Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Creative Space: Vintage Loveliness and a Question

My Aunt has all sorts of vintage treasures; stuff that she has saved over the years. She especially loves pretty things and shares generously. Her inventiveness has been to my benefit as she used some vintage wall paper to wrap a birthday gift for my Mum last year and my Mum passed it on to me. I thought about how I wanted to use this scrap of 1950's loveliness and realized that I wanted to see it regularly. After some consideration I decided that I wanted to use it for a bulletin board but a little further pondering made me sure that I did not want to litter it with pin-holes. With those parameters, I decided that it would be best used as a facing for a magnetic board.

I soon set about looking for something I could make into a magnetic board with the wallpaper. I kept my eyes out for months in the thrift store: I knew that I had seen steel magnet boards that might work for this project. Alas, the thrifting fairies were eluding me and I found nothing suitable! I started to look in the hardware stores for a cookie sheet of the right size made of a magnetic metal. No luck! Finally I went to Wal-mart and found a magnetic cork board which at 17" square was not quite the size that I had in mind but was the closest yet. Life has interfered with my crafting lately so I did not get to the project right away. Last Friday, when the Salvation Army was having their fifty per cent off sale, I finally found what I knew was out there: An Ikea steel magnet board 16" x 23" for $4.99 minus 50%.

So now I have a few questions. First, I believe it better to use more length than width of the wall paper's design so I think that the Ikea board would work best even though I would have preferred it to be slightly wider. Does anyone have another take on this? The second question is which adhesive should I use to hold the paper to the steel (or maybe cork)? I do not expect anyone to pick the Gorilla Glue (I just love the name) but the other four are likely candidates. Wednesday is usually a day that I can accomplish a little in the studio but today my husband and I went to the funeral of one his colleagues who had been a founding member of Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra and well-loved by all. I just have not had the oomph to get to the project today but that has allowed me to ask the questions that I have yet to work out. I am hoping that all the creative people sharing on Kristy's blog can give me some guidance.

An Education

Last night, my husband and I went to see this film which we have wanted to see for a while. Somehow over the holiday and through the surgery period we just could not make time to go to a theatre where it was playing. Living in the suburbs gives me a large house and garden but sometimes keeps us away from more urban pursuits. Fortunately, we live fairly close to a second run theatre that is housed in that suburban scourge, the shopping mall and last night was Toonie Tuesday so the frugal me was happy (unfortunately the seats are not as comfortable as the multiplex cinemas and the people that were in the theatre talked!). If you love vintage, especially early 1960's, you will not be disappointed by this film. The handbag I have pictured here is from the late fifties or maybe the early sixties and fits right in with the style of the film.

The charming young actress Carey Mulligan plays the lead as a young school girl destined for Oxford but questioning the reason for such educational ambitions. It could be said that this story, it is based on the memoir of journalist Lynn Barber, puts the finger right on that point when young women started to think about careers beyond being a teacher, nurse, secretary, and, of course, wife and mother. The society in general was supportive of the idea but was as ambiguous about putting it into practise as it might still be. Having the right kind of education was seen as the goal for the parents of the film's protagonist which would not have been unusual for many couples whose children where born near the end of the war. They knew what label to put on it, they maybe just did not know quite why.

The handbag is labelled Lodix England -Handbags of Taste. The only online information I have located is other vintage handbags for sale and nothing about the company that made them. I find this particularly sad as it means we are losing our society's identity as manufacturers and becoming one of sales people and consumers. The label says "Handbags of Taste" which it certainly is and when it was originally purchased it no doubt was intended to last (which it has) and bought for its quality. Interestingly, unlike today, the label is on the inside whereas today the labels are emblazoned on the outside for everyone to see.

The young Miss Mulligan has been called: "the new Audrey Hepburn". As an huge fan of Miss Hepburn, I find this kind of label unfortunate as it would be impossibly overwhelming to try and live up to and negates the talent and charm of this newcomer as well as that of the original. The clothing style of the film, her slim figure and on-screen presence do suggest similarities but I think that this is not a comparison any young actress of integrity would welcome. Just as Audrey knew, I hope that Carey knows that it is what is inside that counts not the outer shell that we see at first glance.

For me, what I really love about the handbag is the design and quality of the inside of the bag. It allows me to carry almost all that I need when I am out of the house with the exception of indoor shoes and a book or magazine. The pockets are useful and orderly, the original mirror is still in its pocket, the suede is of beautiful quality and has been well cared for. From the few other bags by the same make available online, I believe that it is missing a coin purse but that does not detract from my appreciation of this vintage handbag.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thrifting and some thoughts

Going to the thrift stores can seem to be more than slightly addictive. For someone who likes to make things it offers all sorts of potential materials to alter or work with. Often I find raw materials: lengths of fabric, ric-rack and seam-binding and buttons. Other times I find things to be transformed: worn-out purses with hardware to be re-used, shrunken sweaters, hats, damaged linens and broken jewellery. This habit that started when looking for raw materials has transformed the way I shop and how I look at things. I have always been cautious about how I spend money while still having an eye for luxury and quality. When I was looking for sweaters to felt, I started to notice sweaters that suited me and were in beautiful condition. I also started to find other articles of clothing that suited me and before long I was looking to the thrift store first for most of my wardrobe. I have often been able to find very good quality labels, like this cardigan from Holt Renfrew and try out colours I do not usually wear, like this turquoise.

Although I have on occasion been surprised by what I find, the best clothes tend to come from specific stores. One of my favourite sources is the Nearly New Shoppe at the Cathedral. This is were I found this Liberty of London and it is not the first Liberty item I have purchased there. I have also found some of my beautiful vintage handbags and costume jewellery that I will feature in a future post. Many of the donations made to this charity shop are made by people who bought quality items that were made to have lasting value. With a few exceptions, this is not now the norm in the retail world and is a refreshing advantage when it can still be found in the thrifting world.

Along with the Liberty print shirt, I found two silk shells, one black and one winter white, that will be good under jackets, a black and white gingham shirt in silk and another old purse to add to my collection. At some point soon I would like to actually model the garments that I thrift like my favourite thrifty fashion blogger, Missa. First I need to figure out how use a tripod or a mirror and then maybe I could grow a few inches and lose a few pounds (and about ten years). I am kidding about the second part but I am starting to think a lot about a vintage diet. After teaching pilates in the fitness world for ten years and living the ballet world for much of my childhood, I approach the idea of a diet with many reservations. That said, I have been thinking a lot about how our society eats now as compared to how our grandparents ate and I think that there is a need for further examination. It would seem that I am not the only one to think about this as Queens of Vintage has wondered this and the Imperial War Museum in London is featuring an exhibition on the Ministry of Food. While I would not say that I am fat, I no longer fit into some of my favourite vintage finds or some of my favourite clothes from the past. In an house with three young boys, it would seem likely that I am simply eating a little too much for a forty-something woman whose favourite physical activities do not involve snow and sub-zero temperatures.
Just as I am not inclined to make resolutions at New Year's, I will not declare that I am on a vintage diet but I am certainly going to think a little more about easy it is to eat a chocolate bar and how I really do not need to eat the whole thing to enjoy it. I do hope to bring some war ration recipes to the blog and with time, I may be able to use the lovely vintage buttons on a jacket for a slightly smaller me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Creative Space: Make Do and Mend

My Mother once commented that I must lie awake at night dreaming about projects to do. I have to admit that she was right. Of course, sometimes even when we dream of doing big things with our creative energies life has an habit of getting in the way and our creative muscle goes unflexed. This is where we need to find pocket size projects that fulfill that need but that we can fit into slivers of time. We also may need to redefine our creativity. Make do and mend is an old idea that really had its day during the Second World War when shortages made it an absolute necessity. The concept of scarcity is foreign now but we can choose to apply some of the vintage strategies it demanded.

If our Grandmothers stained or damaged a garment, most of them could not afford to toss and replace the item as so many people do today. Clothing was far more expensive relative to income and was chosen with care for longevity in a way that few of us consider now. This may be why there are beautiful vintage clothes available sixty or seventy years after they were made. I usually wear an apron to protect the clothes I own but on rare occasions it is hanging on the hook in the kitchen instead of being usefully worn by me. The sweater pictured here was being worn by me when I splattered myself with a bleach solution. It should have been a 10 per cent solution which would not have removed colour from the fabric when I immediately tried to rinse it out but it was not. I was left with a sweater I really liked that had some horrible bleached out spots at its hem. I tried to re-dye the area with a 'sharpie' pen but the colour was not intense enough. This is where my habit of lying in bed thinking up projects came in handy and I decided that maybe black lace appliques would cover the offending marks attractively. I did need to purchase the appliques but they are the kind of thing you might see at the thrift store. Covering the bleach marks took very little hand-sewing and I decided to balance the effect by placing an applique on the shoulder. While I was happy with how it looked, I further embellished the appliques with some seed beads that had been purchased for another project.

The relative speed and success of the sweater mend has inspired another quick repair: one of the pictured bobbie pins had lost the marquise-shaped stone. I have a nail polish of the same amethyst shade as the stone and layered a few coats in the setting. Now the missing stone is hardly noticeable and I am not too upset by its loss. It is just a good thing that it is not one of my favourite vintage pins with a lost stone.

Be inspired by all the other creative spaces on Kristy's blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday and Vintage Aprons

My kids love Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day as they sometimes refer to it). They are not alone in loving pancakes and having them for dinner is extra special. Shrove Tuesday celebrations can be communal and have more recently included connections to the Catholic traditions of Mardi Gras. The Cathedral where the children sing holds such a supper but yet again our family activities did not mesh with the event. We usually prepare two batches of pancakes (one egg-free for me) and have them with maple syrup and sausages (mild Italian are not traditional but are preferred). I thought that since this post is mostly about food it would be the perfect opportunity to share some recently acquired vintage aprons. They were all found on the same day, at the same thrift store at fifty per cent off. I have found fewer and fewer decent aprons lately and the prices have been going up so findinf so many good ones on sale was a special event. This one appears to be home-made and uses an eye-bending print. You certainly would not want a whole garment made out of this fabric but an apron is just fine.

This one is also hand-made and uses french seams to join the panels. I love print as it reminds me of delftware. My pancake recipe is very basic: 1-2 eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, 2 Tbsp. melted butter or oil, 2 cups of flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt. Whisk the liquids together, mix the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients and stir out most of the lumps. Pour out batter onto a med-hot griddle or skillet (buttered or oiled depending on how much seasoning there is). When the bubbles in each cake have popped and the edges have dried, flip the pancakes. Finish cooking and serve hot!

I really love this apron especially for the deep pockets and the orange seam binding; it also appears to be hand-made. The pockets go all the way to the bottom of the apron and would be perfect for house-keeping supplies. The print suggests the 1950's to me. When I made the second batch of pancakes I increased the milk to 1 3/4 cups and added a powdered egg-replacer or you could use the usual amount of milk and use a flax seed and water egg substitute. In the past I have used other milks(rice, soy, etc.) with success and have even used water as my liquid (pancakes are a bland food, but water makes them too bland in my opinion). I chose to make my pancakes buckwheat and substituted 1 3/4 cups light buckwheat flour and 1/4 cup chickpea flour for the all-purpose flour used for the rest of the family. Do not be discouraged by the taste of uncooked bean flour in the batter. Just don't taste it after all you would not taste the batter if it has raw eggs would you? I also added 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum as it tends to improve all gluten-free baking.

This apron will go with my other gingham smocked and chicken scratch aprons. It looks like it has had a pretty hard life but I couldn't leave it on the rack when I was bringing home all the others. I have other green gingham aprons but not the darker shade which works well with the black embroidery thread navy ric-rack. Pancakes were a weekend ritual when I was growing up and one of the few foods that my Dad had learned to make. We have continued that tradition and Number 3 makes excellent pancakes on his own. Our weekend mornings have tended to be busy so the tradition has waned a little but Shrove Tuesday should help that.

My daughter really liked this apron and insisted that I buy it! She loves the high waisted short skirts that are in fashion right now and this apron mirrors that trend even though I suspect it is almost as old as me. Our daughter likes to bake so a full bib apron is more practical for her but maybe she will want to take this apron when she sets up her own home. The batter for pancakes can have many variations but it is universally thicker than the batter for crepes. Sour milk and butter milk make excellent pancakes and require a little more baking soda. I have had pancakes made with over-ripe banana puree, rolled oats, chocolate chips and even left-over egg nog (before my egg allergy). It really does not need to be a special day to have pancakes for dinner; they can work very well when you have nothing else planned and not a lot of time. The ingredients are most likely in your kitchen and substitutions work surprisingly well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Modern Vintage Valentine's Hat

Anyone reading more than a few posts on my blog would have noticed how much I love flowers! The inventive beauty of nature is an inspiration to all who seek a creative life. Flowers are traditional gift for St. Valentine's Day and this beautiful potted cyclamen from my husband melted my heart. He also treated me by preparing the family's dinner. Last evening two members of the family performed in two separate concerts: our daughter sang with her choir and my husband conducted a concert of mostly romantic French music with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra and flute soloist, Joanna G'Froerer. Despite my concerns about my daughter's recovery, I could not be at two places at once and brought the boys to see their Dad conduct. Both concerts were enjoyed by all who performed and attended.

The hat on which I was working in my last post was ready to be worn this morning to the morning's service at the Cathedral. While it is not required to wear a hat at our church, a few of us choir Mums enjoy the opportunity for some headgear! I was hoping to achieve an early 1950's look for my reworking of my thrift store find with a subtle (or not so subtle) nod to my love of hearts. I tried a more vintage hair style but it worked better with my hair down and slightly wavy(I would have liked to have time to do more of a pin curl wave).

I have a small collection of hat pins, one of which I used to keep the cap securely on my head as it was a bit windy this morning. Even with the hat pin, I needed to re-pin the hat after I hung up my coat but at least I did not lose my hat. The felt had a fair amount of body that was increased by the scalloped border of hearts. Although it may be somewhat season specific, I am quite happy with the results.

Today was also a debut for the lovely vintage brooch I received for my birthday from my Mum and a newly thrifted skirt. The colours in the skirt seem to complement the lovely illustrations on the cover of Laura Stoddart's All For Love which was a gift for my romantic husband. This lovely book is already being enjoyed by both of us and I highly recommend it to all; even the more cynical among us will find something that makes their heartstrings ring. I wish us all a little romance in every day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Creative Space: Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear?

I love hats, always have and I sure I always will, so I get excited when I find them at the thrift store. This one was too small for me but I bought it anyway because I have a friend who wears more(?) hats that I do and has slightly smaller hat size. The hat was too small for her so then what do I do with it? I am sure some might re-donate it but I just looked it as a creative challenge. I love the colour and it is good quality wool felt. I am in the middle of a Valentine's Day idea that I hope my family prefers to my fascintator. All will be revealed in a few days! Check out all the creative successes found at Kristy's blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Sense of Accomplishment

A lot has been accomplished lately in the Thoroughly Modern Vintage household but not the kinds of things that are easily tangible. The most important event has been the successful spinal fusion surgery for our daughter and parenting/nursing care that has allowed her to have such a speedy recovery. The medical care that she received at the hospital was excellent but she needed twenty-four hour comfort care from her parents. This was perfectly reasonable considering the seriousness of her surgery, and, of course, the resultant pain, but surprised us slightly as she is usually such an independent girl. Fortunately, my husband had time off of work and my sister was visiting so someone was able to be with our daughter at the hospital and the boys at home at all times. She is at home now and recovering well. Meanwhile, I am trying to catch up on the domestic front and actually feel like I am accomplishing something!

Ironing is often the first chore to slide when things get busy but pressing a dozen shirts (10 for my husband and 2 for me) gave me a quantifiable sense of ac- complishment. I actually enjoy ironing. The smell of steam on the cloth and eliminating creases gives me more than a little pleasure. I am especially enjoying my fresh, new cover which looks very pretty in the sitting area of our bedroom.

The enjoyment while ironing was augmented by the sun streaming in the room and the lovely company of Clara pictured above. Isn't it funny how the small things we accomplish help us to put our life back on an even keel?