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.

Not only do the students learn about acting and being on stage, they also help produce the sets, props, and costumes (which is where I come in).  The kids end up feeling quite a bit of pride and ownership in their shows.

The kids learn how the designing of costumes and sets helps interpret the story, and helps support their acting.  We make a point of keeping everything we make and use to the limited color schemes of the original Dr. Seuss illustrations.  Clothes in appropriate colors were found in our costume collection and in the kids' own closets. The kids then made accessories and did some alterations for sizing.  Making sets and props includes painting, glueing, cutting, and drawing.

Here are some highlights from both productions.

The Cat In The Hat
creating a cake-on-a-plate hat


the set

on stage:
the mother, fish, Sally, the boy, Cat, book, cup, a Thing

Horton Hears A Who
making Who puppets

the Whos:
finger tips were stuffed to fit short fingers
faces drawn on, and doo-dads glued on for hair and accessories


making Whoville:
boxes and tubes covered with construction paper and decorated with odds and ends
(inspired by this blog)

making felt set decorations

designed to mimic the book cover
large boxes with posterboard glued on for color
posterboard trees, paper letters, felt decorations


on stage:
narrator, mother kangaroo, young kangaroo, Horton

 narrator, Jojo, monkey, Horton, kangaroos

Vlad Valdikoff and Horton
with clover plus dust speck, and clover field

Whos and Who mayor with puppet gloves 

the adorable cast

and because I hardly ever appear on these posts:
me, Jojo, a little Who, our director Eileen

More photos from both shows, including costume portraits of all the actors, can be seen on my website.  

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.

(I first discovered this concept via my son and a TED talk he shared.  There's a guy named Ze - pronounced zay - Frank who has a video blog named "a show".  It's an entirely different ambiance from Jude's website, ranging from vulnerable to irreverent, often with language that may offend some of you.  It is clearly heartfelt, expresses the range of who he is, and opens up thought on deep topics of Life.  He also asks viewers to contribute to various projects in which he combines and edits video bits and photos that are sent in, just like Jude is combining bits of cloth.)

Jude's project is called the Magic Feather Project.  She started by collecting bits of fabric embroidered with feathers of all imaginary sorts.  Next, she had started collecting fabrics with appliquéd stones.

This part really appealed to me (and besides, she had stopped asking for feathers by the time I found her blog).  I have been in love with small stones forever, and have adopted several baskets full.  When I was little and would go walking in the woods with my dad, he always was concerned because I was looking at the ground and not at the woods.  But I found some lovely stones that way, and have them still (including the one at the top of this photo).

I had a fine time searching through my fabrics for stone-like prints, and then appliquéing the soft, water worn shapes.  These are very tiny, the blue backgrounds are 1/2" - 2" square.

Here is how my little stones show up on Jude's blog.  I have been contacted by several of Jude's readers, and they are just as delightful as her blog.  Thanks, Jude.  

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.

True conservators, which I am not, or people who are good at fabric dying, which I am not, can dye their crepeline to match the fabric being covered.  I experiment with the dark or light, and choose the one that alters the look of the original fabric the least.

I just bought a new yard of brown from Talas, a conservation supply store.  It is far from inexpensive.  I think it is totally worth the cost, because it is virtually invisible when applied.  This is the second yard of brown I have bought in a couple of decades of repairing quilts, and I'm on my second yard of the natural.  A little goes a long way, in other words.  Thankfully.  Most people send quilts to me for restoration, i.e. patching, and not stabilizing and conservation.

It's a good idea to prewash the crepeline, to remove the sizing and any extra dye.  I've heard it recommended, and totally agree, that it's best to fold the fabric up and baste it before wetting it.  Otherwise, it turns into a lump of very limp fabric, stuck to itself by the water, and is easily pulled off-grain while trying to flatten it out.

Here's my little packet of silk soaking in the sink.

And now, on to the process of stitching it onto a quilt.  This quilt is a marvelous collection of early-mid and mid 19th century fabrics.  It's owned by a collector who understands the historical value of these fabrics and chose to cover them with crepeline rather than patching over them.

Here's one of the blocks that needed help.

Here's how it looks with the crepeline pinned over the worn triangles.  I cut the crepeline very large, and cut to size as I stitch.  Silk in general, and especially a gossamer silk like this one, is notorious for scuttling away from the scissor blades, almost impossible to cut straight.  This is even more of an issue in applying to patchwork, where there are pretty much always going to be some bias edges.  So I give myself plenty of lee-way fabric.

I gently cut the silk back to a generous 1/4" as a go along each side.  That gets turned under and stitched with a running stitch, no less than 1/4" long under the old weak fabric so the stitches don't catch just a few threads and break them.  It's very fussy work, especially on those bias edges.  Be careful and gentle with the fabrics.

I use extra fine 100% cotton machine embroidery thread, a small quilting needle (which is easier than usual to thread, what with the finer embroidery thread!), and "insect pins", the slender pins museums use to mount insects in display boxes.

 Here's the finished look.  

As you can see, the end result doesn't look very different then the original look.  The dark crepeline has the nice side effect of dulling out the white of any batting that's showing through.

The other work this quilt required was stitching closed many seams that had come open due to a disintegrating sewing thread.

I pinned the patch back down while the quilt lay flat to avoid introducing any puckers....

....and then I stitched with a ladder stitch, one half of the stitch into the background and one half running through the fold of the appliqué.  These stitches also are sewn larger than what quilters are used to doing, to avoid breaking the fabrics.

Photos of this entire quilt and its wonderful collection of fabrics can be found here.

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...

This quilt is a wonderful, wonderful collection of fabrics, a similar "encyclopedia" of fabrics as seen in several other quilts I have highlighted in this blog:  the 1860s stars quilt and the 1900 crazy quilt and the 1970s crazy quilt.

There are fabrics here that place it at the middle of the 1800s, with quite a few fabrics from earlier decades.

For one thing, you'll notice that there aren't many "calico" prints, even though those are popularly considered to be the main fabric in antique quilts.  Actually, they didn't come into vogue until later on in the 1800s.

Here are some lovely indigo blue prints.  They show how color fast indigo dye is, not a bit of fading.  You'll also notice throughout these photos the presence of large floral print stripes, which also help date the quilt to this time period.

Here are two examples of green print fabric that was popular in this era and beyond.  Green dyes were problematical for a long time.  First, they were done in a two-step process of blue dye plus yellow dye, using mineral and plant materials.  These dyes tended to hold their color better than the first synthetic greens that came along towards the end of the century.  Those often fade to a dull tan, and quite quickly.  It was not until the 20th century that a fast, single step green dye was developed.

To me, these blue and brown prints with the kind of washed out edges between the colors speak of the 1830s and 40s.  This color combination was popular for quite a few decades around the middle of the century.

Here's one of those blue and brown prints combined with another popular color combination.  In that one, the indigo and white are joined by a newly invented dye, chrome orange.  This was one of the early mineral dyes (as opposed to plant dyes).  And it is why I date the quilt as I do.  It was developed in the 1830s, and a similar color made with antimony came a bit later.

Here's a solid orange as the center square in another block.  I think this quiltmaker was right at the forefront of fabric trends, just like today's quiltmakers like to be.

And about the ginghams.  They aren't much help at all with dating quilts, though the colors can indicate changes in available dyes at different periods.  

More great information on fabric and quilt construction and design history can be found in Barbara Brackman's book Clues in the Calico.

The story of the conservation work I did on this quilt is posted here.