Vintage Crafts: Winter Edition

 Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p1
As you may remember, I have a stack of old craft magazines that date from the 19th century to the 1950s, thanks to a friend of mine saving them from a garbage pile. Last May this post featured the June 1949 issue of Mon Ouvrage. Now that there’s a chill in the air, I thought I’d share with you one of the winter editions. Today, excerpts from the January 1950 issue.

While some of the crafts and decorating projects are so dated they’re kitschy, I find that others are still useful and could be updated in today’s materials and colors. The caplet, especially, is tempting me at the moment.

Each issue of Mon Ouvrage usually has 24 pages, but unfortunately the middle section of this particular issue is missing. Judging by the page just before the missing ones, my guess is that it was about lingerie. Not the most charming of styles anyway, so no matter!

If you’d like me to send you the full-size scan of any of these pages, just let me know by e-mail or in the comments section.

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p2
Going on a ski trip? Don’t forget to make your own sleeping bag first.

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p3
Decorating project: a modern living room!

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p4
This is the caplet pattern I’m talking about. Without that ribbon and a little less baggy, and this could be the perfect cover-up for a holiday party. Here’s a close-up:

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p4 Detail

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p7

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p16
An embroidered collar.

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p18
Ski Sweaters (from the cover)

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p22
Knit dresses for girls

Mon Ouvrage Jan 1950 p24
Detail from the back cover: embroidered coasters

New Artist: Irene Suchocki

Irene Suchocki

In the last few days I have found a comfort in the beautiful photographic work of Irene Suchocki. A Toronto native, Suchocki now lives in Montreal where she continues her experimentation with digital photography to evoke dramatic and mysterious moods with a melancholic sense of the ephemeral nature of life. The self-taught photographer describes her works as “little poems for the eyes.”

Her photographs are surprisingly affordable and would make unique and precious gifts. They’re on my wish list.

A Family Loss

My Thoughts are Flower-Strewn
Photograph by Irene Suchocki

God bless the flyer
Who would be flying home tonight
I would give anything
To see that flyer, flyin’ tonight


We lost my Uncle Bob this weekend. He loved flying and was supposed to go flying with his friend today. We can’t believe he’s gone; he was supposed to get old and crotchety. We’re all grieving and trying to think about his wonderful life and the fun we all had every time we were together.

Protesting in Paris: Much Ado…?

Policeman and Motorcycle
Do not pass go: the blocked Boulevard St. Michel

The rail workers’ strike seems to be dying down, but yesterday was a big day for the student protest of President Sarkozy’s proposed university reforms. Between stuffing- and pumpkin soup-related errands, I managed to catch some pictures of the preparations.

Riot Police Rue Monge
These riot police are ready on rue Monge, just around the corner from our apartment.

Police on the Quai
Police vehicles as far as the eye can see on the Quai St. Michel.

Canal Plus Reporting
Cable Station Canal Plus Reported from our local pub, the Bombardier, which hasn’t seen this much action since the Rugby World Cup. Notice the entire rue Mt. Sainte-Geneviève is filled with police vans.

Fenced Vans
The blockade continues behind the church of St. Etienne du Mont. That fence is attached to the front of the van. For what?

The big protest finally happened, and….

Protesters with Drums

I heard a couple drums, and a couple students randomly shouted things like “pouvoir d’achat!” (buying power!) and sort of harassed the policemen. But nothing too huge.

Gendarmes on guard on rue du Cardinal Lemoine.

Happy Crafty Thanksgiving

Crafted Turkey

::Chuckles:: Here’s one from the photo archives: a turkey my little cousins and I made for Thanksgiving in 2004. Recognize the parts? Construction paper, cut up paper towel rolls, cotton balls, and the body is a wedding bell decoration. It’s wonky, to say the least, but we had fun doing it and were pretty pleased with what we could make out of the materials on hand!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo Advent Calendar

Photo Advent Calendar

Last night I made a Photo Advent Calendar with files I downloaded from Kodak.

The directions on the link are very easy: just download the pdf files, add photos, and print them out. I took the more tech-intensive route by opening the files in Adobe Illustrator (you could use Photoshop or most any other design software), dragging and resizing the photos I wanted to use. That way, instead of gluing individual photos down, I just print out the entire page. My layout looks like this:

Making Advent Calendar2

I’m going to either print them out to send, or just e-mail the files to my family members, who can then print them out themselves, though to actually assemble the calendar requires some extra effort, slicing the doors and windows with an Exacto knife.

For a more timeless and uniform look, I might transform all of the photos into black and white images. Next time.

Hamburger Night à la Française

Hamburger Close-Up

So when you have hamburger night in France….

The cheese is Swiss, from Gruyère.
The mustard is French, Maille brand.
The beef comes from Charolais cows.
The avocados are Spanish.
The bacon is not bacon at all but strips of pork breast (“poitrine”).
The “bun” is cut from a loaf of whole grain bread.
The beer is Belgian (or Dutch).

hamburger Toppings

But is a break from tradition such a bad thing?

Better Than Bunnies: Handmade Gifts

Christmas Story Bunny

Remember the bunny costume Ralphie’s aunt so lovingly imposed on him? This is the image many people picture when thinking about handmade gifts. So now that I’ve pledged to have a 100% handmade holiday season, how can I avoid being that relative?

I’ve spent a bit of this chilly Sunday gleaning my favorite crafty sites for some tutorials and simple gift ideas for everyone on my list. Here goes…

For Crafty Hipsters
Star-Shaped Books Tutorial on Craftster ~a little paper book you make yourself that folds out into a star; a great stocking stuffer for anyone, really, just pick graphics and papers that correspond to the receiver. I will be making dozens of these with my leftover papers.
Coffee and Hand Warmer ~think tea cozy for your coffee mug. Keeps coffee hot and hands from being scalded.
Funky Travel Bag ~tutorial for a travel bag that could also be used for groceries or as a gym bag.
Thin Credit Card Wallets ~who uses checkbooks anymore? cut out the bulk and try out this little sewing project.
Crafty Tool Belt ~for fixing, gardening, and general DIY

Heather Bailey’s Headbands ~a sweet and stylish accessory for girls aged 4-104
Felted Gifts out of Old Sweaters ~make stuffed things or wearables out of sweaters you no longer wear by felting them in the washing machine
Mittens ~these are still one of my quickest “wow” projects, but still require a few hours to make one pair.

Rock Candy ~make the candy to give away, or create a do-it-yourself kit for a kid to make it on their own.
Candied Citrus Peels ~winter is actually citrus season, so enjoy your Florida oranges and save the peels!
Peppermint Marshmallows ~Heather Bailey tried it using this recipe.
Recipes in a Jar ~They look cool if you layer the ingredients and make a cute little label to go along. If you live abroad, give a recipe for a cultural favorite, like pancake mix, chocolate chip cookies, or muffins.

For the Wee Ones
Homemade Playdough ~the smell that I will forever associate with my childhood. It’s simple and children will have fun helping. The cooked version will last the longest.
Basic Bib ~get festive with fabrics to make it fun.
“Taggie” Blanket ~little ribbons for little fingers to play with.

And Others
Felt Bird Ornament ~birds are popping up allover in fabric and graphic arts. This pattern has the look of a Scandinavian Christmas. Leave out the embroidery and opt for a simple embellishment (one bead eye?) and they should be quick.
Beaded Snowflake Ornaments ~see my (as mlle_rachelmarie) 2003 version on page 3 of this link.
Circuit Board Art ~for the geeks on your list (or if you are the geek in the family), make shapes or get creative to make lampshades and coasters.
Knit Dishclothes ~this reminds one of housework (such a downer), but you can make them fun by knitting a shape into the cloth. Just chart it out on graph paper and switch from knit to purl (or purl to knit) to create a bump for every square. Your pattern can range from the sweet to the obscene, but it’s always subtle.
Washclothes ~Similar to the dishclothes, but for exfoliating properties, my favorite pattern is just using a simple basket weave stitch and two strands of cotton yarn.
Snowman Pencils ~they look cooler than they sound, I promise.
DIY Digital Photo Frame ~a project only the ultimate crafter should take on. Have an extra old laptop laying around?

Pledge to Buy Handmade

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

Are you ready to take the pledge?  I just pledged to buy handmade this holiday season.

Every year I think I’ll have the time and motivation to make everyone on my list handmade gifts. After finishing 1 1/2 pairs of mittens, I realize this was overly ambitious and I have to frantically find a dozen gifts on December 24th. But there is another way! With websites like Etsy and all sorts of craft markets during the season, I don’t need to overwhelm myself with actually making everything to still give a handmade gift.

Like the eat local challenge, pledging to buy handmade is a small gesture which can raise awareness about the Lose Weight Exercise of our consumer decisions. It’s not going to solve global warming, but at least it gets people like me to think about what and why I’m buying. Moreover, a handmade gift requires some thought and may just make us focus on what’s important about gift-giving: not the latest consumer fad, but a token of friendship and love that is unique and tailored to your loved one.

I would only add to my “buy handmade” pledge that I will also consider antique, used, and recycled gifts in this category. I’ve already had my eye on a couple of old books for some people on my list, which is still in the spirit of supporting the little guy, cutting back on chain store manufacturing, and keeping goods out of the landfill.

We’ll see if I can hold out and pull this off! Now back to knitting mittens…

Still on Strike…

French Strike BBC Image
Chaos! Image from a BBC slideshow

As you may have heard, the nation-wide transportation strike continues. I haven’t been affected since I am writing from our apartment in the Latin Quarter, but Seth has had a 20-minute walk to the 1 line, which is the only one running at a semi-normal rate (1 train every 5 minutes). That is, apart from the 14 line, which is automatic and is running normally.

What creative solutions have people found to get to work? I have seen the following on my own little block:

~ a grown man about 50 years old on a kid’s scooter
~ twice the bikes I normally see
~ a rollerblader using a traffic lane, barreling downhill at about 25mph
~ cars lined up as far as the eye can see, blocking our intersection and causing more traffic (it took my neighbor 2.5 hours to get home from work last night)

Even the neighborhood grocery store was affected: because of road conditions, they stopped grocery delivery service.

Labor issues aside, I suppose this is excellent proof that public transportation systems make life easier, less crowded, and less polluted. Hope everything is back to normal by Monday, because the weather is now below freezing and it’s getting too cold to walk very far!

Check out RATP’s website for hourly updates on metro traffic. As of 9:15 this morning:

RATP traffic 9:15 Nov 16

The university students are on strike, too, and not to think we were anything special here in France, there is also a rail strike in Germany. The civil servants go on strike next Tuesday. ‘Tis the season!