Thursday, December 20, 2012

The holly and the ivy

This year's holiday decorations brought to you by the Hillsboro Community Association, which gathered way too much greenery for the Christmas home tour, and then invited us to help make it go away so they wouldn't have to haul it to the landfill.

Also by Bostitch. Yeah, i totally stapled them onto the base. With an air-powered stapler, because nothing says Christmas like complete overkill. There's at least one sprig of holly that needs some remedial attention, but there's a cold rain coming down at present, and i'm going to need a proper ladder to get to it instead of the little step stool i got away with for hanging it...

And i've still got enough greenery left to do - i don't know - fourteen more like this. Guess the folks at HCA weren't the only ones who overestimated.

Production mode

I can't give my family prints every Christmas - they've only got so much wall space. This year's hunt for something i can make for everybody led to a craft store clearance bin of Pébéo glass and ceramic paints, marked down to 79 cents a pop, instead of $4.99 - that, along with a whole bunch of thrifted mugs and glassware (mugs run about 59 cents at Goodwill...), plus time, equals gifts i can afford and that - i hope - everybody can use:

I've got three or four more mugs to do, and of course baking these to heat set them. The dotty designs, adapted from painted ceramics i spotted online, weren't my first choice, but the consistency of the paints combined with my haphazard collection of brushes and limited skill with same, meant that a lot of my initial ideas didn't pan out. At least the dots have some charm, and are repeatable...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Small but enthusiastic

More or less on a whim, Nick and i decided to have a little Christmas concert this year, but since the whole thing was a bit seat-of-the-pants (and at such a busy time), we had just a handful of folks out at the meetinghouse last night. Still, everybody had a good time, and we raised a few bucks for Hungry for Music (and at least one attendee left with a flyer, muttering about the electric bass her son never actually played...), so i'm putting it generally in the success column, even though i have lots of cookies and cider left over.

We ended up playing what was - for us - a fairly modest collection of instruments: soprano, alto, and tenor recorders, galoubet and tambourin, Nick's curious mbira that's set up like a hammered dulcimer, and bagpipes. The bagpipes are small bellows-blown ones in the French style, actually quite demure for bagpipes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ready to go

Here's the last item that i'm hoping to squeeze into the box of prints i'm shipping off to Kansas - this design is one i first made to fit onto the cover of those oh-so-handy pocket Moleskine notebooks, but here it makes an appearance on a page from a vintage Reader's Digest Condensed Book...

I've found that the black core mats really seem to work well with the book page prints.

Now, if i can just get the inventory info off of the old computer and onto the new one, i should be all set.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Not one for the record books

I marched hopefully off to the auction this morning - there were a couple sewing machines (including a lovely but probably unjustifiable treadle) and a dress form, so i figured there might be some interesting lots. Unhappily, it was one of their more massive auctions, they were planning to have three auctioneers selling simultaneously, which usually means bedlam inside, and the parking lot and the surrounding shoulders of the road were completely clogged.

I made a circuit to see if i'd missed a spot, then decided - there being nowhere safe to park - to run a couple errands and try back a little later to see if things cleared out any. Got some fuel, trolled through a thrift shop i hadn't visited in a while (total thrift shop haul: one mangy paperback to read, a glass chimney that proved not to fit the lamp i intended it for, and a They Might Be Giants CD). No interesting vintage, and nothing that would be useful to wear for the upcoming string of holiday concerts.

Heading back east, the auction house looked no saner, so i gave it a miss and stopped at the farm market (four Stayman apples from the dwindling stores of local fruit - destined for one last apple crisp - and a surprisingly nice-looking batch of green beans).

Oh, well. I'm enjoying the CD. Istanbul was Constantinople...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Warming trend

We have, at long last, fired up the woodstove.

The cats approve.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Last of the season

We've had a hard frost or two in the fields below our place, but up here, we're in a bit of a hollow, and just a little more sheltered - which might explain the praying mantis the spouse found sitting on the tractor today. Managed to get a few shots before we relocated her to someplace a little more suitable...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Decisions, decisions...

The favorite flea market shuts down in about a month, and as the season draws to a close, the vendors tend to get more generous, largely because they don't want to have to store that stuff during the off season. So this week, along with a nice little batch of patterns, a sweet (and very Deco) Glasbake loaf pan, and a postcard, Sewing Machine Dude (his name's actually Dave, but it took me years to learn that, so i still tend to think of him as Sewing Machine Dude) threw in a length of fabric as a bonus.

This is the one that caught my eye, just because i thought the pattern and colors were fun, but it turns out it's rather more vintage than i thought at first glance, to judge from the tags i found when i went to unfold it to see how much yardage i had to work with... when was the last time Penney's had a fabric department, anyway?

Now i've got to decide whether to sell it or use it - at four yards, it's enough to contemplate dresses, though not really extravagant ones. (Haven't checked the exact width, but it's probably a little narrower than 45")

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Coming attractions (PressingNeeds edition)

I've just added batches of my reindeer cards to the shop - these are the ones i designed to send to friends and family last year. They're printed on wonderful recycled cards (100% post-consumer waste and process chlorine free, for those of you who are keeping score); i was really pleased with the cardstock when i got it last year, so now i've got more and a larger (5"x7") size, too.

Which prints would you like to see reproduced on cards?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012


I went down to Glen Echo yesterday, to dance at Contrastock - three bands, friends onstage and off, lots of exercise, and fabulous tunes - and i planned to come back with lots of brilliant photos of the dancing. Turns out, i still haven't got the knack of shooting high-energy dancing in the odd lighting of the Spanish Ballroom, and the photos were pretty uniformly dreadful.

So instead, you get to see the photos i took of the 1921 Dentzel Carousel at the park. This is a swell carousel in its own right, but gets a few bonus points from me because it reminds me just a little of my favorite carousel in the world, the (even bigger and more grandiose) 1910 Dentzel at Seaside Heights.

I confess, i've ridden the Glen Echo carousel in full formal dress - at least once, at the expense of a snagged stocking - they will sometimes open it for special events like the springtime Strauss Ball. It's a little less of a challenge when i make it out there for one of the regular Sunday afternoon waltzes, but that's (alas!) a pretty rare occurrence these days.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A satisfying cup of coffee

Transferware meets vintage restaurant china: this cup makes me absurdly happy. (But then, so do several of my other mugs, most of which are odd vintage ones... maybe i should do a little series just to show off the more interesting ones.)

What's your favorite container for your essential-morning-beverage-of-choice?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A tiny bit of settling in

Amidst all the upheaval of new ventures and major housecleaning-and-reoganization projects, i managed a small but satisfying bit of overdue settling in: i finally hung one of my great-grandfather's paintings.  I have quite a few of them by now: the first was an engagement gift, years ago, and then more followed as my parents and my grandmother moved to smaller places.  I haven't got loads of wall space, so it can be tricky finding a good spot to hang something.  (It's a cruel irony that i've gotten into visual art myself now, and have even more demand for wall space...)

They're not brilliant, but good, and some of them are quite charming.  A few, at least, are copies of other works - i've come across at least one print in an antique shop, of what must have been the painting he copied - but others i know are original.  This one is one of my favorites: the still life in the niche is all well and good, but what makes it delightful is the miniature landscape glimpsed through the knot hole.

When i've got that area a little more sorted out, i'll have Grandma's sewing machine cabinet under that painting, which will pick up the colors nicely, and just seems fitting, given how much she adored her father.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


We're starting to see just a few leaves turning around here... for those of you who aren't close enough to drop by the show i've got running, here's a peek at the newest item i hung at the library Tuesday:

I love the look of images printed over text, but couldn't quite bring myself to break books to do it. After mulling it over and bouncing it off some bookish friends, i think i found a compromise: for this, i used pages from Reader's Digest Condensed Books, which somehow don't seem to cause the same qualms as "real" books. And of course, i called it "Leaves" because i can't resist a play on words.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why i've been under a rock...

I know, i know... blog posts have been scarce lately. I've had a few other irons in the fire:

If you're in the neighborhood, come on out for the art show opening on the 10th!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pulling power

We spent the day at the Berryville steam show: antique tractors and engines, junk sellers, and a mule jump and mule pull competition.  Add to that a favorite small, local creamery selling ice cream on site, and the day was pretty much complete!

(It will surprise no one who knows me that i took more pictures of mules than of machinery.)

And though going on Sunday meant that a few of the machines had already been loaded up and hauled home, it also meant that at least a few of the vendors were motivated by the desire to avoid packing up more stock than they had to, so i got a bag of  interesting vintage goodies for a very paltry sum.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer supper

This is one of my favorites - grilled chicken, fresh spinach, feta cheese, and roasted tomatoes on garlicky naan.  It's too simple to call a recipe, and though i bought the bread, i figure that's cancelled out by the fact that i canned the tomatoes.  Half the time i'm using leftover chicken, so all it needs is to arrange the stuff on the bread, and pop the whole thing into the oven at 400F for something like seven to ten minutes.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Finally finished that pesky lino block, with the image of Hellion melting in the windowsill... it gave me the opportunity to learn all sorts of things, to wit:

  • The only transfer method that had any effect whatever was washing the scanned-and-printed sketch with white vinegar. But even then, grey linoleum doesn't show lines worth a darn.
  • The bit about heating the linoleum to make it easier to cut? Works like a charm.
  • I really, really like vintage lino cutters.
  • Inking the lino is quite a bit different than the soft rubber blocks.
  • It doesn't like the same sort of paper, either - wants something much softer in order to get a good impression. I switched to a mulberry/bamboo paper in the end.
And the finished product, framed up with what was around the house, mostly:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

First step

If i'm aiming to get this dress sewn up in time for the fair, it's high time to get started. I'm working with a 1950s mail order pattern, so the first step is to trace out the pattern.  (Yep, i'm working outside, partly for the light, but mostly for the lack of feline assistance.)  I've got my pencil and my trusty Sharpie.  The gridded mat makes it easier to align everything.

I carefully lay out the pattern pieces, one at a time, on the mat, and then spread the tracing material over the top.  If whatever you're tracing onto has a grid printed on it, it's helpful to line up the markings with the straight grain arrow on your pattern piece.

Weights come in handy here - you can buy special-purpose ones, or you can do what i do, and make off with all the tuna cans from the pantry.  Once you've got everything in place and smooth, trace the grain arrow, then the edges of the pattern piece, carefully, in pencil.  Don't forget notches and such as you go around.  I usually start by marking each corner of the piece - if i knock something out of alignment, that makes it easier to line things up again.

Once you've got the basic outline, remove the original pattern piece, and then go over the lines in marker, which will be easier to read when you go to cut the pattern.  Lay the original pattern piece over the top to check the alignment of notches and other markings - this is especially important if, like me, you've been too hasty or too paranoid to press the pattern tissue first.  Make any necessary corrections, then tuck the original pattern piece safely away.

Be sure to label the pieces as you go - it's no fun to have to go back later to try to sort out whether that's the back yoke or the front yoke, or whether the sleeve you've got in hand really belongs to that dress.  I write out what piece it is, and add the number if it's got one, and also the pattern company and pattern number, just to be on the safe side.  The same goes for any instructions printed on the tissue ("slash along this line to large dot," that kind of thing...).  I confess, i don't take the time to draw in seamlines, unless their different from whatever is the normal seam allowance for that pattern.

Next up, pin-fitting the pieces to see whether i can avoid grading this pattern (i have high hopes - it's a design that should have a fair bit of ease, and it's only starting out one pattern size smaller than i'd take by the measurements...).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I stopped in at the IGA market in Marshall, something i make a point of doing whenever i get down that way, because it is the most amazing combination of goods in a cheerful collision of cultures, from rural Virginia redneck to treehugger.  You can buy Moon Pies or local artisan sausages.  Or both (i've been known to...).  They carry the quasi-local cream line milk that i like to buy whenever i can.  Great stuff: it comes in half-gallon glass bottles ($2 deposit, so when i finally round them up and return them, i feel rich), but the caps have an unfortunate tendency to leak, and the necks of the bottles don't facilitate tidy pouring, and i hate to see any of it wasted.

But!  The Marshall IGA had a solution to this problem, too - one i'd never seen in any of the other places i'd bought milk in glass bottles - for a mere 69 cents, i brought home this wonderful gizmo:

This great little spout pops on in place of the cap, stands up to shaking the bottle to mix in the cream, and pours perfectly, much to the disappointment of the feline members of the household.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


In the Goodwill shop in Martinsburg (of all places), i stumbled upon a vintage Speedball linoleum cutter set: wooden handle and five blades. I figured there was a fair-to-middling chance the blades would be dull, though they didn't appear to be nicked or otherwise damaged. They can (theoretically) be sharpened, and the whole thing was a buck, so i didn't have much to lose - as soon as i finished being astonished, it went into my basket, and i laughed at the notion of my vintage shop and my print shop converging.

It was interesting to compare it to the new blades i've used, even ones of the same brand and style - when i tried it out on a lino block, i was delighted by the smoothness of these blades in cutting. I also think the #1 blade (the tiny V-cutter i use so much) has a more acute angle, so you can get a finer line... i still have to look at new and old blades side by side to check that, but that's my initial impression. While i admit that the newfangled plastic handles that unscrew to store blades are handy, i'll definitely be hunting for a stash of the vintage blades to use!

Monday, June 25, 2012

An unexpected guest

I had hoped that once we got Zelda spayed, she'd hold the territory up here, and we wouldn't have other cats wandering in... but since the kittens are grown and (more importantly) since new neighbors - who feed their cat out on their porch - moved in, Zelda doesn't see much reason to slog all the way up the mountain to our place.  There's a more convenient meal ticket for times when the hunting isn't so good, and she never liked to admit how much she liked the belly rubs, anyway.

So now i've got a stray who's wandered in: plainly a housecat until fairly recently, neutered, declawed, very sociable, and you can still see where a collar sat on his neck. I made all the reports to the shelter, sent in pictures, the whole lot, but the weeks are stretching on with no match, and it's starting to look like maybe the poor guy was dumped.

I've got no openings for kitties at present, so i'm starting to check with friends who might be in the market, knowing that the rescue groups will still be full with the glut of spring kittens.  I've got at least one friend who wants to meet him, so i hope she'll fall in love when she does... who could resist this guy?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Theme and variations

I picked a bunch of pie cherries recently, and thus, the latest incarnation of the cheesecake bars:

I pitted the cherries and fixed them up (vaguely following a pie filling recipe), then folded that in with the cheese mixture.  It's tasty, but i'm still most partial to the blackberry version, i think.... The plate (isn't it cute?) is Harker "Cameoware" from the 1940s - my sister got me four of these sweet little squared bread plates at Christmas a few years back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A visitor

There were two of these beauties zipping about the other day, and i managed to get a quick shot of one of them.  I should probably spend the time with some graphics software to try to restore the true color to those blues... but it's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gearing up...

I'm really, really trying to carve out time (yeah, bad pun, i know...) to get some new designs ready for printing: i've got a little show scheduled for the fall, and in order to fill up the space and rotate things a bit during the exhibit, i'll need some new blocks.

Here's one i'm working on, from a photo that appeared here last summer:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Art music

I attended or worked at various Scout camps for i-could-not-tell-you-how-many years, and i developed a truly exhaustive repertoire of camp songs. But this gem, culled from a songbook i got from my very favorite flea market vendor (hey, he specializes in vintage books and sewing machines), was unknown to me:

(to the tune of "Auld Land Syne")

On mules we find two legs behind,
     and two we find before,
We stand behind before we find
     what the two behind be for.
When we're behind the two behind
     we find what these be for,
So stand before the two behind,
     behind the two before.

Word play, mules, and the music of Burns songs - what could possibly be better?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When in Lindsborg...

Lindsborg, Kansas is a town more or less right in the middle of Kansas, with a population of 3,458... and a bit of a Dala Horse obsession.  It's a college town, so though it's in the middle of lots of farmland, has more than you might expect in the way of coffeehouses, art galleries, museums, and so forth.  And its latest addition to the downtown is a little boutique of hand-crafted and vintage goodies, called "Sarahendepity," after owner Sarah Ash.

Sarah's filled her shop with antique and vintage treasures gathered for her Etsy shops, and has also set up her studio there, so you can watch while she makes her etched and embossed metal jewelry.  In addition to the jewelry, you'll find vintage toys, typewriters (Sarah's a typewriter maven), a bit of Edwardian clothing, and, yes, block prints from PressingNeeds...

 I sent a big box of framed prints to Kansas for the shop opening, and there will be more designs headed there soon.

If you visit that part of the world, drop in and have a look - you can find info, check hours, and see more photos here.  You'll be sure to find something lovely for yourself or a friend - it's a delightfully eclectic selection of items, and a fun place to wander through!

(Yep, that's my fiddle print on the wall over the bicycle...)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Well, look at that...

A friend of mine aimed me at a reader challenge for hand-carved stamps in Cloth Paper Scissors - i wasn't really familiar with the magazine, but took a look, and sent off a copy of my fiddle scroll print, more or less on a lark. This was ages ago. Never heard a peep more, until someone else sent a tweet last night saying she'd seen my print there. I didn't think much of it, figuring she meant the image i'd uploaded to the gallery on the magazine's website, but when i reread it, i started to think it might have been the print edition.  And sure enough...

...there it is in the March/April 2012 issue!