Friday, January 30, 2015

The Accidental Collector - Well Tinned

No, I never set out to have a collection of tins. There have been a few folks peppered throughout my life that I have known who intentionally collect tins. Not me. I never even considered it. Yet, here I am with a decent little collection of vintage metal tins.

Once again, my grandmother is to blame for this. Oh that woman had a lot of things! Fortunately many of those things were lovely, or interesting at the very least.

You see when I was young my grandmother was quite a baker. Her cookies were heaven. She was well known for a few specialties in the cookie department. Unfortunately, some how most of those recipes have been misplaced and I have never been able to replicate the melt in your mouth sugar sandies that she used to make. She would make up batches of cookies at a time and send them to us in her metal tins (vintage even then). We would get a box with a couple of tins, we would open the old clanging lids to peel back layers of wax paper to reveal the goodness inside.

This one has become my well worn button tin

We always had to return the tins so that they could be re-used for future batches of cookies. When my grandmother passed, I elected to keep a couple of the tins to use for storage of buttons and other sewing accouterments.  Handy things those tins, though from time to time I find myself looking at them and being overcome with a mad craving for peanut butter chocolate bites.

One day I was at my local thrift shop looking for this and that and there was a funny old tin that caught my eye. Upon seeing the $.99 price tag it jumped into my hands and came home with me.

 Another day, many moons later, Pony Girl and I found ourselves at a garage sale. While PG was making me proud negotiating the price of a doll, I spied a couple of sweet vintage tins. I wasn't going to purchase them, you see I don't collect tins. I just thought I would casually ask the price and say oh well no thank you. However, when the woman had been talked down on the doll to a mere $3.50, she announced, you can throw in the tins for $.50 to round up to $4.00 as I'm running out of quarters for change.

And so now I seem to be fairly well tinned. Since there are more than 3 it makes for a collection. I truly never meant for this to happen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tools of the Trade

As I continue my massive studio overhaul/reorganization I got to thinking about the tools that I use in doing what I do. What are the tools I can't live without? What are some of the tools that may not be an absolute necessity, but that I have become so attached to that I believe I can't live without them? What are some tools that I use that I just think are the bees knees?

Well, in the can't live without category, you will find the usual suspects:

Good quality, regularly sharpened fabric shears
Paper cutting shears
Sharp little snips
Seam Ripper! So vital that I have 4 of them
Rotary Cutter
Pin Cushion
Measuring Tape
Marking tool/s - I have all sorts, the one pictured is my latest acquisition
Clear plastic quilting ruler - not pictured

I have a group of tools here, that I find indispensable, but are not on everyone's list of essentials:

Seam Gauge - it's uses are too numerous to list - again I have 4 of these babies
Turning tool (also called a bone folder) - used to make crisp corners when turning something right side out
Beeswax Thread Waxer - this one belonged to my grandmother and still sees quite a lot of use
Bodkin - For threading elastic or ties through casings
Buttonhole Cutter - This is a sharp beveled edge tool for cutting the center of buttonholes - love!
Fray Check - again it's uses are many, but it's a must for my buttonholes
Bias Binding Folding tools - for making your own bias binding
Many Sewing Machine Needles - In my opinion these should be on the can't live without list! It makes a huge difference to change your needles often - every 12 hours of basic sewing at least

Of course I could not live without my steam iron and ironing board. As cheesy as it sounds, pressing equals success. I can easily spend half of my sewing time on pressing.

Accordingly, I have some very useful pressing tools:

Ham and Sleeve Roll - Yes, it's actually called a Ham - due to it's shape
Point Presser/Clapper - Gets those seams looking sharp - these were made by my talented Engineer

This is by no means a complete list. I know I have left out some other important items, yet these are tools that help me do what I love to do.

Now, I'm so curious to know what is your favorite tool/s that you use in your projects? Do tell!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pictures of us


The Accidental Collector will return next week. Tonight is date night!

Look at those young'uns in that picture! Time sure flies...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The hazards of getting organized

My name is Lola and I'm a hoarder.

Of all things crafty.
Even after a major cull when we moved out of The Little Green Cottage, there were still boxes packed and left to their own devices since we moved into this house. So it was I finally undertook the MASSIVE re-organization of my work room. I even caved to the finger breaking assembly of Ikea storage units. Forget pretty, I need function!!! I've been slogging away in the chaos for days. 

Oops, forgot that big box in the furnace room! Oops, there's more sawdust covered boxes in the garage! Did I mention it's MASSIVE? Today it came down to a final couple of boxes in the garage. After slaving all day and creating more upheaval (it gets worse before it gets better), I started to get a headache from sucking dust and a bit of vertigo from the overwhelming state of things. "Oh come on Champ! You can do one more box! It's the last giant box of fabric, all you need to do is put it on the shelves in an orderly manor. Easy peasy," is what I said to myself.

Famous last words.

It's my own fault, in fact I was surely asking for it. What does one expect leaving a box of cotton and wool yardage in a garage next to a wood pile?
Of course they chewed through the best wool, and by "they" I mean mice. Now I'm not one to run shrieking or jump onto kitchen counters upon seeing a little whiskered fellow, no, not I. However, I would like to add that I like to keep a respectable distance between myself and those pesky critters. They are welcome to come and go outside as they please, but inside is my domain and I'd thank you kindly to stay the heck out! Perhaps the mice were confused about the garage. Let me just set this straight right now for all you mice, the garage is off limits too! Especially my box of fabric! Of course there was a shocking amount of tiny mouse poo and the whole thing smelled that unmistakable smell of mouse pee. I now have 30 yards - give or take - of fabric to wash, dry, fold and find space for. Thank goodness the mice were out and about for the day when I discovered their nest.

I may just break into that bottle of whiskey I got for Christmas.

Monday, January 19, 2015


"I refuse to accept the view that humankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood + sisterhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." - MLK

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Accidental Collector - Rocks

I have always loved rocks. The small smooth tumbled agates found on the beaches of my childhood. The veins of Jasper and Quartz running along the craggy banks of the rivers around my home seemed like treasures to me. So this collection is less of an accident and more of intention.

I would not have such a spectacular collection (only a portion of it is pictured here) were it not for my maternal grandfather. His first career was as an auto dealer; when he retired from that profession he began a second career as a Lapidarist, a person who cuts, polishes and works with precious and semi-precious stones and gems.  He bought and sold stones, gems, minerals, and petrified wood from and to many places around the globe.

As a kid I can remember my grandfather wearing his work coveralls and hauling giant burlap sacks of raw materials to the work room. I can still hear the loud whining of the cutting, grinding and polishing machines. I watched him cut and work with great concentration and precision. I can recall the heavy smell of oil and rock dust.

He worked on small gleaming cabochons and giant slabs of petrified wood that depicted beautiful designs. He cut open geodes and thunder eggs to reveal stunning crystals inside. I was fascinated by it all and grew to have a deep love for these treasures from the earth.

Many of the most prized of my collection came from my grandfather, the rest I have collected over the years. Gathering them on my travels or from Ed's rocks and gems shop up the road. I love giving a small gathering of beautiful rocks and gems as presents, especially to young children who seem to understand what amazing things they are.

As I write this I realize that I have not added a new specimen to my collection in quite a while. Perhaps it is time to go rock hunting!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday's Work in Progress

Continuing the theme of making for the home, my current work in progress is a stack of placemats to be quilted and bound. One down, 5 to go.

I realized after I finished the first one that I had used up the last of that particular bias binding and could not get more. Mix and match binding for the rest of them then!

I love this fabric line from a few years ago; Cloud 9 organic cotton - Nature Walk.

Oh, and just in case you are interested...

For one placemat:
Cut two fabric rectangles measuring 18" x 14.5"
Cut one piece of cotton quilt batting 18" x 14.5"
Sandwich batting between fabric rectangles, right sides facing out. Use pins to secure or as I did, a temporary fabric adhesive spray to keep pieces in place.
Use your sewing machine to quilt the layers. I just used straight lines randomly spaced. To make this easier, use a walking foot on your machine.
Bind the edges with bias binding - takes about 1 3/4 yard of binding for each placemat.
Repeat for as many placemats you care to make.

I know, it's not much of a tutorial, but if you want more details, just do a search on the interwebs for "how to sew quilted placemats" and you will have a bunch of tutorials to choose from.

So, what are you working on?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sometimes crafting isn't pretty

We all know the saying, Necessity is the Mother of Invention. 

Sometimes I find when I'm stuck, in a rut, or waiting for the next spark of creativity, yet still feel the need to make something, I turn to what is needed in the home. In this exercise, I not only get my stitch on, but I end up with something useful. It saves a little money and my conscience is clear knowing that no sweatshop labor or bad practices are used. I use up scraps I have on hand that have been left over from other projects, so I have not had to purchase any materials. All of this is good.

On the other hand, I often sacrifice form for function. I don't spend a long time deliberating, or perfecting. I jump in and just go. I mean really, pretty matching napkins are nice and all, but I have a good amount of scrap fabric that is well... let's just say it's not my favorite. Also, because we are in desperate need of cloth napkins, desperate to the tune of a goal of 20 new napkins, I am not willing to spend the time making sure my narrow hems are all exactly 1/8" and perfectly square. In fact, I am famous for not enjoying making the same thing over and over so making 1 napkin from cut to finish should take me only 15 minutes give or take.

We needed pot holders too. Since I had some of this stuff just laying around I went for it. Scraps again, randomly stitched together and definitely not pretty! Yes, I could have made beautiful pot holders, I could have spent hours on them, and I have, but those were gifts. So in the end, I spent a small amount of time and made useful if wonky things.

Seriously, these things are gonna get USED! They will get dirty and need constant washing and who cares if they aren't works of art? I don't. I filled a need, and this was my purpose. Sometimes crafting ain't pretty folks and that's ok.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Accidental Collector

What makes a collection? How many of a certain type of thing must you have to call it a collection? If you have two of something? Or is it 3? 5?

Truth be told, I am a hapless collector. When I was a young thing, way back when, I did attempt to collect with intent. I had quite a phase with candlesticks, cigar boxes, and postcards. The candlesticks were sold off piece meal over the years to lighten my load over the many moves I have made in my life. I still have a few cigar boxes that house small bits of nostalgia from my past, as well as the postcards. The only thing I seem to collect with intent these days are vinyl records, it is a joint collection though, shared with The Engineer.

When I look around my home, I can see various gatherings of things, small collections (and some not so small... please don't ask weather or not I have more kitchen bowls than I could ever have need of).
Many of these collections have found me, come to me through some strange bit of magic; they are accidental collections. A lot of these assemblages have come to me via my mother and grandmother. I do try to only keep the things that give me joy, that I really love... but you know how it goes sometimes, things can get out of hand if one is not careful.

I'm going to say 3, 3 items of like make for a collection. I have discussed this with my friend Jane, and I think I'm comfortable in saying 3.

I have three tiny antique pill boxes. I do believe I once had a 4th, but the memory is vague and I can't be certain. These beautiful and delicate little things are so lovely and they do give me joy. They don't take up much space at all really, in fact they could all fit in my pocket at the same time. They came to me from my grandmother by way of my mother. One of these is meant for my daughter, I'm just fostering it for awhile, I promise.

I think I may make this a regular feature here. Keep your eyes on this space and The Accidental Collector may strike again!

Oh, and I would love to know, are you a collector? Do tell!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Keeping winter at Bay

"The Bay leaves are of as necessary use as any other in the garden or orchard, for they serve both for pleasure and profit, both for ornament and for use, both for honest civil uses and for physic, yea, both for the sick and the sound, both for the living and the dead; . . . so that from the cradle to the grave we still have use of it, we still have need of it."

Parkinson, ‘Garden of Flowers’ (1629)

Happy New Year all! I hope that the first week of this brand new year has been good to you. It has been good to me and I am feeling the promise of more good days to come. 

Today is the first day back to school and work for our family, I have plenty of to-doing to put the house back together after all the holiday mayhem. The house seems so still and quiet. 

Yesterday, as I looked out at the sparse winter garden I saw that the Bay laurel was still flush with vibrant green leaves. So out I went to harvest some before we get another cold snap. Now as I walk through the kitchen I can smell the scent of Bay from the bunches I hung up for drying and preserving.

Bay Leaves have a long and noble history. The ancient Romans and Greeks used to make crowns out of true Bay Leaves (Laurus Nobilis, Lauraceae) to crown great and accomplished people. These great people usually included kings, war heroes and Olympians. The term ‘baccalaureate’ originates from this giving of bay leaf crowns to signify success, as does the term "poet laureate".

Medicinally, the leaves of the Laurus Nobilis tree, also known as Sweet Laurel, have been used since the ancient times to treat problems associated with the liver, stomach and kidney. They were also used for treating bee and wasp stings. Now, herbalists use bay leaves for treating various health complaints. Some of the reported uses by herbalists and Naturopaths are as follows:
Coughs & Colds: Placing a cloth soaked in water in which bay leaves have been boiled provides relief from cough, cold, bronchitis and chest infections.
Aches & Pains:Essential Oil of bay leaf is massaged on sprained areas and for relieving headaches. The oil also provides relief from swellings, rheumatic and arthritic pain.
Fever:Bay leaves infusion promotes sweating, breaking fever, and flu symptoms.
Digestion:Bay leaves are used for treatment of digestive disorders. 
*Always ask the advice of your doctor before using any remedies.
I will admit that I mostly use mine for cooking, but I have used it medicinally from time to time. I do love the look and scent of herbs hanging to dry. With the garden's herbs mostly died back, I am comforted by my harvest, brightening my kitchen with a bounty of Bay!