Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Favorite Thing

Cindy, who has the beautiful blog, My Romantic Home, has invited us to share our favorite thing. This sampler, which was stitched in 1840, is definitely it! I collect antique textiles, and especially samplers, and this is the oldest piece I have. Did you know these were stitched as part of a girl or young woman's education? There are certain things sampler collectors look for in a piece and this one has just about every one of them. There are trumpeting angels and a female figure, which are overshadowed by a huge butterfly. This lack of perspective in sampler art is common and gives them a folksy or whimsical feel. There are birds and trees and flowers. There's a verse--it's a version of one which was stitched frequently-- and the sampler is signed and dated by the stitcher. (You can click on the photos for more detail.) There is also a wonderful building with its name stitched underneath. It could be the girl's school, a prominent building in her hometown or possibly even her home. The sampler is probably English, but at this point in time I have been unable to document that. When I purchased this sampler about 10 years ago, I reframed it myself using museum-quality archival materials because I want it to last another 168 years. Thanks for letting me share something so precious to me with you, and I look forward to seeing your favorite thing!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Imperfect (but mostly pleasant) Life

Getting the craft store ready for inventory had really been cutting into my fun time. I had to work a lot of extra hours, miss the bloggers' craft day at Karla's cottage and even work on my birthday. I did have one free day to drive out to Greenwood, Missouri with my daughter, however. This little town has a number of antique shops, and I especially love it in the fall when it's all decked out in pumpkins and corn stalks. There's a lot of focus on primitives here and those fall decorations really seem to complement them. Unfortunately, on this summer day, the tea room in the antique mall was closed for vacation. My daughter and I love eating there (great sweet potato fries) so that put a definite kink in our plans. It was also unusual to see a number of empty booths in the antique mall. I did find a couple of little things across the street at the Greenwood Mercantile. Here's a Rit dye rack I bought. This is just a piece of one (3 tiers, 6 colors to a tier) as I've seen a larger one in a local antique mall with the full range of colors. I always look at it longingly when I go to that mall, but it's too pricey and too big for the space I have, so I was happy to find this little piece. A few of the dividers were broken or missing, but I replaced them with bamboo skewers soaked in leftover wood stain and cut to length. I've had fun trying to match up items to the dye colors stamped on the rack and I think it will look good when I get it filled up with ribbons and such. I've also seen one filled with old millinery flowers in Kaari Meng's book The French-Inspired Home. I also picked up this vanilla box. I like old graphics and have been looking for some vintage blue and white packaging since I saw Debbie Dusenberry of Curious Sofa mix it in with her blue and white transferware in the January 2008 issue of Country Living. I also spent one evening at an auction that I've started to attend regularly since Beth introduced me to it. I got this Blue Willow condiment set for just $3 because the salt shaker is missing. There's a complete one on ebay for more than $230. That's one of the nice things about imperfection-- it's affordable. As Beth said, you never know when I might run across a match for the missing piece and I've actually had this kind of thing happen to me. Years after I purchased an empty Delft tool rack, I found matching tools minus their rack---in Greenwood! I also got this really tall jar (I seem to be into these lately) for $4 and there's not a thing wrong with it. The exact same thing sells for $24.99 where I work, so it was worth staying late at the auction to bid on it. Have you ever been to an auction? I was a bit wary of them because I thought I'd accidentally bid on something I didn't want or lose my common sense and pay way too much for something because I got into a bidding war, but those things haven't happened. The auctioneers and their spotters make eye contact with the bidders so it would be pretty tough to bid without meaning to. I find myself getting very relaxed by the auctioneer's patter (each one has his own style) until they hold up something I want to bid on and then I get a rush of adrenaline. The spotters at this auction are so friendly, bringing boxes and newspaper to you with your item if you didn't come prepared to wrap it and these guys are just plain comedic when they model the merchandise-- fur pieces and rhinestone necklaces never looked so good.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What's Under the Cloche? (3)

A while ago I picked up a couple of spool knitters at my favorite thrift store for a quarter each. They reminded me of the ones I had as a kid and I liked how they were such opposites --one tall, thin and black, the other short, plump and ivory. They sat on my craft table with no purpose, but caught my eye when I was creating a panel, all in blacks and creams, for the Birds and Bonnets Swap. I thought the three would look good together under my cloche. Last night I recreated the swap panel. I began putting together the vignette this morning, knowing I wanted the display to be strictly black and all shades of vintage white. Some dried twigs called wintercress, found on clearance at Michael's for $1, made a tree background for the the bird and filled out the top of the cloche. As usual, I used a vintage pin-style flower frog as a base, anchoring the twigs in it and propping up the panel on it. I draped yellowed lace, another thrift store find, from the black spool and pinned a leftover scrap of coffee-died polka dot ribbon to the white one. I cut a circle from black and ivory damask scrapbook paper to ground the display and scattered vintage buttons over it. So tell me, what's under your cloche?

Friday, July 4, 2008

My French Dress Form

Madame arrived a few days ago, rather unceremoniously, in a cardboard box by way of New Jersey. Like so many bloggers before me I set out to antique her French form, using the instructions from Heather Bullard published in the April 2008 issue of Romantic Homes. Here she is in her natural state in the back yard. I thought it would be easiest to paint the form upright, so I left it on the wood base, but because I'm a sloppy painter, I put the base inside of a garbage bag and secured it to the metal pole with masking tape. The form was first sprayed with Kilz white primer and then painted with Valspar interior flat finish paint in the color Churchill Hotel Wheat using a foam brush. Then Valspar's antiquing glaze in a color called Asphaltum was watered down and ragged on. (The paint and glaze were purchased at Lowe's.) To me, this glaze appeared very grey in the bottle and I was a bit worried, but the company website described it as a deep brown and I was happy with the way it looked over the paint. Like Heather, I ordered the dress form with a black base. (I picked an ebay "buy it now" seller after searching with the words "dress forms". There were a number of form sizes and styles, base finishes and price points to choose from.) I sanded the base and neck cap to age them a little and then rubbed them with a less watered-down solution of the antiquing glaze. I had the most trouble with the neck stamp. I stamped, painted over the stamp, and then re-stamped it several times because the image was blurry. I finally realized I was using a dye-based stamp pad and that the dye was, to borrow a term from the textile world, fugitive--it was running. I used my handy Michael's online coupon, purchased a pigment-based ink pad and was happy with the result. The stamp I used is from a collection called French Mail by Crafty Secrets Clear Art Stamps and was also purchased "buy it now" from an ebay seller. (Yes, I'm an impatient crafter!) Since my studio has a lot of sewing collectibles, I began Madame's decoration with a needlecase necklace I've had for years. Now on I'm on the lookout for more thrift and antique store necklaces, pearls, chains, pins and who knows what else to adorn her.