A fond memory from when I was a young girl is the contents of the first divide of my dad's top middle desk drawer. Laying ready for use were mechanical pencils that intrigued me, wooden pencils with unusual eraser holders, a magical slide ruler, and the lingering smell of wood and lead. Maybe the contents of that drawer is what cultivated my absolute love of vintage office ephemera; labels outlined in red, bulldog clips, cloth bound ledgers, and specialty pencils. I can't resist.

I was thinking about this when I reached for my vintage pencil tin to do some sketching for pattern ideas. Seems I've managed to fill it with a collection of things that remind me of my dad. 

And then my thoughts went to all the rug designs that fill museums, books, and Pinterest. So often you see repeated design items as if the patterns were available commercially, or adopted in regional areas like quilt block patterns from the same era.

I remembered reading a story about a man who had been watching his wife struggle with drawing designs for her rugs and thought he could help. I got out my copy of The Complete Book of Rug Hooking by Joan Moshimer and sure enough, that is where I had read the story. She tells the story of a husband that solved a need for his crafty wife by creating tin stencils that were used to ink designs on burlap. All her hooking friends became customers and in total Shark Tank style, a viable business was born.

On the Winterthur Museum website, I found a page devoted to E.S. Frost. It states that by 1876 he had made enough money to be able to afford to sell his business and retire to California. The new owners of his stencils added "& Co" to his name. The photo I found is absolutely lovely. You can see that the design was not marked by black marker only but color was used to denote the main designs for hooking. Because the bottom of the pattern is marked with "& Co", this particular piece must be from after the sale of his company in 1876 or later.  The photo is from the Winterthur website.

Like so many of us, the original owner of this pattern, got distracted. 😀 I wonder what part of life took her away from completing this wonderful design. Notice how spread out her loops are. I can't tell if it is all wool or another material.  No. 54 is a keeper!

My rabbit trail led me to finding a rug hooking guild in Maine that honored Mr. Sands by naming their guild the Tin Pedlar of Maine. Tin Pedlar because his stencils were made of tin and he sold them door to door.

Thanks to Mrs. Sands for inspiring her husband to develop a system that helped many women use their hands for beautiful self-expression!

I wonder if his wife kept up with hooking or did she switch over to punch needle? 😂


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