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.

The top was made in the 1930s, just when the quilt pattern was first being published (see the previous post for more info on the pattern).  The prints are all of that era, and the green is the Nile green, aka "that 1930s green", that was among the favorite new pastel colors of that time.

The appliqué on this quilt is exquisite, perfection.  

The fabric choices are just plain fun, with the prints often echoing the shapes of each species of flower.  





In this block, the quilter used the both the front and the reverse of the fabric to give the flower added depth.

I am using a 100% cotton batt, and am quilting in a garden trellis design behind the vines.  

It looks like this quilt artist designed her own border vine shape.  This one is more sinewy and has fewer leaves than in the photos I've seen of other quilts made from this pattern.  It is much more graceful, and makes me love the top even more.

Here's the quilt pictured in Kretsinger and Hall's 1935 book, The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America.  The quality of the photo is pretty bad by today's standards, but looking closely, I can see that she quilted a feathered vine in the inner border, and I think quilted a flowered vine in the spaces between the appliquéd vines, using the appliqué patterns.  Nice!  The credit for this quilt is given as Mrs. C. E. Van Vleck.

There was absolutely no information about this wonderful quilter included with the top.  I hope that my care and quilting honors her and her artistry in the best way I can.  She certainly deserves the praise.  

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.  

The pattern is called Magic Vine.  The patterns were first published in the 1930s in the Nancy Page newspaper column.  Here's a write-up about the origins of the quilt.  A quilt made from the patterns was published in 1935 in The Romance of The Patchwork Quilt by Carrie Hall and Rose Kretsinger.  Eleanor Burns published a book with updated patterns a few years ago.  

This post has photos of the quilt itself.

So hello from me, and I hope you all have a joyous and sparkly holiday break, whichever of the winter holiday of lights you celebrate.  

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.

Lady Bracknell's first outfit combined a number of items that have been used before.  From Our Town - lace blouse, black skirt with flounce, black jacket - and from An Ideal Husband - black hat onto which we had stitched a black feather boa.

I added a huge flower, ribbon bows, and a couple of birds to the front of the hat.  We changed the big front button and added some trim to the jacket cuffs, and used the underskirt that she also wore in her second outfit.  I made a matching reticule.

The jacket for Lady Bracknell's second outfit was one of the few pieces that was made new for this show.  The gold fabric was a duvet cover, and the moss green fabric was a scrap from my stash.  Patty did a masterful job of it.  We also made a matching reticule.  What looks like a skirt is actually a sleeveless gown.  This is the first time we used that particular hat.  It had some lovely feathers on it, and Annie added some foofs made from the two jacket fabrics.

Cecily's gown was kind of a surprise.  I hadn't planned to use a dress with rather garish 20th century orange and green flocked flowers for an Oscar Wilde play.  But when the dress came out of the storage box on the way to pulling other dresses out, it immediately spoke, well actually it yelled, "I am Cecily!"  We made a long-sleeved, high-collared blouse out of a sari scarf to change the style to be 1890s instead of 1980s.  And also added a second flounce to lengthen the hem, widened the belt with more trim so it became waisted instead of empire.  This was sewn and embellished by Nora.  The hat was last seen in Our Town.  We added a bit of the orange ribbon to bring the two pieces together.

Gwendolyn's first outfit was a remake of Meg's party dress from Little Women.  You can read Annie's story of the creation of Meg's gown here.  This time, Annie raised the sleeves to the shoulders, narrowed the underskirt considerably, made lower sleeves, and changed the trims.  And then, she made a reticule and embellished the hat to match.    

We were able to use one of the outfits from An Ideal Husband pretty much as is for Gwendolyn's second outfit.  We added more flowers and poofs to the hat, and used the one fancy reticule that we already had.  
And, on to Miss Prism.  We used a blouse and skirt that we'd used in An Ideal Husband, plus the matching capelet which we'd used in Our Town, and re-trimmed one of the hats used in Our Town to match.  


And now for the gents.

Mostly, we used pants and jackets that we already owned.  They wore the attached, round-cornered collars that we originally made for Our Town.  To be stylish and proper, everyone also needed a vest.  We bought (resale shops of course) several women's vests because these have the higher v-neck shape and more buttons that the era required.  Sometimes, the vests ended up being a bit short on the guys - the butlers kept their jackets buttoned, and Jack wore a cummerbund to cover the waist area.  I made ascots and matching pocket squares and some new bow ties.

For Lane the butler, pictured at the top of this post, we changed the red buttons and covered the red piping edge that originally decorated the vest.  

Algernon's jacket also got new buttons, replacing modern-looking cream plastic ones.  And he has a matching cranberry hatband on his boater, which doesn't show here.  The vest is one that was acquired for the Moliere one acts show last spring.

Jack's funeral outfit included a morning coat last seen in Little Women.  He wore one of the new vests, and we put a black silk drape on a top hat.  Happily, miraculously, we had a pair of men's black dress gloves that fit him perfectly.

Jack's casual suit was more problematical.  We wanted to dress him in lighter colors when at his country home, but we had a nearly impossible time finding something that fit well.  This jacket and the pants, were a last minute resale shop find, just 4 days before the show.  Thanks, Nora!  The vest was one of the new women's vests.  Originally, it had a high round neckline and zipper.  I removed the zipper, re-shaped the neck, and added buttons and buttonholes.  It's a lovely gold and navy tapestry, a little hard to see it well in this photo.

We changed the buttons on Dr. Chasuble's suit jacket and yet another of those new vests, from splashy silver to plain black ones more appropriate to his position.  We bought a regular black shirt.  I removed the collar, leaving just the collar band, and made a clerical collar which snaps on.

And here's our delightful cast in their curtain call tableau.

More photos of these costumes "in action" can be seen on the Thin Ice website.  And my previous post shows how I sketched out the costumes while planning 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.

Costume designers generally do sketches of what they plan to make, and present them to the director for discussion.  Our process has to be a bit different than that, because our first step is to pull and fit things from our collection, and then fill in with new items and embellish the old as needed.  So, I start with a blank slate, and keep twiddling with the sketches as we figure out what we're going to use.  I check out the progress with our director, and share them with the set designer, so the entire look can be better coordinated.

I do the drawings in Adobe Illustrator.  I mostly use the pen tool to draw the shapes, and then add color.  Probably the most helpful hint I can give is that I make a new layer for each outfit.  That makes it infinitely easier to find each little shape when I want to change it as the costumes evolve.  And I copy and paste things like pants or hats between outfits/layers - no need to draw them anew for each character.

Here are a few of our actors in some of the outfits above.


 Miss Prism


I'll have photos of the show next week, and will write a few tales of the exciting things that happened in pulling all these outfits together.