...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.