" ". The Smiling Cat: 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bohemian Fringed Cotton Dinner & Cocktail/Buffet Napkins

 Recently my friend, Debbie, and I sorted through a large bag of fabric given to us by another friend.  The lady was elderly and sadly, just didn’t see well enough to sew any longer.  In my share of the fabrics was quite a bit of this heavy, cotton, linen-like fabric, both in bright, raspberry  pink & a nice spring green.  It reminded me of the fabric used to make Indian saris.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I put the fabric aside until I came across a pattern at The Purl Bee Blog.  Their blog has loads of craft patterns of every kind.  Their pattern was simple enough, but the ‘sari’ fabric was too loosely woven for this pattern.  So, I changed it a little & this is what I came up with….


The fabrics had been cut into a few large pieces, so I was only able to cut four 22” squares for the dinner napkins of each color.  The remaining fabric I cut into 12” squares for the smaller, cocktail napkins.  Since the fabric has a woven stripe, I had to be sure that I had the same number of stripes on each square.  Also, the fabric was much the same on both sides, so didn’t have to worry about the right or wrong side.  I began by pressing a 1” fold all the way around.

I used these pressed lines as a guide to stitch a slender & tight zig zag seam all the way around each square.  I stopped and pivoted at each corner, and back-stitched securely when the stitching met the beginning again.
Then, I pulled out the threads to the stitched line to create the fringe.  This was a bit time consuming, but something to do while watching T.V.  The fabric was loosely woven, so it was pretty easy to pull apart.

I trimmed the fringe here & there, and it really fluffed-up after being washed.  Here they are in the green fabric:


I had started making mitered corner dinner napkins from the green fabric.  But, it was very tricky to keep the miters corners sharp.  After making the first set of dinner napkins, I decided to make the rest with the fringed edges.

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Both sets are nice, but I think I prefer the fringed version.
Both sets are available in my home shop.

Well, that’s all for now.  Have a safe & happy Halloween…!-Carole

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Virginia Rose China-Homer Laughlin China

I still love to learn, and learning more about vintage items is one of the reasons I love shopping for ‘treasures’ at the second-hand stores.  You never know what you’ll find & what you can learn about.  With some of the items I buy, it’s difficult to find any information.  But, with other items there is loads of information.  For example on my last trip, I found these cute, little Shabby Chic dessert plates:
Tucked away in a corner, I almost over-looked them.  I took a second look & noticed the pretty raised rose pattern & the curved platinum gilt edge.  I checked for damage & found only a few minor chips on the back, which actually adds to the Shabby look.  On the back also was the company name Homer Laughlin, and the pattern name “Virginia Rose”.
At least I thought it was the pattern name.  I looked it up online and found that “Virginia Rose” describes the plate’s shape, not the pattern (I didn’t think it looked much like a rose).  Also, the Homer Laughlin Company is a very popular brand.  It was established in 1871 by Homer and Shakespeare Laughlin, two brothers who lived in East Liverpool, Ohio. For well over a century, this company has produced high-quality, American-made pottery.  It is the largest producer of home and restaurant porcelain dinnerware in the USA.  In fact, Homer Laughlin pottery is very collectable, and there are books and web sites dedicated to this manufacturer's products.  There are collector's clubs, such as the Homer Laughlin China Collectors Association, which have been created to support collectors, buyers and sellers.  Many of their products, such as Fiesta ware, are readily available and sellable in today’s collector's market.  Some of the Fiesta ware pieces are quite pricey. 
The Virginia Rose dinnerware was designed in 1933, by Fredrick Rhead and HL produced so many pieces of this shape that many of the patterns were never given names.  Hundreds of different decorations were produced until the late 1960’s. Virginia Rose continues to be a popular shape with collectors.
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The Virginia Rose has embossed roses spaced around the rim and was produced on a white or yellow glazed body.  There were two other embossed designs, Marigold & Republic, which are often confused with the Virginia Rose. All three shapes were decorated with decals which are either identical or very similar.
There are two popular rose patterns, the “Fluffy Rose” and the pattern of my dishes, the “Moss Rose”, produced 1934-65.
My “Moss Rose”:

Here are examples of the “Fluffy Rose” pattern from:  TGL Direct.com –Which has loads of vintage china for sale, & an interesting, informative blog.

Isn’t it a beautiful pattern…?!  So pretty & feminine.

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The date of manufacture can be determined from the back stamp- the first mark is an internal mark.  The 64 is 1964, N is the plant #4, and 8 stands for August.
For more information, go to the Homer Laughlin website:   http://www.hlcdinnerware.com/about/history

Hope you are having a great day-Carole


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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Amazing Hand Embroidered Wedding Dress-TWO NERDY HISTORY GIRLS

Back in the day, 1734, proper young ladies prepared for their future as a wife & mother.  This wedding dress is truly a labour of love:

A Very Special Embroidered Wedding Dress

According to the Nerdy History Girls:
"The bride, Elizabeth Bull, was born in Boston in 1716. While we often tend to think of New England in the early 18th c. as a primitive colony in the wilderness, Boston was a sophisticated town, connected to all the world's seaports by its ships. As the only daughter of a wealthy merchant, Elizabeth was not only taught fine needlework, but had access to silk threads from the best shops in London and silk cloth from China. She also had the time to devote to perfecting her skill, as well as a genuine talent for color and design."

Imagine all the hopes & dreams that went with stitches in this dress.  I hope she had a happy ending!

Follow the link for more pictures & info.

Hope you're having a great day-Carole

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pretty Pink & Blue Floral Double-sided Napkins and So Simple Quilted Place-mats

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Lately, I’ve been looking for ways to cut my grocery bill.  I’m sure many people can understand why!  I’ve been trying to limit the amount of disposable items, such as napkins.  Cloth napkins are not only Earth friendly, they’re also budget friendly, and just nicer in general.  So, I started looking around the www and found loads of good ideas. 
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I came across many tutorials and decided to start with these two-sided napkins.  Not only are they easy to make, they don’t wrinkle as much when laundered.  They have a nice, heavy weight and give you some fun options in mixing and matching fabrics.  For everyday use they don’t need to match, so it’s a great way to use up some remnants.
I went through my considerable fabric stash & picked out a pretty pink & blue floral cotton for the napkins. I also picked a nice solid blue cotton to make some matching place-mats.  I like the standard 20”x20”  size napkins.  Usually, I would cut out two 21-1/4” squares to sew together for each napkin.  But, because the floral fabric has a secondary grid-like pattern, I decided to cut out a single 21-1/4”x42-1/4” rectangle.  I thought it would be easier to keep the white lines straight. 
Because the fabric was 44” wide, it was quicker to measure a 21-1/4” length, and just make one cut across the fabric, and trim a little off.  I folded the rectangle in half and pinned it all the way around, including the folded edge.  I left a small opening to turn it right-side out after sewing a 1/2” seam all the way around.  I always add the extra 1/4” for the seam when turning a project inside out.
I back-stitched at the beginning and the end of the seam.  Trimmed off the corners, and turned it right-side out.
I used a small plastic tapestry needle to push out the corners, being careful not to punch through the fabric.  You could also use a knitting needle.
Then, I carefully pressed the turned napkin.  It’s hard to press out the edges completely.  So, I keep a small bowl of water handy.  I wet my fingers and roll the edge between my thumb & fore finger to push the edge all the way out.  After pressing, I pinned close the opening and topstitched all the way around the edge.
I followed these same steps to make the place-mats.  Only I cut two fabric rectangles & a piece of quilt batting at 15-1/4”x21-1/4”, to make a finished 14”x20” place-mat.  Then:
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After pressing the place-mat, I used a pencil & my quilt ruler to mark the quilting lines.
I just marked & quilted it in quarters both ways.
Then, I stitched a line of quilting beside each of the first lines, using the width of the presser foot as a measure.  I’m very pleased with the way they turned out-

I made another set, with a bright, summery strawberry print on one side, and solid black on the other.  I really like the contrast of the fabrics, I think it gives them a modern look.


Well, that’s all for now.  Hope you are having a great day!   -Carole

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Vintage Liberty Blue & White Transfer-ware Dishes

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I love this time of the year!  Spring has sprung.  The days are long, warm & sunny.  It’s also the beginning of yard sale season, time to start treasure hunting again……This last weekend I was on the way back from the store and came across the end of a yard sale.  Boxes were being re-packed, usually the sellers don’t want to put all the left overs back in the garage, and you can really get a good deal.  I don’t think that I’m a cheapskate, but I love getting a good deal.  It’s all part of the fun.  Anyway, I could see there was a box of blue & white dishes which seemed so familiar.  I made an offer, which the owner happily accepted, and drove off with 2 boxes of blue & white dishes.  When I got home and unpacked the boxes, I recognized the Liberty Blue pattern.  My Mom had brought some of these dishes at the grocery store.  I remembered seeing them displayed at the Jewel.  I started doing a bit of research and discovered………
The Benjamin Franklin Federal Savings & Loan was a financial institution established in 1925.  To celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1975, they looked for something special to offer their account holders.   They also wanted a 1976 promotional premium item to tie in with the 1776-1976 bicentennial celebration of America’s Declaration of Independence from England.  They contacted the Enoch Wedgwood Company, located in the historic Staffordshire district of England.  Enoch Wedgwood (1813-1879) was an English potter, founder in 1860 of the pottery firm Wedgwood & Co of Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent. He was a distant cousin of the famous potter Josiah Wedgwood, of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, but their two businesses were separate concerns.  Wedgwood & Co was renamed Enoch Wedgwood (Tunstall) Ltd in 1965 and in 1980 it was taken over by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, who renamed it Unicorn Pottery.  Many of the vintage Avon keepsake dishes were made by this company.  They developed a unique pattern of ironstone dinnerware, the Staffordshire Liberty Blue, for the savings & loan company.  Ironstone is a type of pottery first made in the United Kingdom in late 18th-century.  It is often classed as earthenware, although in appearance it is similar to fine stoneware.  It was developed in the 19th century by potters in Staffordshire, England as a cheaper, mass-produced alternative for porcelain.  Its name is derived from its strength & durability.  The Liberty Blue dinnerware was made in the tradition of the 19th century Staffordshire historical blue china, also called transfer-ware.  “Transfer” designs were first applied to ironstone by Miles Mason, in an attempt to copy the designs of Chinese porcelain.  Transfer-ware is most often in one color, such as blue, against a white background.  Some patterns have colored details that were added on top of the main design.  These designs range from dense patterns that cover the piece, to small, delicate floral motifs.  The Liberty Blue pattern consists of fifteen different historic scenes from the American colonial period.  It is ironic that this tableware pattern, celebrating Colonial America’s independence from England, was created in England.
  • Washington crossing the Delaware from
  • Lafayette landing at West Point
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • Paul Revere on horseback
  • Old North Church
  • Ben Franklin
  • Mt. Vernon – George Washington’s Home
  • Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s Home
  • Independence Hall
  • Washington leaving Christ Church
  • Betsy Ross – the nation’s first flag
Each dish has a historic scene in its center and a border pattern of wild flowers.  Such as this Betsy Ross dessert/berry bowl.
On the backs, there is a unique stamp in the center with an eagle holding a flag, shield and a banner with the words ”Original copper engravings of historic colonial scenes printed on Staffordshire Ironstone.  Detergent and Dishwasher safe.”  Above the eagle are the words “Liberty Blue.” Directly below the shield are the words “Made in England.” Finally, at the bottom, is the name of the scene.
The association launched the promotion in 1975.  When a subscriber made a new deposit of $50, he received a free four place setting.  If a customer deposited $1,000, he could buy a 45-piece set for only $45.   Additional settings could be purchased.  The Liberty Blue dinnerware was made for two years.
In October 1976, the association announced it was discontinuing the promotion at the end of the year. After that time, customers could order pieces from the Sigma Marketing Co. of Garden City, N.J.
Sometime after 1976, Liberty Blue dinnerware was offered to grocery stores nationwide for promotional use.  For so many dollars spent on groceries, the customer could buy a different piece.  Each week there would be a different item to purchase.  This must have been the display I remember.  The dinnerware disappeared from the scene by the mid-1980s.
The arrival of eBay created a market for the dinnerware as original purchasers and those who inherited sets wanted to complete them or add accessory pieces. In 2002, Debbie and Randy Coe authored "Liberty Blue Dinnerware," published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd.


If you are looking for more Liberty Blue dinnerware, visit the Robbin's Nest.

And just because it’s so pretty, here is a French Country table by Debbie at:  Confessions of a Plate Addict


Well, that’s all for now.  Hope you are having a great day-Carole

Friday, March 21, 2014

Learning the Basics of Bargello-A Belated Valentine Table Runner

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For quite a while I’ve been intrigued by the precision of Bargello quilt patterns.  They seem so complicated, I’ve been afraid to start one.  Last Christmas I bought my quilting buddy, Debbie, the book:  “Bargello Quilts” by Marge Edie.  I thought  it would fun to try to make one together.  Between the two of us, we should be able to figure it out.  If you are unfamiliar with Bargello:          
Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create curved  motifs. The name originates from a series of chairs found in the Bargello palace in Florence, which have a "flame stitch" pattern. Traditionally, Bargello was stitched in wool on canvas.  Traditional designs are very colorful, and use many hues of one color, which produces intricate shading effects. 
Here is an example of the “flame stitch”-
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In addition to Bargello embroidery, there are Bargello quilts in which these embroidery patterns are constructed with strips of fabric instead of wool.  In Bargello quilting, long strips of fabric are sewn together lengthwise, then the first and last strip are sewn together, forming a loop. The loop is laid flat on a cutting mat, and then cut vertically to make many narrow loops. The quilter then opens the loops by pulling out the stitching between two pieces of fabric, making a long, flat strip.  By opening the loops in between different pieces of fabric (for instance, between the first and second piece on one loop, then the second and third piece on the next loop), the quilter can make the colors of the quilt appear to curve. Slicing the loops very narrowly makes the curve appear sharp; cutting wide loops creates a more gentle movement in the quilt.  Bargello patterns are usually “quilt as you go” projects.  The individual strips are sewn on a base of backing and a flat cotton batting basted together. Working from the center toward the edges, using a sew and flip method to add each strip so the machine quilting shows only on the back side of the quilt. 
Okay-simple enough…..
I had some 1-1/2” red & white fabric strips left from a few Christmas projects, so I decided to make a very simple pattern for practice.  First, I randomly  sewed all the strips together lengthwise, using a 1/4” seam.  I didn’t want to deal with a complicated pattern, I just wanted to learn the technique.  When sewing the strips together, I started with a middle strip, and alternated sides when adding the other strips.  If you keep adding to the same side, it will curve in that direction.  I also used a smaller then usual stitch length to sew them together, so they wouldn’t pull apart later.
After pressing all the seams in the same direction, I sewed the first & last strips together lengthwise to make a sort of tube.
I then laid it flat on my cutting mat, lining-up all the lengthwise seams, and trimming the edge even.  Next, I began cutting 2-1/2” strips off the end of the tube, much like slicing bread. 
When all the strips were cut, I decided which rectangle would be the beginning rectangle , and removed the stitching in the seam between the beginning rectangle and what would be the ending rectangle.

I put this strip aside and picked another loop.  With this strip I moved over one rectangle to the left, and removed the stitching between the next two rectangles.  I continued strip by strip, each time moving over one rectangle to the left.  Creating a staggered pattern.  I handled them as carefully as possible, to avoid separating the wrong seams.
When all the strips were opened correctly, it was time to start sewing them together.  Starting with the first & second strips, taking my time and matching up the many intersections of the seams carefully.  Still using a 1/4” seam allowance.  I used many, many pins!  Also, when joining the first two strips, I  had to press the seams in the second row in the opposite direction of the first row.  Having the seams facing in opposite directions is always important, but in this case with so many small seams, it’s a must! 

I didn’t use the sew & flip method with this project, because I wasn’t using a pattern and I didn’t know how big it was going to be in the end.  I think it would help to keep the project stable.
I continued adding the rest of the strips, making sure the seams lined up.  Pressing after each row, and making sure the seams were facing in the opposite directions. 

I was happy with the way all the different fabrics came together!  I added a red border & a little white lace, and I had a small table runner.
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I added a layer of batting, lined it with plain white cotton backing & did a little quilting…….

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And used small scaled red & white gingham for binding.

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Even though I didn’t have it finished by Valentine’s Day, It is my valentine for this year.  This project came together much easier than I thought, and it has encouraged me to try a more complicated pattern in the future.
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Well, that’s all for now….Hope you’re having a great day! 
Please leave a comment if you have the time & let me know what you think.