Archive for the ‘vintage linens’ Category

more defining moments…

Friday, February 20th, 2015
press democrat article

press democrat article

I continue to be engrossed in a collaborative project which requires 25 large pieces to be designed in three years time. We are now in year two and I just finished my fifth piece. What me worry?

Actually I am not worried as the ideas pour out of my head. It’s been more of a matter of production time than lack of ideas.  I was detained from working on this one for three months but intend to gain speed going forward.

Last week I managed to finish another piece. This is Defining Moments #4: Twins  which essentially is about the arrival of my aunt and I, just four days apart. We were often mistaken for twins. I also included in this work my father’s Child Psych homework from Stanford, with me as his case study, four generation photos as I was the first grandchild on both sides, a vintage baby jacket and headlines. As research for this work I plowed through a box of genealogy and other materials collected by my grandmother.

My grandmother continually sent press releases to the local newspaper about all the goings on of she, my grandfather, and their kids. Back in the day newspapers filled a lot of space with ‘society’ news…thus this article about my grandfather, a local physician, becoming a father and GF in the same week. I laminated the story to silk organza and it rests forevermore on this work.  It really is the perfect answer to the question…what to do with all this?!

On to the next one…


Sunday, December 7th, 2014

ode to handcraft heritage

Finally I found time to photograph the latest addition to the Defining Moments collaborative series. This is titled Handcraft Heritage and celebrates the long line of women, from whom I descended, who did handwork. I also incorporated my own handwork, a handwoven silk scarf I wove for my mother and some Nuno felting.

It was rather liberating to include the felt, particularly as heart on what I believe was my father’s christening dress. I designed this felt in a class which turned out to be pretty much a disaster for me, as I could not follow well the lack of direction I was given!  Yet I loved this piece of cloth anyway, with it’s wonkiness and ribbons ruining throughout. It gave me great joy to incorporate it in this piece.

Also included are remnants of my mother’s hand-pieced, hand-quilted log cabin belt, my grandmother’s cross stitch from the percale pillowcases she stitched for her grandchildren every Christmas; as well as her crocheted doilies, for the furniture. There are sections of great Aunt Lucy’s handwoven shawl, with metallic threads.

Great Aunt Lucy was really the weaver in the family. She was prolific, and followed directions well, unlike some people we could mention. My weaving was fun, colorful and quirky. I disliked and never fully adapted to pattern reading. I just liked this color and that texture, threw them together, wove some cloth, finishing with seldom enough to make a complete garment; which eventually led me into patchwork and the rest as they say is history.

detail, nuno felting

detail, nuno felting

My initial plan was to make one big piece with various components of handwork. It took new sets of eyes in my studio to see this piece was complete with just these parts. I am not certain at this point if there will be another or whether I will just incorporate the remaining components into other works as variety.

The other thing I am unsure about at this point is what order this piece will be in the series. It is the 4th out of 25 to be completed, but because it incorporates my own handwork I am thinking it might appear farther down the road.  So for now, it bears no number.

mom's hand-pieced log cabin

mom’s hand-pieced log cabin

The next one is sandwiched and ready to stitch, so time to start planning #5…or is it six?! The ideas are ripe. I just need to put the wheels in motion.

making progress…

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Ever since I got home from the fantastic art retreat at Lake Tahoe I have been challenged to resume the hand-stitching. I don’t quite know why but sense technology may have something to do with it! Why should I sit with needle and thread in hand, stitching away when I could be playing MahJong on the computer?!  Finally I decided in order to move forward with the series I need to get these hand-sewn pieces near completion.  Now it seems there will be at least two handcraft heritage pieces.

christening gown sewn to handwoven yardage

christening gown sewn to handwoven yardage

This is the first panel of the first piece. The remaining panels are finished but need to be trimmed and then sewn to this one.  This is my father’s christening dress which is sewn to two pieces of handwoven yardage.

The neutral yardage on the left was a shawl woven by my great Aunt Lucy who was a weaver extraordinaire. The piece on the right is my own handwoven silk which was a scarf given to my mother as a gift. When she died I re-aquired this piece and it has been sitting in a drawer for 20 years waiting for a purpose.  In the center are a couple quilt blocks in neutral colors.

I did cut both pieces of handwovens but there will be other places for the ‘scraps’ in this series.  The dress was pretty hard to sew in that it is very fragile. It was ripped in several places and had blood on the back which can’t be seen here. It was hard to decide where to stop stitching, how much was enough, etc. The heart is a piece of my own nuno felting. There is more of this same felting in the section soon to be attached.

nuno felt heart

nuno felt heart

I also decided to finish the bottom asymmetrically with the dress flowing free just above the fringe of the handwoven on the left.

Finally I hand stitched the backing fabric edge to the woven selvages so that I could preserve those.

I still have not developed a mojo with my hand stitching. I have looked up stitches in books, online and printed out my own photos of incredible hand-stitching. I have a feeling though that if I just quit thinking about it so much it might just happen.

back to it…

Friday, October 24th, 2014
bathing beauties, 12 months

bathing beauties, 12 months

After a couple harried weeks I am now back to working on the collaboration, with the goal of 25 large pieces in three years. We are now coming upon the 11th month of the first year and I am on piece #4! Yikes, I could just freak out over that but I am having too much fun coming up with designs, techniques, themes and materials to include. And my plan of plotting the subsequent while designing the current seems to be working equally as well.

In preparation for #4, I watched a You Tube video about laminating paper to cloth. I experimented with two types of aged (and irreplaceable) paper. One was newspaper clippings saved by my grandmother from the 1920’s-40’s. The other was 1940’s era typing paper of homework from my father’s studies at Stanford. I laminated both to silk organza. Interestingly enough the newsprint did not dissolve in water whereas the typing paper did, leaving the typed text laminated to the cloth. The clipping itself laminated but no ink stuck to the cloth so I am using it as is, glued to the fabric. The news is still legible.

The article is about my grandfather who became both a father for the 3rd time and grandfather for the 1st time four days apart. Yes, my aunt and I are just four days apart and there were always lots of questions by strangers if we were twins.  So I have included photos of my ‘twin’ in this piece as well.

I am hoping to fuse the images this weekend and start stitching soon. Stay tuned…

another day, another dye bath…

Sunday, September 21st, 2014
the finished stack

the finished stack

A little over a week ago I returned from a rather disastrous dye class in WA. Two days ago I decided it was time to remedy that and see what I could do to over-dye some of the 12 yds of fabric which came home in pastel hues. I was a bit more concerned about the water issue seeing as we are in a drought as opposed to WA where everything is green and growing.

While I had used fresh dyes of tangerine, fuchsia and turquoise in WA, at home I used golden yellow, fuchsia and presumably turquoise. I say presumably because the dye was so old I could not read the label but dye spills on the exterior looked to be turquoise!

I pressed on in my wet studio experimentation of this new (to me) process. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to pour the mixed combinations into the baggies set on the wood countertop in the basement and not on my print table, which I did consider for maybe 10 secs.  The reason it was so smart became abundantly clear later when I was sealing the stuffed baggies and loading into a plastic dishpan to batch. Excess dye had run out the bottoms of several bags and literally flooded the wood countertop. I mean flooded. The microwave was sitting in the purple river as were the cords of several pieces of equipment.

So I did what any self-respecting dyer would do. I went to the shelves of fabrics waiting to be transformed with dye and paint and pulled out one large, formerly peach commercial cotton table cloth which I paid $1 for in a thrift shop some years back. I tore it in half and mopped up the river of purple dye.

scrap tablecloth which soaked up purple river of dye on countertop

scrap tablecloth which soaked up purple river of dye on countertop


scrap tablecloth covered with leftover dye

scrap tablecloth covered with leftover dye

The other half I tossed into a baggie and poured in all the leftover dye. I also mopped up with an old linen printed dishtowel…you know the kind you pick up at Windsor Castle and it is gorgeous! Crisis=exquisite in my dyers manual!

I left all the fabric downstairs sitting in very small rinse buckets for at least 24 hours so I didn’t waste gallons rinsing out dye like back in the day.

linen printed dishtowel…gorgeous!

linen printed dishtowel…gorgeous!

So what have I learned from this big experiment? Possibly the best thing I could learn is that I can still dye fabric, with old dye, in primary colors and rinse in very little water. The thing is now I don’t have to for awhile as I have 12 new yards of beautiful cotton! Not that I was lacking for fabric anyway…


on vintage linens…

Friday, April 11th, 2014


I love using vintage linens in my work and as a result have been collecting them for some time. The other day I was downstairs soaking fabric in a print solution and painting a purse. For some reason the complete chaos on the fabric wall caught my eye. I must straighten that up…note to self! It’s odd that this moment when we are living in utter chaos due to remodeling that I would notice this cluttered stack of fabrics.

So I have just emerged from sorting and straightening the collection. And I have one word…STOP!  Stop collecting, stop buying these wonderful tidbits of past lives and generations. Enough is enough already! In fact enough is so much that I am re-gifting to the Universe a large bag of vintage linens!

I sorted linensvintage-table.linens by purpose: damask dinner napkins, tablecloths, towels (dish, embroidered & hospitality), use for collaborative series and outta here! In the outta here pile are many linen dinner napkins I brought from my mother’s collection thinking I would over-dye them. That is not going to happen…outta here!  I texted my daughter an image of some gorgeous yellow upholstery cotton yardage which she did not want…outta here! I don’t even remember where I got that piece except maybe at the Legacy where I donate fabric. Well it has stayed with me long enough, time to go back. I wonder how often they see inventory return?!

People are always offering me more. A local woman has told me on more than one occasion that she is going to give me bags of linens, and bags of fabrics. Another has promised me her family’s linen dinner napkins. Please don’t!


What is so interesting to me about the acquisition of said vintage linens is how that in itself has become a bit of joy! It is fun to poke around consignment shops, mostly while traveling or go to yard sales to find old linens.  As a gal who was raised to enter thrift shops solely to donate (never buy…gasp!) it has opened my eyes to the potential of recycling everything. The other interesting tidbit is how the prices of vintage linens have increased since I began collecting them, maybe 5 years ago. It seems everyone wants them now. Not me. I am stopping and using up what I have. Or so I hope.