Saturday, November 29, 2008


I was in a Ben Franklin Crafts today, and since it is in a town I rarely go to, I had not been to this store in over a year. 
In the paper section, I was so pleasantly surprised (okay, I was ecstatic!) to see that Victorian scrap is IN again! And just in time for Christmas! 
I saw a little notebook with Victorian images in it, and thought to myself, "I would be tempted to buy this if I had a coupon. I cannot afford it." I put it down, thinking that it will be a long time until I come again, and that thus is life. 
Then a lovely lady who worked there came over with the customary "Can I help you?" and then said "Did you get our 40% off coupon?"
I will leave you to guess what I did with that question. 
Last week my mother and myself went on the "rounds" to the local Holiday Bazaars.Holiday Bazaars are often held in bizarre places. Sometimes they are in a home, sometimes in a barn, but one of my favorites was in a glass shop, up the side stairs and in a storeroom on the second floor.  The prices were so reasonable, and I found many treasures there! 
Something I regret not buying at this place were the cute gift tags for 50 cents each, which were small colorful squares of card stock with little images of rosy-cheeked Victorian children pasted on them, and embellished. At the time I was thinking that if I started buying those tags, that fifty cents would add up quite quickly to some other amount. 
I may have missed out on those pretty tags, but I can now start to re-create my own with this little pad of pictures. 

You can imagine with a little bit of sparkle here, a button there, or maybe just left as I have put them here, layered on special papers, that they will make charming gift tags or even Christmas cards. 

This was the little pad of pictures I spoke of above (and for a dollar less than the shop, I might add). I am now very fond of artist trading cards!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Doll Palace

For those who live in Washington State, I would like to share this announcement that came on my email. I know the owners, and I can tell you they have some gorgeous dolls! I snapped the picture above of one of my favorites! Isn't she beautiful?

"Grand-Opening of the NEW
 Doll Palace General Hospital
16712 51st Avenue S.E.
Bothell, Wa. 98012-6118
Phone: 425-486-7346

Saturday December 6th 2008
10:00 A.M. To 5:00 P.M.
We are smaller, but back in business,
 once again.
Hope to see you!!
Refreshments will be served.
GOOD Prices for the holiday season."

Friday, November 21, 2008

It Takes A Heap O' Livin' To Make A House A Home

Roses Round the Door, Vineyard Street, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom

Roses Round the Door, Vineyard Street, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom
Photographic Print

Hunter, David
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   Home by Edgar A. Guest

  It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,
  A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
  Afore ye really ‘preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
  An’ hunger fer ‘em somehow, with ‘em allus on yer mind.
  It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be,
  How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury;
  It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king,
  Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything.

  Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
  Afore it’s home there’s got t’ be a heap o’ livin’ in it;
  Within the walls there’s got t’ be some babies born, and then
  Right there ye’ve got t’ bring ‘em up t’ women good, an’ men;
  And gradjerly, as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn’t part
  With anything they ever used–they’ve grown into yer heart:
  The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
  Ye hoard; an’ if ye could ye’d keep the thumbmarks on the door.

  Ye’ve got t’ weep t’ make it home, ye’ve got t’ sit an’ sigh
  An’ watch beside a loved one’s bed, an’ know that Death is nigh;
  An’ in the stillness o’ the night t’ see Death’s angel come,
  An’ close the eyes o’ her that smiled, an’ leave her sweet voice dumb.
  Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an’ when yer tears are dried,
  Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an’ sanctified;
  An’ tuggin’ at ye always are the pleasant memories
  O’ her that was an’ is no more–ye can’t escape from these.

  Ye’ve got t’ sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,
  An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ‘em each day;
  Even the roses ’round the porch must blossom year by year
  Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear
  Who used t’ love ‘em long ago, an’ trained ‘em jes’ t’ run
  The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;
  Ye’ve got t’ love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:
  It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.

(There is a story behind this poem, but I will warn you, it will make you cry)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sewing Lessons: Doll Pinafore

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I took over my mother's Sewing class for one afternoon. My idea was to make a doll dress in a day. Her student had already been hand-sewing and working with her mother's sewing machine, but I think that in working on a project from start to finish, she learned some new things. And if she did not, at least she got a doll apron out of it:) First we found the view in the pattern that we wanted to use (McCalls 2609), and circled it. Then we went through and circled the pattern layout, the pieces we would need, and the instructions sections we would use.

Then we went to the scrap box. We tried several scraps and settled on a black and pink polka-dot. It was a real departure from what was shown on the pattern cover, but it was a cute idea, and actually it was the only fabric we had enough of to make this pinafore. We could have started with a nice piece of yardage, but for me doll dresses are traditionally made of leftovers from other projects. Besides, it is frugal.

She found the pieces she would need and started to cut them out.

We had to determine the direction of the grain of each scrap. Fabric comes with a "grain" - you can see it or find it by stretching the fabric. Fabric stretches from side to side, and on the diagonal (bias) it really stretches. You know you have the grain if it does not stretch at all (usually parallel to the woven edge or "selvage"). This is important when using scraps...

...because you want to get those "grainline" arrows to line up with your grain, so that the doll dress will not act funny when you sew it together. If you do not take time to do this, you will have pieces stretch in the wrong places and be very sad at the outcome!

The student starts to pin the pattern to the fabric. Also, notice the use of quilting pins for sewing. They are so much easier to grasp than regular dressmaker's pins.

After cutting the piece out, go over it and find all the places to mark. Some will be a notch, some a dot. Sometimes you cannot get the notches cut out precicely or neatly. I learned to clip in where there was a notch, as you see above. It is actually easier and quite precise.

The first seam is the shoulder seam.

I learned something about being a sewing teacher: the student was having difficulty maneuvering the pieces through the machine, especially around curves. She had a hard time getting the seam allowance straight. It finally occurred to me that since she was left-handed, I had to get her project to the other side of the presser foot, opposite of what is shown above.

It was a lot easier for her after that! When sewing, the edge of the fabric should follow the edge of the presser foot, or the particular line on the sewing machine that the pattern specifies.

After sewing two bodices (one lining) we put them together. It was important to read the instructions so we could make sure that we pressed up the edges of the lining, so that later on we can have a neater finish on the inside of the pinafore.

She learned to maneuver an inside curve, the neckline.

Here we have one of my favorite tools- a handy dandy stick that came in a bag of fiberfil, meant to be a help in stuffing craft projects. I find it a help in stuffing anything... stuffing fabric through a shoulder seam to try and get the bodice turned inside out. Not an easy feat!

Here you see the lined bodice, all pressed...

...and ready for the skirt. The skirt of the pinafore is made of lined "petals."

She learned to sew outside curves on a sewing machine.
The finished skirt, with the "petals" basted together and ready to sew to the bodice. We pressed, pressed, pressed as we went!
The bodice sewn to the skirt. The inside lining (the part that was pressed up) is now hand-sewn down over the skirt seam, to hide it.

Here is the doll modeling the pinafore. This project took about four hours from start to finish.

My student pointed out that if she tacked the skirt together, she could get a different look and perhaps even use it as a little sundress for the doll.

Since I had a doll to model it, I thought I would show you one of my projects from years ago. This Regency gown was from a pattern I made up all by myself. I made some to sell but there were some difficult bits to my design that made it too tedious to sew for sales.

Being not too far from doll-playing days myself, I wanted a gown that was easy to get on a doll. This gown is fully lined, French seamed, and opens completely in the back. There are no fussy snaps, but Velcro all the way down the opening. The sleeves are fully lined- straight sleeves on the inside and puffed on the outside. That way the doll's plastic fingers would not catch in that puffed sleeve (always an annoyance!).
Eyelet makes such a beautiful and easy gown (no hems!), and there are tucks in the skirt lining.

The Fifteen-Minute Apron

I have become rather desperate for an apron. So has my mother. We tend to wear dresses and aprons out. So I got into the dark corner in my closet and pulled out some faded dresses, which were dear to my heart but alas, are no longer wearable in public. 

Though it looks fine on a photograph, it was terribly faded and worn and even torn in places. It was a beloved dress for several years. I have a hard time just throwing things like this away. 

 This Elizabeth Lee Designs pattern for a nursing dress is one of my favorites. Studying the design I knew it could easily become an apron. So I cut it into one. I beg Rebecca not to look any further (she made this one for me).
I cut around the back facing, and down the front nursing panel, then over to the ties, and down the side seam of the skirt. Using my mother's serger I overlocked all the edges. Since I wanted some work aprons, and I wanted them now, I used the white thread that was in the serger already and the basic stitch. That is why the cutting and serging only took fifteen minutes! If I someone wanted to do this and be fancy, they could have folded under all the edges neatly and used a regular straight stitch on a sewing machine, with matching thread. Or they could have serged it with a pretty colored thread. Or they could have bound the edges with bias tape.  The amount of work put into it would depend on how far gone the original dress was!

Above you can see how I cut around the neck facing. This dress pattern has no buttons or zippers, but the pink example shown before did have a zipper. I removed it and sewed a seam up the back facing to achieve the same result. I serged around this facing, catching the raw cut edge with the finished facing edge. 

Here is my blue apron. 

And here is my fancy one. I had done a lot of hand-work on this collar, and I left it on for a fun apron!  

It is nice to wear my old favorite dresses again, and to get a little more life out of them. I had so much fun doing this, that I started to look in my closet for other dresses that, though not worn out, maybe weren't my favorites or I didn't like the color... 
 It is hard to decide which one I will part with for my mother-- maybe I'll go and look in her closet next!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Night Sewing

Women Sewing at Home by Light from a Window
Women Sewing at Home by Light from a Window Giclee Print
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For the past two weeks I have been wanting to finish a dress made with sweet rosebud-print fabric. Each Saturday that I pick it up to work on it, I come to a point where I must give up, and put it aside for the next week. Either I make a mistake that would take all night to undo, or it is too late at night to keep sewing and I am too tired, and getting cranky. It is so frustrating! I wanted to wear that dress last week for a reunion, I want it this week for church, and now I have to say, "Ah, it will be just in time for Thanksgiving." It is really hard for me to put it down and admit defeat! Maybe this is a character-building exercise, and not a dress-constructing one. Maybe it is better to set something aside until the eyes are rested, the head is cooled, and the body refreshed by sleep. Maybe I should have eaten dinner. Perhaps the dress will be all the better for me not rushing it through the sewing machine:) 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Between School-Room and Alter

Three Sisters, a Study in June Sunlight
Three Sisters, a Study in June Sunlight Art Print
Tarbell, Edmund...
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My mother has just typed in an article by Ella Wheeler Wilcox from an 1890 Ladies' Home Journal Magazine. It was an inspiring read, an in my opinion quite along the lines of Beautiful Girlhood.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bread of Distraction

By The Pleasant Times Food Editor Bessie Cook Baker.

Children Playing in the KitchenChildren Playing in the KitchenArt PrintBuy at

It all started this morning with the oatmeal. I had just gotten up and started in on breakfast right away. I was determined to not only make the tastiest oatmeal possible, but to make the biggest batch yet to see if I could satisfy all the hungry tummies in the family.
I chopped up apples and bananas in the oats, and dumped in raisins and chopped almonds, and stirred in vanilla and cinnamon, cloves and a dash of allspice, then stirred in milk and a little bit of maple syrup:) Last time I did this, they scraped the pan and asked for more.
Wouldn't you know, today was the day that most people weren't terribly hungry. I only had one customer for seconds and thirds.

I was left with a huge pot of cooked oatmeal. No one in my family seems to want to eat reheated oatmeal. So I got out my handy 1958 friend, Betty Crocker's cookbook. I had found out a couple of years ago that there was an oatmeal bread recipe there that worked well with cooked oats. The recipe called for oatmeal soaked in water, but I just substituted cooked oatmeal, since it already had the liquid in it.

I was determined to use up all that oatmeal while it was still warm, so I had to plunge right into the baking. If you let the oatmeal get cold, it is too hard to mix in. I started dumping in all the recipe ingredients, and more... the recipe calls for two eggs, but I had some egg yolks that needed using, so I threw about 5 of those in instead. There was some buttermilk in the fridge, so I put that in along with some baking soda; some sunflower seeds , and some brown sugar, more cinnamon......

The recipe is a "no knead" recipe, unless you double it, like I did this morning! When it takes the biggest bowl in the kitchen, and both hands, plus two little helpers, it can be a mess! By the time the whole mixing/rising/baking process was done it was nearly lunchtime. This was not how I was going to plan my day. But the unintended baking had its rewards. My little boy peeked through the oven window- "Mommy's making REAL bread!" My mother, who does not fancy too much bread, even ate some, and declared it was so good that "if all families baked bread like this, it would give you a perfect marriage, stop teen rebellion, and create total felicity in your home; plus cure all kinds of diseases, mental and physical, as well as uncertainty and nervous complaints."

Then the other reward was that it made four big loaves. That means I don't have to repeat this anytime soon.

Here is the "tweaked" recipe, not doubled, for your convenience:

2 cups (approx. You can use more if needed) cooked oatmeal, with all the trimmings ( such as fruit and nuts)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup light molasses (I only had dark molasses, so I used half the amount.
The recipe called for 1 Tablespoon of salt, but I don't use that much.
2 pkgs yeast dissolved in in about 1/4-1/2 cup warm water

Mix together.

Add 2 eggs. Mix.
Stir in 5 1/2 cups flour. Stir thoroughly.

Let rest for 15 minutes.

Put dough on well floured board, shape into loaves and put in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled (around an hour and a half). Bake at 350 degrees F. for an hour until crust is brown.

My bread turned out crusty but very soft on the inside. It is perfect warn spread with a little butter and served alongside a cup of tea for a rainy-day country cottage tea break.

p.s. If you do not have leftover oatmeal, the recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups boiling water poured over 1 cup rolled oats; let it soak until lukewarm.
You may also omit the fruit & nuts, of course!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sense and Sensibility ePatterns Debut!

Sense and Sensibility Patterns has announced new ePatterns to download and print! Not only do you not have to wait for them to come in the mail, but the price is right. 

My favorite is the Regency Era pattern (see on the sidelinks for ordering that one!) but there are a couple of ePatterns for other eras, and more to come. 

Yes, even you could make one of these dresses...or even a coat!