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.  

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)

2. calm air (or no more than a very light breeze, for which I wait with camera ready to click until the quilt sighs itself back, flat and still, between puffs of breeze)

3. no precipitation (though I have photographed in very light snow flurries)

4. preferably, temperatures above freezing (for obvious reasons)

All this needs to happen in the couple of hours on either side of noon, so the light is brightest and clearest.

All in all, it's worth the wait.  I get the truest color reproduction.  I like the softer effect of the natural lighting.  I can easily get as far away from the quilt as I need to.  All this without investing in tons of photography equipment.

The major piece of equipment I use is our wooden fence.  In fact, when we bought the house, the fence was one of the major selling points!  I have a large piece of black denim that I pin, with quilters' pins, to the fence as a backdrop.  Then, I pin the quilt to that.  The nice thing about denim is I can choose to use the lighter, reverse side if I ever need to.  Happily, whatever wrinkles it has acquired generally don't show up in the photos.

I pin the denim to the fence just by pinning straight into the wood.  I pin the quilt to the denim by pinning horizontally into the back of the quilt.  Lots of pins!

And the result:

For the first time ever, I had an encounter with the wildlife while photographing.  A cheeky squirrel was scrabbling at the fence behind the quilt.  I spoke sternly, and heard the little critter scampering away through the fall leaves.  A few moments later, the squirrel was up in the maple tree scolding me.  I guess the quilt and I were blocking the preferred squirrel roadway.  Well, as traffic jams go, it was over pretty quickly.