Sunday, September 28, 2014

All Roads Lead to Bennington

There's nothing like a road trip in the fall. I've done my share but in the past 10 years they've mostly been for work. I have not been to the east coast for a vacation since 2005 and that trip included a pre-teen and a cranky teenager in the back seat. So, not really a vacation if you know what I mean. New England is a place that has always grabbed my heart and I wish I could spend more time there more often.

We were a little early for the truly explosive fall colors but still managed to see some along the way.

Since I began working on my (Dear) Jane Stickle quilt in 2010 I've tried a few times to make the quilter's pilgrimage to the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont, to see the original but things never seemed to work out. The quilt is only on display there for a short time each year, during a month that happens to coincide with kids going back to school and which is typically a busy time at work for my husband. 

But, a few months ago, that dear man of mine asked me what I'd like for our 30th anniversary (!) which was coming up in September. (September also happens to be my birthday month.) Well, all I can say is he should be careful what he asks people. I smiled and told him what I really wanted was to go to Vermont. I don't need diamonds or rubies and was pleasantly surprised that he was so agreeable to the trip. Apparently. he'll go anywhere. We jumped through various hoops to make it happen and I got to see The Quilt up close and personal. Finally. Best birthday/anniversary gift ever.

I almost missed it, however. The museum has the quilt hidden in a small, dark room on the second floor and I actually walked right past it and then turned and said "Oh!" with a small gasp. There it was. Quietly unassuming and as dignified as a queen sitting on her throne.

We were lucky enough to get there on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The museum was relatively empty and so I had her all to myself and sat on the floor in that tiny room for about half an hour just staring, taking it all in and trying to get some photos. I have a very simple camera and since the room was dimly lit (to preserve the textiles) this is the best I could do with such little light. No flash photography allowed.

What you notice first is the excellent condition it's in and how vibrant the colors of the fabrics appear. Jane's brother was listed as a tailor in the census records and there is some speculation that that is how she acquired the variety of prints she used to make the quilt.

If the quilt looks odd with the blocks in the wrong order, it's because it is displayed differently at the museum than in the book. Here, the basket is right side up with Jane's signature on the bottom left instead of the right side. Apparently, they also rotate the quilt every year. 

One thing that always struck me was that the blocks look a bit quirky in the book - not perfect and sometimes crooked - and you can never really see the entire quilt well in a photograph. When we work on the quilt we are focusing on one block at a time and I know I tend to get caught up in trying to make each one as perfectly as I can. But, when you actually see Jane's blocks up close, they are glorious. Like a dear old friend, you stand back and look past the wrinkles and flaws and see the true beauty of the whole person. The quirkiness does not stand out at all and what you see is the amazing way they were all pieced and put together into this wonderful design and how the colors flow throughout the quilt. This Jane, she knew about color. It gave me hope that mine will look amazing when I finish it even though I feel some of my blocks may leave something to be desired. 

I swear I got shivers when I saw Jane's signature and her embroidered inscription: In War Time. 1863. I've already decided what my inscription will be.

I can't say I've ever been this moved by a quilt, and I've seen a few pretty nice ones. After viewing it, I was so touched I became even more driven to make mine as close to Jane's as possible, as a tribute perhaps. I understand completely now how it just pulls you in and has become such a phenomenon among quilters all over the world. Something in me wants to honor Jane's work and the work of quilters throughout the ages - does that make sense? We owe many thanks to Brenda Papadakis for bringing Jane's quilt to us so that so many of  us can recreate it.  And I hope to one day have my own little piece of recreated history as a legacy to leave to my family. It may give a clue to someone in years to come why I quilted.

I read an account that said Jane was an invalid and that her quilt was awarded a prize for best pieced quilt at the Bennington County Fair, a prize that earned her $2.00.

You're really able to clearly see Jane's Trip Around the World motif  with colors radiating outward from the center.

The little town of Bennington. View from museum across the street.

You can read more about the quilt and Jane's history here and will also find some interesting facts here on Jenni's blog. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fabric Scraps

They're doing wonderful things with fabric scraps these days. Not me, but some people. I can't seem to get a handle on my scraps so I sure could use some ideas.

My scrap basket is actually made from scraps . . . . It's probably trying to tell me something. I often think of throwing them all out but can't do it. Maybe I need to find more ways to use them up.

For instance, I love this necklace from Anthropologie -

                                                         DIY Anthropologie Inspired Scarf Necklace. I'm thinking it might be interesting to do as a bracelet too.

Wonder if this would work with my Civil War repro scraps??  I guess you would just need to connect long strips, tie a few knots and voila! Fabric scraps necklace/scarf. 

                                                                Cute! The Life of a Cheap Chickadee: Fabric Scraps Necklace

Here are some colorful braided strips strung together and accented with a fabric flower. 

I'm guessing it would never look this good on me, however. I'd probably just look like someone dumped my basket of scraps on my head in a fabric bucket challenge . . . .

Burgundy upcycled multi-strand jersey fabric necklace

                        Etsy TheOffBeatArtisans YoYo Blossom neckpiece fabric necklace made from recycled fibers ADJUSTABLE - Stylehive

               Yoyo  necklace anyone?
                                        Coral pink multi-strand upcycled elastic jersey fabric necklace with removable brooch

                                                        African Fabric Knotted Bib Necklace by by paintedthreads2 on Etsy, $ SOLD

                                          Teething necklace for mom to wear and baby to chew on. Made out of vintage sheets

Apparently, this one is a baby teething necklace for mommy to wear. Glad I'm out of that phase . . . . Girl, make sure that doesn't bleed onto your white shirt when it gets wet. 

                                         Fall Fabric Necklace Project

             This one is even kind of cute. 

Upcycled infinity NECKLACE

Let me know if you've ever tried doing something like this with fabric strips and if it worked -  then maybe I'll try it too.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Civil War Dresses - Part 2

Here are the rest of the dresses from the recent Civil War women's clothing exhibit at the Lakes Region Historical Museum in Antioch, Illinois. Several people e-mailed me to ask if these were reproduction dresses. They were NOT. All were authentic period pieces dating from the 1850s - 1870s. 

The dresses were in remarkably good condition, although some were patched in places.   Still . . . . incredibly preserved.

A brilliant purple maternity gown. Love it. 

Purple, along with green, was often considered a "fugitive" color and faded to a soft brown over time, which explains the drab colors you see so often in antique quilts from this era. Do any of you with knowledge of fabric know why this dress would have retained  its color instead of fading as others did? (see below) I think I remember that it was made from wool instead of cotton or silk and I wondered if that had something to do with it, or - perhaps it was because it was so well preserved and kept away from light? I haven't a clue. 

Purple silk fabric faded to a brownish mauve.  

You can see the original brilliant purple color underneath the sleeve.

Another faded purple dress -

Here you can see the original color preserved under the layers of trim.

This one below was probably my favorite dress, made from a lovely gauzy material with several additional layers underneath the dress. What amazed me were the details  - tiny, tiny stitches all by hand; gathered stitches attaching the bodice to the skirt. Delicate, lace-trimmed removable sleeves. What an awful lot of work went into making these gowns.

Notice the tiny blue acorn buttons on the front of the bodice - how sweet.

Ladies boots. Such tiny feet!

Dress shoes

Those removable sleeves again.

Painted glass buttons on this dress front.

You can't see it very well in the photo but the mannequin and the lady in the photo are wearing the same "Medici" belt. 

Was this where Wonder Woman got the idea??

8 by 10 Civil War Photo Print Woman Lovely Dress, Cloak. Medici belt, nice hat

A display case showing a "huswife" needle case carried to war by a Civil War soldier. The note next to it read: 

 "Miss Amy Ingalls of Menominee, Mich, made this needle book just before I left for the war in Aug 1862. Was carried most 3 years. [signed] Homer Stevens"