There is nothing about this Prim Whale Pull Toy that I don’t love. All the little bits and pieces that have become its creation DNA have their own story. I discovered the wool at a local fiber studio located in a one room school house that made me green with envy. The button that became the most perfect all seeing eye has been in my stash for years. I was always certain that one fine day this one lonely button would find its purpose, and it certainly finally did. The wheels are made from antique spools. I especially always love a project that Dave and I work on together and we had great fun putting our heads together to figure mechanics, design, and materials. We rummaged through our growing debris pile as we made repairs to our old farmhouse to salvage the perfect rustic wood to give form and function.
We thought that when we left MA we left our beloved Vintage Bazaar behind, but wouldn’t you know it?? –They followed us to our new locale. Still a bit of a hike for us, but Devon, her talent, and her crew are so phenomenal it’s worth the effort. In honor of a show celebrating the vintage, I offer a vintage challenge—Be there or Be Square!
A few years back my husband found these amazing vintage wallpaper rulers. Of course, he snapped them up even though we had absolutely no idea what we would do with them. They languished a bit. We’d dust them off from time to time. They’d go back in the corner. And then I was decorating my new office. I knew they would look perfect. And as it turns out they are, in more ways than one. That nifty little metal cutting edge turns these beautiful salvaged pieces into an utterly fabulous and tremendously useful magnet board.
Go forth. Salvage and Prosper.
I love it when my work is transformative. If only it were so easy when the project is Me.
This weekend was the first of our weekly outings to our favorite Flea Market for the new season. While it was opening day for us, it actually wasn’t the opening day of the market. That date, it seems, had been moved up two weeks this year due to the unusually warm weather. That my husband (the coordinator) missed this fact has wreaked havoc on our marriage. However, when you come home and your car smells like “Barn”, you know you’ve had a good haul. And boy did I.
I will grant you, my husband is an infinitely better person than I am. He’s more forgiving, more generous, more patient and thorough. As this pertains to flea markets, he insists on going down one side of a row and then back up the other, essentially walking each aisle twice. This drives me crazy. Usually, I’m running laps around him. And then he kindly informs me of everything I’ve missed.
Not this day. On this outing I got stuck in the second stall, rummaging through baskets of vintage linens and napkins. When done there, I only made it two stalls further. He was two rows away by then, though I could still see glimmers of the safety orange sweatshirt he wore specifically to increase his visibility (I get lost easily) . Waylaid at the booth brimming with Hungarian feed sacks, I’m now out of cash. “Will you hold these while I find my hubby?” On my way to locate him, a favorite dealer has a rug I want. “Twenty bucks? Yes. Gotta find The Boy.” Completely gone from view, I phone him, “I’m out of money, out of hands. Where are you??” We reconnect at the car, he hands over the cash and goes to collect all the stuff I couldn’t carry (or pay for). I soldier on.
As I progress through the market, I find an oriental carpet I must have, and then another. And it’s big. “Zenny, can you hold this for me? When a guy in orange shows up for it, it’s good. Give it to him. “Is there a secret code?” Zenny wants to know. “Yeah, he’ll say ‘What’s she done this time?'” And my guy did say just that. And Zenny handed the rug over.
The day was a hoot. I scored vintage burlap sacks, antique doilies, and 1950’s Japanese stuffed animals. It was joyful. My studio is now brimming with a bunch of things that need to be cleaned, stitched, transformed. And I must bake something very good and gooey for the cute guy who hauls, hands over cash, and is pretty good at feigning enthusiasm without complaint.
I don’t know what’s been happening lately. I tried quilting years ago, and just didn’t take to it. A bit surprising, given my affinity for all things fiber. Regardless, there it is.
Lately, however, I have been picking up quilts, quilt pieces, already cut up cutter quilts, etc., right and left. I just can’t help myself. I still don’t want to quilt. I just want to honor and adore these bits and pieces I’ve been accumulating lately.
To a one (just about) the entirety of them is hand-stitched. From the piecing, to the quilting, to the binding—when applicable–hand done. Period.
I want to incorporate these bits of wonder into something new. Something that I am doing. Honestly, I am a wretch who wants to lean on the talents of a bygone era to make something that is cherished, that makes someone take pause, if not weep, to have this tenderness of talent applied to their tech moderated lives.
Can that be done in our day and age?
On one of our recent (and frequent) flea marketing outings, my husband and I picked up a quilt. At least 60 yrs old. Honestly, extremely poorly done. But equally honestly, that requires a certain ability of technique in of itself. One side of the border starts at about–what?–6 inches wide??. Over the course of its run, it finishes at maybe 2 inches. The squares–and not a one matches another–are tilted and skewed. Drunken is really the best description. And at the end of the day, it is a quirky, amusing, and even lovingly ridiculous squarish quilt that warmed some hardworked and (hopefully) well loved body.
There is not only beauty in that, but poetry.
I have spent the past two days piecing pillows together. Pillows, that on the face of it, should have been relatively easy to assemble. But given the patterns. And the repeats. And the lack of a — Square. True. Grain. — And everything else that annoys the cr$p out of me—it took days and knots in my back, and tons of caffeine. And it suddenly occurred to me, looking at my acquired tipsy quilt, how hard it must have been to pull off a NOT PERFECT quilt. That takes a plenitude more skill and technique. I think I know that now.
If I have to lie my life on the line to be able to make something square and true, how on earth do I make a respectable quilt that scoffs at longitude and latitude??
So, my crew introduced me to Gee’s Bend. And I may just see the light.
And the cutting table beckons.
On a recent trip to Maine I delighted in finding a trove of vintage feed sacks. Probably post WWII. And I had a vision of an old farmer in the corner of his barn painstakingly making a little gift for a little granddaughter. I don’t know where that came from, but I decided that I would try to capture the essence of that image by making this piece myself.
I cut and sewed all the pieces by hand, intent on a rustic primitve look. I allowed the wear of the Wirthmore feed sack to be included in its own charming way. He is carefully stuffed with organic fair trade cotton. This little guy is sewn in a permanent sitting position. His small eyes are black beans.
I spend a lot of time rooting through flea markets. Pieces of other people’s live present themselves to me, and I create my own narrative. I wonder if someday one of my pieces will be discovered in a dusty box in some vendor’s stall waiting for a new story to be told.
We love antiquing. I believe I’ve said that before. Combing through flea market stalls, Craigslist ads, and other local haunts always sucks us in. But it has come to the point that our vintage finds are requiring the same level of management as my stash. Gasp! So it has come to it. We’ve decided to start a Catch and Release program for those wonderful pieces that we just adore, but simply don’t have the right place for in our home. It is sort of like we are acknowledging that it is okay to be a foster home for antiques. Take it in, clean it up, nurture it, and send it back into the world to be enjoyed. Beats a stint in storage in our barn.
As a fiber lover, stash management is always an issue. Everything seems to have such intrinsic value. And that has only been getting worse for me as I’ve been exploring rug hooking and quilting. Every little tiny scrap is suddenly a representative of enormous value. I don’t want to throw anything away. This is especially true when I am working with vintage textiles, rugs, and linens. I love discovering the new life that lies hidden in an old tea towel or tattered rug, repurposing its charm into pillows, purses, and brooches. But what to do with the remains? Those leftover little pieces of antiquity that lie on the cutting table? This has become my personal challenge: find the latent purpose of these remnants of our forebears. They certainly wouldn’t have wasted a scrap, so why should I?
Some things just must be made. You don’t really have a choice. Unlike other pieces that you labor over and bemoan their lack of direction, sometimes a completely unexpected piece demands your attention and won’t let go. And sometimes everything falls right into place for it, too. That’s what happened with my Brevity Journal. From the moment the tattered antique rug arrived in my studio from a flea market outing, I knew what it needed to become.