January 22, 2015

Hungarian Embroidery 101 - Choosing + Transferring the Pattern

While doing a little bit of research about Hungarian embroidery - particularly Kalocsa embroidery - I learned that not every woman who embroidered designed her own patterns.  Some women were especially talented and would design patterns for other women.  They would have sketchbooks filled with designs:

There is an art to designing patterns that are balanced and aesthetically pleasing, but also some technical concerns as well: the size of the motifs, the length of the corresponding stitches, etc., all need to be considered.  In the 1930s, when colourful folks costumes grew in popularity, more and more Hungarian women started to learn the art of designing patterns.  Exceptional pattern makers were still sought after, though, and each had her own individual style.  The demand for this skill has waned, but it still has relevance in Hungary.  Interestingly, while doing my dissertation research I noticed patterns in the earlier issues of Nők Lapja.  I photocopied a few because I am completely inexperienced at designing an embroidery pattern.  The only other project I've done already had the design printed on it (purchased in Hungary):

For this new project I set about pinning motifs (I've started a board dedicated to embroidery).  I was a little overwhelmed, though, and the pressure of designing something good enough to embroider really stalled my project.  Then I stumbled across this image:

It is not a traditional Hungarian embroidery pattern, but it was designed by a Hungarian graphic designer, Lilly Baróthi Zathureczky.  From the 1930s until the 1960s (when she passed away), she designed patterns for needlework and other artistic purposes.  The pattern was shared by Needle 'n Thread, in addition to a short blurb on Lilly's life and work.  This particular design was painted by Lilly in 1956 (you can see the coloured design here), but she left no notes regarding its intended application.  Once I found it, I couldn't envision using another pattern - this was the one!

The rectangular pattern happened to be almost the exact dimensions of the pillow cover I intend to make.  I'm replacing the orange paisley cover with this project - if all goes according to plan.

Regarding the pattern, I had to enlarge the design and I'm worried that in doing so some of my stitches will be too long but I'm just going to roll with it and hope for the best!  Before starting the embroidering, I printed out a few copies and grabbed my coloured pencils to roughly plan the colours.  It took a few tries but I finally landed on something I liked.  I ended up using fewer colours than I initially intended, but I stuck to the same palette of blues, greens and aqua.  It sure was easier to embroider in only one colour! 

There are many ways to transfer an embroidery design to fabric; this article and this article list most, if not all, of them.  I chose to print my design on an overhead transparency and use an overhead projector, simply because I had these things on hand.  Then I just taped the fabric (which is a creamy silk, and much prettier in real life) onto a wall and rooked my Mom into tracing the design.  Szuka seemed really befuddled and wondered what the heck we were up to.

And I'm ready!

If it seems like this project is progressing slowly, that's because it is.  It takes me forever to actually start this type of long, involved project (especially embroidery, it seems), but then I pick up more steam.  I've already begun embroidering (I have the hand cramp to prove it), and once I've completed a substantial section, which will take awhile, I'll show you the basic stitch I'm using - it's like colouring with thread! 

Originally I had thought about adding some purple to the design, but I was on the fence about it.  While I was pondering, Szuka grabbed the spool from my dresser (bad girl!) and started swallowing the thread like one long piece of spaghetti.  I'm pretty sure I pulled half of it back out of her stomach and neither of us were impressed.  On the bright side, it made the difficult decision to add purple moot.  To be safe, I now store the spools I'll be using in a mason jar.  When I'm done, I tuck in my needle and a small pair of scissors and it makes a convenient kit.  The day she learns to unscrew the lid on a mason jar, I'm hooped.

To see read about the progress of my first embroidery project, click here.  If you're curious about Hungarian embroidery, take a look at this post. If you got tips and insights or are a master embroiderer, lay your knowledge on me because I'm pretty much an embroidering newbie!

January 19, 2015

Good-bye, Greasy Grimy Mess

Looking back through my Instagram photos, it looks like my most recent Pyrex purchase happened 11-ish weeks ago.  (I have a memory like a sieve, so I need visual aids.)  15 weeks ago I traded some of my Butterfly Gold Pyrex to snag some pink Gooseberry pieces for my Mom's collection), 16 weeks ago I found a lid for Mom, 17 weeks ago I found a piece at the dump, and 20 weeks ago I found a flamingo pie plate:

I guess what I found recently is the motherload, comparatively: two brown fridgies (part of the town and country set, I think) and two flamingo bake ware pieces.  The flamingo colour was produced 1952-1956 and, for some reason, it's not terribly popular among collectors.  Most turquoise bake ware was only produced for one year (1956) and these pieces have become very popular - much to my chagrin.  They have escaped my grasp because my thrifting mojo is not that good and, sadly, the prices online have crept up pretty high.  I have a new appreciation for flamingo pink, which seems more plentiful.  Since selling 30 pieces in a flash sale on Instagram, I find myself with some room for these...

The two flamingo pieces are especially neat because they were made in Canada!  I'm not sure Canadians got a handle on Pyrex manufacturing because we only produced it between 1947-1954 (in Ontario!)  Look at the uneven paint application on the piece below; you can see the colour sort of fade away and become more sheer.  It's not dishwasher damage, the application even feels rough there - like they ran out of paint.

Also, the logo was applied backwards, how it would be on a clear piece - so it's readable from the top, through the glass, as opposed to flipping it over and reading the bottom. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but it caught me off guard.

When I found these, they were very dirty.  You know that burnt on, un-scrubbable grime that some thrift store kitchen wares have?  A simple soak and elbow grease doesn't always do the trick on the stuff that's been stuck on for decades.  Fellow Pyrex collectors have suggested many fixes: a Coke soak, Barkeeper's Friend, Mr. Clean magic eraser.  I tried some of these methods and wrote about them here.  This will be an addendum to that post because I tried something else - suggested by Instagram Pyrex friends and people who commented on the post - and it worked like a charm: oven cleaner

Here's the before:

I put the pieces in a plastic bag, opened a window (phew!), sprayed a liberal application of foaming oven cleaner right onto the grime, then tied the bag shut.  I waited an afternoon and then rinsed off the oven cleaner.  The grime and baked on grease had softened and slid right off, like butter, without damaging the finish.  Then I gave both pieces a thorough wash in hot, soapy water to make sure I removed the last of the goo and also the cleaner.

Look at them now!  So shiny and calling out for some brownie or banana bread batter.

I am still relatively new to Instagram but if I'd have know about the hashtags #pyrexlove and #pyrexforsale, I'd have joined years ago!  Heck, I might have been motivated enough to invent Instagram ;) I've met some wonderful people over there and have had the pleasure of ogling amazing Pyrex collections that make mine look like a starter set.  It's a great community of people who are always ready to help identify a piece, trade items to help one another complete sets, revel in a great find (or commiserate when necessary), or offer tips like this one!  I'm sure Hubby is thrilled to bits that I'll no longer pass by hopelessly grimy pieces - he's my designated item-carrier when thrifting.

January 16, 2015


Whenever Hubby spots some Iittala, he sort of squeals the word and drags out the vowels, with an extra screechy-ness on the I's: "iiiiiiiittttaala".  It totally cracks me up.  What can I say?  I married the absolute best guy.  Last summer he and I were yard-saling with my Mummu (see? The Best) and while Mummu and I busied ourselves scrutinizing a table full of china, I heard the soft tinkling of crystal behind us.  Hubby was crouched down, intently sorting through a box of glassware.  Turns out, he had uncovered a honey pot of Iittala (say it with me: iiiiiiiittttaala).  Once upon a time, I never found a stitch of Iittala in this city, outside of Finnish stores, Finnish homes and antique shops.  Since moving back after a six year long absence, I've been finding Iittala yard saling, in the thrift stores, and even in the classifieds.  There are pieces I pass up, but every now and then I find a steal - or something I really want.

I was recently trolling the classifieds when, lo and behold, I stumbled across a colossal collection of Iittala Festivo candle holders.  My Mummu was kind enough to give me her complete set, which is really special because she had one of each size and each piece was a gift from a family member, spread out over years with no duplicate sizes gifted - no one arranged this, either.  It just happened!  Obviously, I love the set she gave me but I always envisioned growing my instant-collection a bit more.  I hadn't yet found any for a good price, so stumbling across a lot was thrilling.  By the time I got in touch with the seller more than half had sold, but I scooped up what remained: 9 in total, which included four signed pieces.

Here's my collection before (including two, 2-ring ones I stole from my Mom):

And my collection, a bit beefier now (but sans the two I stole from my Mom, who insisted I give them back once she saw my loot):

They're definitely squeezing out my little enamel bowl.  For some reason I felt compelled to distinguish new pieces from my Mummu's - although I'm letting them co-mingle - so I marked the bottoms of the newbies with a small silver star sticker so I know who's who in the zoo.

I have to admit that I felt a little woozy making this purchase - a mixture of sheer excitement and a little apprehension over spending the money.  I've been trying to be a tightwad recently because I'd like to make some big purchases - office chairs, bedroom closet doors, etc.  I've been squirreling away as much money as I can and forgoing the little luxuries whenever I can muster the willpower.  (Obviously, my money saving waxes and wanes).  But, as I reasoned with Hubby, I don't tend to buy many accessories for our home and when I do I've normally scored a great deal - usually snagging something fabulous second-hand.  Though more expensive than a normal thrift store score, these were an excellent price too.  Plus the Festivos are, in my opinion, a classic and timeless design.  They were designed by Timo Sarpaneva in 1966 (who also came up with the "i' logo), and produced since 1967 - although they're no longer available for sale (new) in the United States and Canada, making them even more special.  And other than our kitchen shelves and this credenza, I don't have too many spots to accessorize - so I want to make a statement with a collection en masse.

Hubby's reply?  Iiiiiiiittttaala.
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