Sunday, October 20, 2019

Using Flea Market Finds

Constructing the Christmas ornaments this year I received comments from friends and even strangers on the train about my use of recycled items. Seldom in what I construct do I use new materials. The abundance and cost of items at flea markets and second hand stores make an inexpensive alternative to buying new. If what I make turns out, I have saved something from going into the rubbish bin. Most things turn out.

This morning I went to a flea market here in town. The specialization of this market was on clothing. I was on the lookout for old jewelry. I was fortunate, it was worth the walk in the rain to get to the market.

So what did I find?

For starters, I bought a crystal hair jewelry piece. 

This piece will be deconstructed. The hair comb portions will find a use someday, but the strands of hanging crystals will work in all kinds of projects. Crystals, when found in a hobby shop, are expensive. Cutting the crystals apart, leaves the perfect place for a needle to pass through the bottom of the casing to sew the crystal to whatever is being constructed.

The hanging crystals are small and very useful. To the right are larger ones from a previously bought necklace found a couple weeks ago that has been cut apart. The metal that holds the crystal casings together was cut using a pair of wire cutters and then the, now cut, interconnecting metal cut pieces were removed from the crystal casing using a small pair of needle nose pliers. 

Some of the metal pieces can be seen just below the larger crystals. After a couple snips, you become proficient at removing the metal interconnecting pieces.

Ya, so, what will I do with them?

Below is a Christmas ornament. Made using the same construction method as the stars from the last blog post.

I found the felt trees on clearance at a local shop. After covering them with vintage lace, the larger crystals were used as some of the Christmas ornaments on the tree. 

From the necklace, there are enough crystals to make a second similar tree. I paid one euro for the necklace. The ornament is two sided and both sides are identical.

What else did I find?

Earrings and a necklace. 

The necklace was a pain to detangle which is why it was not worn by the previous owner. I bought it for the birds. The chain can be used for various projects later as well. Good chains are a nice find. No idea what I will do with it but it will go in my stash for later when I want to use it.

The last item was a pair of earrings. Just thinking of wearing them makes my ears hurt. Those earrings will be caught in the wind and pull as they are worn. I owned a pair of wood ones years ago, that went to Goodwill for that exact reason. Four small metal pieces make up each earring. Looking at the construction one can see that just a couple of rings, that can easily be removed, holds them together. Jewelry pliers will separate them. I see uses, due to the type of metal, they will not corrode, on a crazy patch quilt or perhaps a Christmas ornament for next year.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Christmas Ornament 2019

I was reminded this week that I have a blog and that some people I know miss it. I have been greatly neglecting this blog and will, at least until the end of the year, attempt to fix that. As happens so much life, life got in the way.

It would be nice to start with this year’s Christmas ornament. Every year I am in an exchange with eight like minded women. We all put lots of thought into what to make. The rules are we can send the ornament off any time after August. We beat the higher cost of Christmas postage that way, if we choose to. I knew that I had a trip to Boston planned for early September so that was my deadline. The cost of mailing them from France would be high and the next time I had planned to be in the states was going to be in December for Christmas.

I am a collector, not to the point of being a pack rat, but close. When I collect, it is for a purpose. Sometimes I do not know what that purpose is when I start. Whatever the item is, it percolates in the back of my mind for months, sometimes years until one day I know what to do with it or by then, do with them. 

One such example is the collecting of broken rosaries. For years, I have been collecting them. They are cheaper to buy broken. For example, last year I found two crosses from rosaries in a second hand shop in Germany. The price was right, as my goal is to buy them for less than 3 euros each. Normally in France, I find them for 5 euros each. 

Here are some of the ones I have found:
A broken rosary without the cross is a common find at flea markets in small town France. I buy them for the beads and the metal medallions.

Once in a while I buy something that doesn't quite make sense to me but once home and can do a little research can find what things are. For example in France it is not uncommon for a young girl to receive a bracelet such as the one below for either first communion or more probable confirmation. They are normally made of silver and fit a wrist smaller than 6 1/2 inches.

Or this, a form a chapelet which is held in one hand:

I at first thought it was a broken rosary until getting it home and looking at it closely. I had to looking it up. I had never seen one before.

Once a year, in August, my little town in France has a sale where vendors come from outside the city but also the shopkeepers sell of things that are on clearance at especially low prices. At least 5 years ago I bought a package of eight thick felt brownish grey stars and another pack the same size and color of Christmas trees. The color is probably why they did not sell. A brownish grey Christmas tree is rather an odd color and not very festive. The felt stars and trees languished in my sewing room for years. This year I pulled them out as well as some wide pieces of lace I had in my stash. 

As I began with my idea, everything I thought I might need was placed on the table:

Then using a glue stick, the lace was attached to the thickness edges (sides) of the tree and star, first to one side and then after it dried and trimmed, the method was repeated on the other side of the tree or star. 

The work in process:

The lace stays in place at the sides since the next step was to sew on the beads along the edge.  In the picture above, with all of the medallians you can just make out the beads sewn to one of the stars after the lace was applied. The needle went through the layer of glue with no problem.

Now, the decorating began. Rosary beads were fashioned into sections and sewn down on to the star on both sides. A cross was placed on one side and a medallion sewn to the other side. They actually went quite quickly, unlike the trees which are becoming a time sink.

The result, front and back, can be seen below


The stars have been delivered; the trees, for another exchange later this year are still a work in progress.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

La Mode Illustrée, 1903

A couple of weeks ago I went with a group to the Christmas markets  in Strasbourg and Colmar. Both were delightful, Strasbourg being a larger cityhas a lot to offer when there is no Christmas market because of its many interesting stores, restaurants and cafes. 

Colmar is smaller and quaint. It has a nice covered market much like the one in my city. It also has a cobble stone old town. The Christmas market can be visited in in just a couple hours. Again, when cold, there are many fun shops. Walking past a book store that sells old books, I saw that there was a book in the window about fashion written in the mid to late 1800s. I have visited many book stores like this and have always come away empty handed but due to the book in the window I went in.

In the store was the owner and a middle aged french couple that were in the final stages of buying a book and a couple of old postcards. They had interrupted his lunch. On a old wood table pushed up against the wall under a shelf of books was the uneaten parts of his lunch on a hand thrown dark blue pottery plate. The knife and fork left in a position as to say "I am coming back". Next to the plate was a half of glass of red wine. I am always pleased to see this type of thing since it is so, well, French.

I said Bonjour and then listened in to the conversation the three were having about the postcards. Besides greeting me back there was no move to help me. You always say hello to the shop keeper when you enter any small shop. This is very French. This is just how it is done, greet, then start looking around or in my case take my time and wait and listen to the conversation. After a couple minutes the man of the couple turned to me and told the shop keeper that he should really help me.  The shop keeper turned to me and asked me in French which language I would like to use, French, German or English. This was way too fun so I answered him in all three languages but then in German told him that my best language was English.

I then inquired in English if he had any La Mode Illustrée books.  He thought about it and then said he had three books I might be interested in. The first was the book in the window. In pencil on the front inner cover was the price and how many fashion plates were contained within. I paged through it was he went to find the other two. Fashion plates and the descriptions of the dresses in french was not what I was interested in but it was a beautiful book with a breath taking price. The plates were beautiful and still had the thin sheet of tissue that separates the color page from the print on the previous page.

The second book was sort of the same, only smaller. the plates were not as nice but it was a sewing book. Again interesting to look at but not what I was searching for. The descriptions of how to construct things assumed that you were an expert seamstress. 

While paging through that book, the shop keeper was on a step ladder next to the table with his forgotten lunch reaching a book off of the very top shelf.  As he brought it down he exclaimed that he was sure he had one of these up there somewhere. 

He actually had one of the books I was searching for from 1903!

The conversation with the french couple started up anew as I was allowed to look at the three books at my leisure at the table next to his cold and neglected lunch.

La mode Illustréstarted publication in 1859. What years they published the books of the entire year I have not been able to determine. The books do not include the much sought after patterns but come in a nice bound book cut down just a little from the original magazine size. Starting mid year in 1897 the cover drawing for each weeks issue turned to color. I own a 1897 book which is why I know this.  

 The French couple finished picking out postcards, their book was placed in a plastic bag, several hundred euros changed hands, they bid me adieu and were gone. The owner of the shop then turned his complete attention to me. We negotiated the price down from what the inside cover said. He gave me a brochure on the upcoming antique book sale happening in town early next year and let me know he is in my town several times a year selling his books. There is a big antique market shamefully I have never been to once a month at the nearby convention center. Next year I will need to go.

So while you are here, I thought I would share with you several pages from the book.
Notice the fold line. None of my other books have this so I wonder if they were bound by individuals and not the publisher. I would think that if they were different, but all of mine have the same outside cover with letters spelling out the magazine name and year on the spine and are the same size. The fold is interesting.

Continuing on:
Darn we all missed this Monday, 30 March exposition of new fashion of the season by over 100 years. Seeing the price of the jacket made me wonder how much would that accordion pressed taffeta jacket cost in today's dollars? 

Searching on the web I found that in 1901 dollars 150 Fr would be approximately 572 Euros or about $652 USD in today's dollars. OK, a little pricey but you are in Paris and it is made out of yards of accordion taffeta. Not to mention the height of fashion.

I suppose we could buy the hat but hair styles and age must be taken into account:
Old ladies get boring hats. Some of these hats one needs to watch the door as you enter a room.

Continuing through the book, the wedding dress was really something:
Love those sleeves! There are variations to those and here they are:
Elsewhere there are drawings dissecting the sleeves so you at home can draft them. 

Continuing on I have decided I want that shoulder shawl thing:
I would wear that with blue jeans.

Now the reason I buy this particular magazine is not for the fashion. Instead, I learn a lot of things about items I find at flea markets. Take this piece:
Notice how this can be wrapped around for say, a sleeve, maybe at the wrist and tacked so it looks like one continuous piece of lace. I have found these and thought they were lace bits when in fact if I had 2 of them I could put them on a blouse at the wrist.

People are beginning to have this belief that I am an expert at dating lace. Here is a good example of something I might find bits of and now I can date it if I actually found a piece. Don't laugh, it is not that uncommon that I do.

Then there is the other items one might find. It is nice to know how these items were used:

How about a book cover?

There is a nice issue on the Catholic first communion:
Girls and the dresses is pretty normal to see. But what about the boys? 

Several years ago I saw something odd at a flea market and inquired into what it had been used for. It was a band with a bow on it made of satin and just a touch of lace across the bottom. Here it is, this is what the boys wore for first communion from the magazine:
I can and will be pouring over this book for hours but I thought you might enjoy this little peak.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Autumn Adornment and other things

Sometimes I don't sound my own horn. It is a bad habit I have had since, well forever. 

Lets start by going back to last year. If you have read this blog you know that from August through December, for the past three years, I have been back in France. It is the best time of the year starting with warm sunny long days and ending with the threat of snow while drinking mulled wine at various Christmas markets in both France and Germany. 

Last year I had lots of time while there to be creative. France truly does bring out the creativity in me. At the end of the four months here I sent several items off to Classic Sewing magazine for consideration. They published me! In the fall 2018 issue there was an article about embellishing shirts with lace bits, one of my specialties, as well as an article about a jacket, an article called Autumn Adornment.

Its about Autumn Adornment that I want to focus on.

Several years ago I found three old yearly review books of the weekly magazine "La Mode Illustree from the years 1893, 1897 and 1905. In the one from 1897, during the months of May though August there were a series of four filet patterns depicting people in court clothing. I immediately saw jacket. As I don't "do" filet, I thought it would be nice to  convert the pattern to "red work". First off it is a fast form of embroidery and best, it is not too hard to do. 

I took the original from the magazine:

And redrew the design so that  all of the extra was removed and it was just a simple line drawing:

Transferred the design with a water soluble pen on to my fabric and embroidered it:

Finally I made a jacket using the four designs.

Here are my pictures of before I sent it off


Far better than any picture I can take, you can see part of the article using the link for Autumn Adornment from Classic Sewing Magazine.

That was sew much fun to make and I should gets lots of wear out of it as well.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Round Place Mat Bag

Where has the time gone? It's December! 

It has been a good 4 months here in France. At my patchwork club we worked on several projects. The one you are about to read about has been my favorite this year. One of the ladies started with a picture of a purse she liked in a store window or catalog. 
We could all make this, she thought. 

She thought right. 

The bag is basically two round plastic like woven place mats for the table. The leather handles are a bit problematic but there was a work around for it which made a bag just as nice.

The seam allowance throughout was 1 cm. Each place mat is lined with a light weight interfacing backed round cut of fabric. The interfacing is cut scant to the round size of the place mat and is ironed onto the wrong side of a square of fabric which is at least 1/2 inch (1 cm) larger than the the place mat. The square of fabric is then cut round with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  The fabric is then folded in at the interfacing to the interfacing side of the fabric. It is placed on the wrong side of the place mat and is clipped in place.
Here you can see the inside of my bag. I added a pocket to the center of one side of the inside of the bag. You can't see it in the picture, but across the top of the doily where the button is there is a strip of ribbon sewn so that the top of the pocket will not sag or stretch.
Critical measurements for the bag are from my notes:
Handles for us were the heavy webbing you can buy for bags. I only had a thinner cotton web in my stash so I backed the web with the same fabric used on the bag side to strengthen it. I backed the fabric with interfacing and cut it wide enough so that it had a seam allowance that folded so that the fabric just peeked underneath the cotton web.

What is critical no matter the size, the handle placement is 15 cm apart. I had to take into account the pocket so that it was straight up on the inside of the bag. 

The ~80 cm finished handle includes the length needed for the ends in the seam allowance of the body of the bag between the place mat and the lining fabric. Just a word of advice (how do I know this?), make sure that the end of the outside of the handles fall inside the edge seam. Also important is that the handles be straight up at an angle to the curve as the drawing shows. 

Sew the lining to the place mat and handles. An edge foot makes this really easy.

The second measurement that is important is the 10 cm down from the other side of the handle on both sides. Mark those places with a pin. With a ruler, measure around the bottom of the place mat from one pin to the other. 

The place mats come in different sizes so the side band measurement was different for everyone.

Mine measured 82-1/2 cm just as a reference. Add seam allowance to both ends so it was 84-1/2 cm for me. Cut two 12 cm wide strips to that length. I had to piece mine as the fabric was directional.

Line the strips with interfacing, place them right sides together and sew all the way around the edge leaving open, somewhere in the middle, a 10 cm opening. Trim the corners and turn right side out. Press making sure that the 10 cm opening is neatly pressed in.

Clamp the side fabric to one of the place mat starting at the pin ending at the other pin. Sew starting at one pin ending at the other. Back stitch at both ends. Sew the other place mat to the other side of the side fabric. Its a good idea to check and make sure that the handles line up before sewing this part.

Add a snap at the top center and you are done. 

So what did ours look like? Here are some examples of what our group made:

And this is what mine looked like:
Not as fancy as some of the others but I like it and it was fun and fast to make.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Back in France 2018

If it is August through December, most years it means I am back in France. 

The town looks the same, a couple new additions of stores or restaurants and a couple closures as well. Once you live in a place for any period of time, you begin to notice the repeats of parts of life, like openings or closures of shops, festivals or shows as well as other things that happen at a certain time each year.

Here in my area of France we have something called the Mirabelle Fest. All in celebration of a distinctive tasting little yellow plum. The fest ended last week, but the balloon launching start right after that. If the wind is right they fly over the apartment.
This year they have skirted my area, but they are fun to watch even from a distance. 

Our cathedral also gets into the act with a laser light show on selected evenings as well:
As for sewing, let the season begin! My little trusty Bernina was retrieved from a French friend who watches over it.
My friend volunteer at a second hand store for the poor. Certain things are not appropriate for the poor and are thrown out. Once such item she took home to give to me:

It is a curtain. The work”woman”ship is beautiful. Wonderful examples of white work, Battenberg lace and bobbin lace. It needs to become something. I am thinking shirt right now but who knows. I have washed it and it is now displayed in the apartment where I walk by it several times every day.  

But first, before I do any other sewing I have to make some Christmas ornaments. 

This year I am focusing on using up lace bits. I have a nice collection of religious metals and beads and due to a class I took in August in Huntsville Alabama with Gloria McKinnon,  I now have lots of silk ribbon and beads to play with. These are super hard to find in France.
So this was my sewing table last week as I sorted through what I brought with me to play with and hopefully augment with new stuff this year. 
What ever it is, I have to make 10 of them. If I choose to join the Martha Pullen Yahoo group’s exchange as well, I need an additional 5 or 6 made. Should I do that, they get something a little different.

Speaking of Gloria Mckinnon, if you have a chance to take a class from her, please do. In August we were making a memory book. She gave warning that she did not put everything in the kit that was needed. It was supposed to be our memories.  Also, on here projects, she uses vintage things she has found in her travels. From experience I know that it would be close to impossible to find enough of, say, a certain vintage doily 100 times to put in kits. Same with carved buttons. 

As luck would have it, there was a lot of sharing going around. One of the participants brought a little bag of lace goodies for everyone. Someone else had been busy on their embroidery machine making and then dying some lace motifs to hand out to everyone. 

Several of the ladies in my class had not brought doilies that we needed to make several of the pages. Gloria did not have them for sale either. It was my turn to share. I took them to my room and assigned a couple of doilies to them so that they could continue with the pages.

To show you the types of things we were doing, here are two of my pages
On the left bottom was one of the items in my goody bag. It was a beautiful linen handkerchief. The picture and frame were part of the kit as well as some of the laces. the other laces were from my stash. On the right the top looks like a doily but it is not. Instead it is rayon edging framed into a circle Some of the beads came with the kit, others were added. The three ladies was in the kit. The doily at the bottom came from Oxford England a couple months ago. I found 3 of them at a shop and it worked beautifully. The other 2 were given out and are now in use on someones pages.

Back to Christmas ornaments, 
They are coming along. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Package in the Mail

I received a heads up last week that there was a package in the mail from my sister-in-law for me from my husband’s aunt Penelope.  

My husband’s family is an old American family. When we were dating he told me that one of his relatives came over on the Mayflower. In making conversation with his parents when I was invited to lunch so that they could meet me, I inquired as to whom off the Mayflower they were related. My husband’s mother looked at my husband and told him it was not polite to tell people that you had relatives off of the Mayflower as they might thing you were being snobby. Then she turned to me and stated that my future husband was mistaken, it was not one person it was seven.

Roots go deep and one of the things I have always enjoyed in joining this family were the family heirlooms passed down to us. You may have read about the compote and my finding a replacement for the broken bit. Well this week in the post I was graced with a box of lace bits and vintage clothing. All of them in need of a good soaking.
So what was in the box?

First there was a selections of laces:

Then there was a, well, probably something that went under a corset:
This will be very pretty once it is clean and any stains removed.

My sister-in-law tossed in the box a couple things from my husband's mother she had stored in the attic. 

This child's dress is in not to good of shape. I believe it once was worn by a large female doll named George. The silk under lining is disintegrating but the netting is in very good shape except for the stain. I will work on that to see if I can get it out. from experience I can tell you probably not, but it will not keep me from trying.

Also from my SIL was something my husband wore as a baby just out of his bath:
Back to my husband's aunt,  a head cover from 1960's Italy. Probably bought at a tourist stop on the way to a Catholic mass.

A couple more pieces, a crochet collar and one of those neck pieces. I have several from France I have found over the years. I can just imagine it being worn high up on the neck with a nice mother of pearl brooch. 
Last in the box was a baby dress and bonnets. Now here is where I can put face to name on who made the dress and who has woren the dress. 

Sallie Smallwood 1857-1924 was the maker of the dress. She was married to a man named Samuel Biggs.  We have a picture of her wedding dress, although this is her grand daughter in it in a picture taken in 1937:
The dress was badly damaged, although you can't tell in this picture. A square had been cut out of the organdy by Sallie to make a baby bonnet for her first born child. I was told by my husband's mother that it was damaged across the front as well. After this picture was taken the dress was burned. Too bad since as you know I love lace bits.

Here is Sallie Smallwood Biggs, now a widow, in her later years seeing her son Bob (on the left) and his friend Bill Joe off to WWI:

And later still holding her first grandchild John Pope Jr. born in 1917:

Now we have a face. So her here is the baby dress, she made (picture from aunt Penelope):

The dress is made out of a fine batiste. The lace is several different designs of  tatting, including the three motifs across the front of the garment. Between the motifs are fine embroidery. The center bottom of the dress has a matching embroidery. The entredeux is not entredeux at all. It is fine hand sewn faggoting much like I have seen on a larger scale on the sheets I have bought in France. The entire dress was sewn by hand, with beautiful french seams and a double rolled hem at the bottom supporting two rows of tatting, one 1/2 inch above the other to give the bottom hem a wider tatted look than the tatting actually is.

The back of the dress does not have buttons. It would have been held closed by beauty pins. Beauty pins were a common way to hold baby dresses together in the back. One could make the dress look smaller or larger using the pins if needed.

Also in the box were a number of baby bonnets:
The bottom bonnet is, interestingly,  made out of organdy. There is no information if this one was the one made from the wedding gown. However, the bonnet is made completely by hand and the lace is of the correct era for the 1880's when the first of her children were born.

This little dress and an assortment of bonnets have been passed down in the family and worn again just a few years ago.  A total of five generations. The dress and bonnets are in very good condition.