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.

Add to that, all the delicate crochet insets, and a bit of pulled thread detailing, and it's the coolest tablecloth I've seen.

It had some pretty nasty yellow stains on it.  I did a couple of spot cleaning attempts, one with Fels Naptha soap which didn't seem to do much.  Fels Naptha seems really best with oily stains, so either that's not what they are, or they're so old that the Fels can't lift them.  (Fels is great with underarm stains and with make-up smudges, by the way.)  I also tried dish soap, which I find one of the most effective cleaners for food stains, which is not terribly surprising, I guess.  It also didn't do much, possibly due to the age of the stains.  And if they've been washed before, which I suspect, and if they've been ironed in as well, they are pretty well set in.

It's now been through a couple of multiple-day soaks in an oxy cleaner.  All this has whitened the fabric considerably, and lightened the stains.  It is now presentable enough to photograph, but I'd still like to try some more on the stains before I iron it.

It also has a couple of little nips and tears to be mended.  But for me, that's all a small price to pay for such a beautiful piece of needlework!

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:

1.  The styling and detailing are unique, highly skilled, and absolutely delightful.


2.  The size is so tiny that it doesn't fit on any of the Basya Berkman models and doesn't even fit on Ethel, the Basya Berkman mannequin.  Yet it is clearly an adult style.  I know people today are on average larger than they were then, but still, it is extremely tiny.  I keep wondering if maybe it was the dressmaker sample that went with the salesman to stores, or maybe was made for a small window display mannequin.

The repairs needed were several very small holes in the wool.  The nearest match to the color that I found was a men's wear suiting.  Yes, it's a stripe, but the holes in the dress are so small that they were easily filled by just the wide grey part, as long as the patch was placed carefully underneath. No one, except those of you reading this page of course, will be the wiser.

Here are two of the holes.  My thumb is to the left of one of the largest, still only 1/2" long.  My pointer finger is to the left of a 3/16" round hole.  (Doing and re-checking the mental math so I can confidently type 3/16 of a inch makes me wish for the metric system!)

Here's how the reverse looks.  I stitched lightly around the hole edges to help keep the weave from unweaving, and lightly tacked down the edges of the patches.

(The color of the suiting fabric matches the dress much better in real life than in the photos. Though it sounds like an excuse, it's really true.  Maybe that's because the texture of the two fabrics is so different, and the suiting reflects more light than the dress wool.)

3.  And if all that wasn't enough, here's a super interesting piece of fashion history - the label.

A quick search showed that the Guild was founded in 1932 or '33 (facts vary) to crack down on folks taking original designs and creating knock-offs.  The Guild created a registry of original designs and a censure system for retailers dealing in knock-offs.  The FTC ordered a cease-and-desist, but the Guild took the case to the Supreme Court.  In 1941 the Court ruled against the Guild, saying they were in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.  

I found this story here, at the Vintage Fashion Guild.  The site is an amazing collection of info for vintage fashion lovers.

And here is a Pinterest board of Fashion Originators Guild items.

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.

Since we'd stuffed him with rolled up fabric from the bins of random fabrics that came to us along with all the costumes we inherited, there was an empty bin that became his very own.

We folded and bent him to fit.  His wig-stand head and mask fit in also.  And we placed him back on the shelves with the boxes of fabrics.  (These shelves also hold the colorful bower that we used in last year's A Midsummer Night's Dream.)  There he is, middle shelf, right-hand, white-lidded box.  Awwwwwww.

In a moment of levity, I marked the box "Mr. Spenalzo - R.I.P."

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!

Here's the jumble of bags containing not quite all of that stuff.  Some more arrived after I took the photo.  The things have been at various houses being washed and aired and stored until this day arrived.  Men's suits had already been hung up on their storage rack.

Here's how we do it.  We lay out numbered papers representing all of the 54 boxes of Stuff.  These go all around the living room and dining room.

Then we go through the items one by one, determine which box it belongs to.  I have a checklist of all the things pulled for these shows and which boxes they came from.  As we go, we label each piece with the box number as often as possible (meaning that the item has a label or facing to write a number). Occasionally, we move things to different boxes in an attempt to make the storage more logical (ha, ha!), and I make notes about that.

Eventually, we have piles for each box.

And then......  lunch!!!!  You can see how absolutely elated we all get about this process.  (Or are we elated about the prospect of felafel and shawarma?   Hmmmmmm..........)

We also keep a pile of new things that were acquired for the shows, or that were donated by families and friends.  We go through that pile and discuss what we might be able to use.  We try to limit what we take in to things that are not easily found at resale shops.  We decide what box might have room for something new, and I take notes on color, size, style, etc. for each piece.

After all that, we head to the boxes.  Some are in the basement.  Some are in the garage.  The men's suits hang in the mudroom.

A few boxes are stored in the basement of another house, and those things go home with someone who will stash them away there.  And some gowns and large or special things come to my house to hang in a closet and the upstairs hall.  My closet, behind the clothes, also holds the hanging racks and hangers that we use backstage, and the jewelry boxes.

We started at 9:30, had lunch at 12:30, and finished up at 4:00.  It really is a full day's job.  But we love our Stuff and enjoy sorting it out together.

And then, I spent the evening typing in all the info about what happened during the day.  It makes for a long day, but I find that I remember the details of what happened much better.  I remove the flags on items on the pulled checklists for each show, and add to the description the name of the show, name of character, and any changes to styling that were made.  I think it took me about 3 hours.

Just as a point of information, the inventory file now has over 1800 entries!  

And a plug for our inventory program - and yes, I do have an affiliation.  We use Helix, which is the data base my husband has been head programmer on for about umpteen years now.  A brand new, super updated version is due out any day now!  

And now, I feel like summer is truly starting for me!

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

2010.  An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
photo by Julie Bernstein - set by Joyce Elias

2012.  You Can't Take It With You by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
photo by Julie Bernstein - set by Joyce Elias

2012.  The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
photo by Julie Bernstein - set by Ryan Emens

2013.  Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring
photo by Julie Bernstein - set by Ryan Emens

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.

To begin with, this style of sashing has always been a favorite of mine.  This quilter used it to perfection.  I like the rhythm created between the bear's paw blocks and the little 9-patches at the intersections.  The solid paws are balanced by the lighter openness of the 3-stripe sashing.  The blocks and sashing are in just the right proportion to one another.  I like that the border repeats the 3 stripes of the sashing, but without the 9-patches, related but still creating an edge that contains the energy of the design.  The clear, two-color palette plays up this great design to the fullest.

Figuring a date for a solid color quilt like this pretty much always has a large range.  The color and the style were both popular for a long time.  It could easily have been made anywhere between 1890 (or earlier) and 1920.  Something about the feel of it in my hand makes me want to place it in the 20th century.  

I did the repairs with the wonderful reproduction turkey red fabric I found and bought so much of when I was repairing a redwork Peter Pan quilt.  I'm so glad my investment in such a huge hunk of that fabric is coming in handy.