County Fair Spotlight on Home Arts View All Posts

photo of Dorothy Martin

About County Fair Spotlight on Home Arts

Dorothy R. Martin is an author, designer and educator who routinely shows her work at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. Every year you can find her amazing work at the Home Arts Building. Dorothy will guide you through the fun and inspiration in the Home Arts Division. Entries will delight... Read more

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Home Arts: Dolls & Toys, Crochet & Knit (Videos)

Much of the enjoyment at Home Arts is the people you meet! Volunteers registering entries and later acting as docents for the displays they probably helped prepare are examples. Once the Fair commences, attendees arrive singly and in groups, eager to see what is new and/or beautiful this year. When the Home Arts door opens Monday at 10 a.m. there will be happy faces waiting to enter.



Some will be exhibitors eager to see how their entries did in the competition. Others will be simply interested in Home Arts that you don’t see every day. Attendees will ask questions such as, “Do you really do this? How much time does it take? It is lovely!”, as they see something that really catches their eye.  Another comment is, “Oh, my grandmother made those; I will have to get them out and use them now.”

The displays will have some catching their breath as they see their entries, and others catching their breath as they view the amazing items.



Some people will be peering over tables and looking up at items; many will have cameras, catching the moment or an idea to try later. The beauty of the entire collection inspires photographers.


And some fortunate ones will actually have the chance to sit at a computer sewing machine and see how user friendly it truly is. You will see the sparks of interest fly, and the smiles grow large as they carefully push the various buttons for an amazing number of built in motifs.


You can never predict whom you will meet: familiar faces, new faces, young and old – all passing by the exhibitions, and slowing down to view favorite techniques.

One year several men passed by the small stage where I was demonstrating Blue Ribbon Apple Pies. It was lunch time and my patient children sat on the platform edges munching away at their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They had a big morning scooting all around the Fair Grounds. The tallest man bent down to my young son, and asked if the sandwich was good. The response was, ‘Yes’. Then the man asked if he could have a bite, and the response was a horrified look and an arm protecting that sandwich. At that, the men moved on with smiles. Later we explained to our son that was the Maryland State Governor, that his was an important job, and how nice it was that he came to the fair. But our youngest was not impressed as he answered, “OK. But he should not have asked for my sandwich.”  So you see, the Fair is a great equalizer! Keep your eyes scanning the crowds; you may see someone you know.

The Dolls and Toys Department has handmade cloth dolls, clothes, toys, balls, and cloth books – all items to enchant the younger folks. Also shown will be “garments” for the well-dressed doll. Many of the dresses match those of the young owners and require meticulousness in their construction. The 18 inch dolls have had a surge in popularity in recent years, and the lovely clothes for them appear everywhere. There will be a sampling of these items, also.









This doll is wearing a Bavarian folk costume of velvet, tapestry, and special trims.


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This active gal is wearing the dance outfit for her school and has her uniform in which to change after practice. The hand knit sweater sports her school logo. This captivating doll has her school uniform plus a smocked dress, coordinating hat, special occasion dress, and hand knit sweater and dance costume. She is ready for serious play!




Usually in the center of the venue stand tables and tables of knitting and crocheting. I will group them together since in my heart they are closely related. Both of these old, old arts can involve tiny, tiny needles, or very large. Think a darning needle up to a chopstick, size- wise. Examples of knitting and crocheting have been found in early dwellings, from ‘cave man/woman days’ which is amazing. Of course their art was primitive, but it definitely was the careful knotting of threads to construct a textile. What you will see at the Home Arts at the Montgomery County Fair is a far cry from these early efforts. Intricate patterns prevail in the clothing and home decoration categories of knitting and crocheting.

One of the popular styles is Aran Knitting, a style of columns of cables, diamonds, lobster claws, and weaving lines, along with other distinctive designs. In our family when the children reached 16 years of age, they selected their favorites from these designs and I combined them into their own unique sweater.





The front of this sweater for their Grandma has cables representing the Irish tie to the sea, and the honeycomb design which represents motivation and industry. The bumpy seed appearance at the side seam represents the tie to the earth. This is a raglan sleeve open front sweater.








On the back the honeycomb and cables are repeated and finer cables introduced (again the tie to fishing) and the zig zag line which represents the jagged paths of life.












This men’s sweater has an unusual cable alternated with ribbing stitch at hem. The lobster claw represents a good catch in the sea, and the diamonds wish prosperity for the wearer.









This large baby blanket is knit in the old-time ‘feather and fan’ pattern. Knitting is frequently softer than crocheting and this particular pattern is ‘user friendly’ for children.




A close-up of the feather and fan pattern. The spaces tend to hold air and keep baby warm. This one is stitched of acrylic and thus is machine washable, which the moms prefer for baby items.



The crochet department boasts entries of innumerable items. Projects to decorate for holidays could include a captivating angel or even Mr. and Mrs. Santa. Note: these are gifts from my thoughtful and ambitious sister-in-law who has crocheted over 125 afghans for her local hospital.












Crochet can also embellish pillow cases and towels: Close-up of a colonial lady pillow case with modified shell skirt. A blue fabric sits under the skirt to show the stitching. These are popular gift items. Another colonial lady with a more defined full skirt.




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Crochet edgings add distinct flavors to home accessories… Every day at the Fair people will ask how long a project takes (answer: stolen moments, I don’t count), or where I get the patterns (answer: online or in books or from pieces found at a garage sale) or why I do this (answer: because there is deep joy in taking a project from start as thread and or fabric, and working it through to a stunning or unique completion. Of course not all projects complete to be perfect or be the original desire, but you learn from it and the effort is not wasted.

Often someone will exclaim with delight when they see an article they recognize as similar to a treasure their family member made and passed to them. And they will share this with the people around them, which, again, is all part of the Fair.



This 68 inch pineapple edging was crocheted for the mantel of cotton 20 wt. thread.






A 48 inch buffet cover edging, copied from a piece my grandmother crocheted, which is crocheted of 30 weight cotton thread. This is a fillet piece, and I copied the design from a piece of my grandmother’s, and then graphed it out by hand on simple graph paper. I was so pleased with the design, and felt it gave me a connection to the grandmother who died prior to my birth.






An all wool afghan crocheted in rows and then embellished with X stitched roses; this requires careful washing.



Now that we have completed another virtual  trip through two of the areas in Home Arts, be prepared for continued fun in the next post, when we discover the variety abounding in Accessories!

Dorothy Martin

About Dorothy Martin

Dorothy Martin is a master seamstress who routinely shows her work at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. Dorothy will guide you through the fun and inspiration in the Home Arts Division. Entries will delight your eye. Highlights include arts quilting and baking to knitting and sewing and lots more. Everyone leaves this building with a smile, a gleam in their eye, and the memory of a favorite entry.


4 Responses to “Home Arts: Dolls & Toys, Crochet & Knit (Videos)”

  1. On July 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm responded with... #

    Mrs. Martin is a creative seamstress, always willing to try new projects! ( even blogging!)
    Well done!

  2. On July 9, 2014 at 10:52 am responded with... #

    Fantastic, so proud of my friend, Dorothy Martin.
    It is a privilege to know her, and to see such talent in all of her handiwork.

  3. On July 10, 2014 at 7:57 am responded with... #

    7.10.2014 7:30am DST This was a very interesting blog……fun to see all the examples of crochet and knitting. I particularly like hearing your voice on the videos, Dotty. Your second career has been wonderfully developed and shared with others. from Janet K

  4. On July 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm responded with... #

    those sweaters look fantastic, I wish I knew someone who could make me one

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