...and to all a good night.

Happy holidays dear friends!

a sigh of relief

Now that the Christmas orders have shipped and things have quieted down I finally have some time to catch my breath. The tree is decorated, gifts are wrapped, and grocery shopping is done for the holiday meals.

I spent most of the day yesterday in my studio where I'm cleaning and straightening up. I've been sorting fabric scraps into piles—larger pieces for tissue cozies and sachets, smaller ones for patchwork. And finishing up all those three-quarters done embroidery projects so I can list the end results on my web site.

And about that baby quilt I've been working on for the past two months. The layers are together, the binding is attached, and I'm just about ready to finish up. I thought I'd quilt it on my sewing machine but it turns out that my machine can't handle that. Then I thought about hand-tying it and even bought the perfect shade of brown yarn to do that. But the new mom called yesterday (everything went well and it's really a boy!) and she thinks she may hang the quilt rather than use it in the crib. So, I'm going to revert to my original plan of "quilting" it with buttons. I have a bag of brown buttons that I bought on Ebay years ago—part of a box full of old factory stock from a clothing manufacturer in NYC. They'll be perfect. And I should be able to get them sewn quickly.


I'll deliver this in a couple of weeks when she's feeling up to visitors and when weather permits. I'm pretty happy with the results and may add some quiltmaking to my repertoire in the future. It's so labor intensive and I'm not sure there's a way to make any profit but it was fun anyway.


really vintage embroidery

My sister-in-law sent me a link this morning to an article in the New York Times about embroidery. Seeing History in the Eye of a Needle is actually a review of an exhibition of embroidery at the Bard Graduate Center. The exhibit, English Embroidery From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1580-1700: ’Twixt Art and Nature focuses on 17th century England (one of the golden ages of embroidery) and features 85 works. Items include clothing (a truly stunning jacket that can be seen in the accompanying slide show—link below), accessories (gloves, caps, and purses), silk and canvas panels, jewelry chests, cameo portraits of Charles 1, and beaded trays and baskets.

An English beadwork tray by an unknown designer and maker, 1662-70.
Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

The closing paragraph from the article:
"Embroidery is a glorious byproduct of sewing, one of the world’s most essential crafts. Sewing began sometime in prehistory, probably when pieces of animal hide were lashed together into a crude garment. But humans never cease. The marvels of this exhibition testify to the human need to improve, refine and perfect, turning a means of survival into a sublime vehicle of expression."

A Golden Age for Embroidery (slide show of images from the collection)

The slides are great but I'm sure can't do justice to the original pieces. I think I'm going to make plans to go see this exhibit—how could I not :)

It runs through April 12 at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, 18 West 86th Street, Manhattan; (212) 501-3000


we have a winner

And the winner of the Bucilla towel set is Anna S. (annasoc) who wrote about doing embroidery on her way to work via public transportation. Kudos for helping the environment by not driving if that's possible where you live. Needlework can be a great portable project and, while my journey to work these days consists of walking downstairs to my computer, I always take a small project with me to doctor appointments, on car trips, or anywhere I know I'm going to be waiting.

I loved reading about how some of you learned embroidery from your mothers and grandmothers (as I did) and how you're passing it on to your daughters. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned but I'd hate to see skills like these disappear.

And I think I may have embroidered a few peace signs on my jeans, too, back in the day :)

Remember that tomorrow is the last day to order on my website for guaranteed holiday delivery. I'll be upgrading all shipping to Priority to make sure packages get there in time for Christmas. But, even if you run out of time, you can still use your discount code (HOLIDAY) for 20% off until the end of the month. Buy a present for yourself! Shipping is free at my Etsy shop and I still have some tissue cozies and mixed bags of buttons available—both are great stocking stuffers!


needlepoint birds

I found these two framed needlepoint birds this past weekend while I was looking for a piece of furniture. I didn't find that, of course, but you know me - it's the rare antique shop where I can't find something interesting.

petit point birds

These are actually not needlepoint but a technique called petit point. Worked in wool just like needlepoint but on a much smaller scale—these are 16 stitches to the inch. Working so small allows you to get lots of detail—nice for birds and also for people's faces.

I used to do a lot of needlepoint, as did my grandmother who made covers for all eight of her dining room chairs (that's an ambitious project). I'm starting to like it again and I've picked up a few unfinished ones here and there (they're often sold with the central motif already complete and you just have to fill in the background with the color of your choice). Working needlepoint may be even more relaxing than embroidery because it requires a minimum of attention. Each stitch is done exactly the same and once you get into the rhythm of it, you just go. I've heard that knitting is like that, too.

If you click through the next two photos to my Flickr page, then click on "all sizes", you can see the really large original scans. The better to see the detail up close.

petit point Baltimore Oriole
A Baltimore Oriole (we had lots of these in our yard this past spring)

I may need some help with this one. The closest thing I could find in my bird identification guide is a Western Tanager. The head and wings look right but their bodies are usually more yellow.

petit point unidentified bird

At some point I'll show you how to do needlepoint. It's not embroidery but I think the technique falls under the Stitch School umbrella.

I'm planning to hang these in the dining area off the kitchen—near the big window that looks out to the bird feeders. I think that's an appropriate place, don't you?


a recipe, and a winner

I already gave you my tried-and-true, make-every-year ginger cookie recipe a couple of years ago, so I'll give you my grandmother's raisin cookie recipe this time around. She died many years ago and wouldn't mind that I'm sharing it.

Kathleen Moir's Raisin Cookies

2 cups golden raisins, cooked in 1 cup water for 5 minutes
1 cup vegetable shortening (you can substitute butter but they won't be as good)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream shortening and sugar. Add raisins with their cooking liquid, eggs, and vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients and chopped walnuts and mix everything well. Drop 1-1/2 inches apart (they'll spread out) on greased cookie sheets and bake at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes. My recipe doesn't have a quantity— it kind of depends on how big you make them—but I remember it being about 4 dozen or so. And, they're really good when they're still warm :)


holiday aprons

As you know I've been busy stocking my web site with goodies for holiday shopping. This morning I added twelve vintage aprons including three with holiday themes. One features a jazzy print with trees and colored dots on a black background:


Another is white with a border print of holly and poinsettias:


Just a quick interruption to direct you to Georgia Peachez's blog for some photos of her gorgeous holiday fabric collection. I'm loving the use of pink with the reds and greens.

gold starMy embroidery fans are going to love the third apron. It's heavy white linen with a cross stitch tree, bells, and holly. And there are several cool details. At the top of the tree and bottom of the bells, a rhinestone "jewel" was added. And there's nice use of gold metallic thread—actually it's more like very skinny ribbon. I haven't really talked about ribbon embroidery but you can embroider with anything that fits through the hole of your needle. Wide ribbon makes for some great three-dimensional effects!

embroidered tree
The whole tree

French knots, lazy daisy leaves, and a rhinestone jewel.

The ribbon has been fastened down with couching.

All are for sale on my website. And don't forget your discount code "HOLIDAY" if you do decide to buy.


a holiday memory

This is easy. All through my childhood my father would stay up late on Christmas Eve arranging an entire landscape under the tree. It started with something called the In-A-Barn Farm that my grandfather made himself. At least I think he did. Maybe it was a kit or project from a woodworking magazine. All the farm buildings and the farmhouse fit down inside the barn for storage (the roof was the lid) and there were outbuildings, a well, and fences (both metal to look like stone and wooden ones)—literally everything you'd find on a farm.


Dad would lay out white batting for snow and sprinkle brown dust for the pathways and animal enclosures. There were tiny people positioned on the walkway up to the house and farm animals in their pens and the barnyard. The animals and people were made of metal and were painted very realistically. In the back near the wall behind the tree he'd form hills from crumpled brown paper and position those little green bottle brush trees. There were even a few Indians hiding back there. Watch out farm family!

These pictures are scanned from the original slides which are about 40 years old, so not so great. But you can click on this one and go to my Flickr page for a larger version. If you look closely on the path outside the barnyard there's a farm hand chasing three geese.

in-a-barn farm

In the evenings we'd turn off the room lights and plug in the tiny lights inside the house and barn and it was like magic. Sometimes, after we'd gone to bed, Dad would move the people and animals around, and we were convinced that they moved by themselves during the night. We also had these really creepy-looking elves that would move during the night, too but that's a story for another time :)

That's my memory, and thank you all for sharing yours. I couldn't really choose a winner based on how good your memories are (they're all good), so I threw all the names in a hat and the winner is Amy (the Christmas Eve pizza-eating one). Send me an email at janet@primrosedesign.com and let me know how to get your sachet to you.


black friday

I'm really not into the whole concept of Black Friday—wake up way too early to drive to the mall to fight for a parking space to fight crowds inside to wait in line at the checkout to get bargains that probably will get better as it gets closer to the holiday. Not my idea of a good time. I sometimes get claustrophobic in crowds and I definitely get impatient waiting in lines. Unless it's antiquing I'm not even that into shopping. So, today you'll find me at home working—and eating turkey sandwiches ;)


random thoughts

Boy, it's snowing like crazy here today! Luckily I ran all my errands yesterday. I needed to mail a bunch of orders so I had to go out anyway and I decided to get all my grocery shopping done on the same trip. The grocery stores were jammed with people shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and that panic shopping for when a lot of snow is predicted. Personally, four inches isn't enough snow to panic over but whatever. So I braved the crowds and got all my ingredients. We're having a small (just us), quiet Thanksgiving dinner and I bought the smallest turkey I could find but we're going to have tons of leftovers anyway. Turkey soup will be on the menu next week for sure.

What else? I won this very sweet stamped-for-embroidery child's play bib a few weeks ago on Ebay and just had to do the embroidery right away.

vintage child's play bib

The seller said in the listing that this was a rabbit but I don't think so. Possibly a bear cub (my husband's opinion) but more likely a puppy (look at the ears). But, I've had trouble telling puppies and bears apart before. Whatever animal it is, it's super cute!

In other news, I did some antiquing this past Saturday down near Allentown, PA, and found some really great stuff. Will post some pictures later this week if I can get good light for photographing (that won't happen today obviously). I hit the mother lode on buttons—one of my favorite sellers is going out of business and I got some really good deals. Which I'll be passing on soon (again, need to photograph them). I also found lots of hankies (one of the reasons I went out hunting) and some very cool aprons and baby things.

I'm actually feeling kind of stressed about all the things I have left to do, but it's a good day to stay inside and work. That's where I'll be.


baby quilt progress

I spoke to the recipient of this quilt yesterday and she checks here frequently on my progress, so this post is partly for her and partly for the readers who are also checking up on me. Yes, I've been slacking but I'm back on it now :)

The due date has been updated to three weeks from now so I'm not going to make it in time anyway. That's OK. I'll deliver it in person as planned (only a bit later) but will actually get to meet the real recipient—the baby!

The quilt top is just big enough now that it's getting hard to photograph. I tacked it up on the doors of the armoire in my studio but I still couldn't show the bottom row. You'll have to imagine that.

baby quilt

All I have left to finish the top is an outer border of the stripe all around. The back will be entirely the brown polkadot fabric (at least I think so) and will either form a self-binding with a bit of the back brought to the front or the binding being a separate piece. Probably the latter as that will give me a few more inches of width. I'm trying to use the width of the fabric (45") without piecing.

My first picture is a little blurry. Here's a clearer closeup that shows all of the fabrics and the fawn block.

baby quilt close up

Still thinking about options for the quilting of the layers, although I bought some brown thread that I'll probably use. That's getting ahead of myself. First step is getting the top done!


how I spent my weekend

Cleaned my studio...check
Cut out more sachet stacks (a customer bought out my supply)...check
Worked on the baby quilt (getting there)...check
Finished the custom baby pillow...check

And here's a photo of the finished pillow.

bird pillow

Sorry for the darkish picture. It was sunny for like 5 minutes this morning and I missed my window of opportunity. For the week probably. It's going to be really cold with the possibility of snow flurries. No matter—I have so much indoor stuff to do!


baby pillow

Here are some pictures of the custom baby pillow I'm working on. The person who commissioned it sent me fabrics that she had leftover from sewing the bedding for the nursery...


Then she chose one of my birdie embroidery patterns for the center panel. I've made so many of these designs (see more here, here, and here) that the embroidery goes really fast.


I picked my floss colors from the fabrics, except for the ladybug, which really had to be red. But I did pick a softer, more coral-colored red so it wouldn't clash with the other softer tones. Even the black isn't really black—it's actually a dark brown with a purplish cast.


I finished the pillow top last night and now I just have to do the back.

And, in case you were wondering, yes, I do custom work. That's how I got started and I still do a fair amount of it. Some examples are baby pillows like this one. I've also turned handkerchiefs, pillowcases, and embroidered towels into pillows—the same way I do my own creations but with the materials supplied by the customer. It's a great way to preserve linens you may have inherited from family members but don't want to actually use (and get stained or ruined). I also complete stamped embroidery projects for people who don't have the skills or time to do so themselves. Feel free to email me if you'd like to schedule a project.


production line

The new batch of tissue cozies I've been working on this week is almost done. Yesterday I chose button combinations to match the fabrics. Today I'm sewing them on.

tissue cozies

I love this diamond feedsack fabric and, while the brown button isn't quite a perfect match, it's pretty close.

button stack

I'm doing a triple stack for this one—the tiny green button echoes the flower centers in the fabric. Not sure why it looks turquoise in the photo—it really does match.


Still freezing here so no melting of snow in spite of the sun. Perfect weather for staying indoors and working!


october surprise

And no, not the political pre-election kind :)

Snow! Very early-in-the-season snow!

icy leaf
An icy leaf

I woke up early (like 4-ish) this morning because I heard something crash outside and realized that it was snowing. Still too dark to see what the crash was and, with that bear still around, I wasn't going outside to investigate. I'm not crazy. But now that it's light enough to see I figured out what it was. Half of one of the old apple trees in the yard is lying on the ground. Between the apples and the snow, the weight was just too much for it. And while I was out checking the damage I saw part of a tree go down up in the woods. I shook snow off the lilac because the branches were dragging on the ground but no real damage there. Not sure what else we'll lose today - it's the really heavy wet kind of snow.

broken apple tree
The fallen apple tree

I was trying to remember the last time we had snow this early and it was a long time ago. We do get flurries sometimes in October but not a several-inches kind of snow and we're due for 3 to 5 inches today. Good thing I did all those errands yesterday and can stay home today. I have two dozen tissue cozies on my work table that need to be done this week!


new venues

I had a great meeting with Cristin Powers of GreenBeing last week and I'm going to be selling some of my things on consignment in her new shop. Open for just a few weeks, GreenBeing (334 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA 18503) is downtown Scranton's first eco-boutique and part of the Adams Avenue renaissance that includes Eden, a new vegan cafe set to open on November 7th! It's also in the same block as my favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Rak Thai!

Cristin plans to sell a selection of environmentally-friendly clothing, accessories, and handmade items by Pennsylvania designers, including her own line of handbags crafted from recycled fabrics and burlap.

Other designers and artists featured in the shop include Nicole Erin Carey (Nicole’s Threads), Kathy DellaValle (Artwork by KD), Tomlynn Fallon (Worn), Rebecca Kinsey (Little Red), Nicole Kulp (Recycle My Dress), Chrissy Manuel (Shoplift!), and Amanda Vonson-Fernandes (Oh Sweet Josephine). Who knew there were so many crafty ladies in Scranton? And how exciting to be part of the crafty scene!

I brought Cristin a little bit of everything I make—a few pillows (that butterfly one in the picture is one of them) and lots of smaller things, including tissue cozies, sachets, tea towels, and vintage fabric-covered buttons.

I don't consciously think of my work as recycling, although 99% of my things are made from salvaged materials. With me, it's more that I'm saving something important (antique needlework) and using it in a new, more usable way. I guess that is recycling after all :)

I'll also be selling sachets and pillows at Bridge Street Marketplace (61 Bridge Street, Tunkhannock, PA 18657). This antiques/collectibles mall is a frequent stop for me when I'm out treasure hunting—I find lots of great buttons and hankies here. But it's also a craft market and owner E.J. "Sam" Casterline has stocked the front with all sorts of cottage and shabby chic items.

I suspect I don't have a lot of local blog readers but if you're in northeastern Pennsylvania any time soon, stop in to either of these shops. The holidays are coming and wouldn't it be nice to support small businesses this season by shopping locally (where ever you live)?


a present

I don't buy myself presents very often but it was my birthday last week and I've been good lately (hee!). So, I bought myself a pincushion from The Daily Pincushion at Etsy. These pincushions are so gorgeous that the word pincushion doesn't seem good enough to describe it. It needs a fancier name. And I'm not sure I feel right sticking pins in it either.


Each is made from wool felt and takes a day to make (hence the shop name Daily). Most have flower themes, although there are some very cute pumpkins listed now. All have embroidery (nicely done French knots on this one), some have beads and buttons. The detail is exquisite and the workmanship perfect!


After much deliberation I chose the simple Red Rodeo Pincushion but I didn't see this Violet Blue Pincushion or I might have ordered it. It really is almost impossible to choose.

These would make great holiday gifts!

And, speaking of Etsy, I've been adding things to my own (long-neglected) shop. I've never done very well at Etsy but that may be because I never update it. Will try to be better at doing so. I listed some hanky sachets and a few tissue cozies. I've got two dozen new cozies on my worktable now so more will be coming very soon.


coming together

I finished the embroidery on Saturday and then soaked and washed the finished blocks to remove the storage dirt and transfer lines. I also washed and ironed all the fabrics I'll be using for the quilt. On Sunday, I started cutting and sewing. So far, each block is surrounded by a strip of the green pindot (Recess by American Jane - Sandy Klop for Moda) and a corner square of the brown dots (Michael Miller Dumb Dots). The corner squares were not on my original sketch but I thought the quilt needed more brown and it solved the problem of matching dots (nearly impossible to get right) in the corners.


I love the tiger with his little coral flower. But I really love the raccoon eating the coral berries and it was a good opportunity to practice my satin stitch.


The monkey holding a banana is also very sweet. They're all so darn cute that it's hard to pick a favorite block.


Next up is a wider strip of the coral stripe (Timeless Treasures # Daisy C) and larger brown dot corner blocks. That will tie all the embroidered blocks together, then I'll see how much room I have on the border. I may do a thin strip of alternating brown and green squares but I haven't decided yet. Lots left to do!



I was getting ready to go out this morning, ironing a blouse to wear in my studio which is right next door to my bedroom. Sienna started meowing and wouldn't shut up. She can be very vocal when she wants something and I couldn't see her from where I was standing. So, I finally tracked her down and found her on the bed. Looking up. At this—


It reminds me of that silly 1970s poster of the cat hanging from his front paws that said "Hang in there, baby." This little guy was hanging on for dear life and looking at me with big sad eyes. After snapping a quick photo I went downstairs for some heavy gloves, thinking I'd try to grab him and put him outside. It can be a bit tricky but I've done that before. By the time I got back upstairs he was already gone. Both cats have been pawing at the space behind my dresser for hours but I suspect he's escaped through the radiator into one of the holes in the floorboards. Old house, lots of escape routes. Lucky mouse!

I'm just full of wild animal stories these days, aren't I? Speaking of which, it's getting dark and time to bring in the bird feeders. No sign of that bear but I'm not taking any chances.


just duckie

Look at this cutie. One of a pair of vintage stamped-for-embroidery baby bibs I won on Ebay last week. They arrived yesterday and I love 'em. The crochet and pale yellow rickrack border is so sweet!

duck bib

I'll embroider these this winter, then add them to the vintage baby section on my website. They'll be super cute for someone to give as a baby gift!

duck bib motif

They even have the store tags still attached! 19 cents—can you believe it?

duck bib label


...and bears, oh my!

I woke up suddenly at 2 am this morning. Amaya, one of my cats, was sitting on my bedside table looking out the open window and hissing. Then I heard things rattling outside. What the hell? I looked out to see a black bear standing up on his hind legs swatting at my bird feeders, which were swinging wildly. The moon was really bright so he was easy to see. But not so easy to chase away. We finally made enough noise to scare him part way up the hill behind the house, although he just sat there snuffling and grunting and probably considering how much trouble it would be to come back for another try. It gave us enough time to run out and grab the feeders though. And finally he continued up the hill to our neighbors house. Which started their dogs barking. For another hour. What a night!

This morning I found planters on the front porch tipped over, and the garbage, which we leave out on Monday nights for early pickup on Tuesday, strewn all over the driveway. What a mess that was. And the iron pole that held the feeders was bent into a curve. Yikes!

This is probably the same bear that came around last fall, although he's much larger now. Bears power-eat in the fall to get ready for hibernation and I'm sure he's making the rounds. And since he found plenty to eat here last year (and nearly destroyed my feeders in the process), I'm sure my house was on his list. But I've been taking in the feeders every night and putting them back out in the morning so he didn't find anything out front. Now I'll be gathering up the feeders in the back, too. At least until the first snow and I'm certain he's safely tucked away for the winter. Hopefully not too close by :)


kid stuff

Check out the Daily Swatch this week on True Up: All Fabric, All the Time. It's children's week and they'll be featuring photos chosen by guest curator Kimberly Niesz from her personal collection. Kim blogs at Niesz Vintage Home...and Fabric and is the top contributor to the True Up Flickr group. No matter the subject, she had fabrics to fit! I've had to skip the past few weeks because I had no psychedelics and no ships. But children's fabrics—I've got those!

girl and dog

I bought this cotton fabric on Ebay a couple of years ago—it's actually a set of two curtains. I love the little dog and the style of the artwork—cartoony, but in a 1940s kind of way. I also love how they've used gray for the shadows. Have I said already how much I'm loving the color gray lately?


I posted a few more cute children's fabrics to the group, too.


vintage buttons

I've been photographing and listing buttons on my website like crazy, so many now that I've had to create another page in the plastic category! Lots of cool and colorful ones, including these cute vintage squirrel buttons:

squirrel buttons

I believe these are the same buttons as those shown here:


I wish mine were still on their card because it's so darned cute, but it doesn't always work out that way. On my recent shopping trip I found tons of buttons (most on cards, too) so I'll be continuing to list them as I get time. FYI, I have several people who shop the buttons regularly so, if you see something you like, don't wait too long—they often sell quickly!


the sketch

Here's what I'm thinking the quilt will look like (sketch done in Photoshop using swatches from the fabric store website that have been cropped to fit):

animal quilt

The back will be made from the polkadot fabric and turned to the front to make the binding/border. I wouldn't normally use two polkadots together but the dots in the green fabric are so tiny that it almost looks like a solid.

Not sure yet on the width of the strips and squares because I haven't worked out the overall quilt size yet. I'd like to not have to piece the back so the width of the brown fabric is going to determine everything else.

I worked for a couple of hours last night on the embroidery (while waiting for Project Runway to come on). Almost done!


oh, deer

Another finished block:


I should be finished with the embroidery this week. All the blocks are at least halfway done with most needing just the facial details—the eyes are so small on some of the animals that they're killing my eyes! The brown polkadot fabric is on the way and I should be able to start cutting the fabric strips next week.

A quick shout out to one of my readers who mentioned the Antique Pattern Library web site in comments. This really is a great resource for vintage patterns—all scanned from public domain needlework pattern books and available as pdf downloads. Very cool. Thanks JZ!


shopping trip

Well, the quilt shop didn't have the fabric I wanted, although they did have another colorway. That was enough to check on the shade of brown so I'll order it online. It was such a beautiful day that I made the rounds of the antique malls in the area. I didn't buy a lot but I found some great things, including a bunch of vintage needlework booklets and buttons that you'll find added to the website over the next couple of weeks. Some highlights of the trip:

A small (8" square) unfinished needlepoint with roses (there's a close up photo on my Flickr if you want to see more detail).

unfinished needlepoint

A vintage wire napkin holder with chippy red paint.

wire napkin holder

Two almost-perfect cards of vintage Bluebird buttons. Don't look for these on my website—they're all mine!

bluebird buttons

And I have to show you this oddity. Can you guess what it is?

rickrack collar

It's a ladies collar made from white rickrack that's been joined with crochet! I'm continually in awe of the creativity and needlework skills of our crafty women predecessors. Here's a closer up photo so you can see the details (and there are two more photos on my Flickr that are even closer).

rickrack collar closeup

Just incredible!