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. 

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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. 

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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.

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Vintage Ménage à Trois?

Those vintage Mister and Missus towels, as well as the His and Hers towels, always seemed so prim and proper.

Until today . . .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!