Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Forward To 2011

In just a matter of hours, we will be welcoming the new year...and as 2010 comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the last 365 days. This year has been a good year for Blue Ribbon Designs - a year of triumphs, challenges, and rewards. Thank you for making this a special year for me and for your support, encouragement, and loyalty - there are many talented designers and teachers out there...and a vast amount of needlework patterns to choose from - I sincerely thank you for welcoming my designs into your stitching rotation and allowing my dream to be a reality. I truly love what I do and I hope you will continue to receive my designs with open arms and share in my passion for all things done with needle and thread. Looking forward to 2011, I have many projects in the works - a pile of design ideas, multiple classes across the US, and exciting plans for the future. Thank you for following me on my creative journey...

As promised, here is a sneak peek at an upcoming design titled "Turn The Page" - it is the second in my series of bookmark samplers. As with the first design, you can stitch the entire framed sampler or choose a favorite section for making a bookmark. The model was stitched on 40-count Weeks Dye Works Linen (Angel Hair) with Weeks Dye Work cotton floss. Unfortunately with the winter storm brewing, it is quite gloomy and dark - the light was not ideal for photography - but I promised a photo today...and you get the idea! I have plans to release this design in February at the Nashville Needlework Market.

Wishing you and your loved ones a new year filled with happiness, prosperity, and kindness...all the best in 2011...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Friendship Across The Miles

Well, it is almost the new year...and I am bringing it in, as usual, with a terrible cold/flu...I have been fighting it for weeks and somehow right after Christmas it surfaced at maximum strength. For the last several days, I have been pretty miserable (that explains my lack of posts, tweets, and returned emails) - today has almost been tolerable and I am hoping to have shaken it off by the start of 2011! Before we make the move into the new year, I do have a couple more holiday things I wanted to share with you...

Back in the Spirit of Cross Stitch and CATS Stitching Festival days - back when they were held in Des Moines, Iowa each year...we're talking about years ago...during one of the needlework classes, I sat next to Lee and her husband Harmon (this was back when I was taking classes, before I was teaching them). Lee is from Detroit, MI and we had an instant connection - she was such a sweetheart and we enjoyed sitting together at several classes/events. We exchanged contact information and birthdays and have kept in touch all these years. On special occasions, Lee and Harmon always send me the most beautiful cards in the mail and tuck-in adorable little treasures. This year, they sent me the cutest hand crocheted Christmas tree - complete with little jeweled ornaments and a gold star on top! It was made by one of their friends and was such a heartwarming enclosure. To think we met over our mutual love of needlework, became friends across the miles, and have kept in touch all these years is a tribute to what friendship is all about. I hope one day Lee, Harmon, and I will be reunited...but until then, Lee and I will keep up our long distance friendship with cards and notes and fond memories of our special time together.

I also have to share what my sweet friend Merry did for me. She had no idea that I have been really sick for almost a week...but she must have sensed I needed her...because I received a wonderful envelope from her in the mail this week. What was in it?? - a pair of cuffs she knitted especially for me - I knew she was working on them, because she asked me for my palm measurements, but I had no idea they were done and on the way! I absolutely love the dungarees blue she used - it was the perfect color choice for me...and they fit, well, "like a glove". Also included - a fun floral pink folder (shown in the photo) with several quilt and sewing patterns and some gorgeous pieces of fabric. How is that for a "care" package??...and she didn't even know I needed one.

Finally, as I mentioned before, my husband and I really don't do Christmas gifts for each other - we usually just get a couple things we need/want for our home - this year, a new Keurig Platinum Brewer and a Dyson Ball vacuum. But, my husband threw me off a bit...about a week before Christmas, he came home with a surprise gift for me. If you follow me on Twitter, I posted a photo of this wrapped mystery gift and asked for guesses...and several of you guessed correctly! It was a NookColor - really the only thing I mentioned I wanted - I am so super excited - and although I haven't felt well enough to do much reading, I have managed to almost finish one book and have perused several magazines (which are awesome on a color eReader!). It was a grand surprise and I am still giddy about it. I did make him a little something special for Christmas - a new large fleece blanket and matching over-sized pillow - both in camouflage fleece for his "man cave". They were a huge hit - especially with Simba who has been caught curled up in the center of the big fluffy pillow...and burrowed down in the blanket.

All in all it was a magical Christmas and I feel extremely blessed. Now, if I could just beat this darned cold/flu for the New Year...

Tomorrow, tune in for a sneak peek photo of "Turn The Page" - my new bookmark sampler that will be released at the TNNA Needlework Market in February....

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Sewing Projects - Patchwork Table Runner & Towels

I did it - I finally finished my last handmade gift of the season! I am actually shocked I reached my goal...a month ago I had no idea how I was going to get it all done, but a little time management, a specific prioritized list, and a few late nights helped me accomplish my lofty goals.

Last night, after a couple shots of DayQuil cold medicine (yes, my head cold is in full force - just in time for Christmas), I felt well enough to quilt and bind this table runner and add the finishing touches to some matching kitchen towels. The table runner is a Pieced Tree Pattern called "Scrappy -Do" (Tiny One #21) and was much easier than it looks! Even feeling under the weather, I loved every minute of this project - maybe it is the floral fabrics - they just seem bright and cheery to me. If you are a beginner quilter or want a good starting project, these little Pieced Tree Patterns "tiny" laminated card projects are perfect - they are inexpensive and have easy diagrams and instructions. This table runner is a nice size at 12"w x 32.5" long and will be a good addition to the recipient's kitchen. When I cut the fabric for this project, I had a small pile of 2.5" x 2.5" squares left over, so I decided to use them to embellish a couple matching kitchen towels...then I added some cheerful medium-sized yellow rick rack. I was so thrilled with how these turned out that I want to do a set for my kitchen! I will be pairing the table runner and kitchen towels with a special cookbook...and all I have left to do is foof (wrap) it!

As the snow continues to fall here in Iowa, I am going to enjoy my Christmas Eve day. I already have a big pot of homemade chili simmering in the crock pot and plan to do a little baking this afternoon. Once the house is tidy, the last couple gifts are foofed, and my fun in the kitchen is done, I plan to relax this evening with my husband (who will be home on Christmas Eve for a change!)...a nice fire in the fireplace, maybe a good movie...and of course I get to unwrap my mystery gift...

Wishing you a white Christmas filled with laughter and love - Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spreading Out The Joy

Remember yesterday when I said "it is the season of surprises"? Well, today, another HUGE surprise arrived (I am feeling VERY spoiled!). While I was out running errands before the blizzard is in full swing, my dear friend Mary left the most amazing surprise box at my front door! I have been feeling quite under the weather with another (or maybe the same) head cold and was having quite a rough day - only to come home and find this over-the-top surprise. Mary and I both have hectic schedules and haven't had a chance to get together this holiday season - but that sure didn't stop her from sharing the Christmas love! I arrived home to find a great plastic storage box (which will now be a home for in-progress quilt blocks) filled - yes, filled with small wrapped packages. Now those of you who know me or follow my blog, are aware I absolutely adore tiny packages - in fact, stockings have always been my favorite, as my mother would wrap everything when she filled mine - to me there is so much excitement in seeing an array of small wrapped presents. Although I thought momentarily about opening a gift a day...or saving these packages until Christmas, the little girl in me had to open all of them immediately (and there was A LOT to open)!

Mary actually stitched me "The Queen Bee" by JBW Designs - which is perfect! Many of my friends call me "B"...and honey bees have a special place in my heart, as my grandfather was a beekeeper - she knows all this and cross stitched this design especially for me...a truly touching piece. Plus, she knows how much I love to sew, quilt, and create and is letting me decide how to finish it - which is a gift in itself - I already have a ton of ideas!

This fun surprise box was filled with things I love (a TON of thought went into it!) - fabrics, tea, miniature rick rack, ornaments, a journal, a book, stationery, and multiple other be honest, I am overwhelmed....she must have started collecting items months ago...

I have always said I have the most thoughtful and giving friends - they just "get me" quirks, my hectic schedule, and my control freak perfectionist personality. I truly feel like a little kid this Christmas - I don't ever remember a year where there were so many treats and surprises. I am truly thankful for my many blessings.

I hope you are receiving an abundance of surprises this holiday season...and have the chance to celebrate the great gift of friendship...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Season of Surprises

One of the things I love most about the cold winter months is curling up inside with my needle and thread. With the abundance of stitching I have to complete, it has become my evening and nightly ritual to light a fire in the fireplace, make a nice hot beverage, and enjoy time with my needlework. I am hoping to have another new design model finished soon, so look forward to a new photo in the next several days.

I spent a little time this afternoon working on one last Christmas gift...a fun patchwork table runner and matching kitchen towels. I finished all the piecing today and hope to do the quilting and binding tomorrow morning....then my Christmas list of handmade gifts will be complete. I have found much joy in my sewing studio these past several weeks...and lucky me, I have two baby quilts to do for expecting friends, so I have plenty of after-holiday quilting to keep me busy!

Now I am off to my stitching nest to work on the model for my upcoming bookmark sampler (it still needs a name) is about half done and I would really like to finish it up this week. But before I get my needle moving again, I plan to make a cup of Christmas Tea in my fun new Longaberger Top Hat Snowman Mug! This super special mug arrived in the mail today from my dear friend Robin - she is so very thoughtful - and she knows how much I love my Longaberger (I'm addicted, it's a sickness) and hot tea, so this was the perfect surprise. Robin you truly brightened my day - THANK YOU!

It's that time of year when we find joy in unexpected places - a season of surprises...take a few moments see the beauty and joy that surround you....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Terrific Treats!

Yesterday was a busy but bountiful day! I started out my morning bright and early, getting a bunch of work accomplished before taking Simba to the groomer at 9:30AM. His groomer just happens to be about 30 minutes away in the city where my dear friend Merry lives - so every time he gets groomed (once a month), we have a chance together. After dropping off Simba, we met at the local quilt shop and did some retail therapy...then headed to a little Japanese restaurant we both thoroughly enjoy for some hot tea, soup, and sushi. We talked for what seemed like hours, even though we just saw each other last week. She had another little unexpected gift bag for me, with several things she had collected with a friend: a gorgeous piece of a favorite sampler fabric, an adorable owl fabric, some frog items - and her very last jar of Hot Pepper Jelly (my favorite of her jellies!). Christmas is year-round with her - she spoils me rotten!

After picking up Simba (and my husband who was having some work done on his car), I returned home to find Travis had cleaned the garage (that was a shock!) - and he actually did a little organizing instead of just getting things up off the floor. After admiring his hard work, it was time to get focused - I had a HUGE pile of work to get done and I felt like my day was flying by...I was at my desk for quite some time - only to look at the clock and realized it was after 6:30 PM. I could hear the mailman delivering mail (his truck is super noisy) - we are the last on his route, so our mail arrives quite late every day. I ventured out into the cold to find the most lovely surprise in my mailbox - a package from Ruth! Ruth is part of my stitching family - she attended the Stitcher's Hideaway Retreat (Mystic, CT) in October and we immediately hit it off - I never expected in a million years to receive a package from her and I couldn't wait to tear it open! What I found inside immediately made me smile - a pine pillow (I think I mentioned here before how much I love the scent of pine)...and it is a special pine pillow - the fabric print looks almost identical to the miniature Maple Leaves quilt I recently finished - it is absolutely perfect! This amazing package also contained new K-cups for me to try (woo hoo!) and chocolate (a kind I have never tried before and it is delicious!), a fun snowflake pin, and a very thoughtful card. I think Ruth is one of Santa's elves in disguise - this little box truly brightened my day - it was fabulous! Thank you so much Ruth - I am enjoying everything you sent...and I can't wait to see you next October at the New England Stitching Retreat....

I hope you are enjoying surprises this holiday season...or sending some yourself!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Sewing Projects - Sweet Treat Bags

If you have collected an array of small gifts for a person on your list, why not try making a Sweet Treats Bag? I have been collecting gifts for my friend Mary for quite some time - instead of putting them all in a box, I wrapped them in tissue and put them inside this fun pouch with a flap. These bags are easy to put together and a good project for a beginner - pick a holiday cotton print or a fabric especially for the recipient....add a fabric covered button....and tie it closed with a festive ribbon - it works perfectly for "wrapping" gifts. This bag is made by sewing together 1-1/2" strips (made easy by purchasing Moda pre-cut HoneyBuns) - but you could use any size strip you fancy...and the pattern could easily be adjusted to make almost any size. The supply list is minimal and these sew up quickly using fusible fleece for a nice sturdy padding. Inside this treat bag I placed a handmade pincushion, buttons, a fat quarter, and a couple sewing treats I specially gathered over the past few months. Want to try your hand at making one of these?? - well, you are in luck - Moda Fabrics has posted a free pattern for the Sweet Treats Bag online!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Sewing Projects - Friendship Quilts

I was totally inspired by the book "Prairie Children and Their Quilts" by Kathleen Tracy to attempt to make a couple friendship quilts this holiday season. This interesting book explores the origins of doll quilts made during the nineteenth century - it has vintage photos and actual diary entries from children who overcame hardships on the American frontier...and includes small, antique-style projects - twelve quilts, a doll rug, and a doll apron. I didn't follow the exact directions for any of the little quilt projects in the book - but it gave me a nice starting point and ideas for what I wanted to do. My goal: to do two friendship quilts (well, actually I wanted to do a bunch of them, but there are only so many hours in the day!) - one for my friend Merry and one for my friend I gathered fabric and started cutting....

For Kimber's friendship quilt, I started with the idea of the "Broken Dishes Quilt" found in the book - but I did not add the extra borders. I had fun picking fabrics for this quilt out of some "scrap bags" I had purchased at local quilt shops - Kimber likes scrappy quilts with character, so I tried to pick colors that would appeal to her and her home decor. I cut 96 quarter square triangles (using the GO! Quarter Square-4" Finished Triangle by Alex Anderson die with my AccuQuilt GO! fabric cutter) for this tiny quilt. It was quite fun to piece this quilt - and although I wanted it to be scrappy, I found myself trying to make it more "balanced" as I placed each block. I wasn't sure if this small quilt would be used as a wall hanging, but I wanted it to have that option, so I put sleeves on the back and included a hanger, just in case....

For Merry's friendship quilt, I decided to something a little more modern (and not in the book). I used fabrics from "Beach House" by Blackbird Designs for Moda (note: some of the blocks have sampler fabric)....and decided to use one of my favorite shapes - the tumbler. I actually cut 96 small tumblers (using the GO! 3 1/2" Tumbler die with my AccuQuilt GO! fabric cutter), but once I pieced all of the rows, I realized I was working on quite a large project (a lot larger than I had planned - my math needed a little help!) - so the end result only uses 64...leaving me a few rows left to build on again. I just loved the soft colors of this fabric line...putting this quilt together was complete joy...and I am sure this quilt has a good home at Merry's house! I also put sleeves on the back for hanging and included a hanger.

I should note, my husband assisted me with the "hangers" - we took a trip to Lowe's, went to the lumber section and I picked up several 2" x 24" pieces of wood that were 1/4" thick....we then had them cut in half, so each was 2" x 12" x .25". We purchased sawtooth hangers and 1/4" (very, very tiny) screws, which Travis then attached to the wood "strips" when we returned home. I thought they worked perfectly and was thrilled I purchased enough to do eight hangers...that way I have some in reserve! They easily slid into the sleeves I had sewn on the back and I was able to give the quilts "ready to hang".

As a finishing touch - instead of using a permanent marker to sign and write on the actual blocks of the quilt (as suggested by the book), I decided to make labels for the back of the quilt to personalize the date and occasion. I used inkjet printable sew-on fabric and printed index card size labels, using a saying from the book:

For my dear friend,
Accept the quilt for friendship's sake
For happy times of old and late
Remember me

Then I added "Happy Holidays 2010!" and my signature. After printing the labels, I serged a 3-thread rolled edge around each one to keep them from fraying - used fusible web to hold them in place in the lower right-hand corner - and then hand-stitched them down with white quilting thread. I am not an expert quilter by any means, but I was thrilled with how well these friendship quilts turned out - and any little imperfections give them "character". I hope this blog entry will inspire you to make a friendship gift for someone special...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Sewing Projects - Embellished Kitchen Towels

Another holiday gift I worked on this season - embellished kitchen towels. These are quite fun and easy to make....and you use purchased kitchen towels (which can be found at any home store, grocery store, and many quilting/sewing stores at reasonable prices). I then picked coordinating fabric especially for the recipient - and you don't need a lot of fabric, a fat quarter will be more than sufficient for a couple towels. I simply cut a band of fabric to fit one end of the towel - then used my serger to do a 3-thread rolled edge around the cut ends of the fabric band to keep it from unraveling and give it a nice finished look (you could zig-zag the edges or do a basic hem if you do not have a serger)....I then used a small amount of fusible web to hold the fabric band in place on the towel - and attached it with a tiny zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine. To make it even more fun and unique, you can add trim, rick rack, piping, or buttons. Pair it with a cookbook and you have a perfect gift for those who like to spend time in the kitchen....

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Sewing Projects - Stitching Treasure Pockets

Now that many of my handmade/homemade gifts have been delivered, I thought I would share some of the things that I have been making....and maybe give you a few ideas of things to make yourself! This year, I have so many business obligations, I had to narrow down my gift giving list (in order to keep my sanity) - I have so much fun making gifts, I tend to go overboard and try to make things for everyone...and I knew this year, that was not a possibility - I had to focus on a more select group. For three of my dear stitching friends I made the little sewing pockets seen in the photo...well actually, according to the pattern, they are cell phone bags - I just decided they would make cute little stitching pouches. I tried to pick fabric I thought the recipients would enjoy - then I included several tiny needlework treasures in the pockets. This little pouch has two inside pockets, a Velcro closure, and measures about 4" W x 5.5" H....perfect for a stitching or project bag. Inside I tucked different accessories - scissors, needle minders, counting pins, and/or needles. I was very happy with how each one turned out...and I made a couple extras that I just may giveaway here on my blog when I reach 400 followers (hint, hint)....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pure Joy - A Holiday Get Together Continued...

When I arrived at Kimber's home yesterday - my place was set with a HUGE holiday gift basket from Merry. From my previous posts, you probably know that Merry loves to bake/cook (and to try new things in the kitchen!)...and I am one of the truly lucky ones who gets to sample all her fabulous treats! This first photo is a shot of what was in the basket...there was so much, it was almost overwhelming - both Kimber and I had to grab a pencil and write down everything as Merry walked us through the items, or else we would never be able to keep it all straight! There were three tins of baked goods (details below), a bottle of Lavender Extract, an adorable bottle of Limoncello, three jars of jelly (Spiced Crabapple, Gooseberry, and Black Currant), along with a bag of White Chocolate Cinnamon Granola - all of which she made herself!! I was truly in awe...

Here is a photo with the tins opened, so you can see inside...and I am going to do my best to tell you what each thing is....
The round tin in the lower left had three different cookies (from left to right) - Lavender Chamomile Shortbread, Sage Shortbread with Peach Jam Filling, and Raspberry Jam Thumbprints (of course she made the jams) - all are delicious...and believe me, my husband and I tried them all! The small treasure chest tin in the lower right was filled with Orange Flower Water Cookies (which are FANTASTIC!)....and the large tin shown in the top right was half Strawberry Madeleines and half Chocolate Chip Brownies with Peppermint Patties (my husband's favorite!). Yesterday I sampled each of these special treats with a cup of hot tea, so a couple extra miles on the treadmill is in order.....each and every one of them is absolutely delectable.

If all that wasn't enough, she also brought us both the most wonderful little lunch bags - yep, she sewed for us too! Seriously, how stinkin' cute is this little tote?! She found the instructions online for this great little bag on the Pink Penguin blog (which is spectacular)...if you want to make one for yourself, see Ayumi's fabulous Lunch Bag Tutorial! I absolutely LOVE the fabrics Merry chose for my little tote (note the birds in the fabric)...and the bottom section (brown flower print with birds) is actually a corduroy! I thought the rick rack on the handles was the perfect touch...and the drawstring cover is super convenient to keep everything safe inside. But wait, there's more! The bag was filled with treasures...can you say "over the top"? I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning pulling open the drawstring cover
to reveal more presents....there was a package of holiday hankies, holiday bandages, a tiny bag of lifesavers candy, two (not one, but two!) pairs of scissors that she knew I had been admiring, and a kitchen towel she made to match my black and white kitchen perfectly. AMAZING!! To say I was "blown away" would be an understatement. I have said it before - I have the most generous, creative, talented, and kind friends!

After we finished opening all out gifts, we headed back to the kitchen for more beverages and snacks...and then made our way to Kimber's sitting room for more chit chat and some needlework. Kimber had the fireplace burning to keep us toasty warm and we all worked on different projects. Merry was knitting, Kimber was hand quilting, and I was cross stitching...but truth be told, I think I did a lot more talking than stitching (what's new?)....

Driving home, I reflected on the our time together and the beautiful friendship the three of us have built - Merry and Kimber both encourage and inspire me...they help me grow and be better...their friendship is truly the best gift they have given me!

My wish for you this holiday season is to be surrounded by good friends and family - to find joy in the little things - to be encouraged and inspired - and to be aware of life's many blessings....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pure Joy - A Holiday Get Together

I am so very blessed! I have so much to share today, I am not quite sure where to start - I think I will have to split this post into two days...

I spent my morning and early afternoon with my two dear friends Merry and Kimber - we had a very special holiday gathering at Kimber's cozy 1885 farmhouse. The three of us had so much catching up to do and so much to share, it was pure joy to get together. First, we spent some time in the kitchen - Kimber had a phenomenal assortment of hot teas (see all the tins - it was hard to choose which one to try) and Merry brought a selection of her delicious homemade sweet treats (so very yummy!), and I brought cinnamon rolls, so we had a cornucopia of delicacies to choose from!

After a sipping hot tea, sampling each of the sweets, and lots (and lots) of chatter - we couldn't wait any longer...we had to open gifts! There were so many beautifully wrapped presents - it was hard to decide where to start - most of them were so pretty, I hated to open them...but it *had* to be done. Merry and I each had three gorgeously wrapped gifts from Kimber....I will show you those first...

The first gift I opened was the adorable snowman box, which had three surprises inside - the cutest tiny spun cotton reindeer I have ever seen (which immediately made me smile), a unique little package of sticky notes, and a package of two seasonal note cubes...all so thoughtful and, we all know how much I like to open little packages. Note: isn't the little winter house on the table the sweetest holiday decoration...I just had to get it in the photo....and the reindeer looks so perfect in front of it...

Next I opened my gift wrapped in pink tissue paper...and oh my gosh, I was giddy - a lovely assortment of fabric fat quarters - beautiful colors and prints....and I was immediately thinking of projects for their use....

I saved the fabric wrapped gift for last - Kimber actually used fabric and glass head pins to wrap a gift - a beautiful idea! After carefully removing the pins, I unfolded the fabric to reveal a gorgeous set of quilt pattern notecards - these are so very cool - there are 12 notecards (2 each of 6 different quilts) and inside the notecard are the "how-to" directions to make the quilt on the front....and the template for the quilt shape used is on the back of the card...these are so awesome, I just might have to keep one of each for my own collection! The three of us had quite a laugh looking at each of the quilt patterns, as the number of pieces to cut for each quilt seemed astronomical - the first one we looked at (Clam Shells - 1932) said to cut 1,000 clam shells using the template on the back of the card...another (Little Cedar Tree - 1940) said to cut 768 light triangles and 768 dark triangles to make 192 blocks that are 6" square...these are definitely some labor intensive quilt ideas!

I have plenty more photos to share with you - but I think I will share them tomorrow - I want to spread out the joy! You will definitely want to stop by tomorrow to see Merry's homemade all know by now that she is an over-achiever (and if you hadn't figured it out yet, tomorrow's post will definitely prove it!)....

Today really felt like Christmas - spending time with close friends, enjoying a hot cup of tea, stitching by the fireplace, and gifts from the heart - I really can't think of a better way to spend the holiday. My blessings are many and I am truly thankful....

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Special Sampler Stocking

Isn't this most adorable miniature stocking you have ever seen??! It arrived in my mailbox this evening, along with several other special treasures. This little stocking was made by my dear friend Lorrie - and I just adore it - she used one of my favorite sampler fabrics...and I just love the added touch of the lace and button - it is perfect! I think I am going to add a little hanger, so (one day) when I have a tree, I will be able to hang it. It is approximately 5.5" in height, so it will make the best ornament. Thank you for brightening my day Lorrie - I will treasure this wonderful handmade gift!

Lorrie's surprise package couldn't have arrived at a better time - after finally getting over my head cold, my husband (who just gone home from a hunting trip) brought home a case of the stomach flu - ugh - I have just a touch of it and hope it doesn't get full blown - I am doing everything in my power to stay healthy - I have even been following Travis around with a can of Lysol and disinfecting everything he touches....hopefully the worst of it has passed.

I was able to do a little sewing and quilting today - finishing up some more holiday gifts. I did the quilting and binding on a project, cut 96 miniature tumbler blocks and did some piecing, and prepared a baby quilt for machine quilting (hopefully tomorrow). I am enjoying a few hours in my studio sewing each day to complete my Christmas presents. Over the next couple weeks, I will have lots of show and tell for you...for now, it is back to model stitching...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Sunday Morning Treat

Winter weather has definitely arrived here in Iowa - it has been a gloomy and cold for several days....but then yesterday the below zero temperatures, 50-60 mph gusts of wind, and snow arrived...and along with it, all the typical closures (roads, activities, churches, and businesses). Growing up and living in Iowa, I expect this every year - but it doesn't make it any easier - I love to look outside and admire the snow....but having to walk the dog and clear snow with the terrible cold and wind is almost annoying. This morning greeted us with a temperature of 1 degree and a wind chill WAY below zero...but at least the sun is finally shining!

I decided it was the perfect morning to do a little baking, making my "go-to" coffee cake recipe. Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices, so this recipe is for a Cinnamon Coffee Cake. My time in the kitchen did a wonderful job of warming up our home (not to mention it smells amazing!).

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

3 cups plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
6 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted and cooled

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Grease and flour a 13" x 9" baking pan (my personal choice is a 9" x 9" round pan, but it is so full it almost bakes over the sides).
  • Mix 3 cups flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in the margarine until tiny pebbles form or mixture resembles cornmeal. Blend in eggs, vanilla, and milk. Stir just enough to thoroughly combine. Pour into prepared baking pan and spread evenly. Mix brown sugar, remaining flour, cinnamon, and melted margarine. Sprinkle topping over batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes - until a toothpick inserted in the center removes cleanly. When cool, drizzle with your favorite icing, if desired. Enjoy with your favorite hot beverage!

A fun note: My husband and I typically don't exchange Christmas gifts - we normally just purchase a couple things we need/want for our home....this year, a new Dyson vacuum and Keurig Platinum Brewer. My husband is a HUGE coffee drinker - the bolder coffee the better....I am more of a hot tea drinker, so this was a good compromise. I am quite impressed with how convenient this brewing system is...and how quick and easy! I have been enjoying an assortment of teas and several coffees (which is a treat, as I can have a lighter roast for a change). We already have quite an arsenal of K-cups...including several refreshing iced teas, which I have been sampling. This morning with my coffee cake, I enjoy a nice cup of Vanilla Carmel Cream coffee - yummy!

I just might be ready to go out and tackle snow removal and dog walking duties...and I am positive when I get back inside I will be ready for my cozy stitching nest...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday In The Studio

I have been so inspired with my design work lately, I almost forgot to get in the holiday spirit. I have been designing and cross stitching on models daily...trying to finish up my 2011 teaching designs (the Heart's Desire Camp piece will be ready soon!) and my new February market releases (the new bookmark sampler is in progress). Since the weather took a big turn for the worse today and we are experiencing blizzard-like conditions, I decided to work on sewing/quilting holiday gifts today - it was the perfect day to spend in my cozy studio. I finished several gifts to send to some of my far-away friends (and got them ready to ship on Monday)...and I worked on a miniature quilt as well, piecing 96 quarter square triangles...I can't show these to you yet, but I definitely will once the recipients have them.

Before heading down to my stitching nest for more model work this evening, I decided to play a little "catch-up" with my my Accuquilt GO! Fabric Cutter block of the month series - if you keep up with my blog, then you know I have completed the first four months (June, July, August, and September)....but then things got "out of control" with BRD business and I just haven't had a chance to do October, November, or December. I had previously cut the October and November I pieced them tonight. Block #5 (October) is the Louisiana Block...but if you are a knowledgeable quilter, then you know my block is a little bit of a variation. Seems like several of the blocks have a pinwheel style center (in fact 5 of the first 7 blocks have a pinwheel of some sort in them) - and when I laid out the pieces, (being a typical non-conformist) I decided to make a little change and reverse how I attached the flying geese to the rectangles, so I have a diamond in the center and more of a star look...I am sure my variation block has a special name - I am just not sure what that is...

Block #6 is the Magic Pinwheel Block (note: another pinwheel). I really enjoyed piecing this particular block - I am not sure why, as I made a couple errors and had to do a little frogging - but I learned a little something new...and I really like how it finished!

My goal will be to finish Block #7 (December) by the end of the month. It is the Magic Triangles Block and it of course has a pinwheel in the center (I am seeing a bit of a theme here - my pinwheels should be perfect by the time I finish this BOTM).

Now that I have spent some time creating a few holiday gifts and we have snow on the ground, I am feeling a bit more in a holiday mood. I haven't done much in the way of decorating this year...I have put out my Christmas needlework and a couple machine embroidered holiday pillows I made last year...and of course I have the applique table runner I recently finished on our dining room table. To answer the BIG, I have not got a tree yet...I know, I know, what is my problem?? day I will have a tree and when I do, I will make sure to share it here first!...I just need to bite the bullet and do tree shopping....well, there is always next year....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Shaker-Inspired Teaching Project...

Today's post brings me much joy! I finally have a couple photos to share with you of the project I have designed for the New England Stitcher's Retreat to be held in October 2011. I finished up the models last night and sent the photos to Marie (ABC Stitch Therapy owner and a host for these retreats) this afternoon...and I am thrilled to say she was quite pleased! I have been focused on stitching and finishing the models for this special design over the past couple weeks and I am totally tickled with how everything came together. I know many of you have signed up for this retreat without seeing the project and you have been anxious to see what I have come up with...and I truly hope this does not disappoint!

The class project (I am still undecided on the title) focuses on an 8” miniature Shaker chair. The floral design, simplistic in nature, was inspired by my research on the Shaker culture and gift drawings...and my trip to Enfield, NH last spring. We will be stitching a “seat” for the chair - along with a scissor fob “pillow”, a pin pillow (which is tied to the top rung of the chair), and a needlebook “rug” – giving you a unique display set of needlework a framed sampler I designed to "pull it all together" (seen below, unframed, of course).

I must share, designing the seat for a miniature Shaker chair was an idea from Nataly (I know many of you have met her or visited her blog) - she shared her idea with Marie last spring when she attended the first retreat...Marie shared it with me (and the other retreat attendees) and I was immediately inspired to work on this fun set of needlework smalls - I truly hope I did her chair seat idea justice! Nataly is now one of the fabulous hosts at New England Stitcher's Retreats...

The response to this retreat has been wonderful (thank you!) - so wonderful, that they have added a second set of dates! The first retreat is being held October 7-10, 2011...and I am pretty sure it is close to being sold out - the second retreat is being held October 11-14, 2011. Both retreats are being held in Enfield, New Hampshire at the Shaker Great Stone Dwelling House - a truly amazing (and intimate) location, during the peak of the autumn leaves season! The retreat is you enjoy the company of fellow needleworkers, fabulous views, delicious food, and a full schedule of great events. I really can't say enough positive things about the hosts, the area, and the entire experience!

Last May, I did several blog posts about this event and posted lots of photos....and for more information, you can visit the New England Stitcher's Retreat Website, The New England Stitcher's Retreat Blog, and/or ABC Stitch Therapy.

A few tiny details, before I get bombarded with questions....
The project is stitched on 32-count hand-dyed fabric from Lakeside Linens with Weeks Dye Works cotton floss. This very special design will not be available to the general public until at least one year after the retreats are if you can not attend, you will have to be very patient...and I do not know if the miniature Shaker chair will be available at that time. I will be getting project details and the title finalized in the next week and then more information will be posted on the retreat website....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

You hear the statement "practice make perfect" all the time...and when it comes to quilting, I have definitely found that saying to be true! I started this Maple Leaves project well over a month ago, with all intentions of finishing it before Thanksgiving....well, obviously that didn't happen, and it has been neatly sitting on my sewing table waiting for the binding to be attached for several weeks. Now that I am trying to schedule an hour or two a day to work on holiday gift projects, I decided to finish my autumn project in an attempt to clean off my table for the holiday rush. As I attached the binding today, I realized just how much my sewing skills have improved over the last year - my bindings are getting much better, my seams are matching much better, and my project sizes are starting to be more exact - I was thrilled when all the pieces of this tiny quilt (12.5 " x 12.5") seemed to match up and it was indeed 12.5" square (as it should be). I have also gotten quite a bit better with tiny pieces...and that is a wonderful thing, as we all know how much I like miniature and tiny projects! I felt a little guilty spending the time finishing this project today with all of the things on my to-do list right now...but it was quite enjoyable to have a complete little quilt. It was also my first time adding a "sleeve" to the back of the quilt for hanging - I have to admit, I was a little intimidated to add sleeves to my quilts - I'm not really sure why - I guess I had never had it explained to me and I was afraid I would make a mistake...but, truth be told, it was super easy and I am so glad I tried it out! I am not saying I did it properly - as with most of my sewing skills, I am self-taught - I kind of did it my own way without any instruction - perhaps I should do a little research on the subject. In any case, I finished a quilting project today and tried something new...and it made me smile!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Research Loaded With Inspiration

I have been enjoying loads of stitching time, as I am preparing several designs for teaching 2011. The last several days, I have been diligently stitching on the project for the New England Stitcher's Retreat to take place in October 2011. On my teaching trip to Enfield, NH this past spring, I was extremely inspired by the Enfield Shaker Village and the Great Stone Dwelling....when Marie invited me back to teach in the coming year, I was "over the moon" and couldn't wait to start working on another Shaker inspired project. Before working on the original project, I had done some research on the Shaker culture and found it quite interesting...then after my first visit, I started to do more reading and studying. I really wanted to learn more about the Shaker Gift Drawings and Gift Songs...and on my quest I found some great books full of information and inspiration. I recently added two more books to my collection: "Heavenly Visions: Shaker Gift Drawings and Gift Songs" and "Shaker Design: Out of this World" - both lovely additions to my ever-growing library. While working on this special class project (that revolves around an 8" miniature Shaker chair), it became clear to me I needed to design a framed sampler that would accompany the smalls - the design idea was so clear in my to be putting the finishing touches on fabric, the whole thing is coming together perfectly - and I couldn't be happier with the results! I am hoping to have photos for you real soon - hopefully in the next week. I know many of you have booked this retreat without seeing project photos, so I know you are anxious to see what I have been working on...and believe me, I am anxious to show you. This project has refreshed and refueled my creative spirit and has given me a new outlook on my design work...