Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Silver + Glass + Candles ==> Make a Wow Candlescape

There may not be an original thought out there in the Universe. Well, okay. Yet it sure is nice to have fun with some of the old ones now and again. Building this candlescape was definitely a fun experience for me. So much fun in fact, that it changed and grew over the season.

I am a big fan of sterling silver anything. I also love, during these long winter nights, to add candlelight into my home. So there ya go, I had the idea for my candlescape. I have limited space to build any kind of Christmas display, so I simply utilized my 36" round glass table. Besides, glass is a very safe base for candles. NOTE: It pays to use the GOOD or reliable candles. I find that the cute, or the cheap, candles have an unknown record of performance. No one wants to leave the room for 10 minutes and have the candles melt down. Never leave the room for more than a minute. Also, be ready for the smoke alarm which WILL set off when you douse this many candles. Ha!

It started easily and almost by a formula.

Take two sterling candlesticks. Now, shop at Pier 1, Crate & Barrel and Michael's Arts & crafts for some glass sticks or pillar holders.

Buy taper, 3" pillar and tea light candles. I find taller pillars can get messy. As it is, I usually trim the pillars once or twice with an old chef knife. I like the Linen scent from Michael's (I am not a fan of scented candles , these are very mellow). My tapers are Kiri, from Denmark, and last at least 14 hours each. They add a bit of beeswax to the tapers which is good for your brainwaves and the ions help to settle dust in the home. Since I am allergic to almost everything, I find substantial relief on dusting days by burning these candles in the evening. The tea lights are from Pier 1 and last about 4 hours. Most candles are made from petroleum products -- 'nuff said.

Gather a tall stick at Pottery Barn, some mercury glass at Home Goods, and well -- you have a starting place for a sparkling display. So far, I was feeling good, I had enough light to replace a roaring fire in the fireplace, and enough height and variety to satisfy an HGTV designer.

Did I get carried away? No? Not yet.

Okay, add a glittery mesh deer, some garlands of pearls on silver wire and some large mercury ornaments. I am now on Level 2. Sparkling and glimmering in a pool of silver, glass and flame.

I am delighted with my own home festival of lights. Certainly I can find more to add...

To add some depth to the silver and ivory, how about some gold and bronze? I find tree shapes in metal and glittering candles as well as some smaller ornaments. Most items were new in November 2009 and easily purchased.

I could toast marshmallows on this set-up.

Who needs a fireplace?

I guess my only disadvantage is that I had no room on my table for dinner. Oops, it was a selfish act to build this light show and allow it to completely take over my dining table.

One more noteworthy Christmas decorating event last year took place outside my own home. I was watching the natural creativity of my (then) 6 year old grand-nephew. All I did was pull out supplies. Look what this boy built in decorating this 20" tree (I love how he used the pixie sticks on top as flair).

The last photo was the tablescape he created using some of my candlescape supplies. I gave no guidance or directions for either. He set this up for a family dinner. Just Wonderful! I hope to find out that he is still as creative this year.

Looking Back at Xmas Decorations 2009

I am very inspired to get started on my Christmas decorating after viewing some wonderful posts on various blog sites.

Here is a visit to last year's Christmas decorations in my itty bitty space. It is important to me to note that some bits of these photos caused me to do some major redecorating during 2010. How fun is that?

Of note, I just refuse to start decorating in November -- even on the last day of the month. Yes -- I stand on Principle. Or is it Principal? That, plus I have a miserable cold and do not want to start ANYTHING right now. I just want to check last year's photos and post these on my blog.

My tree is artificial. So, I'm not a purist seeking that "real" tree. My parents bought the live cut tree when I was a child, and so I remember how enchanting that was until it dried out and shed everywhere. This artificial tree is one piece, nice and full, yet only 36" tall -- a "table top tree". Smugly, I admit that Setting Up The Christmas Tree takes less than 12 minutes, including putting the champagne into the freezer, carrying up the tree bag (nylon) from the basement, setting the tree onto a table, plugging in the lights, and returning the tree bag to the basement.

Last year I set the tree on top of 2 plastic file boxes. I simply covered the plastic with a tree skirt and set out my artificial poinsettias in front. I love the look (above).

I admire those who have the time, the creativity and the storage space to set up a different tree theme each year. Look, I used to be an accountant, so baby steps... baby steps.

I elected to start with red and gold ornaments about 20 years ago. Over time, those colors have broadened to include jewel tone ornaments. Gee, I never knew I was so keen on turquoise until I looked at photos of my 2009 tree.

My Christmas pillows are a part of the scene.

Two years ago, I purchased a few vintage ornaments on Ebay. Last year, instead of adding those to my tree, I got a bit creative and placed them around some beloved vintage sterling pieces. That single photo includes some pieces from ancesters and remind me of good times shared by the family. Instead of using white lights in that shiny vignette, I used small votive candle holders. Love candle light during this time of the year!

The clear glass ornament hanging from the candelabra was made by my 5 year old grandnephew. Yeah, there's that turquoise again.

After decorating the tree and the above vignette, I found that I still had a few bits and pieces that did not match my current holiday decor. They did not "belong" anywhere.

I was just about to donate these items when I noticed that they combined into a bit of a "vintage" theme. So, a small artificial tree is decorated only with simple ribbon and a few metal toys. The santa is made from painted canvas. The Shaker round boxes just seemed to fit in there. The plate above is part of wall decor (handmade in Istanbul by a green-eyed man who told me his art is a prayer to Allah -- I promptly bought it, and oh yes, there is that turquoise again). The ram's head is part of a lamp. I have no mantel, no shelf and precious little horizontal space -- so this vintage vignette is actually about 6" away from the sterling and ornaments vignette.

As you can see here, the champagne inspired me to not only finish decorating the tree, but to stand on a chair and take a photo of the tree through the round crystal of my French chandelier. The tree is also reflected in the mirrored wall. I love the effect!

NOTE: That mirrored wall came down in October and a mantle shelf is on order. I am looking forward to decorating that horizontal shelf with great joy and reckless abandonment!

Good thing I have extra champagne already chilled...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Heart and Roses Design

I found another beautiful Madeira tablecloth from a seller in the UK (square 41" x 41" approximate). The condition appears to be unused. The linen is medium weight and what I would call an "off-white" color. The stitching is in a medium dark brown. Milk chocolate color? (I just love chocolate!)

Circle and a Square Compass Work

One of the most charming overall aspects of this tablecloth is that the interior has a square pattern compass work while the exterior has circular compass work. This contrast has a pleasing effect.

The interior square compass work holds four hearts, each heart on top of both vertical and horizontal designs that provide a "movement" to the design. There is a definite romance to the hearts portrayed in this manner. A liveliness. I was surprised that the seller never even mentioned this pattern in her description of this cloth. Gosh -- I found the hearts made this cloth unique.

The exterior compass work is quite simple and appears to provide a joining link between each rose motif in the four corners.

There are lovely scallops edges and this cloth includes a few other random bits of interesting stitchery.

The Rose Motif -- An Uncommon Approach to Common Pattern

Below are a few shots of one corner. I am very taken with the artistry of this piece which includes a rather common rose pattern. Yet, the embroideress added lovely wisps here and there which give a wonderful and organic movement to the pattern. Yes, movement -- like a rose bush flowing back and forth in a light summer breeze.

I appreciate the workmanship involved in completing the shading for these flowers by using 2 different stitches. Note the darkness of the upper rose petals while the lighter shading demonstrates the lower petals as they would stand out in the sun.

The close-up photo reveals the thickness of the rose petal outline stitching. Sumptuous!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pretty Vintage Designs

Loops of Linen & A Monogram

I'm not sure how to title this on my inventory list. There are swirling bits of linen ("cutwork") joined with intricate embroidery. Plus, don't cha know? a monogram built right into the design...

"Isn't this the height of nonchalance?"
----- Barbara Streisand in "Funny Girl"

Very little floral work. I like it. In fact, this cloth is gracing my table as I type up this post. I imagine the original owner selecting a design that would allow her centerpiece to set right there and not conflict with the graceful design.

I have a cell phone and a Post It pad near the center of this cloth right now. Hmm. That is just not at all classy.

I can hear my father saying, "You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can't take Brooklyn out of the girl."



In my quest to find as much embroidery as possible, I came across this stunning piece. This is a 44" square piece with a medium dark coffee thread on an off-white linen. Not much linen here at all. Rather than merely embroider the outline of each flower and leaf, the talented woman/women that worked on this piece created dynamic shading through the use of various stitching techniques. I am in awe. I'm still afraid to put any food or beverage on this piece out of respect for the artists.

I was surprised at the weight of this piece. Surely this cloth was created by an embroidery master.

I also find that I pet this cloth as I walk by it. I believe that ownership of a Madeira tablecloth is merely that of a guardian. I hold this for future generations. Every time I touch or stroke this piece, it is pleasure to my and applause to the original artists. I find that possessing a tablecloth of this beauty requires not only my visual approval, but my tactile involvement.

My Early 2009 Madeira Selections

I had my older sister on the phone with me to assist in my first purchase of an actual Madeira linen tablecloth. We both went online to Ruby Lane (http://www.rubylane.com/) and found a lovely design with GREY stitching. Grey? An appealing idea since it will work well with my sterling silver bits and the china set I inherited from my mother.

Large Flower and Geometric Pattern

This cloth measures 50 x50 inches and is in perfect condition. It appears to have never been used. I consider giving this a nice soak to freshen it up, yet I see no storage stains or other markings. It has received good care.

Here's a close-up of one of the corners. I live in a small ... er, efficiently sized home and I see this table all day. I enjoy how this corner panel drapes down revealing this lovely corner pattern (below). The beige or cream color of the tablecloth blends nicely with the newly reupholstered chair (gold damask). OK, I admit it. This cloth has been folded up for the past 20 months. Sigh. It's a learning process.

After this acquisition, I start my own hunt. At this point, back in January 2009, I prefer to go with as much open-work embroidery as possible. I'm thinking this will minimize or eliminate the ironing. Yes, I own a Rowena iron. I've never used it. but I do happen to own one.

Spider Mums and Open Work

This cloth is 48 x 47" square and the thread appears to be a beige on an off-white linen. This cloth just jumped off the page at EBay (http://www.ebay.com)/ ) and I had to possess it. I fell in love with the open spaces which show well on my glass table. In the art world, I believe that is known as the negative space. I love the plumpness of the mums since they look like palm trees to me.

The design provides a lively sense of "flow" around the table and I could not be more delighted with my purchase. How interesting that I quickly moved from "bland" white drawn-work linen to this artistry.

Acquiring - Start at the Beginning

I've just never been a collector. I did not receive gifts of linen and frankly, I had no idea what I was doing. I freely admit that life with a round glass table was easy and uncomplicated. A glass table is good for breakfasts, dinner, paying bills and art projects.

I don't feel bad about this lifestyle, yet I just yearn for "pretty". I don't know how to proceed!

Woe is Me

Yeah, I dismissed family traditions and found myself without any Madeira tablecloths. Maybe because I had not married? My mother still had two or three of these cloths in her possession at the time of her death. They went to my older sister who had always been a leading member of the Madeira Linen Fan Club. If such a thing ever existed.

I became interested

For me, the natural starting position of any acquisition is my beloved EBay. I stared out in October 2008 as I began to search under "linen tablecloths" to do my investigating and some purchasing.

I started out with boring. Er, simple. Below are two photos of a non-Madeira. Yeah, I kinda lived in a non-creative world. This is a lovely 48x48" square linen with concentric squares. This work is known as Drawn Work. I purchased this from the UK and it is purported to be from someones holiday in Scotland. I dunno. Like the idea of a holiday, so, I now had my first linen.

I purchased a few other cloths and began, whoo hoo, my "collection". At Christmas, I showed my brand new little-bitty collection to my older sister. She was under impressed with my selection. I think she got a kick out of seeing me get started on this path.

What I quickly did was RESEARCH. I read up on linen fibers and linen care. I purchased some of the wonderful RESTORATION cleaner for vintage linens. I helped my sister reclaim some old linens she had inherited. And yes, we soaked out 40 year old gravy, cranberry and wine stains from the old tablecloths she inherited.

It was like going to Confession and being Forgiven!

Preparing for a Holdiay Dinner Party -- The Brooklyn Irish Way

Okay, I'll have to check with some of the relatives on this one. Make sure I'm including all the traditions.

Lessee, preparing for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas meant preparations were underway for:

  1. Polish the living room and dining room wood furniture. We used the good old stuff, no lemon scents and no silicone to clog the wood.

  2. Pull apart the dining room table and insert the leaves. Top with the felt-backed table protector.

  3. Dig out the fancy tablecloth

  4. Uncover the sterling silver from various hiding spots. Polish each piece until it gleamed

  5. Rinse out the crystal stemware until it sparkled. Then set them next to the sterling.

  6. Take a few moments to play silly tunes on the stemware by rubbing the rims with water. Different tones based on the amount of water in each glass. Oh you remember, it was on Ed Sullivan. This scenario was the only silly moment my mother allowed herself prior to the Family Holiday Dinner.

Those are my memories. My mother controlled the kitchen including the shopping, the prep and the cooking. One of my sisters was always in charge of making the gravy. I never did the cooking (the advantage of being the last-born).

Accordingly, I have VERY HAPPY MEMORIES associated with Sterling Silver and Tablecloths.

Oh How I Long for the Days of Holiday Dinners

I grew up in the 1960's, when family holiday dinners were A BIG THING.

Family members actually dressed up for these events (an odd concept in today's casual society). The men wore long-sleeved white shirts with their good cuff links and ties. The women wore dresses, red lipstick,restrictive undergarments and odd remnants of dead animals 'round their shoulders, .

Oh yes. This was back in The Olden Days.

Also known as The Time Before Seat Belts and Drink Driving Laws (both of which, by the way, are splendid ideas).

Back then, there was a whole lotta drinking going on during a holiday party. Two cocktails before dinner, champagne and wine with dinner, and an after-dinner drink. Or two (Drambuie, Cherry Herring, B&B, ugh, syrupy sweet).

A few songs were sung by the older generation. Tunes I forgot for the most part. That older generation, oh my, they could all sing and harmonize. I'd pretend to hide as much as possible. But really, I stayed nearby to take it all in.

Good Lord -- it was fun. Laughing so hard my belly hurt even into the next day.

I believe in Heaven, and I hope that I live a life that allows me just a few moments of one grand family party.

The Inside Garden

It is now late fall and my wonderful summer garden is but a memory. The fall garden is also starting to wane as the temperatures drop here in the northeast United States. Days are shorter and the nights are longer.

Time to build up the Inside Garden. What is that? Dunno.

I know that it means I will devote time and energy (and money) into creating an environment that soothes me and motivates me.

Let the games begin!