Heirloom Collection – wooden spools of thread

Do you have a collection of old wooden spools of thread? Perhaps they’ve been passed down in the family. You just can’t bring yourself to throw them out because they are a connection to people and places in your past. You wonder what to do with them.

They are beautiful objects to look at. Mostly, the spools sit there unused, relics of a bygone era. Some people think the thread isn’t practical to use because it breaks easily, but others say it’s strong and of a higher quality than what you can buy today. A follower who saw my photo of the spools on Instagram summed it up this way, “I have a small collection. My husband asked me why I was keeping them…. well he just doesn’t get it.”

On Valentines Day, I decided to make an assemblage with my collection of cotton and silk thread. I put some spools on end and some sideways, separating the ones with paper labels from the stamped ones. It was so much fun that I surrounded the heart shape with just about every spool I could find hidden away in my studio.

I used my grandmother’s old bread board as a base. That way, I could move it without messing up the design. Doesn’t it look like a box of candy? Rob took a photo of the arrangement and viola, a piece of art!

I am happy to offer note cards, a jigsaw puzzle, notebooks, and a poster of the spool heart image to my Etsy shop.

Thread Spool Heart jigsaw puzzle

Gathering the spools and arranging them took an afternoon, which is a fraction of the time it takes to create a stitched piece. It seems that I either work quickly like this or laboriously over a period of months. Nothing in between. Each way feeds a different part of my creative soul.

Making the spool heart has sparked a new series of assemblage pieces made from vintage items that I’m calling the Heirloom Collection. I also made a homey scene with an assortment of old buttons (see below), which you can find out about in this post. A note card of the button landscape (sold in a 4 card set combo with the spool heart or separately) is also available in my Etsy shop.

4 Note Cards Set – Heirloom Collection, 2 thread cards and 2 Buttons cards

Part of the appeal of working spontaneously is that I can come up with an idea, set up an arrangement, snap a photo and then take it apart in a relatively short period of time. I like making ephemeral art because I don’t have to think about mounting, framing and preserving it as a “thing”. The photo becomes the art. My head is exploding with ideas for other collections!

These vintage spools resonate with so many of us, especially sewers, quilters and fiber artists who are old enough to remember using them. This is what they’re saying on Facebook and Instagram:
“Omg I love this! I thought I was the only one who had a collection of vintage wooden silk spools sitting around.” and “I have a box of old thread, passed down through 4 generations. I treasure it. It’s like a magic box.”

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still life photos around the house



I spent a little time this week taking still life photographs. Rob is giving me tips about lighting and operating my camera. Some of the photos show seasonal arrangements and others are permanent displays around the house. While looking for things to take pictures of, I noticed that almost every object in our house has been in Rob’s or my family for a long time. It’s an eclectic collection of stuff, from a 3 ft. high bronze Buddha my great grandfather bought from a missionary in Russia in the late 1900’s to tiny silver salt shakers Rob inherited. Very few items are new or were purchased by us. Both of our families are small and we have become the keepers of the past by default.





images of the season

For the winter solstice, I’ve gathered some pictures from past blog entries that reflect on the colder months of winter. Here’s a list of links to see where the images came from:
Cheese Straws recipe
Family heirlooms
Mary Mavor’s cards
Woods Hole in winter
Pocketful of Posies
Polly Doll
Salley’s childhood art
Mimi Kirchner’s ceramic ornaments

Inspiration– Molas #2

Last year, in a fit of organizing, I matted and framed a pile of my molas. They are from my mother’s collection and I’ve come to love and admire their meticulous and bold designs. A while ago, I wrote a post about other molas in my collection here. The black framed molas are now crowding the walls of our downstairs powder room. With no windows and damaging sunlight, it’s a good place to hang textiles. There isn’t a tub or shower, so humidity isn’t a problem, either.

Right now, the walls of the “Mola” room are white, but I plan on painting them a richer color to better compliment the frames. I could go wild, with borders and patterns, but right now I don’t have the time. It just feels good to have them all displayed together.


I found these charm bracelets while cleaning and organizing my studio. Some are passed down from my mother and grandmother and one is from my own childhood.

My idea of dressing up, was to wear a charm bracelet. For my 5th birthday party, I also wore turtles-in-a-row barretts.

I remember picking out these charms on our family’s trip to Europe in the summer of 1965. At ten years old, I was just old enough for our travels to make a lasting impression.  We went to Greece, France and Switzerland.

 The charms help me remember what we saw in Italy…

and Austria and Germany, too. Although my siblings and I spent hours in the back seat, cutting paper dolls from Archie comics, I remember the sights and experiences of this trip clearly.  I think that I began to wake up to the world outside of my little village. I am thankful that my parents were willing to take us to Europe and caravan with another family for over a month. It made a difference in all of our lives.

fabric memories

I’ve been cleaning up and organizing my fabric stash, which includes some old familiar prints. My mother made a jumper out of this folksy blue fabric that my sister and I both wore.


I remember wearing a dress out of this red pattern in about 3rd grade. It was in the days when girls had to wear dresses to school. We would put shorts on underneath, so that we could climb the jungle jim!

This black fabric was a skirt.

We used a lot of Marimekko fabric in the 60’s. The memories are strong. It’s hard to choose what to keep and what to part with.

Favorites: Mimi’s ceramic ornaments

Decorating our Christmas tree is a trip down memory lane. We have some really old decorations and ornaments that I showed last year (here), but some of my favorites are ones we’ve added more recently, like 27 years ago, when I bought these ceramic ornaments by Mimi Kirchner.

I got this baby one in 1983, the year my son Peter was born. Mimi and I met each other about 30 years ago, when we were both members of the Christmas Store coop (now Sign of the Dove).

At this time, Mimi worked in ceramics, making wonderful hand painted bowls, dishes and ornaments. Years later, after her studio was destroyed by fire, she changed mediums and started making her distinctive dolls. I can see her style carrying through to her present work, which you see on her blog here. Also, see her Tiny World pin cushions on an earlier post here.

Favorites (Edward Lear)

This alphabet book by the prince of nonsense verse, Edward Lear (1812-1888), seems timely, considering my broken arm, which is much improved, by the way. This 1944 edition was on a book shelf  in my parents’ house. Here’s the title page and some pages from the book, which was illustrated by G. S. Sherwood. Note the unsentimental ending, with the zinc-lined coffin! This was a different age of children’s literature. Read more about Lear here.

Favorites (big Golden books)

I saved these 2 books from the ” Big Golden Book” series from our childhood collection. My mother was a fan of Alice and Martin Povenson and we had many of their books. I even met Alice about 20 years ago and told her how influential her and her husband’s work was.  The Color Kittens was my first introduction to color theory and Funny Bunny is another early example of their work. In my opinion, they were the best at stylizing animals for children’s books, bringing an elegant sophistication that was lacking in other “cartoony” illustration. You can see more of the Provensen’s work here.  

“The Color Kittens” illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, 1950’s

illustration from "The Color Kittens"

"Funny Bunny" illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, 1950's

illustration from "Funny Bunny"

end papers from "Funny Bunny"

Favorites (sewing notions)

This collection of sewing memorabilia has come my way via grandmothers and great aunts. Inside the Queen Marie needle book are several packs of gold and silver eyed sharps. Don’t you just love the idolized cover scene of 3 generations sewing together? I’ve used some of this rick rack and these hooks & eyes make hinges and door handles in my artwork. And, call me old-fashioned, but I always wear a thimble.  

Queen Marie needle book

a selection of hook and eyes


buttons purchased at Gladding's for 10 cents

rick rack braid


family thimbles