Tag Archives: DIY

What Are “Vintage Skills?”

I’ve been seeing articles in magazines, blog posts, newspapers or on television shows that refer to what is known as “sustainable living” or slanting toward a movement becoming known as “vintage revivalism.” Many of these sources cite some of the following as belonging:

Sewing, quilting, handspinning, hand weaving, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, needle craft skills, making pottery, basket weaving, gardening, growing food and herbals, making soap or candles, making jelly or wine or beer making. 

I’ve always enjoyed doing those things. Now it seems more people are enjoying them, too. 

   

  Here is a photograph of a scarf I’ve woven on something called a rigid heddle loom. 

 And when I agreed to help make decorations for a wedding, I practiced cursive handwriting. I was asked to create signage. It’s been a lot of fun and although it’s been a long time since I put that much effort into cursive writing, it was very satisfying, in a most unusual way. 

Time to take a class or learn something new….er, old?….or Vintage!

Happy creating to you, too!

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How Research Takes Me To A Whole Other Place

 

  

  

I am a student of the Creative Arts, as well as a practing crafts person. In order to learn more about the use and preparation of lye and the making of soap, well of course, I have to read about it.    

“Lye–a strong alkaline solution or solid of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide, made by allowing water to wash through wood ashes. It is used to make soap and drain and oven cleaners. The chemical formula is KOH or NaOH.”

It makes me wish I’d paid more attention during high school Chemistry classes. 

But I read on, and research how to use fireplace ashes and filter rain water through a barrel, and how soap was made hundreds of years ago.  And then I research how craftspeople of today make handmade soaps. I practice their techniques and borrow a recipe or two. 

I can make soap. Out in the barn. Which makes the surroundings smell so nice you’d never guess that there are animals around. 

 The recipe I’ve found most success with includes coconut oil, olive oil, lard, lye, rainwater and fragrance oils. Lemongrass is at the top of my list. When the rosemary grows a little more out in the garden, I’ll pick and dry some of that. It will go in a special soap–to relax with after a long, but creative day. 

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Side Trips and Work-In-Progress

I will make no apologies for not being “here” since my last posting. But here is a brief update. I think I can do that.

September? I do remember it was a whirlwind, but that’s about all.

October? Attended a writer’s conference, fall festivals and continued to plow my way through the first draft of a current writing project.

November? This month was filled with emotion and self reflection. I won’t make any political statements as to the outcome of the presidential election, but philosophical ones, most likely, and still–not here. I choose to focus on raising awareness for the choices people make and how responsibilities and consequences for those actions have an effect on everybody, and that’s all I can say about that.
Any more time spent in this arena takes energy away from the current writing project and focusing on that project is the key component.

Until………
December? We celebrate Christmas on the farm and wished neighbors, family and friends all kinds of Merry Christmases and Happy Holidays. My hands were busy, my heart was happy for the loved ones who were with me and saddened for the ones who are no longer.

It is with hope for the future that I am reminded of a quotation from THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL: “There is no present like the time.” I choose to live creatively.

Happy creating to you, too!

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Farmer’s Marketing

  

 

I go to my Local Farmer’s Market once a week as a vendor. I’m not selling vegetables, although we’ve grown quite a lot of veggies on the farm this summer. 

Actually, I use this time to demonstrate hand spinning alpaca fiber. I talk to people who watch me at the spinning wheel as I turn fiber into yarn. I ask about their creative projects. Many knit or crochet or quilt and we have a lovely time as we swap stories. 

From time to time, folks will share in a memory about an elder relative they recall who spun on a wheel a long time ago, and I’m reminded that it’s these kinds of traditions which need to be preserved.  I hope to be able to do that in my work as I honor things handmade,  and it will be my hope to write about artisans and craftspeople with a voice of authenticity. 

Best of luck in your creative projects, too!

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Busy Hands

There’s a quotation attributed to Benjamin Franklin that I’d like to share, and it’s this:

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.”

So I’ve been busy. 

I’ve been writing AND doing stuff. 

The alpaca have had their yearly haircuts months ago…I have more fiber than I can possibly spin into yarn and I HAVE been making hats, even through the summer heat. 

 

The weather will get cold again and I’ll be ready when it does. 

Vegetables were planted and we harvest something almost every day. What I’m MOST excited about are the jellies: Egarden has produced some fine mints and the blackberry patch has given fruit, so that I’ve made jellies eight or nine times (as of now).

Byron Herbert Reece said, “I am a farmer first and a writer second.” And I get it. I understand. My time is being well spent and I search for balance in creative living every single day. 

Some days produce more words than others, some days give more food or a handmade item, and I have been nourished– either way. 

Happy creating!

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Come the spring…..

and it is the time when I get distracted and move from one creative activity to another, but more frequently. There’s so much to DO!!

A buddy of mine says that’s a characteristic of “cafeteria artists.” I’m not quite sure what that means, but as long as it involves appreciating a lot of activities through which I have a variety of creative pursuits, yeah….that would be me. 

 

 The alpacas have had their yearly haircuts, which provides me with plenty of fiber for future projects. 

  And out in the experimental garden, I’ve been thinning mints and herbs to see what else I’d like to add for this growing season. I’ve started seeds in the tiny greenhouse (not shown here) and will have a few vegetables to add in a few weeks. 

Big Garden and Little Garden have a more “traditional” method of planting, and by that, I’m referring to the use of a tractor, a tiller and Mr P maintains a lot of the work for that. We produce vegetables and harvest enough to eat fresh foods, share, and save some for later. I grow a few flowers in Big Garden.  

But in Experimental Garden–E Garden– I try different things in different ways, and when something grows, it grows, and I appreciate that. 

My point is this: when I am in E Garden, I take chances. I’ve learned to trust that things will develop and come to be if I’ve done what I can, what I love, the conditions are right for growth, and I nurture the project. And I look for signs and believe in the balance of luck and hard work. 

Happy Creating!

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Heart Made

Making and sharing handmade items for gifts is part of my life and has been for as long as I can remember. 

I have been largely influenced by two grandmothers. One encouraged me to sew and I would make doll clothes using pieces of fabric from her scrap piles. I learned how to remove stitches if they weren’t doing the job and appreciate quality handwork. 

That led me to sewing larger projects–among those were a dress for my first prom, several outfits for formal wear and eventually a design for my wedding dress. It was a simple idea really: chiffon poncho over a crepe flowing, below the knee-length gown with a diagonal hem that pointed down instead of horizontally.  (By then it was the late seventies and my hair was  flowing longer, too.) 

The other grandmother taught me how to crochet, but I never learned how to read a pattern for my needlework. She would encourage me to look at something or visualize how I wanted something to be, and use a series of stitches to make it be that way. And when I taught myself to knit I unravelled almost as much as I created until I felt it was the best it could be. “If you leave it in there and don’t fix it, you will always know it is still in there,” she would say. She was right.  

I hope to pass along the love of making and giving handmade gifts  

 

and when I need those ideas and memories to develop characters in my writing– well, it’s come full circle and I know I’m honoring a heritage of my own. 

Happy creating! 

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In which there is a Most Unusual Discovery

  

Here’s another Flea Market Find–a small rectangular footstool or bench with a paper rush seat. It looked fairly old and well worn when I found it. I rescued this little gem for practically NOTHING at the sale. It will be just the right thing to use once I repair the torn and sagging seat.

And so, I begin to cut away the old worn-out pieces of paper fiber. A piece here, a piece there; I remove the old dusty newspaper the furniture maker used to shape and support the inside of the seat. The pieces are packed in there pretty tight and hard to get to. As I work my way through and the pieces begin to grow larger, I find a section of newspaper that doesn’t turn to dust in my hand.

  

The print may be really small to read and hard to see, but here is a section of The Atlanta Journal, which “Covers Dixie Like The Dew” in Atlanta Georgia, even as far back as June 22, 1941. That’s the date on this piece of paper anyway.

There were other pieces of paper I found with dates at about the same time advertising fabric, cars, clothing, tools, and appliances at 1941 prices. The social section I found had a few wedding announcements with pictures as well as news articles of the day. My favorite was the miscellaneous section in which a reader could purchase a fine double door, all porcelain refrigerator in A1 condition for the price of $79.50, an extra large crocheted bedspread with a daisy pattern, used building materials, a stationary bike, a Hoover vacuum cleaner and a Luger pistol. If I was looking for a place to sleep, I could call the six digit telephone number and find a room with a meal for about the same price I’d pay for a specialty coffee today.

And then I did the math. I’ll estimate that it was at LEAST seventy-plus years ago when this little bench was restored or built. Creative possibilities for story ideas and My, oh….MY….!

I’m saving most of the paper scraps to look through and glean some story ideas from, because this was just like finding a little piece of history in a most unexpected place. As I work on repairing the seat of the bench, I’ll select some headlines of my own from a stack of newspapers in my recycling bin and pack those into the padding for the seat as well.

Maybe seventy plus years from now, if someone should discover this little bench at a yard sale or flea market find, they will have a Most Creative Experience, too!

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The Time-In-Between

Summer has been busy out here on the farm…the garden has provided us with wonderful vegetables.
I gathered.
I cooked.
I ate.
I worked.
Summer’s not quite over yet, because there are still a few straggling vegetables which will be with us, I hope, until the first frost. But I can feel a slight change in the air. The leaves haven’t started to change colors yet, but the light begins to look different all during the day. I think about Claude Monet’s images of haystacks and the recollections of colors, forms and feelings always makes me smile.

This is the Time-In-Between. The time for me when seasons overlap. When there are cool mornings mixed with still warm, sunny days. When the wind can stand still and be so hot outside, it takes your breath away. Or when the breeze coming through the pasture swooshes through the trees and the leaves begin to scatter across the ground.

The boys at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The boys at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I’ve had a vendor booth at our local farmer’s market, demonstrating spinning and talking about the alpaca and their fiber for much of the summer. My table is covered with handspun yarns, knitted, crocheted or handwoven items made from handspun alpaca yarns. What? Sock hats and scarves in the summertime?

A handwoven scarf in progress on the loom.

A handwoven scarf in progress on the loom.

And yes, some days it’s really warm outside and I continue to work with the fiber. On these Time-In-Between days, I’m confident cooler weather will still be coming.

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