Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pastimes

I am so happy to join my blogger friend Sue (Mac’s Girl) in her photo challenge! We share the experience of living in the Chicagoland area and became WordPress colleagues several years ago.  We have visited many of the same nature areas and museums.

For this challenge, Sue invites photos of pastimes or hobbies.

Yes, I collected stamps for a while as a child. I was a Girl Scout and learned skills like embroidery and knitting. I never spent a lot of time doing crafts (I generally don’t have the patience), but when I worked as a costumed interpreter at Old World Wisconsin, crafting was part of the job. It helped pass the time between guest visits, and it helped create artifact replicas that could be used by that living history museum.

Back in the 19th century, spinning and weaving and sewing wouldn’t really be pastimes or crafts, they would be necessary activities.

Home economics has changed dramatically with technology, but these basic skills represent sustainable living, in my view, and I’d be glad to see them passed down for future generations. 

My favorite pastime, however, is jigsaw puzzling. My grandmother owned several Pastime Puzzles, the kind made of wood and intricately designed. They contained iconic shapes like apples and hats and wheelbarrows and hearts along with curly “gazintas” – the piece that “goes in ta” the others. 

Growing up, my family would work together on these beautiful puzzles while a fire roared in the fireplace, staving off the winter chill and the Christmas vacation boredom.

I later discovered that this passion for puzzling could become a cottage industry. When I was a partner in Scholar & Poet Books, we bought over 300 cardboard jigsaw puzzles at a church rummage sale, put them together to ensure that they weren’t missing pieces, photographed them, and sold them on our e-Bay store.

I couldn’t begin to calculate the number of hours we spent together talking and assembling these puzzles, sometimes late into the night. Our biggest one was 3000 pieces. We developed a kind of system that played to our strengths. Steve was the “sky expert”. He was adept at matching shape and didn’t mind that all the pieces were the same color. I was the “detail expert”. I looked at what was visible on the piece and how the colors and objects made up the whole picture. I was also the “sorter”. I would pour out a few handfuls of pieces into a shallow box lid and find the edge pieces. I would use 8″x10″ box lids and stack them so that they didn’t take up too much room on the dining room table while still displaying the pieces in a single layer. Once the framed edge was in place, we’d fill in the rest, consolidating box lids as they emptied out. Eventually, we’d get down to sorting the almost indistinguishable ones by shape – the two-knobbed, the 3-knobbed, etc. We made up names for the standard shapes like H-pieces and “spadey-feet”. We didn’t come across very many with “gazintas” unless they were puzzles of a certain vintage.

During these hours of sorting and assembling, we would talk over all sorts of subjects and ideas. Often, we’d listen to music together as well. We don’t own a TV, so this was our evening and weekend entertainment, especially when the Wisconsin weather was dreary or harsh. I imagine that pastimes were developed just to create such intimate time in a household. I hope that one grace that emerges from these quarantine times is that more people leave screens behind and develop the ability to spend quality time creating something intimate and sustaining, face to face. 

15 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pastimes

  1. Wonderful examples of pastimes, Scilla! I love those old-time jigsaw puzzles! They were really solid pieces back then. We enjoy doing jigsaws too, especially during the winter months, and are just finishing one entitled “Wine Country”, which reminds me it’s about time to replenish my wine supplies. Thank you so much for participating in the challenge. I’ve long enjoyed reading your posts and knew you would come up with something interesting in response. Take care. Sue.

  2. Wow. Great post, great photos. We may all yet take up knitting! M’lady and I just started jigsawing again. (LOVE your photos of vintage wooden puzzles. WOW.) She is mad at me because I started our 2nd puzzle by dumping everything, then picking out the edges. She likes to go through the jumbled box and retrieve the edges first, then dump. I like your idea of using small box lids. That may help us do sections of our puzzle. We shall see!

    • For those of us who rather panic at disorder, controlling the disorder is very satisfying. I laugh and recognize the jolt of dumping a jumbled mess out! Funny how we get to know ourselves better every day…

  3. Excellent! And those old time, real jigsaws were really solid. I have got some my children used back then. Maybe I should try to find them!

  4. As I commented to John RH, puzzles have had quite a resurgence in the pandemic Priscilla, yours are beautiful! We too spent hours and hours and hours puzzling when I was growing up. With 4 brothers I’m sure my parents found it was at least one way to keep us quiet and occupied for a while LOL. I still love a good puzzle now and then, and when my family gathers each summer we always have one under way. A fond memory!

    • They are seldom demanding and very patient and satisfying, I find. They open up a window into a slower pace. Getting comfortable with that pace is a challenge for some, a blessed relief for others.

  5. this was a beautiful share – thanks for letting us into the memory of doing puzzles – well written
    and the wooden pastime puzzles look cool.
    I felt the beauty of doing a shared puzzle when we were once staying at my MIL’s place.
    She flew the family out for a holiday and in the basement was this puzzle waiting to be done.
    People worked on it at various times – sometimes two folks – sometimes four of us –
    when it was done – after many days of chipping away – it was a little sad

  6. ThanK you for sharing your pastimes. I love a good jigsaw puzzle too, and have just started leaving them out or my grandkids to find a few pieces for. very interesting to see the vintage puzzles. Donna

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