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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: The Lost Art of Dress

The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America StylishThe Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nowadays clothing is cheap, plentiful, and ephemeral: wear it for a season and get something new.  That was not the case a century ago.  Up until the 1950's, whether they sewed their clothing, had it sewn for them, or bought ready-to-wear, American women's wardrobes spanned seasons and years.

Linda Przybyszewski tells the story of the Dress Doctors, the pioneering home economists who advised generations of American women how to get from fashion (what designers proposed) to style (adaption to suit the individual). What neckline flatters a round, oval, or heart-shaped face? Update a plain wool dress by changing the collar and cuffs!  Foundation garments can make all the difference. Construction details--plackets and pleats, matching plaids and finished seams--are noticeable.  There was a distinct difference between clothing for girls and teens and clothing for adult women, and fashion favored the latter.

The era of the Dress Doctors ended in the 1960's when mod and youthful became the keywords, with fashions designed for Twiggy-thin bodies. Przybyszewski acknowledges that current fashion has convenience but she encourages less-is-more and quality over quantity.

If only all scholarly books were written with such spriteliness! If you are interested in women's history, home economics, or the evolution of fashion design, add this to your must-read list.

P.S. Kudos to Przybyszewski for writing: "If you cannot walk more than a block in your shoes, they are not shoes; they are pretty sculptures that you happen to have attached to your feet. You could hang them from your wrists for all the good they are doing you in terms of locomotion. Better to put them on a shelf and admire them from afar."

The author teaches at Notre Dame. Here's her blog: -- lots of vintage fashion photos and commentary.

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Book review: A Spool of Blue Thread

 A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1968 I was a junior in high school when I read a paperback copy of  Anne Tyler's first novel, If Morning Ever Comes. (I know it was published in 1964.)  Forty-six years later she is still writing and I am still reading. We have all known families like those in her books: quirky (dysfunctional is too harsh a term) people that you are relieved you are not related to, though deep down inside you know that your family has its own quirks. I have a sharp mental picture of the houses where Anne Tyler's families live -- spacious but not too big, old but not too old, comfortable and unostentatious, with attics and basements and sun porches, and somewhat overgrown perennial gardens.

Blue Thread is Tyler's 20th novel. She revisits familiar places and themes: the profound effect that the environment of our youth (familial and geographical) has on the rest of our lives.  Red and Abby Whitshank are the second generation to live in the Baltimore house that Red's father built in the 1930's. Three of their grown children live nearby while the fourth, the black sheep, leaves and returns often. Abby, social worker by profession and peacemaker by nature, wants to keep the family together. Red's parents, Junior and Linnie Mae, arrived in Baltimore during the Depression and did not reveal much about their North Carolina origins.

The Whitshanks are stricken by tragedy, which is the opening Tyler uses to tell the reader about Junior and Linnie Mae's story. The metaphorical spool of blue thread is an actual spool, and in the end the family secrets are sewn up and put away for another generation to discover.

I *loved* this book and I am sorry that other readers must wait until February, 2015, to read it.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

DWM: sewing amid the social whirl

Another finish!  This week I quilted the black/white/bright Heartstrings flimsy.  3-1/8 yards for the back and binding.

Grand Illusion continues. Here's Step 3:

The leftovers from the strip panels yielded these twosies (1.5"):

I am no longer as enamored of 30's prints as I once was.  I have too many to just toss out.  I am joining two long-time participants on the Stashbusters Yahoo Group who are  having  a 30's Bin Bust.  Their stashes are down to bins, while mine is still two shelves....but I'll get there!  Here are strips cut for the first project in that effort.

I'm linking up with other quiltmakers for Design Wall Monday and Mystery Monday .

White elephants, holiday parties, and some vintage bargains

This past week was filled with holiday events!  Monday evening was my P.E.O. chapter's potluck. My friend Erika was my guest. We exchange gifts with a lively "left/right" game (here). My gift was this applique pillow. In return I got a hand-crafted tea infuser and a packet of herbal tea.

FQ bundles 
Wednesday evening was the quilt guild's holiday dinner. I did not take photos but a good time was had by all. The guild has a fat quarter bundle exchange. I brought four bundles so I got four bundles. We have a block exchange--just a single block, which is far easier on everyone than having to make multiple blocks to swap.  We also have a white elephant exchange, also to the tune of a right/left passing game. I got a box with this interesting assortment: a box of tissues, a roll of toilet paper, a bar of very nice goat's-milk soap, and three not-quite-FQs.  Though the exchange does not have to be quilt-related, I always box up scraps--this year packaged in a popcorn tin.
exchange block and Longaberger basket (it held FQs)

UMW "White Christmas" (hence the attire)
Chapter OJ with their new treasures

Thursday noon was the United Methodist Women's holiday lunch. Another white elephant exchange!  I gave three sacks of decorative pebbles (which I got at a garage sale for .50 per sack).  I got a small glass candy dish in the shape of a snowman.  Thursday evening was Erika's P.E.O. chapter party with yet another white elephant exchange. I gave a bottle-turned-into-a-lamp and I got a box with *six* cookbooks which I am enjoying reading.

Saturday was the AAUW holiday luncheon. My ZBPL friend Rosemary was my guest (Erika is in AAUW so she was there anyway ). We have a silent auction fundraiser, which  involves more white elephants.  I took a box of stuff and a box of books. All but three items were purchased; all the leftover books (mine and others') went to ZBPL's book sale; and I spent $1.00 each on these bargello kits.  The price tag says Murphy's, $3.77.  (I found this information about WonderArt:
Fixler Bros, Inc. was founded in 1916 in Chicago and their trademark products were named Wonder Art..... The items were sold thru S.S. Kresge, J.J. Newberry, Scott Stores, G.C. Murphy. F.W. Woolworth, etc stores. There is not a date as to when Fixler Bros lost ownership of Wonder Art but it is now owned by Caron International, Inc in Washington, D.C.)  

 Saturday evening Stevens and I enjoyed the Full Score Chamber Orchestra's "Welcome Christmas" concert at a local church. We are very fortunate to have a professional orchestra based in our community.  The music was grand!

At our church on Sunday the children performed "The Simplest Nativity Play Ever."  A narration of the Christmas story and carols, with kids in costume: wonderful!

The coming week will be far less event-filled. I plan to tackle several assignments that I have neglected for too long.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

DWM and Mystery Monday: step 2, avoiding temptation, and a finish

The stages of Step 2
 I have about 60 of the step 2 units made as I write this post. I may get a few more done this evening.
I'm using Bonnie's third method to make the diamonds. That results in bonus triangles. I've got them all trimmed to 1.5". (Orca Bay generated bonus triangles, too, and the wallhanging here was the result.)

I was out on errands on Saturday and spied a sign for an estate sale. I was tempted by several mint-in-package cotton bedsheets and a table loaded with embroidered linens and dishtowels.   I could not resist this. It had no price tag and the estate sale lady said I could have it! 

I finished quilting Waffle Stamps.  3-7/8 yards for the backing and binding. (More here. )

The drawing for Christmas Stars was at the conclusion of the United Methodist Women's chili supper on Saturday.  The winner was delighted. Ticket sales brought $400 of which $300 goes to UMW and $100 to me (to defray the cost of professional quilting).  (More here .)

I'm linking up with other quiltmakers at Judy's Patchwork Times  and Bonnie's Mystery Monday .

A festival of carols....and quilts!

On Friday evening our Rotary Club's holiday party was a group outing to Carthage College, just up the road  in Kenosha. Every Christmas the Carthage music department stages a festival of readings and carols as a gift to the community. All of the choirs, the concert band, and the chamber orchestra perform. It is held in the 1,400-seat Siebert Chapel .  A buffet dinner is offered before the Friday performance -- all they ask is a free will offering. As you might imagine, tickets go fast and the chapel is full.  It is a glorious service. (Photos were not allowed during the performance -- the huge central cross was illuminated in a variegated light show.)

Dinner and a show....what could be better?  A quilt exhibit, perhaps?  Well, how about that!  The Lighthouse Quilters of Racine have art quilts on display in the gallery adjacent to the chapel, open before and after the performance.  It was interesting to observe the non-quilter concertgoers as they looked at the quilts.  Here are some of the quilts. Sorry, I only got two of the quiltmakers' names.

This exquisite applique is by Betty Ekern Suiter, who has received many awards for her hand-quilting. It is hand-appliqued, too, and the label said it took 3,640 hours to stitch.

Closeup of Betty's stitching
Kaffe Fassett fabric 
 The label acknowledges this as a Carrie Nelson pattern. 

Cindy Garcia's  portrait of her grandfather. The blue jeans are real jeans.

 That's a piece of molding, not an extension of the quilt. :)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

DWM: November wrap-up, plaid diversion, and GIMQ

Saturday sunset 
Pheasant is pleasant

We enjoyed two Thanksgiving dinners. The first was on Thursday with our friends Erika and Nick (and their daughter, sister, and brother-in-law).  My contribution to the feast was Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish . It is as   an auditory as well as a culinary tradition as I listen to the recipe presented on NPR's Morning Edition the Friday before Thanksgiving. The second was on Saturday with my sister Valerie, brother-in-law Rod, and niece Amelia.  They served roast pheasant (which V&R hunted).  I brought curried parsnips, an easy and delicious recipe from the Joy of Cooking. (Parsnips, onion, curry, milk, sour cream.)

 I used motifs from a vintage tablecloth and hopsack yardage from the Deep Stash to make this tote bag for our Thursday hostess.  The turquoise and green are akin to AAUW colors, which is how she and I met.


Victoria at Park Hill Farm wrote that she was making plaid blocks for Beth at Love Laugh Quilt . Plaids? I have some of those!  The dozen blocks I made for Beth used just over a yard.  Now I want to make a whole bunch for myself.  I do love those homespuns.

Last week I was undecided about joining the crowd for Grand Illusion.  I made up my mind -- I'm in!  I decided to start with half the number of blocks. (Bonnie said that's okay.) Here is the result.

I did get this cleaned up

And the November wrap-up:
Fabric acquired in November:  NONE!
Fabric used in November: 58-3/4 yards!

I'm linking up with other quiltmakers at Judy's Patchwork Times  and Quiltville's Mystery Monday .

P.S. I reached an automotive milestone on Saturday and managed to photograph it.  The CRV is still running well after 11 years and 11 months.