10.29.2009

pancakes + jelly = fun

Wow! I always thought this was something my mother invented herself. Whenever I've mentioned to anyone in conversation that I used to eat pancakes layered with grape jelly they've looked at me like I was crazy. Now I have proof that such a thing existed and was called a jelly stack!

I found this ad while going through a pile of 1960s women's magazines that I've had hanging around for a couple of years. I'm trying to clean up my studio a bit and thought I'd go through them and pull out the good bits for future reference.

jelly stack

My mom would have read these magazines (Better Homes & Gardens, McCalls, Ladies Home Journal) and many of the recipes for the casseroles we ate as kids came from their pages. I've already mentioned the dreaded spam and canned salmon concoctions, but some of the recipes were actually pretty good! Of course, I moved on from grape jelly long ago so I might substitute cherry or peach jam today. It sounds like a nice change from maple syrup.

10.27.2009

An interview with Sharon Stark

Please welcome Sharon Stark from Sharon's Antiques: Vintage Fabrics and The Rickrack Rag who’s agreed to do an interview about feedsacks. Sharon lives in southeastern Pennsylvania and has been collecting and selling feedsacks for more than 11 years.



Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get started collecting and selling feedsacks?

The feedsack business resulted from a number of coincidences. First, my husband and I have been into antiques for years, both separately and together. When we got together, he had a used bookstore and I operated a stand selling general antiques at a local antique market.

We started selling on eBay in late 1997, as the internet began to make big changes in the marketplace. One major change was in my husband’s field, used books, and it became less practical to have a physical store instead of an online presence. So we decided he’d give up the store and sell online.

He found free webspace and started a list of books for sale there, also listing with a service that included a national selection of booksellers. Since he had created the website for his books, he looked around to see what sort of website would benefit my business, and what items would lend themselves to sale online. While selling on eBay, we found that feedsacks (we had always called them feed bags) had begun to sell for more than the dollar or two that they usually brought around here. Since they were easy to scan (we didn’t yet have a digital camera), we selected feedsacks for our beginning web site.

You live in a great area of the country for finding feedsacks with lots of farms and Amish communities. Do you find most of your feedsacks locally or do you travel to find them?

We find most of our feedsacks at farm sales and auctions in our local area, though we have bought them from friends as far away as Nebraska and even California. We also scour local antique markets and co-ops for feedsacks. When the Feedsack Club was in operation, we were members and bought lots of them at the annual conventions. And as our website grew, we were sometimes even able to buy some on eBay to resell on our site.

As far as traveling, we don’t travel a lot anyway, but when we do, of course we stop at antiques shops and look for feedsacks and other textiles, but nowhere are they as plentiful as in our local area.

10.23.2009

gone awol

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. And I was doing so well lately, too. On top of getting ready for the craft show, one of the shop owners where I consign emailed and said she needed more stuff so I quickly diverted some of my show products to her. And cut out more tissue cozies and wallets to make up the difference.

And I'm in the last stages of refinancing our mortgage, so fielding lots of phone calls. I'm glad I'm not as unorganized as the people who work at the bank - I'd never get anything done. The paperwork isn't quite ready for closing, my lawyer still needs to review it all, so I have no idea when this is going to actually happen. Hopefully/maybe next week.

When there's not much to talk about you can't go wrong with a cute kitty picture. Here's one of mine sleeping on top of an old quilt in a laundry basket. I must have walked past about ten times before I realized she was there. The basket is full of things to be ironed, another project on my very long to-do list.

queen of the hill

Be sure to stop in next week for my interview with Sharon Stark of Rickrack.com; we'll be chatting about feedsacks!

10.19.2009

coffee collar

Coffee CollarCongratulations to Cristin Powers for being chosen a winner of Country Living's Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Your Product event last May. More than 100 products were reviewed by a panel of magazine editors, and just eight were chosen. Cristin is owner of Green Being in Scranton, Pennsylvania (a shop where I sell some of my products on consignment) and she also makes her own products from recycled burlap coffee bags, including the reusable recycled coffee cup insulator shown here. You can read more about it, and the other winners, in the current issue (November 2009) of Country Living magazine. And, since you're probably not anywhere near Scranton and can't visit the shop in person you can order these and similar products right on her website.

10.15.2009

dem bones

scrollsTreasure hunting with others in tow can be fun, but you probably shouldn't go with people who are looking for the same things you are - that could get ugly. My hunting partner is often my husband and he goes with his own mental "list". I do have him trained to spot feedsacks and buttons though. If he wanders ahead, he comes back frequently to alert me about booths of interest ahead. And I keep an eye out for things of interest to him. Like the Chinese enamel dishes he collects. For our trip last weekend the interest was old dominoes.

mixed box

angelIt started with an entire box of them for $3 at an outdoor flea market located in the park adjacent to the indoor flea market. Then he found two full sets in their original long boxes, including one with colored dots. I know what you're thinking—what's so special about dominoes? Just look at how cool the designs on the backs are! Could that be the Greek goddess Artemis surrounded by a border of little flowers? Scroll designs are always pretty and the dominoes in the mixed box have scrolls on the fronts and the backs. The ones in the long box have Empire State Buildings on theirs.

long box

scroll frontDominoes are sometimes called "bones" because the earliest ones were made from animal bone. The most sought-after and rare are made from ivory inlaid with ebony—since 1989 it's illegal to produce dominoes (or anything else) from real ivory. You can also find them in vegetable ivory (from the Tagua nut), bakelite (1907-1950s), wood, plastic, or even thick cardboard. Dominoes are generally either white with black dots or dark with white dots. The colored sets, with one color per suit, make it easier to find matches—just connect the colors. Here's a little history and more information about dominoes if you're interested.

This sudden interest in dominoes doesn't come as a complete surprise. It really started two years ago with the purchase of this domino-covered box at a New Hope, PA antique store. Isn't it cool? I've seen boxes covered with seashells before, and ones with matchsticks, but never one with dominoes. Because of their small size, the artist (this is definitely handmade) was able to fit a lot onto the box. And the stacked dominoes to create a handle—so clever!

domino box

So, when we get tired of playing with our dominoes there are a few boxes around here that would look great covered with them :)

10.13.2009

Road Trip: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

We arrived at Roller Mills, a three-story antique mall in a restored 1880s flour mill, about 10:30 am to find that, contrary to what it states on their website and signage, they don't open until 11:00. We ran into a lady in the parking lot who told us this and it would have been nice to know so we could better plan our 2-hour drive. But, she told us to drive down the street to check out the flea market and that was great advice.

vintage buttons
Plastic flowers, carded silver-rimmed, and cool 1950s polka dot fabric-covered buttons.

Named The Street of Shops and located in a restored historic woolen mill, the upstairs features a row of shops selling country crafty things (if you're into that kind of thing; I'm not) and the downstairs is a flea market with a weird mix of stuff—some kitschy knick-knacks and collectibles and some vintage and antiques. I found tons of buttons, a few hankies, and a sealed package of cotton pillowcases from the 50s for $4 (love that vintage cotton!). The back had rooms of furniture, all for amazing prices. If I ever open a shop of my own I'll keep this in mind for shop display furniture. Still coveting that painted iron 3/4-size bed but I had no way to fit it in the car!

birdhouse
Doesn't this look like it was made from a berry basket?

Back at Roller Mills, I found more buttons, the birdhouse shown here, and an old feedsack baby dress with red trims—rick rack, prairie points, and manufactured flower ribbon. I seriously considered an antique free-standing chalkboard with rolling pictures in the top panel but, at $85, it was a bit much to spend for something I don't really need.

feedsack dress
Click through to my Flickr page for a larger version and a closeup photo of the detail.

We were disappointed to find that the town itself was virtually shut down on Sundays—something to think about if you want to do any shopping along the main street. We weren't sure we could even find a place to eat a late lunch but stumbled across a gem in the Lewisburg Hotel. We would have been happy with a sandwich or salad, but the dinner menu looked so good that we opted for an early dinner instead. I wasn't looking forward to cooking after the drive anyway, and it turned out to be a good decision because we were stuck in traffic on Rt. 80 forever and got home much later than we thought we would.

On the way out of town we stopped at the Silver Moon Antique Mall, which has changed locations since my last trip here. It's smaller with less antiques and more collectibles, but I found more buttons, some aprons (including two from feedsack), and this gorgeous blue sewing basket with woven sides and floral decal on top ($15). There are even some usable buttons and trims inside!

sewing basket

sewing basket

It was a long day, but it's nice to revisit places you haven't been back to for a while. Pennsylvania is such a large state that you often have to do a bit of trekking to find the good stuff.

All Lewisburg, PA 17837:
Lewisburg Hotel, 136 Market Street
Street of Shops (first-floor flea market), 100 N. Water Street
Roller Mills Antique Center, 517 St. Mary Street
Silver Moon Antique Mall, 150 Silvermoon Lane (2 miles north on Rt 15)

10.12.2009

first frost

frost

If it didn't feel like the summer was over before, it does now. Thirty degrees this morning and our first hard frost.

frost

Everything in the garden looked so pretty—like it was edged with white lace. So sad that it will all be dead by tonight.

Even though it's a work holiday for most, and my birthday(!) I'll still be working today. I spent yesterday antiquing in Lewisburg, PA, and have some cool things to show you. A half hour into the drive I realized I'd left my camera on the kitchen table, so there won't be any photos from the trip but I can show you what I bought and tell you about the places we went to. Look for that tomorrow. And happy Columbus Day!

10.09.2009

head in the clouds

Not much happening here today. It's cool and rainy and trying to work while battling a sinus headache is proving more difficult than I thought. I can't seem to stay focused on anything for more than a few minutes (kinda cloudy in there), so I'm straightening up my studio and generally puttering around. The sewing for my upcoming craft show is going very well, so I can afford to take a break for a day!

I spent way too much time running around yesterday trying to find the tiny safety pins I use to attach my hangtags. I know I've purchased them at Jo-Ann Fabrics but all I could find were expensive packages of mixed sizes. Back home on the internet I found them in, like, less than a minute. And for a much cheaper price. Same thing with tablecloths for the show. I looked all over the place locally and couldn't find anything suitable. Ten minutes on the internet (there were more choices so it took slightly longer) and I found exactly what I needed. With free shipping, too! I'm a big believer in shopping locally, and at small non-chain stores when possible, but often it's just not cost-effective, or even possible.

I did find the perfect fabrics for my table toppers so the trip wasn't a total loss. One is a darkish lime green—sort of like the green that I use for my logo and printed materials—with big white polka dots. The other is a large-scale floral with white on green. When I decide which I like better I'll make square toppers and turn them on point over the white cloths below. They'll make nice low-key, but not too boring, backdrops for the colorful products set on top.

I still need to sand and paint the vintage tabletop towel rack that I found a few years ago at a local antique store. That's a mindless task so maybe I'll tackle that later today. I'll be hanging some of my embroidered tea towels from the rungs and then stacking the folded plainer towels below. Should be a cute display.

10.05.2009

a lesson in color and contrast

Have any of you seen Timeless Treasures' new fabric collection named 'Lena'? And the pattern within named Daisies & Disks? Doesn't it look familiar? It should if you've been reading my blog over the past month. Remember that gorgeous feedsack I showed you from my trip to Kutztown a few weeks ago? This one—

feedsack

Well, I was over at eQuilter.com this morning checking out some of their new arrivals and came across the reproduction, available in three colorways—orange and purple (shown at left), and blue.

I'm not even going to get into how uneasy I feel about modern fabric designers 'borrowing' old designs, changing a few details and colors and calling it their own (it's happened before). Or the fact that five years from now you'll be seeing this on eBay being passed off as feedsack by someone who doesn't know any better (I've seen that, too).

What bothers me most are the color choices. I believe I mentioned when I first posted my photo how I loved that the very bright red-orange flowers popped against the subtle gray background. Now look at the two colorways shown here. See how the background is the first thing you notice in the orange example, and how the background and red flowers fight for dominance in the second.

And there's something missing, isn't there? The dark navy accent color used for definition in the flower centers and for the striped half circles is no where to be found. And it needs to be there. When you have colors that are the same tone, you need an element to provide contrast, and the addition of a very dark color (or black) would have helped with that.

They were probably thinking that if they swapped brighter fun colors for the original gray, it would appeal more to younger modern sewers. Personally I think the older colorway, which is perfectly balanced to my eye, looks more modern than any of the new variations.

And FYI, I'm a grump about old classic movies being remade to appeal to modern audiences, too. One of my favorites is Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. All I can say about the remake, also called Father of the Bride, is that Steve Martin is no Spencer Tracy :)

10.03.2009

veggies

I usually make my fruit and veggie towels as custom orders, but I thought I'd make up a few for the craft show I'm doing next month (more about that later). I have a cool, old, wooden towel rack with feet that's the perfect size to sit on a tabletop. I'll hang the embroidered towels, like the one shown here, on the rungs and pile the simpler towels (the ones with fabric and rickrack) on the table below.

veggie towel

This design is called Vegetable Polka and has a cute green pepper and tomato dancing. Don't you love her ruffley lettuce leaf skirt? Yes, those are tiny tomatoes in the feedsack fabric along the bottom!

veggie towel closeup

I have the original of this pattern that I won on Ebay a couple of years ago. You can purchase a reprint of the design, along with Garden Waltz (featuring a carrot and beet) and various other musical motifs at Patternbee here. Really cute for tea towels!

Sorry for disappearing last week. I spent ten hour days in my studio sewing products for the upcoming show. I have no idea how much product to bring but I figure, better to have too much than too little!