Diane Helentjaris uncovers the overlooked. Her latest book Diaspora is a poetry chapbook of the aftermath of immigration. www.dianehelentjaris.com
Flour Sacks: a Message for Today
Ninety-year-old George Reier is ready. Always. His car is gassed up, his frig full, and his garden weeds pulled. As a farm boy in Cranberry Prairie, Ohio, he learned to take care of things. Later, in the Marines, George was in charge of supplies. I was not surprised this week that when I mentioned flour sacks to George, he ferreted out one from the bottom of his cedar chest in five minutes flat. Pristine and clean as the day it was made, the red, white, and blue ribbon pattern reflect Depression aesthetics. The bright cotton bag also reflects Depression ingenuity and a partnership between industry and a suffering people.
Textile Time Traveling on a Trip to Gettysburg
On the hunt, I follow up on a tip from a quilter I know. Gettysburg. Yes, Gettysburg is the spot. Of course. It all makes sense. What better place to find fabric designed for time travelers, cloth which replicates the material and patterns of the past?
Writing to Embrace a Rich Heritage
Within the span of a few months, I was demoted from a leader — to a follower — by a tiny baby boy with large lungs. — Patty Apostolides
Flowers — the Artist’s Favorite Muse
Scientists are just now cottoning onto what the Hippies understood a half-century ago: flowers have power. Florists have been thrilled to tout Rutgers University’s research findings. Jeannette Haviland-Jones, psychology professor, working with her genetics professor husband, Terry R. McGuire, was amazed. Flowers garnered an immediate positive effect on happiness in one hundred percent of her study subjects. They also had a long-term positive effect on mood and promoted increased social contact. Dutch researchers found flowers promoted positive feelings about others. Research has repeatedly documented direct, healthful effects on cognition, heart rate, blood pressure and healing.
Lace — So Lovely, There Was a Law Against It
Lace is all about what’s left out, a collection of holes formed into a pattern. The word evokes wedding veils, christening gowns, negligees, and fancy words like Alencon, Valenciennes, Chantilly, and Torchon.
The Threads of Women’s Lives
As a child, author Linda Harris Sittig sometimes wore homemade clothing. Her friends in her northern New Jersey neighborhood also wore cotton dresses, corduroy pants, and pajamas sewn by their mothers. Although those other moms might have been excellent seamstresses, none could compete with Mrs. Harris’s tales of her grandfather’s Philadelphia fabric mill. They didn’t know which Irish towns wove the best linen. None rivaled the care she took to assure her daughter wore quality fabric.
The Girl Power Behind Antique Embroidered Samplers
Girl power! What can giggle-box girls do? Turns out, a lot. Growing up in Ohio, at four, I embroidered. My mother taught me. I outline stitched orange poppies with black French-knot anthers atop stamens. At around the same age, up north in Detroit, Carol Huber also learned to embroider. A favorite treat for Carol was a trip to Kresge’s topped off with the reward of an embroidery kit. Once home, she’d embroider the blue lines of the pattern stamped on the heavy fabric. I grew up to use my needle skills as a physician. Carol grew up to own, with her husband Stephen Huber, The Huber Gallery in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The preeminent antique shop is dedicated to samplers and other school girl embroideries. The Hubers are sought-after by museums, collectors, auction houses, and historical associations for their expertise. I recently enjoyed speaking with Carol.
Fetching the Eggs
I softly knocked on the exam room door, then entered. An elderly woman perched in her wheelchair, unable to clamber onto the exam table. The diminutive floral print of her cotton dress harkened back to the 1950’s, a time when she had been in her prime. Her bird-like black eyes met mine and she blessed me with a lopsided smile, the same glance and smile she had shared when I was a little girl. I pulled out my stethoscope and warmed the diaphragm with my breath.