Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Childhood Memories

When we moved into our current home 13 years ago, I considered myself very lucky that the house came with a full-size unfinished attic with a finished stairway. No pull down rickety stairwell or hole in the ceiling, this is a real stairway leading to a huge empty space. At the time, I had visions of finishing off the room into a craft space.

The craft space never materialized because, all too soon, the attic became the family storage space. Every time my parents would visit, my mom would drop off a box or two full of vintage whatchamacallits. Boxes of dishes. An antique kitchen table. Boxes of dishes. Victorian jewelry. A primitive spinning wheel. A vintage dressing table. Books. Handmade quilts. Old family coffee table. Did I mention dishes?

Now the kids are in college and we've decided to downsize. We cannot take all this "stuff" with us to a smaller home, but what to do with it? Going through the boxes is such a difficult process. Most are family treasures with a story attached. The story makes them real, gives them substance, creates a history that makes that item valuable. The value may not be monetary, but rather in the sense of continuing the family legacy.

My mom knows all the stories and has told them so many times that, when I look at a piece, it "belongs" to someone and I see that person reflected in the item. The china is not just a set of pink flowered dishes , they are Florence's Dishes. That battered oak table is not just a table, it's the table Papa Harold cut off the legs so that it could serve as a Coffee Table.

And then there are the books. My mom was an only child who grew up in an old Victorian home with her parents and grandparents. She lived a relatively quiet life and loved to read. When I grew up I had a huge library at my disposal full of my mom's childhood books. I read them all--The Bobbsey Twins, Anne of Avonlea, Heidi, Jane Eyre. You name it, I read it. I grew up reading all these old fashioned treasures.

Now all these books are in my own home. Two generations old; most of them have that dusty, musty smell that old books acquire. I haven't read one in years. My daughters never read a one of them. The books aren't treasures to them. While I know there is no good reason to keep these books, they are like old friends. So much of my childhood is dusted over each and every one of them.

In addition to my handmade shop, I also have a vintage shop on Etsy, Peanut and Tommy Too. Most of the vintage items in this shop are treasures I've pulled from the boxes in the attic. I wish I could say that I'm listing new items daily, that the number of boxes is going down, that the attic is empty and we're ready to go on with our new life. But that wouldn't be quite true. It takes me forever to choose an item and post it in the shop. I have to think about each one, go over the memories, visualize the owner, and decide on the perfect home. If the item has a story, I try to tell the story in the listing so the new owner will take on the history with the treasure.

Luckily for me, most of the items that I've sold in the vintage shop have gone to new owners who love them for the same reasons they were loved in my family. The books are the most fun to sell--I always get a note about the buyer's excitement at finding this specific edition. Wrapping up a book to send on to a new owner is quite satisfying--like sending a child off into the world, knowing there is a new life just around the corner.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tunisian Crochet

When I was first learning to knit and crochet...long ago in my college days.....I came across an antique lap blanket that one of the great-grans had made back in the 1800's. I was so intrigued, as I'd never seen that stitch before. My mom called it "afghan stitch" and said that it was done with a very long crochet hook. Somehow, before the days of the Internet and all kinds of information right at your fingertips, I managed to find an afghan hook and instructions for the stitch. Using the long crochet hook is so amazing--it's like the best of knitting and crochet all in one. The best way to explain it is to say you are knitting with a crochet hook. Needless to say, I was "hooked!"

What I found so interesting is that the afghan stitch makes little squares in your material. The squares are just the perfect size and shape to be used for counted cross stitch. So you knit/crochet up the blanket and then you embellish it with a cross stitch design.

I was so excited that I gathered up a ton of materials and copied the antique blanket. I must have found a pattern somewhere because my cross stitch design is quite a bit different from the antique blanket I copied.
My next project was a full size afghan that I made for my parents. It took me almost a year, and was a ton of work. I loved the process of creating this work of art, but when the year was over I decided that I could make only so many blankets. At the time, I couldn't quite figure out what else could be done with the afghan stitch besides embellished blankets, so I put my long crochet hook away and forgot about it.
Recently I'd been hearing about this new technique called "Tunisian Crochet," which interestingly enough is really just the old afghan stitch with a new name. I did a little research and discovered tons of books and patterns for Tunisian Crochet. I was really surprised to discover that the stitch I had used for the blankets--that made little squares in the finished product--is really just the basic Tunisian stitch and that there are a ton of variations. You can even use a Tunisian hook to create work that looks just like knitting.

So it's no surprise that I dug out my old afghan hook and some yarn and went to work playing around with the different Tunisian stitches. Once again I am hooked! I love using a large-size Tunisian hook and thicker yarn--the project goes so quickly and the end result is so beautiful.

The scarflette to the right was my first Tunisian project. It is made with lovely, soft organic cotton. I'm working on a few more similar style scarflettes that will be in my Etsy shop soon.