The Pleasures of Vintage Ephemera: Eddie!!

I bought an old diary at a garage sale. Three years ago. For 25 cents.

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I finally took a good look.

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I can’t stop smiling.

Version 2

You don’t need me to tell you why.

In 1940, Lois loved Eddie. A lot.

And Eddie loved Lois.

May 1 was the big day:

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Let’s just assume they lived happily ever after, shall we?

Grand Central Counter

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At night, it’s a mild-mannered kitchen peninsula.

But, when day breaks, it transforms into a hub of activity, a hive of productivity—it becomes Grand Central Counter!

With a complete lack of planning or foresight, this one spot in our home has become the go-to spot for many of our daily activities. The traffic of our daily lives all goes through Grand Central.

It measures 27 inches wide—easy to reach across but wide enough that a husband and wife can stand on opposite sides and work on a salad together.

It’s a long and lovely 72 inches long, plenty long enough for bolts of fabric to be unfurled or many pans of candy to be lined up, for dipping in chocolate.

For reasons known only to the guys who did the renovations for us, the counter is about two inches taller than the average counter height of 36 inches. That seems perfect to me, when my back never gets sore from bending over it.

At Grand Central counter:

  • 11-pound blocks of chocolate are chopped to usable size
  • Fabric has been cut for oh-so-many yoyos, as well as for curtains and quilts.
  • Thousands of candies have been dipped into chocolate—caramels, fondant cherries, mint, peanut butter . . . yum
  • Over 1200 Etsy orders, for candy and linens, have been packaged and taped and readied for the mail
  • Weaving has taken place on the counter, on a table loom; I needed to stand on a step stool for that!
  • Fringe has been twisted
  • Limoncello has been made here
  • Pomanders have been started
  • Family members gather for holiday baking
  • Hundreds of caramels have been wrapped in waxed paper
  • And all the food prep of a busy kitchen crosses this counter, too—dough is kneaded, veggies are chopped, chicken is pounded for cutlets
  • Cocktails are mixed here at the end of busy days—wine and scotch and bourbon and Drambuie and vodka and beer have been sloshed here

The counter is spritzed and wiped and cleaned many times a day—get the chocolate off to make room for the weaving; move the weaving so dinner can be started.

Grand Central becomes congested at certain times of day. If a project is ongoing when the load of groceries comes in from the car or it’s time to sort paper for recycling. Negotiations are sometimes necessary, to determine who gets to use the counter next and for how long.

Grand Central Counter is a godsend for busy, loving hands at home. Each night, it gets cleared off, and left quiet and empty, having earned its rest just like we have.

It awaits me now, in early morning light, ready for the traffic of the day . . .

Does your home have an equivalent?

Finally, A Finish

Have you ever wanted something really bad and then, when you got it, all you could do was just sit there and grin?

That’s how I feel about this pair of scarves. I’m not grinning because they’re special; I’m grinning because they are done!

This project has been on my loom, mocking me, since BGG (before Gigi). That’s six long months.

It was begun in summer, languished through a glorious autumn, waited patiently as winter approached and a New Year arrived.

And, finally, the project is finished.

Why do some projects stall?

The obvious reason here was the addition of the small furry whirling dervish and her big brother.

But I can’t blame it all on them.

Mostly it was that the work wasn’t meeting my expectations.

Projects like this one make me keenly aware of how little I know. And I hate not knowing. With weaving, I find it so difficult to predict how colors will interact, how the weft threads will subdue or enhance the warp.

In this case, the warp was gorgeous and nothing I put in as weft maintained that glow.

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The pattern didn’t work out as I thought it would. It’s an undulating twill and the weaving kept shifting and gapping. “Ugly” is the word that comes to mind.

To solve this, I had to take a new approach that involved using two shuttles, something I hadn’t done before and found very difficult to get comfortable with.

My loom had to be moved to a room with a door (Gigi, I’m looking at you) and I don’t like being shut away while I’m weaving, I guess.

Progress was slow and sporadic. I often filled my time doing anything but weaving. I gravitated toward projects that felt more fulfilling and fun. It was hard for me to stay motivated when, with every throw of the shuttle, I felt disappointed and fairly incompetent.

But now the scarves are finished and I’m thrilled to be done! They turned out better than I thought they would—fine, really. I like the one with the light weft color but I don’t love it. The darker one pleases me more. The intense color I liked so much in the warp is subtle, but the ghost of it is there.

I can also, now, be glad for all the project taught me. I hope I won’t make some of those mistakes again.

Mostly I’m thrilled to be done because now I can move on. I already have a new project under way—kitchen towels!

I am going to leave the pesky scarves out, in plain sight, for a while though. I want to grin at them.

Iron Woman

IMG_7938I’ve been ironing again.

And you know what I’m going to say—I love it so!

I don’t like ironing just anything. I don’t like ironing clothing so I have blouses I never wear.

And I don’t like ironing great big tablecloths that don’t fit on my ironing board but I do those anyway because I want to sell them. When I sell them, I’ll never have to iron them again!

I like ironing smaller items that fit on the board in front of me. I like them quite wrinkled to begin with so I really see the transformation that heat and pressure bring.

And I like ironing a random stack of linens, where I’m not sure what is going to turn up next. With each new item I press, my thoughts wander. I think about how I will describe it when I list the item on Etsy. What can I say to communicate clearly to a potential buyer—why is this special? What home does it deserve?

I wonder about how the items were made. What was this lace made for? How does any human hand make stitches that small and precise?

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Done by hand–how incredible.

But much of the time ironing allows me to let my mind wander wherever it will go.

And often my mind goes where nostalgia will take it.

These homely placemats made me think of the days, in the early 1960s, I guess, when liquid embroidery was all the rage. Instead of needle and thread the “embroiderer” used little tubes of paint to follow the transfer design on the fabric.

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When I was about 10, my grandmother was my Sunday School teacher and she got all the girls in the Sunday School class together, at the farm, and we “embroidered” aprons for our mothers as Mothers’ Day presents.

I remember aqua fabric, an easy-care blend, no doubt. I remember wondering about the paints—I knew how to embroider with a needle and thread and couldn’t see the improvement. I don’t remember wondering if my mother would like the gift, although I have absolutely no memory of her ever wearing any apron, let alone this one. I was sure she’d love it because I had made it.

These memories—from the farm, of my Mama and my Mom, of working on a project with the other girls—are warmer than the steam coming off my iron.

These hand crocheted placemats take my memories another direction. When I was a teenager, I visited a girlfriend a lot and she lived with her grandmother. Her grandmother was a lot like my grandmother had been . . . but my grandmother was gone by that time.

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I remember her grandmother working on an amazing hand crocheted bedspread, done in natural cotton thread. It was very intricate and very impressive and I remember seeing it, finished, on the bed over a bright underspread. I couldn’t believe anyone would have the patience and ability for such a project. She also made dandelion wine . . .

Another grandmother, another warm house, and warm memories.

Every time I come across a towel or napkin monogrammed with a “W” or an “S,” I think of my grandparents. Printed towels from the 1950s with butter churns and sad irons? Or a funny apron from the ’40s? The farm.

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When I fold pillowcases just so, my mother’s mother is in my ear, telling me how to do it, to minimize wrinkles.

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It’s cold outside now. The warmer lake makes big billows of fog against the frigid air. Close to shore, the ice fishermen take their chances and shiver.

But, oh my, it’s warm at my iron. The steam rises, the memories swirl . . .

My Pincushion Morning

I love a big, hefty project, one that takes a long time, sucks me into the process, and about which I can feel hugely satisfied when I’m done.

But sometimes, a girl just needs to start and finish something in a day. Sometimes, we all need a fun, small, manageable, creative endeavor that doesn’t involve a years-long commitment, like a yoyo quilt or a weaving project with a 6-yard warp. (Weavers—don’t laugh! Six yards is long for me!)

I made just such a project lately and it made me inordinately happy.

First, I received in the mail, late last year, a small wooden circle loom, from the kind blogger at Twill Textile Design. I spent some happy time making a small woven piece on it, using the yarn she sent and some of my own.

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I love this little cutie but it drove me crazy that I didn’t know what to DO with it! I’m a practical gal and want my crafts to be useful.

Then I was trolling around on Pinterest and I saw the idea for making a pincushion out of an old cup.

I like pincushions.

I have lots of old cups.

Cups are round at the top and about 3-4 inches in diameter.

My woven circle was 3.5 inches in diameter . . .

Hey ho!

I went online and ordered the stuff of which pincushions are made—I ordered both emery sand, the stuff that goes into the little strawberries attached to traditional pincushions, and ground walnut shells, an alternative to emery sand. Both are abrasive and meant to keep needles and pins sharp and free of rust.

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And, for one happy, (mostly) carefree morning last week, I sewed and glued and fussed and fumed until my pincushion was finished.

I chose a vintage mug made by FireKing of so-called Jadeite. My mother had one of these when I was a kid so it has nostalgic value. (I have to admit I just researched, belatedly, and learned I could probably have sold this single cup for $25-$30 . . . oh, well!)

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I like the mid-century aesthetic and sturdiness of this cup and there’s one stripe of green in my woven piece that sort of matches the green in the cup.

To make the pincushion, all I did was dig out some scraps of quilt batting I had on hand, to fill the bulk of the cup. The emery sand and walnut shells would become expensive if I was filling the whole cup with them!

I cut two circles of finely-woven muslin about a half-inch larger than my weaving. I sewed them together and left a small opening, and used my teeny funnel to fill the little bag with ground walnut shells. I tried to fill it really full. Then I finished sewing up the opening.

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I hand sewed my weaving on top of the bag of walnut shells.

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I fussed around to figure out how much batting I needed to fill the cup and, when I had it right, I used the handle of a spoon to help me tuck the weaving and pincushion bag into the cup.

Then came the part I liked least—the glue gun! I am not proficient with glue guns, though I did find one that worked here in my house. I tried to be careful but still managed to get glue on the cup, on the weaving, on the counter, on my hands. It doesn’t show up too much in any of those places . . .

The finished pincushion! Super cute, huh?

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When I got done with that part, I still had my mojo working so I dissected a tea bag and used it as a template to make my own little muslin tea bag, to fill with emery sand. Since emery sand is the traditional filler for pincushions, I wanted to have at least a little of that available for use.

The sewing on the tea bag does not represent my finest crafting hour, it’s true. I was getting impatient to finish and didn’t think things completely through. But the thing was finished in one morning, and, frankly, I quite love it!

I learned a lot so, if I ever decide to do this again, I can make changes.

  • I would try one using a cup with a saucer; I could glue the two together and give myself a little saucer/tray to hold my spool of thread, etc.
  • I would dig through my damaged vintage linens to find alternatives to the woven circle. I am always trying to find ways to use vintage bits of embroidery or crochet and it would be fun to match such things with cups from different eras.
  • I would look for braid or trim or something to add to the place where the pincushion meets the cup, to hide the glue more effectively.
  • I would not leave a spool of 100 yards of tatting thread lying around, as temptation to the kitten from Hades.

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I am pretty pumped to add pincushion maker to my list of crafty skills! Is there an easy, one-day project you’ve turned to, when the big projects get overwhelming?

Here’s to All Our New Starts

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We’re obsessed. It’s everywhere, on Facebook, on our blogs, all the places we communicate with others. We’re all talking about this new start, this new chance, this new leaf to turn.

2016—this new year.

We’re making resolutions and goals and lists and choosing “one little word” to guide and motivate us. We’re talking about the projects we finished as the old year ended and the ones we’ll start today, to start the year right..

I’m just fascinated by all the weight and symbolism we assign to the new year.

I’ve been doing it all morning.

I wrote in my personal journal about the goals I have for this year.

I went for a walk, to start the year right. When I got to the hill, I didn’t stop and turn back. I went to the top . . . to start the year right.

It was cloudy—was that a sign that the year might be bleak? No, look at that expanse of unsullied snow—that’s surely a sign, a metaphor for the year before me.

And, look, the sun is coming out after all!

Now, I’m going to go wash the sheets and tidy the kitchen counters and wind a new warp and cut some fabric for a quilt . . . to be sure to start this year right!

I’m sure humans have been doing this since calendars were invented. As soon as we could point to one day that was an Ending and the next a Beginning, we started thinking about those days differently than all others and we started thinking about our lives differently from that day to this.

I imagine all calendar-based cultures have superstitions about these new years and starting them well. If I were a grad student again, maybe I’d research these superstitions. But I am a blogger now, and rumination wins out over research.

The one tradition that I am most aware of is the eating of pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. When I moved to central Pennsylvania, I was introduced to this tradition and, boy, did they take it seriously! A guy I knew told about his grandfather who was in the hospital on New Year’s and was not given pork and sauerkraut. So, he died. Bad luck, indeed!

No one could tell me where the practice came from so I researched it and learned that the tradition came from Pennsylvania Germans. They believed that it was good luck to eat pork because pigs root forward, symbolic of the future and progress, while other animals scratch backwards. The eating of sauerkraut meant that the bitter of the year could be dispensed with on the first day, leaving the rest of the year for the sweet.

Because I am the past, present, and future President of the Pollyanna Fan Club (no term limits—yay!), all the signs and symbols I see are positive, all I see before me in this new year are possibilities and opportunities. Even the fact that I was up at 3 a.m. today (and, no, it wasn’t because I had stayed out all night partying) can be turned into a sign of being eager to begin this new, special year.

But I think that’s human nature. Does any good Pennsylvania German sit down to pork and sauerkraut and think, “Humph. The pig is dead and it’s just fermented cabbage, not magic. This year is clearly going to suck”? Does anyone raise that glass of bubbly and say, “We who are about to die, salute you”?

Nah. We relish our positive signs and good portents and wish each other well. We choose to believe that this, this, will be the best year.

I really like this about human nature, yours and mine. We all know that this is a day like any other day, it’s just an arbitrary marker. And, yet, we use it to challenge ourselves to be better, to do better. We celebrated last night in ways consistent with what we want for year. Some of us went out and were social and adventurous, others stayed home and were cozy and mellow, all hoping to lay the groundwork for a very fine year.

But, maybe, when the bloom is off the new year and its spiffy new shine seems tarnished, we should remind ourselves that a new beginning is a state of mind and only an arbitrary marker. Every new day starts a new year, a new cycle in our lives, and we should greet them all with wonder.