Ida Belle

I took a little detour to pleat and dye that wired silk organza from the video I mentioned last post. I fashioned a fairly large flower from it so those following along could see the wired edge. I still have to think about what stamens I want to put into- i do think it needs them.

Wiring the edge adds lots of possibilities and can make the pleating come alive. You can get the wire in many colors but here I just used the first thing I could put my hands on which was a copper colored wire.

Then, while looking for some silk embroidery threads I came across another treasure I had almost forgotten about! It’s an old silk crazy quilt with lots of shattered silks which I bought one year at the Houston show.
As you may know, shattered silks from the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s abound in many old silk quilts. The reason being is threefold- silk was often mordanted with metallic solutions to hold or brighten the colors, soaked in metallic salts & allowed to dry, rendering them heavier as silk was sold by weight, and also (I just learned)…to increase the rustle of the bustle (well, actually the skirt) as was the fashion in those times. Bustles-imagine! (Thank goodness we no longer dress like that!)
Unfortunately, this resulted in the breakdown of the silk over time-hardening the fabric to the point of cracking and breaking or “shattering” as we say. For you long time and textilian readers here, this is not news. I only repeat this which has been mentioned here before since there seems to be a new group of readers now whose understanding of such things is unknown to me (welcome new readers- irrashaimasu!).
I made a little video to show you the current condition of the quilt.

Ida Belle

Ida Belle. Isn’t that a great name? Of course I got curious and spent WAY too much time going down rabbit holes trying to see if I could discover who Ida Bella was. I did find one very good possibility…
Meet Ida Belle Sievwright. 1865-1955
She lived in Melrose MA and was associated with this charity fundraising quilt dated to 1897-1898.

After a bit of poking around online, I came across the blog of Ann Wasserman-quilter, quilt restorationist and repairer. She was the person into whose hands the Melrose Quilt fell and who documented the fascinating process of researching and restoring the Melrose Quilt for a special event exhibition in the city of Melrose. Beyond that, she wrote a book, “Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve“. She also has an upcoming online workshop on quilt restoration that looks amazing. She wrote about the process of restoring the Melrose Quilt on her blog in six parts. I’m sure in quilt preservation circles she is very well known but not being in those circles I was not familiar with her expertise. After reading all six posts, I started reading her many other entries about other quilt repair and restoration projects.
It gave me some ideas about what I might do with this quilt I now call Ida Belle.

Now this Ida Belle may or may not be MY Ida Belle, but I like to think she might be. There are reasons to think it is a distinct possibility. The timing is right. I would date my Ida Belle somewhere between 1910 – 1935. Why you ask? There are some tobacco silks in there that can specifically be dated to 1910, so it can’t be before that. Ida Belle Sievwright would have been in her late 40’s to early 50’s in 1915 and she would have been 70 in 1935. Her two daughters were born in 1891 & 1898. Her husband was a travelling dry goods salesman. She would have had access to basic fabrics but would not have been considered a wealthy woman by any means. My Ida Belle is unfinished. The back and binding were never completed. The sewing is very competent, the decorative stitching simple but very consistent. All the decorative stitching is done with bright colored wool yarn. No fancy silk embroidery threads for Ida! The pieced backing cloth is completely made of simple recycled cottons and linens- mostly clothing or linings. A simple and frugal gal was Ida! Even though her family and daughter’s name appear on the Melrose Quilt, she could very well have been one of the quilters who worked on it. The Melrose Quilt was tied with wool yarn, not hand quilted. Apparently that was typical of many more utilitarian quilts of that time. The fancier silk crazy quilts had lots of embroidery, used more luxurious silk threads and often included silk velvets. This quilt is not that.

In any case, I had a great time exploring Ann Wasserman’s site, Ida Belle’s history, and imagining what I might do with this fixer-upper of a quilt. As most of you who know me, you know I would ideally want to get it into a condition that allows it to be used. It’s no use folded up into a drawer somewhere. At the same time, I want to make it so it doesn’t deteriorate any faster that it needs to. I also don’t like the idea of covering the back of it. I find the back as interesting as the front! I wondered about putting a simple binding on it and perhaps a 4-5 momme silk organza backing. That way, you can still see through it. Then maybe tying it all with wool yarn. That’s after doing the repairs on the shattered silk blocks.

Let’s dream and wonder…


13 thoughts on “Ida Belle

  1. vivian383

    Thank you so much for the explanation of shattered silks ! Now I finally have the answer to why my great grandmothers’ quilt has deteriorated to such an extent ! She made an entire quilt of flying geese by hand at the age of 93 in the year of 1898. It is of heavy silk charmeuse. There are still areas of good material but lots of deterioration in others. The backing is muslin. I am the only female family member left so I am the keeper of this treasure.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      Some of the silk in this one are just fine. Others completely shattered. Some have warp threads only! All the weft is gone. Meaning that it was woven with weft threads treated with metallic salts or mordants. Ann Wasserman has an interesting way to preserve blocks like this. I’ll try it when I get to it.

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  2. Jen NyBlom

    I have some remnants of shattered silk quilts, just bits and pieces inherited from my mother– but no idea where she got them—but I love them so much, I love the shattered cloth–so interesting!

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    Reply
    1. shiborigirl Post author

      Did you look at Ann’s blog entries about how to deal with some of that? I actually left a few comments on some posts with questions but haven’t heard from her. Not sure she checks comments on old posts. Will have to email her directly when I get a moment.

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      1. Jen NyBlom

        Oh, they are just bits and pieces (certainly nothing big enough to “repair” or to uses except in an arty application)…I LOVE the shreddedness of them…I will use them in some sort of stitching, here and there—they are so precious to me ❤
        But I'll check out Ann's blog entries! Thanks

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      2. Ann Wasserman

        Hi, Glennis – I just made my way to this post. It’s great! I did reply to your comments on my blog, and am distressed to find out that my replies didn’t get through to you. I will have to check out what Blogger has done to that process…they have been making changes lately… But that aside, I’m glad to see your Ida Belle quilt. Wouldn’t that be great if it’s the same Ida Belle? The timing does work out well!

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        Reply
        1. shiborigirl Post author

          Ann! Thank you. I will go see if I can view your replies. These things change all the time so might be me as well. But good to hear from you. Your site and skills are amazing.
          And of course I don’t think we will ever know if my Ida Belle is your Ida Belle, but it was so much fun finding your blog, wondering about the possibilities and falling down your rabbit hole!
          glennis

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  3. jude

    I have always loved the expression shattered silk., makes the story so dramatic.
    A lot of the old silk textile samples I have , from old swatch books, cannot be used because of this condition. likewise a lot of cotton prints have holes where the black was, similar issue. Yet there is beauty even in the story of decay

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