Friday, February 21, 2014

Vintage Blue Double Wedding Ring Rescue

Thursday was one of those rare sunny days this winter, when the roads were dry and clear, so  I decided to get outta town and go buy fabric. The Scottsville Variety and Crafts store in Scottsville, MI  (home of the Scottsville Clown Band, quite famous locally) sells last year's fabrics for $5.99 a yard. They have a good selection of reproduction fabrics, and I needed to finish off my Charles Dickens quilt so I knew I'd find something there. I found a great border print and bought the whole 3.5 yards. They tempted me with several Centennial prints, so I need to return...after these latest storms are done.
 I also visited two other stores in town, a hardware/flea market combo and a new and used furniture with antiques store. There were loads of goodies to be found!

At the flea market I got some Brown Drip Hull covered French Onion Soup bowls and an oval shallow serving dish for our son, who has been collecting these dishes. 40 years ago my husband and I had a complete set! It was there I found a shabby quilt for $24.

Yes. $24. It had been washed. Perhaps that was not the wisest idea, as in many places the ring fabrics were worn or ripped or shredded. The binding is missing. But the blue background fabric is bright with no fading, although with some holes, but it is my favorite blue of all blues. $24. I had to bring it home.

It has nice hand quilting done in white and dark blue thread. There are red squares in the ring centers; most of the red fabric is good but some is dotted with holes.

There are some interesting prints, including Mexican hats, folkloric dancers, and best of all an Indian head/Bison coin print!

In the past I have repaired quilts with shredded or missing fabric by appliquéing vintage fabrics overtop of the bad. I do this on quilts that do not have a real value. I was given a quilt made by Alma Noonan of Lansing, MI that needed new binding and repairs. I used vintage and reproduction fabrics to repair it.

The purple and blue fabric is feed sack, appliqued over the worn original fabrics.

I have started repairing this quilt already, sometimes using the reverse side of fabrics. I try to match the fabrics I am replacing; that is using prints with the same motif and color as the original. The new fabrics do not have quilting lines through them, so they are discoverable.

I used feed sack on the center right ring, the a white flower on red fabric seen in the photo above. In the photo below I used fabric from an old apron, the yellow, red and blue round shapes print. I used the wrong side of the fabric as the ring fabrics around it are very faded.

Another feed sack print appears below, the red with white and blue stripes on the left.

The blue background is similar to fabric I used in my Ruby McKim's Ship of the World quilt, so I have hopes of finding this color and rebinding the quilt.

At Holden's Home Emporium I found a great carafe. They sold it as Blenko, but I have not been able to verify this. I bought it for our 1969 ranch retirement house that we are decorating with a Modern living room. I just love that color, and what a great shape! It is about 14 1/2 inches high. I already have my mother's four small crackle glass pieces which she bought when I was a little girl, and a Pilgrim carafe, missing the stopper, which I bought many years ago for $2 at a yard sale.

I have one other Double Wedding Ring in my closet, set with Bubble Gum pink. I found the top, backing, and binding in a garage sale in Hillsdale, MI in the early 1990s for $20 and I finished the quilt. I often wish I'd had the money to buy the other Double Wedding Ring top, binding and backing they also had for sale, with a lovely lilac background. The one that got away.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

Nostalgia. Memories from childhood. The ways that events in our childhood have formed us as adults. Throw in a first-person narrative, an exotic setting in the past (early 20th c Shanghai), and a mystery to solve and you have a book that will capture my attention. So I read it in two evenings.

Ishiguro is well known for his book The Remains of the Day and the movie based on the book which starred Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. When We Were Orphans shares that early 20th c British sensibility, a formality and repression of atmosphere and speech.  I have also read his book Never Let Me Go, a chilling dystopia about clone children who discover their only reason for existence was for farming of organs.

The orphan of the book is Christopher Banks, the only child of a British couple living in Shanghai in the early 20th c. The narrator retells his childhood from the eyes of his child self, revealing secrets as he discovered them in adulthood. I dearly love novels that show the adult world from the eyes of children. Rumor Godden is a master of this technique.

Christopher's parents find themselves in an untenable situation. His father's company is in the business of selling opium to the Chinese, and his mother wants to reform the business. But if his father quits, they will never be able to afford to return to England. One day the father disappears. The 'best' detective in Shanghai is assigned to the case. Christopher and his best friend Akira, whose family are expatriate Japanese, pretend to be detectives solving the case in their fantasies. Then one day a family friend takes Christopher on a lark, abandons him, and the child returns home to find his mother has also gone missing.

Christopher is sent to an 'aunt' in England, and goes to public school. He believes he has fit into English school, but tries to hide his commitment and dream of becoming a world famous detective who some day solves the case of his missing parents and brings them home again.

Christopher does become a famous detective, and believes he has solved the mystery of his parent's disappearance and so returns to Shanghai on the eve of the Japanese invasion of China. From there the novel shows the clash of memory and reality as Christopher goes on a misguided journey into the middle of the war. After this quest that leads to disorientation and near madness, he finally meets the man who tells him the chilling truth about his parents.

Although I enjoyed this book, the ending was out of keeping with the rest of the book. Many readers would be bored and detached from the story until Christopher returns to his childhood home. The big reveal seemed to be from a different kind of book, lurid and somewhat cheap. There are references to cases Christopher has solved but no description. He remains a shadowy figure, not quite defined, and knowable mostly through his own memory of his own life.

The book did make me think about how we all view our childhood askew, rarely able to  understand it from any other perspective than that of our untrustworthy memory. Recently I reread my diary to learn that I had totally mixed up who was involved in an event I often have thought of. No wonder that at our reunion the gal I thought this had occurred with hardly could place me. Her presence in my life had made a greater impact than mine in hers. So much that I had placed her in memories where she did not belong.

Christopher's childhood expectations of what had happened to his parents carried into his adulthood. He follows chimeras and shadows when he could have enjoyed love and companionship. And in the end he is left wondering, had he based an entire life on a child's fantasy?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What I Have Been Reading

Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane. This e-book was a pleasant surprise to me. It is a deep and thoughtful exploration of Austen's novels and values through her use of food in her books. I have not read a critical study of Austen in years, sad to say. I really enjoyed this book and it has made me want to re-read, for the sixth or more time, Austen with a new view. I particularly enjoyed her chapters on Mansfield Park and Emma. The Kindle edition is $2.99.

Jackson by Max Brand was an e-book that I have mixed feelings about. It was a bit confusing at the beginning with jumps between time and viewpoint. We learn about Andrew Jackson from the view of a writer who is researching Jackson during his presidential campaign. The information seemed to be mostly accurate. I have an award winning biography of Jackson, so I plan on reading it soon for comparison. Brand points out that everything we know about modern presidential politics started back in the early 1800s. The reader is informed on all the 'new' ideas from that time, like snipers and the use of "OK".

There are some great lines.
"People believe what they read, " Emma said from the door..."It is the most depressing fact in the modern world."
"Jackson is the price you pay for having Jefferson." (Allowing a true democratic process means the people will choose who they will.)

The authorial voice is quite present throughout the book, and his political thoughts are quite evident.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin was a Christmas 2013 gift, and I have been reading at it for a year! I loved Goodwin's book "No Ordinary Time on Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt". Her portrayal of Lincoln leaves me so impressed with the man and the leader. Why have I not finished it? Well, perhaps because I read a chapter and want to ruminate on it. And then the Civil War came and I am not so interested in war. I mean, I skipped all the War in "War and Peace" when I read it at age 19! But I am 200 pages from the end. I expect I will finish it before summer, lol.

The Donzerly Light by Ryne Douglas Pearson was a light read which I enjoyed, especially after a slow beginning. This e-book was the first novel by the author, and it was rejected. After his success as a screen writer (Mercury Rising) he decided to publish this book, which he always liked. The supernatural story is about a 1990s Wall Street wannabe who is given the power to know what stocks to buy, guaranteeing a quick rise to success. He loses his self, his girl, and finally everything else when his power turns dark. Sometimes this felt like a morality tale, sometime like Faust, a bit of the Gothic and mystery genre, it is hard to categorize. I quite enjoyed it.

Other books I have not blogged about which I read in the last months include:

Flourtown by S. G. Redling, an ecological/dystopia story about a community isolated from the world after a accident exposes them to a toxin that is transmittable. The people are sick and dying, trapped in a guarded enclosed city. It was an enjoyable conspiracy thriller.

I Am Legend and The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson, horror/sci-fi classics which I enjoyed. The Shrinking Man 1950s movie gave me nightmares when I was a girl!

An Unfinished Season by Ward Just, which I thought very good. Set in the early 1950s, it is the story of a young man's learning about the world and the experiences that determine his future.

Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook was the basis of the movie by the same name...I liked the movie better.

Honolulu by Alan Brennert  traces the forty year journey of a woman who escapes Korea in 1914 as a picture bride only to find life in Hawaii is hard and sometimes cruel. I loved the character and enjoyed learning about this time and place in history. I look forward to reading more books by Brennert.

I read most of Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks but lost interest. His 700 page book is the story of John Brown and his sons from the perspective of the only surviving Brown son. I did not like some of the characters, felt bogged down at times, and after reading a rather gory scene I decided I really did not want to read about Harper's Ferry and the slaughter. What I did learn is that extremism and terrorism have always gone together. The e-book has a lot of errors.

We have had record snow here, and it has been a continual process of digging out the mailbox...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine Handkerchiefs

Here are Valentines handkerchiefs from my collection.

The middle 20th c was quite nostalgic. You see a lot of hoop skirt/top hat couples.

                                This is a great example of handkerchief design in its hey-day.

 Machine embroidered handkerchiefs were cheap gifts in the later 20th c.

And a small quilt hanging I made based on a vintage Valentine card and using handkerchiefs in the border. The pattern is available at my etsy shop Rosemont Needle Arts.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Ground Hog Day. And the Robins Return to Michigan

The sky is grey but bright, a Michigan version of sunshine.

The snow is so deep, our driveway is like one of those bobsled runs. The mail box is nearly unreachable.
The road has narrowed because of the snow piled on either side, so we can just manage to back out and turn the car. This is what it looked like last week...

Today we had a flock of Robins visiting the neighborhood! Amazing! 17 degrees, two feet of snow on the ground, so barren even the deer have not come to feast on our bushes.
But the Robins decided to return to Michigan.


The village has been quiet. Empty houses surround us, summer occupied cabins left empty for six or nine months of the year. 

And the snow is pristine white, unsullied by car exhaust. There are few businesses open in town: the post office, bank, two bars, and a coffee house. This is a resort town, a place for summer cottages and filled marinas and camp grounds. The village may have 1500 people in the summertime, with four ice cream spots. In winter there are perhaps 500 hardy folk who either like ice fishing and winter sports or don't have a winter retreat elsewhere. Even the pizza parlor closes come November. 
So I hope the Robins know what they are doing, and that spring will be here sooner than another six weeks. The deep snow and empty houses and icy roads and overcast sky have made us all just want to hibernate.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Downsizing Means Quilts Must Go

In a little over a year my husband will retire and we will leave off parsonage living and settle into our retirement home. I inherited my family home, a 1969 ranch, and we have been fixing it up for several years. It is much smaller than the housing we have lived in. SO we have to be very thoughtful about what we can keep.

Which means I have had to carefully consider which of my many quilts I can keep and which must find new homes. I have been quiltmaking since 1991 and over the years had to try many new techniques and patterns, resulting in small quilts. I have given away or donated a hundred quilts over the years. But my closet is still full.

Today I listed quilts on my etsy store, Rosemont Needle Arts. There are quite a few handkerchief quilt wall hangings. I started collecting hankies in 1993 and have 800 in my collection.

Radiant Orchid is the Pantene color of the year, and it appears in this mid-century handkerchief. It is machine quilted.


A 1940s pin-up girl hanky is featured in Lady Eve, surrounded by vintage clothes choices. The hand quilting patterns are traditional Japanese Shashiko.

I later used the vintage handkerchiefs in a different way, bringing the motifs out into the borders. This 1970s handkerchief is surrounded by borders and appliqued sunflowers, and embellished with silk flowers, buttons and a bumblebee pin.

One of my earliest finds, and most favorite handkerchief, is this mid-century linen hanky with Franz List's Liebestraume, which I learned to play on the piano as a girl. I used some vintage fabrics in the piecing and for the backing.
This old hanky pictures Indian head pennies! I used 1930s reproduction fabric. It is hand quilted.
50s Christmas handkerchiefs and a pattern from Sharon Newman's book Handkerchief Quilts were often on my table during Holiday season. It is hand quilted.
I also have listed some original quilts such as my Barbie Portraits. The third in a series of Barbie quilts I made, this one is young and fun.

My Morning Glory Flower Fairy image was from a 1920s book which I blogged about a few weeks ago. It uses crayon tinting, embroidery, silk flowers, beading, and has a sheet net overlay, all on silk fabric.

 There are even more quilts listed for sale. I am ready to let these children go as a part of moving on to the next stage of my life.