Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I hope you are all having a good week. After a little blogging break, I'm back with a bit of exciting news. I was so ecstatic to receive my copy of Prims magazine, a beautiful publication for primitive doll artisans.

I'm always anxious to see the latest issue of Prims but this one was particularly special to me because my very own handcrafted doll Minerva is featured in its pages along with many of my fellow TDIPT artisans! Here is Minerva's page. Like all my dolls, she is made entirely by hand. I handsculpted her with papier mache, handpainted her face, then made her dress with 1800s reproduction fabric. Her shawl is vintage lace gathered with a vintage brown pearl button.

I also made and styled Minerva's auburn wool tresses. Here she is before she left for her journey to the magazine headquarters.

Speaking of magazines, have you seen the current issue of American Patchwork and Quilting? Kim Diehl has a glorious quilt on the cover. Last year, I found some of her new fabric line pictured here on my way home from last fall's Quilt Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

I also enjoyed the neat article on French General fabric designer and store owner Kaari Meng. I'm a big fan of FG fabrics and have a lot of them in my stash. APQ captured some wonderful pics of the French General store. Would love to visit there in person!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


A series of pleasant surprises has brightened my world over the past month. I've been blessed with many work assignments that keep me busy in this time of economy uncertainty, my friend Merry gifted me a beautiful handmade scarf in a lovely shade of pink, my friend Betsy sent me a bundle of her breathtaking Hot for Chocolate 2 fabric, and my friend MJ gave me a bundle of cardstock for making my handmade cards. Another act of kindness happened just today. As many of you regular blog readers know, I go through A LOT of vintage spools making pincushions like these feathered friends.

Today I received the sweetest surprise package in the mail from my friend Amy. It was filled with these beautiful vintage spools. There were even some green ones and one in blue and orange! I have never found an orange spool. Can't wait to match it up with a feathered friend! I was so touched by Amy's kindness. I first met her through the Jo Morton Stitchers group. She is a very active group member and has organized many a fun project exchange for us.

I tend to be a realist, so these random acts of kindness really restore my faith in humanity. It's people like Amy who inspire me to pay it forward—a lesson I learned early on as a college student volunteering at the local animal rescue league. As a young 20-something, I became a volunteer tutor for the local adult literacy center. One of my students, a dear lady named Lupe, even came to my wedding.

And Amy's generous gift reminds me that it's again time to do my part for those in need. So I decided to donate to a local no-kill cat shelter, Furry Friends Refuge. They have several black kitties, who don't seem to find homes as quickly as the others. I used to make and donate little cuddle quilts to the cats at another shelter and hope to do so again. I'm sorry to wax philosophical here but Amy's gift really touched my heart. I hope if there's an opportunity for you to touch someone's life in a positive way, you'll take the time to do it. The good you do will come back to you!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Things are looking up here after a rough start to the weekend. I've been battling another kidney stone for the past few weeks and because it's been taking so long to pass, my doctor sent me over to get a CAT scan yesterday afternoon to figure out the stone's location, if there are multiple stones, and whether it's likely to pass on its own. It's a rather intimidating machine, although it reminds me a huge donut!

Luckily, the doctor set me up with plenty of high-powered pain medication to get through the times when the stone moves (kidney stones only cause pain when they're on the move—unfortunately I know this all too well after having had them four times in the last 15 years). I've had a good day today, so thought I should write a post while I'm pain free! I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, curled up with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

My husband took pity on me during a rough bout with the kidney stone a couple weeks ago and bought me this encouraging book to read. I liked the subtitle—Meditations for Courage, Confidence, and Spirit. You definitely need all those qualities to get through an episode of moving stones!

I'm a big tea drinker and love this organic green tea chai from England. It's a mix of green tea leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and orange peel. Thought it was only fitting to sip it from my English teacup! The pattern is Royal Albert's Lady Carlyle.

And here's some other inspired reading—the latest issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine—hot off the press! As a regular editorial contributor to the magazine, I am always thrilled to see the results of our hard work in print. 

You don't want to miss this issue! In addition to Cheri Payne's cozy basket cover quilt (above), you'll find other quilted treasures like this appliquéd beauty from Renée Plains. This issue even includes a bonus project from Renée—a vintage-style pin cube that would be perfect for your sewing room.

You'll also find an ADORABLE mohair bunny named Seymour designed by Heather Lynn. What a fun way to welcome spring! I hope I've piqued your curiosity and that you will check out our Spring 2012 issue! It's filled with many more beautiful projects by more of your favorite designers—Paula Barnes, Maggie Bonanomi, Lisa Bongean, Lori Brechlin, Jan Goos, Lynda Hall, Dawn Heese, Janice Minear, Jo Ann Mullaly, Gloria Parsons, Marcie Patch, and Tonya Robey.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


First of all, I want to say a big thank you to those of you who left comments on my previous cover girl magazine post. I loved reading all 24 comments! Your messages mean the world to me. It's so great to know I have so many supportive blogging friends out there. Thank you!

Yesterday turned out to be a very good mail day here at Ashton House. After a long day of appointments and running errands, I returned to find three packages on my doorstep. The first was a surprise from quilt book author, quilt historian, and fabric designer extraordinaire Betsy Chutchian! As a quilt book editor, I had the pleasure of working with Betsy and her fellow 19th-Century Patchwork Divas co-founder, Carol Staehle, on their recent book, History Repeated, last year.

Betsy was so sweet to send me this surprise bundle of Hot for Chocolate II, the follow-up fabric collection to her previous highly successful Hot for Chocolate.

Doesn't it look yummy? I thought my green milkglass cake stand was a fitting stage for this beautiful fabric since it was such a delightful treat to receive! Thank you so much, Betsy!

Spanning dreamy pinks, rich reds, and dramatic browns in patterns of the past, this fabric collection is going to be so fun to play with! You all know that I am a pink and brown girl, so this collection couldn't be more me! And while I'm on the subject of Betsy, I wanted to mention how glad I am that she recently joined blogland. She's been thinking about starting a blog for sometime and it's great that she's finally taken the blogging plunge. Be sure to stop by here and welcome her to the wonderful world of blogging when you get a chance! 

Remember I mentioned three packages? The second package was the owl fabric I ordered last week. At just $5 a yard, the price was right, so I decided to buy the last few yards of the seller's yardage in this print. 

And the last package was from Amazon.com. The kind folks at KC Star Books had given all the editors an Amazon gift certificate for Christmas, so I decided to spend part of mine on this book that I had spotted at Barnes and Noble just before Christmas. Amazon had it for 41 percent off the cover price.

This section on meringues brings back memories of the ones that my grandmother used to make, though hers weren't quite this fancy or this pink.

And of course, there is a section on chocolate...

This weekend, I plan to dream up some ways to use my new fabric and new cookbook. I thought I might be able to find something special to bake for my mom and mom-in-law's birthday this February. They share the same birthday, Valentine's Day, and I usually host a special birthday luncheon in their honor.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


First, a big thank you to everyone who left comments on my previous post. I have encountered problems with Blogger trying to publish them, which is really a bummer since so many of you took the time to write. I'll keep working on it and I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually! And now on to this post! I'm so excited to tell you that the garden shed story that I produced and wrote last year made the cover of Country Gardens magazine! When I say produced, I just mean that I was hired to create, maintain, and help stage the garden for photography in addition to writing the article.

Last May, I planted the surrounding garden beds, some containers, and coordinated plans to add the inviting flagstone path to this enchanting outdoor retreat. Luckily, I was able to get all the flagstone pavers donated by a generous local supplier. As Mother Nature socked us with an unyielding heat spell for nearly two weeks during the summer, I started to wonder if there would be anything to shoot in August (those days found me watering the thirsty plants up to three times a day!). But thankfully, the hard work paid off and everything bloomed on cue for the mid-August shoot.

In other exciting news, the article I wrote for County French magazine also made the cover! It features the eclectic home of a Houston antiques dealer who masterfully melds centuries-old antiques with her home's new architecture. I had so much fun writing this article, and the homeowner was a gem to work with. She was even thoughtful enough to write me a thank you note telling me how much she loved the article. I really appreciated her taking the time to share that positive feedback as most people don't take the time to do something like that.

Thanks for giving me a moment to toot my own horn. I promise not to bore you with every single magazine article I write, but it isn't every day that one is lucky enough to write a cover story. So I thought I'd better relish the moment. It probably won't come again anytime soon!

Friday, January 13, 2012


After visiting the mosaic quilt exhibit in Lincoln, Nebraska, last week, we stopped by a few area antiques shops. One of them had quite a few vintage sewing notions and it was there that I spotted this cute little shelf of vintage sewing books that I had to have. The shelf appears to be original to the set since it seems to fit the books perfectly. To give you some idea of this piece's dimensions, the books are about two inches tall.

The books are actually little match boxes that open to reveal their labeled contents! Isn't that the cutest thing?! All of these boxes still had their original contents and all are in excellent condition given their age. Since I collect vintage sewing notions, I thought this piece would make the perfect addition to my collection. I fell in love with the imagery on the boxes.

The shop owner didn't know what era they were from. If you know anything about these little guys, please drop me an email. I'd love to hear any insights you may have. While she had not seen anything like this before, my sewing friend Linda M. surmises that they were made in the 1940s when design elements such as cameos and silhouettes and softer color palettes were popular. She was pretty sure they were post WWII when sewing supplies such as elastic, thread, and buttons became available again and seamstresses were eager to return to their sewing rooms and machines (These are Linda's words. Isn't she well spoken?!). During the war years, Linda said that ladies couldn't readily obtain these supplies. Thank you so much for your insights, Linda!

After we visited a few antiques shops and of course, a couple quilt shops, we headed on to the Omaha area to visit my husband's parents. While we were there, I was greeted by yet another pleasant surprise. My mom-in-law surprised me by giving me three of her vintage quilts! She said that all of them were found at flea markets back when quilts could be purchased for a song. 

I actually have the matching partner to the Sunbonnet Sue quilt, which she gifted me early in my marriage. Now that I have this one, I'm thinking that I will display the duo on our Jenny Lind twin beds in the guest room.

My favorite quilt of the bunch is this cheerful pink fan quilt, which will remain in this room—my dining room, which is decorated in shades of bubblegum pink and spring green. 

And who can resist the timeless charm of the Churn Dash block? My mom-in-law told me this one was kept on my husband's bed when he was boy. At the time, they lived in an old farmhouse on their family's century farm, so quilts fit right into the decor.

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog may remember that my husband's mother has gifted me many a vintage quilt over the years. You can see one here and another here. These family quilts are very special to me and I try to display them throughout my house. It seems a shame to let them languish in a dark closet or cedar chest. Before I close, I have one last little thing to share with you. My in-laws also gave me this owl ornament because they know how much I love anything owl-related. They asked if he would make my blog, so here he is...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


While we were visiting the British and American mosaic quilt exhibit in Lincoln, Nebraska, last week, we also stopped to admire a small display of antique sewing notions and toy sewing machines just outside the gallery (you can see photos of the quilt exhibit in my previous post). This fancy French sewing box is paper-covered and the interior is compartmentalized to accommodate nifty notions like thread and a toy sewing machine.

I'd never seen a nickel-plated cast iron toy sewing machine like this one before. It was made in Berlin, Germany around 1896. The black one behind it was made during World War II in Nuremberg, Germany. What a lovely little thing to be made during such dark times.

I love the decals on these two little black beauties. The one in the foreground is a Muller Model #20 from pre-World War II Germany. I forgot to copy down the info on the one in back!

I was especially enchanted by this little child's machine in a velvet-lined case. It is another Muller model and dates to 1900 Germany. What a lucky child to have been gifted that machine!

And this tiny pre-World War II treasure was marketed as the smallest sewing machine in the world in pre-World War II Germany. It's aptly named the  "Liliputian".

I loved these fanciful Black Forest bear thread stands and thimble holders from Germany. In the lower right, you can see a small silver seam knife and dagger scissors in a brass sheath, made circa 1850.

The exhibit also featured some nifty American-made notions and this sweet little sewing machine. Made by Foley & Williams, the "Reliable" was marketed for light sewing, travel, and children. According to the exhibit card, the first models sold in Montgomery Ward catalogs for $3.50-$5. I've often thought it would be fun to travel back in time to an old 19th-century or turn-of-the-20th century general store, buy a bunch of treasures, and travel back to the current day to enjoy them! 

This little brass machine was labeled "Tabitha"—the same name as my sewing machine, Tabitha the treadle. If you're interested, you can see my Tabitha in this post. This little Tabitha was manufactured in 1885 in New York City.

And here are various American-made sewing notions—needle books, thimble holders, pincushions, tape measures, and pin disks—all from one woman's collection.

These notions all hail from the United Kingdom. Do you see the thimble holders in the shape of a goat cart, a brass shoe, and Jack and Jill figures with their water pail? There were also some lovely thread winders, pincushions, and emeries.

I love the bunny and roller skate tape measures in this photo. Do you see the needle case in the shape of a parasol? The designs are all so clever!

I hope you'll come back later this week to see the nifty little notion I found while exploring the local antiques shops.

Monday, January 9, 2012


First of all, I must thank the 37 kind souls who left comments on my previous post, encouraging me to post photos of this amazing exhibit. It's reassuring to know that I'm not just talking to myself. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm sorry for the delay in getting this posted; it took me a bit longer to get all the photos set up than I anticipated. But without further adieu, welcome to my little tour of the Elegant Geometry exhibit at the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was so glad to get there before the exhibit closed yesterday. As you will see, the quilts were absolutely breathtaking!

I was greeted by a dazzling array of mosaic patchwork quilts culled from the IQSC collection. Drawing treasures from both sides of the Atlantic, the exhibit featured one of the earliest quilts in the museum's collection—a 1796 hexagon mosaic beauty by Anna Ruggles of the United Kingdom.

The exhibit card pointed out that Anna created a design challenge when she opted to surround the double rosettes in the center with a ring of single ones, thus preventing the single ones from aligning symmetrically along the quilt's vertical axis. Her solution was the stair-stepped outer border. Isn't it amazing what our quilting predecessors were able to do with less?

Anna was a master at fussy-cutting fabrics. Don't you wish some of these gorgeous fabrics were being reproduced today? Having a passion for pink, I was especially enamored with this one.

This medallion quilt made by Belle Abram dates to 1808. The quilt records reveal that the patchwork took Belle nine years to complete.

The smallest patches are in the center and their sizes increase progressively with each border.

There is no mystery about the maker behind this 1818 medallion masterpiece that spotlights chintz appliqué. 

Frances Hawkins displayed her name prominently in the hexagons. She also put her fabric to dramatic use in the appliquéd dogtooth border.

Made in East Yorkshire in 1833, this medallion quilt was made by 12-year-old Mary Staveley. In its center, an embroidered inscription reads: "I have done this to let you see what care my parents took of me"—a popular choice for samplers of the day.

I was mesmerized by the embroidery work in this quilt—an artful collage of birds, blooms, urns, and other animals. Seeing its workmanship made me realize how much times have changed. Sadly, I can't imagine many of today's 12-year-olds being disciplined enough to create this quilt!

The embroidery in this exquisite British medallion coverlet was wrought in wool and silk thread. In the center, the maker stitched "Ann Stevenson 1734" but the actual coverlet wasn't completed until 1820-1840—a common practice of the day. Families often saved pieces of embroidery and incorporated them into later needlework projects.

This hexagon quilt was probably made in Maryland in 1830-1850. Today's quilters know this pattern as Grandmother's Flower Garden but as the exhibit card says, that name is an early 20th-century invention. It is not known exactly what was called in the early 1800s.

I was amazed that the fabrics were still so vibrant. Love this pink and green one! I enjoyed looking at the quilter's many color combinations.

This intriguing hexagon coverlet from Massachusetts dates to 1820-1840. I loved its inventive layout and the interplay of light and dark fabrics.

Here's a detail shot of some of the columns of hexagons.

According to the exhibit card, this hexagon coverlet was most likely made in the United Kingdom between 1810-1830. It features many single-color "eccentric" patterns comprised of distorted or wavy lines, which were developed for banknote printing in 1810 and adapted for British roller-printed cottons in the 1820s.

British block-printed panels like the one in the center of this antique fragment were often incorporated into decorative accessories such as firescreens and cushions in Great Britain during the early 19th century. The British have such great taste, don't they?

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of mosaic masterpieces! Come back later this week to see a few vintage sewing notions, including toy sewing machines, that were also on display at the museum while I was there. After visiting the museum, I stopped by a few antique shops and found a little treasure to bring home. More on that later...