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.

Remember Me, When This You See

IMG_4004

Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,

Say that health and wealth have missed me,

Say I’m growing old, but add,

Jenny kissed me.

–James Henry Leigh Hunt

How would you have people remember you, when you’re gone? What do you want them to know, to focus on, in their memories?

The sweet poem at the top of the post came to mind while I was writing, a few months ago, about Harriett and the linen cloth she decorated with her handwork.

The man speaking the poem asserts that, whatever else his life held, it was leavened, and defined, by a kiss from Jenny. This attention, this moment, was an essential part of his being and should be remembered as a key to who he was.

Similarly, the tag sewn to the piece of vintage linen I came across said simply, “Made by Harriett.” That’s all I know about Harriett. I only know her through this remnant of her life. I know she was a maker and someone, maybe her, was proud enough to remark on it in this semi-permanent way.

I know Harriett was creative, skilled, and striving to become better at her work. I have tangible evidence of this and, across the years, I admire this part of the person she was.

So, all this gets me thinking—how do I want to be known and remembered? Do you ever think about such things?

I don’t have kids so I won’t be remembered through them. I imagine even people with children might want to be remembered as more than “the parents of X” and remembered by more people than their direct descendants.

It would be good to be remembered as a caring and fun daughter, a loving and fun wife. It would be nice to be remembered as a kind person or a smart person but those impressions are subjective and ephemeral. Who is going to remember, in 100 years, that I was fun or kind to animals or had a Ph.D.? And besides, those things hardly set me apart or make my life notable. I bet most of us could make similar claims!

But I’ve made things no one else has made.

How pleased I would be if, generations from now, someone held a quilt I made, a scarf I wove, a piece of embroidery I stitched and admired it. If they thought that I was creative, skilled, and striving to become better at my work. If they knew, “Kerry made this.”

So, with apologies to the poet:

Say my life was happy, glad,

Built my life and wouldn’t trade this.

Say I lived a lot, but add,

Kerry made this.

The Sound of a Door Closing

closed for the season

photo by Alison Hurt

Listen—did you hear that? That was the sound of the door closing on my candy shop, for the 2013-2014 season.

One of the best things about working with chocolate is that you can’t do it when it’s warm. Chocolate simply cannot be tempered if the temperature is above about 70 degrees. So, as a home-based chocolatier, with no interest in a bigger operation, the coming of summer means the end of chocolate making. Right when I want to do other things, I can!

I just finished dipping the last of the candy that I will take to a spring boutique later this week. Last week, I deactivated the candy listings on Etsy. I’m out of the chocolate business until October!

I’m both happy and a bit verklempt about the end of the season. It was a good year, and very busy. I plowed through the 230 pounds of Callebaut chocolate I wrote about in August and had to order 55 pounds more of milk chocolate. That adds up to something like 700,000 calories worth of chocolate, spread around the US!

I did my first-ever face-to-face sale in December and it went so well I’m doing another on Wednesday, with a lot let angst this time.

I developed some new candies, most notably lemon meltaways and Irish cream meltaways, both with silky smooth flavored-chocolate innards, dipped in more chocolate. I also added delicate, crispy English toffee to my offerings.

I’ll miss my little morning routine of drinking my coffee, getting caught up with the news, and putting on my apron. I mostly make candy in the very early morning and those hours will be open to me now.

I’ll miss the smells—the chocolate, of course, the caramel bubbling on the stove, the mint oil, the peanut butter. And I’ll miss the heavy responsibility of taste testing!

But, as they say, when one door closes, another opens.

It is finally beginning to be spring in upstate New York so the door opens to lawn and gardens, and they need a lot of work.

The door opens to the linen closet, too—I have been very lax about listing vintage linens on Etsy and those piles of pretty linens are not getting any smaller!

The door will open soon to another glorious summer on beautiful Lake Champlain and summer activities—bike rides to go for soft ice cream, garage sales, campfires, and s’mores, and family time.

Who wants to be in the kitchen, making candy, when there’s so much else to do?!

So, I’ll go downstate and sell candy for one more day. I’ll stash any leftovers for sampling and sharing over the summer. I’ll put away the candy equipment and ingredients and soak my apron in Oxi-Clean to get the chocolate out.

And I’ll go outside, to play in the sun. I’ll weave things and finish a quilt. I’ll talk to you and do a lot of ironing of pretty things. I’ll get back to that list of things I’ve been meaning to do (IBMTD)!

And, along about September, I’ll start yearning for the smell of melted chocolate and the comfort of the candy-making routine. And then the door will open again. . .

 

From the Permanent Collection: The KerryCan Tablecloth

IMG_6786I got into the vintage linens biz on Etsy because my collection of vintage linens had grown to massive, ridiculous, and embarrassing proportions. Beautiful tablecloths, napkins, runners, pillowcases, (etc. etc., to the nth power!), boxed up and stored, never seeing the light of day or being appreciated.

So, I decided to find good homes for them and have done so for almost 600 pieces, at last count!

But, as you might expect, I keep a few special pieces for myself—some lovely, some quirky, some with sentimental meaning.

One item that has entered, and will remain in, my permanent collection is this appliquéd tablecloth of a 1940s housewife, engaged in her daily tasks.

When I started to develop an on-line presence, on Etsy, Facebook, and here on my blog, I needed an avatar. I’ve never been much of one for posting many photographs of myself on-line and I was in a rush to get my little Etsy shop open so I just decided to use a picture I had taken for one of the tablecloths I intended to sell.

IMG_6805It was, I’ve decided, a most fortuitous decision. Over the years, I’ve come to feel like the woman on the tablecloth is like a little portrait of me, done in faded cotton and thread.

I love the details in this hand-sewn appliqué—the hairdo, the big apron bow, the seams up the back of the stockings! I don’t have that hair, my apron is sturdy canvas with lots of smears of chocolate, and I avoid nylons at all costs, let alone ones with seams up the back.

And yet, I feel great affection and affinity for this woman. She’s busy, she’s industrious, she’s always into something. She keeps a cleaner house than I do but, like me, she spends a lot of time in the kitchen.

She turns her loving hands to home.

If you look at her closely, you’ll see she’s come a bit undone, she’s wrinkled, and faded. Hey, it happens to all of us at some point! But she still stays presentable and engaged in her world.

She was for sale for a while but, thankfully, no one saw her for the lovely star she is. I came to my senses and returned her to the pile of my special linens. She keeps me company in the kitchen and at craft sales.

IMG_4037I love the thought of the person who sewed her and the layers of handiwork. The maker worked long and hard to make a tablecloth—a practical, working item—and decorated it with designs of a woman working. And now it’s come to represent a bit of work I do.

That’s a lot of loving hands at home!

A Tale of Two Towels

It was the best of towels, it was the worst of towels . . .

Have you ever seen a gorgeous handmade item and, because you couldn’t afford it, tried to make it yourself? Of course you have! Isn’t that what all the do-it-yourself boards on Pinterest encourage us to do?

This impulse isn’t new. People seem always to have wanted to possess beauty beyond their means to afford. Evidence of this came home to me in a poignant pairing of vintage linens recently.

One huge category of vintage linens is towels—kitchen towels, dish towels, tea towels, bath towels; mostly these towels were meant to be used and used hard.

But another whole category of towels exists in what is often called “show” or “display” towels. Display towels weren’t meant to be used—they were designed to show off. These towels were usually made of highest-quality linen, often in damask. Damask linen is often very fine linen with a subtle white-on-white (or any other single color) design that is created by weaving.

Understated and elegant damask combined with long, gorgeous (and impractical) fringe and with some sort of hand-worked embellishment combine to make a towel that should not be touched but simply displayed to communicate about refinement and good taste.

The hand craftsmanship in these expensive display towels was superior. The long fringe was hand braided and knotted to perfection. When other embellishment, such as drawn thread work was used, the threads seem to magically twist and turn, without any evidence of a human hand at work.

But what if you couldn’t afford that lush fabric? What if you didn’t have access to the beauty and craftsmanship of these stunning items but still understood the impulse to make a statement about your love of pretty things?

What if you were striving to move up, to transcend your roots, to show you understood beauty and refinement and taste, even if you couldn’t really afford to indulge in items that would demonstrate your understanding? What if you wanted a pretty show towel but couldn’t afford one?

You might try to make it yourself.

In my imagination, that’s what happened here.

homemade display towel-4This towel mimics the key elements of the expensive, high-quality towels.

It’s made of linen but, instead of very fine damask, this one is made of plain weave, possibly homespun, linen. It hasn’t been bleached pure white and slubs are apparent.

homemade display towel-2High-quality display towels have the damask tone-on-tone weave to add interest. Because this towel is not made of damask, the maker added color with red stitching. The stitching is the most apparent sign that this is handmade by an inexpert hand.

The maker used a lot of blanket stitch to finish edges and you can easily see how uneven the stitches are. The maker seems to have been counting threads to determine where to place stitches but, because the weave is uneven, the stitches look uneven. Also, the person who stitched this had trouble deciding what to do when she came to the end of a thread. Knots are all too noticeable.

homemade display towel-3High-quality towels have long, hand-braided fringe. This one does, too. The braiding is less meticulous and the fringe is shorter. (The fact that it looks meager is due to the fact that this towel was used and laundered. The fringe tangled and broke when it was combed out.)

Both towels incorporate the same drawn thread work to create open bands across the width of the towel. This is created by horizontal threads being cut and pulled from the weave. The vertical threads are then twisted and held by the introduction of a new horizontal thread.  The use of red thread in the homemade towel highlights the twisting white threads but also draws attention to unevenness in the design.

Both of these are handmade; one is obviously homemade.

Which one is better? Which is more treasured?

I have to admit, I admire the expensive fine towels—they draw me because they are simply so gorgeous. Lush, high-class, expensive, understated, yet elegant.

But I love the homemade towel; it speaks to me on a much more basic level. It reflects the hands of the maker in every stitch. The fancy towel was made by expert hands but the homemade towel was made by hands, loving hands, at home.

It’s homey, far from perfect, a little awkward, and out of place in a world that values beauty and money and perfection. But authentic.

It makes me a little sad to think that, of the two, the world will value the pretty and perfect towel.

My little handmade towel is like a homely, mixed breed puppy, likely to be overlooked as unlovely, especially when compared directly with a haughty, perfectly groomed purebred.

But I’ve always been a sucker for a stray. I’ll appreciate the beauty of the perfect towels, and then pass them on to others.

And I’ll keep the other towel, and display it, to serve as a tangible reminder of who I really am.

Just like the towel, I’m homey, far from perfect, a little awkward, and out of place in a world that values beauty and money and perfection. But authentic.

It was the best of towels . . .

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Battered Hands at Home Redux: The Readers Speak

file0001924831000Last week, I wrote about the battered hands of people who make things and I used my own poor hands as examples. I heard from lots of you about your hands (and feet, and shoulders, and knees!) It is clear that artists and crafters and antiquers are willing to go to heroic lengths in pursuit of their passion!

I can’t resist sharing my favorite comments with you (I edited some of them slightly, for consistency). If you’re not familiar with these wonderful bloggers and the things they make and sell, you should take a peek!

Yeah, I have sliced open my foot with a rotary cutter before  . . . Hello, emergency room! (http://papooseclothing.blogspot.com/)

Mine are minor, mostly hot glue gun burns . . . hammered my thumb more than a few times, and got my arm caught up in my rose bush. Nothing major thankfully! (http:/monpetitchateaudecor.wordpress.com)

As an antiques dealer, my scars don’t show but are definitely present in my everyday. My aching body reminds me of my passion more often than I prefer! (But I wouldn’t trade it for the world!) (homeologymodernvintage.com)

Scars from my life of antiquing are mainly a left shoulder that has a torn rotator cuff or tendons that I got trying to carry “my end” of a piece of furniture that outweighed me by a lot! My husband forgets that he is a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than me and I get “my half”  . . . Craft scars . . . hmm. Lots of cuts, punctures, burns, a dining room carpet covered by a gallon bucket of gesso, bending over the sewing machine so close that I caught the thread feed in the forehead . . . I once was sprinting to the door to catch the (really cute) UPS man and tripped and tackled the portable ceramic heater. So he heard a big crash and I answered the door with bleeding kneecaps and hiding a burned arm! “Are you OK?” Oh yes . . . fine . . . yikes. (hopeandjoyhome.blogspot.com)

I don’t have scars from vintage hunts, but I do have a nice callus from my crochet hook and sometimes pricked fingers from cross-stitch and sewing!! Boy, it hurts when you get jabbed in the finger from a needle! (magnoliasattic.blogspot.com)

I’ve done the hot sugar thing too! Well, it was at a campfire, and someone’s marshmallow caught fire and they flung it onto my finger (ouch!) I still have the scar. In general though, I’m just a clumsy sewer. I’m always stabbing accidentally stabbing myself! (jessthetics.wordpress.com)

Yep, there are lots of scars. One time I put the drill bit of the Flex Shaft into the webbing of my thumb and first finger (yes I reversed and pulled it right back out). There are lots of cuts and you can tell I sew a lot! The one thing I always dreaded getting was “weaver’s bottom”. That is when you sit at the loom a lot, rocking back and forth and for some reason weavers tend to have a little more padding on their bottoms for cushioning!  (shuttlehookandneedle.blogspot.com)

I don’t consider a project finished until I’ve bled on it. Eww, I know. But that’s how I put my heart in my work. (creatingmiranda.wordpress.com)

I was heartened to know that we are a sisterhood (no men admitting scars so far!) of battered but brave, scarred but not scared, marred but marvelous makers!

And how about you? Have you marks from your making that you’ve yet to share?

 

Why Vintage? Reason #4

IMG_2328I’m a sentimental fool. That’s why, since I started this series asking, “Why vintage?,” I’ve been looking forward to reason #4.

The question was, why do some people love vintage so much? The first reason I discussed was that vintage is fashionable; the second was a sense of ethics and commitment to reuse; the third was the related issues of cost and quality.

All of these aforementioned reasons are legit but the one that really gets to me, and to many lovers of vintage, is that these old things either belonged to, or are associated with, the people, places, and eras we loved and have lost.

4) It’s a choice motivated by a sense of sentiment and nostalgia

Some people just don’t get this at all. We all know these people. They can’t understand why anyone would want old, used stuff. They live in the present and don’t look back. I’m sure they love their families but they don’t need used belongings around to prove it!

If you’re one of those people, read on to learn about what makes the rest of us tick! The rest of you, the ones who get it already—think about your own precious reminders as you read about some of mine!

First let me make a distinction—the difference to me between sentiment and nostalgia is that the former has to do with affection for people and the latter has to do with a desire for a simpler time or place.

I get sentimental about the old things that bear the imprint of my family. Every vintage or antique item from my family tells a story. The story may be based on facts or it may be just one that I sort of made up to fit my memories but the story is what makes the object precious.

I have my grandmother’s baby cup. It has some extrinsic value—it’s fine quality, it’s an antique, it’s a lovely design.

Inscription: Lydia 1905

Inscription: Lydia 1905

None of that matters to me. All I can think about is the baby Lydia, born in 1905, who received the cup as a namesake gift from her great-aunt Lydia, who was born in 1847, and was the daughter of another Lydia born in 1808! Thinking of the baby Lydia playing with the pretty cup adds a dimension to my idea of my grandmother and has encouraged me to learn about the Lydias who came before her.

Lydia Bowen Wright, 1905

Lydia Bowen Wright, 1905-2002

Lydia Bowrn Thomas, 1847-1939

Lydia Bowrn Thomas, 1847-1939

Similarly, every time I fold a big old damask linen tablecloth, I have visions of that same grandmother and how she would fold one, to minimize the wrinkles at the fold lines. And that Jadeite coffee cup, just like the one my mother carried around the house all day when I was little! The old things aren’t just things—they speak to me about people.

I also get nostalgic in response to the vintage items I come across that were never owned by my actual family. If I see a table at a flea market with that 1960s Formica that had the boomerang shapes and the glitter, it transports me right back to the kitchen of the house we had when I was a happy little girl.

I have also accumulated vintage maple syrup tins because some of my fondest memories of growing up center around the sugar house we had on the farm and the process of making maple syrup. The tins just give me a warm, fuzzy feeling! And how about that great paint-by-numbers picture of sugaring down?

IMG_2321I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, too! The interactions I’ve had with people who buy vintage items from my Etsy shop and with blog readers tell me that sentiment and nostalgia are behind a lot of vintage love. Just a few of the comments I’ve received:

  • Thank you for the lovely damask napkins. They are every bit as soft as my grandmother’s were!
  • I was so pleased . . . It reminds me of linens my Grandmother had.
  • My mother had one just like this!
  • I especially cherish a bread basket liner she crocheted with the word “bread” misspelled. I think I love it more so because it isn’t perfect.
  • I wonder who owned these things, what was their story? . . . I guess I see a lot of character in those old items while new shiny items have no stories to tell yet.

There sure are a lot of us out there!

It’s true one can become overwhelmed by the reminders of the past. I know people who have so many knickknacks from their grandparents, recipes from their mothers, toys from when they were children, concert tickets from when they were in college, pictures of their children, etc., etc., that they find it difficult to surface from the memories and the detritus.

I am trying to reach a point where I pick a few extra-special items that connect me to my past and let the rest go. My cousins plan to line up all the stuffed toys and dolls they’ve kept from their childhood and take a photo and then get rid of the toys themselves. But I know I simply will not want to part with a lot of things. And so I won’t!

How about you? What is your most treasured piece of family history? What do you collect for reasons of sentiment or nostalgia? Christmas ornaments? Mid-century dishes? Or does it all just leave you cold?

 

Loving Hands in the Kitchen: Yet Another . . .

choco chip cookies. . . recipe for chocolate chip cookies! Does the blogosphere need another recipe for chocolate chip cookies? Almost certainly not. But I’m posting this anyway because you might be in the mood right this minute for decadent cookies and, this way, you’ll need look no further.

Besides, I realized I write a lot about people making things but you have little evidence that I ever make anything myself!

I decided to make these particular cookies because we had a pantry assessment tour at our house and found mountains of oatmeal and chocolate chips. I don’t know how two people accumulated so much of those two ingredients but something needed to be done.

For me, cookies are just vehicles for the extras that get mixed in at the end. Sometimes I like a nice, understated snickerdoodle but, mostly, I want a big hearty cookie, brimming with goodies. These cookies fit the bill—I stir in what I have available. For instance, oatmeal. And chocolate chips. And then I found lots of walnuts, too, and coconut. You could leave out what you don’t like and add your own favorites. I’m told some people like raisins in oatmeal cookies (ick).

My add-ins: chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts. What would you put in? Leave out?

My add-ins: chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts. What would you put in? Leave out?

Be advised that these are not the light-colored cakey kind of chocolate chip cookies. These end up heavy and kind of flat and dense and moist and chewy.

Oatmeal/Chocolate Chip/Coconut/Walnut Cookies

Makes—3 ½ dozen cookies

Bake—about 10 minutes

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract*

2 cups all-purpose four

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon**

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups uncooked regular oatmeal

1 ½ cups coconut

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts or pecans

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Preheat over to 350.

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed, with an electric mixer, until creamy and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat well.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, and stir well. Add oats and coconut, and stir well. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Gently stir in chocolate chips and nuts by hand. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes*** or until brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan for a couple of minutes and then put them on a wire rack to cool further.

Notes:

* I make my own vanilla extract and used the one I made with bourbon for this recipe. Does it matter? Who knows! But it makes me feel like a real cook! And I always say that everything tastes better with a little bourbon.

** Have you tried Vietnamese cinnamon? It’s strong and rich and that’s how I like my men cinnamon.

*** If you have the patience, please consider baking one or two cookies at first, to get a sense of how long it will take. The last time I made these, I noted they took 9 minutes; this time it was more like 10 and a half. Baking is full of surprises!

The Maker’s Marks: Battered Hands at Home

The-Three-Spinning-Fairies-35Has your art or craft left its mark on you? Do you have calluses or scars that speak to the work your hands do?

I remember a fairy tale that fascinated me as a child. It was from the Grimm’s Fairy Tales and was called “The Three Spinning Fairies.” The three fairies all were physically marked by the work they did as spinners. One had a big, flat foot, from turning the wheel; one had a large underlip that hung over her chin, from wetting the thread; and the third had a very broad thumb, from twisting the thread.

The story gets me thinking about the ways our activities mark us. The musculature of the long-distance runner tells a tale of her hard work. The tanned and lined skin of the farmer speaks of a life working in the sun. I knew an elderly teacher who had develop a verbal tic of punctuating her every sentence with “shhh,” after years in the classroom.

The activities I engage in are easy by comparison yet even “loving hands at home” tell a tale. The work, and play, I do have left their marks. When I play the guitar regularly, I form calluses on my left hand (when I pick up the guitar irregularly, I just whine!) During gardening season, I perpetually have soil under my nails. I wake up every morning, and my joints are kind of creaky.

But some of the marks my hands bear deserve special recognition:

The most annoying

I don’t always choose to quilt but, when I do, I prefer handwork (I’m channeling that guy in the Dos Equis ad!). During the process of hand quilting, both hands are in action, the dominant hand on top, sort of rocking the needle through the layers of fabric, and the other hand under the quilt, deflecting the needle back up.

Each stitch pricks the top of the underside finger and, pretty soon, you have either a) a sore hole in your finger; b) a callus; or c) both.  I never have quite built up a fully protective callus, so this is a niggling injury. It completely stops progress because I cannot go on quilting until it heals.

I always thought I could incorporate this maker’s mark into a murder mystery. Someone is killed and the murder weapon reveals an odd pattern. The lack of a normal fingerprint on the third finger leads to a deranged quilt maker.

The most psychologically unsettling

I don’t have any actual scars from jewelry making, which is odd because I use more substantial and potentially damaging tools there than in any other hobby. But I have mental scars—I can feel, in my memories, the way the slender, sharp blade of the jeweler’s saw cuts into the side of my left index finger when I slip as I’m cutting the silver. It cuts right where the fingernail joins the skin at the side of your finger. And you know it’s going to happen. And you promise yourself it won’t, not this time. And then it does. Again. I wince just writing about it!

The most painful

The most painful injury I’ve had in pursuit of handmade heaven is a burn from hot sugar syrup. I regularly make caramels and toffee and, to do so, you need to cook sugar syrup to the “soft ball” stage—about 240 degrees. That’s hot. And sticky, so you can’t brush it off. The hot syrup sticks to your skin and stays hot and just . . . keeps . . . burning.

Last winter, during the height of candy-making season for my business, I flipped a big glob of hot syrup on my finger and it kind of wrapped around the base of the finger. I got it into cold water almost immediately but not soon enough to prevent huge blisters and scars. And, by the way, if you ever get hot food on your finger, do NOT stick your finger in your mouth! As much as it hurts to burn the skin on your hand, it’s worse on the tender skin inside your mouth. I’m just sayin’ . . .

The dumbest 

The dumbest injury I’ve sustained came when I was working in a gallery, as a picture framer. I was handling a big piece of glass to put in a frame over a poster—it was about 3 feet by 2 feet. I finally got the glass all clean and I picked it up to place it in the frame. But a scrap of paper had gotten stuck to the underside glass, with a little bit of masking tape. It was just a little bit stuck so I figured I could dislodge it, without putting the glass down.

I gave the huge sheet of glass a little shake, just to knock that tape off, and it pretty much exploded in my hands! Glass everywhere, including one big sharp dagger of a piece that embedded itself in my palm. The good news: it could’ve been so such worse! The bad news: the scar dissects the lifeline on my left palm, creating great confusion when I get my fortune told!

People think that crafting and cooking are delicate pastimes, for those with soft lady-like hands. You and I know different! Any beloved, repeated activity leaves its mark upon us, whether physical or psychological. I look at my hands, after a lifetime of using them to make all kinds of things, and they aren’t pretty.

They do, however, look capable and strong and agile. And I will take capable, strong, and agile over pretty any day!

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Do you have scars and calluses to show you’ve lived a busy life? What are your maker’s marks?