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!

11.07.2006

Rock the vote

I usually avoid talk of politics on my blog. Like religion and sex, it's generally a topic that stirs up controversy, and a business-related blog like this one isn't really the proper place for it. But whatever your politics, I think we can all agree that voting is a good thing. And I hope you're planning to get out there today to make your voice heard.

I have to admit that I haven't always voted. My parents didn't and I grew up thinking that it didn't really matter who was in office because it didn't impact my everyday life. And that may even have been true at one time, but it's a different story today. Someone once said to me that I didn't have the right to bitch about how things were going if I didn't vote. They were right.

So, if you're not happy (or downright mad) about the direction our country is headed in, get out there and do something about it. The polls just opened here and I'm on my way now to do just that!

11.06.2006

Stitch School: Blanket Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own blog and you can now find the Blanket Stitch post here.

11.02.2006

Thrift Thursday: Aprons!

It's been a few weeks since I participated in Thrift Thursday. I do a lot of thrifting in the summer and not so much in the fall and winter. But it rained last Saturday and I couldn't work outside, so I hit some of the local places.

I found three aprons for $3 each. The sheer ones trimmed in fabric are vintage and the one with the yellow/red print is a feedsack print.At least it feels like feedsack and I think I recognize the print. The turquoise gingham apron is newer and I bought it because I want to try chicken-scratch which is crossstitch using the squares in the pattern as a guide. I was a bit disappointed to discover that it's a poly/cotton blend rather than all cotton.

vintage aprons

I also found this cute towel embroidered with the word Bermuda and a tropical-looking cottage. I have some tropical print fabric in my stash and thought I'd make a pillow from it. Unfortunately, when I washed it, what started as a very small hole turned into a much larger one. Using it will involve some creative button placement, I think.

vintage towel

I found a bunch of buttons that I didn't have time to photograph today—maybe they'll be my submission for next week :)

Please visit the Thrift Thursday Flickr group to see more lovely vintage finds.