seed pod newsletter
Berry Fairy
© 1999 Maria Pahls
primitive pals #050
© Copyright 1998 Maria Pahls
Published to the internet
by arrangement with Homespun Peddler.

Fence Post
the fence post
(editor's letter)

dear friends:
in lieu of an introduction letter i'd like to share with you this article i wrote titled "midsummer night's dreaming" which appeared in the a summer 1998 issue featuring fairy tidbits.

midsummer night's dreaming

who are the wee folk that snitch my foxglove blossoms to use as party gowns and hats? who are they that gather dew from the lady's mantle? (and who was it that erased this the first time i wrote it?)

the fairy folk!

these curious creatures, which are said to range in height from a weensy half inch to a towering six feet, and colors from gray to green to white, are pure enchantment! almost every culture holds some sort of legend or belief about them. many times they are associated with plants and garden lore.

some of the herbs associated with fairies are st john's wort (protector of the little uncomforts naughty fairies do),and vervain,speedwell,eyebright,mallow,yarrow & self heal comprise the rest of the seven "fairy herbs". fox glove is often said to be a fairy plant (the juice of 10 will cure a fairy struck child), as are four leaf clovers(breaker of fairy spells) and mugwort.

wouldn't it be grand to plant your own fairy garden with the listed plants or form a "fairy circle" with "pinks" (tiny little frilly flowers) as tasha tudor has been known to do? maybe you would like to create an indoor terrarium garden with delicate small plants and tiny rustic garden accents for your table top! or- create a primitive fairy from some gossamer fabrics that you may have in the scrap box.

here in cincinnati,OH the old greenhouse (as seen in country living gardener & herb companion) holds an annual fairy festival complete with a fairy garden contest and theater groups performing fairy stories. many such festivals take place about the country in the spring and summer months.

the book worms section and spider web include lots of fairy goodies to get you inspired!

i'm lacing up my fairy boots now!

maria pahls
drop a line
miscellaneous letters sent in by readers

paula wrote in about her recent swap:

"On Sat. I received my fairy tale swap doll from Sylvia. She is the Fisherman's Wife from the Brothers Grimm story of the same name.

This large, long, doll wears a tiny blue check dress, apron, and a shawl cut from an old wool sweater. On her apron is stitched "Oh fish of the sea, come listen to me." Her face is hand stitched and painted with a very serious, primitive expression.
Fisherman's wife © Sylvia Ricks

Miller's Wife © Paula Setters Her name is Alice and she is the inspiration for the saying "..nags like a fish wife " (a saying I remember my grandfather using) And in her arms is a wonderful stuffed and painted muslin fish. He has white-fish scales, red lips, and a little dark blue on his body. His fins and tale are made of rusted tin that has been crinkled.

What a treat! Sylvia is so talented. I hung a small chair on the wall and sat Alice down. Then positioned the fish on the wall below her so that they look at one another. I am very pleased with my new friends- cloth and flesh alike. I've enjoyed this swap a lot. Sylvia's style is so very, different from mine- that's what makes it so neat and special."

primitive ponderings
questions asked by readers, then replied upon in later issues.

how does your garden grow? (#48)

from gloria:
"My gardens grow with treasures from garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, or are home-made. The gardens here are definitely a work in progress.

I love the vignette look, so I've created small gardens, each having it's own theme. The herb garden is full of tansy, yarrow, sage, lavender, thyme, lambs ears, etc. On one side sits the chair I bought that was missing it's seat. I added chicken wire, sphagnum moss, soil, and a birdhouse & created a chair garden. In front of the sage lies a lazy, cement rabbit that I painted to look ancient. A twig fence with a wood crow & herb sign hung on with rusty wire & tin star, holds back the tansy that's trying to take over the garden. There's a twig arch above that has clematis climbing up it. I plan to finish the walk-way with my hand-made stepping stones imprinted with leaves.

The Americana garden is just getting started. There's an old, falling apart, wicker chair I painted dark blue with white stars, & some red, white & blue bird houses resting on the stumps of an old lilac bush trimmed long ago. I've added a white wicker basket with red geraniums & tiny blue flowers to the chair, & planted a small bush with white blooms.

The flag that's painted on old wood, is sticking in the ground beside the chair. I'm planning to add a wooden uncle sam & lady liberty.

Then there's the angel garden that began as an attempt to disguise a 4ft, tall tree stump that was backed up against the privacy fence. I had my husband build a big birdhouse to rest on the tree, & planted my garden all around it. I added a sm. section of twig fence, & planted purple cone flowers, sedum, feverfew, red barberry, artemesia & a holly bush. Then I decorated it with some cement angels, cherubs, & planters I got 'cheap' at a flea market & painted to look old.

There's also the big wood garden angel with a rusty, wire halo that we built. The veggie garden is sort of being taken over by the sunflowers, morning glories, pumpkins, & gourds. There's a twig fence across the garden for the gourds to grow up, & a tall twig scarecrow with a rusty tin hat brim.

AND... wind chimes... I've got a thing for the sounds they make throughout the gardens, so they are scattered about. I'm trying to decide where to place the rustic wood bench, & the 'seat' garden I made from the wood frame of an old footstool. I placed a bee skep in the center, planted sm. flowers all around it, & nailed a vine heart on to hang down the front. As soon as time permits, I'm sure I'll have another garden created for the placement of the extras. "

tips & techniques

sylvia: When aging dolls with tea in the oven, the hotter the oven the quicker the tea dehydrates and leaves a more pronounced stain. for a lighter look, turn the oven down to 150 or less, the tea stain is less pronounced and leaves a much softer glow of age. -sylvia

to sign a doll that is made of dark fabric try a metallic or gel pen in white,silver or gold. this also works well for dark painted papier mache in need of a signature. -maria

drying oranges and citrus:
try drying (small) oranges by cutting a slit down each of 4 sides -stem to bottom. cut through the rind but without piercing the orange inside. set them on a screen, rotating often allow several months for drying. molded ones should be discarded.- carolyn

seed pod note: drying also works for kumquats - tiny orange colored fruit that dry quite nicely- except don't cut into them. there are even small boxes (with a lid & a bottom) made of inside out dried orange skins that the outside was a golden white and the inside was a deep orange. as a bonus they had a most wonderful fragrance and seemed relatively durable. paula told me about a book which contains a similar project (see book wormies). the fruit is carved out and dried wood ashes are used to pull out the moisture. the top is fastened to the bottom of the fruit while drying to form a good fitting lid. ashes are changed regularly until the citrus is completely dry. once completed the boxes are sealed with a mixture of bees' wax and olive oil. it also tells how to turn the fruit inside out.


fairy or faerie?
paula and i were talking a while back about which is the "proper" spelling for fairy. -and joking about the real spelling of primitIve! (some were spelling it primAtive) i have a little snippet from "the herb companion" april/may 1993 and i quote:
"the etymology of the term 'fairy' is long, complex, and ambiguous. most sources agree, however, that faerie originally referred to the place where the fairies dwelt ("fay"+ "aerie"), rather than to the creatures themselves".


The "Margarete Steiff Co." began in a family sewing room. (sound familiar?)
Margarete Steiff, who was stricken with polio and confined to a wheelchair began to sew at a young age. She started as a dressmaker, then opened a felt store and made felt underskirts. (1877) Around 1880 is when she made a little felt elephant and that was the beginning of an empire.

The earliest Teddy Bears (1903) are highly sought after, especially those from 1903 to 1930. Prior to 1903, Steiff made many other animals, most being intricately detailed. The company also made animals on wheels (as pull toys and riders), Marionettes, Skittles sets (like bowling) with animals on roly things and mechanical displays. Steiff was also a doll maker. Made mostly of wool felt the dolls were shaped by their seams.

The bears are what Steiff is best known for...their characteristics include elongated arms, hump backs, large slightly pointed feet, a round head with a "blunted" snout, stitched nose, and all made with a tiny metal button in their left ear many of which have been removed or have fallen out. Earliest bears were stuffed with excelsior.

Those interested in collecting can still find many of the other small animals at moderately affordable prices. Steiff Co. still bears and is just now beginning to reproduce the dolls with many of the same details as the originals. As for the new bears, I have yet to see one that has the same soul as the old ones. Maybe that's what a child's love adds to them!

The absolute best book I have found on the whole history of the co. is: BUTTON IN EAR (see book wormies). You will be amazed at the bears, animals, and characters in this book! Marguerete was one great woman entrepreneur! And what a story! Many businesses have been started in home sewing rooms and on kitchen tables!

betsy williams
the proper season
155 chestnut st.
andover,mass 01810

sometimes appears for book signings at the old green house in cincinnati ohio
free brochure
ask for a schedule also books calendars & postcards with fairy themes.

these books are by betsy:
  • "are there faeries at the bottom of your garden?"
  • "planning your herbal wedding"
  • "favorite seasonal recipes"
  • "potpourri and fragrant crafts"
  • "a wreath of christmas legends"

alleycat tales
22172 platino
mission viejo, ca 92691
Phone (714) 224-9804
fax (714) 768-1466

book wormie   book reviews
books of interest

BUTTON IN EAR (a book about steiff)
by: Jurgen & Marianne Cieslik
c. Marianne Cieslik Verlag, Julich/ West Germany 1989
Printed in Germany by satz + druck gmbh, Dusseldorf
ISBN 3-921844-18-5


Julie Mueller's design idea book. Subjects covered are: cutwork, quilting, heirloom smocking, embroidery, and ribbon
Julie Mueller
7909 W. 70th Street
Bridgeview, IL 60455

by Gillian Mary Edwards
ASIN: 0713807105
out of print, check it out at the library

A Dictionary of Plant-Lore
(Oxford Paperback Reference)
by Roy Vickery
Paperback (May 1997)
ISBN: 0192800531

Mugworts in May : A Folklore of Herbs
by Linda Ours Rago
Paperback Quarrier Press
ISBN: 0964619709

Edited by Andrew Lang
Hardcover edition (December 1983)
ISBN: 0844654957

(a book for adults)
by Terry Jones, Brian Froud (Illustrator)
Hardcover (April 1999)
ISBN: 1556709048

Nature Crafts,
      Seasonal Projects from Natural Materials

by Mary Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine Pearson.
published in 1980 by Oxmore House.
contains information about working with and drying citrus fruits as mentioned in tips & techniques.

spider web
web sites of members & other sites of interest

here are some sites with plants for fairy gardens & other fairy stuff...

Easy Spin Acres Elaine Greenberg
all natural doll stuffing and Cottswald (poor man's mohair) wool for
doll hair, and hand spun doll hai.

Mr. Crow's Prose

Lavender Blue

Lavender blue and rosemary green,
When I am king you shall be my queen;
Call up the maids at four o'clock,
Some to the wheel and some to the rock,
Some to make hay and some to shear corn,
And you and I will keep ourselves warm.

"Pondering shadows, colors , clouds,
Grass-bugs, and caterpillar shrouds,
Boughs on which the wild bees settle,
Tints that spot the violet's petal."

from: FLOWER FABLES by Louisa May Alcott - © 1898

The Orange Stealer

Dingty, diddledy, my mammy's maid,
She stole the oranges, I'm afraid;
Some in her pockets, some in her sleeve,
She stole the oranges, I do believe.

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