Sunday, October 3, 2010

GreenStitch Episode 9 - A chat with my sister

I can't tell you how much fun my sister Karen and I had recording this podcast episode together!

You heard us chuckle about the plaid pinafores that Karen and our oldest sister Margene sported one year (or, in Karen's case, several years.) Yes, a bit of a strong look, but taken within the context of late 1940s fashion, I think they look absolutely adorable.

This is one of our favorite family photos of all time: Our Aunt Doris, our Aunt Donna, and our mother, Marjorie -- all with that lovely, shiny hair, shampooed with homemade soap!

Here's our dad with one of the young horses, Otis. Mother always made sure those striped Oshkosh overalls were in good repair! Of course, the khaki work shirts always yielded plenty of buttons for the button box -- handy for quick repairs as well as our play.

Speaking of buttons....

There were actually many wonderfully bright buttons in Mother's old button box, but for some reason the few that I saved were in these neutral tones. Clockwise from top are: A button from a fabulous coat of Mother's that had a little mink collar (very 60s chic - she used to look so gorgeous in that coat!!!); one with distinctive large holes, and Karen and I are still debating whether it would have been a "sheep" or a "child" in our play; a metal lion's-head button off an old blazer; two of our dad's work-shirt buttons, which were abundant in that button box; four tiny baby-sweater buttons; and another cute button of unknown origin that we always loved.

Here are the bags my little great-nieces enjoy as they play. I had no idea when I made them that they would have such staying power!

Oh, and if you happen to have grown up in the rural Midwest any time before the 1970s, you may also remember the old Kitchen Klatter radio broadcasts. Here's some of the background on the Kitchen Klatter matriarch, Leanna Driftmier. Leanna's photo was well-known in our home, as it also appeared on their popular line of flavorings and cleaning products!

As always, thanks so much for listening. Be sure and visit the entry below for the giveaway information - open until Oct. 15.


  1. Simple green sewing techniques I use are:

    - Being the child of depression-era parents, as you are, it doesn't occur to me to throw the bits and pieces away. Even with my daughter in college now and no dolls to sew for.

    - Sure I have a button box and of course I cut off buttons from old clothes. A friend mentioned a few months back, how folksy it was that her mother used to do that, and I looked at her blankly. It hadn't occurred to me that everybody didn't do that. I thought that even people who only sewed a missing button on did so. If you buy a few cards of fancier buttons and a new piece of fabric, the buttons CAN cost as much or more than the material. And if you pick out buttons you love, why wouldn't you reuse 'em? Plain buttons are handy for basics and they jazz up a grocery tote bag, a funky tee shirt or sweatshirt.

    * Pretty SMALL scraps of beautiful material can be used to COVER BUTTONS. Then you have more for your button box! Everybody knows how to find those covered button forms at Joannes, right? They aren't too hard to use. If the materials slips around a little, I use a spot of clue to hold it into place. (I have also rescued pieces out of old embroidered napkins that are falling to bits and/or stained. That little bit of vintage embroidery on a button is to die for.)

    * I rip or use pinking shears to make long (or somewhat long) thin strips of leftover fabric (bright materials are particularly nice) and tack them on my bulletin board. The next time I WRAP A PACKAGE, TIE UP A SMALL BAG (right probably made with the leftover fabric scraps), or make A NEW BOOKMARK/TAG. I use those strips for ribbon.

    You could use funky thrift store clothes made out of bright polyester for these ribbons too (that fabric where your skin can't breathe)

    The bookmark/tag needs, of course, to have a hole punched in one end. I use a vintage luggage tag background for these and fit some of my favorite designs onto the bookmarks. I write a (nearly) daily online art journal and I occasionally post some of my favorite tags out there.

    Like you, making grocery tote bags is a typical sewing project. I like making these because
    -I can do a flat-bottomed bag, of varying sizes, without a pattern.
    -It's a great way to repurpose home-dec samples (there's a free give away of these monthly in my area).
    - They make good presents (sure you can put some muffins or a loaf of bread inside if it's a big holiday) and I ask people - if they aren't going to use it, to pass it on as a bag for a present for someone else. Most people will use a grocery bag.
    - I'm just starting to highlight some of my own art-journal designs as a pocket on a grocery/tote bag with the main fabric on the bag being leftover or stash fabric. This way I get the pleasure of using one of my own ideas quickly. Not keeping it around as mental oh-I'll-use-that sometime.

    Mental stash busting helps me to decrease my physical stash. Gets me on the right track.

    Sewing for me, is a fit in when I can activity. But I try to come up with clever ways to slip it in just a little bit on a regular basis. One of my goals is to sew down my stash. Partly that is my age, I'm 53 and I've helped to clean out things people left behind them, a few times now. Finding old, disintegrating things is sad. I kept thinking of how much use those articles could have had if donated or handed on when the person was alive. They would have gotten a lot of pleasure from doing it too.


  2. Thank you for another interesting episode. I try to avoid using cling wrap and foil so when I saw the plastic bowl covers last time I was home I bought a package. I've been using them for a few years and it's time to put new elastic on the bigger ones that are used more often. I thought that it was funny that you laughed at your mother for using them because I think that they are a great idea.

    I'd like to have my mother's button tin but I don't think she has it anymore. I've tried to start my own but it hasn't grown very much with all of the buttonless clothes out there!

  3. Anne--I just loved hearing you and your sister banter and laugh and chat in this episode. It really was like getting to sit in your sewing room with you. I loved all the talk of buttons and the drama of stealing them (okay--borrowing them) back from the neighbor lady. All of it. Loved Karen's bit in the episode. Just loved it all. I have been listening lately as I have to schlep all over the university where I teach, and plugging into Greenstitch makes all that schlepping so so so much happier and easier. I actually arrived to class after a ten minute walk with a big fat smile on my face from listening as I went. So thank you. I'm such a fun of Greenstitch. Just thrilled to get to look forward to what's next every week!

  4. Hi Anne. I was a bit behind on listening, so just heard this episode. I think your Mom and mine were twins. My mom also used the "shower caps" and I was surprised last time I visited to see that she has found them again. She washed them after every use (with the dishes), so they were probably pretty sanitary.

    My mom also washed and re-used plastic bags. You would wash them in the dishwater (before any dishes were washed), turn them inside out and wash again, then they were hung up in the basement inside out. Someone would then have to turn them right side out later, so they dried completely. Then they were folded neatly and stored for later use. Some of those bags were used many times before they got too holey. She still washes out the zip lock bags, as they are more expensive, but will recycle bread and produce bags.

    We did not use paper towels - Mom had a collection of rags for every purpose (windows, dusting, floors). Even today, I rarely use paper towels. We wiped off and re-used foil. We didn't have plastic wrap - sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper, and one sheet was good for the week. Paper bags were re-used for various purposes, and cut up to wrap up parcels for mailing.

    My Mom also "invented" spreadable margerine. It wasn't to be handy, it was to be thrifty. She would take about 8 pounds of margerine (and back then you had to add in the packet of yellow colouring), add one pound of butter and a couple cups of milk. She would then mix the whole thing up with her mixer and store it in plastic containers. It tasted better than regular margerine and you could spread it right out of the fridge. Probably better for us too!