Edey's Vintage and Current Needlework
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Edey's Vintage and Current Needlework

  • An Archaic Form of Measurement

     While looking thru needlework e-books on Project Gutenberg (here), in a book titled "The Ladies' Work-Table Book", I noticed a reference to a measurement as "12 nails". I had not heard of the term, "nail", before as a unit of measurement. Curiosity sent me on a search and I found the answer: it is 1/16th of a yard or 2 1/4 inches, about the length of a finger from the tip to the big knuckle in the middle of the finger. Twelve nails would be 27 inches. I didn't yet find the explanation for why that measurement was called "nail"; I'm sure the answer is there, somewhere.

    I guess in a time when a measuring tool wasn't always readily available, knowing the length of a body part, such as a foot, arm, hand or finger would work for taking a quick measure.  I'm sure we've all seen someone pace off an area with their feet to measure distance, or if you sew you've seen someone hold a length of fabric from the tip of their nose out the length of their arm to measure a yard.  The heighth of a horse is measured in "hands".

    My index finger measures just a little short of one "nail" at 2 1/8.  How about yours?

     How long is it from the tip of your nose along one arm to the tip of your hand?

    Learning unusual things like this is what I love about old books. The forgotten knowledge that they hold is like discovering a treasure chest, or like finding and opening a hidden window to a lost world. It is learning how people then made-do with limited resources,  got through everyday tasks and chores , and at the same time made their world prettier and more comfortable. 

    Some may think this is useless information, but what does it hurt to know it?  

    Enjoy!  Edey

  • Seeing Antique Needlework Forms in Vintage doilies

    Recently while looking around a thrift shop in a small town near here, I found a vintage white rectangular cotton cloth doily that had the most delicate of needlework on it, displaying several different techniques incorporated within the  design. It caught my eye precisely because of those different forms of needlework, types that are seldom done now and are rarely seen.

    The design is of 2 stylized roses on the ends, with scroll bars and smaller flowers evenly spaced around the edge. The size is approximately 6inches by 12 inches.

    The type of needlework within the 2 roses is: 3 different  needlelace stitches filling in the open space of what would be flower petals; cutwork and satin stitch fills out the rest of the shape of the rose
    The scroll bars are cutwork
    The other flowers are both cutwork and solid daisy-like flowers of satin stitch.
    The border is bobbin lace.

    I was amazed when seeing this needlework doily because of the very tiny size of the thread that was used to make the design. The bobbin lace looks to be made with a size 80 thread. The cutwork looks like it was made using a single strand of very tiny thread also, possibly perle cotton or crochet thread. The bars of buttonhole stitch that surround the cut-out sections are 1/16 inch wide or less.

    If you are interested in seeing vintage needlework techniques, look around in antique shops, thrift shops or at yard sales for doilies like this. You may need to have a magnifying lens with you to be able to identify the techniques used. This is one way to see forms of needlework that fell out of favor and now aren't seen often.

    Enjoy!  Edey
  • Summer time and Computing is easy!

     Now that warm(hot) weather is here, I don't do as much needlework as during the winter. Holding onto wool yarn for knitting, or handling fabric for sewing just seems to make the day feel hotter. I keep a project next to my chair to work on, usually a pair of socks, and I always have a bag of knitting in the car with me, but what would normally take a couple of weeks to knit a pair of socks in the winter takes all summer when it's too hot to work on anything. 

     I am stuck indoors in front of the A/C for a good portion of the day during this long season, so this year I decided to take advantage of this hibernation to expand on my limited knowledge of using computers. I was fortunate enough to recently be able to buy both a laptop (my first) and a desktop computer so that Dh and I don't have to take turns using only one computer. As much as we have always liked to share things, sharing one computer was no longer an easy thing to do. We both needed to be on doing things at the same time as the other, so to save frayed and anxious nerves we decided to each get our own. Of course the fact that the 5 yr. old desktop died pushed us to go shopping for new computers. We were amazed that we bought the two units plus printer plus wireless gear for the same amount of money as what we had paid for our first desktop in 1998, or the next one in 2005. The only thing we did not replace was the monitor for the desk top. We had to save money somewhere. 

    This is also my first journey into having a wireless home network. Dh did the physical set-up, and I did the configuring afterwards. There is so much to learn! It went fairly easy getting it up and running. Hopefully, with fingers crossed, it is also secure.  I found some books about working on computers; the content is written towards senior citizens who didn't grow up with computers, so the language is more understandable then what a standard technical book might have. So far they look promising and helpful. 

    So here''s to a knowledgable, productive summer.  Cheers!!!


  • How Not To Be Bored Waiting

     Here are some suggestions for small projects to carry with you for times when you have to wait for something. You can accomplish quite alot just by filling in empty minutes working on a small needlework or hobby project.

    1. Yo-Yo's: If you are unfamiliar with the term, yo-yo's are small fabric circles sewn up into gathers, flattened, then the edges stitched together to make  any number of items, such as a small tablecloth, glass mat, placemat, pillow cover, etc. Pre-cut a bunch of circles, then put into a baggie, along with a small pair of scissors or snips, a needle or two, a spool of neutral colored thread, and a thimble, and you have a simple and easy project with you to work on.

    Yo-yo instructions

     2. Pieced squares for quilting: Cut out several pieces for making pieced quilt squares, and like the yo-yo's, put the pieces, thread, scissors, needles, thimble in a bag to carry with you. One thing I like to do is mark the seam line with an mechanical pencil; this and a short ruler can be carried along with you, and used to mark the lines for stitching.

    4. Crocheting Granny Squares: With some left-over small balls of yarn, a hook, and a pair of scissors, you can make up a pretty afghan or shawl just by using your spare time making Granny squares.

    Granny Square instructions

    5. Knitting socks, hats, scarves or gloves: These are all perfect small projects to carry with you, and easy to pick-up and work on for a few short minutes. When working on a sock or glove project, I keep each piece in a separate baggie along with the tools, then I grab one as I go out the door. I always have something to work on this way.  

    6. Jewelry-making: Have pliers, eye pins, or head pins, and some beads with you, and make some beaded links, or drops for later turning into a necklace, bracelet or whatever you want.


     Keeping your hands busy is therapeutic, relaxing and meditative. You will be surprised at how quickly time can pass by when you keep your hands and mind occupied while waiting, and in the long run you will be a much happier and calm person.



  • Saving on yarn costs

     Purchasing yarn for a specific project can get expensive, especially if the pattern calls for several different colors, or if it is a set of something, like a baby outfit that has a hat, sweater, booties, and blanket. How a pattern is written can make a difference in how much you spend and if you will have enough yarn or way too much left over, thereby costing you more than you would really need. Patterns that are offered by a yarn company have an objective in selling you their yarn - so if they can write a pattern in such a way that you will buy 2 balls of yarn instead of 1 - then they win, and you have alot of left-overs. 

    Recently I wanted to work on a crocheted baby sweater that was all one color and used worsted weight acrylic yarn.The directions said I needed 2 skeins of yarn, each 5 ounces, for the sweater, which is quite alot for such a small project. The project also had booties, a hat and a blanket, which called for an additonal 4 skeins of yarn. I already had a large 1 pound skein of similar yarn on hand, so decided to use that for the sweater. 

    The directions called for first using one ball of yarn to work the body of the sweater, bottom up, work up to underarm area and stop, leaving the yarn attached to the sweater body, then with a second ball of yarn, make first one sleeve, end it off, and make the second.Then the sleeves were attached to the body of the sweater, and the top completed. 

    Here is where I realized that if the pattern instructions had been written differently, there would not be a need for a second ball of yarn. If the sleeves had been worked first with the one ball of yarn, the ends cut and woven in, and the body of the sweater worked second with the same ball of yarn, there would not be a need for second ball of yarn to make just that sweater. By needing only that one ball of yarn for the sweater, the cost was less, and there was less waste. I'll admit here that leftover yarn isn't necessarily a bad thing, and can be worked into other projects, but if you are short on funds, spending needlessly takes the joy out of a project, or might cause you turn away from a project because of the cost of the yarn stated to complete the item. 

    My advice here is to read thru the pattern instructions first before purchasing the yarn, and see if you can identify ways to make the project in a different order so as not to need as much yarn. That will save you money in the end. 

    A note on working with multi-colors: This can be quite expensive when it comes to purchasing the called-for colors in a pattern, for something like a ski sweater, or multi-colored socks. You may only need to work one or two rows of a contrasting color, leaving you with most of a ball of yarn unused. Here again read thru the pattern and think if it would be possible to not use as many colors in the project, possibly making the project with only 2 or 3 contrasting colors instead of 5 or 6. That will help make a project less expensive. 





  • Knitting needles - Metal vs. Bamboo: some tips and ideas

     This would be a good time to share some thoughts and experiences I've had with using these two different types of knitting needles, with the idea that maybe it will help others to avoid some problems. 

    Some background: I've been knitting, off and on, since the 1960's, dropped it for a long time, but with the inspiration of all that is available on the internet, I picked it up with enthusiasm 3 years ago, when I began knitting socks. At the time I only had metal needles, and it was a struggle to learn how to use double-pointed needles (dpn, for short), because they kept slipping out of the stitches as I worked them around the sock body. Somewhere I learned about bamboo needles, and took a chance on using them instead. Eventually they became my favorites for almost all of my knitting, however they did have drawbacks; the tension was looser, the stitch didn't slide off the needle as easily as it was being formed the same way it did with metal, and the work was slower because of it. So I thought I would again try metal, specifically the somewhat newer, slicker needles available now. So below these are some of the things I've found out about using the different needles. 

    1.  As mentioned above, the gauge/tension of the stitches was quite a bit different comparing metal to bamboo. I started a shawl with fingering-weight yarn and size 3 metal circular needle with a very slick needle surface. My stitches were close together and small. After several inches I switched to a bamboo circular of the same size, and after a few inches of using the bamboo needles, the stitches were loose and larger. It isn't very  noticeable, but it surprised me that there would be that much difference in stitch size with the same size needle. Once again this illustrates the importance of gauge and making a test swatch with knitting. 

    2.  Muscle/joint pain: In a previous blog I wrote about knitting toe-up socks, with the peacock blue/turquise socks. With those socks I used metal needles throughout, used the same number of stitches as for socks I had previously knitted, but when finished they were smaller than socks made with the bamboos. But I also had quite a bit of wrist and finger pain, and swollen joints all the way up into my shoulders, so much so that I was limited to the amount of time that I could work on the socks. I didn't connect the pain to using the metal needles, until I started working on the shawl mentioned in #1. When I worked on it with the metal needles, everything hurt; when I switched to the bamboos, the pain went away, and knitting was fun again. 

    3. Eye fatique: the light glinting on the slick metal surface of the metal needles really tired out my eyes and after an hour or two of knitting, I would have to set it down to get my eyes to rest and re-focus. The bamboo needles didn't give me problems like this. 

    Now some tips on the care and feeding of bamboo needles. 

    1. When I first got my bamboo needles they seemed dry to the touch, like raw, unfinished wood feels. So, thinking along the lines of keeping wood furniture waxed and polished to preserve it, I began experimenting with one set of needles, trying various waxes and oils on the needles to see what it would do to them: 

           a. cold cream - I know it sounds weird, but basic cold cream is a mixture of oil, beeswax and water; I smoothed this into the bamboo needle, let it dry and then rubbed it with paper toweling, cotton rags and waxed paper to see what it would do. It worked very well, and it was right at hand, so I grabbed it to try. 

          b.  olive oil - worked okay and didn't leave an oily residue, but cold cream worked better.

          c.  mayonnaise - this worked good too, but not as handy as the cold cream

          d. candle wax - didn't do much. 

    My bamboo needles now have a nice polished feel to them, which helps in moving the yarn along on the needle as it is worked.  I feel that the oils and waxes also helped to keep the bamboo flexible and stronger than they would otherwise be in their original state as dry and unpolished. The natural oils from the wool yarn also help in keeping the needles polished. 

    I hope these tips help with enjoying knitting.  They have for me.  



  • Finding Corrections For Errors in Books

     Have you ever worked on a project in a craft book or a pattern in a needlework book, and no matter how diligently you followed the instructions it just didn't work out right?  There is a good chance that the instructions had an error, making it impossible to finish the project as described. But all is not hopeless.  

    I've found that with many recently published books that you can go to the website of the publisher or author, and look for "errata" under the name of the book and you will find corrections to the pattern or instructions. Learning about this has been a tremendous help for me; even though I'm still trying to master my hobbies, I do know enough about needlework to be able to spot a problem when I've worked through it more than once and it still doesn't come out correctly. Then I know there is good chance of there being an error in the instructions. 

    So next time if you get frustrated with a project, don't automatically think that it is your lack of skill or understanding of what you are doing, it could be a print error in the instructions. Do some research into the source of your instructions and see if you can find a correction - or Errata!  

    Enjoy, Edey


  • January Star Ornament for 2010

    Well, it seems it's not letting me upload the picture, as it says the picture is too big for the blog post, even though I've downsized the picture. HHMMMMMMM!  I'll keep trying.  Edey

  • Christmas Ornament Challenge #1 - January Star

     Here is the first ornament for 2010. The picture will immediately follow in the next post. The picture was too big to include it here.  

    These 2 star ornaments are made with cotton fabric and stuffed with polyester stuffing. The patterns
    can be found anywhere on the internet that offers free patterns for pieced stars for quilting, or look in quilting books at the library.  Be sure to add seam allowances of 1/4 inch to each pattern piece. You will need to make a front and back star for each ornament. 

    First sew 3 adjacent diamonds together, matching the center points,  then 3 more. Sew those 2 halfs together thru the middle - again matching center points. Repeat this process for the back half. Sew both halves together with right sides facing each other, leaving an opening for turning the star to the right side. Stuff tightly, making sure to get the points well stuffed. Sew the opening shut.  The hanging loop can be a crocheted chain, piece of string, piece of fishing line, or a pretty ribbon.

    The patterns for these ornaments were originally found in the December 1978 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

    If you have any questions, please ask.  Enjoy!


  • A Christmas Ornament Challenge for 2010

     In the Hobbies and Crafts Forum of the Dollar Stretcher Community, a Christmas Ornament Challenge
    for 2010 has been suggested by Virginia Needlewoman, with comments and suggestions by several

    At the moment the idea is to make one ornament per month for the 12 months of 2010.

    I will be posting pictures of handmade ornaments that I have done, or that others have given me, with
    some basic simple instructions that will challenge you to make them with your own ideas and designs.
    There won't always be full instructions, but if you are crafty, you should be able to work out the
    how-to's by looking at the pictures and reading the accompanying text. The ornaments will use basic
    supplies like yarn, paint, glue, fabric, wood, canning jar lids, beads, for starters; and will use skills like
    knitting, crocheting, painting, beading, sewing, etc. I'll start the first one next week between Christmas and New Years.  

    I'm open to suggestions from anyone of what they might like to see as an ornament project.

    I think this will be fun, and we will have some nice ornaments next year for decorating.    

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