Nostalgic Home

A Vintage View of Homekeeping

Bird Brain February 18, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Crafting,Garden,The Great Outdoors — LotusMama @ 9:03 am


Originally uploaded by shorter.chip

I’ve had robins on the brain lately. It must be my impatience for spring because I’m definitely not a bird lover. But there is something about robins that I enjoy.

The robins that hang around in Washington don’t look like this fellow (at least not the ones I’ve seen). They are bigger, less “puff ball” shaped, and have a deeper red breast. I have to say I like this little guy better. I found him on flickr and I think he might have been photographed in Ireland.

So I’m keeping my eye out for signs of life and hoping some robins make their way to my yard. I’m planning on bringing some robin designs inside too, either with embroidery or photo transfers – something crafty, which hasn’t jelled in my mind yet.

Next time I’m at the store, I’ll find some of those blue-shelled malted balls that are already on the shelves for Easter and make some of these Robin’s Egg cookies.

Yep, definitely have some bird on the brain.


And speaking of love… February 12, 2009

Filed under: Crafting,Jane Austen — LotusMama @ 9:00 am
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I just had to share my Darcy and Elizabeth pillowcases with you. darcyelizpillowsAwhile back (like last February), I found these great vintage pillowcases with crochet trim at the thrift store. They’ve been hanging out in my craftroom since then, until I started reading Kayte Terry’s Complete Embellishment. In her book, Ms. Terry has a pattern for “Lord and Lady” pillowcases, which are silhouettes with an oval border, appliqued to pillowcases.

Being the cross-over fiend that I am, I thought it would be fun to make a Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet set since my Jane Austen book group is reading Pride & Prejudice at the moment. Besides, they top my list of fictional lovers so why not whip something up around Valentine’s Day?

I dusted off those pillowcases and went about making my own felty versions of the silhouettes. My version has more applique going on – I added a third layer, leaves and flowers, and buttons. My shapes and colors look more like Mod Squad 20th century than Regency England, but I’m ok with that. These pillowcases are cheerful but for decoration only (who’d want to sleep on buttons – talk about pillowface…)

Here’s a couple of close-ups of Liz and Darcy:

elizpillowdarcypillowMr. D ended up a little askew on the pillowcase, but that actually makes me chuckle – the “real” Mr. Darcy would be aghast at being improper, but with his Elizabeth, he’ll suffer even this.


Mend and Make Do January 29, 2009

Filed under: Crafting,Hard Time Helpings — LotusMama @ 9:39 am
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This may sound like a continuation of the last post but it is a bit different. I enjoy browsing eBay now and then for old patterns or something that catches my eye. While browsing the other day, I found an old pattern book from 1943 called “Crochet your Victory Barnyard”.

Sure, it has seen better days and wasn’t in “mint” condition but I liked the illustrations inside. Each pattern has a little portrait, reminiscent of a child’s picture book, with a poem about that particular animal’s usefulness in relation to the WWII effort. Here is one for the black sheep:

The poem, if you can’t read it in the photo is this:

The black lamb on this farm is proud

And holds his head above the crowd

He has a right to be elated

For let it here and now be stated

The clothes for all our battling forces

Are made from wool which he endorses

Cute, huh? Long time readers already know I have a soft spot in my head for the homefront war effort of “Knit Your Bit”, but this little booklet got me thinking. What other V for Victory type of projects were afoot during WWII? The Victory Garden idea is well known; growing produce in front yards, vacant lots, even plots in Hyde Park so that the commercial produce could go to the troops. There are plenty of references around for the gardens, as well as scrap metal drives and collecting pennies. But the idea that there were crafting projects aimed at bolstering morale and the Victory effort caught my eye.

I started looking around for more of these types of crafts and so far I haven’t found that many. I did find a cute embroidery series of “Victory Cats” that has a different cat and a different reminder for each day of the week. “Be suspicious”, “Ride a Bike”, “Keep ’em flying”, etc. I found a “Victory Sweater” in the Victoria and Albert Museum archives that is essentially just a red/white/blue concoction but that isn’t exactly the same thing. Fostering patriotism is certainly common in crafting – today there are tons of Old Glory patterns in every craft – but the homefront war effort was unique, with rationing and price ceilings.

Ok, so what does any of this have to do with now? Well, while searching I found another booklet called “Make Do and Mend for Victory”. This booklet’s job was to teach would-be seamstresses how to take their old clothes, and the clothes of their husbands off fighting, and turn them into newer looking items. There are instructions for converting men’s shirts into girls’ dresses, revamping older dresses by changing the collar or the hem, etc.

What’s interesting about this is that I recently purchased a new book called “Complete Embellishing: Techniques and Projects” by Kayte Terry. Ms. Terry’s book has tons of ways to refab an old boring item into something you really like. Adding interest to a neckline, changing the hemline of a skirt (sound familiar?) and reusing materials.

The idea behind making do with what you have and mending it (or revamping it) is certainly relevant today. Sure, we aren’t sending our nation’s wool into the construction of military uniforms anymore, but hard times for many people are here and learning to make lemonade out of a wallet full of lemons is no bad thing.

For those of you who sew (or make other crafts) you probably have done this before to some degree. But for those of us new to the sewing game, this might be a challenge and one worth taking on. I’m not suggesting making dresses out of flour sacks, like something out of the Grapes of Wrath (though little girl dresses out of pillowcases can be really really cute) but maybe not being so quick to donate  clothes that have seen better days. Maybe those shirts, those jeans can get a new lease on life as something else. Call it what you want – Making Do, Upcycling – but I call it smart.


A little Friday Fun – My current obsessions January 23, 2009

Filed under: Crafting,Games,Random Thoughts — LotusMama @ 12:52 pm
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Anybody who knows me knows I tend to be a bit…obsessive. I was a magpie in some former life; anything shiny catches my attention and I get all excited about it. Sometime these obsessions, or fancies as I prefer to call them, last for a long time but often they tend to drift away in the wake of something newer and shinier.

I’ve tried being a bit more focused and less flighty but heck, you can’t change a zebra’s stripes, right? (To mix the animal metaphors.)

Anyzoo, right now I have two fancies going strong. One I already mentioned the other day – my long running fascination with Anne Boleyn (this one has been going since I was a teenager). I recently decided to pair up my Anne obsession with my long running desire to make a quilt. I created a collage of Anne portraits, icons, symbols, yadda yadda yadda and uploaded it to Spoonflower, that wonderful create-your-own-fabric website. A short bit later, I had one yard of lovely fabric ready for my quilt.

My Grandma T had generously given me some vintage fabric, one stack of which really had the right colors and Tudor feel about it. I’ve set to work making a quilt top out of this fabric, with some odds and ends I’ve added and will be adding a little bling bling (ooh, shiny) to for good measure. I hope to unveil the quilt top next week, with the hope that it will be all finished in a couple of weeks. Then I can wrap up in my very first quilt featuring my favorite Queen and continue working my way through a rather dry biography.

I mentioned a second “fancy” and that is Guitar Hero World Tour. Seems a far cry from Lady Anne doesn’t it? Well, that’s Ms. Magpie for you. I love this game for the PlayStation. I can’t manage the guitar part of the game very well but I’m loving the drum kit and the microphone. Nothing quite as fun as rocking out to the Eagles in your living room, pounding on the drums like Don Henley. I know, shiny. But very shiny and very fun, so what the heck.

And finally, in the spirit of a little Friday Fun and a salute to obsessionists everywhere (is that a word), here is one of my favorite groups doing a favorite song which will probably not be on Guitar Hero World Tour (but should be because I could handle the drum line).


The lesser known (but equally talented) Kringle – Gretel December 23, 2008

Filed under: Crafting,Holidays — LotusMama @ 12:46 pm
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There are many wonderful tales of warmth and family at this time of year, stories that drive the chill from our hearts and make us glad to have our loved ones close by. This is not one of those stories. This is the story of Gretel Kringle, amateur yodeling champ (about to turn professional) and younger sister to a Goody Two Shoes brother (her term, not mine  – actually, in German it is Schuhe der guten Sachen zwei) named Kris.

Gretel and her brother have been estranged for many years. He lives far away from her, certainly outside of her cell plan, so visiting or even calling each other is infrequent. Gretel doesn’t really mind; she’s been working hard with her therapist to find the joy within herself; only those who lack self-esteem need greeting cards with their image, songs shouting their praises and mountains of cookies from kids to feel good about themselves. (Though she is secretly glad at how fat her brother has become from all the carbs.)

Gretel is currently perfecting her yodeling and learning to play the glockenspiel. She works in a small music shop in Berlin, except for the month long break she takes in December  (she likes to avoid the seasonal music). The Kringle family reunion is set for 2009 in Bermuda, but Gretel hasn’t rsvp’d yet – she is still deciding if she wants to make the trip (though seeing her brother in his board shorts might be amusing, she really can’t stand her sister-in-law).

Though sibling rivalry hampers her normally jolly disposition, Gretel would like to wish you all a very enjoyable late December and early January. She hopes that you all receive the presents that you wish for and that you should feel free to leave an extra cookie or two out for her brother.

Gretel’s story brought to you today by an increasingly cabin-feverish Kimberly Ann. For those wishing to make a Gretel of their own, check out Alicia Paulson’s book “Stitched in Time”.


Ripples of acrylic danced in their heads… December 16, 2008

Filed under: Crafting — LotusMama @ 7:56 pm

It must be the lingering snow, but I have afghans on my mind. Cuddling up on the couch with a good book, wrapped up in row after row of stitches is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. It seems even better when it is frosty outside.

As someone who crochets, I don’t generally tackle them as a project;  they take a lot of time and I’m more of a quick fix kind of crafter. Luckily, I’ve been given some lovely afghans from my Grandma T. I have made an exception to my practice though and started a chevron/ripple blanket for my nephew. Because it takes so long to do (and it is kind of repetitive), the blanket has been sidelined for awhile for other projects. But finishing this up tops my Crafty Resolutions for 2009. Here is the start of it:

People who don’t craft are often puzzled by the time, expense and energy it takes to make something when something similar (or better) can be purchased from the store. I know I felt this way before I took up embroidery needles, crochet hooks or seam rippers. Why bother to make a skirt when you can buy something already finished, ready to go and for less money? I was always puzzled by that until I tried making things for myself and I realized how much satisfaction comes from finishing it with your own hands. Sure, the skirt might be a bit baggy or the seams not perfect; the crocheted scarf might be just a simple rectangle, nothing fancy; the embroidery stitches on the pillowcase might not be uniform – but they are your stitches, your flaws, your effort in every bit of it. Seeing a project through from concept to completition is so satisfying. I’m not sure that recipients of handmade wonders always feel the same about the projects as we the crafters but I hope that the time and love that went into making the doll, the hat, the sampler or the afghan comes through.

So cuddling up on the sofa in my Grandma’s afghan really is different than tossing on a fleece throw. Sure, a cashmere pashmina would be much softer than acrylic, but would it feel the same? I hope my nephew enjoys wrapping up in his blanket, now and down the road.


Show and Tell: Latest Crochet October 15, 2008

Filed under: Crafting — LotusMama @ 2:29 pm

I’ve been in full on crochet mode lately. I had put down the hook for much of the summer (too hot to hold wool) and I was focused on other things. But the cold weather has brought back the urge to hook and I’ve been working on some things – some old, some new. Some of my current WIP (works in progress, for the non-crafter) are related to Christmas, so I won’t be showing them, but if I stick to my schedule, I should be done in plenty of time for the holidays.

I’m hoping to have my hook available for some new projects in November; I’m a member of a Jane Austen Book Club for knitters, spinners and crocheters. Our first book, Sense and Sensibility, begins in November and we get extra points for prize drawings if we complete Austen-style pieces during the reading. I’m hoping to make a spencer – you know, one of those cropped jacket thingies that show up in the Austen movies. I’ve found a good candidate but I’m not sure I have the oomph to take on something that complicated. We’ll see.

Anyhook, back to the show and tell. Here are some things I’ve been working on lately.

This is a scarf done in the Bruges style – a type of lace done in Brussels. The yarn is made of Bamboo.

Bev's Kitten Pattern

I’m working on a blanket for Project Linus. This is a kitten pattern.

Gingerbread House

A gingerbread house for Christmas. I need to add a few more gum drops to finish it off.

For those who knit, crochet, spin or do just about anything else with yarn, I highly recommend joining This beta site is free and lets you track your projects, find great groups and forums, and access tons of patterns.