Monday, September 24, 2012


Thanks to all of you who took the time to send me such sweet comments about my new Sitting Pretty pincushion design mentioned in my previous post. Jeanette, Diane, and Sondra—if you're reading this, you can find the tutorial by clicking the Riley Blake button on the left-hand side of my blog. I tried to reply to your emails directly but wasn't able to because you are non-reply bloggers, which means that your emails do not come through with a return email address.

And to Marie Pierre, who also inquired about the pattern...
Je suis vraiment désolée, mais je ne parle pas français. Pourriez-vous écrire en anglais, s'il vous plaît? Si non, ça va, mais je dois partager vos mots avec quelques amis qui m'aideront.

Now on to some quilt-related news. I didn't have a chance to blog last week as we were wrapping up production of the winter issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine, which features 16 new designs. That's Jan Goos' wool quilt, Diamond in the Rough, on our cover. With winter quickly approaching, this is the perfect time to make a wool quilt!  

Or how about a little quilt dressed in prim snowmen and plaid Snowball blocks to get you in the mood for winter? Actually, it's not going to take much to get me in the mood for colder temps this year with this past summer's withering heat!

Wouldn't you love to snuggle up to this cozy wool pillow decked out in a festive array of ornaments and embellishments?

Watch for the latest issue in your mailbox and newsstands in early to mid October. Well, better get back to work! I'm working on an article on the history of tea boxes this week in addition to helping my parents-in-law move into their new digs in Ankeny. Can't believe I actually get to write on my favorite subject—history—for a living! I love my job.

Friday, September 14, 2012



Happy Friday, everyone! In a previous post here, I hinted of a project I was working on. Well, I am delighted to debut my newest pincushion design today. It's called "Sitting Pretty"—a flirty and feminine boudoir chair. Can you just imagine a larger version sitting in a ladies dressing room? That was my inspiration! The featured fabric is Carina Gardner's cheerful Songbird by Riley Blake Designs.

My little chair harbors a hidden bonus—it doubles as a handy sewing box for stashing needles, thread, and other sewing accessories. Simply remove the seat cushion to stash or retrieve your supplies!

Because I'm also a big fan of the pink/gray/beige color combo, I had to make a pincushion in Lori Holt's Daisy Cottage fabrics. This one was actually my prototype. Of course, you can customize the chair to suit your style with any type of fabric. In fact, I'm making one with reproduction 1800s prints right now.

I chose the same fabric for the interior that is on the seat cushion, then stashed my embroidery scissors, perle cotton, and needles inside. How handy is that?!

Because I want to spread the pincushion love, I'm sharing the instructions to make my whimsical design on the Riley Blake Designs website. To visit them, click on their button in the left-hand side of my blog. Feel free to make them for yourself and give as gifts but you may not sell the pattern or the finished pincushions. I hope to have finished pincushions for sale here at some point. I have a couple more designs coming out in magazines in the coming year, so come back for more pincushion inspiration!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


After many years in the Omaha area, my parents-in-law are moving back to Iowa next week to be closer to family and the family farm. This past weekend, we visited their house for the last time to load up a batch of yard equipment that my father-in-law will no longer need since they will be moving to a townhome. It was a bit sad to see the house so empty (the below photo is their basement). You see, to me a house is much more than just a place to live, and saying goodbye to it is like biding farewell to an old friend.

Seeing my parents-in-law's house for the last time made me think of my very first home as an adult and the other places I've called home since then. After graduating from Drake University with a history and magazine journalism degree, I found a magazine editor position at Meredith Corporation (publisher of Better Homes and Gardens) in Des Moines. I was so excited to be on my own and move into my very own second-story apartment in a vintage brick building on Grand Ave., just five minutes from work. I fell in love with the big bay window and homey fireplace, but it was actually the little window boxes that sealed the deal. I remember my mom bought me a flat of portulaca for them and we had fun planting them up. At first, the apartment was home to just me and my cat, Caesar, but soon after, my husband moved in after transferring from another college to be closer to me. We got married shortly after that and then he finished his last year of college at Drake.

Even though I lived there for only a little more than a year, it was very hard to leave. But I had a wonderful new home waiting for me in the small ranch we decided to rent to prepare ourselves for the responsibilities of homeownership. We stayed there for a year and a half before buying our first home, known as a Beaverdale brick in the Des Moines area. Although it needed some work, we saw a lot of potential in the 1936 home's three fireplaces and a family room addition in back. Over the seven years we lived there, we did our best to make it our own. My father-in-law helped my husband build a wall of built-in bookshelves in the study and my mom-in-law made curtains for the living room and kitchen. It was a very cozy home and one that I will always remember fondly. To this day, it is still my favorite home I've lived in. I'm not sure one will ever compare to it.

Wishing for more yard space for gardening and an old home to renovate, it was eventually time to move on to our current home, an 1885 Victorian Italianate. It was challenging to make it feel like home at first, and many of my things just didn't go with it. It's hard to believe that we've been here eight years. Our kitchen remodel, requiring all new materials from walls to flooring, has been our biggest project to date. Since we moved in, the entire house has also been rewired to code and the upper flat roof replaced (it was leaking through to the attic when we moved in!). Several smaller renovation projects followed and we have many more projects on our list.

Each home we've lived in holds special memories and a special place in my heart. While I enjoy taking trips and seeing new places, there's just no place like home!

Friday, September 7, 2012


Where has the week gone?! I think my week's to-do list was a bit too ambitious because I've only gotten about half way through it. I worked on a pincushion design yesterday morning, proofed some magazine layouts in the afternoon, and interviewed a story source for a kitchen article in the early evening. Here is but a small part of the madness that has engulfed my sewing room over the past couple days. I'm afraid if I showed you the whole cutting table, it might scare you! When I work on a project, I seem to lose the ability to put things away, and before I know it, I'm hopelessly surrounded by a mountain of threads, fabric, and sewing gadgets. But there is an upside to chaos. Have you ever noticed that it can often spark some of our best ideas? I guess we need a little mess in our lives to be creative!

To balance the chaos with a bit of order, I decided to clean out a couple of the hat boxes on my sewing armoire. They are filled with vintage seam binding and bias tape. I decided it was time to get realistic about what I will and won't use because it would be a shame for them to just sit there if someone else could put them to good use. As I look at this photo, I realize it's high time I make some window treatments for my room, which still has the ones it came with when we moved in eight years ago. Shortly after we moved in, I found the turquoise shelf, sewing armoire, vintage bobbins, and lamp—all cheap finds—at one of Meredith Corp.'s many prop sales. At the time, I was looking for inexpensive furnishings for my new sewing room, figuring I could repaint them later. Next on the agenda will be sifting out the all the fat quarters I no longer need from the armoire shelves.

To keep me motivated while editing/writing/creating, I'll often turn to my binder of inspirational quotes, sayings, poems and essays that I've kept since high school. It's filled with wise words from Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and many unknown sources. Here are a few quotes about creativity...

"No great thing is created suddenly." —Epictetus (Greek philosopher)

"Another word for creativity is courage." —George Prince

"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." 
—Unknown source

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." —Albert Einstein

"In each of us are places where we have never gone. Only by pressing the limits do we ever find them." —Dr. Joyce Brothers

"Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare." —Japanese proverb

Sunday, September 2, 2012


It's a lazy afternoon here at Ashton House. I spent part of the afternoon watching one of my favorite movies, Bridget Jones's Diary, then decided to make some progress on my pincushion orders. So I found a quiet corner of the house on the chaise in my bedroom and starting stitching more birdie pincushions.

I went to get a glass of water and when I got back, I saw this on my chaise! My cat Poe had nestled in between the cushion and the back of the chaise. He has his own cat bed and many comfy fleece blankets around the house and yet he chooses to squeeze into a spot where he does not belong. It's not the first time he's done it. I did not have the heart to remove him, so I had to find another spot to sit and stitch!

Do any of you other cat lovers ever feel like your furry friends rule the roost? Our cats have a tendency to take over our bed at night and we'll wake up and find ourselves in these contorted positions because they've managed to push us out of the way. They're more comfortable than we are! I think this cute illustration by one of my favorite artists, Sara Pulver, captures it well. I have several of her prints, which I've framed and placed around the house. Her work is available on etsy here.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Last week, I did a quick little giveaway for one of the American Quilt Study Group's annual publications, Uncoverings. By random draw, the winner is....Denise who said...

I love depression era quilts. Love to hear stories about the depression and how to make do which I try to do now every day.

Congrats, Denise! To claim your prize, send me your mailing address by this Sunday evening (you can click on the email button on the right sidebar of my blog) and I will get your package mailed out when I make my weekly run to the post office next week.