March 29, 2013

Cathedral Windows

Cathedral Windows quilts aren't, strictly, quilts.  There isn't the 3-layer fabric and batting "sandwich" that is the standard definition of "quilt".  The pattern is based on folding squares of fabric.  The folded squares are whipstitched together, and then small colorful squares are appliquéd over the joins, inside gracefully turned curves.


I like to think of the process as being very similar to the folded paper fortune tellers my friends and I made ad infinitum when we were 8 or 9 years old.  Does anyone else remember recess on sunny afternoons, choosing numbers and colors, and then getting a funny fortune?  Over and over and over?

Anyhow, I've been repairing a lovely Cathedral Windows quilt.  What makes it particularly beautiful is the choice of fabrics that fill the little "windows."  Very often, the quilts are made with multi-colored calico scraps.  This quilt's windows are all filled with color wash fabrics in rose and blue.

The effect is lovely, like rippled pieces of colored glass, or maybe like the flicker of sunlight coming through trees outside the windows.   

The reason this quilt came to me for help, is that on the back, the little flaps are coming unstitched.

....... Wait a minute .......  Flaps on the back?  

I couldn't remember ever seeing a Cathedral Windows quilt with this problem before.  It took me a while to figure out why this problem seemed so strange.  

I finally realized, after making some paper samples, that the woman who made this quilt made the folded squares just like folding those paper fortune tellers.  Those are made by the folding corners of a square to the middle, flipping, and doing that again.  The thing is, when making Cathedral Windows, the fabric square shouldn't be flipped.  Then all the little corners end up safely inside the blocks.

#1 first fold, corners to centers

 #2 left, no flip, for Cathedral Window/ right, flip, for fortune teller

#3 left, second folds
left, flaps inside, Cathedral Window / right, smooth inside, fortune teller

#4 left, Cathedral Window, smooth back / right, fortune teller, flaps on back

So, I've done loads of sewing on the plain white back, but every now and then, just to make me happy, I flip it over and enjoy the sun pouring through the lovely stained glass.

March 22, 2013

Phantom Tollbooth

My next big costuming project for Thin Ice Theater is The Phantom Tollbooth.

We're producing the play by Susan Nanus, based on the book written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.  The book was published in 1961.  When I was in fourth grade, and the book and I were still both pretty new, my teacher read it to us, chapter by chapter.  It's been one of my top favorite books ever since, and both my kids are big friends of all the characters, just as I am.  I can't recommend it highly enough, so I am delighted to be part of this production.

So far, a general game plan has been created - most of the actors will be wearing black base clothes, and costume changes will be done by changing overclothes and accessories.  Next, I studied our inventory list, actors were measured, and an afternoon was spent pulling costume pieces out of storage boxes and closets.  A couple of days ago we had the huge costume try-on and fitting day.  Seven costumers tried 47 costumes of varying complexity on 26 young actors in 2 1/2 hours.  Whew!  It was kind of crazy and kind of miraculous.

The book just celebrated it's 50th anniversary.  Here's a fun interview with the author and illustrator telling about the birth of the book.  

March 11, 2013

Favorite Quotes #1 - Nora Naranjo-Morse

Years ago, at a show of Native American art, I fell in love with the sculptures of Nora Naranjo-Morse.  I also fell in love with this statement that was quoted in the description of her artwork.  It's become kind of a goal for what I want art to be in my life.

Asked if she is proud of her work, she says, "Yes....I think so, but even more than that - it sounds like I'm talking about my ego - but I'm amazed at what it does to me when I see it.  I am amazed at the person that I have become, that it makes me want to have character.  It says to me, 'I want you to have integrity.'  In that sense, maybe you should ask them, 'Are you proud of her?' ....  I can't take all this admiration thing too seriously because it's like some joint effort between them and some other force and I am honored to be included."

She is also a poet and a filmmaker.  A nice biography of the artist is here.  And a video made a few years ago at her studio is here.

Naranjo-Morse created a sculpture installation outside the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.  Here's an article about it, and here's a photo from the article.

March 6, 2013

New Old Clothes

The two items I recently posted about repairing are now up at the Basya Berkman Etsy shop.  Check 'em out if you want more info.

1950's cocktail dress:  my blog Beading on a Little Black Dress , at Etsy here

1950's wedding dress:  my blog Here's A Reason to Get Married, at Etsy here

March 3, 2013

Old Whites

This lovely star quilt came to me to patch a couple of places with brown stains.  It serves as a wonderful example of how hard it is to match old whites.

Old whites are virtually never pure white.  This is both because the original fabrics may never have been as white as ours today because they didn't go through the same intense bleaching processes.  And then, they have aged, with varying degrees and combinations of browning, yellowing, and greying.

Here are the two I found that are closest to the original fabric.  You can see that even rearranging them changes what they look like.  These two photos were taken by daylight, an overcast day.

Matching whites (and any color, really) gets even trickier if you also look at the fabrics in the evening under artificial light.  Incandescent bulbs lend a distinctly yellow overtone to everything.  So yellowed whites appear even yellower.  Halogen lights and full-spectrum lights, which is mostly what I have in my house, still make colors look different than daylight.  

This photo was taken under artificial light.  I altered it a bit to bring out the yellow like incandescent lights do.  

When I'm choosing fabrics, I always look under both lightings, and try to pick fabrics that give the best average effect.  In this case, I also had to consider the texture of the yellower of these two fabrics, which has a rougher weave.  The older cottons were woven with finer threads than some cottons, especially the Kona brand, are today.

Whenever I have trouble deciding between two not-quite-right fabrics or not-quite-right threads, I nearly always opt for the one that errs to the dark rather than to the light.  It will blend in as a shadowed piece, rather than shining out as too light.  So in this case, I chose color over texture.

Here is the full quilt, in all its glory.  Another post on this quilt is here.