Monday, October 10, 2016

A trip to Provence

Last week was spent flea marketing and antiquing in Provence. I paid too much and booked one of those week long trips where they take you around to a different flea markets or antique shops every day. Some days it was with private vendors who opened their door to us so that we could see and buy their wares. Other days it was flea markets and antique shops. On this trip there were 16 of us, all American, all of us with different crafting interests. Several painted, several worked with metal, one woman made fabulous dolls, some were just along for the ride and we had a writer. I was the only sewer that worked with lace bits. 

Here are a couple of pictures of the some of the places we went:

Lots of pretties would you not say? Don’t you want to buy it all? 

How were the prices? Basically all over the map. Some were reasonable some were, quite frankly expensive,  but those that were expensive were for a reason. Most of the time they had the items you don’t normally find elsewhere. The private sales were vetted dealers so they knew what they had so prices were premium.

Mid week, and yes we needed it, there was a day of rest where we all made a couple of craft projects. 

The first project was a trio of bracelets. Two were lockstep but for the third we were asked to make our bracelet our own by adding some of our finds in France. Knowing that we would be doing this, I brought some of my nicer religious metals from home so that I would not feel pressured to buy something, or more correctly pay too much for something I have similar already in my stash. So without further ado, here is my trio of bracelets.
The center metal I bought years ago. When I saw it, it quickly became a “need”. At the thrift shop I bought it here in town it was one of the more expensive metals I have ever bought. As I recall, I paid 15 euros for it. Since buying it I have seen the same metal at least 3 times in antique stores or flea markets. It must have been extremely common in it's day. In Provence I saw similar ones for much higher prices. I am so glad I brought it with me. Here is another picture of the bracelet:
The cross and the heart I found for 1 euro each at one of the flea markets. My favorite is the heart at the end on the right side. It is actually a slightly battered locket. I did not know that when I saw it. It was in a bag with several other strange odds and ends, vintage orphaned earrings and such. I could not open the bag to take a good look at it so I just bought the bag. The price was 2 euros for the bag. Once opened I realized how wonderful the locket was. It appears to be made of tin but I would have paid more than 2 euros for just that locket alone.

The second project was a wall handing or pillow. We were given most to the pieces to make what we want with it. Some women made wall hangings using glue to hold all the bits on the linen background. Mine will be a pillow when I complete it.
I have a bit more sewing to go to get it done. I want to add a couple of buttons as well. The utility glass buttons at the top are not sewn on. I will do that later.

So what did I find and buy besides a cross, and two hearts? 
Well, I bought some embroidered edging and linen bits:
When a linen sheet wore out, the owner normally ripped off the beautiful embroidered part, stored it away and then used the rest for something else. I found several examples of these on my trip that I bought. In the picture the C and M or W were once one sheet. Before WWI the looms were narrower so to make a larger sheet, two lengths of fabric were sewn together. As with most wars, technology improves so after the war looms were increased in size to make up to a queen/king size sheet.  In my case, the sheet piece was whipped stitched together between the letters in such a way that I could pick them apart.

On the tour at the first town we stopped on the first day, after the market, most of the woman went to lunch. I did not as I can't eat that much food in one day and had a small snack with me to hold me until the big dinner we were planning to have. I wanted to see the town so I took off walking. In the main square there was and antique shop so I stepped in. On a chair I saw this sheet.
As I looked at it and the price, the store owner came over to tell me it was being sold so inexpensively (10 euros) due to the condition of the middle of the sheet. The center of the sheet as you can see is threadbare and has ripped. The embroidery however is in beautiful condition and the fiber content appears to be a linen/cotton blend. I told him I had no problem with that. Rips give me permission to cut it up. 

I have my collection of beautiful hardly used linens I bought, collected and now use on my beds from the last time I lived in France. This time I am focusing on everything broken so that I have permission to cut things apart to make something. I am really thinking quilt, but we will see. 

I bought tons of lace bits and a couple of ribbons. I found some pretty, narrow ones that looked like they did not want to be left on the table at the flea market. 
The carved mother of pearl buttons were nice
 Enlarging the photo, notice the pin of the dapper looking gentleman. Now that was something I could not just walk past as well. The pin was broken, oh goody what project do you go in?

I have been thinking I might dye some of my linen sheets and here at the market I found that as well. The purple color coordinates with the thicker weave fabric above it. I am thinking carpet bag, but again we shall see. The purple fabric is linen and I love the art deco JB initials.
The one last purchase I made that I will show you is from the stop with a private vendor in Aix-en-Provence. Her family has manufacture gold and silver lace for generations but it is her dealing in vintage fabric that appealed to me. Her etsy shop is called Exquisite ThreadsFrom her I bought a quantity of linen dated from the 1800s.  She had two large pieces about 3 meters long each. In the picture you see 4 pieces and that is because each pieces was really 2 pieces that had been whip stitched together. I don't know what they were once sewn to but whatever it was included cotton batting. I picked the pieces apart, removed the bits of batting and loose threads and then washed dried and pressed all 4 pieces. I see a shirt or skirt out of this one and definitely some sort of bag.

What do you think I should make using them? These are pieces I would love to use and not have lay around in my stash

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Utility glass buttons

In Berlin last year I was introduced to utility glass buttons. For some reason they were everywhere. They were new to me. I had never either seen them or really noticed them until I moved to Berlin. Having previously lived in France, buttons were something I looked at but not to buy. Usually people wanted 20 euro cents for one and that just seemed to be too expensive for me. 

This last week I went to the Quilt show held once a year in Alsace. It is the first time I went by myself which meant I was much faster at the exhibitions and had all the time I wanted to to shop the vendors. Oh what heaven that was! Walking the streets between exhibition sites there was a second hand shop. I like to stop into these. I don't expect anything in fabric to be found, but I do like to see if there is anything fun laying around.

"Do you understand the concept of the shop?" I was asked clearly in French by the volunteer working in the shop. " Yes" I answered. There was a sign that stated clearly in French that every item was 2 euros. Nosing around the shop, I found two large tin boxes of buttons. "How does the price work for buttons?" I asked as I pulled out a couple of carved mother of pearl buttons from one of the boxes. Thinking about it for a moment the volunteer said "If you buy both boxes you can have them all for 4 euros." Now I am the first to tell you that the box was filled with buttons I did not want, but the ability to go through the buttons later appealed to me so I agreed. The car was parked close by so I could drop them off before backtracking to the next exhibition. She did not charge me for the bits of lace I found (semi modern and rayon) nor the vintage spool of ribbon. She asked if she could keep the tin boxes as she could use them later for displaying items. I have kilos of buttons to go through now.

I returned back from the show on Monday morning. Wednesday I teach/ head up a small quilt group in Luxembourg. I am proud to say I am done with month 2 of the block of the month offered earlier this year. Never mind that the class ended in August. You can watch it anytime so I thought now would be a good time to start. I bought the kit thinking that that would be a whole lot easier than trying to find fabrics in my stash to pack to come here. My goal is to have it done by the time I move again in December. I have not taken a picture of month 2, but here it is finished for month number 1.

Class ends at 3 pm so on the way home I stopped by a second hand store I go to once in a great while to see what they have. 

The topic of this blog today is utility glass buttons. There in the back, I could not believe my eyes. I found some, correction, I found many.

 I don't know why I like these. They are not the pretties that people like to collect, but I love the utility of them. They are just a little shiny and they have a nice weight to them. I have never seen them large like the ones on the card. Berlin had small ones. I also like that fact they are still attached to the card with a price of the back of 45 centimes. Now I have to think of a project to do with them.

At the same store I found this as well.
Ya, it is a sheet. I guess I collect them too. It looks to be cotton. The embroidery is cotton and it is in perfect condition. It will fit a double/queen bed. I love the fagoting. 

I do have the result from an unorthodox manner I used to remove rust from some lace. One of the pieces I bought in Paris had some rust staining where the pin holding a group of them together had begun to rust. If the rust damage is bad, there is nothing you can do. removing the stain removes what ever lace or fabric was there as the metal eats away at the threads. This one I could tell the damage was recent so I gambled and bought it anyway. 

I started by washing. No change to stain. 

I then put it in oxiclean. I do not recommend doing this to rust stains since it does exactly what you see  a couple pictures below. It makes it orange and spreads it out but it does not get rid of it. Biz does the same thing. So I began thinking...

The pots and pans in the apartment when we moved back in were filthy. I mean like this:

All of them. Nasty sticky burnt on never to come off yuck. I went on line and did some research about how to clean them. Everywhere I read suggested something called "Bar Keeper's Friend". I bought some, but only after everything else I tried did not work. So here is what it looks like now:
Now wait, the container clearly says it removes rust as well. What do I have to lose trying it on a lace bit. So here is the before, after it had been oxicleaned:

I can tell you from experience, that stain is not coming out no matter how long you soak it. Bleach does not work either, just a BTW...

I rubbed some "Bar Keeper's Friend" on it and left it damp for a couple hours and this is what it looks like:

Do you see it? One little area but the rest is gone. This is before I tossed it in the washer. It is totally gone now after the machine wash. I made sure to rinse it well before it was washed. I see no fiber damage. I doubt any will happen as the chemical is gone that cleaned it. Ya, it could have weakened the fibers, but I am not seeing that right now. I am going to wash it a couple more times and look for wear, but I don't think it is going to happen.

How cool is that?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A New Scarf

I am told that the one item of clothing every french woman (and man) has is a scarf. Not only for the look it adds to an outfit, but for warmth as well. The weather here in my northern corner of France is warm days and cool nights. That means if you are off somewhere in the morning a sweater and a light scarf are nice. 
Remember the vintage but slightly damaged curtains I bought in Paris? 

If you look closely there is a nice edging lace down both sides of the curtain. Lots of it and in very good condition

BTW...This curtain does not look anything like the picture now, but while it is a work in progress, and there were some surprises, some of the edging was used to make a scarf using the linen bought in Paris.

So here was my starting point:
The fabric is called linen voile. It is a loose woven linen that can be stiff until washed a couple of times. I like it because it squishes down nicely and although it wrinkles, the wrinkles just add to the charm of what ever I make. The vintage doily was another find at the same second hand store as the curtains. It's arrival date was July 17th. 

Some buttons were pulled as I was thinking I might want to use them for ornamentation.

So here is the completed piece.

It turned out beautiful, but I don't like it. It looks great on me but does not work with the way I like to tie my scarves. I will need to google to see what other ways I can tie it. I wore it yesterday and it is stunning, just not me, or not yet me. If it does not decide to be mine, have no fear, I will find a home for it.

 I made a paper copy with a picture of the scarf to one side. I made notes about what I would do different next time. I have the length and the width of all pieces noted as well as how I attached the side edging. 

I have this type of doily in my stash many times over from living here for years. It is in storage, but if I do not find another doily like it here in France, I will pull one of them and play this coming winter.

To attach the edging, first I had to hand baste the edging onto the linen taking into account the grain line. There was about 2cm (1 inch) extra fabric so it was not basted right to the edge. The edging was flipped up and using my machine zigzagged  up to but not touching the under side of the edging on the linen. The edging was ironed down and another row of zigzag stitches were applied on top of the edging. The left over linen was then trimmed away. This is the hardest part any other type of hem does not work. 

No post can be complete without me finding another example of mauvais français (bad French) in fabric.

Now I am not an expert in this matter, but this one had me giggling so much that I bought it. It came from a department store in Germany and it was on sale. Maybe someone else did not like the use of French. It is an infinity scarf:
Frenglish! I love it! Now assuming you are trying to say Eiffel Tower of Paris, great that is English. To say it in French would be Tour Eiffel de Paris.

I got a nice comment from Quinn asking a question:

What lovely treasures! And I must ask what you use to wash fabrics with, to remove that mold smell. Just yesterday I opened an old storage box and found vintage table linens and scraps of lace trimming that I would love to use again, but the mold smell is terribly strong. I don't know if airing outdoors will help, but first they must be washed anyway. Do you have a recommendation? Thanks, and welcome back to the blog-world :)
Quinn, Thanks you for you comment and yes, it is good to be back.

No airing will do nothing much for what you have. Mold is not going anywhere. I hate that! 

I am rather unorthodox in what I do and it is because I am going to use the items. If they can not stand up to washing then I can't sew with them. If it is length of lace, I tack it together before I wash it so that it does not become a tangled mess. Lace and small bits go in a lingerie bag. If it is table linen I don't do anything special for them before I wash them unless they have something that could get damaged. Those I place in a pillow case and I baste the top shut. 

Most likely what you have are sturdy linen or cotton items. Those I just toss in the washer. No bleach, regular soap that you use, warm wash, warm rinse and line dry. Linen sheets I put in the dryer just until they get hot so that the wrinkles work themselves out a bit.

Now I look over the items for stains. Biz is my stain remover of choice, oxiclean is a second choice. DO NOT place any item that you can tell has a two toned thread as both products will take the two tone look away leaving what you have flat looking. An example of that thread is the background to my blog. That particular thread was commonly used and it is two toned and Biz or oxiclean will ruin the two tone look.

 Two tones I soak in either laundry soap (like I am pre-soaking) I will leave this for days

If you have rust, good luck with that. I have found very little that takes rust out and the metal normally eats away the lace. I am trying some things now that I will let you know if they work.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Bonjour à Nouveau France!

Yes, I know, it has been a while since I posted last. Two years ago I left France for Berlin Germany. After six months in Berlin it was off to the United States. At that point I quit posting on my blog. Since the United States, there has been a three month move to China, no chance of being able to post on my blog there, and now after a short vacation in the United States, I am back in France. Not forever, just four months. But those four months, I should have time to post again! What is it about Europe that makes me able to be creative.

Two weeks ago, I flew into Paris CDG. It was a perfect time to spent a long weekend exploring Paris. Why not take a little down time to explore the sites with the hope of finding a weekend flea market or a fun second hand store? Of course the fabric district was on my list of stops.

Yes to all three. I found the second hand store, I found a flea market and I had time to buy fabric at one of the stores in the fabric district. Also, there was time to stop at wine bars and meet up with friends for dinner. It was a good weekend.

So what did I find?

I found a second hand store that carried sheets and towels. Normally into that mix is the occasional old item that I might be searching for. I got lucky. In the very back of the store were old goodies were heaping over the edge of a small basket. The shop had put a sticker on everything with the date it arrived in the store and the price. Unlike a flea market everything was washed but not ironed. This sticker shows that the item arrived on the 17th of August 2016 and that it cost 4.50 euros. The item with the sticker is a pillow case with beautiful hand fagoting around the edges. I love fagoting and love it even more when it is done on linen. Only thing missing were the buttons.
After Berlin, I have many vintage linen covered buttons I can sew on. I am not sure there ever were buttons on it as there were no marks. I am not even sure the pillowcase was ever used based on it’s condition. 
Mine now and with the buttons sewn on it, it is already in use on the bed.
At the same store, I also found a pair of curtains also dated on the 17th of August. 

Maybe from the same donor? Here is a picture of one of the two. 

The knotting on one of them has holes but the condition otherwise looked pretty good.

I found a couple of doilies as well.

At the flea market I found lots of lace bits. I had to come back to the stall as there were 5 Chinese tourists buying all sorts of items. One of them spoke French and was trying to bargain like they do in China. I now know what that is like as I was there for 9 weeks working this summer. The shop keeper would have none of it. No matter what the Chinese woman said in trying to bring the price down, she held firm. I enjoyed watching the two cultures, I now have a better understanding of, clash over how one buys things at a flea market. In the end the final tally was 360 euros (around $400 US) they bought a lot of things for that money. Her prices were good. They were interested in completed garments. As they, the Chinese tried to negotiate I was able to get into a corner of the stall to watch the action and conveniently, while I was there, to sift through two boxes of lace bits. I found some beautiful things in those boxes. 

Once the Chinese had left with 2 large bags of garments, the shop keeper turned her attention to me. She tallied up what I had bought. “It is refreshing that you did not try to negotiate prices with me” she said clearly in French. I told her that I had just moved to France from China and that the negotiating was the way most everything was done. She told me the Chinese negotiate too hard which is why she does not negotiate prices with them anymore. “My price is what it is.” She told me. She then counted 14 items as 10, took 12 euros off of my total and threw in a small bag of lace bits.

So what did I get? I got a selection of lace medallions the top from an undergarment and meters of beautiful lace. All of it needed washing as, as usual, it smelled like mold.

The last stop was the fabric district. I found some linen. I bought the rest that was on the bolt. I only needed about 1 meter of two of them so give or take a couple of centimeters, who cares? The man cutting the fabric gave me a deal on both of them. 

At Coupon de Saint Pierre I bought 2 three meter pieces of a very light weight silk. I have a class I want to do on sewing light weight fabrics. I bought the class, watched it but, in my stash I did not have the correct type of fabric. Now I do.

The sewing machine is off and running. it is about time!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pet Peeves

I don’t get it, may I whine a little? 

You buy a craft kit, as you know, they are not inexpensive. You put hours of work into the project contained in the kit (your work is beautiful, by the way), now it is time to put all those beautifully crafted pieces together…

Whining starts here...So tell me, why do manufactures do this to us?

Exhibit #1 Christmas Around the World “Victorian Hearts” Counted Cross-Stitch Ornaments, designed by Bonnie Smith Disotell. Kit was made by Bucilla, who knows how many years ago.

The complete kit includes everything you need including the lace (lace may vary).
The Aida cloth is beautiful 100% cotton and high quality, the velvet ribbon and floss are top notch.

The  cross work design for the last one is complete, but not yet assembled:
The lace however came from the $1 (or Euro) store. 100% polyester, cheaply made and it shows. 
Applying this lace to this project completely cheapens all of that high quality materials and work put into the project.

Funny, the lace looks pretty good in the picture, but take my word for it is not worth sewing with. Ewwww.

Exhibit #2 Pattern unknown. Instructions and any other information missing from the project bag. The base is plastic with a grid holes, the ribbon appears to be silk, the embroidery thread is nice quality embroidery floss cotton.
The lace, not again! Cheap looking polyester edging. This time, the picture does not lie.
...Whining ends here...

Both of these projects are courtesy of my mother from her stash of UFOs. They are mine now as the counted cross stitch portion is complete. I do not do counted cross stitch as I can not count.

So here is the plan, the Christmas Around the World “Victorian Hearts” should look, well, Victorian. The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901). These laces might not be from that time frame, but they are close and a nice match to the rose heart.

 As for Exhibit #2 Pattern unknown,  I don't believe it needs a lace edging so instead the two finished pieces will be placed back to back and some sort of binding will be attached to finish them off. I am in search of a good match down in my sewing stash.

Stand by...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

It doesn't matter where I am in the world, when it comes to finding lace bits, buttons and otherwise vintage textiles, I seem to be able to find them.

A couple weeks ago a friend told me about an Estate Sale nearby. Included in the estate sale was  quilting fabric, and a lot of it. The owner of the house had been a quilter and had amassed quite the stash of fabric. Most of it was in fat quarter or half yard pieces.

Before heading down to the sewing room, I instead went to the dining room and went for a search of a linen closet. 

In the dining room I found a stack of vintage linens and doilies. Sifting though them I noticed that all of them were hand made. Here is a picture of what I found:
In the linen closet upstairs I found 3 pillow cases with pulled thread work:
On a lower shelf in the linen closet I found a dust ruffle, you know that fabric, meant to hide underneath of the bed. I fits a full size bed. like new condition.
Finally I had time for the sewing room. 

Ignoring the fabric, I found a bag of buttons. I picked this bag because of the little black buttons I use so much in crafting. 
They are hard to find and can be expensive, This bag had many of them and as it was stapled shut I could not open it to inspect further.

Once I got home and was able to open the bag, I found:
Coat buttons of various sorts:
Red Glass buttons:

Mother of Pearl plain and carved buttons!!!!:
And other assorted buttons that I might never use that happened to reside in the bag:
Last but no least, and nothing to do with sewing, I found a reindeer in the den. I saw someone make a pin cushion out of one similar to this one.
Making a pin cushion was what I though when I bought it, but after lighting it's candle I really like it just the way it is and so it will become part of my holiday decor. Living is so many places, I don't have much of that.

And speaking of holiday decor, my Christmas ornaments are done and mailed. I thought I was done with them and then decided that they needed just a little sparkle. I made a run to the craft store for some glitter glue.
Yes, Sparkle is every fairy's best friend. 

Now it is time to get back to sewing....

Friday, October 30, 2015

Portia Smallwood Whitley and the Broken Compote

Three countries in less than a year has taken a toll! Talk about busy! 

I am finally to the point of unpacking boxes.... of which there are many.

While unpacking I ran across a lid to a compote that was given to us years ago by my mother-in-law. She had cancer and before she died she divided up all of the family "silver" in writing, among the children. With each piece she wrote down who got it and the history of the piece if it was known. We were given the compote lid. 

I remember packing the lid, as well as what was once it's match, one with both base and lid, safely away in a box before we left for Europe. 

In the bottom of the box I  unpacked was a note from my Mother-in-law.  
The note said:
The clear glass top belonged to a Cabbage Rose patterned compote, the mate of which sits on our sideboard. there was a pair but Portia Smallwood Whitley (1853-1925) poured hot jelly into one of the dishes, breaking it. The top has been saved in case the other top gets broken or if a second compote is found at an antique store. Since it is a known pattern it does have some value.

Poor Portia Smallwood Whitley! To be remembered for breaking a compote! It must have been traumatic to say the least for the family for this tidbit of information to still be known today.

Years ago I searched for a mate to my lid, that was right after it was given to us. I figured the lid broke before the bottom did due to the design of the handle on the lid. If we were lucky, someday I would find one. I recall even searching the internet, but to no avail.

On a whim I took a break from unpacking boxes and googled Cabbage Rose Compote. Up came this photo below and description from de Young|Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco 
There it is! And such a pretty picture too. You can read about it here. I learned that our compote was made by the Central Glass Company and that it is pressed non-lead glass. It was manufactured in 1870. This fits with Portia's lifetime.

Curious, I searched further on the Central Glass Company.  What I found was that the Central Glass Company was founded in Wheeling West Virginia in 1863. At one time it was one of the largest producers of glass items. These items were shipped world wide. They kept good records. The Cabbage Rose pattern is motif #140 which is how we know it was patterned in 1870. The tall compote with lid is just one of many glass objects that were made using this pattern by the Central Glass Company.

The next search was if there were any out there for sale. This time, right away I found one. I found a wonderful lady with an online antique glass shop named Phyllis Petcoff. She had a short footed compote base, a tall footed compote base and one lid. This fits my theory that the top would break before the base would. 

She was nice enough to sell me the tall footed compote base!

Now for the first time since Portia broke one some time before 1925, we have a beautiful matching set.

Portia Smallwood Whitley (1853-1925) may you rest in peace now (if you weren't already)

Phillis sent me information about  the Early American Pattern Glass Society. I am in the process of reading the contents of the website as there are couple other pieces we were given that I would love to know more about.

I would also like to know where one bought these. Were they expensive? Did you buy them at the local general store or 5 and 10 cent store? So many questions still remain.

Now I just have to figure where I will put them. On the fireplace mantel or maybe in the kitchen above the top of the cabinets. Now, just maybe, I will try my hand at making compote.