left to right:  Jo, Meg, John Brooke, Laurie, Jo, Hannah, Beth on the loveseat, Amy, Marmee, Mr. Laurence, and Mr. March.

From left to right:  Jo, Meg, John Brooke, Laurie, Hannah, Beth on the loveseat, Amy, Marmee, Mr. Laurence, and Mr. March.

And about double casting - yes, it gets tricky.  Jo, John, Laurie, Hannah, Beth, and Amy were double cast. Our two Jo's had nearly the same measurements in both directions, and could wear the same costumes.  And the Hannah dress was forgiving enough to serve both actresses.  But for all the other characters, yep, separate costumes.  Makes the head spin a bit.

You can see a few more production photos on my website, here.  And the full set of costume portraits is here.

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.  

Beth’s “dress” was a khaki skirt constructed from the original plus size dress, worn over a blue check dress from our collection.  We changed the buttons because pearl and gold were just too fancy for Beth.  Her blue under dress had some nice basic buttons so we tried to match those.  The sleeves from the khaki dress became lower sleeves added to the blue cotton under dress, and the original lace was removed from one bodice and sewn on the other.  There wasn’t really enough of one piece of lace to cover the entire front so I had to hand sew several smaller pieces of lace together to get the length that was needed. (This was actually a masterpiece of hand sewing but I once again failed to get photographic proof.) I had the blue soutash trim in my stash, it was actually a remnant from an “Ideal Husband” costume purchase, and added that to the lower sleeve so they didn’t just disappear when Beth put her hands at her sides.  Then just a bit of khaki trim around the neck on the little stand up collar. 

Jo’s winter dress was made from a similar deep plum short-sleeved affair, and I cannibalized an old dress-up item for sleeves and trim.  Jo’s summer skirt came from the third dress, a mauve nubby silk. We just added some piping here and there to better coordinate it with the blouse she wore.

Meg’s party dress started out as an 80’s bridesmaid gown that one of my sisters must have worn, and it arrived at my house when mom cleaned out her dress-up box.  The dress was actually a size 11/12, and our poor little Meg struggled to fill out a size 3.  

I dismantled the entire dress, recut to a better size and reassembled the bodice.  After some research of skirts from the era I decided an underskirt would work, and began scavenging for material, finding an old drape in champagne with a bit of a shimmer.  I did struggle with “seeing” this dress, sometimes ideas are just there in my head and I can instantly visualize a finished product.  That did not happen with this dress.  So when ideas don’t come easily I start sketching to help my inner eye.  This is the sketch of Meg’s dress that set me on the path to the finished product.   

I sliced the skirt into four parts and found it still wasn’t really full enough to lay nicely over the underskirt.  So I added the ribbon trim and scrunched the edges of the over skirt to make it drape better.  A ribbon sash to which more ribbon was added helped to tie it together. (no pun intended)   
There were poofs, gathered bits of fabric meant to help the sleeves stand out, inside the original sleeves and I kept meaning to get them back in the sleeves of the new gown, but in the flurry of tech week some how they remained in my “to do” bag.   Oops.  So the sleeves drooped a bit more than they should have, but it still worked.


Thanks, Annie!

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.

I made straighter sleeves than I added to Amy's dress, and with cuffs instead of elastic at the wrist.  The fabric was scrap fabric from I don't remember where.  It included some sleeve-like tubes.  I cut a top edge in a proper sleeve curve, and made cuffs for the bottom edges.

The waist needed both more definition and some cinching in, so I added a sash.  And here's sweet Beth:

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.

I cut the bottom edges of the sleeves so they hang evenly without the gathering and cuffs, shortening them by about 2" at the center line of the sleeve, and angling to nothing at the underarm seam.  I figured out what I wanted to do by standing in front of the mirror while wearing one sleeve (the dress is too small for me to actually put on), and playing around with the shape.  There isn't enough fabric in the original sleeves to make them a totally authentic shape, but hopefully they give the general impression.

Then I made the under sleeves, using the sleeve pattern from a nightgown.  They are attached to the seam allowances of the armhole.  A Google image search for 1860s dresses and styles will show you many examples of the layered sleeves that were popular at this time.

I made a collar, using directions from a great book:  Patterns for Costume Accessories, by Arnold Levine and Robin McGee.

I chose a round collar (the Peter Pan collar pattern which I altered to have soft corners at the front), but it needed to go over a square neckline.  So it actually is tacked on where possible, mostly towards its bottom edge, with the top edge pretty much in mid-air, just closing around the actress's neck. 

Here's how it looks on the inside, showing how the collar fills in the squared neckline.

I also made a new sash, and chose a little lace to edge the collar and sleeves.  And, here is Amy.

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.

"This is an abstract representation of my mother's life - her fears of a swirling, confused world, and the layers within which she protected her inner, shining star. The outer layers are nearly as dark as the world she was protecting herself from. The design for this quilt came to me as a whole, about a year after she died, thinking about her as I fell asleep. It was while working on it that I realized the symbolism involved in all the pieces. The title refers to the traditional quilt block I used, and also to the story of her life."

made in 1992
size: 48" x 48"
cotton, layered organza, lamé.
machine pieced, appliquéd, and quilted. hand quilted.

The patchwork block is Snail's Trail, a block I have never found appealing (though I do love snails).  So the title of the quilt has a double meaning.  The colored fabrics in the blocks are all very, very bright, but covered with layers of black organza, again giving more meaning to the theme of the quilt.  Our world is full of joy that we often do not see.

The quilt has gone to many shows, and was published by the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine as cover art on their journal in 1997.

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.

First, I added a lining of tulle to support the old netting.   Here is the inside of the back yoke, with the tulle pinned in place, and basting begun.

Next, I stitched under the raw edges, so as not to poke the bride.  At the shoulder seams, I made a seam, and then folded the seam allowances and stitched, to enclose the raw edges.  And then along the neck edge, I rolled the old and new nettings together a couple of times until the tattered bits were enclosed.

Finding beads took a while.  The woman at Tom Thumb (my great craft store) was very helpful and pulled out every white seed bead they had.  I think there were about 4 or 5, and the variation in "white" was striking, with one being the clear winner.

I couldn't match the champagne rice beads, but there was a rice bead that matched the color of the satin quite nicely, and a tiny tear drop pearl that matched the original rice bead color.  I decided to add some of the new beads to the satin below the yoke as well as on the netting, so the overall effect would be more consistent.  Here are a few shots of my experiments with the designs I would add.

When I came to the actual sewing, I discovered quite quickly that I had nothing to mark the placement of the beads that would both draw on the netting and not potentially leave a mark on the dress.  So I basted the stem lines, and added the blossoms by eye.

I remembered way, way back to an early beading experience with a wonderful woman named Lynne, who taught me Native American style beadwork.  I used that technique - or my foggy memory of it! - to bead the stems.
 thread on 4 beads....

stitch down into fabric after the fourth bead to place the beads...

come back up between the 2nd and 3rd beads...

put the needle through the 3rd and 4th beads...

thread on four more beads and repeat...

Here is the final look, with three new stems and some new flowers.  You can also catch a glimpse of the re-rolled neckline.

 And finally, I decided to add a few more flower buds to the front.

And......  here's the completed dress.... for a vintage-loving bride.  I love the scalloped piping at the hip that echoes the waistline and bodice edge.  Also, the bust darts aren't the usual triangle-shaped tuck.  They are constructed like an inverted pleat.