12.28.2006

a book recommendation

Please excuse my lack of posting the past few days. Whether it's after Christmas jet-lag or the weather, I'm not sure, but I just haven't felt that great for a few days. And I've spent most of that time curled up on the couch with my cats. Who are loving the extra attention.

And I'm reading a fat book that I highly recommend if you like historical fiction—Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund. She wrote Ahab's Wife, too, and I think someone recommended it to me but I haven't read it yet. Anyway, this book is a fictionalized account of Marie Antoinette from the time she arrived in France to her untimely death. And it has all the historical details but written like a juicy novel so you'll find yourself just flying through the pages.

Interesting that she never said "Let them eat cake." But she did talk about her embroidery in letters to her mother. It seems she was quite accomplished at it and made lovely needlework items for her husband and friends.

"I truly love my embroidery, as it puts me in a kind of trance. I am not transported into another world as I am at the theater or even when I read an engaging book, but I enter a deep, still place within myself as I create flowers in thread. I feel calm and happy, which is a good balance for the thrill of the gaming table, though I gamble much less now and only in my own apartment; instead I often play billiards."

Oh, yes, she had a bit of a gambling problem, too!

12.25.2006

Merry Christmas!

No Stitch School today—it's Christmas and you all have better things to do. Me, too.

But I'll leave you some embroidered snowflakes to tide you over until next week. These were not meant to be snowflakes (at least I don't think so) but imagine how beautiful they'd be embroidered in white on a dark background.

snowflake 1

snowflake 2

snowflake 3

snowflake 4

snowflake 5

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone!

12.22.2006

Studio Friday: RITUALS & WISHES!

"So many of my friends have certain little rituals they adhere to when starting to work, or finishing work. I do too. It can't be that unusual, and some are very sweet or amusing. Although some are maybe too embarrassing to share?

Another thought is: If you could make one or two changes to your studio, by magic, what would they be?" ~ Nancy Bea


If there were such a thing as creativity dust I'd throw some up in the air before I start to create. It doesn't work like that, although it does seem like magic sometimes. I don't think I have any rituals except that I'm quite messy when I work and I like to clean up before starting a new project—kind of like starting with a clean slate—or work table in my case.

As for wishes, more space, of course. Yet, whatever space I have, no matter how much larger than the previous one, I always manage to fill it up. So I should wish for better organizational powers instead. I'd also wish for better light, whether that was larger windows or track-lighting in the ceiling. I love the natural light on a bright sunny day but it can be very dark on cloudy days and at night.

What do other artists wish for? Read more here.

12.21.2006

Thrift Thursday: Vintage Bread Box

I've already posted about the vintage glass ornaments I found at the flea market on Sunday. It was actually a very good day for finding treasures. I discovered a bunch of old buttons on cards and met a very nice woman named Anne who had lovely old handkerchiefs and rickrack, which I'm afraid I cleaned out her supply of.

But the best thing I found was this vintage bread box with morning glories. For $8!

vintage bread box

For the rest of my time at the market people kept saying how much they loved it and where ever did I find it. I've said it before—look down. It was under a chair in a corner and tucked underneath a bunch of other stuff. There are a couple more pictures on my Flickr if you'd like to see details.

That's the thing with flea markets, and especially this one. Things aren't always clean, and beautifully arranged. You certainly don't want to wear white while shopping. It's messy and dirty and things are piled every which way. Junking isn't for the faint of heart!

As always, there are more Thrift Thursday finds here. Join the fun—show us what you've found!

12.20.2006

a holiday meme

A holiday-themed meme inspired by Kim at Olive Juice & Co.:

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
I like both but, since I have to choose, then hot chocolate. Made with real cocoa and without marshmallows.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
Wraps, and in fun color-coordinated papers and ribbons. He must shop at Target, too!

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Tiny white ones and some that are shaped like chile peppers from a previous southwestern decorating phase.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
I sometimes hang a kissing ball that's made with artificial mistletoe but I can't seem to find it this year. I know it's somewhere in that attic closet.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
When I find the time. It's Christmas week and I'm just finishing the tree.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
We aren't very traditional when it comes to holiday dinners and change the menu every year. But, if we serve turkey or chicken, then stuffing would be my favorite thing. Mmmmm...carbs.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child.
We lived in a townhouse-style apartment complex and everyone would decorate their windows and front porches. In a traditional way—this was before icicle lights and those ugly hot air-filled monstrosities that everyone seems to have on their lawns these days. We always seemed to have snow for Christmas and sometime during the week before we'd wait until it got dark, then bundle up in warm clothing and walk through the streets looking at all the lights. It was magical.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Probably from one of my older friends but I had a younger brother and sister so had to pretend anyway.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We open all our gifts on Christmas Eve. We don't have kids so why wait. But when I was a kid, we always waited until the morning. And only after our parents woke up.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
With lots of treasured ornaments—old glass ones inherited from my parents, crocheted white snowflakes, quirky carved and painted animals that I've picked up over the years.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
I don't think we'll be getting any in time for Christmas this year—it's too warm. Snow is pretty, but I live out in a rural area so it can be a pain to get around in it.

12. Can you ice skate?
I can. But I haven't done it in something like 20 years and I have weak ankles so was never very steady on my feet.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I used to get those ginormous boxes of Crayolas every year. I was into art so it was the perfect gift for me.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Spending time with family and friends.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Gingerbread with lemon sauce.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Baking cookies.

17. What tops your tree?
A silver star.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving. I spend lots of time thinking up and looking for the perfect gifts.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Carol of the Bells, especially the piano version performed by David Lanz and Michael Jones on Solstice.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Meh. What I really like is chocolate peppermint bark!

12.19.2006

Vintage ornaments

In their December issue, Country Home magazine did a short article about collecting vintage glass Christmas ornaments. Like these:

vintage ornaments

And these are some ornaments from my collection. It was kind of cool to see that I have some of the same designs—and the tiny blown-glass teapot has always been my favorite.

ornaments

I don’t really collect ornaments—I just happen to have these from my parent’s collection. And I’ve moved about 20 times since leaving home so it’s a wonder they haven’t broken. The teapot is especially delicate with its little spout and handle.

If you do decide to collect ornaments like this, October to December is the time when they're most plentiful in antique shops. But keep your eye out for them all year 'round as they'll be less expensive at other times of the year. And don't forget flea markets. I found several boxes of ornaments on Sunday at the local indoor market—$1 per box!

ornaments

Now to get these on the tree!

12.18.2006

Stitch School: Scroll Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Scroll Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.

oh, Christmas tree...

Christmas tree

Saturday found us tramping through the woods trying to find the tree we'd tagged the day after Thankskgiving. Luckily it was still there. The owners told us that three people's trees had been "stolen". There are about a million trees at this farm—plenty for everyone—so why do people have to take the trees that other people have already tagged? Are they too lazy to find their own? Hearing things like this saddens me, especially at this time of year.

Anyway, we got the tree home and adjusted in it's stand. With the job being supervised by one of my cats, of course :)

Christmas tree

And that's about as far as we've gotten so far. Hopefully I'll have time today to get the lights adjusted and start decorating.

12.17.2006

something from the oven

This weekend has been a flurry of cookie baking. I have three or four cookie trays to make up for neighbors and friends and a tin to ship to friends who live farther away. I used to bake cookies every year—and not just one or two kinds—more like ten! Then I hit a rough patch in my life—sick parents, then dying parents, moves and job changes—and for a few years I couldn't deal with Christmas. I did it but it felt like going through the motions. And baking seemed like too much work.

But this year I'm back and I made some of my old favorites—my grandmother's raisin cookies and layer bars, linzer cookies with strawberry jam in the middle, peanut butter with Hershey kisses, and ginger nuts. I tried a new almond sugar cookie recipe that sounded good, too.

ginger nuts

Ginger Nuts

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat butter in mixer bowl until smooth. Continue beating, adding sugar gradually, until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg.

Dissolve baking soda in water; stir into butter mixture. Gradually stir flour and ginger into mixture. Continue stirring until dough is smooth and stiff.

Form dough into walnut-sized balls, using 1 tablespoon dough for each. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until bottoms are light golden brown, about 15 minutes. It's normal for them to crack on top so don't worry about it. Cool cookies on wire rack and store in airtight container.

Even with all this activity I managed to fit in a quick trip to the local indoor flea market where I scored a bunch of vintage buttons, rickrack, and old glass Christmas ornaments! Pictures to come. Hey, I think I have a Thrift Thursday contribution this week :)

12.15.2006

Studio Friday: PURELY WHITE!

"All these colour combos have given me an idea, especially with christmas coming...to do a 'white christmas' studio friday...where artists put together whatever they want...only using neutrals...or to be really strict....white, (being a textile artist its great to get back to basics and to restrict oneself to just one colour, then see how many different surfaces or textures you can find.)" ~ Jo

Some white things from my studio...

white

Row 1: Pin-tucking, vintage button, vintage cutwork embroidery
Row 2: vintage crocheted doily, hairpin lace, pearl buttons
Row 3: white-on-white embroidery, white flower buttons, daisy trim
Row 4: embroidered eyelet, pearl buttons and seed pearls, white crocheted lace

It was nice to take a break from all that color of the past two themes. And white just makes me think of Christmas so it was the perfect theme for this week. Want to see more? Check 'em out here.

this is it

Last day to order. Over the past week or so I've been featuring products from my web site that would make perfect holiday gifts. This will be the last of those posts because today is the last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery. But, if you want to order next week I won't stop you. There's always Priority mail and it may get to you in time.

Vintage fabrics are a very recent addition to my site. As you can imagine, I have stacks and stacks of vintage fabrics to use in my work. But I sometimes buy things that don't get used. Or I buy a lot of fabrics from someone who is getting rid of theirs and end up with too much or with patterns I'm not crazy about. So, the extras are put up for sale. The fabric shown here is a 2-yard length from a much larger piece I purchased this summer. It's cotton and probably from the 50s although I'm not sure of it's age. Mint condition. $10. You can see more vintage fabrics here.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.14.2006

gift idea #10

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery. That's tomorrow, so better hurry!

We mustn't forget pillows—they're what started me off in this business of mine. Handcrafted from vintage embroidered linens and fabrics, and accented with vintage buttons and trims, each pillow is one-of-a-kind and unique. The one shown below showcases a gorgeous piece of vintage eyelet with embroidered red and green tiny flowers. Underneath is a white on white print and on the sides is a red poinsettia print. Tiny red buttons secure the layers on the front. Very Christmasy! $30. You can see more pillows here.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.13.2006

gift idea #9

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

Love vintage kitchen linens? How about a pair of embroidered pot holders? These feature golden yellow pears on a blue lattice background with blue binding. From the 1940s and in perfect unused condition. $18 for the pair (or is that pear?) You can see more kitchen linens, including a wide selection of vintage aprons, here.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.12.2006

gift idea #8

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

Here are some more great gifts for crafters and sewers—vintage trims! Like the vintage butterscotch-colored ball (or pom-pom) fringe shown here (3 yards, $4.00). I also have vintage rickrack in lots of colors, crocheted lace, eyelet trims, and appliques from the 70s. See them all here.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.11.2006

Stitch School: Seed Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Seed Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.

gift idea #7

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

For the knitters on your shopping list I have a great selection of vintage pattern books featuring everything from mittens and socks, to baby sweaters and shawls. The book pictured is from 1951 and features 16 pages of patterns for knit, crochet and hairpin lace shawls. $4.00 See them all here.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.10.2006

gift idea #6

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

What are the chances that you'll escape getting some kind of cold this winter? That's what I thought. So, while you're sniffling and sneezing, why not be fashionable and carry your tissues in a tissue cozy. Just $10 each and available in a variety of vintage and new fabrics. This one features a vintage feedsack print of orange poppies, purple lilacs and turquoise leaves. Each cozy has a tab and vintage button closure and comes with a new package of tissues. See them all here.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.09.2006

gift idea #5

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

For someone who loves vintage linens and appreciates fine embroidery I have this gorgeous pillowcase trimmed with variegated blue crochet. It features roses and flowers in an unusual color combination of rust, blue, brown, and lime green and the embroidery is exquisite. Unfortunately there's just one, but it would be perfect for a single guest bed. I bought this with the intention of making a pillow but it was just too pretty to cut up. $12. Click the photo to see detailed pictures of the embroidery and to order.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.08.2006

Studio Friday: COLOUR COMBOS THAT MAKE YOU CRAZY!

" We all have combos we are uncomfortable with. Let's explore the *why* of it..." ~ Michelle

The list of colors I don't like together is much smaller than the one that I do. I think there's a place for most color combinations, even ones we don't use very often. Some people, for example, don't like to put bright hot colors together because they seem to vibrate. Personally I don't mind that.

I think the colors I don't like are the dull, muddy ones. A new quilt shop opened near where I live recently and I was so disappointed to learn that they are focusing on the "country" color palette—the deep dull reds, wedgewood blues, dark greens, mustard yellows, and browns and beiges that are used in this genre of quilting. I have no problem at all with the incredible quilting skills involved in the making of these quilts (in case anyone is offended by my opinion)—I just hate the colors that are so often used.

Here's an example that uses the Thimbleberries line of fabrics—

country_1

And some of the fabrics themselves.

thimbleberries

I don't even have a problem with the prints, but the combinations just don't do much for me. Check out what others have to say on this topic here.

gift idea #4

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

Maybe you're shopping for a new mom who loves vintage things. Wouldn't she love this cute baby bib embroidered with a cat carrying a blue feeding dish? From the 1950s, purchased as a stamped-for-embroidery project and completed by yours truly, it's just $10. And I also have bibs with puppies, clowns, and a bunny playing an accordion!

12.07.2006

gift idea #3

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

For the crafters and sewers on your list, how about some vintage buttons? Shown here are a set of three 1960s vintage colorful swirl buttons for $3 and a set of seven bright blue plastic ones with a ruffled edge for $2.50. And that's just two of about a hundred that I currently have listed. See them all here.





As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.06.2006

gift idea #2

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

For the girls on your Christmas list, how about a stack of little lavender sachets made from vintage and new fabrics and tied with coordinating grosgrain ribbon? The one shown here features two purple and coral vintage feedsack prints and a new purple and white polkadot cotton, all tied with a coral grosgrain ribbon. Also available in seven other color combinations. And they smell heavenly! $14. Just click the picture to see them all.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

12.05.2006

gift idea #1

In case you need some last minute gift ideas, I'll be featuring an item that's available on my website every day until December 15th, my last day for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

Need something for your little girl to wear on Christmas Day? How about this sweet red velvet vintage dress trimmed with green piping and embroidered white flowers and green leaves. Two pearl buttons close the back. 100% cotton, size 24 months. Perfect condition. $10. Just click the picture to order.



As a special thank you to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers, take 20% off your order with discount code INDIE06 from now until December 15th!

fruit coasters!

If you've been reading my blog for a while you probably know how much I love stamped-for-embroidery projects and also that I work a lot with fruit themes. It's so cool when I find both in the same item! I won this recently on Ebay and it arrived a few days ago. It's a single panel with a dozen little round coasters, each with a small bunch of fruit in the center—two each of bananas, strawberries, plums, cherries, grapes, and pears. Once they're embroidered, you cut them out, add a backing (and I have tons of fruity fabrics I could use for this) and then blanket stitch the edges. Or you could do a crocheted edge if you wanted to. I don't know how so I'll stick to the easier solution. Or perhaps I'll use them in the centers of small pillows.

coaster_tbe

I'm getting pretty stressed with the holidays rapidly approaching (and several custom orders on my work table to finish) so I'll be setting them aside for a while. But they look pretty simple—just outline and lazy daisy stitches, and a few French knots—so they should go quickly once I get started.

I have so many cool stamped-for-embroidery projects that I've been collecting for the past three or four years. I'm thinking of selling some of the patterns on my web site. Not to compete with others who offer copies of vintage transfer patterns—there's no reason to think I could do it any better than they already do. But, there are so many cool motifs on tea towels and runners and baby bibs that were never published as patterns—like these fruit coasters. And the chicken waitress patterns I showed you a few months ago. What do you think? Is there room out there for more patterns? Would it bother you if they weren't actual transfers and you had to transfer them to fabric yourself? Just trying to figure out which direction to go so feedback is appreciated.

12.04.2006

Stitch School: Couching

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Couching post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.

12.01.2006

Studio Friday: Favorite Color Combos

" I make jewelry and I find that I have certain color combinations that tend to be my favorite and I use more often. So I would love to see what color combinations everyone likes to use". ~ Sharla

Since I use fabrics that coordinate with the vintage linens I use, the linens themselves often dictate my color choices. I'll pick up a couple of the predominant colors from the embroidery or accent it with buttons in one of the minor colors.

But, looking back over the past years work, and not counting custom work since that's always customers choice, I do see patterns and certain combinations that I'm drawn to. I use red much more than I would have admitted because it's not a color that looks good on me clothes-wise. It goes really well with its companion primary colors of yellow and blue—

combo6

And I seem to use purples a lot and love them combined with turquoise like in this recently completed pillow—

combo3

Here's one of my favorite feedsack fabrics that has the same combination with a bit of orange thrown into the mix—

combo5

I suspect that purple and orange only go well together with the addition of another color like the bright green leaves in this fabric, or perhaps with a lot of white—

combo1

I love black with almost anything (true for clothes as well) because it makes the colors really pop—

combo2

And grays seem to do the same, although not quite as intensely—

combo4

I've never been a fan of pink but it's starting to grow on me. In small doses, that is. A lot of my customers love pink so I continue to use it in my work.

Perhaps it would have been easier to talk about what I don't like together—although I can't think of much. This post certainly would have been a shorter one :)

More colorful Studio Friday posts here.

11.29.2006

Inspired by handkerchiefs

I've been in my studio all morning and just came up for air . . . and lunch. I sometimes get so involved in what I'm doing that I forget to eat. Somehow that doesn't translate into weight loss - unfortunately.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon working as well. So, what sparked this burst of creativity? The fact that I'm not so busy with graphic design work right now is one reason. I have some free time. The other is a conversation I had yesterday morning with the woman who cuts my hair. She said that she'd found a bunch of vintage handkerchiefs and asked if I ever worked with them. Hah! I've done lots with handkerchiefs in the past, but not so much lately. So, we agreed that for my next appointment, she'll bring the handkerchiefs and I'll bring some photos of past things for idea purposes.

But it also got me thinking and, when I got home, I pulled down the box of hankies from the shelf. I had several plain ones and by that I mean there's no design except for their brightly-colored crocheted edges. Then I found a few printed ones that picked up those same colors. Layered over a coordinating fabric and secured with a button, they became sachets like these

hanky sachets

hanky sachet

Or will become, I should say, since they haven't been filled with lavender yet. Here's another one in process—

hanky sachet

While eating lunch I also took the time to visit some of my favorite web sites and blogs (I think that's called multi-tasking). I see that I got a nice mention on Whip Up this past Saturday for my Stitch School posts. And a mention today at House Wren Studio by my new friend Charlotte. She recently started blogging and I think you'll enjoy reading about her crafting adventures. Be sure to visit when you get a chance.

A quick walk to the mailbox then it's back to the studio for me. When inspiration calls it's best to follow for as long as it lasts!

11.27.2006

Stitch School: Cross Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Cross Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.

11.24.2006

Studio Friday: COMFORT

" I recently splurged on a new office chair, and it is making a huge difference in how my back and neck feel at the end of the day, since I spend a lot of time at my computer. Now that the weather has turned a little chilly in the mornings, I'm using my heated lap blanket on my chair to make my work spot even cozier. I wonder what other artists do to make their studios more comfy. Comfort foods? Family photos on the wall? A cozy spot for an afternoon nap?". ~ Lisa

I don't do anything special for comfort in my studio. I'm constantly on my feet, moving from sewing machine to ironing board to cutting table and back again. I rarely sit down. So, I'm going to twist the concept a bit to include my cats. My cats like to follow me around during the day and, when I'm in my studio, they are, too. And cats are all about comfort.

Sienna

I found an antique baby crib at an estate sale for $15 a couple of years ago. I thought it would make a great storage/display piece for craft shows or a shop (if I ever have a shop, that is), piled high with pillows and baby things. For now it sits in the corner of my studio and has several old quilts piled inside. My cat Sienna spends a large part of her day curled up there. I sometimes drape another blanket over the top to make a cave for her and the warmth from the radiator right below it filters up underneath.

I wish sometimes that I was small enough to climb in there with her. It looks so cozy!

Amaya

My other cat Amaya likes to sleep under the lamp on my cutting table. This table is almost always a mess, with pieces of fabric and tools and all sorts if junk in the corner. It doesn't look very comfortable at all but that doesn't seem to bother her one bit.

I plan to spend most of today in my studio with my furry girls at my side. It's Black Friday and no way am I going anywhere near the mall or any store for that matter!

Read more about comfort here.

11.23.2006

Happy Thanksgiving

We almost always spend Thanksgiving day with our friends Dominic and Jenny. They have a beautiful three-story Victorian house in Scranton and five children between them, so it's an ever-changing group of people around the table each year. What doesn't change much is the menu, and I think that's true for most peoples holiday celebrations. Thanksgiving is about traditional foods and there's no messing with the family recipes. I always like to bring a little something when I'm invited to dinner, so Jenny asked me to bring a vegetable and a dessert.

I'm going to try a green bean recipe with bacon and shallots this year. I hate that green bean casserole that everyone seems to love so much and this will be a lighter and fresher way to get our veggies. And I'm going to revisit a pear tart that I make occasionally. I can't remember where I got this recipe but it's super easy and yummy and different from the usual pumpkin and apple pies. We'll have those, too, of course.

pear galette

Pear Galette

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus 2 tablespoons melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon milk
2 tablespoons apricot preserves, strained
2 Bosc pears (6 to 7 ounces each)
1 teaspoon pear liqueur or brandy

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a medium bowl, toss together the flour, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the salt. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the egg over the flour mixture and stir it in. Working quickly, gather the dough into a smooth mass, squeezing it gently until you can wipe the sides of the bowl clean. On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a flat even circle, about 5 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate until cold but not hard, about 30 minutes. (The dough can be prepared a day or two ahead. Let it soften at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until malleable, before rolling out.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9 1/2-inch circle, turning it clockwise an inch or two each time you roll to maintain an even shape. Transfer the dough to a heavy baking sheet. Fold up the edge of the dough about 1⁄4 inch to form a neat, smooth rim. With the back of a knife, score decorative diagonal indentations around the rim. Brush the rim with a little of the beaten egg. Brush 1 tablespoon of the apricot preserves over the bottom of the tart shell. Refrigerate while you prepare the pears.

Peel, quarter, and core the pears. Slice each quarter lengthwise into 5 thin wedges. Arrange all but 6 of the pear slices on the pastry in a spoke pattern, overlapping them slightly. Trim the remaining slices and arrange them in the center of the tart.

Brush the pear slices with the melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake the galette in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden and the pears are tender. Slide the galette onto a rack to cool slightly.

Stir 1 teaspoon pear liqueur into the remaining 1 tablespoon apricot preserves and brush over the pear slices. Serve the galette at room temperature with cream that has been whipped with a small amount of sugar and pear liqueur. Serves 4-6.

Hope you all have a warm and safe holiday and don't stuff yourselves too much!

11.22.2006

Don't know much about history...

Q: I've heard some people believe that clothing (and linens, perhaps) carry with them a bit of all the hands they've passed through. What are your feelings on this? ~Jennifer

I hadn’t really thought about this before, at least consciously, but I suppose it’s true. I wrote down this quote from one of Rachel Ashwell’s books years ago and I think she captured beautifully the path that vintage linens travel.

"...Unlike some flea market goods that seem a little surprised to find themselves down on their luck, secondhand fine old linen remains serene. It was made to last forever; rather than being thrown away, its function changed. A heavy old linen sheet, with its handstitching and patiently-produced embroidery, might have rested for the first few years of its life in a hope chest or bottom drawer, waiting for the girl who made it to marry and have a home of her own. When the sheet became worn it would have been carefully mended and, later still, when too threadbare to be repaired, it might be cut down for another use—perhaps a sheet for a child's bed—and eventually would end its days as cleaning rags with years of history. Fine linen evokes elegence, luxury, civility, quality, durability, economy—it is the antithesis of everything we abhor about our disposable, use-it-once-and-throw-it-away society."

And I think this passing-down holds true for clothing as well. Before ready-made clothing was available women sewed all of the garments for their families. Adult clothing was cut down to fit the children and handed down from older to younger child as they were outgrown. And I wore plenty of hand-me-down dresses from my older cousin when I was a kid so I know this was true long after clothing could be purchased. Then, when things were too worn to be recycled yet again, they were cut up into patches to use in quilting.

The fact that vintage clothing has been hot on and off for years attests to this love of history, too. Have you ever tried on a vintage dress or hat and wondered who wore it and what their lives were like? Maybe people like vintage clothing because it's better constructed than modern, or because they want to dress differently and more creatively than their peers. But I think it's about history, too. And the fact that it was so well-made means it's still available now for us to purchase and wear.

Martha Stewart had a great idea a few years ago in one of her magazines. It was a memory quilt made from children’s clothing—just simple 4-inch blocks, all in pinks and super easy to put together. I think it may have included some of the buttons from the outfits, too. What a great keepsake and way of passing down memories. Here's a quote from the article:

"A baby's clothes acquire history so quickly. There is the blanket she came home in, the overalls she wore learning to crawl, the flannel pajamas she fell asleep in at night. Each outfit from her first year represents a milestone. For those items too precious to give away, or too stained to pass along, there is a solution more creative and less cluttering than a box in the attic, a baby memory quilt."

Vintage textiles, whether linens or clothing, have a story to tell. Even if you find only a few clues about their history, that's enough to imagine a story for them. If nothing else, you can start now and create your own treasures to be passed down to your children.

11.20.2006

Stitch School: Herringbone Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Herringbone Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.

When it rains...

...it floods.

I was all excited about last week's Studio Friday topic "This is Me" and had planned to make my collage on Friday morning. But Friday morning found me cleaning up from a flood we'd had the night before. Believe me, you didn't want to see the "me" I was this weekend—wet, muddy, and very very tired.

The flood actually happened on Thursday night. It had been raining hard all evening and we must have gotten several inches an hour for a couple of hours. It was really dark and I was upstairs working in my studio and not really paying attention. I came downstairs and looked out the back door to see a river of muddy water where my driveway used to be!

We have a runoff creek that comes down the hill behind our house and then behind the garage. It's completely dry most of the time and is there to channel water off the hill when it rains. It flows under the road by way of a tunnel and then into another creek. Well, it rained so hard and so quickly that the channel (and tunnel) filled up with rocks and dirt and the water had no where to go. So it split and went around the front of the garage down the driveway and split again between our woodpiles. And there wasn't anything I could do except watch. Well, I couldn't really see much since it was so dark but I went out and took some pictures in the morning. What a mess!

IMG_7858

So, instead of working on Friday, I was outside shoveling mud and rocks from the driveway, rescuing the trash cans that washed across the road into the woods, sweeping water from inside the garage, and moving wood back into the piles. We rented a Bobcat for the weekend and finished cleaning the driveway and diverting the creek back where it's supposed to be.

We've been trying to work on a permanant solution to this problem because this isn't the first time it's happened. Three years ago the creek overflowed and filled our swimming pool with rocks and mud, to the point where it made more sense to just give up and fill it in. We have plans for a sunken garden and will hopefully make progress on that project next spring.

So, I had to give up on Studio Friday and posting over the weekend. But, I'm back today and hope to have this weeks embroidery lesson up later today.

11.16.2006

Shop update

Well, I was going to post pictures today of two new pillows that I added to the website last night. But one of them is already sold. Not that I'm complaining mind you, but wow, that was fast! I'll show you anyway but don't fall in love with the cherry one—it's being packaged up for it's trip to a new home in Louisiana!

Owls

Moonlight Owls is made from a stamped-for-embroidery dresser scarf that I bought somewhere in my travels. It was partially done and all I had to do with this half was to finish the owl faces and eyes. The other half hasn't been started so look for a similar owl pillow soon. It's an easy design with mostly straight stitches, so should go quickly once I've started.


To finish the pillow I used some vintage fabrics—a print with red squirrels (isn't he cute?) and pine branches and another with tiny white polkadots on brown. The deep red buttons are also vintage.

Cherry Basket

Tumbling Cherries was made from a towel with a beautifully-embroidered basket of cherries and red blanket stitch trim across the bottom. The towel had some yellow spots on the edges so I cut them off and added some lime green polkadot borders to the sides. The rest uses a Mary Engelbreit print with fruit and teapots. I'm not usually a fan of her fabrics—too sweet maybe—but I liked this one enough to buy it last year and finally found a use for it here.


The buttons are vintage and have an unusual raised diamond center that echoes the diamonds in the fabric. If you haven't noticed, I do that a lot—try to work in subtle little details or visual puns. I don't mention it in my descriptions but I love when people "get" it.

I have a few holiday themed pillows I'm finishing up and will be listing soon. Then I'll be taking a small break to make a wholesale order of sachets and some custom Christmas orders for pillows. This seems unbelieveable to me but Christmas is just six weeks away! Is that scary or what?

11.15.2006

Charmed

fruit charms

Don't you love these? They're tiny fruit charms from Earthenwood Studio and when owner Melanie Lukacs emailed recently asking if I’d like to do a swap, I said “sure”.

Melanie is a Michigan-based ceramic artist and she makes these fruit and veggie charms (and other lovely beads, buttons, and jewelry) from her home studio. Using porcelain and a combination of custom molds and hand forming techniques each piece is fired in an electric kiln and finished with colorful glazes. She takes inspiration from a wide variety of disciplines including ancient Chinese and Egyptian ceramics, miniature carvings (Ojime and Netsuke), fantasy artwork, and Anime.

 porcelain buttons

And, if you read jewelry magazines, look for her Harvest Goddess Amulet project in the current issue of Stringing. There’s a picture of it on her blog along with information about her show schedule in case you want to see her things in person.

You’re probably wondering what I’m planning to do with my new charms. I’m not exactly sure yet, but I often work with fruit themes, and they might be a fun accent on some of my fruit pillows—perhaps tied on with a coordinating ribbon.

11.13.2006

Stitch School: Feather Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Feather Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.

11.10.2006

Studio Friday: Studio Indulgences

"What can't you live without in your studio?"—Naomi

When I think of indulgence I think of things that are a little too expensive, things that when you buy them you almost feel a bit guilty for having done so. Like Godiva chocolates at $40 a pound—heavenly, but not something you'd buy for your everyday chocolate fix.

Sometimes you spend a lot on a piece of equipment—enough that you'd call it an indulgence—and it turns out to be a smart decision in the end. Take my Rowenta Professional iron. I think I paid around $100 for this, and that was with a coupon. That's a lot of money for an iron, but I've gone through at least three other brands in the past few years and it seemed better to buy one $100 iron than several $40 ones.

iron

I'm probably not your ordinary iron user—someone who irons (maybe) once a week and puts it away in the closet until next time. I use my iron every day and sometimes it's turned on for hours and hours. You could say I'm hard on irons. So, I really needed a good one.

I have a love/hate relationship with Rowenta. I had one of their first irons years ago and loved it. I have a funny story about when I bought it, too. I went to a local department store and when I was checking out, the saleswoman said to me "You know, you can bring this back if you get home and your husband says you spent too much on an iron." I thought that was kind of funny since I'm generally more thrifty than he is. And what a sexist comment!

That iron lasted for several years and I replaced it with another Rowenta that didn't. Then another that died after a month and died dramatically in a burst of flames and smoke. Oh, dear. That's when I started trying other brands. And that was worse. They didn't generate enough steam or get hot enough—no wonder people think ironing is a chore to be avoided at all costs. I finally splurged and bought the professional model.

So, was it really an indulgence? Perhaps not. But there's always chocolate. And craft books!

Indulge yourself by reading more here.

11.09.2006

Fabric shopping

I'm usually very excited when the new Hancocks of Paducah catalog arrives in my mailbox. If you have a fabric addiction, you know how easy it is to spend hours poring over the new choices. But I'm strangely disappointed in the latest edition. Why are all the fabrics so dark and dreary? Because it's winter? Bah!

Yesterday I had a client meeting (for my graphic design business) north of Philadelphia and that put me very close to one of my favorite fabric and quilt shops, Country Quiltworks (515 Stump Road, Montgomeryville). But the problem for me with quilt shops is that there are too many options. I'm all excited at first, then quickly get overwhelmed until it all becomes a blur. Still lots of dark prints but I found a couple of fun things to add to my stash. Bet you can't tell I have a thing for polkadots :)

wild.rosedotsumbrellasfruit.dots
(Almost Poppy by Laura Heine for RJR Fabrics, QuiltPink by Moda, Kate's Umbrellas by Felicity Miller for Westminster Fibers, and Happy Times by Sharon Evans Yenter for In the Beginnings Fabrics.)

When I got home two hours later I had a package in my mailbox with some fabrics I'd won on Ebay a few days ago. When I don't find much that I like in the catalogs and shops, I turn back to Ebay for vintage fabrics. It's still the best place I know to find them and the patterns are usually much nicer than modern fabrics. I'm loving both of these.

red dot flowersyellow blue flowers

Just a little eye candy to brighten up another rainy day!