Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friendship, Valentine Card, circa 1870
Friendship, Valentine Card, circa 1870 Giclee Print
English School
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I remember when I was a girl, my mother ordered a Victorian Valentine Kit from The Pleasant Company. I had so much fun with all the paper lace doilies, ribbons, stickers, and gold paper trims! 

Here are some links for making your own Victorian Valentines:

(warning: the above link has free Victorian clip art and instructions on how to make your own cards, but it also has some weight loss ads which are in bad taste. If you can scroll down and find the "printer friendly" button you can see the article without the ads)

Oh so Nice things to buy:
My latest favorite site to look at!

Examples of Victorian Valentines:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

1930's "Crazy Quilt" Robe

This is a robe that my Great-Grandmother made for her daughter (my Grandma Lucile) when Grandma was a teenager. Unfortunately by the time it was done it was too small for her. Grandma kept it anyway and then when I was 16 or so, she gave it to me. Unfortunately, it was too small for me, too! But it is so beautiful, my mother suggested we keep it for a decoration!

There are silky fabrics in it, and velvet, and flannel, and other kinds. There are floral prints, and feather prints, and even a print with baby rattles on it! I like to look at each one and try to imagine what kind of dress it might have been, or what the print would have been used for. The embroidery is done in different colored embroidery thread, and done thickly.

Would this be called a dressing gown? Grandma just called it a "robe."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

1954 Singer Sewing Book

Editor's Note: A reader informed me that the authoress of this book was Mary Brooks Picken (can you believe I have never noticed that?) who wrote many books on sewing and fashion. 

I wanted to share this book I found at Goodwill many, many years ago. It has been one of my favorites, not only to get sound sewing advice out of, but to look back on another time.

I like the way people expressed things way back when. For instance, 

 "A chief delight in making one's own clothes is being able to find a delectable color or print--an irresistible one-- and using it to make a 'dream dress' so becoming that every wearing brings genuine happiness."

I could not have said it better!

On the third page of this book, there is a chapter entitled "To Sew Successfully." In it, there is advice for how to prepare to sew:

Mentally: "Approach the job with enthusiasm"
 "Never approach sewing with a sigh" 
"Never try to sew with the sink full of dishes or the bed unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing." 
"You must want to make something lovely, to have the fun of putting pieces of fabric together, to make a garment, to handle the fabric with appreciation, to watch the beautify of the article grow as a result of your planning and effort." 

Physically: "When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Go through a beauty ritual of orderliness. Have on a clean dress. Be sure your hands are clean, finger nails smooth...Keep a little bag of French chalk near your sewing machine where you can pick it up and dust your fingers at intervals.... Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on with care. Looking attractive is an important part of sewing, because if you are making something for yourself, you will try it on at intervals in front of your mirror, and you can hope for better results when you look your best."

Materially: "Assemble all the essentials you are going to need before you begin... An uncoordinated sewing experience is not conducive either to enjoyment or best results."

There were also suggestions for planning a sewing time: "Make an appointment with yourself to sew, just as you would with your hairdresser..." 
"On the days when you are sewing, make the dessert in the morning; plan a quick-to-get dinner..."
"If you must use the dining table or must clear the floor for a cutting surface, plan to cut several garments at one time."
"Save basting and handwork to do when a friend drops in and you want to visit, or when you want to listen to a favorite radio or TV show."
"Plan what you are to make ahead of time. Keep a notebook and jot down in it what finding or trimmings you need for each thing. Work out a recipe for each garment." (I especially like this idea!)

"Much happiness and benefit can be had from sewing if you plan what you will do..."

Another chapter entitled "A Room Of Her Own" talks about creating a sewing room. It may be a spare bedroom, or little-used den, or even a closet. Plans are made out here for a "Home Management Room" with a space for writing correspondence, dealing with bills, room for filing papers, and space for a typewriter. Book shelves for cookbooks and other references, a telephone center for "daily marketing" and a radio. "This is a room in which she can retire and carry on the business of running a household with at least some of the efficiency aids which a man has in his office to facilitate running his business." 
This room is also a sitting room, where friends can drop by and sit in a comfy chair while you sew and chat. 

There are instructions for how to turn a closet into a home management station--- and have space for the ironing board, dress form, fold-down table for cutting, little fold-down desk for typing, and all with a set of full-length mirrors so you can check the fit of your garment!

There are also suggestions for those with limited space, such as using a corner of the bedroom sectioned off with a decorative screen.

There is a chapter on "How To Bundle Your Sewing" that tells how to cut several garments at once, writing little notes to yourself to keep with the garment for sewing later, and rolling it or boxing it so it is ready when you are to sew. It is suggested that you can take up your sewing when you are listening to the radio or visiting with your family, when the neighbors come over, or you can take a box with you when you go visiting. 

(Rabbit trail: It must have been nice in the old days when ladies visited each other and brought their knitting, sewing, embroidery or even their bowl of apples to peel for a pie or peas to shell. I had this experience once with two old-time ladies in their 80's, one from the Texas Panhandle and one from Arkansas. They invited me over to help peel apples for pies, and they made the crusts talked. They said this is the way things were done in the old days. Now we get to do it by ourselves...) 

A stern paragraph teaches that "If women are to enjoy the luxury of time, they must learn to save their time in their homemaking tasks, especially if they are to make space for sewing. There was a period when the housewife spent the entire morning washing dishes and making the beds. We are now less indulgent with our chores. We pick up as we go and aim to get the housekeeping tasks done in the minimum of time, even though this requires concentrated effort." 

And for those who may think that this is all really dumb, there is the authority of Psychiatry in the chapter on making clothing for children: "The psychiatrists say that ugly dresses have caused more complexes than have 'prettier sisters' or 'scolding mothers.'" Yikes!

Besides all of this already useful advice, there are instructions for all types of sewing techniques, suggestions for making gifts, mending, how to take care of your sewing machine, what you can do with all the different presser feet, home decor advice, hand-sewing techniques, patchwork quilting, and more. 

 Although I am not fond of all the styles and colors used in the book, I like the way they show examples of how to use simple stitches to embellish and trim clothing and household items. 

Oh, but I like the capelet on the coat in the center left bottom of this page! That one can come back into style!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Question of the Month

Apple Blossoms

Apple Blossoms
Art Print

Wisinger, Olga...
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A Question from a gal born in Washington:
Why is it that when I buy a can or a jar of apple juice, I see "Concentrate from China" or a combo of the US and ten other countries? What's the matter, doesn't Washington State have enough apples to make juice with?

Crate of Apples from Washington

Crate of Apples from Washington
Art Print

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Why do we have to import apple juice concentrate from places halfway across the world? Isn't that more expensive?

Apple and Pear Orchards in Bloom, Washington, USA

Apple and Pear Orchards in Bloom, Washington, USA
Photographic Print

Wild, Jamie &...
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I think I'll just get my juicer out and get some Hood River Pears or some Washington Apples at the store, and make my own. 

Giant Apple on Truck Bed, Washington
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dimensional Cards

By Miss Paste, The Pleasant Times Craft Editor

Here is a way to make an ordinary card into a dimensional cards. I have been keeping my eye out for cards that I can cut up and redo into pop-ups. 
The card at left is from a set of cards someone gave me. It is tasteful and elegant as is, but it was fun to make the one at right "pop out" and sparkle!

First I cut around the vase and the bouquet. I went ahead and cut into the card from the edge (at the table part) to get to the middle. Afterwards I just seal the cut back up again. 

Second, I pasted a paper over the hole from the back. 

Then taking the piece I cut out, I cut the bouquet off of the vase, and glittered the bouquet. 

I used strips of card stock and zig-zag folded them, to make different heights of "stands" for the picture. I had to be careful placing these because they will make the design lean if they aren't put just so! I could have used mounting tape as well, and it would perhaps be less wobbly, but this way the card collapses nicely for mailing. 

I put the vase and flowers back where they came from, with the flowers taller than the vase. Then I wrapped a bow around the vase, just for fun. 
Here is a side view, showing the folded paper "stands."

I think I may do some modified Valentine cards this way!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winter Stew

A winter soup served in a sturdy white glass tea-cup. 

Winter-time is a perfect time to make a big batch of hearty, warm, savory stew. Everyone has their own favorite recipe for stew, with their own variations. Here is one standard "pantry" recipe of mine: 

Onion (small to medium)
Celery (a few ribs)
Olive Oil
One Boneless Skinless chicken thigh
Three cans of your favorite beans (see note below)
Barley (about a half-cup)
Small can tomato paste
Italian Seasoning, Salt and Pepper

Cook beans first if using home-soaked, in a separate pot.
Chop celery and onion, and mince 1-2 cloves of garlic. Briefly saute onion, celery, and garlic. You do not want to cook them until tender now, but just to get them started. 
Then  add one chicken thigh (boneless & skinless).  Saute the meat a bit, then add water. I cannot tell you how much water, but in my soup pot, I fill it halfway. 
Add beans and barley, the tomato paste, a teaspoon (or more) of Italian seasoning, and cook until done. I usually let it come to a boil and then turn it down to simmer.
Add salt and pepper to taste. 
When it is done (in about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes) take the meat out and chop it finely and put it back. The meat is in there for the flavor of it, as the beans and the barley make a complete protein. 

Note on Beans: It is cheaper if you buy beans dry instead of canned, and soak them yourself. If you soak them, then pour off the water, spread the beans out on a cookie sheet, and freeze, then scoop the frozen beans into freezer bags, you will always have beans on hand ready to cook. Also, cooking them from this frozen state speeds the process up a little bit. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Modified Mini Skirt and a Delicious Gift

My friends would have been shocked to see me at Goodwill searching through the mini skirt rack (has Lillibeth gone mad?!), but I had this project in mind:I liked this skirt, and wanted to experiment myself with the idea. I went to Goodwill looking for a mini skirt that would be the yoke of a gathered skirt, and found this one, which was slightly flared. It just so happened that I had picked up a yard of charming blue-and-white calico at JoAnns, too little yardage for a skirt of course, but it worked out just right for the bottom of this kind of skirt! Above the hemline of the mini skirt I sewed the gathered calico, and underneath on the hemline I sewed gathered eyelet. 

I have seen this done with blue jeans, cutting off the top and attaching material to it, but I did not want to go to all that trouble. Using a mini-skirt saves me the measuring and cutting and hemming part. 

It is not all I wanted it to be, but it is a good beginning anyway. I might try again if I can find a mini skirt on sale at Goodwill. I resent paying the same price for 1/4 to 1/3 of a skirt as much as a long skirt- I think the price should adjust for the hemline!

Here is one of my Christmas packages:

I can't wait to get a proper scone and try some of this Devon Cream! I'll have to have a tea party! I drink Chamomile tea often, and it is nice to have a BIG box of it! The little square on the left is a book my Sister-in-law made, and it folds out like this:
I think I would like to gather some of Aiden's drawings to decorate the inside.