Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Fashion thoughts, holiday & otherwise December 28, 2017

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NO ONE WILL EVER look to me for current fashion advice. I am a t-shirts in the summer, flannel shirts in the winter, zipper sweatshirt layers and blue jeans type of dresser, a bonus of working from my home office. Sure, I’ll dress up when necessary. But I prefer comfortable over fashionable.

That said, you might think I would embrace ugly holiday sweaters. But I don’t. For one reason. I can’t wear pull-over sweaters anymore. Being of a certain advancing age when my body temperature fluctuates, I can’t tolerate feeling trapped in the heat of a sweater. If it buttons, I’m OK. I can just unbutton or toss off the sweater when necessary. But otherwise, forget it.

How about you? Do you get into ugly Christmas sweaters? Let’s hear some ugly sweater descriptions and stories. Just for fun. Not because I care about fashion.

Ask my sister, who to this day reminds me of the ugly (her word, not mine) yellow dress with daisies on the bodice and a hand-me-down to her. To which I reply, “It’s not my fault I was the first-born daughter.” Had birth order been reversed, I would have been wearing her pre-worn clothing. Fashionable maybe in her eyes, but not necessarily in mine.

Fashion is, in my opinion, personal. And I have an opinion on the current trend of ripped jeans. Why would anyone pay money for jeans that belong in the rag bag?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Just in time for the Fourth: Made in the USA June 29, 2017

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IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR when patriotism swells/sells, when red, white and blue are the colors of choice. Count me in on this July Fourth fashion show of American pride.

The t-shirt I am wearing in this photo is one of several Thrivent Financial tees I’ve worn while recovering from a broken shoulder. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2017.


I’m not one who typically cares much about what I wear except for fit and comfort. But I am growing a tad tired of the same three t-shirt styles I’ve worn for the past 5 ½ weeks. A broken shoulder necessitated the easy-on-easy-off polyester and cotton Thrivent Financial shirts that ease up my right arm, over my neck and then onto my left arm. I acquired the tees while volunteering and now they will forever link to my Summer of the Broken Shoulder. I love these shirts for their soft comfort and stretch.

But, with the Fourth of July approaching, I wanted something festive. There would be no perusing clothing racks in multiple stores or even trying shirts on in dressing rooms. Such are the limits of a fractured humerus.


The front of my new patriotic t-shirt.


Rather, I found a style I was OK with at a mega discount retailer, chose my regular size and hoped it would fit. It did. And bonus, the shirt tag and graphic denote the garment as Made in the USA. The only downside—the year 2017 printed on the front, perhaps a marketing ploy to get customers to buy new again in 2018. While the date may make the shirt unwearable beyond this year for some, not for me. You can expect this $4.97 tee to remain in my closet for many summers.


My new tee came with this tag.



TELL ME: Would you wear this shirt beyond 2017? And is Made in the USA important to you?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


When a mother passes her dislike of shopping on to her son January 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:44 AM
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I AM THE RARE WOMAN who dislikes shopping. And I suppose, because of that, I am partly to blame for my teenage son’s lack of interest in shopping for clothes.

But it had gotten to the point where, day after day, he was wearing the same nondescript gray sweatshirt—the new one I gave him for Christmas—over a plain-colored t-shirt.

Finally, one day last week, I advised him that I needed to wash the sweatshirt and that he would have to choose another clothing option. The look he shot me at 7:37 didn’t exactly start my day with a “Good morning, Mom, I’m happy to see you” greeting.

I should mention here that my 17-year-old is not a morning person. Not at all. I have found it in my best interests to limit conversation with him any time prior to 10 a.m.

After this recent morning wardrobe exchange, I decided my teen simply needed to acquire additional clothing. After all, what must his classmates and teachers think with him wearing the same sweatshirt every day? Therefore, we needed to make the dreaded, long-avoided shopping trip.

Shopping success: A $60 hoodie purchased for $21.

So last Sunday afternoon we went clothes shopping. After about 1 ½ hours, which is an hour beyond my browsing limit, he had a new sweatshirt, three complimentary t-shirts and three flannel shirts. Success at only $58 sale prices.

Much to my surprise, my son handled the excursion without complaint, which might just be a first for him. I’ll be honest here and tell you that I understand my high school senior’s shopping frustration. He is tall, well over six foot—I’ve lost count of how many inches—and slender. He needs tall sizes for arm and body and leg length, but not for body girth. That presents a challenge whether he’s searching for shirts or for pants. Nothing fits him right.

It’s the same problem I had as a tall and slender teen. The “tall” part is still an issue for me. Honestly, every woman in this world is not average or petite in height and I am constantly frustrated by the limited choices for 5-foot, 8 ½-inch women like me who do not wear plus sizes.

So if you see me repeatedly wearing the same attire, my reasons are three-fold: I detest shopping, can’t find clothes that fit right and refuse to pay a pretty penny (aka full retail) for clothing.

Yup, I suppose I truly am to blame for my son’s avoidance of shopping and limited wardrobe.

IF YOU’RE THE MOTHER of a teenage boy or have raised one, what has been your experience with clothes shopping? I’ve tried the route of buying clothes for my son, but that rarely works. Either they don’t fit or he doesn’t like them or both. Help.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Inside the Hamilton Wood Type Museum & the Target connection August 17, 2011

A picturesque view of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, as seen from the historic Rogers Street Fishing Village.

We treated ourselves to ice cream sundaes after the museum visit.

IF NOT FOR MY SECOND DAUGHTER’S neighbor mentioning a day trip to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, I might never have discovered the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum or its connection to Minnesota-based Target.

The retailing giant collaborated with the museum on a recently-released fall Vintage Varsity collection promoted as “Cool Never Fades.”

With vintage so in vogue right now, Target definitely found the right place for designers to authenticate this new line. Hamilton made wood type from 1880-1985 and boasts a collection of 1.5 million pieces, the largest in the world. Target dipped into that collection to create graphics for the Vintage Varsity line.

The Target connection, however, wasn’t my reason for visiting Two Rivers, a city of 13,000 just south of Door County. Rather, Lake Michigan drew me here on a recent Sunday when my husband, son and I were visiting our daughter Miranda at her Appleton home 50 miles to the west.

My family can assure you that fashion wouldn’t draw me anywhere. But wood type would.

So, when I planned our day trip from Appleton to Two Rivers, Hamilton Wood Type ranked high on my must-see list, right after Lake Michigan. A promise to the teenage son of ice cream afterward at the historic Washington House, just across the street from the museum, kept him from complaining too much about my museum meandering. Interestingly enough, the sundae originated in Two Rivers in 1881.

Had I opted to take the official Hamilton tour, I likely would have learned much more about Hamilton Manufacturing Company and the museum, which also includes a collection of 1930s – 1970s advertising cuts, wood type and Linotype equipment, tools and more. The manufacturing company, which once made medical office furniture, appliances and more, is still in business today producing steel lab equipment.

Hamilton manufactured the first gas-powered clothes dryers.

The museum is a self-supporting, working museum where artists and designers and others get hands-on experience in wood type printing and where custom printing is done, according to a Minneapolis woman who was printing at the museum on the day I visited.

In all honesty, Hamilton’s historical details didn’t interest me. Rather, I was here because of my decades-earlier connection to Linotype and because of my profession. During my first job out of college in 1978, I worked as a reporter at The Gaylord Hub, a small-town weekly newspaper that still used hot metal type to create auction bills and other custom printing. At the time, I failed to appreciate this fading art. Rather, I found the constant clack-clack-clack of the vintage machines bothersome, especially when conducting phone interviews.

Today my attitude has changed. I appreciate printing as an art. I took that perspective to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum and knew, even before I stepped inside the 1927 building, that my focus would be visual.

The Hamilton complex of buildings covers blocks.

The building exterior features aesthetically appealing letters and punctuation.

My eyes swept across the nothing-fancy, industrial space filled with letters in more fonts and sizes than I could ever imagine. Posters. Colors. Graphics. Drawers upon drawers upon drawers that I wished I could pull open. Machines. Cement floors and brick walls. Jumbled pieces of wood and smeared paint cans, and brushes hung on walls.

I felt almost overwhelmed by the photographic possibilities, the kaleidoscope of colors and shapes that changed as I circled the room.

Everywhere you'll see letters and numbers in differing sizes and fonts, a visual delight.

One of the many vintage prints you'll see in the museum.

Rows upon rows of tempting drawers, presumably filled with wood type.

An oversized vintage photo anchors the wall you first see upon entering the museum.

John Burnet, an early engraver at Hamilton.

Lines of type.

One of the many graphic cuts you'll see in the museum.

Only when I was in a back room, where the Minneapolis artist was printing and the museum manager/tour guide chastised me for taking his photo without asking, did I think about the Target collection. I had passed by a clothing rack earlier, hadn’t even looked. But then the Minnesotan mentioned Target. So on my way out the door I paused, shot a quick photo and then joined the impatient teen for an ice cream sundae across the street.

A t-shirt I pulled from the rack of clothing at the museum. I don't know whether this is from the Target collection, because I didn't check.

Stacks of paint cans clue you in that this is a working museum.

Prints hang on a wall in one of the back rooms.

This photo shows printers' aprons and, to the back, the wall just inside the museum entry.

The entry provides a sweeping view of the museum.

FYI: For more information about the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, click here. The museum is open from1 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday and from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday from May 1 to October 31. Winter hours are from noon – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and Saturday by appointment. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Bring warm clothes December 17, 2010

ABOUT TWO MONTHS AGO, after my second daughter had just returned from Argentina and was searching for a job, I suggested that she volunteer at the St. Vincent dePaul Center for Charitable Services in Faribault. I figured the organization could use her Spanish speaking skills.

I was right. She interpreted for some of the Hispanic people who came to the center for assistance. And in the process, I think she gained as much as she gave.

By serving, we grow to understand the needs and the value of caring for others.

My daughter has since finished her brief volunteerism in Faribault and moved on to a full-time job as a Spanish medical interpreter in east-central Wisconsin. She’s doing what she most loves—speaking Spanish. And, in the process, through her work, she’s helping others.

Like my second oldest, you too can help those in need.

Last night I received an e-mail from Milo Larson, a Faribault businessman determined to welcome and assist our community’s immigrants and others in need. He’s been active in the Faribault Diversity Coalition.

He writes: “With this extremely cold fall and winter, St. Vincent dePaul is in dire need of winter clothes. The cold weather clothing is going out as fast as they come in. Please check your homes and see if you have any extra clothing lying around. If you run across winter clothing on sale or at garage sales, it would be greatly appreciated.”

Winter clothing—coats, hats, mittens, sweaters, snow pants, new socks, boots, gloves—are needed.

“Like every other year, the young children 8 and under are especially in need. Most of the children’s clothes are usually worn out after they are handed down to their brothers or sisters so if you see children’s clothes on sale, please don’t hesitate (to buy).”

Just like the people Larson is referring to, I know what it’s like to grow up without a lot of money. Although we had no charitable service to turn to for clothing, my family got clothing from relatives—hand-me-downs from cousins and new clothing from generous aunts. Clothes were passed down from sibling to sibling until, truly, they were nearly threadbare.

That family closeness and connectedness which existed years ago doesn’t necessarily exist today. Families today must rely on the generosity of caring strangers, like you.

If you live in Faribault and would like to donate new or gently-used warm winter clothes to St. Vincent dePaul, drop your contributions off between 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday – Friday at the center in the former Sacred Heart School at 617 Third Avenue N.W. Donations may also be left at Larson’s Faribault Print Shop, 302 Central Avenue. Call 507-334-2100 for more information.

Now, I realize that many of my readers don’t live anywhere near Faribault. So reach out to those in need within your community by volunteering or donating. Everywhere, families are in need and we ought to care.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling