Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Introduction: Ashley Webb, Cheesemonger & Food Enthusiast

    Hi. I'm Ashley, a fellow author on Seven Magpies and I love cheese. No really.  Cheese, it's what I do.  As a both a working Cheesemonger and writer at The Board and Wire I have a serious love for all things curdy and delicous.  But that's not my only passion.
    Sewing, eating, embroidery, history of all stripes, archery, eating, running, tea, cooking, eating...I think you can spot a trend here.  I am a lady of many interests. 
    On any given day my humble dwelling, that I share with Ian my Husband-To-Be, is strewn with everything from embroidery floss to light boxes for photo shoots to a fine dusting of flour.  You can expect that from besides writing about the joys of slowly rotting fermented milk I will also present all types of cookery and its ilk.  Though one way or another everything does come back to my first love, artisanal cheese. 
    I never expected to set my career path to food.  I have no stories of "I've known this is what I was meant to do since I was in vitro".  Becoming a Cheesemonger by trade was a series of happy accidents and opportunities grabbed by the tail.  Thus I write, think, eat, research, and dream about cheese. 
    More mundanely I am a Detroiter by birth (I've known Seven Magpies author Emily
Jenkins since we were awkward middle schoolers)  but currently make my home in the Denver metro area, near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  Everyday I look out my window I am grateful to live in such a scenic and sunny (avg 300 days a year!) state.  My mountain lust is pretty strong, hence the Fiance and I get out hiking as often as we can.  Which is to say the almost absurdly good weather gives us many opportunities.  I will do my best, dear readers, to also bring you tid bits of awesome from the Mile High City.  We've got a treasure trove of neat-o stuff that I'd love to share with you all.
    Oh, and one more thing.  I get to see these lovely black and white birds with long jaunty tails every single day here on the Front Range.  We call them Magpies, for that is what they are.  And yes, they do love to hoard sparkly things.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Vintage Style: Inspiration and a 1950s Dress

 I feel like I've mentioned my grandmother in just about every post so far, but what can I say. My grandma's style (both retro and currently) is a huge inspiration for me! This dress is from 1952 and I've heard that it's the dress that my grandma was wearing when my grandpa fell in love with her!

Everything about this dress is my favorite part. The blues and greens are incredibly bright and eye catching; the pattern is flattering and carefully detailed; the slight rouching on the neckline is the perfect touch (and holds the dress up nicely); and the cut is similar to a fit and flare without a noticeable flare. One of the best parts of the dress is the quality. The pleating (although barely visible here) lets the dress out subtly and makes a huge difference while you're wearing it. There has been very close attention paid to the cut, stitching and thickness of the dress - clearly enough that it has survived in perfect quality for over sixty years! It's these kinds of touches that make vintage dresses the perfect staple in anyone's wardrobe.

I paired this dress with some other classic staples. My necklace is made of thick pearls and is one long (twenties style!) strand that I wrapped around my neck a few times. This matches my hidden pearl earrings and t-strap heels. The vintage inspired t-straps are my go to heel for any slightly formal or very formal occasion and add a vintage-y flair to anything they're paired with.
I can picture my grandmother (and ladies in dresses alike) attending parties and weddings in this dress and having a ball on the dance floor! This got me thinking about vintage formal attire, and I remembered a photo my mom recently found.

Here is a great photograph of my grandma and grandpa at a wedding just before they got married, so most likely around 1954 or 1955. As you can see, I got pretty lucky with my gene pool! My grandma is wearing a chunky pair of clip on earrings and a beautiful pillbox hat to go with her short sleeved jacket and ruffled dress top. And let's not forget about the fantastic diamond color block tie donned by my grandpa! 
These two set the bar pretty high and are the perfect pair for my vintage inspiration - who do you get your vintage inspiration from?


Friday, December 27, 2013

Public Domain? Yes, Please!: Meet The Andrews Sisters

The Andrews Sisters are definitely more well-known than the Boswell Sisters that I posted about earlier this week, and they're a staple in any 40s and 50s music lover's collection. Even if you aren't familiar with them persay, most people have at least heard their music in movies or alongside Glenn Miller Orchestra in old recordings.

The Andrews Sisters were heavily influenced by the Boswell Sisters, and even emulated their style and sang their songs when they were first starting out. Their complicated harmonies and jazzy style, while borrowing from the slightly old group of sisters, became their own in a short time following their popularity during World War II and they often visited bases to sing for the troops (in several overseas countries, even!)

If you're completely enamored by the peppy, upbeat sound of the Andrews Sisters I strongly encourage you to NOT read up on their history. I can't help but feel a little sad when I hear them sing now that I now have read of the hardships and family tensions they went through. I guess life gets hard when you're in such close quarters with your siblings in fame.

Here is a youtube sampling of their amazing songs:

This first one is my absolute favorite song of theirs, and I am so pleased that I was able to find this footage from 1942 of them doing a performance (presumably in a movie)!

One of their biggest hits was "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" which is a seriously infectious swinging good time. This footage is from Abbott and Costello's "Buck Pirates". Check out those moves! You also catch a serious glimpse of LaVerne's knee toward the end there - Scandalous!

This final one is a much less known song, but has some great lyrics and a thick jazzy beats. I can't help but feel peppy when I listen to these songs.

I hope you enjoy the Andrews Sisters as much as I do! Please let me know if any of my YouTube links go stale. You can also visit's site for them and stream and download additional public domain recordings of their music! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Work In Progress: Early 20th century Skating Skirt

Emily, here!

A week ago I was invited to attend an even called "Holiday Nights" at Greenfield Village, the open-air living history museum adjacent to the Henry Ford Museum. Holiday Nights is an amazing adventure into the past. The Village itself is an amalgam of historical buildings and "places", all arranged neatly along streets to provide a literal walk through history. There are houses and workshops, and even a factory originally owned by Thomas Edison, seated comfortably next to his workshops which you can tour.

If you're a history nerd like I am, this place is heaven! Holiday Nights is their wintertime celebration during which they offer live music in various settings around the village. You can snuggle next to a bonfire and listen to fife, crowd the foyer of a 19th century manor to hear hammered dulcimer and glockenspiel, follow the traveling carolers and more! There are "street vendors" selling roasted chestnuts, hot cocoa and warm cider, as well as lanterns and wreaths. It was so beautiful. Everywhere you looked were people carrying little lights and lanterns, and people were laughing and singing all around the village (except for one of the houses. One of the houses belonged to a very conservative family, whose religion I have forgotten, who did not observe Christmas...) and the end of the night was led by a parade of noise and lights to the town hall where all of the visitors caroled as fireworks were set off over the village lake. Holy cow. I haven't had good educational fun like that in a very long time.

I've had this idea for a vintage-inspired skirt tickling the back of my head ever since that night and over the past few days I've been able to really get some work done on it. I want desperately to make one of those warm woolen skirts that you see women wearing for figure skating both in the 1910's and again in the 40s.

Ideally I'd like it to be the kind of skirt that you can pair with a fancy muff or a muck fork, depending on where you are! The biggest challenge for me was definitely coming up with something that is practical as well as elegant.

I spent an entire day pouring over my vintage/antique patterns (and Pinterest, of course) in order to come up with just the right cut. Finally I settled on one of my favorite patterns from "Past Patterns" which is a 1915, six gored skirt with a sort of "yoke belt". I used this patter as my base and altered it slightly to give it a slightly more 40's silhouette and length, and unless I'm sorely mistaken the result is going to be spectacular!

This pattern is a perfect example of how to find yourself in over your head with antique sewing! The pattern has a scant 4 lines of directions and was originally unprinted, leaving a series of perforations to be carefully deciphered by the seamstress or tailor. The "yoke belt" is nearly impossible to figure out, and in the end I decided to wing it. It was only after I finished the top of the skirt that I figured out how I should've done it, as it ended up a bit bulky, but it still looks fantastic when it's on!

The fabric that I had the pleasure of using for this was a heavy Italian wool. Don't get me wrong, I'm really not the kind of gal to go and splurge on some over-the-top luxury fabric, but last year I visited the Fabric Warehouse over in Warren, Michigan and stumbled across this amazing fabric for $12.99 a yard, when it had originally sold for $50-60 a yard in New York City fashion houses. Holy Moly, right? It's the most luxurious fabric I've ever sewn with (though I have a couple of other gems in my collection waiting to be used) so there was a lot of pressure to make it into something special. This project has proved to be the perfect excuse.

I have yet to add the buttons, hook-and-eyes and hem (which I am just realizing I've never actually done an invisible hem – maybe I can get away with hiding a plain-stitched hem in an embellishment at the bottom as pictured on the drawing...) so there will be plenty of photos of this babe when I'm finished. I'll be finishing the hem at a shorter length than was typical of the Edwardian period from which this pattern comes simply because I want it to be a working skirt, or the kind of skirt that you'd wear when skating on the local pond. It needs to be short enough that my wellies don't get caught up in it as I'm trudging out to feed the livestock, but ideally it should be long enough to allude to the modesty of the era.

Stay tuned for more photos!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Past...

Good morning and a very Merry Christmas to you! I hope wherever you are today and however you choose to celebrate that your day is filled with love, health and happiness.

For today's post, I wanted to share with you some glimpses of Christmas past. I have a bit of an obsession with old greeting cards (as my paypal account will attest to!) and my favorite has to be old holiday cards. I collect these and use them in my scrapbook paper designs as well as use them to create digital collage sheets in my etsy shoppe. But, mostly, I like to just look through my stash and enjoy the colorful vintage graphics, beautiful old typefaces and the worn, vellum paper of a time long gone.

Here are just a few of the old holiday cards I have collected over the years...

Isn't the whimsical artwork and detail wonderful? You don't see that much these days. And I just love the hand lettering.

Here is a sample of one of my vintage cards for you to download and enjoy! If you use this card to do some crafting or any kind of creating, we'd love to see it! Feel free to post a link here in the comments section or over on our Facebook page.

From everyone at Seven Magpies— "Season's Greetings! Wishing you Health, Wealth & Happiness in Every Way".


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Public Domain? Yes, Please!: Meet The Boswell Sisters

The Boswell Sisters formed in 1925 as a three-sister singing group from New Orleans, and their jazzy complex harmonies were a local sensation for half a decade before they moved to New York City in 1930. After they moved to the Big Apple things really took off for them and they began recording for Brunswick Records.
 "These Brunswick records are widely regarded as milestone recordings of vocal jazz." – Boswell Sisters, Wikipedia
The three sisters were very actively traveling the USA for shows during the second World War but unfortunately not allowed to visit bases over seas for foreign troop rallying and whatnot due to an unfortunate childhood accident that left the middle sister, Connie, paralyzed and wheelchair bound.

This is a streaming version of "When I Feel Lonely" which is very snappy and was the first song the sisters recorded back in 1925! You can find loads more like this at which offers public domain music streaming and downloads. It's a great website!

This is another of their popular songs, from later in their career. I love the way they bop as they sing!

If you have time, this is a nine minute short called "Close Farmony" which is a seriously amazing (albeit mildly bizarre) film about how jazz music saves the farm! The sisters and the farm hand spend the film serenading farm animals, trying to encourage them to produce more milk and eggs.  It's hilarious! The best part is the piano covered in hay.

A few years after the sisters began recording for Brunswick, they split to go their separate ways. Connie (who changed her name officially to Connee at that point) went off to enjoy a prosperous solo career.

So I leave you this Christmas Eve with a beautiful song from Connee Boswell. While I am certainly sad that there are no other voices to harmonize with her, this is still a beautiful version of a holiday classic.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Paper Ephemera: A Late Sixties Baking Guide

About a year ago I was exploring some old papers and photographs with my grandma when we came across a baking guide for making Cut-Up Cakes for celebrations. This little booklet is dated 1969 and is perfect for baker and non baker alike. (And I practically squealed when I first saw it!)

At first glance, I was completely struck by the typeset and cover design, the colors and bold patterns set the pamphlet back in time and made it the object of my envy. Even the design pun titling it "Cut-Ups!!" with a cut out first page made me giggle. The cake names will get you too - we have Cannonball Express, Honey Bunny and, my personal favorite, Turkey-Lurkey. While I've never been a huge baker, every time I flip through this pamphlet I am completely desperate to make one! 
The Cuckoo appeals 'specially to young
and middle-aged children!

The pamphlet is full of puns in its attempt to get you interested and, of course, show you just how mature a Cut-Up Cake can be. As the pamphlet says: a Cut-Up Cake turns an ordinary occasion into a super celebration! These little bits of added personality totally get me because they're just about as cheesy as I am.

I've included a few pictures of my favorite cakes - they all have whimsical details and neat little explanations. But I am in love with this "zany" cuckoo (even if it does far exceed my very sad baking skills). It even includes a cloud of dust and vaguely reminds me of the famous Road Runner! I can just imagine how excited I would be if my parents pulled one of these out for my birthday party as a child.

My second favorite out of the bunch is this mildly creepy hot air balloon that includes its own set of miniature dolls! I love the little licorice details in the balloon - the strings are just so clever.

I have yet to try any of these cakes yet - there are eighteen of them here! I am hoping to take a stab at one next time I am feeling adventurous in the kitchen. 

Has anyone else seen baking pamphlets similar to this one? It seems like it may have been a kitchen staple or mailed out in bulk.
Make sure to stay tuned to see some of my vintage baking mishaps and other findings! 

- Ellen

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Vintage Style Showcase: 1930s Florsheim "Florette" Pumps

Sometimes when I see a piece of vintage clothing my heart begins to pitter-patter like a child with a schoolgirl crush. These shoes are just such an item! When I saw them, I knew I had to add them to my collection of wearable vintage shoes.

The most exciting thing about these shoes (apart from their wearability) is that their original stamp is still fully visible inside. They are a late 1930's "Florette" shoe by Florsheim, and thanks to Google I was able to find the text from an original ad for them from The Salt Lake Tribune, April 1936! They were sold at a store in Salt Lake City called Auerbach's, and cost $8.75-9.75, depending on whether you wanted them in solid or strapped pumps.  Here's the original ad text:

 Hosiery—Street Floor "FLORETTE" SHOES By Florsheim if you're young or have young ideas 8.75-9.75 an d up "Florette" shoes have that out-of-the-ordinary smartness every chic young woman craves. If you have a practical side, too, remember they're FLORSHEIM and that means they'll wear. Expertly fitted by X-Ray Shoe Dept

And, while it is obviously likely they were purchased someplace other than Auerbach's, here is a period photo of the building that the above ad references:

Can't you just imagine the roar of 30's traffic, and the click of wooden heels on the pavement as you walked up to Auerbach's Department Store in 1936 to pick out your new pumps from the latest spring line? How exciting! 

The (American) Florsheim company was started at the end of the 19th century in Chicago, Illinois. You can find some more information about the company HERE at the historical Encyclopedia of Chicago website.

The company survived both World Wars rather well, which is fairly impressive, and I guess there was a big "to do" about the company moving to St. Louis in 1953 since they'd been such a staple in the Chicago area. Since my pair of Florsheims are definitely pre-1950s, it's safe to say they were manufactured in the heart of the Chicago factory works. If you click the small thumbnail on the left, it links to the Encyclopedia of Chicago zoomable image of the Florsheim factory in 1949.

The shoes are a soft, supple leather in a neutral warm fawn color, and have so many design details that it's hard to highlight them all. The most obvious of the details is the enameled metal flowers on the "tongue" of the shoe, with beautiful red and yellow glass. They are also a reasonably vague antiquated silhouette, with their pointed toes and scooping heels, so they fit with pretty much any of the fashions from the turn of the 20th century through the 1940's!

While these shoes are a bit narrow for the modern foot, they are still in a wearable size and I can't wait to take them for a spin once the weather clears up a bit!

Have you ever had that tingly giddy feeling about a vintage item? What was it for you?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Introduction: Nancie Rowe Janitz, Ephemera Hoarder

Hello! I'm Nancie and I am a hoarder. A hoarder of all things paper and vintage. If you came into my studio right now, you would be a bit taken aback by the stacks of old magazines, maps and vintage Christmas, Birthday & Easter cards that are piled on my floor. I can't help myself! I'm a sucker for the old lettering style and hand-drawn graphics.

I am in love with anything shabby. Shabby Chic is not chic, you say? Nonsense! I think worn rose patterned fabrics, stitching, old shutters with peeling paint and especially magazine ads from the Victorian era are just beautiful. When I'm not paying the bills by creating paper and digital art, I like to dabble in mixed media, often using my vintage ephemera in my collage pieces.

I was thrilled when Emily asked me to be a part of Seven Magpies and I'm hoping to find treasures to blog about and inspire you in your own love of antiquities. As a young girl, I had an antique bedroom set with an old maple bookcase. I loved polishing that bookcase and running my fingers over the detailed scrolls in the wood. I believe it was in my bedroom, those many years ago, where I first began to appreciate things from another era.

When I'm not in my studio, I am at home with my husband John, my daughter Ellie (an equestrian student of Emily's), a neurotic corgi called Sonny, a fiesty yellow lab named Genevieve and an orange tabby named Fuzzy. We live in Plymouth in a 1960's quad on three quarters of an acre of mature trees. In the summertime, I have a veggie garden and love to make my own pesto. You may frequently see me in Ann Arbor at my favorite shoppe for vintage treasures (Found in Kerrytown), grabbing a nosh at Zingerman's or visiting Hollanders book arts store. I dream about someday restoring a 1960 Shasta Airflyte and joining a caravan out west with Sister's On The Fly to fly fish, drive cattle or attend cowgirl college.

I am an artist, a mom, a foodie, family historian, book lover, Words with Friends maven and advocate for daydreaming whenever possible.

An Introduction: Ellen Cope, Student and Vintage Fiend

Hello all! My name is Ellen Cope, and I am very excited to be an author here at Seven Magpies! What follows is an introduction of sorts that I hope can lead to many more hellos.

When I turned seventeen I was finally able to fit into my grandma's long saved dresses from the fifties and sixties - you can only imagine how quickly that basement was raided. Each and every dress I tried on had a story that made me love it even more: whether it was inspired by Jackie O or my grandma wore it to work in Detroit as a young lady. I spent the entire day with her and my mother going through dress after dress after dress - all of which, of course, were completely unfamiliar to what my friends wore at the time (all black everything). This just made them all too perfect!

I currently am still inspired by items that know more than I do. I study Art History focusing on Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Michigan and collect entirely too many vintage books, pieces of art, and tchotchkes (I had no idea tchotchkes was spelled like that until I Googled it). I co-own and train a fantastic horse named Caspian with Emily here at Seven Magpies and teach a class at the university to fund my money sucking hobbies. I also have two very fat cats that I absolutely adore (and might pop up in the background of a picture or three)!

You'll hopefully be seeing some bits on vintage (and vintage inspired) fashion, decor, old family photos, and maybe a crafting project or two out of me. I am so excited to start building this journal of vintage inspiration and enthusiasm and hope you will join us!

- Ellen

Friday, December 20, 2013

An Introduction: Emily Jenkins, Historic Homesteader

Well, we've got to start some place!

Hello there! I'm Emily, from Tanglewood Farm and I'm one of the authors here at Seven Magpies. I figured I'd pop in and give a little introduction to help break the ice a bit.

I've been obsessed with the past since I was a little girl. One of my most fond memories is of standing in the stiflingly hot attic of my grandparents' house, the air thick and smelling of molds and rat poison (don't EVER touch the green pellets - this was a lesson lodged very firmly in my mind from the time I could comprehend it), and ogling at my grandmother's old hats, cursing the fact that I was born with a big head. Her beautiful antique hats were so tiny, as she was a petite woman, and her tastes were impeccable. Among her hats was a gorgeous deep salmon colored number – something between a pillbox and a beret – that she later let me have, along with a wool tricorn hat that she'd purchased in historical Williamsburg when she was younger.

I feel like I've been brought up with a healthy respect for all things bygone. My parents weren't necessarily vintage-inspired or antique-crazed, but they taught me to love music from all eras, and to appreciate books old and new. They took me to museums of all sorts and they always expected a sort of quiet appreciation of antique objects. They really instilled in me a sort of awe and imagination that is fed by things with age.

Currently I am living in a 19th century stone cottage that we believe is the original servants' quarters to the large historical estate that lies next door. I live here with my husband and a plethora of farm animals including a small flock of Icelandic sheep, three horses, some heritage breed ducks and chickens, one very ugly turkey and our two dogs and cat. We live as much "off the land" as we can, here, and I hope to bring not only my love for vintage fashion/style to the blog but also my knowledge of and passion for old fashioned Craft and skills.

As a hobby, I take old neglected antique clothing and draft patterns, often remaking them in durable, wearable condition. I also have a habit of collecting (who doesn't?) and I have a beautiful collection of antique fabrics that I have been known to pull out simply to daydream of potential uses.

I am a seamstress, a shepherdess, a baker, a reader, a dreamer and a maker, and I am so, so happy to be here writing for you. I hope I can share my experiences with you to help kindle your imagination and passion for all things bygone-inspired!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wholesome Homesteading and Design Dallyings for the Everyday Vintage Enthusiast

Have you ever been so inspired by a bygone era that you couldn't wait to incorporate it in some way – any way – into your everyday life?

Do you find yourself wondering "Why don't we do it like that anymore?" on a regular basis?

Whether your passions lie in vintage fashion, baking, homesteading, crafting, skills or even in history itself, you've come to the right place!

We are a small collection of enthusiastic writers who can't wait to share with you our passions and projects.

Please check back soon!