Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Rest of the Rest of the Story...

My infatuation and love of this chair continued through our four-day, three-night vacation!  It was love at first sight and despite my withdrawal from it to go on our first planned family excursion to the beach, I had lots of time to think about it as I sat in my sun free tent.  Later that night I examined the chair in great detail, drew sketches of it and photographed it.  I was secretly scheming about making an offer to buy it.

I learned that the ottoman and chair were an unmatched set until slip covered.  I even studied the patched and torn slip cover, surely in time I could sew another to preserve its “shabby chic” look!  It had that “well-loved” appearance! Its comfort was also the subject of my study.  The back pillow was filled with down.  It truly had been an extraordinary chair in its day, and being well-sat-out, I considered the hours it took to get it “just right”, and being oversized, it fit me perfectly!

I began mentioning to my husband that I wanted to offer to purchase the chair, and just like any family vacation, the oxy-moron, “family vacation” played itself out.  I have long thought that our marriage was perfect as my husband does just enough travel on his job, and our girls are independent enough to give me time to miss them when they are gone.  Family vacations, like over-ripe fruit, can be a bit too much of a good thing!  And so The Vacation Chair became the contention that we all began to fight over!  Now I knew why the medicine cabinet wasn’t replaced with a modern mirror...a headache was now erupting and I would soon find this cabinet accommodating!

How bizarre of me, my family thought, to want to take home a tacky over-used chair! What would the owners think of such an offer, and worse yet would they consider me crazy, my family worried? Being a bit crazy isn’t foreign to me, so this argument didn’t effect me! Living four hours away, I didn’t think our upstanding reputation (what up-standing reputation?) in our small town would be ruined!  Where would we put it?  And why didn’t I just consider buying a new chair, though we couldn’t afford it? I made peace and zipped my lip, but after leaving the motel, I pined for The Vacation Chair.

I tried to reason with myself that I really didn’t need this Vacation Chair, which only made me want it worse than ever.  I did some soul searching trying to root out the psychological problem manifested by such a displaced attachment.  Was it my early vacation experiences in Grand Lake, Colorado, where my family would rent a cabin at Kickapoo Lodge every summer? Only now do I wonder about it’s name--was it really an Indian name or was it a literal translation for the sort of place that it was?

My mother would buy us salt water taffy to keep our jaws stuck together as our large family would bed down early each night in a rustic cabin of wall-to-wall beds, and we all had to keep quiet as my serious fisherman-father had to get up at the crack of dawn to go sit on the dock and begin his fishing marathon each day until the sun went down.  He did, after all, need some serious relaxation to compensate for being overworked the other fifty-one weeks of the year! It didn’t seem to matter that our teeth would rot from the sugar stuck to them, though we were mostly silenced, except for the sucking noises of chewing taffy and smacking our lips.  My mother was a brilliant woman, keeping us content, quiet and willing to go on family vacations—attached to the sweet dreams we all had of sticky salt water taffy!

Yes, these associations were all tied to the vacation chair and I continued to dream of vacationing at home, year round!  It was what I needed to relax and recover during a long term medical treatment. I knew that I could only be happy and cured if I had The Vacation Chair!

After getting home I combed Rutland, and then Poultney, and Granville, and then got on-line to look for chairs, taking in all chairs for sale in a three state region and then sent out pictures to my friends to see if they had friends wanting to sell any of their old chairs that resembled this Vacation Chair! I made a final appeal to my family for permission to make an offer on the original Vacation Chair.  After telling them what it would cost to buy a new chair and ottoman and then slip cover it, they began to see my reasoning…an old chair might be just the thing! Chairs are not cheap and we are!

I did contact the owners of the motel and they told me they would consider selling me the chair, but couldn’t do it until after the season was over.  I was temporarily content, and proceeded to sew as many pincushions as I could, with the idea of earning The Vacation Chair.  As luck and Maria Wulf’s Functional Art Show at Bedlam Farm’s Pig Barn Gallery would have it, my earnings would provide me with what I needed to make a solid offer on this chair. Yankees love to dicker and I was prepared!

The motel owners likely checked the cushions for stashed cash, like some treasure-hunter’s search  for cash hidden behind old pictures, as my offers grew larger with the dickering…Was I crazy? Most definitely—that was already a given!  I was crazily in-love with this chair!

At last I made an offer that I figured they couldn’t refuse, only to find out their reluctance wasn't to drive the price up, but rather that the chair had only been lent to them by a sister-in-law and when they asked for permission to sell the chair to me, the sister in law decided to use it in their newly bought cottage in Maine. Apparently it would have no furniture except this chair until moving there after retiring in a few years. I surmised after my lucrative offers, the sister-in-law hung onto it as a great retirement investment and imagined it worth growing if only invested a while longer?  So in the end I didn’t get the original Vacation Chair!

Determined to have a Vacation Chair, my search continued until one day, exhausted from shopping  and  physically hurting, I sat down in a chair to simply rest and found my Vacation Chair.  It was covered in a formal sort of brocade material that wouldn’t go with anything in my house but as my perpetual vacation had begun when I sat down, I asked for an inexpensive ottoman to prop up my weary feet. It was as strange as the chair, not overstuffed but a rattan one, but with a pillow on top, I had found what felt just right, just like Goldilocks!

 I imagined slip covering the unmatched set and I went home to clear a spot for it.  My family was delighted and likely relieved, thinking that I would get back to "normal" living and my obsession would be over!

I had an old homespun white bedspread that I temporarily used to covered the chair, but Zeldie, my started attacking and biting it as she did to other upholstered furniture.  We did note that she doesn't bite soft velour sorts of fabrics and so that eliminated the job of doing a slip cover.  My girls got me a soft plushy blanket to cover it, making it cat proof.

An old burgundy colored corduroy cushion was found in the basement to cover the top of the rattan ottoman tying it in, at least by color to the other accents in the room and soon visitors were commenting on the uniqueness of the ottoman and all said it shouldn't be covered. And that, my friends “is the rest of the rest story" of The Vacation Chair with its unmatched ottoman! 

It is a special chair with a special pillow to tell its story.  Maria had only a couple of pictures and my comment that my ideal vacation is "tacky" and she captured the dreams of my past, present and future vacations. Cassie, our dog must sense the chair's special significance as she wouldn't let Hannah take a picture without her in it, though she didn't want to steal the show by facing the camera!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Penny Rug Art Goes Political!

A couple of years ago one of my daughter’s friends ordered a special pincushion for his relative, an avid Democrat.  To be “fair and balanced” I created both a Democrat and Republican pincushion.  They are oversized, but I thought, in keeping with the over inflated exuberance  of many politicians.  I filled them with polyfil, or it would take a weight lifter to pick them up. I then created political ornaments, a shrunken minature of the pincushion design to fit tastefully (?) on a Christmas tree. Folkart reflects American life and what is more American than political campaigns, conventions and elections!

In truth these were not my first political creations.  As a young woman, I did a special quilted GOP patchwork elephant for my father, whose initials were GLC, to celebrate the country's Bicentennial year. He was an active Republican who served as a campaign manager for a state representative.  My father’s volunteer position was secure for many years and he loved caucus meetings and serving as a delegate to the state convention!

I just wanted to share that Americana Folkart knows no limits.  In keeping with a promise I made to my daughter, Hannah, I am sparing my blog from my political views, though I truly love and respect our freedom to make choices about who is going to lead us.

Like all other areas of life, politics is not too sacred to enjoy its’ humor and if you enjoy dry New England humor, don’t miss Jon Katz’s writing, New Member: Bedlam Farm Men’s Support Group in his Farm Journal on August 24, 2012.  ( He reports on the emergency meeting held where members of this group discussed the issue of the recent concern regarding who should make decisions for women.  Strut, the rooster and Simon, the donkey along with the other members of Jon’s support group had much to say!  Don’t miss the wonderful fun Jon has in reporting their views! Jon has become one of my favorite authors, and his blog is refreshing and fun, and a great escape from tedious and mundane life in the fast lane!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Rest of the Story...

In my blog After the East Poultney Historical Day I told you about Maria Wulf and the beautiful free-motion quilted pillow she made for me.  I told you to read my pillow and that any additional story I would tell about it would likely be redundant, but I later realized that I may not have been entirely honest with myself when I wrote that. Paul Harvey would have added “the rest of the story”.

I had told Maria that I needed a pillow for what has become known as my Vacation Chair and her artwork was more telling than I knew. Her pillow tells the story, but as with most stories, there is another story behind the story and so I will now tell “the rest of the story”...

You see my husband and two young adult daughters and I decided to take a vacation last summer to one of our favorite locations, Rye Beach in New Hampshire.  Always being bargain hunters, even for our vacations, we scheduled our vacation during the pre-beach season, as we could save on lodging that way.  Even with discounted rates, we could only afford to go for a few days.

  We had scouted the area for something on the beach.  I had grown tired of our vacation lodging being far from our destinations.  I wanted an “out-of-the-car true vacation” and a chance to really relax! We found that if we picked a motel across the street from the beach, the rates were less than if we were directly on the beach (location is everything as they say!). After browsing the motel strip close to Rye Beach, we settled upon what appeared to be a motel that was likely modern in the early 50’s and booked our reservations.  Our choice provided us with two bedrooms, a kitchen, complete with table and chairs and a living room and was in our price range—cheap!

We packed our groceries and “kids” in two cars, as our "adult" children are now "part alien" and prefer to travel with their own music, rolled down windows, sunflower seed spitting contests and the like, and besides they would then have their own wheels after arriving, and could take in what my husband and I didn’t care to, and leave us to a bit more peace or so I thought?

Our ideal vacation was planned in great detail: walks and seashell hunting on the beach; one seafood meal out; simple meals prepared in our fully furnished kitchenette, trimming costs where we could; a short car trip into Portsmouth to shop, ending with a little ride further up the coast into Maine to get Dairy Queen ice-cream; and a boardwalk-walk just down the road a ways to buy taffy and popcorn. Yes, vacations are about taking a vacation from dieting to be sure!

We even packed a tiny sunscreen tent for me, so along with all the babes (or should that read babies?) at the beach, I would be out of the direct rays of the sun as mandated by my present medical treatment.  I even packed my crocheting, as relaxing is difficult for me without something to do with my hands, and I had yet to learn how to crochet flowers. Even on vacation I am anal enough to have goals!

Upon arriving we checked in and proceeded to our unit in this quaint modern strip motel, but were totally unprepared for what awaited us. The unit was unique as we surmised that each unit was, for there could not possibly be another unit furnished just like the one we rented. Except for the bathroom, with its original pink bathtub and tiny, pink cabinet-free-standing porcelain sink, the entire apartment had been redone…and it appeared that almost all the décor had been purchased from the remains of a TJ Maxx or Tuesday Morning outlet: rather odd things that make you laugh and wonder who would decorate with them.
On the kitchen table was an avocado base porcelain lamp that matched only the color of the leaves in the brightly colored floral, plasticized and practical, wipe-able tablecloth. In the girls bedroom, the two single beds were covered with bright pink and orange gaudy modern bedspread quilts and on the wall hung mirrors with seashell frames. The kitchenette was fully furnished with unmatched dishes of various name brands.

My very favorite part of the entire unit was the chair in the living room.  It was an old soft oversized chair, complete with ottoman.  Being the beginning of the season, its slipcovers were freshly washed, nicely patched, off-white, soft canvas.  There was a little glass topped circular end table that was painted coral-orange and supported an oversized porcelain based lamp of the same color with an off-white shade and above the chair hung a one-of-a-kind truly unique mirror.  Only the picture will do it justice.  Being a lover of Kitsch Art, I had truly arrived in my utopian heaven, a home-away-from- home sort of déjà-vue experience!

The sofa was huge and wrapped around the other end of the room and the TV was situated so only those on the sofa could watch. The window was covered with an unbleached- muslin-colored heavy weight drapery fabric, of such quality that you knew that deep down, this apartment was truly owned by people who had taste and comfort in mind. Being a sewer and book lover,  meant, in my mind, that the chair was for me (complete with an empty shelf  next to it for my book, journal and crocheting and the rest of my family could all fit on this huge wrap around wide and cushy sofa and content themselves with TV programming into the night.

 I believe that you have enough of the details to give you a picture of our lodging, and expectations of this trip, except to add that despite the pink and maroon tiling in the bathroom, the owner had been careful to pick a bright multicolored up-beat, floral shower curtain, and towels that matched only the colors in the shower curtain and none in the tile or pink porcelain fixtures.  Its mirror was an old style medicine cabinet with bare Hollywood light bulbs down each side, to perhaps accommodate aspirin, sun lotion and Alka-seltzer that might be needed during such an excursion? But no, I had come to vacation and not sport any headaches!  There you have it, the special motel of my undreamt dreams!

It didn’t take long for me to picture living here full time and leaving all that I am attached to behind, like shaking off the dust of my old life and entering a new sort of simple but pleasurable convent.  I felt free, sort of…except for my sudden attachment to this chair and ottoman.  I soon called it The Vacation Chair and planted myself in it.  I was content and quickly encouraged my family to leave me to rest, so I could take in our one seafood-dinner out, fully rested in a few hours! I didn’t tell them that I really needed more time to bond with this chair!  Already I had dashed the detailed plans for the rest of our vacation, as I had found the perfect Vacation Chair and wanted to live in it.

I hadn’t realized that “the rest of the story” would be so long and so I will continue it into my next blog…but like Paul Harvey’s stories, you must read the ending, even if you skip the middle!

Kool-aid anyone?

Yes, my friends, it can mean only one thing. Fabric dying into the night, the house still smells fruity. Stay tuned for the results

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The History of Penny Rugs

Originally penny rugs were made from scraps of dark wool fabric or felt from used clothes and hats and were used as mats to clear mud and dirt off shoes.  They were named penny rugs as they were made of three different sized circular medallions layered on top of each other.  The top medallion was the size of a penny, though in the 1800’s pennies were larger than they are now.  Sometimes pennies were actually sewn into them to help weight them down and make them lay flat.

They were backed with burlap, heavy canvas, or recycled pants’ materials.  When a circle of wool on the rug wore out, it was replaced with another circle. These rugs were embellished with colorful wool yarns that were hand dyed using vegetable dyes.  Blanket stitches were sewn around each circular medallion, which added strength and durability, making them quite functional.

Penny rugs were strong enough to withstand being beaten with a rug beater to remove mud and dirt. Washing them was done infrequently, by hand in a tub, usually outside and then hung out to dry in the shade to prevent sun fading. 

Eventually penny rugs evolved into a traditional and colorful folk art. Women used their remnants and scraps of wool from making clothes, or “turned” wool from used clothes to make their penny rugs. They would use bits of material too small to be used for strips for hooked rugs.

Designs evolved from the simple circular medallions into colorful works of art with primitive appliquéd patterns of various animals, stars, hearts, flowers and other shapes. Personal and elaborate stories were communicated through them using designs that included people, their homes, various scenes and landscapes, thus transforming their scraps into wonderful works of art and story with elaborate stitching.

Decorative edging also became part of the art.  Scalloped edges or tabs cut in the shape of teardrops or tongues were added and many of these were decorated with appliquéd circles of wool using colorful blanket stitching.

Penny rugs have recently made a “comeback” and are used to cover beds for warmth and decoration; or to decorate table and mantel tops; decorative and colorful pillows; wall hangings or pictures or throws for the backs of sofas.  Variations of penny rug art have moved into quilt making as well, and almost every quilt show will have at least one wool penny rug style sampler.  They are both a delight to see as well as to create and sew!

Penny rugs should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to avoid sun fading.  When not being used they should be rolled up, right side out, not folded as the fold may discolor and wear. Penny rugs may best be kept wrapped in a clean sheet to store them and NOT be stored in an airtight bag which can cause dry rot. It is now recommended that they be washed as little as possible and only spot cleaned with a damp sponge. If washed, use cool water and woolite and rinse well and lay flat to dry. (I like to use tape rollers on mine to remove dust and lint.)

Information compiled and summarized by Jane McMillen using the following references:
1) “Rug Hooking Tips/FAQ’s”
2) “Button Rugs have their roots dating back to the early 1800’s when they were called Penny Rugs.”
3) “Old Time Rugs—Penny Rugs, Penny Rug Patterns”
4) “The History of the Penny Rug Article 1” History-of-the-Penny-Rug—Article-1&id=1641406
5) “History of a Penny Rug by Rag-a-Muffin Collectibles
6)“Penny rug”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

After the East Poultney Historical Day

Relief, the sale is over!  I was concerned about the heat and the humidity, being a creature of air conditioning this summer.  I survived it well, thanks to the shade tree they carefully selected for me in back of our tent location.  Our new set up worked well, giving more space to our customers.  Lucky for me I could sit in back of the tent where it was cool, and Hannah, my daughter just inside the tent with the tent walls rolled back for the morning.  We enjoy our contact with customers and friends, a bit of a reunion for us, and for me add to it the excitement of getting out of the house for a whole day and taking in all the new creations of our friends!

We returned home early, weary and a bit wet after being rained out in the afternoon. Seventy-five pounds of tree ripened peaches greeted us. Their sweetness was divine, and worked well to revive us, though I went to bed early, so I could be up and ready for canning in the morning.  “No rest for the wicked”, my mother used to say, and I know that I must fall into that category as no matter how I try, my energy doesn’t seem to go far enough to do all that I want to do.  Perhaps it is my greed for living life to the fullest that is my problem!

Our canning was over in about four hours, thanks to the “many hands making our work light”.  Hannah was in charge, dropping our peaches into boiling water. Then after plunging them into ice water, I took over, popping their skins. Delighted to see that their beautiful blush remained, I placed them into another bowl laced with lemon juice until they were sliced by my husband. Back into their lemon water bath, the slices remained until Hannah packed them into jars and poured hot syrup over them, and then finished them off with a water bath canning process.  Hannah and I love to can, or perhaps that should read that we love the idea of putting up beautiful fruit to be enjoyed all through the year (39 quarts). Perhaps we are part squirrel?

Our favorite peach recipe has been a fruit crisp.  Hannah pours the light syrup from the canned peaches over the other frozen unsweetened fruit that she combines with our peaches; sometimes strawberries, sometimes rhubarb, or blueberries, adding their tartness to her crisp.  A mixture of sugar, oatmeal, butter and flour is then added to the top.  There is occasionally an extra dish to have for breakfast in the morning!  Aren’t fruit crisps or pies really breakfast food? And to think of the hours I spend planning my weight loss diets! The point?

Hannah doesn’t tell us, but she has frozen a tray of sliced peaches to make into homemade peach ice cream.  What is a dieter to do? Certainly, I am not to forego this extra treat!

Our Little House is now suffering from our wares spread about in the basement and dining room, drying out from the extra humidity from our day out.  Though it poured rain in the afternoon, all but our tent and bunting stayed dry. But our quick departure means a bit of reorganizing before putting our wares on the shelf and no matter how I try, I am not fast enough to keep up with getting everything done.

No, after a sale it is time to sit in my Vacation Chair, made beautiful by its recent addition of a Vacation Chair Pillow made by my friend and fellow artist, Maria Wulf.  We were so blessed to have her and Jon make it to our show in the nick of time, as the rain shortened our day.

It was a planned rendezvous where Maria and I were to trade our wares.  I so admire her artistic free motion-quilted pillows, among other things.  They are story pillows, and she took my Vacation Chair Story and beautifully quilted it into my pillow.    I will let you read this pillow yourself, before I go on to tell you the story of my Vacation Chair.  In fact, the future telling of my story will likely be redundant, for her pillow tells it all!  Thank you Maria, I love it!

Do visit Maria on line at and be sure to meander through her blogs! You are in for a treat, and don’t miss her husband’s blog at  Jon Katz is a New York Times bestselling author and you will soon prefer reading his daily blog news each day, to the news of our wild and wicked world.

Jon’s news makes me reflect on what is really important in my life’s journey. I find his readings gentle and soothing to my soul.  It is so delightful to discover another favorite author, and I look forward to packing in more of his books for my winter reading feast and getting better acquainted with his thoughts!  I am only sorry that I have not discovered his works years earlier!

Both Jon and Maria are lovely and kind folk that will touch your heart as they have touched mine. Their rural country life style combined with their tender love of their animals and neighbors will warm you and make you feel secure, much like Fred Rogers did when he would put on his sneakers and sweater.  Jon welcomes you to his and Maria’s farm and openly and candidly shares his experiences and struggles and validates all that it means to be a truly loving human being.

Their move to their new and smaller farm right down the road is going to make for more delightful reading to be sure! I am glad that my daughter didn’t see Maria’s contest to win the terrifying shower curtain. Like Maria, I prefer something a little more friendly to greet me in the night, like my yellow ducks or rose theme bathrooms.  I am enjoying their sharing of their new “old” home decorating experiences!  It calls to mind us re-doing our rented farmhouse of years ago, combining our furnishings with the built in history of an old farm house! We are eager to pay them a visit after they get settled, and on-line, Jon and Maria will welcome us all to their new location!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Your Invited! East Poultney Historical Day - August 11th

Hello Friends! I apologize for my absence, but we have been scrambling to get ready for our first official show of the season! We will be at the East Poultney Historical Day, this Saturday,  Aug 11th  (9-4). 

We have been working fast and furiously to create a new booth display allowing more air flow in our booth (likely needed in this summer heat) and many new items that we think you will enjoy!!  Do come and celebrate with us!!  It is a lovely day that includes 40-50 vendors with antiques, collectibles, handmade crafts, folk art, food, flowers, museum exhibits, craft demos, lectures, readings, stories, singing, musicians and kids games and crafts.  The day always closes with a traditional church supper!!