Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Journey

Merriam-Webster's dictionary describes the word journey as 1: an act or instance of traveling from one place to another: Trip 2: something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another as in a journey through time.

This upcoming weekend I am embarking on a journey. Both of the above statements are appropriate. I will be departing for Sturbridge, Massachusetts to attend the Antique Textiles, Vintage Fashions Show and Sale. It's held at the Host Hotel in town the Monday of Brimfield week, three times a year.

It is a confection of fabrics, quilts, trimmings, linens and lace. In fact, when you first enter the hall you can be overwhelmed by all the delights before you. With over 100 booths displaying goods you may spend hours meandering about, touching and viewing all the treasures. The displays take you back in time, hence the second part of the journey.

For those of you not close at hand or unable to go you can visit and make sure you mark the dates for next year. It will be well worth the journey.

I bid you adieu.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

To Cherish

Charlotte was a young French woman who accompanied her father, a high ranking officer in the navy, to America. Her maternal grandfather had sailed there to help defeat the British during the Revolution. He had returned to France with Rebecca, a beautiful American bride.

Esmée, Charlotte's mother had died several years earlier. Heartbroken, her father felt that America would be a promising place. Her grandmother's family had land there on which they could settle.

Just shy of seventeen, Charlotte was well schooled in all the feminine pursuits. She was fluent in English as well as French and a talented seamstress. Her dark haired beauty and all these tributes would allow her into the best of circles.

She brought beautiful gowns from Paris and shoes from Lyon. Most importantly Charlotte traveled with her mother's sewing casket. (This would enable her to sew wonderful dresses.)

As they sailed across the ocean, she dreamed of adventure in a young and mysterious country.

Even though the box is old and the silk lining delicate, you can still sense the importance the chest held for Charlotte. It was her connection to her past, and the promise for the future.

I shall cherish it always as she once did.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Autumn Memories

The summer is winding down and everyone is anticipating the arrival of autumn and Halloween.

Living in the northeast I'm able to indulge in the season's splendor; changing of the leaves, brisk morning air and an endless harvest of crisp apples and pears.

But when I was young (many harvest moons ago) after returning to a new year at school there was something else my sister and I looked forward to. Long before VHS, DVD and Tivo our television viewing was at the mercy of the networks. Every autumn like clockwork a station would feature 'The Wizard of Oz'.

Sis and I would sit enthralled watching every minute. We knew the songs by heart. It didn't matter how many times I'd seen it, when Dorothy opened that door after the house landed and everything changed to color I was mesmerized.

When Glenda the good witch (Donna O. can you make me a crown like that) floated down in the bubble and put those ruby slippers on Dorothy's feet, well I dreamt they were on me.

Even when the wicked witch melted away I was disappointed. Not because she was gone, oh no, this was the perfect movie for good versus evil, I just knew the end was close at hand.

And when Dorothy clicked her heels in those sparkly shoes and chanted "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no..." I'd have to wait another year 'til autumn arrived again.

Now where's that VHS tape?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sweet Sisters' Sewing Birds

Catharine and Weltha were born into a New York family in the decade preceding the Civil War. Catharine was three years her sister's senior. They were inseparable throughout childhood.

When they were old enough it was decided the girls would attend a lady's academy. Here they would be taught the needle-arts, painting, etiquette... all the necessary functions to prepare them for marriage and running a household. The sewing birds were a gift upon completion of their schooling.

The sisters took their knowledge and opened a dressmaking shop. They managed the store for nearly half a century and spent all their lives together in the rooms above it.

Catharine passed away at 95. They were finally reunited in 1956 when Weltha died at 101. Their long lives had spanned across two centuries.

I can almost hear the softness of their needles passing through the fabric as the sewing birds held it in place.

Sewing bird (needlework clamp) - a fabric holder which functions as an extra hand to hold taut the fabric being stitched. (source: An Illustrated History of Needlework Tools by Gay Ann Rogers)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mother Nature's Bounty

Today is canning day. A cooler morning, low humidity, and an abundance of ripe organic tomatoes makes it a perfect time. Pasta sauce is on the menu. Whether it's preserving for fun or just so I know what's in that jar, I find it both rewarding and satisfying to see my pantry shelves stocked with an array of jars containing the goodness of summer fruit and vegetables.

It fills the kitchen with an alluring aroma that connects me to the earth and my ancestors. Preserving the foods concocted from family recipes is the very essence of life.

On a cold, snowy, winter day I need only to open the lid and it will take me back to the season when the gifts of Mother Nature were aplenty.

So support your local farms, indulge in the goodies they grow, and be thankful for the delightful food that nature provides.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ooo Ooo Witch-e-poo

This is my last batch of Halloween, Harvest hand dyed vintage scraps hanging on the line. It was a perfect day for drying them. Overcast and a light breeze, just what they need to protect their soft black and deep rust colors. Now before you go; she did what to those delectable antique fabrics? let me assure you they were stained and worn. But a good dye bath can remedy all that for my dollie makers. In fact, for some of my primitive gals, the more the better. And it is so much fun!

Just like our ancestors did, I start with ingredients from nature. Sumac, birch back, indigo and a few magic touches all go into the pot. I look like Granny Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies makin' lye soap out of the cement pond. (Now I'm really dating myself.) Fortunately, I don't need to make a wood fire, I just use the side burner on the gas barbecue. I cook it for awhile then let it sit overnight, maybe longer. Add some sea salt, the wet pieces of goodies and let Mother Nature do the rest. (First time I had too much indigo and it all came out purple!) You never know just what hue you'll end up with.

After they dry, the textiles will sit a for a few days then off they go. I can hardly wait to see what delights they'll be created into.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Sisterhood

We have shared many things through this thin wire that connects us.

A passion for all things pink and glittery. A love for pieces from the past. Through glory and congratulations and even the passing of a child.

We are enticed by a calling from within our souls. Motherhood perhaps, artistic endeavors absolutely, but this yearning is even greater than those. It is for a love of life and the need to do good.

We are most content when we fulfill the wishes of others. Along the way we find wholeness and comfort for ourselves. We seek each other to share feelings, both triumphant and sad.

We are women and through this bond anything is possible!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Lydia's Lady's Companion

Lydia Morton married the young prominent doctor Mathias York in 1868 in a small village church in Fairfield, Connecticut. He was a well respected gentleman having endeared himself to the townsfolk by assisting his father who had been the local doctor before him.

When several months after their marriage, Lydia informed him that she was with child he was exalted. On his next trip into Bridgeport he returned with a special gift for her, a Lady's Companion. All the rage in England he was able to purchase one at a specialty shop. This gift would allow her to carry the layette she was sewing proudly with her as she visited her mother and sisters. (During their confinement women of some social stature did not go out in public in the latter part of pregnancy. Limited appearances in private were acceptable.) The little reticule contained all the necessary tools to make the parlor visits pleasurable.

That following spring Lydia delivered a beautiful daughter. Just two weeks after the birth she died of complications. She was only 23. Heartbroken her husband laid her to rest in the peaceful churchyard next to where they had been wed.

Transcribed upon her tombstone he had placed this verse:

Hark angels whisper memory
My partner dear, adieu
In the sweet wain of endless day
Our love we will renew

Description of a Lady's companion:
leather; assorted tools; made for a day's outing or a holiday trip; in addition to tools a mirror, a small copy of the New Testament and a single blade knife might be included. (Sewing Tools and Trinkets Vol. 2 by Helen Lester Thompson)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Snippets and Tidbits

Some mornings when I look at all the stacks of drawers and boxes (that's a polite term for stuff) I've accumulated over the years, I ask myself why?

Old spools of silk thread, 1000s of buttons, snippets of antique lace, tidbits of ribbon and quilts, well I've lost count.

My dining table has become a montage of sorted stacks of fabric salvaged from antique garments and coverlets. Somewhere under the piles of vintage tablecloths and napkins I found my keyboard so I could type this blog.

It's like an addiction! You attend an auction in case there's that one special item you're looking for and end up buying the whole box. You've been called to give an appraisal for an estate and find yourself unable to close the car trunk for all the goodies you couldn't do without. Thrift shops and yard sales - we won't even go there.

But when I'm finally wrapping the parcel that's off to a favorite dollmaker, collage artist or vintage cushion seamstress, I realize why. They will take that snippet or tidbit and weave their magic to give it new life, all over again.