Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Tea Towel Collection: February Edition

Folks, I have a confession to make.  I have a tea towel addiction.  I was innocently surfing my own personal crack favorite shopping website, etsy, when I noticed the amazing abundance of truly awesome tea towels.  For those of you not in the know, etsy is a place where crafters can easily and safely sell their wares directly to the consumer.  I'm all about the hand crafted stuff and I try to use it wherever I can in my life, but there was just something about tea towels that really struck a chord with me.  I guess it's because I love fun domestic items, and what could be more domestic than a tea towel?  Plus they're a relatively cheap and easy way to change up the decor of your kitchen.  So I began snapping up tea towels from a lot of my favorite crafters on etsy.  Then I discovered the world of vintage tea towels. Before I knew it, I had amassed quite the tea towel collection.  What I didn't have was a place to display them.  Till now:

Imagine the music when Indy is gazing upon the idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark playing softly in the background here.

One of the wonderful things about designing your own kitchen from scratch is that you can add in whatever weird feature that you want, including bars to display your crazy perfectly reasonable tea towel collection (the open shelves are for my perfectly reasonable Pyrex, Glasbake, and Texasware collections, but more on that in a later post).  My plan is to change the tea towels that I display every month, so that my kitchen has a fresh, seasonal look all year round.  I thought it might be fun to do a post every month too, showing the changing tea towel display (or maybe I'm just a wee bit tea towel obsessed).  Anyhoo, here's my display for the month of February:

From left to right: snowflakes block printed on natural linen from etsy seller PonyAndPoppy, vintage embroidered puppy days of the week, vintage pea soup from vintage linen etsy seller Neatokeen, upcycled vintage embroidered heart from etsy seller TwoGirlsLaughing, vintage rebus tomato and lettuce from Neatokeen.

 A more detailed view of the puppy day of the week tea towel.  This was most likely done from an Aunt Martha iron-on embroidery transfer pattern.  Aunt Martha made thousands of these patterns for home crafters for the past 70 years, and I think they're still producing some (although the brand has most likely changed hands to a different company).  If you'd like to try your hand at one of these vintage patterns, I recommend you check out the selection at Pattern Bee.  Vicki Haninger has taken old patterns, cleaned them up, and made them available again as iron-on transfers or PDFs.  I've bought many neat patterns from her that I plan to embroider myself some day...when I have free time again...after the renovation.

 A more detailed view of the vintage embroidered heart tea towel.  I love collecting vintage embroidery.  I like looking at it and thinking about the person who sat down to do this project.  What made them choose the heart pattern?  Why did they go with the colors that they chose?  A lot of love went into every stitch of this towel, and it makes me happy to give it a good home where it will be appreciated again.  The ladies of the etsy shop TwoGirlsLaughing share that mindset.  They rescue bits of vintage embroidery and sew them into tea towels.  This heart embroidery most likely started it's life as a pillowcase.

From left to right:  winter from etsy seller claudiagpearson, vintage chicken in a stew from Neatokeen, a tea towel I embroidered myself  from the Sublime Stitching Krazy Kitchen iron-on transfer embroidery pattern, Valentine's Day dachshund from etsy seller persnicketypelican, folk hearts from etsy seller PonyAndPoppy.

 Detail of my embroidered tea towel.  This was my first attempt at embroidery, and I think it came out great.  A large part of that was due to the clear instructions of Jenny Hart, the Queen of the cool, hip, trendy embroidery revival.  If you're interested in embroidering some tea towels for yourself, but you prefer designs that are more modern than Aunt Martha, I can't recommend Sublime Stitching enough.  Jenny has tons of neat, offbeat patterns to choose from, and her embroidery tutorials make the whole process easy for even the most novice crafter.  Seriously, go check her stuff out!

Well that's it for this time folks.  If you're interested in starting your own tea towel collection, I suggest that you search over at etsy.  There you'll find not only unique, artistic, handmade tea towels, but lots of vintage treasures too.  Tune in next time when I share my vintage valentine collection (I meant to post it sooner, but we've had no good light for photography this week), and coming soon, more renovation progress.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!  Maybe it's because I'm from New Orleans (we like any excuse to party), or maybe it's the fascination that I've always had with other cultures and far away places, but I thought it might be fun to host a Chinese New Year themed games night.  So we invited our gaming group over to our house for a night of fun, food, and just general hijinks (I found a plastic snake in my bed at the end of the night, no lie).  But you can't have a theme party without some cool decorations, so I hit up Oriental Trading Company and this is what I found:

I believe this handsome fellow is Cai Shen, the Chinese God of Wealth. I'm not sure what he's carrying in his right hand, but it might be the tool that he uses to convert iron into gold. I like his banner, but I have no idea what it says.  It could be "stupid Americans know nothing about our traditions", but I'm betting it's something about good luck and personal wealth in the new year.

This pretty banner is supposed to be saying "good luck", but again, it could be anything.  I once bought my husband a pair of boxer shorts that were supposed to say "back in the USSR" in Cyrillic.  When I showed them to a Russian friend, he almost fell off his chair laughing.  The shorts actually said "hot stuff", "big hose", "on fire", and other salacious phrases describing the wearer's penis.

I'm not entirely sure why dragons are so closely associated with the Chinese New Year (2012 was the Year of the Dragon, by the way).  I do know that the famous Dragon Dance is often performed at Chinese New Year celebrations.  The dragon does make a pretty spiffy decoration though, I'm tempted to leave it up year round.

Getting down Chinese dragon style!

Ah, the warm glow of softly lit red lanterns...  Red lanterns (and the color red in general) is associated with the story of Nian.  You see, Nian was this nasty beastie that celebrates his new year by eating livestock and small children.  Villagers, not being stupid people, lock up their sheep and small children on New Year's Day and leave food outside their doors (the hope being that Nian would chow down on people food and not on people).  One day, to the horror of the villagers, a small child wearing red got out, but instead of noming him, Nian ran away.  It turns out that, despite being a big ole baddie, Nian is scared of the color red.  So everyone puts out red lanterns, red decorations, and wears the color red to scare away Nian.  I must say it worked for us, no wiener dogs were eaten by Nian...

 ...much to their relief...

So that's it for this time folks.  I hope you all had a wonderful Chinese New Year and that you have a fun and prosperous Year of the Snake.

Keep watching this space for more holiday decorations, an introduction to my crazy collections, and of course renovation updates.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Goodbye Pat

I have a short and sad update for you today folks.  Pat Vloebergh, the sweet lady and talented artist who designed all of the stained glass in our house, has passed away.  I first met her many years ago when she designed our front door glass.  I was afraid that she might think I was crazy (or just tacky) to want a Halloweenie front door, but she was very supportive and full of wonderful ideas.  She put her heart and soul into designing something just for me, and every day when I walk out into the hall and see that front door, I smile.

I kept this quiet because it was not my story to tell, but during the course of our current project, Pat lost her beloved husband of many years and broke her back.  Despite her grief and serious injury, Pat never let her concentration on our project wane.  She was passionate and professional about finishing our stained glass, even in the face of crushing personal tragedy.  Truly, she was an amazing woman, and I admire her strength and courage.

The hubby and I feel so very humbled and lucky to have Pat's stained glass in our house.  She made beautiful art, and her legacy will live on.  The talented people that worked with Pat- artists, stained glass designers, craftsmen, and installers, have decided to keep her business going.  I can't help but think that would make Pat happy.  So, if you are in need of stained glass, I highly recommend you contact the good folks at Vloeberghs Studio.  They will design something beautiful and special just for you.

As for our renovation, well things have been a bit quiet around here.  First the hubby got sick, then I got sick, then our contractor Brett got sick.  With all that illness, the renovation naturally slowed down.  We're all hale and hearty now and things have picked back up, so I will have another post for you soon.

Goodbye Pat, we miss you.