Time trackers

I discovered twelve wristwatches while taking stock of Mum’s possessions after we sold her condo. There’s no doubt she saved things. Of the find, nine of the watches were hers (that included Windfall), two belonged to her mother Mildred, and one was my Dad’s – the last one he wore. Although I was able to find homes for most of her things after she passed away, the watches were personal and too meaningful to me, so I kept them. I felt they deserved a place of HONOR.

Later, while integrating her things with my own, I found fifteen more watches stored away. As my mother’s daughter I tend to save things too. Five were mine, seven were Juliet’s, and the last three were Peter’s – a total of 27 family wristwatches in all, and my Watch Box project was born.

That was back in 2010 just after I retired from my day job and my new found time was my own. The Watch Box had all my attention and my project had a healthy start. Over those few weeks I built 27 - 2” boxes to contain each watch and wrapped them with silver paper. Then I found and scanned 27 photos of the watch owners in their representative time and place. It was a healthy and strenuous start for sure – that stalled out pretty soon after due to my indecision and project fatigue, I’d say, and also because my knitting was calling to me.

So I packed it all up and stored it neatly in a clear plastic bin – just to make sure it could be easily resumed and stayed within my sight – and I promised myself I’d get back to it soon.

Fast forwarding to now, 2019, and as luck, or fate, would have it (though I tend to go with fate) – for the past few weeks I’ve been nursing a tennis (knitter’s) elbow that’s forced me away from my needles. And it’s been during this knitting drought, in an uncharacteristic bout of housekeeping, that I came across that neatly packed, clear plastic bin containing my project, still underway.

Taking advantage of serendipity, I went at it again, this time with fresh energy, and this time I finished.

Introducing my Watch Box – a collection of wristwatches


with those who wore them, where and when.

Paper toys 2018

With the onset of September, my to-do list signals that the time is right for holiday planning – making the paper toys, that is, for Hoss gift giving assignments, our annual event.

2018 pick1.jpg

Commemorated on this year’s ornament is my sister-in-law Madeline – retired special education teacher, avid gardener and chef, poet, and most notably for my purpose now – botanical artist.

Stunning, right?  I save everything she sends.

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Happy holidays for real, before we know it.

My paper toys - taking stock of Hoss holiday fun

I've always loved New Year's Day and its promise of a fresh start – my annual bugle call to take stock and make plans.  This year I thought I'd begin by tidying up a bit, finally cataloging my paper toys:  the holiday ornaments announcing Hoss gift giving assignments.  

They started out as pure fun – fanciful experiments in paper mechanics.  I enjoyed making boxes and pop-up books at the time and these were an extension of that.  It's interesting to see how they've changed.  Over the years they've become richer, I'd say, by commemorating our family events, and for the last 10 years especially, creating an inadvertent historical record.  They've found their calling. 

20 years of Christmas Pick paper toys... where ever did the time go.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Paper toys 2017

We had Sunday dinner at Ellie and Mark's yesterday and its end-of-summer timing was just right for distribution of Hoss holiday gift giving assignments – our annual event.

This gift pick toy commemorates a year of special generosity and selflessness, as we witnessed our Sheryl's kidney donation to her aunt Dianne.  Approaching their 6 month anniversary, both are doing well and we're grateful.

Paper toys 2016

The Hoss clan had dinner together last night, celebrating Ellie and Mark as they get ready to head back home to West Virginia after our usual summer of fun.  With all of us in attendance it was the perfect setting to distribute this year's paper toys for holiday giving assignments, so I hustled to get them done, finishing up finally on the car ride to Scituate. 

The panorama that wraps each was taken at one of our parties on Ellie and Mark's ocean-view front porch, and hints at the happy craziness that's gone on there over the years. 

But this time their departure is different.  They're packing up everything and clearing out on to new adventures.  After a lifetime of ownership they've sold their cottage and won't be returning to it.  They will, howeverbe returning to us, for more happy crazy times, where ever we are.  We'll make sure of that. 

The collector

I discovered Marlene's postcard album when I was going through her things.  I was in a hurry then so bundled them up, and they've been sitting on my shelf since. Recently I circled back.

She collected postcards when she was a girl during the 1940's and continued through the 50's.  It was either the rage to send cards back then or widely known that she collected, since there are several hundred in the bunch.  Probably both are true.  She had them to and from friends and family (among them Hattie, Hilda, Mildred, Martha, and Mitzi – for those who follow my sweater designs). 

All delightfully vintage and visually interesting for that, of equal treasure, especially for me, are their backs.  I saw where they lived through delivery addresses and their hand in their writing.  Reading through I met my mum as a girl and a teenager, and my grandmother Mildred younger than when I knew her.  I met my great-grandmother Martha too, for the first time. 

Included among this vintage set, was one a little less so.  At the very end of the postcard pile I found this.

Apparently I felt the need to clarify as sender.

I've put aside my knitting for the past several days to make their container as these cards are box-worthy for sure – 

– keeping kindred spirits alive.

Making boxes

With holidays now over I can post about my gift to the new couple that was most certainly a labor of love. Digital images are just fine, but I wanted Juliet and James to have something in their hands, to hold, when they reminisce about their wedding weekend. 

Using Artisan State, I made 6 layflat books where landscape-positioned photos (most shot by Fat Orange Cat Studio) each span across 2 open pages.  See more details about this project here.  (I heartily recommend both vendors, btw, for book making and wedding photography, respectively.) 

Once the photo books were in hand it was clear they could use a case, and that's when my project took the unexpected turn of opening up the world of my not-that-distant past (which sometimes feels like a lifetime ago) and re-igniting my interest on that front.  In addition to knitting over the years I've had fun making books and boxes to present personal collections of photos and objects.  When I left my administrative job at Harvard I intended to focus all attention on these.  I don't recall when or how my interests shifted and knit design took center stage – where it remains – but it will likely have to share a little of the spotlight for my attention from this point on.

Venturing into my wedding box project, after all this time I had to remind myself about the technical details.  My glue containers, labeled with dates to track shelf life, told me it had been 5 years since I touched them.  I also soon realized that I needed to find new sources for some materials.  Paper Source, once great for book artist supplies is now more of a gift store.  And although Blick carries book cloth, its sheets are very small and weren't suitable for the project.  A google search yielded Harcourt Bindery in Charlestown that sells supplies along with fabulous hand bound books for all purposes, and a trip to their studio workspace reminded me why I loved this craft.  I walked away with a sheet of book cloth large enough to wrap my dimensions twice, and renewed inspiration to get started. The project also motivated me to take an inventory of where I'd been.   Here's some of what I found.

5 years ago, I left 2 projects underway – Watch Boxes (a collection of the 24 wrist watches Marlene and I had saved over the years) and Postcards (postcard correspondence collected by my mum during the 1930's and 40's).  
I'll aim to get back to these, finally, in the new year.

Paper toys 2015

This year's paper toys are ready for distribution to the Hoss clan, complete with Christmas giving assignments.  I'm Santa's secretary (er, administrative assistant) and cannot wait!

2015 marks a year of extraordinary happiness, with 3 weddings(!) – nephew Derek to Erica, niece Sheryl to Dan, and favorite daughter, knitting muse, and sweater model Juliet to favorite soon-to-be son-in-law James;

and also a year of loss as we've said good-bye to brother John.

These events are represented perfectly, I'd say, by 3 diamond rings and a wreath on the water – the circle(s) of life. 

Paper toys 2013

It's August and time to focus on my paper toys and Hoss family Christmas gift giving assignments.  Ellie and Mark celebrated their 55th(!) wedding anniversary this summer,  and as soon as I opened the party invitation I knew I'd found the theme for this year's Christmas Pick announcement.

A walk through Bloomingdales a few weeks ago spawned lots of ideas for a knitted gift.  I picked one and am running with it – will be posting about it by next week for sure.

Paper toys 2012

Every August I pause from knit design to orchestrate something else – the Hoss family Christmas Picks.

I make paper toys that highlight an event from the past year and announce the upcoming holiday gift giving assignment for each of my dear in-laws, 16 of us in all.  This year we celebrated Pam and Scott's new home.

By now it's well known that Santa Deb will deliver something knitted.  And sure enough, design work is underway.