Wednesday, May 6, 2015

For Keeps

Wooly boxes on their way to a show.
 What would we do without boxes? Where would we put all of our treasures, supplies, and even food? Of all the items I collect, the box is my favorite. These long appreciated receptacles of life have found a very necessary and affectionate way into our hearts and homes.

     As I am not a historian I will not attempt to give my readers a date in history of the first box, but the Bible makes mention of the box in the Old Testament. There are some very ancient boxes that I have viewed in museums. However, the boxes I gather are of a different sort--more utilitarian in nature. These are mostly constructed of wood and date to the early 19th century. Everything from flour, cornmeal, spices, sugar, and tea to documents, artist's supplies, Bibles, sewing items, and candles was tucked away in them. I have large boxes for blankets and linens and tiny boxes for, well, I am not sure what some of them were for! They all are hand made, well-constructed, and beautiful. Their age is showing, but to me that makes them even more appealing.

Early Boxes possibly for documents.
In the end, who can have enough boxes? Where would we keep our mementos, articles we will some day read, cards from loved-ones, photos, jewelery, and on goes the list? I for one am always on the look-out for another wood, tin, or paper box. They hold a lot of possibilities within their spaces. And when I cannot recall what is in a box, it is an opportunity to rediscover, and I am rarely disappointed in what I find.

Early diminuative tin boxes

19th century meal bin 

Antique wallpaper-covered band boxes

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What is a Woolie?

Antique Woolie
Photo by Paul Vandekar
     Over a decade ago I was reading a periodical for those whose interests include antiques, when I came upon a work of folk art depicting a ship at sea which was completely stitched using wool. The caption declared that it was called a "woolie" and was worked by a sailor. This was fascinating to me for two reasons; I love nautical motifs and the term used to describe this piece. The name resonated with me and I quickly decided that it was exactly the word I was looking for to describe my wool applique work. So as not to cause any confusion, I decided to spell it "wooly".

Antique Woolie
Photo by Paul Vandekar

     Woolies are pictures stitched by sailors on their long journeys at sea. They used mostly wool but also silk or cotton and most often were nautical in theme.There are British and American examples of woolies and original works can bring strong prices. Be sure to follow this link to a wonderful article that explains the world of woolies and their makers written by Paul Vandekar.   Woolie Catalog
Antique Woolie
Photo by Paul Vandekar

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Commemoration in Wool Applique

                                          Once again it the season of Statehood in Ohio!
A simple project in cotton & wool.

     What can I say about Ohio that I have not already articulated in my last Annual Statehood Day Post? We spent a lot of time touring the state last year and met a lot of wonderful people. As always our travels take us to antique shows & shops, historic sites, museums, and fabric shops. Also, trying a few new restaurants and of course exploring the waterways and parks that we are so blessed to be able to enjoy.

     As we begin another season of living here in Ohio, I was inspired to create another wool applique piece which I want to share with you. I call this "Circa 1803". There are 17 Ohio star motifs as we are the 17th state in the union. 1803 was the year of our statehood and is partnered with the colors of our state banner. I am including the pattern pieces for this wooly free for your own enjoyment.

Happy Statehood Day, Ohio!

Full project finish size 11.5'' h x 27.5''w (without border)
Light Backgroun 11.5" h x 17.5'' w
Dark End Pieces 11.5" h x 5.5"w

Click here for pattern pieces.

     Maybe I will see you around Ohio this year as I will be traveling to promote the release of my first book. The projects were designed and the text was completely written in Ohio. So much of what I love about this state is in this book.


Friday, February 6, 2015

A Folk Art Legacy of the Old House Kind

Early, woven, Ohio coverlet that came with our house.
     Our old house has a legacy. When we were looking for an early house to preserve, we could never have made a list of what we ended up with and given it to our realtor and said, "We needed a house, with a cottage to live in while we work on the main house, lots of walnut trees for dyeing wool, tons of rock to build walls all around the property, a great western view, and a history of folk art & antiques". That is just what we have been so blessed to find and be the stewards of.

     There were some items left with the house and we have been able to piece together quite a history over the years. We even had the opportunity to speak with a lady who had grown up in the house when it had been in her family from the beginning. There have also been a series of owners who all seem to have shared a love of antiques and collecting. There are stories of auctions being held in the living room and there was an "interesting" shed on the back of the house that was an antique shop at one time. We have heard from so many people how they would come to this house to buy antiques. My thought is that an old house inspires a love of all things old, and a shared interest in seeing these pieces preserved.

Hooked rug of a young girl who lived in the house.
It was hooked by her mother circa 1940's.
A view of the kitchen window
     The other legacy that was such a surprise is that this house had a previous folk artist in residence. She was an avid painter, rug hooker, and writer. A generous neighbor gifted us with one of her rugs soon after we moved here. In the sifting through of the items left in the house, we came across a painting of hers of a summertime view of the back of the house. We were also given a copy of a story she wrote about moving her family to this house (then an entire farm) in the 1920's. She recounts the hardships of no electricity or plumbing, some unwanted visitors of the furry kind, and views of our small town when it was dirt roads and still very rural.

So, now we have taken on the construction of the next part of our house's history. It is once again home to two folk artists, a writer, musician, and a builder of stone walls, among other things. We know that being the caretakers of an old house is a life-long job and not an easy one, but we couldn't picture it being any other way just now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Antique Show

   By far my favorite shopping falls into the category of "antiquing". This has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. Although in all honesty, when I was young, I would hold my breath hoping that my parents wouldn't see the giant "Antiques" sign by the side of the road. Since, that never happened, I grew up wandering through shops full of very old things and usually managed to find something that interested me.
   It wasn't until my husband and I set up our own home that I really went all out for antiques. Over the years we (mainly I) have managed to plan trips around places with good antiquing or museums with great collections of early Americana.
Over the weekend, we attended one of my favorite antique shows of the year. It comes at just the right time as the holidays are over and winter has set in. By this time I need to get out and look an amazing collection of dealers and their wonderful antiques.

   Somehow I usually manage to find something that speaks to me although I can't always pay the price tag on that fabulous Penna-German decorated dower chest. What I did bring home however was a wonderful leather-bound hymnal of the diminutive size printed in 1839.
     I also, managed to bring home some great textiles. With these pieces, I will find lots of inspiration for future projects.
The best thing though about this show is the reunions. It seems around every corner of the show is another a friend. It was wonderful catching up, exchanging stories of the past year, and seeing what purchases had been made. Here we speak the same language: original surface, early construction, paint decoration, and so on.

So, in this new year, happy antiquing and maybe I'll see you browsing the isles of old things somewhere!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's In A Name?

A small fraction of the old books in our house.
  That is a great question and coming up with clever & smart names for things is just not my strength. If you have ever bought any of my work you may have noted the titles of the pieces. Such gems as "Cat with a Tulip", "House with Trees", or the ever-catchy "Flower in a Pot" are some of my better titles.
It's just a fact that I have had to come to terms with. When it comes to naming things I seem to have a block. We have three daughters and when we got to the last one you'd have thought we used every name in the book.

  So, how do you describe your work in the title of a book? Where do you even begin?

   I guess you begin with the obvious such as "Applied Wool: The Application of Wool to Wool", or "In Stitches: Laughing Your Way Through Wool Applique", also "Stitch It Don't Pitch It: My Life with Re-purposed Wool". Obviously, these didn't make the grade.

Great leather tomes.

     My next thought was to draw on my regard for certain classical literature. These titles I found particularly inspiring: "A Stitcher in the Dye", "Wool-thering Heights", "To Stitch a Wooly Bird", "A Tale of Two Threads",
"Great Wool-specations", or my favorite 
"The Call of the Wool".


     Alas, these too hit the "cutting room floor" with a thud. So, I deferred to those who do it best (mainly my editors) and we came up with "Wool Applique Folk Art" and they added what I think says it best, "Traditional Projects Inspired by 19th~Century American Life".
There is something about stacks of well-used books.

            So in the end, maybe my obvious titles are not so bad. It certainly leaves nothing to guess.

Coming June 15,2015.
Can be pre-ordered at

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Joyful & Bright


A great early door with old worn surface
adorned with one of my mother's wooly stars.

 The house has been festooned for the holiday, and we are ready to share with you some of our 
"Christmas Corners".

A wonderful old wool petticoat for those blustery winter days.
Not many people know that my dad is an amazing wood carver.
Here are just a couple examples of his Father Christmas'.
He does the carving, and mom and I do the painting.

     As I anticipate the coming Season, I have been casting back over the year that has passed, and am just so grateful. It began with me contemplating what to do with my work and the direction it was going, and being sure that I understand there is a plan for me put in motion by the Creator. When you work for yourself and your work is all about yourself, it can be very hard to just turn it off some times and take stock in what is around you. 

     So, here is a heart-felt greeting to all of you. Also, a huge "Thank you!" for all of the support and encouragement. I have heard from so many of you and it means so much. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a marvelous New Year!


Artwork by Karly A. Smith

P.S. I am still getting the hang of some of this tech stuff . Thank you for the lovely comments that I just found.