Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Toast to Vintage Handwork

Vintage handmade linens and aprons have a way of casting a spell on me. I swear I hear them calling my name at estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores.

During a recent attempt to sort through my stacks of linens and better organize them, decide which I wanted to add to my Etsy store and which I wanted to put out now to try take my mind off the summer heat, I came across this adorable hand-embroidered toaster cover in my stash.

Is this cute, or what? My husband, who has a reputation as a punster, understandably loves it. The play on words is simply wonderful

I have to confess, we don't have an old toaster this will fit on, so I stood a stack of four books on their spines to properly display this charming toaster garb.

And, yes, I finally opened my Etsy store (, featuring vintage and handmade items. Some sweet handmade aprons called my name this weekend and I'll be adding those to my initial offering in the coming days.

In case you're wondering, you won't find the toaster cover in my store. This one definitely stays in the "keeper" pile.

Make it a great day!
Linking to:

Re: The Shirt Off His Back

For this week's installment of my (semi-regular) feature Re:, I want to share how I repurpose men's long-sleeve shirts into a number of useful items.

If you're new to my blog, I hope you'll check back on Mondays for Re:, a little feature I do to extol the virtues of the six R's--reduce, reuse, recycle, reclaim, repurpose and respect--and offer tips for an earth-friendly lifestyle. I really do have good intentions of posting on this important topic each week, but admittedly, I've been lax lately.

Now, on to the projects. Earlier this year, a dear friend of mine became a Silpada jewelry rep. Much to my delight, as I love that gorgeous stuff. She wanted to find a simple and inexpensive item for a giveaway for her jewelry parties.

I recalled a cute idea I had seen on Pinterest. It involved cutting the cuffs off men's long-sleeve shirts and sewing them into little pouches that can hold jewelry, thumb drives, lipstick, your iPod Nano, and so on.

So, my friend bought color-of-the-week shirts at Goodwill, and I made the pouches for her.

She didn't want what was left of the cuffless shirts, so I set out to make use of all that nice fabric. 

Another borrowed idea is to make pillow covers out of the body of the shirt. They're easy to make and a snap to remove and launder. They can certainly be embellished, but I like the simplicity of just the shirt for use in kids' rooms, dorm rooms or just for casual use around the house.

Not to stop there, this is what I have up my sleeve for repurposing another usable part of the shirt. The sleeves are the perfect size and shape (with a few minor alterations) to make gift bags for wine bottles or other similarly shaped items.

Another option is to repurpose the breast pockets. These could be used to decorate a child's door or as party favors. I made this one for National Poem in Your Pocket Day and filled it with some of my favorite whimsical poems.

I'm also collecting the shirt collars for a future project.

You can view Off the Cuff pouches, Stuffed Shirt pillow covers and Up Your Sleeve gift bags in different shirt patterns in my shop.

As I dissect these shirts, I keep hearing my grandmother's voice in my head:  Waste not, want not. I hope grandma would be proud.

Make it a great day!
Linking to:

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Step Into a Stranger's Past

The past few weeks have been challenging and disorienting for our family, as we work to deal with the changing health of my husband's elderly parents. They live two states away, making our accessibility less than ideal. We've put a lot of miles on the car.

Spending time with my mother-in-law has been both rewarding and fascinating. She needs extra help and support right now and, in turn, she's shared many a family story that I haven't previously heard. Some are funny, some surprising, some quite poignant. All are, oh, so special.

On the car ride back home this past weekend, I was thinking about the stories she's shared and was reminded of the wonderful treasure I had picked up at an estate sale a few weeks ago. I posted about the stamps and cards here.

At that same sale, I found a brown paper envelope imprinted with the words, "Kodak Finishing from Keith County Studio." The envelope bore the same name that was on the cards I featured in that previous post. On the spot, I shuffled through the first few of about 50 vintage photographs and thought I could use them in my journal-making. I paid $1 for them and headed home.

At home, sifting through this wonderful collection of family photos, I was captivated--pulled, willingly, into some other time and place. A beautiful family home, young families, grandparents, children and babies, dogs, rose gardens. The character and composition of the photos made me feel almost a part of the family, while at the same time, a bit like a peeping Tom. 

Someone hand wrote elaborate descriptions on the backs of about half the photos, which bore dates from the mid-1930s to early 1940s.

The photo of the little boy makes me smile every time I look at it. The above description on the back of his photo is priceless: "This is Gordie--May 1939. Taken in our back yard. He was calling the kitten, but I missed the cat when I took the picture."

This looks like a mischievous bunch!

The women on the right are proudly displaying a string of fish. Do you suppose they caught them and then had to clean and cook them, too?

Daddy and his little guy in January 1938. From the looks of it, they must have been in a warmer climate than the Midwest.

I've looked through these photos over and over again. I can't help it. I don't know these people, but the photographer was so masterful at capturing a range of settings, family interactions and memorable moments that I feel as if I could step right into one of these snapshots and blend right in.

I admit, now, that I've had a change of heart about the fate of these snapshots--no journal material for these treasures. They may chronicle a small piece of the lives of people who, in reality, are strangers to me, but I've grown accustomed to their faces and places and kinda like the idea of keeping them all together as a family. With the cards they sent one another so long ago.

Make it a great day!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Crimson Glory, Scorching Heat

Is anyone as sick of the blast furnace summer as I am? When I step outside, my skin feels as if it's on fire. The lawn is now browning and heading into dormancy. The flowerbeds  are still green, but blooms have been pathetic.

Except for  my two hibiscus, which are in shade from late morning on.

The water droplets look so cool and soothing. How deceiving.

The shadows showing through the back of this dinner-plate sized bloom add a spectacular dimension.

And, to think, these gorgeous blossoms come from alien-looking pods. Isn't nature marvelous?

Make it a great day!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jog Your Memories

A while back, I saw this clever, but touching, idea on a friend's Pinterest board. I pinned it, knowing beyond a doubt that I was going to use this.

The concept was the brainchild of Holly at Nothing But Bonfires. She invited friends and family to write and submit a favorite memory of her dad, which she then packaged in these beautiful vintage air mail envelopes and gave to him for his 60th birthday.

Just so happened that my husband's birthday was approaching. Coincidentally, his 60th birthday. I was so enamored with this idea, though, that I'd have stolen it regardless of the age coincidence.

So, I called on family and friends for their favorite memories of my husband, with the assurance that anything goes: funny, sad, goofy, R-rated. Anything.

I didn't know how many people would respond. But the memories started rolling in. And, they just kept coming--right up until the day before his birthday.

A few were hand-written, but most were in email form. I printed the messages on a variety of papers, using those that had a connection with specific people or their stories, when possible. Yes, at times it truly pays to be a pack rat.

After printing all the memories, I put them in vintage air mail envelopes I found on Amazon. I stamped postmarks on each. And, similar to the inspiration project, I tied them all together with mailing string.

That sweet bundle really had impact, if I do say so myself.

I had hoped to share a photo of my husband reading his birthday messages, but silly me--I forgot to charge my camera battery before he began his trip down memory lane.

His expressions told the real story. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Make it a great day!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I Found in the Mail

On the way home from work one night, I stopped at an estate sale. This wasn't one run by an estate sale company. It was run by the family. A really nice family.

I picked up some nice things at the sale--for really good prices. Several lovely aprons. Some nice linens.  A sweet tulip salt and pepper shaker set. Some pretty metal trays.

But what I was most interested in was an envelope with about 50 photographs from the mid to late 1930s and early 1940s and a Ziploc bag of what I thought was just stamps and empty used envelopes with postage stamps still attached. Just the type of ephemera I use in my handmade journals.

I didn't even have to look far. Both were just inside the front door to the place. And, only dollar each for the envelope of photos and the bag of stamps.

When I picked up the envelope of photographs and the bag of stamps, I certainly didn't expect the treasure trove I found when I opened them up at home.

The collection of stamps was nice and will be quite useful for my craft projects. The corner of the envelopes containing the stamps had simply been torn off and thrown into the Ziploc bag.

At the bottom of the bag, however, were a few whole envelopes. All but one were addressed to the same woman. One was addressed to a man who I assume was woman's husband. Over the course of the 12 years the postmarks represented, 1925-1937, the couple appeared to have lived in Texas, western Nebraska and, eventually, central Nebraska.

To my delight, four of the envelopes still contained the original cards.

Such a lovely Mother's Day card, dated 1925.

And, why wouldn't someone with "moonbeams" in her blog title be bowled over by this adorable Valentine card also from the 1920s? It reminded me of how much I loved the imagery in the movie "Paper Moon."

A whimsical birthday card, dated 1935, for the mister, is just doggone cute.

And the icing on the cake is this tease of a Valentine. A true treasure. Like Russian stacking dolls, the outer envelope opens to another, and another, and another. Ten times over. The prize in the tenth and final teensy, weensy envelope--a construction paper heart. Each envelope has a fun rhyme printed in red ink on the front coaxing the reader to open it. As if I needed to be coaxed to look further!

The cards and empty envelopes are all addressed to members of one family. And, let me just say, the package of photographs--the same family--is a delight. Many have detailed, hand-written descriptions on the backs. I'm excited to share those with you in a future post.

As for the little mailbag featured today: It definitely has my stamp of approval.

Make it a great day!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Eco Art: Creativity with a Message


Through one of my favorite web sites,, I came across this intriguing, yet sobering, project,  Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait.

Seattle-based photographer/artist Chris Jordan describes his collection of art this way:

Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.
This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

The above work of art pays homage to Georges Seurat's famous painting, but depicts 400,000 plastic bottle caps, equal to the average number of plastic bottles consumed by Americans every day.

Visit to zoom in and see the bottle cap detail of this remarkable work of art. Among Jordan's other works you can see are 260,000 car keys, equal to the number of gallons of gasoline burned in U.S. cars every minute and 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours wasted every minute in the United States from inefficient residential electricity usage.

Jordan is right: his art gives raw statistics new meaning. I know I won't be able to view plastic bottles in the same way from this day forward.

I hope you'll take a minute to look at Jordan's remarkable work and to reflect on the sobering story it tells. 

Make it a great day!