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.  

The lightbulb:  My refrigerator door is a snapshot of my life and what is important to me.  I stick lots of inspirational quotes and artwork on my fridge, as well as our weekly schedule that I print up on the computer every Friday for the next week.  And I love reading what other people have on their fridges.

Making this quilt was a technical stretch for me, my first venture into photo transfers.  I edited out some of the multitude of bits and pieces posted on the fridge, and enlarged the items that I used, so that they would be a bit more legible. The vents at the bottom are pieced, since I couldn't find a stripe just right for my needs.  The handles are stuffed.  

The quilt is 36" x 67", the size of my real-life fridge.

Here's what I wrote about it on my website:
"I came up with this idea when challenged to make a piece for a show entitled "Narrative Portraits". Refrigerator "stuff" provides a glimpse of where our lives are and what's important to us, and generally includes a good dose of humor, too. I love standing in my friends' kitchens reading their refrigerators. I use mine to post thoughts and images that remind me of my path, help me through my days. This quilt was a big step for me, my first adventure in what I like to call high-tech quilting. It's the first time I've ever done anything to the fabric besides cut and stitch it. It's also the funniest quilt I've ever made."

In the scatter of magnetic letters, you will see "AW" representing myself, "L", "K" and "K" representing my husband and two kids, "X" and "O" because I love them, and "Quilt", a word of obvious importance.

The title, tongue firmly in cheek, is "Portrait of the Artist as a ... Refrigerator".

The quilt did travel around for a while, and now resides here with me.  (Am I jealous of all the places my quilts have been to and I have not?  Yes.  And it's so much easier for them to travel, they just sit in a box and let other people handle the logistics.  That's what really make me jealous.)

I'm writing this post now, because I just heard again from someone who liked the quilt well enough to put it on his own site (after politely asking permission - not only is it polite, but I really appreciate knowing that someone likes my work well enough to post it).  His site is based on exactly the same concept - the our refrigerator doors show us who we really are.  And isn't that really what blogs are all about anyways?  Electronic refrigerator doors!  Thanks, James Huggins!

August 26, 2012


Gleanings from this weekend's estate sale shopping:

more buttons
I do love the incredible variety of buttons.  The huge pink one is molded plastic, a dome of pink spheres!  The blue in the upper right is covered with woven ribbon!  The flower at the center top is ceramic.  Plus many other shiny, pearly, colorful, funky additions to my collection.  My button baskets are overflowing.  And I even got a third one several months ago.  Ummmmm...........  I need to come up with some really cool button projects!

drapery doo-dads, i.e. potential costume decorations 

 laces and fringe, also potential costume bits

a most wonderful lace, possible collar or yoke for a dress


 three lace-edged doilies, more potential costume frills

 old pillowcase, unevenly stained, potential quilt repair fabric

I love going to these sales late in the day.  The bits and pieces I'm looking for aren't appealing to most shoppers, so I usually can find plenty of interest.  And as the sale is closing, the prices go waaaay down.  I got all this, plus a bag of felt pieces and a blouse and a scarf for my daughter, for $7.25.  Woo hoo, my kind of sale!

I especially love that piece of lace.  And of course, there can never be too many 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.

It took quite a bit of time to find a good red, since the original fabric was quite faded out.  Remember the great red fabric I crowed about (pun intended) on the Peter Pan quilt I repaired last winter?  It was way too bright for these faded patches, though it was likely quite similar to the original look of the fabric.  I cut a piece and hung it in my sunny living room window for over a month.  It never did fade enough.  I ended up using a dull red fabric, in its original purchased color.  Sometimes it's hard to realize just how much old fabrics have faded.

The "Peter Pan red" is on the left.  The window-faded version is on the right.  The fabric I eventually used is above these, in between the two sashing squares.  You can see two completed patches down below, the ones with safety pins in them.  Two original rectangles are just above the patched ones.

The quilt had faded very unevenly.  Sometimes the patch fabric blended in quite well, as in the photo above.  And sometimes there was quite a bit of difference between a new patch and the original rectangle next to it, as in the photo below.  The owner and I decided that it would look better in the long run to use the same red throughout, rather than try to match each rectangle individually.  

Matching the white border and sashing fabric also provided a lesson in how fabric ages.  Below, you can see a true white in the center, a cream on the left, and on the right, the beige that I eventually used to more or less replicate the old "white".

Another spot that needed help was the Bible.  The pages were made with a brown silk that was no longer intact.  I patched it with another brown silk.

Here's a quick step-by-step of the patching process.  First, the torn original fabric:

Next, the new fabric, pinned in place, with one edge turned under, ready to appliqué.

And finally, the completed patch.  No, I don't iron the patches before I sew them on (unless they are deeply creased).  I think using them with a bit of crumple helps them blend into the original surface, which is generally somewhat soft and crumpled as well.

The back of the quilt is a lovely floral.  Here, you can see what fun the quiltmaker had with it.  She used the print to guide the placement of her ties, and alternated the color as she went.

I used the same beige fabric to patch the backing edges.  I made that decision because it would have been impossible to duplicate the print, and I felt that a similar though different print would create a lot of dissonance.  The print has enough cream background color that a small patch of solid fabric was less obtrusive.

Here is the whole quilt, repair work completed.

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.

The hat is made with chenille yarns and faceted black beads.  Some of the beads were missing.

Lo and behold, in my bead boxes:  A handful of exactly the same beads!  Yea!!!  

I can easily count on one hand the number of times this has happened.  I think I've matched an exact fabric in quilt repairs twice in the 30 years I've been repairing quilts.  Woo hoo. It's a red-letter day today.

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.

I also took into consideration the age of the actors (7 to 14), the size of the cast (25), the experience level of my sewing parents, and the potential of hot days in early June (which did come to pass).

I reasoned that many of the adult-size robes and gowns we have in the costume collection could easily become gathered and draped Grecian chitons on these smaller-size bodies.  We did a lot of that kind of work, and also made a few new pieces from sheets and hunks of fabric.  Then, we added casings and elastics at the waist, trim, and snap-on belts.  Circlets and head pieces from the collection were altered and trimmed to match.  (Including two new ones for Hippolyta and the fairy Muskrose with which I am quite pleased.)

The royals wore ankle length garments, with elegant fabrics and trims.  Hippolyta and Theseus wore royal purple.  

The rustics wore calf length tunics, in earthy colors and rougher fabrics.

The fairies were "out of time and place", focusing on pouf and sparkle.  We ended up with somewhat of a theme of layers - as we found various bits and pieces that eventually created whole outfits.  We had more fairies than Shakespeare created, and the changeling boy as well.  Since all our young actors wanted a name of their own, we added Dewdrop, Muskrose, and Thistledown, and Acorn the changeling boy.  The names informed the color and embellishments of their outfits - Cobweb white and lacy, Mustardseed yellow with pom-poms, Peaseblossom magenta and white like actual pea flowers, etc.  It was really fun!

Oberon and Titania were caped and regal.  And Puck, a part of the forest.

The costumes for the rustics' play were made to look very rough and untutored, things they would have gathered and created from a very limited supply of materials and theatrical talent.  For instance, Pyramus carried a platter as a shield, and the Lion's mane was a circlet decorated with torn strips of fabric.

Megan, one of our high school students, gets great kudos for master-minding the make-up process and designing the lovely curlicues for the fairies.  You can see a full set of costume portraits on my website.

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:

I've finished one long edge.  Teeny, tiny buttonhole stitches.

And I've been stitching leaf veins in the center medallion.  I discovered some curlicues in amongst the leaves and flowers, and since I didn't know what color they were meant to be, and since I had the purple on hand, decided to do them in purple.  They'll make a nice contrast with the yellow roses and green leaves.

And.......  I got a phone call this morning, telling me that the variegated threads I ordered had finally arrived.  I picked them up right away!  Yea!

Guess what I'll be doing while watching the rest of the Olympics!