Wintertime Hobbies…

How many kids today walk up and shake the hand of an officer??

When I was a little girl, Mom always encouraged us to work on a hobby of some sort.  I sometimes wonder if keeping us occupied with a craft project was a way of keeping us out of her hair.  For all of the time we were blurting out, “MOM, I’m bored… what can I do?” she promptly replied, “Spit in your shoe”.  That was not exactly what I had in mind.  Mom usually chimed up with, “Why don’t you work on your knitting?  You are really making good progress, why don’t you work on that for a little while?”

Morning sun just coming up over the sleepy village.

Usually, the winter season allowed for more time to devote to working a hobby.  In the summertime, we kids were always busy outdoors playing, and by the afternoon hours the town swimming pool was calling our names. In the evenings it was early to bed since Dad was up at 5:00 in the mornings and went to bed very early.  He did not want a pack of kids yelling, screaming and giggling, keeping him awake, so we were sent to bed early.  When I got old enough to sit quietly, Mom let me stay up to work on my knitting or crocheting.  Mom was an excellent knitter.  If I ever got stuck or frustrated, she was kind to help and offer encouragement. Often, we would sit quietly together, knitting needles clicking softly.

Mom would never let us wear our good coats to build a snowman!

I knitted all sorts of mittens, scarves and blankets.  When I grew tired of knitting I picked up crocheting.  My Grandma Knuth was the crocheting expert in the family. I never did very well crocheting round rugs.  They always puckered up looking like a giant bra cup.  I did fairly well with afghans and bedspreads. I loved making soft baby hats, mittens and blankets in yellows and greens.  I made lots of items for my hope chest.  When I moved on to Bobbin lace making, I found that a bigger challenge and one I was proud of.  My Grandma Scott taught me to throw bobbins, creating beautiful lace designs on a board and pillow my Grandpa made for me.  Grandma and I sat together working our lace.  I felt pretty special because no one I knew could make lace.  It got me a lot of attention.  One time Grandma and I even went to a county fair where we sat together making lace on our boards and pillows.  People marveled at the young lady and her Grandmother making lace.  Boy, did I feel special!  Of course Grandma and I sort of snickered because we were fooling people.  Throwing bobbins looks difficult but it’s not.  We followed patterns mounted on the pillows, and the bobbins are moved in pairs.  One can get pretty fast at weaving, but to a spectator it looks very complicated.  My first and only real project with lace was a pair of pillow cases.  It took me years to make enough lace to go around two pillows.  After that I just made rolls of lace.  It was sort of defeating to think I could work for an hour and end up with maybe 2 inches of lace.

The residential “country living” area of town.

In the 70’s came the years of latch-hook rug making.  My sister Lisa and I each got kits for Christmas one year.  The competition was dog eat dog intense!  We argued over everything.  I thought mine was the prettiest rug.  Lisa’s was some kind of shape and mine was just rectangular so she thought her’s was better.  We competed to see who could finish faster.  I got done with the hooking first, but didn’t finish the edges for a number of years.  Lisa completed hers long before I did. I think Mom finally finished mine.  It was put in a drawer along with numerous other forgotten items I had put away for a hope chest I would someday have.

The first piece I painted back in 1997!

In 1979 I graduated high school and was given the promised hope chest.  I put all of my craft projects in it.  Mostly it was filled with things Mom said I would need someday when I got married and started having babies.  Sure enough I married, but the babies never came.  Then a decade later, the marriage ended.  I moved out-of-state, gave my hope chest away, and in time, gave away all of my baby stuff.  I kept the kitchen towels my mom handmade when she was a young girl, that she gave me when I moved away from home.  I kept my bobbin lace pillow cases and a few afghans.  Somehow, a lot of that stuff seemed silly to keep when the reality was, it was a planned part of my life that never happened.  The dreams of a young girl stuffed in a “hope” chest now seemed foolish and long gone.

Each piece takes 5 to 10 hours of detailed painting.

In 1997 my Dad gave us kids a little money that was found in Grandma Knuth’s purse after she died.  I do not remember the amount but it was around $40 for each of us 5 kids.  In memory of  Grandma I decided to buy some kind of hobby item with it. The holiday season was approaching and while shopping in the craft section at Wal-Mart, I found a few plaster pieces for a winter village set that could be hand painted.  I bought all 7 pieces they had, a set of starter paints and brushes.  After painting just one house I was hooked.  No telling how many brushes I went through that year but I was a painting fool!  The next year Wal-Mart added more pieces to the set… and every year more houses or stores were found.  I found myself frequenting Wal-Mart stores in Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, and Louisiana on trips to visit family, looking for new village pieces.  By 2007, Wal-Mart quit carrying the items and I never completed the set.  I have a total of 59 pieces, 23 of which are unfinished.  I have no way of knowing just how many pieces would have completed the winter village but by the identifying numbers noted on each piece I would guess that there are at least another 50 to 100 pieces!

My eyes are not what they used to be so painting is more time-consuming than ever. Each piece takes 5 to 10 hours to paint.   Still, each winter I sit down with my magnifying light and my reading glasses and paint the tiny details.  I occasionally check eBay and other online sources for additional village pieces but the price of $2.97 is long gone.  I can expect to pay $10.00 and higher for each piece and the more rare pieces can not be found.  The company that once produced them has been bought out and the Wal-Mart line of plaster pieces has been discontinued.

One of the most difficult pieces to paint!

I no longer decorate for the holidays except to set up the winter village set in a corner of the living room.  I gripe and complain the whole time I’m setting it up.  It is time-consuming to arrange small, cardboard boxes on two tables to get a “town on a hill” effect.  It is no small task to get the fake snow (polyfill batting) just right, then poke a couple of strings of lights through the snow to come up under the houses and stores, lighting them up, and then put foil around the individual lights that I don’t want light to emit from.  By the time I get each piece in place, I still have to set up various trees I have collected over the years.  Fake snow is scattered over the batting to make it sparkle.  I mutter under my breath  as I run the vacuum saying this is the LAST year I’m messing with this village.  FD smiles, puts his arms around me and tells me how beautiful it is.  Pretty soon we are marveling over it and I feel great pride at my work.

Looks like I have some out-of-control snow drifting!

At night when the house is dark, except in the corner of the living room, a fancy hand-painted village set comes to life for another holiday season.  I remember, with thankfulness, the desire and inspiration instilled by my Mom and my Grandma’s, to be creative,  and to have busy hands… bringing charm and delight to this enchanting season.

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


13 thoughts on “Wintertime Hobbies…

  1. Your hand-painted Christmas village is delightful! I enjoyed your post as well and now you have a village to bring back nice memories of your grandmother. Thanks for sharing your story and your lovely village.

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    1. Thank you for visiting my blog! I took a look at your blog and recent posts… talk about a creative lady! It’s always fun to see what interests people have. Your cards especially, are beautiful!

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    1. Did you paint all of yours? I’m a slow poke but I’ll get to them all someday! Yes, you should display them, then post a picture! Another “sister” thing we share!! Yippieeee!

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      1. I too have not painted all of mine either….sister in kind….the first one I painted was the brick cottage…..I could have painted my WHOLE house in half the time it took me to paint that one….lol

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  2. I always enjoy your stories and this was lovely. You have motivated me to get my decorations out and not only decorate but enjoy the memories of the ornaments and memoriies that go with them and the family and friends that gifted them to me or hand made them. It will be fun. Thanks, now I look forward to starting tomorrow AM! It will make for a pleasant and fun day.

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    1. It’s wonderful to have memories tied to so many treasures collected and gifted this time of year. While writing this post yesterday I found myself smiling, remembering so many family Christmas celebrations. With so much commercial attention nowadays, I find myself wishing for more simple times… thoughtful gifts and handmade items tied with heartstrings! Enjoy your day, dear friend!

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  3. I LOVE this post!!! When you reminisce about family and special times, like the bobbin lace at the fair, I can just picture you there, and Grandma’s smile and orneriness. The competition scenerio makes me laugh too, it seems there was always plenty of that in a family of 5 kids, LOL!

    And you know I have always adored your village set, you have put so much of yourself into each piece. I hope you’ll continue to display them for years to come, they bring a beautiful & cozy feeling to my heart; but then YOU always do too ;~) Love you Big Sister!!

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    1. A certain sister used to tease me that when I was long gone there would be an argument over who was going to get stuck with “The village set painted by Aunt Lori”. So, be careful what you ask for, Baby Sister!

      I think the best Christmas ever was 38 years ago. You were just 5 months old, and such a little giggle box. I fell in love with you long before you were born… and I love you even more all these years later, hundreds of miles between us, but always in my heart, right here.

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    1. I am the hermit type so I tend to stay comfy in the winters and find projects that I enjoy. You know, time is what you make of it. I never liked the cold of winter, so I find things to do inside where it’s warm, or I get busy outside working and warm up!

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    1. Hello Ned! Thank you for commenting! This winter village set started out as a small hobby and has become a huge project! My eyes aren’t so good as they were 20 years ago, so the detail is a bit more difficult to work on! I set up the finished pieces around Thanksgiving time and leave it up well into January.

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