I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buttons & Bows

Vintage trims have recently been showing up as a popular category on lists like "Top Ten Collectibles" and "Favorite Flea Market Finds." For someone like me, a long-time aficionada of old ribbons, lace and buttons, this new popularity has its good points and its bad points. On the plus side, it catches the eye of dealers and pickers who might overlook these items---or even [gasp of horror!] discard such treasures. And newly informed, they mark the stuff up and put it out for sale, which is great.                                                                          summer's treasures

On the bad side, it creates a lot more competition for these musty faded but still oh so charming gems.
more goodies from the Sunday flea martket!

I first fell in love with buttons as a tiny child playing with my mother's button box. This predates parental neurosis about choking, obviously! My favorite buttons were many: tiny china hearts from a Swiss dirndl! Little brown velvet squares from my mother's tweed suit, golden eagles [I imagined] buttons from daddy's Air force uniforms, rhinestones from a silk shirt that once sported hand painted flamingoes.

work in progress: "choosing the trims"

When I was a little older, I took a fancy to ribbons too. Again, my mother was the source. She had a few special silk velvet ribbons, once used as sashes, rolled in her dresser drawer, tucked in with some antique, handmade French lace edging and Tyrolean braid that must have gone with that dirndl. Years later we made white cotton aprons trimmed in that braid, wore them to make our cookies each Christmas---in fact, I still have mine and wear it with love, remembering good times, long ago.

But the French ribbons!

I grew my hair very long about that time and wore it in a waist-length braid; I collected 1/2 yard cuts of gorgeous ribbons to tie on the braid's end, no scrunchies for me. Of course the braid went quickly once I moved to NYC. Somewhere though I still have the tiny tin with the rolled ribbons, tucked away with my memories. And I still collect ribbons and lace and buttons for my art and crafts designs, especially for my dolls and angels and my ever-popular stuffed potpourri hearts.
newest hearts-cinnamon & lavender

This is the link for Country Homes archived story about collecting trimmings:

and a brief excerpt....

Top 10 Collectibles for 2008



Notions include all kinds of vintage sewing supplies, including buttons, beads, trim, lace, and ribbon.


For just a few dollars you can get a card of buttons or a yard of trim.


And the current issue of Victoria Magazine [Dec 09] has a delightful artlicle called Wrapped in Whimsy. The featured shop has a ribbon-lover's dream-come-true selection of gorgeous ribbons in stock. Check it out.

From the website: Enter a fanciful world of adornment at Nicholas Kniel Embellishments for You and Your Home. This quaint Atlanta boutique and studio specializes in ...offering more than four thousand rolls of almost every type of ribbon imaginable—from grosgrains, picots, and organdies to taffetas, jacquards, and silks—the shop also features an eclectic mix of buttons, feathers, masks, and millinery.  For more information on Nicholas Kniel and his boutique, visit nicholaskniel.com.

You'll be charmed...and inspired!

Happy holiday season!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Looks Like Stormy Weather

Today we are experiencing the aftermath of Hurricane Ida!

same view/calm day!
Below is the warning posted on the weather sites:

storm waves
The Weather reports sound so dramatic sometimes! And it is true that our lights are flickering and the beach is under water. Autumn storms are quite exciting! Often in their aftermath, I find excellent “treasure” for my winter projects.

All-time best find-
My daughter found this a week or so ago! I was soooo jealous! I thought it was the front or "apron" of a small chest or table but she saw it as the foot of a child's tiny bed...so exceptional.

In the days immediately after most storms, the beach is swept as clear and pristine as a concrete airport runway. But was the waves subside, interesting objects are gently washed ashore.
This is one of two "shelves" I found. Below is a sketch of what it might someday become.....

And this is an autumn survivor urn of flowers, still so pretty! With a large driftwood piece used as a wind support and sculpture.

Autumn storms can also bring an influx of migratory birds. Folk wisdom claims the tiny creatures use the winds to carry them south, an express ride on their autumn journeys. True or not, our dunes and tress are suddenly animated, filled with flocks of warblers and kinglets. The sky is filled with immense black flocks like pepper strewn on a countertop---blackbirds and starlings, the occasional flock of wild doves and pigeons. The beach is not home to many songbirds so the sight of the birds as they pass by is quite special. My favorites are the Yellow Rumped warblers who look like brown sparrows until they flit away---so shy!---and show their bright yellow spot above their tails. They love the seedheads of our beach grasses on the dunes.
And sometimes a storm brings a rare and wonderful traveller like this spectacular blue Painted Bunting!

Safe travels to everyone on a stormy night!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Baseball & Brisket: New York, New York!

Last week a nippy wind blew through our weekly farmers market. The vendor turnout was smaller than usual, but the selection and the quality were wonderful. Inspired by the sudden chill in the air and the final night (we hoped!) of the World Series---Yay, Yanks! ---I was inspired to stock up on fresh winter veggies and late harvest apples.
What an amazing treat! Brussels sprouts, still on the stalk. Isn’t this cool? From Stan-Pat Farm, NY.
                                          ***   ***   ***

And exceptional apples: Ginger Gold & Honeycrisp (“world’s crispest apple”)-Red Jacket Orchard, NY

Yum! Classic New York Brisket on an autumn night! Possibly NOT very PC, I am sure we should be eating steamed fish and steamed veg. Oh well….Maybe the organic, fresh-picked perfection of the market’s produce makes up for its old time-y red meat-and-gravy-ness of this traditional one-pot dish?

I use the recipe from The Brooklyn Cookbook [Knopf Cooks American Series) by Lyn Sttallworth and Rod Kennedy Jr. 1992]---probably out of print* but a charming mainstay for classic foods of our childhoods. The book was a gift to me from a friend who was perhaps hoping I’d suddenly produce dishes more like his mother used to make, who knows? (Never happened! Who can cook like Mom did? All that love…).

*available used on Amazon.

The recipe:

  • Brisket      
  • 1 can beef broth + 2 cans of water
  • Adolph’s meat tenderizer
  • 1 pkg of Knorr onion soup
  • Garlic powder
  • 5 or 6 small onions, peeled
  • 3 large carrots cut in thirds
  • salt & pepper to taste/ as desired
  • PLUS! Secret ingredient! I won’t tell, nuh-uh, not me, but I will admit to adding a small can of cranberry sauce, a trick from a friend’s dad to make rich gravy.
Rub all the dry stuff into the meat, in heavy, oven-proof pot with a lid. Mine is LeCreuset, blue. Cover meat with the liquid [you can also add up to 1 C. of leftover wine if you have it.] Be sure there is enough liquid to entirely cover the meat and veg. Add the carrots & the onions. Seal the pot with aluminum foil then the heavy lid. Bake at 350 degrees for at least 3 hours.

***Hint*** I try to make this dish the day ahead and refrigerate because that way all the fat rises to the surface and solidifies; it can then be skimmed off with a slotted spoon. Reheat on low on stove.

Serve with egg noodles. I used homemade noodles from Millport Dairy, an Amish farm the sells at the farmers’ market.

Delicious! And easy to serve without missing any of the game. Homemade peanut butter cookies, also from Millport Dairy &/or crisp apples for dessert. Who says baseball requires beer and chips?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Indigo with a Silver Lining

Most days, I'll admit to being an optimist...a relentless finder of silver linings in the clouds of woe we call daily life. My current cloud and its lining, you ask? My computer crashed bigtime, big bucks, BIG loss of time, work and memories---majorly big crash. If we want to play some creepy music we can do the conspiracy theory thing: it crashed the day before Windows 7 came out, the cause of the crash was a Windows glitch! Hmmmm.
But cut off from my computer, I found I suddenly had LOTS of extra time and finally finsihed a number of current projects including two quilt tops. Yay! I am very happy to report that the second quilt was sent to the quilter this morning, the other went last week.
I have my quilts machine quilted by Jen Wagner at Wagner Quilting:
http://www.wagnerquilting.com/ . Jen also has a very cool blog, the link is on her website. And her conpany does exquisite quiting always, with very fast service.
Below is Quilt #1, an original quilt by me, in indigo. This quilt represents at least 3 1/2 years of planning and sewing; the fabrics are almost entirely ethnic or antique hand-dyed, &/or homespun cottons. Many are Japanese farmers' cloth, called kasuri, c.1870-1910. They often utilised ikat dying along with the indigo dye. Ikat is an ancient technique---almost like tie-dying the warp threads of a fabric. Many other fabrics are hand-blocked batiks [wax-resist/handblocked] from exotic places like Bali, Tonga, and Indonesia. There are also hand-block printed fabrics from Africa and Japan and a few bits of kimono silks. An antique textiles dealer who is a good friend donated antique American indigo fabrics too. Often these treasured scraps are recycled from the backings of antique American quilts that have shredded into hopelessness.

I also used a seashell motif American cotton toile that I tea-dyed for a softer color. My "block" was freeform using the shell fabric as a unifier. The shell blocks are divided by scrappy "bars" of Chinese Coins" pattern strips. The backing is a chocolate toile with a turquoise tropical Palms motif and the binding will also be the Chinese Coins strips, if it goes as planned. The quilting pattern is a palm leaf motif called "Tropical Palms".

Not only did I collect the indigo fabrics for 3 or 4 years, I have been collecting small seashells with holes in them for a long time too. Family and friends who visit beaches far far away---Hawaii! Jamaica! Costa Rica! are tasked by me to bring more shells. These shells will be embroidered or beaded onto the completed top, entirely by hand...so I guess this baby is maybe halfway done.
Below: a view of my beach and ocean, the inspiration for the indigo quilt's design.
The indigo quilt and the following quilt both are, in many ways, remembrances of my mother who passed away this past January. The day I finally got out my scissors and actually cut all that blue fabric was the day my mother died. And the following quilt, Quilt # 2, is an antique top completed by me.
This top belonged to my mother and was one of the few antiques she actually bought for herself, as opposed to being with my dad and shopping for his interests...she bought it in Illinois years ago. My estimate is that it dates to about 1875-1895 and is Mennonite, judging from the unusual dark colors. This top was one of two---the less completed one she gave to me and I hope to someday have it finished too. The colors glow almost as if they were made by an Amish quilter, but the use of patterned fabric makes me attribute it to the Mennonites.
My mother loved this top and always dreamed of preserving its beauty by adding the border and having it quilted. In the years that my mother owned the top, she used it every fall as a table cover, display only of course. I'll never forget the first time I saw it, glowing in her Illinois greatroom, a beloved crock from Colorado full of dried hyrdrageas at its center.
her Colorado stoneware crock, now mine---with new hydrangeas

I had arrived home from college, and compared to my small off-campus apartment, her house looked so warm and welcoming---the colors, the flowers, a fire in the fireplace. The welcome home snack that night was tiny pumpernickel bread rounds with rare roast beef and very hot mustard, homemade pickles and pickled red onions on the side, her ubiquitous beer or wine on offer. It was such a perfect homecoming, a glowing gem of memory. No one does Welcome! like my mother did. And so, I am preserving her quilt---and that weekend, I hope. forever.....