memory pillow project

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A dear friend asked me to help her out with some pillows she wanted to make for her nephews for Christmas. Their grandfather had passed away and she wanted to use some of his old clothes to make mementos for them. She and I went to RISD together, so we are on the same wave-length aesthetically. She said she wanted pillows pieced in the"Gee's Bend" style.
"Blocks and Strips" by Mary Lee Bendolph (photo Tinwood Media)
If you're not familiar with Gee's Bend, the name refers to the rural town in Alabama, a mostly black community with a history of economic struggles, but a strong sense of community. The tradition of quilting carried on there through the civil war, various economic upheavals including the Great Depression, floods of the Alabama River, and on to the present day.
"Housetop" by Lillie Mae Pettway (photo by Tinwood Media)
The quilts were made with available scraps of worn-out clothes with the freedom and innocence of "outsider art" although they were created for strictly practical purposes much like Amish quilts were. A collector discovered them in the late '90's, bought up hundreds of them and began exhibiting them. When viewed out of context in museums like the Whitney, they are bold, striking modern art. The book about them is wonderful. Auburn University has a wealth of information on them as well as a nice catalog.
The pile of items my friend sent looked random at first glance, but that's what you want if you're emulating the Gee's Bend style.
Many of the Gee's Bend Quilts are variations on the "Log Cabin" quilt pattern. I find this pattern lends itself to creating a spontaneous effect, as long as you don't measure anything, that is. Starting with a squarish shape, strips can be added on the outside edges, working in succession around it until you have the size you're after. True things as you go, or not. It's better if there is some unevenness to it.

I decided to keep the shirt pockets intact, because I think boys find them fun and it is more of a reminder that this was Grandpa's shirt. I also added a few of my own scraps of chambray to help make everything hang together more. But what you definitely don't want is to get matchy-matchy with it.
I also keep the button plackets intact for the backs for the perfect way to get the insert in & out for washing.
I tried not to be as anal as I usually am and just go with it. It actually goes very quickly when you're not trying to be precise. At the end, I trued it all up to the dimension of the pillow.
I hope they like them!

a swedish christmas

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm not Swedish, I've never been to Sweden, but I love the idea of a Swedish Christmas. I imagine clean, bright colors + rustic straw ornaments all popping off of a whitewashed background filled with a mix of chippy Gustavian antiques and IKEA furniture. I imagine modest but well-designed handmade gifts, simply wrapped and the smell of gingerbread in the air. I imagine clomping around in some red clogs, wearing a ragg wool sweater. I have no idea if I am accurate in my fantasy, but I found a few things on the internets that fit my vision...

vintage red & white wallpaper-from smilemercantile
illustration of Stockholm- by annasee
traditional pepparkakor cookie recipe (thinner, crispier version of gingersnaps)- by The Wandering Cook
dala horse pillow- by LittleputtStudio
dala horse appliqué onesie-by chirp & bloom
Swedish clogs by Troentorp- from shoebuy
traditional Swedish straw ornament- similar on ebay
vintage dala horse- similar on Etsy

I find the dala horse especially charming, so I made up an appliquéd onesie for the shop. I always like an excuse to use my floral ribbons.

God Jul!

antiquing in chadds ford, pa

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fall is coming and for me that means prime antiquing time! I don't know why, but I'm only in the mood for it in the fall.
click to enlarge
Being in Wilmington, we're lucky enough to be near some great antique stores. There's the whole Amish area in and around Lancaster, PA, but even closer is a string of stores along Rt1(Baltimore Pike) in Chadd's Ford, PA. You could spend all day in the area between Rt 202 & Rt 52 (closer to 52).
A Brandywine River antiques (aka "The White Barn")
B Pennsbury Chadds Ford Antique Mall 
C Springhouse Antiques
D Brandywine View Antiques

Brandywine View Antiques
This coming weekend, September 8 & 9, is a great time to go because Brandywine View is having it's annual "Massive Barn Market". You've gotta be tempted!
The big chair at Brandywine View 

As you're zooming along Rt 1, you might miss the sign, but you'll notice the humongous chair on the front porch. My friend Maria humored me by climbing into it when we were there a while back.
chairs at Brandywine View
They also have regular-size chairs.

salvage at Brandywine View
And a good deal of architectural salvage.
Brandywine View
Inside is 5000 square feet of furniture & accessories.
Proprieter Lisa keeps the inventory turning over constantly. You can often find her with a truckful at the Clover Market in Ardmore, PA.

All these pictures are from Brandywine View because I was just there, but believe me, the other stores nearby are each really good. The White Barn is the biggest- it just goes on and on...

You'll surely be hungry after all that antiquing and you won't be too far from Terrain at Styers, the garden store that has a cafe inside. Closer to the actual stores is the Chadd's Ford Winery tasting room in case you get thirsty;)

Let me know if you go...

what to do with peaches

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's peach (and mango) season! The orchard up the road has beautiful juicy peaches right now. I don't bother with the mealy ones you can get at the supermarket. I could eat them for dessert every day.
I've already made cobbler and pie about a dozen times, so I thought I'd consult the cookbook a friend gave me, Mary Angela's Best of Everything, for something different. It's written by her talented-in-the-kitchen mother-in-law, Mary Angela Morgan.
She self-published the book which is very impressive because it looks like it's off the shelves of Barnes and Noble. Even has section tabs like my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. I've actually been looking into what it takes to have a book published through traditional channels and basically, you have to be at least semi-famous already to get a book deal, especially for a cookbook.

Here's the recipe I made:

Mangoes & Peaches in Port Wine Syrup 

by Mary Angela Morgan 

    3/4 cup water
    3/4 cup sugar
    3/4 cup Port wine
    2 Tablespoons lemon zest
    1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped
    4 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced

The combination of the lemon zest and the Port wine make this recipe. The flavor is bright and sophisticated at the same time. Port wine has not been on my radar since I caught my grandmother taking a surreptitious swig of it in the pantry once. She loved her Port... perhaps a bit too much. I've started sneaking it into my cobbler now too (just a Tablespoon) for that extra little "je ne sais quois".

In a medium sauce pan stir sugar, water, and Port wine over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add lemon zest (don't use that dry stuff!); bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered 8 t0 10 minutes or until reduced to a medium thick syrup.
Add peach and mango slices. Mangoes can be tricky to cut up because of the big seed inside. There is a video of how to do it here.
Mangoes can be tricky to cut up because of the big seed inside. There is a video of how to do it here.
Simmer 1 minute. Transfer to a serving bowl to cool. Cover and chill for several hours. Serve in clear dessert bowls.
I served this to my own mother-in-law and got the thumbs-up. Enjoy!

salvaged denim headboard

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I finished this headboard for my little boy last week! I don't often make things that are NOT for my Etsy store these days, so it took a while. The idea was percolating on my back burner for over a year. At first I thought of making a quilt, but the little guy liked the idea of the padded headboard we made for the guest room, so the idea morphed into a headbaord. I decided to make it fancier than the guest room one by boxing out the sides and adding a back so the cover is removable for washing.
I've built up quite a hoard of denim cast-offs from family & from thrifting. What's the point of hoarding if you're never going to make anything out of it, right?

To make this project I used:
    -small hoard of cast-off denim
    -denim yardage- about 2 yards
    -1/4" plywood (I used 40" x 30" for a twin size)'
    -3" foam cut to size
    -quilt batting
    -piping cord
    -staple gun
    -sewing machine
    -heavy duty sewing machine needle (size 14/90)
    -pattern paper
    -flush mount hangers

If you were doing a single fabric stapled on, this would basically be your only step besides adding the hangers to the back. Layer the muslin, batting, foam and plywood to form the headboard base. Be sure to cut about 12" extra in height & with of the muslin & batting, so there is enough to wrap around the edges for stapling. You can always trim off the extra later.
To make the cover, I tried different layouts before cutting. I wanted light & dark to alternate. I debated whether to mix in some pocket-free squares and decided only to do that on the bottom row where the mattress and pillow would cover it anyway.
Since my headboard is 40" x 30", I made my pieces 10" x 10" squares (with the exception on the bottom four pieces)- just perfect for keeping pockets & details intact. The actual pieces including seam allowances measure 11" x 11" before sewing. Don't forget seam allowances! For the bottom four pieces, I added on 2" or so in height, so there would be extra to wrap underneath and meet up with the back to close the bottom. A separate band gets sewn on later to box out the top & sides.
One thing I learned is denim is THICK! Be sure you are using a heavy duty needle meant for denim. Also, most finished edges are not square. To make sewing easier and keep my pieces as close to square as possible, I fudged new edges in some places. By lapping on a trim piece that would become the seam allowance I avoided having to sew though all those extra bulky layers of a waistband with belt loops..
With the layout finalized, it's ready to sew together. At the thickest points, I found myself turning the wheel of the machine by hand rather than pressing the pedal, just to be safe. An industrial machine could plow through this, no problem, but I'm limited to my trusty Babylock.
Oh, and just to be hard on myself, I decided to pipe around the edges of the headboard. I made bias strips out of the same denim I was using for the sides and back and made my own piping. Use a zipper foot to get your stitches close to the bulge of the cord. You could certainly opt to skip this step.
I basted before sewing just to keep all this heavy fabric from slipping around. Then I sewed on the sides (a strip, 4" wide to accomodate the 3" foam + seam allowances) and back (same dimensions as the front out of denim yardage) leaving excess at the bottom to safety pin shut. If I were to do this again, I'd make reduce the width of the side piece by 1/4" since it came out a bit loose. Denim has a good deal of give. I contemplated a velco closure, but I was so worn out by the piping, that I took the easy way out. and just pinned it

Even easier would be omitting the piping and back, making a deep enough side panel to wrap around to the back for stapling.
Before slipping the cover on, I had my husband attach the flush mount hangers to the plywood back and to the wall. A level and accurate measuring come in handy for this. Then I slipped on the cover and cut holes in the back to expose the hangers.
Now my boy has a place to store his flashlights and other doodads in easy reach at night!

springtime at the union square greenmarket, nyc

Sunday, May 20, 2012

cherry blossom
I know it's almost summer, but Happy Spring!!!
I love a good farmers market, so when I was up in New York city last, I went to the Union Square Greenmarket with my friend Maria. She goes every Saturday, but it's open Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays also.
pussy willows

A new Yorker's substitute for a lawn.
Healthy stuff!
Hmmm... did not know this.
Not so heathy stuff.
Ok, the bread gives it away- we were there on St. Patrick's Day, so I'm a tad late with posting these.

I'm in the mood now to go explore an Amish market a little closer to home... stay tuned!

store crush: purl soho

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On my window shopping trip to SoHo last weekend, a friend reminded me about the Purl SOHO store at 459 Broome Street.
I was already familiar with them from their blog, the Purl bee. Finally a chance to go there!
I used to be a sweater designer & knitter, but I got burned out on it after doing it too long. For the first time in a long while I was tempted to knit something...
They are not just a knitting store. They also have a nice selection of modern craft supplies like the good kind of felt: wool.
And the best quilting cottons from the Denyse Shmidt, Kokka, Moda, and the like.

Embroidery hoops: what a cute way to show off their fabric selection in the entryway.
Oh, and there are the Liberty prints too. I just drooled over the selection. Liberty cottons are not cheap, though- something like $37/yard. But at least they are 54" wide, not 44" like most. We know we're not here for bargains, anyway. Just the best.
Purl is fully stocked in all things embroidery too, from floss to needlepoint wool, to books galore. Books on everything and only the best, most enticingly designed ones.
Definitely worth the detour!