Thursday, January 18, 2018

buttons and button strings

                            I imagine that most of us who like to play with fabric and threads   
                                                                          love buttons.                                                                
                                                                          Am I right?


                              I mean, they make a great finishing touch, come in all shapes, sizes,         
                                            textures, and color, old and new,
                                                                   and they are cute as a ...well, you know! 

                                It's hard to leave those packs of buttons at the thrift shop behind. 
                                                            Do you know what I mean?

            Just so happens that one of those thrift store packs was close at hand when I needed a few old buttons to finish off a project. I emptied the pack into an old tart tin and found that a button string was tucked inside. Oh, happy day! What makes a string of buttons so endearing? Maybe it's the curiosity about the person who strung them for safekeeping. A simple reminder that women and girls have been taking care of buttons since the earliest of times. 


From humble bone and wood buttons                                                                                                                                                           to little underwear buttons to fancy china calico and stencil buttons;
                                                                   you have my heart.
                            One of my dolls with two sweet stencil buttons from late 19th to early 20th century.                                    (I think.) Would love to hear if anyone knows more about the stencil buttons.


Monday, January 8, 2018

special scissors

The day's chores are done, there's plenty of wood brought in to keep warm by, soup's on the burner and I am ready to get going on some handwork. 

Did you know mermaids are real?

 That's what my little grand daughter told me when she gave me a pair of mermaid tail scissors. 

She picked them out all by herself.
 At five years old she told her mom that "Marmee needs new things in her sewing basket for Christmas." I think she knows me well and we are going to be kindred spirits with lots of handwork projects in our baskets in the years to come!
Be still my heart.

Mermaid tail embroidery scissors by Kelmscott Design.

Everybody needs a pair!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

~ flowers in the dead of winter ~

       Christmas time was great ...
                                                    but I'm over all the Christmas "stuff" collecting dust ...
                                                                                                                        and yes, spider webs! 
                          The kids waiting to return to college are still enjoying the Christmas tree - or rather, enjoying not having to carry the empty 8 footer out the door.  Hmmm, I think I've been had!                                                                                                                                                             
            With snow on its way, the tree could wait and be enjoyed another day but the dried out crackly garlands and all their counterparts have finally been taken down and it feels so good!
    There is one part of Christmas that will be a permanent fixture (till I forget to water it, that is) 
                                            ~the heirloom Christmas Cactus in fuchsia pink. 
                                                        ( My least favorite flower color!)

      My mother had one my whole life and as a child I remember her excitement when it was ready to bloom. Frankly, I never shared her excitement. I mean the color was all wrong for Christmas! I now know there are red ones, but that wasn't the color of the one passed down from one generation to another in my family. When mom would ask me if I wanted a slip to start at my house, I'd always decline. 

      Funny thing happened at our last family reunion....I brought home a cutting from my great great Aunt Lolly's Christmas Cactus. And guess what? I got so excited when the little blooms started to appear. Hoping against all odds that this one would have genetically through the years turned red, I waited. 

                                                   Well, it bloomed fuchsia. Of course it did. 
                                     But I can love it all the same, not for its color but for its roots: my precious,                                                                                                                                                    well-loved, 
                                                                                                                                              Aunt Lolly.
It's funny how you grow up and start to like a thing you never did before.

                                 Happy New Year! I hope it's full of wonderful lovely things that bless your heart
                                                                                like Aunt Lolly's Christmas Cactus blesses mine.




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cinnamon Pinks and Dobby Fabrics

What a sweet little find. It's a hand-stitched 9" square piece with a plain muslin backing. The squares are 1 1/2" and sewn together with tiny stitching neatly done. I do believe it was used as a doll quilt even though it is not quilted. The backing is sewn to the front all the way around the piece so I don't think it was intended as a pillow case. It's too thin to be a pot holder. I'm going to stick with doll quilt.
 I cracked open two of my books on dating fabrics to help me get a sense of its age. I'm not going to determine decidedly, but I'd love to write down what I learned. "Dating Fabrics A Color Guide 1800-1960" by Eileen Jahnke Trestain is a great field guide. It's spiral bound and can easily fit inside a tote bag. My other favorite is large and heavy - it's jam-packed with great photos and info- and deserves a place on your bookshelf if you're at all interested in textiles. This gem is "Textile Designs Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period" by Susan Meller and Joost Elffers. After my digging I can say that my little quilt is composed of double pinks and dobby fabric. I learned that double pinks were popular on both sides of the Atlantic from 1860-1920. The Americans dubbed the double pinks as cinnamon pinks. Cinnamon pinks are printed with two layers. The bottom layer is made up of fine pink lines creating a background. The design layer on top is made from the same ink but since it's more concentrated in areas it appears darker.

  Until I held the doll quilt up to the light I thought the striped fabric was regular shirting, which I love. Not being one who
gets into pink, it was the striped shirting that attracted me to the piece. I learned from my reading that the shirting fabric is not just any shirting but dobby shirting. Dobby was intended to mimic the more expensive dobby-woven cloth. At the turn of the century as more farmers and laborers turned to work in an office or in manufacturing they needed better looking clothes for their jobs. Dobby shirting was one of the solutions. It is designed with a subtle geometric shape added to the basic stripe. My example represents a common dobby with the geometric being printed in white but it can also be done in the same color as the stripe.
Fabric has been around a long time and even though reproductions are sought after now, it isn't the first time in history. Manufacturers were reproducing fabric designs way back in the 1800's. I can't say if my cinnamon pinks or dobbies are original. I do know they are pieced together by hand and that could be an indicator of age, but not really since there are always those who love to stitch by hand. There's even a resurgence of that now with the slow-stitching movement. I'm just going to enjoy the piece for what it is and for the education it inspired.

I'm not sure how I'm going to display my little doll quilt but it sure has been interesting to learn about it. If I only knew the maker and her story. Now, that would be awesome.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hens and Chicks

Hens and Chicks

       Hens and Chicks? These are the quieter and more well-behaved variety. No squawking, no scratching in the yard, no pecking baby green tomatoes, no messes on the brick walkway. No eggs. No feathered friends to come rushing when they see the feed bucket. I miss my chickens. Someday I hope to have a new flock. For now, a plant with an endearing name will have to do.
        When I was a kid, my mom had hens and chicks growing in a pot next to the porch door. This little brood in a clay pot were handed down to me from her garden. I never thought I'd care to have them. Of all the plants my mom grew, these were my least favorite. In fact, the only thing I liked about them was their name. I didn't understand the attraction. When the succulent craze started, I shook my head. But as it happens sometimes with plants, they've worked their way into my heart. I love watching the new chicks "hatch" out from under the hens and they do great in the heat. So for now, they can stay.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Strawberry Patch

    My third son loves strawberries. Always has. Back when he was a toddler our strawberry patch occupied the lower portion of a significantly large garden. He toddled down the hill to the garden every morning hoping that the strawberries were ripe. He'd sit in the dirt and walk around in his bare toes talking to the plants, waiting. One morning I brought down an old chippy paint chair and put it at the edge of the strawberry patch so he could watch the berries from up high, and more importantly to the crop, in one place. Oh, he was so excited to have his own chair! I loved watching him sit on that chair as he talked to himself or the worms and kept watch over the berries.

     Recently, I designed a chair pad after an old wooden butter mold that had been decorated with a strawberry plant. The whole time I was hooking it, the memory of the chair in the strawberry patch and the brown-eyed boy who held vigil over it kept coming to my mind. It's one of my favorite gardening memories.

The PDF pattern is available in my Etsy Shop.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Walking in the Snow

   It's nearly midnight and I just shook the snow off my boots and hung my coat up by the fire to dry after a walk in the snow. Walking at night in the snow is one of my favorite things to do. Stella is upon us and I am looking forward to being snowed in by morning.
    Vintage photo, maybe 1966, of my brother and I walking up our driveway in Chester County, Pa. The car was at the bottom for sure. I've been walking up snowy driveways my whole life. Swapped one hill as a kid for another as an adult. Bring on the snow!