see what's new for spring

I must have spring fever because I went a little crazy this morning and updated my pillow page with a fresh batch of designs. Embroidery, of course! But also a few in a new style that's all about the fabrics. Like this one called "Mod Butterflies" with it's bright stylized butterflies in pink, turquoise, royal blue, and black and vintage black and turquoise button stacks...

Or, how about a bit of patchwork? Vintage cocoa and white floral with another floral recycled from an old 1940s housedress and a new purple leaf print. Bright orange vintage flower buttons, too...

And there's more where they came from. See what's new for spring!

Now I'm going to be good and finish those layouts I should have been working on this morning :)

a small hint of spring


I didn’t notice until this morning that my Clivia miniata is blooming again! I bought this years ago to replace the orchids I used to grow when I lived in an apartment that had the most beautiful and perfect morning light to grow them. They traveled with me when I bought my house and promptly died, one after the other. Orchids are pretty finicky about light and temperature and the house just isn’t right. But this looks kind of like an orchid and I’ve heard it described as “beautiful and indestructible”. Just what I needed :)

I’ve had it for three or four years now and it has the most amazing flowers—in a gorgeous clear orange color. I’ll move it outside to my screened porch in a couple of months and it will probably bloom again in July or August.

You can buy them at White Flower Farm and, at $52, they aren’t cheap (the price has gone up quite a lot since I bought mine). But it’s a beautiful plant and comes through with blooms again and again. It likes to be pot-bound, too, so you won’t need to repot it for a while. I’m going to do it this year after it stops blooming, for the first time.

It’s still quite cold here in northern Pennsylvania and there’s not much action yet in the garden. It’s nice to see a hint of what’s to come, even if it is inside!


fabric buying on Ebay

vintage floral fabric

It's fabrics like this that make all the time I spend on Ebay worth it. I was discussing this with a friend recently—how overwhelming and frustrating Ebay can be when searching for vintage fabric. Let's not even talk about the bad photos and vague descriptions from sellers. Or the listings with no pictures at all. Like I'm going to buy something I can't see.

The big problem is that fabrics are listed in several places (Antiques, Collectibles, and Crafts) and there are several subcategories within those groups. It would be logical to find all the vintage fabric in Collectibles>Linens,Textiles>Fabric, but all of the fabric categories are a crazy mix of stuff. Sellers don't always put things in the right place. And some of the fabrics aren't technically vintage at all.

I love to work with vintage fabric but, really, I'm all about how it looks. So, I've gotten to where I can skim the listings very quickly and I just look at ones that catch my eye. Typing vintage in the search box within a category does a pretty good job of weeding out the newer fabrics. You'll still get some reproductions here and there. But, if you're looking in Collectibles>Textiles, Linens>Feedsacks don't use vintage in your search. All feedsacks are vintage because of the years they were produced, so using a search word like vintage won't help much. Sellers don't use the word in their titles because they don't have to.

My very best deals have been from sellers who list their items in the wrong categories. You have to really work it to find them, and most bidders won't go to the trouble, so you can find some amazing stuff.

Probably the best way to search is to be very specific with your search words. Love 60s fabrics? Then use search words like 60s, 1960s, mod, groovy, hippie, or boho. Looking for larger quantities? Search for "yardage". Fun prints? Try "novelty".

And if you're worried about the uncertain nature of Ebay, don't. The sellers who specialize in fabrics are some of the most honest and trustworthy on Ebay. They know their stuff, sell excellent things, and are really pleasant to deal with, too. I've rarely been disappointed, and, if I was, it was usually my fault for not reading the description thoroughly. My favorite sellers? Sorry, I'm not giving away all my secrets :)


Stitch School: Pekinese

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



As I write, snow is falling outside my Maine window,
and indoors all around me
half a hundred garden catalogues are in bloom.

- Katharine S. White

I've had my seed catalogs for months but I'm just getting around to planning our garden and placing the orders. I have my old favorites that I buy every year—like Buttercrunch and Little Gem lettuces from Seeds of Change. Why mess with a good thing, right?

But I like to try new things, too. Last year it was cannellini beans, which turned out well and will get added to the favorites. This year it will be a different variety of carrot and lima beans. I know, I hate lima beans. But, my husband and friend Jenny (who's from Georgia and calls them butterbeans) tell me I'll love them picked fresh and while they're still small and tender. I'm not convinced, but we'll see. I used to hate peas, too.

I think we'll try corn this year, too. Corn is tricky and I have two funny stories about growing corn. My grandfather once planted some and I watched the next day as crows walked along the carefully planted row and plucked out the seeds one by one. He tried to shoot them from the kitchen window but let's not even go there :)

We tried it once in my family's garden. It had just ripened and we planned to pick and eat it the next day. We woke up the next morning to find the stalks flattened to the ground and the corn gone. Raccoons! They may be cute in those movies and television ads where they talk to one another, but in real life not so much.

These are some of my favorite places to buy seeds. But be warned. Once you place an order you'll get a flood of seed catalogs next winter!

Seeds of Change certified organic seed
Territorial Seed Company
Vermont Bean Seed Company not just beans
Johnnys Selected Seeds
Nourse Farms great for fruit and berries
Pinetree Garden Seeds


Stitch School: Palestrina

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


What's all the fuss about?

An occasional post about quilting

I purchased a bagful of these Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt blocks a few years ago and the quilter who made them used a technique called fussy-cutting when she planned the designs.

So what in the world is fussy-cutting? See how there are flowers perfectly centered in the six-sided pieces that make up each block. This was done by design and the quilter used fussy-cutting to make it happen.

Basically, you center a flower (or other motif) within your block when you cut it out, so each piece has the same pattern. You can buy special clear plastic fussy-cut rulers to do this but there's a simpler way. Cut a window (mine's square but it can be any shape you like) in a piece of cardstock or cardboard the same size as your finished patch. Move it around over your fabric until you're happy with the placement, then mark around the shape with a fade-away marker. Use your rotary cutter to add 1/4" seam allowance.

And don't be afraid to focus in very tightly on the motif.

You'll see fussy-cutting used most often in Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts, but it's also used in what are called "I Spy" quilts. The quilter uses childrens and novelty prints, fussy-cutting objects within the print that children can "spy". Here are directions for making an I Spy quilt if you're so inclined.

This isn't the most economical way to use fabric—you waste whatever is in between the motifs—but it looks really cool in the finished quilt. Definitely give it a try!


at the movies

I'm stuck inside today because of the snow (and if you're expecting a package from me I hope to make it to the post office tomorrow). It's a good day for curling up with warm drinks, fuzzy throws, and sleepy cats. And movie watching. I'm not a big fan of TV and watch only a few shows regularly, but movies are a different story.

I joined Netflix a couple of months ago and I’m still in that orgy of movie watching that probably everyone goes through at first, trying to see how many movies you can squeeze in a months’ time. I love that you have a queue of movies that you can switch around as the mood strikes you, so you always get what you really want to be watching next. And I’m thrilled that they have so many of the small and quirky independent films I love.

I’ve been revisiting some old favorites. Like a very young James Spader in sex, lies, and videotape, the movie that started the whole indie film genre. And Judy Davis in My Brilliant Career, which also features a very young Sam O’Neil, who I forgot was in this movie. I love anything directed by Gillian Armstrong (be sure to see Oscar and Lucinda, one of Cate Blanchett's first films). I love director Peter Weir's films, too, so maybe it's an Australian thing.

I do like British television, though, and right now I’m just starting the second season of the BBC series, The House of Eliott. It's about two fashion-designer sisters—Beatrice (Stella Gonet) and Evie (Louise Lombard) in 1920s London and details their adventures and mishaps as they start their business. Great characters (shady relatives, included), several minor stories woven through the main one, lots of interesting commentary about women's place in society at the time, and gorgeous costumes. What more could you ask for?

After that it's a documentary about Joni Mitchell, and then, who knows? I can't imagine ever running out of movies I want to see.


OK, so maybe I didn't look hard enough

Lots of cool patterns out there after all. Thanks for the suggestions.

Suggested by Milehimama:

Simplicity #3918 and #3956

Found on Simplicity's website while looking for the two above:

Simplicity #4176 and #3887

Simplicity #3837

And these are the patterns I bought last week at Hancock Fabrics 99 cent (!) pattern sale:

clothes envy

I've been coveting some of the new spring tops at Anthropologie, but knowing that I won't pay $88 for them. I love how they're combining different prints and using button accents—kind of like what I do with my pillows. But really, how hard would it be to make tops like these? And for a fraction of the cost.

And I wonder if people sew their own clothing anymore. I used to when I was a poor college student and needed to supplement my usual wardrobe of my father's army pants, denim overalls with undershirts that I dyed cool colors underneath, and various army/navy/thrift store stuff. Think Annie Hall meets art student. I used to make simple long skirts a lot and even made a dress once. It's been a while but I can do this.

I just wish I knew where to find cool patterns. I found a few Butterick/McCall's/Vogue patterns that can be adapted to what I want, I think. And I certainly have plenty of fabric options already. If anyone has sources for cool patterns, do tell. And, if any of my projects turn out well I'll post pictures.


Stitch School: New beginnings; happy endings

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


scrap quilts

I mentioned in my post about clothing and linen history how women recycled worn and outgrown clothing into patches for quilting. When you didn’t have much money and fabric was scarce or too expensive to buy new, you improvised with materials you already had. I’ve always saved fabric and scraps from clothing that I loved enough to wear out. And I suspect most of us who sew and make things have a hard time throwing out materials (however small) that might be used for another creation.

This is a section of a quilt that I started about 20 years ago when I was in college. There are pieces from dresses and blouses as well as scraps from my mothers and grandmothers sewing baskets. That parrot print is my all-time favorite fabric and I wish I had more than a few squares left.


This pattern is called Trip Around the World or Grandmothers Dream and it’s great for using up tiny scraps. It falls into the genre of charm or postage stamp quilts, which are composed of random squares—some as small as one inch. They can be random or form a pattern like this one that repeats in rings around a central square. If you alternate dark and light rows of fabric it's called Sunshine and Shadow.


I really should finish this quilt one of these days. And get involved in quiltmaking again. More as a personal endeavor than a business one. Quilts take so long to make that I wonder if it's even possible to make a profit selling them. Still, the scraps do tend to pile up and quilts are a great way to use them up!

I'm fascinated by the history of quilts and will probably be talking more about quilts in future posts. I feel like I'm getting sort of one-dimensional with all the embroidery talk, and I do have other interests :)


Studio Friday: FRAGILE

What is the most fragile in your studio? What makes it so fragile? What would you do without it and where do you keep it so it is safe and won't break?

Hmmm, not sure I keep anything really fragile (like glass or china) in my studio. I'd surely break it if I did. But I do have a shelf higher up on a wall where I keep some glass jars with buttons. And I store my vintage handkerchiefs in their own box up on another shelf. Some of them are fragile because of their age, but I do it more to keep track of them—anything small can easily get lost in the shuffle. I keep boxes for buttons, trims, embroidery thread, and patterns, too!

More Studio Friday here.


sewing pins and buttons, oh my!

You know how I have a thing for buttons. Well, look at these colorful and fun bracelets and necklaces made from buttons that I discovered recently.

Jewelry artist Anna Kukuchek graduated from RISD last year along with my friend Pam’s son Keith. I used to work with Pam and helped Keith put together a portfolio last year so we keep in touch sporadically. He emailed me recently to tell me how his new job in Arizona is going and mentioned Anna’s work and that I should check out her Etsy shop. So, I did.

I have a thing for pearls, too, and it's hard to pass up pearl cluster bracelets (or necklaces or earrings for that matter). But I really love what Anna is doing with buttons and sewing pins. Like this bracelet made from sterling silver chain, headpins, and buttons in shades of green—

Button Bracelet, $55, available in other colors, too

And necklaces like this—

Button Necklace, $115

And aren’t these rings made from sewing pins fantastic? Not only do they look really cool (like tiny planets) but the pins move so you can play with them, too.

Kinetic Pin Ring, $35

Anna says she’s fascinated by mathematics, geometry, nature, and color—and that's definitely evident in her work. And she loves to use alternative materials in creating her unique handmade pieces. Sewing pins, anyone?

For now you can find her jewelry in her Etsy shop and at Stars + Infinite Darkness. She’s working on a website (www.annakatejewelry.com), too.


my wild Irish rose...

Well, maybe not Irish but it made a nice title, and it's so hard to come up with catchy titles :)

Here's the wild rose stamped-for-embroidery project I've been working on for the past couple of weeks. I got off to a quick start but got busy and it took a while to finish.

I saved the French knots for last, of course, but I'm getting better at doing them. You know what they say about practice.

If you'll remember I matched the embroidery floss colors to the fabric I'd be using later to complete the pillow I'd planned. Well, when I got everything laid out on my work table, it seemed a bit boring. Still pretty but lacking somehow. So I added another fabric—a yellow with green polkadots that matched the color I used for the leaves—to punch it up.

When it came to buttons, I'd planned to use one in each of the four corners and had three alternatives picked out. In the end they all looked too small. So I went with two much larger ones and placed them to fill the empty space at the top right of the embroidery. And I stacked some smaller yellow buttons on top.

So, if you were thinking I'm fanatical about sticking to the plan, you were wrong. Sometimes things don't work out the way you planned them and you need to be flexible enough to change things around. Besides, who says a girl can't change her mind?


Stitch School: Four-Legged Knot

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


busy week

It's raining today and I'm hoping that it will help some of the snow to melt away. It's kind of gloomy though, so a good day to stay indoors.

I've had a really busy week, which is one reason I haven't updated since Monday. I had no sales from my web site last week and four this week—in two days, too. So, there was the whole invoicing, packaging, and trips to the post office thing. Then restocking the categories with more items. I've added a few new pillows, some vintage buttons (pretty 1940s ones that I bought from an estate), and a bunch of trims, mostly vintage rick rack. More crochet and lace trims to come and vintage fabrics that need to be scanned first.

I finished the wild rose embroidery I talked about a few weeks ago and have all my materials out on my work table to make the finished pillow. That may be a good project for today. And I'll post photos next week.

I did a lot of Ebaying this week and won some super cute embroidery projects—kitchen towels with poodles and two baby bibs—one with a bunny already done and the other with cats jumproping. Can't wait to see them! I have baby things on my mind these days as I'm in talks with someone about selling baby things on her site. More details soon if it comes to pass.

My copy of The Crafter Culture Handbook finally arrived and I'm very impressed with how nicely designed the book is and with all the cool projects. I'm loving the Vintage Button Jewelry by Linda Perlmann of Adorn magazine. And Heidi Kenney (My Paper Crane)'s super cute Cupcake Pot Holder. Lots of great stuff!

Another cup of coffee and I'll be ready to start my day. I missed Studio Friday last week but will try to get this week's done later today.