Saturday, June 23, 2012

Slow down, you move too fast...

I am usually in a hurry and I don't always take the time to really look at a piece at a yard sale, thrift shop or estate sale.  I'll glance quickly at items or scan a room quickly, especially if it is crowded or hot, and not go over every item thoroughly.  Recently it has been VERY hot.

Household linens aren't always a big ticket item.   Often piles of towels and doilies are wadded together or stuffed in a bag with the hopes they will attract a buyer.  I have been known to cringe when even going through bags like this.  Not everyone understands the work involved in embroidery.

These red embroidered clover caught my eye and I put the doily in my purchase pile.  Why, I don't know, it seemed sweet and could possibly be re-purposed.

No, I didn't look at the doily at the sale, for some reason it just ended up coming home with me.

Later when going through my purchases and taking a closer look, it took on an entirely different meaning - it was transformed into a piece of history.   Can you see what made me say to myself, "oh my goodness"

The fabric is a brocade with a building and "Chicago"  woven into the cloth at the top.

There's the date....1893 as well as identifying the building as the Main Building.

This doily was a souvenir from the 1893 Columbia Exhibition in Chicago.  I have seen the inscribed red and white souvenir glassware, but nothing small like this little piece.  It is large enough to be a coaster. 

This is the back.  The woven threads from the design pick up the light better making it easier to photograph. 
The exhibition has come to life - a memento hidden until looked at in just the "right light".
What a small and very sweet souvenir of the White City. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Uh oh......

My friends understand me completely.  Maybe this is because many of my friends also sew.  Wait, they sew with a passion.  We can be talking about an arbitrary subject and suddenly we shift to sewing.  We make analogies about life to sewing, we take pictures of our fabric like we're chronicling the growth of our kids and shopping trips translate to I'm driving by the fabric store, do you need me to pick anything up for you?

So there is an understanding of how much we treasure and care for our sewing notions, material, etc. 

Let me cut to the chase now...

...uh oh, what do I have here?
 I have recently been converted to the spools of Essential Cotton Thread at Connecting Threads.  It is a 50 weight cotton and I have had much success using it for machine quilting.  Wonderful thread!!  I almost believe it is one of the best kept secrets today because not only is it dependable thread, but it is economical.  But, how did this tangled mess happen?

 Certainly I knew the culprit of this devilish antic. 
Suddenly my precious thread doesn't look so bad when it is next to a cute puppy.  Advertisers are right, puppies and babies can sell anything.

Our doggie whisperer (aka our dog trainer - notice the leash on him in the house as we are training him),  stated that  Indiana Jones has bonded to me AND I have to work on a stern voice when correcting him of unacceptable behavior.
I'd like to see anyone look in that sweet little face and tell him that is not how we learn to sew.  Oh, if only I could teach him how to baste a quilt it would make my life easier.  I wonder what our doggie whisperer has to say about that idea!

The thread will be recycled.  I have a weaving friend, Karen, who I pass along my scraps to for her weaving creations.   It is nice to know this thread will one day be part of a piece of art.  To think, Indiana Jones had a part in the process!

As to the rest of my family, they know better!  Mom's thread is sacred.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Leibovitz, Alcott and I'm back to talking about quilts.

I love picture books!  Don't misunderstand this statement thinking I will just pick up a book, glance through the illustrations and put it down.  No, I love beautiful illustrations, photographs and I love a good story as well.

But when a beautiful book of photography combines history and a wonderful story line, it is more than a coffee table book.  Now imagine beautiful photographs by Annie Leibovitz captured in iconic historical homes with her narrative and you have Pilgrimage.

I loved the book immediately.  But there are two photographs that just captured my heart; a hanky embroidered by Louisa May Alcott with her initials and  a page of the journal by her father, Bronson, with the outlines of his and Louisa May's hands. 

A cord of familiarity was struck.  I ran to the files to pull out my own piece of Louisa May Alcott history.  I had acquired a grouping of signatures on cloth from an autograph auction in the 90's.

The photograph of the hanky with Louisa's initials.with a period signature square.  Notice the perforations around the edges of the block.  It once graced a quilt and the signature blocks were removed leaving a trace of their prior use. 

Then, I had to go to my quilting files and pull out the notes and pieces of paper I had kept while working on the wall hanging which incorporated my daughter's hand print with the signature blocks.  
This is the photograph in the book with Louisa's and Bronson's hand outlines.  The little green hand print is that of my youngest daughter in 1996 when I was working on assembling photo transfers of the signatures into a wall hanging.

One of the quilt blocks had the date 1880 and I added the date because I believe most of the signatures were acquired during this time period.  My daughter's hand was appliqued in the center of a large Union Star quilt block.  One of the signature blocks had the lines, "Lend a Hand" signed by Edward E. Hale, and it seemed appropriate for the name of the quilt.

Louisa's photo transferred signature block allowing the original block to remain safe.
The photo transferred signature blocks were placed around the outside of the Union Star in a border of  the pattern Square Within a Square.  I always felt there could have been a little more applique in the center, but then I rationalized that applique really wasn't in vogue during this time period - the fad of the Baltimore album blocks had passed.
I loved the inscription by Hale on his block.  It reads:

Look up and not down
Look forward and not back
Look out and not in
Lend a Hand
Edward E. Hale

So back to Pilgrimage...  did I mention there is a section on Annie Oakley!!!  I feel like there is another quilt coming on!!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Flag Day 2012

 How appropriate to be quilting a patriotic quilt today.

Outlining the eagle and stars in the center panel.  This panel was originally cut from a bunting fabric produced by Moda several years ago.

Doing some grid quilting and outlining in the ocean wave blocks.  Do you notice the chrome orange half right triangles?  I also have some purple ones in there just to give it the appearance of an old fashioned scrap quilt.

A cookie cutter to mark the quilting design of stars. It just happened to be a red cookie cutter to match the quilt!
I've been working on machine quilting the red, white and blue ocean wave design quilt as a gift to the maternal grandmother of a fallen Marine.  Christopher Bordoni was only 21 years old.  He passed away in April 2012 from injuries sustained from an explosive devise in Afghanistan three months prior.

I have a wonderful quilting friend,  Jean,  who is friends with the maternal grandmother.  This group of quilting friends is going to present the quilt to their friend as a remembrance.

Tomorrow is suppose to be another beautiful day so I hope to have the quilt finished, washed  and ready to go to Jean in Cayuga.   Off to finish sewing and a finished picture tomorrow.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I now have the Kenmore set up in my dining room.  

I've been giving the Kenmore a workout piecing my Fabric Fusion quilt blocks and I'd like to report that the more I have been sewing, the smoother and more fluid it sounds.  I had it thoroughly cleaned, oiled and lubricated before I started sewing with it since the machine had probably sat in a closet for a few decades.

My pieced units reminded me of prayer flags.  I put some up outside....

... and the prayers were taken by the gentle breeze.  Namaste.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Room for one more........

That's the line I remember from the Twilight Zone series on TV.   In one episode, a woman has a constant nightmare about a morgue.  She fears she is unstable.   At the end of the show, the woman feels she has recovered from her nightmares and  is embarking on a plane to return to her home.  The stewardess calls out to her, "Room for one more."   The woman runs away in tears, missing her flight with fears her nightmare is returning.  The final scenes of the show are of the plane in flames.  The nightmare was a premonition to spare her life. 

The show gave me the shivers!

In our household we use the line frequently;  room for one more piece of pizza, room for one more on the couch, room for one more (puppy), etc.   We say, "room for one more"  in our household with the secret knowledge we're really quoting  Twilight Zone.     But is this a line said by sewing enthusiasts when confronted with the opportunity of adding another machine to their sewing room?  Or is it:

Do I really need it?
How many machines can I possibly use?
Am I sure? 

Those would be the litany of questions a reasonable individual would ask themselves.

My brain must work on a different wave length because I saw a sewing machine at an estate sale and I wanted it without even taking it out of the case, or knowing what it was or if it even ran.  Off I went with the sweet little rose covered case with the machine tucked inside.  I had a feeling and I went with it out the door of the estate sale.

When I got home, I took it out of the case.  It was small and quite sweet and a big bonus was all the parts were there sans the manual.

I have sewn on Kenmore machines in my early sewing days.  While I was in high school I had a turquoise colored Kenmore Stylist which replaced the old Singer with the electrical short in the knee pedal I used for my first sewing projects.  Then there was a Kenmore machine with cams that popped in the top for decorative stitches I used when first married.   I gave up on my last Kenmore in 1983 when I switched political parties....I mean.... sewing companies to a Bernina.

Ruler included in the picture to capture the size.  No nicks, dings, marks, or abusive wear! 

What a surprise to find out the machine is referred to by collectors as a Kenmore Featherweight.  The model number is a 158.10402 produced only for 18 months from 1974-75.  It is 3/4 the size of a regular Kenmore, all mechanical and a heavy frame (no plastic gears).  Yes heavy...meaning when you want to go fast and have your foot on the pedal all the way to the floor, the machine won't shake apart while sewing.  It's sturdy.  It reminds me of a Bernina 801 Sport.

The bonuses of the Kenmore (vs. Featherweight) are with the capability of basic stitches beyond the straight stitch;  zigzag, hemming, buttonhole, and ability to drop feed dogs with ease for mending (haven't tried machine quilting on it and I don't think I ever would - and this is because I have machines just for machine quilting).

A little extension flips up on the left to give more support to your fabric when sewing and flips down when you store the machine in its case.

The accessory case is in a hidden compartment in the front.

It sews a nice even stitch.

The lever to the right drops the feed dogs.
If you have the opportunity to come upon this little machine, don't hesitate purchasing it.  It is perfect for a future sewing diva and surpasses any of the small "first" machines out on the market (especially with cost).

You can download the manual for operating the machine for free from  Sears.  No surprises; it operates  the same as other mechanical machines.  The instructions are basic and clearly illustrated for a young sewer to reference (especially when it comes to putting in the bobbin properly or threading the machine).  It's always a good idea to have the instructions for making buttonholes as the steps can be forgotten if not done frequently.

"Room for one more?"

"Yes, definitely!"

*Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) passed today.  Bradbury, a science-fiction author, wrote several of the scripts for the Twilight Zone series.  May the angels guide his next journey.*

September 11, 2012 update:
This is the reverse side of the stitch plates for the machine. The top is the zig-zag plate and the bottom is the straight stitch plate.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What happened to May?

One would think I had dropped off the planet with my inconsistency with blogging.  Remember, if I'm not posting, I'm either sewing or cooking.  Recently I started volunteering at the local historical society; my educational background in art and museum studies makes this an enjoyable afternoon.  Recently I helped set up a display about hydrotherapy practices in the 19th century.  The display was on loan from the Glen Haven Historical Society located at the south end of Skaneateles Lake.  Included in the display were two quilts made by a resident of that area while the hydrotherapy business was in full operation.  Enjoy some of the pictures of this extraordinary trapunto white-work quilt made in 1853.  The other quilt, was a wool sunburst made in 1852.

I could just admire this quilt for hours.  The Lord's Prayer was the central focal point of the quilt. Directly above the prayer is the hand with the downward pointing finger.  Baskets surrounded the center with organic leaves, palm fronds, grape clusters and leaves encircling the perimeter.  Three of the edges are scalloped with grapes in the center of each scallop.

Magnificent, extraordinary and spectacular come to mind when gazing on the work-woman-ship.

My sewing room (a drastic departure from the trapunto quilt) is filled with party decorations for an upcoming landmark July birthday celebration.  My grandson, Adam, will be turning one!  That is a one with an exclamation point;  just how we feel about this little guy.
A few banners being made to highlight the occasion.

Some table cloths and napkins.....which will be used later for summer entertaining.  Nothing like cloth napkins to live a greener life and reduce our carbon footprint.

Also this past month I have realized my secret fascination with the modern quilt designs of Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.  My friend made this quilt as a college graduation quilt and I quilted it for her. 

The quilt design came from their book, Quilts Made Modern.  My friend changed it up a bit by using a gray background rather than white and saving her scraps so I could sew it into the backing for a little interest on the reverse side.

It then dawned on me that these designers have also designed several projects for American Patchwork & Quilting that have caught my attention.  The February 2012 issue had a quilt "Fabric Fusion" which I have cut and waiting for nighttime sewing.

This will be one of the few quilts I have made where I paid more attention to the hue, value and scale rather than reproduction time period or fabric maker;  this really is a fusion of fabric!  What fun to break free of my prior fabric constraints of time period and focus on color.

I really look forward to my issue of American Patchwork and Quilting to arrive in the mail.  I find myself pulling fabric off the shelves and getting out the rotary cutter when it arrives.  More on my Fabric Fusion quilt when I have it pieced together.

May also brought the blossoming of 400 tulips I planted last fall.  Now my first thoughts were..."400 TULIPS"  ...  "wow"  ...   "this will really fill up the front gardens."   Gardeners out there are probably chuckling with the secret knowledge of numbers of bulbs I actually needed to produce the dramatic impact my mind was conjuring.   I couldn't be disappointed for long though because of their delicate beauty.

....  which faded too soon!  My son told me I need to plant at least 400 tulips ever year to make a difference in the spring landscape!!   

The calendar has turned to June now and I am ready for a beautiful summer.  I have a quilt ready to be quilted for the grandmother of a fallen Marine.   Time to get back to my machine!  More on this quilt later as well as our newest family member.

Meet Indiana Jones. 

Uh oh.....where is the puppy going?