Last week I had lunch at the house of a woman I met through Tom's work. After we had eaten, she plonked a big plastic shopping bag on the table and said: 'would you be interested in this? If not, please just throw it away.'
Her mother had died a few years ago, aged ninety-something, and she was just starting to sort through some boxes of her belongings. Although her mother was an amazingly skilled and prolific crafter, my friend E had never been interested in needles and thread in the slightest. She said that she didn't know anyone who liked crafts except me, and would I be able to make use of anything in the bag?
Inside I found half-finished cardigans, double-point and circular needles, and two boxes of embroidery threads of all kinds- silk, cotton, wool, some still unused. There were little plastic bags with embroidery patterns and the threads needed to complete the designs, like the one above. And also, booklets filled with embroidery designs and transfers- some hand-drawn.
I love the old Norwegian wrappings on the threads and boxes. Amongst the threads are little crocheted pieces, half-completed. Some of the threads are attached to rusty needles. There were also many newspaper cuttings- recipes (with hand-written notes and ingredients circled), kniting patterns, advertisements and picture of models in stylish dresses, most from the war-time era. But some of the magazines and letters date from before then. It feels like I've had some special insight into this country's domestic history through looking at the cuttings.
Looking through the boxes of threads and the handwritten notes was the most amazing thing. It felt so personal and, in a way, invasive. My own embroidery thread box is a tangly jumble, but that's the way i like it, and i know exactly what i have in there and where each colour is. And I expect it was the same for this woman.
(check out that dress and that sofa!)
I think the most incredible thing I found in the bag was this half-finshed project. I think she was making a funeral veil (though I'm not completely sure- do you have any ideas?) Tiny cream seed-beads are sewn around the edge of some black netting fabric, and the box also contains grey silk thread and a few rusty needles.
Needless to say, I'm feeling quite honoured to have this stash, yet also slightly overwhelmed by it. This is, I think, the third time I've been given antique/vintage sewing equipment, (the rest is in NZ) so I'm wondering if perhaps it's my responsibility to keep these things safe until I'm settled somewhere long enough to make a small exhibition or donate them to a museum. I think I'll be able to use the embroidery threads though. Once I've untangled them.
One thing I know is that I want to pass on some of the good craft karma that I've been receiving, and who better to do that to than craft bloggers? I've made up a wee package of some of the old patterns, transfers and threads
and I'll send it to someone who would like it (anywhere in the world). Just leave a comment and I'll draw a name on Friday.
Edited to add:
okay, i've just decided that i will send the package to Steph of lovestitches because not only is she a mad embroiderer, she's just moved house and her cats ran away too. Thanks to Anna Maria for the suggestion!
p.s. i've just decided that I'll update my etsy shop on Sunday, all going well. I forgot that we were moving house this weekend (we found a little place near A's kindergarten) so in my typical fashion i overcommitted myself...)
I made this embroidered cushion/pillow for my Mum's birthday, which is in a few days. It arrived and she opened it early, which is why I can show it on here! I felted a grey woollen jersey to make the thick fabric for the front. Together with pieces from the sleeves, I had enough wool to do a patchwork job big enough to fit a big cushion inside. It was fun to use the variegated embroidery wool given to me a while ago by Caireen to stitch the climbing vines.
And then on the back, I used some natural linen to make an envelope closure.
I was given this hilarious Norwegian calendar from 1955 last week, along with some other really amazing old things that I will show you tomorrow.
Each page contains a selection of seasonal recipes so, with the help of a translation website, I've been learning what one might make as a 1950's Norwegian housewife. Thought you might get a smile from some of these pictures though- in particular, Mrs Januar.
On Friday I caught an early morning train by myself to Oslo. In the morning I wandered around mostly aimlessly, enjoying the noise and stimulation of the city and my child-free state. I even found, as though by some hidden magnetic attraction, my way to a street lined with little fabric shops. I bought a few metres of wool.
In the afternoon, I met up with Emily, who lives there. It was so great to have a guide. She showed me the best places for watching boats on the dock, for looking at Camper shoes, for buying wooden toys, for finding alpaca yarn in any colour you can imagine. She introduced me to Oleana, the shop of Norwegian designer Solveig Hisdal's beautiful knitwear, inspired by traditional Norwegian textiles. (I think Emily is planning on writing about Oleana on her blog soon.) I haven't been able to stop thinking about the cardigans in there since seeing them.
E also kindly gave me this bundle of fabric and buttons to take home. Thank you, Emily! I think the striped cotton will be nice as lining for a navy linen bag. Over the weekend, I worked on my new design, from some of the wool fabric I found in Oslo, and am now happy with the dimensions and weight of it. I'm hoping to start up my etsy shop again at the end of this week, which is exciting and nervewracking at the same time. This one is a grey and white herringbone wool, with striped cotton inside.
We took a ferry ride over to Sweden today, to a little seaside town. When you're from a country like New Zealand, it's impossible to not be excited by being able to visit a different country so easily and quickly. Luckily for us, we now live very close to the Swedish border and it wouldn't take very long to get to some other countries either.
We took our car over on the boat, so we could spend the day exploring. This is the first bit of Sweden we saw, as the back of the boat opened up:
It was such fun discovering this new place. We found a gigantic supermarket that sold, amongst many other things, large amounts of meat and cheese from all over Europe. Really, really large amounts. I've decided, Swedish people are serious about their cheese and meat. We had good coffee and pastries in a a couple of little upstairs cafes. We looked at the boats, the sea and the old seaside buildings for a while.
Perhaps inspired by all the sea and stormy weather around us, I bought a bolt of crisp navy linen last week, intending to make bags from it. I've had an idea in my head for a really simple, pleated bag design- a big, roomy one that fits nicely under the arm, in linen with a cotton lining. Here's the first one I made up last week:
I really like the way the linen falls quite heavily- it gives a sort of floppy feeling to the bag. I think for my next one I might add a flannel facing for a bit more sturdiness.
The first flowers we've seen in what feels like a long time.
Capturing Keira reading her favourite story to Pinky without her knowing.
Finishing this little smock (from 'Bend the Rules Sewing') for a friend turning one today. I'm thinking it will fit her next spring, or when she's ready to start painting, maybe.
We discovered a little path over the weekend that leads to this winter beach. I think of it as that because I can't imagine it in summer. It's so perfect in its deserted state, with frosty grass on the edge of the sand. Yes, there's something very calming about a beach in winter.
Inspired by these colours, I made an apron which is something I've been wanting to do for a long time.
It's a present for a friend who is a wonderful cook. I used the 'reversible apron' pattern from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing and am so thrilled with this design- especially the slightly fitted shape. I am already looking forward to making another one. This side is a cotton in blue, white and brown stripes, and the reverse is a crisp chocolate brown linen-blend.
The applique on one side is a direct copy of the one in the pattern. It's unimaginative of me, but I really liked the little vases with the embroidered stems.
Yesterday a package from Claire arrived from California, with these great 70's-print napkins inside it (and some other sweet little gifts.) Thank you, Claire!
It's so nice to have handmade things that you can really use, you know? Claire's gift inspired me to make a few other little gifts for people I know with birthdays coming up.
I liked this idea in Lotta Jansdotter's 'Simple Sewing' for handmade tea-towels so I made a set of three, in thick cotton fabric, for a friend. They should match her kitchen:
And I've been dying to use some pieces of vintage Swedish linen sent to me by Charlotte last month, and I noticed they were the perfect size for a couple of zip-purses. (no doubt inspired by Charlotte's beautiful purses themselves):
Hmm, might have to make another of these apple ones for me- it's just the right size for my sewing tools...
I'm still preoccupied with the sunlight here and the way everything outside looks at different times of the day. The sun is waking up the same time that we do now, just before 7am. This moss was soaking up the light around lunchtime. There's something so lush and rich about moss, don't you think?
Another thing preoccupying me is the discovery of the thrift store here in our town. As far as I can tell, there is just one. And it doesn't seem right calling it an 'op-shop' like I would at home, because this is quite a different place. It's cleaner, for a start, and smells a bit nicer than your average op-shop. But the difference is, everything costs a lot more. This seems natural, because everything in Norway does anyway. I suppose you could say the prices are on a par with a design/vintage/2ndhand-style shop in NZ- even though I'm pretty sure this one is run for charity. (It's called 'Slappen Markt' which always makes me laugh a bit.)
I thought I'd show you what I've found from there over the last couple of weeks. Because, well, I love second-hand stuff and the way it inspires the imagination. (Have you seen these fun flickr groups?)
A little vintage Swedish pottery set in dark green. One day I hope to have a tea party...
two retro coffee mugs,
some vintage linen, embroidered and appliqued,
...and two rag-rugs- the second one is hallway-length. I don't know why I love these types of mats so much, they just have a handmade, cosy sort of feeling to them. I'm trying to be somewhat restrained in my thrifting though- I now know what it's like to pack up all of one's belongings..
Happy Wednesday to you!