The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Cross Stitch Lesson Part 2

Explanatory articles in the Twenties tended to be extremely wordy. The embroidery lesson on cross stitch lasted for an entire page and a half of very small print. We don’t generally read that much at one time now. So today I bring you Cross Stitch Lesson, Part 2.

This information continues where we left off. Last time I talked about using cross stitch for even-weave fabrics, where you could count the thread each way to make your stitches. Today I’ll cover the rest of the article, which gives you two more options for cross stitch.

Like I’ve said before, most cross stitch these days is on fabric you can count. However, two more options exist. You can complete a stamped cross stitch, where the X’s are marked onto fabric and you stitch over them. Alternatively, for thick fabric or fabric you don’t want to mark, you can use a canvas like Penelope or some specifically designed to be stitched over.

To repeat from last time, one fixed rule is that however you decide to do cross stitch, your stitches must lie in the same direction for the entire piece. All the top threads of the crosses must slant the same way. This gives your work a pleasing texture. It looks more like tapestry this way.

Cross stitch on stamped fabric

In order to use a stamped cross stitch pattern, you either purchase an item already stamped or you iron or trace the X’s directly onto your fabric. Just like with counted thread cross stitch, you don’t tie any knots in your thread.

In the best stamped cross stitch patterns, they leave a tiny space between any two crosses. This keeps the design from running together, so you can see where one X ends and the next one begins. Unfortunately, not all stamped patterns are this nice. Over the years I’ve seen some absolutely horrific stamped embroidery patterns. And very few of them were vintage at the time.

Image of cross stitch in action. The needle completes the second half of a stitch with several already done and seven stitches yet to go.

Although the stitches face the wrong way for how we usually do cross stitch, take a look at the pattern. You can see that one X stops before the next one begins and there’s a tiny space. As you stitch you cover those spaces with the thread. In other words, your stitches touch one another –– all four legs of four different X’s will come out of the same hole. This is how you ensure that you cover the stamped design. It also makes your work look even and flawless.

Doing it this way fills the design properly and gives the appearance of work done on canvas, also known as needlepoint or tapestry. Each cross when you complete it forms a perfect square, as you can see above.

It is an excellent plan to work the first half of a line of stitches and then as you return, cross them with the second half, or top threads. This places a row of vertical stitches on the back side of your work and it looks quite neat. It also requires less thread than if you complete each X before moving to the next one. If you work from a kit, you may not have enough thread to make each stitch completely before starting the next.

Cross stitch over canvas

In the Twenties, if you wanted to do cross stitch over a fabric that you couldn’t count, and didn’t want to stamp, your option was Penelope canvas. Penelope canvas, named for the legendary wife of Odysseus in the Odyssey, is composed of two threads each direction. You cross stitch over the four threads that intersect to make a square.

Today we have an option called waste canvas. Much cheaper than Penelope canvas, it’s also easier to remove once the stitching is done. If you know anyone who has ever removed the strands of Penelope canvas with a pair of tweezers and a good deal of strength after completing a project, you will love waste canvas.

Waste canvas to the rescue

Waste canvas comes in various sizes, as does Penelope canvas, and you can find waste canvas on Amazon, as well as at your favorite local craft supplies store.

To use waste canvas, you cut a piece of canvas a little larger than your design. Count the meshes or spaces to make sure there are a few more than you find in your pattern. Baste the canvas evenly over the spot to be embroidered, using a light colored thread for light fabrics and a dark colored thread for dark fabrics and large stitches.

Work the design over the canvas, taking the stitches over the canvas threads and using them as your guide. Your needle will pass into the material beneath, and come up through the canvas ready for the next stitch.

When the embroidery is finished, remove the canvas one thread at a time. This leaves the design on the smooth linen, silk, denim, or whatever material you chose. Be careful not to catch the needle in the canvas as you work. Go over all the canvas threads rather than through them so that you can remove them when you’re finished.

Cross stitch over canvas. A small flower motif is complete and the canvas is half removed. Text: Detail of work over Penelope canvas.

This photo shows a cross stitch pattern worked over Penelope canvas. Waste canvas works the same way. The design is complete and the worker is removing the canvas threads one at a time.

Waste canvas project ideas

This is an easy way to place cross stitched logos or designs onto jackets, shirts, skirts, and other clothing where the material isn’t suitable for counted embroidery and you don’t want to iron a stamped pattern onto the fabric.

With the use of a symbol chart such as the sailboats from last lesson or the one below, a design may be transferred to any material.

A simple cross stitch pattern of a flower in a flower pot.
A cross stitch flower pot for you to use.

Here’s the chart for the flower pot you see completed, above. By using this symbol chart, where each symbol designates a different color, this design can be transferred to any material. You may need to use canvas as a guide, you may not.

Use any colors you like. Suggestions: brown for the flower pot, green for the leaves, yellow for the flower with brown center and tan surrounding it. Use it once, or repeat it to make a border. Drop off the pot portion and you have a small, light, airy flower that would make a delightful border for a kitchen apron or towel. Keep the pot and this could decorate a bag, a coat, or a shirt.

I hope you enjoyed this cross stitch lesson, part 2. Next time we’ll use your new cross stitch skill to complete a full project –– a 1920s bag made from monk’s cloth and decorated with cross stitch.

The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Edgings Crocheted Widthwise

Five crocheted edgings on a table with their ends tucked under a vintage crocheted placemat.
All these were created by crocheting short rows, working back and forth.

Today I have something that I hope will intrigue some of you. When I posted the article on Five Great Vintage Crochet Edgings, I promised you this one, too. Today I bring you Edgings Crocheted Widthwise. Four of these date from the 1920s and one from the 1940s.

Why crochet using the narrow side?

Edgings Crocheted Widthwise? What does that even mean? Well, most of the time when you crochet an edging, you make a really long chain or you work a base row of single crochet onto an item and then build your edging upon that. These are the two ways you usually create an edging. But there’s another way.

Some edgings build from the narrow side, row by row. You start with a foundation of 20 stitches, a few more or a few less. Then you crochet one row at a time back and forth, back and forth on those few stitches until you have an inch of edging. Then two inches. Five inches. A foot. A yard. And so on.

This is how knitted edgings and many tatted edgings are made, and it’s a nice way to create an edging. Most knitted edgings historically start with a few stitches and work back and forth until you reach the length you need. Many tatted edgings start with one ring and work back and forth, back and forth, to make a yard or two of lace. You create the length that you need, and you’re finished.

Give one or more of these a try

Give one or more of these edgings a try. Some go faster than others. If you need speed, look for an edging that either uses shells in its construction or open squares, called filet. Those are generally the quickest to make.

On the other hand you can create an edging like this that’s as involved and deep as you like. I’ve seen patterns for edgings three or more inches deep using fine thread that you work widthwise rather than lengthwise. A crochet hook can turn out very elaborate edgings this way.

If your time is at a premium, the first three edgings go fairly quickly. The latter two took more time to create per inch of length. All these edgings are crocheted with size 10 Aunt Lydia’s crochet thread. However, the original instructions called for a much finer thread if they specified any thread at all. Make sure your thread and your hook size match so that the edgings are sturdy without being too tight. Size 10 thread = size 7 metal crochet hook. Size 80 thread = size 13 or 14 metal crochet hook.

You will need

For these edgings crocheted widthwise, you will need:

  • crochet thread (If you have no access to threads you can find many different sizes at The Tatting Corner.)
  • a corresponding size steel crochet hook

Remember, thick threads or yarns need bigger hooks than the narrow threads.

Edging 1

Crochet edging that looks like leaves on an open square background. This edging is crocheted widthwise, from the narrow end.
Edging one is a quick and easy filet pattern.

As you can see from the family photo at the top, this edging looks like leaves on an open background.

  1. Make a chain of 17 stitches.
  2. Make a double crochet (dc) stitch in the 8th stitch from the hook, then (chain 2, skip 2 chains below, and 1 dc in the next ch) 3 times. Turn. You now should have a row of four open squares.
  3. Chain 5, dc over the next dc, chain 2, dc over the next dc, 6 dc.
  4. Chain 5, skip 3 ch on your hook, and make 1 dc in the next 2 chains, then 10 dc in the next 10 stitches of the previous row, ch 2, skip 2, 1 dc.
  5. Chain 5, dc over the next dc, chain 2, dc over the next dc, 6 dc.
  6. Make a double crochet (dc) stitch in the 8th stitch from the hook, then (chain 2, skip 2 chains below, and 1 dc in the next ch) 3 times. Turn. You now should have a row of four open squares.
  7. Repeat from Step 3.

This is an example of an easy filet edging. Once you get the hang of filet it’s relatively quick. It was extremely popular in the 1910s and 20s. As the use of netting as a needlework technique declined, filet crochet took its place.

Edging 2

Crocheted edging that has small rectangles of solid crochet set into a lacy heading. An unusual edging from the Twenties.
An unusual modified filet crochet edging that ends on the diagonal when completed.

This edging is unusual because the pattern ends on the diagonal. Not many Twenties patterns looked like this.

  1. Chain 20 stitches.
  2. Make a double crochet (dc) in the 6th stitch from the hook, dc in each of the next 2 stitches, chain 2, skip 2 stitches, dc in next stitch, ch 2, skip 2 stitches, dc in next stitch, 6 dc. [Those empty squares are called spaces in filet crochet, and the filled squares are called blocks.]
  3. Chain 3, then 6 dc in the next 6 dc of the previous row (you will skip the first stitch. The chain 3 counts as the first dc.), chain 2, skip 2, dc, chain 2, skip 2, dc, ch 2, 3 dc under the chain-3 at the beginning of the last row, chain 2, and then a treble stitch (tr) under the same chain as the 3 dc.
  4. Chain 5, 3 dc under the 2-chain, chain 2, skip 2, dc, ch 2, skip 2, dc [2 spaces made], 6 dc.
  5. Repeat from Step 3.

This is a two-row pattern that’s easy to memorize once you get the hang of it.

Edging 3

Simple crocheted edging in white with a jagged pointed lower edge.
This pointed edge lace from the Twenties would look great on towels, aprons, or linens.

This edging consists of two easy-to-memorize rows, and it goes fairly quickly. The original instructions called for a size 60 thread and a metal crochet hook size 13, which would make it tiny.

  1. Chain (ch) 11.
  2. 1 sc (single crochet) in the 2nd chain from hook, 1 dc (double crochet) in next three ch. Chain 2, skip 2, dc in next ch. Ch 2, skip 2, dc in next.
  3. Turn, ch 5, dc in 2nd dc, ch 2 dc in next dc, ch 4, turn.
  4. Repeat from Step 2.

Edging 4

Lacy crocheted edging with small scallops along one side.
A lacy edging from the Twenties, crocheted side to side.

This edging is a bit more complicated and requires some concentration to get into the flow of the stitches.

  1. Chain (ch) 9, turn.
  2. 1 double crochet (dc) in 5th chain from hook, skip 2 ch, dc in next, ch 2, dc in same chain. Chain 3, sc in end of chain. This sets up the foundation row for the rest of the lace.
  3. Turn, ch 1, in 3-chain loop make 2 sc, 2 ch, 2 sc, 2 ch, 2 sc, 2 ch, 1 sc. (This will be tight and you may need to stop and scrunch the stitches up to fit them all in.) Then chain 5, dc into the next 2-chain loop, and in the 5-chain loop at the end make 1 dc, 2 ch, 1 dc.
  4. Turn, chain 5, 1 dc into 2-ch loop, in next 5-ch loop make 1 dc, 2 ch, 2 dc, 3 ch, 1 sc.
  5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for the length of the lace.

Edging 5

Half-completed lace edging showing the making of the lace as well as a second row of chain stitches across the top that makes a header.
This Forties edging is a bit more complicated than the others.

This edging is made in two stages. In stage one you make the lace itself, and in stage two you come back across the length with a chain, picking up the top loops as you go. This creates a header chain for sewing the lace onto something else. Here you see the lace completed and the header chain half-done.

  1. Chain 6.
  2. In 6th chain (ch) from hook make 2 dc (double crochet) ch 2 and 2 dc (shell made). Ch 5, turn.
  3. In 2-chain space of shell make a shell as before (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc), ch 9, sc (single crochet) in next turning loop.
  4. In ch-9 loop make (2 sc, ch 3) 6 times; then 2 sc in the same loop. Ch 2, shell in space of next shell, chain 5, turn.
  5. Shell in space of next shell, treble crochet in 2nd 3-chain picot. Chain 5, turn.
  6. Shell in space of next shell, chain 5, turn.
  7. Shell in space of next shell, chain 9, sc under previous treble-bar. Turn.
  8. Repeat Steps 4 to 7 for desired length, ending with Step 4. Do not turn work when you’re finished, and work the heading by (sc in next ch-5 loop, ch 5) repeating this across to the beginning.

You choose the size

I hope this intrigues you enough to attempt edgings crocheted widthwise. These patterns lead to a very different edging look. Best of all, you can make these with any size thread and hook that you want. I did them all in size 10 thread because it makes the details easier to see. I wrote an article about making crochet in various sizes here. Check it out.

Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Making Ice Creams, Ices and Sundaes

1020s photo of a round platter holding there spoons and two ice cream sundaes in glass dishes. A glass filled with a whipped cream fruit mixture sits beside them.
Enjoy a vintage Pineapple Marshmallow Sundae, South-Pole Sundae, or a Marshmallow Parfait this summer.

During the warmer months sometimes the weather gets really hot. Short of dumping ice water over your head, how do you stay cool? Before the advent of air conditioning, cold drinks, hand and electric fans, and ice creams helped to bring temperatures down. Not really, but it’s hard to be sad while you eat a nice bowl of ice cream. So today I’m going to talk about making ice creams, ices and sundaes –– straight from a Twenties source.

It’s relatively easy to make all sorts of fancy ice creams at home. You can go beyond bowls of plain chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and peach, which were the Ice Cream Standards of the 1920s. Instead of a plain bowl of ice cream, why not serve a sundae? Even the most fancy version starts with a base of vanilla ice cream and then adds syrups and whipped cream. In the Twenties a sundae might also be decorated with preserved, fresh, or candied fruit.

Ice creams and sundaes from your own kitchen

This article will tell you how to make a Pineapple Marshmallow Sundae, South-Pole Sundae, Marshmallow Parfait, Caramel Ice Cream, and a Cafe Frappe. It assumes you already know how to make basic vanilla and chocolate ice cream. I have a recipe for those somewhere that I will post a bit later in case you need it.

Ice cream was classified three ways when sundaes were new. A French ice cream was made with eggs. Today we often call that an ice cream custard and we make it with egg yolks only. A Philiadelphia ice cream was made with thick whipping cream. American ice cream was made with fresh or condensed milk with a little whole cream added. 100 years later we are still making French ice cream with eggs, but the American ice cream has replaced the condensed milk with half and half (light cream) or simply milk with a bit of cream. Even in the Twenties, commercial ice creams contained gelatin to help it maintain its consistency.

Other options for frozen desserts included water ices. We call them granitas, and sometimes they were called granites. In some recipes cream was frozen without stirring in an ice cream maker. This created a parfait or a mousse (have you ever had frozen chocolate mousse? 1000 calories of pure heaven!).

Suggestions for great results using your ice cream freezer

If you use an ice cream freezer that requires ice and salt, you might want to try kosher salt instead of rock salt and crushed ice instead of larger ice chunks. Actually, the instructions suggest that you pulverize your rock salt, but I don’t know anyone who wants to sit outside with a bag of rock salt and a hammer when you can get kosher salt instead.

Most ice cream maker instruction manuals tell you to pour in a layer of ice and then top it with a thin layer of salt, and repeat. Why not try mixing the ice and salt thoroughly in a large pan before putting it into the freezer? One part salt to three parts ice keeps it very cold. Add the ice and salt to the freezer before you add the ice cream mixture. If you add the mix to the container and then add the ice and salt, the mixture begins to freeze at the bottom before the top is cold. It then freezes unevenly.

Avoiding that grainy consistency

Have a problem with grainy ice cream? This often happens when the crank turns too rapidly at the beginning of the freezing cycle. Turn the crank slowly but keep up a steady motion. When the dasher starts to turn hard (and you’re beginning to get tired from all the turning) that’s when you beat hard and steady for one full minute.

Then remove the crossbar that holds the contraption together, remove the container lid and take out the dasher. (I always tried to find a small child who wanted a taste. The little ones are very willing to hold the dasher and try the ice cream for you while you attend to the rest of the procedure. Voilá! You no longer need to find a place to set the dasher.)

Pack the ice cream down, replace the lid on the canister, and plug the hole with a cork. Remove the icy, salty water from the pail and repack it with salt and ice to ripen the ice cream. This ice can be larger than crushed, and use about half the salt you used before. If the weather is very warm (assuming you are doing this outdoors because it creates a mess) you may have to redo the ice and salt before the ice cream is ripened.

Covering the ice cream freezer with an old blanket or a thick cloth helps to keep the cold in. If you get it wet before laying it over the freezer, it will help keep it that much colder. The original instructions said to keep the blanket wet with the brine from the ice cream freezer, but I can’t imagine what that level of salt water would do to old fibers in a blanket. Maybe this is where all the old quilts went.

And on to the cold treats!

Now that you have an idea of some of the forgotten advice on ice cream making, let’s make some warm weather goodies. Making ice cream and sundaes at home can be great fun. Like most Twenties recipes, some of these may sound a little odd at first. Give one or more of them a try and you can have your own Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social.

All of these recipes should serve from four to six.

Pineapple Marshmallow Sundae

You will need:

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Marshmallow cream filling (like Fluff or Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Cream. Look for it at your grocery store.)
  • One slice of canned pineapple per person
  • Shredded coconut (packaged. Moist. Not dried coconut. Available in your baking aisle.)
  • Whipped cream
  • Juice from the canned pineapple


  1. Half fill a sherbet glass with vanilla ice cream.
  2. Top this with a dollop of marshmallow cream filling.
  3. Press a slice of canned pineapple onto the marshmallow cream.
  4. Top with a tablespoon or so of the soft shredded coconut.
  5. Finish off with a topping of whipped cream.
  6. Pour a little of the pineapple syrup over the top of the sundae.

South-Pole Sundae

You will need:

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Real chocolate fudge. You don’t have to make it fresh for this; if you made chocolate fudge in the past couple days you can reheat it and pour it over the ice cream. Melt it enough to pour by placing it in a pan set in a larger pan of boiling water. It shouldn’t be very hot. A double boiler works, too. Or [Sh!! Don’t tell!] even a quick zap in the microwave.
  • Candied cherries or Maraschino cherries


  1. Place a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of a glass. I would use a six or eight ounce glass Pyrex dessert dish.
  2. On top of this pour a just a little of the soft chocolate fudge.
  3. Heap the glass bowl with ice cream.
  4. Give it a thin topping of fudge.
  5. Decorate with candied cherries.

This tastes a little like the chocolate covered ice cream bars that were all the rage in 1922. The secret to this is to make the fudge layers thin, like a frosting.

Marshmallow Parfait

You will need:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp sugar or to taste
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 orange
  • 1/4 lb marshmallows
  • 2 Tbsp shredded pineapple
  • Candied cherries/ Maraschino cherries


  1. Whip the cup of cream and sweeten with the sugar. Set into the freezer to chill while you make the rest of the dessert, or set on ice in a bowl.
  2. Cut the bananas, orange, and marshmallows into small pieces. Stir in the pineapple.
  3. Remove the cream from the ice or freezer. Beat the fruit lightly into the cream and fill tall glasses with the mixture.
  4. Decorate with candied cherries or maraschino cherries.

If you find that you like this parfait, which is not actually frozen, you may also like this recipe for Fruited Cream. It’s similar.

Caramel Ice Cream

You will need:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 4 cups whole/heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Heat the brown sugar into a small frying pan and stir over medium heat until it melts and begins to smoke a little. You want it melted and hot enough that it tastes caramelized but not dark enough that it tastes burned.
  2. Heat together the half and half (light cream) and cream, mix the liquid sugar with them and flavor with vanilla.
  3. Remove the mixture from the fire and stir until it cools.
  4. Strain the mixture to remove any large sugar particles.
  5. Freeze in an ice cream freezer as usual.

The flavor of this ice cream is varied by the length of time the brown sugar is cooked. Be very careful –– hot melted sugar like this can cause dreadful burns.

Cafe Frappe

This is the original method of making a frappe, without the help of a blender. It’s more of an ice than an ice cream, since 3 of the five cups of liquid are water based.

You will need:

  • 3 cups strong black coffee
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Whipped cream for serving


  1. Scald the cream and dissolve the sugar in it.
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. Mix coffee with the sweetened cream. Add the vanilla.
  4. Pour into an ice cream freezer and freeze slowly until it reaches a mushy consistency.
  5. Serve in glasses with a spoon of whipped cream on top.

I hope you enjoyed these recipes for making ice creams and sundaes in your own kitchen.

Parties and Visits · The Vintage Kitchen · Vintage Entertainment

Plan a Summer Automobile Picnic

Family of five enjoying a picnic outdoors in the 1920s. Mom unloads the hamper while little sister enjoys a drink, little brother munches a sandwich, and dad talks to big sister, who sits with a warm cup of coffee or tea.. She holds a teacup in her hand and an insulated Thermos bottle sits in front of her.
Ah….. enjoying the great outdoors and meal at the same time!

Wide automobile ownership brought the great outdoors within reach of a whole new audience. Previously, people could go as far as the local streetcar, the interurban, or the train could take them. Or they could ride a horse if they had one. For short excursions a bicycle would work well. But nothing beat an auto when you wanted to plan a summer automobile picnic an hour or so away from home.

Taking off in your auto

The automobile picnic actually became a term on its own in magazine articles. With the extra space afforded by the car, owners could pack it to the windows and take practically every luxury with them when they headed out for their nature dinner.

When you think of supplies, you may want to use fabric shopping or tote bags instead of hampers if your car space is small. Bags can be hung from the clothing hooks or tucked into places that a large hamper will not go.

The prepared picnic addict kept a special shelf of supplies, plus more hidden away in the automobile trunk. If you wanted to pull a picnic together on short notice, you needed a few items on hand. Here is a bona fide Twenties picnic list that will help you plan your summer automobile picnic.

Supplies that make easy work of the picnic lunch

Wherever you store your seasonal things, you should have these available:

  • Paper plates
  • Tablecloth
  • Napkins
  • Cups
  • Doilies
  • Empty cracker boxes
  • Rolls of paraffin (waxed) paper
  • Strong market bags with handles (paper or burlap are good materials. Today I’d suggest a reusable fabric shopping bag. The Twenties picnicker would have loved such a light and useful item.)
  • Thermos bottle
  • Lemonade pail (a covered/lidded pitcher with ice makes a good, sanitary substitute.)
  • Picnic hamper

… And the shelf-stable food

These are the foods that should sit on a picnic shelf of your pantry so you can throw together a great vintage summer automobile picnic in a short amount of time:

  • Stuffed olives (or simply jarred olives. They really don’t need to be stuffed.)
  • Jellies (grape, strawberry, mango…whatever your family loves)
  • Grape and pineapple juice
  • Mixed pickles (these are different vegetables all pickled together like small onions, carrots, cauliflower, tiny peppers… and they often would be home canned in small 8-ounce jars for portability and cost. Check the Ball Blue Book if you want recipes (Amazon link; look for it wherever canning supplies are sold), or take a look at this Hot Pepper Mix of pickled vegetables from the Ball website to get an idea.
  • Pickled herring — sh! This is great on crackers as an appetizer. If you like pickled herring, that is.
  • Potted ham or chicken (This was an early solution for canned meats. Substitute a can or two of whatever meat you like canned. You can still buy potted meat. You may or may not like it. Think Spam.)
  • Canned soups
  • Boxed cookies
  • Boxed salted and plain crackers (This is calling for saltines and.. say.. an unsalted cracker like… do we still have those? I can’t think of any. If you know of an unsalted cracker on the market please let me know in the comments.)
  • Pimientos (This was the Twenties cook’s solution to adding color and nutrition of various meals. Roasted peppers in everything! They kept better this way than in the refrigerator and fresh.)
  • Canned salmon
  • Canned tuna
  • Prepared salad dressing
  • Sweet wafers (These are very thin cookies often used to decorate desserts. You may be able to find them in the grocery with the Italian cookies. Look on the top shelf. Pizzelles are a type of sweet wafer. If you happen to have an ice cream cone waffle iron, a small flat waffle cone makes a great wafer. I do, because gluten free ice cream cones are few and far between.)

Let’s not forget the refrigerator!

Lest you think that everything for your picnic needs to come off the longterm storage shelf, you will find a few items in your fridge to spice up your day:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Home-made salad dressings
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cold boiled potatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Celery
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Young onions (we would call these spring onions or green onions or scallions.)
  • Lettuce
  • Lemons
  • Fresh fruit

Of course you won’t use all of this! This is your store from which you pull all the things you need for the ultimate picnic. Maybe you have a fresh loaf of bread on hand. You can make tuna sandwiches, or chicken salad sandwiches. You can have hard boiled eggs (transport them cold in the shell and let everyone peel their own), or you can make deviled eggs (transport them filled and facing each other, wrapped in plastic or waxed paper. Unwrap them, twist them apart and each person has two deviled eggs!)

Pull some fresh fruit, some cookies, and pack a drink and you’re done! See how easy this can be when you have supplies ready and on hand? Not every picnic needs to be fried chicken and corn on the cob.

Note: if you are fixing anything with mayonnaise, please keep it chilled in a cooler until it’s consumed. Warm mayo, while it probably won’t kill you, is less than tasty on a sandwich or in deviled eggs.

Add a Sweet Surprise

If you like, and you have the time and the equipment, you can make up two quarts of ice cream a bit ahead of time, pack the container in a cooler with ice, and tuck it into the car for after lunch or dinner. Even simple vanilla made with milk, half and half (light cream), sugar, and vanilla tastes heavenly when it’s fresh.

Traditionally, of course, this could be made in the kitchen sink: fill the sink with ice and enough kosher or rock salt to make it even colder, and place a metal bowl into the sink with your prepared ice cream mixture. You should have enough ice to make the bowl cold. Start stirring. Stir until you think your arm is going to fall off, and then stir some more. Switch arms. Hold the bowl steady and stir with your other hand. Every now and then you’ll need to scrape the stuff off the sides of the bowl so new unfrozen stuff can take its place. Is this easy or quick? Nope. But I hear it works if you have no other alternative.

Don’t forget the auto supplies!

Filling your car with picnic-ready equipment will ensure that you’re always ready for a trip. Consider these additions:

  • Canned heat, stand, and pan to fit on it. (I keep my canned heat on the pantry shelf because my car gets really hot in the summer. You may want to, as well.)
  • Charcoal, in case you find yourself at a park with usable grills.
  • Toy pail and shovel for each child, especially if you are going where there is sand. Or rocks. Or loose dirt. Or leaves.

Two tasty on-the-go meals

Here are two options for picnic meals, Twenties style. Each of them can be made largely from the ingredients made above, with some additional items that you’ll notice. Substitute wherever you like. Plan your summer automobile picnic to make yourself happy. This is your picnic.

A Fireless Meal

For those days when you can’t fire up the park grill, here’s a menu that you can pack and go:

  • Potato salad (using those cold boiled potatoes from the fridge)
  • Eggs stuffed with Ham (minced ham + a little mayo in a hard boiled egg white. Use the yolks, or not.)
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes
  • Nut bread sandwiches (nut bread sliced thin; two pieces held together with cream cheese or butter)
  • Lemonade
  • Cookies (fresh or from the shelf)
  • Sliced fruit in Raspberry Jelly (this is probably calling for sliced fruit in something like raspberry jell-o)

An Automobile Lunch

  • Hot Buillion from the Thermos Bottle
  • with Salted crackers
  • Sandwiches of cream cheese and maple sugar with graham bread (this is a sweet sandwich to balance the soup; graham bread is whole wheat bread.)
  • Vegetable salad (prepared fresh or steamed cold veggies with a little salad dressing to perk them up, whatever you have)
  • Sweet pickles
  • Chocolate cake
  • Iced Tea

Neither of these will take a huge amount of time to put together if you already have most of the ingredients. And they are substantial meals for on the go. Use these, or rely on favorite foods when you plan your summer automobile picnic this year.

If you’d like an option for more of a tea-party picnic than a traditional picnic, you might like my entry on creating a summer porch party. These recipes require a bit more care in packing but they are just as tasty.

The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Easy Vintage Tatting Patterns

Pile of handmade white tatted lace on a dark wood table.
Nearly two yards of tatted edging. Made with only 1 shuttle and thread.

When you learn a new craft, you have to start somewhere. Last time we talked about tatting, I gave you several options for learning online. If those worked for you, then you are ready to use a simple pattern or two. These easy vintage tatting patterns will get you started.

Most people start by making tatted edgings. For one thing, you don’t have to spend most of your time tying off rows like you would if you were making a round piece like a doily. And second, the more you do something, the better you get. Especially with muscle memory, which is a lot of the art of tatting. With an edging you make the same movements over and over until they become natural and almost automatic.

Easy tatted edgings can use only a shuttle thread to make rings, or they can use a shuttle thread and a ball thread to make simple rings and chains. The patterns I show here use only a shuttle thread.

All you need is a shuttle

Not only are these easy to make, these edgings are incredibly portable. If you have a full shuttle and a length of lace in your pocket, you always have something you can work on if you find yourself with a spare ten minutes here and there. Some of these laces I’ve carried for years in a metal container in my purse or simply in a pocket of my jacket.

If you need a shuttle or thread you can use for tatting, you can find an amazing selection of both at The Tatting Corner.

Five tatted lace edgings arranged on a wooden table. They become more complicated top to bottom.
All these are tatted with only one shuttle thread.

Today I’ll tell you how to make all five of these easy vintage tatting patterns. Whether you want to start with the simplest one or everything from the middle point up looks easy-peasy and you’re ready for more challenge, I have an edging for you.

All of these edgings use only one shuttle thread. As you can see from the top photo, you can make these strips as long as you like. One of the nice things about tatting is that you can cut it. If you love making a particular edging, and end up making two yards of it as I did in the very top photo, don’t worry. Some day you’ll find a use for all of it or some of it.

Like I usually do, I’ll give you the instructions in order from easiest to most difficult. That way you can hop in wherever you like. None of these examples are washed, pressed, or starched. They appear just as they will coming off your shuttle. After you drag them out of your pocket or bag a few times they may even have a few wrinkles. That’s okay. Wet them down and lay them out when you’re finished with them. They’ll straighten right up.

The first two patterns came from a 1926 article on simple one-shuttle tatted edgings. They are simple and delightful and you might fall in love with them.

Ring, ring, ring

White tatted edging made from identical loops linked next to one another. Lying on a wooden table. Text: This simple tatting pattern is great for sharpening your skills. Vintage Living, Modern Life

Edging 1 is the same ring over and over. In a fine thread it makes a beautiful edging for a doll dress or baby outfit. This example appears in a coarser size 10 thread. An edging this size could trim an apron, blouse or shirt, hat, or tea towel.

Edging 1

Make a ring of 6 double stitches (ds), picot, 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, close ring. Leave a good space of 3/8 to 1/2 inch, and begin the next ring. The second ring is 6 ds, join to the last picot of the first ring, 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, close ring.

Here are the same instructions as you might see them in a modern tatting book:

R 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds. Cl R. Leave 1/2″. R 6 ds + 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds. Cl R.

The – stands for picot, the + means join. R stands for ring, Cl means close.

Edging 2

Tatted edging that looks like clovers, with three rings per cluster. White thread lace on a wooden table. Text says: This beginner tatted edging can be used for trimming all kinds of things. Vintage Living, Modern Life

Edging 2 is a very simple cloverleaf. Three rings made together, then a space. Then three more rings. It may take a few repeats to get your head around how the three lie next to each other to make the clover. At least, it did me.


  1. Make a ring of 6 double stitches (ds), (picot, 6 ds) 3 times, close ring. [So spelled out this is 6 ds, p, 6 ds, p, 6 ds, p, 6 ds.]
  2. Leave a very short space of thread, about 1/8 inch, and make a second ring of 6 ds, join to last p of preceding ring, 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, close ring.
  3. Leaving another very short length of thread, and make a third ring just like the last one.
  4. Leave about 1 1/4 inches of thread, or enough to allow cloverleaves to lie flat. Make a ring of 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, join to middle picot of last ring, 6 ds, picot, 6 ds, close.
  5. Continue with the second cloverleaf, beginning with step 2.
  6. Repeat for the length desired.

In modern notation this would read: R 6ds – 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds, cl R. R 6 ds + 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds, cl R. R 6 ds + 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds, cl R. Then the second cloverleaf instructions would read: R 6 ds – 6 ds + to middle p last R, 6 ds – 6 ds, cl R. R 6 ds + 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds, cl R. R 6 ds + 6 ds – 6 ds – 6 ds, cl R.

Use whichever notation makes the most sense to you. They are the same.

Edging 3

This pattern dates from the late 1930s or 40s, and is a bit more difficult to do. It still uses only one thread on a shuttle, though. So if you can do the first two edgings you should be able to do this one too, with a little practice.

light-colored tatted edging made of two different-size rings. On a wooden table background. Text: This unique edging from the Forties almost forms a scallop on the sewing edge.

Unlike the prior two edgings, this one uses rings of two different sizes. I made the sample in size 10 thread but you can use whatever size you want. Ready?

  1. Make a ring of 5 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 5 ds, close ring.
  2. Leave 1/2 inch of thread if you use size 10 thread, a bit less with smaller threads. Ring of 3 ds, join to last picot of previous ring, 3 ds, picot, 3 ds, picot, 3 ds, close ring.
  3. Leave the same amount of thread as before. Ring of 5 ds, join to last p of previous ring, 2 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 1 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 5 ds, close ring.
  4. Repeat from step 2 to desired length, alternating large rings and small ones as shown.

Edging 4: The edging which must be named… always

I promised I’d give you an edging this time that is so popular that it has its own name. This one is called Hens and Chicks. The hens are the large rings in the middle, and the chicks the smaller rings which attach to each side. Together they make an attractive little scallop.

This edging appears in almost every beginning tatting book from 1900 on. Sometimes the rings are different sizes, but the idea is always the same: a row of rings on the top, with hens and chicks clinging to the bottom. This edging is fun to do. That’s why you see two yards of it in the top photo.

Tatted lace edging in white thread. The lace forms small scallops. Text: Nearly every tatter knows this edging by name.

To make this edging you start along the top even edge.

  1. Make a ring of 4 ds, picot, 4 ds, picot, 4 ds, picot, 4 ds, close ring. Another way to say this is to make a ring of 3 picots separated by 4 ds.
  2. Reverse work. (If you haven’t see this before, it means to turn the ring you just completed upside down so that the shuttle thread faces up, ready to make a new ring.) Make a ring of 7 ds, p, 7 ds, close ring.
  3. Reverse work. Now the first ring you made is on top again. Make a ring of 4 ds, join to last picot of previous ring, 4 ds, picot, 4 ds, picot, 4ds, close ring.
  4. Reverse work. Make a ring of 7 ds, join to picot of small ring, 2 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 2 ds, picot, 7 ds, close ring.
  5. Reverse work (RW) and make a ring of 4 ds, join to last picot of previous ring, 4 ds, picot, 4 ds, picot, 4 ds, close ring.
  6. RW. Make a ring of 7 ds, join to last picot of large ring, 7 ds, close ring.
  7. Repeat from Step 1, joining the ring to the last ring as before.

Want to see this in modern notation? It looks more like this:

R 4 ds – 4 ds – 4 ds – 4 ds, cl r. RW. R 7 ds – 7 ds, cl r. RW. R 4 ds + 4 ds – 4 ds – 4 ds, cl r. RW. R 7 ds + 2 ds – 2 ds – 2 ds – 2 ds – 2 ds – 2 ds – 7 ds, cl r. RW. R 4 ds + 4 ds – 4 ds – 4 ds, cl r. RW. R 7 ds + 7 ds, cl r. Rep from beg.

Whew! See why the wordiness of step by step instructions gave way to the notation above? It saves space and after a little practice you can almost see the ring before you make it.

Edging 5

Tatted edging in shades of green and pink. It's ruffly with lots of small thread loops. Text: This edging from 1919 Not as complicated as it looks.

This is not exactly a beginner’s edging. However, I found it in a 1919 magazine so it is very vintage. We might even call it antique. I tatted this sample in size 20 Lizbeth thread instead of the size 10 threads I used for all the other samples.

However, this example is also made with only one shuttle and one thread. It’s not as complicated as it looks. The progression goes like this: large ring, small ring, small ring, large ring, large ring, small ring, small ring… and so on. After one big one it’s two small and then two big, and then back to two small.

  1. Make a large ring of 2 ds, picot, (1 1/2 ds, picot) 11 times, 2 ds, close ring. You will have 12 picots total. Note: To make a 1 1/2 ds, make the first half of the ds stitch as you make the picot and then follow it with a full double stitch. For the last picot, make it with a full ds and then a second full ds to make your 2-ds count at the end of the ring. Or play around with it until you find a rhythm that works for you: you need a full ds and either the first half or second half of the stitch between each picot. How you do it is really up to you.
  2. Reverse work (RW). Leave a space of thread about 1/8 inch, and then make a ring of 3 ds, picot, 3 ds, picot, 3 ds, picot, 3 ds, close ring.
  3. RW. Leave a short space. Ring of 3 ds, join to 11th picot of large ring, 3 ds, picot, 3 ds, picot, 3 ds, close ring.
  4. RW. Leave a short space. Ring of 2 ds, picot, 1 1/2 ds, join to last picot of 3-picot ring, (1 1/2 ds, picot) 10 times, 2 ds, close ring.
  5. RW. Leave a short space. Ring of 2 ds, picot, 1 1/2 ds, join to last picot of 3-picot ring, (1 1/2 ds, picot) 10 times, 2 ds, close ring.
  6. Repeat from Step 2, continuing to join to the last picot of the small rings and the 11th picot of the large rings.

Find your favorite

I hope that this small selection of one-shuttle edgings gives you at least one that you love and can turn to again and again when you want to trim something special or you simply want to keep your hands moving.

Play with these. Change the sizes of the rings. Add picots to make them more lacy. Try various sizes of threads. This photo shows what the rings look like when the stitch count changes.

Four tatted rings in four sizes, attached at the bottom by a thread that loops from one to the other. Text: Size 10 thread. Difference between 3 double stitches (ds) between picots, 4 ds between picots, 5 ds between picots, and 6 ds between picots.

You can see what a difference it makes to change from 3 ds between picots to 6 ds between picots. Don’t be afraid to try something new. It’s only thread. It won’t care if you cut off a length and toss it because you didn’t like the effect or you got a stitch count wrong after you closed a ring. You are still creating. And with these easy vintage tatting patterns that use only one shuttle, that’s what counts.

If you missed the intro to tatting post, you can find it here. Next time I’ll show you some simple edgings that use both rings and chains, drawn from vintage sources.

The Vintage Kitchen

The Best Vintage Leftover Ham Recipe

White plate, holding a small baked potato covered with a creamy ham sauce.
Ham in a cream sauce over a baked potato. Delectable.

Everybody has leftover ham sometime, if they eat ham at all. It might be from last night’s celebratory dinner, or perhaps some deli ham is about to go south in the refrigerator. When that happens, this delicious recipe comes to your rescue. It is the BEST vintage ham with cream sauce recipe I’ve used so far. It’s tasty, the family loves it, and it uses up the ham that would otherwise molder in its refrigerator box.

The cookbook actually called this Ham with Cream Gravy. You may call it Delicious. The original recipe, of course, was written in one dense paragraph. I’ll break that down for you into steps in the recipe.

Making the ham and cream sauce

The technique is very simple. First you chop or dice the leftover cooked ham, and brown it in a pan on the stove. If you start with ham slices, learn about the benefits of snipping instead of chopping in this post I wrote about Ten Uses for Your Kitchen Scissors.

Ham cubes in a pan on a stovetop.
The beginning to a quick and easy dinner

Once the ham is toasty warm and a browned as much as you like, remove it to a bowl. The browning on the ham pieces give it flavor. While you don’t want to burn it, a bit of the brown brings out that savory-sweet ham taste.

Next, you will make a white sauce.

Pan on stove cooking a white sauce. A whisk stirs the mixture.
White sauce in process, ready for the diced ham.

Then, once your white sauce is thick and bubbly, re-introduce the ham to your pan. Let it simmer for ten minutes or so over low heat to combine the flavors, and then stir in salt and pepper to taste. It’s that easy, and that delicious.

A pan of small ham cubes floating in a thick sauce.
Ham in Cream Sauce thickening for dinner

Serving it up

Although the recipe included no serving tips, I’ve found that one of the best ways to serve this is with potatoes. Any potatoes. I’ve used cubed fried potatoes, frozen potato tots and crowns, baked potato, and mashed potatoes. The beauty of Twenties recipes is that simple foods combined with imagination make some great meals. Use what you have. It will be awesome.

It will, however, appear very beige. A side salad or a green vegetable goes a long way towards making this a full meal. Steam broccoli on the back burner while you make the gravy or throw a simple salad together while the the finished sauce cooks on low to meld the flavors.

Actually, my absolute favorite way to serve this is in a tortilla wrap like a burrito. Place a light layer of cubed fried potatoes, top with a layer of the ham mixture, and roll up. Unfortunately, most gluten free tortillas don’t have the strength of those made with wheat flour. So unless you have a really strong gluten free tortilla in hand, this assembly becomes a frightful mess quite quickly. Because of that I abandoned the bread wrap and started serving it plated. And no one complained. They snarfed it down just like the wrap version.

Plus, tortillas don’t appear in many 1920s – 1950s cookbooks in the U.S., so if you add one to this dish you strike out into uncharted vintage cooking territory. It’s tasty, though. You may decide this is the best vintage ham with cream sauce recipe, too.

Since we don’t use much whole ham here, I buy one and dice it for this recipe, storing the rest in the freezer in 2-cup allotments. That way I always have “leftover” ham on hand!

The Best Vintage Leftover Ham Recipe: Ham with Cream Sauce

Use that leftover ham in this cream sauce that goes over vegetables, biscuits, or even wrapped in a tortilla.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 5 1/2 cup servings


  • large saucepan or frying pan
  • small whisk
  • small bowl


  • 2 cups cooked ham, diced
  • 4 tbsp butter, margarine, or oil
  • 2 cups milk


  • Cook the diced ham in a hot pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove the ham to a bowl, leaving any grease in the pan.
  • Check the amount of grease in the pan. If cooking the ham left a substantial amount, add butter or oil until you have about 4 tablespoons. If cooking the ham left no grease at all, add all 4 tablespoons of the butter or oil.
  • Add the flour to the melted butter, oil, or grease, and whisk together until completely mixed and smooth.
  • Pour in the milk slowly, stirring all the while. Continue to stir until thickened, and then return the ham to the pan.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for ten minutes. Taste, and then add up to 1/2 teaspoon and up to 1/2 teaspoon pepper if you like.
  • Serve over potatoes, biscuits, vegetables, or wrapped up in a tortilla.
The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Lessons in Embroidery: Cross Stitch

A cross stitch embroidery design in two colors. A light blue outlines a mountain and horizon line. Two sailboats and a group of trees appear in dark blue. Water ripples in dark blue in front of the trees and one of the boats suggest the lake or ocean.
Cross stitch can be very effective with simple designs and only two colors. Design from 1927.

In the late Twenties Needlecraft Magazine published a delightful series of lessons in embroidery. Cross stitch appeared as the first lesson since it was the best known type of embroidery then and now. I am really excited to bring you the entire series of lessons. The first one I found was Lesson 2, and I’ve used it over and over through the years. But for today, back to cross stitch.

Not only the most popular, cross stitch is also the easiest of the embroidery stitches. You’re simply making X after X with your needle and thread. The best thing is that you can cross stitch on any fabrics you like. They don’t have to be “cross stitch” fabrics.

If you can find a fabric that you can count over the threads of the material as you go, it will give the best result. This is how the old samplers were done. You can use any fabric that has a regular square weave. This means the same number of threads to the inch lie in both directions, across and down.

You can embroider on a heavy fabric like linen where you can see the threads to count over them. Or you can embroider on a canvas-style fabric like Aida, where the fabric weave shows you where to put the stitches. You can also make cross stitches on regular cotton or wool fabric if you want. And you can also decorate an item with cross stitch if it’s made from a fabric where you can’t even see a square weave, like denim or velvet.

Rules for cross stitch

Cross stitch rules are simple.

  • All the top threads of your X’s should point in the same direction. Tradition says that the lower cross stitch starts from the lower left and goes to the upper right. The second half of the stitch comes from the lower right and crosses to the upper left.
  • Keep your tension as even as possible. Pull your threads tight enough to lie flat on the fabric but not so tight that the fabric pulls. (That’s a different type of embroidery and we will get to that later.)
  • It saves thread to do a batch of half crosses in one direction and then turn around and finish the crosses going the other way. You can do it one X at a time, but you’ll use a lot more thread that way. Some multicolored threads (called variegated) actually work best with one X at a time.
  • An embroidery hoop will keep your fabric taut while you stitch.
  • Choose your thread to match your fabric. A fabric with an open or coarse weave requires a thick thread. A close weave fabric requires a thin thread. Aida 14 count fabric usually requires two strands of six-strand embroidery floss. (Cut your thread to a good length, then pull each strand individually and put them back together before putting them through your needle.)
  • Select a needle size that will carry the thread easily without catching every time you pull it through the fabric. The right needle adds greatly to the enjoyment of any embroidery.
  • Embroidery uses no knots at the ends of the threads. Pull your thread through until a couple inches remain, and hold that end underneath the current line of X’s. Catch the end with the first three or four stitches and it will hold fast.
Image of cross stitch instruction. A needle with thread is in the middle of making a cross stitch, with six already completed and seven yet to go. Text reads: This is how the stitches should point in cross stitch. Lower left to right, upper right to left.
All the top stitches should slant the same way in cross stitch.

Today you see most embroidery patterns designed for Aida cloth or specialty linen fabric where the stitch count is the same both horizontally and vertically. Thus, cross stitches made on these fabrics make perfect squares. You can find Aida or embroidery linen in any craft shop where embroidery thread is sold. The fabrics may be under the Zweigart, DMC, Charles Craft names, or even a house label if the store distributes its own line of fabrics.

You can use any cross stitch pattern, chart, or design made on checked paper. Each square of the pattern represents a cross on the linen, and different symbols or colors in the squares stand for certain colors. In the top illustration the pattern is made from two colors. Further down you can see both the original illustration and the checked pattern I made from it.

Because you use filled boxes on graph paper as a foundation for cross stitch designs, you have a wonderful opportunity to exercise individual talent and original ideas.

What you need

In order to begin cross stitching, you only need a few things.

  • Fabric you can use for embroidery. If you can see the threads to count them, all the better. You can count as many threads to make a square as you like. Use blocks of two, three, four, or even more threads, depending on what you’re making and how thick your fabric threads might be.
  • Embroidery thread. This comes in little hanks with six threads loosely wound together. Only in rare instances will you use all six strands at a time for any type of embroidery. Cut a length 18 to 24 inches long and pull one, two, or three strands out to work with. Most cross stitch uses two strands of thread at a time. You can use any brand you like –– DMC, Anchor, Sullivans, or that old stuff your grandmother gave you that she used in the Forties (if it’s still good).
  • A needle. Embroidery needles are different from general sewing needles. Their eyes are larger to hold multiple strands of thread at a time. If your fabric has holes in it or you are counting threads and going between them, use a tapestry needle in size 24 to 26. (Larger sizes are smaller). If you are using regular fabric, use an embroidery needle with a sharp point, usually simply called embroidery needles.

Note: I know that embroidery thread comes in a dizzying number of colors. You do not need to run out and buy a skein of every color under the sun. Really. Especially if you are interested in vintage embroidery patterns, where the instructions might say that you need three shades of green, a blue, a brown, and a red. For vintage embroidery, buy only the colors you love, or the ones that coordinate with your decorating or favorite clothing colors. You will never need 460 different shades of floss for vintage embroidery. Not if you live to be 150.

Begin with boats on the water

The illustration at the top gives you a great first project. This is quick to do, and quite effective as a Twenties design. The outlines are easy to stitch, and the two colors give the project depth without making it difficult.

Originally, this was a towel border, like you will see below. You could purchase the hand towel via mail order and it came with X’s stamped on the fabric to show you where to make each stitch. You covered the inked X with your thread so that it no longer showed.

Photo of cross stitched towel. Towel is embroidered with simple boats and trees on the water in two shades of blue.

Since the stamped towel is no longer available for purchase, I copied the pattern and reproduced it onto 14-count Aida. (14-count means that the fabric has 14 blocks to the inch). Done this way, the pattern measures 1.5 by 6 inches. The towel was probably 14 inches across, so you see that the stamped X’s were much larger than the ones you can make when you count threads or woven blocks of fabric.

I reproduced the pattern in two shades of blue, as suggested. This model uses DMC 798 and DMC 826. I found them in a box of extra colors I had stashed away. What if your room is decorated in shades of pink? Light and dark pink would be darling in this pattern. So would greens, purples, grays, or browns!

You use whatever colors speak to you. That’s one of the joys of vintage needlework. The designers suggested colors –– they may have even sold skeins with the stamped fabric –– but you could use whatever you liked. Frankly, I’d love to see this pattern done in pinks or greens.

Uses for a simple pattern

One of the great things about cross stitch patterns is that once you have one, you can use it all sorts of ways. You can:

  • Work this on the bottom of a towel, as suggested.
  • Work it onto a strip of Aida fabric like I did, and then sew that onto a tote bag or backpack to decorate it.
  • Cross stitch this border over and over along the bottom of a pair of curtains.
  • Use the entire pattern for one thing, such as to decorate a kitchen towel, and then use the trees to adorn a set of potholders.
  • Rotate the pattern at a 90-degree angle, and flip it so that the trees turn a corner and are repeated going the other way. Now you have a corner design that would look great on placemats or corners of a special apron.

Sailboat charts

Here is the chart I used for the finished cross stitch above.

Sailboat and water beginner cross stitch pattern.
A great Twenties beginner pattern that only uses two colors.

I took the original pattern and turned it around a corner. This is what it looks like. I also added a little extra water in the corner so that the design comes to a point.

Ships around the corner.

Choosing your fabric

Regardless where you buy it, you will get the best results if you use fabric that is 100% cotton or 100% linen. This is especially true if you are using vintage patterns. The designers of the 1920s – 1950s had no concept of polyester or acrylic needlework supplies. Everything was designed for a type of cotton, wool, linen, silk, or that new kid on the block, rayon (which was made from wood pulp and/or cotton fibers too short to spin).

Traditionally, embroiderers used whatever fabric they had handy or could get their hands on. If they wanted to decorate a new tablecloth, maybe they had access to a nice heavy linen. They could cross stitch directly onto the fabric by counting the strands. On the other hand, perhaps the needleworker found a beautiful heavy muslin for an everyday tablecloth. The threads are too close for counting, so the pattern would have to be stamped onto the cloth as a series of X’s. If you want to have a go with counting on a traditional linen fabric, take a look at’s heavy weight 4C22 linen. Fabrics-store has been online almost since the beginning of the Internet, even though you may not have heard of them before. They sell great linen at great prices.

Look for an upcoming post that talks more about cross stitch as we finish the first Lesson in Embroidery: Cross Stitch.

The Vintage Bookshelf · Vintage Entertainment

The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter

Red book cover. Title: The Harvester, by Gene Stratton-Porter.

David Langston is known by many names. His best friend, surgeon Dr. Carey, calls him “David.” To others in the area he’s known as Medicine Man, Harvester, and even That Lazy One. The other farmers call him lazy because he raises no large crops on his land. Instead, he tends to the herbs that made medicines in 1900. He grows them, harvests them, and sells them to Chicago for a nice profit. You have just discovered The Harvester, a 1911 book by Gene Stratton-Porter.

Twenty-six year old Langston enjoys a good life. His bank account is sufficient for his needs, and his needs are few. David takes his job and his life seriously. Each spring he re-evaluates his life and work at the arrival of the first bluebird of Spring. He lets his trusted dog Balshazzar decide for him, and this year brings a surprise. Then he experiences a dream –– or was it a vision? –– that changes everything. He immediately sets about the business of updating his little cabin so it will be fit for two.

Illustration from book The Harvester. A man sits on the front steps of his house looking out over the water. A woman appears in the mist.
The Harvester sees his Dream Girl.

But who is she, this Dream Girl? And where can he find her? While he searches he tends to his acres of plants, harvesting one to cure this ailment and another to cure that one. As the reader, you walk with him through the paths. You hear the birds call, see the calm of the pond, and hear the babble of the creek.

Gene Stratton-Porter, naturalist

Part of the charm of The Harvester is that it was written by a naturalist. Gene Stratton Porter was a regional writer who told stories about the Limberlost Swamp area of northern Indiana. She also documented its native moths, plants, and birds in various nature studies.

Title page of The Harvester. White page bordered by double black lines. Text: By Gene Stratton-Porter. Author of A Girl of the Limberlost, Freckles, etc. Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs. New York, Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers.

Long one of my favorite books, reading The Harvester again was a joy. Although the story takes place through all the seasons over a year’s span, I always think of The Harvester as a spring/summer book. Perhaps it’s because the action opens with the arrival of the first bluebird of spring and follows from there.

Is The Harvester high literature? No; very little published in 1910-1912 was. However, many of these books provided good reading. The Harvester remains a charming read more than 100 years after its writing. If you want a book to curl up with, whether your companion is a glass of iced tea under a tree or a mug of hot cocoa by the fire, The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter is one of the best companions I know.

A book of its time

Like many of the books I write about each month, Gene Stratton-Porter’s The Harvester is a book of its time. For one thing, you may find some of the word spellings odd. You’ll know them when you see them. I don’t know whether this was regional spelling, the time period. or something else that made Stratton-Porter attach strange endings to some of her words.

You may find controlling characters, small-minded characters, and fearful women. Or you may not. One thing you will find: an author who believed that she and the women around her had something to offer her world. She wrote about it, and she lived it through her books, nature studies, short stories, articles, and photography. If you haven’t discovered Gene Stratton-Porter before now, you are in for a woodsy treat.

Read it yourself

You can find a copy of The Harvester at Project Gutenberg, The Internet Archive, and Google Books. If you’d like a physical copy, they are available in both hard and paperback reprint from your favorite bookstore.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: July

A girl waters flowers in a 1920s illustration. A house sits in the background. Picture accompanies a poem, July, by Susan Swett.
Warm weather, beautiful flowers… it must be July!

This month’s poem, July by Susan Swett, is an old one. The poet died in Boston in 1907.

Susan lived with her younger sister Sophie, and both made their living as writers. Susan wrote poems and short stories. Her sister wrote stories and for a while was an editor of Youth’s Companion magazine. Susan’s poems appeared in children’s magazines like St. Nicholas as well as periodicals aimed at adult readership.

Of all her work, July is probably Susan Swett’s most famous poem. It appeared in children’s readers, women’s magazines, and you can find it online today.

Life of the poet

Born in Maine in 1843, Susan wrote one book of short stories, Field Clover and Beach Grass. It was published in 1898. A regional writer, her stories focus on the New England area that she knew. Much of Field Clover and Beach Grass is written in a New England dialect. However, she wrote her poems in standard English.

Published the day after her death, her obituary says, “her poems… reflected in a peculiarly happy manner the writer’s intimate knowledge of nature and her fondness for birds and flowers and all the various phases of the outdoor world. She was a ‘nature lover’ in the broadest and best sense, and though her fine talent for writing was for many years hindered by impaired health she has left many word-pictures of field and forest and garden that are deemed among the best of their kind.” (The Boston Globe, Jan 1, 1908.)


I hope you enjoy this month’s magazine poem, July, by Susan Swett. It appeared in a copy of Needlecraft magazine in the early 1920s.

by Susan Hartley Swett 

When the scarlet cardinal tells
  Her dream to the dragon-fly,
And the lazy breeze makes a nest in the trees,
  And murmurs a lullaby––
    It is July.

When the tangled cobweb pulls
  The cornflower's cap awry,
And the lilies tall lean over the wall
  To bow to the butterfly
    It is July.

When the heat like a mist-veil floats,
  And poppies flame in the rye,
And the silver note in the streamlet's throat
  Has softened almost to a sigh––
    It is July.

When the hours are so still that time
  Forgets them and lets them lie
Neath petals pink till the night stars wink
  At the sunset in the sky––
    It is July.

If you would like to read other poems that magazines of the day thought their readers might enjoy, see A Song of June and Hurdy Gurdy Days.