Monday, September 26, 2011

Unconventional Harvest

The autumnal equinox was last Friday, the 23rd. Fall is my favorite season. Not only am I a person who loves sweaters and hats, but also I love a good harvest, an unconventional one of course. We’ve been harvesting vegetables and berries from the garden for some time. I’m writing about the stuff that falls from trees and I’m not talking apples (though apples are appreciated).

Last week the call came in from Modern Mommie. “They’re falling! Bring some bags and meet me on the north end of Marion Parkway now.”  She didn’t need to say what, I knew. Acorns. We scavenged the grass and gutters for acorns with the endearing help of Modern Mommie’s three-year-old daughter who simply refers to them as “corns.” She was completely enchanted and very serious about collecting.

Why? Because acorns are beautiful! A mass produced holiday anything made in China doesn’t stand a chance when placed next to an acorn. Yeah, not even a plastic acorn can beat the real deal, but they manufacture them anyway and people buy them when they could just pick them up for free. Go figure. Once you bring them home, roast them in the oven at about 180 degrees to be rid of any little natural critters (worms) that like to burrow into the nut. If you pick up an acorn with holes in the nut, best to leave that one on the ground. You'll note the caps will fall off after the nut dries and shrinks, a little wood glue will take care of that. 

An aside: I've always wondered what the people in China think as they paint decorations for Christian and Jewish holidays. I'm certain its a very different experience from when their ancestors made items that pertained to their culture. Funny how for thousands of years imports from far away lands had high value and often represented fine craftsmanship, something friends came to admire. Now it could be a plastic Easter egg or a plastic carnival whistle.

The horse chestnuts will be falling soon. Here’s a garland I made several years back. I’ve about 30 feet of horse chestnut garlands, maybe more. Readers will ask so I’ll explain now. To make this garland, take freshly fallen horse chestnuts (which are NOT edible) and grab that drill. Drill holes completely through the chestnut while fresh (try to drill after they’ve hardened and be prepared for a trip to the ER). Roast the chestnuts in the oven on a low setting, say 180 degrees, until they dry out and harden up. String them up and hang them in a place to completely dry. If there is ANY moisture left in the nut, it will mold from the inside. Best to ensure it’s really good and dry. That’s it. You have an organic, homemade garland that will decorate your home for years and cost you nothing but some fond memories collecting and string.

Here’s something to think about. Young children love collecting acorns and chestnuts. It’s something they can do without help. Bring some cider and gingersnaps along when you go. When the holidays arrive the acorns and the chestnuts hang on the tree and the children feel a nice satisfaction of seeing they truly contributed to the magic of the holiday tree.

Modern Mommy’s little one had a terrific idea. She told us we need to place our “corns” in a “nature bowl.” She was right!

So, out came the wooden bowls from the thrift. I prefer to purchase bowls carved from one piece. Bowls at thrift stores may come home a little scratched but sandpaper will take care of that. I often sand off any finish and prepare the freshly exposed wood with mineral oil. They’re simple and eloquent and cost something crazy in convention retail. But, you don’t need to pay that price when you thrift.

This beautiful bowl was purchased at a half-off sale for $1.50. This is art.

Found for $6, this myrtle wood bowl somehow magically ripens pears to a mouth-watering perfection.
Our bread bowl for $3. Now's the time to prepare citrus and clove pomanders to dry in time for the holidays. Young children enjoy this most when the fruit is pre-punctured in patterns, cloves slide in the peel without struggle.
Before racing out to buy holiday decorations, which have probably already arrived in local shopping malls, take a look in your back yard or a walk in the woods. Nice memories at little cost that build up to something magical and meaningful for the holidays. 

There's one more reason I take note of the autumnal equinox, it's Mr. Golighty's birthday.

Among a few things, we made a hand stitched book of poems about his favorite things.
Please list in the comment, other handmade holiday decorations your family enjoys. Ah, if only bittersweet grew wild in Colorado. Wait, roses do. Hmm, something with rosehips would be nice.

Least I not forget the Ponderosa Pinecones. They're a bit sharp but beautiful. A small eye hook drilled into the base with a ribbon slipped through make for something beautiful to hang.

Post Script: On a recent reconnaissance mission I saw that Pottery Barn is selling wooden balls with acorn tops glued to them, made in China. $14.50 buys you 56 fake acorns. I don't have 56 acorns, I've a couple hundred. They're also selling wine corks. I doubt they're recycled corks. Rats! A missed opportunity to compare the cost of wooden bowls.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Position: Blue Jean Distresser

Officially announcing availability as a Blue Jean Distresser for the fashion market. Now Hollywood starlights can wear and feel the truly and honestly distressed jean from hard, backbreaking work. No more fake wear from machine scrubbing or acid washing. The Real Wear market is open!

I’ll even offer a line of Double Distressed starting with a pair from the thrift store. That's twice the honest wear!

They’ll be green too! These jeans will be engaged only in healthy work. Hike mountains, garden, bike, build… honest actions to establish the true and telling signs of honest work.

Special orders can be taken too. Say you want that horseback look. I’ll ride horses. Or, perhaps you’re more of a construction type, I’ll remodel my home and accent with a few paint splatters from the roller.

Be assured, the extra $200 - $900 you will be paying for that distressed look will be genuine wear. Take these above for example. They’ve held up over ten years and now I only use them as “work” clothes. I’ve planted countless gardens, hiked mountains, painted rooms, refinished furniture and many other life activities in this pair.

See! Here’s me and Petite Poe at 12,000’ on Mount Emmons in this very pair in 2004. Yup, these jeans have truly made the circuit.

Such masterpieces take about ten years to create so order now! I’m certain there are plenty of prospective Blue Jean Distressers just waiting to be called to action. Please list your name in the comments and we’ll start our list of professional Blue Jean Distressers.

Call me crazy but, I think the machine market is quite passé.

Leave your comment to become a professional Blue Jean Distresser. Only honest workers apply. Women who work family farms, I beleive you will now have a second job.

We shall be the John Henry of Blue Jean Distressers! Except we shall not die in the end! Our hard efforts will put our children through college. Just in ways we hadn't quite imagined.

Monday, September 5, 2011

How much are you going to pay? To who?

Above is a project I'm happy to complete, refinishing this vintage sewing box. Little Pie and I spied it at Goodwill three weeks ago for $9. Hand-crafted in Poland, each component still has penciled numbers on the undersides. It was a tedious process and it was well worth it. I used products we had left over from restoring our 100 year old casement windows in our bedroom. The only new items purchased for this project were brass screws and washers from the mom and pop hardware. I've deep appreciation for the amazing craftsmanship and care that went into constructing this piece so many decades ago. I think it's a work of art.

Now my thrift store sewing and craft supplies have better organization. Everything below is from thrift. Particularly interesting are the early plastic, possibly Bakelite, scuttles.

I cannot remember how much embroidery floss below cost, but am pretty certain I bought a wide color spectrum of 30 spools for less than $5 flinch point.

Embroidery floss is easy to pick up at thrift stores and it's a bargain too. I purchased this set for $1 this weekend. Modern Mommie and I took our girls to the high country of the Rockies for a two night camping trip. We sat about the fire making friendship bracelets. Little Pie makes them lickety split. I can't keep up.

Thrift stores are many things. One thing for certain they are an excellent resource for sewing, knitting, art projects and crafts in general. Whether you are purchasing something never used like a skeen of yarn, reusing yarn by unraveling a scarf or finding a new use for a moth-eaten cashmere sweater, thrift is common sense and resourceful.

Let's get honest. Shopping for craft items is really a question of who do you want to give your money to and how much are you willing to pay. Please consider that before racing off to the chain stores that largely sell products imported from overseas and likely send their profits out of your state. For example, I paid $4 total for all the black grosgrain ribbon below. It was 50% off during Labor Day weekend at the ARC. It'll take me awhile, but I will use all this ribbon. Imagine how much this would have cost at a chain retailer.

Fortunately, this ribbon was manufactured in the USA. I understand that some purchases at thrift stores are mass manufactured items from China. I'm not particularly thrilled that jobs went overseas to bring such items into our market, but once in circulation we might as well make certain items are used in a resourceful manner - if that can happen. Better to use the item than toss it unused into a landfill. Hard to imagine that unused items are tossed in landfills every day in this country.

In essence, how about we better manage the stuff we already have via reuse, repurposing or recycling before we race out into the new market and fetch stuff from across the Pacific Pond?

As I've written many times, I cease to be amazed by the stuff Americans toss. Like all this quality origami paper pictured below. I use this in making cards and invitations. Little Pie folds it. I give some to the classrooms at Little Pie's school. It does not go to waste. 

This week I picked up two Strathmore drawing pads. The first to pages had been used, that's all. There are loads of art supplies awaiting purchase in thrift stores. Drawing pads are not uncommon on school supply lists.

Every now and the a little gem comes along. Modern Mommie and I've yet to determine what to do with these crocheted flowers and snowflakes. All 25 handmade pieces cost me $6.

Follows is a random brain dump of items commonly found in thrift stores that had their original start in chain craft stores. Many of these items will never have been used. Shopping thrift is smart on the pocket book, saves items from landfills and supports a wide spectrum of charities.

Rubber stamps and stamp pads
Cutting boards, die-cutters, scalloped scissors
Picture frames and mats
Crochet hooks and tatting needles
String, yarn and ribbon
Silk flowers, dried flowers, garlands
New scrapbooks, paper and stickers
Glue guns and refills
Oasis and Styrofoam forms
Glass vases, chimeras
Polished stones, glass balls, seashells, cedar wood balls
Sewing patterns
Embroidery and quilting hoops
New and vintage fabrics
Cut quilting squares
Paper card stock, poster board, foam-core and construction paper
Bottles of glitter and confetti
Sewing machines and bobbins
Volumes of instructional manuals from making paper to recipes
Cookie presses, piping tips and bags, assorted cake pans
Boxes of new mason jars, vintage mason jars too

Along with great deals and green shopping there is another benefit to thrift. One learns a new resourcefulness when participating in the reuse market. For example, my old sewing box was not one purchased at a chain retailer, it was an old over night piece of luggage.

I'm thankful for what I find. Currently I'm knitting a holiday gift that requires eight skeens of yarn. I found eight beautiful skeens of quality yarn for $7 thrift. Conventional retail would have easily pushed this project over $100 for product.

Please share items you have found or items you have found new life or new purpose for. If you thrift, you know what's available.

Post Script: A smartly outfitted sewing hamper would be a lovely gift for the person who's about to leave the nest and strike out on their own. Do it thrift and make it personal.