Friday, August 24, 2007

Easy Baskets

Someone sent me this link to make easy baskets out of paper plates.
You can get very pretty paper plates and make these. They are even less expensive than getting a container at the dollar store, and will encourage children to be resourceful. I think they are good for giving, filled with home made things. Someone sent me a sample of their own version of this using a much prettier paper plate.
Also check out this woman's creative sewing There is a heart swap you can click on and see more of these creative and decorative hearts in fabrics and papers and other mediums.
Also of interest is which includes photographs by the one of the original photographers for Victoria magazine in its heyday. In the early days of that magazine, the photos had an amazing ability to make the simple things in life, like light coming from a window, or a dew drop on a rose, more important than world events. Women in the 80's bought that magazine and soaked up all those scenes, re-discovering them in their own homes!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Duty Plus Beauty

Home living has to be more than working. If everyone's job had an end-result of beauty, it would change the results considerably. I remember growing up how we used to have what is called "copy-books." Some of the students had made their's so beautiful, they were worth saving. They contained various subjects that we were graded on, and we learned quickly that we would either be miserable completing the task, or add beauty to it and relieve the pressure, increase the enjoyment, and end up with a project worth admiring.

Today's cottages are by artist Susan Rios. You can order these prints at a reasonable price and decorate your home with them.

In previous articles on the Lady Lydia Speaks columns, I have mentioned how children will form some of their tastes, their likes and dislikes, visually. I had a painting of two children sitting on a little white fence with berry buckets in their hands. My children always wanted to have their picture taken in a similar pose. We tend to imitate what we see around us.

Our moods can be greatly affected by the sights we see. In Elizabeth's Gaskell's "North and South," the main character, Margaret, wrote to her cousin and expressed her great sorrow over the gloominess of the place she had removed to.

When we wake up to bleakness and emptiness, we can get quickly depressed. This sets a very cloudy forcast for the day! That is why, in going about the necessary work of the home, I believe it is good to include as much beauty as possible.

Our grandmothers put out their little colored embroidery, their small vases of flowers, and all their pretty tapestry for a reason. The home is not intended to be a box where everyone lives a plain existence with no softness and loveliness surrounding them.

Linda Lichter wrote in her book "The Benevolence of Manners" that modernist designers had taken away the beauty of architecture, so much so, that a songwriter expressed the blandness in a song with, "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same." These elitist designers believed in "less" and told people it was "more," hoping to talk them into such bland living. As she so eloquently stated, we have gotten more and more of less and less..." Some of the tract homes (contract homes) lacked sills on the windows, entry ways, shelving, cornices, rails, and such, making it more difficult to even add touches of the glory in creation such as flowers.

When we live without beauty, as though we were in jail cells or army barracks, it can create depression. The little cottages here really are cheerful and give some idea that a simple structure that would otherwise be very depressing, can create a happy response in the human heart when it is decorated beautifully.

It is in my opinion, important to approach other things, such as dish washing, laundry, cleaning up messes or sweeping, with an eye for detail and for beauty in the end. That means that when it is finished, it creates an opportunity to improve the look, not just with cleanliness, but with the things that make you smile; the things that make your heart happy.

Let me give some examples:

A favorite doll or toy in the book shelf gives the eye a rest and makes you smile as you glance across the book titles.

A lamp sitting on a colorful cloth gives the surface some softness and creates less glare.

Other interesting touches of beauty:

-Add a collection of photographs in interesting frames, when straightening and cleaning a fireplace mantel

-A copper kettle on top of your stove

-A vase of flowers in the kitchen gives an unlikely color spot

-A colorful mat or rug at your feet in the kitchen

-After cleaning the bathroom, fold towels in a special way and put out a fresh bar of soap on top of them.

Put out a clear glass bowl of sea shells on your sofa table.

If you teach yourself and your children that there is a reason and a reward for the work of the home, they, and you, will approach it with an entirely different attitude.

For the sake of clarity, let me summarize: No matter how plain our houses are, or how tedious the work, it can be made more desireable by the addition of beauty.

Contentment by the Sea by Susan Rios, from

The painting is by Susan Rios, called "Rosey Beginning" which can be purchased from
For free instruction to crochet a rag rug, check here

or here

and maybe here

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Deconstruction of Women's Clothing

It was interesting to see in the recent issue of Traveller, this pretty picture of Samoan girls in church, and to read the caption, which said, "Sunday Services in American Samoa evoke a portrait by Paul Gauguin." This photograph shows modest, beautiful, constructed clothing (and also dispels the myth that people living in equatorial regions do not care about modesty), than we have not seen on store clothing racks for some time.

A lot of the new styles are so deconstructed that there are no buttons and no pieces sewn together anymore; just one slinky thing you "throw on." The designers and manufacturers, advertisers, convince us that clothing has to be so simple that it cannot have any structure at all. These girls in the photograph look sweet, innocent and feminine. Deconstructed clothing would change that look to hard and jaded.

Yes, this picture would certainly inspire any traditional artist, and even Paul Gauguin, an impressionist, painted ladies wearing better clothing than they parade around in today. I know these girls look better than most of the women we see, and yet I also know that American Samoans are not rich people! Clothing is a matter of wisdom, taste and discernment, not a matter of wealth. I have been to a few countries like this and have been impressed at the color and the fabrics that the women wear. They love being women and like dressing in beautiful dresses. They live in poor countries, and dressing up is important to them. I remember as a child how important it was to dress well, because it disguised your poverty, even to yourself.

Now, our designers have foisted upon the public the worst clothing in history. The 20th century deconstructivists focused mainly on desconstructing art and architecture, and the attitude of such people has trickled down to the fashion industry.

Clothing used to have color and at least a collar that would soften the face. Ladies liked to have little lace at the throat. It has been years since I've seen collars or sleeves. The bottom is the biggest part of the body, and skirts used to completely disguise that fact. Thanks to the deconstruction of clothing, no one can deny that fact.

Now, when we see a woman's outfit, the eye is drawn downward from the baggy shirt to the clam diggers and the strings of thongs at the waist to the clacking flip-flops at the feet. The poets of old who described women in their verse, would gasp in despair. No artist of the 18th or 19th century would stop in his tracks and beg the subject to stay right where she is while he captures the moment for all time on his canvas, so that he won't forget the blue/orange streaked hair and the 5 rings in various parts of the face and body. When I was a youngster, we thought body piercing was a sign of ignorance. Educated, civilized, enlightened people were far above such savage practices. How far we have come!

I have mentioned in previous articles that we are boring our own children by the drab clothing we wear. Think of what they see at their short height, and you will get the picture: bare legs or tight, low-cut jeans are their view. Wearing pretty fabrics with interesting prints could delight little children and stir their appreciation for art and beauty.

I just returned from the Scandinavian Festival, which celebrates the Scandinavian culture prior to the 20th century. The photograph on the left shows the performers of the various Scandinavian dances on stage, in their costumes. These costumes reminded me of the paintings of Daniel Ridgeway Knight, who lived in Pennsylvania during the Victorian era.

Would we be such an eager audience if these dancers were dressed in contemporary deconstructed clothing of stretchy tee shirts, low slung pants, short-shorts, strappy tops and other shapeless clothing?

All around the festival grounds, deconstructed clothing, drippy, droopy, muddy, colorless, flat clothing that did nothing to flatter a woman's hair, face, figure, or draw attention to her personality, posed as "fashion."

Who has done this to us? It has to be someone who hates women, because there was not one woman who looked good in these deconstructed outfits, and not one outfit actually fit anyone's figure. The performers and the other people walking around in costume looked wonderful, and not the least bit embarrassed or uncomfortable. The older ones dressed just like the younger ones, even the children, and there were no special outfits of the period made to "express' their teen-hood or independent spirit. Little girls wore little costumes and big girls wore bigger ones, but they all looked very bright and cheerful and put-together.

For those who think it would be impossible "do" anything in a dress, it was obvious that these people were able to perform very intricate and vigorous dances in them, and they seemed quite happy about it. The people who served food at the various booths were also in these 19th century traditional costumes, and were able to make lemonade, meat pies, ice cream, and any type of food available, without the costumes getting in the way. The craft booths were also attended by people in costumes and they seemed very able to conduct trade in these clothes. These clothes were so beautiful to look at that people were asking the performers, "Where did you get your dress?"

The costumes reminded me of one of my favorite artists of the 1800's, Daniel Ridgeway Knight. I just had to come straight home and take another look at these paintings. He was an artist from Pennsylvania, who loved to paint in the open air so much that he built a glass room so that he could paint when it was cold or wet outside, and still get the feeling of being outdoors. You can read more about him and see these amazing paintings with their bright, clear colors and pastel backgrounds here These paintings of the past give a clue about the construction of clothing. The garments portrayed in them seem to look good on many women. In the photograph of the festival I attended, the costumes looked good on both the thin women and the heavier ones because of their feminine appearance, the clear colors and the good construction. It can not be so much trouble for designers and manufacturers today to give us beautiful clothing like this.

To view the vivid works of the Victorian painter, Daniel Ridgeway Knight, go here In my opinion this is the best showing of his works anywhere online. One that I particularly like shows two women waving to a ferry across the river. Daniel Ridgeway Knight liked to paint women in contented poses doing ordinary things, in beautiful clothing, surrounded by beautiful scenery. The scenery and the women always seemed to belong together.

Girl with Basket
Girl with Basket
Art Print

Knight, Daniel...
Buy at

Girl Fishing

Girl Fishing

Art Print

Knight, Daniel...

Buy at

Brittany Girl

Brittany Girl

Art Print

Knight, Daniel...

Buy at

Noonday Repast

Noonday Repast

Art Print

Knight, Daniel...

Buy at

Ray of Sunshine

Ray of Sunshine

Art Print

Knight, Daniel...
Buy at

What can we do about these fashions that are making our people look so depressed and unhappy? Clothing can be beautiful and still cover the body adequately. We do not have to wear these awful clothes. We can make our own. We can pay someone else to make them. There are even ways to create modest skirts and dresses without sewing, by the way they are folded or wrapped. Now, with velcro and fabritack, not everyone has to know how to sew.

You do not have to be at the mercy of the manufactured styles. You can also buy beautiful clothes on the web.

I think today that maybe women are afraid of the "b" word: beauty. They feel self conscious in beautiful clothes, so they want to go around in drab clothing and not be noticed. Homemakers may think they do not need to dress nicely at home, but clothing can help create the mood for their work and make it seem important or not. Their performance in the work of the home can be affected by clothing.

Many of the artists of old painted women at a time when women's work was primarily that of the home, and yet they are in beautiful clothes. Another think we can do to encourage women to get back to feminine, dignified dressing, is to smile and compliment anyone we see who is wearing a pretty, modest dress.

*And now to the resident whiner/complainer and deconstructionist: I dont' care what definition some arrogant deconstructionist hippie professor in the 1960's gave this word. I was born long before the 1960's and I can give it whatever definition I want, but I prefer to use the original Latin and French meanings of the root words. "de" means "to move away from." Construction entails building something or creating something using pieces and parts. In their favor, the deconstructionists definition of deconstruction is actually true: it is a movement away from reality and a rebellion against truth. Apparently people after the 1950's can create their own philosophy and definition, so I can create my own definition if I like. It is still the same meaning: elitist looking down your nose at goodness and loveliness and giving women so few affordable choices that they have to wear garbage sacks, and laughing all the way to the bank. That is deconstruction. It doesn't just dismantle clothing construction as it was once known, it dismantles the humanity of the person who has to wear it. No one would do it to an animal.

Look at the beautiful garment the mother is wearing here

Pretty clothing catologs, good for ideas for home sewers, and some are quite feminine: (will continue list of catologs, later)


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