Win cool stuff!


It's time once again for the Happily Handmade Giveaway. What's this, you ask?

HHG is a special promotion that independent businesses participate in. We donate handmade goodies and you sign up on participating member sites for a chance to win one of 50 gift baskets stuffed full with those goodies. You can read more about it here and will soon be able to see what's in each basket there, too.

Sign up between now and October 29th at any (or all) of the member sites. Winners will be chosen on November 1 and contacted shortly afterward.

I've donated ten tissue cozies like this (and they're also available for sale at Blossom Boutique):

tissue cozy

Already know about the contest and want a shortcut? Just send an email to happilyhandmade@primrosedesign.com telling me you want to be entered and include your first and last names and email address. That's it!


Studio Friday: Toot Your Own Horn

" Studio Friday, for me, is a network of Artist from all over the world. It's a fabulous way to communicate with and learn from artists of all backgrounds. With this being said, I would love to see a showcase of what YOUR art is. Are you a scrapbooker? A clay artist? Are you a collage artist or a photographer? Do you paint or work in the fibre arts of Knitting, sewing or enbroidery? Are you a gardener a botanist or an eclectic artist of many trades? I'd love to see a piece that you have created that you are most proud of. SHOW off your STUFF!!"

I'm kind of a quiet person and shouting out loud isn't my style. So, I'll let the work speak for itself. Past pillow projects—some embroidered, some patchwork, some a combination of the two. I couldn't pick just one :)

Flower Power
Flower Power
Vintage feedsack with primary color flowers, blue striped feedsack borders, and red polkadot piping

Orange Crush
Orange Crush
Quilt square with appliqued and embroidered orange, orange polkadot cotton, green vintage buttons

Southern Belle
Southern Belle
Vintage table scarf with embroidered Southern Belle, black vintage button, and coordinating new fabrics

Plum Crazy
Plum Crazy
Vintage fabric with plums, pieces from a vintage fruit-motif tablecloth, and vintage solid blue fabric

Can you tell that I like crazy mixes of bright colors :)

More Studio Friday here.


Stitch School: Straight Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Straight 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.


Be subversive

“It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.” — Judy Blume

2006 BBW; Read Banned Books: They're Your Ticket to Freedom

It’s Banned Books Week this week, and what better way is there to celebrate than to read a book that others have banned or tried to ban from bookshelves. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s only book and one that’s considered one of the twentieth century’s greatest novels. You can see a complete list at the American Library Association’s website, but I’ll list ten that I’ve read and loved at some point in my life.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—Maya Angelou
The Catcher in the Rye—J.D. Salinger
The Color Purple—Alice Walker
In the Night Kitchen—Maurice Sendak
The Handmaid’s Tale—Margaret Atwood
Brave New World—Aldous Huxley
James and the Giant Peach—Roald Dahl
Ordinary People—Judith Guest
Are You There God?, It’s Me, Margaret—Judy Blume
The House of Spirits—Isabel Allende

You’re surprised by some of the books on the list aren’t you? They seem pretty innocent. But some people wish that these books had never been written or published, and that you'd never seen or read them. You see, they would rather that you don’t think for yourself because thinking for yourself is dangerous. Once you start you might question authority. And who knows where that will lead. And this, in my opinion, is especially important these days with the freedoms we've grown accustomed to under assault.

I know a lot of you share my love for reading, so why not revisit one of these books next time you’re choosing something to read. Be subversive!

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas


Studio Friday: On the Outside

" I'm curious to see what is just outside everyone's studio. I face a wall so I don't have a view but I have the desert to inspire me if I need it." ~ Lilie

I think we did this topic a few months ago but I was busy and didn't participate. So, thanks Lilie for giving me another chance.

My studio is in an upstairs bedroom and I have two windows—one facing the side yard and the other the woods behind the house. From the side window I can see most of our yard and I can just see our neighbors house through the line of trees along the driveway that runs up the hill. That leads to another house. I can also see the fruit trees we planted when we first moved in (the ones I hope will be mature enough next spring to finally bear fruit) and the stone wall that runs along the road.


Unfortunately, the back view is too messy to show a picture of. Long story, but we had a swimming pool that flooded during a weekend-long rainstorm a couple of years ago. There's a runoff channel that funnels water down the hill and it overflowed, filling the pool with mud and gravel. We decided that since it's really not warm enough here to get much use from a pool (and it's really more work than we want to deal with) that we'd fill it in and put a garden there instead. It's still very much a work in progress.

Strangely, I don't find my views inspiring. Beautiful, yes. Calming, of course. But I think I would be more inspired by the hustle and bustle of a city street with people passing by and that whirl of bright colors, smells, and sounds that's unique to city spaces. That's the NYC girl in me, I think. Still, it's nice to have both options—living in one and visiting the other as often as I can.

See more Studio Friday here.

Unbelievably, this is my 100th blog post! I feel like I should do something to celebrate :)


Thrift Thursday 9.21

I haven't been thrifting for a couple of weeks but I was out today and took the long way home past a new favorite place called Melben's Mercantile in Nicholson, PA. It's a pretty drive up along Rt. 6 — the leaves are just beginning to change color and I got to see the famous (at least to railroad buffs) Tunkhannock Viaduct.

The shop is located on the main street in town and looks like it might have been a grocery store back in the day. Inside you'll find lots of small booths and a weird mix of country crafty things, collectibles, and antiques. Today I found a pretty rose-printed cotton bedspread with ruffles along the bottom for $10. Some cards of pearly pink and blue buttons for 50 cents each. And a bag of embroidery thread for 75 cents.

thrifty finds

All of which will be put to good use in future creations :)

As always, there's lots more Thrift Thursday here.


Button your lip

I found some cool ads for buttons in the vintage women's magazines I bought this summer. Here's a not very politically-correct one for B-G-E Originales:

B-G-E Originales button ad

Doesn't seem like a good way to advertise buttons to women, but what do I know? It was probably very funny in 1951 when this issue of Good Housekeeping was published. The ads for La Mode buttons are much different—very chic and elegant reflecting their Parisian heritage. I think I'll do a little history of the company to go along with them so look for those some time soon.

You won't see many ads for buttons these days; at least not in the major women's magazines. Women in general don't sew any more, and that's also why you won't find many independent sewing and fabric stores. But I do think advertisers are aware of the resurgence in crafts and sewing, and I'm starting to see ads in some of the more specialized sewing magazines. I just wish the buttons were as nice as the vintage ones are!


I could have been Rachel Ashwell

Here’s something you don’t know about me. I used to want to be an interior designer. When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to go through the Sears catalog and decorate my future dream house. I know, Sears, can you imagine? Think what I could have done with the West Elm or Pottery Barn catalogs!

I even went to college for interior design—for just one semester. Then I talked myself out of it. Could I design something for someone if it wasn’t my personal style? How practical was it as a career choice—could I actually find a job? I wasn't sure and there was no one I could turn to for advice. So, I transferred schools and switched to graphic design. The ironic thing is that I ended up designing things that weren’t my personal style for clients that thought they knew all about good design but didn't. What they don’t tell you in art school is that design is more about helping others to implement their style and and less about your own style.

Knowing what I know now, would I have stayed with interior design? Probably. I still have a very strong interest in it. I read design magazines, or shelter magazines as they’re called in the business. And probably half of the blogs that I read every day are design-oriented ones. Here are some current favorites;

Bohemian Modern Style by a San Francisco Girl

My personal design style has changed a lot over the years. When I lived in apartments I made do with hand-me-down furniture and inexpensive accessories. When I had extra cash I bought things from funky shops that sold ethnic textiles and artwork. Since buying a house in the country my style has gone in a more country direction. Not chickens and ditzy fabric country but what I like to call modern country. Comfortable. Kind of funky. Bright clear colors on the walls, a clean stripped down look with antiques and flea market finds showcased as art objects. At least, that's what I aspire to. We have too much clutter and I'm constantly trying to edit our possessions and simplify.

And I went too safe with my paint color choices downstairs and want to make a brightening-up change. Thanks to all the new design magazines (like Domino) and blogs for expanding my options and opening my mind to possibilities. I'm afraid Sears just doesn't cut it anymore :)


Studio Friday: A Floral Treat

" I was thinking, all the ladies work so hard in their studios: maybe it's time we all treat ourselves to a lovely bouquet of flowers for our creative spaces? Maybe some fragrant, or colourful buds to make us happy? Let's treat ourselves this Friday, and buy a nice arrangement of flowers for our studios!" ~ Leslie

gerber daisies

Well, this was an easy topic—thanks Leslie. I love flowers and sometimes buy them for myself if there's nothing pickable in the garden. And I love to receive flowers - I think most of us do. And that's a small hint for any men who happen to be reading this. We love flowers. It's as simple as that.

One of my best memories from childhood is of picking up my father in the evenings from the Staten Island ferry terminal. We would park across the street, then watch for him to appear at the entrance. Often he would have a bouquet of carnations for my mom. I can still remember holding them on my lap on the drive home, the crinkly green waxed paper they came wrapped in, and that strange spicy fragrance they have.

I bought these gerber daisies yesterday and cut the stems very short so they would fit a smallish round glass vase. I love their bold shapes and bright colors, although I chose softer-colored pink ones this time. I did the best I could with the photo as it's still rainy here. Yes...still. The color of the flowers is a nice contrast to the rain-soaked roof you can see outside the window.

More pretty flowers here.


Jenny Hart

You probably know Jenny Hart from her embroidery pattern business Sublime Stitching. But you may not know that she started out as a fine artist creating amazing embroidered portraits of modern icons like Dolly Parton and Iggy Pop. And she continues to do that. There’s a gallery of work on her website if you’d like to see more.

I picked up the September/October 2006 issue of Fiberarts magazine the other day and they have a great article titled “Pop Art” about her work and the work of Whitney Lee, who does latch-hook rugs depicting feminist themes. Love this magazine by the way.


Art Star in Philadelphia is featuring Jenny’s work this month (the exhibit closes on October 1) in “Embroidered Works by Jenny Hart”. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the opening reception as I would have loved to meet her, but I’m hoping to get down to see the show before it closes. As with most art it’s much better to view it in person so you can really get close and see the detail, something you can't do with a book or online photo.

And, speaking of books, Jenny’s latest “Sublime Stitching: Hundreds of Hip Embroidery Patterns & How-To” is just out. You can find it at Amazon or your local book store.

Art Star, 1030 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123


Rainy days and Mondays, er... Sundays

Just a brief update on this rainy Sunday. We've had a week of rainy weather here and today is no exception. Since I can't do anything outdoors, I'm taking some time to add a bunch of new things to the website. Two sets of vintage baby hangers—one with animals and one with cowboys and Indians, vintage towels, and two new pillows.

Cool as a Cucumber

Knit One, Purl Two

I'm not sure if I have any local blog readers but, if you are and want something fun (and indoors) to do today, check out the Waverly Antique Show and Sale at the Waverly Community House on Abington Road in Waverly. Hours today are 11-4. I have a bunch of pillows and sachets for sale at the Shades of White booth. And there's a table full of beautiful pink depression glass in the booth next to hers!


Studio Friday: Tools of the Trade

" There's such a diverse group here, with such different art forms, I think it would be interesting to see what tools others use on a regular basis to create their art or product. " ~ Carrie


My work these days involves fabric and sewing so I use all of the basic tools common to sewers everywhere—scissors, pins, rotary cutters, sewing machine, needles and thread. I also do a lot of embroidery so I have several sizes of needles and hoops and a plastic bin full of floss in every color imaginable. And loads of fabric, of course.

And I've dabbled in other mediums in the past. Weaving in college with brightly-colored wools and harness looms. Photography with its dark rooms and funny-smelling chemicals (before digital, of course). More recently some jewelrymaking with all of the requisite findings and beads.

But what interests me more than our differences, is the tools we all share no matter what our art style or medium. And that's our minds (to dream and envision ideas), our eyes (to see the beauty around us), and our hands (to make those dreams a reality). I may not always work with fabric—who knows what the future will bring. But I'll always carry these three basic "tools" with me.

See more Studio Friday here.


Thrift Thursday 9.7.06

I have a very small collection of vintage valentines, and I found two more this past weekend at the Pocono Peddlar's Village Antique Mall (Tannersville, PA). $1 each.

vintage valentine

As a graphic designer, I love the bright and kitschy illustrations that somehow look as modern today as the did when they were published. And I'll be able to scan and use them as illustrations for Valentines's Day promotions—maybe for a postcard that will go to my mailing list.

vintage valentine

I usually have very good luck at this antique mall but I didn't find much this time. Besides the valentines, I bought two aprons. I know, that's very unlike me :)

More Thrift Thursday finds can be found here.

Crocheted Pot Holders

One of my new favorite blogs is the purl bee and she has a great post today about vintage crochet pot holders. I don't collect them but I have this strawberry-shaped one from my grandmother.

strawberry potholder

It's had some use and a few stains that won't soak out, but I love the shape. I've never seen any like this in my travels, either a finished one or a pattern. And I don't know if she crocheted it herself, although it looks like something she would have done. Here's a closeup of the top.

strawberry potholder

The seeds are embroidered with six strands of black floss and the ring at the top is crocheted on.


Studio Friday: Artist's Block

"You've heard of 'writer's block'. Well as an artist, I sometimes suffer from "Artist's block". What is this you ask? It's when you sit and sit and can't come up with anything. This can go on for hours, days, weeks even months sometimes. I want to know how you break free of Artist's block! " ~ Gabi

Once when I was in college I had a photography assignment due the following week and was really having trouble coming up with an interesting subject. I was hanging around the photo studio as I often did between classes, actually moping around is a better description. My professor just looked at me, shook his head, grabbed my arm and gently nudged me out the back door into the courtyard. He knew exactly what my problem was. He said "You're thinking too hard. I want you to shoot a whole roll of film without leaving this courtyard and don't come back in here until you do."

After spending a few minutes cursing him because it was a really small courtyard, I started to look around. And there was an interesting crack in the wall, the sun made a cool shadow in the corner, a leaf formed a perfect little still life on the pebbles. You see where this is going, of course. Within 15 minutes or so, the roll was shot and I was back inside ready to develop the film. My professor just smiled and didn't say a word.

These days I'm very easily inspired by the materials I use, so I don't find myself stuck very often. But, when it happens, I step back and stop trying so hard. Maybe I'll iron some just-washed fabric or sort buttons or update my idea books. Sometimes a trip to a museum or taking a walk outside helps if I need an extra push. Before I know it something catches my eye and I'm pulled back in.

My advice? Don't stress about it. Go do something else for a while. Even if you think it's lost, it will come back.

Want to read what others have to say on this topic? There's more here.