A retail phone conversation

Me:      Hi. Do you carry batiks?

Clerk:  Yes.

Me:      Great. I purchased a batik in another state and need more. It’s a tone-on-tone with a small floral print in a very light gray-green color on an antique white background. Do you have anything that might even remotely match that description?

Clerk:  We might (silence).

Me:      Is there any way you can check?

Clerk:  Not unless I have the name of the manufacturer or the item number.

And…this is why people shop online.

When a call like that came into the shop where I used to work, we would always go to the appropriate section of the shop to at least do a visual check for that customer. Not sure why the person I spoke with couldn’t be bothered to do the same, but no matter, I took my business elsewhere.

Here’s the batik I was looking for:


I bought two yards of it last October when we went to Colorado for my niece’s wedding. It’s perfect for the neutral squares that go with these scrappy 9-patch blocks.




Filed under fabric, piecing

Plaid stars

I’ve been working on these 5-pointed star blocks done in homespun plaids:


The block is composed of 11 pieces, all with at least two bias edges, and is the polar opposite of instant gratification, requiring templates, tracing, cutting, marking, pinning and sewing, one patch at a time. This block is for quilters who enjoy the process and are not in a hurry. Because it’s so labor intensive, it creates fast burn out, so I work on it off and on when I’m in the mood. With 14 blocks completed, I’m a little more than a third of the way through and ready to set it aside and work on something else for  a while.


The quilt containing this block was featured in Rodale Press’ book Fast, Fun & Fabulous Quilts, with credit going to Judith Hughes Marte for the design. It was love at first sight.


Since my first view of the quilt pattern about 15 years ago, I have collected a nice assortment of homespun plaids and stripes, buying only a quarter yard of each; half a yard if I absolutely love it.

This project is the perfect reason to build a stash. Homespuns are not always easy to find, and if you’re going scrappy like this quilt dictates, you need to have plenty of patterns and colors to choose from to make it interesting and keep the boredom at bay.









In the meantime, we have enjoyed having Eric and Ross home for Christmas. They’re going back to school in a couple of days and have yet to go through all the boxes of their stuff. Let the mom nagging begin!


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The refrigerator moves back in

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. Ross and Eric flew in from Colorado on Monday, and it was good to see them even though our time together was short.

While they were here, they helped John move the spare refrigerator from the garage back into the house.


The builder finished resizing the laundry room cabinets in October and we’ve been waiting for the boys to be here so they could help.

Ross suggested removing the doors so the fridge would clear the back door more easily. John wasn’t sure he would be able to get them off, but he did and it helped a lot.



It took most of the day to clean the interior, exterior, and all the shelves and bins, as well as the floor where all three appliances sit; glad that’s in the rear view mirror now.


It fits quite nicely in its new, larger space and the doors can be opened all the way now.


On to the next thing….

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Filed under house, kids

Scrappy (and pretty) in pink

Last week I pulled all the leftover pink batik cuts from my pink lawn chair quilt to piece the backing for it.

pink white lawn chair quilt

I love the challenge of piecing the puzzle and the satisfaction of using up my stash.


Here is the binding:


Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under binding, piecing, scrappy backs

Fall cross stitch

One set of cross stitched fall fingertip towels: DONE!

Designed by Jane Chandler.

Designed by Jane Chandler.

Thanks for dropping by!


Filed under cross stitch

I found Chocolate

For three months I have been looking for a picture I cross stitched 35 years ago. I had gone through boxes and bins in our storage room several times, an exercise that always ended in frustration and anxiousness when it didn’t turn up. John was a good sport and checked boxes in the garage again, even though we were both pretty sure that the picture wasn’t there.

Lasts week I found it—and as you would expect, it was right in front of my nose. I had stored it in one of the upper laundry room cabinets before our move to keep it safe—too safe, apparently.


I found it by accident as we were putting stuff away in the laundry room after the builder finished resizing one of the cabinets in order to make room for our refrigerator—which means we were oblivious to it when we took it out of the cabinet (it was wrapped in clean newsprint). How embarrassing is that?

Here is Chocolate’s companion:


I was new to cross stitching way back then and thought they were so cute. I had visions of them in my first apartment and they have hung in the eating area of every place we have lived since John and I got married. I still enjoy them and would never consider replacing them.

As much as I wanted to hang them, instead, John and I took them apart.



After our experience with John’s grandmother’s needlework, we decided to fix these two and one other—and be done with framing issues.

Sure enough, the same damaging techniques had been used: staples, masking tape and strapping tape.


The framer used masking tape around all four edges of the cross stitch fabric, most likely to keep them from raveling.


Holding the masking tape in place was strapping tape with a killer adhesive—one that did not fully come out after soaking and washing.




Skeptical, I applied some stain remover to the edges and then washed them in a mild dish soap and cool water, followed by lots and lots of rinsing (until the water was clear) to make sure all soap residue was gone.

The stain remover didn’t improve much, but I had to try.

The stain remover didn’t improve much, but I had to try.

I refrained from pressing anything because the framer will want to try her magic first. Here’s Chocolate ready to go:


Close up of stitching.

Close up of stitching.

Here’s Ice Cream:


Close up of stitching.

Close up of stitching.

After un-framing Chocolate and Ice Cream, we tackled one last picture: a sampler I stitched 19 years ago which was framed by someone other than the framer I use now. We uncovered more physical damage than expected due to heavy duty staples driven into the fabric, which had a loose weave to begin with:



The sampler was mounted on a piece of foam core which had been covered with a piece of polyester batting.


The batting was stuck to the foam core with spray adhesive, something my framer would never use anywhere near needlework. Instead, she secures the needlework to an acid-free board by lacing it across the back. This is a more labor intensive (and costly) technique, but much better for longevity.

Framing points were used to hold the board mounted with the sampler inside the frame, and one of them cut a nice sized hole in the fabric:


So much for the tedious hem stitching I did to keep the project from raveling while I worked on it.


The other surprise cropped up when I washed it. The picture doesn’t show the true depth of the color, but the water turned seriously yellow, like someone had peed in it.


Then John came in to show me the glass, which had a nice imprint of the stitched design on it, an indication that no spacers were used to keep the needlework from touching the glass.


Here is the sampler soaking in the washtub. You can see 19 years’ worth of fading here, showing how important it is to select a glass that offers UV protection.


When John saw the yellow water and examined the glass again, he wondered if the framer had starched the sampler. We’ll never know, but it might explain why this piece always looked so faded to me so early on. I always thought it was because of light exposure, but now I’m not so sure.

As bad as all this seems, I take comfort in the framer’s statement to me when she was working on John’s grandmother’s needlework: “I’ve seen worse.”

I’ve been off and on mopey since we had to leave Colorado and move back to Houston, but when stuff like this comes up, I am very grateful to have a reputable framer in my back yard. It will be a comfort to know that when these framing mistakes have been corrected, barring a fire or natural disaster, no more harm can come to these family heirlooms.


Filed under cross stitch

Colorado trip

We saw the boys a couple weeks ago when we drove up to Colorado for our niece’s wedding. They were well, the wedding was fun and the weather was perfect.

Fall was in full swing


and we took advantage of our time there to catch up with family friends and Colorado friends, including an extra long walk up the Bitch Hill in our old neighborhood with my friend/walking partner.

We hauled a bunch of stuff up to the boys that they asked for like a book case, a small drawer storage unit, clothes, shoes, camping gear.


We also took a cooler full of food. Eric had asked if I would bring a meatloaf when we came up so I made four of those, four batches of pizza burger filling, meatballs, lasagna, pulled pork, ravioli casserole, and three loaves each of apple bread and pumpkin bread.


Cooking all that food took all of Labor Day weekend, one day of the next weekend and both days the following weekend, but it was worth it because I will do just about anything to keep my sons from ingesting Ramen.

While there, we made a grocery run and stocked the pantry with canned soup, beans, pasta and other staples with the hope that they might eat something better than Ramen.

Our last night there, Ross cooked dinner for us before we headed to the airport for a late flight home.


It was very tasty and I was proud to know that at least one of my sons can function well in a kitchen.

It was good to be back in the land of cooler temperatures and lower humidity, and maybe someday we will return; but for now, we’ll have to get by on visiting.

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Filed under kids, miscellaneous

What NOT to do

In 1985, John’s maternal grandmother and uncle collaborated to make us a one of a kind Christmas gift that has graced our home for more than 30 years: A beautifully hand embroidered picture in a custom made frame.

A close up of the frame. It’s fairly heavy with a craftsman look to it. The employees at the framing place raved about how cool they thought it was.

A close up of the frame. It’s fairly heavy with a craftsman look to it. The employees at the framing place raved about how cool they thought it was.

We were finally ready to hang some more pictures in the new house, but stopped for this one when we noticed some grayish/white spots under the glass at the top.

Uh oh.

I took the whole thing over to the framing place I love and trust 1000 percent. I waited while they carefully took it apart and nearly had a stroke when they uncovered this:

The framer said the spots on the glass may have been acid from the wood.

The framer said the spots on the glass may have been acid from the wood.

No-no #1: The needlework had been mounted to a piece of plywood.

No-no #2: The needlework had been secured to the back of the plywood with heavy duty staples from a staple gun, making their removal slow and tricky to avoid further damage to the fabric.

No-no #3: The excess needlework had been secured to the back of the plywood with masking tape.

Here it is, all restored—back in its original frame, properly mounted and now protected by  conservation glass, which offers UV/light shielding properties:


There was some concern over whether the frame would be salvageable, and thankfully, it was. In the interim, though, we had told the framer that of the two components, John’s grandmother’s handwork was more important—you can get another frame, but if you lose the needlework, the frame is irrelevant.


Now that it’s properly framed, I just hope we saved it in time and that no further deterioration will occur. For now, though, we’re so happy it’s back with the family.


Filed under miscellaneous

Button wreaths

There is no better activity in life than making something. I ignored fabric and thread last weekend and played with three generations of buttons: mom’s, grandma’s, and mine. I found some cute ideas online and made four new ornaments for the Christmas tree:





I started with a package of four 3½-inch diameter plywood circles from the craft store.


John cut a 2-inch diameter circle from the middle of each one, leaving a ¾-inch rim for the buttons.

First, all the buttons got a quick bath in dish soap and warm water. Then I sorted them by color, setting aside the most interesting ones for the top layer of each wreath.


Instead of hot glue, I used a size 4 flat/shader paint brush to apply tacky glue to the underside of each button.


The tacky glue dries clear, plus I didn’t want to deal with globs and strings of hot glue on such small pieces, some as little as ¼ to ⅜ of an inch.

For the first layer, I used a combination of large and medium sized buttons, generally picking the less attractive buttons or ones that I had a lot of since they were going to be covered anyway.


The bottom layers generally needed between 25 to 30 buttons.

The second layer was created by covering the gaps between buttons in the bottom layer. As much as possible, I tried to evenly distribute the buttons by size, value (light/medium/dark), and finish (shiny vs. matte).


The tacky glue always came up through the holes in the buttons, but it dried clear, so it wasn’t an issue.

I used a wire cutter to clip off the shanks from buttons that had them.



It was fun to go through all the buttons and see the prices on the cards, and recall clothes my mom made for me in junior high and high school. I also enjoyed my grandma’s notes. She would write on the card where she bought her buttons and when:



I hope you’re having fun making something, too!

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Filed under Christmas

Cross stitch planning

With the window coverings installed, John and I finally hung some pictures. It got me motivated to start working on the cross stitch piece in honor of my next milestone birthday in 2017. I stitched this sampler 20 years ago:


I stitched this design of a Baltimore Album quilt 10 years ago:

When I’m not making quilts, I’m cross stitching them!

When I’m not making quilts, I’m cross stitching them!

For 2017, I chose this:

It’s called And A Garden Grew, designed by Karen Kluba of Rosewood Manor. I found it online when hunting for a sampler project and fell instantly in love. It’s a large piece, with a stitch area of 18″ x 18″.

The recommended ground cloth for it is 32-count Belfast linen which has been hand dyed to achieve a mottled look:

Belfast linen

The pattern for it is contained in a 24-page booklet divided into 20 sections and calls for 121 unique floss colors—which is why I need to start it this year if there is any hope of finishing it next year.

One aspect of the design that I did not care for was the text:

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.

by Henry Ward Beecher.

I wanted a poem instead, and found this one written by 19th century English poet Thomas Hood.

‘Tis like the birthday of the world,

When earth was born in bloom;

The light is made of many dyes,

The air is all perfume:

There’s crimson buds, and white and blue,

The very rainbow showers

Have turned to blossoms where they fell,

And sown the earth with flowers.

Over the weekend, I spent time with a mechanical pencil, eraser, and 10-to-the-inch graph paper in an attempt to chart it, after searching through my cross stitch books and magazines for a suitable alphabet that would fit in the space both vertically and horizontally.


Lines 5 and 7 were super long, so there was some serious kerning to do. I finally got them fitted into the space, although I will have to move or remove some of the bees, butterflies and other creatures in that section, which I’m okay with.

Last night I finished kerning the other 6 lines, which included modifying the descender on the letter f, dotting the letter i instead of using the slanted line, and looping the descender for the letter p in line 4.

poem revised

Can’t wait to start stitching!

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Filed under cross stitch