Wednesday, May 1, 2013

An Oasis of Calm with Punched Paper and Penny Rugs

An Oasis of Calm with Punched Paper and Penny Rugs

     The Man-of-the-House photographed an ancient Magnolia in town. I wonder how long ago it was planted. In spring the flowering trees in Lancaster are every shade of pink. Red bud, dogwood, cherry and crabapple bring refreshing beauty to the beholder.     

     Next to flower gazing, I find that there are few more pleasurable pastimes than that of hand stitching. A friend shared with me the craft of punched paper mottos. In turn I shared the craft with my sister-in-law. She was intrigued. My sister-in-law has a home business. Answering the telephone when it rings intermittently throughout the day, sometimes from 8 in the morning until 8 at night, can be particularly taxing. But it pays the bills and her son’s college tuition. She has precious little time for stitching – especially if the pastime translates to overtime in an already full day. That’s why I was startled during a rare visit to her house (out-of-state) when I was presented with a framed motto. My further surprise was seeing it stitched in a phrase she evidently remembered hearing me say. How sneaky she is, as well as artistic.

punched paper motto

     I held up the motto to admire it closely. Sitting with my sister-in-law on her Victorian plum-velvet sofa in the middle of her business hours I said, “Ooo, I like it. Thank you. It’s elegantly charming. How on earth did you do it? I mean, when?”

     She smiled a big smile. “I keep the sewing bag here, beside the sofa. When my paperwork is up to date and there’s a lull in calls, I’ll come in here and pick up my needle.” At the word “needle” came the ring of the telephone. I watched my sister-in-law head for her roll-top desk on the other side of the French doors. As I rose to go, too, for my visit was short, I recognized the hum of the clothes dryer and the fragrance of something simmering in the crock-pot that had eventually wafted its way into the living room.

     I waved good-bye to her through the French doors. She caught up with me at the car to wish me farewell. Then she shared something that I was delighted to learn. Although her episodes with needle and thread were of brief duration they were enough to relieve tensions that mount when problems arise in the business. Not only was I touched by the gift, I was touched by the fact that for this busy homemaker, stitching was an oasis of calm, something very different in her day of  “next urgent things.”

Little tasks make large return. Bayard Taylor
     And so it was for the homemakers of yesteryear too, whose families were large and household chores were various and voluminous. A sewing basket set in arm’s length to a rocking chair could symbolize a break in the day, a moment of repose, and a treat in color and threads.   

     One early American home-sewn textile was the penny rug. These rugs were used as tablemats. Frugal homemakers may have recycled pieces of felted wool for their “pennies.” For tracing the circles a large coin such as a silver dollar, as well as smaller coinage could have been borrowed from the housekeeper’s strongbox.

      A present-day revival of penny rugs means homemakers crave domestic arts as did their predecessors in the 19th century. Many who once said they hadn’t time for such things learned how the make time with pennies. To cut a penny out of wool takes minutes. To blanket stitch one circle to another may be all I may accomplish in one sitting but most of the time I complete at least one penny.   

      For my first try at this craft I confess that I bought a kit - two kits, actually. I think the candle mats are as cute as pie. They are of similar shape, aren’t they? Dare I admit to a short cut - that the pennies, as well as the scalloped mat, were pre-cut? I overcame disappointed that some of the wool in the kit did not appear to be felted. Yet it was a pleasure to sit on the sofa to arrange and rearrange the solid colors and plaids, forming pennies pleasing to the eye. 

     I am finishing one mat in traditional black. Nothing less than direct sunlight through a window will enable me to see the black-on-black stitching. An easy chair by a southwest window is my chosen spot but a garden spot would be even better.

     The candle mat in vanilla matches the vanilla sofa. It is being blanket-stitched with a muted brown (2 strands of DMC 610) with a size 26 embroidery needle.

penny rug candle mat

     It was with impatience that I took out the camera to show you my almost finished handiwork. The mats pictured await backing and blanket-stitching along the edges. This makes a slightly thicker “rug”.

     Wool remnants suitable for penny rugs can be found on eBay. My kits came from The Woolen Needle. An array of contemporary wool appliqué patterns is available today, too. Punched paper mottos can also be found with an online search.

penny rug in the parlor

    Is there any handicraft that is being held in the planning and daydreaming stages of your mind - something accomplished in little steps, with pennies perhaps?  (Click any image to enlarge.)

Happy to have you stopping by,
Karen Andreola

Meet & Greet in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

     Dean and I plan to attend the CHAP homeschool convention Saturday, May 11th. Rainbow Resource is hosting a “Meet and Greet with Karen Andreola” from 9-11:30am. I am honored that this was their idea.
     I invite you to stop by the Rainbow table as I am looking forward to meeting you in person. I like to chat. And I am happy to answer questions or sign old copies of A Charlotte Mason Companion. Rainbow has an impressive selection of  “living books” for you to browse by subject.
     If I know Dean he will be restless. He will scout around the hall looking for interesting newly published books.
     Feel free to keep in touch, otherwise, through my personal email. 


  1. My fingers have been knitting a shawl for my great-niece's rapidly approaching birthday. Our church building is quite cool in the summer months, so I hope she will find it useful. Perhaps she will find some fun in the wearing as well, as it a bit flouncy on the edges.

    Your cream colored candle mat is lovely in your living room.

    One of my great-aunts did beautiful embroidery work. I was enchanted by her embroidery thread. A box of 64 crayons, a wall of yarn skeins, a stack of fabric, a collection of embroidery thread...ahhh...the possibilities!


  2. A very lovely post today...I love your special gift,and the penny mats are wonderful. Something I have thought of trying,but haven't yet. I wish I lived near enough to visit you at the meet and greet. Blessings

  3. Karen,
    I absolutely felt like you were reading my heart in parts of this post. Handstitching is a pleasing past time of mine also; a bag carrying along some of my "work" goes almost everywhere with me.

    Your sister-in-law's work is beautiful!

    The penny rugs are charming. I can see so many possibilities.

    I am smocking at the present, and you might find me outside as much as possible while Charlotte reads to me. Then there is my ongoing crazy quilt table that is a pleasing way to spend some stitching time!


  4. It is not far from home Karen, to have the pleasure of meeting you :) But alas, I would not be able to attend.

    Thank you for sharing such lovely things today. Penny rugs are not hard to make and they give so much impact to any room.

    Have a blessed day Karen! :)


  5. Your posts always inspire me to be more creative.

    I have a few projects I want to work on as soon as the house and garden responsibilities are not quite so overwhelming.

  6. I am happy for the chance to see you and give you a hug at the convention!

    I love seeing your handiwork - you are very talented.

    Sarah told me this week that when we do our Botany study next year, she wants me to read aloud "A Pocketful of Pinecones" to she and Kyle.


  7. Dear Karen,

    How wonderful to know what those are called! I received a Penny Rug from a dear friend last year; she purchased woolen garments from the thrift store and cut and sewed it together. I had no idea it was supposed to hold a candle, yet intuitively placed my candle holder on it. Serendipitous, to be sure.

    I do not have a sewing basket at hand, but am resolving to make one this week. I have a couple of knitting ones, but the weather here is getting too warm to handle wool. I have so been wanting to start some yo-yo's. I once made a yo-yo fronted pillow for my 4-H project as a girl, and have a grand desire to make a yo-yo garland for the Christmas tree. I'm thinking seasonal table runners made from yo-yo's would be a treat as well.

    Thank you for your wonderful ideas and your peaceful blog. I always treasure my time spent here.

    God bless you and yours,

  8. I was touched by the story you shared of your gift from your sister in law.
    I can see why it means so much. Each time she visited her needlework basket for a break in her day it sounds like she was experiencing a little Mother Culture;)

    Your candle mat is darling. I know Sadie would enjoy this craft. So simple and yet very unique.

    I've really enjoyed the last few posts.

    And, I'm so happy to see your pretty daffodils below:-)

    Love in Christ,


  9. Oh, how disappointing to not be able to meet you! I hope you have a wonderful time. :)

    My grandmother has been an antiques dealer for years and her house has many, many samplers. Your SIL's is lovely...and true!

    Blessings for your week!

  10. Oh, what a dear sister-in-law ~ who knows you and loves you! So special! I have never done any handiwork with needle and thread (except sewing on buttons:), but this post makes me feel I should try! Thanks for the calm, Karen.
    Blessings to you on this snowy May day in Kansas!

  11. How I would love to meet you in person! What a pity we live so far apart. Wishing you a wonderful and succesful Saturday already now, Martina

  12. Wish I could come and meet you. When my great aunt was alive she lived in Harrisburg. I have lovely handiwork that she made. An amazing table cloth, a needlepoint (butler bell pull?), a cat doorstop, and a charming hand painted stool. They are treasures to me.

  13. I like to knit in spare moments. Alas, I haven't done much lately. I am currently working on a few hot pads for hostess gifts. It is like therapy!

  14. "...for this busy homemaker, stitching was an oasis of calm, something very different in her day of “next urgent things.”

    My thoughts on handwork put perfectly into words. Thank you, Karen. :)

    What a sweet gift from your sister-in-law. I'll bet you found just the perfect place to display it in your home.

    Hope you enjoy your meet and greet!


  15. I LOVE your felt mat!! So cheerful! :) Your hair is so long and pretty, Karen! Love seeing a photo of you!

  16. The penny rugs are charming! In the winter, here at our Estate, I often hand-sew a new apron. It takes me a few months because I do it at a leisurely pace, during my breaks (when I am not reading Austen or Dickens). Handwork is a relaxing way to pass the time.

    Thank you for the sweet, calmness in your posts!

    Mrs. White
    The Legacy of Home