I've always loved to read. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are getting off the bus on Wednesday afternoons to find the bookmobile parked across the street from our apartment. I'd run inside to grab my books, then run back to return them and find new ones. I loved the main library, too, and we would sometimes stop there on the way to pick up my father from the Staten Island ferry terminal. He worked in Manhattan and took the ferry every day. I'm sure he read a lot, too, on those long trips back and forth.

I was a tomboy and my favorite place to read was up in a tree. I had two favorites - both with branches that formed comfortable seats - and I'd climb up and settle in for an hour or so. I was hidden from view but close enough to catch any action on the street. I loved folk and fairy tales and the Little House on the Prairie books. Pippi Longstocking, Nancy Drew, Island of the Blue Dolphins - anything with strong and spunky girl characters.

When I got to college, I even worked in the library—that's how much I loved books. Plus it really helped when I needed to track down books for research papers :) Actually, it's a wonder that I didn't become a librarian. Obviously, I didn't.

But, I still tried to find time for reading every day. With the pressure and demands of a full-time job (and one where I frequently worked 60+ hours a week), I found it harder and harder to fit it in. The most I could manage was a few minutes before falling asleep at night. My greatest joy since leaving the corporate world behind is having time for reading again. I missed it - a lot.

So, what do I like to read? A little of everything, really. I like biographies of people I admire, and I've been reading a lot of books on politics since the last election. I love cookbooks and historical fiction and even the occasional trashy novel. I love beautifully-illustrated children's books and beautifully-photographed craft books. And I still like spunky female characters.

I usually read in the late afternoons while waiting for that second wave of energy to kick in - the one that carries me into the studio after dinner. In the winter it's in a comfy chair near the woodstove with a cup of tea. In summer it's in the hammock that looks out over the back yard and woods behind my house. And I read in bed, too, though nothing too exciting or I'll stay up half the night.

Right now I'm reading Knitting Lessons: Tales From the Knitting Path by Lela Nargi and The Third Child by Marge Piercy. Yes, I read more than one book at a time. Sara Nelson, in her book So Many Books, So Little Time calls this double-booking. Maybe it's because there are so many books I want to read. Or that my interests are so varied.

What's next? I recently rented Capote (Phillip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant in this movie) and it reminded me how much I love Truman Capote's writing. And I don't mean "In Cold Blood" either. So, I have Breakfast at Tiffany's (also not a bad movie, but the book is better) which I read years ago and a collection of his short stories.

So, what do you like to read? Any favorites you'd like to recommend? Do share!

And thanks to everyone for their good wishes while I've been recovering from my sinus infection. I'm happy to report that the antibiotics are working...finally. And I hope to be back to normal soon. I haven't been getting much work done, not a good thing when you work for yourself!



Just a garden picture today. The summer cold (so I thought) that I had a few weeks ago came back with a vengeance and turned into a sinus infection, so I don't have the energy for anything more complicated than this. Taken in my herb garden where the echinachea is blooming. And attracting every butterfly in the neighborhood. I saw three different species plus the assorted bees, wasps, and other flying creatures. Hmmm, perhaps I should have been taking echinachea all along. Maybe the insects know something I don't!

echinacea with butterfly


Oh, baby!

Lucky baby to have these cute bibs to dribble and spit up on. Maybe not so lucky for Mom who has to keep them clean :)

I’ve mentioned before how I love vintage Vogart designs and that I have a bunch of their baby bibs that were originally sold as projects to be embroidered at home. I believe these are from the 1950s. You can see the similarities to the bird quilt blocks I’ve posted pictures of recently. I’m sure they were drawn by the same artist. But, like most artists whose work is owned by the company they work for, we’ll probably never know their name. I actually can't find out much about the Vogart company either.

Vogart baby bib

I suspect there are so many unfinished ones available because women bought them while pregnant, thinking they'd have plenty of time to finish them before their babies were born. They didn't. And then had no time afterward. So they got packed away in a trunk somewhere. For lucky people like me to find.

Vogart baby bib

These can be a bit tricky to embroider. If you pass the thread all the way through, then you can see the stitching on the back. That’s messy-looking. What I do is to keep the stitches inside between the layers of fabric and batting. And, especially on the white ones, you can see through the top layer so you have to be careful where you hide the darker threads.

Vogart baby bib

I embroidered all of these except the pigs, which came to me (via Ebay) already finished. They always have cute animals—pigs, lambs, kittens, puppies, chicks, and rabbits. And they always have long eyelashes and daisy-like flowers around their feet. Some have words; some don’t. I just love the whimsical style and the expressions on the faces.

Vogart baby bib

I have several more of these to work on, and they finish up quickly. But, I have so much to do outdoors this time of year that embroidery moves closer to the bottom of my to-do list. In a couple of months I'll take it up again. And have more projects to show you.


Studio Friday: Studio Sidekicks

My two girls like to be where I am in the house so, when I’m working in my studio, they are, too. Although working may not be the best word to describe their activities. They sleep a lot, of course. This is Sienna doing just that:


Sienna likes to jump up into the closet or from my worktable to the top of the armoire where I store my fabric. Amaya likes to play with thread and push buttons off the table to watch them bounce across the floor. Don’t be fooled by how innocent she looks in this picture.


For those of you who haven’t seen my cats before, they’re purebred bengals. Bengals are descended from Asian leopard cats and are a relatively new breed—1980s, I think. The early lines were pretty wild, but these are just like regular housecats. Well, maybe not just. They like water, have strong personalities, like to talk, and are fierce hunters (pity the poor mouse that comes into my house). Sienna has typical coloring, Amaya is called a blue or silver but it's really more of a peachy gray. And she has the softest fur I’ve ever felt. They aren’t very hard workers, but they're happy to be paid in treats. And I love them dearly anyway.

More Studio Friday here.


Clowning Around

My online friend Deborah of ChicCosas.com is pregnant with her first child and I decided to make her one of my baby pillows as a gift. I know she’ll probably have a shower with her friends, but I’m thousands of miles away so wouldn’t be able to attend. I mailed her package last week and have been eagerly awaiting its arrival so I could post pictures. Didn’t want to spoil the surprise if she happened to read my blog.

I’ve made a couple of these pillows before using those cute 1950s Vogart quilt blocks that I won on Ebay 2 years ago. And I embroider the block to coordinate with the fabrics I want to use for the borders. In this case I had a problem.

Deborah had the ultrasound but they couldn’t tell if it was a boy or girl and she didn’t think they’d know until it was born. I didn’t want to wait that long. So, I obviously couldn’t do blue or pink. I knew whichever I chose would be the wrong one. Her husband is Mexican so I thought bright colors might be the way to go instead. Maybe not traditionally “baby” but who says you can’t break the rules once in a while. I found some fun striped and polkadot fabrics in my stash, embroidered the bird and clown with colors to match the stripes, then found some vintage buttons that looked like giant polkadots. And, somehow, that all worked.

Clowning Around

Clowning Around

I name all of my pillows and include that name and a description of the materials I used on a hangtag that I pin to each one. I called this one Clowning Around. I love how happy this little bird is, how it looks as if he’s laughing. And I hope that Deborah and her husband experience that same joy and laughter with their new little one. Which, as it turns out, is now probably a girl!


Road Trip: Somerville Center Antiques

One of the nice things about living in northeastern Pennsylvania is how close it is to New Jersey, New York (state and city), Philly, Delaware, and Maryland. So, every once in a while I venture a little further out in my treasure hunting—this weekend it was NJ.

Saturday morning found us in Somerville, home of Somerville Center Antiques, which bills itself as NJ’s largest antique center with 220 dealers, 5 buildings, and 30,000 square feet of fun. Now, this is my kind of place!

We park on Division Street just off Main and start at a shop called Antiques Emporium (29 Division Street). This turns out to be a separate business from the others and the only place where I find real “deals”. Not to say that the other shops didn’t have prices that were fair and I bought a few things just for me. But, when you’re reselling or buying materials to use in your creations, you have to find the deals or you’ll never make a profit.

So, I picked up an original framed pencil drawing of a cat, several rolls of vintage grosgrain ribbon, some cool fabric with carrots, and this floral on black tin biscuit box with handles that I’ll use for storage:


Next stop is Downtown (17 Division Street) and I find a depression glass devilled egg plate. I love devilled eggs and I’ve been looking for one of these for a while to prevent the inevitable eggs sliding around (or off) the plate problem. I also pick up some aprons and a 1946 McCall’s Needlework magazine with great cover graphics (and some good stuff inside, too):


I also discover my "best find of the day" here—a completely charming child’s nursery lamp with carved and painted giraffes. Look at that little umbrella! The shade is obviously not original but I'll replace it anyway. It’s just crying out for one that's painted to match with green and orange stripes or dots. I may touch up the paint on the base where it’s worn away but the giraffes are perfect and just need a good cleaning.

giraffe lamp

Vanities and The Linen Boutique share space at 9-13 Division Street and this shop is over-the-top girly. They specialize in vintage textiles and fashions and you’ll find things like rhinestone jewelry, DuBarry beaded dresses, fur coats from the 40s, purses, stacks of barkcloth curtains, and feathered hats. I find another beaded purse for my collection, some cute 1960s wedding shower invitations (2 complete sealed packages!), a sweet little girl's dress with red gingham flowers, and an amazing 1930s handmade garment bag with appliquéd and embroidered flapper girl flower faces. There’s a tear at the top of the front that will need to be fixed but I love the colors and workmanship.

flower face

The Kitchen Stop and Deco to Pop share space at 25 W. Main Street. As I walked around I felt like I was transported back to childhood. The same Easy-Bake oven I played with when I was eight, those juice glasses with oranges painted on the sides, the Danish modern furniture, and funky vintage cocktail stirrers and barware. A definite 50-60’s retro/cool feel. I spot a mint condition feedsack apron but its too expensive at $29. So I settle on a small vintage cookbook. I love looking at things from this era but I'm happy to have it as a memory rather than decorating my house. Aren’t you supposed to like the opposite of your parent’s style anyway?

Last stop is Uptown (34 W. Main St) and this store is huge and also the most expensive of the five. It has an elegant 1940’s vibe with furniture, crystal chandeliers, china, jewelry, and high-end antiques. I did a lot of looking but most of this isn’t my style. I find some pretty vintage buttons, though.

Overall, this was a worthwhile excursion. There’s plenty to see and, with six shops to visit, it will fill most of a day. While you won’t find many bargains, the prices seem fair for most things. It's a good place for shopping to add to your collections—those things you fall in love with and price be damned.

We were so intrigued by a restaurant called Origins (25 Division Street) near where we parked that we decided to get reservations and return that evening for dinner. We had a wonderful Thai meal—chicken sate, Gra Praw (stir-fried beef with mushrooms, Thai basil, peppers, and string beans), and poached pear with pear ice cream for dessert We don't have a lot of ethnic restaurants near where we live, so any Thai food is a special treat. Great Thai food is even better!


Summer Fruit Pillow

Maybe it's all the Ranier cherries I've been eating lately, but I was inspired last week to make this small pillow from half of a fruit print tea towel I found at the flea market. I love the colors of this and had lots of matching fabrics (a vintage red with white dots and a new cherry print) left from my fruit collection last summer. This pillow opens in the front with tab and button closures and I used some big yellow vintage buttons that I had on hand. They perfectly match the yellow nasturtiums.

I'm sorry to report that this pillow sold almost as soon as I listed it. But, if anyone wants another like it I have enough materials to make a couple more. The buttons will be different, though.

This week I'll be making sachets and finishing up a custom order for pillows. And hopefully will have time to finish a few more pillows as well. And I'm working on a post about my weekend antique adventures in New Jersey. Just need to take some pictures of my finds.


French Knots

I wanted to title this “Dreaded French Knots”, but that’s a bit harsh. Even though I hated them for years and had several almost-finished projects complete except for the French knots that I always saved for last. And then never did.

I learned embroidery from my grandmother and, strangely enough, learned crewel embroidery first. It’s just like standard embroidery but uses wool and a heavier base fabric and lots of satin stitches. I picked up all the stitches very well until I came to French knots. I don’t know why I had so much trouble but they were always too loose or too tight, or the thread would knot just when I was pulling it through. My fingers felt clumsy and the results were always awful.

When I started to do embroidery again a few years ago I decided that I would finally master French knots – even if it killed me. It took a while but I figured out a way to hold the thread taut with my left hand while pushing the needle through with my right. Maybe that’s how I should have been doing it all along, but it felt like a new discovery and it works for me. And, best of all, I can finish my projects.

Here are some examples of French knots from a vintage pillowcase I plan to make into a pillow some day. I love how they look when densely packed together.

french knot heart

french knot closeup

Here’s a how-to diagram for French knots. The only difference is that I wrap the thread around the needle three times, which makes a denser knot. Do what looks best for your particular project.

french knot how-to

The second diagram is for a pistil stitch, which is sort of a French knot with a tail. I hadn't heard of this stitch but I can see how useful it will be. If I can master French knots surely I can learn this one, too.

pistil stitch how-to



I updated my kitchen page today with a slightly different design and a snazzy illustration that I found in an old woman's magazine from the 50s. Don't you love her attitude! And I added some new aprons, too.

This one has a very cool 5-inch deep flounce all around the bottom edge and golden yellow rickrack trim. I"ll be listing more aprons soon, if the weather cooperates for picture taking—not likely today.

Update: The lovely apron pictured above has been snagged already. You've got to be quick around here, and Carrie wins the prize this time!


They're here!

ranier cherries

Ranier cherries, that is. The best cherries. Ever. Don’t be scared off by their high price – you’d spend as much on a restaurant dessert. And they’re a once-a-year treat anyway. Sweet and juicy and not at all like the red ones. This plateful barely survived the time it took to photograph them. Yum!


Small is beautiful

I clipped a fashion spread from New York Magazine last winter – I think from the spring fashion issue. The article featured three indie fashion designers and something that one of them said really spoke to me. Mona Kowalska, who worked for small labels in Italy and Sonia Rykiel in Paris, decided to start her own label in NYC and opened a shop called A Détacher. She has a few wholesale clients in Japan but sells mostly from the racks in her shop. And she’s perfectly OK with that. She said

“It’s easy to get caught up with ambition and plans. But sometimes I just say, “What about a small, well-run company? Is that such a terrible thing?’”

I don’t think so, either. I don’t want my business to get so big that I can’t be involved personally in every aspect of it. I’ll gladly let someone else do my accounting, taxes, and shipping – that’s the boring stuff. But I always want to be involved in the creative part. I think that’s why I’m on the fence about selling wholesale on a larger scale than I do. Right now I only sell to shops that appreciate that my things are one-of-a-kind. There’s a level of trust involved—they’re buying a style but each piece will be different. And not everyone is OK with that. I could do things differently—buy large quantities of fabric (although that’s hard with vintage), hire seamstresses, and turn out multiples of pillows all exactly the same. But, what fun would that be? And why would customers want the same thing as everyone else? There are lots of stores that do that.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting to hear that view from another designer, albeit a fashion one. And, speaking of fashion design, it’s almost time for Season 3 of Project Runway. I don’t watch much television, but I’m glued to mine on Wednesday nights (Bravo, 10pm). The impossible deadlines, the dresses made from food and plants, Heidi Klum saying “you're out!” to the rejected designer, Tim Gunn's deadpan "Make it work!", and the general drama and theatrics (love ya, Santino)—it’s too much fun to miss!


Vintage Eyelet

One of the things I was hunting for at the flea market last weekend was eyelet, and I found lots of it. I use it to make lavender sachets like these:

And I’ve been selling them wholesale to a couple of local shops. Both shops are very feminine and Victorian in feel and they always request the all-white ones with tiny pearl buttons. But I like the idea of using a solid color underneath to make them a bit more colorful. I have a few listed on my site but haven’t decided whether I’ll continue with them there. They're a great lower-price-point item for craft shows and being able to smell the lavender helps—something you can’t do on a computer. Yet.

I thought I’d share some photos of my new finds. These are all machine-made, of course. If I’d found some that was done by hand I definitely wouldn’t be planning to cut it up.

In my scrapbooks I have an article that I saved from Piecework magazine (November/December 1997). It features a woman named Jennie Clarissa Galer and the opening page of the article shows a photo of an incredible example of handmade eyelet that she made for a pair of drawers. Can you imagine how much time this would have taken? And no one would even see it!

The caption reads: “A portrait of Jennie in her early twenties, pages of her letters, her ivory awl, and a pair of her cotton drawers. The undergarments are below-knee length with a finely gathered waist caught on both sides by button tabs. The decorative eyelet edging, worked in a simple scrolling floral motif, was made separately and sewn on by hand.”

Jennie was ill with tuberculosis for much of her life and had help with housework and childcare, so she had more free time than most women. And more than you and I have. I've said before that there's something therapeutic about needlework, and I'm sure it helped her during the bad times. But it wasn't uncommon for women to spend lots of time on needlework anyway. There was no time-sucking technology like television or computers. And the expectation of a full hope chest by the time you got married was incentive enough. I love to do embroidery and I know how to make eyelet but the thought of doing it makes my eyes hurt. I think I'll leave it to the machines :)


Like black blood

A rather gruesome description for a flower that's really very pretty. I was a bit skeptical when I bought these plants last year. I love old-fashioned flowers like hollyhocks, but BLACK?? Who would want black flowers? I didn't know what to expect and the plants were very young so I didn't get a chance to see what they looked like until now. Yes, they're unusual, but they look spectacular against the white of my house. And they aren't really black—more like a very dark burgundy.

Black Hollyhock (Alcea rosea nigra) was described as early as 1629 by John Parkinson, as being "of a darke red like black blood," an apt description for the large single flowers that grace this plant in June and July.


Hey, sailor

With all the other things I’ve been involved in lately and the fact that it’s summer and much too nice to stay indoors, I haven’t been doing much sewing. But I did finish a new pillow last week.

Sailor Duck

This one features a quilt block that I finished embroidering last winter—a little duck in a sailor hat strutting his stuff. I added some vintage feedsack cottons—a blue and white stripe and a red-yellow-blue floral—then accented it with two matching vintage buttons.

I have so many cute baby things (and lots of these quilt blocks), so look for more pillows like this in the future. Great for baby gifts!


Road Trip: Shupps Grove Flea Market

After a two-hour drive, we arrive at the market around 9 a.m. on Saturday. It’s a gorgeous day—sunny, but not too hot. I have my comfy sneakers on and my big barkcloth bag to hold my purchases. And we’re off!

My first stop is at the booth of a Mennonite woman—the same one as last year. She hangs a clothesline between two trees behind her tables and displays the old quilts and quilt tops that she has for sale—very eye-catching! It worked in my case and I make my first purchase of the day—an incredible quilt top in a design I haven’t seen before—green background with open white flowers and golden yellow centers. Daffodils, don’t you think? I also pick up some buttons and vintage kids valentines at 25 cents each.

quilt top

I find two vintage silver mesh purses for my collection (which I’ll write about one of these days). I could have bought 20 of them—everyone seemed to have them this year. But I settled on two in unusual styles that I don’t have—one with a drawstring top and the other with a ring for looping over your finger (yes, it's that small!). It's badly tarnished but should clean up fine.

vintage mesh purses

As I make my way from booth to booth, I buy a couple of aprons, some feedsacks, printed towels with cherries, and lots and lots of buttons. One of the things on my list for the day is vintage eyelet (to make sachets) and I find some nice pieces that will work perfectly. I also spot some beautiful vintage slips and skirts with amazing eyelet hems, but no way would I be able to cut them up!

I discover an incredibly cute towel with a red-striped border and appliquéd and embroidered bonnet girl in a pile of linens. Even though I know it’s not, it seems very French to me.

vintage towel

My most fun find of the day is this funky painted mirror for $8. I’ve been loving these little cutout scrollwork shelves lately and this is just 12” tall so I’m sure I’ll find a place to hang it. I think it will be perfect with a candle to reflect back into the mirror.


I see a gorgeous Noritake tea set but one of the cups is missing and the seller wants too much for them, so I move on. I knew I could go back if I really wanted them. I’m glad I didn’t. Because, on the way out, I spot another Noritake set—this one for coffee. It’s the most amazing shade of blue—cerulean maybe? And the set is complete. It’s marked $85 but she offers it to me for $45 since she doesn’t want to pack it up and cart it home again. Sweet! If anyone recognizes this pattern, please let me know what it is. All I’ve been able to discover from the mark on back is that it’s pre 1953. (Updated to add that China Replacements.com calls the pattern Mystery #170, which is their way of saying that they don't know either. Apparently it came in lots of colors. They sell a replacement cup with saucer for $14.99; no idea on the coffee pot or creamer and sugar bowl. So, I'm guessing the set is worth at least $150.)

coffee service

It's now 1:30 and we're starving and just about out of cash, so we hit the road for home, stopping at a nearby restaurant for lunch. I had tentatively planned to stop at a couple of places in Kutztown, but it was getting on into the afternoon and we decided to save that for another trip. I’d have to say that this was the best year of the three that I’ve attended this market. More of the kinds of things I was looking for. Perfect weather. Less crowded which was not so good for the sellers but great for me!

I should mention that this flea market is open every weekend from April to October and most of the sellers come every week. They might bring extra linens and textiles for this theme weekend, but they often have those things anyway. So, if you're in the Allentown/Reading/Philly area, it's definitely worth the trip on any weekend.