The last time I met my father for a procedure at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto,  I decided to make a little side trip happen.   Inviting my friend,  Sarah, to come with me,  on our way home we sought out Uncommon Threads of Palo Alto.   We made new friends and they loved the concept of The Legacy.   They lit up with the idea of their donations and unfinished projects getting new homes, all with it benefiting our Senior Center here in Sebastopol.

Ellen and Esther of Uncommon Threads came on a road trip this past Tuesday, bringing us 17 bags of high end yarns & 5 bags of books/magazines. In some large quantities of the same dye lots.   They twinkled as they watched us receive their donation. It appeared to be as fun for them to give as it was for us to receive.   They had coincidentally arrived the morning of our regular knitting group, on Tuesday morning.  The yarns-Classic Elite, Louisa Harding, Rowan, GGH, Alice Starmore. Lambs Pride, Jamison’s,…wools, cottons, mohair, blends.   Something for everyone.

Come and share in the blessings and absolution of their unfinished projects. Now a week later, there is still some of it left.


Unfinished Objects

We were teaching a young knitter about the big picture. Our knitting group is comprised of very experienced veteran knitters with lots of opinions. We began to discuss our approach to multiple projects.

“If I don’t have the next project on needles I don’t knit for months.” says Sue.
“I have start-itis. I love to start projects” says another.
I’m with them. I love to start projects. There is a little thrill that occurs in me when I decide to start something. That thrill is about the creative process. The choices- which design, what color…do I pull paper, cast on, thread the sewing machine, break a plate (mosaics).
There are different projects for different mindsets. There is the mindless knitting project for its’ meditative effects. There are projects that I am learning something on. An unfinished object may be one in which the next step required some problem solving, or perhaps it just wasn’t turning out to be what you thought it would be…I saw that more experienced knitters rip out quite a bit…that is part of the process. You get ‘do-overs’ with knitting.   A novice knitter may be reluctant to commit a beautiful yarn to something.   Instead of berating yourself for the loss or waste- take the unfinished project apart to become something else.

I have many unfinished projects. There are some that just require concentration for the next step. What I have learned about myself is that I do go back to them. I do finish projects. When I go back to the project, usually finishing them won’t take very long.   If it’s halfway started, it’s halfway done. (My mother’s German Proverbs)
And closure is as satisfying as the thrill of starting.
So the Temple of Fabric and Yarn grants you absolution of your unfinished objects. You are forgiven, go forth and create!

Thus this remains our benediction.  Sherry

I am frequently asked what do I do about fabric that has an ‘odor’.   Of course, if you can identify the smell all the better for specific treatment and outcome.   I will put lightly soiled or faded  fabric in our free box.   But overall, very little fabric from the Legacy goes to the dumpster.

We will air musty fabric.   First take it out of plastic bins or bags to air.  Put it in the sun. On a clothes line. In the dryer. Occasionally spray it with Febreze (last resort) and then the dryer.   Occasionally I’ll wash it.   Put it in a box with some deodorizing soap.  Wrap deodorizing cat litter in fabric bags in a box or suitcase with the fabric.   A combination of these things can salvage cigarette smoke damaged materials.

I’ll do these things for yarn as well. (not the dryer)

We do not try to salvage materials that have cat pee, smoke damage(like from a house fire), mouse droppings or mold/mildew.  Too much work for a poor outcome or risk of disease/illness.  We try to be careful about this issue  and we will go the extra mile to keep something usable.  Another step toward our quality assurance.

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One day I’m working in the store and overhear an older lady say, ” No thank you, I’m kinda fussy.  I have alot.  I collect hankies.”  I’m not sure why my ears shot up like a well-trained hunting dog, but something told me to go talk to this woman.  She could probably teach me something about these vintage linens….

Hankies are like aprons.  They hearken back to a simpler time.  Before Kleenex.  They were for allergies and colds (so we were a little unclear about the germ theory) and tears. Tears of sadness. Loss.  Good-byes.  And of gladness.  Weddings, and births.  They were tokens of affection and commemoration.

So I spoke with Wanda McCormick that day and asked her if anyone had ever inventoried her collection.  Had it ever been photographed?  It was quite an honor to get that opportunity to photograph most of her collection.  They were in over 20 photo albums.  Categorized by subject or type of hankie.  embroidered or silk hankies had there own album.  The others were printed and you could see the shift in colors as manufacturers developed techniques for dying and reproduction.  There are obvious trends over the decades and you can pick up on that looking at the artistic styles.  They cover cities, states, countries, commemorative events, animals, flowers, children, seasons…

Wanda seemed to enjoy sharing her collection because she feels not just anybody can appreciate hankies.  Well, we can.  Her collection is an American treasure that should be left to a museum.  Here are some of the hankies in a slideshow.  I will continue to add more. There  are 160 pictures total to post. It was an amazing opportunity and I never know where The Legacy will lead me. We have the most interesting customers…

Other than the obvious selling of the fabric, yarn and needlework crafts that make fiber artists so happy there is this other aspect to what the store does and a higher purpose for our being here.  Let me tell you a story.  This is typical of the many stories we hear everyday as folks donate the large ‘estate’ donations. To me the Estate donations are someone’s lifetime accumulation of needlework supplies, button collection, decades of fabric, etc.

Once upon a time, (because all really good stories start that way) a sweet old man came into the Legacy.  I had not worked there for very long and not that many men come into the store, so I greeted him.  He had looked around and he said, ” My wife did this stuff, she died and I have alot to bring you…but, (his eyes welling up with tears) not yet. Not yet”  I asked how long it had been, and I think he said 2 years….Sweet man, missed his friend so.  Very poignant.  I assured him it had a place to come whenever he was ready.

It had been a long time since that day…Long since forgotten.  The volunteers tell me that there is a truckload for us and I should take a look.  I go out to greet an old man by his truck.  I don’t realize it is him…then he starts to hand me what had belonged to his wife.  I realized that it was the same guy and how important for me to facilitate his process as cooperatively and expediently as possible.  I needed to accept what he had without sending him somewhere else.  We would take care of it, what wasn’t right for us gets sent to Goodwill or Hospice (shoes,tennis rackets)  Some stuff just needed to be tossed but it was too hard for him to be the one to do it.

As we unloaded his truck, he started to tell me why he was doing this now.

He had decided to trade houses with his daughter that does emergency foster care.  Those are the folks that take kids in emergent circumstances (police holds for drugs or violence) of the most difficult situations.  This gentleman had decided that she should have the big house.  He would take the smaller house.  He had already painted a tree on the walls of the boys’ bedroom and bought bunk beds.  He had become animated with his eyes twinkling.  He had plans for the girls’ room.  I told him that the kids were lucky to be getting him as a foster grandparent.

When he left, the volunteer that had observed this and participated with the unloading said,” Wow, now I see what else The Legacy is about”.  What we had observed was this gentleman’s’ process of grief and the shift to looking forward to his future.  It was truly a beautiful thing.

Aprons-Part 2

(Notice that a “Medium” is a size 14 – 16.)


Remember making an apron in Home Ec? Remember Home Ec? If you have to explain “Home Ec,” you may delete this.  I just don’t have the energy anymore. Read below.

The History of  ‘APRONS’


I don’t think our kids
know what an apron is.
The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few, and because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses, and aprons required less material.  But along with that, it served as a potholder for
hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children’s tears and, on occasion, was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold, Grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.
After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.


In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.


Send this to those who would know (and love) the story about Grandma’s aprons.


Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. 

Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

The EPA or CDC would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron

I don’t think I ever caught anything from an apron – but love…


Aprons- Part 1

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When I started working at Legacy I noticed that there were some of the very charming vintage aprons that were recently featured in books and exhibits going around the country. I told the staff to put aside any that were donated so I could feature them in a display. From the moment I said that, the quantity of very special aprons that came our way increased like an answer to a call. I thought that it was kinda spiritual to ask for something and it came to me. How very special… I went to an auction and there was an ‘Apron Lot’ of 25 vintage aprons. It got kinda funny. One day, Lucile is telling me HOW MUCH lace and trim we have that she working on…We see a woman heading across the parking lot carrying boxes piled so high she couldn’t see. We look at her and I say to Lucile real snarky, “It’s nothing but lace and trim” and she says “It’s nothin’ but aprons” But we put our game faces on and say real nice to the lady “So what do you have for us today?” and she says “This box is lace and trim and this box is a bunch of aprons” I thought we were gonna pee our pants. When it was said and done I had approximately 60 aprons to display and sell.