chromatic pitch pipe

One of my most beloved possessions is a chromatic pitch pipe. It belonged to my Finnish grandfather, a luthier, a fine woodworker, and a beautiful singer.

Its purpose is to set a pitch to tune an instrument or to sing a melody; I use it when I play my guitar (my grandfather made that guitar, another beloved thing). The design is constructed on the chromatic circle, one of those mathematical, musical patterns I appreciate very much. It is in fact a basic harmonica, descended from the 18th century pitch pipe, which could be used in place of a tuning fork.


The other side. Isn’t it charming? I love its simplicity and clean typographic design. You can still find these new. Do you know, I’d quite forgotten, I met a piano tuner the other day and learned a couple of things – I’ll show you soon.

handcrank sewing machine

The culture that produced our extraordinarily strong, elegant, exquisitely engineered handcrank sewing machine must have envisioned a very different future than one of planned obsolescence. All its parts are built to last, and they have done, so exceptionally well that using it is like looking deep into history without the translation of a word or photograph. If I had the skills to build a machine, I would study this antique. Watching the bobbin winder alone is a delight. Working the crank is surprising, nothing catches, only smooth, magnificent turning movement. Absent of the electrical, the digital, it’s an object that I find at once enigmatic and much more accessible than any contemporary machine. Such a design! The children stitched their hand puppets on it with ease.

handcrank sewing machine © elisa rathje 2012

It’s no surprise then, that this gorgeous little singer from the early 1900’s, with its curved wooden case and elegant paintwork, is the star of a couple of movies I’ve been making with my sweetheart. This is a sneak peek of the singer on set. Our little moving pictures will have homemade projects to go with them, I’m bundling the kits up now. Do sign up for the appleturnover quarterly to get an early invitation to the appleturnovershop opening, I’m aiming for later next week.

Oh! If you’re in England and you’d like your own vintage sewing machine, my dear friend Sarah has a shop full of them.

rotary whisk

Recently I’ve grown very fond of small, effective kitchen tools that require no electricity, are not inclined to break, and are a pleasure to use. Like the moulin, my rotary whisk (when I speak Canadian I might call this an egg beater) is one of those brilliant tools. It is like a bicycle in simplicity and elegance. While not as basic as the ancient hand whisk, it still dates back to the 1880’s.


The whisk I have was made by the Amish, bought from a sturdy German company, and came with a warranty, but that may be overdoing it a little bit. A strong whisk can make quick work of many kitchen tasks. Meringues! Cakes! I like that it moves smoothly, washes easily, and fits in a small kitchen. I fully expect it to endure for at least a couple of lifetimes. What’s more, it’s rather pretty. We used it the other day to make butter, and the children love to spin it, it makes a charming sound (perfect for early morning surprise breakfasts) and liquids look quite wonderful going through it. Something about actually doing the physical work of whisking with a little help from a simple mixer is such a delight. We shall enjoy using it as we start our holiday baking.