Friday, December 28, 2012

Hand Towels, Old Movies and Poetry

Drama, mystery, romance, dancing, intrigue, cool threads and witty humor...

...not to mention hand towels and poetry.

I've been watching old movies these past weeks. Among other things, one of my Christmas endeavors involved the applique and embroidery of some hand towels (about 15 of them - and counting). 

As a backdrop to my time in front of the tree, while sitting on the couch as I stitched, old movies and the likes of Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Jean Harlow, Cary Grant and Elvis Presley have been my companions. 

This scene from 'Night and Day' was complete with carolers at the windows and family and friends singing around the piano. This part of the movie was set during the 1910's or so when they still placed candles on the Christmas tree.

I have to admit a certain desire to speak in "old Hollywood" now, which seems comprised of a drawn out English accent and an upper eschelon sort of melodrama. (The word, "daaahhhhling" might give you a clue of what I mean). But then, I also watched the Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea series which left me imitating that altogether different dialect. I find myself wanting to speak in whatever style I am currently reading or watching. Don't tell me movies and books don't have an effect on us.

Intermingled with my movie watching was the process of hand towel stitchery:

This was the only fabric I could find in cheery colors that had flowers I could cut out for the applique. The idea here was inspired by a kitchen towel my friends Lynn and Lynette gave me some time back.

Sorry about the blurry image. I have a bad habit of rushing and don't always check to see that my photos are clear before I move on.

Here are a couple of the completed towels. Black was stitched around the centers for contrast because it's impossible to find fabrics with such contrast at Joanns. You can't see all the leaves in these images, but each towel had four leaves, and I placed the flowers differently in many of them. Flowers were embroidered with chain stitch, and the leaves were tacked down with a basic running stitch. The flowers on my inspiration towel were left with raw edges so they frayed down to the chain stitch, however, I used a running stitch around my flower edges so they wouldn't fray so fast or so completely.
I never got a good picture of this, but you get the idea.

The towels were presented to their recipients in these huge Santa boot mugs along with hot chocolate, Santa cookies (which I baked and decorated), and White Chocolate Peppermint Spoons. The Santa cookies are a family tradition (I'll likely show you those in more detail later) and I found the idea for the White Chocolate Peppermint Spoons from Doreen at Hymns and Verses. Thanks, Doreen! They are easy and fun to make and I've been using them in my coffee as well as hot chocolate!

As I stitched and watched old Hollywood in action, I came away with many observations that I won't bore you with. Suffice it to say, there were many clever moments, and these films are certainly entertaining. I laughed out loud many times. Through these old movies I've discovered from which movies certain famous lines or songs originated. Just yesterday I watched a movie (Bells are Ringing) in which "The Party's Over" was sung. I've sung "The party's over" many a time throughout my life and never thought about where it came from. I'm thinking my dad must have seen the movie and sung that (he was always singing old songs) and that's where I picked it up, because I don't believe I ever saw the movie before.

Here's a bonus shot of Cary Grant wearing the coolest tweed coat and sporting a sweet fedora. I had to get a shot of this ensemble.

Of course it IS Hollywood and make believe, and many of the old films I love were made as morale boosters during hard times and are full of fluff and escapism, but I'm wildly fond of both. Yet as culture and image shapers try to rewrite history and undermine our traditions and the way we were, you can always go to old movies to find hints to our past. They remain enshrined there. You can learn a lot from old movies.

I spent last Christmas pouring over all of (what I call) the "dancing movies" I could get my hands on at our library, and I have seen nearly every one ever made. So I was left to branch out to old movies in general this Christmas. I could watch many of the musicals again and again though, because they are so fun. I'm partial to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, as well as Ginger Rodgers of course.

Today, while making Christmas thank you cards, 'The Mortal Storm', with Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart and Robert Young was playing. The movie has a theme we would do well to revisit and of which we would do well to take heed. 

If you want to watch the trailer below, you may want to forward to the 1:12 mark where the part about the movie actually begins. Although it's fun to see how they did trailers in general back then from start to finish.

"The Mortal Storm" ends with a line taken from a Minnie Louise Haskins poem which gave me pause and struck me as apropos for our times, especially with the gate of a new year open ahead of us.

Here is the poem as it is cited by Wikipedia. According to this source, it was part of a collection entitled 'The Desert'. 

God Knows (1908)
('The Gate of the Year')
By Minnie Louise Haskins

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 
“Give me a light that I may tread 
safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness 
and put your hand into the Hand of God. 
That shall be to you better than light 
and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, 
and finding the Hand of God, 
trod gladly into the night. 
And He led me towards the hills 
and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.[1]

I hope each of you will venture to put your hand into the hand of God as you go through the darkness into the gate of the new year before us. As Minnie Louise Haskins wrote, "That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way,"

I wish you a wonderful New Year!

I'll be sharing at:

Home Sweet Home @ The Charm of Home Open Call Tuesday @ Salt Tree
Knick of Time Tuesday @ Knick of Time
Metamorphosis Monday @ BNOTP
Sunday's Best @ My 1929 Charmer
Nifty Thrifty Sunday @ Nifty Thrifty Things
Sunday Show Off @ Twigg Studios
One Creative Weekend @ One Creative Mommy
Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage
Inspired Friday @ Common Ground
Treasure Hunt Thursday @ FMFPTY
Wildly Original Link Party @ I Gotta Create
Creative Things Thursday @ The Vintage Farmhouse
Time Travel Thursday @ The Brambleberry Cottage
Share It @ The Winthrop Chronicles
Share Your Cup Thursday @ Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson
Open House Party @ No Minimalist Here
Wow Us Wednesday @ Savvy Southern Style
Tuesday to Do @ Blackberry Vine
Tuesday To Do Party

Mop it up Mondays @ I Should Be Mopping the Floor
SNS @ Funky Junk Interiors


  1. What a beautiful poem! I'm like you when it comes to accents and reading. After PRIDE AND PREJUDICE I was even thinking in their dialect. Your hand towels turned out adorable. I bought fabric to make some fun hand towels as gifts, but didn't quite get to it. I guess they will be New Year's gifts. Hope you have a Happy New Year as you hold tightly to our omniscient God's hand.

  2. Well, I don't know that I can actually 'DO' a different dialect. If you ever talk to me in person, my dear ~Liz~ my Texas draw or accent is pretty thick--I'm certainly what is referred to 'round these parts as a 'hick' or a 'hay seed'. Can't help it...but I do pick up lines and quotes from different movies and love some of the classics!
    I embroidered A TOWEL...not many...just one. My embroidery technique needs some tweaking and some skillz!

    Love the poem-- and the wisdom it bestows! Thanks for sharing it...I'm going to write it in our family holiday journal.(in my best penmanship, too) :) Happy New year--my chatty friend. Pat

  3. Missed you Liz. How nice to spend some quiet time watching old movies and stitching. I used to love the American Movie Classics channel when it was all old black and whites, but not anymore. Loved the poem "God Knows".

  4. The towels are gorgeous Liz. Absolutely daahhhhling! And so much work. I don't have the patience for such projects. But a few old movies might help pass the time while I knit away.

  5. Love watching old movies, too. No shame in watching if you can produce such lovelies as you watch, so very happy and bright.
    Wishing you the best the new year has to offer!

  6. What a nice post. I adore your hand towels. So very crafty you are! I am a bit envious of you having time to sit and stitch and watch old movies! I am having a bit of surgery in a few weeks and hope to sit and do some low key crafting! This looks like a great project for me. Happy New Year!

  7. Wonderful post and poem Liz. What a great way to relax while creating your beautiful towels. Happy 2013 to you and your family.

  8. Hi, Liz

    So glad to read your post. Lovely towels and I am jealous you are watching all those great movies. Have a great New Year's!



  9. Liz, I love your towels! It's fun to curl up on the couch during winter to watch some old movies. Sounds like a perfect day to me!


  11. I love old movies too and one of my favs this time of year is Shop Around the Corner! If I'm asked who my favorite movie stars are I'll likely tell them somthing like...Spencer Tracey, James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant,:) Your embroidery leaves me speechless! WOW!

  12. ...and this poem brought tears to my eyes...I am a lover of old traditional poetry as well.

  13. I love your towels, Liz. They so remind me of something my grandmother would have sewn for Christmas gifts. She always gave us potholders made from her sewing scrap box, too. I really miss that.
    Great gifts from the heart and your own hands always mean the most, don't they?
    I love old movies, too. The witty dialogue and the clothes make them so fun. I'm always checking out the's great fun.
    Wishing you a a new year full of lovely moments...
    xo, Tina

  14. Liz,

    So glad you made some white chocolate and candy cane spoons! They look great! Thanks so much for the shout out!

  15. Sounds like the perfect way to past the day away! Your towels are so pretty. I've been wanting to try my hand at redwork maybe I should follow your lead and break out the old movies too!

  16. LOVE your towels!! So cute and the presentation was perfect. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas! xo

  17. Isn't it fun to do two things you love at the same time? Your towels turned out so pretty! Thanks for linking up at One Creative Weekend! Enjoy your weekend.

  18. The towels are lovely! :) Happy New Year! :)

  19. Hi Liz, I'm visiting over from My 1929 Charmer. I LOVE these towels. What a beautiful gift, and what lucky recipients! The details are so pretty, and I'm sure they will be treasured. You did a great job. I'm always drawn to the hand sewn items in these link parties, and yours didn't disappoint. And I know what you mean about speaking in dialects...I'm so guilty of that!! Have a great day, and thanks for sharing your beautiful dish towels with us.


  20. I love your hand towels! They are very pretty...what a great idea! I think I might have to try this too while watching my favorite movies! I love the ones of days gone by and black and white ones too...such a simpler time! Thanks for sharing your craftiness!

  21. What very sweet gifts to give your friends. I adore the towels and just might try that this year. I have not done handwork in a long time, but it is never to late to pick it back up again. Happy New Year to you and yours.....I know it is way past the New Year...but I just found your blog so wanted to say that! lin

  22. That's quite the post! Being a sewing fanatic, I was interested in your lovely tea towels to begin with. But it seems we have similar tastes in movies as well. Oh yes, and the poem was lovely!
    visiting from salt tree's open tues.
    your newest follower,

  23. Liz, I adore old movies. I have been watching the series "Larkrise to Candleford". I had seen three seasons, but my kids gave it to me so I started from the beginning. Now on season three again. I find myself saying ma and pa with a british accent. lol! Love the sweet towels. Such a cute gift and everything you gave with it was so fun too! I have made the peppermint spoons before. Yes, they are fun and easy. Thanks for sharing with Share Your Cup.

  24. I love to do needlework, but haven't in such a long time. I also love old movies, would rather watch and old movie any day over a new one. I love how your towels looks, and thanks for sharing your inspiration at Sunday's Best. You've been featured today!

  25. Hi, Great post. I found you through the blog hop. Now following you.Please stop by and say hi when you get a chance.
    Be sure and check out my new Blog Hop that we just started, It's Weekly Goals Link Up. It's a great way to stay on track. Have a great day. :) Here's the link in case you want to check it out. Thanks again.


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