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.

The print fabrics in this quilt are scraps from costumes I helped make.  I used to help with costumes for the Evanston Dance Ensemble when my dancin' daughter was in high school.  This particular dance was to the Beatles' song "Birthday", and the dancers were in party dresses made with these bright, 70s-style prints.  (That's my daughter on the left, in the birthday girl role.)
Photo by Matt Glavin
The pattern I found was Bright Hopes, the design perfect for showcasing the birthday dress fabrics, and the name perfect for welcoming a new little one to the planet.  I found coordinating solids in my fabric stash.

I used one of the solids in the center block, and embroidered our joint birthdate.

In February 2012, we had a family reunion and party for the great-grandparents on their 60th wedding anniversary.  Here we all are.  I am standing on the right.  (And since everyone asks about that wonderful sweater, no, I didn't make it.  It was made by my friend Susie, knitted, with a wool/silk blend yarn that is scrumptious.  She didn't like the way it looked on her and asked me if I'd like to have it.  I didn't have to think long about my answer.)

And here are the 4 generations:  the great-grandma looking on, grandma taking the photo of the mom, dad, little brother, and my birthday twin up on top, making the photo really fun.

I sign my quilts by appliquéing my handprint, and then embroidering the name of the quilt, date, and my signature.  For this quilt, I put on both our names and birth dates like this:
July 21

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.  


I learned about the history of the zig-zag machine at this site:
It's a great presentation of the history of sewing machines, the inventors, and the social milieu of the early machines.

Here's a quote from this site.  I had no idea zig-zag stitching dated this far back, let alone that it was invented by a woman, and such an amazing woman at that. 

"What we do know is that of the thousands of sewing machine patents granted in the past 150 years, hundreds of them have been by women. Notable among them is Helen Augusta Blanchard (1840-1922) of Maine. Of her 28 patents, 22 of them deal with sewing machines; she is particularly known as the inventor of the zigzag sewing machine. The model for her 1873 overseaming machine can be seen at the Smithsonian.

Blanchard, born into a rich ship owner's family, showed early aptitude for mechanical inventiveness, although she received no formal training along that line. She patented her first invention after her family was left in financial straits by business losses suffered in the panic of 1866 and her father's death. She had to borrow money for her first patent fee. In 1881 she established the Blanchard Over-seam Company of Philadelphia. Profits from this company and her other patents provided her with enough money to buy back the family homestead they forfeited earlier. As she became secure financially, she was very supportive toward other women less fortunate than she and was known for her generous, unpretentious manner."

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.

My repair work on this entailed repairing a hole at the edge of one armhole.  I backed and supported the area with a piece of tulle.

When I choose threads for this kind of work, I almost always go with the darker of my options.  The darker color is much more likely to blend in as a shadowy tint, rather than standing out like little sparks of highlights.

I made running stitches along the lace edge, and then around the patch, a good distance outside the tiny snags.  The stitches are a bit less than 1/4".  Not too small to tear the old fabric, but small enough to not snag when the eventual new owner of this blouse puts it on.

Then, I whip stitched the raw, broken edges of the holes to the tulle.  I angled the needle in and under as I went, creating a bit of a rolled edge and tucking in all the open ends.

Then I carefully, oh-so carefully, trimmed the excess tulle away from the back, leaving about 1/4" outside the stitching.  Cutting right at the stitching would open up the holes in the netting, and the patch would come right off.

Here is the finished look.

Another super find by my friend Julia at Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions!

I did some research into sewing machine history while trying to help Julia date this blouse.  You can read the results of my research here.

July 17, 2013

Woven Memories

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

It is part of my "Something From Nothing" series.  This is a challenge I set for myself to use otherwise cast off bits and pieces to make little quilts.  The designs need to be based in some way on the items I'm using.  You can read more about the series here.

It is a memorial quilt, in the same vein as the little quilt I made with my friend Gloria's mom's button collection and a vintage cat fabric.  Here is the post about that quilt.

The bits and pieces I used for Woven Memories came from my friend Debbie's Grandma's house.  You can meet Debbie's Grandma and read the story of the doll clothes I made for her here.

When I helped Debbie and her mom sort through and clear out the house, they gave me Grandma's sewing supplies.  I decided to use some of those things to make these memory quilts, one for Debbie and one for her mom.  These two little quilts are made with bias tapes, hem tapes, blanket bindings, piping, and ric-rac.  I wove them into a plaid fabric.  There was a wider range of colors, but I found the look more pleasing when I edited a bit, less of a hodge-podge look.

Even though I keep calling them quilts, these aren't actually quilted.  There is a layer of thick flannel inside to give the pieces some body.  The strips are tacked down inside the intersections.  I didn't actually stitch them all down because I wanted to keep the looser, woven feeling. 

The title "Woven Memories" just popped into my head when I was getting ready to embroider my signature on the backs.  I feel it has a couple of layers of meaning, just like quilts themselves.

Debbie's Grandma Wood lived to be 107 years old.  She was an avid crafter, seamstress, gardener, and homemaker.  She lived well and fully and happily.  All her stories and friends and relations were woven into the fabric of her life.

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.

There aren't, of course, any red triangles in the quilt.  So I guess it's the brown fabric or fabrics that have been letting some of their color out.  I've never had this happen with any of my quilts before.

This is a relatively recent occurrence.  I do take the quilts out occasionally to take to lectures, and to re-fold and re-pad.  I think it's pretty odd that this should happen just now, and not have been on-going since I bought the quilt.

I packed the quilt away again with new tissue, and more of it.  Luckily, none of the migrating dye had discolored the quilt itself, and I hope to keep it that way, of course.  In the meantime, I'll see if I can find out anything about what's been happening.  And I'll be checking in with it more often.

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.

This was definitely a home-sewing project.  The poor old thing is in pretty bad shape.  The fabric is very weak.  I mended several rips and open seams.  When I hung it up to photograph, I noticed that the smocking on one side has let go.  So I'll fix that up, too.

But for now, I'm just chuckling about the Van Gogh print fabric, and enjoying the wonderful buttons.  Such a fun, fun little smock.  I'm a reluctant to wear it often though, because I don't think it'll survive too many more washings!

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.

On our games shelf, I came across this little, ancient red box.  It's one of my childhood toys that I've kept for all this time.  I could spend hours upon hours with it.  It was a gift from my wonderful Uncle Ken who lived in England.  Once you take a look at it, you'll know exactly where I'm going with this post.  Go ahead, open the box.

It's kind of obvious, isn't it?  Hee, hee.  And so on..........

Coming from a pre-everything-is-plastic era, the pieces are wood.  They are lovely and smooth and make a delightful sound when they knock against one another.  I remember enjoying them via all these different senses.

There is a handy little slip of paper giving ideas for making pictures with the geometric pieces.

This bit of my Memory Lane superbly illustrates one of my pet topics lately, concerning raising kids.  One of Cindy Gaddis's talks at a homeschool conference focused on her observations of her 7 children. She began to see that their preschool and early elementary interests became academic choices in high school and college, and then lead right into their career decisions.

This has certainly proven true with both my kids, now 18 and 22.  And looking back at my own childhood, it's true for me, too.  I have always gravitated towards the arts, but no one ever helped me connect the dots, or suggested it as a career path.  

So I guess this is a plea to not discount the interests of the kids in your lives.  What they like to do may not look at all like scholastic subjects or career paths or have names of any sort.  But what look like random interests now may somehow, someday come together for them.  There's plenty of educational philosophy out there that supports the concept that self-motivated learning is the deepest and most meaningful learning.  Plus, the happiness and self-confidence that's generated can't be beat, and will apply to anything else they do in their future endeavors.

And yes, I am building my art career now.  But how different my path might have been had I gotten focused and credentialed right from the get-go.  

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.

This quilt stands out for me because it has two really nice commemorative ribbons.  They are dated 1882 and 1883, so that puts the quilt's construction in or after the fall of 1883.

Other traits indicate an 1880s date as well.  It is small-ish, 44" x 53".  There are fans in the piecing, part of the fascination with everything Japanese after the opening of Japan to the western world.

The general quality and range of the fabrics used are typical of this era and style of quilt.  I really loved the great brocade fabrics used in this quilt.


I especially love this one!

Here's a particularly imaginatively embroidered patch.

And here's a hand-painted velvet patch, also very typical of the era.

All in all, it's a great rendition of the Victorian home decor statement of "more is more".