Material Culture

May 19, 2007

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“Grandma’s at the office … so we do her job.” Such is the motto of the talented sisters-in-law who run Ohma!, crafters of hand-sewn heirloom quality goods you wish your grandmother would make for you. Kate Kirkpatrick and Jane Morris have amassed a treasure trove of vintage embroidery patterns from the turn of the last century to the present, and faithfully reproduce them onto their one-of-a-kind pieces.

They kindly allowed me to browse some of their collection which includes everything from Mother Goose characters and Raggedy Ann to dancing cutlery, Black Americana and 30s, 40s and 50s retro delights. It was a great visual tour through a little piece of this country’s material culture – the art people produced in their daily lives and passed along to friends and family.

When I started thinking about expanding the baby shop, my concern was finding items that people would want to hold on to. Our babies are young for such a short period, and so much of what we buy for them disappears with lightning speed. They grow right out of those adorable clothes and that gorgeous Moses basket lined with vintage-print fabric we just “had to have” lasts for all of a month.

So when some of you started asking about sources for bibs and blankets and other essentials I hesitated a bit. Then I thought about the work of Jane and Kate. Theirs are just the kind of pieces that make me want to head for the tissue paper and the hope chest: a snuggly cotton flannel blanket embroidered with the Old Woman’s Shoe (smiling faces at every window and an enterprising lad climbing the bootlaces); burp cloths so well made they will find new life as a doll or teddy bear blanket; And bibs? Bibs are the ultimate disposable infant accessory in my mind, but if someone had given me one of Ohma!’s quilted 3 little pigs bibs you bet it would be lovingly tucked away now waiting for some future grandchildren.

Hoping to provide you with some keepsakes of your own, Kate, Jane and I collaborated on creating some custom sets for the shop. The designs and styles you see are just a hint of what is possible as these ladies have been known to embroider everything from aprons to quilts. I, for one, would be happy for an excuse to re-visit their archives to dream up something new. Please feel free to get in touch if you have a special gift in mind.

blog-pig-bib.jpg Pig Jig Bib

blog-baby-set.jpg Retro Baby Bib & Burp Set

Twinkle Toes

May 14, 2007

scan-changed.jpg Jenny Linsky dances the hornpipe in Jenny and the Cat Club, by Esther Averill

There were no baby booties in our house – no crocheted pastels or embroidered felt pairs from relatives – just socks and bare feet and, later, 2 pairs of nifty striped Swedish slipper socks that made the boys look like pint-sized sailors about to dance the hornpipe. To tell you the truth, I didn’t miss them. There was nothing out there that was all that interesting. Well, now that crafters have come out of their home studios onto the internet, and with all those funky handmade goods fairs springing up all over the country, those little twinkle toes of yours can be shod in style.

You can still find classic booties like great grandmother used to make, but the ladies who create today’s infant footwear are just as likely to whip up a pair of Doc Martens or cowboy boots. That’s exactly what you’ll find in Heather Drum’s repertoire:  A Washington state resident who channels her talents into creating wildly original baby booties, the proprietress of Heather’s Treasure Box has transformed everything from a high-top sneaker to a pair of Mary Janes into soft knit shoes that are about as fun as it gets in the world of infant wear. Heather is a busy gal these days, so I felt like I had scored the brass ring when she agreed to send along some of her creations to share with all of you. We have a sampling over in the shop now – everything from Birkenstocks to bowling shoes, and some nostalgic classics as well.

dscn8317-changed.jpg Birkenstock Booties

Speaking of classics, let me introduce you to the good old-fashioned workmanship of Sew Easy Creations. A California mother-daughter duo who not only know their way around a knitting needle but also make the most charmingly detailed baby Mukluks. They are busy crafting a few pairs for us and will soon be accepting custom orders through the shop. The booties will be posted on the Home page as soon as they arrive, but in the meantime feast your eyes on these delicious colors and patterns:

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Finally, out of Idaho comes Diddle Dumpling, the closest thing to a fairy-tale cobbler to be found this side of a nursery rhyme. Sarah Hillgrove uses wool felt fabric and recycled leather to craft utterly exquisite baby and toddler shoes. Her pieces range from Mary Jane-style beauties embellished with felt flowers and embroidered leaves to easy slip-on styles with chirpy bird appliques. She, too, has graciously agreed to take custom orders. Thanks, Sarah! You’ll find some sample shoes in our New Arrivals and Baby & Toddler sections. Choose from several colors and styles, and even customize certain pairs like the “Scoot” style below.

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Golly G

May 2, 2007

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You will find that “golly gee” is an apt superlative for the embroidered soft blocks of Ginger Warden, the newest artist to grace our online outpost and the creative force behind the pithily-named Golly G Designs. Ginger stitches up all manner of delightful things in her home studio, but we are especially thrilled to feature her beautiful block sets as the first addition to Quiet Hours’ growing nursery selection.

We love blocks around here but find the classic wooden ABC sets often leave much to be desired where very young children are concerned. Sooner or later junior will realize that those little cubes make fine projectiles and will start lobbing them across the room at the family pet, or you will find yourself crawling under the sofa for the umpteenth time in search of the missing letter “z”. Not to mention the fact that once the initial thrill of recognition wears off (“B is for ball!”) the toy is often left to gather dust for several years until your child commandeers it for more imaginative endeavors like building block castles.

That’s why we are so pleased to offer Ginger’s inspired alternative for the pint-sized crowd – a set of 3 hand-embroidered soft blocks that baby can squash and stack and cuddle to his heart’s content. We love everything about these blocks, from the slightly nubby unbleached cotton to the sweet, simple designs – a touch retro, a touch Japanese cute – that Ginger so artfully renders.

And if that weren’t enough to bring a smile to your face Ginger has generously agreed to offer Quiet Hours families custom block sets embroidered with your child’s name (see above) and an assortment of happy imagery. Please check the shop for details and pricing options. Thanks, Ginger!

Keep an eye out for more Golly G creations to come:

– a funky block set for alterna-tikes who prefer alien spaceships to apples

– handy child-sized totes that will arrive just in time for summer travels

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