Sunday, December 18, 2016

"Housewife" Needle Holders & Christmas Ornament

For the past couple of days I have been working on another project, a Christmas ornament if you will, inspired by a very wonderful, "Housewife", made by Grandma Matie, aka Wanda Dale Roberts. She was a very good needlewoman and sewed her own clothes in high school. She was trained by her mother who was a good needlewoman in her own right, and made a crocheted, "Housewife", of her own.

Today I want to share with you some of my, "Housewife", collection. First tho,what is a, "Housewife", you might ask? Well I will tell you. Everyone that was anyone and even those of poorer classes, carried about their persons a sewing kit, for simply put that is what a housewife is. Most often it was just a simple bit of cloth with needle's stuck in it, which you could role up and tuck into a pocket for travel. As time went by these often became very elaborate and it said a lot about the social status of the owner. Children, especially girls, were taught how to make them as part of their training in sewing, at a very young age.
This one is modern and is on a printed card, and was given me by my daughter, Vonnie, a few years ago. I carry it in my sewing kit with all of my other notions, for it is in almost constant use, and very handy indeed.
 As you can see it has a wide range of needle's for my projects and I couldn't get along without it.
This lovely one was given me by a very dear friend, Janice Dodson, who made this entirely by hand. I modified it a little by adding the yarn so I could hang it on the wall. It hangs where I can see it every day, and reminds me of this truly gentle and kind friend.
This housewife was made by grt. Grandma May, aka Mary Ann Zimmerman-Roberts, Matie's mother.
She made the heart shaped crochet's I used on my other ornaments, tho this is of much finer thread. It is sewn over silk which has been sewn over two stiff pieces of cardboard, and dates to the early 1900's.
She may have intended to make another, "Housewife," out of them, but was never able to, or moved on to other projects. I was happy to have them for my own creations. The needle's seen here date from the period and are original to it.
This rough little housewife has the letter "R" cross stitched on it and came from Matie's little sewing bag. The, "R", standing for her last name of Roberts. I think this was part of her training in sewing and she did it some time around 1908 or 1910, she would have been 8 or 10 at the time. The embroidery thread is silk/rayon.
The inside is a very fine piece of silk, and the needle's, which are original to the piece, are tucked into a small swatch of wool. Which as you can see has been nibbled by a bug at some point.
I think this was in very common use by Matie and she was none to careful with it. The stain is not one I have attempted to remove, as I didn't want to endanger the silk inside. I may take a damp cloth and try blotting it a bit.
The above is not a, "Housewife", but a sewing project Matie did in high school circa 1917-1920. I wanted to share it, to show just how talented a needlewoman she was becoming. Believe me the stitches are so tiny and neat, they leave me in awe. This is lace, and silk ribbon, sewn to a little pink card cutout. The whole thing was then mounted on a black background and framed under glass. I was told, when she gave it to me, that the hair was her own.
Here is the sweet little, "Housewife", that inspired me to do an ornament. This was also made by Grandma Matie, and was made of wool felt, old lace, and silk ribbon. The center of each flower has a french knot and once again the stitches are very fine and neat, with lovely embroidery stitches on the edges and defining the hat. I think this was made circa 1915-1918.
It is made in three layers with the center layer holding the pins, as you can see. The pins are also original to the piece, as I felt it was better to leave them.
As you can see the back is very simply and not two sided. It seems at first glance a very simple project, but is deceptively so. The details and construction are much more advanced than they seem, as I found out when I went to duplicate it.
Here is the  tracing I did of the housewife, with a few modifications of my own. I fluted the skirt more and curved the tip of the bonnet a wee bit. In making it just two layers, and the fact I was also going to stuff it, I left off the lower lace, and added more flowers. I would have left it on if I could have found lace delicate and narrow enough, but alas I did not have any.
 Here they are for comparison, my ornament on the left and Matie's, "Housewife", on the right. I am thinking of doing another, only using tiny decorative buttons instead of flowers. Matie had machine cut tiny felt circle's for her flowers and I had to cut each of mine out by hand. A tedious task I have no wish to repeat. Believe me when I say, there are 37 little circles on my ornament and each of them has a french knot in it. Making 37 french knots is not a lot of fun.
Using embroidery stitches in black along the edge, and to outline the shape of the bonnet, really lent itself to that old time, "Sun Bonnet Sue", look. I think it made a lovely ornament and while challenging, was still lots of fun to make. So the next time you reach for your needle kit, I hope you think of this and remember the, "Housewife's", made by all of your grandmothers down through the years. May it also inspire you to new heights of creativity. 


Friday, December 16, 2016

Old Fashioned Christmas Ornaments

Every year about his time, I get the sudden urge to make Christmas ornaments, don't ask me why, it just makes me feel more festive. Maybe it's because it brings back memories of doing quick crafts with my kids when they were little or maybe it just reaches into that part of me that loves all things quaint and old fashioned?! Whatever the reason, it is always fun to dig into my scrap bin and stashes to see what I can come up with for the year.
I like things that are small on my tree, crafty nifty ornaments that are about 3 to 4 inches in size, tops, so that is what I tend to make. However, this year two of my ornaments were determined by the size of these lovely crocheted hearts I had in my lace and linens stash. Luckily they were only 3 1/4 inches wide and tall. They were some of the lacy things given me by mom, Maryann Hanners. I have had them in my stash for about thirty years and can't for the life of me think why I didn't think of this sooner?! My other two ornaments were scraps from my scrap basket. Leftovers from that lovely Dutch dress I made a few months ago.
As you can see, I cut two pieces of felt slightly larger than my crocheted pieces. I chose contrasting colors to help make the crochet stand out. Hot pink for the purple crochet and red for the white crochet.
I stitched the two pieces together then turned them inside out, leaving an opening for the pillow stuffing to be put in. I then whip stitched the hearts shut.
Next I whip stitched the crochet to the felt heart, using thread that matched the felt, so that it would not be easy to see. Making the heart slightly larger helps stretch the crochet tight thus showing off the pattern.
At this point the cute little heart would make a nice pin cushion, or if you stuffed in some lavender, a sweet sachet.
However, I wanted an ornament, so went hunting in my stash for some very nice lightweight cording to made a string to hang it with. As it happened I had just the right hemp cord, in a matching color. Sometimes it just pays to be an avid hoarder.
See how lovely it hangs on the tree, blending quite beautifully with my other ornaments. I was so happy with how these turned out, it just made me smile.
Just to add a little interest I like to put a signature stitch on the plain side of my ornaments. In this case it is what I like to call my snowflake stitch.
These lovely little hearts took less than an hour to make and were great fun. Now I can see these lovely crochets that were hidden away for years. I can only guess as to who made them, since grandma's for several generations on moms side of the family were all very fine needlewomen.
Now every time I see these I will be reminded of the generosity of my mother in-law, and how much she meant to me.
Here is a sweet little star that I made from the under skirt material of my Dutch dress. It was the first one I made and I wasn't sure if the fabric would pull out when I went to stuff it?! Thus the double stitching on the edge.
These stars were made by free hand drawing a star on paper, pinning the pattern on the scraps and cutting them out. I sewed them with wrong sides together and didn't turn them inside out. Instead, I took a pair of small scissors and snipped the edges to give an unraveling affect. Like the hearts I left an opening for stuffing them and whip stitched them closed when they were full and tight. I used a bamboo chopstick to poke the stuffing into the tips.
I think these were great fun to make and pretty simple too. You needn't make the hearts with the crochets, if you haven't the good fortune to have some in your stash. I think they would make darling ornaments even without them. The crochets just give them that added pinch of old time Christmas feel that I enjoy so much.

Happy Holidays Everyone. I hope you have some time for fun and making Christmas crafts too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Colonial Style Bonnets

Today I thought I would share with you a few colonial style bonnets I have been making. I got the idea while doing research for my, "Dutch Colonial Dress." I knew I didn't have access nor could I afford, some of the wonderful bonnets I was seeing online, so I pondered a bit what I should do?! While looking at a museum site in the Netherlands I came across this wonderful picture of a lace cap-back and it reminded me of an old cut work antimacassar set, I had in my linens and lace stash. I decided to fish them out and use them for making a bonnet. Here is the lovely lace piece that started it all.
This lovely cap-back was made in the 18th century and is made of bobbin lace. Isn't it a lovely delicate piece?! The detail is so fine and beautiful.
I wish I had taken photo's of the separate pieces of this antimacassar set, so you could see how the back bonnet piece resembled the cap-back above, but I got all excited and started sewing these pieces together and forgot to make a record first. My pieces probably date circa 1900s - 19 teens.
This bonnet was made with the two small pieces that would have normally gone on the arms of a chair, and the back piece that you are seeing here, would have gone on the head rest. I had to add a small length of linen to my cap-back, to make it cover my neck, so I added a bit of linen tea towel that had become too ragged for use. It was a piece hand hemmed by grt. grandma, Anne Krout, or one of her sisters, or possibly even her mother. The poor center of the tea towel was mere shreds, but the ends were good, so I thought up-cycling it was a nice way to use it.
 All of the embroidery and cut work on this linen was already done, so when I sewed it together I just had to match the soft grey thread. Gathering the fabric to make the proper shape was a breeze, because they were already pretty much exactly as I needed them to be. A few hours work and I had the prettiest little colonial bonnet you could ever hope to see and since my frontier persona is Dutch, a people who loved all types of fine needlework and embroidery, it is very authentic to the period.
 Here you can see that all the edges of the linen were finished in this lovely grey thread and all I had to do was join the two short pieces in the center to make the front brim of my bonnet.

This second bonnet is of a much simpler style and was made from a piece of machine made Irish lace dating circa 1900 - 1920's. The size of the piece, which was a rectangle the size of a large place mat, rather determined its design.
 As you can see here I merely pinched it in place, gathered it and whip stitched it down. This was a commonly made bonnet for maids, servants, or some of the poorer classes, and would have been made from scraps or recycled lace tablecloths or even runners.
 In this view you can see that I have chosen to leave the edges ragged just as I found them on this scrap.
This style of bonnet is something I would teach sewers to make if they wanted a quick bonnet for any frontier or colonial re-enactment, as it is the simplest. Just rummage through your lace stash for a bit of old table runner or place mat. Snip, drape, pinch, and stitch, and quick as a wink, you have a  bonnet.
This final lovely bonnet, I just finished, is made of two pieces of Italian knot-weave lace, stitched together with matching thread. This lace dates from 1910 - 1920's and is very fine needlework, done by a very skilled hand.
The piece's were two rectangular doilies that had been used under table lamps for years before being put into a box. For all of that they were in excellent condition and took very little effort to shape into a bonnet. The only extra needlework was tucking the point at the back underneath and securing it in place. A bit of blue ribbon woven through the lace finished it nicely and allowed for gathering in back and securing the bonnet at the neck.
These bonnets look very sweet and I think grt. grandma would be happy to see her old linens and laces turned into something usable as well as beautiful. I think bringing these lovely laces back out where they can be seen is so much better than stuffing them in a box, for the next generation to figure out. In designing these bonnets I have not cut or destroyed the original piece, so if in future someone wants to, they can disassemble them and return them to their original shape. I myself however think they look much lovelier as colonial bonnets don't you?! I hope this inspires you to go for a rummage through your old laces and see what lovely things you can create.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Missing My Son Matthew

Matthew I know it’s been a while,
and every day I miss your smile.
Since you’ve been gone it’s hard for me,
to know just what I ought to be.
You loved so much to play with me,
that day as a pirate by the sea.
With tricorn hat and velvet vest,
you really looked your very best.
It was such joy to watch you play,
at being a pirate that special day.
The many folks, you made them smile,
you took their pictures with such style.
They really felt blessed as they walked away,
for having met you that sunny day.
You dressed like your brother and his best friend,
I never wanted the day to end.
For it was the best day I ever had,
the memories of which make me glad and sad.
Glad for the memories but sad today,
for it marks the day that you went away.
But I will recall it no matter the years,
and try to keep smiling through falling tears.

I miss you so much!