Monday, March 21, 2016

In Praise of Upholsterers

I cannot seem to stress enough, to anyone and everyone, how much better reusing old furniture is to buying new. To most people, it is not worth the trouble or the expense. It certainly requires some patience to find a good-quality old piece that has the right lines and character and it is, without a doubt, more costly than buying something from say, IKEA, (not that I don't LOVE their helpful instructions and handy tools), but to a vintage addict like myself, rehabbing old furniture feeds the soul.

Before ($60 Craigslist find)
I have paid to have a number of old pieces restored, and I cannot say for sure which one is my favorite. It is a toss up between my bright red mid-century sectional, (before and after), and my George Nelson for Herman Miller dining set, both of which were brought back to life by my dear friend, Eliseo, an upholsterer I used for many years while living in California. A good upholsterer is a godsend to a vintage enthusiast and I thank God I was able to find a new one when I moved to Maine.

Barrel Chairs
These chairs, along with my beloved red sectional, were damaged during our cross-country move and Mark, from Rainbow Upholstery in Richmond, Maine, ("the best upholsterer in Maine"), not only repaired my sectional, but turned these 70's designer barrel chairs into VIP's, worthy of a nothing less than a bay window position in my new Victorian home's back parlor. The brown, check-textured chenille fabric added a richness they always deserved but never had.

Another thing to think about, is that reusing old furniture is good for the environment in many ways! By keeping your old piece from going into the junk heap, it saves landfill space and it saves the wood that would have been used to build the new piece! It's an all around great option for getting superior quality furniture at a fraction of what it would cost you to buy the equivalent new, (not that anyone makes well-made furniture anymore).

So, next time you are in the market for a new item of furniture, think about giving an old piece a try. Instead of haunting Macy's or Plummers or, God forbid,  Bassett, check out your local Craigslist ads for something vintage. You can find upholstery fabric by the yard on Ebay or Fabric Guru and save on recovering costs, and all that's left to do is to find a good upholsterer!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Apron Diaries: Friendship, Love and Sacrifice

Sign Designer Jane
Molly's Chickens
Little inspires me more than when I meet a person who has a contagious and passionate interest in something they love, and Molly Larson, owner of Hope Hill Creations, is one such person. I met Molly at the Rockland Marketplace a few months after I moved to Maine, and I felt an immediate connection with her. Like most antique dealers, we share an obsessive love and respect for old things, but we also share a curiosity and creativity for re-imagining old things that may have, for anyone lacking a vision, outlived their usefulness. And then there are the chickens. We both love Chickens.

Molly Holding Sister Kara
Raised in a large, close-knit family, Molly was one of seven children, and spent her childhood in Minnesota and later in the Bahamas, before moving to Brewer, Maine in 1977. She got a degree in education and spent 30 years working in public libraries in various capacities, as well as raising two children, of whom she is extremely proud.  These days, Molly is enjoying retirement and staying busier than any other retiree I know, doing photography, gardening, crocheting, chicken farming, sailing, grand-parenting, and last month she launched , Hope Hill Creations.  Her Facebook posts of adorable aprons and other handcrafted items inspired me to find out more about Molly's interest in aprons. This is my interview with Molly:

Mother and Grandmother
Pinky LaRue: What is it about aprons that inspires you?
Molly Larson: I have fond memories of my mom pulling open the apron drawer and my sisters and I putting on her, (mostly fancy), holiday aprons over our dresses so we could help in the kitchen. Aprons represent, for me, the work of keeping a home and family. They also represent my admiration of people in simpler times and how hard they worked. My mother's mother worked in a bakery and in later years at the school cafeteria. Those women toiled. I was so proud to see my grandmother and we'd give each other a wave and a smile. She made the BEST doughnuts. 

PL: Who taught you how to sew?
ML: I think sewing must be a part of my DNA. I am still a beginner and came to it late in life. My mother was an excellent seamstress. She was so creative. She sewed clothes and costumes for us, especially for my sister Mary and I who participated in ice shows.  My grandmother was a beautiful knitter as well and all of her grandchildren would look forward to slippers. She knit beautiful afghans. So
Grandma's Afgan
Molly and Mary Ice Skaters
crafting must be in my blood. I observed my mom at the sewing machine quite a bit as a young girl,  but sewing was my mom's time and I think one of her creative outlets. She never let us touch her sewing machine. I will now confess that I was the one turning the tension knob. In 7th grade, Home Economics was offered and I was so thrilled to take sewing. My mom helped me pick out a pattern and some flannel material. The teacher was very strict, measuring the thread after you cut it, etc. I didn't finish the project and never sewed again until I started having kids of my own. I got and "F" in Home Economics - the sewing part but got a "B" in cooking. Retirement has allowed time to fix this, to explore my creative side more fully and to let go of those kinds of negative memories and to not let those sorts of experiences define me.

PL: What was the first apron you made?
ML:  Last year I bought a pattern at a local quilt shop because I wanted to sew something from a pattern. I am a visual learner so following a pattern is challenging, which is why when I am learning something new, I either ask someone to show me or go on YouTube. Two of my dear friends were coming to stay for a girls' weekend, so I wanted to surprise them with an apron so they could have it in time for the holidays. I chose a reversible pattern and it took me all day that first time. Since then I have made over 30 aprons for family and friends giving them away as gifts this past year. The most fun was picking out fabric that suits their personality.

Molly's Friend Susan
 PL: Tell me more about that process, of making an apron for family or a friend.
MLWell when I am making my friend an apron I choose a fabric that reminds me in some way of them and our friendship. It may be a color or a pattern. Then, during the entire time I am cutting it out, sewing it, and ironing it...I am thinking of that person and what they mean to me. It is like a prayer, in a way. I am grateful for that person and during the process I am sending good thoughts their way.  It is a tangible offering to someone I love. But isn't that what we all do when we make something for someone?  Knitting a beautiful sweater, crocheting booties, sewing a quilt. It is all the same, really...

This may become napkins
 PL: Where do you source your fabrics?
Yoga Frog Table Runner
ML: I never look at a piece of fabric the same way. Just yesterday I bought a set of curtains that I will probably turn into cloth napkins or a tablecloth, (I love linens). I go to quilt shops, discount stores, thrift stores, I love freebies, anywhere! I found this fabric depicting a frog doing various yoga positions. That fabric cracked me up. I saved a scrap and put him in a table runner made from pieces of all the aprons I made for family and friends. I love this runner because it is like having all those people at my table.

Molly's Booth

PL: Where can your aprons be viewed in person?
ML:  I have a resale space at Rockland Marketplace. Look for dealer 18- Hope Hill Creations.

PL: Do you sell remotely?
Molly's Granddaughters
ML: I am just getting started so I have dipped my toe into selling online. I recently started a Facebook page and have considered selling them through other sites. I would like to build up an inventory first..

PL: If someone wants to order something from you, can they message you on your business Facebook page? 
ML: Absolutely! I have already had 4 special orders for Christmas!

PL: How much do you charge for your aprons?
ML:  Prices vary by type, age, and work involved. Anywhere from $8 for found aprons to $35 for mine.
Molly's First Quilt

PL: What else do you make and sell? 
ML: I make table runners, quilts, napkins, and crocheted items.
Mary Mulari's Church Lady Apron

PL: What is your favorite apron?
ML: It seems like it is the one I am working on at the time. I adore Mary Mulari's "Church Lady Apron" pattern which can be purchased on her website or through
your local quilt shop such as Quilt Divas in Rockland. I LOVE it because it reminds me of the aprons I have seen in photos, AND she is from Aurora, Minnesota where I had relatives living. I love the connection!

Vintage Apron Picture
Molly and Friends
PL: You recreated a vintage apron picture with your friends. How did that come about?
ML: I bought a vintage photo on Ebay taken 60 years ago.  My friends and I, outside by the chicken coop, wearing the first three aprons I sewed from a pattern, mimicked their pose. Friendship is beautiful. You can see it in the photo. I just love the photo and how it works with the Ebay one and how we all, as women, have so much in common...  For me the vintage apron is a symbol of hard work and sacrifice. I imagine the women who wore them, what their life might have been like. What did she have to give up for herself in order for her family to thrive? Where did she find her support? My guess is through her friends, talking over the fence, laughing and commiserating, forming lasting friendships.That is what I see. Tied up in all that apron fabric is friendship, love and sacrifice.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Heritage Museum of Orange County: A Hidden Gem

For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of being affiliated with the Heritage Museum of Orange County, the non-profit organization that owns and maintains the Kellogg House, a lovely Victorian home located in the heart of one of Santa Ana's many industrial areas.  The organization has turned the house into a teaching museum that provides hands-on instructional tours to elementary school children located throughout the Orange County area.  It is, without a doubt, a hidden gem and I cannot endorse their educational tours strongly enough.  But the Kellogg House and its surrounding grounds are also available for weddings, events, movie/photo shoots, and meetings for social interest groups!

It's easy to imagine a romantic wedding taking place just steps from an authentic 1898 Victorian home, complete with a wrap around porch, stately white columns, a 
curved set of windows tucked beneath a cupola that hosts an authentic surveyor's transit, a white iron widow's walk, and french doors leading out to a balcony overlooking a garden setting, complete with a babbling fountain.  

The interior boasts one of a kind Victorian architecture inspired by designer Hiram Clay Kellogg's travels aboard sailing ships to and from Hawaii in the 19th century, including a circular staircase winding around an authentic ship's mast, an open concept, crow's nest style attic, and an oval dining room with an original tongue-in-groove wooden floor.  Furnished with period pieces including velvet upholstered settees, chairs, a fainting couch, several RCA Victrolas, an Edison Talking Machine, a pump organ, a piano and two antique wooden wall-mounted telephones, all would provide a spectacular backdrop for a Victorian or Steampunk-themed wedding.  

As a vintage and antique collector, I find that there is little as heartwarming as discovering an old Victorian that has not been modified and modernized from its original glory, especially here in Southern California!  This house is truly a one of a kind treasure to the communities of Santa Ana, Orange County, and vintage and antique enthusiasts everywhere!  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lamp Shades for Vintage Lamps

Vintage lamps are one of my favorite things to collect.  Some of them were magnificently designed  and seem to truly embody the era from whence they came. Unfortunately, lamps seem to outlive the lampshades that were made for them, leaving them to survive like widows, waiting for the grim reaper.  Unless.... you can find a new mate for them, one that breathes new life into them, maybe even making them look better than they ever did!  I picked up these lamps at an antique market in San Juan Capistrano.

  I fell in love with their spaceship shape and unusual light blue/brown color combination.  But the lampshades were missing and I felt challenged to find ones worthy of the quintessential mid-century modern  style that they oozed.  Then I stumbled upon Moon Shine Lamp & Shade .  They have a huge selection of lampshade styles and an even bigger selection of colors and patterns to choose from.  I decided to go with a two-tiered style known as Sandra in nicotine and turquoise with an arc pattern.  It cost around $250 for both shades, including shipping, but I think my lamps look spectacular!  They are some of the swankiest, most stylish lamps I have ever seen.  So, next time you find a lamp or two but their lampshades are M.I.A., don't despair!  Mosey on over to Moonshine Lamp & Shade to find your lamp its soul mate and maybe your new lamps will even outlive you!

Friday, July 27, 2012

FREE Daruma Home Twister Instructions!

These Daruma Home Twister instructions always seem to disappear, so, if you have a Daruma Home Twister without instructions, here they are!  There are two parts that overlap a bit.  Just right click on each of the pictures and save to your computer! You can print them out and use them to figure out what to do with that silly contraption!  You're welcome.

Friday, July 6, 2012