winding down

I don't know where this holiday season went - or this entire year for that matter - I just know that it happened much too quickly. We spent a quiet Christmas at home, much needed after the last minute rush of orders and post office runs, gift wrapping, tree decorating, and cookie baking. We're going out to dinner with friends tonight with drinks and gift exchange at our house beforehand. A nice way to finish out the year. We stopped going out on New Year's Eve years ago—honestly I'd rather sleep :)

It was a bit slow this year for Primrose Design and holiday orders were off a bit - I'm sure due to the economy. But I did pick up a few wholesale accounts this past year and hope to continue with that in the coming year. I got two catalog requests for shops in Mississippi and Texas this week so that gives me hope! And the shops where I sell now continue to be good venues for me.

I'll be working on cutting expenses, too, and switching web hosts will be part of that. I'm not looking forward to moving all the files (800-something at last count) but I can save a lot by doing it. The site will likely be kind of wonky while the switch is happening but I'll let you know ahead of time.

And I'll be moving some of my vintage things over to my Etsy shop to try for a wider audience. And unloading some things I've bought but don't plan to use. Part of my cleaning-up-the-studio efforts, which I'm also working on this week.

Since I haven't posted for two weeks I never said happy holidays (I never got to the Christmas cards either) so I'll send you best wishes now for the coming year. Happy New Year!


it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Inspired Ideas - The Christmas Issue
The Christmas issue of Amy Powers' Inspired Ideas is out and you can view it here. There's a Primrose Design project for an embellished holiday apron on pages 144-147. Once again, I'm honored to be included among such illustrious crafters as Charlotte Lyons, Jenny B. Harris, and Mary Engelbreit! It truly is a gorgeous magazine and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute!



Last Saturday we drove about 2 hours to an antique mall, one we've been to before with mixed results. As you know, hunting for vintage treasure is one part hard work and another part luck. No amount of hunting will turn up something that isn't there. But, this time, I got lucky!

When I first spotted the two bags of fabric scraps I thought "1940s". I didn't even examine them that carefully—they looked good, the price was right, and into my basket they went. It wasn't until I got home later that evening and took them out of the bags that I realized I was off by about a decade. They're 1930s for sure. There's something about the designs from this era that I love. The florals, which can sometimes be too sweet in other time periods, usually have something geometric to jazz them up.

Like this orange floral with big yellow diamonds in the background—

1930s cotton print

The woman who saved these scraps had such similar tastes as myself that I love everything in these scrap bags! I wish I could show them all to you, but I'll limit myself to the very best ones. Most of these examples are fairly small scraps but there are some that are quite large—plenty of fabric to work with!

1930s cotton print
If I had yards and yards of this I could make all my fruit pot holders with this fabric on the back!

1930s cotton print

1930s cotton print
Navy blue floral

She really liked oranges, yellows, blues, and reds. One bag had lots of blue fabrics; the other was more orange and yellow. I wonder if there were more bags of different colors that someone grabbed before I got there!


inspired indeed

inspiredideas I'd like to direct you to a new online publication called Amy Powers' Inspired Ideas—it's truly gorgeous. You may know Amy already from her Inspire Co. blog and you'll probably recognize many, if not all, of the contributors. I didn't actually contribute a project but I did donate one of my embroidery patterns for use in Piper Wise's article about adding color to embroidery (page 26-28). And I have an ad on page 22, which you'll want to see if you're thinking of ordering embroidery patterns anytime soon (hint—there's a buy one get one free offer)!

You'll also find projects for rick rack flowers, embroidered blocks, pom pom sheep (so cute), and a kitty cat treat bag for Halloween, to name just a few.

So, head on over and show your support for Amy's new project. I promise you're going to love it!


meet bella


A few days after we said goodbye to Little Bear another cat appeared at our door. It seems that our area is a prime dumping ground for unwanted cats. It's not too far from the city and it looks more country than it actually is. And everyone knows that cats can fend for themselves in the wild, right? Even ones who've been fixed and declawed and have never hunted a day in their lives. Don't get me started :)

Anyway, being all set up with food and water dishes and bags of food, I started feeding her. Look at that face—how could I not? But she wasn't eating much and seemed kind of sick - maybe a respiratory infection? I took her to our vet, not only to check that out but to see how old she was. Well, she's five or six months old and did have an infection. Which antibiotics cleared up just fine.

Obviously, she can't come inside with my two indoor cats, but we'll set up the winter shelter we made for Little Bear and see what happens. If we have a really bad winter I can move her into the garage.

We've named her Bella because of her tiny vampire-like bottom teeth. Unfortunately, you can't see them in the picture here. Bella, like Bela Lugosi with a nod to Kristin Stewart's Twilight character Bella. And she's crazy with kitten energy so very rarely sits still long to take her picture. I only got this one because she just woke up from a nap. Five seconds later she was careening (that's really the only word that fits) across the patio to chase some birds. Unfortunately, she's gotten quite good at catching them. And I'm not too happy about that. Still, she's a cat and that's what cats do.


summer in a jar

I had plans to do some sewing today - there's a pile of tissue cozies and mini wallets on my work table that really need to get finished. But, it seems that I never got out of the kitchen. Although our vegetable garden is winding down we're still on overload with tomatoes and beets. Really, I got sick of looking at them all piled up on the counters and table. So, the beets got roasted in the oven, sliced, and topped with an orange sauce. Then bagged up for the freezer.

home canned salsa

And the tomatoes got turned into homemade salsa. This is the first time I tried salsa but it couldn't be easier. I used the Salsa Verde recipe on the Ball canning website and substituted red for green tomatoes. Ball makes salsa seasoning mixes, too, but I had a bunch of hot peppers here and I wanted to have some control over the taste (we like it spicy with lots of cilantro).

So, I peeled and seeded tomatoes, chopped red onions, and serrano and jalapeno peppers. Squeezed limes, chopped cilantro. Washed canning jars. Found the canning pot in the basement. Waited for the water to boil (I know better than to watch it). And finally got five jars of salsa cooling on my counter. And I'm happy to report that the lids popped so I'm positive they sealed. Yeah, canning is a lot of work. When I said the recipe was easy, I meant it, but the canning part takes some effort. Luckily, I have the supplies on hand since I've done a lot of canning in the past.

Can't wait to open these up in the middle of winter for a little taste of summer!



Thanks for all your kind words about Little Bear. It hasn't quite sunk in that she's gone because I still look for her, then remember that I'm not going to find her. She had a habit of taking off for periods of time - a few days sometimes - we said she'd gone walkabout.

Last weekend's show went OK - not great, but I did sell some things. It was really more of a church bazaar with one tent of crafts and the person in charge told me afterward that people just weren't buying. That tells me I should probably skip the local show I did last year - the one where I barely made back my booth fee. Maybe things will pick up as we get closer to the holidays - it's still early (said with fingers crossed).

I'm still taking my class on Wednesdays - two more sessions to go!

Other than that I'm working on a new batch of pillows, and more hanky sachets, and then I have a custom order for three handkerchief pillows to get started on. I love doing custom orders! Will post pictures soon.


rest in peace

little bear

I've mentioned at least once over the past year and a half that we've been feeding a stray cat. I named her Little Bear because we do have black bears here, and she looked like a miniature version of one. My husband called her Waddles because she did get kind of fat after a while. What was I going to do—let her starve?

She showed up one day last spring and decided to stay. I patiently picked ticks out of her coat and we nursed her through a bad bite that got infected. For the winter we made her a shelter because we couldn't let her inside the house. Let's just say that my two cats don't take kindly to strangers. We did the best we could for her.

She died last night and we found her along the side of the road this morning. She was always so good about crossing the road—I don't know what happened this time. Trucks and cars fly along our road, even though it's posted at 40 mph—I'm sure it was someone going too fast.

So rest in peace, Little Bear. I'm going to miss your funny face looking in the window at me every morning while you patiently waited to be fed.


hot hot hot

You know when it's so hot that the thought of eating anything makes you feel a bit nauseous? That's what it's been like here the past few days. In the 90s with not a hint of movement in the air. It's going to be like this for the rest of the week but with high humidity, too. Great (said with sarcasm).

Our house does not have air-conditioning and that's usually OK. It didn't used to get this hot in the summer except maybe for a week or so in August. And the house is perfectly designed for air circulation—every window has it's opposite in a direct line across the house—front to back and side to side. If we open the windows at night the cool air flows through the house; then we close them up after the sun fully rises to keep the cool air inside. That works pretty well, although not enough so I can work in my studio which is an attic-like space directly under the roof. I can be pretty portable so I'll move to another room for a few days.

Here's a picture from the brunch I served on Sunday. Banana bread, cranberry-orange scones, and a big bowl of fruit salad. We have leftover fruit and I think I can manage to eat some of that today.


Will post pictures of my vintage finds from my Saturday trip to the flea market over the next few days. I hope to get some photographing done later today.


whole lotta bakin' going on

I guess everyone's July 4th weekend is busy (at least those of you in the States, that is)—mine is no exception. Tomorrow is the flea market trip and we've been invited to our neighbor's barbecue/fireworks extravaganza later in the evening. On Sunday my friend Jenny is coming to visit with her little boy and I'm serving brunch.

So, today I'm taking a break from sewing to clean my house and do some baking (black bottom cupcakes to bring to the barbecue and our picnic tomorrow), and banana bread for breakfast on Sunday. I need to run to the grocery and pick up some things for our lunch and fruit for Sunday's fruit salad. Lots to do. So, if I don't get the chance to post again before Monday, have a great weekend!

Here's the yummy cupcake recipe—

Black Bottom Cupcakes

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 large egg
1⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line muffin tins with fluted paper cups.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla and beat together until well blended.

To make the filling, combine the cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt in a separate mixing bowl and beat well to blend. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Fill each muffin cup one-half full with chocolate batter and top with 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese filling (use 1⁄2 teaspoon for miniature cupcakes). Sprinkle the batter with sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for miniature cupcakes and 25 to 30 minutes for regular cupcakes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 2 dozen regular cupcakes, or 3-4 dozen miniature cupcakes.


desperately seeking perfection

The other day someone asked me how I can part with my creations, that they're too pretty to sell. It happens a lot when you first start out making things. You fall in love with your own work and have trouble when it's time to send it on its way. You get over that pretty quickly, simply because you run out of space to keep it all. And the materials used to make them. Ask any quilter or sewer about their fabric stash and you'll see what I mean :)

And, no matter how perfect you think your first efforts are, you're going to get better. There isn't a single thing I make that hasn't evolved over time. I'm constantly seeking perfection (perhaps not desperately, but that did make a good headline). Not just in the finished product but in the process of making it. There will always be ways to work more smoothly and faster, and new and cheaper ways to source the materials used. You may not think about those things at first but you will.

I've been thinking a lot lately about college and some of the influences, inspiration, and life lessons I learned from my professors. On the first day of a ceramics course the professor was showing us how to use the potters wheel, and threw a perfect pot. And we all gasped when he smashed it flat after completing it. I can't remember the exact words he used but it was something to the effect that "If you can make something once, you can do it again, and even better the second time". He was also teaching us to not be afraid of the materials and the process, which seemed daunting at the time. It was a dramatic lesson and one I haven't forgotten.

But back to sending your babies out into the world. I feel that if you've found my website and are spending your hard-earned money to buy something I've made, then we have some kind of connection already. And I feel better sending my creations to their new home because I know you'll love and take good care of them. They're going to friends after all!


peas and carrots

"Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots" —Forest Gump

I've run out of linens with food themes to cut up for pot holders, so I've started embroidering my own fruit and veggie motifs. The two designs shown here are both from a vintage apron I found last summer. There was also a yellow squash on the apron but I've yet to find any fabric that goes with that :)

peas pot holder

peas embroidery

carrot pot holder

carrot embroidery

Patterns for all three vegetables are available for free on my Stitch School blog. They'd be really cute on an apron or tea towel, too, and you should be able to do any one of them in less than an hour.

Next up are birds, Scotty dogs, pears, and grapes. Then I really need to stop with the pot holders and move on to something else for a while.

This coming weekend is the Linen-Button theme weekend at Shupp's Grove flea market in Adamstown, PA. I hope to find lots of great things to work with through the winter—especially handkerchiefs and eyelet for sachets, vintage fabric, and maybe a few feedsacks, too.


still here

My friend Melody popped in to my last post to ask what's up and if I'm OK. I am OK, just very busy. I had to see a specialist about my continuing knee problem, which is not serious but will take a long time to heal. So, I wasn't able to function very well for a week or so while resting it. Having to hang out in bed for days sounds like it might be fun but definitely isn't. You can only read so much, watch so many movies, and do so much embroidery!

And I heard that an online friend is closing her business after many years. I'm happy that she's going to pursue something else now and understand her reasons. But it threw me a bit, too, because she's always been an inspiration. My first thought was, "OMG, if she can't do it then how can I possibly?" Business has been very slow and all these thoughts go through your head—is it just the bad economy, am I doing something wrong, are my prices OK? It's easy to blame yourself.

But, instead, it pushed me to do some marketing for my business—something I'd planned to do anyway. I sent a mailing with a catalog, sales policy sheet, etc. to a bunch of retail shops where my products seem to fit. I've heard that this often doesn't work, but I've already got a very nice wholesale order from a store in Philadelphia, and hope to hear from some of the more local shops in the coming weeks.

And then I sold a pillow, and another, and another. I got an email about a local craft show that sounds interesting. Things are looking up again.

I've also completed the move of all Stitch School posts to their new home and replaced the list here with a small banner that links to the new one. Look for new stitches soon!


p is for peony . . . and poppy

The garden is just exploding with flowers. Everything seems to be blooming early this year and very abundantly, too.

poppy closeup
The inside of a perennial poppy. The pollen coating the stamens is purplish-black in color—it looks like velvet.


a frustrating day

Thanks, everyone, for leaving thoughtful and supportive comments on my last post. It's nice to know that my peeps have my back :)

The one thing you can say about living in a democracy is that not everyone is going to be happy with what results. You may be against health care reform. I may not be happy about my tax dollars going to fund unnecessary wars. That's the way it goes. The fact that we can speak out and express our opinions means a lot.

Coming out (so to speak) has been freeing and I was interested that some commenters would be more likely to support me based on my views. So, I guess it goes both ways.

But, back to what you're really here for. I had the most awful sewing day yesterday. I'm working on those new products I mentioned and I'm quilting a layer of patchwork fabric over two layers of felt—so lots of fabric. Everything was fine until I put a new needle in my machine and started a new spool of thread. Then things went to hell very quickly. The stitches went wonky, the thread snagged, the needle broke—three times! I finally gave up and switched to my newer Bernette. The problem with that is the foot is too wide. You see, on my old Singer the pressure foot is exactly 1/8" on the right side and makes a perfect guide to topstitch 1/8" from the seam. The Bernette is twice as wide and there's no good way to line it up properly. So I'm having to draw a sewing line with fading marker and it's taking me way too long.

I don't know if the problems can be attributed to the needle (maybe I need a heavier one), the new (but same as I always use) thread, or the fact that I used a less expensive felt. My prototype used wool felt inside because I had a piece lying around. The felt I bought the other day (besides being less expensive) is obviously different—it slips and slides easily and just isn't as nice to work with. But will wool felt make this product too expensive to produce? What to do, what to do? See, designing products isn't so easy after all!

I know you're all trying to guess what I'm making and I'll give you two clues. They're almost always square and you use them in the kitchen :)



In the five years I've been blogging I've noticed something. It's a tendency, when you find someone with similar interests, to identify with that writer and to believe that you have more in common than your love of crafts. Maybe you think they share the same religious beliefs, or political ones, or whatever. You only know about people what they choose to reveal so maybe that's true. But more likely, it isn't.

Ninety-nine percent of the time I talk about crafts but once in a while something related to my political beliefs slips out. And invariably there's an anonymous commenter who calls me out about it. And decides to stop reading or delete me from their blog roll. Fine. The blog world is huge and it's probably better that they go elsewhere to find like-minded friends who believe what they do. The delete function is a wonderful tool.

I use it myself all the time. When I read a blog that talks too much about whatever I don't identify with, I'm gone. Not because I don't like the person who wrote it but because I want to read about things that interest me personally. And that applies to all the types of blogs I read, not just craft-related ones.

So, if it offends you that I identify as a progressive/liberal (no, that doesn't mean I support everything that our president is doing), as a feminist (equal pay, equal opportunity), as non-religious (religion is personal and I was brought up believing that it's crass to talk about it in public), as not having children (really none of your business), or anything else, please hit that delete key.

To the person who wrote recently, referring to me as "one of those people" and assuming they knew what I was referring to and thereby proving my point perfectly, you'll probably be happier elsewhere. As for healthcare reform (which was not my thought, but thanks for bringing it up), I think a society can be judged by how they treat their citizens—all of them—not just the ones who look, act, or think like us. And no, I didn't get what I wanted—far from it.

I'm the kind of person who filters everything I say through my head anyway. Some people would say that's a good thing but it takes a lot of effort. And I get very tired of doing it. If I have to chose every word I write carefully so as not to offend then I might as well give up now. As I wrote to one of those anonymous commenters last year, it's my blog and I'll say what I want in it. I will try to keep politics out of it—I already do—but I can't promise I'll always say just what you find acceptable or comfortable.

Now, I have a busy week ahead. First I'm off to the post office to ship a button order to Norway (that's a first) and then into the studio for tons of sewing. I've been designing a super-cute new product (I'll show you soon) and finishing up a new batch of tea towels and mini wallets. Craft show season is coming!


strike up the band

I'm so glad that I broke down and bought a laptop because I can sit on my porch and work—just like I'm doing now. I have a pile of embroidery projects to finish and a blog post to write, and it's a really gorgeous day—almost 80 degrees.

The woods behind my house are full of the sounds of birds. It's like an orchestra and it's fun to try to identify which birds are calling. Some sites I like for identifying birds are Bird Jam, eNature, and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds. All have audio clips of bird songs to help you figure out what you're listening to.

Today I have the chattering of goldfinches in the big pine tree beside the garage, chickadees singsong calling for mates, and something else that I can't quite identify. Maybe the Baltimore Oriole since it's just about time for them to return.

My friend Siobhan, who lives in Belfast and writes a blog called On the Lagan for the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) in Northern Ireland, has a great post about bird sounds posted within days of mine. Great minds think alike, I guess. Anyway, it's a wonderful blog if you're interested in birds (UK or otherwise—they're really very similar to what we have here, although sometimes called by different names), plus she's a much better writer than I am :)


40 things

Borrowed from Small Town Mom because I haven't done a meme in ages and I can't think of much to write about today :)

1. Do you like bleu cheese? Yuck...no
2. Have you ever smoked? No
3. Do you own a gun? Yes, and I'm a pretty good shot, too
4. Favorite type of food? Love Mexican, and Vietnamese
5. Favorite type of music? A little bit of everything. Right now I'm listening to a lot of jazz and Celtic music
6. What do you think of hotdogs? They make me think of summer barbecues
7. Favorite Christmas movie? A Christmas Story
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Coffee
9. Can you do pushups? Haven't tried for a while but I could probably manage a few
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? A silver and coral bracelet I got on my honeymoon in Sanibel Island, Florida
11. Favorite hobby? Embroidery, but you could have guessed that :)
12. Do you have A.D.D.? No
13. Do you wear glasses/contacts? Glasses, yes. I hate putting things in my eyes so contacts are out for me
14. Middle name? Kathleen, after my grandmother
15. Name three thoughts at this exact moment? I wish my knee would stop hurting. I'm ready for lunch. Is the sun going to come out today?
16. Name three drinks you regularly drink? Sparkling water, iced tea mixed with orange juice, Pom Wonderful iced tea
17. Current worry? Money
18. Current hate right now? Having to pay more for health insurance every month than I do for my house
19. Favorite place to be? Home
20. How did you bring in the new year? I was asleep so I must have missed it
21. Someplace you'd like to go? Italy
22. Name three people who will complete this. No idea; you really have to be in the mood to do these things
23. Do you own slippers? Yes, several pairs
24. What color shirt are you wearing? Navy, orange, yellow, olive green, and white print (my $10 Target tee)
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? No, I'm a jersey sheets kind of girl
26. Can you whistle? Not well, but yes
27. Where are you now? In my studio
28. Would you be a pirate? Will Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom be there?
29. What songs do you sing in the shower? I really can't sing, so don't even attempt it in the shower. Or anywhere else.
30. Favorite girl's name?  Claire
31. Favorite boy's name? Aidan
32. What is in your pocket right now? A candy wrapper
33. Last thing that made you laugh? Something crazy that my cats did
34. What vehicle do you drive? VW Bug
35. Worst injury you've ever had? Bursitis in my hip
36. Do you love where you live? I love my house but I wish it were somewhere with more fun stuff to do
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? Our one television died about a month ago and we're missing it much less than we thought we would
38. How many computers do you have in your house? Four. Not all in use at the same time
39. If you changed your job, what would it be? I really liked working at the library when I was in college
40. If you were granted three wishes, what would they be? Good health, financial security, and world peace would be nice, too


C is for...

Cats, of course! I love all kinds of embroidery but I always seem to be drawn to ones with cats and kittens. Yes, they're kind of sweet, but cats are very playful so lend themselves to all sorts of situations. Playing with yarn, jumping rope, fishing in goldfish bowls—you get the picture. Here are some things from my collection:

Embroidered quilt block

row your teacup
Vintage stamped-for-embroidery tea towel

Redwork quilt block

portrait of a cat
Embroidered linen guest towel

jump for joy
Embroidered pillowcase

oh, boy
Another tea towel; made into a pillow I called "Let's Hear it for the Boy"

Mom, we're trying to sleep here...
Wait a minute—we're not vintage!

I had to sneak in a picture of my girls. See why I love cats so much?


family history

In four years of blogging, I don't think I've ever talked about one of my favorite hobbies—family history or genealogy. That may be because it's an on-again, off-again thing with me. I work very hard on it for a couple of years, reach a dead-end, and put it away again for a while.

I recently got involved again when my husband's cousin contacted me about their parents' trees. I reactivated my account at Ancestry.com and, just like that, I got pulled back in.

I thought I'd write about this subject now that it's census time. I hope you're all returning yours promptly. After hearing about the many objections to the census I was expecting a lot of really intrusive questions but it literally took me three minutes to fill out. Compared to some of the past censuses where they wanted to know how much land you owned, how much money you had, where your parents were born, etc., they asked very little this time around.

In case you don't know, census records are released to the public 70 years after the information is collected (the waiting period is to protect the information on living persons) so they can be invaluable for genealogy purposes. Right now the most recent one you can research is 1930 and 1940 is due to be released in April 2010. A huge deal if you've traced your family to 1930 and want to move forward.

I can't tell you how much information I've gathered from past censuses. I know that my cousins have Native-American blood because my mother's brother married a woman whose grandmother was Cherokee. I know that my husband's maternal grandfather was a butcher in Kentwood, Louisiana in 1920. I know that my grandmother's family in Alabama had children named Daisy and Beulah. I've found birth dates, immigration dates, occupations, children I didn't know about, whether people lived on farms and owned or rented their houses. I've found widowed grandparents that moved in with children after their spouses died. All useful clues.

My Moir ancestors came here from Scotland in 1841, Bittenbenders from Germany in 1733, Kelly's, O'Malleys, and Harrisons from Ireland during the Potato Famine. My husband has Cottones from Sicily in the early 1900s and McCaffreys and Kellys from Ireland in the late 1800s. It's really fascinating.

I've been working on my tree since 1980-something so I've been able to find out a lot of information. If it's something you want to try, start simply with your parents (or grandparents if they're still alive). Find out names and dates of siblings and any information they can remember. You never know what information will be useful in the future.

And you might be interested in watching the new genealogy-themed show on NBC called Who Do You Think You Are? The first episode traced Sarah Jessica Parker's tree back to the gold rush and Salem witch trials; the second was Emmitt Smith's journey from Burnt Corn, Alabama back to Benin in Africa. That's not to say that you'll find someone famous or important in your tree, but you never know—it could happen!


a St. Patrick's Day recipe

So, are you all eating corned beef and cabbage tomorrow? With a very Irish last name like McCaffrey (and O'Malley and Kelly on my side of the family) you can guess that my answer is yes. I'm actually not that crazy about the taste of corned beef but it's once a year and I do love all the vegetables that go with the traditional boiled dinner. I like to cook the onions and cabbage together but prefer the carrots and potatoes done separately. It just tastes fresher that way.

But, however you cook yours, give this tangy mustard sauce a try. It tastes wonderful and is guaranteed to clear out your sinuses while it's cooking. Don't take a deep whiff without a tissue handy :)

Tangy Mustard Sauce
1-1⁄2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1⁄3 cup light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup prepared spicy brown mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper
3⁄4 cup cider vinegar

Melt butter in a small saucepan, then set aside to cool. In a small bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg with sugars and mustard, salt and pepper until combined. Beat in vinegar. Stir mixture into cooled butter, mixing well. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to boiling, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat, simmer for 3 minutes, then serve hot.


latest vintage finds

It was nearly 50 degrees here yesterday. We still have plenty of snow—no matter how warm it is there's so much of it to melt and it's going to take a while. Since it was so nice and I've been feeling really cooped up the past few weeks, I made a spontaneous trip to the local antique mall. And came home with a bag full of great stuff.

A pair of Mr. and Mrs. embroidered cat pillowcases

mr. + mrs. cat

Two funny little embroidered farmers, done mostly in cross stitch


Lots and lots of hankies to make sachets with, but two that I don't think I'll be cutting up. Both are in autumn colors and I just love the designs. So modern!


flower dots

Some buttons, rick rack, aprons, embroidered napkins, and two vintage purses round out the batch. It was nice to get out and shop and I'm looking forward to all the upcoming events and trips farther afield to my favorite antique malls and flea markets this spring.


come sail away

Remember the cute sailor duck stamped-for-embroidery quilt block I showed you last summer? I finally got around to embroidering the block and what inspired me to complete it was this extremely cute sailing-themed fabric I found at JoAnn Fabrics last week.

sailor fabric

Isn't it perfect? For my color choices I picked up ones from the fabric and this worked up so quickly I could hardly believe it.

sailor duck quilt block
Still need to finish the anchor!

I'll probably combine this with another contrasting fabric—not sure what yet— and make a boy-themed pillow for one of the shops I sell at. And I think I have another block around here somewhere so I can make two pillows!

Ahoy, matey!


redecorating project

I'm forced to take it easy today since my bursitis is acting up again. I've been doing some repainting—the first step of the bedroom redecorating project—and all the up and down motion of getting on and off the step ladder has stressed my hip once again. Sigh... it's hell getting old.

I promised to tell you about this project anyway so now is as good a time as any. I've moved my studio into the attic space which is slightly cozier (a nice way of saying 'smaller') so I'm going to have to be a bit more organized than I have been. But, what I gain in the process is a functioning third bedroom.

fabric swatch

In choosing colors for this room I started with a piece of vintage fabric—a Waverly polished cotton from the 1950s-60s—that I found tucked under a stack of tablecloths at an antique mall. Don't you just love the colors on this? I've planned the whole room around them, starting with that pretty blue-green for the walls. Benjamin Moore #619 Copper Patina to be exact. I had a moment (actually several) of panic when I first applied the paint because it looks sickeningly mint green in the can. But it dried much darker and looks perfect on the walls.

I'm going with lavender for the sheets (to match those little speckled flowers), and the original inspiration fabric will become accent pillows on the bed. And remember that wonderful quilt top I bought several years ago for $15 at an antique mall? If not, you can see a bit of it in the top photo of this post. The predominant color of that quilt exactly matches the walls as well. There's a local quilt shop with a quilting machine that will finish quilts so I need to stop by and see what's involved in that process. I have just the top so will need to find a backing fabric that coordinates with everything.

I have a long length of lavender woven cotton (almost a linen-like texture) and will make a tablecloth for the round bedside table and more accent pillows for the bed. I have no idea yet what to do with the windows and floor except that I want to keep it very simple. And I really need to work in that lime green color from the fabric somewhere, too. Most decorating projects are an evolving process, so I'm not exactly sure what it will look like in the end. I'll post pictures when things are more settled!



I'm happy to hear that the Pantone Institute chose my favorite color as color of the year for 2010—turquoise!

"Combining the serene qualities of blue and the invigorating aspects of green, turquoise inspires thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a comforting escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of well-being."

Some pictures of turquoise items in my collections.


fresh start

Happy new year! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

I'm happy to report that the website redesign is almost complete. I still have the eyelet trim pages and the fourth page of plastic buttons to do. And the links page. Whew, there's nothing like having to redo every single page of your website to make you realize how many pages there are. Hundreds, maybe thousands - I lost count! Anyway, it's mostly done and, if you go there, you probably won't experience too many problems finding your way around.

Someone commented about my craziness in combining the holidays with a website redesign and it made me think of those silly 1980s books about women who do too much. Yes, that would be me. But I knew the holidays would be slow on the website and it was the perfect time to do it.

So, a new year, a fresh start. By now I know better than to make new year's resolutions, but I am trying to get my studio organized. That's complicated by the fact that I'm moving it back into the attic space and turning the room it's in now to a third bedroom. I have cool plans for that - all based on colors from a vintage polished cotton fabric I found last year at an antique mall. I'll share when I get more into the actual doing part of the process.

I have lots of things planned for this year. Tons of vintage goodies (more buttons, sewing patterns, and some very cool vintage aprons) to photograph and get listed. Stitch School will be getting a new home on it's very own blog. You can visit now but I'm still early in the process of moving old posts over so you won't see much there yet. I'll be accepting ads and links to other hand-embroidery and needlework blogs so let me know if you have one of those and want to trade links. Guess I'd better design a new banner for that, too. There's so much to do!