Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I'll be taking a brief blog break for the holidays but before I sign off, I wanted to wish you all the merriest of Christmases. This is a vintage postcard from my collection. I wrapped the last of my gifts this morning, so I can rest easy there, but I still have some work projects to complete before the holiday. My husband and I will be heading to southeastern Iowa to spend Christmas with my parents. We won't get to see Grandma as she is out of town visiting family in Houston until next week.

Over the holiday break, I hope to catch up on some reading. This imaginary sequel to the novels of Jane Austen has been sitting on my bedside table since this past summer!

I'm also hoping to catch up on some sewing projects that desperately need my attention. Today I just received a wonderful package filled with a new line of 1800s reproduction fabric called Little Pink Stars (see my photo below). If you're a regular reader of my blog, you've probably guessed that I like pink—but not just any pink; it has to be a particular shade of pink, and this line has it. I'm hoping it will inspire a project—or two. 

I'll be back next week with news of my newest pincushion design, soon to be published in a book!

Friday, December 17, 2010


In an earlier post this week, I shared photos from a doll quilt exhibit at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, that I saw last Friday (If you missed that post, scroll down to the Sunday, December 12 entry). I promised to share some photos of another exhibit I saw while there. This one, entitled "Marseille: White Corded Quilting", spotlights the origins and development of the needlework style known as broderie de Marseille—a three-dimensional textile technique that uses needle and thread to reveal patterns through the interplay of light and shadow on the textile surface. The exhibit runs through May 22, 2011, so if you're in the Lincoln area before then, you might want to check it out. My photos do not do these beauties justice, so be sure to click on them for more detail.

You might recognize some of these quilts if you have this beautiful book. I received it from the publisher back in 2007 and was absolutely blown away by the exquisite workmanship behind the quilts. I'd highly recommend it. The author of the book, Kathryn Berenson, is the guest curator for the exhibit.

This following photo is a detail of a bedcover (circa 1830-1850) embellished with clusters of apricots, cherries, grapes, pears, plums, pomegranates, bellflowers, roses, and tulips. It was designed to lay on top of a nuptial bed. The elaborate border features a pearl-trimmed ribbon that springs from an exotic plant on each side. It twines over and under floral and fruit arrangements before ending in a kashmir cone in each corner.

The next three quilts are petassouns (infant lap pieces). These small quilts accompanied infants at christenings and other special social occasions in 19th-century Provence. They were designed to be as practical as they were pretty, serving to protect the mother's pretty dress from any inadvertent baby dribbles! Only about 19 square inches, these petassouns feature sprays of rosemary to symbolize the love surrounding the family's new arrival.

This mid 18th-century vanne (small cover) is made of indienne print cotton bordered with green silk. According to a centuries-old Marseilles tradition, newlyweds placed covers featuring dark green silk on their beds in the hopes of being blessed with good fertility. This particular vanne was found in a box of rags at a Paris flea market in 1994!

I was captivated by this bedcover adorned in exotic motifs inspired by imports from the Far East. Animal, bird, and floral motifs encircle a woman holding a parasol. The patterns were inked by hand and the figures were embroidered in chainstitch, satin stitch, French knots, and couching with cotton yarn.

Made between 1825 and 1840, this exquisite wedding quilt features running stitches that are thirteen per inch. 

Before we left the museum, I stopped by the gift shop and found this entrancing French sewing book. The title is French for Haberdashery: Threads for Sewing, Darning, Knitting, and Embroidery.

One glance inside and I was hooked by the gorgeous images of needlework tools and treasures from the 19th-century French needlework house of Sajou. It's 240 pages of bliss! The book contains more than 800 photos of never-before-photographed antique needlework tools, including 80 pages dedicated to thread cards. There are also gorgeous shots of spools, bobbins, sewing trade cards, and needle packets. 

Wouldn't you love to store your threads on these artful thread cards? If you're like me and see the beauty in these practical needlework tools, you will LOVE this book. I must warn you, though, this little treasure is not cheap, but I thought all the gorgeous photography made it worth the price. Normally Sajou books are all in French but this one is also in English—another good reason to purchase it!

I couldn't resist this little reproduction folding album of 19th-century needlework designs, also from the house of Sajou. I would love to collect more of these little booklets as well as any of the reproduction Sajou needlework items! 

This is what the booklet looks like inside. Now if only I had the time to sit and stitch these elegant patterns of the past!

After visiting the museum, it was on to the area quilt shops. I stopped by three—the Cosmic Cow, Calico House, and The Quilted Kitty. Being a cat lover, I was instantly drawn in by the name of the last shop, pictured below. Originally located in a Victorian home, they recently moved into this new bright and airy location on 6101 South 56th, Suite 6. The employees were very friendly and helpful.

I even got to meet the little muse behind the shop name—Sophie, a beautiful persian. I had a hard time getting her to look up for the camera as she was all snuggled in for a leisurely afternoon nap.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


During the holiday season, I'm reminded of what I have to be thankful for—family, good health, a loving home. Tuesday was a reminder that I'm also fortunate to have good friends. Two of my dearest ones, Merry and Belinda, came to visit me. Although they don't even live in my same town, they make it a point to visit regularly. When I moved out to my small community six years ago, I was afraid of losing touch with some of my friends. So I'm grateful to have true ones like Merry and Belinda in my life.

Since we were getting together, I decided to give the girls their holiday gifts. Well, nothing could have prepared me for the generosity they showered upon me with theirs. Those who know Merry love getting her homemade goodies. She enjoys experimenting with recipes and everything she makes comes out scrumptious. Merry surprised Belinda and I with a basket of gourmet goodness. It was filled to the brim with edible delights prettily packaged in decorative tins and bottles. This fragrant tin held an enticing array of cookies—sage shortbread with peach jam filling, lavender chamomile tea cookies, and jam thumbprint cookies made with her homemade raspberry jam. Doesn't she sound like a regular Martha Stewart?

I couldn't wait to taste test these heavenly strawberry cream madeleines and decadent chocolate chip brownies crowned with a peppermint patty. The only problem is that I'll have to guard these from my chocoholic husband! He could devour them in a matter of minutes.

Merry also gave us three different kinds of homemade jellies as well as homemade vanilla and lavender extract. I must admit I was thrilled to see jelly in the basket as I've practically eaten all of the ones she gave me earlier.

There was even a bag of homemade cinnamon granola that tasted as though I'd died and gone to heaven. 

As if all that glorious food wasn't more than generous to give to her friends, Merry presented me with this adorable tote she made. I had admired a similar one she made several months ago and she was so thoughtful to make me my very own in these cheerful yellow fabrics accented with splashes of red. I can't wait to start using it. Merry exemplifies what it means to be a good friend. She is one of the kindest, most giving people I know and has helped me through some difficult times. Her kindness is matched by her creativity. This multi-talented gal does everything from knitting and crochet to quilting and embroidery. 

Can you believe she filled the bag with yet more gifts, including a handmade dish towel, the cutest glittered owl ornament I've ever seen, candies, two pairs of sweet embroidery scissors, and holiday napkins?

My other dear friend Belinda is a busy businesswoman who designs the most delightful cross stitch patterns under the Blue Ribbon Designs label. So I was truly amazed that she even had time to make me this oh-so-charming wall quilt. The act of making something by hand is truly a precious gift and I was so touched that both she and Merry would take the time to make something for me. 

Somehow between her many work commitments, Belinda finds time to stitch and make the loveliest things. I come away from each visit with her feeling inspired and rejuvenated. Working in a creative field  for 15 years, I've always admired people who exude energy and creativity, and Belinda is certainly one of those rare gems. The colorations in this little quilt were perfect for my green and pink dining room. 

Belinda even made this thoughtful label for the back of the quilt. I need to take a lesson from her and document more of my quilts! When I see an old quilt that speaks to me, I'm always wishing the maker had done just that. Just think of what all those treasured textiles would tell if they could talk... 

After receiving such a beautiful little quilt, I certainly wasn't expecting more gifts but Belinda had yet more treasures to share. The blue teacup dishtowel will look so homey in my blue-and-yellow farmhouse kitchen. She also gave me the enchanting book on afternoon tea parties. It's filled with gorgeous photography, yummy recipes, and inspiration for throwing your own themed tea parties. I've always wanted to host one and I'm sure this book will spark some fun ideas.

Here is Belinda enjoying the sweet tote and hand towel that Merry made for her (her kitchen is black and white).

The consummate cook, Merry was delighted to receive this intriguing tome on the forgotten skills of cooking and a handmade dish towel from Belinda.

Don't they look like they're having fun? It was better than Christmas morning as a kid around my house! I'll close with this shot of the gifts I gave Merry and Belinda. I saw the whimsical snowman boxes earlier this year and thought they'd make good packages for the smaller gift items. I wrapped the center gift in reproduction 1800s fabric, "taped" it up with glass-head pins, and gave it a final flourish with vintage seam binding. I like that the recipient can re-use the "wrapping paper" rather than throwing it away! 

While it was fun opening all these wonderfully heartfelt and creative gifts from Merry and Belinda, it's their friendship I treasure most. Friends like them are truly golden.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


While visiting my husband's parents in the Omaha area this past week, I decided to venture over to nearby Lincoln to visit the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. I wanted to see the Mary Ghormley doll quilt exhibit before it ended this weekend. What a treat it was to visit this beautiful facility. Just outside the exhibit area was a wonderful display of antique sewing tools on loan from a private collector. I snapped the following photos. Sorry for the glare but it couldn't be helped as they were all encased in glass.

I've seen these thread boxes at antiques shows from time to time. I love learning about the history behind old things and the display included some interesting historical tidbits on these sewing needfuls. Here is the info that accompanied the thread box display: Thread boxes typically contain spindles to hold spools of thread in place and sometimes contain numbered eyelet holes so that you do not have to remove the thread from the box. Many thread boxes were made as marketing items for thread companies and contain an advertisement on the inside of the lid. Three of the most popular styles of thread boxes were produced in Scotland from the early 1800s to the 1930s and were Mauchline ware, Tartanware, and Fernware.

These fancifully shaped thread winders caught my eye. I would love to happen upon some of these at the antiques shows or flea markets I frequent.

The exhibit also included an array of pinwheels—also known as disc pincushions, pin pocket books, sandwich pincushions, or pin safes. They are made of three layers and the pins are inserted into the middle layer around the edges.

As you have probably noticed from past posts, I like to rehabilitate old sewing machines and display them around my home. So I was delighted to see these charming Willcox and Gibbs models. Founded in 1857 by James E. A. Gibbs and James Willcox, the Willcox and Gibbs Sewing Machine Company was famous for producing the best single-thread chain stitch machines. James Gibbs patented a special revolving hook that created a better chain stitch than other sewing machines and he sold his machines for approximately half the price of others. As a result, Willcox and Gibbs models were one of the best selling machines of their time. 

After admiring the collection of sewing trinkets it was on to the doll quilt display. I had enjoyed seeing many of Mary Ghormley's doll quilts a couple years ago at the Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City. Merikay Waldvogel's book, Childhood Treasures: Doll Quilts By and For Children, which features 80 antique quilts from Mary's collection, had just been published that year. 

The complete Mary Ghormley Doll Quilt Collection comprises more than 300 quilts made between 1800 and 1950. The International Quilt Study Center acquired her treasure trove of pint-size treasures in 2008. I was delighted to find out that photos were allowed as long as no flash photography was used. 

Interspersed among the doll quilts were several endearing doll beds from Mary's collection. I was especially enamored with this one.

I loved the little wooden hutch stacked with fabrics that accompanied this sweet little bed. 

Doesn't this comfy bed, washstand, and rug set an inviting scene? 

All of the many beds were beautifully staged with little quilts and other charming accessories that any doll would love.

There was also a display of mini quilts on cleverly crafted beds made of cigar boxes, tin cans, clothespins, and leftover wooden slats. Talk about ingenuity!

I was fortunate to obtain one of Mary Ghormley's doll beds a couple years ago. When she and Merikay Waldvogel gave a talk at the Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City back in 2008, Merikay mentioned that Mary would be holding a sale of some of her quilts and doll beds in her Lincoln, Nebraska, home the following week. Since Lincoln was within a reasonable drive of where I live, I decided to check it out. I purchased this antique doll bed and the large blue-and-white quilt behind it at the sale. The strippy doll quilt on the bed is one that I made a few years ago. 

I took many other photos of the quilts while visiting the museum but didn't want to inundate you with too many at once! I hope you'll come back later this week to see photos from another quilt exhibit that I saw while at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. If you enjoy whole-cloth quilts, you might be interested to see my snapshots of the exhibit on French whole-cloth needlework traditions.