December 26, 2012

Magic Vine

This is the Magic Vine quilt I was working on in the photos in my previous post.

When a picker brought the top into the antique quilt gallery where I used to work, I fell in love with it immediately.  All the appliqué was completed, excepting the corners of the borders which were basted in place.  The backing fabric was folded in along with the top.  It was a total no-brainer for me to buy it, especially since green is my favorite color.

All I had to do was attach the borders to the center panel, baste it up, and start quilting.

December 25, 2012

Me and the Magic Vine

Today, I came across these photos that I meant to use and never have.  They were taken a couple of years ago now, by Raimonda Daras.  I was demonstrating hand quilting at the annual Fine Art of Fiber show.  It's a wonderful event - the weavers, quilters, and needlework guilds all participate, and we pretty much take over all the exhibit spaces at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  

This quilt is an antique top that I bought many years ago.  I save it for those times when I need a demonstration project, so it has been in progress for a very long time now.  

December 17, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest

So, the wonderful performances of "The Importance of Being Earnest" are over, the costume pieces are soon to be sorted and put in their appropriate boxes, and I will share a few of the stories of how we put some of the outfits together for this show.

December 13, 2012

Costume Sketches

Coming up this weekend at Thin Ice Theater is Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest."  I am serving this time as costume designer and coordinator.  

A few years ago, I started making little costume sketches as we create the costumes.  It's a good way for me to visualize color balance or conflict, what outfits will be seen together and such.  Once we get into the dress rehearsal period, the sketches can be very useful in the dressing room to keep actors and helpers aware of all the pieces that go into each outfit.

December 12, 2012

Friendship and Flowers

Here's a cheery quilt, made in the late 1930s or the 1940s.  The pattern name is Friendship Dahlia.  

There's an overall quilt pattern called Dahlia, very complex and not a beginner's quilt by any means.  Maybe this block got its name because it's much, much easier and friendlier to make!

December 8, 2012

Let's Party, aka Shoe Repair

Here's a lovely, glitter and rhinestone shoe, just perfect for ringing in the New Year at some ritzy, glitzy party.  

The only problem with this plan is that one of the straps has got some loose rhinestones.

December 3, 2012

Lattice Sleeves

Here's a truly lovely gown.  The combination of the beautiful rose fabric and the tons of detailing makes for a very special dress.

Julia brought it to me because the netting inside the lattice sleeves was quite tattered.  It used to give the sleeve its shape, holding the lattice in a puffed sleeve shape, instead of letting it just hang down.

November 29, 2012

Horton Hears A Who

We (Thin Ice Theater) have just completed our second annual Dr. Seuss class. Last fall we presented The Cat In The Hat.  This year - Horton Hears A Who.

The format is designed to introduce young kids, ages 5 - 10 or so, to all aspects of play production.  Dr. Seuss stories are a great introduction to the theater.  The rhyming lines and rhythm help young actors with memorization.  And actually, the style is very much like Shakespearean scripts, so this is really a first step towards working with the Bard's great plays.

November 28, 2012

Little Stones p.s.


The very next day, after I wrote about Ze Frank and the online art he is experimenting with, he posted this.  There is going to be an exhibit of the works that he and his online community have created over the last few months at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.  In this posting, he shows bits and pieces of some of the art, so it's a good way to take a peek at what's going on, if you feel so inclined.

Pretty cool!

November 25, 2012

Little Stones

Poking around in quilty blogs one day, I discovered Jude Hill.  I was immediately enchanted with her artistry, her photography, the ambiance of her posts, and her approach to her artwork.

Reading on, I discovered that one of her projects includes collecting small pieces from her readers that will eventually be included in her artwork.  I am really intrigued by this concept of using the internet as a tool or medium in creating art, not just as a static means of communication and information overload.

November 19, 2012


Crepeline is a super, super fine silk that is used by conservators to protect and stabilize worn textiles.  I buy both the natural and the brown.  You can see that, while they change the color of my hand a bit, they are still incredibly sheer.  The words "gossamer" and "fairy wings" come to mind.

November 13, 2012

That Old Italian Block

Although it sounds more like someone searching their memory for the right words, that truly is the name of this quilt pattern, "Old Italian Block".

The owner of this quilt had been told that the name is Corn and Beans, but it's really not like any of the blocks by that name in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.  In the Encyclopedia, Brackman documents the Old Italian Block as a Nancy Cabot pattern.  It sometimes was used for signature quilts, with the name signed on the center square.  Why "Italian"?  I don't know.  Maybe it was inspired by a tiled floor that a quilter saw on her trip to Italy...

November 10, 2012

Black Bugle Beads

It's always a treat when I get something to repair that I really love looking at.  This dress is one of those treats.  It's a "little black dress" with extra flair - beaded trim at the neckline and the one asymmetrical pocket.  

Quite a few of the beads were missing, especially those decorating the pocket.  I bought a tube of matching bugle beads - how lovely to have such a basic bead so that I could find an exact match.

Here's the step-by-step of the bead replacement.  

October 27, 2012

Buttons, Buttons, and Cats

Well, here is an actual, completed project using some of the myriad of buttons I have been acquiring.  Yea!

This little piece has a story.  Of course.  My friend Gloria gave me her mom's button box.  Her mom was a super accomplished seamstress, with tons of various skills and talents.  I decided right away that I needed to make some sort of memorial piece for Gloria, to celebrate her mom and her love of sewing.

October 21, 2012

Something From Nothing

Several years ago, I was contacted by an interior decorator who was clearing out her studio.  She wondered if I'd like her old fabric samples.  "Sure!" I said, never one to turn down a gift of cool fabric.  I drove over to her place, and discovered that she had enough to fill my trunk.  Wow.  
I brought it all home, sorted it out, gave what I didn't think I'd ever use to a grade school art room, and piled the rest into a big plastic storage bin.  

And there it sat for a few more years, until my kids grew up and there began to be more time for art.  What with parenting and repairing quilts, I hadn't done much play for the sake of play for quite a while.

October 17, 2012

And While We're Visiting the 1950s....

Yesterday, with the poodle skirt blog in process and my mind in the 1950s, I found myself using my vintage Sunbeam Mixmaster while making dinner.  It was a wedding gift to my parents who got married in 1949.  

It's still going strong.  A couple of years ago, I sent it to the vintage mixer "spa" for an overhaul.  I've got no affiliation or anything, but if you have a vintage mixer, you will really enjoy this site.  I love my oldie-but-goodie mixer, and was delighted to find someone who could give it lots of TLC and keep it humming along.  I feel like Phil's mixer business is much like my quilt business, caring for cherished items that often hold lots of history and memories, and are generally just very cool.

I have so many memories of being small enough to sit on the counter next to this mixer and help my mom make cookies and cakes by adding bits of the ingredients as the blades whirled and the bowl spun slowly around.  I found it fascinating to watch each new ingredient spiral into the mix and eventually blend in.  Not to mention the fun of eating the delicious end products.  Ahhhh.....

October 16, 2012

Poodle Skirt!

Here's a really-truly poodle skirt, the iconic fashion item of the 1950s.  I did some repair work on it for the Basya Berkman Etsy shop.

It's a traditional felt circle skirt with appliquéd poodle.  Super simple construction - a big circle of felt plus waistband and side zipper - no hem needed since the felt doesn't ravel a bit.  No wonder they were such a popular style!  The thread attaching the waistband was wearing out, so my job was to restitch that and now it's ready to rock'n'roll again.

October 14, 2012


This weekend, my sewing time was devoted to starting to sort and unearth things in the super, over-the-top, clutter in my sewing room.  

For a long time, I've been looking for a replacement for the little plastic drawers that are home to notions, tools, floss, and embellishments.  They are so full that, as you can see, they are no longer functional at all.  I scored this lovely little drawer unit at an estate sale.

(Of course, part of the reason those drawers are so full is that I keep picking up odds and ends and extra needles and snaps and a really cool old wooden darning egg, etc., etc., etc., at those great estate sales.....)

October 4, 2012

The Race to the Top

Last night, my refrigerator quilt post overtook the beaded wedding dress in number of visitors.  It now sits in the place of honor to your right as one of the top six most popular posts on my blog.

I'm really enjoying watching the statistics of page views and readership.  I'm closing in on 7000 views since my blog was born, not a huge number in the world of the internet, but it sounds really big to me.  And the count of countries represented is currently a whopping 51.  That's the stat that makes me the happiest!  I feel like I'm sitting here watching the planet shrink.

And now, I'll go back to work, so I can have more wonderful things to post about.  Today I'm working on a batch of vintage clothing repairs, and a customer just delivered a wonderful early 1800s era quilt for repair work.  I will have much to say about that one.

Canadian Couture

Here's a skirt I've repaired for Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.  My friend Julia, who researches the clothing she sells there, told me to check out the interesting story behind this piece.  

September 26, 2012

1900 crazy quilt

I've been readying a crazy quilt top for hanging, and thought I'd share some photos with you.  Like the six-pointed star quilt and the hippie crazy quilt, this is a wonderful collection of fabrics of its era, a good reference collection of colors and print styles.  

September 10, 2012

Grecian Square

A friend of mine wrote and asked me why the Grecian Square blocks in the "red, white, and symbolic" quilt I recently wrote about have that name.  What is Grecian about them?

September 5, 2012

Deer Creek Fen quilt at home

My zoologist friend visited me in June and picked up the landscape quilt I made for her.  It is a portrait of the fen where she does her fieldwork.

The quilt is now happily hanging in its new home.  My friend just sent photos, and here they are.  I am so happy to see it in situ.  The colors really work well with the rest of the room, I think.  And my friend can work at her desk and dream about being out in the kayak - gliding through the grasses and visiting the bog buckmoths, the turtles, frogs, and dragonflies, all the while watched over by the deer and hawk.  Yea!!

The complete story of this quilt's creation starts here with her photos and fabric selection and creating the landscape, and continues with creating the animals, more detailing and adding the borders are here and here, and finally, photos of the completed quilt.  I'm really grateful to my friend for the inspiration to create such a detailed and exciting quilt.

September 2, 2012

Family History

While writing the previous post about my refrigerator quilt, I took advantage of the "interwebs", which didn't exist to such a great extent at the time I made the quilt, to research this postcard from Germany.  It features my last name in the original German spelling.  "Wasser" is the German word for water, pronounced "vah-ser".  

August 29, 2012

My Refrigerator Quilt

I used to belong to FACET, a critique group of art quilters.  Besides meeting monthly for critique sessions, we also created a couple of traveling shows.  The one I'm going to talk about in this post was created in 2000 and called "Narrative Portraits".  We always tried to come up with a theme that would be flexible enough to inspire all our members and include all the varied techniques represented in our work.

My portrait concept came to me one night while chopping veggies for dinner.  My kids were 10 and 6 at the time.  We got, and still get, our veggies with a subscription to an organic farm.  I do a lot of chopping.

August 26, 2012


Gleanings from this weekend's estate sale shopping:

more buttons

August 20, 2012

Red, White, and Symbolic

This one-of-a-kind quilt recently came to me for repairs.  The center four blocks need no explanation.  The rest of the quilt is comprised of Grecian Square blocks, and sashing with red squares at the intersections.  I estimate that it was made in the early 1900s, quite likely 90 years old, maybe nearing 100.

The main problem was a lot of wear along the edges, especially the red rectangles, as well as some of the white fabric and the floral print backing.

August 15, 2012

Red-Letter Day

Many crafters collect supplies like there was no tomorrow.  And then discover that they still never have the right things for the next project and head out to the store.  Right?  

Well, this little hat proved that old adage wrong.  This is a repair job I'm doing for Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.

August 8, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Thin Ice Theater's spring production for our youngest actors was Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Eileen, our director, created an abridged script, using The Bard's original words but only 45 minutes long.

I decided, after a very short thought process, to set the play in ancient Greece, according to the script.  Oberon instructs Puck: "A sweet Athenian lady is in love with a disdainful youth. You will know him by the Athenian garments that he wears."  And that's how Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius: "Weeds of Athens he doth wear," says Puck, as he anoints Lysander's eyes with the magic flower.
It always bothers me to hear those lines while the actors are dressed in full Elizabethan "weeds" or modern day clothes or whatever else the director has imagined.  I'm just picky, I guess.

August 2, 2012

Tablecloth Update

So, I've been plugging away at The Tablecloth.  I've only been able to sew where there is solid green and solid purple, while waiting for the variegated threads to come in.

Here's how it started out:

July 30, 2012

Trip Around the World

Well, yes, there is a quilt pattern called "Trip Around the World", but that's not exactly what this post is about.

I've been following the statistics on the readers of this blog, and I'm so excited to see tendrils of connections spread out from me here in the US to so very many countries.

July 23, 2012

Changing Shape

I was given this lovely caftan by my friend Julia, proprietor at Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.  When she's scouting out fun vintage outfits, she sometimes finds things she thinks I'll probably like.  She is nearly always spot on correct!  It's like having my own personal shopper.  

This caftan has lots for me to like.  For one, I always love woven plaids.  I love to explore the subtle color variations as the stripes of colors cross and interweave.  I also like all the embroidered details.  And in this incredibly hot, hot summer, I've taken to wearing dresses all the time - so much cooler even than shorts.

But there's just one problem.  You'll notice the long straight shape of the caftan.  But I am not a long straight shaped woman.  

July 17, 2012

Tiny Clothes

This is a story that spans four, maybe five, generations.  

My friend Debbie and I have known each other since we were 12.  Our moms were friends, too.  Debbie has a grandmother who is now 106 years old.  She used to do pretty much any kind of needlework and sewing you can imagine.  So she and I get on pretty well!

So here's the intergenerational tale.

July 11, 2012

Flower Power

I seem to have crossed some sort of invisible line.  I'm starting to get "old" quilts for repair that are full of fabrics just like the ones I actually remember wearing.  I'm still not quite able to conceive of this shift in things. When I started learning about and repairing antique quilts, it was the 1980s.  Generally the most recent things I worked on were about 40-50 years old, made in the 1930s and '40s.  Well now, people are still bringing me quilts that are 40-50 years old, but that now places them in the 1960s or '70s.  Those were my coming-of-age decades.  I seem to have been here on the Earth for quite a while now.

Here's a walk down memory lane for people of the same vintage.  The quilt belongs to a friend of mine, made by her grandmother, and containing scraps from making the clothes of her childhood.

July 2, 2012

Thoughts about Repairing Antique Quilts


Last month, two different blogs posted thoughts and discussions about repairing quilts, and I'm happy to say that they linked to both my website and this blog.  I'm delighted to be sowing some seeds that add to the thought process.  Once all the options are considered, you will be making an informed decision that will fit your needs the best.

Probably the whole thing can be summed up in three main points:

June 30, 2012

The Tablecloth Project

We spent last weekend in the Michigan countryside at wonderful Ronora Lodge in Watervliet.  It's not a bad drive from Chicago, once you leave Chicago.  :-) 


Well, I wanted to bring some handwork.  Of course.  But I didn't have any projects in a handwork-ready state.  

Solution:  Start something new!  You know, because I have such a scarcity of projects and an abundance of time.  Ha.  Ha.  

Hence, "The Tablecloth Project".  This is a cut-work embroidery tablecloth that was started by my mother-in-law quite a few years ago.  

June 22, 2012

Road to the Wedding Quilt

I posted a couple of weeks ago about this quilt that I made for a friend's son's wedding.  Here is the story of the design process.

June 16, 2012

The Cats Go To A Wedding

I've gotten such nice response to the post about the wedding quilt I just finished, that I thought I'd write up the wedding quilt I made last June.

A long time ago, I'd discovered this really cute cat block while surfing.
(To see more of Miyako's work, go to her home page.)

When Emmie and Gordon, who are great cat-lovers, announced their engagement, I just knew I'd found the perfect use for this block.  The cats are even wearing bow ties, so are dressed and pressed and ready to attend a formal event!

I drafted my own templates according to the look of the photo.  I think my kitties turned out to be a bit more pudgy than in the original quilt.

June 10, 2012

A Wedding Quilt

At 11:00 yesterday morning, I attended a wedding.  At 4:15 in the afternoon, I put the final stitches in a quilt, wrapped it up, and left at 5:30 for the reception.  I'd started planning the quilt last November, but still, it came down to the wire.  Ah, well.

When I make quilts for wedding gifts, I often base the design on things I know about the couple - things they like to do, their careers, their names.  For example, once I made a quilt with a garden trellis-like arrangement of harmonicas, because the groom is a musician and teacher, with roses climbing up the trellis, because the bride's name is Rose.

For this wedding, I chose several traditional quilt blocks:

June 7, 2012

A Guy Named Skins

Well, I guess this is my year for really branching out from repairing only quilts.  Last winter, I had my first experience with an ancient tapestry.  In the early spring, I repaired some Japanese silk banners.  And now, I've just completed repairs of a doll.  And not just any doll - a skin diver doll.  And not just your normal, run-of-the-mill skin diver doll (if there is such a thing) - a combo skin diver / shark doll.  Really.

His name is Skins.  He came to me swaddled in a hand towel, not looking too perky.

Crazy Quilt at Home

A couple of months ago, I wrote about repairing a crazy quilt.  The owner kindly sent me a photo of the quilt as it is now hanging in his home.

Its companion, a log cabin, is also quite nice, with the juxtaposition of the clear, bright pastels and white.  They are two such different quilts, and yet make a pleasant pairing.  This is what makes quiltmaking such an appealing craft, I think - the wide, wide variety of styles and techniques and design potential.

Note that they are hung in a stairwell, probably not ever subjected to direct sun, and probably not even bright sunlight.  This will help preserve the colors and the strength of the fabrics.

The tiny bit of the quilt hung over the bannister is quite tantalizing, don't you think?

May 22, 2012

Japanese banner at home

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the Japanese banners I repaired and mounted.

Here's a photo of the longest banner, happily hanging on its wall.  What a wonderful location!  It looks almost like the banner was made to fit the stairwell - or vice versa.

Thanks to the owner for sharing this photo with me.  I'm pretty pleased with the outcome!  

May 15, 2012

Japanese banners

A friend of mine, who has done a substantial bit of world travel, asked me if I could repair four World War II banners they had purchased in Japan, and prepare them for hanging.  They are silk, and I decided to back each one with a light-weight silk.  Three are 21"-25" wide and 80" long, and one is very long, 25" wide and 126" long.

This is more than a little off my usual path, so research was called for.  I found great info at this site:

Banners - nobori - have a history of use in war and ceremony.  This website calls them "going off to war" banners:  "These commercially produced colorful banners were pre-printed with military designs. The family and friends would then personalize them with patriotic slogans and/or the soldiers/sailors name."

April 26, 2012

Embroidered Garden

Here's a crazy quilt with some very intricate and very fanciful embroidery.  This quiltmaker was really fond of swirly, trailing vine designs, and so am I, so I'm totally smitten with this quilt.  And as the owner pointed out, the stitching is incredibly even and neat.  This was made by a lady who really loved her needle and thread.

To make it even sweeter, it is a family quilt, and has lovely family history attached.  And then, even better, it has an embroidered dedication and date:  1905.

April 13, 2012

Cozy Wool

Here's a friendly, cozy wool 6-pointed star quilt.  It was made by the owner's grandmother and holds lots of family loving.

The quilt was recently washed - in the washing machine.  This is not a good idea with a wool quilt!  Washing wool in warm soapy water is the way to make felt, after all.  The quilt came through the process in surprisingly good shape.  The forest green diamonds bled onto the backing, but politely didn't bleed onto the top.  Several seams pulled open, and many ties pulled through the top.

March 30, 2012

You Can't Take It With You

Last weekend, Thin Ice Theater presented the Moss Hart - George S. Kaufman classic "You Can't Take It With You".  Comedy ensues when the the straight-laced Kirby family meets the eccentric Sycamore family.  There is also a lovely message about living and enjoying life to the fullest.

One goal of the costuming was to clearly express the difference between the two families.  The Kirby's are neatly pressed and dress in subdued colors, hair expertly coiffed.  The Sycamore's are a bit wrinkly, their hair a bit mussed, and their clothes much more colorful.  Their friends each have a unique look that reflects their stories and personalities.  Our director Eileen set us the goal that the audience should laugh when each walked on stage, before any words were spoken.  And at the same time, we tried to avoid making anyone overly charicature-ish or clownish.  The play is set in the late 1930s.

Here is the family and their guests around the dinner table: