Her Cape in Disguise

Winter aprons

For the past while I’ve been in a rut. I just can’t seem to get as much done as I would hope during the day. This feeling drives me absolutely crazy! To the point where I get a bit short of patience. I needed a productive day and today was it. It’s -50 with the wind chill out but life doesn’t stop when it gets a little chilly outside.

It was a usual morning; get up, get the fire started for the day, start a load of laundry, get ready for the day, breakfast. Then I did something I haven’t done in a long time…I put on a apron. It’s been so cold I’ve been wearing sweatshirts and I can’t wear an apron over a sweatshirt; it’s bad luck or something. Today was an apron day.

There are three things I have more of than any one person needs; clothes hangers (an ungodly amount! I don’t know how we ever accumulated so many!), Cake pedestals (which I still collect even without the bakery) and Aprons. I have an apron collection that would put almost any granny to shame! I have seasonal aprons, one for farmers market, for gardening and animal tending, everyday ones, fourth of July ones, and Christmas ones. This is one thing I will probly never quit collecting. I used to wear an apron every day and need to start again.

Here’s a secret that I have never heard before but I now know is true: an apron is actually a cape in disguise! With an apron on, I was able to get ham stock going, eggs pickled, 15 bean soup on the stove, yogurt in the oven (my incubator), 3 loads of laundry done, kitchen cleaned and floor too, all before 1 pm! That was just the first half of the day!

Did you ever stop to wonder how grandma or great grandma managed to feed the family big meals all from scratch, keep up on the cleaning, the laundry which was all done by hand not to mention the gardening and other daily chores?! It was her cape in disguise!

Aprons did not start out looking as they do today. In the beginning fabric was not as easy to come by. People didn’t have closets full of clothes, they had very few. Aprons were worn by the working class to protect there clothes. The first aprons were very simple; a rectangular piece of cloth with ties. To add embellishments, ruffles and such was a waste of fabric.

Personally I believe all aprons should have ruffles and pockets. Not all of mine do but they still serve the purpose and I wear them until they are very worn out and then I wear them a bit more.

With the holidays done for the year I can now put on my apron and put the finishing touches on the projects I have started around here, like the tree curtain rod, a few leather projects, processing of some raw fleece, venison fat soap and then start a few more before the spring thaw and we move outside for the season.

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Giving Thanks

writing

The “art” of writing a letter seems to be lost on this generation. Personally I send a few letters every Monday; one to grandma and a couple to a few letter writing friends. I know I don’t use “proper” letter form but I use the basics. I’m not sure many people know a “proper” form these days.

I enjoy hand written notes and I save every one I get. Ever since I moved away for college grandma has written me at least one letter a week and I the same. That’s been ten years now, enough to need a large tote to keep them all. I haven’t gone through and reread them yet some day I will. For now I greedily hoard every one she sends because I know all good things must end at some time.

A young man in the army stationed in Germany was able to call home briefly and informed his mother that he loved the hand written letters that were sent. “Email is great because it’s instant, but a letter that was handled by you is worth the wait.”  It’s something that can be carried with you and reread at any moment. Living such a distance from loved ones having the simple envelope to have and hold is like having a piece of home with you.

Technology is great but nothing like doing things by hand. Who am I kidding I hate technology. I’d do anything to be a homesteader a hundred years ago, preferably in Montana then. We can discuss that later. Email just seems so informal, so lazy maybe or maybe impersonal is more what I am thinking of. Either way it’s missing something. (Usually proper grammar and spelling.)

With Christmas coming to a close thank you notes are on the “to do” list. Today thank you notes are a thing of the past as well these days. If it’s not a wedding or graduation thank you notes are forgotten. (I have to say there are very few thank you notes for such events I have received that have more thought in them as not sending one at all.)

Growing up mom always made us write thank you notes for Christmas, birthdays and any other time we received a gift. Now I write them for things more than material gifts. I have even tried to not send them…I feel so guilty they get sent, usually with an apology for it being late. Yep, I can’t not send them even when I try. I know they just get thrown away (except the ones to grandma) and that’s ok. I just feel better knowing that those who gave me an extra thought know how much I appreciate it.

*The picture above was from a pinterest search and I wasn’t able to follow the link to give credit to the one who took it. Sorry.

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Oh, Christmas Tree

Before Christianity was known people were decorating their houses with greenery around the winter solstice which usually fall around December 21-22 or so. The solstice was a celebrated belief that the sun god ( different cultures had different names for such) who falls ill in the fall was beginning to recover. The hanging of evergreen boughs was a sign that again the days would get longer and warmer and again plants would turn green and full of life. Thus praise and thankfulness to the sun god, god of agriculture ect.

In the 16th century Germans began bringing evergreen trees as we know Christmas trees today. Martin Luther was believed to be the first noted person to add candles to the tree. It is said he was inspired by the stars one night as he was walking through the trees and wanted to share the experience with his family.

The first record of a tree being on display in America was in the 1830’s in a German settlement in Pennsylvania.  Even though Christmas trees were common in the traditions of Christians in Germany they were still seen as a pagan symbol in America through the 1840’s. The German settlements had Christmas trees earlier but they were not a public display. Some Americans were working so had to rid all pagan aspects that any observation of the Christmas holiday aside from a church service was penalized. This by a law passed in Massachusetts in  1659, included any signs of joy, decorations carols ect.

It wasn’t until the 1840’s when Queen Victoria and German Prince Albert were pictured with their family gathered around a Christmas tree that the tree was here to stay.

The trees were mainly decorated with candles and homemade ornaments. Most Germans still decorated their trees with the more traditional marzipan cookies, nuts, apples and strings of dyed popcorn. With the advent of electricity came tree lights allowing the trees to be lighted for days on end and the Christmas trees in town squares began. From there  the tree tradition exploded and so did the size.

In Europe Christmas trees averaged about 4 feet, in America the stood floor to ceiling (we’ve “super sizing” everything since the beginning).  The outdoor trees on display continue to tower above.

I heard both sides of the real or fake tree argument.

One thought is real trees are the tradition and they are “green” as there are always more growing. The wonderful smell of pine and homemade cookies; a warm comforting Christmas feeling.

The other thought is why cut a tree for one month. The cost of the tree, if you don’t have the luxury of having one on your property to cut each year and most don’t. Then there’s the safety aspect. Most house fires over Christmas can be linked to overloading the electrical outlets, Aunt Martha leaving a burner on in the kitchen, then setting something other than a pot on it and dry Christmas trees. Some most people know the tree though now dead still draws water to keep its needles longer. A fireplace that is used often will dry the air in no time and the tree as well. It sometimes slips peoples minds to keep the tree watered with so many other things going on.

Then there’s holiday clean  up:

put the tree in a box in the Christmas closet (the hard to get to spot under the stairs)

or

haul the dry tree through the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the entry way and finally to the yard, where by this time there are no needles left on the tree they are scattered like flower petals down a wedding isle through your house, where it will sit until spring when you decide where your going to dump it. Maybe you live in town where the poor garbage man has to deal with all the Christmas leftovers.

By the pro’s and con’s list the fake tree seems to win. I would prefer a real tree anyway. I like the smell of pine in the living room and the warmth the tree seems to bring. Being from Minnesota I have always taken trees for granted. Having lived in North Dakota for 10 years one would think I would be hugging the trees now that I’m back. I’m still not. I would have no problem clearing a couple few (more than 6 if you get it).

It took a few years to get used to the wide open spaces but when I did I absolutely loved it! (The east side of ND is still flat and boring, sorry) The middle and west is beautiful! The sunrises and sunsets are amazing. I still favor Montana sky above all else but I found lots of beauty in the Dakota’s.

One might also think the my husband being from the wide open wouldn’t mind clearing a few trees around the farm. (especially since we have a nice crop of Christmas trees around part of our hay field, with them gone I could get a few more bails out of it) Wrong again! He likes the trees each and every one!

I’m too cheap to buy a real tree every year, the Mister like the trees where they are on our land and our wood stove in the living room burns all day long. We have a fake tree. Hiding pine scented car air freshener trees in it is not the same, so don’t bother with those.

Never the less the tree is up, decorated and glowing. The room is warm with the stove and well I didn’t do any Christmas baking this year, selfishly because I can’t eat it. But the tea smells good too ( not like cookies but hopefully next year).

So what are your thoughts about the tree debate?

Christmas tree

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Scrappy Stocking

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, well not here. As we decorated for Christmas this year I realized we were one short. I took out the knitting needles and some yarn I had spun previously and began knitting. In no time and had a nice Christmas stocking… that I stuffed back in my knitting basket and plan to unravel and modify the pattern after Christmas. What a disappointment!

After all that we were still one stocking short. I still had my sewing machine and scrap fabric spread over the dining room table from a fall of apron making. So a scrappy stocking was in the works. It turned in to a nice afternoon project and this one I don’t plan to take apart.

First I traced one of the stockings we already had and cut out four pieces out of muslin. Two for the outside and two for the lining.

stocking 1

I gathered all red scraps I had off I went. I used the same technique to make the stocking as I do a crazy quilt.

Start with a piece of muslin to build on. I layer my scraps on the base sewing each new scrap to cover the corner of the previous piece.

Stocking 2

When using a square and smaller pieces you won’t end up with a “fishtail” layering. For the stocking though I wasn’t too worried. I used the green plaid for the top “cuff”. Once the pieces are sewn to the base double check to make sure all the seam ends are covered or will be sewn into the side seam. Then trim the edges even with the base piece. Do the same with the back. Helpful hint: check which direction the toe is facing or you could end up with two fronts and no back. I know from experience. 🙁

Before sewing the back to the front I used embroidery floss and primitive stitched the name.

Then it’s pretty straight forward; right sides together sew the outside together. Again checking the toe direction sew the other two pieces together, right sides together.

Now, I know there is a way to sew the lining to the shell and turn it so all the seams are in and everything looks all nice and finished. But I couldn’t seem to remember how, so I pressed the top in on both the shell and lining and topped stitched around the edge.

Stocking 3stocking 4

Here’s the front and back of the finished stocking. A perfect afternoon project.

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Finally The High Chair (Part 3)

leather strapFinally time for the straps.

The old ones were fine, nylon straps with the plastic clips, but I’ve done so much already I’d hate to put the old ones back on when I could make some new ones.

Another one of my hobbies is leather work. Go figure, right. I cut new straps about 3/4 inch wide out of 6-7 oz. leather.

edge belever

I used an edge beveler on all four edges of each strap. This takes the 90 degree corner off  and begins the rounding of the edges.

 

leather skiver

Then the skiver to shave the under side of the ends that I need to put rivets through. By tapering the end it makes the under side semi-smooth when folded.

 

 

leather  v gouge

The V gouge I use is adjustable for cutting different depths. I used this where the fold will be, right at the top of where I just skived. By cutting this gouge the leather will lay a little flatter when folded rather than round.

 

 

leather punch

I then punched the holes for the rivets, buckle hardware and buckle strap.

Now, if I knew there wasn’t going to be little squash covered fingers touching the straps I would do some tooling on them. So this time I can save myself a few steps now by not tooling and later by not having to try to wipe squash out of the crevices.

wood slicker

To get the edges smooth I use a wood slicker. To use this you must first wet the leather. The is a perfect moisture level you want both when tooling and using the slicker; not too wet and not too dry. In another post about tooling we can go more into that. Then you want to apply a little pressure with rubbing back and forth. This will compress the leather into a smooth, shiny, rounded edge.

fiebrings leather dye

While the leather is still damp its time to dye it. Having the leather damp when you apply the dye will help to end up with a more even color as the dye soaks into the leather rather quickly. I like to use oil base dye. Personally I like the color depth it provides.

Usually I put an acrylic clear coat on my projects after this step. Although it says it’s flexible it always seems to crack after a bit of use so this time I didn’t. We will see how it goes.

leather rivetsI then rubbed all the pieces with the saddle soap. It gives it a nice shine and works as a protectant.

Rivets are next. Using a rivet setter is pretty easy too. The rivet is two pieces, the cap and the post. The cap goes onto the plate and the post through the leather and into to cap. Using a punch and a mallet simply pound the punch and the post will flatten in the cap and hold securely.

High chair

Lastly the straps are screwed to the underneath of the chair. The old ones were fastened with a whole bunch of staples. They might have worked ok with the nylon but not with the leather.

And finally done!

High chair

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