February 27, 2013

Starry Quilt

Here's a lovely star quilt, probably made in the last decades of the 1800s.  

I've seen this pattern called "Blazing Star" or "Star of Bethlehem".  This pattern has a long history as a favorite.  Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns lists many other names.  Along with flowers, quilters seem to have always been very fond of stars!

Sometimes, it has been called "Prairie Star" and "Harvest Sun", names that evoke the Midwest and prairie states.  Sometimes, it has been called "Ship's Wheel", evoking towns along major river routes or along the seacoast.  I am always fascinated when quilts can give us a glimpse into America's history.

As a design, I like how the blocks form an overall pattern when they touch.  I also like how, with some colorations, the little diamonds at the tips of the star give the effect of a sparkle.

The collection of fabrics in this quilt is also lovely.  Here are some detail shots of my favorite stars.

This quilter used her scraps wisely, and created a lovely piece of art.  The red binding is like the period at the end of a sentence, or maybe it's an exclamation point!

February 24, 2013

Beading on A Little Black Dress

This otherwise basic little black dress gets most of its personality from the wonderful trim at the front neckline.  

Gathered fabric strips outline some subtle beading with iridescent blue beads - bugles, seed beads, and sphericals - and tiny rhinestones.  

A couple of rhinestones were missing, and quite a few of the spherical beads.  Also, the gathered bands were detached in many places.  

Re-attaching the gathered bands was easy.  Finding just the right spherical beads was impossible.  So, we decided to remove some of the beads from the shoulder/corner areas and move them down into the empty spots.  You can see in this photo where I took beads off of the left end of the bottom row.  I also ended up taking off some beads from the end of the top row and re-placing them so that the row now goes up the center of the corner area.  

Here is the neckline after the bead work was completed.  I restitched through all the spherical beads actually, because the thread was quite fragile throughout.

The final step was replacing the missing rhinestones.  I found some little Swarovski crystals in the same size.  They are the two in this photo that appear a bit pinker.

And here is the finished project.  I think that the subtlety of the combination of the iridescent blue beads on the shiny black satin is quite elegant.

Dress and photo courtesy of Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.

February 20, 2013

Here's a Reason to Get Married

Oh, such a beautiful wedding dress!  When my friend Julia brought it to me for fixing, she said, "Doesn't this dress just make you want to have another wedding?"  Yep, Julia, it sure does!

Here are the wonderful fabric roses and the beading around the skirt.

Couldn't be more gorgeous!

Here's the back neckline, with the filler seed beads missing from the fleur de lis shape on the left.

And here's the front neckline, with nearly all the filler seed beads missing.

The beads are clear with a grey liner in the holes.  I'm thinking maybe they used to be silver lined, but are now tarnished.  I looked at new, silver-lined clear beads, and they were just too bright.  The lovely lady in the bead department at my favorite craft store, Tom Thumb, was very patient, and we pulled out several more things to try.  Lo and behold, they had just the right size bead, clear with a grey liner!

In the tube, they look too dark.

But one at a time, on the cream fabric, they are absolutely perfect!

The moral of this story is - support your local, non-chain businesses and keep them going!  You'll get the best service ever.  Being at a small, friendly store, I could lay the dress on the counter, open the tube, and see the beads on the fabric.  And it benefits them, too - they made a sale by being service oriented.  OK, I'll step down off my soap-box now.

Here's a completed flower, and then the completed dress.  Yep, if I was getting married, I'd want this dress.

If you are lucky enough to be planning your wedding, this dress could be yours, and I will be sooooo happy for you.  Check it out at Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.

February 10, 2013

Puppies, Kitties, A Lamb, and A Duckling

Here's a sweet vintage crib quilt, a special family heirloom.

I asked the owner if she would share the story of the quilt:

"This quilt was made by my mother before the birth of her oldest child, my sister, in 1947.  It was used for all three of her children and three of her grandchildren, including my daughter and son.  My mother passed away in 2011 and I wanted my daughter and grandson to have something special to remember her.  My daughter and my mother had a special relationship and my daughter was so appreciative of the quilt restoration.  I was a little concerned about trying it myself, thinking I might damage this precious heirloom, but with Ann Wasserman's advice and instructions I was able to patch the hole, rebind the quilt and cover the damage on the appliqued duck.  All of my family was impressed with the restoration."

Thanks for the kudos, as well as the story.  :-)

The owner wanted to do the work herself.  She has hand sewing and embroidery experience, though not much quilting experience.  I was able to send her ideas and instructions via email, and she set off on her first quilt restoration adventure.

One problem was staining, especially on this puppy block.  We discussed the pros and cons of washing alongside the quality of the stains and the weakness of the fabrics, and she opted to not wash the quilt.

She wondered about whether she could or should take the quilt apart and replace the batting, which has gotten somewhat lumpy after all that use.  She decided against this, too, after considering many factors: the stress on the old fabrics, the amount of quilting that would need to be re-done, that the lumping isn't really that bad, and finally, that she would lose all of her mother's own quilting stitches.

Another problem area was the disintegrating fabric on this little duckling.  Here's the way the fabric was replaced:

"The second picture shows the duck I replaced the torn one with.  I did not remove the old one, just stitched on top of it inside the black outline.  I did the embroidery before cutting out the duck and stitching it on so the stitches would not show through to the back of the quilt."

And finally, there was a small hole on the back, and worn binding all around:
"I made the binding slightly wider than the original to cover some small holes near the edge of the binding.  The last picture shows the patch on the hole in the back."

She also wrote:
"I found a quilt shop here in my town and was able to buy reproduction fabric in the store instead of ordering from the site you sent.  The sales lady there was very helpful in selecting material to closely match the quilt."

Here's another chance for me to get up on my soapbox and talk about keeping small independent stores alive by giving them your business.  A quilt store will be staffed by someone who knows quilts and will probably have just a much fun as you do in figuring out which fabrics to use.  I know this because I used to work at a quilt shop.  It was so much fun to help plan so many projects, way more than I'd have time to actually sew!  (Though the site she mentions, my favorite mail order place, Reproduction Fabrics, is also a small independent store with extremely knowledgeable staff.)

We also discussed how and where to hang the quilt most safely.  The options were sleeve and rod, velcro, or pressure bars, i.e. stitching into the quilt or compressing the batting.  The owner chose the pressure bars, since the quilt will not be used ever again.  Sadly, sometimes it's really hard to do anything to an old quilt without some repercussions.

And here's the little cutie, spic and span (relatively!) and ready to hang.  Thanks to the owner of the quilt for loving it so much and agreeing to let me share her story and her photos with you.

February 6, 2013

Davis Vertical Feed Sewing Machines

As I said in the previous post, I've been having a great time looking and reading my way through Janet Finley's book of antique photos, Quilts in Everyday Life.  

Last night, I read about something completely new to me, the Davis vertical feed sewing machine.  The photo in Finley's book shows a mother and her little daughter sitting at a Davis machine with a 4-patch quilt.  Finley dates the photo to 1895-6.  It is labeled by a photo studio in Afton, Iowa.

So I poked around this morning to see what I could learn.  "Vertical feed" means there are no feed dogs.  The fabric is advanced by the action of the needle and presser foot.  The Davis machine was patented and came into production around the same time as the early Elias Howe and Singer machines.  It's touted as being able to sew cleanly without pre-basting, to sew all sorts of various thickness of fabrics including leather very well, etc.  It looks like the company produced machines between 1868 and 1924 or so.  They are treadle machines.

Today, people talk about the mechanics as being similar to the walking foot, which also pulls the fabric from the top so as to even out the pull of the feed dogs.  Otherwise, the bottom layer of fabric is pulled slightly faster than the top fabric.  This is great for curved things, like setting in sleeves, with the sleeve fabric on the bottom so it is eased into the shoulder.  Walking feet can be used for machine quilting, for matching plaids at seams, for sewing long seams on drapes and quilt backing, etc.  I found a few references to today's quilters loving their antique Davis machines for machine quilting and for binding.

I've always wondered about the feed dog thing.  It seems like it would make more sense to have the machine feed the layers evenly since there are many more uses for that.  And then there would be an attachment or something for those times when easing in is called for.  So the Davis mechanism makes perfect sense to me.

Here is a full history of the Davis Company by the International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society.

Here is a short video of one of these machines in action.