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:

March 24, 2012

Amazing Stars, part 2

My previous post showed the repair work I did on a c. 1870 6-pointed star quilt.  In this post, I will share photos of this wonderful collection of vintage fabrics.

I think it's easy to assume that everything in the olden days was drab and pale, mostly brown, and nearly always calico.  At least that's the traditional way to costume TV dramas about the 1800s!  But this quilt lays all that to rest.  When you're looking at these photos, take note of the range of colors and the variety of prints.  Enjoy!

March 21, 2012

Amazing Stars, part 1

This quilt just begged to be recorded for posterity.  It's not an uncommon pattern, a basic 6-pointed star.  It's a very nice rendition, stars surrounded by lighter colored baby blocks shapes.  But as you will see, its real claim to fame is its fine condition and its fine collection of 19th century fabrics.

The quilt dates to c. 1870.  "Circa" is usually interpreted at occurring somewhere in the 10 years before or the 10 years after the date.  I think many of these fabrics are 1860s and 70s, maybe a few into the very, very early 1880s.

March 11, 2012

Peter Pan

I have been working on child-size redwork quilt.  The blocks are scenes from Peter Pan, so it's a very sweet quilt.

The red sashing fabric is a much lighter weight fabric than the white squares, and has split open in several places.  I found an absolutely perfect match for the slightly faded turkey red color at Reproduction Fabrics (  It was so perfect, that I bought a bunch of it.  And I mean a bunch.  With any luck, I've got enough to repair any such quilt for years and years to come.

Here's the "before" picture, in which you can see Nana the dog, Tiger Lily, and Smee.  (My daughter was Smee in a dance version of Peter Pan when she was about 12, and I've had a fondness for ol' Smee ever since.)

March 9, 2012

Crazy Repairs

Repairing crazy quilts.  Well.  These are pretty difficult to work with, in my estimation.  Hence the title of this post!

Most often, the problem is what are called "shattered" silks.  This is disintegration caused by the dyes and processing that were used on the silks in the late 1800s and into the beginning of the 1900s, basically in the Victorian era.  Metal salts were added, both as mordants on the darker dyes, and to add that famous silk rustle, and to make the silks heavier since they often were priced by the pound.  (So you see, there have been unscrupulous businessmen around for a long, long time.)

The problem is that there is no way to reverse or stall this damage.  Keeping the quilt out of the light and in even temperature and humidity can slow it down, but that is the best deal you're going to get.

Another problem is the lovely embroidery.  The fabric under the embroidery can't be replaced unless the fancy stitches are removed and then re-embroidered after the patching.

The more I work on these beautiful, jewel-like quilts, the less and less I choose to do.  

Here's one technique that I use.