Friday, March 29, 2013


This time of year, we celebrate spring's arrival at Ashton House with displays of spring-fresh whimsies. These handmade chalkware bunnies frolic in front of a vintage English dessert plate in my favorite shade of pink.

Sheep figurines also have a springy feel to me, although I keep them out year-round. I think my love of wool sparked a fondness for these figurines, and I've been collecting them for the past 10 years. These guys are some of the wooliest sheep I've seen.

This wonderful prim pair was handcrafted.

In addition to all the springy creatures, vintage spring-themed quilts also make an appearance this time of year. I have about 30 vintage quilts from the 1930s. This vintage Double Wedding Ring quilt hangs on the bannister of my staircase.

So does this vintage tulip one in my favorite color palette of pink and green.

Hand-embroidered quilts are also a favorite of mine, and this little vintage crib-sized chicken quilt is draped over one of the pink and cream chairs in my dining room.

Everything's coming up violets around here—another reminder that spring is here! Here are some of the flowering lovelies that are gracing my windowsills...

I love the white edging on this pink variety. It's a real showstopper in my indoor garden.

Violets with contrasting speckles like this are known as "fantasy".

I can hardly wait until this beauty unfurls its splendor.

Hope these photos will put a spring in your step today! Here's something that put one in mine. My dear hubby surprised me with this pair of cute owl pendant watches. The one on the right is like a little pocket watch. It opens to reveal the watch part. They are really tiny--only about 1 1/2" tall. I can't believe all the cute owl stuff out there!

From Ashton House to yours, we wish you all a blessed Easter! We will be spending the day with family enjoying a ham dinner.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


This week has been another whirlwind so far with the prim quilt magazine that I edit going to press, so I'm behind on other matters such as correspondence. If you're waiting for an email or call from me, please be patient as we work hard to bring you another issue of inspiring designs. I'm excited to share our Summer 2013 cover with you. Don't you just wish you could step right into this idyllic cover scene?! I know I do. The feature quilt is by Geoff's Mom and we've included all the instructions for making it in this issue.

Inside, you'll find another 15 projects ranging from table toppers and quilts to purses and pincushions. When we received this adorable submission from Logan O' Bier, this owl lover was smitten.

And sweet designer Marcie Patch never fails to charm us with her classic patterns. Her scrappy Calico Pennies table runner makes a great addition to any tabletop. 

One of my pincushion designs is also in this issue and I'll share more about that in a future post. In the meantime, watch for this terrific issue coming to mailboxes and newsstands in early April!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Happy St. Paddy's Day, everybody! I thought this photo of a handmade St. Paddy's day bunny would be especially appropriate today! Dressed in her shamrock skirt and sporting a velvet shamrock in her paw, she's not only perfect for this holiday but Easter as well. She gets to stay out in my dining room from March-April each year. It was a good weekend here as I was able to stay away from work and the computer the whole time—up until now, of course, but I'm quickly heading back to what I was doing—just relaxing and enjoying the day! Just wanted to pop in quickly to wish you all a happy day.

Friday, March 15, 2013


With work deadlines rapidly encroaching, this week was a whirlwind of editing and writing. One day, I literally sat down at my computer at 7:00 a.m. and didn't get up again until 2:00 when I realized I was a little hungry! We're in the final stages of readying the summer issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine and Victoria magazine special interest publication for the printer. Before the weekend, I wanted to share some more photos from my recent Kansas City trip. Since the focus of this trip was the photo shoot for the Kansas City Star quilt book that I'm editing, I didn't have a lot of time to shop this time, but I did manage to squeeze in a few antiques shops. This embroidered owl block in a vintage quilt made me smile. It was in rough shape, so I didn't get it, but it was priced according to its condition.

These adorable vintage owl salt and pepper shakers also made me smile, but they didn't come home with me.

I love the earthy palette of primitive quilts. They just make you feel warm and cozy!

And speaking of warm and cozy, what captures that feeling better than hand-dyed wool? I always love seeing this wall of wool!

I usually spend a small fortune among its offerings, and as usual, I found just what I needed—or should I say, wanted? I was particularly on the lookout for more greens this time.

Don't you love those antique wooden thread cabinets with that wonderful patina of time? My budget doesn't match the prices of most of these, but I was able to find a charming Willimantic one for a good price several years ago. It's not perfect—it has its bumps here and there—but it's been a fun addition to my sewing room. 

I've long been enamored with these antique toy sewing machines but I don't know enough about them to know what to pay for them, so I've only purchased a few cheap ones.

I was tempted by this handmade prim bunny but decided there are enough prim bunnies hopping around my house for now! My wool Parsley bunny design has been proliferating around here at an alarming rate.

This charming cupboard of old food tins brought back memories of my paternal grandparents' vintage home. In their pantry pass-through that connected their kitchen and dining room, they had a cupboard very similar to this one and I always remember it being filled with lots of tabletop treasures.

I was amazed by the large size of these antique spools that came from an 1840 weaving mill in Lyon, France—the silk capitol of France at the time. Their price tag of $75 was too steep for me but what a delight it was to see them. The photo can't accurately show their 20-inch-tall height.

On our way out of town, we stopped by Fabric Recycles, a resale store that sells discounted fabric, notions, trims, and sewing machines from personal stashes and estate reductions. My visit yielded four yards of 1800s repro fabric for $20 and two yards of pink corduroy for $6 for a pincushion project.

As you can see in the pics, their fabric is very neatly displayed in these cubbies.

They had a terrific array of vintage buttons but they were a bit pricey, so I resisted the temptation to buy any.

Looking for vintage trims? This store has a ton of them!

Didn't see what I would call any vintage sewing machines in the shop this time, but I did recently find a colorful one to add to my collection. Will have to share that in a future post!

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Here in central Iowa a freshly-fallen layer of snow belies the fact that spring will soon be here, but the green sprigs of crocus that recently appeared in my slumbering garden assure me that it is. And on that note, I wanted to share some spring-fresh inspiration with all you fellow gardening enthusiasts and Victoria magazine lovers. The March/April issue is now on newsstands and it's literally bursting with flowery inspiration for your garden and home. I was excited to write an article for this beautiful issue.

Even if you don't have space for a garden, you can exercise your green thumb with container plantings. For some pretty palettes, check out my article on them in the current issue.

Today, I'm happily writing the content for Cottage Style, one of Victoria magazine's special interest publications out on newsstands later this spring. Writing is like an adventure to me. It's just like what the beloved author Beatrix Potter once said, "There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you." Below is a picture of her from one of my favorite books. 

I'll be back again soon this week to share more photos of my trip to Kansas City. Until then, I hope this post will encourage you to start thinking about your garden, whether it's a single pot of herbs or a spacious landscape of flowering delights. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013


The kindhearted gestures of friends have really brightened my past couple weeks. If you're a regular blog reader, you already know about my obsession with owls. Well, imagine my utter delight as I opened a package containing this sweet surprise from my friend and quilt designer extraordinaire Betsy Chutchian. Betsy told me that it's a vintage flour or sugar sack from her maternal grandmother's collection. Now how neat is that?! I've never seen one with owls on it!

Thank you so much, Betsy! I will treasure this. It's going to be hard to cut into this cute fabric but I just have to do something with it.

Betsy also sent me a signed copy of her new quilt book, Lizzie's Legacy! Lots of eye candy in this exciting follow-up to her much-loved Gone to Texas book. If you're an antique quilt and 1800s repro fabric lover like me, you won't want to miss this spectacular collection of quilt projects inspired by her great-great grandmother's journals of life on the Texas prairie. If you haven't seen it yet, go here for a sneak peek of this beautiful book or to order a copy!

More owl goodness recently came my way from my friend Cinda, who gave me this adorable owl plaque. Even more touching than the owl itself was the kind sentiment etched on it that said "You're the FRIEND everyone wishes they had". Cinda and I have been friends for 10 years now and because we both live in the same metropolitan area, we make it a point to do something at least once a month, if not more. Luckily, it's so easy to do that when you live in the same area!

A couple weeks ago, my friend Merry surprised me with this thoughtful gift of yoga goodies. I took up a yoga class earlier this year, and Merry, who has been taking yoga classes for awhile, thought these might come in handy. I didn't even realize there were such things as yoga socks but aren't they cute?! The book has been a very helpful resource in learning new positions. I find some are much easier than others! Thank you so much, Merry!

Even the hubby recently surprised me with a few little goodies! He knows I love to decorate my candlesticks with bobeches—charming candlestick collars—and he bought me these cheerful ones for my Easter tablescape with the help of a kind lady at the gift shop. They feel very springy to me, which helps remind me that spring is just around the corner!

Also in the bag was a delightful box of soap and a fun owl contact lens case...

There was even something good for me, too! Three of these pink dragon fruit-flavored Green Tea Leaf mints are the equivalent of 1 cup of tea antioxidants.

I guess they're proof that something pretty can also be practical!

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Last week, I went to Kansas City to attend a photo shoot for the quilt book that I am editing. On our way to the shoot location, we wound our way through the old Brookside neighborhood of stately homes.

Many of them, like this Tudor Alpine-style home, exuded storybook charm.

The snow-covered canopy of trees was like something out of a winter wonderland. Yes, Kansas City had more snow that we did here in Iowa but by the time we went down there, their roads were much better than ours as we had to travel right after a winter storm. It was worth the effort to go as I had a great time.

We decided to shoot the quilts at the historical John Wornall House, an 1858 Green Revival beauty. I traipsed through more than a foot of snow to snap this photo of it!

While I can't share actual photos of the quilts just yet for obvious reasons, I did want to take you inside this glorious dwelling for a quick peek. The elegant parlor was adorned with a beautiful piano (I think it might have been a Chickering). 

In contrast to the formality of the parlor, the kitchen was wonderfully rustic. We all oohed and ahhed over this charming dry sink. 

The kitchen table was covered with primitive kitchen wares like this antique butter mold. Being a fan of acorns, I had to take a picture of its impression. Isn't it lovely?

This had to be the most ornate pot-bellied stove I'd ever seen. We did find a way to incorporate it into one of the photos. To see how, you'll have to wait till the book comes out later this year!

Either a child's or doll's bed, this diminutive delight instantly captured our hearts. You can get a feel for its size by looking at the antique deacon's bench to its left.

We were delighted by the home's many wonderful props—including this antique sewing box. 

I love antique china dolls, and this sweet lady caught my eye.

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a most gracious house, and I hope it piqued your curiosity for the book! I will be sure to share more details about it as we get closer to the release date. If you haven't read my previous post, please stop by to read about a sweet kitty in need of a good home!

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