A scrapbook of whatever I'm making, collecting, or just obsessing about
at the moment.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Meet Rebecca Jane

Rebecca Jane is a Singer model 27 with the "Pheasant" gold decals and a serial number that points to a 1904 manufacturing date.  She is named for her first owner, the grandmother of a friend who sold her to me as part of his mother's estate. I am so happy to have her in my home and am looking forward to the adventure of restoring her and using her to sew many wonderful things.







Sunday, October 9, 2016

Niles, Decatur, and South Bend--Best of the Antiques Haul

Yesterday, DH and I traveled southwest to explore the antique malls of three worthy cities near the south end of Lake Michigan. The weather was perfect, the countryside idyllic, and the antique stores well-curated, but not too suavely for our tastes.

Between Decatur and Dowagiac, we stopped for a hasty photo shoot of cranes in a horse pasture. Gosh, we get all excited when a single pair of cranes visits our field!


I could have spent all day in Michiana Antique Mall, a few miles south of Niles on M-51.

This is one of FOUR aisles, all this long length! Not surprising I found a treasure there.

What treasure did I find? The snappy little fashion doll case from the 60s, shown below. I love the happy design and that mod poppy orange color--and the inside is all a lovely carnation pink.

The accessories box needs a little easy repair work, but that's no problem--I'm just thrilled that the pretty matching case-handle is still intact, as these old cases have broken handles more often than not.


I think I am going to upholster the doll-section of the case with mod pink and orange fabric, to make it even nicer inside.






































Very quickly, the rest of the day's haul:

I love samples from the golden age of women's magazine publishing! My favorite years are 1967-1971. This is the February 1969 McCalls, which contains the startling information that Jessamyn West, the author of Cress Delahanty was the cousin of President Richard Nixon and used to babysit for him.

Two piano books turned up for $1 each--I bought these because I really like David Carr Glover's compositions and arrangements. These are levels three and five; though I'm at level four I can still get lots of fun and practice from these.

Mail-order catalogs are such a joy to look through, especially ones from my favorite years. This one is Spring and Summer '68 and contains many lovely dresses I can use for doll costuming.

 My bargain of the day was this nice 12" Ideal Shirley Temple. Last summer at the Brooklyn Flea I bought a 10 1/2" high-heel doll who just happened to be dressed in a slip that was tagged for a 12" Shirley Temple. I thought, well, maybe someday I'll acquire a Shirley to wear it, and before the year was out, here she is! Now I have to remember where I put that slip!

 I seldom buy old books any more, but this treasure was going for a song. The Book of Live Dolls contains three of Josephine Scribner Gates' "The Live Doll" stories: The Story of, More About, and The Secret of. Same thing happens in all of them: all the little girls in a certain neighborhood are visited by the Queen of Dolls, who makes their dolls come alive for a time.

The library of my elementary school, where my mother was the "Library Lady," had them on the shelf and I read and loved them. They are very old books, published in the early 1900s, and they have the kind of flaws you'd expect from that time. But they teach, without being too teachy, the importance of careful house-keeping and child-care, and most of all, of treating others with respect. Because when the dolls come alive, they become real people, and you can't make them do just anything you want to anymore. They are persons, not objects. And that is a truth that may be very old, but never antique.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

McCalls 2123 View D Coat, plus a baby quilt

The View D coat has been on my Habitica do-to list all summer, but quilting took precedence for a while, first to finish my Craftsy Block of the Month quilt and then to make a baby quilt for a neighbor's new grandson.

So here are Tammy and Misty, who wear the coat very well, straight from the pattern with no alterations.

Originally I bought this pattern because I wanted to make the coat out of plaid wool. That would be difficult, needing a lot of fussing with the pattern, adding turnings and facings.

In felt it is very easy to make: all cut in one piece, except for the collar, which lays flat to cover its own seam; and the belt, which is just top-stitched in place. For style there is a pretty kick pleat in the back.

View D is shown with a felt hat and boots, also to be made of felt. 1960s felt must have stretched more than today's does, because this hat does not fit. I thought of re-designing it with four gores instead of two, but there are so many Barbie hat patterns in the world, it doesn't need doing immediately.

The boot pattern is very unusual: it is cut all in one piece, including the sole, and all the seam allowances are on the outside ("public" side) of the boot. Someone was really thinking outside the box when she designed this! Unfortunately I couldn't make it look good at all. Looked like the doll had cardboard boxes on her legs.

If I were going to design a boot pattern, I'd make it out of swim-suit material--that would look shiny like a nice 60s vinyl boot, and would fit closely to her leg. But not today--maybe after the wedding dress is done. Still have that to go!


And here's a wee look at the baby quilt I made. My neighbor had bought the print fabric to make table runners for the baby shower. Afterward I offered to make a quilt out of them.

This design is from the book Sew, Slice, Spin, and Sash by Theresa Ward. Hers is a simple concept--just cut fabric strips, sew them together in one long strip-set the whole desired length, then cut them "block width," Then you just turn every other column upside down before adding sashing and sewing together. So you never have to work with blocks as such. But I couldn't do it that way: my print fabric was "one-way" and had already been cut to smaller widths. So I ended up making blocks anyway.




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Medallion quilt top finished!





This morning before work I put the last borders of my medallion quilt on. This is the 2016 Crafsy block of the month quilt designed and taught by Lynette Jensen of Thimbleberries. I have admired her style of quilt design since the first ones appeared, and this one has been so much fun to work on.

At this chapter in my quilting story, I had really pretty much stopped making any quilts. I had been knitting and making doll clothes and even starting to sew garments for myself again, which I hadn't done much since high school. But this design was obviously such a good design to use up my scraps and stash, and the monthly presentation seemed so do-able, I just couldn't resist.

And while I was working on it, I slowly started becoming interested in quilting again. I fished out all my rulers and templates, went through my books, watched a few more Craftsy classes, started listening to a quilting podcast....got fired up again.

I'm learning about machine quilting on a home-sewing machine, but I think this one is too big for me to handle as a beginner. So I'm hoping to send it out to be quilted on a long-arm machine--we'll see! Either that happens, or it will remain just a top for a long time!


Monday, August 15, 2016

My very own book display!

The library where I work is doing a series of displays of various staffers' favorite book picks--and this week is my week! I can't describe what a great feeling it is to walk through the lobby and see so many of my favorite books all together!




































Here is the list of titles--for me to remember always and for anyone else who is curious.

FICTION
Baker, Nicholson              The everlasting story of Nory
Burns, Olive Ann              Cold Sassy Tree
Bynum, Sarah                   Ms. Hempel Chronicles
Dallas, Sandra                   The Persian Pickle Club
Gaskell, Elizabeth             Cranford
White, Bailey                    Quite a year for plums

NONFICTION

Book Lust to Go: recommended reading for travelers, vagabonds, and dreamers  / Pearl
Why do clocks run clockwise? An Imponderables Book / Feldman
Why don’t cats like to swim? An Imponderables Book / Feldman

On Looking: eleven walks with expert eyes / Horowitz
Find the Good: unexpected life lessons from a small town obituary writer  / Lende

Tasting and touring Michigan’s homegrown food / Beeler
The Hundred Dresses: The most iconic styles of our time / McKean
How the Post Office created America / Gallagher

The Story of English in 100 words / Crystal
Etymologicon / Forsyth
Founding Grammars / Ostler

Dawn light: Dancing with Cranes and other ways to start the day /  Ackerman
Hunt for Vulcan / Levinson 
The Cloud book: how to understand the skies / Hamblyn
Collecting rocks and crystals: Hold the treasures of the earth in the palm of your hand / Farndon
Last Chance to See / Adams [author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy]

Attracting butterflies to your garden / Tampion
Mend it Better / Roach
Hand mending made easy: save time and money / Ides
Alice, Let’s Eat / Trillin

Art before breakfast / Gregory                
Microcrafts / McGuire
The stick book / Schofield
Yellow Owl’s Little Prints / Schmidt
Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique / Title main entry 

How to read literature like a professor / Foster
The Ode Less Travelled / Fry
Art and Love  / Title main entry
Ink Trails: Michigan’s famous and forgotten authors / Dempsey [When Ray and I worked at the Western Herald, Dave Dempsey was our  editor-in-chief.]
The story of Charlotte’s Web / Sims
The Egg and I / MacDonald
What matters in Jane Austen? / Mullan    

My life in France / Child
Something incredibly wonderful happens  [Oppenheimer]
Hometown appetites: The story of Clementine Paddleford, the forgotton food writer who chronicled how America ate [Paddleford]

Encyclopedia of an ordinary life / Rosenthal
Names on the land / Stewart
How the states got their shapes / Stein
Little Heathens / Kalish

Saturday, June 18, 2016

One of my best bargain dolls...plus some cleaning tips


When I went out to take this picture, she had shoes on, but one fell off  and was lost in the grass on the way to the fence. I hunted all over, retracing mysteps ten times or more, but never found it... Until my husband joined the search, and found it almost right away. Yep, I lost my slipper, and my Prince Charming brought it back to me! 


I am so tickled about this Barbie I bought yesterday--what a treasure! She was lying there, unlovely and unnoticed, in a roomful of collectors' dolls at an estate sale, while the pristine Sashas and Madame Alexanders and antique porcelain dolls were all cooed over and snatched up for purchase.

She was the only Barbie there, a mod-era Twist 'n' Turn girl with bendable legs and a pretty "flip" hairstyle. She was wearing a light blue dress that a child must have made--just a piece of lace-trimmed double knit loosely wrapped around her and held together with a few snaps in back. Her legs were filthy, but her hair was holding up well, her coloring still very nice, all of her eyelashes present, and no face-rubs or bites to fingers or toes,

Her price tag said "$4"--but it was half-price day! That's how she became mine.


There's a couple of interesting points about her. First, her hair. The first TNT dolls had straight hair, then in 1969, this model came out with the same face but flip hair in blonde or a reddish-brown. The style must certainly have been inspired by Marlo Thomas and her very popular, family-friendly "That Girl" television show, which ran 1966-1971 and made famous her trademark flip.

Marlo, of course, had a "fringe," while Barbie has only a little spit-curl near the part of her hair. My girl's spit-curl had disappeared, but with magnifying glass and a needle, I managed to find and separate it and then style it with a little clear mascara.

Marlo's character, Ann Marie, was arguably Barbie-like--her theme song says "she's everything that every girl should be."  She played a single girl working as a waitress and a model but hoping to be discovered as an actress and doing well enough at it to dress exquisitely all. the. time.

And that was another reason "That Girl" was fertile inspiration for a Barbie--she's about clothes too, and so are many of the girls who play with her.

I loved to watch "That Girl," too, more for the fashion than the plot. Later on when I was older, in high school and beyond, I could actually sew her clothes for myself! McCalls introduced a line of "Marlo's Corner" sewing patterns that kept her look updated for us young girls to copy.

One leg cleaned and one not cleaned.
If Flip Hair Barbie isn't enough like Marlo Thomas to suit you, you could always treat yourself to the "That Girl" Barbie that Mattel released--I wouldn't mind one of those myself!






Second interesting point: How does it happen that a vintage doll is found with tidy hair, fresh-looking face, clean arms and body--but absolutely grimy legs?  Barbies with bendable legs are especially prone to it, as dirt likes to stick to them, but I have a Madame Alexander "Marybel: the doll who gets well" whose legs were filthier still.

The answer is, girls use doll legs for handles. Once you've dressed your Barbie and are ready to play, how will she move about if you don't help her? And how else do you move her about except by grasping her by the legs? Little girls who were made to wash their hands before touching the piano weren't made to wash them before playing with their own dolls. Even girls who were exceedingly careful with the hair and clothes, and kept the doll safely stored in her case, could still dirty up the legs with no special effort.

And I am glad of it, because other collectors look right past a grimy doll, never seeing her possibilities, and then I come along and scoop her up. With a little cleaning and combing, she is as beautiful as ever, and I have a glorious new addition to my Barbie Colony.

What is the best way to clean the legs? Plain bar of soap and a toothbrush. You don't need any magic cleaning power--soap has micelles that make dirt slippery. Slippery dirt slides off when you wash it. In theory, you can use any cleaner that comes in a plastic bottle instead of a glass bottle (because it wouldn't come in a glass bottle if it didn't damage plastic) but even then, I am cautious. I start with the mildest soap first, and if something stronger is needed I never use anything out of a bottle without testing it first.

For hair-styling, eyebrow/eyelash combs and brows are handy, as they can accomplish Barbie-size 'dos with their tiny, closely spaced teeth. I just tried clear mascara for the first time as a sculpting agent--seems to be working fine, but I'm just saying what I use--it's important to test products yourself.

I love to buy a perfect, mint doll once in a while, but there's just nothing like the joy of finding a bargain doll and then restoring her to something close to her original perfect, mint beauty.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vignettes from my sewing room

Today I had to tear my sewing room up a bit so that my husband could install a new light fixture over the cutting table. That gave me a chance to clean up some obscure areas and enjoy all over again, as if they were new, some fun things I've acquired over the years and the memories that come with them.

Pretty to look at...
While the cutting table was away from the wall, I hung up this 60s vintage Junior Girl Scout uniform, complete with belt, tie, pins, socks (in the pocket), patrol leader cords, and a rattling good sash.

I have a pretty respectable GS collection, focusing mainly on badges and sashes. I started it around the time my mother was dying; she had been my Girl Scout leader when I was little and being immersed in that world was a comfort to me at that time.

My sash has been lost: this is a fuller one from ebay. I bought the dress at an antique store for 35 cents--one of my best deals ever!


A memory I can hold...
Here is one of the first kinds of "needlework" I ever learned to do. My mom started me on embroidery when I was six, and this came some time afterward.

You just wind yarn back and forth around those little pins sticking out around the edge, then sew up the middle with a blunt yarn needle. The magic part is when you turn the dial in the middle, the pins retract, and off pops your daisy!

You can join them together to make whatever seems good, but I never did--I just liked making the daisies.



I call this thing a "Thing Basket."
You know how in antique stores and flea markets you find little doo-dads that don't amount to anything on their own, but they're cute and cheap and you like them? Well, I buy them and I put them in Thing Baskets.

This of course is the sewing notions Thing Basket. The plastic thing sticking out of the spool of blue variegated thread is an ivory bodkin. Next to that is a rustic wooden spool, hand carved. Ray found it under the roof of our house when he was up there re-shingling.

The cameo studs, tatting shuttle, green metal gauge, and the tape measure that cranks up into a gold metal case (you can see a little bit of it next to the pin cushion) were all gifts from my mother-in-law, Sharyn. She has given me many little treasures for my other Thing Baskets too: I have ones of kitchen items, children's toys, paper dolls, Dutch items, Girl Scout items. My favorite Thing Basket is the one filled with "pretty lady" things--kid gloves, perfume bottles, a tiny lady doll, and so on.  I keep it on the cedar chest in my bedroom.

Here are two kinds of antiques joined together
to make a new thing: they are "rubber" stamps made with old buttons stuck on to old wooden thread spools for handles.

My daughter liked to play with the button tins when she was little, so they always make me happy.

If you want to make some, be sure to use a fresh, juicy ink pad to get the best impressions. Also, put something a little squishy (like a magazine) underneath your paper to pad it a bit.

Buttons are often convex--bowing out--so you have to kind of roll the stamp around on the paper to get the whole design--takes some practice.

Scissors Obsession
Finally, here is a look at my scissors collection. Kind of an accidental collection, actually--most collections I set out to acquire but this one just happened.

There are paper scissors at the bottom--and yes, it really is true you should never cut paper with your fabric shears, odd as it seems. I read the scientific explanation of it once but I don't remember it. I just remember not to do it.

How do you like those long-bladed ones? Those are editor's scissors, designed to cut across a whole page of paper so you can re-organize paragraphs by cutting and pasting them. Can you believe I own two pairs of these?  A pair was given to me by a librarian who worked until she was 85, and taught me a great deal about reference work.

The Belding-Corticellis in the upper left are very special to me: they were the first fabric scissors I ever bought for myself, way back in high school--after a certain event happened and I started to like sewing after all.

Because I certainly didn't like it at first, back in 9th grade Home Ec class, which all of us girls took back then. Cooking and baking were fun, but I was really struggling in the sewing part of it and quickly learning to hate it. Then my friend Mary V. gave me a gift that turned me right around.

It happened one Saturday morning when I walked along with her on her Grit route in town. Her brother had had the business first, then she took it over. I don't remember being of much help with collecting the subscription money, but it was a nice morning for a nice walk together and I enjoyed it.

After we finished up, we strolled back through downtown on our way back to her house. There was a store there called Northern Apparel, and it had a book in the window--a Simplicity "How to Sew" book. I can't remember if I said something about failing Home Ec--maybe Mary just knew it already--but anyway she went right in, bought it, and gave it to me. She told me, "I always buy a present for anyone who goes on my route with me, and I wanted to buy a present for you. And I don't want you to fail sewing class."

Well! That book was the text-book I needed: it made sense of flat-fell seams and welt pockets and plackets and side-lap zipper applications and everything else that had been bogging me down. I firmly believe that if it weren't for Mary's gift, I'd have left 9th grade permanently disgruntled with sewing machines and everything that might go into, onto, over, around, underneath, or through them. As it is, I feel my love for sewing is another gift Mary gave me that day. But her greatest gift was caring.

Memories like this one make my sewing room a special place for me--without the memories attached to things, they would all just be so much "stuff." But they're not stuff to me--they're reminders of good people and good times.