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Do I Need A Thimble? I Guess So.

23 Oct

When I first started sewing and doing needle work like embroidery, my paternal grandmother gifted me two thimbles. One was hers and well worn, the other was brand new and silver. She told me that I needed a thimble because it would make sewing much easier and would protect my fingers from calluses and cuts.  She was probably right.

I still have these two thimbles, but to be honest, I actually hated using one.  I tried for the longest time to get comfortable having a metal hat on my finger.  I usually did not wear the thimble all the time, rather I just put it on for a moment when I had a tough, stubborn stitch to get through layers of fabric.

My paternal grandparents are the ones who nurtured my interest in the sewing/knitting/crocheting arts.  Grandma taught me how to knit and crochet.  Grandpa was a tailor who helped me with the intricate details of sewing like the best way to match plaids, especially around pockets.

He also taught me how to cut/design a pattern to fit a specific person.   This came in handy as my maternal grandmother had scoliosis, so when I made her dresses, I had to make one side of the dress two to three inches shorter than the other side without it looking weird. Thanks to my grandfather, I was able to accomplish these designs. I have written about my grandfather’s tailor shop on Delancey Street.  See blog below.)

The gifts of the two thimbles were part of that nurturing and encouragement.  I kept them close in my sewing basket for those times when I did need them.  But after a while, I put them in a safe place, because I did not want to lose them.

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My printer’s box and almost all my thimbles.

Eventually the two thimbles became the start of my thimble collection.  It is not large, about 60 thimbles in all.  Although I have not purchased a thimble in years, I still have them on display in my kitchen’s printer’s box – the perfect spot for tiny collections.

Printer’s boxes were popular about 35 years ago, when printers went from hot type to computer generated type.  As a journalism student, I actually learned to set type and had to memorize where the different letters and spacers and numbers were kept in this box.  I still remember some.  My first cousin gave me my printer’s box as a gift.  It was the perfect for me for my journalism background and for my thimbles.

Most of my thimbles came from places I visited.  They were the perfect item to remember a trip, as they did not cost too much and were convenient to carry.  I have thimbles with Disney characters; others showing famous sites like Golden Gate Bridge or the Alamo or Mount Vernon; some depict cities like New Orleans.  Most are from different states in the USA that I visited, but others come from other countries like Budapest, Hungary; Dominica; Spain.  I even have three thimbles from NASA! Two depict the space shuttle, and one shows an astronaut floating in Space.

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A close up of my printer’s box, you can see my three Nasa thimbles and the top left is my limoges one.

Some thimbles are so lovely with hand painted landscapes or designs.  One is made of cloisonné, another is from Limoges.  I actually have a little sewing machine from Limoges in my printer’s box. I am sure my Mom got them for me as they are pink and red.  I would have purchased blue!  But my Mom often got me items in the warm tones.

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The case holding my Spanish scissors and thimble.

I do have one other special thimble purchased for me by my parents.  It is housed in a red leather box with a pair of scissors. Inside the box is marked with the words, Artes De Toledo.  I believe my parents purchased this set for me when they went to Spain about 30 years ago. Toledo has a history of making both swords and damascene metal inlay.

My scissors and thimble are definitely Spanish!  They have the look of damascene metal inlaying, but with colored inlay.  I know that Toledo is famous for its steel work. But I  have never seen anything else like it, so I googled Spanish scissors and found scissors very similar to mine.  They were labeled “Toledo antique embroidery scissors”.  Makes sense, as I used my set for embroidering as well.  I will say that  mine is in much better shape than the ones shown on Pinterest!  There were even four cases with matching scissors and thimbles, similar to mine!  All from the 1920s and 1930s.  Which makes me wonder, where exactly this set came from!

I have not looked at my thimble collection for years.  I see them in the printer’s box, but I don’t really look at them and remember when I purchased them.  The special case from Toledo, I keep up in my sewing room, closed and put away.  Thus, I must say thank you to AtticSister and her blog post about a thimble case, which sparked my search for my red leather box and to look more closely at my thimbles.  You can read her blog here:  https://atticsister.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/antique-walnut-thimble-case/

Earlier blogs I wrote about sewing.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/29/my-birthday-sewing-machines/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/27/why-i-gave-away-a-bit-of-my-moms-memory/

 

Puzzle Mania After Visiting the Springbok Puzzle Factory

25 Sep

It finally happened!  My husband got to visit the Springbok Puzzle Factory in Kansas City.  A member of our congregation owns it and was kind enough to let my husband come for a tour. (See previous blog below.)

It surpassed all of his expectations.

For days there was the build-up of excitement as my husband counted down to the actual visit.  When the day arrived, he was almost impatient to go to work, because he knew that afternoon was puzzle factory time.

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Puzzles resting before being cut.

But the build-up was nothing compared to his joy in actually going and seeing how jigsaw puzzles are made!  He took photos of the process; he took videos; he took photos of himself and his kind host.  The visit was beyond what he imagined.  His host went around with him for a private tour!  So kind!  To be honest, I think he enjoyed my husband’s enthusiastic excitement.

I actually told the owner that when my husband retired, I hoped that they could hire him to work in the factory, since that was all I heard about for days.  I suggested that he be hired as a tester!  Just to put puzzles together each and every day.

From that point on, my husband wanted one thing only, a 2000-piece puzzle.  Up to then he thought that 1,000-piece puzzles were the best. But while at the factory he saw much larger puzzles.  And the size that tempted him the most was 2000.

When he got home that day and for the next few days, he spoke continually about the puzzles. He watched puzzle videos of people putting together large puzzles, including some guy who used his entire basement floor to do an 18,000-piece puzzle.  That was out of the question for our house.  Although he did ask if he could order it.  I think he was joking, but I said ‘NO’ emphatically.

When my daughter and her husband were in town in June, she and I went to a store where she purchased a 2000-piece Springbok puzzle for my husband’s Fathers’ Day gift.  It was a grand success.  He could not wait to get going on it!  But had to wait for a few days as we had an out of town wedding to attend.

Our usual puzzle table was not big enough for this monster puzzle, so I allowed him to use our dining room table with the caveat that he had to be done by early September.  Every evening after work and on weekends, he worked on it.  I sat with him and worked part of it as well. I like the blue pieces.

Labor Day weekend was a puzzle feast.  We had company who helped as well.  But my deadline was not fulfilled even with all the help.  Those white pieces were impossible.  They even stumped an engineer!

I needed my table. But we could not take the puzzle apart.  It was a stressful situation!  I even posted our dilemma on Facebook.  Thank goodness I did.  A friend had the answer in the genius idea of us putting our table pads over the puzzle!  It was an excellent idea, saving the puzzle, my holiday meal, and probably our marriage!

The puzzle kept him busy for three entire months, till mid-September.  It is now packed away in two one-gallon ziplock bags to go to the home of another puzzle addict.  I plan to let him work on his 1000-piece puzzles for a few months before I surprise him with another giant Springbok jigsaw puzzle to feed his mania.

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One piece left. He always leaves the last piece for me.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/13/jigsaw-puzzles-and-true-love/

The Art of Kintsugi is Changing How I View The River of My Life

12 Mar

I recently learned about the Japanese way of repairing broken ceramics through a process called kintsugi.  When a beloved pot or plate or mug or bowl or vase breaks, we usually throw it away.  There is not good repair for these items. But the Japanese developed a way to bond them together and make them more beautiful.   After a resin used to bond the broken pieces together and the edges are smoothed, the repair is completed with gold (kintsugi) or silver (gintsugi) painted into the mended areas.  They form golden veins.  This ‘Golden repair” makes the object more beautiful than before.

When I first read about kintsugi, I had one of those moments of epiphany that occurs when two totally different areas of my life combine.   I was going to be facilitating an evening class with my friend.  We had 19 women signed up to do a project called “the River of Life,’ which is part of the Wise Aging program designed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

My friend and I participated in a two-day workshop to become instructors several years ago.  We had taught a full class on the topic of Wise Aging, but this was our first class in a while.  We were only going to touch on this one area where participants look back through their life, remembering the stories that were important to them, while seeing the threads and trends that impacted how they journeyed through life.

Sometimes people have a difficult time looking back on their lives. Events occurred that bring them distress because they have been unable to overcome the emotions that those memories bring to them.  They cannot get past and cannot move forward.  They see this as a broken thread; an unresolved flaw in their river.

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Although not Kintsugi, the turquoise embedded in the bowl’s cracks and flaws makes it more beautiful

It was while I was preparing for this class that I was reading a book for my job called, “The Growth Mindset Playbook, A Teacher’s Guide to Promoting Student Success.”  In Chapter 5, subtitled as “Failure As A path to Success,” the authors ended the chapter with information about kintsugi. In the book the authors wrote, “These restorations are not seen as a flaw in the piece, but as part of its history and something that makes it uniquely beautiful, and more interesting and valuable than before.”

YES!  The journeys we take in our lives are like the rivers with bends and falls and excitement, thrilling moments followed by peaceful floats.  Events occur that we cannot control.  We can only control our reactions to these events.  We have some control of the boat and the steering, but oftentimes events shatter our world.  We feel broken.  But we, like items repaired through kintsugi, are actually more beautiful and interesting because of our experiences.  We learn through each event we see and experience.  We become wiser and we can provide so much guidance.

Through failure we learn.   But is it really failure?  I think not.  Each episode or event in our life enriches our understanding of ourselves and of others. Empathy and compassion for others is increased when we can see the world in their place.

I am feel emotional attachment to those who suffer from infertility, because I too suffered though this.  I also underwent procedures and surgeries in an effort to have a family.  I feel what they feel.  But the golden veins of repair have helped me be a compassionate friend.

I saw kintsugi as the perfect way to explain this philosophy to the class.

The important aim, for me, is to always keep positive.  I want to see my life’s journey completed by golden and silver streams of repairs. Each one making me stronger and more lovely.  My outlook on the world might be different then before I needed the repair. When I look back at my life I want no regrets.  I want to believe that all that happened made me stronger, just as the repairs increase the strength of the broken ceramics

I believe, like kintsugi, each of our journeys through the river of our lives is uniquely beautiful.  It just takes us opening our eyes and seeing the best and not focusing on the hardships that will get us through.

We Toured An Exbibit of Judith Lieber Handbags in Memory of Our Mom

27 Jul

I am a very sentimental person, I admit it. My sister is as well. So when I saw there would be an exhibit  of Judith Lieber handbags at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC when I was there this summer, I knew we had to go.


Our Mom loved pocketbooks, as we call them back East. She had a large collection of stunning bags, which we divided among her granddaughters, daughters and daughter in law when she passed away. Each purse was a beloved friend kept safe in its cloth covering.

Mom loved to shop for pocketbooks and shoes. Every shopping adventure ended up at a shoe store. In her closet were dozens of pairs of shoes stored in neat see-through boxes, along with the carefully stored purses.

My daughter, brought up in the Midwest, learned her love of purses from my Mom. In the Midwest we call them purses, while in New Jersey the same item was a pocketbook. My daughter came up with a new word, a ‘pocket purse’, to describe the carryall held by almost all women.  As a child she would proudly walk with my Mom, each holding their own ‘pocket purse.’

One of my favorites at the exhibit.

So going to see Judith Lieber’s designs seemed apropos. As we walked through the exhibit, delighted to see the crystal evening minaudieres, the leather creations, and letters from former First Ladies, we remembered buying purses that were inspired by Lieber designs. We wished we could have owned an original. I wished my Mom could have had at least one. She would have cherished it.

Reading a time line of Lieber’s life in Hungary before and during the Second World War, we were impressed at how she found a career she loved and was able to flourish a bit even in times of terror.  I was glad that her love of an American soldier brought her safety and that he too was an artist.

Each piece in the exhibit made us pause and remember our Mom, while thinking of the creativity and imagination of Lieber.  We had a wonderful imagining owning one of these and choosing which ones were our favorites.

 

Update:  In November I was able to purchase a pair of Judith Lieber sunglasses at a charity auction.   In April, she and her husband Gerson died hours apart.  May their names be a blessing.

Panama Hats and Fibre Sacks Made in Manta, Ecuador 

27 Mar

Our visit to Manta, Ecuador, focused on the country’s rich craft tradition. Like many, I did not know that the famous Panama hat is actually from Ecuador!  The traditional weaving of the hat started here in a town like Monticristi 


Made from the inner leaves of a type of palm, the hat is woven by hand as women and men lean forward over a stone and cushion while focusing on the intricate weaving patterns. 

Weaving a hat. Dyed palm leaves are behind him.


We had the opportunity to see the process from start to finish: watching a young woman slit off the outer skin of the Palm using the thorn from a green guava plant; then the boiling of the Palm; the drying; the dyeing; the weaving; the pounding; the ironing; clipping the extra leaves; and then selling them. 

Almost completed hats


It was amazing to watch this labor intensive craft. In fact, we were told that this traditional craft is yucky losing the experienced weavers. It is usually a family tradition, and many younger people no longer wish to do it. Basically most people who do it now have other sources of income and so it as a way to earn extra cash

Why are hats that are made in Ecuador called Panama hats?  They were used in the early 1900s by people working on the Panama Canal.  We were told that when President Teddy Roosevelt came to see the Canal, he was given a hat to protect him from the sun. He then told anyone who asked that he got the hat in Panama. So it became known as a Panama hat. 

We also saw a traditional family owned company that creates and weaves the bags used for coffee beans from fibers found in green guava plants. Also fascinating!

Revealing the fibers by scraping the leaf.


The fibers are scraped out of a leaf, dried and then carded to soften them. After they are spun into large spindles, set on a loom and woven. 

Spinning the fibre into yarn.


The loom is powered by foot pedals as the shuttle quickly shoots back and forth and the fabric for the sacks is created. 

This man worked the loom with both his feet and hands.


Besides seeing the crafts of Manta, named by the Spanish for the giant manta rays that surrounded the port, we saw the beautiful beaches and lush green scenery. A fun day for those who love crafts. 

Why I Gave Away A Bit of My Mom’s Memory

27 Dec

It is five year’s since my Mom passed away on December 27, 2010. I hold on to her memory, and I have to be honest I have been holding on to items that belonged to her as bits of her, as memories I cannot share but mean so much to me.

Singer Featherweight

My Mom’s Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, now known as Frances.

Included in these memory items was her 1947 Signer Featherweight sewing machine. I think she got it as a high school graduation gift, as she graduated in 1947. So when I had items of my parent’s shipped from New Jersey to Kansas, I included the sewing machine in its carrying case with my shipment.

My siblings thought I was a little crazy. We had not used that sewing machine for years. Why did I want it? Sentimental attachment was my answer.

I learned to sew on that sewing machine. I have many hours of memories locked up in that case. When I was a freshman and sophomore at North Bergen High School, I took sewing classes. I actually loved learning to sew.

At school I used a modern machine, but at home my Mom took out her Singer sewing machine, and I quickly took using it. It was great. It did not take up much room in the closet, and I could easily set it up on the kitchen table when I wanted to sew. I loved using the foot action to make it go slow or fast.

To be honest, I went pretty quickly. It only could sew in straight lines. But it did really good straight lines! So why not zip through them! I can still here the quiet ‘varoom’ of the motor when I hit the foot pedal and gained speed.

I eventually bought a zipper attachment so that I could put zippers in dresses and pants. I should say my parents bought me a zipper attachment.

With that sewing machine I made dresses for my sister, my mom, my grandma and me. I zipped up curtains for our home in New Jersey, and eventually made curtains for my parent’s bungalow in the Catskills. I will never forget that yellow and white and brown pussy willow fabric. I made 18 panels of various sizes to fit all the windows in the kitchen.

When I was 16 my parents bought me a new, in a cabinet, sewing machine that could make buttonholes and had embroidery patterns. Wow! I loved that. I could do so much more with this new machine: zigzags, borders, shirring.

The old Singer Featherweight was not neglected. It moved up to the Catskills for when I needed to sew up there. I mended shirts and pants, I was the queen of hemming. That sewing machine got used weekly during the summer, especially on a rainy day.

I never had to worry about either sewing machine breaking down, as my Dad started his career as the owner of an embroidery shop. He knew everything about sewing machines and keeping them going. He cleaned and oiled and fixed that old Singer Sewing Machine and my new one. Even after I married, he would come yearly and do maintenance on my newer machine.

The Singer Featherweight stayed in New Jersey. Whenever I came to visit my Mom or Dad would ask if I could hem something or fix something. And sometimes I did. Other times, I would recommend that they go to a tailor. When I came, I came with two children, and I often did not have the time to sew.

Eventually the Singer machine got put into a closet and did not come out. After my parents passed away, I found it. And I needed it. So I brought it to Kansas to sit in my closet. But I felt good knowing it was there.

But something happened. Two years ago, I wrote a blog about my newest sewing machine. My children got me one for my birthday because the machine I got when I was 16 had stopped working. I complained bitterly, but I did not go out and get a new one. So my children took action. I put a picture of my Singer in the blog.

Around the same time, I had some Hanukkah placemats and other items made by the sister of a friend of mine. The sister is a big time quilter. She goes to quilting events and has an entire room set up in her home devoted to making quilted items.

And she needed, wanted and desired a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It seems that these machines are very popular with quilters because they make great straight lines, and they are easy to carry. Quilters take them on location to craft meetings. And my friend’s sister wanted one with all her heart. When my friend saw my blog and my Singer sewing machine, she told me how much her sister wanted one.

But I could not part with my Mom’s sewing machine. I thought about letting it go. But I just was not ready. However, last week, when I went on school vacation, I started cleaning closets. I saw the sewing machine case just sitting there, covered by other items. It was forlorn. It needed to be use.

I told my friend, “Why don’t you ask you sister if she wants my Singer Featherweight sewing machine. “

Her sister lives about 90 minutes from me, so I thought she would come sometime after the new year, when she had other reasons to come down here. I was wrong. She came that day, within four hours of the phone call. She wanted that machine.

When she came into the house she was so excited she had tears in her eyes. Wow! It made me feel so happy. I knew I was doing the right thing. To be honest it was good that she came that day, if I had time to think about it I might have changed my mind. I sold it to her for $100, much less than the going price that I saw on line. I am donating the money to charity in my Mom’s name for her yahrzeit.

I feel like I am doing two mitzvot, good deeds. My friend’s sister gets the sewing machine she so desires, and a charity gets a needed donation.

For me the best part is that my Mom’s Singer sewing machine is now with someone who really wanted it: someone who will use it; someone who cares about it almost as much as I do. As an added bonus, she names all of her ‘antique’ sewing machines. She is going to call this machine after my Mom. My Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine is now Frances.

I might have given away a memory of my Mom. But I have created another memory with it. Now the sewing machine will have another life, and Mom’s name and memory are attached to that life.

 

 

 

http://www.planetpatchwork.com/fweight.htm

Making The Chuppah For My Daughter’s Wedding Brings Me Joy

17 Nov

My daughter is getting married in less than ten months now. Although they announced their engagement six months ago, and I should be used to the idea, I am still excited and a bit anxious. I want it to be a beautiful wedding. And I wanted to do something special for her. So I decided I would crochet her chuppah, the wedding canopy.

Cotton thread

The cotton thread which will become the chuppah for my daughter’s wedding.

I am a crazed crocheter. I make doilies and baby blankets out of cotton yarn. Crocheting is how I relax.   For my son’s bar mitzvah, I made over 60 head coverings for the married women who attended the service. Of course we bought kippot for the men. But I wanted the women to have something special as well. And even though his bar mitzvah was 12 year ago, I still occasionally see someone wearing one of the coverings I made at our congregation.

I did not make anything for my daughter’s bat mitzvah. She occasionally would mention to me what I did for my son’s event, and not for hers. But I explained that I was not crocheting as much then. And eventually I would do something for her. The time has come.

When I first suggested making her chuppah, she told me that I did not have to take on such an extensive project. Then she posted a photo of a wedding gown someone crocheted on my Facebook page. It was beautiful. But I knew I could not do that. However, some of my friends (one in particular) went crazy and started sending me lots of Pinterest photos of crocheted wedding gowns.   They were stunning. But with my daughter living out of the country, I thought that would be too difficult.

So this summer I started working on a sample of the chuppah I thought I would make for my daughter to see when she came in to do wedding gown shopping. It was NOT a hit. She did not like the pattern I chose at all. I had to start looking again. She gave me some ideas of what she liked and then left it at that.

But her fiancée was more enthusiastic. His comments included: You can also make all the head coverings: kippot for the men and chapel covers for the women. How about you crochet me a new tallit. That would be great you can make me my tallit. I know how to but the tzitzi on.”

It is traditional for some Jewish families for the bride to buy her husband a tallit before they get married. I bought my husband his tallit.

I was not going to crochet a tallit. OY Gevalt. That was just too much pressure. I would like to say he was teasing to a degree. But I think a bit of him really wanted me to make one. (Actually my daughter says he really wants me to make one….but I do not think so!)

I still might make coverings for the women for the ceremony. But I do not think I am going to crochet all the kippot.

However, I am now working on the chuppah. I found a pattern my daughter likes and approves.   I have started making the squares and crocheting the pattern.   I am about 1/14 of the way. With just nine months to go, I have to keep busy. When my husband and I travel, I take part of the cotton yarn with me and I crochet the inner flower that will be at the center of every square.

Flight delays are a perfect time for heavy duty crocheting.   Volunteering at a registration table also serves as a perfect time for crocheting. Except when people keept asking what I was making and then want to look at it.   It reminds be that thread crocheting is almost a lost art. Many women, young and old, told me about someone that used to know who could crochet as I do, usually their mothers or grandmothers.   And it was my grandmother who taught me over 50 years ago.

They love looking at my work and telling me what their loved one made for them years ago. One woman told be about the veil another woman made for her daughter…a crocheted veil.   My heart is going there as well. But my brain says, STOP!

I get a bit anxious when I am sitting at a meeting and not crocheting. I feel like I should bring it everywhere with me. But would that be rude?   I am under a time crunch. And I want it to be perfect.

I will be honest, the chuppah I crochet will not be the only canopy over my daughter and her future husband.   We have the final tallit my Dad wore. When he passed away we buried two tallisim with him: his bar mitzvah and wedding ones. But this one we kept as our Mom purchased it especially when he became president of his shul. My son now uses it for services. But we (my siblings and I) agreed it would be used as part of the wedding chuppah for each of the grandchildren.

The beauty of the chuppah I am making is that after the wedding, it can be used as a tablecloth. It will have a life after the wedding.   I hope whenever they use it they will feel my love surround them and their marriage.

For now, all my other projects are on hold! I will stop making baby blankets and doilies. Well that is my plan, except people I know keep having babies. So perhaps I will have to sneak a few in.

And it is possible, just possible, I might have to add some crochet elements for my daughter’s veil. We will see.

In the meantime, I am making the chuppah for my daughter’s wedding, which brings me joy.

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My daughter and son-in-law under the huppah I made.

 

Chuppah: wedding canopy

Kippot: head covering

Tallit: prayer shawl

Tzitzi: Fringes on the four courners of a tallit

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/i-am-proud-to-be-a-cotton-thread-yarn-addict/