Saturday, May 25, 2013

On Hiatus

I've given it a great deal of thought, and I've decided to put this blog on hiatus for a while.   I'm not sure when I will be back.

I have really enjoyed blogging and getting to know some of you over the past few years; I have had so much fun meeting new friends online and in person.  Hundreds of you still visit this blog everyday.  However, the blogosphere seems to have changed, and it seems that people aren't commenting as much.  Perhaps you all are just busier?  Or do you all just prefer tumblr? (smile)

As I mentioned in this post, it's really no fun for me when I write a blog post, especially if a post takes a great deal of time (hours!) to prepare, for that post to receive few or no comments.    And although I usually don't post about my health so it isn't apparent on the surface, several of you know that I struggle with chronic pain/fatigue.  That makes my "good" hours very precious to me.  So I've decided to work on other creative projects during those hours. I'm writing two novels.  And I get goosebumps just thinking of all the sewing, crocheting, jewelry-making and other creative projects I will be able to do....

So, goodbye for now.  I'll still be around posting and chatting on Facebook and Instagram, on Twitter for shop-related tweets, and pinning everything my little heart desires on Pinterest if you'd like to keep up with some of my projects and interests.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Madison Avenue Monday: The "In" Waistlines, modeled by Twiggy

A fabulous little fashion layout featuring Twiggy from McCall's Patterns Fashions, Fall-Winter 1967-68.  I'd wear any of these silhouettes today:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Reviews + Giveaway: Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs & Crochet One-Skein Wonders

Although I own a lot of vintage crochet pamphlets, you might be surprised to know that I actually only have a few contemporary crochet pattern books on my library shelf.  I generally don't pick up newer crochet craft books for the simple reason that the projects in modern books aren't usually that different than some of the vintage resources that I already own.

However, I found that both Connect the Shapes: Crochet Motifs (Edie Eckman) and Crochet One-Skein Wonders (Judith Durant & Edie Eckman) add a number of new resources to my current library of patterns, so I'm glad that I was sent a copy of both books for review.

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs is Edie Eckman's second book about crochet motifs; the designs can be used for embellishments upon clothes home decor projects, or they can joined together in order to create a larger project such as a scarf or afghan.  You are probably familiar with the most common crochet motif -- the granny square. This book is full of new motif designs that are not in any of the crochet resources I currently own, and there is an entire section of 3D motifs that are among some of the coolest crochet designs I have ever seen.

As granny squares are most familiar to me I crocheted one of these first in order to test the clarity of the instructions in this book. Overall I was pleased as  I found the instructions and diagrams to be very clear and easy-to-follow in the motif section.   The instructions to create each of the motifs are presented in full on one or two pages, and I really liked that I didn't have to flip to a stitch glossary in the back of the book for each new stitch type.  And the book has a covered 3-ring binding so it lays flat while open, making the book easy-to-read and use (hooray!).

I consider myself an intermediate crocheter, so I spent quite a bit of time working some of the motifs in this book to test the instructions and also to try out new designs that I had never seen before. Some of the techniques were new to me, such as joining motifs as you go (JAYGO) instead of sewing them together when finished, and so were some of the stitches used in several of the motifs (for example, the Crocodile Stitch).

There are twelve fun patterns in this book for items such as a pincushion, skirts, a placemat, a welcome mat, a baby blanket and more.  Although you've probably seen similar projects before the motif variations may be new to you, and no doubt you can interchange some of the other motifs instead of those presented in the pattern section to customize the project to your liking.

I really did enjoy this book and plan to continue working out of it to advance my own crochet knowledge.  I would recommend Connect the Shapes to intermediate or advanced crocheters.  You must be somewhat familiar with crocheting in the round and I believe that a beginner will find some of the newer stitches and complicated motif patterns too challenging to be satisfying at first.  I found the instructions for the Magic Loop (Sliding Loop) technique to be insufficient; crocheters will want to consult a friend or look for an instructional video on You Tube if they are unfamiliar with this method of starting a piece in the round.

Crochet One-Skein Wonders is a book that crocheters of all skill levels can enjoy.  The "One-Skein Wonders" series of books is very popular and you may already have one of these books on your bookshelf.   As I recently received this book I haven't had a chance to make some of the wonderful projects in here as of yet, but I'm certain that I will use this book in the future for gift - making. The projects are cute and I really do love projects that can help me use up leftover yarn in my stash!

I do wish that this book had a covered spiral binding as does Connect the Shapes. And it is unfortunate that this book does not assign difficulty ratings  (to let you know if a project is suitable for beginners, intermediate, advanced) to the patterns.  However, many of the 101 projects use common stitches and are suitable for beginners or advanced beginners.

The projects are arranged by yarn weight and range from using cotton thread and lace-weight yarn all the way up to bulky weight yarn.  Although some of the projects are common (e.g., coasters, baby booties, hats)  there are some very unique and modern designs in this collection.  I liked that there is an entire section on amigurumi animals (and these cute little guys are great for gift giving!).

Two of my favorite projects are the Sea Breeze Shawlette made with super-fine weight yarn and the Burgandy Lace Hoops made with crochet thread (pictured below):

The instructions and diagrams in Crochet One-Skein Wonders are very clear and easy-to-read.  Again, new stitches within the pattern are covered on the pattern page so a reader doesn't have to flip back and forth from a stitch glossary (so convenient!).  Consider this book if you have some single skeins languishing in your stash that are leftover from previous projects.


Here is your chance to win a copy of Connect the Shapes: Crochet Motifs or Crochet One-Skein Wonders!  There will be two winners for this giveaway and it is open to US residents only.  First winner selected will choose which book he or she wants and the other book will go to the second prize winner.  Just enter through the Rafflecopter widget below by midnight PST on Friday, May 17th.  The winners will be announced on this post on Saturday, May 18th.  Good luck!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of both books for review but as always my opinions are my own!

Some photos courtesy of

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fortunate Finds: the Lady Ellen Pop Up Hair Salon

As a woman who is fascinated by the beauty rituals of yesteryear I happened to pass by a small plastic box at an estate sale.  It looked a bit familiar to me, so I opened it up and discovered that I had a Lady Ellen Pop Up Hair Salon in my hands:

This compact little box doesn't look like anything special on the outside, really, but I think this set is a triumph of mid-century design (probably made around the late 1950s or early 1960s or so).  This box of hair curlers looks pretty similar to one that my grandmother had, which is why it caught my eye.

When the box is open the graduated curlers are flat.  The lid itself contains clear plastic stakes that rest inside of the curlers when the box is closed and not in use.  However, if you open the box and place the lid underneath it, the stakes push up hidden pink plastic cylinders:

The internal pink cylinders then  push up the stacked set of graduated plastic curlers so they become easier to grab!  I love that idea.

Ingenious design, isn't it?  The curlers are also color-coded by size.  This set would have contained clips to hold the rollers in place but they are missing from this box.  (Hair clip design hasn't really changed in the last 60 years.  A metal prong clip is the type that would have been used.)

These sets were made by the Kaymar Company in Los Angeles into the early 1970s (as far as I know) with several different designs for the outer case (the designs were colorful and were "flower-power" bright in the late 1960s and 1970s).

Does this set of hair curlers look familiar to you too?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Essentials for the Forces and More: free 1940s Knitting Patterns

Did you know that the Victoria & Albert Museum has digitized some World War II-era knitting patterns and made them freely available on their website?  The patterns hail from 1940s publications  such as Woman's Weekly and from booklets like "Essentials for the Forces" by Jaeger Hand-Knit in support of the war effort.

This booklet in particular includes many patterns designed for men and women in the service (such as helmet liners and balaclavas) but there are some truly fashionable gems in this book for those who want to put together an authentic vintage look:

You can download the text of each pattern as a PDF or Word document (I linked to the PDF under each image in this post).  These knitted turbans are my favorite pattern, and the directions look very easy even for slow beginning knitters like myself:


The "When You're Off Duty" sweater is quite elegant (they are a bit hard to see, but notice that she's wearing dress clips at the collar):


The lion and tiger toys would make great handmade gifts for a young person (or a young-at-heart person!) today:


The Victory Jumper (a sweater) is just too cute:


Check out the rest of the knitting patterns on the V & A site. There is also a section on Ravelry for Victoria & Albert Museum patterns if you need help with directions, especially as the patterns use British knitting terms.

By the way, if you're on Ravelry my username is SerendipityVint. Connect with me!

Images courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum

Monday, April 22, 2013

{Giveaway} Atiliay Mother's Day Gift Package to Benefit the Women of Freely in Hope

It's time for a very special Mother's Day-themed giveaway from atiliay on Etsy!

Serendipity Handmade is partnering with Olivia Lin, founder of atiliay, to help spread the word and raise funds for Freely in Hope, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for young women in Kenya to reach their educational goals in a safe, secure environment.

When I met Olivia I was very impressed by her commitment to people in need through her work at atiliay (formerly the Yummy Year Project).  In her own words below she explains how she turned her interest in art and fashion into philanthropic work:

Ever since I was little, I was always drawing and coloring, doing little sewing projects, and making all kinds of arts and crafts.  My passion for the arts led me to a career in the corporate fashion world. Several years into my career, I knew I wanted to be more hands and actually make things while contributing something positive into this world. It was perfect timing because a shoe brand called TOMS was just emerging; for every shoe purchased a pair would be donated to a child in need and you could apply to go on a "shoe drop" with them.

I applied and went on a shoe drop to South Africa with TOMS in November 2007.  I met a wonderful group of people from the non-profit Food4Africa who changed my life. Food4Africa's mission is to provide nutritious food for children living in poverty in South Africa.

I knew that after this trip that I had to make a conscious effort to continue to support their cause. From then on I became more and more involved and interested in human rights, animal rights, and different causes within the US and around the world. I continued to support Food4Africa and am proud to be currently serving as the Fundraising Coordinator for the USA.

Over the past several years I have been trying make it easy for people to give to others. This is how the atiliay paper goods shop on Etsy was born!  atiliay products are created to help everyone spread the love.  Each item is paired with a non-profit organization (inspired by each holiday or the design) and with every purchase the customer gets to help that specific cause!
I met Nikole, the founder of Freely In Hope, while visiting the Share and Do Good shop (where I also met Collette!) and was really interested in her work. Freely In Hope gives women in Kenya the opportunity to achieve their goals and create a secure, sustainable future for themselves and their children through a high school and college education.
As young girls transition out of government sponsored primary schools to self-funded higher education, they are often lost in the stark reality of poverty. This leaves them vulnerable to the pressures of prostitution, early marriages and abusive relationships. A high school and college education can cost between $300-$3,000 annually, so Freely in Hope provides scholarships for promising high school and college students who are survivors of or are vulnerable to sexual abuse.  They also provide counseling and help students find a place to live.
As a woman it always strikes a chord with me when I hear about other women being dehumanized and violated.  While the harm these women have experienced is atrocious, their stories are also filled with hope, strength, and inspiration.


I want to spread love to other mothers in our world.  This Mother's Day I created the Floral Collection to raise funds through atiliay on Etsy for Freely In Hope.  Forty-nine percent of proceeds from all items in the Floral Collection will be donated to Freely In Hope's Arise Scholarship Fund. The floral watercolor block prints are a Mother's Day card that double as artwork for the home or office:
  • 6 prints will provide school supplies and uniforms for a woman in high school
  • 100 prints will provide a woman with a high school education for a year
  • 200 prints will provide a woman with a college education for a year
Five percent of all other items purchased from the shop will also be donated to Freely In Hope to empower these women with an education. 

Please join me this month in spreading the word about both atiliay and Freely in Hope to benefit women in need.  You might also win a wonderful prize!


The amazingly talented Olivia has created a lovely Mother's Day Gift Package valued at $40 USD to be delivered to the woman of your choice in time for Mother's Day:

The Mother's Day Gift Package includes:

  • One Red Roses Art Print/Card with an option for a personalized message on the back of the print
  • One frame with mat for the Art Print / Card
  • One set of five blank cards (A2 size) that includes one of  the following designs:  pink peony, pink roses, red roses, green succulents, orange zinnias
  • One reusable cotton bag with the Red Roses design
  • One Red Roses gift box


No purchase is necessary!  Just be a follower of Serendipity Handmade and enter through Rafflecopter below.

 {additional entries}

Although no purchase is necessary please consider purchasing a Raffle Ticket for $2.50 USD that will give you a special mini notecard and TEN (10) extra entries to win the Mother's Day Gift Package!

Olivia created a special mini notecard pictured above especially for this giveaway that you will receive as a thank-you for your purchase/donation!  Forty-five percent ($1.13 USD) of each raffle ticket (after Olivia's production costs) will go directly to Freely in Hope!

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will close on May 3, 2013.  The winner will be announced on this post on May 4, 2013.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please tell your friends about this very special giveaway / fundraiser, and thank you for helping me spread the word about both atiliay and Freely in Hope!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Crochet WIPs

Working on some simple crochet projects this week, as I'm evaluating another book which I'll review for you later.  I wanted to test out the instructions in this particular book, and I followed the directions to make a simple granny square and also made a rather complex triangular shaped motif:

I've never made crochet anything into a triangle before and it's harder than it should be, believe me.  Frankly, I have no idea what could be made out of a bunch of triangles anyway.  An odd-shaped afghan perhaps?

I'm also trying my hand at crocheting amigurumi for the first time.  If you follow me on Instagram you will have already seen my very first amigurumi, which was retro-themed, naturally.  I made a 1-up mushroom from the 1980s Nintendo video game, Super Mario Bros.:

You can find the free pattern, "Yet Another Mario Mushroom", and other cute amigurumi patterns at Ami Amour blog.

Right now I'm working on a cute little bear, just for further practice and to use up some scraps I have.  I'm using Julie's free "Bearies" pattern which you can find at Gleeful Things blog:

via Gleeful Things

I'll let you know how it turns out!

In other news, be sure to catch my next post, which will include a special giveaway in support of a very important cause.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Madison Avenue Monday: Sunbury Felt

This ad makes me want to go for a ride in the sunshine.  The cute fuchsia jacket is made from vintage jacket pattern Vogue 9057.
From Needlewoman Needlecraft no.82, 1960-61

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Re-purposed Vintage: the Art-o-Mat Vending Machine

Restored vintage cigarette machines + art = the Art-o-Mat!
Art-o-Mat at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. 
Photo via Facebook
I do believe this is one of the coolest re-purposed/recycled vintage projects I have ever seen.  These former cigarette machines now vend a cellophane-wrapped carton of art!  The Art-o-Mat is the brainchild of Clark Whittington from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  He refurbished his first cigarette machine in 1997 and now there are over 100 machines nationwide in the United States (you can find one near you by clicking here). 

Over 400 different artists now participate in the Art-O-Mat project.  On a recent trip to Northern California I had the opportunity to spend a a couple of hours at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.  I spied the Art-o-Mat machine near the gift shop on the first floor when I first entered the museum:

A closer look at the contents:

I had planned to purchase the origami pack and visit the museum gift shop after visiting the exhbits but I completely ran out of time (I had a plane to catch). So I went hunting on the web for some of the art and artists in the different machines. This textile design by Aimee Alexander is pretty cool:

via the Art-O-Mat website

I also like this pinhole camera and print set by Rebecca Sexton Larson:

via the Art-O-Mat website

The restored machines are works of art themselves. Here are a couple of my favorites:

At the Emerge Gallery in North Carolina
photo via the Art-O-Mat website

At the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC
photo via the Art-O-Mat website

Find out more about the Art-O-Mat project at their website. I think it's a fun way to discover new artists and collect original art, and I hope to visit more of them in the future.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Cleaning?

via Pinterest

It's that time of year, isn't it?  And it's never as fun as she makes it look in the photo. 

I thought I'd re-post Peg Bracken's snarky and fun housekeeping tips from the I Hate to Housekeep book again this year for the reluctant housekeepers among my readership (we are a silent minority, I think!).   Reluctant to clean or not, everybody likes to live in a tidy space even if we would rather pursue our hobbies than clean house.  As such, I find some of Peg's practical advice, originally directed to the 1960s housewife, to be applicable today:

And Peg's writing is always good for a laugh.

Do you have cleaning tips that make housekeeping faster, easier, or possibly even fun?  Feel free to share them here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Adventures in Pompom Land: Book Review + Freebie + Giveaway

Just when I thought I had already seen every possible to way to make a small furry animal figure out of yarn or wool, Lark Books sent me a copy of Adventures in Pompom Land: 25 Cute Projects Made from Handmade Pompoms by Myko Diann Bocek.  Talk about cute overload!

If you like to knit or crochet amigurumi I think that you will love the little creatures in this book.  Take a look at a few of the adorable projects:

At first I was a little dubious about the idea of making animals with pompoms, given my memories of the those "pompom pet" type glue-based and purchased pompom crafts that I remember from childhood (do you remember those too?).  As soon as I picked up this book I realized that these projects were very different, as the animals in Adventures in Pompom Land start with handmade pompoms that turn out fuller and lusher than anything you can buy in a craft store.  That makes these projects great stash busters for leftover yarn.

Most of the projects also require basic needle felting supplies and you will need to know how to create simple shapes to make the arms and legs for some of the animals (it's very easy; you may remember that I learned how to do that recently!).  The rest of the supplies you will need are very basic and you probably already have them on hand if you craft:  pipe cleaners, safety eyes, sharp scissors, floral pins, clothespins, and yes, glue.  I'm looking forward to making one or two of these little guys myself.


Would you like to try out one of the projects in this book?  Get started by making this super-cute squirrel:

Just head on over to my Scribd page to download a PDF of instructions for the Squirrel.  Be sure to also download the Learn How to Make Handmade Pompoms PDF as well.

You may also want to visit Myko's blog, Myko Bocek Studios, for inspiration about the various ways that you can embellish your pompom animals further when creating decorations for your home, office, or kid's room.  They would be perfect as holiday ornaments or gifts as well.

Lark Crafts has provided Serendipity Handmade readers a chance to win a copy of Adventures in Pompom Land.  Just enter through the Rafflecopter widget below.  This contest is open to U.S. residents only.  Entries are open until 11:59 p.m. on April 10, 2013 and the winner will be announced on this post on April 11, 2013.  Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review but as always, my opinions are my own. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Madison Avenue Monday: The Fresh Material - Young America Creates

A Celanese Fortrel ad for the Young America Creates series of Butterick patterns, which as I mentioned before in this post was probably the early roots of what would eventually become reality shows like Project Runway.  Cute concept too:  the designers as a band, the ad as an album cover.

From the Butterick Home Catalog, Summer 1970

You can see some of the actual patterns at the Vintage Pattern Wiki on the Young America Creates category page.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter and Spring Holidays

via Pinterest

Wishing you and your loved ones a pleasant and beautiful weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

WIP's and a Finished Project

This week I took stock of all of the WIPs in my house.  Um...I have a lot of WIPs.  So many that I don't want to own up to the total number, so I'll just show you a couple of the sewing WIPs.

But at least I have made some progress, however s-l-o-w, on a couple of projects.  I finally tacked in the angel back on Pauloa 901A.  This is the view of the back of the dress pinned to Esme: 

And I photocopied and enlarged the Adjust-for-You dress illustrations from McCall's 8106 in order to make a dress for Prudence:

I cut a muslin of the dress and I do believe that it might actually fit with only some slight adjustments to the neckline and armscyes. I'll keep fiddling with it.

Finally, I'm proud to let you know that I actually completed something this week!  My friend Louis is super-creative, and he kindly offered to teach me to make a freshwater pearl and crystal necklace:

Well, truth be told, he did most of the wire-wrapping, but I helped!  I'm excited about learning how to wire-wrap jewelry.  It's easier than I thought, but I do need to pick up some better needle-nose pliers than those I currently have so I can continue to make jewelry.

So what are you working on this week?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Survey Says: Reader Poll Feedback

Have you been waiting to hear the results of the Serendipity Handmade reader poll from last month?  Maybe...maybe not...but here are the highlights anyway!  Thanks again to those who participated; I've been thinking long and hard about making changes to the blog as a result of your feedback. 

Question 1.  What are your favorite regular posts at Serendipity Handmade (choose up to 3):

Fortunate Finds (vintage items in my collection or that I discover at thrift stores, etc.) and updates about the various craft projects I make are the overwhelming winners here, with field trips coming in third in terms of interest.  I'm glad that you really like some the current content on this blog.

I am surprised that Madison Avenue Monday is not more popular, but it's at least as popular as sharing vintage recipes is, so I'll continue to do both.  However, MAM won't be weekly any longer.

As the Tomorrow's Vintage Collectibles series seems to be of little interest I am sending it to the Great Blog Post Farm to be put out to pasture (I promise that no harm will come to it!).

Question 2.  What topics would you like to see posts about in the future? (choose as many as you like):

I'll definitely pull more often from the top five or so topics on this list when considering future topic posts.

You handed me another surprise: I threw "vintage home decor" in there as an option and didn't expect the enthusiastic response.  So what exactly do you want to see?  Vintage photos of home decor from magazines?  Interior design advice?  Because the last time I talked about vintage design only one person left a comment.  Please give me a little more feedback on this.

Wordless Wednesday will also be heading out to pasture.

Question 3.  What types of giveaways or contests do you prefer? (choose as many as you like):

Duly noted.  I'm glad that the book giveaways have proved to be popular.

Questions 5 & 6.  How often should I post / How long should blog posts be?

These two questions are related.  Again you surprised me...some of you are perfectly fine with the current twice-per-week schedule. But just over half of you want to read this blog more often.  Yay!   So as an experiment I will shoot for three posts per week and see how that works.

Now is a good time to mention why I've only been blogging twice a week.  You probably know very well we bloggers love to get feedback for the time and effort that we put in to our blogs.  I think it is true that most bloggers thrive on comments.

According to Google, an average of 300 people visit this blog every day.  That's a lot!  There are tons of blogs to choose from on the Web, and I know that most people lead busy lives, so I am grateful for every legitimate comment that I receive on my posts.  But the sad truth is that comments have dropped off on this blog, except for those on giveaway posts.

And it's really no fun for me to write this blog if the posts that have taken a great deal of time to prepare or write receive few or no comments.  That said,  I would like to hear from you more often.  I love hearing your opinions and learning new things from all of you.  But if the status quo continues and comments don't increase here over the next couple of months I am considering putting the blog on hiatus.  Of course I hope that you all will decide to comment more....

Question 7.  How should I share additional photos?

You overwhelmingly prefer Flickr.  Guess what? I prefer Instagram!  (For those of you who want to see WIPs and craft projects that will never make it to the blog feel free to visit me there).  But I'll still be around at Flickr because it's great for storing large numbers of photos (such as for a field trip).

Following this blog:

You've probably heard that Google Friend Connect and Google Reader will cease to exist come July.  I've always hoped to offer you as many options as possible for blog following, so you can get new post notifications via Bloglovin', HelloCotton, Twitter, Facebook. Or you can simply subscribe via email.

One of my favorite online hangouts:

Pinterest.  I could spend hours there.  (Ok, sometimes I do!).  I tend to pin at least one item everyday, especially to my various fashion, photo, and tutorial, craft and DIY boards.

Do you spend a lot of time on Pinterest? You may want to check out my boards.  I currently recommend the small A Tisket, A Tasket board for Easter DIY and craft inspiration.

And that's all for today, dear readers.  Comments?