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 of the spool heart image below my Etsy shop.

Note Card: Heirloom Collection – Thread

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 I’ll share more about in a future 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

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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.

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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
Antarctica
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.

charming

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.

Treasures – Shirley Temple doll

my mom, Mary Louise Hartwell, about 1930

I saw the new movie, The Artist (see the trailer here) the other night and walked out of the theater thinking about tap dancing, which is featured at the very end. That got me thinking about my mother’s life as a girl during the movie’s time period (late 1920’s-early 30’s). She took tap dancing lessons and I still have her Bell Tone taps, which I sewed into this little hanging I made years ago. It’s a forerunner to the wedding banners I’ve been making lately, which you can see here.

My Mom was one of the lucky girls of her generation to have a Shirley Temple doll, which I now have. The doll has been stored in her original wardrobe trunk all these years.

Shirley Temple was discovered at the age of 3 and became a hugely popular movie star when “Talkies” began to replace silent films in Hollywood in the 1930’s.

 It looks like my Mom peeled off most of the stickers, but here’s one that’s mostly left.

I found Shirley inside, along with a closet and card board drawers full of clothes.

She looks in pretty good shape. I remember seeing the doll as a child, but thankfully, she was kept away from our grubby fingers.

The pile of clothes includes some home-made ones as well as some outfits with “genuine” Shirley Temple tags.

This doll is a treasure to cherish. I’m glad to have this memory of my mother and times past.

Delectable Mountain

I’ve heard about Delectable Mountain for years and finally got to visit this past summer. We’ve gone to Brattleboro, Vermont a lot lately because of my show at the Brattleboro Museum. We’ll be heading there again this Saturday, Oct. 15th for my talk at 3:00 pm. I was glad to find out that both the museum and Delectable Mountain survived the storm (Irene) in August.

Delectable Mountain is not your ordinary fabric store. Everything is beautiful and luscious; silk, brocade, buttons, trims. There are no bolts of cotton to be found.

Old lady’s hats are displayed among the fine fabric, scarves and buttons.

Remnants of silk are bundled together and laid out in boxes.

Larger pieces are stacked in shelves.

Looking at this fabric makes me want to conjure up a special occasion to make a garment for.

While I was there, several husbands waited impatiently while their wives became more and more mesmerized. 

The button selection is to die for.

I liked the way they displayed the buttons in small glass dishes and  bowls. It all glistened and sparkled.

I bought some of these bone buttons, along with some pieces of cloth that I couldn’t live without. This shop is well worth a visit!

30th wedding anniversary

Today is our 30th anniversary! To celebrate, Rob and I are going on a little trip to Long Island, NY. Ok, I know what some of you are thinking? Isn’t Long Island full of Levittown style track houses? Well, we’re going to the northern end, which we’re reaching by ferry from New London, CT. I’ll come back with pictures to show what we find. Anyway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show the dolls I made for our wedding.

At the wedding, the dolls were hanging in a basket with helium  balloons floating above and cheese cakes below.

The dolls and basket have been gathering a coat of dust over the years, as we have also become gray.

They were made with stuffed nylon stockings, which was all the rage back then. 

I made my own wedding dress and Rob’s shirt and vest, so the dolls had matching outfits. Happy summer solstice!

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram