Friday, July 24, 2015

FABRIC STORAGE SOLUTION AND AN IMPROMPTU GIVEAWAY

If you've been reading my latest posts, you know I'm on an organizing kick, and I'm always looking for storage solutions. I've run out of open storage space for my fat quarters and needed a more efficient way to store them. When I was at Quilt Market this May, I saw some new dies from Sizzix that I thought would help me get more organized in the sewing room. They cut a handy fat quarter wrap, photo box folder, and spool card to help store your fabric.


I used some colorful mat board from my local crafts store and my Sizzix Fabi Cutter to create them.


Here's what they look like once they're cut...


For the fat quarter wrap, you simply wrap the fabric around the mat board, starting with the back side.



Of course you could also fold the fabric a little wider to make more efficient use of the wrap like they did in the Sizzix booth (shown below) but I left mine just the way it came folded. 


The fat quarter wraps fit neatly in a typical photo storage box that you can get at crafts stores. 


You can use the photo box folder die to cut dividers for your fat quarter wraps. I used a green accent color for my dividers, which I plan to label once I fill my box with goodies. I used a gold mat board for the fat quarter wraps since it goes with many colors. The featured fabrics in the photo below are from Riley Blake's recent line, Little Joys. They're the perfect festive prints for the holidays.



The spool die came in handy for storing my many bits of ribbon, twine, trim, and even my vintage buttons. In the Sizzix booth photo, above, you can see how they cleverly grouped these cards by punching holes in the top and gathering them on a metal ring. I think these cards would make a pretty presentation for gifts to give your sewing friends. I have several in the works for mine.


The thread cards even feature a handy notch to secure the start and end of your embellishments. I love that I can create as many of these handy helpers as I need. Now I'm on the lookout for mat board in fun colors! If any of you know of good sources, please email me. My local store didn't have a lot to choose from. The spools die retails for $15.99, the fat quarter wrap for $29.99, and the photo box folder for $29.99.


At Spring Quilt Market, Sizzix also debuted dies designed by Kid Giddy to create this darling hedgehog and owl. I quickly snapped them up at Sample Spree. Both dies retail for $29.99 each.



For more details on these clever dies, check out the Sizzix website here or to locate a store that carries Sizzix dies, visit this link. To help you get started organizing your own fabric and to enhance your fabric stash a little, I'm giving away a pretty photo storage box, four fat quarters from Riley Blake's new fabric collection, Vintage Market, and the three spool cards adorned in embellishments that you see in the photo below.



Anyone is welcome to enter the giveaway (including international visitors). To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me which of the featured dies you like best and why. I'm always interested to hear your thoughts and find out what things are of most use to you. If you are an official follower who shows up in Google Followers, you can have an extra entry by leaving an additional comment as my thank you for your support (You need to leave a separate comment as I will select winners via Random Generator). You have until Wed., July 29th, at noon central time to enter. I'll draw a winner via Random Generator and announce him or her by 6 p.m. on the 29th. The winner will have until Friday, July 31st at noon central time to contact me with his or her mailing address. Good luck to all who chose to enter!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

IMPROMPTU SEWING NOOK

The summer cleaning chronicles continue here at Ashton House. So far we've culled 10 truckloads of donations and are nearly finished with the main level. I decided to commandeer half of an underused parlor for an impromptu sewing nook (The below photo shows only part of it—I'll share the part with my little pink Featherweight in a future post). I thought that would be a better use of space than the rare times we need an extra parlor to entertain guests—most of the time we end up gathering in the main parlor anyway. This was the perfect opportunity to bring this handy table out of storage. I'd been saving it for the perfect spot and last week, I happened to realize this was it!


All of this rearranging prompted me to execute some of the organization solutions that have been on the back burner for far too long—simple things like creating a pretty yet practical ribbon holder. It only cost me $7. I found a boring black paper towel holder at a discount store and spray painted it this vibrant blue. I'm ashamed I was too lazy to do something so simple sooner! I have no excuses. 


The paper towel holder takes on a totally new life with the fresh coat of paint and some happy spools of ribbon.


Originally a letter holder, this fun find (pictured below) now corrals some of my more commonly-used Omnigrid rulers (I still keep most of them up in my sewing room on the upper level but it sure is handy to have a few of the ones I need most of the time on the main level).


To celebrate my cleaning progress, I ordered a pair of Orla Kiely shoes when I discovered they were half price! They came in the mail last week and were everything I'd hoped for and more. My hubby thought they looked like fried eggs. Hee hee! After chuckling, I quickly told him they were supposed to be flowers with a pop of pink. They look like they would be uncomfortable but I'm telling you they are as comfy as the other shoes I posted earlier. I could wear them all day, and that's the kind of shoes I like. 


I wore them with my vintage-inspired polka dot halter dress to church on Sunday. It was the perfect day to wear such as dress as the temps were sweltering with a heat index above 100 degrees.


I'm still working on some other organization solutions for my sewing nook. One of them involves a nifty set of dies by Sizzix that I found at Quilt Market in May. I'll post about them next time! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

VINTAGE BABY QUILT

QUILT IS SOLD

Anyone interested in this vintage embroidered kitty baby quilt? I am selling it and will ship for the actual cost of shipping. If interested, contact me at tkhook@msn.com for pricing details and more detailed shots.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

THE SUMMER CLEANING CHRONICLES

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was doing some summer cleaning in the library. There is also an added incentive to get things a little more organized because a magazine will be coming to the house to photograph some of my collections later this year. I'll be chronicling my summer cleaning progress on this blog from time to time, so if you come here only for quilt-related news, you might be disappointed. This blog has become a daily diary on a variety of topics and I expect that will continue. I'm relieved to report that we've now culled through all the bookshelves and donated several hundred books! It was a mammoth task but a long overdue one. Now we're dusting all the books and re-staging the shelves by mixing in some fun little accents here and there to break up the expanses of books. I've tried to do them according to the theme of the nearby books when possible. We have a curved section of shelving that makes a great display for some of my collection of reproduction holiday houses and colorful Penguin classic books. This way I can have a little bit of Christmas out year-round!


With so much space freed up from the donated books, I was able to carve out a nook for the small reproduction apothecary chest I purchased at Nell Hill eight years ago. It holds most of my button collection. On top of it, I displayed my vintage African violet books (mostly from the 1950s) and a precious vintage owl book given to me as a gift. My husband gave me the two owl figurines next to it.


This corner nook seemed a good place for my antique needlepoint rocking chair (purchased in Madison, Wisconsin, on my first trip to the Sewing and Quilt Expo several years ago). The only problem is the curtain behind the door no longer matches and I'll have to choose a different fabric. If you're wondering why I would put a chair in front of a door—we never use the door behind the chair since there is door to the foyer (just beyond that door) in the adjoining parlor. I believe in maximizing every inch of space, so I wasn't about to leave the corner bare! Just doesn't sound very inviting! For me, more is more when it comes to decorating. I like things comfortably cozy!


There are lots of memories in this room—including this vintage German cuckoo clock that my dad brought back from the Black Forest when he was stationed in Germany while serving in the Army. I've seen people paint these different colors and have pondered painting mine a different hue. What do you think? If you're wondering if those are real leaves in the wallpaper, they are! I'm not a big fan of the wallpaper, which we inherited when we moved in 10 years ago. We always planned to remove it and paint the room but as you can see, we haven't gotten to it just yet.


If you read my previous post, you might have seen a photo of me in my newest dress purchased for a song at a local thrift store. Shortly after that post, I received a note from Barb of the blog, Fun with Barb and Mary. It turns out she had the same dress—only in a lovely shade of green! She sent me this fun photo of her in the dress. Doesn't she look smashing in it? Love it, Barb! 


Hopefully I'll be back soon with more progress on my summer cleaning. I'm now working in my kitchen! It's one of my favorite places to be because its cheerful yellow always improves my disposition!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WINNER OF VINTAGE HOUSEPLANT BOOK

It's been fun hearing from fellow African violet lovers since posting about the National African Violet Convention. I have emailed 27 brochures to interested growers! This is more than I ever expected and I'm just so tickled that there is that much interest out there. Thank you to all who entered my giveaway or a vintage houseplant book with a chapter on growing these furry-leaved beauties.


Without further adieu, the winner by random drawing is....

Cindy Brown who wrote:
I received two violet plants as gifts when I was ill over ten years ago. I combined them into one container, and it still blooms every year. Aside from loving the pretty blooms, it reminds me of the love I felt from my family and friends when I needed it.


Congratulations, Cindy! You have until this Friday at noon central time to email me at tkhook@msn.com with your mailing address. As I continue my summer cleaning, I will have more little impromptu giveaways, including one for an oldie but goodie quilt book. You just never know what I might find in the closets, nooks, and crannies here at Ashton House!

Monday, June 22, 2015

TICKLED PINK AND A LITTLE IMPROMPTU GARDEN BOOK GIVEAWAY

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

I was so delighted to receive so many email requests for my African violet care brochure that I mentioned in my previous post. It's been a hectic weekend getting the primitive quilts magazine that I edit ready for the printer, so I'm still catching up on my emails and will be contacting you shortly if I owe you a copy. I was cleaning out my library shelves this weekend and came across an extra copy of a vintage 1958 book on windowsill gardening that contains a chapter on growing these beauties. The book happens to be in my favorite color—pink! In the spirit of giving, I'm giving away this copy. If you'd like a chance to win it, just leave a comment on this post telling me what you like about African violets or leaving me a question you may have about them. I'll draw a random winner this Wednesday (June 24) at noon central time and announce her or him later that day. The winner will have until this Friday at noon central time to contact me and claim the book. If no one enters, I plan to donate this little treasure to my local library. I'd love for others to discover the joy of growing these plants, and vintage garden books are some of the best resources. They don't make them like they used to!



When we moved into our old Victorian home more than 10 years ago, I could hardly wait to stock the library, which was literally lined in bookshelves, with interesting tomes. Before I knew it, the shelves were overflowing—I guess all those empty shelves were just a little too tempting for two bookworms! We thought we'd never fill them. Little did we know that task would be much easier than we thought! But now that I'm getting older, I figure it's best to start scaling back on the collection. Hubby helped me cull more than 100 books (see below photo) from the shelves to donate to one of our local libraries. Some of the books were textbooks from my college days (It's hard for me to let go of the memories—I only kept a few from my journalism and psychology courses).


While I was on the organizing kick, I decided to clean out one of my dining room hutches and managed to part with about a third of it. Lots of china and linens. If you're local to Des Moines and see anything you want in the below photo, contact me before 6 p.m. my time today (Monday) as we're hauling it to Goodwill tonight.


All this cleaning didn't stop me from picking up a few quilt books at my friend Julie's occasional sale (Julie owned one of my favorite quilt shops, Prairie Star Quilts). I thought the quilt name encyclopedia book would be a good reference to have on hand for my job as editor of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine, and the Toy and Miniature Sewing Machines book is filled with lots of vintage eye candy for someone like me who loves those little treasures. 


Julie was selling her stash of reproduction fabric for a song. Bundles were just $6! The last thing I need right now is more fabric, so I resisted the temptation for the most part and bought just one bundle of Jo Morton prints.


I did quickly snap up this vintage fabric cutter to add to my collection.


It sure works great for pinking my wool projects!


The weekend also found me checking out a thrift store my friend Vicki told me about and I snagged quite a deal on this brand new dress that had never been worn. It originally sold for $99 and I got it for $9. When I try clothes on, I usually snap a photo in the dreaded mirror, which always seems to make you look quite a bit worse than you actually do, and then take it home and ponder it for awhile. If I still like the looks of it a day later, I'll go back and get it.


Hubby and I also celebrated our anniversary. As those of you who know me well already know, I am a big fan of purses and bags. Hubby got me this Bosom Buddy bag that was on my wish list. Its ribbon is the perfect shade of pink to match my favorite wedges. You know a girl can never have too much pink—or at least that's what I think! Have a happy day, everyone.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

EVERYTHING'S COMING UP VIOLETS!

African violet lovers gathered in Kansas City this year for the National African Violet Convention. If I'm remembering correctly, I think there were more than 600 entries for this year's show, which opened the night before to convention registrants. I was eager to check out the glorious displays, including this vibrant violet called 'Cajun's Hot Expectations'. These varieties are not your grandma's ordinary violets! Not that there is anything wrong with Grandma's violets! My hope in sharing these photos with you is that you will discover the amazing variety of violets available to us. Did you know there are more than 10,000 varieties?! These photos are but a small fraction of the total ones I took at the show (it took me two hours to take all of them!).


I am especially fond of violets with variegated foliage like the Cajun's series. The double blooms pack an extra punch. 


Here's another beguiling bloomer from the Cajun's series. This pretty-in-pink variety is called "Cajun's Dixie Pride". 


One of the fun things about attending the national convention is that you get to see new cultivars like 'Carnival Confetti'. This bloom type is called a "fantasy" because of its fanciful speckles. I wish more of these interesting varieties were available in ordinary garden centers, but you usually have to belong to a violet club to find them.


I was able to purchase this new vivid green bloomer by Optimara (these violets are commonly sold in grocery stores here in the Midwest, but unfortunately, they don't carry the more interesting varieties like these). They were going for a whopping $22 at the show, so they weren't cheap.


I'm not a huge fan of red but I do have one red-blooming violet called 'Heinz's Sentimental'.  I love the striking variegated foliage paired with the richness of the red bloom. One of the violet vendors was selling this spectacular specimen at the show. 


'Picasso' is an old favorite of mine that I've been growing for six years. Whoever grew this one at the show had certainly done a marvelous job.


My pictures can't do this blooming behemoth justice! It was quite a sight. This particular specimen of 'Rob's Boolaroo' was probably 23 inches wide and garnered 2nd best in show. 


In the past, I haven't had a lot of luck with trailers, but for some reason one of the trailers I've been growing for the past two years is flourishing once again. It's not really in much bloom but the leaves are looking so much better than they were.


Violets weren't the only stars of the show. Other members of the gesneriad family were also in display, including many varieties of streptocarpus. 'Moscow Lady' is quite showy in magenta, don't you think? Streptocarpus or as we call them, "streps" are easy to grow and can be quite vigorous. They're larger than violets so you need more growing space to accommodate them.


I thought this strep ('Dale's Tiger Swallowtail') was aptly named because its markings really do resemble a butterfly.


Another aptly named strep— 'DS Meteor Shower'...


I was especially looking forward to seeing the episcias. These beauties, prized more for their foliage than blooms, can be finicky growers, especially the pink varieties like 'Pink Smoke'. As a result, many grow them in terrariums to increase the humidity.


Another member of the gesneriad family is the Kohleria known for their showy little blooms. This one is called 'Bud's Showgirl'.


I was smitten with the pale pink peach 'Bud's Little Pig'—so much so that I sent a note to the grower asking if she might have a starter I could buy. Luckily, she did and I will go pick it up in July.


And last but not least, I must share this darling pig terrarium garden. If any of you has one of these glass pig containers and is interested in selling it, please contact me at my email me button under my profile pic. I'd love to start my own terrarium garden in one of these cute containers. 


Interested in learning how to successfully grow violets? Just email me by clicking the Email Me button under my profile pic or leave a comment and I'd be glad to send you the official African violet brochure that tells you how to best care for them. I've been growing violets for 20 years now and I can honestly say they are worth the time and effort that goes into them. It's a blessing to have your own indoor garden year-round. I can't tell you what a joy it is to see their cheerful blooms in the midst of an Iowa winter!