Thursday, August 30, 2012


I recently attended my local quilt guild's annual charity auction, which raises funds for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, American Heart Association, and this year, the regional Arthritis Foundation in memory of a guild member who passed away this summer. In past years, the quilt groups I belong to have donated quilts, quilt tops, and quilt blocks to this worthy cause. One year, we made a wall quilt of 1800s reproduction fabrics with blocks from the Civil War Diary Quilt book. Another year, we made a medallion quilt top. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera to the auction, but I did take these photos of some finds from the sale that takes place before the auction. This is always a good opportunity to clean out your own sewing room and I found several items in mine to donate, including large rolls of home dec fabric, metallic floss, and bags of transparent buttons that I culled from my many vintage button jars. It was a good thing I trimmed my stash beforehand because I found a few things at the sale to add back to it! I was delighted to find several quilt history books, including these, for $1 each.

There were several copies of the American Quilt Study Group's annual journal, Uncoverings, for a $1 each.

And who can resist felted wool for a song? These bundles of multiple 10" x 20" cuts were $1 each. I also bought some in chestnut brown, vibrant red, and gorgeous green.

I love vintage seam binding, which I use to package my pincushion orders. I found these three rolls of 100 yards per roll for just 25 cents for all three! I often find these at garage sales because people don't really value them at that much. You can usually find whole bags of them for a $1 or less around here.

Because I like to share the wealth, I am giving away a copy of one of the Uncoverings that I found at the sale. This copy has some lovely color and black-and-white photos of antique quilts, plus lots of intriguing quilt history on the Circuit Rider's quilt, gift quilts by Antebellum women, and quilts for President McKinley (made from campaign ribbons). If you're interested, leave me a comment telling me your favorite quilt history topic. This giveaway ends at noon central time this coming Saturday, Sept. 1. This is just a quick giveaway! I will draw a name later that day and announce the winner, who will have 24 hours to reply to me with their contact info. If not, I'll draw another name. Oh, and you do not have to be an official follower to enter. International entries welcome.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


It's been another eventful week at Ashton House. During another heat spell last week, our upstairs air conditioner decided to stop working. We have two separate air conditioning units—one for the upstairs and one for the downstairs, so thankfully we were able to just swing out the hide-a-bed and sleep downstairs while my hubby repaired our unit. He has always been very handy, which is almost a necessity when you live in a 125-year old house with aging mechanicals! Instead of having contractors do the work, he prefers to do it himself when can and enjoys the challenge of learning something new. I found this photo of him demolishing the old kitchen when we first moved into the house 8 years ago. Because it was not up to electrical code, we had to remove all the old drywall to make room for the outlets and add insulation. The wall you see in the photo is what we found underneath the drywall! Can you believe that green linoleum on the walls?! The kitchen also had avocado green countertops and the most hideous flooring I have ever seen. Thankfully, my husband installed a cherry hardwood floor over it!

The below photo shows part of that same wall taken shortly after the remodel. Looks much better, don't you think?! When we moved in, the only appliance in the kitchen was the old black dishwasher, which we still have today. My husband and I both believe in using things until they wear out. I keep hoping it does, so I can replace it with stainless steel dishwasher drawers to match the other appliances. Since this photo was taken, we have added a backsplash and handmade window treatments, and repainted the blue walls a softer blue gray shade called "Porch Blue" by Nell Hill. The other odd thing about the kitchen was that none of the windows had frames, so my husband added the wood molding around them. Because the windows are deep, he was able to insert a small shelf so I could have a place to display my African violets, English ginger jars, and other sundries. My favorite part of my kitchen is this area with the apron-front sink that overlooks the adjoining deck.  

One summer, my mom and mom-in-law came to spend a few days with me and made me window treatments and window seat box cushions for my kitchen. Here's my cat Poe enjoying one of the new covers shortly after they were completed. Yes, that black furry blob is a cat!

My husband's mom especially enjoys home dec sewing. We recently learned that my husband's parents are preparing to move back to Iowa to be closer to family. They have sold their ranch home in Nebraska and will move into their new townhome in a community just north of Des Moines next month. We also recently received the sad news of the passing of my husband's 98-year-old grandpa. We feel blessed that he enjoyed such a long life in good health. He outlived two wives, and at the time of his death, he took no maintenance medications. His older sister lived to be 100 and his two younger twin brothers are still alive at 93 years old. Grandpa attended college to study tool and die making. During World War II, the company he worked for was responsible for making turrets for tanks and ships. He loved nature and gardening and owned several acres of forest land near his home. He will be missed. Despite the sadness and grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one, it's hard not to feel incredibly fortunate to have that person in your life for so many years. After all, growing old is not a gift granted to everyone. 

Friday, August 24, 2012


My mom has a habit of forwarding me all sorts of emails circulating through the internet—humorous quotes, photos of cute animals, unusual works of art made from food, tips on how women can protect themselves against crime, even totally oddball stuff like how to tell if you are in a room with a two-way mirror! I don't usually read most of them but this morning she actually sent me a rather cute one, so I thought I share it with you. Hope it puts a smile on your face like it did mine—although I don't think I would agree with number 6! Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


After my physical therapy session this morning, I decided to get a little dose of fabric therapy by stopping by one of the local quilt shops here, where I found more pretty fabric to add to my stash. These fabrics are from the Daisy Cottage collection by Riley Blake Designs. Jacque, the shop owner, plans to eventually carry about 100 bolts of Riley Blake fabrics, and these just came in. Doesn't she fold them up prettily? Over the coming months, shop visitors will find lots of new inventory as Jacque shifts her shop's focus to small quilts and projects with a goal of offering 100 kits—many for $30 and under. Talk about a great value in these tough times. Jacque told me today that's she's already up to 40 kits!

This afternoon, I'll continue my fabric therapy by working on some pincushion designs that are in various stages of completion. I've been having fun playing with Phyllis Meiring's yummy wool. You might recognize her name as the designer of In the Patch Designs. I took this photo of some of her wools when they came in earlier this year--now they're all cut up into smaller pieces as I work them into my projects!

Phyllis' seasonal market bags made of jute are filled to the brim with nine pieces of herringbone wool. This particular one was designed for spring. She also made a summer version this year. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


It was such a thrill to see the interest in Dawn Heese's new book during my recent book giveaway. I really wish I had a copy for each and every one who entered but alas, there can be just one winner, and that person by random draw... Apple Avenue Quilts, who said,

I'm a follower!

Congratulations to Apple Avenue Quilts! You have until Thursday, August 23, at noon central time, to contact me with your mailing address. If I don't hear anything by then, I will have to draw another name. And for those of you who could like to order Dawn's book, Kansas City Star now has it up on their website here

Saturday, August 18, 2012


It is always a treat to go to my local Prairie Women's Sewing Circle, hosted by my local quilt shop here. At today's meeting, we were treated to a most informative program on crazy quilts by local quilt historian Barb Eckhoff, who brought some beauties from her collection of antique quilts. Some of the group members also shared some of their own treasures. Barb purchased the crazy quilt in the top right of the below photo for just $20 back in 1967. The quilt dates to the 1880s. We learned that the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia launched the crazy quilting craze and that these quilts were originally called Japan quilts because they resembled the crazing of a well-known Japanese porcelain pattern called "cracked ice".

The maker of Barb's crazy quilt cleverly incorporated the lining of men's hats into her quilt (the circular fabrics bear haberdashery labels from London).

We were all in awe of the beautiful handwork on these quilts. Barb told us that crazy quilts were status symbols of the day and were rarely displayed on beds but rather sofas or pianos where they would be seen by company. As you can see, the makers loved to showcase their embroidery skills on these quilts. 

Sadly, most crazy quilts have some form of deterioration, primarily shattered silks—the result of chemical damage caused by the process of weighting silks. Barb said Congress eventually outlawed weighted silks when parachutes, which were also made of silks, began to fail. Not a good thing to fail!! In addition to the beautiful crazy quilt made of silks and velvets seen in the photos above, Barb also brought some country cousins made of cottons and wool. She said they would have been made by country women who wouldn't have had access to the fine silks and velvets. Don't you love this wool one? It's part of the Iowa Documentation Project and features borders on just three sides.

This country crazy quilt is made of cottons and was embroidered with string.

Kathy, one of our group members, brought this lovely crazy quilt, which Barb dated to the 1930s when the crazy quilt enjoyed a resurgence. It also contains some older silks.

Jacque, our group facilitator, brought this striking crazy-quilted treasure that was made by her husband's grandmother. 

Jacque also shared this charming sewing pocket (pattern by Pam Buda) that she made from a kit that she won at Pam's Schoolhouse presentation at Quilt Market. I've seen LOTS of patterns for these sewing pockets, so they should be widely available if you want to try making one yourself. I purchased a wonderful book on them a couple years ago, and it has many patterns for pockets similar to this one as well as huswifs. Wasn't there a fabric collection called Pockets and Housewives by Old Sturbridge Village many years ago? Can't remember if that was the exact name or not, so if you know, please leave a comment! I think I have some it somewhere in my fabric stash but not anywhere that would be easy to access right now!

This book is a great resource on the history of crazy quilts. I received it as a gift several years ago. For years, I had wanted to learn how to make a crazy quilt and 12 years ago, I attended an all-day seminar on just that by crazy quilt expert Betty Pillsbury at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa (which has a beautiful guest room decorated with antique quilts). Sorry to digress as that has nothing to do with this book, which was written by Cindy Brick. 

In addition to crazy quilts, Barb talked to us about lighting during pioneer days in Iowa. Unlike those in the East, Iowans didn't really use candles because they didn't have a plentiful supply of the material necessary to make them. While researching the topic, Barb learned that they typically only sewed during the daylight hours and if they sewed by evening, it was usually by the light of a fire. Those in the East had plentiful access to bayberry, which was made into candle wax. This was much more fragrant and pleasing than the scent of candles rendered from beef tallow. I don't have any lighting visuals from the presentation to show you but I can show you this small sampling of my vintage kerosene lantern collection in my parlor.

This is my cast-iron Victorian match striker, which was made during the late 19th century. It's made in the shape of a lady's boot! The Victorians certainly had a penchant for the fanciful, so I had to pair it with matches that were equally delightful. These are aqua and came in the prettiest bird box! 

And on a totally different note, don't forget to join the giveaway for my most recent quilt book editing project in my previous post. You have until this coming Tuesday. I'm delighted by the terrific response to it so far. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012



As a book editor with Kansas City Star, I recently got to work on a fun project with Linen Closet Quilts designer Dawn Heese. It's hard to imagine but Dawn actually produced two quilt books this year! I honestly don't know how she managed to get it all done. Her latest title—Inspired: A 21st-Century Twist on 19th-Century Favorites—was inspired by the timeless charm of 19th-century quilt designs. To update them for today's quilters, Dawn put her own unique design twist on each. The book features six new quilts, including four stunning appliquéd beauties—one featuring wool appliqué. I particularly love her Laurel quilt, which spotlights nine variations on the classic wreath design. I don't want to give too much away as I hope you will check out the book yourself when it's posted to our website here

To celebrate the release of Dawn's new book, I'm giving away a copy! To enter, simply leave a comment telling me about your favorite quilt design. You do NOT need to be an official follower of my blog to enter, and international entries are welcome. For those of you who are official followers, I do want to thank you for your support with an extra entry. To get your additional entry, simply post an additional comment letting me know that you are an official follower. This giveaway will end this coming Tuesday, August 21, at noon central time. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, August 22, and she/he will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear back by then, I will draw another name. Good luck to all! And in the meantime, check out all the other great new releases from Kansas City Star Quilts, such as Maggie Bonanomi's A Day at Sunny Brook, here. As usual, Maggie delights with a multitude of projects ranging from sachets and samplers to pincushions and hooked rugs. I can't decide which one to make first! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The Iowa Events Center here in Des Moines recently contacted me about doing a post on the upcoming AQS (American Quilter's Society) Quilt Show and Contest, which will be held at the Center on October 3-6 of this year. With more than 1,000 quilts on display, this is the perfect place to glean some quilting inspiration! This year's theme is "Welcome to the World of Quilting". Admission at the door is $11.

This year's show will also feature a variety of special exhibits—Stitch Like an Egyptian: Tentmakers of Cairo, Japanese Color and Form: New Works by 50 Japanese Artists, 2013 Pilgrim/Roy Invitational Quilt Challenge, AQS Authors' Quilt Exhibit, and New Quilts from an Old Favorite: Baskets. And of course, you won't want to miss the huge merchant mall of vendors. I don't know exactly how many there are this year, but rest assured it is enough for you to shop till you drop! I returned home with a tote bag full of goodies from last year's show. One of my favorite designers, Yellow Creek Quilt Designs, will be a vendor at this show! They also have a featured design in the upcoming winter issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine. I'm actually in the process of editing their project now! Their name probably rings a bell as they've been featured in Quilt Sampler magazine, one of the publications that I write for.

The AQS Show is also a great opportunity to learn new quilting techniques. If you plan to come, be sure to check out the many creative classes that will also be taking place during the week of the show. You can see a list of them here and project photos here. For scenes from past AQS Des Moines shows, check out my previous posts here and here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I recently visited my grandma, who has been recuperating from major shoulder surgery over the past several months. I have long admired her strong work ethic and positive outlook on life, which I think have contributed to her longevity. I have the former quality but not so much of the latter as I tend to be realist! Along with one of her daughters, Grandma sews quilts for Project Linus, a national organization that makes quilts and blankets for critically ill children. Aunt Karen drops off donated fabric for her and then Grandma ships the finished quilts back to her. When we visited Grandma, we noticed that she had made 80 more quilts—some of which are pictured here—that were about ready to ship out. I'm so proud of her!

Despite her age, Grandma still lives on the family farm, where she enjoys cooking, gardening, baking, sewing, and growing African violets. I have fond memories of learning how to make sock monkeys with her. Many years ago, she made me my first sock monkey (pictured here)! Ever since, I have had a soft spot for these stuffed simians! 

Ever the kind soul, Grandma sent us back with some homegrown zucchini from her garden, homemade banana bread and cookies, and old wool coats from the local Christian thrift store where she used to volunteer for many years. She always saves old wool clothing for me for my many wool projects.

Friday, August 10, 2012


It's been another incredibly hectic week of work deadlines here at Ashton House, but it's also been an enjoyable one, thanks to friends and family. Yesterday morning, my hubby surprised me by fixing me mini Hello Kitty pancakes before heading off to work. Aren't they cute?!

He knows I'm a Hello Kitty fan, so he bought me an HK pancake maker earlier this year. Hello Kitty is a nostalgic thing for me as I can remember my mom buying me little HK notebooks and stickers when I was a kid. I guess a bit of our childlike selves lives on in us adults!

I was so grateful to get out of the office on Monday for a fun quilting road trip. My friend Belinda took me and some friends to Omaha to visit the new AccuQuilt facility, and then to Fremont to visit some antiques shops and Country Traditions quilt shop. Belinda recently won top honors in AccuQuilt's Barn Quilt Block contest and as a result, her winning design is now displayed on the building (see below photo). As the grand prize winner, Belinda was invited to their big annual quilt retreat in June and she got to take one friend along. Her good friend Merry accompanied her there. Because Belinda could only take one friend to the retreat, she planned this follow-up visit to give the rest of her friends a chance to see her winning block in person. I don't usually get out that much to enjoy a day with friends, so I gladly accepted her invitation.

Once inside the building, we were pleasantly greeted by a receptionist and given a tour. As an antique quilt lover, I was especially delighted to find that they had an exhibit on antique quilts in their gallery. Alongside these gems of the past were modern counterparts made by members of the AccuQuilt team with AccuQuilt GO! dies. It was an intriguing blend of past and present.

This circa 1890 quilt is made of 3" blocks. 

The AccuQuilt version is this delightful 17" x 23" quilt made by Barbara Scott.

The sashing in this circa 1860 Double Nine Patch quilt, found in the Pennsylvania area, features appliquéd flower cornerstones. 

And here's the AccuQuilt twist on the previous quilt by Carolyn Marsh—her very first quilted project!

I go gaga for antique hexagon quilts, and this gorgeous 1840s English version was packed with them! I couldn't help but examine all the beautiful antique fabrics. Love this blue one!

And here is Linda P.'s 2012 version called Diamonds are Forever, made with a custom Go! die.

During the tour, I learned that all AccuQuilt employees can quilt two hours a week on company time. We enjoyed seeing their state-of-the-art work studio, which was well equipped with cutting tables, work stations, computerized sewing machines, and this wondrous wall of dies.

I think I might have to buy the new Reiko Kato dies. She has a very similar style to the Japanese quilter  Yoko Saito, who writes some of my favorite quilt books like this one. 

We even got to see the warehouse from which all the orders are shipped. Here's one of the many aisles stocked with AccuQuilt GO! and Studio dies. 

After the AccuQuilt tour, we stopped by The Quilted Moose in Gretna on our way to Fremont. It had been a few years since I'd visited the shop, so it was refreshing to see everything again. I remembered that they had a terrific assortment of Jo Morton prints and bought a few more to add to my stash.

After a wonderful lunch at J's Steakhouse in Fremont, we enjoyed checking out a couple area antique shops. I spotted this cool antique hardware cabinet at one of the shops.

And finally it was on to Country Traditions quilt shop, a-turn-of-the-20th-century building packed with more than 7,000 bolts of fabric. You might say it was 12,000 square-feet of quilted bliss!

As you can see, it was a fun-filled day of fabric and antiques. What more could you ask for?! A big thank you to Belinda for orchestrating the trip. In typical Belinda fashion, she had thought everything out so carefully beforehand and came prepared with directions, shop lists, bottled water, and granola bars. Thank you for taking such good care of us, Belinda!