"What In the Macrame Is it?": Crafting Catastrophes of the 70s

Ah, macrame: the knotwork craft that hatched a million decorative owls. Join me today as we view the harvest-colored horrors that take macrame to the most muddled max.

So, say hi to Judy. It’s 1977 and our fresh-faced Judy has a youthful air of optimism about her. And just why is this? Because Judy knows her path is entwined with the glory of macrame stardom. Why, Judy is lead designer of at least THREE macrame books which you see here...

But, as any proper VH1 “Behind The Music” special will tell you, with the rise to fame also comes the fall. And when one falls from the peak of macrame success, you can only HOPE you’ve got your knots tied tightly.

So-- “What in the Macrame Is It?”...

Once again, it’s one of those titles that pretty much speaks for itself.

The title is further reinforced by THIS, the first project in the book...

I give you... The Bird Cage Lamp.

Now think about this. You have a pendant lamp, with a globe shade, but it just seems to be missing that special something. So what do you do?

Why, you entrap it entirely in a dense netting of flammable fibrous material! The thrilling element of danger provided by the possibility of spontaneous combustion is equalled only by the mind-expanding challenge of changing the lightbulb inside!

This is the macrame lamp that could keep you entertained for HOURS. If solely to figure how to remove the bulb.

How many macrame artists does it take to change a lightbulb? Here’s the PERFECT chance to FIND OUT!

Now what if you’re looking for a macrame project with all the class of a high-end antique?

Well, how about the “Tiffany Table”?

What’s that you say?... it ‘looks like a HOT AIR BALLOON’?

Well, perhaps you just don’t recognize timeless taste and classic style when you see it! Because this is a PRECISE replica of a Dale Tiffany lamp and...

...You don’t recall Tiffany lamps having glass tabletops dangling from them?

Or holding potted plants?

Or being made of string instead of quality stained glass leaded together by artisans?

Well, perhaps it’s best we move onto another project, then. Something that’s more to your liking.

So here I bestow upon you... “Happiness”!

Bet ya didn’t know Happiness involved orange macrame, did you?...

It’s a little-known fact.

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it appears that the keys to Happiness include:

--A harvest-colored bow

--Tassels, tassels, tassels

--And some dusty dried flowers shoved into a macramed pocket!

If this is Happiness, I’d hate to see what Deep Depression looks like.

Or at the very least, it makes a person question the human race’s age old pursuit of it.

Okay-- moving on.

Are those sleigh bells I hear? I do believe so! And when we hear sleigh bells, what instantly springs to mind, dear friends?

Why, owls of course! The harvest-colored yarn owls that pull Santa’s sleigh!

Can’t you hear Santa calling now?...

“On Woodsy! On Hedwig! On... er... That-Owl-With-The-Tootsie-Roll-Pop!...”

And here comes Santa Claus!

Leaping out of the sleigh, this Santa slides easily down the chimney due to some sort of macrame-induced anorexia.

Oh, sure, Santa HAS lost SOME weight...

Some significant weight...

Okay, so he looks like Billy Crystal in a beard.

But the 70s took its toll on even the best of ‘em.

Just look at Judy.

In this book, “Twas the Knot Before Christmas,” Judy has swapped her earlier bouffant and hoop earrings in order to pursue her dream of becoming a John Denver impersonator.

But there’s a dark side to John Denver impersonation.

And macrame.

And the next project might just explain why. Yes, you read that right...

The item on the far left of that photograph is the “Weed Pouch.” In fact, it’s a “Double Weed Pouch.”

The makers of the book seem to have demonstrated it with wild flowers in it. But who are we kidding? Only the combination of macrame and narcotics could possibly explain the desire to conveniently store your wooden kitchen utensils in something fibrous and linty.

This is from “Variety: The Spice of Macrame” (no, I really COULDN’T have made up these names) and in this last book, I think we really start to see what happens when the career in John Denver impersonating falls through, and all Judy has is owls... owls... owls.

Doesn’t her smile look a little strained?

And oh, are there OWLS!

Yep, “Three-Way Owls.” Variety (the Spice of Macrame) is in being able to make your owl hanging THREE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT WAYS--

On a hoop!...

On a stick!...

Or, on... er... another stick!

(Oh, but the eyes are different aren’t they? The eyes? A little?)

Well, sorry to tie you up so long today in the Wide World of Macrame. I hope that was knot a problem. :)

See you next week, when we go Florida Thrifting!

Thanks to You and Some Giving, Too!: Victorian Thanksgiving Postcards

Pull up a chair to the table and help yourself to some of that beautifully-roasted bird up there. This postcard is a Raphael Tuck card postmarked 1909. Yup, almost a century ago, and the setting is as appropriate for so many Americans today as it was then!..

Well, okay, so maybe not appropriate for MY family; I spend the holiday in the Florida Keys with my dad, who is retired, and my Thanksgiving feast involves beloved traditions like fresh steamed shrimp and crab legs dripping with butter and lemon ...

...I’m aware most folks don’t share happy memories of the annual Thanksgiving Crustacean.
That said, I thought I’d share with YOU some favorite Victorian Thanksgiving postcards from my collection-- which are 100% shellfish-free. And at the end of today’s post, there will be a little downloadable surprise for you as my way of saying thanks for visiting The Thrift Shop Romantic blog this year.

Turkey. The late Victorians were virtually unable to talk Thanksgiving without talking Turkey. And if you look carefully, you begin to suspect the scenarios they depict would not have been QUITE so idyllic as they portray.

For instance, one of my cherished cards here:

Awwww.... the baby has just learned to walk! Only now there’s simply no stopping him. So far he’s gone after the cat, the dog, the rooster, and now the turkey is being chased as part of a special holiday aerobics program.

Except anyone who knows the general disposition of turkeys knows that turkeys all have some attitude. So what self-respecting turkey is going to put up with a lengthy slow-speed barnyard chase scene instigated by a cherub-cheeked child in a ruff?

No good can come of this.

Now THIS poor girl is under the impression that she can make friends with the turkey through bribery...

You have to wonder who sent the child outside, not with loose grain, but with a corn cob to hand-feed the turkey? It’s probably that one goofy relative everyone has.

You know the one: that crazy Cousin Lou or weird Uncle Jimmy who, when you were five, thought it was HILARIOUS to play keep-away with your favorite stuffed toy? Or let it slip accidentally-on-purpose that your old dog Blue wasn’t sent to a farm to live after all?

Yep, he’s probably watching at the window of the house right now, waiting to see just what happens. He and cousin Eustace might even be making bets on the action...

At least it passes the time until college football starts.

Now THIS little girl has more of the right idea...

Look at the trepidation on her face. She is saying to herself, “Those birds are monstrous big and they’re beginning to circle. I’d try to pet one but I may need all my fingers for kindergarten next year. Perhaps I should think of some better pastimes than standing outside in the November cold without a coat.”

In contrast, there’s THIS kid...

He’s been desensitized a LONG time ago by “Old Yeller” and “The Yearling” and “Call of the Wild” and “Charlotte’s Web” and all those tearful classics we had to read. He’s made good friends with our friend trusting Tom Turkey, sure, so his smiling contemplation as he holds that axe is just a little unnerving...

And look at the turkey. Now there’s a turkey who not only feels betrayal but knows his goose is cooked...

Especially if he’s seen the little culinary equivalent of the Jolly Roger symbol there to the side of the card as we zoom in here...

Ah, but the Victorian era was not only about the eternal struggle between Child and Turkey. Here are just a few other cards from the same era, these depicting the serenity and beauty of the Thanksgiving autumn season...

Oh, and somehow still sorta about turkeys, though. Notice the number of them employed in even their most subtle designs. The Victorians clearly had their priorities when it came to Thanksgiving! (Here’s a rather beautifully-colored one which is entirely void of turkeys, believe it or not...)

I hope that YOUR Thanksgiving offers you some pleasant times with family and friends-- no matter what your dinner entails.

As a special treat, I leave you with this; I’ve placed scans of three of the cards you’ve seen today into a PDF document which you can download, print out and use for your own crafting/decoupage projects! Just click the file name below to begin downloading:


And next week? We’ll have “What in the Macrame Is It?” a humorous look at some very 70s crafts. Hope to see you then!

Of Teacups and Toto: Holiday Decorating Swap

What do you get when a fan of the Wizard of Oz, and a lover of Victoriana swap holiday treasures? Some wonderful surprises for the season.

This was my third swap arranged by the members of the Cottage Living decorating forum, and like the others, it was enormous fun planning, scheming, and scouring the shops for the right things. Our challenge this time was to create a package for our swap partners with items that reflected any of the fall holidays. and there needed to be at least one item that would be for a holiday table, and one ornament.

The package from my swap partner, Jenny, arrived this last week, and it really was a bit like Christmas opening it. This is what she sent me:

Some dried flowers-- (what good Victorian doesn’t have dried flowers at least somewhere in the house?), a paint brush to enable a bit of art, a candle which smells temptingly like orange creamscicles, a jar of olives and an amazing teacup.

The teacup is an absolutely shining addition to my collection. It’s a dark green covered in a really unusual combination of delicate spiderwebs and purple foxglove. I’ve never seen any like it and can’t wait to use it on my table!

The jar of olives I thought was an inspired bit of humor-- which is also pretty obscure, so I’ll explain. For folks who read my recent blog tag about “Seven Things You Might Not Know About Me,” (as clearly Jenny must have!) you might remember I have this inexplicable, deep-rooted love of black olives that traces back to childhood, where my family would actually put a can of them in my Christmas stocking. (Or on the mantle, really, because hey, a can of olives is REALLY HEAVY.) So this year the fine tradition of Christmas Olives carries on. I think if I can hold out from dipping into them until then, I’ll put them on the mantle at Christmastime. That would give me a laugh every time I go into the dining room.

Now onto the package from me to Jenny!

My swap partner I knew was a big fan of The Wizard of Oz. (I totally understand-- it was a favorite of mine growing up, too.) So I thought it might be fun to make her something along those lines. That’s what got me started on the “There’s No Place Like Home... For the Holidays” plaque project. (Instructions on how it was made and more photos can be found by clicking here.)

This, however, while a joy to make, didn’t fulfill my “something for the table” criteria of the swap. So I found this cute Frosty the Snowman inspired tablecloth.

Because my swap partner said she has a Craftsman house, and that she likes some non-traditional Christmas colors, I thought she might also like this basket of rustic-look apples in purples, navy and off-red. I thrifted a cute icy blue doily that appears to have poinsettias on it, just to soften it up a bit.

I also included a pretty Christmas-look tin filled with some fun vintage-look ornaments. Hopefully she’ll be able to find a place she can use them.

And that about wraps up the Holiday Swap! I hope you’ll come back next week when we step back into the late 60s and early 70s and discover “What In the Macrame Is It?” (And no, I didn’t even have to make up that title. You’ll see.)

Have a terrific week!

It's Beginning to Look at Tad Like Christmas

Christmas doesn’t usually come to my house in “tads.”

No, it rolls and rattles through Waterhouse more like The Polar Express, flinging garland and glitter to all sides with a relentless, unyielding frenzy of steam and smoke and grinding wheels.
And that’s just me decorating AFTER a cup of coffee.

But this year, maybe it’s because of the dark mornings... Maybe it’s the inspirational chats with my fellow decorators and crafters... Maybe it’s the influence of the holiday time-warp in the stores, where Christmas seems to arrive just moments after the Fourth of July...

But I am succumbing to holiday mood early this year.

So I thought I might drag you all into the pit of too-soon holiday anticipation, as well. Because hey, if I’m going down, I’m taking you all with me!!! (Mmmwwaaaha-ha-ha-haaaa!)...

Er, and also I found some fun stuff I thought you might like to see.

For instance, thinking Christmas a bit early means getting a running start on the thrift store Christmas decor. In the last week, I’ve found two different types of vintage-style ornaments.

Pink-lovers might be tickled the aforementioned color over the ornaments here. These came from our Salvation Army Superstore. They’re glass and covered in lace, ribbons and fringe.

And these gold ornaments marked “West Germany” seem to have some age to them. Quite a lot of goodies there for $1.49, don’t you think?

A quick trip to TJ Maxx helped me pin down the theme for my dining room this year. What Victorian house couldn’t benefit from a few vastly-overdressed sugarplum fairies?

Looks a little like a Cicely Mary Barker illustration of a Haute Couture fashion show, doesn’t it? Well, these shiny little ladies really got me thinking (always a dangerous prospect)...

And now I have plans for a room accented with the bright greens of Depression glass and beaded fruit-- elements of traditional winter nature contrasted with unnatural shimmer.

Somewhere in the depths of my basement are some pink velvet poinsettias I think I’ll use over the pocket doorways along with some realistic looking pine boughs. (That’s the beauty of having a Victorian home-- Christmas can be a shameless example of “More is More”)

And at Pat Catan’s yesterday I picked up some of these sparkly gold roses. With the flowers, some ribbon and a few extra accents, here’s hoping I’ll be on the way to a magical little Christmas display.

I’m also going to have to get cracking on a little project I’ve been planning-- making special gift decorations from scans of some of Victorian postcards. Scanned, printed in color and decoupaged onto a slim wooden backing, I was thinking these cards would make sweet and unique ornament-tags for the various gifts I give.

I figure, the more things I begin planning now, the more time I have to... er... avoid wrapping Christmas presents. Which I’m not good at, results in messy presentation and papercuts, and I like to put off for as long as possible...

Preferably until St. Paddy’s Day.

Perhaps the Victorian gift tags might even be a happy distraction. My gift recipients will take one look at them and say:

“My! What a fine and unique gift tag which I can also use as an ornament on my tree! It is so beautiful, I haven’t even noticed that the wrapping paper is bunchy and crooked and there seem to be strands of red hair somehow tangled and wrapped into it. Why, I love this so much I will never even see that bit of fingernail and those drops of blood stuck to the Scotch tape.”

(I put a lot of myself into gift-giving. :-) )

Yes indeed, with craft projects and shiny decorations and only minor personal injury, it’s impossible NOT to be excited about this time of year-- there are so many good things ahead. In the coming weeks, there’ll be the familiar sounds of the ol’ “A Charlie Brown Christmas” CD...

The scent of mulled apple cider in the air...

And the annual evening with a certain bespectacled boy in quest of a beloved bb gun...

But in the meantime-- keep your tongues off the frozen flagpoles, dear friends, and next week, we’ll talk a tad more holiday cheer as I show you the results of a holiday decorating swap I’d participated in. (Yes, yes, I know I’d said last week we’d talk about The Holiday Swap but it was delayed due to difficulties in finding the right size shipping box.. Yes, it’s that bad wrapping again.)

So Holiday Swap next week, I promise and cross my heart.