Monday, August 18, 2014

Quilt Accompli

I can't believe it's done.

Last Thursday, before my second embroidery class, I managed to get the three layers of the quilt together, and I pin-marked the measurements where the tacking would go.  I still had a little time left before I had to leave, so I got out the big needle and the yarn and started in.

I've never been a fan of tied quilts -- to me, quilts are quilted.  Or so I thought.  Having done a tied one now and gotten it done in about 20 minutes (okay, it's only 30" x 30", but still), I think I'm a convert.

If you're a quilter, I can still see the point of quilting.  But if what you're doing is really about the piecing, or the fabric art you've created, and you don't want to quilt, then I say grab some yarn and have at it.

Especially for a baby, or for the display piece that I kind of assume this is going to be, I think tying a quilt is just dandy.

In other words, I look at the photo of the finished product (which in actuality is in a box making its way to Ohio), and I realize that I wouldn't be done more than a few inches of it by now if I'd quilted it by machine.  Let's not even discuss hand quilting.

And as an aside, the yarn I used was off-white because I couldn't find a purple, lavender or pale gray that matched.  It's not that bright from the front in real life; the camera always brings out the one thing you'd like to conceal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Bears Attack

I've been on a bear-making roll lately.  I did a batch last week, then one for the custom order, and then another batch.

Aside from having craft shows almost every weekend of the summer, I dropped off batches at two local stores who do consignment.  Consignment isn't always my favorite -- obviously I'd rather get paid every cent of what my work brings in -- but on the other hand, it gets my work into areas where I can't always be, I don't have to be there selling it, and it makes me feel like I'm getting somewhere that shops want to carry my work.

In other words, I made 15 bears and got to keep 5.  So now I need to make more bears.

The ones pictured here are recent favorites.  I didn't send any of these to stores because I feel like they need the personal explanation from me to go with them -- they're made from the remains of a vintage feedsack quilt and really aren't meant to be played with.  They're either for display or for an older child, who understands what fragile means.  But I love how they turned out, the faded colors and the slightly blocky shape the quilting gives them.

They're probably among the most photogenic bears I've done to date.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Strange Days

The Powel House in Old City 
As has been pretty clearly documented here, I'm doing many different things to try to keep myself out of a traditional 9-5 office job.

Today was definitely something different.  A close friend has another friend who is involved with the historic sites in Old City Philadelphia.  She texted me a few weeks ago to ask if I'd be available to teach an embroidery class.  I said yes, without asking for more details.  (Hey, a job's a job, and embroidery beats lawyers.)

I soon found out that I'd be teaching a group of kids who were attending a history camp at the house.  Most of them had been coming for several years, and they wanted another period-appropriate craft besides the weaving class they already had.

Now, I may make things for kids, but I don't have kids.  I don't have that much contact with kids.  I'm not really comfortable with them, especially in groups.

Eliza Powel's ballroom / drawing room, set
up for the class.  
But I said yes anyway.

Then I found out that in addition to teaching the class, they wanted me to do a 10 minute presentation to the combined group (about 15 kids and 4 adults) beforehand.  "Just a little something about embroidery generally and in the period," they said helpfully.

As Dr. Seuss would say, I puzzled and puzzed til my puzzler was sore.  What to say?  I certainly have the information, and I thought it was a nice angle for the girls that no matter what they personally feel about going to school, their counterparts who would have lived in Philadelphia at the time they were studying probably wouldn't have been allowed to attend school.  So embroidery and other "feminine" skills were really all that a lot of girls had to occupy their time, unless they had progressive parents with money.

They told me there were boys, too, so I made a point of looking up all the trades involving sewing that would have existed in Philadelphia at the time -- tailor, sailmaker, bookbinder, shoemaker.  Not to mention the fact that soldiers and sailors, away from home for long periods, couldn't run home to mama if they lost a button.  Sewing was just a practical skill that nearly everyone had.

Corner of the ballroom 
But for all my research and thinking about it, I never got around to making an outline of what I wanted to say until yesterday afternoon at the office.  I drafted something, but I spent more effort making the outline function work properly in Word than I did on the contents.  Then I put it in my bag and forgot it until this morning, when I forgot to review it again, shoved it into my other bag and took it with me, and slipped it under some of the other materials on the table in case I needed to refer to it.

Thankfully I didn't have to -- I winged the entire 10 minutes somehow -- but when I went to put my outline away later, it turned out that it was actually my 2 page to-do list for what I need to get done before my next craft show.  So a fat lot of good that would have done me anyway.

I told Mario when I got home today that I wasn't sure what surprised me most -- that I'd managed a group of 8 kids (6 girls, 2 boys) for 2 hours with no problems and no overwhelming urge to bite, or that I had spoken to a large-ish group of people without having the urge to projectile vomit in a historic house.  

Children and public speaking have always been things I'm massively uncomfortable with.  I had to do an oral report in English class in junior year, and while I did it, I also threw up afterward.  Mario suggested that what I feared in school wasn't public speaking but the judgment of the other students, which makes perfect sense.  Now.

 But isn't it strange when you realize you've just accomplished something you thought you were afraid to do, without thinking about it until afterward?

Class continues Thursday, and I'm looking forward to it.  The kids were fun, they caught on quickly and the two boys -- both around 10 years old -- did really well.  One did hands-down the best work of the group, and the other worked the hardest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Halfway There

Well, I may not be a natural quilter, but I don't mind the piecework portion of it.

As you can see, the bear is finished.  I cut her first, using a sleeve from the jacket, a small portion of the floral skirt and a cap sleeve from the blouse.  I like her.  She's very purple, but I like her.

The jacket presented a problem for my original quilt design since it was princess seamed front and back, and had a peplum.  Lots of smallish, odd-sized pieces.

The skirt, on the other hand, was full, with only side seams.  The blouse had bust darts, front buttons and gathers, but still provided a fair amount of unseamed fabric.

I decided to do the quilt in strips for ease and speed, and because I like the simplicity of it.  There was no way to avoid a lot of the floral running together, so instead of trying to avoid it, I made it a feature, with pieces of the contrast fabrics only at the ends and in a few cases running horizontally.

I found a perfect light purple cotton for backing and I had batting in my stash already.  Both of those are cut to size, so now I just need to finish it off.

Like that's going to be the easy part.

What do you think?  There was no real way to make this look "childlike", considering the fabrics, but I think it will make a nice keepsake.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Latest Project

I got a custom order recently for a memory bear with a coordinating baby quilt.

I'm not a quilter.  But the customer really wanted a matching quilt to go with the bear, and the story behind the fabrics was so sweet, I gave in.

I did warn her that it's going to be more free-form, like my potholders, instead of a strictly pieced "normal" quilt.  She was okay with that.  I also said that I was going to tie the quilt instead of machine quilting it -- aside from her time frame, which is short, and which would really put pressure on me -- did I mention, I'm not a quilter?

The fabrics arrived today -- a floral/paisley print moleskin skirt, a matching plummy moleskin jacket and a lavender silky blouse.  The colors match much better than they do in the photo.

The two pieces are for her friend, who is about to have her first baby.  She was very close to her grandmother, who died recently.  My customer helped her friend pack up grandma's things, and while she was at it, she snagged this outfit from the closet -- grandma wore it to her friend's wedding, so it's very likely that there are some fond memories associated with it.

I got the clothing cut up this evening and cut out and stitched all the bear pieces.  Tomorrow evening I'll get the bear stuffed and strung, and start in on piecing the quilt.  I doubt I'll have enough fabric in the provided clothing to back it, but I told her I'd pick up a yard of coordinating solid-color cotton for backing if there wasn't enough fabric in the clothing.  It's not a big expense and I'll get to use the remnants anyway.

In other news, I missed both my First Friday and Saturday events this past weekend, partly due to feeling like crap and partly because of weather.  I did do my first sewing lesson on Sunday, which went well (and ran a little over).

My temp job is endless and boring and they're not keeping me busy enough -- if I have time to make long lists of all the things I need to do when I get home, I'm wasting my time and they're wasting their money.  They seem to be okay with that.  I wish I was.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Day at Downton Abbey: Gorgeousness

Not much to say about these pieces beyond the title -- some of my favorites are below.  Mary and Sybil's outfits from Edith's wedding, Cora's embroidered jacket, some of Martha's ridiculous coats and one very fabulous hat.

Wedding Clothes

Mary's Hat 

Mary's lovely blue outfit
 
Sybil's amazing French knot dress
 
Originally this was a vintage top, and they added
fabric and matched the French knot motif

That many French knots.  My fingers ache
just thinking about them.

You can see the structure of the original top
here.  I can't imagine doing that kind of
reconstructive work.
Just gorgeous.  That's all I have to say here.



Amazing lace.

Bad photo, but you can see the lines.


Love the colors on this one.



Look, a polka dot lining!

This hat deserves its own page.

Not my favorite, but perfect for
the hat.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Day at Downton Abbey: Tailoring

Face it, despite having our heads turned regularly by glamour and beading and the Dowager's tremendous hats, one of the things you can't miss on Downton is the tailoring.  It might not be as showy as an evening dress, but it's harder to lose the fine details, because tailoring is really all about the shape of a garment.

Today's selection from my seemingly inexhaustible Downton photo file gives the tailored section of the exhibit, featuring Mary's lovely linen suit (with Matthew's cricket outfit in the background), and a selection of hunting tweeds.  I wish they had included Mary's suit, shown in the background photo -- I really loved the jacket -- but Rosalind's suit is quite nice as well.

Lord Grantham's up boots and coat are wonderful, and Matthew's outfit, if you can get past the knee pants, is quite good.  I love the belt, the buttoned pockets and all the other details of the jacket.

Apparently I was enamored with Mary's linen suit, judging by the number of photos, but  you have to admit, the details are beautiful.  Covered buttons, the trim around the wrists and on the collar, the way the princess seams are stitched in the back, the buttons on the skirt back, the hat . . . I'd wear it now, and very happily.

I remembered the hunting scene quite well -- Richard and Mary and Matthew, oh my, and I did have a pretty clear memory of the clothes, but again, it was nice to see them in person and catch all the details and structure that I knew were there but that can't show up on a moving target on a small screen.

And as far as the hunting clothes go, anyone who knows me knows as well that I'm a total sucker for tweed.  So they could have had everyone's costumes there and I would have probably taken multiple pictures of each.

Next up: beads and embroidery and excess.  I promise.



Bonus: men's traveling trunk belonging to
a member of the DuPont family, Downton period