Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Congratulations to Anne, who left the following comment! By random draw, she is the winner of Dawn Heese's new book, A Year of Cozy Comforts. Anne, you have until this Thursday noon (central time) to contact me with your mailing address. If you prefer to do it privately, you can email me at my contact button on the right-hand side of my blog. I hope you will enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed editing it!

My favorite season is fall because I love the rich colors of the leaves turning and the rich, spicy smells of Thanksgiving dinner.

For those of you who are still interested in this book, I hope you will check it out at your local quilt shop, or order a copy here

Sunday, February 26, 2012


One of my resolutions this year is to relax more. I'm not good about doing that since like everyone, I usually have a bazillion things on my plate at any given time. One of the things that calms me the most is to play my piano, yet I haven't played for several months now. This is my childhood piano—the one that my sister and I learned to play on when I was 8. It has a poignant story behind it. It formerly belonged to a young girl who died in a car accident. My mom bought it from her mother when she was ready to let it go.

When my husband and I moved into our first house 15 years ago, my mom and dad brought the piano to come live with me. It has a special place in my heart and brings back fond memories of taking lessons with my sister. I collect vintage toy pianos, and the small one you see on top of the piano is one such example by Schoenhut. The framed picture above the piano is a painting on wood I found in a consignment store several years ago. We already had the old frame, and the painting fit it perfectly. It all makes for a very serene spot for piano playing, which I am doing today! Thank you, Merry, for encouraging me to take time to enjoy these simple pleasures in my life.

Friday, February 24, 2012


I'm delighted to tell you about Dawn Heese's latest quilt book, Cozy Comforts: Quilts and Projects for Every Season. As a quilt book editor, I've had the pleasure of working with Dawn on all three of her books and we are working on a fourth that will come out later this year.

Dawn is back with a new collection of eight handmade comforts to warm your everyday surroundings throughout the year. With her signature flair for whimsy, she designed this imaginative quilt for spring called April Showers

Whether you love pieced or appliquéd quilts, wool appliqué or cross stitch, you will find a project to suit your style in Dawn's new book. Every season features a quilt and companion project such as a pillow or wool mat. Dawn also shares one of her family’s favorite quick and easy recipes for each season: no-bake cheesecake for spring, tortellini salad for summer, apple crisp for fall, and taco soup for winter. For a sneak peek of the book, click here.

I'd love to share a copy of this fun book with one of you! So I'm giving one away. Anyone can enter this giveaway. You do NOT have to be an official follower. To enter, simply leave a comment telling me what your favorite season is and why. This giveaway will end on Tuesday, February 29, at NOON central time. I'll draw the winner randomly and announce the name later that night. The winner will then have until Thursday, March 1 at noon central time to contact me with her/his mailing address.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


As a magazine writer, one of my favorite subjects to write about is gardens. Recently, I had the opportunity to write about a spectacular garden in Ireland for Victoria magazine's March/April issue on newsstands soon. If you catch the issue, it's the article entitled "A Verdant Irish Treasure" about Edith, Lady Londonderry's flamboyant garden rooms at Mount Stewart off the sea inlet of Stangford Lough.

If you're a tea lover, you don't want to miss Victoria's special publication called Teatime Bliss—truly a visual delight for those obsessed with tea like me!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Congratulations to the winners of the Aurifil thread giveaway—MomRy2Sis, YankeeQuilter, and Allison C. I hope you will enjoy the thread! I can't believe the weekend is nearly over! It was a quiet evening here at Ashton House, the perfect one to catch up on some quick and easy baby blankets for two of my friends who recently had baby girls. I've made many a baby girl blanket with this wonderful flannel, which is a sweet blend of gray, blush pink, and watermelon pink. Some quick top-stitching makes fast work of them. Sometimes you need some simple sewing projects to relax between the others!

The final touch was adding the handmade label. I love this one in particular because it is one of my favorite colors and includes care instructions. I've packaged up the blankets and they're ready to ship to their new homes tomorrow. Hope you had a good evening, too!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Thanks to everyone for the terrific response to my Aurifil thread giveaway. I really do wish I had a thread pack to give to each of you because I think you would all love it. But I do have multiple packs to share, which is still better than one! Here are the lucky winners drawn courtesy Random Generator:

Yankee Quilter:


Allison C.:

Congratulations, you three! You have until this Monday, February 19, noon central time to contact me at the email button in my blog sidebar with your mailing addresses. If I don't hear from you by then, I will have to draw a new name.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I have received several inquiries about the spool papers used for the wooden spool heart I featured a couple posts ago. My friend, Michelle, the editor of Scrapbooks, etc.—the magazine that featured this project—tells me that it is a Jillybean Soup paper called Barley Pearls (below). Don't have enough spools to make this project? The magazine is offering a kit!

And last but not least—If you love Aurifil thread, be sure to stop by my previous post for your chance to win some of this beautiful thread. My fellow wool lovers might be interested to know about their 12-weight Lana thread—perfect for both hand and machine stitching. The giveaway closes this Saturday, when I'll be announcing the winners.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Several years ago, a quilting friend suggested I try Aurifil thread and I've been hooked on it ever since. It's become my go-to-thread whether I'm piecing, appliquéing, embroidering, or machine-quilting. I love the way it glides through my fabric, and my sewing machine also appreciates this thread as it produces practically no lint! Recently, the kind folks at Aurifil sent me a wonderful package of threads to try.

As a wool lover, I'm a big fan of their 12-weight wool thread (called Lana). I know a lot of quilters who use it for doing hand appliqué but I wanted to try it out on my machine. Because this thread is thicker than the others, I used a 90/14 topstitch needle. Of course, with a thicker thread, you will have to adjust your machine tension to get the best results. Aurifil also recommends that you use your vertical spool rather than the horizontal one. Normally I'd stitch this little brown bird in a matching thread color but I used a contrasting thread to help you see it better.

Aurifil Lana wool comes in all these gorgeous colors. I love having this handy color card to choose the perfect shades for my particular projects. 

And their cotton threads are available in this beautiful rainbow of dreamy hues. With so many options to choose from, you can easily find the perfect one for your project.

And now for the most exciting news! Aurifil kindly gave me some thread packs to give away to you, my dear readers. The thread packs include an assortment of their different threads:
Wool Lana 12—great for both hand and machine appliqué, machine quilting, and hand embroidery
Cotton Mako 40—perfect for machine quilting and embroidery
Cotton Mako 50—ideal for piecing and appliqué
Cotton Mako 28—perfect for hand quilting and blanket-stitching
Cotton Mako 12—wonderful for embellishment and Sashiko

To enter the giveaway, just leave me a comment telling me what project you would like to use these beautiful threads on. You do NOT have to be an official follower of my blog to enter this giveaway and international entries are welcome. If you are an official follower, I will give you one extra entry (to get it, you need to leave a separate comment telling me you're an official follower). If you wish to enter anonymously, please provide your first name and last initial so I have a way of identifying you if you win. Be sure you are not a non-reply comment blogger or I won't be able to reach you! This giveaway closes this Saturday, February 18, at noon CENTRAL TIME. I'll announce the winners later that night and they'll have until Monday at noon central time to claim their prizes. If I don't hear from them by then, I will draw a new name. Good luck to all! 

Friday, February 10, 2012


Thank you to those of you who left comments on my previous post. I am again encountering Blogger problems publishing my comments but I will post them as soon as the Blogger bug is resolved. On the heels of my previous Valentine's Day-themed post, here's another fun decorating idea for this romantic holiday (or anytime of year for that matter!). This nifty heart of spools was recently featured in my friend Michelle's magazine.

I think I know what I'll be doing with some of my vintage spools! I love the colorful medley of patterned papers the designer selected for this project.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, I decided to set out a few of my vintage Valentine pretties around the house. I collect vintage Valentine candy boxes, and this one is among my favorites. I use the term "vintage" loosely here because some are as recent as the 1980s. They just don't make them like they used to! I was looking at all the candy boxes at the grocery store the other day and they seemed so uninspired with their plain cardboard exteriors.

I just started working on another pincushion order and placed the finished ones in my box until they're ready to make their journey to their new home. Soon the box will be filled with them! Wouldn't you love to get a Valentine box filled with homemade pincushions?! To me, that would be better than chocolate!

No matter what time of year, I try to decorate my surroundings with things that speak to me. They're nothing fancy but they are beautiful to me. I once read in one of interior designer Alexandra Stoddard's books that everything in your home should be either beautiful or useful. I first encountered her writings while interning at Traditional Home magazine as a college student (she had written a column for the magazine). As a young newlywed just out of college, I started purchasing her design books to glean some inspiration for beautifying our humble one-bedroom apartment. This copy of Alexandra's Living a Beautiful Life has traveled with me ever since then. As you can see from the photo, it is rather dog-eared after frequent readings! 

I didn't have much of a decorating budget back then, but I found that even simple things like these vintage tins—garage sale finds—had the power to beautify a room. To this day, it's these inexpensive treasures that really take center stage in my home. I think it's their connection to the past that appeals to me. There's something comforting to me about a home furnished with well-loved finds from a simpler time.

Do any of you decorate with vintage Valentine candy boxes or decorate for Valentine's Day in general? If it's the latter, what kinds of items do you like to set out to celebrate this romantic holiday?  

Sunday, February 5, 2012


We've had an unseasonably warm winter here in central Iowa with barely any snow. Well, Mother Nature remembered us over the weekend with our first major snowstorm of the season. While I'm not a big fan of Midwestern winters, I couldn't help but think how pretty the snow was as it fell outside Ashton House. The symphony of falling snowflakes looked like something out of a Currier and Ives print. I never thought I would smile at the sight of a foot of snow but I found myself doing just that.

I had even an bigger reason to smile this weekend. On Friday night, I finally passed one of my three kidney stones! I was so elated I snapped a photo before sending it over to my doctor to analyze. After seeing that it was 1/4" wide, it became all too apparent why it was taking so long to pass!

The passing of the stone was reason to celebrate, so I headed out Saturday afternoon to do a little thrifting. I was more than ready to get out as I'd been pent up in the house dealing with the stone for most of the past couple weeks. I love exploring the booths in antique malls for that special something. I happened upon a booth filled with boxes and boxes of vintage trim—perfect for my dolls.

I also spotted these vintage dressforms in a corner. A vintage dressform has long been on my wish list but finding one in my budget and in good enough condition has proven quite a challenge! They're just so popular right now and ones in good condition are not plentiful. I don't need one in perfect shape (in fact, I prefer them to look well-loved but not too well-loved!).

This book about Queen Victoria also caught my eye but it wasn't in the best of condition, so I decided to pass.

I've enjoyed studying more about Queen Victoria over the past several years. I initially started researching her for a magazine article assignment but it grew into a hobby. If you're looking for a good movie about her, I recommend "The Young Victoria" (below) with Emily Blunt. I don't watch many movies but this one is in my dvd library.

So these were the finds I took home from my thrifting adventure. I found a trio of pretty pink trims from the many boxes in the one booth, plus a vintage Valentine postcard and greeting card. Vintage postcards are one of my favorite collectibles and I try to pay no more than a $1 for each unless they really tug at my heart. I also found a vintage tablecloth in pink and yellow but haven't taken a photo yet.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend, which is quickly disappearing! Oh, how fast they go! 

Friday, February 3, 2012


Isn't the phenomenon of Pinterest amazing?! Although I have been using Pinterest for more than a year, I only recently started my own pinboards at the encouragement of a fellow blogging friend. Now I seem to be addicted! It's become my own personal inspiration board for decorating, quilting, baking, gardening, and crafting—although I'm old-fashioned and still keep a notebook filled with all of my favorite ideas. I originally started my binders to cut back on my ever-growing magazine stash. Now with more than 20 notebooks, I might have to start cutting back on them, too!

These are some of the items I have either found on the internet or uploaded from my own files to my pinboards. Usually I pin when I see something I love on the internet while it's fresh in my mind or I have a photo I took that I want to keep handy for future reference. I enjoy writing the little snippets that go with them as you will see in the examples below. My pins run the gamut from beautiful rolling pins (I found two pins just like these in a magazine prop sale 8 years ago)...

...to cute pincushions (this little guy reminds me of my hippo stuffed animal collection when I was a youngster)...

....to dream kitchens. I am in love with apron-front sinks. When my husband and I remodeled our Victorian kitchen six years ago, that was the big thing on my wish list. At the time, I was working as an editor with Kitchen and Bath Ideas magazine, so I had lots of inspiration from which to draw. This hammered metal finish has a weathered look that I really love. Mine is just a plain white apron-front sink. If only this one had been in the budget!

...to decorating (Pink and green seem to be a common theme)...

...to homes with storybook charm that look like they'd be fun to move right into...

....even my favorite ballerinas made famous by legendary choreographer George Balanchine...

I never thought I would jump on the Pinterest bandwagon but here I am. There's so much inspiration out there! What's your favorite thing to pin on Pinterest?