Easy Holiday Decorating ~ Shell Night Light

Shell Night Light ©Kim Smith 2014What to do with that extra strand of lights? After draping the lights around our newly gilded mirror, the ten or so little white lights remaining on the strand were stuffed into a large shell. It looks so fun and glowy at night!

Shell Night Light -2 ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Why Merino Wool, Alpaca, and Cashmere Keep You Warm and Dry

wool_fibersIn reference¬†to Joey’s post about wool socks, I thought GMG readers¬†would like to see this cool fiber comparison chart, which shows a range of fibers under a microscope.

Notice how the wool, cashmere, and alpaca individual fibers are composed of many overlapping shafts, which trap air and moisture. Fine wool such as merino absorbs as much as 36 percent of its weight in moisture and then gradually releases it through evaporation, while simultaneously keeping the moisture away from the skin. Wool is also naturally antibacterial, typically for the life of the garment.

Another great property of wool, alpaca, and cashmere is that unlike synthetics, they are renewable resources. Merino sheep and alpacas are shorn once a year, and cashmere is collected from Cashmere goats during the spring molting season. These fibers readily absorb natural dyes and can be processed with the use of minimal or no dyes.

You can read more about the moisture transporting properties of wool here: Backpacking Light

Wedding Dress Inspiration

¬©Kim Smith 2014It has been twenty years since I have made a wedding dress for friend or client. Despite that daunting fact, I am so very much looking forward to making my daughter’s.¬†I loved creating them and have wonderful¬†memories of¬†each and every friend in each and every dress. Liv has many memories too¬†as she¬†was always there with me in my studio, enraptured with the fairy princess magic unfolding¬†during fittings.¬†From that very early age, she has been saying, “Mom, you¬†are¬†going to make my dress, too.”

Inspiration~ Liv loves this Givenchy tea-length gown designed for Audrey Hepburn for the movie Funny Face. The tulle and satin full skirt is perfect for dancing the night away!

funny_face Hubert De Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn

Hooray for Pathways for Children’s Brand Spanking New Butterfly Garden!

Pathways for Children we ¬©Kim Smith 2014HOLY CANNOLI and WOW–look how fantastically¬†the Pathway’s Staff is¬†taking care of their brand new one-month old¬†butterfly garden–every plant looks well-loved!!!

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden BEFORE ©Kim Smith 2014 copySpring 2014 Before Photo

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden  After ©Kim Smith 2014.

Same View After Photo ~  July 18, 2014

Elizabeth's Toad ©Kim Smith

Toads Welcome!

My sincerest thanks to Caroline Haines for her vision to create a butterfly garden for the children at Pathways. 

Thank you to the many donors who have made the butterfly gardens at Pathways possible. 

Thank you to the Manchester Garden Club for their tremendous assisitance in planting the garden.

Thank you to the volunteers from Liberty Mutual for tearing out the old plantings.

And special thanks to Bernie Romanowski, Pathways for Children facilities director,¬†for all his hard work and his extraordinary¬†care and attention to¬†detail, from the project’s inception through its continued maintenance. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Zinnia ¬©Kim Smith 2014. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Sunflower ¬©Kim Smith 2014.Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Milkweed ¬©Kim Smith 2014.Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) ~ Notice the pretty moth nectaring from the milkweed in the upper right. The gardens are alive with pollinators of every species imaginable, including butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, songbirds, moths, and sundry¬†insects!Bernie Romanowski ¬©Kim Smith 2014 copy

 Bernie Romanowski

Manchester Garden Club at Pathways ©Kim Smith 2014Manchester Garden Club

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Antennae for Design ~

The architectural details of the trellis and picnic table were designed to be a coordinated focal point in the garden¬†and¬†planned¬†to be stained¬†a classic¬†seaside blue.¬†Why would we want to paint or stain the trellis and not simply¬†allow it to gain a weathered patina? From an aesthetic¬†point of view, the wood used for both the picnic table and trellis are two different types and will age¬†very differently from each other. If this were a very large garden, it wouldn’t matter so much, but in a cozy garden room¬†such as this, the difference will become quite noticeable and unappealing over time. Additionally, the blue will offset the flowers and foliage handsomely and is a cheery choice with children in mind.

From a very practical standpoint, untreated wood will quickly degrade in our salty sea air and neither piece will last more than ten years without protection. An opaque stain is the best solution because as the trellis and picnic table age, the obvious differences in wood will be disguised. An opaque stain also requires the least amount of effort to maintain over time.

Rotting untreated trellis ©Kim Smith 2014The above is a photo of untreated trellis, allowed to weather, and was installed approximately ten years ago.

_DSF8394 Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden school bus ©Kim Smith 2014.

HarborWalk Butterfly Gardens Sunday MugUp at 9am

Dear Friends of the HarborWalk,

I couldn’t decide if the title¬†should read “Help with the HarborWalk” or “HarborWalk MugUp” and as you can see, opted for the MugUp, but we do need help, too. Several beds need weeding and I have a modest batch of annuals we’d like to get in the ground, just as soon as possible. The goal is to whip the butterfly gardens into shape before Fiesta. If you are interested in lending a hand, please send me an¬†email at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the the comment section so we can get an idea of how many fabulous homemade Brother’s Brew doughnuts I should purchase! We are meeting at 9am Sunday in front of the Gloucester House Restaurant. We will have some spare tools and please feel free to bring your own. You don’t need to be a gardener and kids are 100 percent welcome.Thank you.

Very best wishes,

Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea Gloucester HarborWalk Garden © Kim Smith 2013Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

While weeding yesterday morning, there were several species of small butterflies flitting about, including a number of Spring Azures. Lots of bees were spied, too. The native Magnolia virginiana and sweet thimbleweeds are in bloom and and a good bunch of Purple Prairie Clover is becoming established. Stop by and take the opportunity to learn about some of our native beauties planted at the HarborWalk.

Gloucester HarborWalk Magnolia virginiana ©Kim Smith 2012 copyGloucester HarborWalk Magnolia virginiana

Orange Poppies in the Rain

Planter Urn with spring flowers ¬©Kim Smith 2014jpgWednesday while planting at Willowdale in the on-again off-again rain, the luminesce orange of the crinkly tissue paper-like poppy petals kept catching my eye. They seemed especially incandescent¬†juxtaposed against the drizzly gray light. I don’t really mind planting in the rain for a few hours and actually much prefer it to the heat of planting at mid-day on warm¬†sunny days. The only thing with planting in the rain is that on long, non-stop nine-¬†to ten-hour planting days, I get very chilled, which leads to a tired muddy mess that arrives home to my husband, who has actually been looking forward to my coming home. “Please don’t talk to me,” I say when first arriving but, after a solid¬†half hour soak in a steamy¬†tub, I cheer up and am¬†ready to converse and get dinner underway.

orange iceland poppy ©Kim Smith 2014Look at all these buds yet to come!

We¬†planted this urn back on May 1st, and it has filled out handsomely. The sweet peas are climbing up the pussy willow basket¬†handles¬†and their fragrance, along with the scent of the dianthus, Viola ‘Etain’¬†and sweet alyssum is really very enchanting. From one initial¬†bud to dozens still yet to come, going on six weeks now this little¬†poppy plant just keeps on bestowing¬†her gift of great beauty!may-basket-c2a9kim-smith-2014-copy

May First May Basket

Sarah Boucher’s Baby Shower at Willowdale Estate

_DSF2690Could there be a more perfect venue¬†to hold¬†a bridal¬†or baby¬†shower¬†on the¬†North Shore than Willowdale Estate? In fairness, and as¬†GMG readers¬†are aware, I am the landscape designer for Willowdale,¬†and completely unbiased. ūüôā ¬†The staff¬†that works in the planning and production departments that create the events at Willowdale are so sweet, helpful, and capable; the home and gardens are meticulously cared for by James and his crew; and Executive Chef Ben Lightbody’s exquisite cuisine is beyond sumptuous.

_DSF2319 _DSF2346_DSF2384_DSF2327_DSF2328 Last Wednesday, Willowdale’s events planning and production team¬†threw¬†a beautiful¬†surprise baby shower for their co-worker Sarah Boucher, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager.¬†The color theme was a gorgeous soft buttery yellow with anthracite¬†gray accents–ideal for the couple not sure¬†whether their bundle of joy will be a boy or girl.


_DSF2416_DSF2421_DSF2533Is that Madeline’s Coat?

_DSF2508All¬†good wishes and love to Sarah,¬†Jeff, and their¬†new baby daughter-on-the-way!¬†We can’t wait to meet her!!!

_DSF2678 The following are links for more¬†information about several upcoming events at Willowdale Estate where you can explore the venue and experience Willowdale’s welcoming hospitality

Tuesday evening, May 20th, from 6:00 to 8pm is a free wedding open house for recently engaged couples. RSVP to receive a gift bag to help you get started with your planning.

On Thursday evening, June 12th, from 7:30 to 10pm, Chef Bennie is serving an Arabian Nights inspired three-course Moroccan Dinner.¬†Click the link to read the menu–it sounds divine! Reservations are required.


See more pictures from Sarah’s baby shower here

Continue reading “Sarah Boucher’s Baby Shower at Willowdale Estate”

Spring Has Sprung at Willowdale! FREE Event in the Garden Tuesday Night!

Pink Tulips Willowdale Estate ©Kim Smith 2014The tulips are at peak perfection, and just in time for my Artist Spotlight Event! The warm weather this weekend coaxed many to bloom, and the cooler temperatures predicted will keep them very pretty.

Tulips Willowdale Estate ©Kim Smith 2014.

I hope you can come and¬†enjoy ¬†an evening of Willowdale’s hospitality and signature¬†refreshments,¬†the garden tour, and screening of my film,¬†Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

For ticket information and to RSVP click here.

Spring Tulips Willowdale Estate ©Kim Smith 2014.

Happy Spring!

Pure Whimsy!

Revelation. Productions Willowdale Estate ¬©Kim Smith 2014What a treat to see Willowdale‚Äôs event tent decorated in Anthony D‚ÄôElia‚Äôs wonderfully fun and¬†whimsical design for Thursday‚Äôs ‚ÄúPower of the Purse.‚ÄĚ ¬†Upon arriving, I¬†felt as though¬†I had stepped into a Georges Lepape French fashion illustration from the early 1900s, when Orientalism was all the rage and summer garden f√™tes were decorated in kind, and to the nines. Revelation Productions Design Willowdale Estate Anthony D'Elia Revelations Productions ¬©Kim Smith 2014 copyThe morning after the event, while the Willowdale crew and I were installing a new embroidered velvet curtain for the tent, I had the opportunity to meet Anthony as he and his staff¬†were dismantling the decor. Anthony and his company, Revelation Productions, are responsible for many of the most stunning and beautifully produced special events held at Willowdale¬†and¬†venues throughout the North Shore and New England. Their creative and technical event services included imaginative d√©cor, custom audio design, full spectrum video services, and gorgeous lighting. Visit their website¬†for more information¬†about Revelation Productions here.


The first two photos show how the parasols and lighting looked in daylight; below you can see how they appeared after sunset. I wasn’t the only one utterly captivated by the décor and Anthony received high praise from Briar, the Willowdale staff, and all attendees for his magical parasol and branch design.

parasols -2 ¬©Kim Smith 2014 Revelations Productions Parasols Willowdale Estate ¬©Kim Smith 2014. copyBriar Forsythe, proprietor of Willowdale, donated the tent, her signature refreshments, and stellar staff to the ‚ÄúPower of the Purse,‚ÄĚ as did Anthony donate his time and d√©cor to the event. See previous posts about the Power of the Purse here.

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Georges Lepape (1887-1971) was a French fashion designer and illustrator, engraver, poster artist, book illustrator, costume, and textile designer. He collaborated and designed many covers for leading magazines of the day including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper‚Äôs Bazaar, Femina, and The Art Sheets. See several more Georges Lepape illustrations here: Continue reading “Pure Whimsy!”

Top Native Bee Friendly Plants

Obedient Plant and Bee Physostegia virginiana ©Kim Smith 2013Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Below is a list of some favorite nectar- and pollen-rich bee-friendly North American wildflowers for attracting native bees and honey bees to your gardens. They are listed in order of bloom time, from spring through late summer, to provide your foragers with nourishment all growing season long.

Mexican Sunflower © Kim Smith 2013Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria viginiana)

Wild Blue Lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Sunflower (Helianthus annus)

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Sailor Stan sunflower and bee ©Kim Smith 2011Sailor Stan Sunflower (Helianthius annus)

Eupatorium and Bee ©Kim Smith 2012Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Ironweed Bee ©KIm Smith 2011New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

Top Ten Tips for Attracting and Supporting Native Bees

Bees, butterflies, and songbirds bring a garden to life, with their grace in movement and ephemeral beauty.   Bee and Monarch Butterfly ©Kim Smith 2012Many of the plants that are the most highly attractive to butterflies are also the most appealing to bees, too!

Bees are also a “keystone¬†organism,” which means they are critical to maintaining the sustainability and productivity of many types¬†of ecosystems. Without bees, most flowering plants would become extinct, and fruit and seed eating birds and mammals¬†(such as ourselves) would have a much less healthy¬†and varied diet.

Native bees come in an array of beautiful colors, size, and shapes. Some are as small as one eighth of an inch and others as large as one inch. They may wear striped suits of orange, red, yellow, or white, or shimmer in coats of metallic iridescene. Their names often reflect the way in which they build their nests, for example, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, plasterer bees, digger bees, and wool carder bees.

Approximately 4,000 species of native bees have been identified north of Mexico. They are extremely efficient pollinators of tomatoes, apples, berries, pumpkins, watermelons, and many other crops.

Native Bee Pollinating Apricot Tree ©Kim Smith 2009Native Carpenter Bee and Apricot Tree

Listed below are what I have found to be the most successful tips for supporting and attracting native bees to your garden.

1). Choose plants native to North America. Over millennia, native bees have adapted to native plants. If planting a non-native plant, do not plant invasive aliens, only well-behaved ornamentals.

2). Choose non-chemical solutions to insect problems, in other words, do not use herbicides or pesticides.

3).  Choose plants that have a variety of different flowers shapes to attract a variety of bees, both long-tongued and short-tongued bees.

4). Avoid “fancy” plants, the¬†hybrids that have been deveolped with multiple double frilly layers. This only confuses bees when they are looking for nectar and gathering pollen.

5). Provide a succession of nectar-rich and pollen bearing blooms throughout the growing season. Select plants that flower during the earliest spring, during the summer months, and until the first hard frost.

6.) Plant a clover lawn, or throw some clover seed onto your existing grass lawn to create a mixed effect.

7.) Bee Friendly–bees only sting when provoked. When encountering an angry bee, stay calm and walk away slowly.

8.) Plant lots of blue, purple, and yellow flowers, a bees favorite colors.

9). Provide a source of pesticide-free water and mud in your bee paradise.

The first nine tips are for any garden, large or small. The last is for people with larger land areas.

10).  Establish hedgerows, or clumps of native woody shrubs and trees, and wildflower fields. Contact the USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services) for available funding opportunities.

Tomorrow I’ll post our top ten native plants for attracting and supporting native bees.

Cornus alternifolia ©Kim Smith 2009One of the most elegant of all native trees is the not-widely planted Cornus alternifolia, or Pagoda Dogwood. Where ever I plant this tree of uncommon grace and beauty it becomes a magnet for all manner of bees and butterflies.

Antennae for Design: Native Flowering Dogwood

white dogwood cornus florida ¬© Kim Smith 2013Currently I¬†am working like mad on design projects,¬†both¬†creating¬†new gardens and organizing existing¬†gardens.¬†Along with¬†butterfly and pollinator gardens, I¬†design¬†many¬†different types¬†of gardens, including¬†fragrant gardens,¬†night gardens, children’s¬†gardens, and seaside gardens.¬†One¬†of my favorite aspects of the design process¬†is creating the horticultural master plan, which is typically done simultaneously after discussing with the client their needs, hopes, and aspirations for their garden, and when¬†working on the plan drawings.

While working on planting plans, I thought our GMG readers would benefit from suggested plantings and illustrated design tips. I started this series awhile back and called it Antennae for Design, and still like that name.

Cornus florida rubra @ Kim Smith 2012 copy

In designing gardens the first step is always creating the framework and trees comprise a major component in establishing the framework, or bones, of a garden. Trees provide a welcome sense of shelter with the shifting light and shadows filtering through the ever-changing ceiling. Fragrance, flowers, the shelter they provide, form, and texture of the leaves are not the only attributes of a tree garden. During the winter months there is the elegant beauty of pure line, the beauty of the branch.

Cornus florida rubra pink dowood ¬© Kim Smith 2012 copyFor a multitude of¬†reasons, one¬†of my top choices when¬†planting a tree-garden is our stunning¬†native¬†American dogwood (Cornus florida), both white and pink flowering forms. The fresh beauty of its spring blossoms, horizontal level branches, myriad pollinators attracted to the tiny florets, and the elegance¬†of its bare limbs in winter are just some of the reasons why I love this tree! For¬†a night garden especially, the white flower bracts¬†are especially luminous in the moonlight. And, the American dogwood is also a larval food plant for the diminutive Spring Azure butterfly’s caterpillar!

white dogwood cornus florida ©kim Smith 2013 copy

¬†Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden is¬†available at my publisher’s website, click here.

Design Inspiration ~ Iceland Poppies

Iceland Poppies ©Kim Smith 2013Iceland Poppies 

Driving home at dusk and coming from a client’s in Beverly Farms, I passed this gorgeous poppy-filled window box at Gladstone’s jewelry shop on Union Street in Manchester, and just had to stop and take a snapshot. I thought the poppies would be beautiful in full sun, too, and made sure to drive the same route the next sunny day.

Iceland Poppies sunny day ©Kim Smith 2013 Iceland Poppies (Papaver nudicaule) and Viloas

More about Depression Era Quilts

Depression Era Butterfly Quilt Top 

Reader Sandra G recently wrote: Thank you for Sharing the Antennae For Design Article and Photo. I recently acquired a Vintage Butterfly Quilt Top*, that has me puzzled as to what the fabrics are and dating it ? The Butterflies appear to be very similar to your Photo. I am clueless about this Quilt Top and any help would be greatly appreciated. You have a great Website and Blog!

 Butterfly Quilt Top Detail 

I asked her to send photos and she did send several. I do think this is a Depression era quilt for several reasons. The red butterfly especially, with the cheery cherry printed over the red and white polka dot fabric, looks very 1930s-1940s. All the butterflies are hand-embroidered, which also leads me believe the top is from the Depression era.¬†It’s really a charming quilt top, and beautifully made. I love the design placement of the butterflies. The colors are so vibrant–the finished quilt will make any room sing. What a great find Sandra G.!

* Note ~ a quilt top is just that; the top only. Quilt tops are a wonderful way to acquire a vintage quilt. For some reason or other, the quilt was never completed. Ideally the quilt top would have been tucked away and stored out of direct sunlight–just waiting for some industrious- type to complete the job! If stored properly, you’ll find the vintage fabrics in their original vibrant colors as sunlight and repeated washings are most damaging to textiles.

Butterfly quilt top hand embroidered detail

Antennae for Design Circa 1930-1940 Dressing Table

Winter is the time of year when I especially enjoy working on interior home improvement projects. This fabulous vintage dressing table and mirror set were found at a local antique shop. I wasn‚Äôt planning on a dressing table for my new sewing room/guest bedroom, but after seeing the dressing table ‚ÄĒit was going for a song‚ÄĒI made a split second decision and purchased the pair.

Aren‚Äôt all the compartments in the drawers wonderfully practical? You can‚Äôt find anything made like this in today‚Äôs marketplace. I love that it is a very substantial width and height. The original and smaller circa 1930’s dressing table has had a larger custom-made top cut in a whimsical curved design. The curved glass tabletop lends a Hollywood Regency feel to the piece. The chest of drawers needs a fresh coat of paint (or several), but I will have to wait for spring when the windows can be left open to tackle that part of the project. A new length of fabric is needed for under the glass as well. Perhaps a silk moir√© in pale watery green or blue as the thick glass has a greenish cast.

For the new skirt, I had a bolt of Ralph Lauren floral chintz on hand, which gives it a rather Nick and Nora meets summer cottage look, but I think too, in the spring, I’ll make another skirt, perhaps this one in sheer white cotton voile or dotted Swiss.

If I can help you with your interior design project send an email or give me a call. I look forward to hearing for you!

Thanks to Joey for showing me how he creates videos in one take. I couldn’t shoot this video in one take as I had to take the skirts on and off, but this is definitely a super fun and streamlined way of creating videos.

I almost forget to mention that inside one of the drawers was a heavy, solid lead engraved plaque-award given to Mrs. William D. Vogel by the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild for outstanding service to the arts. Doing a very quick Google search, I didn’t find too much about Mrs. Vogel, however her father was Ralph Harman Booth, publisher of a large newspaper chain, Booth Newspapers, and Detroit Institute of Art philanthropist.

Quite possibly this lovely dressing table was Mrs. Vogel’s, or her mother’s, Mrs. Harman, or possibly her daughter’s summerhouse dressing table. I would love to know the provenance of the piece.

Six Weeks of Fresh Flowers, for Nine Dollars!

The last stalk of ‘Orange Sovereign’ was cut, the plant discarded, and the pot tucked away for next year’s Hippeastrums. If we had a spare sunny window, I would feed and water the plant during the winter then place outside on the patio during the warm summer months, allowing the plant to replenish and rejuvenate.

Looking back at my photo files, the first snapshot of ‘Orange Sovereign’ was from December 15, 2011; the photo below was taken January 30, 2012. Growing flowering bulbs during the winter is a terrific and economical way to keep the home lively with cheery color, in spite of the gloomy grays of winter.

Hippeastrum ‘Orange Sovereign’ ~ January 30, 2012

Antennae for Design ~ Three Outstanding Films Not to be Missed


We were again transported to another time and place‚ÄĒthree fabulous and current films, in three weekends. Our wonderfully transportive film nights began with My Week with Marilyn, which takes place in 1956 and was shot in and around the outskirts of London, The Descendants, filmed in present day Honolulu, and last night we saw The Artist, which takes place in Hollywood, from 1927 to 1932. The Artist¬†is a comedy and drama about George Valentin (Jean Dejardin), a¬†silent film star, and Peppy Miller (B√©r√©nice Bejo),¬†a rising “talkie” star, who meet just as the silent film industry is collapsing. The film is partially silent and filmed to look like a black and white silent film. The costumes are to die for, the interior set designs are predominately Hollywood Regency, and the acting charming and sweet and utterly engaging. Uggie, the terrier, will steal your heart.

From an interview with Michael Hazavanicius, director and writer of The Artist, ‚ÄúI had many deep motivations for wanting to make a silent film. As a member of the audience, I absolutely love the way stories are told to me in a silent movie. It’s not a cerebral response. It’s more a child-like response. Because there’s no spoken language, the way the story engages your heart is special. It’s hypnotic, sensual, not at all cerebral, and I love that sensation as an audience member. My motivations as a director were much more selfish. For me, it was a great experience. It’s what cinema is about, in my opinion. I’m telling a story with images and music. With images, you have the actors, you have the sets, you have the costumes, the lights, everything, and that’s how you’re telling the story. You don’t need words for that. It’s the ultimate experience for a director to make a silent movie. I really wanted to try to do it.‚ÄĚ ¬† Link to the full interview with Hazavanicius.¬†

Jean Dujardin and Uggie 

Techno notes for Joey and Marty: The Artist was made in the 1.33:1 screen ratio commonly used in the silent film era. Though presented in black-and-white, it was shot in color. All the technical details, including lenses, lighting and camera moves, were calibrated to get the look just right. To recreate the slightly sped-up look of 1920s silent films, the film was shot at a slightly lower frame rate of 22 fps as opposed to the standard 24 fps. Courtesy wiki.

Images courtesy Google search.

Hawaiian Quilts

Antennae for Design The Descendants

Saturday night we went to see The Descendants and I found this movie enjoyable on many levels. The cinematography, of lush Hawaiian landscapes, was gorgeous. Lingering close-up shots of the actors and dreamy transitions added to the telling of story. Interesting, too, were the clips of suburban Honolulu neighborhoods. Never having been to Hawaii, the film was an eye opener‚ÄĒI don‚Äôt imagine Honolulu neighborhoods as a typical L.A. hillside suburb, nor downtown Honolulu with eight lane highways jammed with choking traffic.

Vintage Hawaiian Quilt

The set designs by Matt Callahan mirrored the story beautifully, and I found much inspiration in the furnishings and fabrics, including vintage rattan furniture, appliqué pillows, and bark cloth curtains. Several authentic Hawaiian quilts added a unique touch, and one quilt in particular played a leading role in the telling of the story. The main characters comprise a modern day family descended from a Hawaiian princess. Early in the film, we see a sunny golden yellow and white, slightly tattered and homey, quilt arrayed over the mom, who is lying in a hospital bed, in a coma and dying. The quilt has been brought from the family home to the hospital to provide comfort. In the final scene, the father and children make their way one by one to the family sofa, and eventually all are cozy under the same Hawaiian quilt, watching television together, and sharing bowls ice cream.

What we think of as the classic Hawaiian quilt is characterized by a bold, radial symmetric design (similar to that of a snowflake) or bold, stylized design drawn from nature. The motifs are often times cut from one piece of cloth, unlike patchwork quilts, which are assembled from many smaller pieces of fabric. The design motif is then appliqu√©d to a contrasting background. And, unlike patchwork quilts, with quilting stitches worked in parallel diagonal, straight, or circular lines, Hawaiian quilters practice ‚Äúecho‚ÄĚ or outline quilting. The stitches follow the inner and outer contours of the design motif.

Much information can be found on Goolge about the history of Hawaiian quilts. Images courtesy of Google search.

The Descendants is based on the book of the same name, written by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

Antennae for Design

Depression Era Quilts

For the first installment of Antennae for Design I wanted to share with you a very special gift that my mother- and father-in-law gave me this Christmas past. My husband‚Äôs family lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, a beautiful city sited along the Ohio River. The landscape so reminded early German settlers of the Rhine River and valley, that to this day there is an area of the city still referred to as ‚ÄėOver the Rhine.‚Äô¬†The above butterfly buttonhole¬†appliqu√©¬†quilt was made in Fostoria, Ohio.¬†Ohio‚Äôs long quilt-making heritage is similar to that of many states throughout America.

Quilts and quilt-making techniques are a reflection of the life and times of the women who made the quilts. The technique of quilting (encasing an insulating fabric between two layers of an outer fabric and stitching firmly in place) has existed throughout history. Quilted garments have been discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs and quilted garments and bedding began to appear in Europe after the return of the Crusaders from the Middle East. The medieval quilted gambeson and aketon were garments worn under, or instead of, armor of maille or plate armor. The oldest American quilts in the Smithsonian date from approximately 1780.

Thinking about the fascinating history of quilts and quilt making in this country, one of my very favorite periods of quilt making was after WWI and through the early 1940‚Äôs. Quilts made during this period are commonly referred to as Depression Era quilts; although to look at their cheery colors and patterns, you would never know the women who created them were living in the midst of a depression. Magazines needed to be resourceful during this period of extreme economic hardship, and they were, by selling fashion and optimism. Another way to survive was by including quilt patterns and tips in their publications. Quilting was an activity that women could do to fulfill their creativity while still making something practical for their families. The quilts were typically made from sewing scraps, out-grown clothing, and feed sacks. Part of the war reparations with Germany after the First World War included their formulas for aniline dyes, which allowed for an explosion in color depth and hues, as well as stability in dyes; purple finally became reliable, as did black.¬† Charming and sweet prints along with lovely pastels served in stark contrast to the depressive economy. A particular shade of green, now referred to as ‚Äúthirties green,‚ÄĚ was so popular amongst quilters, that the strips that were used to bind the quilt edges came packaged in a can!

Depression Era Butterfly Quilt

Dating quilts is fascinating. If you have a question about a quilt or would like to share information about a family heirloom, please write.

The above quilt was my interpretation of a 1930’s butterfly quilt, which I made for our daughter when she was five. Following in the depression era method of using what was on hand, you can see the dress scraps from which the quilt was made in her blue gingham dress in the old photo below.

I found a basket full of Scotty dog squares at a yard sale last summer. Scotty dogs were a popular design motif during the first half of the 20th century and this particular Scotty pattern was created in 1940. When I have some spare moments, I’ll look for fabric to back the quilt. Purchasing quilt squares or an unfinished quilt top is a great way to acquire a depression era quilt because, if the squares or top have been properly stored, the fabrics will come back to life with cleaning and pressing, and will not have been used.