What is May Day?

May Day is celebrated on May 1.  It is an old day of celebration dating back to the Roman Republic.  Over its many years, there have been different meanings, festivities, and representations of May Day. Beginning as a day marked with ceremonies, dances, and feasting, it celebrated the rite of spring.  It also marks the half way point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solace.  In addition, it has been known as Workers’ Day or International Workers’ Day, a day commemorating the historic struggles and gains made by workers and labors.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, May Day traditions changed to leaving a gift basket filled with flowers or treats at the front door of a neighbor, friend, or loved one.  The giver would leave a basket or cone of treats, ring the doorbell, shout “‘May Basket!” and run away.  In some communities, hanging a May basket on someone’s door was a chance to express romantic interest.  If the recipient caught the giver, he or she was entitled to a kiss.  It has also been celebrated with dancing and singing around a pole laced with streamers or ribbons.  During my grade school days, we made May Day baskets filled with homemade treats, candy, or dandelions to exchange with school mates.

Today, May Day is almost forgotten. The sentiment of the day certainly has a place in modern society as a time to share a random act of kindness and celebrate spring and friendship—an opportunity to pay it forward. Baskets don’t necessarily have to be left at a front door.  Treats can be left for co-workers, teachers, children—anyone—anywhere they will find it. Earlier this spring, I was asked to make a May Basket for a group service project.  The directions were few—any kind of simple homemade basket will do; fill it with flowers, candy, or a baked and wrapped treat.

There are numerous ideas for baskets online—paper cones, styrofoam cups, fabric, tin cans, strawberry baskets—anything goes.  I decided on construction paper strips to craft a woven paper basket like I remembered making so many years ago. 

Since the basket had to be finished ahead of May 1 for distribution, I filled the basket with White Chocolate Strawberry Biscotti.  Compared to most baked goods, biscotti is very shelf-stable and will remain good for several days. Each biscotti slice was individually wrapped in clear plastic wrap and placed in the basket along with the recipe so the recipient would know the ingredients. The collection of baskets for this project will be delivered to service personnel in our community. 

Who says baskets have to be filled with flowers, candy or treats?  Don’t limit yourself.  Use imagination and creativity.  Baskets can be filled with anything appropriate for the recipient.  For example, the homeless may appreciate baskets filled with bath products, socks, non-perishable snacks or gift cards. Baskets for others could be filled with small office supplies, seed packets, cooking utensils, hair accessories, or craft supplies. The ideas are endless.  Add a little treat to brighten someone’s day with a piece of candy, a flower, or a pop of color with a piece of tissue paper.  And if making a basket isn’t for you, maybe buy a cup of coffee for a random stranger and wish them a Happy May Day. Get the kids involved; make it family activity or a youth group project (4-H, Scouts, Church).

So make a basket, ring the doorbell, and run! Spread some kindness! You’ll be glad you did! Happy May Day!

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Celebrating Quilts and Crafts and Those Who DO IT


March might be the month of spring, but it is also National Quilting Month and National Craft Month! A time to celebrate and appreciate the two artistic forms.  Is it coincidence that the two commemorated activities come in the same month?  I have to wonder since they are so closely related.

National Quilting Month has been sponsored by the National Quilting Association (NQA) since 1991 when it designated the third Saturday in March as National Quilting Day; over the years it has expanded to the entire month of March giving quilters more time for shop-hops, shows, and classes.  In 1994, the Craft & Hobby Association created National Craft Month to help people rediscover and learn about the benefits of crafting.  While crafting may conjure up images of kids working with popsicle sticks and glue, crafters, in reality, are people of all ages who produce something tangible with their hands. 

I quilt and I craft.  Both provide me with joy and a sense of accomplishment but I have no idea if that makes me a quilter, crafter, or a kind of artist.  The word ‘craft’ is synonymous with the word ‘trade,’ meaning skilled labor in an area such as weaving, carpentry, pottery, etc.  Crafting also means creating anything by hand that has an artistic aspect to it such as knitting, scrapbooking, jewelry making, etc.

Whether one is quilting or crafting, there is skill and creativity involved.  Both are done with the hands and require supplies and equipment unique to the project.  Either can be an occupation with some earning a living by selling their creations or by teaching their skill.

Quilts and various crafts can be beautiful as well as useful or not.  It is for this reason that we have shows and museums to expose, share, study and enjoy the skill.  Whether quilt or craft, both adhere to aesthetic principles by the materials chosen, shapes used, or how the various pieces come together.  The completed pieces may be useful or have no purpose at all.  When they provide beauty or please our sense of aesthetics, the outcome is art.

Benefits of Quilting and Crafting

Regardless of how we see ourselves, quilting and crafting are intertwined and interdependent.  Crafting, whether quilting or otherwise, offers outlets for hands-on creativity and the benefits are numerous:

  • Relieves stress by turning on our endorphins, decreasing blood pressure and heart rate, reducing fight or flight, heart attack and stroke.
  • Increases mental acuity with problem solving, math or geometry, and critical thinking.
  • Meaningful work or sense of accomplishment provides pleasure rewards for the brain.
  • Increases appreciation, empathy and tolerance of others and other forms of creativity.
  • Builds confidence and inspires one to think ‘outside of the box’ in other aspects of their lives.
  • Brings people together as they enjoy and inspire one another.
  • Helps one learn about themselves and their values, beliefs, and attitudes.
  • Boosts productivity, resilience, concentration and focus by boosting neurons between the right and left brain hemispheres.

Celebrate Quilting and Crafting

There are any number of ways one can celebrate quilting and crafting in March or any other time. 

  • Rediscover a prior skill. 
  • Try something new or expand on a skill. 
  • Visit a museum or craft or quilt show to appreciate and learn more about the craft or art. 
  • Spend time with someone who quilts or crafts to learn more about their work. 
  • Take a class (virtual or in-person) in a craft that interests you. 

Do whatever it takes to get into the spirit of crafting or quilting.  Let your itching fingers, yearning heart, and skill set combine with your creativity to make something.  Reap the rewards that come with discovering yourself through hands-on crafting or quilting and celebrate and appreciate whatever your accomplishment may be! 

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Decorating Eggs

There are many commercial products available for decorating eggs but if you haven’t ever considered naturally coloring eggs for Easter you might want to! The American Egg Board has many suggestions for decorating eggs including using natural foods to color your eggs.

For pinkish red eggs consider fresh beets or cranberries or frozen raspberries. Orange or yellow colored eggs can be successfully dyed using yellow onion skins, ground turmeric, orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed, or ground cumin. Spinach leaves will produce pale green colored eggs. For blue eggs try canned blueberries or red cabbage leaves.

After you have determined which color you want to dye your eggs, place 1, 2, or 3 handfuls of your dye base in a saucepan and add 1 cup of water for each handful of color base. The water level should be at least an inch above the dye materials. Bring to boiling then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to an hour until you have attained the color you want. Remember, eggs will dye a lighter shade than the color you see in the saucepan.

Strain the dye mixture into a small bowl deep enough to completely cover the eggs and add 2-3 teaspoons of white vinegar for each cup of dye liquid. You are then ready to start dyeing your eggs in the warm liquid. Natural dyes require a longer soak time for the color to take hold. If you want a vibrant color and to be able to eat your decorated eggs you will want to leave the eggs in the dye solution overnight in the refrigerator. Hard cooked eggs are safe to consume for up to 7 days provided they have not been out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

 

 

 

 

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

More Posts

Crafty Cruising

I enjoy traveling every chance I get. While waiting at the airline gate for my last trip I struck up conversation with two women who were working on craft projects. As you can see one was knitting and one was quilting. As we visited about their projects they told me they had their sewing machines in their carry-ons and were going on a sewing cruise! What fun! I am aware of several different themes for cruises – musical groups, weight loss, bird watching, etc. – but I had not looked into sewing or craft cruises. They were going on a 10-day cruise that had several ports of call but also incorporated four days and most evenings at sea for passengers to focus on the sewing projects they brought. This particular cruise was sponsored by Singer Featherweight so there was a Maintenance Workshop for their machine included for every cruiser signed up with Singer as well as a tune-up kit for their machine.

It has been very interesting for me to research some of the cruise possibilities for crafters. You can pretty much find a cruise to match whatever craft you enjoy doing: sewing, quilting (including long arm classes), needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, crocheting. Always check to see what is included with the cruise before signing up. Some provide the machines, others allow you to bring your own machine and offer perks to go along with that. Some have you bring your own projects to work on while others have pre-assembled kits available for purchase. Some give you 24 hour access to the sewing and crafting room while others offer set hours. Most often there are instructors available and if a specific company is offering the cruise a company representative would be available.

If you enjoy cruising and crafting this might be right down your alley!

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

More Posts

Easy Sewing Projects

Last month, I was able to visit my son and his family in Idaho. Since I love to sew, I always try to pack something fun that the grandsons there can learn to sew. My goal is to teach all of my grandchildren to sew. Since I do not have the opportunity to spend much time with most of them, I always have an easy project with me when I do visit.

If the 4-H member at your house wants to try sewing, start them on something simple and small. Zippered bags, or even open top bags are quick and easy to make. This year, we made small zippered bags. They are ideal for hiding a treasured item, packing small items in a suitcase, or holding sewing supplies. This version of a bag (there are many different patterns available) requires a zipper and fusible quilt batting. The quilt batting provides some structure or stiffness to the bag without requiring a more difficult sewing technique. You simply iron the lining piece onto the batting and then sew each strip onto the opposite side. Zipper installation does not require a special zipper foot, you simply sew along the inside edge of the zipper tape. After sewing side seams and a bottom seam, you open up the bottom and sew a diagonal line across the side and bottom seam to give the bag some volume or shape.

It occurred to me that a bag similar to this one would be a great first time sewing project for a 4-H member. Each bag would take only an hour or two to construct and members could make multiple bags for themselves, friends, or family members. Making multiple bags would allow 4-H members skills to increase. You can eliminate some of the frustration that comes when you have to fit a garment and have take out seams that need to be changed. This exhibit could be finished months ahead of the County Fair.

 

 

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Gourds

If you grew gourds in your garden this summer, you may be interested in how to preserve them. If you just want to display them from now until Christmas, follow the first two steps. If you want to keep them indefinitely, follow all four steps listed below. Gourds dried completely will not retain their bright colors but will be great if you want to paint them or make them into a birdhouse.

  1. Pick gourds when they are fully mature. At maturity, the stem attached to the fruit begins to dry and turn brown. Cut the gourds from the vines with a hand shears, leaving a few inches of stem attached to the fruit. Handle the gourds carefully as the skin is susceptible to bruising or scratching.
  2. Gently wash the gourds in soapy water and rinse in a solution of water and chlorine bleach. This should destroy decay organisms, which could lead to fruit rot. Gently dry each gourd with a soft cloth.
  3. Dry the gourds by spreading them on several layers of newspaper in a warm, well-ventilated place such as a porch, garage or shed. Place the gourds in a single layer, spacing them so that they do not touch one another. Avoid sunny areas as colors may fade. Rotate them every 2 or 3 days, gently wiping with a dry cloth to remove moisture. Promptly remove any which begin to rot.
  4. Drying or curing may take up to several weeks. To hasten drying of large decorative gourds, make small holes in the bottom of the fruit with an ice pick or nail. The gourds will feel lighter in weight, and the seeds will rattle when the gourds are fully dry.

Once cured, the gourds can be used in their natural state. They may also be painted, waxed, shellacked or varnished for crafts.

These gourds will make a great Thanksgiving centerpiece or fun seasonal decorations around the house.

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Halloween Crafts

I am starting to notice Halloween decorations in town and at local stores. One of our co-workers brought in a picture of some decorations she made with her young nephews over the weekend. It looks like a fun project and she said that the boys all really enjoyed it.

 

I think this would work well with my own grandsons. They love to go to the pumpkin patch to choose pumpkins and they enjoy carving them. Once carved, the pumpkins do not last very long and often can attract gnats or flies. Some years, the jack o lanterns the boys carved rot outside even before Halloween.

To make these jack o lanterns, buy some foam sheets that have an adhesive backing. They are inexpensive and several sheets have enough space to create multiple face parts. These sheets are available in many colors; you may want to buy at least black and white sheets. If you want googly eyes on your jack o lanterns, be sure the eyes you buy have an adhesive back. Depending on the age of the children, you may want to cut pieces in advance or have older children draw their own pieces. Enjoy.

 

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Pick the Best Pumpkin

Pumpkins of all sizes and varieties are appearing at the market and other venues.  There’s a lot of variety in pumpkins and it pays to consider what you’ll be using your pumpkin for–cooking, carving, or decorating–when you go shopping for one.  When choosing a carving or decorating pumpkin, you’re looking for a nice shape and a pumpkin that will last several days. The choice for a cooking or baking pumpkin is all about taste and texture.

For cooking and baking, you’ll want to use a pumpkin that has a smooth, dense grain or texture and a very mild, delicate and sweet flavor.  Often time they are generically labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.”  Other pumpkins or squash that work equally as well are the Long Island Cheese Pumpkins which look like a wheel of cheese, the white ‘Luminia’, or butternut squash. “Pie pumpkins” are smaller in size, about 5-8 inches in diameter and weigh between three and eight pounds.  “One pound of fresh pumpkin yields about 4 cups raw peeled and cubed, or 1 cup cooked when mashed or pureed pumpkin.  A 5 pound fresh pumpkin will make 4-4.5 cups of cooked puree or mashed pulp. If you want a thicker puree, place it in a colander or cheesecloth for a while to drain out excess water. If a recipe calls for a 15-ounce can of pumpkin, you can replace it with 1.75 cups mashed fresh pumpkin. In general, plan on purchasing 1/3 to 1/2 pound of fresh pumpkin per serving as a side dish. Much of the weight will be discarded in the peel and seeds.” (source:  https://www.howmuchisin.com/produce_converters/pumpkin)  Check for nicks, bruises or soft spots before purchasing.  If kept in a cool, dry location, they will keep well for a couple of months.  As the pumpkin ages, the skin will dull, but as long as the skin is unblemished and free of mold, the flesh inside will still be sweet and edible; in fact, over time, the flesh becomes even sweeter.  Once cut, fresh pumpkin/squash should be wrapped tightly, refrigerated, and used within five days.  Cooked pumpkin/squash freezes very well for later use.

You can carve or decorate with any type of pumpkin, squash, or gourd.  However, larger pumpkins used for carving or decorating are generally known as field pumpkins and besides being larger in size, also have a watery, stringy flesh.  A good carving pumpkin should be firm, healthy, feel heavy when picked up, and sound slightly hollow when tapped gently. Ideally, the shell should be hard enough to protect it, but still allow a knife through. Pumpkins with outer shells that feel as hard as a piece of wood are very difficult and dangerous to slice or carve.  The heavier the pumpkin, the thicker the walls. Thick walls may block the light source and carving details may be lost. If the pumpkin you choose has thicker walls than desired, one can shave the walls from the inside.  Test to see if the pumpkin has a good base to sit on so that it won’t roll over.  Avoid carrying the pumpkin by its stem.  The stem is not a handle and if it breaks, you may loose part of your design or create a wound that invites rot.

Once a pumpkin has been opened or carved, it will start to dry and shrivel as soon as exposed to air.  Carved pumpkins will keep nicely for a few days in the refrigerator; this is especially helpful if carving needs to take place a few days ahead of the display time.  If you want to carve and display but want the display to last longer than one day, place the carved pumpkin in a cool spot out of direct sunlight.  Another tip is to spray it with “Wilt-Pruf” plant protector.  For display pumpkins whether carved or solely for decoration, it is important that they not be left outdoors if there is a threat of frost.

Enjoy pumpkin season!

 

 

 

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

AnswerLine

Subscribe to AnswerLine Blog

Enter your email address:

Connect with us!

AnswerLine's Facebook page AnswerLine's Pinterest page
Email: answer@iastate.edu
Phone: (Monday-Friday, 9 am-noon; 1-4 pm)
 1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa)
 1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota)

Archives

Categories