Monday, August 31, 2009

"New" Antique Textiles

I went on a bender the other day and bought a ton (OK, a little less) of antique textiles.  It’s a good thing my affinity for old stuff runs in less expensive areas than let’s say furniture or jewelry.  OK, on to the “booty”.

First are 3 linen hankies, which are hand embroidered in the corners and around the edges. The needlework is exquisite, and its perfection is what drew me. Ditto for the 2 hand sewn picot trimmed doilies. They’re cotton, also hand embroidered and 11” x 8”. Both items are in excellent condition for being over 60 years old.

I also found a set of 8 colored damask rose napkins from the 50s. They had never been used or even unfolded. What a shame since they are so gorgeous. When put in the light, the white on white design radiates like sunbeams. After I got the napkins home, I was afraid they would fall apart because they were stiff at the fold lines from disuse. But no worries, after a little soak, they were as good as new. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them yet – I may just put them to their original use as napkins!

The piece de resistance is a twin size quilt top made from 2” feedsack squares from the 30s. Each square is hand sewn, and the points match up perfectly. The seams haven’t come apart anywhere even after all this time. I wonder how long it took to make – probably years. I did my best not to let my spazziness out in public, but it was hard. I think my inner fabric nerd fainted. I’m certainly going to finish quilting and binding it, but whether the quilt goes on the website is another matter. I don’t know if I’ll be able to part with such a labor of love.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pros & Cons Of Working Alone

I run a one woman shop, so I work by myself during the day. I never get lonely though because I have our Golden Retriever, Merle, to keep me company. I’ve had people ask me if it bothers me to be by myself all day, and after working in the corporate world for over 15 years, I can answer: H E double hockey sticks no! But to be fair, I wrote myself a list of the plusses and minuses of working solo:

1. No more tyrannical, ego-maniacal bosses to put up with.  However, I am now my own tyrannical, ego-maniacal boss.

2. No commute.  However, I'm responsible for all the daily household minutiae because I’m home all day “doing nothing”.

3. Don’t have to listen to co-workers’ drama, but now I have to make up my own gossip.

4. Don’t have to stress over the rumor mill, but one day, I may have tell myself I’m laid off (awkward).

5. Peace and quiet rule!  However, Merle doesn’t like my singing.

6. Don’t have to complete “personal goals” on my section of my performance review. They never liked seeing, “Save my money to open a quilt business.” Or “Retire by 58.”  On the minus side, how the heck do you write a business plan?

7. My artsy-fartsy creative side can finally breathe.  The CYA, watch your back, don’t trust anyone side can retire.

Since the plus list is longer than the minus list, I guess I’m where I’m supposed to be. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see if I’m achieving my business goals, and complete Merle’s performance review.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Learned Something New Today

Always make sure your parking brake is off before driving. I had just dropped my daughter off at school and was heading home. A school bus was in front of me. After I passed 25 m.p.h., this horrible screech was heard all around. “That bus needs to get its brakes fixed!” I grumbled. I slowed down because the bus was slowing down to turn. The horrible screech began again. “What is that noise?” I grumbled some more. “And what’s that smell?” Turns out I had been driving with the parking brake on for a good half mile. Here’s another tip (a twofer weekend!): never assume the one making the horrible racket isn’t you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

College Life

Talked to my son yesterday for the first time since he left for college. Classes start today, so I wanted to call and wish him good luck. He said everything I didn’t want to hear, everything that sets my Mama Grizzly Bear /DEFCON alarm off. Fortunately, by sheer force of will, I kept my side of the conversation upbeat, positive and encouraging (at least I hope so). Here’s how portions of our talk went:

Me: How’s the food?
Him: I haven’t tried the dining hall for dinner yet, I’m still eating that pizza Dad and I got Sunday.
Mama Grizzly Bear: Sunday?! Today is Wednesday! Is it still good? There wasn’t that much left over. What’s he eating? Half a slice of moldy unhealthy pizza for dinner? He’s not eating right, he’s going to make himself sick. AND classes haven’t even started yet!
Me: You might want to try out the dining hall at least one meal a day so you can get enough healthy stuff to eat.

Me: You sound tired. Watching too much TV (said jokingly)?
Him: The bed is like a rock and my roommate snores. Plus I think everyone on this floor just came here to party.
MGB: ACK! ACK! Not sleeping AND not eating right! That’s a recipe for disaster right there! And what does he mean by “party”?
Me: I’m so sorry to hear that. Maybe we can bring some more egg crate foam with us in October. Would you like me to mail you a white noise maker to block out your roommate’s snoring? I know it’s hard now, but it will get better. A big change like this takes some getting used to. What do you mean everyone’s there to party?
Him: There’s loud music every night, and this morning, two thirds of the stalls in the bathroom were taken up with guys puking their guts out. I’m looking into switching to an intense study or substance free floor.
MGB: OMG! DEFCON 4! DEFCON 4! What kind of riff-raff is he living with? However, that’s my son making a wise decision. Look at him, all out on his own, and making very mature decisions. He takes after me that way.
Me: That’s an excellent idea. I hope there’s a room available for you.

Me: Have you made any new friends?
Him: No, there’s nothing to do.
Me: I thought there were meet and greet activities this whole week.
Him: Yeah, if you’re rushing a fraternity.
MGB: Stupid fraternities.
Me: You need to check things out a little better – I’m sure there are other non-Greek things to do. Have a good first day of school tomorrow!
MGB: Hey! Remind him to eat better and get more sleep and stay away from the riff-raff and wash his hands and stay away from bad girls and study hard and go to class and... !
Me: Bye-bye!

Man, I gotta figure out a way to quiet that bear down.  She's going to get out and cause trouble again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunbonnet Sue Quilt

This quilt was made by my mom and one of her sisters at least 45 years ago. When asked the exact date, my mom said, “A hundred years ago.” My aunt’s memory was a little better. Her reply was, “After you were born.”

They made a 12 patch Sunbonnet Sue quilt, with each block being 18”. There are 2” sashings between each block, and a 2” gingham border around the Sues for a total size of 62” x 82”. Each Sue is different with a pretty dress and coordinating bonnet. I love all the old fabrics that were used. I remember as a kid wishing I had Barbie clothes that matched that nicely (even then - fabric, fabric, fabric).  Most of the material is from the 40s and 50s, and had been in the scrap bag a good while. All the embroidery was hand sewn, as well as the appliqué, the quilting and the binding. The batting is real cotton and thin, but I don’t know if that was the original design or has become thin from years of love.

Double spaz for me because not only was this an antique quilt, but one I had adored as a child.  I never knew Sue's story until I was asked to restore her.  Some days it's a good thing that only our Golden Retriever, Merle, is around to see me in action (ha).

Poor Sue had around 4’ of binding at the top that had come loose. Additionally, all the quilt stitching at the top had come out. I repaired the binding and the quilting, and gave Sue a nice long soak. She looks as good as new, and is ready for another 45 years of memories.

To see all the Sues up close and personal, please go to my Flickr page.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Secret Sale At Fran's Button Corner

In honor of my daughter's big 1-3 birthday, all mixes with purple buttons (her fave color) are 20% off at Fran's Button Corner now until August 26.  Happy Birthday!

The Creative Process

I had just purchased some scrumptious red, white and black fabric, and was sitting down to figure out what to make with it when my brother called.

“Can’t talk now – I’m designing a quilt.”

“How do you manage that? By…”

No, it does not involve pulling ideas out of my posterior. Since you want to know, Bubba, here it is. But I’m warning you, it ain’t pretty (or even sane).

Process I: Bolt From The Blue (my favorite). This involves standing around, minding my own business, when – BOOM! – inspiration strikes. The downside is that it usually occurs when I am unable to write down my perfect bolt of blueness: I’m asleep, in the shower, standing in line at the store with an armload of groceries, or at the bank, so when I excitedly pull my notebook and pencil from my purse, it looks like I’m pulling out my Handy Dandy Bank Robbin’ Kit. I had no idea that bank employees were so skittish.

Process II: Sit Down & Doodle (this has steps!)

1. Get paper, pencil and fabric for inspiration.
2. Sit down at desk and stare at fabric.
3. Draw a blank.

This is where the ugliness (insanity?) starts.

Internal Voice (alter personality?): C’mon get going!
Me: I got nothing.
IV: Just start doodling for cryin’ out loud!
Me: Sounds good. Doodle, doodle, doooo :-( 
IV: What are you doing?

Me: Huh? I’m doodling. What does it look like I’m doing?
IV: Not designing a quilt.
Me: Would you quiet down so I can think?

Next, I put my elbows on the desk, and cover my eyes with my hands. This blocks out the distractions, plus makes it look like I’m weeping. Other family members steer clear, thus further reducing distractions.

Me: Hmm, should I do a variation on the Log Cabin pattern?
IV: No, everyone’s done that twice.
Me: Hawaiian appliqué?
IV: Remember the Diva Moment you had last time? Took the scissors to it?
Me: Yyyeahhh. I’m looking at blackness here. Utter and complete blackness, just like my career.
IV: Oh criminy! Here we go again. Would you please quit feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it?
Me: Zzzzz
IV: Wake up loser and get going!
Me: What to make? What to make? How about chicken for dinner?
IV: Stay on track! I’m going to leave if you don’t stop this.
Me: Mission accomplished!

If nothing comes from that exercise, I stand up and start swaying from side to side, like I’m comforting a baby. This usually unclutters my mind, but is not successful all the time.

IV: What are you doing?
Me: Shut up! I’m trying to design here!
IV: Whatever. How about some appliqué? Throw in a bright color just to mix things up?
Me: That might just work. Maybe yellow.

Then I pull out some more fabric, start drawing, and everyone lives happily ever after. But sometimes, nothing comes from the ol’ Creative Department, and no one lives happily ever after. Next comes pacing or putting my forehead against a wall. Bad news either way.

Me: This isn’t working. I’m going to do something else, and maybe I’ll get a Bolt From The Blue.
IV: That won’t happen. You’ll start doing laundry or errands or surfin’ the Web, and forget all about it until you need something new for the site. Then you’ll be running around, squawking about how you’re always pushed for time and never have a creative moment to yourself. Like you’re some special diva who has special needs. Blah, blah, blah.
Me: Would you shut up so I can think??!!

Husband: Why are you arguing with yourself? You’re scaring the dog. How many of you are in there anyway?
IV: *crickets chirping*
Me: Just having artistic differences with myself, dear.
Husband: *crickets chirping*, one eyebrow up in the air.

Then he leaves, I’m sure to measure the guest room for padding. By this time all’s quiet in the Design Department, so I can now get a little work done. First, I get out a piece of paper, a pencil and the fabric for inspiration…

The next time you're stuck for an idea, try these tips.  They really work! ;-D

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Off To College

Back at Christmastime, I ordered a fleece Texas Tech blanket for my son from Auntie Mac’s at Etsy. I jokingly told her that I’d probably need to order a security blanket for me since he was the first chick to leave the nest. Bless her, she made a small blanket for me and folded it up his blanket. What a kind and thoughtful surprise! Well, the security blanket was put to the test today as I bid good-bye to my oldest. I swear I just took him to kindergarten a few years ago. Please visit Auntie Mac’s shop. She’s a sweet lady who sews beautiful things, and not just fleece blankets either!

I couldn’t go to Lubbock and help my son unpack (how sad – not!) because school starts tomorrow, and we have another chick to deliver to the fine halls of public education. My husband is taking my van, aka the Quilted Lovelies Mobile. Can you believe he and his son took the magnetic signs off the doors simply because they look girlie? Hmph. The QL Mobile is now naked but looks as manly as a van can look. They did clean it inside and out as compensation so I guess I can’t complain too much (but I probably will for form’s sake).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

1907 Redwork Signature Quilt, Part II

I had an opportunity to turn a 101 year old redwork signature coverlet into a quilt. It was time to quit hyperventilating and get to work. The coverlet had been in storage for many years, which explained its excellent condition, but after a century of service, everything needs a little work. The main problem was that the red herringbone stitches that decoratively tied the squares together were coming undone.

But first a little history (no, no, don’t skip, it’s not long or boring). Each contributor embroidered a muslin square with a picture (usually domestically oriented), the date, her name, and the town where she resided. This is why it’s called a signature coverlet. The thread color most often used was called Turkey Red, which is where the term “redwork” draws its name. Redwork was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. See? Was that so bad?

Each square was sewn together, then a red herringbone stitch was sewn over the seams to tie it all together. Later, a ruffle was added to turn the coverlet into a bedspread. This coverlet’s third incarnation would be as a quilted wall hanging. My mantra was “don’t screw up, don’t screw up...”

The first order of business was to repair the seams. After further inspection, it wasn’t so much that the thread had come out of the needle holes, but that the fabric was pulling apart from the thread. There just wasn’t any fabric left at some of the seams to sew them back together. Yikes! Fusible webbing to the rescue! I sewed where I could sew, zig-zagged stitched where I had to (all by hand), then applied fusible webbing to the back of all the seams to make the whole quilt top stronger for quilting and hanging. Next I had to fix some herringbone stitches and completely redo others. It was so cool to find the needle holes in order to duplicate the stitches. It was like following a trail of bread crumbs left by another woman a century ago. Cooler still to know that I was the first person in a hundred years to sew on that fabric. I was really being a big spaz now, but only the dog was around to see.

Here are some of my favorite squares: (1) This is my favorite, because the sentiment is so punny: “I wish you joy from the bottom of my soul” AR AR

(2) This is my second fave. The temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries was an organized effort to encourage moderation in the consumption of liquor or press for complete abstinence. A temperance drink was one that did not have alcohol. A political statement to be sure, but it seems Mrs. Hull thought very little of temperance drinks, comparing them to a donkey drinking from a water trough.

(3) This is a bow wrapped around the violin before the embroidery was repaired. The blue pattern line is still visible after 101 years.

(4) This was a popular redwork pattern at the end of the 19th century. In various pattern catalogs, it was mistakenly labeled a moose. The needlewoman, Mrs. E. Bessey, correctly named the animal on her square (you can tell it's a reindeer because of the antlers). The repair in the upper left corner was done hastily, and consumes all of the herringbone stitch.
(5) Here's Mr. Reindeer after the bad repair was removed.
(6) Here he is after the seam was resewn, and a new herringbone stitch was applied. It was so cool to figure out how the decorative stitches were sewn in order to duplicate them. Even more amazing to know that I was the first person in a hundred years to sew on that fabric.

(7) After all the squares were repaired, it was time to quilt and bind. Piece o’ cake after all the other drama. Here’s what it looked like (a close up anyway) after I was finished.

(8 & 9) The finished product, ready for another 101 years.  The last picture is of the back with the hanging sleeve attached.  The client was extremely happy with her new quilt/wall hanging, which was good, because I think I would have busted down bawling if she hadn’t liked it.
If you would like to see all the squares, and the history behind them, please go to my Flickr page:

Friday, August 21, 2009

1907 Redwork Signature Quilt, Part I

One of the things I’m ga-ga for is antique textiles. I love old quilts, hankies, napkins, fabric, you name it. I wish they could talk to me and tell me their story. Last year my wish was granted (sorry, no talking fabric). I received a call from a nice lady asking me to turn her bedspread into a wall hanging. “It’s been in the family for years, and I want it out where everyone can see it.” Sure, says I, and since she was local, I went to her house to see the bedspread. I was thunderstruck when she brought out a perfect example of early 20th century redwork. I was awestruck by how well preserved it was, and it was a signature quilt to boot! My mouth fell open and I couldn’t speak. I heard angels singing. Then I heard my little voice tell me, “Shut your mouth and straighten up! Be a professional for crying out loud!”

The bedspread, without the ruffle, measures 62” x 80”, and has 10 rows of 8 blocks each. The client told me it was a wedding gift to a great-great aunt, and had started life as a coverlet. The ruffle was added some time later, but she didn't know when. I had been commissioned to repair split seams and embroidery, and turn it into a quilted wall hanging so it could be displayed. What a career highlight! Then after my head quit buzzing, I realized everything had to go off without a hitch. ACK! ACK! Where’s my paper bag to breathe into? Why did I say yes?!