Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Surprises!

     When the mail lady honked this afternoon I wondered what on earth she had...I knew I wasn't expecting anything...and that's when you get the nicest surprises!  She handed me a large box that was decorated with flowers.  I still wasn't tracking until I opened it and looked at the card inside!  
     A customer of mine had sent me an Easter basket....all the way from Pennsylvania!  I won't tell you how many years it's been since I've had an Easter basket, but it's been a lot!!!  I had to laugh...and I've laughed all the rest of the afternoon.  What a delightful unexpected surprise!  (And yes, I've already opened it without making any excuses!)

     Right on the heels of that I received an Easter greeting from another customer/friend with an audio recording of "How Great Thou Art"...a song that is very dear to me and particularly so since it was a piano recording (I play the piano too).   I had already received one of the beautiful e-cards that a lovely friend in France sends for every holiday, so I have been totally blessed today!

     For all the years I had my flower shop and even now since I still prepare the special music for the church I play for, I tend to get so wrapped up in "getting things done" for a holiday, I don't often take the time to enjoy the holiday itself.  That's entirely too much of the wrong focus!!

    Thank heaven I have people in my life who take the time to care...and share...and think of others.  I must have some of the very nicest and most thoughtful friends and customers in the world!  Some I have met, so many others are friends across a lot of miles whom I may never get to meet in person.   That is the beauty of this...thoughtfulness transcends the miles and makes the world a happier place!

    May each of you have a blessed Easter...I cherish you all! 

Pictures from the Past as Well!

     I was looking for pictures of Granite, Oklahoma where my grandparents lived and my father grew up.  There is some interesting history from this tiny town...but naturally I can't find those pictures at the moment. 

     I found these though of my grandmother Roberts.  The first ones were taken I think while she still lived in South Carolina.  I would be pretty sure she made the dress; look at the lace bib/bodice and the buttons all the way down the front.  And the hat!  Love the hat!!

      The third picture I'm guessing was their wedding picture.  The dress is slightly different, more of a shawl collar to the waist and different hat.  There's even a possibility that she just changed the top!  The writing on the back is almost obliterated but starts off "Marr....",

      Wouldn't it be a delight to have those dresses, and especially the hats, today to cherish!  At least we have the pictures!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pieces of the Past from My Own Past

         As we've discussed previously, our relatives in the past were very good at finding ways to be thrifty and re-use things    My daddy's mother left a legacy of some charming pieces and I was so fortunate to become their caretaker.  When the family was sorting through all the things that come with closing a home, I was asked what I would like to have.  It was from her yard and pieces of her handwork.  This was, and is, how I remember her.

       She was the consummate gardener who could make anything grow...her garden was a collection of all the old-fashioned beauties:  roses, irises, lilacs, hollyhocks, poppies. phlox...from spring through frost, in the driest part of southwestern Oklahoma, her entire yard was a kaleidescope of colors and fragrance, each bed edged in the tidy borders she remembered  from her South Carolina roots.

       Each evening, weather permitting, she would sit on the porch after dinner so we could visit...always with a piece of handwork, the current bit of her endless creations.  No one else was interested in these treasures...I got everything there...and still cherish them.  One of the surprises in all this came along some years ago.

       She had crocheted an edging around a set of damask napkins, so I chose to use these for our family holiday dinners.  Washing and ironing were standard afterwards; I was surprised one day when I shook one of them out.  When I held it up to the light I saw some very faint lettering here and there on the napkin.  It was in block letters and printed outside the woven damask pattern (the only place I could was almost like trying to read shadows!)


        The damask fabric must have started its life as flour or sugar sacks?  The pattern was done on the sack in squares so it could be used that way?   I'm still not sure, but what little research I've done indicated there were finer fabrics which were used for handkerchiefs or baby why not!  I tried hard to photograph some of the lettering to share, but it is so faint now that the camera wouldn't capture it.

       Maybe one day we'll find out!

        I'm a life-long lover of gloves.  To me they are (were) the finishing touch to a special outfit.  These are a special treasure of my grandmother's.

       Life can hand people lots of hardships; unfortunately my grandmother was left on her own to raise two small boys, my father and uncle, during the Depression.  She worked at anything she could find, mostly cleaning and washing for people, in a time when it was hard to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.  There was nothing left for the niceities.

        She kept her small family in church...and no lady ever went to church without hat and gloves.  I suspect that these were something she created during a time when she had little else...and probably were a blessing to cover hands that had washed and scrubbed all week.  I am so very proud to have these...they make me feel that I have come from a strong line of women!

         This table runner/scarf is definitely a piece that can be dated...not an easy task sometimes!  Since it says "Christmas 1916", this must have been something she made not long after she married.   Several Oxyclean soaks haven't been able to take out all the spots and stains, so she must have used it over and over again.  Perhaps she put it out during those Depression years to be a background and "dress up" whatever she was able to provide for her young boys; perhaps she kept it to remind herself of happier times.

         She was a tall, large-boned woman (yep, I come from sturdy stock!) who was forever tucking a stray wisp of hair back over an ear.  She always wore a starched sunbonnet when she was outside and made it a point to teach me the wonders of a flower garden from my youngest years.  Sometimes I was even allowed to wear one of those sunbonnets!  It's a good Scottish/Irish heritage also includes the very fair skin that either burns or freckles!  Her everyday life was hard but what I remember most was her gentleness in teaching me to make hollyhock dolls, in showing me how to root cuttings from her roses or lilacs...or patiently teaching me the fine points of handwork.  

         One of her great disappointments in life was not being able to teach me to crochet...she just couldn't find a system that would work between a right-handed teacher and a left-handed granddaughter.   Her rough hands though could work magic with needle and thread; she worked deftly and quickly, so practiced that she could drop neither a word of conversation nor a stitch.  That vine-covered porch was always a peaceful place, even in the hot, dry summer.

         She saved bits and pieces of our family history for me great-grandfather's Civil War hatband, his papers, my grandfather's barber tools, and shared the stories with me that made them precious.  But those will be stories for a later time....   


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thanks to Those Long-Ago Ladies for Today's Treasures!

     After getting the 1890's jackets out for pictures on the last post, it was an easy jump to another box of "treasures" I hadn't had time to delve into very far.  I found these items at the very bottom of the box of vintage children's clothing that I've started listing in Childhood Memories (hidden surprises indeed!)   
     Here were pieces of beaded laces, dickeys, and other handworked pieces that had been saved from garments past.  If you've ever done handwork it's easy to see why these bits were saved to be used again!
     Some of them have been given a time line; others are simply guesswork, but they all have one thing in common...they were valued because of the beautiful craftsmanship and time it took to create them. 

     Among some favorites there is a fragment of black Chantilly style lace, a smidgen over 12" long whose design is simply covered in glass bugle beads with accents of seed beads. 

     The thread used to sew the beads with has turned that odd rusty black that comes with age...the lace and the beads are still dramatically black!  


      It would be stunning reinforced and used as an embellished collar or an accent somewhere on an outfit.  Certainly a tiny treasure!

     There is a dickey style collar made of ivory French netting plus lace designed with pointed edges.  The neck band that it is attached to is made of tiny horizontal tucks in the netting and a tiny lace top edge...interestingly enough there are "squiggly" metal pieces on either side (presumably to keep the collar standing elegantly) and hooks and eyes for closure in the back. 

      The drop is about 11" from the bottom edge of the collar, enough to fill in the front of that long-ago jacket.  With a tiny mend in a place or two, it could be used today...what a conversation piece!  Can't you see it with a dainty bar pin or small brooch?
      A totally versatile item, totally practical, totally charming!  

      I have a very good friend who is an incredible seamstress and is knowledgeable as well on textiles and handwork like this.  I shared these treasures with her...and this next piece made her say "Ooh-h!!"  That had been my reaction too! 
      It a strip of rather crepey black chiffon about 40" long and 5" wide, beaded linerally (is that a word?) with "streaks" of frosty silver bugle and seed beads.  There is a motif just about halfway down the length that is simply wonderful...I'm going to try to add pictures taken outside that might do this justice!


      The motif is a mix of more beads plus crystal rhinestones...a most interesting part is how the rhinestones are attached on the back.  The coloring is subtle but the effect is wonderful.  It's hard to imagine what this might have been a part of, especially since the motif is not must have had a matching piece?

      Whatever it was at the beginning of its "life", it certainly deserves to have another opportunity to show its "Wow!" factor!  With a bit of support, it could become an incredible work of art on a garment.   I'm hoping someone with an artistic flair will see this and know exactly what it should become!

      There are about a dozen of these pieces...dickeys, collars, an entire skirt bottom that was beaded in swirls all round, some heavily encrusted lace motifs...even a black satin jacket "insert" with incredible buttons that is said to be "turn of the century."  I'll be getting these listed in the Finishing Touches store in the next day or two; these are great examples of the needle arts of yesteryear. 

     They are also perfect examples of the thrifty mindset of times took time and patience (and skill) to create these small treasures.  They certainly would want to save each beautiful bit...I know I would have!!!  

      I'm very grateful someone will give a whole new generation something beautiful to cherish!!