Friday, October 28, 2011

Payment in kind

I stopped to pick up a check yesterday for several prints that had sold at O'Hurley's, but got distracted by this awesomely soft-and-fuzzy black sheep finger puppet.  Gen, crafty salesperson that she is, helpfully pointed out that she could just deduct the cost from my consignment check.  So he came home with me.  I think i'll call him Alf.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A first attempt

Gift production season is upon us - especially upon those of us who are cash-strapped.  I'd noticed these coiled fabric bowls a couple years back, on the "i could do that" theory.
I bought one to have a closer look, and later flipped through instructional books on the technique in a local quilt shop.  Have to say, i don't really think there's enough to it to warrant an entire book - i mean, once you have the basic idea, it's pretty much theme-and-variations - but i followed (more or less) the tutorial here.  In a nutshell, you're wrapping strips of fabric around clothesline, then coiling and stitching the wrapped clothesline.

So, i finally made one today... (this one's for my mom, and it's safe to post it here before she gets it - i'll eat my hat if she sees it - the only way she sees anything on the blog is if i pull it up when i'm at her house and then push her into a chair in front of it).

Things i learned on the first iteration: select tightly-woven fabrics, buy more needles than you think you need, and bite the bullet and cut the strips on the bias.  It'll take more fabric (unless you're doing multiple bowls, then the difference in yardage won't be so much), but it will wrap much more neatly and fray much less.

Getting the coil started is by far the biggest pain in the rump; the first angled coil is slightly fussy, but that's the worst of it.  I still need to refine my technique for finishing the last coil at the top - i'm not entirely pleased with that part.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

For the man of the house

The spouse came back from a business trip that involved lots of fieldwork, testing wireless equipment, and he came back grumbling about the fit of the shirts he'd packed.  Wanted to know if i could make him some that would work better.

Now, i could probably take a pattern from one of his existing shirts and then adjust it to remedy the fitting issues, but it would be a big pain in the butt.  So i started watching for a pattern to use as a starting place, which would eliminate the first step, and we could move along to adjusting for fit.  I just got a hefty batch of 1940s menswear patterns, and i've held this one back for the spouse:

It's got the essential characteristics: button front, chest pockets, long sleeves with cuffs - which he will always wear rolled up, but which must be long and not short... (shrug - guess we all have our quirks).  I like the way the pleats are done in the back - there's no shoulder yoke, but those reinforcements where the pleats release are just cool, and it'll add the little bit of fullness you want across the back of a work shirt.  The pattern calls for machine stitching a triangle to anchor the pleat, but i'm wondering if a hand-worked tack might not be even more interesting... have to scratch my head about that one a bit, because it might not be large enough to keep the folds of the pleat from rolling up uncomfortably inside the shirt.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scratch and dent sale

I was trolling through the flea market a few weeks back - late in the day for that sort of thing, so the vendors were a little thin, but i was going past and thought i'd breeze through and see if anything caught my eye.  The flea markets here are by and large no use at all for finding patterns, but sometimes you can get notions or books or other related sewing things, and there are useful household items to be had.

Transferware is one of the things i watch for - it's started to get expensive in some of the local thrift shops, so i haven't had much luck building my oddball collection of mismatched dishes there.  So when i walked by, this piece caught my eye:

I was almost past the table when the brain pointed out to the body that was already cruising onward, "hey, that one's seriously old."  I checked myself and went to take a closer look.  I remember thinking, "i'll eat my hat if that's not a nineteenth century piece."  

When i turned it over to look for a maker's mark, the vendor said since the plate was chipped, he'd take a dollar for it.  The chip is mostly on the underside, but does show on the front at the rim, about one o'clock.  I decided that even with the chip, it was worth a buck for a bread plate with an interesting pattern and some age.  If nothing else, i'd get my money's worth in the amusement value of a pleasant little research project.

If a quick online search is to be relied upon (which it's not, but it's somewhere to start), the mark on the back was in use for about a decade in the middle of the nineteenth century. 

The shot at left is lousy with glare, but does give a better representation of the color.  The scene in the center of the plate is pretty typical, but i really love the border on this one...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Society pages

For your amusement, a little glimpse into the manners of an earlier time: a social page note about a party given by my grandmother, long before she got to the "Grandma" stage...

Miss Jewel Zuber of 91 Mountainview road is having a week-end house party at her parents summer home at Metedeconk.  Her guests include Harriet Pratt, Peggy MacKenzie, Lew Lasser, Vincent Kane and Sam Lightholder of Millburn, Lucile Matteson of Short Hills and Paul Jacobus of Irvington, Boating, swimming, dancing, acquaplaning and picnicking will provide the week-ends entertainment. Mr. and Mrs. Zuber will chaperone the party.

You can see the whole June 9, 1939 issue of the paper here.  Though the family no longer appears in the society pages - indeed, the local papers around here no longer have anything that would even pass for a society page - i take some perverse comfort from the text (faithfully transcribed above), and the knowledge that the copy-editing then was no better than what i see now.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Out of the attic

Grammy had a wonderful attic.  For most of my childhood, it was unfinished, dimly lit, a bit spooky, but filled with fascinating things in the drawers of massive old dressers and on the shelves of a glass-fronted bookcase.  There was a copy of The Old Curiosity Shop which was inscribed Christmas, 1890 - which seemed positively ancient to me, and was probably the oldest thing i'd been allowed to handle without adult supervision.  I remember sitting on the floor in front of the bookcase with one slim blue volume from a set of "The World's 1000 Best Poems" and reaching the sucker punch at the end of "The Highwayman" - which leaves quite an impression when you're 10 or so.

Over a number of years, old volumes made their way to my own shelves, as gifts or on loan, or now and again even rescued out of boxes destined for garage sales (got a 1909 Hammond's World Atlas that way... that was in 1989 or 1990, and i remember being amused that the maps for swaths of Eastern Europe were almost current again).  By the time Grammy died, the collection was considerably smaller, and the bookcase - to my dismay - gone to a cousin.  But there were a few old books left, a bit of an odd selection, but i took several home because no one else wanted them.  One of those books seems seasonally appropriate, now that we're into October:

 This little book has a copyright date of 1912, and it's full of games that lean largely toward magical prediction, usually regarding selection of mates, rather than toward anything spooky or diabolical.  I rather suspect that it was aimed at young ladies.

A few of the suggested games, for inspiration in your own festivities:


1. The dragon consists of half a pint of ignited brandy or alcohol in a dish.  As soon as brandy is aflame, all lights are extinguished, and salt is freely sprinkled in dish, imparting a corpse-like pallor to every face.  Candied fruits, figs, raisins, sugared almonds, etc., are thrown in, and guests snap for them with their fingers; person securing most prizes from flames will meet his true love within the year.

2. Or, slips of paper on which verses are written are tightly wrapped in tin-foil and placed in dish.  Brandy is poured on and ignited.  The verse each person gets is supposed to tell his fortune.
     Place burning dish in middle of a bare table, for drops of burning spirits are often splashed about.

[Don't try this at home, kids...]


     Suspend horizontally from ceiling a stick three feet long.  On one end stick an apple, upon the other tie a small bag of flour.  Set stick whirling.  Each guest takes turn in trying to bite apple-end of stick.  It is amusing to see guests receive dabs of flour on face.  Guest who first succeeds in biting apple gets prize.


     Tie wedding-ring or key to silken thread or horsehair, and hold it suspended within a glass; then say the alphabet slowly; whenever ring strikes glass, begin over again and in this way spell the name of future mate.

The book helpfully gives examples for suitable invitations, too: