I'm slowly coming back up to speed. Shaking off a cold and getting caught up with the clean-up detail around here. I'm sure you know the drill.
We watched movies and stayed up 'til midnight to ring in the New Year with America's Good Uncle, Dick Clark. God bless him. Even the youngest of the bunch managed to keep her eyes open for the grand finale this time.
It was fun sitting around with my drawing board across my lap just doodling away the hours.
I've been working on a woody alphabet for Redwork, as suggested by a few stitching pals. I'm still in the beginning stages here, working out the details.
Since I have no reference material, I'm just making it up as I go along.
From left to right, the Pleasant Dreams pillow top is fun and easy to do using pre-cut jelly roll strips sewn log-cabin style around a rectangle of white linen.
Think vintage linen napkins that need recycling.
The motif is one from my Redwork Christmas pattern collection. But anything could be embroidered or appliqued.
Next, another example of what can be done with the cozy up patchwork pillow just by changing the colors and theme, and again using a variety of 5" charm squares.
This time around, I left off the border strips and it fits a 15" pillow form perfectly. (With the addition of 2-1/2" jelly-roll strips the pillow will fit a 20" form.)
The wreath pattern is an old one I recreated from an 1800's Ingall's motif. I added the sentiment, but the wreath can also be done without it. This one and other floral wreaths are available as iron-on transfer patterns from PatternBee; look in the Redwork category.
Stalking the mailbox, waiting for the black & white plaid bias binding to arrive--so I can finish those last four inches on my Maple Leaf Quilt.
I really appreciate all the funny and commiserating comments and don't feel quite so silly now! Thanks you guys. Sometimes we need to laugh at ourselves.
While waiting . . . I finished my patchwork pillow project using charm-squares, jolly-packs, and jelly-roll strips from moda; some of which I found here. I love having these color-coordinated fabrics at my fingertips to play around with. This group of fabrics inspired an autumn theme.
Basically, this is a patchwork pillow slip-cover. Pre-cut squares and strips were sewn around a central panel of embroidery; it's lined with batting and machine quilted along the seams. An over-lapping closure in back allows the cover to be removed and washed or replaced with a different one--when the season changes.
I have plans for a winter pillow next.
2010 Update: The Cozy-Up Patchwork Pillow project is featured in my book Embroidery Craft: Stitching Through the Seasons (page 108). Directions and embroidery motifs for the leaves are included. (This 20" pillow can also be made using any embroidered design on the central panel).
There's been a parade of deer through the yard today. One group after another. Mostly does with fawns trotting behind. They are always wandering through. I love watching them.
Three deer were grazing outside my window this morning. One of them wandered away from the other two and starting digging in a pile of landscape bark that we have sitting at the end of the driveway.
Yes, I said digging--with his little hoof.
It reminded me of a cat using a litter box. And I thought, surely he's not going to do THAT!
I kept watching.
He continued digging for several more minutes. When he was quite satisfied, he curled up in the hole he'd made.
Apparently, even deer have their creature comforts.
But enough about the crazy deer. I have fun stitching to show you!
I've always wondered how the traditional peasant style garments were made. There are no commercial patterns for them. So I was really excited when I found this website from the Mexican Dress Lady herself and with an excellent down-loadable pattern.
Can you believe this is constructed from a square and four rectangles?
Well, it is!
It's so simple, it's brilliant.
Maybe I'm the last to know, but I was amazed. You can make a blouse or a dress. It's all measured out to fit your size. I made a small blouse to start with, just to make sure I was on the right path.
Ginger designed the yoke and I did the embroidery.
We love how it turned out. The only thing I did differently was cut out two yoke pieces, instead of roll-hemming the neck edge. I used one as a facing to hide raw edges and to cover the back of the embroidery, which finished it quite neatly and made a nicer edge for the blanket-stitching.
I hope there are going to be a lot more of these in my future.
I just finished putting up an embroidery stitch guide which can be accessed for quick reference to assist anyone learning the basics.
Great idea and about time! My PatternBee vintage embroidery biz started out as a side-hobby in 1998, and grew to include a website three years ago, so I guess a stitch guide is way over-due. I'm happy it's up there now--where it should be, instead of pointing to other sources when asked.
I think just about every pattern on the site can be done using the six basic stitches. There are hundreds of embroidery stitches though, and if you're up for learning more, check out this excellent book, and this one. Here's another interesting book for inspiration.
" Her first duty, in large establishments and where it is requisite, should be to set her dough for the breakfast rolls, provided this has not been done on the previous night, and then to engage herself with those numerous little preliminary occupations which may not inappropriately be termed laying out her duties for the day. This will bring breakfast hour of eight, after which, directions must be given, and preparations made, for the different dinners of the household and family."
~Mrs. Beeton (1861)
Speaking of Mrs. Beeton's handy book of household management, I'm glad some of you had a chance to watch the program about her life recently; thank you for pointing me to the biography that's out now too. I have added it to my reading list.
On another note, I'm nearing the end of Astrid and Veronika. Another tragic tear-jerker. It's books and stories like these that can make us thankful for so many things.
Fortunately, for balance sake, Ginger and I are reading Ida B: and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World. This book is beautifully written and light-hearted, even though life deals Ida and her family a few blows. But we are nearing the end now and things seem to be sorting themselves out. Whew!
One of the things I love about children's literature, is the inevitable conclusion and the happy ending. Eventually, we learn that real life is not always so neat and tidy. But without a happy ending, where is the hope?
Just knowing that certain things are possible is very encouraging somehow.
Like chicken servants.
Aren't these two cute? I'd hire them to do my cooking in a heartbeat. But for now I will just have to be content with them gracing my dishtowels.
Janet (Primrose Design) shared the patterns with me a few months ago and I finally got them done. You can find them here on her website.
I mentioned the other day, about the futility of elaborate stitchery on dishtowels, but how about this bib? It's probably as old as I am but I have no recollection of ever having worn or seen anything like this when I was growing up in the 50's. I found this as a kit, with all the pieces stamped out, and was inexplicably compelled to finish it. (Another weird thing about me to add to the list!) I love Miss Red here, even if she does look a bit like a quarterback (that big bad wolf better watch his back). Still you can't help but wonder what, if any, thinking was going on when this idea seemed like a good one. Sure, it's cute as all-get-out...but I mean, to do so much work only to have mashed carrots and strained peas down the front of it? Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Such a dismal end for the poor little gal. No wonder she looks worried.
Much thanks, dear readers! Your creative suggestions for my J quiche (coming up next) were quite impressive, and a few had me laughing! Even Martha was holding up a Jerusalem artichoke when I happened to switch on the show later that day. Not really sure what to do with one of those, but I think I have J covered now. In the meantime, I just added all the recipes to date, in the side bar, including an "Italian Quiche" (for I) that I made for Sunday brunch yesterday. The only thing I'd do differently next time though, is cook the mushrooms a little longer because I found out, they contain a lot of water and can make the quiche slightly runny. Despite that it was quite good though. Like pizza good. Feel free to print them out and give them a try. And do let me know how they turned out. (And in case anyone is wondering what happened to the herb gardenand playhousealbums, I'm planning to move them to flickr when I have time, so if you miss them, that's where you'll find them, eventually. ) Next, I got busy with mushrooms of a different sort and finally finished this long forgotten piece and turned it into a doll pillow. When I surprised Sarah with it (I'm sure she thought she'd never see it done), I got the biggest and sweetest hug. So I'm glad I kept up my end of the bargain, even if it did take me a while to get there. This thing started out as a piece of embroidery I took with me on a trip to the coast last year. Sarah "won" it in a friendly little wager involving a game of "blueberry pop", a game of her own making and one requiring a challenge and a prize. Naturally. These dancing mushrooms were just the ticket. I don't know why in the world it took me so long to finish it. The cute-cute HR mushroom fabric inspired me though. ( Found it here.) It turned out to be the most delightful backing for the pillow too. This crazy mushroom pattern is part of a vintage set for dishtowels. Yikes! I simply can't imagine doing all this work on dishtowels--but the designs are still quirky and fun, and can be used for other things. For instance, things like. . . doll pillows. . . ya know. . . things ever so useful like that. (smile)
We are back from our trip to the Oregon coast and the cool weather seems to have followed us home. A light rain is falling now, another sign that summer is fading. I guess that means it's time to toss out the flip-flops, slide into my new house slippers and embrace autumn. I do love it so.
After any trip, it always takes time for real life to come back into focus. I am getting caught up, unpacking and finding my groove. I was delighted to find the lastest issue of ME Home Companion waiting in the mail bin and wasted no time getting cozy with it. Ah, yes, it is good to be home, back where I belong.
Project show and tell; here is something I made and found useful for taking my embroidery on the road. The double-sided quilted cotton works well for this, and it can be embellished with embroidery or applique as I have done.
September snuck up on me, but the evidence of freshly canned jars of applesauce sitting on the pantry shelf, is one of the tell-tale signs that summer is winding down even though the days are still hot. I've already spotted a few red maple leaves on the trees in the yard reminding me that a new season is about to begin. That quiet season. There's a stillness in the evenings now too, punctuated by the cadence of crickett song and I sense a subtle change in the air as autumn makes it's surprise entrance. We've had a flurry of friends dropping in and out these past few weeks and it's forced me to slow down and relish the remaining days of dry weather out under the shade of the trees. I really welcome this time to relax but all the while, my mind has been swirling with ideas and projects I intend to start or finish. With so many things going on, I haven't made as much progress on the dollhouse bakery as I would've liked to, however this much anticipated package just arrived (like twominutes ago, so this post will be short and sweet because I simply cannot wait another moment to find out what lovely little things we have!) So if that doesn't spark things up and get me motivated, I don't know WHAT will. Here's a sneak peek at how the shop is shaping up.
Honestly, I don't think there's anything I enjoy more than making little girl's dresses. This little ensemble was finished just in time for my granddaughter's second birthday. We spent the day in Portland yesterday, and it was great seeing friends and faces we haven't seen in a while. Our little birthday girl got so much loot in the form of toys (and I just knew she would) so I made her this jumper dress and bag instead. And of coarse, a Stitchette, from one of Hillary's cute patterns, to go along with it. Which turned out SO cute and it even looks like her! I like how she fits perfectly in the pocket and the bag. The bag idea probably came from this Japanese craft book (page 44) although I didn't exactly follow any directions. I just realized that it was similar after I made it and started flipping through it again. Anyway, it's a fun chunky little bag that's easy for a small person to get things in and out of without too much fiddling and frustration. The jumper pattern I've had for a long time though, and it's one I've sewn many times over the years. It's one of my favorites because "it's SO EASY" just like the pattern envelope says. And you know, that's just NOT always the case with patterns that make those claims, but this one really lives up to that and it's simple enough so you can embellish anyway you want, or use just about any kind of fabric. I'd forgotten that I had this yummy pink and red candy stripe cotton and when I came across it again, I knew this was perfect for what I had in mind. A little white rick-rack adds a fresh note and a vintage look at the same time, but I left this on the plain side with just a simple "applique" for fun. I really like deep hems too, they make most things hang nicer and you can let them out later to add length after a growth spurt. The other fabric is Flea Market Fancy (Denyse Schmidt). This jumper is only three pieces to pin and cut out, with a bodice that doubles as the facing, so all raw edges are nicely tucked away. In a most *tidy* fashion. Gotta love that.
Update on this WIP... which is now a completed FWYH project that actually came together rather nicely much to my surprise. Because, you know, how often does that happen? I was a little nervous at the start with having to plunge this into a tepid water bath, hoping beyond hope that all the wool was colorfast and didn't bleed all over the place. I've had this happen recently with an old red & white Irish Chain quilt top I had plans of restoring. Oh the anguish! Still not sure what I'm going to do about it either. Luckily the yarns didn't run here though and it came out refreshed and ready for blocking. I used ordinary push-pins and ceiling board that I had on hand, the back of which is porous, but I think you could probably use any kind of flat sturdy board that pins can be poked into.
With most needlework pieces, there is a certain amount of distortion due to the tension of yarns pulling in different directions, so the goal of blocking is to bring it back into square and to remove the puckering. So starting in the center of each edge, I placed the pins and worked out, tugging and pulling gently as I went along, until everything was where it should be. Then I let it dry a few days before removing it from the board. The final measurements came to 10.5" x 14" not exactly a standard frame size, so the past week was spent mulling over custom frame choices and mat colors, but I still couldn't make a decision. Nothing seemed quite right. For some reason, I started rummaging around in a box of old frames I've collected over the years, mostly odd sizes that didn't work for anything else, and not really expecting to find anything in particular but hoping for some kind of direction to go instead. And would you believe I actually found a frame? A lovely old frame with the exact dimensions? What are the odds?
I still can't believe it. But there it was. A little scratched and a little beat up, but nothing a little Minwax didn't fix. A perfect fit. I'm just so tickled!
We joined friends yesterday for an informal picnic at the park and spent the entire day lolling under the shade of the tall trees while the kids romped around in their little groups. These idle breaks in the middle of the week are so refreshing even though it sometimes means facing a growing mountain of work the next day, like um, now. What I'm really hoping to find time for is a little craft sewing though. It's a big birthday month around here and I'm going to run out of time shortly if I don't make a move soon. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to get one of these adorable embroidery patterns from Hillary and have already gotten a good start on it. I was so smitten with these wonderful wee dolls she made that I wanted to make one for a very special little grand-daughter who is turning two in a couple of weeks. Her mama brought her down from Portland last week for a visit and we were just marveling (the way all moms do) about how fast our kidlets grow up. Seems like only yesterday we were throwing the baby shower. I plan to also make a fall jumper with a pocket of some sort for the embroidered doll to ride around in... so, guess I'd better get cracking.
Moving right along, I've decided that for my next finish what you have project, I'm going to do something with this crewel piece I did way back when. This was done from a kit called Country Life, an Erica Wilson design from the 1980's. I finished every bit of the needlework at the time, but never had it blocked and framed properly. Which is such a shame really because I've always loved this and have no excuse for leaving it in a plastic bag all these years. None whatsoever. So often I'd take it out, admire all the work, then put it away. I think it's high time I get on it before moths find a hole in the bag. Now, I'm all for originality but you can learn so much by doing kits. This piece alone has about 40 different stitch designs. Things like the fishbone stitch, turkey work, vandyke, couching, spider's web, cretan, and wonderful little bullion stitches. I finally mastered the French Knot on that rabbit. There's so much texture to this piece due to all the different stitches, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning new techniques as I went along. I'm thinking of framing this in a shadow box instead of with the glass right on top which would flatten it. I really have no experience with this sort of thing, but want it enclosed somehow. So that's the direction I'm headed with this one....
...and then there's this brand new something, just starting to take shape. This should be interesting to say the least. It's been a while since I tackled anything like this. Stay tuned for project updates. One of the nice things about keeping a craft blog is, now I've committed myself to finishing something.
A few years ago, this sweet unfinished fifty year-old quilt top was found in a box at an estate sale, along with the original pattern and the remaining scraps of fabric.
For someone who relishes finishing old quilts and restoring old patterns, how lucky can you get? Everything was there.
I was able to use the pattern templates and the remnant cloth to cut out and piece together the missing section at the top and on two sides. The central portion, with the embroidery, was all hand-pieced with the tiniest of stitches. I can only imagine the work that went into doing that. I did my best to match everything up. Somehow it all came together, despite my lack of experience in piecing diamonds and squares. This was definitely a learning curve for me.
I lined it with cotton batting and quilted it by hand. The bright pink binding finished it nicely I think.
The pattern is called Playblocks, dated 1938.The embroidery is done as Bluework. The combination of squares and diamonds in light and dark colors creates an optical illusion of baby blocks.
The restored pattern is available here; the designs can be used for bibs, blankets, (simpler) quilt blocks and other nursery items. And can be done in colors as well!
Embroidery. I can't think of a more gentile form of needlework or a more common one. It certainly occupies a good part of my free time anyway.
I'm happy to see it coming back around again, even though there are those who will tell you that it never went anywhere. It seems as though it's always been here in one form or another, like a comforting old friend. "Cheap Therapy" as they say.
After recently finishing up that long over-due quilt project, I was ready to do a few smaller things, and this drawstring bag was perfect. (It's a surprise for a ten year old girl; it will have a few presents tucked inside).
The embroidery design was done freehand using a red transfer pen.
Pretty easy to do:
1. Work out your design on a piece of paper.
2. Trace it onto tracing paper.
3. Flip it over and trace the reversed image with a transfer pen.
4. Pin it ink-side down on cloth and stamp with an iron, following the manufacture's tips. (Sulky has a web site with a tutorial for this.)
Yesterday was the summer solstice marking the longest day of the year, and summer seems to have arrived right on cue because it's been absolutely beautiful here. There's a nice breeze coming in through the open windows this morning and the trees are full of birdsong. All this makes it easier to face the mess I'm making in the sewing room. But look! I found Thursday in that pile with some other UFO's that I may get to finishing soon. I'm also making much more progress on the Flower Pots quilt than I ever thought I would and am actually seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I'll post a work in progress again tomorrow.
(And for those who asked, you can find the transfer pattern for the Prissy Poodle towels is here.)
But before I get back to the 'Unfinished Objects' pile, I want to share some of the delightful dollhouse doings around here. As I've shown you, dollhouses can take many forms. They can be as simple as a twig & moss structure from the garden (for fairies of coarse), fashioned from a wardrobe cabinet, or made from a kit like this Victorian dollhouse that I'd previously shared about here.
This seemed like the perfect setting for a few more of our Club Little House swap goodies. Here is the sweet china cupboard that Aliciamade, which you can see fits just perfectly in our little kitchen here. How nice is that? We love it! And all the plates and things are so cute too. Plus we finally have a place to put this tiny toaster, which I love. Grace made the scrumptious cake. Upstairs the bedroom got a make-over and the yellow bed was replaced with the pink bed to match this adorable little night stand with drawers, that actually open, made by Alice. I couldn't be more pleased with how these fit right in here. It's all so wonderful.
I'm pretty happy with this garden smock. It's for a blog-pal swap; Lauren is making me a little art piece in exchange. Lauren's blog (Alice Lands) is no more, boo-hoo...but hopefully she'll resume things once she's found more time for it. These blog updates do take time.
There's a big pocket on one side. Which you can see is empty. But not for long...I will be including a little surprise inside it now that I outted this!
Due to the nature of my pattern business I get a lot of email, but nothing like this past week and it's been amazing. Thank you everyone who jumped on board and helped spread the word about Finish What You Have. From all the enthusiastic responses I'd say this project may continue indefinitely.
I also hear that some of you are feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. My advice to that is: baby steps. Start small. You might want to set a goal of only finishing one or two little projects this month and work up to bigger ones later if you are motivated to do so.
Now, having said that, I also have to tell you there's no rule that says you can't start anything new. In fact, anticipation can be a fun motivating factor. For instance there are things I need to do like summer sewing for myself and the girls, gifts, swaps, etc. But at the same time I'm also making the commitment to dust off and finish a few old projects. I'm talking about discipline and balance. Not throwing oneself on the alter or anything. Heavens no. Craft, thrift, spend your mad money, just finish it, whatever it is.
I'm hugging myself because I've already got my Flower Pots quilt laid out on the dining room table with the batting and the backing ready for basting. My least favorite thing to do btw is b-a-s-t-i-n-g. But the saving grace is, I'll be using one of those old wooden table frames to quilt this so a minimal amount of stitching is enough to provide adequate reinforcement as I handle it the first few times. This quilt project will most likely last throughout the summer. But I do plan on finishing some smaller projects in between.
Like these towels...um... what happened to the rest of the week anyway? I might have seen Thursday in that pile over there, but wait, there's definitely a long weekend missing. . . better get on that.
I just put the finishing touches on this pair of travel pillows that will be part of a raffle to help raise funds for a fellow home schooler and her daughter who will be traveling to England this summer to participate in a Shakespeare theater group.
This had been a dream of theirs for many years, so I designed the pillows with those sentiments in mind. For the embroidery, I used a simple font (40 pt. perpetua) reversed it, and printed it out on paper. Then I traced over it with a transfer pen and ironed it onto the fabric. Three strands of embroidery floss worked perfectly.
If you use more than that it will be difficult to define the detail of the letters. Varying the colors gives the appearance of old type and just makes it more interesting, I think. This was a fun project. In the past I've added tiny stitched messages like this to quilts, and even clothing.
Crabapple trees in bloom! Evidence that spring is around the corner despite the snow. Weather-wise March is always a mixed bag. For instance, today started icy, turned blustery, then rainy, followed by breaks of sunshine and sudden bursts of hail followed by more rain and sun most of which all happened in the time it took me to do the grocery shopping.
I've been dying to show these darling towels made by Carol, a stitching friend on the east coast where spring is still a ways off and spring fever is in the air. She used some of the bonus patterns (we sent along with her PatternBee order), to make them. I love the soft colors and the towels she used for these. So pretty. Nothing like baby animals to usher in the season.
And some more new additions, the Squeeks are done, and my goodness I'm still trying to figure out how something so small can take so much time to make. So many little details. At times it seemed endless. But I'm pleased with them now and happy to send them out into the world to work their magic and make people smile. The pictures I took of them turned out pretty sweet, and I swear they were actually posing! One of these little dears is already on her way across the sea, flying over hill and dale to a new home and her remaining fourteen sisters are hopeful that each of them will soon be adopted too. They want me to tell everyone that they smell good because they are stuffed with lavender.
Also, one more thing ---they are not for kiddles under 3 years old or anyone who will want to chew them, hang them by their tails, or pull their whiskers. Thank you.