Hello, my pets! You and yours are well, I hope? All’s well here at the Houseproud homestead, I’m pleased to report. We had Michael-Michael-Michael and Edna Louise over for happy evening of cocktails last Friday (M-M-M brought those lovely hydrangeas for us). Have I mentioned before that the Mister is a darn fine mixer of drinks? He is that, indeed! Said cocktail gathering signaled the end of the Mister’s birthday celebrations, so the Happy Birthday bunting is down, the heart-embroidered tea towel calendar is awaiting hand laundry day, and the assorted birthday cards on display will be attended to later this week. Thankfully, the homestead looks much tidier than it actually is, which is a blessing as I spent almost all of my free time last week ironing vintage fabric scraps instead of doing some much needed dusting.
“Oh,” you say. “Ironing tiny scraps of fabric into the wee hours of the night is your idea of fun, is it?”, you ask. And in response I say: oh heck yes! Perhaps I ought to explain. I scored a bin’s worth of vintage fabric scraps, bits, blocks, and quilt fragments last week. Need I mention that this bonanza of vintage fabric was courtesy my side-gig as a volunteer Treasure Hunter for SVdP’s Redux? I shared the fabric bonanza with Viv, an artist-tenant of one of Redux’s studio spaces, as is right and just (fortunately she and I lust after COMPLETELY different fabric, and so harmony between us was kept).
Side note: There’s hope that SVdP will soon be selling vintage fabric (either at Redux or at one of SVdP’s retail stores), but at this time any fabric – both new and vintage – that is donated to SVdP gets put aside for Redux’s studio tenants.
Another side note: Tenants of Redux’s studios get free access to certain materials and items that would not otherwise be sold at SVdP’s retail stores or given to SVdP’s clients, items like fabric and sewing notions. Access to those materials is an incredible perk to being a Redux tenant, lemme tell you.
So anyway, back to that bonanza of vintage fabric: I found it last Tuesday, in a bag that contained some rather foully stained items (as well as a light sprinkling of … of animal droppings, to be blunt). And yes, the fabric was so flipping amazing that instead of emitting a piercing shriek and dumping the entire lot in the garbage, I sorted VERY CAREFULLY through the fabric, salvaging all that could be saved. And lest you think I am alone in thinking that the fabric was fabulous enough to brave such horrors, Viv (mentioned above) had no problems sorting through the pile of salvaged fabric either. However, I will admit that much wearing of gloves and washing of hands occurred last Tuesday, and that I still get a little wobbly if I think about about the original state of the fabric too much.
My portion of the bonanza went straight into the wash. That’s actually a rule here at the Houseproud homestead: all fabric gets washed, straightened, and folded carefully before it gets put away. (If all of your fabric has been washed, you needn’t wonder if this bit or that bit has been pre-washed when starting a project.) At the homestead it’s all been washed, people, ESPECIALLY if it was thrifted. And given the state in which I’d found this batch of fabric, I wasn’t willing to wash it by hand or machine-wash it gently in cold water. No, it went into a side-loading machine and was vigorously washed in warm water, regular cycle, with full doses of soap AND bleach. Miraculously, none of it was destroyed by this rough treatment, although the one quilt remnant that was paper-pieced (!) lost most of its paper in the process. I didn’t bother drying any of the fabric, having learned in the last few months that it is much easier to iron wet woven cloth (which removes both wrinkles and the damp). Instead I brought the wet fabric home in its newly-sterilized plastic bin, and then was faced with a lump of very clean but horribly tangled bits and pieces of fabric. And so, I did what any (somewhat irrational) lover of fabric would do when faced with a snarled bin of wet vintage fabric: I set up my ironing board, plugged in my iron, demanded a stiff cocktail from the Mister, and proceeded to spend a rather lot of time ironing some pretty fabulous stuff.
Houseproud Household Tip, next in series: Woven fabric, especially cottons, are much easier to iron when they are wet or damp. Trust me – the work goes much quicker than trying to iron bone-dry fabric. Simply iron the fabric until it is free of wrinkles and mostly dry. If necessary, hang and leave out for a few hours to dry completely. This tip works well for all woven-fabric clothes and napkins, as well as cut or uncut fabric.
Related Houseproud Household Tip: Iron things that are wrinkled. They will fit better (clothes), cut truer (fabric), feel better (pillowcases), and look better (anything that wrinkles).
Here’s an example of why I bothered with all that ironing. The gingham fabric alone was worth it – I had no idea that it came in so many complimentary hues, or that gingham checks could range from tiny to quite large, and that these varied hues and check-sizes would look so fabulous together. Perhaps such variety in gingham is no longer available? No worries – I’ve got a glorious stash of my own now. Besides gingham, there was a multitude of plaids, including two different colorways that incorporated strands of silver or gold thread. There were sweet prints from the 40s and 50s – prints that I’ve not seen in reproduction nor am I ever likely to see in reproduction. As I ironed the scraps and blocks, I sorted them by pattern type (gingham, plaid, solid, floral, pictorial, etc) and then was amazed by how some wildly different patterns could complement one another so well. It was like taking a quilting workshop, people, that’s how much I learned from just this one collection of scraps.
There’s something humbling about going through another crafter’s stash and WIPs (works-in-progress) or UFOs (unfinished items). There’s traces of a crafter’s life in such things – in this case, the bits and pieces that she saved from her other sewing projects, sample blocks for future quilts, portions of an old quilt top, pieces cut for a quilt that never got made … There were paper pattern pieces pinned to cut pieces; an old clipping for a cake recipe; an invitation for some long-ago event. After spending so much time going through this crafter’s stash, I feel that I know her, just a little bit. Given the tiny size of some of the bits she saved, perhaps she’d come up hard and poor in the Depression? I wish I had met her. I hope her last days were good, and that wherever she is now she knows that at least two other sewers are treasuring her scraps and dreaming their own dreams over them …
That’s it for this week, my pets. I leave you pondering these questions: What will you leave behind? What will your bits and treasures say about you? What will you make with the things that you’ve kept? What things would better if you just gave them away for someone else to use? Tune in next week, when we’ll chat about something terribly exciting, like dusting or hand laundry or brand new babies being born (hello Junebug!) … With scads of fondness, your little munakins.
Wow, from wet fabric scraps to mortality and legacy, in one easy step! Love it.