Sunday, January 30, 2011


Just a note to tell you about an article I wrote for the new issue of Victoria magazine. The March/April 2011 issue (below) should be hitting newsstands any day now.

My article is about decorating with botanical prints. The lovely thing about these elegant accents is that they evoke the spirit of the garden year-round—even when it's buried under a blanket of snow like it is here in Iowa! Here is a sneak peek of the intro spread. Click on the photo for more detail. I hope you will check out this beautiful issue.

And for more garden inspiration, look for Victoria's special magazine called Gardens of Bliss coming to newsstands in March. I had the good fortune to write several articles for this publication and will share more about them in March. This special publication is NOT part of the regular Victoria subscription. See the information below for details on how to order a copy or watch for it on newsstands.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Happy Friday, everyone! First of all, I want to announce the winners of my book giveaway. The winner of the grand prize (one copy of the new Bags, Pillows, and Pincushions book by the American Patchwork and Quilting team AND a kit for the pincushion on the cover) is Kristina

The winner of the second prize (a copy of the book) is Happy Cottage Quilter

Congratulations, ladies! Please email me at the email button in the right-hand side of blog with your mailing addresses. I will be shipping out your packages early next week if I get your replies by then. And thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway. I wish I had prizes for all of you. I hope to offer more giveaways later this year. If anyone else is interested in a pincushion kit (contains wool only), I have a limited number of them available on my new selling blog located at this link. The blog is still under construction but you can access the kits in the left-hand sidebar under the button labeled "kits" as well as other items.

And now on to the topic of the day...I've gotten a few requests from readers asking me to share some of the renovating stories behind owning an old home. When we moved into our 1885 Victorian (below) nearly seven years ago, it was in desperate need of TLC after years of deferred maintenance by the previous owners. The roof was leaking into the attic, the wiring was dangerously underrated for the space (you couldn't even run a hair dryer and the dryer at the same time without blowing a fuse!), the kitchen hadn't been updated since the early 1970s and had no appliances, the water heater was so old it percolated every time we ran the hot water, and the dormers were terribly dilapidated. This is just a brief list of the house's issues.

Since then, it's been a slow process of bringing the house back to its former glory. Our first priority was fixing that destructive roof leak. The previous owners had limped it along by patching with it a sticky black tar-like substance. It had become clear that that wasn't solving the long-term problem, so we decided to replace the entire flat roof with rubber roofing at the suggestion of a trusted roof repair company. We have not had any problems since. We have updated all the electrical systems, remodeled the kitchen, replaced the old percolating water heater, and restored the dormers. Read on for a quick review of the dormer project, which we tackled two years ago. Here's what they looked like when we moved in:

The boards were so rotted that they had to be entirely replaced and unfortunately we weren't able to salvage the window trim or glass either. So a new pane and siding had to be ordered. We chose a material that was close in appearance to the previous siding. It was a bit traumatic to see the dormer stripped down to its frame during the renovating process but I guess sometimes things have to look worse before they can look better!

Renovations took about a week and our old dormers were looking dapper again. There are two of these dormers which look out from our attic. The other one is basically the same but on the opposite side of the house.

To save money on the renovation, my husband volunteered to paint the siding and window frames before they were installed. It's amazing how much money you can save when you're willing to do a little work. This shot was taken the morning after they wrapped up work before they took their little platform and roof jacks down from the roof.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Living in an 1885 Victorian home, I often feel a kinship with those who lived during that time period. I wish our walls could talk and tell me about the people who once lived here! The Victorians were famous for being sentimental about love and family and often saved letters, locks of hair, postcards, even obituaries of loved ones. I do much the same. I still have letters that my grandma gave me as a child! Several years ago, I found this sweet Victorian scrapbook for a song. The dealer sold it to me for $2, clearly thinking it was pretty worthless. But to me, it was a treasure. It is literally filled to the brim with obituaries—a centuries worth of them spanning 1840 to 1945 from the Higbee family of Kentucky.

I hope you won't find me morbid but I actually find it interesting to read these bits of history from Victorian life. Many of the women were avid members of the temperance movement and worked arduously for its cause. The obituary for Sarah A. Higbee reads "She was a strong advocate of temperance and during the early history of White Hall was one of the leading women of the community in the activities to wipe out the saloons and gambling dens that were so notorious here." Click on this photo to enlarge and read some of the other Higbee obituaries if you are interested!

My most cherished Victorian finds are old magazines from that time period. A couple years ago I found two bound volumes of Golden Days for Boys and Girls magazine in wonderful condition. This was a weekly magazine of entertaining stories and articles for boys and girls published in Philadelphia from 1882 to 1890.

The articles for girls covered such topics as painting on silk and satin and tips for giving presents while the articles for boys focused on adventurous tales and lessons in activities such as fishing. I originally purchased the volumes for their beautiful illustrations of Victorian life.

Being an ardent pincushion fan, I especially enjoyed this article on making pincushions. I'm in the process of making this pea pincushion. Isn't it cute?

Here's another fun find from a few years ago. I found this old book, Little Chatterers, in an antique shop in the Twin Cities. These books can be found rather cheaply. I don't think I've paid more than $15 for a copy of Little Chatterers.

Like the Golden Days book, I bought it primarily for its wonderful illustrations. I just love these little beauties. Aren't they sweet?

What fun these children seem to be having popping corn over the fire!

So, my question for you is: Are you sentimental like the Victorians, too? I hope I'm not the only one out there who can't seem to let go of those childhood letters and other cherished memorabilia from days past.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


It's time for another giveaway to celebrate my latest pincushion in print! I mentioned a few posts ago that my pink bird pincushion made the cover of a new book. Packed with inspiration, Bags, Pillows, and Pincushions by the editors of American Patchwork & Quilting features 35 quick and easy projects that are perfect for today's busy schedules. I like to work on these types of projects in tandem with my larger quilting projects as they offer the benefit of faster gratification! I can't wait to make some of the book's pincushions—including a clever flower wristband made of wool roving and a trio of colorful veggies. For more information on this fun book, check out the publisher's site (John Wiley & Sons) at this link.

To celebrate the book's debut, I'm giving away TWO prizes. The grand prize is a copy of the book AND a kit to make the featured pincushion (the kit includes the wool only, no threads or buttons). The second prize is a copy of the book only.

Here's how to enter:
1. You must be an official follower to enter this giveaway. While I appreciate all my readers, I want to say a special thank you to my loyal followers for their show of support. An extra thank you to those who take the time to comment. It's reassuring to know that there are actually people out there who read my blog! 
2. If you are a follower, simply leave a comment telling me what your favorite pincushion is and why. It could be anything—one you made, one you received as gift, or one you simply bought for yourself! If you enter anonymously, please include at least your first name so I have a way of identifying you if you win. 
3. If you aren't already a follower but wish to become one, please feel free sign up and join in the fun. 

This giveaway will be in effect until Thursday, January 27 (midnight central standard time). My hubby will choose the winners from a random drawing and I will announce them on January 28th. Good luck to all!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


My apologies for being a bad blogger lately. I've been knee deep in another quilt book editing project and have been finding it difficult to get much of anything else done. Since I haven't made much progress in the sewing room lately, I thought I'd share a quilt decorating idea I found in a magazine several years ago. I'm always looking for ways to store and display my quitls and thought this was such a fun idea. The owner had transformed a changing table into a fun display for her quilts. This is the photo I saw in the magazine:

I took inspiration from her idea and found a similar changing table six years ago, painted it one of my favorite shades of green, and brought it upstairs to my small sewing room. Of course, mine is not nearly as tidy as hers. Scraps of crazy quilt fabrics often get tossed on the bottom shelf when I'm in a work frenzy. My husband applied a layer of polyurethane over the entire piece to protect the quilts from the wood and I also have a sheet of plastic on the bottom of each shelf for further protection. The pink and black basket quilt hanging on the wall is from Jo Morton's Little Women club. 

A friend made me this little quilt with scraps from other projects and it looks charming displayed on this primitive-style child's hutch filled with blue willow china.

How do you decorate with quilts? I'd love to hear your ideas. For the most part, I do try to display my quilts rather than leave them languishing in a dark closet. They add so much warmth and character to a home.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


It's only January and here I am wishing for spring days again. It's a chilly 17 degrees here today. The garden is buried under a fresh blanket of snow. It's times like these when I can't help but dream of the blooms that decorate my spring garden. This is a scene from my side garden from late spring. We inherited the bed of ferns from the previous landscape and I planted the pink caladiums to add a dash of color. The deep window ledges lend a welcome stage for pots of pelargoniums. Being a "pink" person, I usually pick some shade of that color.

Right now the only blooms among my surroundings are those of my houseplants, such as this pinwheel African violet. It loves its place in this sunny window. I am going to start selling a few of my plants later this year from my home. My husband has offered to make me a little sign to post on our front yard as plants are available.

Did you know these plants are easy to propagate with leaf cuttings? I started these babies from a single leaf. I've zoomed in on this photo but the largest leaves shown here are only about 1/4" wide.

On a totally different note, I wanted to let you know that I will soon be hosting another giveaway for my wonderful followers. I appreciate you so much! This one will be for a copy of the new Bags, Pillows, and Pincushions book (which features my pincushion on the cover) by the team at American Patchwork & Quilting. I wish I could give one to all of you! The book comes out the last week in January. See last week's post for more details about the book itself if you wish. I'll be doing the giveaway as soon as I get my extra copies. So stay tuned! Hope you all have a great weekend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Does anyone know what line the pink fabric with leaves (below) is from or have some of this fabric that you would be willing to sell to me? Click on the photo for a closer shot. I know it is from a really old line but I thought perhaps one of my blog readers might recognize it and be able to point me in the right direction. If so, please email me at the email button under my profile information in the right-hand column of my blog. I'd appreciate your help solving this fabric mystery!

Friday, January 7, 2011


For the past several months, I've been busy at work on my latest quilt book editing project with Kansas City Star Quilts. We just wrapped up production and I can now share with you the result of our efforts. I see word of it has already been popping up in blogland the last couple weeks! The book's subject is close to my heart as someone who adores making small reproduction 1800s quilts. If you do, too, you will LOVE Simply Charming: Small Scrap Quilts of Yesteryear by Tara Lynn Darr.

To give you a quick summary of what you'll find inside this delightful book, I'll quote from the back cover text that I wrote:  Scraps. We all have those bits and pieces left over from other quilting projects. Put them to use in these little patchwork quilts reminiscent of bygone days. Using her overflowing scrap bag, quilt designer Tara Lynn Darr has created 20 classic projects inspired by patterns of the past. From simple nine-patch blocks to dazzling star designs, she shows you how to make the most of your leftovers. All the projects can be made with 5" charm squares or smaller—with the exception of the borders, binding, and backing.

Here's just one of the many fun projects in this inspiration-packed 112-page book. Don't you just love the colorful collage of all those little thimble-shaped patchwork pieces? I can't wait to put my own scrap basket to work making this little gem.

You won't have to wait long to get a copy. The book will be coming to a quilt shop near you in February. If you can't find it there, you can order it online at the Kansas City Star Quilts site here. If you click on the link within the text there, you can even see additional pages from the book!

Work has already begun on my second quilt book editing project of 2011. I'm working with a wonderfully imaginative quilt designer I know many of you are familiar with and love, but the book won't be coming out until May. So stay tuned for more details this spring. What a fun job I have!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


As you might have already guessed from reading my blog, I love designing pincushions. I'm excited to share that my newest design will soon be available at a bookstore near you. Last spring, I was asked to design a special pincushion for American Patchwork & Quilting’s upcoming book, Bags, Pillows & Pincushions. To my surprise, my pincushion made the cover! It's the round pink houndstooth cushion with the blue bird and flowers.

The book will be released later this month but you can pre-order it at Amazon here. I love working with wool, so I couldn't resist using it for this project. It's hard to see it on the cover but the pincushion is wrapped in a pinked strip of wool that covers the seam—a quick and easy solution for hiding any sewing imperfections.

I also made the pincushion in a green, pink, and brown colorway for the book team. A pincushion dressed in either color palette would make a cheerful springtime gift for a fellow sewing friend. So if you're looking for some creative projects to start the new year off with, check out my pincushion and all the other 34 fun projects in this brand new book from the editors at American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. I will be offering kits for the pincushions later this month.