Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Easy Crafts by Ellsworth Jaeger (1947)

Good morning!

I was lurking in the Fine Arts section of the library the other day, looking for books on...well, the things I usually look for books on (McCoy vases, Halston dresses, forties' interior design, spooky horror patron account information is SO PREDICTABLE and a lot of it is in the 700-799 Dewey range), when the faded spine of this book called to me like a lighthouse. Crafts? Older looking book? Sign me up!

The pincurled girl, the suitably weird early twentieth century author's name, and the pretty little piece of pottery on the front cover sold me in a big way. Plus, it's the library-- I could check out another twenty-four items with no affect upon my pocketbook! Working here everyday has REALLY spoiled me (and decreased my entertainment budget by at least half). I checked the book out and it languished on my kitchen table under some books-on-CD before I finally unearthed it last night, a few days short of its due date, so I could share the contents with you guys. Was I surprised when I read the table of contents!

While you would think most of the crafts dreamed up by a guy lugging around a moniker like "Ellsworth Jaeger" would be Tyrolean in nature, you would be wrong! Jaeger wrote a number of camp (in the tents-sense, as opposed to the John Waters sense) classics in the forties', including the titles Council Fires, Wildwood Wisdom, and Tracks and Trailcraft. Easy Crafts may look deceptively general on the outside, but on the inside there's just about everything you would expect to make in the Arts Pavilion of your favorite midcentury summer camp establishment. YES WE CAN, says the twelve year old craftist in me. Let's take a look at some of the nature and Indian-inspired handicrafts Jaeger teaches us in this book. Don't forget to click on any image for a larger image because some of us don't have our reading glasses on (raises hand).

"Fungus Funnies" is disappointing to me because while I love the whimsical designs, I have absolutely no intention of carving cutie little shapes out of fungus to display in my home. Since a long-ago Living section feature of the Tennessean about a Davidson County resident who faced severe (and terrifying) medical repercussions from clearing out mold under his house while suffering from pneumonia, I have been afraid to so much as touch a mildewed towel for fear of suffering his same fate (I can't even find the article online and in truth I DO NOT WANT TO). Bad things happened. I've seen plenty of cute dried fungus crafts with googly eyes and acorn caps attached to make them more adorable, but I just don't know how I feel about having them in my house! Am I crazy?

Potato block prints are much more reasonable:

I see this method used all the time on design blogs to stamp everything from circle skirts to pillow cases-- have any of you actually tried this? Does it work as well as it does in the perfect world of craft blogging? I also like that the rotund little spud at top is helping to maim his fellow vegetable. You can just hear the bisected one hissing: "You're supposed to be on our side!"

This one might be a little complicated, but I am just nuts over the Arts-and-Crafts style bear and lettering. Wouldn't this be cute to any kind of animal and a greeting card or plaque outside your door bearing your family name type thing? This is a simplified/elementary school version of the block prints that always look so stark and interesting from the WPA era, and I have to say, owing to my beginner's beginner level, I am a fan!

I could put these Indian designs on like everything I own. I know I've seen t-shirts and bags going back to that woven, Southwestern, early nineties' look lately, but how cute would it be to have a shirt or a sweater or a bag with a weird message on it that only you could discern? Like "Lightning Dead Men" (the name of my new band) or "Conversation Skunk" (the name of my other band). You be the judge.

Now, if you want to stand out of a Friday night at the bar, better than even a Mohawk (passé) would be a full on Acoma or Seneca Indian head covering. I really, REALLY want to make one of these, and then sit at home waiting for the perfect costume party opportunity to wear it in all its glory. The yarn cap at bottom right might be my favorite.

Do you think it's really this simple? I have a feeling making these cornhusk sandals would be like the paper shoes you used to make in grade school...two steps and they're toast. Maybe if I were more diligent at the needle? I'll have to investigate and get back to you.

I love how simple this craft is and how COOL the Wampum designs are. If you find macaroni in my carpet at the next soirée, you know the why and the wherefore.

Last but not least, decorated bathing trunks. Look at the elephants! Look at the bears! Look at the rabbits! The text reads: "The designs of primitive people such as the Indians, the South Sea Islanders, and Africans are excellent for decorating bathing trunks." Who knew?! Which gives me the very intriguing idea of trying to do some kind of printed fabric get-up with the cave drawings at Lascaux...HOW AMAZING WOULD THAT BE. Once I get my skill level up, I'll let you know (I am dead serious).

That's about it for what I scanned, though if you want to order this book either through Amazon or your local library, there's a million more (even nonfungal) crafts where that came from!

Which craft would you most like to make? Did you ever make Indian-inspired art in school or at summer camp? Are you already a master at any of these particular crafts? Tell, tell!

See you guys tomorrow!


  1. I'm changing the subject away from crafts, I have to tell you that I just heard that Todd Rundgren is losing his $3 million Hawaii pad in foreclosure! What is going on when rock stars cannot pay their bills? Where are the royalties from Hello its Me????? Who'da thunkit?

  2. ...!! Todd Rungren, get your (feathery) act together! ((shakes head))

  3. Hey! I've been without internet access for a few, so this is off-topic for this posting, but..... Wanna borrow my enormous scarab earrings for Halloween? They are costume, from the 50's, turquoise, with diamond-oids. Gaudy! My land, YES! I also have a white scarab bracelet. Say the word.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. Leapheart! You're so nice! I'll let you know next week if I end up going with the Cleopatra thing-- it's all hinging on what I can rustle up at the craft store next weekend! :) Also, I love that you have enormous scarab earrings-- they sound goregous.



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