Home Ick

I was ironing from my stash of vintage linens recently and came across an apron that set off a wave of memories for me.

IMG_4682

The fabric is vintage 1960s, sort of cool and retro. The sewing is novice—the waist band is applied awkwardly, so the uneven stitching creates puckers and wrinkles. The colors—the turquoise ties that match nothing in the main fabric—would appeal to a young girl.

I’d bet a lot of simolians that the apron was a project from a long ago Home Ec class.  

I was a young girl, a novice at sewing in the 1960s, too . . . I took classes in this thing Americans called Home Economics. 

It must’ve been the late 1960s and I was probably in 7th or 8th grade. The boys took “Shop” and used woodworking tools and learned about car engines, while the girls took Home Ec and learned about cooking and sewing. 

For a person who now loves sewing and even quite likes baking, I hated Home Ec. Even then, as a 12- or 13-year-old, I thought of it as Home Ick.

I have these clear memories of the teacher showing us how to butter bread. She stressed that we needed to spread the butter or mayonnaise or peanut butter right up to the edges of the bread, very carefully right up to the edges, so that the bread would stay moist . . . for our husbands and children.

She told us to take two slices of bread out of the package and open the slices like pages of a book so, when we put them back together, with filling, they would fit and match perfectly . . . for our husbands and children.

She taught us that it was of utmost importance, when measuring liquids, to squat down and look at liquid in the measuring cup at eye level, so we would get the precise amount and our cookies would turn out perfect . . . for our husbands and children.

Ai yi yi.

The sewing lessons were just as lame, to my 12-year-old sensibilities. We sewed one seam up a length of cloth to make a tube, stuffed it full of batting, and tied the two ends closed with cord and called it a bolster pillow. Really?

We also did class presentations on makeup and I remember a classmate intoning that we shouldn’t use eyeliner because it was passé. I was impressed that she could the word “passé” in a sentence but that whole thing about eyeliner . . . ?

I like to think I was ahead of my time, a mini-feminist in the making. Maybe the attitudes of the late 1960s and 1970s were influencing me, even in the backwoods of upstate New York, but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as ridiculous. 

Maybe it was because my mother and father both worked and I had long made my own sandwiches . . . but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as really, really ridiculous.

Maybe it was because what we were being taught was SO basic, not to mention sexist, and I knew the boys were learning skills of value—changing the oil on a car, making book ends with power tools—and no one was ever suggesting that they do it just so, for their wives and children.

Home Ec died a few years later at my school. I believe it has since been reincarnated, in different forms, in some schools. Boys can learn to cook and girls can take Shop, or not, as electives. Maybe they’re also teaching budgeting and organizational skills, and useful life skills, beyond how to butter bread and disdain eyeliner.

Thinking about my own Home Ec experience has me wondering—was it just that my experience was a lame one? Did other teachers, in other schools, provide a better, fuller range of skills? The person who stitched the vintage apron certainly learned to sew more than a bolster pillow! 

Was Home Ec just a thing in the United States? Did/do schools in other countries use valuable school hours teaching such things?

Do tell—what experience did you have with Home Ick?

IMG_4690

Advertisements

Hand Quilt Along: On the Road

Sand and suntan lotion and a trip far from home do not lend themselves to hand quilting on a big unwieldy project.

And that is why hand quilters always need a portable project to tote along!

While my women’s rights quilt languishes at home, cold and alone, my fusion squares are enjoying a vacay.

And they are proliferating. At last report, I had finished 54 of these 5-inch squares. I have now finished 97, plus I have 12 more on this trip with me.

IMG_4778

I have woven in all the crocheted ends and blocked the crochet trim on all the squares.

I am feeling like this project might be reaching its logical next step—the crocheting together of  all ochocino-neuve-jillions of squares into one big square, to be known as THE Fusion Quilt. 

I have so many gorgeous bits–some are subtle, some are sophisticated, some are splashy, some are very “loving hands at home.” I love them all.

Does this mean I have used up all the scraps of vintage prettiness that spawned the project?

Not, it does not.

I have dozens more 5-inch squares that may, one day, be incorporated into another quilt. 

But, for now, I’m going to wash the suntan lotion off my hands, stick my feet in the white sand, and sew in the sun. And get ready to finish this project!


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

A Gift to Me

What was the last thing you made for yourself? Just as a special gift to yourself?

If you had asked me that question a couple of months ago, I would have been completely stumped.

I mean, I have handwoven dishtowels I use every day but I only keep the ones that have small mistakes that make them unfit for gift giving or selling.

I have orphan placemats, too. I might set out to weave a set of six, to sell on Etsy or at a craft show, and end up eking out 7. So I keep the extra one.

And, of course, I have kept quilts I’ve made but I don’t really think of those as something I made for myself. I just make them because I have an idea I like and then tend to stick them in a closet and forget about them.

But I’ve been working on a couple of custom orders and doing lots of making for other people lately and I simply had a mind to rebel.

I made something for myself.

Just for me.

Something sort of frivolous and not really my style. 

I made a big, comfy shawl. 

IMG_4692

I rarely go anywhere that this shawl would be appropriate. My clothing style runs to jeans and turtlenecks and sneakers.

And I can’t really use it at home because I am rarely without a cat on my lap and cats have claws . . .

But I love my shawl.

I chose colors that make me happy—the very low-key blue and tan go with every single thing I own, like denim jeans!

The fiber is a blend of alpaca and silk. It’s soft and light as air, and warm as well.

I made the shawl big and long and wide, in a pattern called a plaited twill. 

IMG_4697

The weaving of it was fun and just a little challenging. I bought one pound of yarn in each color and used almost every last inch of both.

I’ve worn the shawl twice so far, once out to dinner and once to a concert in a chilly theatre.

And it made me feel like a queen.

I intend to make more gifts just for me!

I’ll ask it again—what was the last thing you made, just for yourself?

I hope it was something wonderful—you deserve it.

IMG_4743

Hand Quilt Along: That’s the Truth

Since we last gathered here to talk hand quilting, I finished only one block but it’s one of my favorite quotes in the quilt. There’s not much new to say about the quilting so I’ll tell you about Sojourner Truth.

IMG_4561

I’m not sure how familiar she is to Americans, let alone folks from other countries.

Sojourner Truth was an African-American slave. She was born into slavery, in 1797, in New York state and named Isabella Baumfree. When she was 29, she escaped slavery with her infant daughter. 

She was a force to be reckoned with.

Truth became active in both the abolitionist movement and the women’s suffrage movement and gave a notable speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851. The speech, known as “Aint’ I A Woman?,” comes to us in different forms, written down, in some cases years later, by those who heard Truth speak. The most famous version is probably not particularly accurate, since it is written in southern dialect and Truth grew up in New York, speaking Dutch. 

Regardless, all agreed that the speech powerfully put forth an argument for the rights of black women; being both black and women, they were doubly limited in rights and often overlooked by the two movements.

The quote on my quilt seems to be from an interview with Truth, published in The Complete History of Women’s Suffrage – All 6 Volumes in One Edition, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Gage, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Ida H. Harper and available on Google Books. 

I must sojourn once to the ballot-box before I die. I hear the ballot-box is a beautiful glass globe, so you can see all the votes as they go in. Now, the first time I vote I’ll see if the woman’s vote looks any different from the rest–if it makes any stir or commotion. If it don’t inside, it need not outside.

The words may make it seems that Truth had a naive, almost child-like, vision of a ballot box but nothing I’ve ever read about her suggests she was naive. Rather, I take her words to be canny and maybe a little sarcastic.

What’s important to me, since we can’t really know what she meant, is her use of the metaphor of the glass globe.

I think we lose track of what it means to have a vote, to have a personal say in the way our world operates. Never having been denied it, we don’t appreciate our good fortune.

The metaphor of the glass globe carries the reminder we need:

A glass globe is perfectly round, all parts being equal, with no part above the other.

A glass globe is precious, rare, difficult to achieve.

A glass globe is fragile and must be handled carefully and thoughtfully preserved.

A glass globe is transparent—there’s no hiding what goes on within.

This is what voting should be, in my world and yours. We need to do our part to preserve the glass globe and demand that our leaders do their part to preserve it.

Sojourner Truth did go to the ballot box once before she died.

In 1872, she attempted to register and vote in Michigan but was turned away.

Her life and her words, though, contributed to our never being turned away. Vote as if your right was a beautiful glass globe.

IMG_4562


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

Of Making Hay and Glamour Shots

As the daughter of a dairy farmer, one phrase has always had great meaning to me: “Make hay while the sun shines.”

We needed hay to feed the cows during winter. But wet hay, that which had been rained upon, would moulder in the haymow or, worse, could spontaneously combust, burst into flames–the last thing one wants in a barn.

So, we watched the weather and did as the proverb told us—grabbed the sunny days, put other chores aside, and brought in the hay.

Now I am equally aware of sunny days but I grab them for a different purpose.

Now my motto is, “Take pix when the sun shines.”

I’ve been selling vintage linens on Etsy for over 8 years and probably the single most important aspect of that is good photos. And good photos of vintage linens, or anything, really, depends on natural light.

When I initially get the linens I sell, they are often in pretty unappealing shape. I’ve written elsewhere about my whiz-bang techniques for getting out stains and brightening up the linens.

But the rest of the process is equally important. 

When I get a sunny day, I approach my linen photos as glamour shots. 

Do you remember glamour shots from the 1980s and 1990s? Was that only an American thing? Women would get a makeover, with big hair, lots of dramatic makeup, some glittering jewels or maybe a feather boa, and a professional photographer would employ soft lighting and maybe a bit of blur or air brushing to create the glamour. 

I never had my glamour shot taken, but my linens get them regularly!

First, I iron; that’s the makeover part. I’m always surprised, when I go looking at the other listings on Etsy for vintage linens (or even more so on eBay) how many sellers don’t bother to iron! The ironing might be my favorite part and certainly it transforms the linens from bedraggled to beautiful.

Then I find a sunny window, where there’s good light that doesn’t shine directly on the table I’m using.

The combination of a sunny day and the light shining just right in a window is a tough one here, in the winter.

I usually take 15-20 photos of each set of napkins or tablecloth or hankie. I can use up to 10 of those photos in an Etsy listing. 

After all these years of doing it, I have a sort of routine. First, the boring photo of the full item.

IMG_4259

This one will be the last of the 10 photos customers see. If the item has any flaws—a tiny hole or a noticeable spot, I take photos of those, too. 

IMG_4263

I take extreme close-ups if the item has amazing detail, like hand embroidery or fancy lace. 

I take photos of different angles, trying to catch the beauty of the fabric and colors.

Damask linen, which has a tone-on-tone design woven into the fabric, can be the most difficult to photograph well—it can just look like plain old white cloth.

Early on, I read on the internet that, to capture the beauty of damask linen, one needed “strong, raking light,” or light from a deep angle, which can reveal texture. 

So, I stalk around the table, bending low, moving the item slowly around, until the pattern emerges, until the lush sheen of the linen and the flamboyant damask design of mums or roses or fleurs de lis show to advantage. 

I love this process and can get WAY too caught up in it, spending 20 minutes trying to get the perfect photo of something I’ll be selling for eight bucks. 

Like my farming forbears, I watch the forecast and look for sunny days. I set aside other obligations and plans for those days and use them for taking Etsy photos. In mid-January, we had two sunny days in a row and I took over 425 photos.

I see now that Monday will be sunny and you know what I’ll be doing . . . making hay taking glamour shots of napkins!

Building Your Word Power: Sastruga

Over the years, I’ve posted photos of one of my favorite winter phenomena and a couple of years ago, blogger Sandra, from A Corner of Cornwall, told me there was a fancy name for it!

Sastruga (pl. sastrugi) It means: “ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind.”

When the wind screams off the lake, it sculpts the snow into constantly changing shapes . . . sastrugi.

Some are subtle.

IMG_5392

Some are gorgeous, sinuous, and flashy.IMG_3303

It may look like striations in rock

IMG_5397

Or waves of water, breaking

img_6444

img_6458

Or just plain peculiar . . .

img_2757

This was from earlier this week. Those “duck bills” have an overhang of at least a foot!

Sastruga–A new word for you–you’ll need to use it three times, in a sentence, to make it your own . . .

Would you ever have a need for such a word, in your neck of the woods?