Category Archives: Books

Little Free Libraries

I first read about Little Free Libraries in my local newspaper.

The first one was built in Wisconsin in 2009 by the son of a teacher.  It was an enclosure with a glass door mounted on a post constructed to look like a one room schoolhouse.   There are now more than 50,000 registered in the United States and even a few worldwide.

They are generally put in the front yard of a home and initially filled with books by the owner or steward.  Then anyone can come by and take a book, and hopefully the same readers or others will also leave a book.

I love the idea of sharing a love of reading and books, and I also enjoy the various creative designs of the structures themselves.

The first one I came across was in a mall.

 

After Memorial Day, on my morning walk with my dog, I came across my first neighborhood little library.

There is a registration fee of $40 if you want your front yard library to be part of the official Little Free Library movement.  The fee entitles you to a charter sign, number, and to have your library location included on a map on the nonprofit organization’s website.

The little library down the street from me is a neighborhood “secret” – no sign.  I took one book, put three in, and was pleased to see my books were all quickly taken.  I actually feel proud my picks are popular! The little two shelf container is very full; I think more people have put in books than taken them out.  There is a good mix, including many children’s books.

can you guess which book I put in?

My full size neighborhood library is about a mile away.  Although close, it takes me about 20 minutes to get there on foot.  I donate most of my books there.  I used to keep more books after I read them, but yarn and fabric has cut down on my storage space, so I like to pass them on.  My sewing and craft reference books are my keepers.

I also go a very low priced used bookstore  and recently started reading books on a tablet.  I resisted the e-book revolution for quite awhile, but now embrace it as another option.  But there is no substitute for a physical book that doesn’t need to be charged and can easily be shared and passed on to others even decades later.

Do you have a little library near you or would you consider putting one up?  Where do you get your books from and what do you do with them afterwards? Are you a reader of hard copy books or e-books?

 

For more information:

Little Free Library website

Libraries of Distinction – a Pinterest board with photos of the many creative Little Free Library structures

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The Dress Doctor Part 2

Last week, I reviewed the book I bought at an estate sale,  “The Dress Doctor” by Edith Head.  Miss Head won 8 Oscars for costume design, and dressed most of the leading ladies in Hollywood movies in the 1930s through the 1960s.

This week I’m going to get personal, and show some fashion examples from my own life.

Prescriptions for Dressing drawing by Edith Head

At the end of the book, Miss Head offers her prescriptions for dressing for everything from sports to housework.  (Sorry Mrs. Cleaver, high heels are not appropriate for doing the dishes).

Pictured above is her prescription written in 1959 for dressing for amusement parks. Let’s see how our clothes stacked up some years later, in the mid 1960s at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Disneyland in the mid 1960's

Pretty much spot on! My mother and I, the towheaded girl, and the hand-on- head woman are all wearing what could be described as sport dresses or simple street dresses. I’m not sure about the redheaded woman – could she be wearing shorts? The pig is dressed up a bit more but is still within the rules as hats and gloves are optional, assuming that the dress code for males is the same.

Within about five years of this date, the dividing line for which clothes are appropriate for school, work, and play had blurred and changed. The fashion prescriptions of Miss Head, which had been the norms of society, would be discarded by young and old alike as a new casual style of dress took over.

My Favorite Guinea Pig drawing by Edith Head

Miss Head advises to experiment with clothes, and to be objective when trying on an outfit. “If it were possible to have a Polaroid camera along, snap your own picture and develop it at once, you’d make fewer mistakes”.  Just imagine lugging a big Polaroid camera into the dressing room, snapping a shot, waving the picture, and waiting for it to develop!  Of course this wasn’t practical, but this advice certainly works in the age of the “selfie”.

I fit Edith’s Head category of “too short” and her advice to my figure type is to use one color, never cut the body line, omit belts or use narrow belts, avoid a too-long dress length, and keep the silhouette slim and simple.

I decided to try my own experimenting in a department store dressing room.  It’s the store with the big balloons.  I’m keeping in mind Miss Head’s advice to accentuate my good points, and camouflage my figure faults.

Now, I wouldn’t ordinarily post unflattering photos of myself as I have a feminine sense of vanity about my appearance.

1960's tot admires her bracelet

And I know the importance of the right accessory.

1960's little girl loves her new bracelet

You’re never too young or too old to develop your own style!

Back to my experiment:  Here I try on a tent or trapeze shaped dress. The fabric is linen which is what I liked about it.

dressing room unflattering tent dress

trying on linen tent dress

 

 

 

 

 

All wrong! Too long for me, and even though the dress is so big and baggy it still manages to cling in an unflattering way to my high hip or haunches. Maybe I could wear this shape if the dress was belted, and hit just above the knee.  I find that waist definition is important for my figure.

Next I try on a knit top with a draped neckline, and a gathered skirt.  Better!

Polyester Outfit in Dressing Room

Cons: they are both polyester, the skirt is unlined and doesn’t have pockets, gathered skirt adds bulk to waistline, top is wrong length to wear untucked.

Pros:  draped neckline on top is flattering, like the deep blue color of the top, skirt will go with all solid colored knit tops.

I didn’t buy any of these pieces.  I feel fortunate that I have sewing skills, and can make/alter a garment to be more to my liking.  As I’ve gotten older and  the letters in my closet have changed from S to L, I find that the fit is “off” on most of the clothes I try on.

One of my favorite stories from the book is about the clothes for Connie Stevens, who was playing a small town girl in the movie “Rock-a-Bye Baby”.  Her co-star, Jerry Lewis, suggested that since her character didn’t need fancy clothes, she could just go the the store and buy something to wear.  When Jerry was shown the result of her shopping trip he said to Miss Head, “Make ’em!”  Apparently, the clothes weren’t very flattering, even to a young, slim starlet.

“Ready-made clothes are made to fit anyone and each individual has figure differences.  In making your own clothes, you can adjust to those figure differences, play up your good points, see that the waist fits at the waist, the shoulders are exactly the right width, the darts in the right place.”

“Clothes are the way you present yourself to the world; they affect the way the world feels and thinks about you; subconsciously they effect the way you feel and think about yourself.”

According to Miss Head, the most essential thing that clothes should do for you is to make you feel comfortable and assured.  Now that’s a prescription that never goes out of style!

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The Dress Doctor by Edith Head

I noticed a book at an estate sale with a dress form on the cover, picked it up, and discovered I had a first edition copy dated 1959 of the book “The Dress Doctor” by Edith Head.  I bought it!

I got a good deal. The book is selling on Amazon for $61 and up.  The 2011 reissue is not the original book, but a very abridged version.  However, many libraries have a copy.

I remember watching Oscar telecasts as a little girl with my mother, and  hearing Edith Head’s name being called as a nominee in the costume design category.  Miss Head was nominated 35 times in her career, and won 8 Academy Awards, 6 of them in the 1950s.

In the book, she tells of being a French and art teacher at the Hollywood School for Girls in the 1920s, where her pupils included the de Mille daughters.  Some days they would shut down school, and go to Paramount to watch Mr. De Mille direct a scene.  Evidently, Miss Head found the movie business to her liking; during  summer vacation she answered an ad for a sketch artist at Paramount. Even though she couldn’t draw,  she got the job by bringing to the interview other students’ drawings from the art school she was attending.

The doctor hangs up her shingle drawing

She began designing for silent pictures and westerns.  Her first  design that garnered attention was the sarong dress designed for Dorothy Lamour in the 1930s.

In 1949, a category for costume design was added to the Academy Awards, and Miss Head received her first nomination.  She didn’t win until the next year, for “The Heiress”, in which she designed  clothes whose purpose was to make Olivia de Havilland look plain and unattractive.  Up until 1968, the Academy awarded two costume design Oscars, one for color, and one for black and white.  Six of Miss Head’s wins were for black and white pictures, including “All About Eve” in 1951 and “Roman Holiday” in 1954.

Edith Head worked with all the top female stars of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and in the book describes costume fitting sessions with Clara Bow, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Stanwyck, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others, and offers little anecdotes about their personalities.  Nothing snarky here – all the best stories were doubtless omitted as a dress doctor has an oath of confidentiality  to consider.

Miss Head worked on some of the greatest classic movies and my all-time favorites: dressing Bette Davis in “All About Eve”, Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday, Grace Kelly in “Rear Window”, Kim Novak in “Vertigo” and Tippi Hedren in “The Birds”.

In the book, fashion advice is also given to the ordinary woman.  Miss Head appeared on a radio show with Art Linkletter in the the 1940s where she gave fashion pointers to the women in the audience.    I thought it very quaint to give fashion advice without any visuals, but then I remembered that the designer Mr. Blackwell, best known for his “worst dressed” annual lists, had a radio talk show broadcast from Los Angeles in the 1970s in which he did the same thing.

The show with Art Linkletter made it to television in 1952.  It was a fun show: contests to shop and select accessories, fashions shows, and a staple of women’s daytime entertainment: the makeover.

What Clothes Can Do for You drawing by Edith Head

My favorite part of the book is the section on what clothes can do for you.

“You are a woman with weapons, why not use them?  Why be a sheep when you can be a self?”

“Everyone has a day’s work, a career, in home, office or wherever, and why not express your individuality?  See how you can best dress for the day’s work to give yourself assurance.  Life is competitive; clothes gird us for the competition.”

Miss Head sums up her advice in three rules:

  1.  Be dressed for what you are doing.
  2.  Have the right accessories.
  3.  Don’t wear your clothes too tight.  A dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.

How do you think that advice holds up in the 21st Century?

Next week, in the The Dress Doctor Part 2, I will apply some of her concepts to myself, past and present.

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Something About Knitting

folded chevron towelI recently finished reading the book “The Knitting Circle” by Ann Hood.  All of the characters in the book have dramatic stories of loss and grief.  The main character, Mary, is struggling to get through her days after the sudden death of her five year old daughter, which is the same tragedy the author experienced and which provided the inspiration for the book.

When Mary can barely function, and can’t concentrate to read, write, or work, her mother suggests that she take up knitting.  She tells her daughter, “There’s something about knitting.  You have to concentrate, but not really.  Your hands keep moving and moving and somehow it calms your brain”.  When Mary joins a knitting circle, a fellow knitter tells her she will finish her scarf in a couple of days: “That’s how it is at first.  You knit to save your life”.

For several years, I was a daily knitter. Some of the virtues of knitting are the portability, and creating useful items while working with beautiful yarns.  As I get older, I especially appreciate that unlike other crafts and needle arts, neither good lighting nor good eyesight is at all necessary to knit.

After reading this book I asked myself if I took up knitting “to save my life”.  While I can’t make such a dramatic claim, when I think back I do remember that it was a time of anxiety for me.  My mother, who I had taken care of, had passed away, and I was changing my life, taking classes, and ultimately looking for a new job.  During these years, I took my knitting with me to hospital and doctor office waiting rooms, as well as in social situations.   Knitting very well could have been a type of therapy – meditative, soothing and rhythmic, using hands and mind together in harmony.  Crocheting, the sister yarn art to knitting, provides a similar experience. One of the things I like about knitting is that you work the stitches as you come to them, passing the stitches from one needle to the other, while in crochet you have to see where to put the hook.

I’ve knitted sweaters, hats, and scarves, but living in Southern California, even during some winters (like the current one with temperatures in the 70s and 80s) I don’t need those warm, cozy items.  So one thing I enjoyed knitting was dishcloths – small projects on which I could try different patterns and techniques.

Dishcloths VarietyAmong those pictured are the basic and popular grandmother’s favorite dishcloth, ballband dishcloth, and the chinese waves dishcloth.

I knit the pretty doily style dishcloth from the inside out on two circular needles.

doily style dishcloth

And I loved knitting the slip stitch pattern of the linoleum dishcloth.

Linoleum DishclothWhile I enjoyed the process of knitting dishcloths, I don’t use them to wash dishes.  I decided to knit bigger versions to use as my kitchen towel on the oven handle.

I took out my circular needles to knit up the soft cotton knit dishcloth from The Purl Bee.

Knitted Striped Towel I loved the simplicity of knitting simple garter stitch with the added element of stripes.  For the second towel I used the chevron stripe pattern found in this baby blanket.  The two row pattern uses a multiple of 14 plus 2 stitches.

Chevron Dishcloth Side B

For those who knit, what do you like about it and what places have you taken your knitting?  Has knitting, or another needle art or craft, “saved you” from a hard time in your life, or helped you through a situation?

 

2014 Christmas Ornaments

Do you keep your Christmas decorations out through New Year’s Day?  I do, and I hope it’s not too late to share what I made this year.

I have in my possession a book I treasure that belonged to my Connecticut aunt, and eventually ended up with me. It’s called “Harvest of Hope” by Faith Baldwin, published in 1962.  It’s in the form of monthly reflections for a calendar year, and has a wise and timeless quality.

Miss Baldwin wrote “Do not take Christmas up to the attic and put it away with the cartons of ornaments.  Keep it with you all year long–the out-goingness, the giving, the loving impulse.”

I finished a few cross stitch ornaments for the tree, made some rustic plaid stars, and spent a rainy afternoon making some wonderfully fragrant cookie cutter cinnamon stars and hearts from a simple cinnamon and applesauce dough.

rustic plaid star cinnamon ornaments in oven cinnamon stars and hearts

I also framed one cross stitch piece, and made two Nordic inspired pine cone people with wooden heads, and felt for hats and scarves.

Merry and Bright Happy New Year!

 

Thoughts on First Year of Blogging

Tumbling Leaves Wall QuiltWhen I published my first post last year on October 28, 2012, I just jumped in and posted about a project I had finished.  I had started to concentrate on learning to sew after mostly knitting for several years, and wanted to track my progress.

First I decided which platform to use.  Some of the blogs I regularly read are on WordPress.com, and one of the reasons I decided to use WordPress is because it’s easy  to leave a comment on a WordPress blog.  You don’t have to sign in with a Google, Facebook, or other identity, just a name and e-mail.  Then I had to pick a name for the blog – should I try and come up with a name that is clever or unique?  After some Google searches to find out which names were taken, I chose “Stitch It Again”. The common aspect of knitting, crocheting, embroidery, and sewing is that they all have stitches, and the “again” refers both to coming back to these crafts and also to my habit of redoing what I am working on until it meets with my satisfaction.

Next I created my header using Mosaic Maker on Flickr Toys to show what projects had led me to the present day.  Some of my favorite themes are fall themes and the two projects I am showcasing from my header both feature a leaf motif.Wool Embroidery on Linen

The wool embroidery is from a project on the cover of “Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts – Woolly Embroidery”.  I made it as a wall hanging instead of a pillow.Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts - Woolly Embroidery

The fall themed wall quilt pictured at the beginning of this post is a project I made from “Fat-Quarter Quilting : 21 Terrific 16′ x 20″ Projects” by Lori Smith.  It’s called “Tumbling Leaves” and is hand quilted.Fat Quarter Quilting by Lori Smith

My biggest challenge continues to be taking acceptable photographs.  My photos are plagued by bad lighting, reflections, and blurriness. It is especially hard taking photos of myself with a tripod and timer.  After a year, I finally realized I should be giving my photos a title after seeing readers were viewing “Samsung Camera Pictures” on my blog.  Oops!  I’m still trying to figure out how large my photographs should be, how to have better post titles, and all the technical stuff.

I have enjoyed sharing my creative outlet.  Writing this blog has added to my life, and I am delighted if any reader has found useful information or entertainment on these pages.  A heartfelt thank you to all who have taken the time to leave words of encouragement or advice, or who stop by to read from time to time.

Do you have any blogging tips, blunders, or learning experiences to share?

Crafting with Flea Market Fabrics

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

That’s the name of a book I love that I bought in a used book store.  It’s by Deborah Harding and was published by Reader’s Digest in 1998.  Flea market is the term that is used, but this applies to fabrics bought at estate sales (a great source), yard sales, thrift stores, and even items stored in your own linen closet or garage.

I was reminded of this book after browsing in antique shops.  If you have these items, what do you do with them?  A lot of times, they’re just stored away and not enjoyed.  Some things, like an antique quilt, you wouldn’t want to cut up,  but what about partially stained linens or part of a tattered quilt?  What if a beautifully embroidered dresser scarf you have is just not your style?  The book has ideas of ways to adapt these items for everyday use instead of just saving them.

The chapters of the book contain projects for embroidered linens, chenille, quilts, lace trims, handkerchiefs, kitchen linens, and doilies.

Some visual glimpses:

A dresser scarf used as a door window covering…

Embroidered Dresser Scarf Used as Door Window Covering

pillowcase dolls….

Pillowcase Dolls

cats with handkerchief dresses…

Vintage Handkerchiefs as Cat Dresses

a Christmas handkerchief used as a focal point in a quilt wall hanging…

Christmas handkerchief used as center for quilt wall hanging

embroidered towels as pillow covers…

Embroidered Towels Made Into Pillow CoversTURES

days of the week embroidered towels made into a coverlet…

Tea Towels Made Into Bedspread

and an embroidered tea towel made into a tea or toaster cozy.

Vintage Tea Towel Made into Tea Cozy

Look at all the beautiful things vintage kitchen linens were made into in this photo: curtains, placemats, chair seats, and napkins.  So charming!

Vintage Kitchen Linens Remade

Besides the projects, the book has interesting information about the history of and collecting the subject item of each chapter.

One project I found on Pinterest from Karoline of Cherished*Vintage uses vintage tablecloths and embroidered pillowcases to make wire coat hanger slipcovers.  So pretty!

The always creative refashion blogger, Beth, of The Renegade Seamstress, made a gorgeous dress out of a vintage Vera tablecloth.  How stunning!

What is your view on these vintage fabrics: store away, use, or repurpose? Do you have a project you have made with pieces of a quilt, tablecloth,  or other vintage item?