Friday, May 18, 2018

Simple Pleasures

It's finally spring in my neck of the woods, and everything has suddenly burst into bloom.  Here's a little tour of the amazing things that sprook up around my house every year.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Vintage Craft Book Feature: BH&G Creative Crafts and Stitchery (USA 1976)

Another of my many needlework hobbies is the collection of vintage craft books.  Found in dusty corners of second hand shops, in pride of place in used book stores, these old tomes often contain beautiful nuggets of crafting wisdom, and a heaping helping of vintage charm.  Reviving the techniques, tips and retro projects is just one more way for us to bring back the wonders of the handmade.

Better Homes and Gardens: Creative Crafts and Stitchery - U.S.A. 1976

Much like the previous BH&G book I reviewed (Treasures From Throwaways), this one is packed with delightfully retro projects.  Though there is less of a focus on it, there are many projects in this book that feature natural or reused materials.  for example, it says to cut shapes out of  colored beverage cans for the cool shisha mirrors in the butterfly on the cover.  Painted rocks, driftwood sculptures and more alongside the more traditional knitting and macrame.

The butterfly is pretty cool, but I think these awesomely retro sweaters from the embroidery section deserve a special mention.

I see so many old knit and crochet doilies at thrift stores, and never know what to do with them, but hate to pass them up as they are so pretty.  Well, maybe this is the answer:  stick them on every available surface in a bathroom :P  In all seriousness, this does give me a few ideas: edges of towels, pillow covers, lace window curtains...

Even though I am hopelessly bad at crochet, this triangle shawl is one of my favorite projects in the whole book.

"The a replica of one that a young Swedish bride made for her trousseau when she came to this country 100 years ago.  The adult version is worn by the great-granddaughter of the Swedish girl who crocheted the original wraparound shawl, and the child's version is worn by her great-great-granddaughter"

I love seeing replicas of historical needlework like this.  So many traditional garments only exist now in photos, and no one kept track of how to make them.  Having historical crafts preserved like this is always amazing to find in a modern book.

Maybe someday I'll finally get better at crochet and try to make one of these shawls.

These leaf art cards are another favorite of mine.  I have always been that weirdo who sees faces and scenes in completely mundane objects.  These leaf art cards are proof that someone else in the world has the same weird tendency.

I did make a few of these as Christmas and birthday cards one year.  While everyone said they were neat/pretty/what-have-you, a few definitely looked askance at me and asked what the shape was supposed to be.  I guess it takes a special kind of weird to appreciate them, but I am glad to be in that category.

All of the projects in this book are quite charming if you like the retro style.  They all have great instructions, so even if you just want to use the how-to info for your own crafts, it is a great resource.  It covers a pretty wide range of crafting disciplines, and has a lot of outside-the-box type inspiration to offer.  Case in point; this 'accent rug' that you literally draw on whatever floor you think needs an accent rug, but having a real rug would gum up the door.

Also, macralap is my new favorite crafting term.

Free Pattern Collection

The last few week's worth of tracings all gathered together for your convenience, enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Vintage Craft Book Feature: Schoeller Wolle and Esslinger Wolle (Germany ~1980's)

Another of my many needlework hobbies is the collection of vintage craft books.  Found in dusty corners of second hand shops, in pride of place in used book stores, these old tomes often contain beautiful nuggets of crafting wisdom, and a heaping helping of vintage charm.  Reviving the techniques, tips and retro projects is just one more way for us to bring back the wonders of the handmade.

Schoeller Wolle and Esslinger Wolle Pamphlets - Germany ~1980's

Well, book is a bit of a misnomer here as this is actually a collection of pattern pamphlets from the yarn companies Schoeller Wolle and Esslinger Wolle.  

I found a total of eight of these pamphlets in a ziplock bag at a thrift store for the hefty sum of 10 cents.  While they are definitely 1980's style with all the awfulness that implies, there were a few (like the one above) that intrigued me enough to splurge on them.  The patterns are all completely in German, but I didn't let that deter me any more than the Dutch knitting book did.

Each pamphlet is a cute little fold out thing; with a picture of a pattern on the front and back (so two patterns per pamphlet) and all the instructions, including diagrams, in two or three pages inside.  The pamphlets aren't very big, 6" by 8" or so.  That small space means the patterns are a bit crushed in with a lot of abbreviations.  No where can I find a list of said terms, but I imagine the internet can help with that.  I may try to google assist translate the above jacket pattern, and if I do I'll share it here.

While the cacti are beyond goofy, the knit pants intrigue me.  I have a feeling that knit in a soft yarn they would be really great lay-around-the-house pants.  That little girl is rocking the single coolest accessory in the whole of the collection.  I am so jealous that my hair would never be able to do that.

I kind of want to translate this coat pattern just to figure out wth is going on with it.  It looks like it's knit sideways with giant short rows and changes of yarn?  Bizarre and terrible looking, but curiosity compels me.

All in all, this collection is mostly just a retro novelty, and I'm glad I didn't spend more than a dime on it.  I wish I could find more info on the yarn companies, but alas a semi-deep internet search has given me nothing.  I like searching up historical data about textile and craft companies, and it bugs me to come up with so much nothing.  

I have a feeling that none of the yarns called for exist any more, and finding substitutes without knowing anything about the originals will be difficult.  Between that and the seemingly extra-abbreviated patterns in a language I cannot read, recreating any of these may be quite the challenge.

On the other hand, I do like puzzles.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Uncovering Treasures - Part 2

As promised, here is part two of the continuing saga of the sewing treasure chest:

There were a few things that popped out of the box as interesting just historically.  When was the last time you saw a package of needles with gold leaf on bot the needles and the paper package?  Or how about the small rings used for curtains and dorset buttons made from "genuine bone" and priced at 10 cents?

Not sure what I'll actually do with either of these, but they are kinda fun to keep as interesting history tidbits.   


I mentioned the Belding & xx silk threads in the last post, here are all of them together.  I was really happy to pull out that Belding & Corticelli case, and even happier when I opened it to find little sampler spools of silk.  The buttonhole twist was another delightful find.  It's a very fun thread to stitch with, and kinda hard to find.

There was also a LOT of darning thread in every shade imaginable.  Somebody clearly planned on fixing a LOT of stockings.  Many of the spools seemed unused, so who knows how much darning ever actually got done though.

The real stars of this tale I have left for last;  the two tomato pincushions.

I already have a number of pincushions I use on a regular basis, and so I didn't need two more.  As a bit of an archaeological exercise, I decided to cut them open and see what pins and needles (if any) may have gotten lost within.  One one of the tomatoes I could see just the tips of a few needle eyes sticking out, so I thought maybe a few had gotten all the way in.

Here is the pair before I did any cutting or removal.  Each has a handful of pins, and you can see the needle eyes on the far one.  Not expecting to find much, I started with the near one.

I was really proud of myself for remembering to put something down under the pile of sawdust before dumping it.  I was less proud when it took me a few minutes of sifting before thinking to use a magnet to find the needles in said pile.  When all were extracted the total was 14 pins and 17 needles, more than I really expected.  As I moved on to the next tomato I thought, well maybe this one has a few more, since I can see a couple poking out.  I was still guessing in the realm of 20 or so needles.

This is what I saw when I cut open the second tomato.

WAY more than 20 needles.

I am at a bit of a loss as to how a person could lose SO MANY needles into a pincushion.  It's a little hard to see, but one of the ones sticking up is so large it is almost a yarn needle.  

Maybe they were all still sticking out and visible, and then the tomato got tossed in a box and all the needles got pushed in in the resulting jumble??

Also, whoever this box belonged to, they had a fondness for gold eye needles.  Besides the packet above, almost all the needles I retrieved from the tomatoes had gold eyes.  Was it just what was available?  or an actual preference?

So, how does one extract so much pointy metal from a pile of sawdust?  With a powerful magnet!  Unfortunate side effects may include flinging sawdust everywhere when the needles snap to the magnet, and having a giant pile of magnetized needles that are nigh impossible to separate...  

Well, I call it about a halfway good idea...

The final count was 16 pins and 124 needles from the second tomato.  Well, 123 and two halves.  There were two broken pointy halves that came tumbling out, but no matching eyes.  My mother called dibs on the yarn needle.  

Monday, April 2, 2018

Treasure Trove - Part 1

I have a bit of a thing for old sewing boxes.  I have found a few in antique and thrift stores that have neat folding out sections, and I think they are just the best for organizing threads.  But what really draws me in when I see an innocuous sewing basket sitting in a store is the possibility of what could be inside.  At least three times in the last year I have bought a vintage sewing box, not because I wanted the box itself, but because of the delicious filling inside.

The latest box wasn't even hiding it's goodies, it was sitting open and the price tag proudly proclaimed that all within was included.

As sewing boxes go, it's a pretty dull one.  Also with no dividers or anything for organization, the jumble of threads and notions was just dumped together in the cavernous space.  It was hard to tell at first glace if there was anything worth the price inside, but a few treasures peaked out of the mess and beckoned to me.

I must admit, I felt a bit like a character from one of my favorite old RPGs opening a treasure chest and hoping the random drop would be something good.

I was not disappointed :)

 After an hour or so of sorting and rewinding errant spools, I finally had the whole trove laid out.  Thoughts of dragons poring over their hoards went through my head as I began the difficult task of deciding how much of any of this I really needed.

Spools of thread are always good to keep, you never know when you might need just that one specific color.  Most of the embroidery floss I gave away, all of it was from old companies that no longer make floss, and thus would be very hard to match to modern colors.

I did have a lot of fun going through the spools, as there was a wide spread of ages and manufacturers.  I tried to line up a timeline of sorts based just on the labels and company names.

Most were Coats, Clarks, or some combination thereof, but there was also a handful of nice silk thread all bearing the name Belding with various & 'so and so' afterwards.  Interesting not only because I really like silk thread, but also because I live less than 20 miles from the town of Belding where it was produced back in the day.

The heaps of bias tape and lace were definitely on my keep list.  I don't think I've had to buy bias tape new for at least a year or two, just because there always seems to be some in the sewing boxes I buy.  I am also the proud owner of three wooden darning eggs for the same reason.  Also among the treasures in this box was a nice tracing wheel, the one tool I hadn't managed to come across yet.

The tomato pincushions and more specialty items deserve their own post, so stay tuned for part 2.

The buttons I definitely kept.  I think I have some sort of compulsive button hoarding disorder.  I do use them in things, but it often seems as if more come into my sewing room than ever leave.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Free Pattern Friday! 02-23-2018

A lovely bouquet to celebrate the start of spring!  This was traced from a vintage plate.  Enjoy!