Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Huge Spray of Orchids

Picking up the mid-week supplement of more apples and bananas, I found the florist stocking her department with a large display of these cymbidium orchids. The pots were around $20, and I anticipate the flowers will last at least eight weeks, even with lackadaisical care. I can do that math! That's less than $3 a week for the most gorgeous blooms! 

And in continuing table runner news (of course), there are two more in my etsy shop, a little different this time. If you've even wanted to do just a smidgen of embroidery, these would be perfect to embellish with one or more hearts in chain stitch, satin stitch, or whatever takes your fancy . . . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another Day, Another Runner

Valentine's Day table runners in the shop to make your table beautiful! Then they fold up in a neat little square until next year.

One is lined with quilt batting, the other (pieced exactly the same) is floppier, with a twill backing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Bronzy Thrifted Bird

I have this whole thing I do at the thrift store where I find a set of little birds and I think to myself, "It's too bad they aren't cuter; I'd buy them if they were." Then I think, well, they're only fifty cents, so I buy them and bring them home. Then I decide they're darling, and am so glad I spent all that money.

This little bird has a matching other bird. They almost look like they're covered in dirt, which I love!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Dark and Vivid Table Runner

I'm endlessly interested in the kaleidoscope of different color impressions I can get from the same old boxes of scraps, just by choosing what to pick up and what to leave out. I'm easy to entertain! 

This weekend I put together colors that struck me as loosely wintery, and made them into a linen-backed table runner. I've been enjoying the advantages of runners these last weeks--less likely than a cloth to get soiled, easier to wash and store than a cloth, and very good at pointing out where the candles or flowers should go.

It's in the shop not because I don't love it but because I have so many other table runners in the works!

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Cold Night at the Opera

 From a couple of weeks ago--remember when it was cold in Chicago? We went to see Hansel and Gretel. I made the girls new winter dresses for the occasion, all from the Sense and Sensibility 1958 Party Dress pattern. Clara had chocolate brown velveteen on top, brown cotton skirt with a tulle overlay (and she made her own mocha-colored crenoline!). Bella had navy velvet over navy kona cotton. Daisy was turquoise velveteen top to toe.

The performance was wonderful; the stage design not so much. More . . . hmm. A very large rendition of the witch's mouth. Like the Rolling Stones, but larger.

Lovely Clara looking out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rosie Posie Tea Cosy

Still working from Cute and Easy Crochet--this is the Rosie Posie Tea Cosy.  The body is simple straight rows, always the hardest to get right for me. In fact, the two sides don't really match, but who can look at the load of flowers and still care?

Lazie Daizie embroidery, yes?

I love it! And it used up so many scraps. It's all afghan leftovers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In the January Garden



all of my broccoli,

and the faithful purple leaves hanging on to the blackberry plants.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lavender Cupcakes for Tea

Bella frosted her chocolate cupcakes with lavender-tinted buttercream and a few sprinkles of lavender buds. Daisy made her first-ever batch of chocolate chip cookies and burned her finger just like a real cook.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Hardware Store Log Cabin Quilt

It's such a pleasure to finally list a finished quilt--it's the culmination of a many-stepped project. So, I happily offer you Saturday Morning at the Hardware Store Log Cabin Quilt--it's over at the shop. This one, I quilted myself! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Now Open: Daisy's Hospital

Daisy's hospital for overweight and underweight cats,

as well as cats with tonsils, is now open.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I'm generally not very interested in reading parenting books--I figure that either I'll disagree with the author, wasting both our times, or, conversely, I'll realize all the things I've done wrong when it's too late. But I enjoyed Jennifer Grant's  adoption book  so much that I read her next one too.

Jennifer has done an extraordinary thing I think in showing us a real and healthy family (not perfect, but good enough) when such a picture is very hard to come by. 

Anyone who comes from a family background of serious dysfunction might not even know what to aim for in their family life. Is arguing normal? Are these boys trying to actually kill each other? Will she end up in jail? Also, is parenting preschoolers *supposed* to be this exhausting?

Jennifer writes from that place, with hard-won confidence and peace to share with other parents. Read her and relax.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gung-Ho for Crochet

So I'm very gung-ho for crochet at the moment and determined to improve my skills. Still working out of Cute and Easy Crochet, I made this crochet hook/ knitting needle roll. It's a rectangle of single crochet rows, and then a cream edging.

The linen lining and pocket are constructed on the sewing machine, then hand-stitched in place. I rummaged in my boxes for these velvet ribbon rosebuds made ages ago, and found some bright white twill tape for the ties. Conquered the bright-whiteness with a little dip in hot tea to take the edge off.

It's very pretty and I love having my hooks all in one place (they seem to be all size G, but whatever!). In the interest of full disclosure, however, I should say that they definitely slide out of this thing whenever it's not upright.

Next up, my fingerless gloves with a lacy edge!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Desk Happy

My father offered me this desk out of the blue last month. When I was growing up in this house it sat in this exact spot under the window in this bedroom, and was his personal spot. He wrote his letters, journals, and sermons in his tiny, unfathomable handwriting here.

Somehow I never knew that it was also the actual schoolteacher's desk when this building was a real school in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Thrilling!!

Then I'd been keeping an eye out at thrift stores for a chair I could use. Loving this one I found for $10. Sturdy, white-painted, but with this strange seat panel that happens to match my bedroom floor perfectly--until that floor gets repainted in spring weather. I won't be repainting the seat though.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ornamental Cabbage Afghan, Finished

Well, I really loved crocheting this mighty big blanket. It ended up six feet square and then it just felt too big to keep dragging around in my lap, even though I had a few skeins of yarn left I could have used.

I have plans for those--I'm practicing my pattern-reading skills on them. In the meantime I'm enjoying this massive granny square here and there--the bed, the couch, the chair by the fire.

I did a simple granny square with the exception that every fourth row was made from two rows of single crochet. I felt like it stabilized things and kept them from wiggling quite so much. It made surprisingly interesting patterns out of my randomly-chosen stripes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"The Smallest Good Act"

"Good and evil both increase at compound rates. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible."
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Casual Fitted Dress for Clara: S&S 1958 Party Dress

Made up in a midweight cotton twill, the Sense and Sensibility 1958 Party Dress is a perfect blend of comfort and fit. Somehow the kimono sleeve cut allows for the bodice to be both quite trim and very comfortable. The holy grail of vintage dress sewing!

All done with just two darts in front and two in back!

Again this time I finished the neck and sleeve edges with piping. But this bias binding came from La Droguerie in Paris! One of a thousand gorgeous printed, silky cotton choices--paralyzed with too many options, I only brought home two. This one is almost Japanesey with the little cherry blossom reference. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Crocheted Beanie Hat

I am bound and determined to learn to read crochet patterns. I don't know why it's so hard for me--I get the individual stitches, but trying to put it all together from the page never seems to work out.

To that end, I am going to work several projects from my crochet books this year. Here's a one-day project (well, I started it four times the evening before but ripped them all out). This is the Beanie Hat from Cute and Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench.

It says gauge isn't important, but you see that my hat ended up on Daisy's little head. And those eyelets laced so charmingly with green velvet ribbon? They aren't in the picture. But for some reason my clusters just aren't very close together.

And that flower? Covers my awkward joining of the first several rows. Okay, now you know all. It's a process! Onward and upward, in crochet and everything else.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Pink Sewing Basket

I went to the Tiny Town Antique Mall today--they call it antiques, but it's more like fancy thrift store prices, which is how I managed to bring this beautiful sewing basket home for just a few dollars.

I love it for its beautiful details. Sure, there's a flower decal on the lid, but who expected one on the inside bottom? Not me!

Also, there's this removable piece to hold my spools and bobbins. I won't need it when I stuff this basket full of crocheting, but I like it anyway.

Friday, January 04, 2013

A Cheery Floral Day Dress: S&S 1958 Party Dress

Here's Sense & Sensibility's new pattern made up in a cheery rayon floral. This is a really nice pattern--very simple with its cut-in-one kimono sleeves. Bottom line? Bodice is two pieces, skirt is two pieces. Add a zipper and some piping (or lining), hem it, and you're out of there!

I've never finished a neckline and sleeve edges with piping before--it's truly beautiful and straightforward. My mother suggested purple velvet which would have been a dream but in the end I decided to go for the more self-effacing (ha!) matching piping made from bias strips.

Here's a view of the inside--you can see that the piping acts as a tiny facing.

I've actually made this pattern up three times since this dress and have found that it has an odd tendency for the waistline to sag in the back. I believe that the back bodice is cut lower than the front and I've had to trim it off every time; it's not a good look for my girls. Other than than, once the pattern is fitted it goes together in a snap. I recommend it to beginning seamstresses.

I'd also add these notes, which are not in the pattern instructions. Experienced seamstresses will know to do them anyway, but beginners should be warned that:

 1. With a skirt of this magnitude, you might want to add a waist stay. I use a strip of seam binding sewn along the bodice's bottom seamline before the skirt is added, to support the weight of the skirt.

2. The bias edges of the bodice (neckline, shoulder, and sides) should be stay-stitched before being sewn, to keep them in shape.

3. When gathering your skirt, it's often most flattering to gather the front in two groups of gathers off to the sides of the center (see my dress photo), leaving the center flat. And the back looks best with the gathers more towards the center.

4. (EDITED TO ADD) With very drapey or thin or sheer fabric, it's a good idea to reinforce the seam that will support the zipper. I cut half-inch wide strips of interfacing and fuse them to the wrong side of the dress centered over the stitching line where the zipper will be sewn. This helps a lot with bunching and pulling.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Our City Driver

Clara visited Giles this fall and on Sunday he drove them to his church in Manhattan--an eight-mile drive that took the very best part of an hour.

Clara: How did you learn to be a city driver?
Giles: Easy--I just started driving the way I had always wanted to.

I was thinking of this as I rode around with him yesterday doing last-day errands. He doesn't change lanes like a small-town boy anymore.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Packing Up the Baubles

Took down the Christmas goodies with a sigh today--it seemed to pass by so quickly. Usually I'm ready for the clean sweep, ready to get back to routine, but this year I'd be content to linger. The upside is that next Christmas will be here before I know it!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Japanese Maple Log Cabin Quilt, Finished

It's a little past the season for Japanese maples, but these colors are also perfect for warming up your wintry house. They look so good glowing in my pale living room I'm not sure I want to say goodbye! Nevertheless, I'm offering this quilt in my shop. Enjoy!

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