Pretty Little Package - Vintage Crafting Kits

Hi people! I love vintage craft kits. I have a nice little collection of them. They represent pure potential when they're in their uncompleted condition and I'm afraid I haven't tapped that potential in a lot of the ones I have. Here are a few of my favorites:
This one is so cute for a boys room! It's from Avon (who knew they made embroidery kits?), and it features antique cars on a linen ground.
It's unusual in that it's designed to hang as a strip from a simulated wood mount that's included in the kit. It's all about crewel work. I picked this one up at a thrift shop on Long Island years ago.
Here's another crewel kit. This one features flowers in a basket.
This one is unusual in a number of ways - the dark linen ground, the variety of stitches including the pompon centers and, perhaps most notably the three dimensional butterfly that's worked separately and then applied to the surface of the finished piece. This was an Etsy purchase.
This last one was quite an inspiration to me. It's a multi-media kit that features felt applique and embroidery.
I love the dimensional flowers made of felt and accented with french knots. Look at the little jeweled centers - so cute.
This was the basis for a kit I designed myself.
It's a felt applique kit with embroidered stems and leaves.
 I loved the idea of anchoring the felt flowers with french knots so that's how I designed the centers of the daisies. 

Vintage crafting kits are such fun to find and work. They hail from the past, so you can be reasonably assured that you won't find a lot of copies around. They can be found on Etsy and eBay, as well as at thrift shops and yard sales.

If you don't have the patience to go digging around for a vintage one, you can find my daisy kit in two different colorways on Etsy and in my Brini Maxwell Shop at Felix Populi. Do you like crafting with kits, or do you prefer to design your own projects?

Happy crafting!


Summer's Coming - Get Out the Rum!

I'm heading to Fire Island this weekend for a friends birthday party (happy birthday, Gil!), and for me it's really the kick off for the summer season. So I thought I'd share one of my favorite summer cocktails with you to celebrate the coming summer.
This cocktail is in my book. I call it the Summer Breeze and it's very simple to make:

You'll need:

1.5 oz citrus flavored rum
1 oz pink grapefruit juice
1 oz orange juice
Dash of grenadine
Maraschino cherry for garnish

Shake all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into cocktail glass (I used a rocks glass). Garnish with the cherry!

I'll have some big news for you on Monday, but for right now, mum's the word!


Needlepoint - Not Just for Men Anymore!

Back in the 60's and 70's needlepoint was as popular as knitting is now. It was enjoyed by housewives, celebrities, free wheeling single girls like myself - even football players! And the interest in the medium made fertile ground for talented designers who created beautiful projects for themselves and others. It was such a popular hobby that books were published and magazines had countless features on the craft.

What I like about needlepoint is it can be easy or difficult, simple or complex. You can decide how involved you want to get in fancy stitches and shading, but simple projects can be equally as compelling.
This bandana pillow is a good example of simple. The design is easy to recreate. It's from one of my favorite needlepoint books from the 70's - Better Homes and Gardens Needlepoint, 1978.
Slightly more complex are these needlepoint flowers from the same book. The petals are each done individually, then wired and taped to a stem - such a pretty detail in a room!
Of course you can get as complex as you want to. Also from BH&G This freeform design breaks all the rules and is a lovely example of needleplay.
Our last Better Homes example is the beautiful kresh done in an abstract style. The detailed shading and elegant painterly quality of the faces is just lovely - so modern and sophisticated, yet still retaining a sense of humor.

Men took to needlepoint in the 70's, like they're taking to knitting now. There was quite a faction of male needlepointers, The most famous was perhaps Rosey Grier, the LA Giants tackle.
He loved the art and published a book all about it and the men who do it.
Here's Rosey with some of his projects

Another talented male needlepointer was Louis J. Gartner, Jr. He published a book in 1970 (Needlepoint Design, A House and Garden Book) that featured some of the beautifully detailed work he did.
This is a good example of his work. Notice the sense of depth he was able to achieve in a medium not unlike digital photography. Each stitch is like a pixel. Take note of how he uses the diagonal tent stitch (the basic stitch in needlepoint) to his advantage by lining them up to create a pin that holds objects on the wall. I particularly love the shadows cast in this still life.

Needlepoint is due for a revival. It's languished in the land of teddy bears and folk art long enough. If you're interested in the more creative side of needlepoint look on eBay or Amazon for the books mentioned above. I also have a few books on the art for sale on Etsy. Have a look at those too!

We did an episode on the art of needlepoint a few years back. Here it is again if you missed it:


My Garden of Brooches - Fabulous Flower Pins

Hello people! Sorry for not publishing this yesterday. It's been a busy few days...

I just love flower pins. I have many of them. They're so bright and cheery and perfect for spring! Here area few of my favorites.

This is one of the ones I wear most often. I love the simple restraint in rendering the daisy and it's got such clean, clear enamel, even after so many years! It dates back to about 1967 and has matching earrings!

This lovely blue flower with subtle shading is from a bit earlier - perhaps 1964. 
This one is my favorite color of pink - Shocking! The detail in these pins is one of the nicest aspects of them. Look at the hand applied dry brushing of black on the tips of the petals.
On a more somber note - a flower broch for film noir - this pin is plated in a gun metal finish and features a single stone as its center.
Another bright and cheerful daisy pin - this one is a cluster made up of plastic daisies and beads. It's like a little tuffet! It also has matching earrings, but, remarkably they were bought at completely different times and from different vendors.
This charming yellow bloom has cupped petals and a salmon pink center.
This is the prize of my collection. The "petals" are made of fibers and the pin features an enameled leaf, stem and center. Notice the center is dry brushed as well. I saw this pin in a different color way in a museum exhibit once. It's was fun to see it and know I had one at home.

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All About Helen - The Single Girl's Cookbook

I'm a big fan of Helen Gurley Brown. Her brand of advice - brash and brassy in its day - is such fun to read and so insightful. That's why years ago, when I found a copy of her Single Girl's Cookbook in a thrift shop, I knew I must have it.
Published in 1969, the book is an off shoot of her wildly successful best seller, Sex and the Single Girl. Instead of advice on how to meet men at the office or how to shed your inhibitions, this little missive has advice on how to throw a New Years Eve party and how to cook for the various stages of an affair. This section is particularly interesting. It takes you from the first blush of love (salami and cream cheese hors d'oeuvres), to the heat of passion (chicken Kiev), right through to the final breakup (refried beans and cheese).

When Helen came on my show on the Style network to talk about meeting men at work, she was kind enough to sign my now dog eared copy.
I'll treasure it always!

The book is overflowing with fun recipes - some easy, some more challenging - and pithy, clever commentary as only Helen can write it. There are even humorous and stylish line drawings that open each chapter.

Here's one of the cuter recipes from the book. It's from the "What a Friend We Have in Cheeses" chapter:

"Phony (But Good!) Cheese Souffle The cheese souffle recipe on page 81 is the classic one, but this one is delicious, too. It was born of desperation on a cold winter's night when a particular girl had little in the house to feed a darling burly guest (laid up with a skiing accident) except a jar of cheese spread and some eggs. He loved the concoction, although of course he was weak. (Alas , he finally got well and went home.)

1 jar (5 ounces) any sharp cheese spread
4 eggs, separated

Melt cheese spread in top part of a double boiler over hot water. Beat the egg yolks until light and lemon-colored. In another bowl beat the egg whites stiff. Add the melted cheese gradually to the egg yolks and blend thoroughly. Carefully fold in the stiffly beaten whites. Pour into an ungreased straight-sided casserole (a heatproof glass bowl is fine) and bake in a 350 degree F. oven until puffed and browned. 30 to 45 minutes."

Clever no? I suggest looking around for a copy. There were a few around on Amazon and eBay when I looked.


Sartorial Splendor for the Mile High City

Hi People! You may remember my mentioning that I'll be going to Denver to do a demonstration for the Denver Public Library - a Tassel and Pompon-a-Thon. I'm really looking forward to it! Tickets go on sale tomorrow, for those of you who are in the area. Be sure and join me!

For the trip, I want to make myself a new suit. It's important to always look your best! I found a fun vintage hat a while back on Etsy and when it came I was inspired by it to put this outfit together.
The hat has a very peculiar texture to it. Here's a close up of it:
It reminded me of silk noil. Noil is a fabric that was popular in the 70's and 80's. It's made of the ends and scraps of silk fiber left over from making other types of silk and has a rough, nubbly texture and in the natural color, it has some flecks of brown in it.
It's a very nice weight for a suit and has a casual quality while still looking smart. I decided to use noil for my suit. Now this choice is "forward thinking" for the 1960's style I have selected to make to go with the hat, noil wasn't used regularly until the mid 70's, but that's fine. I've always been a trailblazer... I had some trouble finding silk noil in the market today. It's fallen out of fashion, I'm afraid. None of my favorite stores in the garment district stocked it in the colors I wanted. So, I turned to the internet. I eventually found it at a silk importer called Thai Silks. They have a wide variety of silk fabrics, and a nice collection of noils. They also have a 1/2 yard minimum, and their prices are very competitive. If you're looking for silk, it's a good source. (This is a genuine review of the company. I paid for my fabric purchase there)
The style I decided to make is a smart, boxy 60's suit. The jacket will be cut with a kimono sleeve. I looked for this pattern for quite a while. A kimono sleeve is cut in one with the body of the jacket, and I wanted a pattern that was fitted to the body with princess seams and an underarm seam. I eventually found it on eBay. I was lucky enough to find a pattern with the trimming detail I was looking for, so I didn't have to create it myself. The jacket will be cut in the natural color and trimmed with contrast piping in one of the colors. The sleeveless blouse will be made of the other color and trimmed in the natural. The skirt will be a simple straight skirt in the same natural as the jacket.

My first step is to make a muslin of the jacket, to make sure the pattern fits me well. Then I can cut and sew the fashion fabric. I'll be sure and check in with you to show you my progress in the coming weeks, and you'll see the final effect at my appearance in Denver - in person if you're in town, if not then in the subsequent video we shoot out there!

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Why We Wuv Woodie - The Allure of the Station Wagon

I've been working on a project lately, and it's lead me to become fascinated with station wagons. Specifically, the Mercury Colony Park station wagon
and the Ford Country Squire station wagon from the 70's.
These were the top of the line back in their day - the Hummer of the 70's. They were both status symbol and practical transportation. It's interesting that, though most people consider station wagons to be "square", there is a large and growing faction that really revere them.
I count myself among that faction. What great looking cars these were!
The station wagon was big business in the 70's, so much so that concept models were developed to wow the car buying public. This one is a good example of the trend. Note the luxurious wrap-around seating in the back, the swivel seat on the passenger side and the glamorous suicide doors. It's more like a living room than an automobile.
While researching this new obsession, I came across a site that extrapolates the idea of automobile envy to it's logical ends. It's the Internet Movie Cars Database - a listing of the cars used in film and television productions, with photographs, like this one above of a Mercury Colony Park wagon featured in the television series Wonder Woman.
Or this one, of the Ford LTD Country Squire used in the original Stepford Wives film. If you're interested in cars and film, then this site will be fun to dive into.

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04-14 Corn Bread with a Happy Surprise - Wiener Loaf

Hi people! For my April episode, I'm again joined by my friend Margot Potter - The Impatient Crafter. She's showing Mary Ellen and I how to make Wiener Loaf! It's remarkably easy and lots of fun. Here's how:
You'll need:

2 corn muffin mixes
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 package of hot dogs
Butter or crisco

Begin by greasing your loaf pan. We used crisco, but you can use butter or cooking spray if you like. Then pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Make up one of the corn bread mixes as directed on the box and spread it in your greased pan. Next, place three of the wieners on top of the dough. Place them so that any slice will have part of at least one of the wieners. Then prepare the next mix and spread it on top of the first. Slice horizontal parallel lines into the surface of the last two wieners and place them on top of the batter. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.


Fashion A La Mode - Modes Royale Patterns

There's a lot of joy for me in the art and craft of sewing. I've been indulging in it quite a bit lately and have been buying not only vintage fabric, but vintage patterns as well. I've come across a brand that I hadn't heard of before, and it's become a mini-obsession. The brand is Modes Royale.
What's so wonderful about these patterns is the attention to detail. The styles frequently features 3 or 4 dressmaker details on one dress alone. Flaps, bound buttonhole slots through which scarves are threaded, peplums, odd shaped pockets, the creativity boggles the mind! I've been looking on eBay and Etsy for examples of them and recently came across some of the pattern books from the late 60's.
By that time, the brand had become somewhat more subdued than in it's heyday of the 40's and 50's, but there are a few fun styles in the catalogs that I thought I'd share with you.
One of my favorite styles is the shift. It just looks good on me, so I tend to make a lot of them. These two feature details that are common for the brand - slot seams and a flange on a side closing
Another shift with a dramatic keyhole back and attached scarf.
Here's a fun halter with a pert little collar.
I love this chic tunic with the low belt.
This little dropped waist number has port hole pockets!
I love a chic shirtwaist and this one has very nice lines.

Modes Royale patterns can be found on auction sites and if you're lucky in thrift shops. The more outrageous ones can be quite sought after by collectors and can fetch a pretty penny. If you're an experienced pattern maker, you can use the illustrations as inspiration for your own garments. If you're interested, has a PDF file of several of the catalogs from the 40's and 50's. It's great resource material for the flashier garments of the period.

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High on Hicks - Design From a David

David Hicks has become a great source of inspiration for modern day designers like Jonathan Adler, and, for that matter, myself for a good reason. He was a master at creating beautiful rooms that were both formal and casual at the same time. His ability to mix traditional and modern pieces and his bold use of color (traits he shares in common with Eero Saarinen) make his interiors both serious and whimsical at the same time.
In the 1970's, he published a series of decorating books that are a bit hard to come by now-a-days. I was lucky enough to get my hands on David Hicks - On Decorating with Fabric a while back, and it's been a joy to study his work.
Some of what he does has an almost candy like quality to it. The rooms look good enough to eat, bursting with flavor. these are a few of my favorite plates from the above mentioned book. I hope you'll find them as inspiring as I do.
This was his own bedroom in New York.
I love the use of lacquered walls in the two images above.
This dining nook is a good example of the mixing of modern and traditional. The architecture in the room has a decidedly antique quality and he mixes it with modern Saarinen tulip chairs and table.

The attention to detail and boldness of spirit are definitely an inspiration to me. I hope they are to you as well! Who are some of your design inspirations? Could you live in a David Hicks room?