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"

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Civil War Dresses, Part 1

Last weekend I attended one of the best local museum exhibits I've seen in a long time. The Lakes Region Historical  Society in Antioch, Illinois, had an exhibit on Civil War era dresses ranging from the 1850s through the 1870s. They were all absolutely stunning.

From fancy silk gowns  . . . 

. . . to cotton day dresses.

It was so much fun to see these up close and take notice of all of the hand stitching on the various garments. I took so many photos that this topic will be continued in part two, which I'll post in a couple of days. 

Civil War wrapper, worn exclusively at home, in the mornings.

Wrapper over a dressing gown

Love the strip cut on the bias for a little contrast. Today, we turn fabric under to hem a skirt. In those days, hems were bound by a long strip of fabric that could be removed and replaced if the hem wore out. 

I learned that some aprons were decorative and  also fashion accessories, instead of simple work aprons.

A young woman's fancy dance dress. It was inappropriate for a woman to show her arms before evening.

A wonderful display of an amazing collection.

I found out about the exhibit by chance, only one day before it ended. What luck. After I talked to the curator, she said the response had been great and they may extend it through this coming weekend, until Sept 7, 2014.  If you live in the northern Illinois or even southern Wisconsin area and love this time period, I urge you to go see it. Call first to make sure it's still open. Then grab a friend and make the drive (it took us an hour to get there). It is so worth it and you won't be disappointed. Make sure you take the informative "tour" given by curator Ainsley Brook Wonderling. The dresses are all a part of her extensive and beautiful collection of 19th century artifacts. 


Monday, September 1, 2014

My New Hot & Heavy Relationship

I'm  in love -  with my new iron.  It's a GE from the 1940s. Yes, it gets hot and heavy at times. Exactly what I was hoping for. I hope it lasts.

My other irons never did seem to heat up well enough or stay hot long enough. They don't have a sharp enough point for my small applique. And that auto shutoff . . . . for the birds. Absolutely hate it. Eight minutes is often not enough time for me to piece my block and then run back to the iron in time before it shuts off. I swear my latest Rowenta started to cool off after 5 or 6 minutes. Plus, it leaked. So, last week I went on a hunt to find a different one. Fed up with replacing irons that were not cheap on a regular basis I wanted to see if it really made a difference if I bought a cheap one. 

Quilters and irons - it's often a love-hate relationship and we're all looking for the perfect iron. I saw this cute retro Black and Decker iron and thought it would fit my needs. So cool and very inexpensive. Kind of like the one my mom had for years. I thought I'd found it, the perfect iron.

I really wanted to love this iron. It was so cheap. After I brought it home I couldn't wait to try it out. First thing that tipped me off that the relationship wasn't going to work out -  it did not glide smoothly. It stuck to my fabric. I tried a different fabric, then a different pressing surface. I let it cool off and then ran my hand across the bottom and found it was rough. The steam holes were slightly raised and catching on the fabric. Arrgh! Didn't think to check that before I bought it. Why would I? Who would make an iron that's rough on fabric? Couldn't believe it. And so darn retro-cute, too. 

A nice number of you commented on my Facebook page and gave me your opinions. I returned it the next day and then went to five different stores looking at numerous irons. None seemed to "fit." I kind of knew what I was looking for and simply cannot bring myself to spend $150 on an iron (plus, the checkbook reminded me that another college tuition check is due soon, so better not overspend right now). The vintage-looking iron still appealed to me and when Karen H. contacted me and said she loved her vintage iron, I took a chance. I buzzed over to my favorite antiques store and there it was. On sale too. $20.00 plus 20% off. I probably overpaid but I didn't care; my search was over.

You can see the thumb rest on the bakelite handle. It's comfortable.

My iron is in wonderful shape, almost like new. The '40s - '50s housewife who owned it either didn't iron much or took very good care of it. The dealer said he always checks out the appliances he sells and the electrical cord appears to be in great condition as well. The soleplate is flat (nice and smooth), so no steam, but I'll live. I can use a spray bottle if I need steam. And does it get HOT! I actually had to lower the setting from high so I didn't scorch anything. It's also very heavy and, as Sheri reminded me, the heavier irons almost do the work for you when pressing blocks. Best thing - NO auto shut off. Now, someone at my house was a little worried that this might get me into trouble but I'm willing to take that chance for an iron that stays hot. These irons remind me of the one my mom had for years and years. I don't remember her ever replacing one. They were just made to last in those days, I guess. AND, if I remember correctly while growing up, she did not burn the house down ONCE because she didn't have an auto shut off on her iron. (She scorched a few collars though, I think.) I promise to be careful.

This baby glides over fabric like you would not believe. I've only used it a couple of times but so far, so good. I'm now very intrigued by vintage irons. (Some of you may be interested in reading a blog I found on vintage irons.) I suspect that now, everywhere I go, I will look for an old iron to add to my collection. I would love to find one of these vintage Presto irons someday, just because it's such a pretty blue. And it looks so, so cool, doesn't it?



You'll remember that I already have a Singer vintage sewing machine. In 2012, after the drip coffee maker stopped working after only two years, I became angry. Instead of replacing it with yet another of the same I opted to buy a percolator coffee pot like the ones from the fifties (it's still going strong and the coffee tastes great and is HOT). Can a vintage waffle iron really be far behind? I should check the basement first - there may be one hidden there.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mess Stress

Do you have mess stress? I certainly do. It seems like there's always so little time to do the things I need to do . . . . I can't even remember the last time I cleaned out my scrap basket. See what happens when you let stuff go? Now I have at least three or four of these, full of strips and scraps, all over the place. Piles on the cutting table, the sewing table; under the table, on the floor too. Oh my goodness. What happened here?

Could be we quilters have too many gadgets, tools and choices in everything, along with too darn much fabric. I have so many projects I want to make it's not funny. They all just keep building up. I think life would be simpler with less of everything. 

I've always had a hard time creating while surrounded by a mess and that's one reason (among many) I haven't felt motivated to sew too much lately I. Oh sure, I work on a Dear Jane block now and then but haven't felt like making anything larger because then I'd be forced to clean it all up a bit. I honestly used to be more organized but things have somehow fallen by the wayside. Know what I mean?  It's been a busy summer with constant distractions and it's particularly frustrating if, like me, you have more than one project going on and several different hobbies. There's always seems to be something more important to do than clean up my sewing clutter.

Both of my kids just moved into new apartments so we've done lots of shopping . . . .

Should I take the time to copy down a few more family recipes for my daughter? I promised I would.

Oh, joy, several new/old books. Forget about cleaning. Which one should I read next??

Okay, this is fun too - which DJ block should I challenge myself with next? I've made five this month, a very good thing, even if each one feels like it takes about 700 hours to complete.

I so love the fresh start a nice clean sewing area gives me. But the stress of cleaning everything up is not something I want to tackle just yet. It's a constant battle and I know I will feel better if I try. Possibly, I'll even get more sewing done if I can actually see the surface of the cutting table. But right now I get tired thinking about it so I've decided to take it slowly and not stress too much.  Baby steps. Be nice to myself during the process instead of feeling bad that I've been lazy. Clutter does that to me and it constantly reminds me that I am not as organized as I'd like to be. Granted, I had a busy summer and that set me back -  things were hurriedly tossed around and I worked on a few things here and there without bothering to clean up much. It made me put aside some quilting I thought I wanted to do though. Hopefully, I will have a productive fall. And, then, this is my plan:
  • Set aside 30 minutes a day—make a plan to just organize one drawer, bin or shelf. It's amazing what you can accomplish in a short time if you keep at it on a regular basis.
  • Organize some of the things I don't use very often (extra threads, scissors, rulers, other tools) and store them somewhere instead of keeping them out all the time. (Yes, I am guilty of doing this.)
  • Focus on one thing at a time. I go from thing to thing and then forget my original purpose and realize I have wasted a LOT of time. I read that this may because of my age, however, so it's not really my fault, LOL. 
  • Try not to get too sentimental about throwing things away. Get a big box and toss in the stuff I  really don't need to hang onto. Donate or just throw out. I'll live. 
  • Try to make a habit of cleaning off my work space after I've finished working on something. A tough one for me but it may make it easier to jump into a clean space the next time I feel like sewing.
Right now I get tired thinking about it. Let's see what happens if I let go of my "mess stress" and stick to the plan to deal with it later, in the fall. Not exactly a productive solution but September is my favorite organizing month anyway and when the weather becomes slightly cooler I always seem to have more energy to tackle things like this. Cross my heart, I really will get it done and then everything else will magically fall into place, right? Tell me you also struggle with this.


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