Monday, July 29, 2013

Danny's Project

It has taken me a full year to finish this commemorative. If you were  reading this blog  around a year ago, you may remember that my sweet nephew, Danny, had the illness of schizophrenia take his life. It changed him so hard and so fast. All of his life he was his momma's baby and a sweet, sweet boy. Then about the age of 20, things started changing, and life for him and his family became something they never predicted, expected, or deserved. I am not going to relive those sorrows but only want to commemorate the memories of his sweetness in a younger time and his love of the outdoors.

After Danny's funeral my brother and his wife called me aside and asked me to do them a favor. Could I make something beautiful to commemorate his life out of his favorite jacket? Of course I said yes and prayed for the guidance to do justice to their request and honor their son. In a box by mail came an old brown hoodie with a striped knit lining and elastic waistband and cuffs. It smelled like Danny, a combination of his beloved dog and cigarettes with probably a bit of fish bait thrown in. I couldn't cut it. It went back in the box. It was too much. My mind became busy with ways to use the jacket but I just couldn't face it. Then about two months into it I made myself start the project. First I washed the jacket and then put my feelings aside. I had promised and I needed to honor that promise.

I had loads of ideas and tried lots of techniques. You all know I am the big sampler. Bit by bit the work evolved. Sometimes I couldn't face it but most times I knew what I had to and wanted so much to do. Would they like it? Would it be what they wanted? Would they be disappointed? How could I make it about him? It was totally intimidating but as it progressed I became more excited and more creative. Danny loved the outdoors. He was passionate about fishing, often with his big brothers and in one of the many lakes where they live. I had lived nearby growing up and knew right where his favorite fishing holes were. I tried to mimic them with their glassy rippling waters and the tall pines and maples that were their circumference. What you see are my efforts. I will go through a bit of what I did to make this happen.  Please ignore the creases from the required bubble wrapping for travel. It all ironed out beautifully and flat.


The water was randomly cut strips of 100% cotton. Some were actually the wrong sides of prints. The pieces were laid down on a muslin backing and appliqued raw edge. The whole lake was covered with tulle and then topstitched to secure it all down. From there I could build out the landscape and sky.
This is the bottom right corner with my signature. The trees and shrubs are also raw edge, some of them the lining from his jacket, and again topped with tulle and stitched on the edge to secure. The only actual quilted area is the border. This was not an effort to make a quilt but more of a wall hanging.

The sunset was felted onto a pale yellow piece of  cotton. I used all sorts of colors of roving.  The tree trunk you see on the left is the elastic waistband of the jacket. The far gray mountains are jacket and the beach edges are the lining.


Dear cyber friend, Martha Broyles of Southern Matriarch, kindly let me hijack a poem she found to commemorate the loss of a young one on her blog. Neither of us know the original author unfortunately. I printed it on grey organza, wanting an ethereal effect. It required the dark underlay to bring out the black print, sort of the opposite that you would think would work. Again that raw edge applique which I think is a more masculine touch.
 I also put a label on the back with a bit more info and the poem written out again more clearly.


Saturday while we were on Cape Cod I presented the wall hanging to his parents. They had no idea of what I had made for them. It was a very emotional moment for all of us there but when I saw my brother sitting stoically in all his handsomeness with tears rolling down his face I knew I had done OK. Some things in life you just gotta do.........Bunny

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Ironing Chronicles



Recently Barb, of Sewing on the Edge, had a fabulous post about ironing. With her usual pithiness and humor she explained her family conversation regarding this domestic duty and it brought a big smile to my face. I am sure she brought that smile to many others as well. But more than anything she brought back memories, lots of crazy memories. So many that I couldn't wait to hijack her subject matter and spill it all out in a blogpost. How can one have such dear memories of ironing?

Once upon a time:

* I'll get out of the way the family history. It was a time in the South of "the Help" and we had a housekeeper who did our ironing as well as many other chores, including making the best peanut butter cookies ever. My mom took care of the wash and hung it all out. Hanging out laundry was a moment of respite from paying attention to her brood of eight kids, the oldest being twelve.  Then she would bring it in and dear Eva would sprinkle the basket of laundry with a pop bottle with a punched hole top. In the South they don't have soda. They have pop, at least they did back then. Then the laundry was twisted into knots and put in a laundry basket and put into the fridge. Eva would then iron it as time allowed, not necessarily at one big "standing".  I sure missed  Eva when we moved out of the country. My mom did too. When we came back to the U.S. she would always go visit Eva on our family visits. They became much closer over the years as they both dealt with first born sons skirting the fine edge of the law, an awful commonality. It  later became a very special relationship into their elder years which I think they both cherished. It was a different time back then.

* My baby sister learned pretty quickly that a house full of 6 teenaged boys was an incredible business opportunity. She was a liberated business woman before the concept even existed. Her business plan? Ironing on demand for her many brothers. They had begun to date, were basically slobs, and in need of her skills. My mom did not iron at that time, another whole story....One dollar would get a hot as a firecracker sixteen year old boy a crisply ironed shirt to wear out on his date with his latest heart throb. But dates cost money and one particular brother's line of credit had reached it's limit. BIG date comes along. Passive Agressive Sis says "sure I'll have your shirt ironed by the time you get out of the shower."  And she did. What dating brother didn't know was that she went into the sock drawer and took out every matching sock in the house belonging to any of the boys. Dad wore different  nylon-y  socks as did us girls. She left one of each pair, cut up the remainder and threw them in the garbage. She kept one pair. No male son in this family would have matching socks for days. She said if he paid up he'd get a sock. He didn't. She was also sending a message to all her other male sibs.Get it, brothers?  The fight that ensued in our home that night is legendary. He went out on his date, socks mismatched, and with all his cash dedicated to his evening with his teen sweety. Hey, nothing stops a horny 16 year old boy.  But two days later he paid up sis when he got paid for shoveling manure at a neighbor's farm.  None of the boys messed with Passive Aggressive Sis again.

* My sainted Mom had 8 kids, six boys and two girls. At this point we were long back in the US, living in the Northeast and the concept of any sort of "Help" ceased to exist. You need to know here that my mom had an incredible childhood. Think beyond Cinderella. Let's just say my widowed grandmother, her mom, would be in jail today for a long time for what went on when my mom was a little girl. That made a lasting influence on my Mom's life and had a major influence on ours. Us eight kids had NO, and I mean NO responsibilities. We never had to clean our rooms, help with the dishes, shovel the snow, cut the lawn. My mom's goal in life was for her children to have the most wonderful childhood ever, something she never had. She succeeded. It was special and I will always appreciate that she did this. I did not do much different with my own kids. So Mom took on the whole challenge of running the house and keeping things going for a family of ten while we played and ran and enjoyed our childhood. Can you see this being an impossibility?  Well, hell, yeh. So ironing was not her "forte" shall we say. No housework really was.  We had a hall closet where she stuffed all the ironing. If we needed a shirt for school uniforms or anything else to wear, it was stuffed in that closet. I can't tell you how many times I sat on the floor at the end of the hallway going through all that tumbled out out of the Ironing Closet. Our family actually called it "the Ironing Closet". Eventually I would find it and iron on the ironing board set up in my bedroom. Yup, all the sibs came to iron in my bedroom.  My mom didn't want to touch that thing! At one point the closet was really getting out of control. Eight kids made a lot of laundry to be ironed back then. Every time you opened the Ironing Closet the contents, which were piled to the ceiling, flowed out on to the floor like an avalanche in Tuckerman's Ravine. Then you had to find your target garment and stuff the whole mess back in. It was awful. One day I came home from school and went to dig out the next day's clothing from the Ironing Closet. I opened the door and nothing, a big NOTHING was in the closet. Seems Momma couldn't handle all that was in there and called  the Salvation Army to pick it all up. They showed up and hauled it all away while we were at school. It was devastating and clearly I still have the scars. Things I desperately needed for my dating life, things I had made with my own two hands, things I had to wear to school the next day, they were all gone. But my mom felt good when she saw her empty Ironing Closet. So much pressure raising six boys....if emptying the Ironing Closet helped her I totally understand. Looking back on what she had to deal with , I so totally understand.

* My MIL is the exact opposite of my Mom when it comes to domestic abilities and priorities. Many have heard me say she could teach Martha Stewart a thing or two  and I ain't kidding. You cannot imagine the perfection of domesticity in my husband's family home. I have to honestly say she taught me, albeit indirectly, everything I know about housekeeping. I was totally intimidated by her skills.  She is one of 7 girls  and 14 children. Their mother taught them to run their homes like a boot camp and they did. I have never seen anything like it before or since. Every Monday was laundry day. All available sisters would arrive bright and early at MIL's home. One would man the washer/dryer/clothesline. Another would pull out the three ironing boards and three irons. One would be in charge of emptying ash trays, making tea, and preparing lunch. And then the action would start, ironing boards manned and these sisters would iron their brains out.  The gossip would fly like barbed arrows in the Amazon. You did NOT want to be their object of discussion.I know I often was. That was when the conversation turned to speaking in French. EVERYTHING got ironed, socks, dish towels, you name it. And they had a hell of a time doing it. It was all very impressive, very intimidating and glorious female fun.  Arguments would ensue over how to properly iron a shirt, do you fold your sheets in quarters or thirds and most importantly who, in their opinion, did not know how to properly run a clean organized home. Well, you know I was on that crap list! I could write a book about what I saw and learned from these women. But watching those three ironing boards imposing order on their lives while the smoke from their Marlboro cigarettes wafted into the ceiling of their 200 year old colonial was an image I will always hold dear.......... never seen before, never since....

So, thanks, Barb, for inspiring this post and bringing both smiles and memories back. I imagine more than one of you has an ironing story to tell as well. Thanks for listening..........Bunny


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Simplicity 2192, The 3-D Sheer Top

Another Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2192 completed and I am really happy with the results. It was not a difficult project but a very diaphanous, fiddly one.  Sewing with sheers is often like sewing air together. Pins won't stick in unless they are the glass headed silk pins. Cutting requires all sorts of tricks and patience. How about a ton of spray starch and rotary cutting? And the actual sewing requires a really light touch as well. Here's the low down:



Fabric:  As I said, DIAPHANOUS, as in airy, light, pale, and sheer. It is a 100% poly that gave me no grief because of the fiber. It is a sheer georgette with flowers made of scalloped strips of more georgette laid on top in various sizes. It was love at first sight and I had to find something to make up in this. Enter a beach wedding on the sand in Maine in early August. This and some linen pants will be the ensemble. I took this pic outside with the sun shining through. Hope my bra straps don't do the same and I am working on that challenge as we speak.



Pattern: My Tried and True Simplicity 2192 by Cynthia Rowley, a basic tee with a faced hem and faced bateau neckline.  It is simple and lets the fabric do the talking. I did have to make some changes in the construction because of the sheer factor but I just love this pattern and know our relationship is not over yet. 

 

Construction: First off, all seams are french seams, including the armscye seams. The neckline is faced but using a pink poly tulle for the facing. This is not big holed stiff netting but the really fine tulle.  It disappears and let me topstitch the neckline beautifully. You can see how I did that in this post.   The sleeve and bottom hems were done with the Kenneth King tiny hem tute method. This meant I had the challenge of transitioning from the French Seam to the tiny hem. It all worked out fine with a bit of fabric, about a 1/3 of an inch,  from the slash where the techniques met being hand overcast. It blended very nicely after that and a press. Overall, simple but challenging due to the airy nature of the fabric. ETA: Just want to add that this was all cut on the crossgrain to take advantage of the negative space near the selvedge.

I really look forward to wearing this and will show the outfit on when the pants are completed. I have basically this weekend to do the pants so I am down to the cave to clean up from the blouse project and then start cutting those Sure Fit pants out. I am going to do a fly front zip on this one. Lata'......Bunny