Monday, October 31, 2011

MY HALLOWEEN TREE

I hope you are having a Happy All Hallow's Eve. It is a quiet evening here with my husband and the cats. Our town's Beggar's Night was Saturday night and we got lots of little spooks and goblins. Every October, I bring out my bewitching black feather tree with not-so-spooky ornaments and display it in the foyer.


Before I put it away for another year, I just wanted to share some photos of it with you...


It took several years to accumulate enough Halloween decorations for my tree, which is 3 feet tall, and this year I didn't buy anything for it. 


Of course, there are lots of black cat ornaments, which remind me of my own dear feline friends, Teddy and Poe. 


It's hard to believe another Halloween is at an end. Before you know it, it will be Thanksgiving—my favorite holiday. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

A GIFT FROM LIBERTY STAR

As a quilt book editor, I get to work with a talented array of quilt designers. I count myself lucky to work in the company of Renée Plains, who is one of the sweetest people I know! We've worked together on both of her books, A Bird in Hand and most recently, Stitches from the Schoolhouse. While she was busy preparing for Quilt Market in Houston this week, Renée took the time to surprise me with her newest Liberty Star patterns in the mail! How sweet is that?!


Here they are—A Day in the Country, Saddle Bag, Peeking in the Barn, and Iroquois Pinkeeps! Hot off the press! Look for them in your local quilt shop or purchase them on her website here. Or if you happen to be at Quilt Market right now, stop by her booth. My only dilemma is which to make first. A Day in the Country sparks fond memories of my husband's farm while the pinkeeps appeal to my pincushion-loving side. And who can resist a good bag pattern?!


Earlier this year, Renée sent me a generous package of her past patterns—oldies but goodies—some of which are hard to find. I love how so many of them are accompanied by a doll or sewing accessory. Thank you, Renée, for all the inspiration!


While I'm talking about Renee's designs, I must share with you a couple of her patterns I've made. This one is called "Thistle" and was made with a kit from Prairie Star Quilts. I loved the color scheme and knew I had to make it! I appliquéd it on my trusty Bernina.


I made this little autograph quilt by Renée several years ago and embroidered the names of my teddy bears in the block centers. The quilt hangs in one of my upstairs hallways.


At the time I made the quilt, I was practicing my free-motion quilting skills and decided to machine-quilt the setting blocks and triangles with a feathered wreath design. You might notice my teddies have both traditional and not-so-traditional names. Benno is a Hermann artisan bear who came with that name. Grimaldi is a teeny handcrafted mohair bear just under 2 inches tall. 


As editor of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine, I recently had the opportunity to work with Renée on another fun project. For all you Renée fans, be sure to check out her oh-so-charming new pincushion project in our current winter issue. Here's a sneak peak for those of you who haven't yet received your copies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PIXIE PIES

During the first week of October, I was watching the Martha Stewart show and saw an interesting segment on pie jars with Seattle baker Dani Cone. She was making the cutest little apple-cheddar-rosemary pies and peach pies in jars. The idea immediately resonated with me because I had already pre-ordered her brand new book (below) from Amazon back in September, PLUS I was the lucky recipient of my friend Merry's scrumptious homemade mini pies in a jar earlier this spring. You can see Merry's adorable pies and read some of her helpful tips on making them at this link.


At the end of the segment with Martha, Dani showed a fun idea for making pie pops, or pies on a lollipop stick.


I'm not as talented as Dani, so I decided I could use all the help I could get with pie-pop making. I bought this pie pops maker, which just happened to come in one of my favorite shades of pink! It came with a few accessories and a recipe book.


This handy little gadget is supposed to make six little pie pops at once in a matter of minutes. I say "supposed to" because I have not yet tried it out! If you have actually used this product, I'd be interested to hear any any tips you might have. Feel free to email me privately or leave a comment. This weekend I'll be testing out my pie pops maker. Wish me luck! 


While I was on the pie-pop making kick, I decided to buy the cake pops maker, too. The manufacturer also carries other cute electric bakers including a whoopie pie maker, a cupcake maker, and a mini donut maker. I purchased both of mine for $25 each, which I thought was a fairly reasonable price.

Monday, October 24, 2011

HANDMADE HALLOWEEN GREETINGS

With one of my favorite holidays approaching, I've been making Halloween cards to send to friends and family. There's nothing like a handmade hello to let someone know that they are special to you. In this age of email and Facebook, I might be old-fashioned but I still prefer writing letters to electronic forms of communication! I don't have a lot of extra time these days, so I stuck with something very simple for my cards.


I just gathered up whatever I have on hand, including my handy Fiskars paper trimmer and paper punches. I have long been a fan of their products because I've always gotten great results with everything from their pinking shears to their punches. I particularly love the design of their punches like the one in the upper right hand corner of this photo because it's very easy on my hands! I don't have a lot of hand strength and I've really struggled with some companies' punch designs but these are a breeze to use.


Fiskars' portable paper rotary trimmer works great for trimming cardstock. It's compact, so it's easy to store. I also like the fact that it has easy-to-see gridded lines that make it simple to measure my cardstock and make accurate cuts.


One thing I really like about this trimmer is that it has a clear smudge guard that lets you hold things in place without getting your messy fingerprints on the paper. I'm usually stamping at the same time I'm cutting, so I would get a lot of smudges on my paper without it!


My trimmer also has a swing-out arm that extends beyond the width of the trimmer to stabilize larger scrapbooking paper.




My first card was quick and easy with some patterned Halloween cardstock and a few quick paper punches.


To give my card a little pumpkin personality, I used Fiskars' adorable Happy Jacks border punch, which lets you easily create continuous borders. 


All you do is punch a section and then use the built-in visual guideline of pumpkins to line up your next punched section for a seamless line of happy pumpkins.


For the card's central medallion, I just used my circle punch to cut a green circle, stamped it with a Halloween greeting, framed it with a black punched circle and a patterned circle that I then scalloped-cut with my scalloped pinking shears (but you could also of course use the scalloped decorative paper scissors).


For my other card, I cut a piece of black cardstock on my trimmer, then switched the blade on it with a scalloped one to create the orange inner border. I can cut straight scalloped lines much faster with this handy set-up than I can with my scalloped pinking shears. However, I still had to use my shears for the curved cuts like the oval black frame shown here. 


Then I just marked a spooky design on an oval piece of green cardstock with one of my rubber stamps—a witch in flight with wisps of stars, pumpkins, and skulls in her wake. A strip of orange pom-pom trim adds a final flourish to the design. 


It all came together so quickly. For me, the key is keeping things simple so I can actually get all of my cards made!


If you haven't already, I hope you'll give holiday cardmaking a try. With the price of cards these days, it's an affordable alternative that also allows you to express your creativity. I realize there's an initial cost in buying the supplies but the punches will last forever and a little cardstock goes a long way! You can find Fiskars seasonal and everyday punches at Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts stores. Come back later this weekend to see a fun idea for a fall/Thanksgiving card project.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

WOOLS, SPOOLS, AND BUTTONS, OH MY!

As many of you know, I enjoy designing and making wool pincushions in my spare time. So I'm always on the lookout for wool, spools, and buttons. My parents-in-law, who visited us this Saturday, surprised me with this wonderful assortment of them that they'd found while searching an antique mall. The wools will make charming owls, birds, and bunnies for my pincushion orders. I thought the box that my mom-in-law put the buttons in was so sweet.


One of my favorite kinds of buttons are the vintage pearl beauties. I love it when they have a weathered patina like many of these, which my parents-in-law found for me earlier this year while at the flea market. They brought back several jars and bags of them and we had fun sifting through them one afternoon. We even found several fancier carved ones! This is but a small sampling of them.


I've started working on a new project to put some of these enchanting buttons to good use and will share it with you once I am done. Speaking of buttons, I'd love to hear what your favorite kinds are. Whether they're new or vintage, I can't seem to resist buying just a few more of them! And it's such a gift when others think to give you these little treasures.

Monday, October 17, 2011

TREASURES FROM THE PAST

Last week, I promised to show you some pics from my recent antiquing adventure in another post, so here it is. Our first stop was a delightful antiques fair filled with wonderful treasures—most at very reasonable prices.


In one of the booths, I spotted this antique doll bed tucked in a corner. It wasn't getting much attention from other passersby but I always seem to gravitate to these things! And the price was right at $26, so it did go home with me. Here, you see my cat Poe inspecting it. He, too, gravitates to these beds—once they are outfitted with a plush ticking mattress and little doll quilt, of course!


In another booth, I saw this cute vintage child's ironing board in a vibrant shade of green. Again, the price was good too pass up, so we added that to our pile.


Another fun find was this vintage wall spool rack. Yes, it was splattered with paint but because of that it was a steal. And isn't part of the fun of buying old things seeing their possibilities? With a fresh coat of paint, it will make a charming addition to the sewing room. The lower part is a pincushion.


My favorite find of the day was this vintage Mary Poppins book from 1952. I'm ashamed to admit that I do sometimes judge a book by its cover, especially when it is my favorite shade of pink! But really, it's also a lovely book inside, too. It's filled with wonderful illustrations.


And how could a wool fanatic like me pass up reasonably-priced wool like this—just $6 per half yard.


Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of sock monkeys, and one vendor had a terrific assortment of vintage ones. She had bought out a sock monkey collector's entire treasure trove of them.


Of course, there was plenty of other eye candy to admire at the show—like this vintage cupboard filled with blue-and-white antique china.


And this sweet child's-size grain-painted hutch...


The next day, we headed out to search for more treasures and happened upon a charming antiques mall housed in an old barn.


In my previous post, I mentioned finding an antique quilt. Tucked away in a corner underneath a table was this charming T quilt for $54. I was able to get another 10 percent off from the dealer, so I didn't think I could go too wrong for that price. I took it to my Prairie Women's Sewing Circle group this past Saturday and our group leader, who is also a quilt historian and appraiser, told me it is circa 1880. She also told me that the T stands for Temperance. I guess that is fitting since I've often been accused of being a teetotaler by my husband!


My other find from the mall was this sweet framed vintage illustration. I hope you can see the words. I tried to photograph it laying down but the glare was terrible, so I finally propped it against my kitchen canisters! Double click it for a closer view if you need to. I guess I was drawn to it because it reflects how my parents raised me. My mom, in particular, taught me the value of hard work and that anything worth having should be earned.


I thought this reproduction spoon rack was charming, but I don't have enough wooden spoons to do it justice!


Doesn't this cupboard look lovely dressed with pink china galore?


Although I'm not one to really cut up a vintage quilt unless it's already in an unsalvageable state, I thought this was a creative way to display an old quilt remnant.


Hope you enjoyed the little tour! It was so much fun searching for treasures before the long Iowa winter sets in.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A TERRIFIC TRIO OF QUILT SAMPLER SHOPS

I'm terribly late in posting about my Quilt Sampler magazine articles as the issue has been out now for more than a month! But for those of you who haven't yet checked it out, I wanted to tell you about the three great quilt shops I had an opportunity to write about for the Fall/Winter issue.


A cozy-looking teal blue cottage is home to Thistle Bee Quilt Shoppe in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Owners Mary Ellen and Joe McInnis have created a quilter's paradise for both 1800s reproduction and modern fabric lovers alike. Although the shop is just 830 square feet, Mary Ellen makes the most of every square inch without making it feel cramped. Because of the limited space, the 70 shop samples are mostly doll-sized quilts and wallhangings—my favorite ones to make!


Variety is the spice of life at Country Fabrics and Quilting in Brainerd, Minnesota, where you'll find everything from traditional cottons, seasonal prints, and laminates to brights, batiks, and hand-dyed wool. An entire second floor is devoted to modern fabrics by designers such as Amy Butler, Denyse Schmidt and Tula Pink. Now in its 41st year of business, shop owner Deb Burton knows a thing or two about keeping customers happy. Customers flock to her shop year-round to glean inspiration from the more than 850 finished samples. Wow!


Quilting dreams take flight amid cotton candy pink walls and a soaring vintage tin ceiling at Happiness Is...Quilting in McKinney, Texas. Owner Laura Kay Houser's mission is to help quilters grow and she does that by hosting classes and workshops by a star-studded array of quilting experts, including heirloom machine quilting expert Harriet Hargrave, quilt-marking maven Pepper Cory, and precision-piecing guru Sally Collins. Laura also goes the extra mile to bring in unique inventory. At press date, this was the only quilt shop in the U.S. to carry a collection of imported reproduction Dutch chintz fabrics patterned after 17th-century textiles.


Be sure to put these one-of-a-kind quilt shops on your go-to lists. Someday, I'd love to visit all of them! If only I could visit each one when I interview the owners for these articles! Wouldn't that be fun?