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.

Here's the list so far:
United Kingdom
New Zealand
Saudi Arabia

I cheer every time a new place registers.  Welcome, everyone!

I sure would love to hear from international quilters and seamstresses and costumers.  Please write and tell me about quilting and sewing and theater in your country.  I'm not going to manage to visit all these places any other way!  And I'd be happy to discuss the possibility of you writing guest posts here, and sharing your stories with this worldwide audience.

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.  It fit my shoulders and bust just fine, but it barely managed to span my hips and belly, with much pulling and buckling of fabric.

The other day, while looking through my fabrics to find things for a quilt repair job, I came across this great stripe.  The colors couldn't be more perfect!!!!  And it's a woven, not printed, stripe, to boot.

As I turned the caftan inside out to start the reconstruction process, I discovered that the embroidery had been backed with newsprint as a stabilizer.

Here's the section with the most paper showing, and a close up.  I wonder what language this is.

I thought I'd find an easy answer by checking the label, but..........

So if anyone out there knows what language this is, and where my new caftan is from, I'd love to hear from you.  Thanks!

So I went back to the sewing part of the project.  After figuring out how much extra width I needed at the hips, I cut long triangles from the striped fabric.  I opened up the side seams and the sleeve seams at the armpits, and inserted the triangles.

Here's the finished look, nice and roomy and swishy: 

Now that there's more than enough width and the fabric doesn't get hung up on my hips, it might be a tad long.  But for now, I'm going to wear it as is and see how it goes.  It feels kind of luxurious.

Thanks, Julia!

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.

More than a few years ago, Debbie's grandma dressed several Madame Alexander dolls for a church fund raiser, and was able to purchase an unclothed doll, which she planned to dress for Debbie.  She wanted to do the same for Debbie's cousin Phyllis, but could never find another unclothed Madame Alexender doll for sale.  (This was long before eBay!)  So Debbie's doll was tucked away in the closet until a couple of years ago, when Debbie's mom found it and asked Grandma about it.

Debbie's mom came to me with a request to make a set of clothes as a surprise gift for Debbie.  Grandma is hoping that Debbie will give the doll to her daughter Emmie and eventually maybe her granddaughter.  That would make this an heirloom for Grandma's great-great-grandchild.  What a spectacular idea!

I discussed the styles and colors with Debbie's mom.  She relayed all the conversations to Grandma.  Grandma had some pretty clear ideas of what items a well-dressed doll should have!  I'd never made doll clothes before, so it was a really fun adventure for me.

I found and purchased two 8" doll clothing patterns.  I made muslin mock-ups first.  I discovered that Madame Alexander dolls have very thick necks and also a cute little girl belly, both of which necessitated some alterations.  I also redesigned a couple of things to fit Grandma's instructions.  I used vintage fabrics for everything, since I was working as Grandma's proxy in this project.

Here's her school dress.  This is made of woven, not printed, gingham with ric-rac from the box of trims I inherited from Grandma's house.

Here's a little sailor style dress made from a white linen napkin.  Debbie's mom had made matching dresses like this for Debbie and her daughter.

Here's her party dress.  This was made from an old pillow sham.

Grandma requested a velvet coat and hat.  It snaps shut for ease of use, but has little gold buttons stitched on.

Here are her pyjamas, made of a rosebud seersucker and pink organza ribbon.

Her trousseau is appropriately completed with these undergarments.

And finally, here is Debbie's dear Grandma Wood, enjoying the finished project.

Debbie's doll now resides in a very small white suitcase that belonged to Grandma, along with a baby blanket that Grandma made for Debbie's son Nathan.

I couldn't be more pleased to be part of this project that spans the decades.

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.

A dated quilt is always a treasure because it provides a snapshot of one scrap basket of that era.  These are not all necessarily mid-1970s fabrics, but assuming the date refers to the completion of the quilt and is not a commemorative date, which looks to me to be the case, no fabric is younger than 1976.

So journey back with me to the world of psychedelics and flower power.  Groovy, man.

And for a good chuckle:  The blue corner patch at the lower left was badly torn, both outside edges flapping in the breeze.

I happen to have a fabric in my stash which is the shirt tails left from one of my husband's favorite old shirts.  It is certainly from this exact same era, worn by him for years and years until the elbows and collar gave out.  And now it has provided a very close match to that worn piece.  Hee hee.

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:

1.  Quilts do not need to be one-of-a-kind masterpieces with inked inscriptions and super-fine quilting to have significance.  All quilts have historic value, even garden variety, utility quilts.  Many of the quilts that are valued today were probably not thought of as particularly exceptional at the time they were made.  What makes them notable now is that they have survived.

2.  Old quilts are, obviously, made with old fabrics.  Old fabrics are weaker than new fabrics.  They cannot be handled like new fabrics and expect them to keep on hanging together.  They need more TLC.  This can include not sleeping with them, which leads into not needing to wash them repeatedly, and instead, learning how to store or display them properly, and so on.

3.  Any quilt, utility or masterpiece, with family history attached has a special value as textile history.  Whatever your decision about repair, use, or storage, it's a great idea to write down the history you know:  the maker's name, where she was living and what her life was like at the time she made the quilt, how it came to you, etc.  All this information makes it much more special as a family heirloom, and also can be really great if a local historical society is interested in displaying local quilts.  You can keep the information, maybe with a photo of the quilt attached, with your other important papers.

Check out the thoughts on these blogs:

from Melissa, at Generation Q
Mend Me? Use Me?
The Mend & Use Debate, Part 2

from Corinne, at Sewtopia
Thoughts on Quilt Care & Repair, Restore or Reuse?

Here's a, hopefully, inspirational view of textile conservation.  I worked on a 500-year old tapestry a while back, and it got me to thinking about the passage of time and the value of thoughtful textile repairs.

And check out my other "quilt repair" postings for the decision process behind the repair jobs I've been doing lately.  And photos too, of course.