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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fabric Left Overs and What to do With Them.

Lately I have been very busy with emptying out the basement of boxes. Ten years ago when we left for France I put everything I would not be using in boxes and they were stored in the basement. Added to those boxes were boxes of fun finds I brought back with me from France and Germany. On top of that were boxes from friends of friends who wanted to off load some loved ones sewing room. To say the basement was full was an understatement.
I started with the cleaning, sorting, keeping and discarding last year. I dare say I will be at it into next year. The garbage can has been constantly full and Good Will and the Salvation Army love me. Every time I go to the grocery store I drop something off at the Goodwill drop off conveniently located next to the Kroger near where I live. Fabric has been making trips to my sister-in-law for her charity sewing group. I have empty boxes now to show for it.
My routine has been to spend at least 2 hours each day sorting and tossing and then I take a break to do something for me.

A couple days ago I was going through the big plastic box of kits. I have taken many classes in my life, in fact, truth be told, I love taking classes where they hand me a kit. I love the way everything is neatly placed in a plastic bag for me to open and pet. I have taken sewing schools where you just don’t get to all of the projects offered. Those unopened kits? I had a lot of them.

Years ago I had a 3 year rule. This rule got put on hold while I lived in France but simply put, at the end of 3 years I had to take whatever it was out of its plastic bag and ask myself “Am I going to make or finish this?” If the answer was yes it went back in its bag and on the shelf. If the answer was no, it was either tossed, donated or taken apart for fabric to be used someday on something else and placed back into my stash.

The problems with kits are that not all pieces were big ones. I started a box for cotton fabric scraps (suitable for quilting) and another for linen, silk and batiste. What I ended up with was a heaping pile of fabric bits.
I have been pinning my way through Pinterest and this pin from Susan Eastman stopped me in my tracks.

I would love to own something like this, but in dark colors maybe. Before I make one of those, I though of trying to remake a shirt that I bought in Vietnam last year. I love the top and the way it fits and so as step one I needed just a simple T shaped top. Later I will add a cowl and some of the other things that made this Vietnam shirt one of my favorites. More on that shirt later.

First though I need a good fitting T shaped top. Easy enough to draft. I love the color blocking look so I started digging through the box to see what I could find.

Here was a small problem solved quite easily, I was mixing jacket weight linens with handkerchief linens and silk dupoini. Conveniently in the box was also lots of pieces of Swiss cotton batiste. Everything I thought I might use was prewashed. If I cannot put the finished product in the washer, I am not going to wear it.
The pieces were then laid out on top of the T- pattern so that a pleasant color blocking look could be achieved. 
The thinner pieces, the silk dupoini and the light weight linens, were backed with the Swiss batiste so that all pieces used in the shirt were now approximately the same weight. Fabric blocks were sewn together and then the seam allowances of the blocks were serged so that there were no raw edges. The front and back were cut out and then assembled using flat felled seams.
Not bad for a first try, the shirt fits well and will be a nice addition to my wardrobe. Best of all is that I was able to reduce the amount of fabric bits by a small amount.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A New Country to Collect In

I find myself in Wellington New Zealand for 6 weeks. To date I noticed that with the exception of China, I seem to be able to find fun vintage finds to use in my creations no matter where in the world I travel. New Zealand is no exception. 

Here Opportunity Stores, Op-Stores for short or better known as thrift stores in some parts of the world are plentiful and can be really fun. I found two in Wellington and learned that the Salvation Army Thrift store is called Sallies. The Vincent St Paul are called Vinnies. I started frequenting them, you know, just to see what I could find. So far it has been inexpensive and lots of fun.

So here is what I have found to date:

Starting off with very proper ladies finger towels and handkerchiefs:
Beautiful Madeira applique, embroideries in linen or fine cotton. Just gorgeous. 

As is always my luck, when I pick something up it does not have a price and I have to ask about it, So it was with the set above. The person behind the cash register was a young man. I had another item I wanted to purchase besides this package and it was labeled $1 NZ each. When I inquired about the price, the young man looked at the other packet and guessed $2 NZ. 

As luck would have it, within days of arriving here I found a sewing group that meets on Wednesdays and I was on my way to this meeting when I found the package of finger towels and handkerchiefs. I showed them to the members of my group and was asked how much I paid, they laughed and told me that only a man would price them at that inexpensively. I got a good deal. They are pretty and several of them will be good additions to a pastel crazy quilt I am making.

The sewing group told me about other Op-shops in town. Because of them I know where at least 6 of them are now. Of course I have found fun things to use in sewing and a sort of collectible thing...

First up I found 7 net hand made large doilies and some pearls. I always look for pearls and beads no matter where I go. Vintage pearls seem to be better made so I collect broken necklaces so that I can use the pearls on some of my projects. These are not broken, but they are fun so I bought them. I have a really nice necklace I bought in a thrift shop in Berlin that I really like so these might be a fun addition to my necklace collection.
Oh you noticed the queen? She was on display in one of the shops. I could not just walk by. Made by Portland Ware in England by The Metal Box Company. Not worth much but truly a collectible.

More finds, some smaller doilies, a really pretty battenberg lace collar and a kiwi pin. I have seen these pin in tourist shops and they are not nearly as nice as this one. Not sure what I will do with it, but I will find a use for it.
I couldn't leave him there once I took the queen could I?

I think they will make a good addition on the wall in my sewing room.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Pillow made of Vintage Bits

I am a collector of lace bits, its part of my 6 step program. 
1. Move to France.
2. Realize there are lots of vintage linen lace things to be had.
3. Find the best places to buy said linen and lace items.
4. Collect lace bits
5. Pet lace bits
6. Betray lace bits by cutting them up into littler pieces and using them.
...
You get the idea. The 4 months back in France continued to feed my addiction to collecting lovely lace bits.

You can't just collect them, well, OK you can, BUT whats the fun of that? Yes, you can pull things out, pet them and then panic over the idea of cutting them. Oh not me. And, yes it is hard to cut things sometimes. 

Whole linens like these are off limits:

But Lace bits and broken linens are fair game:
As I have been collecting lace, I have been collecting inspiration in a folder called Pillows on Pinterest. I actually need a couple pillows for the house. 

Here is my first one:
You can see the leftovers from the sachets down the center. The bottom left and right were corners on a pillowcase that was badly stained by some sort of hair treatment. Talking to older women they tell me that it was usually the man's pillow not the woman's that had the staining. Some sort of product men applied to slick the hair back in the 1930-1960s. I have noticed lately that it is being used again. You can see the discoloration on the top right hand side of the photo below:
The yellowing got much worse in the center of the pillow. I have learned over time which stains will come out and which will not. This one I know from experience will never come out. Too bad as it had a mate which was in perfect condition. Stained mean permission to cut up.

Also on the pillow I was able to include a couple of initial embroideries I found this year. It is common to find these as people tended to save them after everything else wears out. Its like they might use them, re-purpose if you will, someday. But they never do.  One of them which was part of a damaged pillowcase had the initials HC. I decided to use it for this pillow even though it was darned. See bottom left of photo:
I have to learn how to darn like that someday. I think it would be a fun addition to some of my sewing, even if it really does not need to be there. A good quality light weight stabilizer was ironed to the wrong side of this piece to strengthen it as it is a fine cotton. Most of the rest of the pillow is bed weight linen.

Continuing the tour of the  pillow is the really pretty bird motif:
The lace on either side of the top corners were hand sewn down using some of the small lace pieces I found this year in France.

For the back I got lazy. The back of the stain damaged pillowcase was in perfect condition so why not use it too? It had to be resized smaller.

I may replace the the buttons with something less worn later, but for now they get to stay.

I am thinking of adding a motif to the top left:
I have not done that yet due to lack of time. Of course the pillow and I would need to be on the same continent, which we are not right now.  I think it needs it.

So here it is stuffed. 
I made a tiny mistake and that is I made it 20 inches square and it really needs to be 18 inches to match the pillow sham I had at the house. Oh well. Sometime later this year I hope to have the time to make another "matching" one out of my stash. I will also have to invest in a couple of larger pillow forms as well.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Ornament 2017

If you have been reading my blog for any period of time you know that every year I join a Christmas ornament Exchange with like minded sewers in one of my yahoo newsgroup. This year I am doing something a little different. A group of us from this yahoo group text back and forth privately and it was proposed that we get together and and have our own exchange. There are 10 of us in the group and I was not sure I would be able to do the yahoo group one as well as that would have meant doing  15 ornaments. As it was I could handle ten, quite accidentally having bought enough supplies.

The rules for this exchange simple. We can use anything we want to make ornaments but they must be made by hand. In other words, I don’t have to sew to make them, I just needed to have hunted and gathered up parts and then assembled everything myself.

Every year I try to push myself to try something new and ever since moving to France I try to incorporate vintage into whatever I make. Normally that means lace, but not this year.

In August I was in Aachen Germany and while walking through town found a craft store. I found some bobbins made out of wood. I bought 10 of them. I had no idea what I would do with them but thought them worthy of my buying.

In September I was in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines France (Alsace) for the yearly quilt show and in the vendor area there was a Dutch woman selling charms by weight. The light bulb went off as to an idea for this year’s ornament exchange. Another vendor had a few vintage religious medallions for sale.

I was at a second hand store in late September near where I live and they had costume jewelry for sale. This is the best way to find chains for crafting. The price is always right. Add in a broken rosary or two to add interest. 

Here are the parts of the rosary I did not use, I am saving these pieces for another project.

So here are my starting point, a pile of wooden bobbins, old necklaces, a broken rosary and lots of charms.

On purpose I do not have enough of any one of the charms to put them on all ornaments so every one of them are different.

The bobbin has 5 usable holes at the bottom so that limits the charms. 

Here is the final result:
I am happy with the final result this year with a little jewelry for the tree. Hopefully those that receive them enjoy them as much as I did enjoyed making them.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

sachet for my draw

I was at one of my favorite thrift store here in France last month and I ran a cross this:
A well used, badly damaged, vintage linen sheet. You can see some of the damage on the lower right hand side. It is damaged enough not to use as a bed sheet, but it is in good enough shape to cut apart and make something new. The price was right so I bought it.

I want to use the initials for something later, but the embroidery below it was mostly in good shape so I thought I would make some sachets filled with lavender. Right after I bought the sheet, as luck would have it, at the Saturday market here in my little french town, was a man selling lavender by the kilo or by the bag. He had a special on buying 5 of the little bags so that is what I did. 
I had been thinking about that sheet and what I would like to do with it.

I have a Pinterest board called "sachet" where I collect ideas. I collected pictures of many sachet bags and since I found the lavender, I thought I would give it a go.

Due to the size of the embroidery design from the sheet, a 6 inch or 15 cm square seemed to be just right. Unlike many of the Pinterest designs, I was dealing with something with embroidered holes so it would need to be lined. I cut the lining from the un-embroidered portion of the sheet.
I cut the lining the same size but when I sewed them together I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance. I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance for the outside, embroidered portion of the sachet. I stuffed the lining into the embroidered piece once it was sewn and filled the lining with one of the bags of lavender. 

The last thing to do was to hand stitch shut the lining and then the embroidered section. The sheet top edge gave me 6 undamaged 6-inch embroidered squares. 

I got 3 sachets out of the sheet as I decided to make both sides have embroidery
I have lavender left so I expect there will be more to come.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Oh look, I’m Published!

But first...

I just got back from a class in Orlando with Terry Fox and Louise Cuttings. Ya I know, I am living in France and I travel to the USA for a sewing class? Hard to explain, but I am not sure where home is and therefore, within reason, I will go where ever the classes are. As you can imagine, frequent flier miles help a whole lot.

My mom lives near Orlando so this was an easy choice for me. I sent some time visiting her and 4 days in a class.

This class was one of the best ones I have ever taken. Right down my alley. We started with 2 of Louise Cutting patterns; Light and Shadow and My Hearts a Flutter. We were asked to make a muslin to our closest size and then we made adjustments once there. 



We made the top on Light and Shadow and the tank from My Hearts a Flutter.

Once we had the fitting muslin, that is when the fun began. Here is an example of the Light and Shadow top after it had been haute coutured:
We had example after example with what we could do with the two designs. I focused on the other pattern, My Hearts a Flutter and first made the tank. My muslin needed to have the shoulder moved forward by 5/8", the side widened from an extra small to a small and the neck line redone so that there was extra on the shoulders. I am broad shouldered so I have a hard time fitting into tank tops ready to wear.
Quality of picture not too good, but it is linen/cotton I bought here in France at a store that sells fabric for curtains. Heavy weight and soft and just enough for a tank. Fits beautifully but I had to leave it in Florida for later. It is getting a little too cold in France for this this year.

I then turned my attention to another of her modifications to the same pattern and made this:

 

It needs facings and I will do that as I did bring it back with me to finish.

I drew off several other pattern ideas that I just have not had time to make yet. It will happen though. Right now though I am busy embroidering:

She will be done shortly for addition to a project I am making. She has been a wonderful train/plane/car project.

Ok, now to being published. Classic Sewing Magazine was kind enough to publish something I made. A friend sent me this as I will not see the magazine until December. 

That's me, page 115:
This is what it looks like:

How exciting