Mail Art entry 11!

mail art 11a copy

Inspiration once again came from the stamp and wanting to play with black and white gouache .  For this piece, I began with a piece of cardboard from a sheet set that had printing on one side and blank white on the other.

mail art 11c

Knowing the paint would not want to adhere very well, I sanded the blank side with some fine sand paper. After addressing and stamping the cardboard, I set it to the side and cut a smaller piece of card stock that fit inside a printed border on the back side of the cardboard.  From a recently acquired package of miscellaneous papers, etc., I pulled out a solid teal piece and a playing card.  I sewed the teal paper in the middle and cut the card at an angle. Placing the card in strategic locations, I sewed those into place.  Next, I added a piece of red ribbon.  Finally, I sewed the new “sewed” card onto the back of the cardboard.

Knowing the paint would not want to adhere very well to the slick cardboard from the sheet, I sanded the blank side with some fine grade sand paper. The gouache stayed onto the card beautifully.

Once I finished the front and let it dry, I flipped it over, looked at that 3 of hearts and began to reminisce about all those Canasta games. That playing card brought back many memories of playing canasta with my family. Being allowed to play Canasta with the adults was truly a right of passage.  Numerous Sunday afternoons were spent playing cards with my family and visiting with cousins, aunts and uncles.  My Aunt Agnes always placed bowls of chips and chocolates onto the table only to be washed down by soda pop.  Strategy, stories, and laughter often ensued.  Enough reminiscing for now, back to the project …

mail art 11b

Originally, I thought I would draw or paint some silhouettes of figures (like those the stamp) onto the sewn back side of the card, but it seemed only right to add the Williams Rule book and a few thoughts.

Story of the Dress Part V – Crunchtime!

Short of one month before the wedding and the dress is progressing along!!  The bodice returned from the cleaners without a trace of the sewing machine black grease! Whew!  After working to get more stains out of the skirt, I discovered I created new unattractive watermarks.   Next step, take  the skirt part to the cleaners to have the watermarks taken out!

It’s interesting how something bad, like a grease stain and watermarks, can actually turn into something quite wonderful!  After picking up both sections at two separate times, each part returned pressed and looking much better than when I left it!

I sewed the skirt on without an issue and even the invisible zipper went in quite smoothly!

Catherine and John came back up north this past weekend.  She tried on the dress and about an inch was taken in on each side.  Catherine put on the dress again, and she looked beautiful.  The beading was taking shape and the bodice, now, was a perfect fit!  I worked another couple of hours on gathering and sewing netting for the skirt underlining.  Catherine walked into the sewing room and said, “Look at all this poofiness!”  Poofiness indeed!  It was time again for another try-on of the dress, this time with the gathered netting sandwiched between the two underlinings.

Amazing, simply amazing!  Standing before me, looking at herself in a mirror was my beautiful daughter, glowing.  The underskirting gave more shape to the dress and support to the train.  Words cannot fully express all the emotion that came to my mind.  It was a dream come true.  I proceeded to have her turn with her back toward me as I began to plan out how the train would “bustle up” for the reception.  The pinned up train just added one more beautiful dimension of folds and highlights to the dress.  The beading, hemming, and sewing on hooks are the only items left to do and those will keep me very busy until the wedding.

I think of our matriarchal line and how important those family connections are.  I have such gratitude for my mother who took the time to teach me how to sew.   Thanks, Mom!

The Story of the Dress – Part III

After being gone for two weeks, I began anew on Catherine’s dress.  Pictured above is the first stage of phase I, on the left is the old tulle with the seed beads, on the right their new home in waiting.  I carefully took my seam ripper and to my delight, found as I gently pulled on the string from another chain stitch, most of the beads easily unstitched from the tulle, but stayed on the thread.  Go figure!  Only a few rogue beads took off to the far corners of my sewing room!

My tiny needle deftly went through the fabric to pick up some tiny seed beads.  Oh no!  The first bead I picked up with the needle did not slide across it, but stopped about 1/4 inch from the point of the needle.  Panic came to heart and then I remembered not all seed beads are made the same!  Setting that bead to the side, I found three others that easily slid onto my needle.  I sewed them on in a similar fashion of how they originally were applied, with one exception – I did it by hand, no machine.  Pick up three beads, stitch down, bring the needle up about 1/4 ” from where I started, slide on three new beads, and stitch down where the previous three were stitched down.  Now, I bring the needle up at the end of the line.  It somewhat makes a loop around, every three beads.

Below is the result of what I accomplished.  It is fun to see the difference of the beads being directly on the satin verses the tulle.  My goal is to complete this first section of beading and to attach the skirt for a fitting before the magical mystery invisible zipper is applied!

Completed first section of beading! Hurrah!
Part of the completed seed beading!

The Story of the Dress – Part II

Original Vintage Beading from Mom's Wedding Dress

On Wednesday, I put the first stage of beading on Catherine’s wedding dress bodice.  Her dress is being created from her grandmother’s wedding gown.  My Mom, married in March of 1951, wore a dress made from cream duchess satin, with a beautiful long train, long sleeves with a v shape coming over the top of the hand, fitted bodice and stitched beading on tulle that accented the upper shoulder portions, connecting across the back of the neck and throughout the Peter Pan collar.  Tiny satin covered beads fastened into loops went up the front of the dress and at the wrists of the sleeves.

This first stage of beading began by duplicating the beaded pattern.  By laying the existing beaded section on top of the current bodice and pushing pins up through both layers from the back inside portion of the bodice I marked the design.  Next, I pulled away the old beading and used large basting stitches near the pins to have a temporary stable pattern to follow.  I removed the straight pins and then carefully removed the beads form the old section.  I marveled as I discovered some type of machine was originally used to sew each bead in place with a chain stitch.  Chain stitches can be a potential problem if the wrong thread is pulled !  I thought of all the times my sisters and I had pulled out Mom’s old dress from her cedar chest, to try it on to see how it would look on us!  It was a miracle it was still together!

As I pulled the thread and watched the beads fall into the container, I noticed how some of the bronze colored beads had lost their finish.  “Oh, it must have happened at the dry cleaner”, I thought.  Suddenly the image of my sisters and I pressing the dress (numerous times) came to mind!  Perhaps the cleaner, or more likely, perhaps a very hot iron by young girls, altered their tone.

I began stitching each bead just above the large basting lines, referring back to the original pattern.  About 2-3 hours later, the first stage of the first part of the beading was completed!  I snapped a photo and sent it to Catherine. “It’s the perfect design for the dress!” she replied.

Working on her dress brings such enrichment to my life.  First, it marks time, time before I existed, time in my childhood, time now and looking at how much time there is before her wedding.  Second, it helps me to touch to my maternal lines, and the lines of women and the roles they played as partners in marriages.

Marriages have taken place for all kinds of reasons:  from love, to societal expectations, to making a secure future, to joining family resources and many more.  My husband and I base our marriage on love and respect, and I see Catherine and John are doing the same.  It’s what I know; it’s a wonderful way to begin building lives together!

Threads from old beading on left, new placement on right!

The Story of the Dress Part I

Catherine and GrandMary with GrandMary's wedding dress

Shortly after their engagement, Catherine and John started to think about their wedding plans.  They considered what kind of wedding they wanted, Catherine considered what kind of dress she wanted that would make sense with the type of wedding they wanted.  She wondered if GrandMary would mind her 1951 wedding dress being remade to fit Catherine.  I called my 79-year-old mother and asked for permission.  My mom stated, “Well sure!  I won’t be using it anymore!”

This past summer we visited Mom and sisters, and at that point, my mother’s dress officially changed ownership.  In the evening, we pulled the dress out and assessed its condition.  The yellowed, heavy duchess satin from the 1951 wedding bore old stains of celebratory wedding cake and punch.  Even some of the delicate beads had lost their coating.  Catherine took it to an eco-friendly cleaner and we were thrilled with the results!  Many of the old stains were removed, others lightened and the yellow was gone!

In August, I began deconstructing the dress to determine how much fabric was usable.  I cut and sewed a demo bodice out of another fabric to be certain Catherine would have a dress that fit.  After the fit was established, I ripped the demo to use use as a pattern and I cut her new dress from my mother’s old one.

Catherine and I discussed alternatives if the pattern pieces would not fit around some of the minor stains that remained.  We decided, being the creative folks that we are, we could come up with a solution!  We also discussed the story of the dress; who it belonged to, the time period, the maternal line that it touched from my Grandmother Alma seeing her oldest daughter being married, my Mom wearing it, my Aunt Katherine standing beside her as maid of honor, my sisters and I trying it on while growing up, and now to Catherine.

Our Catherine who with her “live simply, respect the earth, eco-friendly way of living”, chose to have her dress for her milestone of a day, be one with meaning.  Just as a painting tells a story with each underlying pencil mark,  brush strokes and layers of paint, I recognized Catherine’s dress, a work of art in its own, has a story to tell, too.  Each stitch, each bead, and yes, each unresolved stain (until it’s decided how to resolve it) creates part of the story.  In fact, it is those marks that help to alter , shape and form what the dress will be, just as our own marks and resolved stains that touch to our very fibers help each of us to shape and form who we Be.