Sunday, April 29, 2012


Friday morning, I headed out on my latest junking journey—the annual Junk Jubilee show, eager to see some good junk. As they say, one woman's junk is another's treasure! I've been going to junk shows in the Midwest area for about three years now and enjoy seeing things I don't normally get to see. I spotted several nice vintage dressforms, though all were out of my price range at more than $300. Good thing that my hubby gave me one for Valentine's Day, so my search for one is now officially over. The one I received is very similar to this one, although mine is a vintage Bauman.

There was lots to love for those with a fondnees for chippy paint and weathered patinas...

I am crazy about vintage garden art and architectural pieces like these. They were selling like hotcakes.

The spirit of gardeners' past was alive and well in this booth, brimming with vintage outdoor tools.

One of the things I love most about these junk shows is that everything is so creatively displayed. I was delighted to see one of my favorite Iowa shops (Willows) there. This shop has a knack for artful vignettes like this.

With everyone in a springy mood, this alluring booth was attracting a lot of attention.

The myrtle topiaries were a wonderful touch. Nothing like live greenery to liven up a booth!

Always on the hunt for a vintage sewing machine, I spotted several here, although none came home with me. This White Rotary machine reminded me of some of mine.

And this Free Westinghouse sewing machine was wonderfully displayed among vintage trims and pincushions.

If I didn't have some of these big old wooden spools already, I might have been tempted by these.

And who can resist vintage buttons? One of the vendors had a large 6x4-foot garden cart filled with a layer of them! This is just a small sampling of what was there!

Don't these buttons look lovely displayed in vintage silver serving pieces? I enjoyed the displays as much as the items themselves.

Seeing an old doll bed always brings a smile to this collector's face! I was intrigued by this little bed's long proportions.

Having loved old houses all my life and being the current steward of an 1885 Victorian Italianate, I can't resist salvaged treasures from antique abodes. These vintage tin ceiling flowers can spark all sorts of creative possibilities.

I enjoyed digging through this box of old house wooden remnants—ornamental features from antique furnishings and architectural elements. Call me sentimental but when I buy one of these pieces, I like to think that I'm carrying on the legacy of the old homes they once adorned. I especially loved that little wooden column capital. Perhaps it was from some old built-in buffet? If only these pieces could talk!

I thought this tissue paper wreath was pretty. It looked like the kind of paper used to make sewing patterns.

I'm always on the lookout for vintage jewelry that I can repurpose into embellishments for sewing and paper projects.

I am a sucker for vintage frames and was very tempted by some of these but I already have a box full of them sitting in my attic. Perhaps another time!

And last but not least, I was tickled to spot this assortment of vintage oil cans—another favorite collectible. I display my collection in a vintage English scale case. They create a lovely still life when paired with vintage glass bottles.

And here are my finds of the day—that wonderful little wooden column capital pictured in one of the previous photos—I plan to use it as a mini african violet stand ($5), Victorian sewing advertisements ($6), a bag of vintage lace for my dollmaking ($3), a pincushion made with an old quilt remnant ($12), a spool tree ($1), and a vintage chick feeder ($4). The chick feeder is super tiny. I thought it was a reproduction but my husband, who grew up on a farm, says it's real. Seems like it would be too small for even chicks to use!

I took many more photos than these but don't want to inundate you with them. Hopefully, these have sparked some inspiration on how you can transform something old into something new. Hope you enjoyed the impromptu tour of my latest junking journey!

Friday, April 27, 2012


The time has come that I've been dreading—looking for a new car! After 12 years and nearly 220,000 miles, my 2000 Toyota Camry is ready for retirement. Apparently, I'm not the only one keeping my car longer than usual. A recent NBC nightly news edition revealed that with the poor economy, people are keeping their cars longer than ever and that the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads has increased to 10.8 years. I'll be sad to see my trusty Camry go as it's been so reliable. After all, how many cars can you get more than 200,000 miles out of these days? Mine is still running well at 218,676 miles but with the high miles, we don't feel we can take it on long road trips anymore.

Because the Camry has treated us so well, I think we'll go with another one even though I don't like the new models as much as my old one. My hubby has been pounding the pavement looking for a new well-priced one. He's gone to three different dealerships and gotten three different prices, trying to get close to invoice price. I've been surprised by the difference between that and the sticker price. If you know of any good Toyota dealerships in Iowa or Nebraska, please drop me a line. Here's hoping for another reliable car and 200,000 miles!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It's not to early to start your holiday projects, and my most recent quilt book editing project is brimming with inspiring ideas to help spark your creativity. Memories of Christmas Past by Betsey Langford and Carolyn Nixon is hot off the press this month. Former quilt shop owners, the design duo originally created this quilt as a block-of-the-week project (yes, you heard that right, a block of the WEEK!).

Dressed in the classic yuletide colors of green and red, this spectacular sampler quilt is based on traditional designs. Each of the 12 sampler blocks features a Nine-Patch twist, and the quilt center spotlights five dazzling paper-pieced Poinsettia blocks.

As you make the quilt, you can travel back to a simpler time with 12 nostalgic journal entries written by Carolyn. Capturing the joy of simple pleasures and handmade comforts, they recall her childhood memories of growing up in the Ozarks in the 1950s. Need a creative holiday gift idea? In addition to the feature quilt, this 96-page book also includes six smaller companion projects—a memories journal, a framed quilt block, a throw pillow, a star-studded table runner, a quick and easy quilted throw, and a dazzling embroidered snowflake design.

I'd love to share a copy of this beautiful 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 about your favorite holiday project—whether past or present. This giveaway will end on Tuesday, May 1st, at NOON central time. I'll draw the winner randomly and announce the name later that night. The winner will then have until Thursday, May 3rd, at noon central time to contact me with her/his mailing address. Best of luck to all who enter! And if you'd like to order the book, go to the Kansas City Star Quilt Books website here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


With this past year's unseasonably warm winter, spring sprung early here at Ashton House. This is my favorite time of year. It brings with it the heady scent of lilacs that we invite indoors to perfume the dining room. They're the perfect flowers for displaying in my collection of 1930s funeral baskets.

These sweet little violas will be planted in the ground once they're done brightening a garden box. I like to transfer them over because they will self-seed.

Some 50 rose bushes make their home in the gardens just outside Ashton House, and several are already blooming! This is the earliest I can ever remember them doing so! Here in Iowa, they don't usually bloom until early June. I spotted the first bloom on one a couple weeks ago.

This lovely rose is not yet in bloom but I wanted to share it with you because it's close to my heart; it came from my grandpa's garden. I am blessed to have many passalong plants that spark pleasant memories of loved ones, but this is one of the few passalong roses I have received. Because of our cold climate, only certain roses do well here. I grow a mix of English roses, rugosa roses, Knockout roses, Buck roses, and Canadian Explorer series roses. All have faired extremely well in our gardens. I haven't lost one of them since they were planted.

The bed of ferns—one of the only remnants of the original landscape—is already flourishing just outside our dining room windows. It's too early to plant annuals, so the garden urn in the middle of the bed will remain empty for now. We must wait until the danger of frost has passed, and that's usually around Mother's Day.

The lily of the valley are in their prime. I love their little bell-shape blooms. They've spread so much over the years, I think I'm going to have to dig up some of the pips. We've been gradually moving them to another area of the landscape but I'm also sharing them with others who want them. Like those who gifted me plants, I want to pass along the joy of these delightful treasures to others. 

One of my favorite plants is lady's mantle. I love the chartreuse green blooms because they go with any color. After all, green is the ultimate unifying hue in the garden!

So what are you growing in your gardens this year? I hope they are off to a great start!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


This morning I found the perfect place to display this little doll quilt that I just finished. This is the second one that I've made. Five years ago, I designed the quilt for my local historical museum. I had been searching for a good project for this poison green print, which was one of the first 19th-century reproduction fabrics I ever bought. My little quilt is draped over a chair in my pink and green dining room. In front of it sits this handmade pink teddy bear named Hillary, whose rosy hue complements the quilt. The blocks are 3 inches wide.

I must have been in a sewing mood today because as I was sifting through my tool drawer, I came across my old Tri-Recs ruler and used it to make a few blocks in my favorite color combo of pink and brown. That was all the time I had to sew today as I have several work deadlines just ahead of me.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get back into the sewing room to find a project for these brand new Jo Morton fabrics that recently arrived at Ashton House. They are from her latest line, Alexandria. I was so tickled to find them for only $8.50 a yard. I shouldn't say "only" in these hard economic times; it's just that it's hard to find fabric for that price anymore!

I also want to start making blocks for this lovely project called "Isabel's Quilt" that creatively combines Jacob's Ladder blocks and wool appliqué.

It's featured in this beautiful new book—Elegant Quilts, Country Charm: Applique Designs in Cotton and Wool. All the projects incorporate felted wool—perfect for a wool lover like me. If only there were more hours in a day! Alas, work must come first! Three articles are due this week!

Monday, April 9, 2012


I'm cleaning out my magazine library and have a new issue of Prims magazine (Winter 2012 issue) for sale ($13 plus shipping) if anyone is interested. UPDATE: THE ISSUE HAS BEEN SOLD! THANK YOU!

This is the same issue that my papier mache doll, Minerva, was featured in earlier this year. As some of you know, I am a dollmaker, and Minerva is one of my creations. I handsculpted and handpainted her face, arms, and legs and made her dress with 1800s reproduction fabrics and vintage lace. I created her auburn tresses with wool.

Prims is produced by the same company that publishes Where Women Create and so many other beautiful magazines. If you're trying to get organized like me this season, you might want to check out their upcoming book, Where Women Create Book of Organization: The Art of Creating Order. It is filled with inspiring photos of artists' studios, plus tips and tricks for conquering the clutter in your life. One of the things I love most about their creative spaces is how they transform vintage finds into storage solutions. So creative!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


What a lovely Easter morning here at Ashton House. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. We wish you all a wonderful day!

While we might be too old to garner a visit from the Easter bunny, we are surrounded by other "bunnies" that get us in the Easter spirit. Our green feather tree, is decked out in egg ornaments embellished with spring motifs such as bunnies and iris.

The many handpainted eggs evoke many pleasant memories of collecting them over the years. 

Bunnies also make an appearance in the kitchen, where antique bunny and hen chocolate molds—both flea market finds—capture the spirit of the season while lending vintage charm year-round.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Two posts in one day! This is a first for me. While on my way home from getting my hair done, I spotted a housecleaning sale and thought I'd take a look. As I walked up the driveway, I was greeted by a family of bears on wooden chairs and benches.

On the other side of the driveway were tables, stools, and a cute wooden ladder that would make a wonderful display for little quilts. It would have tempted me were I not lucky enough to have one of my own made by husband several years ago. 

Among the items were several pieces like this hutch and mantel that were handcrafted by the homeowner.

Here's another furry fellow on a chair. As you can see, the homeowner loved her bears.

They also had lots of crafts supplies that primitive artisans might find of use. There were lots of wooden crafty items, frames, ribbon, boxes, etc. The sale runs through tomorrow, so you might want to check it out if anything in these photos looks of interest to you and you're in the Des Moines area. For privacy purposes, I am not listing the address here because a lot spammers pick up personal info from blogs. If you're interested, email me privately at the email button on the right side of my blog and I'll gladly send you the address.

Oh, I almost forgot to show you my loot from the sale—all purchased for a grand total of $6. It includes an oval papier mache box filled with a generous layer of buttons, a jar filled with earthy-tone brown and green-gray buttons, three brass candlesticks which I plan to paint and repurpose into my strawberry make-dos, four wooden oval frames for displaying button collages, a repro tin for the pantry, and a bag of bottlebrush trees that I plan to strip and dye pink. As you can see, I have an intended purpose for each and every one of these!

If you haven't checked out my earlier post from today (below), stop by to see a fun fabric find from yesterday. I love to see what fabrics are inspiring fellow bloggers, so thought I'd share one of mine today. Happy Friday, everyone—again!


The last thing I need is more fabric but somehow it always finds me! I'm sure you fellow quilters know that feeling well! Yesterday, I headed over to the quilt shop for a little retail therapy and found this cute print. I was immediately drawn to the colorful houses and fanciful bicycles. At first, I thought only fat quarters available but I was delighted when Jacque, the owner, pointed out yardage for me.

While there, I also spotted a bunch of sweet This & That mini patterns, including this charming owl. You know how crazy I am about owls, so how could I not pass that one up! I have the little stand it's displayed on and am always on the lookout for patterns that fit it.

Speaking of owls, here is a cutie that resides in my sewing room. She's right at home among the many other "owls" that nest in my fabric stash. Happy Friday, everyone!