the vintage hairdresser

Remember the good old fashioned local salon I was telling you about, complete with 1950’s Belmonts and barber’s strops? You’ve been wanting a peek at Lutine’s collection of antique hairdressing tools, I know. Here it is:

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Wave clips were pretty much how my grandmothers got their distinctive looks, that and bobby pins. I’d like to develop my skills with a bobby pin.

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I know the tongs look like they would scorch your hair, but they are luxury compared to the slate pencil heated on the wood stove, that Laura Ingalls Wilder curled her fringe with. Now you know what to do when the power’s out, beauty queens. Are the perforated things curlers?

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A comb, brush and mirror set just speak to another era. Sitting down, slowing down to care for one’s hair, such a gentle, intentional thing to do. I’d like to take that up. I’m not sure the last time I looked into a small looking glass, aside from a powder compact. A romantic gesture in itself.

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The straight razor, faithful companion to the strop. I’m very happy with the safer variety, my traditional razor.

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My flat iron isn’t so different, and sadly will break long before this one. Only I’ve missed a picture of a fascinating object, a bowl to gather the hair from your brush, and form it into shapes to pad a hairdo! It is astonishing how fashion changes. Do you use any of these? Thank you ever so much for a glimpse at the vintage hairdresser, Lutine!

Oh – I’ve been writing about writing. If you’ve been wanting to create your own site to write about what you make and do, read it at Folksy.

short spring handwarmers

There’s something grounding about wearing even the smallest garment made with my own hands. Knowing how it was made! Where it came from. Connecting with a long history of people making what they need, and a simpler, slower life. Little steps into traditional skills make me courageous and deeply curious about making more and more of the things I wear and use. Here’s one of my small studies that you can take up, short sweet wrist-length handwarmers in springtime colours.

writing with handwarmers

I love handwarmers for all the things you can do while cosily wearing them. I’ve begun making some photographs on the subject.

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What do you think? Could you make a pair of cabley fingerless gloves? I learn best by looking over someone’s shoulder, so that’s how I made the tutorial movies. (Watch them in the schoolhouse, in the lefthand column.)

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Handwarmers do add a bit of elegance to tapping away on the keyboard. I’m very happy when I get a chance to rattle away on the typewriter, the old technologies give such satisfaction.

short & sweet heather grey handwarmer kit

This heather grey is the original shade you see me working with in the movies.

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vintage glass

Vintage glass is one of my weaknesses, a predilection I share with the great Amanda Jane Jones. I’m betting you’re a Kinfolk fan, so you know her fabulous graphic design work; and you likely already follow her on her sweet blog, so she needs no introduction. Instead, let me introduce Amanda’s tried & and true, a collection of vintage glassware.

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My love for vintage glass began at a very young age. My momma would keep all my drawing pencils in an old jar that belonged to her granny. I’ve kept the tradition, and whenever I see one, I generally have to buy it. They are used all over our home — holding toothbrushes, scrabble pieces, pencils and pens, hair pins (you name it, it’s probably in a jar!). In addition, my husband and I travel quite a bit and like to collect bits of nature from the places we visit. For instance we have one jar filled with white coral from the white sand beaches of the Philippines. Another holds jagged rocks we collected at the base of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. The jars, in a sense, hold little memories mixed with pieces of our everyday life and that’s why I love them so.

amanda jones' vintage glass

Such beauties. Thanks Amanda!

drinking glasses

For a few years now I’ve collected drinking glasses, as much a collection of stories as utilitarian objects. The lovely people at little shop where I acquired my latest piece asked if I’d ever photographed them. A fine idea! Here they are.

drinking vancouver

This petite vintage glass, my latest, is from The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver, which is pretty much my idea of heaven in a shop. Wall-to-wall useful, ecologically sound objects. The water is filtered with a charcoal stick that you can get at the shop – hurrah, I’d been searching! The decanter came with a box of French elderflower liqueur that my sweetheart bought for me when we lived in our North London flat, and I’ve used my grandmother’s antique glass canning lid to cover it.

drinking victoria

On a summery walk to the Moss Street Market in Victoria, Canada, I found this glass in a yard sale that a sweet old couple were holding. It is a bit elegant and I often used it for homemade liqueurs, drunk while watching Upstairs Downstairs in the old Sussex cottage. I wish I’d asked the owners about its earlier life.

drinking winchester

I admit this is not mine but my small girl’s glass, given to her on a trip to Winchester by a dear friend. Such lovely fluting, a cafe classic. It’s from a lovely place in town with unfortunate sharp metal handles at the front door, just the height to clip a poor three-year-old’s brow, once on a trip in earlier years. Owning the glass sets it all to rights. Good thing, as we’re fond of the Hambeldon.

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Spotted at another fabulous tried and true resource, Old Faithful Shop on old Cordova street, my favourite block in Vancouver, this is such a sturdy tumbler. You can still get these ones! For summer lemonade out on a blanket in my mother’s garden.

drinking tunbridge wells

In a charming, winding lane in the oldest bit of Tunbridge Wells, I fell in love with a couple of these tiny French handblown glasses and took them back to the cottage. It was from Le Petit Jardin, a pretty shop full of beehouses, feather dusters, needful things. They are my best loved for a bit of red wine.

drinking paris

In Paris there’s a gorgeous little boulangerie (Julien, I think) near Beaubourg, where we loved to buy sweet and savoury tarts, and take them to a park or up to our flat after a long day of walking. This small glass held a luscious desert. Not a parfait but something similar, do you know? I have a pair, and my children often choose them for milk and biscuits.

drinking ripple

I confess it. I can’t recall where we got it, but I adore it. If I ever get a chance to blow glass I’d love to learn how to make ripples like this.

drinking barcelona, spain

In drizzling November, just arrived in Barcelona, with small, tired children, we ordered in pizza and ice cream. The ice cream came in this glass! Such a surprise. I love its heavy shape. Swimming in the sea, walking the old town with my little girls (superimposed over memories of walking there in earlier years) and all of us sitting at a table in the middle of a narrow street on a warm night, eating ink-black squid risotto with an old friend from Munich. All that in a glass.

drinking sweden

Those Swedes. Ikea makes these delicately bubbled glasses, and I like them very much. They are strong and inherently replaceable, which makes them just right for small and bouncy visiting children. An important job!

drinking liberty of london

Ah, Liberty of London. One cannot come out emptyhanded, and after attending a friend’s book launch I succumbed to temptation. The pair of these just beg for cool inventions with fizzy water, lemon, garden herbs and booze. I want to say Sophie Conran designed them, I think so.

drinking a vintage sundae

Only the ambitious consider these for drinking, but I hoped the sundae glasses could slip in here too. I haggled over a set of six of tall ones at a vintage market in Winchester one very cold spring. The petite version, now where did that come from? I suspect it was another book launch at Liberty, dangerous affair. Ah, I wish I could remember now. They are beloved for sundaes, of course. Or bouquets.

drinking habit

When we first moved to London, I bought many of these very, very fine glasses at Habitat on Regent Street. Just scratching England’s surface at the time. One by one their delicate edges have done them in, particularly when meeting the hard white ceramic butler sink in our converted Georgian flat. That kitchen had the best, narrow open shelves for showing off glasses and teacups.

drinking italy

Equally delicate in structure, but somehow much stronger are these Italian glasses, found in an interiors shop near Paddington when we would stay in one of the mews by the station. Huckleberry shrub in Kensington gardens, rows of children out on riding lessons, catching crickets in the long grass.

drinking muswell hill

In Muswell Hill, London, where we first lived, is Sally Bourne’s shop, and one really cannot pass through the village without stopping to see what tremendous things are within. One by one I collected several teacups, and over the years these strong, bright glasses had to come home with me too. I love to keep one of these by the bed or at the writing desk.

drinking the 50s

Possibly the oldest glasses I have are these little ones from my Finnish grandparents, probably purchased in Winnipeg in the 1950’s. My grandmother would bake pies with the wild blueberries she’d picked, and we’d eat them at her melamine table, drinking soda pop out of these glasses, back in the 1980’s.

drinking glasses

I’m ever so fond of them all. I only regret that I never found more, in some of the places I’ve visited, my quiet souvenirs. Do you like them?

antique instruments

When we moved to England, we were lucky to find an amazing violin teacher for the children. His name is Paul Balmer, and we adore him. He’s an extraordinary teacher, who knows how to engage their imaginations with games and images that support their technique and inspire them to play. Paul performs around Europe and the UK, and is also a great luthier. He showed us a couple of tried & true gems.

box of forks © elisa rathje 2011

A pair of antique tuning forks, 1871. I’m amazed to read that the tuning fork was only invented in 1711, in England. The Philharmonic fork is English. The French fork has a lower pitch.

tuning forks © elisa rathje 2011

Why a lower pitch? That’s one of those fascinating stories that led to our contemporary concert pitch. I love the sound of the tuning forks.

metronome © elisa rathje 2011

Paul let us figure out how to assemble his antique brass metronome. It took us some time. Okay, and a few hints. The pendulum moves on a pair of pins, and makes no sound. The weight can be moved up and down just like the wind-up metronome I grew up with. This one seems like it will go on forever. Beautiful. Thanks Paul!