About Blog Title...

As a child, it was one of my greatest delights to visit my grandparents in the spring when the whip-poor-wills began to call. Grandma and Grandpa lived in a remote valley of the Ozark Mountains where there were trees a plenty, and, seemingly, a whip-poor-will, or two, in each one.
My grandmother insisted that a whip-poor-will's call was not "whip-poor-will," but instead, "chip-butter-white-oak." I would listen really hard trying to hear it exactly as she said it was, but all I could hear was "whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will,..." But, I never let on to her.
I remember my grandpa watching and listening, with an amused look on his face, to one of these listening sessions. Shortly after that he began to call me, just for fun, "Chip Butter." It is a name I am proud to wear for I still love to hear that long, lonesome call on a warm summer's eve. And, sometimes, when I listen really, really hard, it seems I can hear quite clearly, "chip-butter-white-oak, chip-butter-white-oak..."


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"As For Clothing...



...to come at once to the practical part of the question, perhaps we are led oftener by the love of novelty and a regard for the opinions of men, in procuring it, than by a true utility."  ~Henry David Thoreau




What to wear?  That seems to be a question I am asking myself more and more these days.  I really am in need of a few pieces of clothing...something to wear should I have need to dress up a bit.  I have almost given up shopping for clothing, for I can find almost nothing satisfactory to me. I have a mental list of criteria that clothing must meet before it will even be considered.  It must be made of cotton, linen, or wool; must not be too bold, solid colors preferred, but may not be pink; must not fit too tightly, must have pockets...  I would like to add, "Must be made in the USA," but that would probably mean that I would have to sew it myself in my own sewing room in the USA (which I am considering).


When I was making the clothing for this little cloth and clay doll, I couldn't help but think how I would like to have an outfit exactly like this, made from walnut-dyed linen, in my size, of course.  I wouldn't even mind the lace-up boots!  (I would never dress a doll in something I wouldn't wear myself.)

Among the clothes in my closet are a few old standbys, many of which date back twenty or more years.  Day after day, I find myself reaching for the same well-worn old pair of pants and frayed-bottom shirts. Not that I mind frayed hems and edges, nor a mended rent or two, for that matter. Henry David once wrote, "Every day our garments become more assimilated to ourselves, receiving the impress of the wearer's character, until we hesitate to lay them aside.  No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch on his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience."

My mother valued cloth, and, as far as I know, never threw away a single piece.  She had an uncanny knack for re-purposing old garments into something new and uselful.  She even shredded scraps of cloth for stuffing pillows.  It is concerning that we view almost everything these days as being disposable, even our clothing...here today, gone tomorrow (gone along with an estimated 12 million tons of textile waste per year in North American landfills).  India Flint says, "By making do with having a bit less as well as making that "less" last longer, each person can do something useful, simply by moderating their impact on the planet." You know, now that I think about, I really don't think I need anything new at all......

There was a time when all of my clothes were made at home.  In the old photo below my cousin Joy (on the left) and I are dressed up in our homemade dresses for our very first day of school... first grade.  My mother made my dress and our grandmother made Joy's, both sewn on treadle sewing machines. Joy's dress, as I remember it, was made from a dark red dotted swiss and trimmed in lace...very pretty.  I still have the dress I was wearing, complete with attached collar with self-fabric ruffle, puffed sleeves, back tie sashes, and closed in the back with a continuous lap placket without a seam, and beautifully hand stitched buttonholes.  This little dress is my go-to when I want to see how it should be done.











Recommended reading :  Second Skin ~ choosing and caring for textiles and clothing, India Flint
and, of course, Walden, Henry David Thoreau

25 comments:

  1. Very, very interesting, and I learned a lot from your mother ~ a wonderful woman. And such a pretty little dress. It's nice to have it; I have two little school dresses and a first grade band uniform. Is this your newest doll? Great work!!

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    1. Mother's work was exemplary, for sure! Two little dresses and a first grade band uniform! I would love to see a post featuring those little treasures! No, not the new doll. She is still in the cooker! Ha! I think I could have made myself a complete wardrobe in the time I have been stewing over her!

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  2. Love the dress! When I was a "child", some 60 years ago, my mother made all my clothes as well and she was the town cake baker when someone had a special occasion to celebrate they called my mom. You have stirred up a few memories,♥

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    1. Judi,because of the lovely clothes you make for your dolls, it doesn't surprise me that you were brought up by a mother who made your clothes. Do you also bake cakes?

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    2. Yes, I make beautiful cakes....of course,

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  3. I am amazed you still have a dress from your early school days. I don't have a single thing from my childhood. Don't know where it all went, except we were pretty hard on our clothes and everything else too. the pink dress is pretty and you and your cousin are sweet. We generally wear out our clothes. We work in them or wear them until they are to worn, painted on, torn or work stained to go any further. New clothes turn into work clothes early on. I avoid trying to get something new to wear for as long as I can, because nothing looks good and all the fabrics now are going into stretch stuff. nylon, and fabrics I don't know what they are. My shoes are my old friends and when a pair gets a hole in the bottom or starts tearing up, I am truly sorry to loose them. I am not a fashion plate. HaHa Since I started making dolls, I do repurpose old cotton pieces into uses for the dolls, or rags to work with. The dolls outfit is nice and would make a nice outfit for you too.

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    1. Martha, I loved your comments here. I think it's safe to say you get the good out of your clothes, and that's the way it should be, for sure! I am also really turned off by all the stretch stuff, nylon, and mystery fabrics. Just wondering if you use any old cotton pieces for stuffing your doll torsos. I know some doll makers do.

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    2. I do use old pieces of cotton clothes inside the dolls bodies. I wash and bleach the pieces, cut off all seams, buttons, etc. and then use them. Old worn out hand towels and towels get washed and bleached and then cut up for work rags. I clean them even though I might use them for staining rags. I began stuffing the dolls bottoms up to about 1 inch from the bottom and then use heavier cotton rag pieces to finish out the doll bottom. This helps balance the weight and helps the dolls to sit better. As time goes on and I get more into the old fashioned cloth dolls I will probably stuff more with just cotton fabrics, it does use up all the old clothes. I don't know if you all know this, but there is a way to sanitize cloth besides washing too. You can put a old cloth doll body or a piece of cotton cloth or old stuffing out of a old doll into a brown paper bag and put it into the oven at your oven's lowest setting for about 2 hours. This will kill any bugs or mold or anything, so you can feel o:k about having the doll in the house.

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    3. I absolutely love the feel of my Martha doll, and have wondered how you achieved that wonderful firm feeling; just thought it might be with cloth. Thanks for taking time to tell us about the process!

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  4. I loved reading your post tonight. It is always so nice to see your doll clothes. I agree it would be nice for you to have an outfit such as your dolls. That is so wonderful that you have the photo of you and your cousin, and that you also have the dress you were wearing! It still looks so nice. My grandmother would sew matching dresses for my sister and I as well as our cousins. She found a place that sold bulk fabric very well priced. They would all be the same dress just made in all different sizes. She never used a pattern. She would just lay the fabric down and start cutting. I don't have any of the clothes from my childhood; except for my baptismal outfit. Thank you for sharing such a lovely story with us.

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    1. And, Sandra, your grandmother's making all of her granddaughters matching dresses is a good story too. Do any of the cousins have a photo of all of your together in those dresses? My cousin and I were only 21 days apart. We had some really good times together through the years, and still keep in touch.

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  5. Mary, I so enjoyed this post and reading everyone's comments. I even shared it with Steve, which brought back so many memories for us both and provoked a lengthy "porch" discussion about all the things his father taught him to do while growing up on the farm. If something around here breaks, the hubs can usually fix it. You would laugh if you could see how many places I've repaired on his favorite pairs of work overalls! How lucky we are to have had mothers that sewed for us and taught us so many valuable lessons. Recycling was a way of life when we were growing up and that comes from being raised by parents who had gone through the depression. It is truly sad how disposable our society has become. Your little dress is absolutely adorable & how amazing that you still have it in such wonderful condition along with the photo of your wearing it on your first day of school (I love your little satchel, I bet you were a studious child!) After I retired I went through my closet and got rid of every uncomfortable, dry cleanable, synthetic fabric outfit and hauled it off to the thrift store. Most of the things I kept, were favorites I'd had for ages. My current wardrobe looks like a paupers and I dread going shopping, it's so hard to find something when I have a long list of criteria. I own 4 purses and my favorite winter one I've had for over twenty years, it's been repaired twice and redyed once! If only I could do that with my comfortable K-Mart shoes, tee hee. Great post.

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    1. Thanks Sherri! I had to write something to get my mind off Sylvester. I keep thinking he might show up on the porch any day now...Silly me! If your hubs is like mine, he is so proud of each mended spot on his clothing as though it were a badge of honor, or something. The little dress is in near perfect condition except for a few small holes at the end of one of the sashes, which I remember as having been done by my puppy, Trouble, when Mother hung out the wash. My mother named that puppy, if that tells you anything! And, you can't imagine how proud I was of that little satchel. Joy had one too, but she was suffering from a bit of first school day anxiety, and really didn't want anything to do with it. Look at her sweet little fingers...nervous little fingers they were. So many memories...

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  6. It looks like we have the same taste in clothing! And no pink! I miss the days to hand made clothes. I was so poor when raising my boys, that I took my clothes and make them simple outfits, even long underwear. We heated with wood and the floor was always cold in that old, drafty house. At least their legs were warm. Your dress is adorable and I wish I still had some of my school days dresses, especially the red polka dot one from my blog picture. Those were the days, weren't they!

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    1. Cindy, for some reason it doesn't surprise me that we have the same taste in clothing! I like that! And, definitely, no pink! Ha! We lived through some tough times too when our children were little, but those were really happy times. I think you should try to recreate that red polka dot dress. I love it!

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  7. First allow me to say that your doll's clothing is well made and I especially enjoy the brown plaid dress that is trimmed in lace. It's so beautiful. It's easy to see that you take such great pride in your art. I also enjoy made in USA clothing and what's left? Pendleton wool? My mother made are clothing when we were children, she loved to sew and clothing was expensive. I have bits and pieces of the clothing I wore as a child in a quilt I made when I was 16.

    The dresses your mother made for you and your grandmother made for your cousin are lovely. You two girls look so happy and proud wearing these red dresses. It's amazing that you saved this dress and I'm glad you did. Part of your history and your mother's to pass on to the next generation. It would be wonderful to make a display with the dress and the photo of you wearing it. I really enjoy the old photos and was just given a 100 year old album of my fathers. You wouldn't believe the clothing styles!

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    1. Thank you Bethann. You know the best thing about this post has been the comments left by friends. What a treasure your father's old album is...wondering if some of your dolls may show up wearing clothing fashioned from those old styles. Wouldn't that be fun!!!

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  8. Oh I just enjoyed this so much :-) I love that you still have that wonderful dress!!
    I had that very same hair cut!! And such similar dresses made by my Mom!! I am so thankful that she taught me to make my own clothing while I was in school :-)
    Many blessings and warmth, Linnie
    PS And I LOVE dolly's beautiful outfit!!!

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    1. Thanks Linnie. Gotta love those bangs, right...we all wore them in those days. Now if my hair would only allow me to wear it as you do these days...love the up-do!

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  9. A walnut-dyed linen outfit sounds like a worthy goal! It's just lovely. And like all the others who commented, memories of my mother-made wardrobe arose. Sadly I always wished for store-bought clothes even though mine were much nicer. But then when my kids were little, I tried to make as many things for them as I could, even the boys' pajamas. It's hereditary, I guess. I love your little girl dress, you've taken good care of it, I see!

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    1. Yes, Peggy, I think the sewing thing may be imprinted on our DNA. I can remember wishing for "store-bought" clothes too, and remember well my first pair of jeans...red with rolled up cuffs. Then, to find out that I really preferred wearing "home-made" dresses with deep pockets sewn into the side seams. I will credit my mother for taking such good care of the little dress all those years.

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  10. Loved this post. I can count on one hand the number of times I've bought clothes new at the store in the last five years...typically it's thrift store or I make it myself. My standards aren't as stringent as yours (teehee! I don't insist on pockets) but I do prefer natural fibers and solid colors). I love your example dress...but, just so you know...some would call that...pink. :)

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    1. Ha, Jan! I wondered who would notice that the dress is pink...but not pastel pink, and leans a little toward reddish-pink! No pockets...you don't know what you are missing!!!

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  11. I love this, it really hits home. The outfit your doll is wearing is exactly the sort of bodice type style I would love to wear. In fact, I have purchased dress patterns from re-enactment sources to sew just such an outfit. It is almost impossible for me to find the type of clothing I wish to wear and find myself on ebay looking for vintage blouses and dresses. My mom sewed my dresses too and you look so precious in your outfits with your hair DO"s! After I learned to sew in junior high, I began to make half of my wardrobe. If you sew yourself an outfit similar to your doll clothing, we would love to see it!

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    1. Thanks, Jeri! It's good to know that someone else would wear a dress like this! The long top could also be worn over jeans, I think! Thanks for the tip on dress patterns from re-enactment sources!

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