Monogrammed Dish Cloth

I am back in New York City for a little over a week, for an academic conference. But I have managed to find a little bit of free time to finally share with you the monogrammed dish cloth I finished last week.

Monogrammed Dish Cloth

I used cross stitch designs from a vintage craft book available online at the Antique Pattern Library. What a wonderful resource! and I love old books…

Cross Stitch R     Cross Stitch W

The most challenging part was finding the “squares” on the cloth I was going to use for the cross stitch. Because the dish cloth is made out of linen, the threads are a bit raw in places and vary in thickness.  It’s just a dish cloth, though, so why worry? Winging it paid off.

Can you believe this is what young girls used to learn how to do in school? I assure you, they also learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. But I find it interesting the way these monogrammed linens carry the memory of women through the generations. They may have changed their names when they married, but their maiden initials remain and are passed down on these everyday objects.

You could probably also argue that they were unglamorous objects, worn away by household chores and later forgotten – much like the (imagined) housewives of yesteryear, but I would have to disagree: you have not felt the durability and quality of these dish cloths! Some women still use their great-grandmother’s linens.  I find the tradition neat, even though 1. I did not change my name when I married Seth, 2. if I had, my initials would not have changed, and 3. I let my dishes air dry. Sometimes it’s fun to create “vintage” family heirlooms, though, and add a little je ne sais quoi to the daily chores.

Marie Claire Idées Craft Fair

This past weekend was the craft fair hosted by my favorite quarterly magazine, Marie Claire Idées, and held at the Louvre. I went on Sunday with my friend Julie (of Knit-in-Public Day fame).

Marie Claire Idées Sign

We didn’t attend any of the instructional sessions, but that was okay, since you could pick up directions for the “before and after” projects.

Marie Claire Idées Avant/Apres

The exhibition halls were divided according to type of craft: yarn&fabric, home decorating, paper… My favorite section was the yarn& fabric one, with all of the soft yarns, pattern ideas, and quilting fabrics. The prices were a little shocking, however. Four euros for a piece of fabric measuring only 50x50cm (that’s only 1/4 of a square meter!). Luckily, I found a 2? bin and found some prints I liked for my next quilting project; what that project will be is still a mystery to me. What is sure is that I will be finding the rest of the necessary material in the States or in second-hand shops!

In French, quilts are called “patchworks,” and why not? They’ve chosen the name for the piecing instead of the quilting, which is usually what we picture when we think of quilts anyway. The patchwork/quilting stands at the fair were beautiful. I particularly appreciated the “Frenchness” of the majority of the quilt designs. One vendor was selling directions for making a quilt out of your own family heirlooms: Grandma’s monogrammed napkins, your aunt’s antique curtains, redwork embroidery, Mom’s red-striped tea towels (and you know how much I love those!) Mostly in red and ivory patterns, it was definitely a French-country look. Sophisticated but slightly rustic. Definitely timeless. Check out this article about French quilting traditions. I’m only sorry I didn’t take pictures of what I’m talking about.

The popular yarn company Phildar was well-represented with their own knitting bar (which reminded me of so many knitting cafés in New York City) and a whole wall of gimmicky yarns with hot-pink fur-like fringe, curly queues, etc. Not my usual cup of tea, but it had a lot of people excited about crafting, so what’s the harm?

Marie Claire Idées Knit Bar

I was determined to find some yarn for my own mittens and purchase it from one of the other vendors, but in the end, Phildar had a color that matched my coat the best. So in spite of quite a rude sales associate and my best intentions, I came home with two skeins of almost 100% acrylic Phildar yarn called “Wilky.” Boo.

Wilky Yarn
Wilky Yarn, in “Naturel” (photo from Phildar’s website)

The mittens are knitting up nicely, however, thanks to a combo of “Wilky” and some left over camel hair yarn from my stash. The wool mittens I made for Seth last year were a tad itchy, so this time I am not such a purist. More to come about that project!

Peynet Illustrations Part II

It is always exciting to hear from readers that are interested in the random things I find to write about on my blog. The post I wrote about Peynet illustrations back in March drew some particularly enthusiastic responses, with two readers even sending me images of Peynet works that they own. I’m thrilled!

Last spring, Chris sent me a photo of a Peynet hankerkechief received as a gift around 1963. The drawing and caption are a play on the French version of “he loves me, he loves me not,” which is “je t’aime un peu… beaucoup… pasionnément… à la folie… pas du tout” (I love you a little, a lot, passionately, like crazy, not at all.)

Peynet Hankie
Your hour will be mine. Would you like to at “passionately a quarter to” or “half past crazy”?

Melissa purchased two Peynet drawings at a Parisian bouquiniste along the Seine. The first one is from the 1950’s and refers to the famous hat maker Elsa Schiaparelli.

Peynet Schiaparelli
Schiaparelli’s Crazy Success

The second illustration is dated 1960 and refers to the ubiquitous Nicolas wine boutiques with a sentiment surely still shared by many:

Peynet Train
Forget you? It would be impossible, dear… Like asking me to live without Nicolas wines…

Aren’t they just charming? Thanks for sharing, Chris and Melissa!

The Quilt That Arrived on the Other Side of the World

La Poste came through after all. The quilt I made has officially arrived in Hong Kong. I have realized I didn’t post a few of the pictures I took of the whole finished product, so here are a few:

What a crazy pattern this was, but so much fun!

Quilt on Chair
I’m proud of two things in this photo: the other is the geranium plant in our window box that I revived. It’s still in full bloom!

Quilt on Chair 2
This is what the quilt looks like on our bedroom chair. Those geraniums were a little late to catch up.

We went to Hong Kong in August (the hottest month) 2003. It was our first stop on a trans-mongolian rail (and plane) trip. The whole itinerary was New York – Los Angeles – Hong Kong – Beijing – Ulan Baatar (Mongolia) – Irkutsk (Russia) – Moscow – St. Petersburg – Paris – New York. Whew! I’ll have to write more about that later. In the mean time, here are some photos of the magical place to which the psychedelic quilt has just arrived.

Victoria Peak Top
The top of Victoria Peak. Who knew there was so much nature just minutes from the city center?

Buddhist Spot Victoria Peak
A Buddhist Spot on Victoria Peak

Hong Kong Escalator
The long series of outdoor escalators we very much appreciated in the heat.

Hong Kong Nightlife
Hong Kong Night Life

Junk Boat Rachel
Riding a Junk Boat on the South China Sea

South China Sea Beach
We anchored and swam to this beach. Paradise.

South China Sea Sunset
Sunset on the South China Sea. Sweet dreams!

Photography 101

Seth Photo Ball
Seth took this photo in my grandparents’ garden

I took photography 101 in high school. Armed with my dad’s SLR, I made my friends accompany me on nature shoots and run while I photographed them in action. I still remember the pleasant smell of the darkroom chemicals. I learned how to make a sepia print the “real” way and tried my best to develop my prints according to the test strip we made for each one.

It was a long process that yielded mostly grainy, gray photos, though I do have a few gems I still cherish.

Well twelve years later here I am with a digital SLR and need to learn everything all over again. Maybe not the darkroom techniques, but everything else. Bernie’s Beginner’s Guide to the rescue! I hadn’t heard about this site before, but I’ll certainly be coming back, since I can’t memorize everything about focal length, aperture, and metering just yet. In the mean time, I have some more hard drive space to clear out before I can add any more photos…

Baby Toys

Baby Toy Close

I’ve successfully completed my first stuffed knitting project: two stuffed animals with fabric bodies.

My friend, Julie, found the pattern in a magazine, and it was really quite easy to follow. The head is knit in two halves, and the other parts are simple and quick rounded rectangles in moss stitch. The pattern’s version of the ears were a bit too pointed, resembling a pig more than a cat, which is what the animal is supposed to be (I think!), so for the second (yellow) one, I improvised. This was also my first try at making pompoms. Very easy!

Baby Toy Parts

The most difficult part was getting the faces right. I wanted them to have sleeping eyes, but simple slits made them look mad. I curved them a bit and added eye lashes, to make them more peaceful and friendly.

In all, these probably took just a couple of hours each, so it’s really not too big of an undertaking. I think I’m going to move on to grown-up crafts for a while, though!

Baby Toys Finished

Traveling in the Provinces: Ambierle

Ambierle GatewayI’ve been away from Paris for a week, visiting some collections in Lyon for my dissertation and also squeezing in some time with old friends. I haven’t been able to be online very often, but just got the chance to share with you some photos from a little village called Ambierle, in the Loire region of France (about 1.5 hours from Lyon).

Ambierle’s church’s roof is made with traditional tiles from the Bourgogne region, a pattern very prevalent in the area around Dijon.

Ambierle is also the “village du livre” (book village), with several used book shops and a bi-monthly book market in the warmer months of the year. I found some wonderful old journals for a euro each ?? quite a steal, since they go for at least 15? in Paris! A little place definitely off the beaten path but worth a visit when in the region.

Ambierle Church

Ambierle Facade

Ambierle Apartments and Church

The Pantheon: Yesterday and Today

Pantheon Side

What is now the Pantheon, a secular monument to the “great men” (and now one woman, Marie Curie) of France that are buried in its crypt, was originally built in the mid-18th-century as the Sainte Genviève church. The Revolutionaries turned it into the monument it is today, but it hasn’t been a continuous trajectory: each new regime (First Empire, Restoration, Second Republic, Second Empire, Third Republic…) gave it a different meaning, at times turning it back into a church and finally in the 1880s reassembled what it is today.

I’ve found some pictures of the Pantheon from the late 19th century to the present day, which I thought were interesting. The more things change…

Pantheon 1880s/1890s
circa 1880, photo taken from the Luxembourg Gardens side. This little round-about and fountain are no longer at the end of rue Soufflot, which has since been widened.

Pantheon 1910

Pantheon 1944
1944, German soldiers posed in front of the Pantheon during the Occupation.

Pantheon 2007
Fall 2007