Monday, December 7, 2009

The Brownie's Christmas

I love old Christmas poems! I included a number of different ones throughout the years in my dramatic monologues performed this time of the year. With so many struggling with low or no funds this year, I thought I would share some with you over the next month as we approach Christmas. So many of the poems of the 1800s or early 1900s were meant to encourage during similar difficult times! Here's a lovely poem -- a story poem, author unknown -- titled, "The Brownie's Christmas,"  written during a time when imagination soared and children often talked of elves, brownies and fairies. And isn't that where fancy took off from true stories of St. Nicholas and the tales of Santa Claus began?

"The Brownie who lives in the forest,
Oh, the Christmas bells they ring!
He has done for the farmer's children
Full many a kindly thing:

When their cows were lost in the gloaming
He has driven them safely home;
He has led their bees to the flowers,
To fill up their golden comb;

At her spinning the little sister
had napped til the setting sun --
She awoke, and the kindly Brownie
Had gotten it neatly done;

Oh, the Christmas bells they are ringing!
The mother she was away,
And the Brownie'd played with the baby
And tended it all the day;

The Brownie who lives in the forest,
Oh, the Christmas bells they ring!
He has done for the farmer's children
Full many a kindly thing.

'Tis true that his face they never
For all their watching could see;
Yet who else did the kindly service,
I pray, if it were not he!

But the poor little friendly Brownie,
His life was a weary thing;
For never had he been in holy church
And heard the children sing;

And never had he had a Christmas;
Nor had bent in prayer his knee;
He had lived for a thousand years,
And all weary-worn was he.

Or that was the story the children
Had heard at their mother's side;
And together they talked it over,
One merry Christmas-tide.

The pitiful little sister
With her braids of paly gold,
And the little elder brother,
And the darling five-year-old,

All stood in the western window --
'Twas toward the close of day --
And they talked about the Brownie
While resting from their play.

'The Brownie, he has no Christmas;
While so many gifts had we,
To the floor last night they bended
The boughs of the Christmas-tree.'

Then the little elder brother,
He sapke up in his turn,
With both of his blue eyes beaming,
While his cheeks began to burn:

'Let us do up for the Brownie
A Christmas bundle now,
And leave it in the forest pathway
Where the great oak branches bow.

'We'll mark it, "For the Brownie,"
And "A Merry Christmas Day!"
And sure will he be to find it,
For he goeth home that way!'

Then the tender little sister
With her braids of paly gold,
And the little elder brother,
And the darling five-year-old,

Tied up in a little bundle
Some toys, with a loving care,
And marked it, 'For the Brownie,'
In letters large and fair,

And, 'We wish a Merry Christmas!'
And then, in the dusk, the three
Went to the wood and left it
Under the great oak tree.

While the farmer's fair little children
Slept sweet on that Christmas night,
Two wanderers through the forest
Came in the clear moonlight.

And neither one was the Brownie,
But sorry were both as he;
And their hearts, with each fresh footstep,
Were aching steadily.

A slender man with an organ
Strapped on by a leathern band,
And a girl with a tambourine
A-holding close to his hand.

And the girl with the tambourine,
Big sorrowful eyes she had;
In the cold white wood she shivered,
In her ragged raiment clad.

'And what is there here to do?' she said;
'I'm froze I' the light o' the moon!
Shall we play to these sad old forest trees
Some merry and jigging tune?

'And, father, you know it is Christmas-time,
And had we staid I' the town
And I gone to one o' the Christmas-trees,
A gift might have fallen down!

'You cannot certainly know it would not!
I'd ha' gone right under the tree!
Are you sure that none o' the Christmases
Were meant for you and me?'

'These dry dead leaves,' he answered her, sad,
'Which the forest casteth down,
Are more than you'd get from a Christmas tree
In the merry and thoughtless town.

'Though tonite be the Christ's own birthday night,
And all the world hath grace,
There is not a home in all the world
Which holdeth for us a place.'

Slow plodding adown the forest path,
'And now, what is this?' he said;
And the children't bundle he lifted up,
And, 'For the Brownie,' read.

And, 'We wish a Merry Christmas Day!'
'Now if this be done,' said he,
'Somewhere in the world perhaps there is
A place for you and me!'

And the bundle he opened softly:
'This is children's tender thought:
Their own little Christmas presents
They have to the Brownie brought.

'If there liveth such tender pity
Toward a thing so dim and low,
There is kindness sure remaining
Of which I did not know.

'Oh, children, there's never a Brownie --
That sorry, uncanny thing;
But nearest and next are the homeless
When the Christmas joy-bells ring.'

Out laughed the little daughter,
And she gathered the toys with glee:
'My Christmas present has fallen!
This oak was my Christmas tree!'

Then away they went through the forest,
The wanderers, hand in hand;
And the snow, they were both so merry,
It glinted like the golden sand.

Down the forest the elder brother,
In the morning clear and cold,
Came leading the little sister
And the darling five-year-old.

'Oh,' he cries, 'he's taken the bundle!'
As carefully round he peers;
'And the Brownie has gotten a Christmas
After a thousand years!'"

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Plea for the Old-Time Thanksgiving

I want to share the "Household Topics" column from the November 1896 issue of The Ladies World I have in my collection of vintage ephemera. It was the inspiration for my latest creation in my shop on Etsy. It truly is an appeal for remembering the Old-Time Thanksgiving. As you read it, remember, this was written over 100 years ago as a plea then! How much more do we need it today?
"How many of us who keep Thanksgiving day with feasting and merriment consider the real meaning of the holiday? Of course, we go to church and hear elaborate sermons, admonishing us to 'consider our mercies,' and down in our hearts we form a little prayer of gratitude for the benefits we have received, and of supplication for a continuance of our blessings, and in thus making it our own we do right; but still we are losing something each year in the real sweetness of the day.

The English nation has changed much since its first festive observance of Christmas, but staid and matter-of-fact as the people are, they keep many of their olden customs. Still the men and maids bring in the mistletoe; still the Yule log burns on the English hearth; still the waifs sing beneath the windows and the boar's head is brought in in stately procession.

Compare this with our metamorphosis of Thanksgiving Day. Because we no longer live on puncheon floors and wear homespun, because our life is daily growing more complex, is not an excuse for forsaking the old-time Thanksgiving, but, rather, another reason why we should, for this one day, rest our over-strained nerves and go back to the simple, hearty holiday of old.

When I sit in a fashionable congregation on Thanksgiving Day, my mind sometimes wanders from the discourse. It does not dwell on the plumes and furs and velvets in the polished pews, but goes back to that little log hut in the mighty New England woods, and to the brave men who raised their voices in prayer on that first Thanksgiving Day.

And for what did they give thanks? Not that the Lord had blessed them with bountiful harvests, nor prospered their investments, nor kept their foes from them, but because He had sent the ship of relief, just in time to save them from starvation. They acknowledged His benefits in those days in a way to put to shame our indifferent spirit today. It takes more to put this generation in a thankful frame of mind than it did our Puritan fathers. Our granaries and storehouses must be full to overflowing, but they fervently thanked a kind Providence that they could be allowed 'a peck of Indian meal a week to each person."

To put us in a thankful mood, our ship must be bountifully loaded with luxuries for our own; but the first Day of Thanks was for the ship that came into the offing bearing bread for the starving.

If we could all keep this blessed day in sweet and serene spirit, thankful for what we have, much or little, thankful even for the sorrow that the year has brought to soften and chasten our hearts; if we could throw aside unnecessary forms, making it an unconventional, old-time holiday for our families and for the wanderers that come back to us, what sweet memories, all our own, would be connected to the holiday."

There are yet a number of days left between today and Thanksgiving Day to make careful plans for a true celebration of gratitude, even in the midst of these uncertain times. Blessings to you and yours!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Will it Be a Handmade Christmas for You?

I support buying handmade, both as a buyer, a creativity coach, and because I also design and make items for resale. For more than those reasons, though, I support handmade because our world has become so less personal -- and I really believe it brings value to our lives when we connect with both the process and the designer.

We have raised six sons. When our oldest two were teenagers, we moved to a little half-acre in the country where we could have a larger garden and raise chickens for eggs. It was a real eye-opener for our sons to feed and care for the chickens who, in turn, produced wonderful extra-large brown, blue and green eggs for our table. Before that, they knew eggs were laid by chickens, but had no real connection to the process. Most of our world has no real connection with how something they purchase came into being, let along came to the store.

I plan to make it a handmade Christmas this year. Our family members met last week over Sunday Dinner and decided to either keep the cost of an item to $10 or less -- or make something to give. The women will each make one item another woman would like (not knowing who they are making the item for). They guys may make something, but knowing them, they will more likely buy a gift. Even then, my challenge is -- how many wonderful handmade items can you find for $10?  Here are a few of the handmade items I found for guys.

I really do believe there is something for everyone if you do a simple search on Etsy. I was truly impressed with what I found. Here is a great item for the guy who needs to carry business cards, but already has a stuffed wallet.  $7.50 - thebritboutique

For the guy who loves the special brew, why not this great item I found for just $6.99!   Beer Soaps at BeautifulSoaps

I know a couple of 20-somethings who would love this great leather and metal stud bracelet for $10. BeadSiam on Etsy

I have several artists among the men in my family. This great drawing case for just $5 would make a great gift! Handmade Drawing Case by rainbowfrogs77

I don't have time to knit this year, but I know my guys love these fingerless gloves -- and a great price! Just $8.00 at Fingerless Gloves by TheSlipStitch

Here's a perfect item for the coffee lover in your life. My hubby loves to ride his bike to meet a friend for coffee. I could see him wearing this on his wrist (keeping warm on an early morning ride) and then using it to keep his coffee warm while he chats away. And, it's just $5 (so I could get two and he could keep both wrists warm plus share one with his buddy)! Re-usable Coffee Cup Sweater by CuffeShop

Why not make it a handmade Christmas this year too?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Walls, Tweets, and Autograph Books

We all clearly know life has changed dramatically in the last 100 years, but do we really know how profound those changes are to future generations? For some time now I have emailed. I have three blogs. My youngest sons got me started texting by cell. Students I work with challenged me to get on Facebook. Now I have a Facebook Fan page too -- and I tweet on Twitter. Lots of words -- but where do they go? What will their impact be over the space of time -- real time? I watch my twitter account as I update it with so many tweets shifting down the list. Where are mine? Where are yours?

Byrom wrote:
"But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."

We can still read the works of Byrom. Will anyone read my words here on this blog, let alone over time?  I don't make it to my Facebook page often enough to catch all that has appeared on my wall. Are those words lost? Were they important? Did I miss something profound?

I uncovered a little treasure today among my vintage books and magazines. I had frankly not remembered it being among my collection. It's a very small vintage autograph album once belonging to "Mary" from the class of 1930-31 of Haudley High School in Virginia. All the autographs and little poems and sayings contained within are yesteryear's "wall writing" or simple texts or tweets. But they are still here. I can thumb through the 50 pastel pages and wonder who Clara E. Daugherty was who provided her nickname, "Libby," with the lovely handwriting. Her little poem was simply,

"Remember me in the dark
Remember me in the light
Remember me in the summer time
With a string around my heart."

What kind of fun did Myrtle N. Carlisle of Winchester, VA think of when she penned,

"Remember me long,
Remember me forever,
Remember the fun we have had together."

Even though Mary no longers owns her charming little album (for who knows what reason), did she flip through the pages of this little book and, upon reading that, pause to laugh over shared memories?

What is part of my own life that prompts me to recall friends past or present? Is it on a wall? Is it in a tweet? Is it in an email long lost in the files I never check anymore because of the 100s more that have come in? And, even when I do see words on the page, do they evoke the memories that these did for Mary and the longings of my own heart when I see the hand-written script flowing from age-old fountain pens?

I love it when I receive a hand written note. My sister-in-law does not own a computer, so once a month we get 6 or 7 pages in her flowing script. I am thoroughly intrigued with Joon's FlyingHousewife shop on Etsy where she includes handwritten missives (see her shop in the sidebar). Not many take the time to write longhand any more.

For Christmas this year, I believe I will hand pen letters to each of my children. I will use my best penmanship, and rose-scented sepia-toned ink on parchment paper. I will doodle some fancy scrolls in the corners and I will call them by their pet names I used to use when they were just small boys. I will do it for me without expectation that it will mean anything significant to them. But, just maybe --- maybe --- they will become keepsakes. Maybe a grandchild or a great grandchild will wonder about the woman who wrote and stop. Stop to ponder life in a different day when ink and words on paper were slowly being replaced by computers and cyberspace.

"It only takes a little spot,
to plant the seed,

Friday, October 2, 2009

Welcome to my Home Art Studio

I am delighted to share a virtual tour of my studio with you today as part of "Open Studio Day" sponsored by Studio magazine and the great people at Quilting Arts and Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazines.

I have six sons, so as they began to move out on their own, I finally could claim a room for my studio. The challenge for me was that it needed to be a multi-functioning space (I am a writer, creativity coach, and I love to work with a variety of media in art -- primarily fiber art). For a number of years, I also costumed for the theater and for my own one-woman show.

My little space (a former bedroom) is packed -- filled with all kinds of creative items -- from my collection of over 200 antique books and magazines, to lots of vintage lace, trims, buttons, fibers and fabric.

On one side of my room I have bookcases and a roll top desk (purchased with part of a publishing advance on a series of books I wrote). I love sitting at the desk -- but it is often crowded with work as I multitask.
On the opposite side of the room is my very small sewing table. It is an antique oak "campaign" desk -- one that might have been used by a high ranking soldier in the Civil War due to its size and the ease of folding it up to carry to the next tent city. It has a small locking drawer with its original key. (This came in very handy with those six sons of mine -- if they could find my good sewing shears, they would use them on all kinds of their own projects -- including cutting wire!)

I was also blessed to receive a couple of my husband's family heirlooms I enjoy in my special space -- two antique oak spool cabinets. They really help me sort and organize all the little bits of lace, buttons and trims -- and yes, even spools of thread.

At heart I am a creator/developer. For years my husband tried to get me to darn socks (those boys went through them so fast) to help save money. I did (and still do) mend good clothing -- but to me darning socks is just so mundane! My valuable time could be better spent exploring new artistic endeavors. At one point, I must admit I did embroider the tops of my son's socks (with just a little stitch on each in the same color) so I could try to track the multiple tube socks going through the laundry and find mates before the dryer ate them!

I know my curiosity and passion for exploring the creative came from my two dear grandmothers, both now in heaven. I have been working on a quilted album of important memories of my life. I have finished the 12 x 12" page that represents the wonderful contributions those two women made in my life. From one, I inherited an interest in quilting, flowers, music, and fine detail; from the other a love of reading, writing, sketching, and needlework. Many of the initial antique books I collected and the pieces of vintage linens and lace came from their treasure trove.

There are so many heirlooms to be treasured, restored, re-purposed and enjoyed! I love living my passion every day, finding inspiration from the writings and textiles of past generations. It is my hope that I can inspire future generations to value these treasures so they will not be lost.

The opening picture of this blog post showed my antique ironing board with a project just being started. Here is the finished product -- a statement collar (bib) necklace I made from using pieces of wonderful vintage lace and buttons. My antique dress form, "Martha" is modeling it for me.

I hope you have enjoyed my virtual studio tour and the opportunity to get to know me just a little in the process. Oh, and because I know many people are curious to see the "real me" -- here's a photo my husband took of me. If you would like to see more photos of my studio and artistic endeavors, visit my Facebook Fan page (link to the right): Vintage Legacy Studio. Of course, you can always see more of my art in my Etsy shop. I have a special 20% off sale in my shop today in conjunction with the open studio tour.
Connect with others in the Open Studio Tour here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting Ready for Open Studio Day

I had been planning on giving a virtual tour of my creative space. When I discovered the theme of the Fall 2009 issue of Studios is Open Studios, and they are kicking it off with a virtual tour,I decided I had to participate! Stop back here on Saturday October 3rd and I'll have a tour of my studio for you.

I love what the great people at
Quilting Arts and Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazines share -- and I am really looking forward to seeing all the great studios shared through their inspiring Fall issue of Studios!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Focusing on What Really Matters

I just completed a fiber art mixed media card I titled "Serenity." That word evokes a variety of feelings inside me. I am reminded of the "Serenity Prayer:"

"Lord, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."

I am also reminded that there are such simple moments in each and every day I take for granted. Perhaps that's because I'm so caught up in trying to identify what I can and cannot change, that I don't often notice those!

The press of things to do in any given day often puts blinders on our eyes to what really matters. My thought for the day was one found in an 1883 book from my collection (Our Home):

"Joy is the natural and normal condition of every human soul.
To be genuine and permanent it must depend chiefly on internal
instead of external conditions. . .The difficulty is always on the part
of the eye and never on the part of the light."

Here's my personal challenge -- both to myself -- and to you:

"Look today with your eyes wide open, and see with your heart."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hat Trimmings -- Feathers

For "Make a Hat Day" -- A hat is not complete unless you think about how you want to trim it. There are so many varieties of trims, from fancy bands, to flowers, to veils, to feathers. I will focus on feathers in this installment. If you go to a hobby store to find feathers for trimming your hat, chances are you will come away disappointed. They are usually packaged in cello and look much flatter than the feather trims you see on hats.

Here are some tips I discovered on how feather trims were made to look fuller on hats from the past (those terrific vintage finds):

Old feathers are thick and curled. How did they do that? The full-bodied plumes of yesteryear are actually often three plumes adhered together at the stems by milliner's glue to achieve the fullness desired.

The curve of a plume of feathers was achieved by attaching a piece of covered milliner's wire to the underpart of the lower stem with a very fine needle and matching thread. The wire was bent in the desired curve and the end of the plume was allowed to fall soft and free.

The curling of plumes was achieved by pulling the "flues" of the plume in small groups over a dull knife or scissors as though curling gift-wrap ribbon.

If a woman wearing a hat was caught in a sudden thunderstorm, she would end up with drooping plumes or feathers, but they could be easily re-curled to their former beauty.

Glorious Hats: Make a Hat Day

Glorious Hats: Make a Hat Day

Monday, September 14, 2009

Make a Hat

Wednesday, September 15th has been designated as "Make a Hat Day." As a theater costumer for a number of years, I made a lot of hats for a variety of productions. One of the best overall sources is Denise Dreher's book, From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking. Although it is no longer being published, it is still available on Amazon, both some new copies as well as used.

In her book, Ms. Dreyer provides a glimpse into the history of hatmaking as well as a vast quantity of information on making a variety of different styles of hats through the centuries.

For my use in theater production, I especially appreciated her comments on design, which enabled me to create many different hats for the style of both the production and the wearer. Dreyer shares:

"In well designed hats the lines flow naturally into one another and lead the eye without any unexpected breaks or bends. Continuity must be maintained between all of the lines if the design is to be attractive. That is why soft, curvacious hats are usually trimmed with flowing ribbons and flowers while stiff, straight hats receive a more severe, tight hatband and flat bow.

"There are no pre-determined rules as to which lines best flatter which faces and figures. It is largely a matter of observation and experiment on the part of the designer. Through careful studies of people wearing hats, you will soon develop a good sense of this. Begin by trying several hats on yourself and note the changes."
There are a number of simple ways to make a hat if you don't want to start with a pattern. One I have used to good effect is to cover a straw hat with fabric and then add trims. The supplies you will need are:

* Designer fabric of your choice for covering the hat
* 1" wide grossgrain ribbon the measurement of the inside circumference of the crown plus 2" for overlap for making a sweat band (and for covering your raw edges of fabric from the brim cover)
* Fancy ribbon (minimum 1" wide) the measurement of the crown plus 2" for overlap for making the outer hat band (and for covering the raw edges of fabric where the brim and crown covers meet)
* Flowers, feathers and other trims to decorate the hat
* Glue (a heavy craft glue works best)

Step #1: To cover a hat, you must first take several crucial measurements:

* the diameter of the crown
* the circumference of the brim
* the depth of the brim (from where it joins the crown to the outer edge of the brim)

Step #2: To the diameter of the crown, add two inches. Then, create a circle based on that measurement. That will be your pattern for covering the crown.

Step #3: To the circumference of the brim, add one inch (for a seam allowance). That will be the length of the brim pattern. To determine the width of the brim pattern, double the depth of brim measurement you took and add two inches.

Step #4: Now, using the patterns you have made, cut one brim and one crown out of the designer fabric of your choice for covering the hat.

Step #5: One-half inch in from the edge of the crown you have cut from fabric, run a loose stitch (preferably by sewing machine) all the way around for gathering. Place the fabric crown over the crown of the hat and gather up the stitches until the crown fits smoothly. Carefully lift the edge and apply glue. Press the fabric against the straw hat crown.
Step #6: Take the brim fabric you have cut to the pattern and join the two short ends together, right sides together, sewing in a 1/2" seam. Press the seam allowance open. Then, fold the width of the fabric, wrong sides together and press all along the fold. Open back up and run a loose gathering stitch along BOTH long edges of the brim fabric (be sure you are sewing each edge separately).

Step #7: Place the brim fabric over the brim, one edge under the brim and the other edge on top of the brim (with the fold at the outermost edge of the brim). Pull the gathers up on each side, encasing the brim as you do so. Make sure the inside edge of the brim tucks just up into the crown on the inside and glue those gathers in place. The outer gathers can be covered more effectively with the fancy hatband should there be an slight gap. Glue the outer brim edge next to the crown.

Step #8: Now, using the grossgrain ribbon, cover the raw edges and gathers of the brim fabric, creating a sweatband. Fold the last bit of the ribbon before you glue it down so there are no raw edges of the ribbon.
Step #9: Using your fancy hat band ribbon, cover the gathers and raw edges on the outside of the had where the crown and brim fabrics join. Fold the last bit of the ribbon before you glue it down so there are no raw edges of the ribbon. I leave the top edge of the ribbon band open to help hide any trims or feathers I might add, gluing that down as I go.

Step #10: Trim your hat with flowers, lace, or feathers -- or all of the above! Hot glue can be effective at this point, especially if you want the placement to be "just so."

If you cannot find a suitable hat to cover, it is easy to make a hat from scratch. There are patterns available for different styles. The hat pattern I have available in my Etsy store is very versatile. Even though it is shown with a Victorian style (perhaps appealing to the Steampunk culture or Halloween costuming), different trims would give it a more modern appeal.

Hat Pattern:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So, you know I'm deep in cyberspace when. . .

I've gotten so far into social networking (facebook, twitter, blogs, etc.) that I actually stumbled upon a website handing out your "fairy name" randomly (based on your real name, supposedly). Now, I am an incredibly imaginative person (had an imaginary playmate as a girl -- she was really great for blaming my mishaps on!). So, I just had to try this out. Those who know me well -- does this little fairy sound like me?

Your fairy is called Tangle Saturnfilter
She is a trouble maker.
She lives at the bottom of tangled gardens and in hedgerows.
She is only seen on midsummer's eve.
She wears tangled dresses of multicoloured petals. She has delicate pale pink wings like a cicada.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Learning the Value of Tweeting on Twitter

I have been working all day long (in between tasks) to learn how to tweet on twitter. After experiencing an onslaught of possible followers that scared the daylights out of me, I think I have begun to both narrow down my choices and then enhance those to make the most out of this experience.

One of the most valuable tweeters I found to follow as an artist is nikolena (Nicolette Tallmadge). She has some tweets on several "blog radio" sessions she has done on "7 Things You Can Do Today To Get More Traffic To Your Art Website." I listened to just one installment and came away with loads of information -- just in time for the Christmas season.

I just don't want to end up like the TV commercial where the teenagers are totally embarrassed by the dad and mom who are tweeting in their presence about totally nonsensical stuff. If you do want to start getting my tweets (which I promise will be fun quotes and artistic tips -- not what I had for lunch), my twitter name is VintageLegacy. I've put a link showing my tweets today in the left-hand bar of the blog.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

1,000 Ways of Getting Rich -- From the Experts of 1890

I just listed a terrific antique book published in 1890 for sale in my Etsy shop. It is actually two books in one: The Compendium of Cookery and Reliable Recipes and The Book of Knowledge, or 1,000 Ways of Getting Rich.

The treasured recipes and tips within these two books will have you howling, both with delight and incredulity. Of course, 119 years ago, this volume was published in all seriousness. And . . . many of the tips are very user-friendly for us today. Great-great-grandmother would be considered to be very green in how she followed the old addage, "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" in following the advise within its pages.

Here are some of the more humorous selections:

"To Sweeten Meat: A little charcoal thrown into the pot will sweeten meat that is a little old. Not if is in anyway tainted -- then it is then not fit to eat -- but only if kept a little longer than makes it quite fresh."

"Moths in Carpets: Persons troubled with carpet moths may get rid of them by scrubbing the floor with strong hot salt and water before laying the carpet, and sprinkling the carpet with salt once a week before sweeping."

"A Good Wash for Hair: One pennyworth of borax, half a pint of olive-oil, one pint of boiling water. Mode: Pour the boiling water over the borax and oil; let it cool; then put the mixture into a bottle. Shake it before using, and apply it with a flannel. Camphor and borax, dissolved in boiling water and left to cool, make a very good wash for the hair; as also does rosemary water mixed with a little borax. After using any of these washes, when the hair becomes thoroughly dry, a little pomatum or oil should be rubbed in, to make it smooth and glossy."

On the practical side, there are some wonderful recipes -- for everything from making wine and simple sauces to making candy and taffy. The selections on canning and preserving make this book worth its weight in gold! The Book of Knowledge section gives hints and tips on everything from making your own ink, to a cement you can make to mend broken china. Here's a tip for removing indelible ink stains (very green indeed):

"Soak the stained spot in strong salt water, then wash it with ammonia. Salt changes the nitrate of silver into chloride of silver, and ammonia dissolves the chloride."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Learning to Take Better Pictures

One of the criteria for taking good pictures, I'm struggling to learn, is using the manual settings on your digital camera. That, and choosing the best background and overall lighting. I have been working on taking pictures of one of my new creations for my shop on Etsy, and I'm having more trouble than I thought I would. I would like your help, please. Here are some pictures, the one above taken in a lighter room using my setting for tungsten light -- without a flash.

The second one is in a different room with overhead lighting and a wood table. I still used the setting for tungsten lighting, no flash. Any suggestions? Here's a close-up shot -- again, same settings.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sunflower Splendor

The hail we got in our area this summer pretty well obliterated our tomatoes and vegetable garden, but the sunflowers have been amazing. I've never seen such a glorious array! It has been fun to use them in staging photos of my vintage items and artwork for sale in my Etsy shop.

I have also used them in simple bouquets for my desk. They always make me smile. I know it is bound to turn cold and they will bow their heads, giving up the last of the summer sun very soon. That's why I decided to write an ode to their cheery faces today.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Recycling Vintage Handkerchiefs

I have been de-cluttering my sewing space so I have more room for creating. When I came across a dozen vintage handkerchiefs I had cut in half for a quilt top years ago, I just could not toss them out! I doubted my local charity would take them -- they would probably throw them away. I did not think it likely I could sell them. So. . .they sat on my desk for a few days. The more I looked at them, the more they spoke to me.

The day I took a trip to my local bead shop (Ka-Gina's Beads in Arvada, CO), inspiration struck. I found some great Pandora-style glass beads that reminded me of the hankies! After a trip home to get the handkerchief halves for matching, I was busy creating. In fact, I haven't been able to stop! They are so much fun to make. Each one includes vintage lace, loops of beads, little puff beads I have made to tie in the colors and even some vintage buttons!

The real fun came on the day I wore my first one to work. One of my co-workers (a young 25-yr-old) told me she thought they were every bit as great as the ones she had seen at Anthropologie! "But yours are unique and one-of-a-kind!" was the final compliment to seal me on giving them a shot in my store on Etsy. My daughter-in-law came to model them, so I just posted the first two up for sale today. The one you see here is one of my favorites I'll be posting up a little later in the week.

So, what do you think?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back to Creating

So why haven't I blogged since last Christmas season? Wow! If I'm honest, it's because I also haven't been honoring my own life mission statement! The first phrase includes "designing space to grow, empowering myself and others to be creative." Well, if you don't give yourself space to grow, it's pretty impossible to empower yourself or others to be creative -- DUH!

So, I decided that my day job just cannot take priority in my life anymore. Maybe that's because when a bad economic environment shakes up the hours and pay one for the job, you begin to ask yourself some serious questions about what you want to be doing with your time and energy.

Yep, I could say it has something to do with the job -- but it also really has to do with ME. What are the choices I've been making? Do I want to make different ones? Yes, I do -- so you will see me more often, I hope (unless I am very busy creating). Even then, I do want to share with you how I'm empowering myself in that creative process so I can truly honor the latter part of that mission statement about empower others to also be creative.

I've done a few of the things I was doing two years ago (they are posted now in my Etsy shop: and I've included a couple of pictures here -- but I'm also exploring all kinds of new creativity! I am messing around with making flowers out of vintage '40s and '50s hankies, I'm writing about some of the things I've done in a "how to" on (you can find my articles by my user name there: CoachJudiB) and I'm also researching ways of possibly bringing the books to print that I wrote several years ago. So, trail along with me on this journey and we'll explore some creativity together.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Winter Wonderland

I had so much fun creating the mixed media sparkling snowmen from the December Cloth Paper Scissors magazine cover! I used part of my Christmas vacation from work to make five sets of three each of these unique characters. They were grouped in festive form down the center of my very long table on Christmas Day -- and then I surprised each of my 5 daughter-in-laws by having them choose a set to take home with them.

One of the things that made them special was being able to incorporate some of my grandmother's old costume jewelry into the making of their hats and necklaces.


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