May 23, 2018

Evanston Made 2018

The Evanston Art Center is once again hosting an exhibit as part of the Evanston Made arts month in June.

I'm just finishing up my entry:

It's another small quilt from my Something From Nothing series which uses decorator fabric samples and other found objects.  This one is called "Magic Carpet."  It's embellished with beads and bangles, many of which don't show in this photo.  It really needs a spotlight to look its best...and that's what it'll have at a gallery show!

The show opens June 1, 6-9pm.  I'll be there, so come and visit if you can.  The exhibit runs June 1-30.  It's always a lively show with a little bit of everything, all sorts of media and content and styles. 

Full info on Evanston Made events can be found at the event website.

May 21, 2018

Spools and Sawtooth

One of the nicest things about repairing quilts is that some really marvelous quilts cross my path.  I get to see and work on such a wide range of quilts.  Here's one I really enjoyed.

I love the combination of the spool blocks and the alternate sawtooth edged blocks.  The blocks play visual games. The two blocks form a cool secondary octagonal pattern that kind of comes and goes.  I find it hard for my eyes to focus on the blocks themselves, and instead there's a rhythm and movement across the quilt. 

The quilt was purchased about 25 years ago, which means it was made around 1990.  I like the color palette.  It's scrappy, but not full spectrum.  The blocks are relatively small, 4 1/2".   Isn't this just so much fun!



Most of the wear was in the center of the quilt.  I needed to patch mostly white and brown pieces, but also a few prints.  In the photo below, the brown/red floral upper left and white on green in the center are mine.  They are of similar vintage to the prints in the quilt.  I didn't quilt most of the new white pieces because the originals were not quilted, and you can see that they stand up from the surface a bit.  There are quite a few new browns here; if you look closely, you will see some with fewer wrinkles.  They are quilted and blend into the quilt's surface much better.

You'll also see, in the photo above, two of the white squares that I patched and did requilt, again the ones with fewer wrinkles.  Here's how I transferred the quilting pattern:  I traced the pattern from one of the intact blocks.  I folded the paper and re-traced to make the pattern more symmetrical again.  Then I made plastic templates from that.  I marked the quilting lines by scoring the fabric with a quilters' pin tip.  That way there is no concern whether the marking tool would leave a permanent mark.  The lines show well enough in bright daylight or a good, strong lamplight.  It helps if the light comes across the quilt in a bit of an angle to make the shadow.  It's a sweet little pattern, and I'm going to hang onto those templates!

"We bought it in a mainstream store when we were starting our married life in the US (we met and lived first in Poland), and it has served us through 25 years of the 33 years of our happy life together.  We are so glad you were able to repair it for us as we fully expect at least another 20!"

May 16, 2018

Antique Quilt Study in Kansas City

It's a happening thing!  In less than one month, June 7-9, I'll be in Kansas City, participating in the MOKA Quilt Study Group Conference!  The presentation topics for the weekend focus on 19th century fabrics and design motifs and 19th century signature quilts. 

My lecture is taking shape:

The title of the lecture is Quilt Repair Tales.  I'll be talking about interesting quilts that have passed through my studio for care.  I'll be sharing both the family tales that quilts can embody, and tales of repair processes and techniques.

My fellow presenters are historians/authors Sandra Starley, Anita Loscalzo, and Lori Lee Triplett.  I'm honored to be included with the likes of these!

Sandra Starley wrote a wonderful description of the weekend's events.  

Info and registration forms are on the MOKA Facebook page, or email me via my website for PDFs if that's easier for you.  Registration deadline is coming up sooooon - May 21!

It's going to be a wonderful weekend of camaraderie and spectacular antique quilts!  Please come join us.  There will be antique beauties galore, I can assure you. 

Once I'm totally done re-editing and re-re-editing and re-re-re-editing my lecture, I too will be able to say "I can't wait for June!"  Right now though, I'm being grateful for a bit more planning time....  Hee, hee.

May 8, 2018

Vintage Clothing Tidbits

So, I thought I'd follow up the previous post, about a lovely 1920s beaded purse, with some more vintage clothing repair highlights.

The first tidbit is a photo of "how we do it".  I don't know if we've ever had a photo together like this before.  This is Julia, proprietress of Basya Berkman Vintage Fashion, and me sitting at my living room worktable.  I am gradually taking over the whole house with my repair work, supplies, and storage.  The living room has a wall-size window, which gives lovely light for handwork, so the table is nearly always up.  Julia had brought over a pile of  "broken" clothes, and here we are, going over each piece and I'm taking notes on what each one will need.  From the way we are dressed, you can tell what kind of winter we had this year in the Chicago area! 

I'm sharing photos of some of my favorite pieces and mends from the last few months.

This green blouse was missing one button.  I was certain to document this, because it was one of those super rare occasions where I had the Exact Same Button in my stash.  Can you guess which is the replacement?  ..........  The middle one.  Oh hallelujah!  Now I have documented proof that having as many buttons as possible is absolutely essential!

One of the fun things about repairing these clothes is meeting up with all sorts of design and construction techniques.  This otherwise regular white cardigan was layered with a metallic-stitched net.  So pretty!  Unfortunately one of the lovely buttons was missing, but this time I didn't have a match.  We opted for a blendy mother-of-pearl button, and put that one down at the hem.

This silk half-slip had such a gorgeous deep lace at the hem!  I'm pretty sure it once had a ribbon threaded through those vertical slits.

Here's another cardigan-of-interest, this one with lovely beading.  I had to replace one of the hook and eyes, and secure some of the beads that were coming loose.


The flowers and leaves are beaded with a 3-D effect.  There are "too many" beads for the length of each stitch, which results in each row standing up from the sweater with a slight curve.

This beading also has a special secret.  The flower and leaf beads are actually all the same, translucent white.  The different pastel colors come from the vibrant threads inside them!

You can catch glimpses of the colored threads in the above photos, but you can see the full effect on the inside of the sweater, through the lining fabric.  Yes, this sweater is fully lined.  You can also see how the hooks and eyes were stitched so as to peek out from the edge of the lining, a very subtle touch of special care.

This next repair is just for me.  I started with a pair of my daughter's earrings, long neglected because of several bits having been lost or broken.  The earrings were originally all black, but I don't wear much black or keep black supplies on hand.  But I do like the design, so I got it into my head to replace the missing pieces with silver.  I had to move some of the bits around to bring them to a kind of symmetry. 

And finally, coming full circle to buttons once again.   In another lovely stash of vintage buttons, which included many wonderful shell buttons in a wide range of shades......

.....  I found this one.  Actually a broken one, but when two of the four holes broke open, well....

I believe I now have a mascot.  I love this button!!!

May 1, 2018

Vintage 1920s Beaded Purse

I haven't posted anything about vintage clothing repair in a long time.  Here comes an absolutely lovely item - a 1920s vintage beaded purse.

As with almost all of the vintage clothing and accessories I post about, this is a repair that I did for my friend Julia's shop - Basya Berkman Vintage Clothing

The little purse was in nearly perfect condition, all beads present and accounted for.  The fabric was coming off the frame in a couple of places, plus it was missing a lining.  All that remained were a few shreds up at the top where it had been stitched onto the frame.

Here are close-ups of the beaded net, outside and inside. 

And even though it doesn't apply directly to the lining process, we need to take a moment to appreciate the wonderful clasp.  It glows just like this in pretty much any lighting!

I knew the lining had to be replaced to protect the amazingly intact beading from keys, cell phones, and compacts, assuming that it might carry items from a wide range of decades! 

I made a pattern by drawing around the purse - adding 3/4" seam allowances to give myself plenty of  just-in-case fabric, and marking where the hinges of the frame were.  For fabric, I used a silk half slip that Julia had given me to keep for a fabric source.  Most appropriate!

Here's the lining, stitched, trimmed, and clipped.

Upon examination, I discovered what I needed to do to attach the new lining.  I quickly decided that it would be easiest to remove everything from the frame and start anew.  Before unstitching everything, I marked the center points and hinge points of the beaded fabric and the metallic braid (that was stitched on the inside to disguise the attachment to the frame).  I was soooo very glad that I thought ahead to do that. 

First, I slipped the lining into the purse, turned under the top edge, and whipstitched to the top of the beaded fabric, just like the way the purse had been stitched originally.  Second, I stitched the metallic braid back on with a running stitch, matching those little safety pins. 

You can see the whipstitching attaching the lining to the purse on the bottom in this photo, and the running stitch attaching the metallic braid at the top of this photo.

Third, I stitched the whole purse back onto the frame.  And isn't the frame lovely, by the way, with its filigree design, which is graceful and elegant while also allowing the purse itself to be stitched on.  I pondered for a while about how to hold the purse in place while I stitched, and finally settled on this porcupine-ish technique.  It was a bit pokey to be sure, but I couldn't have gotten the fabric situated evenly without the pins.  For this, I was stab stitching.

And ta-da - here is the finished effect. 


April 11, 2018

Flexner Family Names on a Signature Quilt

Esther Abraham Flexner and Moritz Heinrich Flexner

A series of happenstances has lead me to connect names on a 1910 fundraiser quilt to one of my ancestors!  A whole new branch has been added to my family tree!

So pour a cup of tea and follow along on the detective trail.

The story of the research and discovery began back in 1984.  I was visiting a friend in Iowa when my obsession with quilts was brand new.  She and I went to the historical museum in Kalona.  There, among other things, I photographed a signature quilt with a dedication block that reads "M E Society / Jan. 1910 Kalona Ia."

When I returned home and was showing my travel slides to my mom, she sat straight up when the close-up of this quilt was on the screen, and said "Wait a minute! There are people named Flexner on this quilt!"

The names caught her eye because Flexner was her maiden name.  We have quite a bit of genealogical information on the Flexners, but these folks, Dave, Etta, and Helen, were not anywhere on the family tree we knew about.


My mom enlisted my Iowa friend to help her research the names.  My friend traveled to Iowa courthouses that house census records and my mom wrote letters to the Kentucky resource centers.  (This was before the internet, after all, in the era of paper letters and SASEs!)  My mom was interested in the Kentucky records because the ancestors we knew about had all settled there when they came to the US in the mid-1800s.  Thankfully, my mom, as a reference librarian, kept copies of all the correspondence and census information that was retrieved in both states.

Eventually, my mom and my friend reached dead ends in both states.  The final status was:

Iowa census records show that Dave and Etta (short for Henrietta) were baby Helen's parents.  Helen was just 10 months old on the 1910 census.  Etta's maiden name was Godshaw; her mother's name was Julia.  But the Kentucky records gave no further clues at all.

Godshaw is not a name anywhere on the family tree as we knew it.....except for the tantalizing oral history my mom knew that my great-great-grandmother Esther nee Abraham had lived for a while with an uncle, last name of Godshaw but first name unknown, who had arrived in the US several years ahead of Esther and was proprietor of a china store. 

Next chapter.  A few weeks ago, while preparing a lecture, I came across the images of this quilt again, and decided to see if the files at held any further information.

Lo and behold, I found a Morris Godshaw, proprietor of a china store in Louisville, KY, who had arrived several years earlier than Esther, and had a daughter named Julia!  This seems to be too perfect a fit to be a mere coincidence!

To sum this up:  My great-great-grandmother Esther nee Abraham and Etta's mother Julia nee Godshaw were more than likely cousins!

So how did the name Flexner get involved?  Both Esther and Julia married men named Flexner!  I know my great-great-grandfather's name - Moritz Heinrich Flexner - and I found Dave's father's name - John Flexner.

Since both these men were immigrants, the next step will be to subscribe to the international version of Ancestry and see if I can find out how Moritz and John were related.  I feel that they almost certainly were related, maybe brothers, maybe cousins.

Dave, Etta, and Helen didn't live in Kalona very long.  They were in Kalona in 1900.  Dave was proprietor of the general store, and Etta worked there as saleswoman.  In 1910, Helen had just been born and Etta was at home mothering their new baby.  By the 1920 census, the family was in California, and Etta, sadly, had died in 1919.


Next chapter.  Last weekend, I attended the spring meeting of the Iowa-Illinois Quilt Study group.  I wrote Nancy Roth, director of the Kalona Historical Village where the study group meets.  Nancy graciously brought out the quilt, and I was able to speak about it during the show-and-tell portion of the meeting.

Not only was it exciting to see the quilt again, but several people whose families were long-time Kalona residents were able to identify other names as the owner of the hardware store, etc.  A couple of the names are ancestors in Nancy's family as well!

The quilt is pretty clearly a fundraising quilt, made by the Methodist Episcopal Society.  The auctioneer, John A. Yoder, was given a special position on the quilt.  And yes, Kalona is in Amish country.

I discovered that many of the patches and the binding are velvet, made of the luxurious silk velvets of the time.  The back is a heavy, textured, striped fabric.

Interesting further research topics are:  There's another Flexner family on the 1910 Davenport census, headed up by a Leopold Flexner, who also had moved from Kentucky to Iowa.  Could he be yet another relation of John and Moritz Flexner?

This is so much fun!!!

April 8, 2018

Back to Blogging

I've been pretty quiet lately, and intend to be back this week to share several really fun quilt-y happenings.  In the meantime, here's a lovely Renoir, "Young Woman Sewing".  Renoir was the master of clear color, wasn't he?

I was down at the Art Institute of Chicago to see their quilt exhibit one more time before it ended.  So that'll be the subject of one post.  I was also just at the Iowa-Illinois Quilt Study Group meeting.  And the biggest and best story is about quilt history research on a 1910 signature quilt - this time it's about my very own family whose names appear on the quilt!