Monday, November 30, 2020

Free Printable: Christmas Lanterns Tags, Retro Style

Here is a little printable set of Christmas Lantern tags to begin the week. I worked on several dozen image sets this weekend, including these simple tags. They are from copyright-free lantern images, mainly from Christmas cards. In the 1940s through early 1960s, lanterns were prominent in the card industry. I can remember a kerosene lantern in our Destin, Florida beach house. This was in the 1960s. We'd use it at night to walk the beach, looking at the sea denizens that had come ashore. We saw many strange creatures, with the most impressive, to my eyes, being the horseshoe crabs. We never tried to hurt or gather anything we saw. We were just looking and marvelling. 

I have seen on some Facebook and Pinterest pages that old heaters and lanterns are being used as decor now. My husband has two old railroad lanterns on a shelf. The big lanterns I've seen have red or amber "fairy lights" or "rice lights" in them, and it really does give a glowing look. 

Please use this link HERE ----> CLICK HERE <----- to download your copy of the tag file from the Google Cloud, if you care to. If you save the sneak peek below, the file will have been compressed by Google Blogger and won't print nicely.

I know I did something this past weekend, but most of it escapes me. Oh, chores, of course, but some crafty things, too. That's right, glueing mini-pompoms on some commercial Christmas cards, and starting on some beaded ornaments. Knew I did something. Came up empty on my fir branch/pine branch hunt, though. Did you do anything enjoyable? I'm working on my HTML coding to try to get "threaded comments" going, where I can reply to the interesting remarks left on the blog, but so far, no success.

free printable christmas lantern tags

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame, Holly

Friday, November 27, 2020

Overdying Floss with Coffee

I did a little experiment a bit ago. I had a bargain bag of variegated floss from J&P Coates. When I bought the bag, I thought it had a large variety of floss, but it turned out just to be triples of each color. I like bright colors in some moods for some stitcheries, and muted colors for other stitcheries, so I decided to overdye a set of flosses.

I just used regular ground coffee, and a low-tech drip pot. I made it pretty strong, and I pushed the floss into the hot coffee, stirred it now and again, and then took it out after about three hours. In retrospect, it was not long enough. It looked like a good, deep overdye, but when I rinsed the floss after letting it dry and "set," a lot of the coffee color washed out, too. So the effect is very subtle.

In the photographs, it's hard to see the difference between the overdyed floss and the regular floss (paper bands still on). In real life, the difference is more obvious.

Some needleworkers are adamant to never use tea or coffee for overdying, but I look at it a bit differently: I have seen samplers and stitcheries that are 200 years old, and they are intact, despite how the people of the day prepared the dyes and even the floss itself. They aren't disentegrated despite a lot of hoo-haw over acidic content or tannins. But everyone has the right to their own opinion. Some of the little things I stitch, like a simple pinkeep/pincushion, don't need to be preserved for the next 500 years. An elaborate stitchery, perhaps yes.

I might try walnut dye in the future, but I hear it gives a gray tone, not a brown tone. I go back and forth on whether I like muted yellow-browns, or muted cool grays.

I think I'm going to stitch up a Valentine's pinkeep and then overdye the entire thing. Perhaps. I like the look of the muted tones on a very clear pastel fabric, or clear tones on muted fabric. I'm not sure about both floss and fabric being muted. 

Do you like the look of muted floss in a stitching project?

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving and On to St. Nicholas Day!

I hope everyone had a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving. Mine was very quiet. A bright spot was that the sickly little cat my son and daughter-in-law found a year-and-a-half ago, and promptly brought to me, ate mushed-up white turkey meat very, very well. I have to coax him to eat, and something he will eat willingly one day, he will refuse the next. Over seven vets now have not determined why he is so thin. We've tried so many tests and x-rays and ultrasounds. He is very happy and energetic, but I worry about his weight, even though he is a dastardly creature! 

Now our thoughts turn towards St. Nicholas Day! December 6th is his day, and the eve, December 5th, is when the children put out their shoes  (or a special "St. Nicholas boot") and leave food for his reindeer or donkey, in many olde countries. 

We don't have St. Nicholas in that form in the U.S., but we do harken to him in songs and poems where we hear about "Good St. Nick." He was evidently such a good man that he was later recognized as a veritable saint.

We also don't have Belsnickel, a very olde and strange gent. Many have heard of him because of the television show "The Office," where a character with a dour Pennsylvania Dutch background introduces the Old World precursor of St. Nick/Santa. The following is a summation from Wikipedia:

"Belsnickel is a man wearing furs and sometimes a mask with a long tongue. He is typically very ragged and disheveled. He wears torn, tattered, and dirty clothes, and he carries a switch in his hand with which to beat naughty children, but also pocketsful of cakes, candies, and nuts for good children.

"A first-hand 19th-century account of the "Beltznickle" tradition in Allegany County, Maryland, can be found in Brown's Miscellaneous Writings, a collection of essays by Jacob Brown (born 1824). Writing of a period around 1830, Brown says, "we did not hear of" Santa Claus. Instead, the tradition called for a visit by a different character altogether:

He was known as Kriskinkle, Beltznickle and sometimes as the Christmas Woman. Children then not only saw the mysterious person, but felt him or rather his stripes upon their backs with his switch. The annual visitor would make his appearance some hours after dark, thoroughly disguised, especially the face, which would sometimes be covered with a hideously ugly phiz [mask] - generally wore a female garb - hence the name Christmas Woman - sometimes it would be a veritable woman but with masculine force and action. He or she would be equipped with an ample sack about the shoulders filled with cakes, nuts, and fruits, and a long hazel switch which was supposed to have some kind of a charm in it as well as a sting. One would scatter the goodies upon the floor, and then the scramble would begin by the delighted children, and the other hand would ply the switch upon the backs of the excited youngsters - who would not show a wince, but had it been parental discipline there would have been screams to reach a long distance."

My family certainly kept the switch tradition alive. I often got switches (small flexible branches/long twigs) for Christmas, and I was often "switched" with them.

This is a modified representation of Belsnickel, straddling the fence between him and St. Nicholas. Note he still has his bundle of switches and a rather aggressive stance. For myself, I prefer the genial and gentle St. Nicholas!

Belsnickel St. Nick Pennsylvania Dutch Santa

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Remembering the Christmas Tree Lots of Yesteryear

I was very surprised to see in a friend's blog post that Christmas tree lots still exist in some big cities. With just one photograph, memories began flooding back. Why, it's been years and years since I remembered getting a Christmas tree from a lot. Some of that is because it's hard to remember, from a heart standpoint, when my family was full and living. There are so few of us left in my family of origin. And we had been a huge family, twelve around the table for supper. Now there are four and they are scattered over the globe. 

Christmas feather angel ornament

The tree lots had those hanging swags of lights, like a county fair. The bright smell of pine and fir was in the air. Sometimes, just like in the Peanuts show, there would be searchlights crisscrossing the low clouds that usually hung over New Orleans as the lots vied for customers. It seemed so strange and festive. And the sellers of the trees, hailing from Minnesota, were as interesting as the trees they sold. They were as astounded by our green and warm Christmastide as we were by their presence, their accents, and their talk of snow "back home." 

My last fresh-cut tree was bought almost 30 years ago, when I lived in New Mexico the first time. The area where the lot was set up is now unrecognizable, with a Walmart Supercenter sprawled over it. It had been raining, which is always exciting in the desert, and the lot was churned mud. I had a pair of knee-high wading boots on from my previous home, and I headed out to a cluster of Noble Firs when I bogged down completely. I could not pull my feet up, stuck fast and very surprised. At the time, I was still young and very thin, not even 100 pounds. To my relief but great embarrassment, one of the men at the lot slogged out to me and pulled me out of the mud -- but my boots were left behind. He carried me around, showing me the trees as if it's normal to have customers lose their footwear, and I picked one. Then he took me to the car, got it open, and in I went, socks still clean. But I never saw the boots again.

I wonder who still uses a fresh-cut tree? I'd love to, but even our hardware stores have stopped carrying them, except for potted Norfolk Pines. And they don't seem much like Christmas trees to me, even though we did have one on the porch in New Orleans for many years. At Christmastime, my mother would put a set of those red satin-wrapped 60's ornaments on it.

Thank'ee for stopping by.

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame, Holly

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Last of the Leaves

The sound outside of my window is a steady click-click-click, and brings to mind sleet or graupel, but it's just the falling of leaves. They are showering down at a steady rate, and already some branches are nearly bare. By tonight, I think they will be gone.

Did I already mention the lore about falling leaves? I think so, but it bears repeating: If you catch a falling leaf, you will have good luck for a year. Catching it in your apron counts, or in your held-out skirt. Keep the leaf somewhere. It can be tucked in a jar or the corner of a cabinet. Or it can be placed under a stone or in the hollow of a tree, and allowed to return to the earth.

I am very happy that I was able to catch a few photos before the leaves are gone. Seeing the sky through leaves is so uplifting. I'm now on the lookout for junipers or pi├▒on growing in an abandoned area, so that I can take a few small branches for crockery or buckets. And I do mean small: in the desert, there is no bounty of growing things. So, one must be very strict about taking just a few tiny pieces.

autumn leaves against the sky in new mexico

What's your favorite natural material to gather for Christmas? Are you partial to fir, holly, bare twigs? Once upon a time I had many items I would make from wheat, but none is to be had here.

I'm not sure how I will decorate my table for Thanksgiving. It's just my husband and I during this lockdown - and really, any time - well, just us and our beloved pets, two dogs and two cats. I very much hope to be able to finally pick up my needle and floss and work on some cross stitch after Thanksgiving dinner.

Thank'ee for stopping by.

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame, Holly 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Tag Fest During Lockdown

Our state (New Mexico) continues its lockdown, and most stores are closed. There's at least an hour-long wait to get into a grocery store or a Walmart, due to a rush on items, to both a Walmart and an Albertson's Grocery being shut because of COVID-positive staff, and to our location near the border and El Paso. 

Strangely, I was able to upload image files from home and have "contactless" delivery of the printed out tags from our Office Depot store. Hooray! 

printable digital tag sets from the merry olde dame on etsy, shown on a bed

So today I have been "fussy-cutting" the tags and now I'm ready to add the twine or ribbon to hang them, and to add extra decorations to some of them (such as fake snow or glitter). I have one up on the mantel already from a White Christmas set, and tomorrow or even maybe later tonight (I am awake during the night, unfortunately) I'll put the rest of that set up.

white christmas tag set on etsy by the merry olde dame

I found some nice "homespun" black and cream checked fabric at Hobby Lobby a few months back, and that's what I'm using to hang them. I just tear strips of the material and poke it through the hole I punched.

My poor doggie "Champ" was bitten/stung on his rear by SOMETHING. I'm guessing it was either a giant centepide or a scorpion. Ugh! He's "disabled," in that he was a victim of abuse that left him with a ruined back left leg before he was rescued, but he never lets that stop him. He's a mighty hunter, constantly hopping around the backyard and chasing anything he can. He's all heart, being a Chiweenie, and even confronts snakes, hoot owls, and once, a coatamundi. Our yard is walled, but somehow creatures find their way in, right in the city. Anyway, he saw the vet and he's predicted to be able to mend quickly. He's my little cuddlebug shadow; his "sister," a Bichon mix, is loving but much more reserved. 

I hope this Monday finds you well and happily occupied! If your state is in lockdown, or you are avoiding going out, what have you been doing lately to stay engaged and content?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Some Little Christmas Decorations

Many people are decorating very early for the holidays this year. The worries of 2020 have affected quite a few folks, and I think to soothe themselves - and I'm one of them - the holiday season has been brought forward, at least the "hygge" parts: The coziness, the warmth, the contentment in simple, sweet things. For a few years, we heard a lot about the Danish term hygge, then it faded a bit, but it seems to be back, with a definite American twist. I think here in the U.S., it tracks along with an appreciation of primitive and Colonial living, but is joined with our love of outdoor Christmas light displays. Our local stores have so little left in the way of lights!

Here are a few [bad] pictures of some of my decorations. I wasn't even taking the photos in low light, but was experimenting with the settings. I think I'll have to keep working at it! And I have more decorations to put up, mainly my tags and more Moravian Stars that I like to fold. One photo shows both the flat and the dimensional stars that can be folded.

Here's hoping you have a good weekend and if you are decorating, enjoy!

christmas birds decoration spool

handmade clothespin soldier 1960s

christmas frosty glitter roses decorations

1960s mid-century flocked santa ornament dimestore

glass hobnail snowman miniature mug Christmas

red and white small mushroom Christmas tree ornament decoration

mantel decorations old Christmas children's books

moravian stars christmas decorations rosettes

     Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Free Printable Hang Tags: A Pink Christmas

I was a bit surprised when I first started collecting and using Victorian "scrap" images, in how many were in peculiar colors and had odd imagery. Paper, diecutting, and printing were extremely expensive then, and yet really strange images would be produced. Using so much pink for Christmas amazed me. Santas in pink robes are not uncommon. Pink angels abound. The next time pink was so prevalent was in the 1950s and early 1960s.

So I made a free printable hangtag sheet out of some of these images. As usual, it's stored in the "cloud," wherever that may be. It's Google, so it should be safe. I think Google has control of just about everything so I've stopped worrying about what they may be doing. 

Remember to click the LINK to save the actual sheet, which is shown as the small inset in the graphic below. It's just one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet with six images. 

LINK IS HERE! <---click that

pink christmas free digital hang tag printables

It may seem far from Christmas, but I feel it bearing down. It seems so long off for so long, and then I feel it rushes by me too quickly. That's why I always get an early start on the season. It goes much too fast for me. And as my mother warned me, the older I get, the faster it all seems to go! And as she solemnly told me, "Even if you live to 90, that's just 90 Christmases." 

We are under a "lockdown" again in my state. It all feels so strange, to have no Black Friday coming up, to have the season unfurl so differently. I feel so very badly for the very elderly, who depended on going to Cracker Barrel or Denny's for their holiday meals. Their meeting places are closed now. 

But, we all carry on, don't we? The mantel is done, the two tabletop trees are up, and the top of the pie safe is quite crowded now. My decorations are nothing compared to what I see on the blogs I hop around visiting. Years ago, I loved the blogging world, and I was so happy to rejoin it and see the numbers of steady, stalwart bloggers who keep blogging alive! Some people have extraordinary imaginations and sense of color and style. But I'll share some pictures tomorrow of my little inside efforts. The courtyard has been aglow since November 2nd. 

Thank'ee for stopping by.

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Christmas Vignettes

For a variety of odd reasons, I lack furniture. Oh, I now have a small but actual bed, which I love love love, and I have a gargantuan farm trestle table and a few other small tables made from cedar fencing, and I finally have several chairs, but I don't have much display space. For that reason, and because for some reason I love tiny things, I make small vignettes where I can. The mantel is handy for that, and the top of the pie safe.

tiny plastic deer in snow christmas sisal trees

My pie safe, standing cupboards, and standing pantry are Mexican primitive furniture made of pine, and they reek of creosote, which I love despite hearing that it's bad for you. In some homes, pie safes and such are more to display than use, but I actually use these to store foodstuffs, plates, cups, and cutlery because of a lack of built-in cabinets. The cupboard and the standing pantry go almost to the ceiling, but I can reach the top of the pie safe easily, so that's where a lot of my little scenes are arranged. It's also high enough for the cats to leave it alone.

This particular scene features some teensy plastic deer. And they are dear to me. I love "mid-century" items. While I don't like modern plastic or resin items, I like the plastic goods from the 1950s and 60s, because they represent what was new and authentic in terms of style at that time. Plastic was exciting. Behind them are bleached sisal trees and behind that is a pressed papier mache tray.

Every year, I use less and less of the decorations I used just the year before. And this year is no exception. I'm again culling my newer decorations and taking them over to a thrift shop that benefits the animal rescues in our city. Last year I bought a lot of 90% off Christmas items at Hobby Lobby, but really don't have the space or energy to display them. Someone will love them and have a nice bargain with them! The older I get, the more I use natural items from the yard and the old, old, old five-and-dime items handed down. They look a bit tarnished and certainly many are raggedy, creased, or no longer Shiny-Brite, but to me, they are Christmas!

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Decorating with Simple, Natural Materials

I have always loved using natural materials to decorate the seasons with...gathering bunches of budding twigs in Spring, or early-blooming bulbs; gathering sand and seashells and filling canning jars and vases with them during summer trips to the beach; clipping branches flying with autumn colors, toting pumpkins inside, and piling up gourds in a bumpy heap for fall; and for winter, gathering pinecones, holly, pyracantha branches heavy with red-orange fruit, bare twigs, and fir, juniper, and pine boughs.

themerryoldedame juniper and pinecones closeup winter decorations

I think pinecones and holly are my very favorites for winter, at least up until the eve of Twelfth Night. It's also called the Feast of the Epiphany. On January 5th, the eve, ALL greens gathered for Christmas must be burned! Every needle, every twig! I'll write more about that obscure holiday later. It's one of my favorite holidays and absolutely steeped in lore.

For now, I have quite a few wooden boxes and baskets filled with pinecones from my trees. I have no fir trees in the yard, but I do have a very old, very spare and gnarled juniper that makes its tiny cones and drops a few fragrant green boughs around this time of year.

Do you have a favorite natural material for the Yuletide season?

Thank'ee for stopping by.

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame

Monday, November 16, 2020

What IS Primitive Style, and New Holiday Tags Up in Shoppe!

I spent a lot of time this past week prepping my new holiday tags for my Etsy shoppe, TheMerryOldeDame. I love making digital images to print, and I lean towards the primitive style. But I love almost any kind of illustration style. Back when I worked for Hallmark, I would spend literally hours just staring at the incredible array of design styles. 

themerryoldedame etsy shop printable digital tags

My husband can't stand Hallmark. He condemns their designs as cheesy, intrusive, silly, and unattractive. If I buy a card for him, he flips it over and scowls in case it's Hallmark. So, it's American Greetings for him. I like some of the Leanin' Tree designs, but most of them (pseudo-country folk style) I find appalling and coarse. I do not find the trope of the skinny, pot-bellied, whiskered old broken-down cowpoke in his red long-johns very amusing, nor his female counterpart, the square-dance skirted old fat gal squeezing the life out of him with a big toothy grin and red cheeks. I am glad Hallmark has so far avoided the "Cowpoke/Country Bumpkin" motif.

Now, this is something I go round and round with, with my prim friends: Primitive does not mean dirty and broken. At least to me, it doesn't. Aged, a bit grungy, like a mirror that has an aged and flaked backing, yes. People find very old, uncared-for "primitive" items and mistake those items as representing prim style. Originally, those items were not broken. They were not dirty. They worked. They held water. They opened and shut. They were NEW. The primitive STYLE, in my very humble opinion, is one done simply, in a naive way, with the materials of the day, AND the better-quality mass-produced items of the times, such as crocks, churns, "Hoosiers," etc. Project your mind back in time: Originally, these things were new. The colors were even, and they weren't all drab, by any means. It's not my business, but sometimes my eyes almost pop when I see people with some rusted out, broken, dry-rotted THING dragged into their nice clean house.

One area where extremely grungy and unpleasant-looking items might be true to the original primitives is in the area of dolls and stuffed animals. I recall that Laura Ingalls Wilder had only a little corncob "baby doll" to love for quite some time, before getting a rag doll she loved intensely. And my aunt had a very aggressive-looking rag doll, as well, with its teeth bared and beady eyes, that she had doted on. 

That isn't to say I don't treasure a lot of old items just for their age and history! I do! I guess that Tasha Tudor and Colonial Williamsburg are more in line with what I think of as primitive style. But to each their own! If it brings joy, embrace it!