Friday, March 2, 2012

Buckaroo Blankets

Photo courtesy Flickr

Glass artist Dale Chihuly nailed the essence of local culture with his collections of local tribal baskets, the finest in the world, and of Last Go Round bedding.

It’s not really bedding: it’s furniture, architecture, art, and wardrobe all rolled into one compact bundle. With a cotton warp and fine wool weft, one of these blankets holds its shape and is just boardy enough to offer a sense of structure. In the field, it’s colorful on a tent floor, cheerful in a rustic cabin, and, I have found, very useful right in the middle of town.

The in-house archaeologist can’t resist them, and I have found that his prizes have become the dominant textile motif in the house. That’s fine with me: it’s primarily a work space, and we’re nearly always on the same page about how to manage it.

I’m sitting in one of the blankets as I write. I draped it over a director’s chair, took my place, and folded the robe, as the label calls it, around my legs and shoulders. It will keep me comfortable until the heat comes up.

I used a blanket instead of a mattress pad on one of the beds upstairs. It gives a finished look to the bed when it's not made up, inviting day use and saving space. The pillows are covered with a highly textured unbleached cotton pique’. Portrait linen would serve as well. It’s trivial to add a bottom sheet and duvet for night use, and removing the bedding keeps the room well-aired.

It simplifies inventory to have blankets that can move from parlor to field without a hiccup. As they age, the sound portions can be made into vests or jackets. Worn sections make good upholstery, pillow covers, or little satchels.

The blankets may be an acquired taste. I pointed out a vest with buffalo nickel buttons to an Oxonian acquaintance, and she shuddered. Northwest natives know how very recently the area belonged to the tribes.

-30 More after the jump.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Photo courtesy Flickr

It’s a good idea to add your own use and care labels to things that you value and want to see preserved. They can’t speak for themselves, and quite a few of my little treasures were picked up at thrift stores before the Road Show clued people in. I offer pet items to relatives before letting them go to others.

I note the history of a piece of furniture on its underside and fix an archival-quality envelope to the back of a piece of framed work to hold details of the purchase and related notes and clippings. Writing this, I realize I should print out a label about how and where to hang, handle, and transport something (out of direct sun, not on a wall with a door, with two hands by the sides of the frame, and with an extra person in the car so there’s always someone with the freight).

Small artifacts go into plastic bags, if the chemistry is safe for them, along with a legible note about what they are and how to use them. Electron junk has added a whole new dimension to housekeeping, and at times I have to restrain myself from simply dumping a drawer of ungainly, expensive, highly engineered plastic details. I know how to decide to throw away mixer attachments I never use, but the Pomme still has me baffled.

Much of housekeeping is museum and warehouse work. Setting the inventory up to speak for itself means I don’t have to hover over things like a nervous mother hen. Find technical details about labeling in a museum library. At the least, be sure to use procedures and materials that can be reversed.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Under Foot

Photo courtesy Flickr

Every time you add a different surface to your property, cleaning takes longer. Each additional piece of furniture brings another four legs to dodge or pedestal to maneuver around.

Bare floors are the fastest to get clean. The Shakers had it right with the peg rails they used to set chairs up and out of the way for maintenance. The hygiene and ventilation of their low-tech communal living quarters was exemplary for its time. Changing from street to house shoes as one comes and goes slashes maintenance and wear and tear on expensive floors and rugs.

It’s been quite a while since I lived with anything but sea grass matting, but I’m fond of oriental rugs and like to learn about them. Recently, I read a book about traditional Yankee style that offered a useful insight. The author recommended placing a relatively small rug in the center of a room. The legs of furniture are hard on rugs, and a small one is easy to protect from the brutalizing effects of seated weight concentrated on small points of support.

It seems to me that the small rug/bare floor strategy provides the best of two furnishing worlds: minimalism and tradition. A bare floor under a forest of legs can be managed with a soft dusting wand and a vacuum cleaner. One can sink more dollars per square foot into a rug of moderate size, and having the full pattern in view will be a luxury in itself.

A free-standing panel of tufted wool or camel hair will be easy to clean with a vacuum wand stroking with the nap. It will be simple to lift when it snows so that one can place it face down outdoors, pat gently from the back, and get it gloriously clean for little effort and no expense.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning from the Road

Photo courtesy Flickr

A recent visit to the RV show turned up a couple of interesting versions of the kitchen stove and the shower stall. Until a few months ago, I had been frying everything over a hiker’s gas grill set up on the back porch just outside the kitchen. Cooking hot and fast outdoors keeps the house smelling sweet without using a fan to extract expensively heated air. It also makes it unnecessary to wash the kitchen walls more than once every three years.

When a coupling on the grill failed, we shopped for a replacement at the Great Big Hiking Co-op, but the old unit wasn’t available. We treasured the compact, stylish elegance of the original unit. RV-land apparently shares the same values. We found a vertically-mounted unit that does our two-burner model one or four better: it has a top rack that can function like the old shelf on a wood burning range, and it has a hinged lid that seems to promise baking or smoking functions, not to mention pest control. For now, we’ll stick with the induction hot plate and a classic white gas stove for the field, but I’d have snapped up one of the RV stoves if I’d known about it when I was shopping. They’re not cheap, but cooking over portable units has halved my utility bills.

Quite a few of the RVs sported wall-mounted telephone showers toward the rear of the off-side exterior wall. Is brilliant. If there were kids in the house, I’d add one to the north side right now. In a less dense neighborhood, it would be very pleasant to shower in the garden, code permitting. Our climate is so mild year round that a warm spray outdoors even in January would not challenge one’s fortitude. A telephone shower is the tool of choice for washing crates of plastic toys, garden equipment, furniture, and, I suppose, large furry pets (although this is theory).

As usual, the good ideas at the RV show were worth the price of admission.

-30- More after the jump.