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!

Hand Quilt Along: Reinspired

I’m back.

Back to the hand quilting work I started last year and walked away from for many months.

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If you asked me why I came back now, after this long hiatus, I’d tell you that the sun is shining in my front window, right on my quilting chair. And the sun beckons me.

I’d tell you that winter is the best time to quilt because it’s so warm and cozy under that blanket of fabric.

I’d say that I have just gotten sick to death seeing the quilt cluttering up my living room and I only want it finished.

But the real reason I’m back, right now, is this:

 

You may not recall, it’s been so long, but my quilt is a celebration of women’s rights and includes quotes from women of many backgrounds. Those women and their words inspire me.

And these women and their deeds are inspiring me.

Our new Congress, seated in January, is the most diverse mix ever, and many of new faces are women. 

(From Elle magazine, “A Woman’s Place is in the House” by and 

These faces, those determined faces, without a trace of a coquettish, man-pleasing smile, linking arms and staring directly into our eyes, inspired me to get back to my work, to honor all the women who stand tall and are willing to take on all comers, in order to make the world a better place.

These women believe this:

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And I believe in these women.


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

 

Hardanger Hijinks

There’s a new stitch-along in town.

Kathy, at Sewing, Etc., is doing tutorial on how to work hardanger.

Hardanger is a special needlework technique that combines embroidery and drawn thread work. You embroider and cut, embroider and cut, all while hyperventilating and hoping you don’t cut too much or too far.

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From Kathy’s blog–see how she’s cutting those threads? Eek.

I’ve seen a lot of hardanger in my years of selling vintage linens and am fascinated by the technique but I told Kathy I wasn’t going to participate in her stitch-along.

And then, you know, she posted the first instructions in a tutorial.

And I said, what the heck.

I whipped out some pretty blue linen I just happened to have on hand—not too fine cuz I’m new to this—and some white thread and I just took the plunge.

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It went pretty well, don’t you think?

I made two placemats then got bored with the pattern so I made two more with a different pattern.

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Then I thought, well, who wants a set of four placemats when six is within reach and I just dashed off two more in yet another different pattern.

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I’m darn good at this, huh?

And then, since I had more fabric left and I was feeling frisky, I stitched up a cute little apron.

I am the queen of hardanger.

Wait . . . why are you looking at me like that? As if you doubt me? Don’t believe me?

I can see what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Really, Kerry??”

NO!

Not really! Ha.

Of course I didn’t make these pretty things. They were part of a stash of vintage linens I got recently. According to a handwritten tag attached to them, they are Danish.

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But they are a beautiful example of the hardanger techniques. You can see how the white embroidery frames and secures the background cloth so that threads of that blue cloth can be cut and removed to create the classic look.

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So, no. I’m not joining this stitch-along. I have plenty to keep me busy and feeling stressed without adding another deadline to my life. But I’ll follow along, watching the progress made by others, and offer my pretty vintage hardanger as inspiration.

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Hand Quilt Along: An Old-Fashioned Quilter

quilting-2581992_1920“You think you’ve got it bad?? When I was your age, we walked 5 miles to school. In blinding snow. And it was uphill . . . both ways!”

We’ve all heard this sort of harkening back to the olden days and how much easier the younger generation’s life is. And we’ve been annoyed by it.

Well, this is Hand Quilt Along Sunday and Kathy Reeves had this notion that maybe the hand quilters were busy doing other holiday-type things, with little time for quilting these past three weeks. She suggested we write, instead, about how we got our start in the world of quilt making.

For a lapsed hand quilter, such as I, this was a welcome invitation! 

And what I have to say to the newer, younger generation of quilters is:

You think you’ve got it bad?? When I started quilting there were no rotary cutters! There were no specialty quilt shops, no celebrity quilters with YouTube channels. No fancy, odd-shaped rulers and dandy cutting mats and twee kits for every conceivable quilty creation.

We had scissors. Cardboard templates. Fabric from JC Penneys. 

I made my first quilt wen I was about 17. I have no idea why I made it, really.

I come from a crafty family but no one quilted. I don’t remember ever seeing a quilt. Fine hand-crafted clothing, crocheted afghans, embroidered pillowcases abounded but no quilts . . . 

But, when I was 17 or 18 years old, I had a book and there was a black and white photo of a double Irish chain quilt. And I was smitten.

I went to Woolworth’s, the local 5 and 10 cent store, and bought fabric in three colors, off-white, pink, and a deep red that matched the ruby glassware my grandmother loved.

The book didn’t provide a pattern but I figured things out and used my mother’s old sewing machine and made that quilt, big enough for my double bed. I used a light blanket as batting and tied the corners instead of quilting it. 

And I loved that quilt to pieces. It is long gone but fondly remembered. I wish I had a photo to share!

I didn’t make another quilt for nearly 20 years and rotary cutters still hadn’t been invented, or at least they hadn’t made it to my small town. But I had a good book to guide me, the classic Quilts, Quilts, Quilts, by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, and I bought somewhat better fabric. I learned to hand quilt and made two or three quilts, and then took another multi-year hiatus from quilting.

Then I retired and have had time to get back to quilting but, my, how that world has changed! New techniques, new tools, new, and expensive, machinery. New ways of teaching and learning, and tons of sources of information. In my quilt guild of about 180, only two or three of us quilt by hand, everyone knows the names of the fabric designers, and most of the quilts are made from instructions by famous quilters, or from kits.     

I felt, and still do, really, that quilting had left me behind. I feel as out of touch with modern quilting as my grandmothers would feel if they were alive and set down in our modern computer-driven, social media world. 

I could, of course, move into the modern. I could get the long-arm quilting machine and the fancy rulers and a big stash of expensive designer fabric.

I started my quilting life modestly and I think that’s where I’ll end it. I am drawn to what quilting used to be more than what it is now.

I will stick to the traditional patterns and come up with my own colors and ways of putting blocks together, using graph paper and colored pencils. I’ll sew with my reliable Singer Featherweight. I’ll come up with an idea and go find fabric rather than accumulating a huge stash. I’ll quilt by hand and finish, maybe, a couple more quilts in this lifetime. 

I’ll admire, stand in awe of, quilts by modern quilters . . . but to my own self be true.

But don’t try to take my rotary cutter away from me! You’d have to pry it from my cold, dead hands . . . 


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,  NanetteSassy , EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

Scrap Happy, Interrupted

It was to be the perfect scrap happy project. Scraps of leftover handwoven fabric, scraps of leftover commercial fabric, scraps of sweet-smelling filler what had been languishing a long time.

And, yet, it has not come to pass.

It seems that whenever I weave multiple kitchen towels, from lovely cotton and linen, I inevitably end up with a piece of pretty fabric that is too short to be a towel.

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I’ve tried passing them off as bread basket liners or small table mats but discerning folks seem to know that they are simply too-short towels.

What to do with pretty scraps? I mean, it’s woven by hand and I can’t just throw it away!

Well . . . how about combining them with scraps of white cotton fabric, leftover from some long-finished quilt project, and adding some balsam or lavender or even cedar shavings, all of which I have on hand (I know—that’s odd, isn’t it?) and making sweet sachets?

I love this idea. Easy to make, cute to behold, perfect for a little gift.

Off I went to make a prototype. I had fusible web already cut in 5-inch squares from another project. I stabilized and cut my handwoven fabric, I cut my backing, I sewed them together, I clipped the corners, and turned it all right side out.

I cut the top off a plastic soda bottle to make a little funnel.

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And I went to dig out my bags of balsam, lavender, and cedar shavings that had been languishing.

Languishing far too long, as it turns out.

They all, every one, have lost their scent. Nothing sweet, or spicy, or woodsy left at all.

And what is a sachet without a scent? Just a bag of organic matter . . .

The scentless stuff won’t go to complete waste—it will add depth to my compost pile, I’m sure.

I know where to get more balsam, and lavender, and cedar shavings. Scraps of fabric, both commercial and handwoven, seem to multiply while I sleep.

This scrap happy project has not come to pass. But it will.

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ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen and Connie