December 31, 2013

A Quilt From The Heart

This little quilt carries more heart-felt love than pretty much any other quilt that has come my way.  Writing up its story seems a great way to wish everyone a loving and warm new year.

When the owner and I determined that it was far too damaged for a total repair, I decided to salvage the few remaining (sort of) intact blocks and border sections.  The rest of the quilt was almost literally hanging by a thread, just tatters and empty spaces between them where the batting used to be.  I hasten to say that I virtually never, ever advocate for cutting into quilts, but this one had such a wonderful history, that I decided it deserved a lot more than being relegated to the rag bag.  Here is the story, in the owner's own words.

December 22, 2013


My friend Julia brought me this sweet evening bag made by the designer Judith Leiber, in need of repair.  An image search for "Judith Leiber bags" will bring you to a fantasy land of rhinestone-encrusted little bags. 

This one is quite tame by comparison, but I find it very classy and elegant.  It's two bags, one silver-tone and one gold-tone, attached to one another.  There's a double strap with each color of leather.  The closures are coin purse style baubles with gold and clear stones.  They were missing quite a few rhinestones. 

December 20, 2013

Favorite Quotes #4 - Art with Fabric and Art about Fabric Artists

Two friends posted links today to really delightful art by and about women who sew.  I hope you visit, and find a happy interlude to your day like I did.

Incredibly beautiful fiber art by Louise Saxton.  Thanks for sharing, Ellen!

A lovely collection of paintings, of women sewing and of the sewing supplies we love to use.  Various eras, many styles.  Thanks for sharing, Julia!

December 16, 2013

Little Cabin in the Woods

I have just completed working on a set of twin-size quilts made in 1934.  I restitched several places where the appliqués were coming loose, and rebound both quilts.

I haven't been able to find any info on the pattern, so if anyone knows anything about it, please let me know.  All I know is that I like it a lot!

Here are a few fun things about the construction of the quilts.

December 8, 2013

Being an Author

Being an author means getting good at self-promotion.  That is, being an author who actually sells books means getting good at self-promotion.  This is not something that comes easily to me.

Therefore, having friends who volunteer to do some promotion for me is a really, really good thing.
Summer Sanctuary by Ann Fahl
Many thanks to Ann Fahl for writing such a wonderful review of my book on her blog.  I met Ann quite a while before my 23 year old first child was born, so we go back a ways.  In the intervening years, her quilt career has taken her into authorship as well as teaching and making prize-winning quilts featuring flowers, birds, and cats.  Visit her website to "meet" her and enjoy her graceful art.

Lately, Ann has been restoring a red, green, and white tulip quilt, and chronicling her progress via her blog (follow the "restoring old quilts" label.)  Those 19th century red, white, and green lovelies have always been among my favorites.

Between the quilts, and fondness for cats, Mother Nature, and ancient Egypt, we have lots more in common than just our names.

Thanks, Ann!!!
Garden of the Sun God by Ann Fahl

December 5, 2013

Antique Silk Jacket

Here we are at the intersection of two of my interests / careers:  costuming meets vintage clothing.

Thin Ice Ensemble Theater is producing "Anne of Green Gables" this weekend.  One of our young actresses will be wearing a most exquisite antique silk jacket. We inherited it with a set of costumes created by the theatrical grandmother in one of our families.  The jacket will be worn by Mrs. Barry.

The tan jacket is lined with a tiny red and white stripe, both silks.  Then there are super wonderful gathered silk flowers with bead centers, and a metallic lace trim.  Here are some close-ups.  I am in love!

November 29, 2013

Fantabulous Eagle Quilt

Photo by Sotheby's
I can think of no better way to celebrate the release of my book on antique quilt care than to tell you the story of this amazing quilt. Now, I love all sorts of quilts, and appreciate repairing anything, from simple comforters that hold memories of overnights at Grandma's house, to jaw-dropping wonderful artwork. This is one of the latter.

It was sent to me by Mark Wilcox of Summer Antiques in upstate New York. The quilt is inscribed "Phelps 1853".  I assumed that Phelps was a family name, but Mark told me that it is a town not far from his shop. Phelps is near the Erie Canal, which was relatively new at the time the quilt was made, and the quilt celebrates the economic growth the canal brought to the area.

November 27, 2013

Blog Hop Final

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog these last few days at the Quilting Gallery Blog Hop!

I've pulled the name of the Lucky Winner of my book, using an actual hat, and she has been contacted.

I asked people to mention their favorite traditional quilt block. Here is the result of that "poll". Lots of ideas for some nice sampler quilts, eh?

Happy Quilting to you all!!!

churn dash - 8
stars - 7
log cabin - 5
baskets - 4
Grandmother's flower garden - 4
bears paw - 3
double wedding ring - 3
nine patch - 3
Ohio star - 3
pinwheel - 3
sawtooth star - 3
embroidered crazy quilt - 2
hexagons - 2
scrap quilts - 2
album block - 1
Amish - 1
appliqué - 1
cathedral window - 1
Dresden plate - 1
Dutchman's puzzle - 1
feathered star - 1
goose in the pond - 1
goose tracks - 1
honey bee - 1
lily basket - 1
little boy britches - 1
magic vine - 1
mariner's compass - 1
odd fellows puzzle - 1
sawtooth blocks - 1
seven sisters - 1
snake trail - 1
star flower - 1
storm at sea - 1
sunbeam - 1
tulip appliqué - 1
rail fence - 1

November 21, 2013

My New Book on Antique Quilt Care

12/27 - Blog hop results are final. Winner selected. Favorite traditional blocks list tallied. Big thanks to everyone who visited!!


I'm a first-time participant in a Quilting Gallery blog hop party - this one is all about "Giving Thanks." The list of bloggers ready to welcome you to their sites is at the Quilting Gallery.

The blog hop is open starting late afternoon on November 21, and ending on November 26.  I'll be drawing a name at random after the close and giving away a copy of my book - Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve - hot off the presses.

Enter the drawing by leaving a comment on this post.  Since the book is about antique quilts, let us know which is your favorite traditional quilt block or blocks.  I have lots of favorites!  Lily Basket.  Little Giant.  Hands All Around.

November 18, 2013

Two Books

#1 - Old book

My friend Gloria visited yesterday, and shared this amazing book with me.  It was published in 1916, revised from the original 1907 publication.  The title is:

Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes and Processes
Containing ten thousand selected household and workshop formulas, recipes, processs and money-saving methods for the practical use of manufacturers, mechanics, housekeepers and home workers.

Here is the cotton entry, covering bleaching by "steaming", with calcium sulphite, and with hydrogen peroxide.

And here is the silk entry, covering artificial rubbered silk(?), artificial aging of silk fabric, bleaching silk, and washing of light silk goods.

The range of entries is huge - no table of contents, just in alphabetical order. "Silk" is preceded by "Sign letters - to remove black letters from white enameled signs", then "Sign letter cements - see Adhesives", and "Signs, to repair enameled - see Enamels."  After silk comes "Silk sensitizers for photographic purposes - see Photography" and followed by "Silver."

The number of ingredients and supplies that are unheard of today (or known by different names maybe) is amazing.

The use of dangerous chemicals is scary.  We may get fussy about how over-the-top safety precautions are these days, but honestly, seeing these recipes without any mention of danger is kind of freaky.

#2 - New book

Here's my book, making its debut at the Fine Art of Fiber show last weekend.  I am officially a published author now - how amazing!  I am learning how to sign the title page like authors do.

I've been working hard to get all the logistics set up to actually open up for on-line sales and shipping.  Hopefully all will be ready in a week or so!

November 9, 2013

What the Birds See

"What the Birds See"

This is my latest quilt in the Something from Nothing series.  The series is based on a pile of decorator fabric samples.  Part of the challenge I have given myself is to make the design of the quilt related in some way to the design on the fabrics.  You can read more about the series here.

For this quilt, my goal was to use lots of the large floral prints and make a happy garden quilt.  I was wondering about what to use or make up for a garden design, and my friend Julie suggested that I reproduce a part of the Chicago Botanic Garden, and have the quilt ready to display at the big Fine Art of Fiber show that is held there every fall.  Perfect!  Thanks, Julie!

November 4, 2013

Luxurious Vintage Lace Jabot

One of the best things about repairing vintage clothing is getting to examine the items so closely and learn from them.  In this case, I took notes all long, and now have a pattern for making a really cool accessory that isn't exactly common these days. 

November 1, 2013

Coming Soon !!!

I am taking a big step forward.  I am publishing a book!

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve

The book will be available soon, during November.

106 pages, with step-by-step diagrams and 16 color plates

The book includes information for both quilt owners and quilt collectors.

Topics covered include:
The philosophy of quilt repair
Supplies and techniques for Restoration and Conservation

October 15, 2013

1960s American Eagle

Here's an heirloom quilt that came to me for a bit of repair.  It had one small hole and quite a bit of missing quilting.  Also, the owner asked that I put a sleeve on the back for hanging.

He told me that his mother made this quilt for him in the 1960s, after he got out of the service.  She also made a quilt for each of her other three children.

October 9, 2013

Cigarette Girl Costume

My friend Julia of Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions learned through the grapevine about a woman with a stash of vintage clothing.  This is one of the amazing items that Julia acquired.

The woman said that her mother had been a performer in her early life.  It's likely that several of her vintage things, like this outfit, were costumes worn during her mother's career before her marriage.  Her mother was most likely dancing in the 1920s.  A real find!

October 3, 2013

Spools and Bugs

You are probably wondering about the title of this post.  Here's the spools part - a quilt made in 1965. It had quite a bit of wear in the squares along one edge, and several open seams.  (This photo was taken post-repair.)

Here's the bugs part - a fabric with chartreuse and turquoise bugs on a grey background.  The color combo is pretty much a marker for the 1950s.  Pictorial prints were popular then, but why the large bugs?  Hardly a print to appeal to the stereotypical perfect housewife of the era! And to me, they look rather dead, what with those curled up legs and all.  Huh.  Not appealing in the least.  Maybe the fabric is meant to illustrate the maxim, "The only good bug is a dead bug."  Maybe.

September 15, 2013

Favorite Quotes #3 - Invisible Work

The poem "Invisible Work" by Alison Luterman has long been one of my favorites.  (Note: It is the second poem on the linked page.)

It's a great poem for me, because it pulls together many aspects of my life - mothering - making art - honoring the life force in the world around us - feeling connected to that larger meaning as we go about our small daily tasks.  I really love that all this, in the end, becomes the definition of art.

September 8, 2013

World Without End

The border of triangles and squares that decorates my blog pages is a pattern called World Without End.  I adopted it as my logo quite a long time ago.  I like how it can look like a whole variety of different patterns depending on the coloration and layout, and I like the positive name.

August 30, 2013

Favorite Quotes #2 - Why Make Art?

"Oh, it's outrageous to consider creating art, isn't it? But life is short. And intense. And we need art to inspire and amuse us."
by Lisa Halpern, in "insight: the cornish magazine", 2010.  Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle

This is a brand new favorite quote, not one of my old stand-bys, found last night while musing over college promo materials before chucking them in the recycle bin.

August 25, 2013

Snowflake Quilt part 2 - Repair and Dedication

The previous post told the story of Grace Powell and the quilt she made in the late 1930s.  Here is my part of this quilt's history:  a large patch and an embroidered dedication.

At some point, someone tried to iron the poor quilt!  No one remembers when or how this happened.  This is certainly not a good idea, but became even more troublesome when the iron left a pretty large scorch mark.  The burned fabric on the front flaked away, and on the back the weakened fabric ripped.  The batting in the area fell out.

August 21, 2013

Snowflake Quilt - part 1 The Story

This lovely quilt was made by Grace C. Powell in 1938-9 and given to her granddaughter Elaine on her 16th birthday. The current owner is Grace's great-granddaughter and Elaine's niece.  She has her great-grandmother's very detailed diaries, which are full of references to working on this quilt.

August 15, 2013

Spider Web Quilt

This quilt really grew on me as I worked on it.  This kind of patchwork scrap quilt is what lots of people think of when they hear the term "American quilt."

The pattern is Spider Web, a close variant of several that appear in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.  I estimate is was made in the 1950s, from a pretty deep scrap bag with quite a few fabrics dating back to earlier decades.  It's got lots and lots of strong colors, i.e. not many pastels, a good sign that it was made after the 1930s and 40s love affair with pastels and before the neons of the late 60s and 70s.  There are very few solids, and quite a lot of ginghams, plaids, and stripes.

August 8, 2013

Rose Wreath Quilt

This sweet Rose Wreath quilt is 33 years old.  Some of the appliqués had come loose, a couple of leaves were very ragged, there was a slit in the white background at one edge, and the binding was totally shot, hanging in long dangles.

It is a lovely heirloom for the owner.  The blocks were made and signed by her mother, mother-in-law, other women in the family, and close friends.  Several of these people have passed away, so the quilt is now also a memorial to them.  

One thing that made this a particularly fun project for me is that it was made in my general neighborhood.  The owner is the daughter-in-law of a quilter, and several of the blocks are signed by people I knew.  Also, being made in 1980, it dates to the era when I learned to quilt.  This is the kind of quilt that got me hooked on quilting!

August 5, 2013

Not Your Basic Little Black Dress

Oh, I really like this dress!  Not for myself, mind you.  I just don't get dressed up happily.  But I love the styling and unique details.

This is another piece that I repaired for Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.  The repairs were unremarkable, just closing a few open seams.  But look at how fun the dress is!

From the front, just basic sheath styling.  But what's that in the back?

July 29, 2013

July 21st Birthday Quilt

A little girl was born on July 21, 2008.  This is important to me, because July 21st is also my birthday, and because this new baby is the great-granddaugher of my husband's uncle and aunt.  This is the time when it would be great to have easy names for relatives, but we don't.  She is our first cousin, twice removed.  I think.

I love putting tons of symbolism into commemorative quilts.  (See these posts also:  wedding quilt, remembrance quilt, remembrance quilt.)  Here's the story of this one.

July 22, 2013

Zig-Zag Sewing Machines

I recently posted about a blouse I repaired, dating to the 1920s or 30s.

I became curious about the dating of the blouse relative to the seam finishing techniques.  They are French seams, finished with a machine zig-zag stitch.  


Vintage Net Blouse

This vintage blouse is made from a netting embellished with eyelets and a lovely lace edging.  It is in remarkably good shape for its age, likely in the 1920s or 30s.  So delicate and so feminine.

July 17, 2013

Woven Memories

This little quilt has connections to several other things I've blogged about:

July 12, 2013

Dye Migration

This ocean waves quilt is in my own collection.  It's one of the first quilts I purchased when I was starting to learn about antique quilts, in the early 1980s.  I bought it because I like the soft color combination, and especially liked that the quilt-maker had built on the reds in some of the prints, and accented those soft colors with a cheerful red binding.

A short while ago, I took it out of storage to bring it to a show-and-tell lecture I was about to present.  All my quilts are kept in acid-free storage boxes, and padded with acid-free tissue paper.  Lo and behold, I discovered that the tissue lining the box was covered with pale red triangles.

July 9, 2013

Van Gogh

I found this vintage smock at an estate sale.  I bought a bunch of craft supplies and doo-dads at this sale, all the while wishing I had somehow known the woman whose house I was in.  I think she and I would have been good friends.

July 6, 2013

The Key to Myself

So, now it's summer, and while my quilt repair biz keeps me busy enough, the costuming biz is pretty well on hiatus until the next season begins.  With the "extra" time, I've begun sorting and organizing closets.  It actually feels marvelous on the inward, emotional level.  It's great to jettison stuff and see how I'm moving on with Life.  It's great to feel a bit (every little bit helps) more in control of Everything.  And the walk down Memory Lane is really fun.

July 2, 2013

A Lovely Crazy Quilt

This great Victorian crazy quilt was brought to me as a top.  I replaced one missing corner area with a brown silk, covered several worn pieces with crepeline to protect the fraying fabrics, backed it with a black cotton, and bound the edges with a brown silk.

Here is a square with several crepeline-covered pieces - the white piece on the left, the two central light pieces, and the one on the lower right, where the broken silk is very easy to see.  From this photo, you can get an idea of how nearly invisible the fine crepeline silk is.

June 24, 2013

Lovely Tablecloth

This lovely tablecloth was rescued from the bottom of some huge piles at an estate sale. Hooray for salvage operations!

I'm finding myself drawn to all sorts of textiles and other art with a multi-color, full-spectrum palette.  So this cross-stitch embroidery is just the thing for me, really cheerful and pleasing.

June 19, 2013

Unique Vintage Dress and the Fashion Originators Guild

Here's yet another really cool vintage clothing item I have repaired for Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.  It's a two piece outfit, a wool dress with matching wool and fur jacket, dating to the 1930s or 1940.

There are three stand-out facts about this outfit:

June 16, 2013

A Resting Place for Mr. Spenalzo

Remember reading recently about my adventures making the dead body for the recent production of Arsenic and Old Lace?

Well, I made him as a stuffed body that could be dressed differently and used again for some future production.  So on our recent costume put-away day, his clothes went back into the costume boxes along with the things worn by all the other actors.

June 14, 2013

Costume Put-Away Day

Last Tuesday, we, that is the Thin Ice Theater costume crew, held a big Costume Put-Away Day.  Our costume (and props) collection is stored at 3 houses, mostly in big plastic bins with some special items on hanging racks. You can read about the origins of our collection here.  And you can read about about how we've re-purposed costumes for each show:  The Importance of Being Earnest, You Can't Take It With YouA Midsummer Night's Dream, Little WomenBethAmy and Jo and Meg, and An Ideal Husband.  

Our task was to sort and store everything from the past 3 shows - Witness for the Prosecution, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Arsenic and Old Lace.  Lots!

June 9, 2013

Our Rug's Resumé

Our living room rug has now appeared in its fifth show with Thin Ice Theater.  So, I figure it's time that the rug has its own resumé:

2008.  The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
photo by me - set by Joyce Elias

June 4, 2013

Bear's Paw Quilt

I did some patching of worn spots on this quilt, and mended an area with a hole through all three layers.  But that's not why I decided to write about it.  I just really, really like this quilt.  To my eyes, it's a totally successful design.  

Sometimes, to help myself learn what makes a successful quilt design, I like to play this little game.  I imagine how the quilt might look if the borders were different, or if it was not bordered at all, or if the blocks were set differently, or if the coloring was changed.  I can't find any changes that would improve this quilt for me.  When that happens, I know I've found a quilt I really like.

May 27, 2013

Meet Mr. Spenalzo

My main contribution to this weekend's Thin Ice Theater production of the classic "Arsenic and Old Lace" is the creation of a life-sized doll to be the two dead bodies that are called for in the script.

Sometimes he is Mr. Hoskins and sometimes Mr. Spenalzo.  We're hoping there will be time for him to have a super quick costume change.  It's tricky, since he won't be very helpful with the changes.  Another thing he will be called on to do is lose a shoe in the process.