Monday, March 29, 2010

K is for Knitting

is for

Knitting is one of those things I've always been intrigued with, and though I've never accomplished this skill myself, I greatly admire those who do knit. If I lived in a cooler climate, one would find me happily wearing sweaters year round. Hand-knit sweaters in particular have long been one of my wardrobe weaknesses. I appreciate the time and talent that goes into creating these garments.

In the late 70s and on into the 80s, the clothing company, BEREK, created hand knitted sweaters that were the fashion rage. Many were theme related such as Dog is Man's Best Friend, Sailor's Delight or Halley's Comet, in honor of the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1986. Other designers followed the same trend, and it was common to find hand knitted sweaters. Even though I no longer wear many of my sweaters, I've not been inclined to part with these little works of art. I've carefully stored them with the thought that someday I might transform some of these into throw pillows.

Even though I don't knit myself, I'm fortunately at times the recipient of others' talents in this area. This past Christmas my friend, Kay, knitted this wonderfully warm and cuddly scarf for me. It's knitted in Mano's luxurious blend of merino wool and silk.

Mano yarns are hand dyed to create a marbleized, subtly striated effect. These yarns are the product of Manos del Uruguay, the Hands of Uruguay, which is a nonprofit organization that assembles over 400 artisans in cooperatives throughout the countryside of Uruguay in an effort to bring economic and social opportunities to rural women. You can read more about this organization here. It goes without saying that I treasure this thoughtful gift specifically made just for me, but my appreciation only increased once I read the story of the yarn that Kay selected to use for this scarf.

And such was the case when I recently discovered another wardrobe item of the knitted variety, Sarah Oliver Handbags. A local boutique had received their first shipment of Sarah Oliver Handbags on the day I just happened to stop in. I was immediately smitten. The clutches in the Laurel Collection are knit from imported highland Peruvian wool.

Though available in a choice of colors, 

I selected classic black . . .

with a beautiful brooch 

in the shape of a starfish.

Not only was the clutch a perfect accessory for an upcoming evening wedding I would attend, it was the wonderful heartwarming story of Sarah Oliver Handbags that made this purchase a must. Sarah Oliver, the artistic genius behind these unique handbags, has knitted since she was a child. She first began knitting whimsical handbags as gifts for friends and family. Her unique bags received so much attention that Sarah started selling her bags. As demand grew, she could no longer knit them by herself. When she decided to grow her business of stylish hand knitted bags, Sarah turned to residents of The Redwoods Senior Retirement Community to help produce her bags. She recruited a group of "ageless knitters"! Click on the video above to hear this amazing story of how Sarah Oliver has given new purpose to a group of retirees.

The Purlettes

The Purlettes are a group of ladies who are the backbone of Sarah's company. All residents of The Redwoods Senior Retirement Community, these "nimble-fingered" octogenarians and beyond meet weekly to knit for Sarah Oliver Handbags. They are a group of talented knitters who help produce the high quality bags that Sarah personally designs and finishes.

I'm not associated with Sarah Oliver Handbags other than as an admirer and very satisfied customer, but I am extremely impressed with the business model of Sarah Oliver Handbags. Not only do I appreciate the beautiful designs, the high quality, and the hand crafted aspect of these bags, it is the fact that Sarah has provided respect and opportunity to a group of ladies in her community who otherwise would not have the opportunity to use their talents as productive business partners. Kudos to Sarah Oliver for her vision of a uniquely creative way to grow her business right here in the United States. It's exactly the type of business I want to support!

You can find a list of stores and boutiques that carry Sarah Oliver Handbags or @

 With a Sarah Oliver Handbag you'll own a unique accessory and give support to a small business that offers a uniquely "Made in America" product. Thank you to Sarah Oliver for permission to use photos and the video.

And don't forget to head on over to Mrs. Matlock's where you'll find a class full of Letter K assignments for your reading pleasure. Thank you, Mrs. Matlock for this fun filled weekly meme. I'm also linking this post to Show and Tell Friday with Cindy @ My Romantic Home. Check in with Cindy on Friday to see what others in Blogville have to share that day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pink Saturday Eggstravaganza

The egg is the symbol of fertility 

and rebirth of the earth in springtime.

With Easter just a week away and spring in the air, I decided a little eggstravaganza was appropriate for today. You can click on the mosaic to enlarge to see the details of these hand painted eggs. Many years ago my mother started me off on the road to this collection of hand decorated eggs that I bring out each Easter season. For many years, my mother would give her children and grandchildren one of these china eggs each Easter that one of her friends had hand painted. Then as I saw other hand painted eggs that caught my attention I would add to my little nest. Each of the eggs in the individual egg stands were painted by a local artist in the 1990s.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

J is for Journals

is for


Journals have long been a favorite means of recording one's thoughts, ideas, or experiences. Though I'm not one who keeps a daily journal, I often record experiences in a travel journal and enter observations or ideas into a garden journal to help transition from season to season.

Page From One Of Laurie Doctor's Journals

My recent studies with Laurie Doctor have inspired me to be more attentive to journal writing. Laurie advocates writing a line a day. She suggests that one give one's self at least 10 minutes a day to write in a personal journal. It need not be prose. She says write down random words or thoughts, sketch something that catches the eye, or even attach a snippet of something meaningful. It can be a poem you've read or a song you've heard.

Page From One Of Laurie Doctor's Journals

Another idea that Laurie shared is to use the journal space randomly. One doesn't have to fill a page before moving onto a new page. She flips back and forth between the pages of her journal. This provides interest to each page as if it is a collage of time or place or ideas. I also feel this makes the process easier and less structured. Notice in the above example, Laurie has used different writing styles, turned the page a different angle, and used colored ink at times.

Page From One Of Laurie Doctor's Journals

Here Laurie has added braille to the page along with a piece of foreign currency. She then included her own interpretation of the bill.

Page From One Of Laurie Doctor's Journals

The morning before departing, I had breakfast with Laurie at our hotel. As we sat visiting and enjoying some leisure time, Laurie made entries onto a page in her journal. She had drawn off a series of small squares and then sketched a piece of fruit from our breakfast into each box. Then she quickly tinted each with her watercolors. I noted that she added a little line about where she was and who she was with at the time. It is just such entires that she advocates. Simply record the moment.

Page From One Of Laurie Doctor's Journals

I'm not an artist or a calligrapher, but the idea is that one can use their own handwriting and do different things with it. Sketching can be simply drawing the lines of the shapes one sees. The focus is on using the page as a means to express something for yourself. It doesn't need to be shared with others. It's an echo of a memory, something that reminds us of the moment.

Page From One Of Laurie Doctor's Journals

I like the way Laurie mixed words with sketches for her thoughts on this page.

Sara Midda published IN AND OUT OF THE GARDEN IN 1981. It's a wonderful potpourri of garden lore, while SARA MIDDA'S SOUTH OF FRANCE SKETCHBOOK, 1990, is a personal journal of her year's sojourn in the south of France. Both are beautiful examples of the type of entries one might include in a daily journal. Delightful and delicious, the pages of both these books offer inspiration.

Page From One Of Laurie Doctor's Journals

Laurie makes her own journals so that the size and paper is of her choosing. Her journals are bound so that they lay flat for ease of writing or sketching. Arches paper is perfect for the pages because it takes both ink and watercolor. I noted that Laurie also mixes in a few other types of paper for variety. Some are folded to add different dimensions, and pockets or envelopes are also added. Laurie likes to either use a brad or a needle and thread to hand sew items onto a page.

I recently read Sandra Gulland's trilogy of Josephine Bonaparte. Ms. Gulland skillfully tells the story through the voice of Josephine in the writing of fictionalized journal entries. It is an enchanting means by which to reveal the life story of this intriguing lady. The series left me feeling as if Josephine were a close friend who had shared her most intimate thoughts.

Though each of these novels stand on their own, I recommend that they be read in succession as they seamlessly chronicle the life of Josephine Bonaparte. Click here to read my review on THE MANY LIVES AND SECRET SORROWS OF JOSEPHINE B. Click here for the review on TALES OF PASSION, TALES OF WOE. Click here for the review on THE GREAT LAST DANCE.

Thank you for stopping by today. For more Letter J Lessons in Mrs. Matlock's class, click here.

And a huge THANK YOU, MRS. MATLOCK for the thoughtful gift certificate. No doubt there will be new books arriving soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I is for Ink, Inkwells, and Inspiration

is for

Ink, Inkwells, and Inspiration

Handmade book by Laurie Doctor
(click photo to enlarge)

Early Darkness
D. Patrick Miller

Think of it as ink:
An indigo dye descending
Between the leaves of the trees
and down to the grasses.

There is no dying of the light - -
just the washing of a bowl,
and overturning it for the night.

When day arrives we must write with
bottled darkness.
In the night we can dream
free messages of light.

Welcome to another lesson for Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday class. I recently attended a workshop on The Poetry of Handwriting with Laurie Doctor. It was two days filled with both ink and inspiration. We worked with black sumi ink, walnut ink, white ink, and any other colors one brought along. Laurie, a talented painter, designer, and calligrapher lives in Kentucky. She teachers classes throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and New Zealand.

Visit to learn more about this talented lady.

Sumi ink is made from vegetable oils and soot. Traditionally it is made from grinding an ink stick, but it is also available in liquid form ready to use. Thousands of years ago Asian artisans discovered how to use this burned residue as an ink. Used for both sumi painting and calligraphy, this black ink can provide tonal variations from deep black to silvery gray.

Walnut ink as you might guess is brown. The walnut produces juglone, a toxic substance to other plants and some animals. It is the juglone that creates the dark color in the walnut hulls. This rich brown ink is wonderful for creating an earthy background on which to use the sumi ink. It is also fun to use this ink with various writing tools.

For me, one of the sad realities of the modern world of technology is that the hand written word is becoming scarce. In this day of cell phones, text messages, emails, and twits, many have abandoned the handwritten note or letter. Students today often don't receive formal handwriting lessons to learn the appropriate strokes of beautiful script. I grew up in the era of fountain pens; when one had to write out all assignments in long hand. I loved the idea of putting ink on paper. The fluid movement of the nib moving across the paper was like magic to me. The rhythm of that writing sang as if it were a sweet melody. My well used original Parker pen still sits on my desk.

I suppose it's no surprise that this love of writing with ink would naturally lead to an interest in and affection for ink wells. I'm a collector at heart and shopping antique markets is a favorite pastime. Though I didn't set out to specifically collect inkwells, the form has captured my imagination.

This crystal inkwell with a plum top sits within a pewter stand. It was made in France in recent years.

The larger of the three is this heavy crystal block with sterling lid. Though it is clearly marked, I've not been able to date this piece.

The smallest of the three is just an inch square and a little over an inch and a half tall. Both this one and the larger one were found at local antique shows years ago.

This is a vintage traveling ink well that was a purchase many years ago while roaming a London antique market.

The leather case opens to reveal a brass container in which to hold ink.

This group of Quimper ink wells gather on another tray that moves about our home. Each of these date to around 1920 - 1930.

The heart shaped one is the first piece of vintage Quimper I acquired. It was a birthday gift from a group of friends given to me in the 1980s. It was the piece that fueled my interest in the antique and vintage pieces of French faience.

A souvenir from a California vacation one summer, this little faience charmer is new production from the 1980s. It is simply marked France Decor Main.

It opens to this sweet little flower shaped stopper covering the well.

More faience ink wells can be found among books in a guest bedroom. These three were produced by Alcide Chaumeil and are known simply as CA faience because of the mark.

I first saw this square example in the collection of a fellow QCI member. I was fortunate to find one for myself a year or so later.

It appealed to me because of the mechanics of this box. The ceramic lid pivots across to reveal the well for the ink. I suspect this is a rare form.

Another rare form is this CA figural of a Breton fisherman pulling in his catch. The coiled rope is the lid to the inkwell which I purchased in France.

A French market find, this rather large piece is unfortunately missing its lid. I found it laying in a box of assorted things at a weekend brocante. The price was too good to pass it by, so it too resides among the others, sans hat as Debbie @ Confessions of a Plate Addict says. You can read about her recent French ink well find here.

A sweet pair of bunnies were an eBay score. One holds the quills and the other the ink well. They are Desvres production.

A limited edition piece, this handsome ink stand was produced in 1990 by HB Henriot to commemorate the tricentennial of the faience of Quimper. The hand painted scene depicts the city of Quimper and the Odet River. The soft blue glaze and the fine detailed painting make this a remarkable piece.

A documentation card provided with this piece shows the other limited edition pieces that were produced for this special occasion.

And lastly are these heavy ceramic Moroccan ink pots that I purchased in the souks of Marrakech. I found the rustic character with the vibrant turquoise and amber details irresistible.

With all these ink containers about the house and my professed passion for the handwritten word, what do you suppose will be my topic of choice for next week's letter J lesson?

I'm linking this post to both Alphabe-Thursday and Three or More Tuesday.
See you in class! Just click here to skip back over to Mrs. Matlock's.
On Tuesday click here to join Tam @ The Gypsy Corner for Three or More Tuesday.

References for this post: