Button, Button…. Who’s Got the Button?

I like making gifts for family, especially around the holidays. What could be better than one that helps store one of your granddaughter’s “collections”?

Several years ago, my granddaughter, Claire, started collecting buttons. She loved going though my jars of buttons that date back to my grandmother’s days of sewing. Some are just plain old buttons and others are very unique. In any event, back in my grandma’s day you never threw out anything that could be used again, so when a garment wore out you snipped off the buttons and even ripped out the zipper, if it was still operational. Everything got stored in her sewing cabinet. I still remember searching through her buttons, sorting them, and wondering how she was going to use them.

My mom developed the same habit of course, and as a child her sewing cabinet was a treasure box to me. I spent hours going through buttons, lace, trims, etc etc. I’d sort the threads, look at all the rick-rac, and dig through all the buttons, picking out the ones I wanted for eyes on my sock puppets.

I guess old habits must be inherited because I still cut off buttons on worn out clothes and store them away. Do I ever use them? Actually, yes I do. They make great “eyes” on crafts, provide replacements for buttons that pop off and roll into infinity, and sometimes they provide what I need for an entire project or garment!

Last year at this time Tom and I were at my favorite needlework haunt, Country Craft Cupboard, in Berlin, Ohio when we spotted this little button box creation. It was done in needle punch, which I don’t do, but it was something that I could easily convert into a cross stitch pattern using PC Stitch. I found the pattern on the pegboard, but the box was not in stock. As usual the lovely ladies at this store ordered it, called me when it arrived and held it for me until we made our next trip to Holmes County.

It took a bit of work to convert the pattern using PCStitch but it was well worth the effort. I had the pattern converted and stitched inside of a week while Tom stained the box a rich dark brown.  A little Mod Podge glue, some black felt for padding, a few old and unique buttons to start it off, and within 10 days I had the little box finished.

The best part of making any gift is the reaction of the person who receives it. Claire didn’t disappoint. Her eyes lit up and she announce that it was a good thing she got it because her button jar was full! It looks like Claire may follow in her great grandmother Annie’s footsteps and those of the two generations who learned from Annie.

Button Box Small

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Christmas 2017 Part 2: French Roosters in Wyoming?

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Wyoming seemed to be a quilting honey hole for me in August of 2016! As we moved on from the Devils Tower we passed through the small, quaint city of Lusk. The main street was lined with shops but naturally the one that pulled me in like a magnet was Lickety Stitch Quilts: A Creative Sewing Center . This shop was filled with unique quilting ideas, from the western patterns it is known for, to those for children and adults of all interests.

We browsed through the shop for quite a while and then it happened. I turned around and what did I see??? French roosters! It was a quilt full of the most beautiful roosters you could imagine. My daughter-in-law, Jen, has always loved and collected roosters so I knew this would be perfect for her. Hey, it was a throw so how hard could it be? There was a bundle of all the fabrics I’d need, with the pattern included, for a very reasonable price. Though I knew I could not get it done for Christmas 2016, I decided to buy it for the following year. Armed with my treasure we headed out the door and continued our journey.

In May of this year I remembered the roosters and pulled the kit out to begin working. First stop… buy thread. Off I went to the local quilt store and purchased the thread for this piece and the piece in my last post. I made an awesome discovery too. Quilting thread now comes in spools with variegated colors. Perfect! I bought one in tones to match each of the two projects I was making. Now to get going.

The instructions were great and all went well with the cutting but, my oh my, the piecing was a challenge! I had never worked with triangles and getting all those points to line up was painstaking! Being somewhat of a perfectionist I cannot tell you how many times I ripped and redid! When I attached that last border I was in heaven.

I’m a purist when it comes to actual quilting so, although I piece by machine, I always quilt by hand. Each section, the borders, pieced squares, and the roosters, had its own unique quilting pattern that I traced onto the fabric. It took time but was well worth the effort.

Now I could relax, quilt, and enjoy the rest of the project. Hand quilting makes me slow down and gives me time to think, dream and breathe as I work through a project. It also gives me time to watch my favorite shows like Outlander, Poldark, and Call the Midwife without guilt. Hey, my hands are busy and so is my brain, right?

I finished the quilt in late November and gave it to Jen this Christmas. I had never really considered whether it would fit in with her décor but it did! Perfectly.

Rooster quilt

Next: Christmas 2017 Part 3: Button, Button… Who’s Got the Button?

Christmas 2017 Part 1: Inspiration from Devils Tower

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It’s been so long since I’ve added to this blog! I guess I must blame it on making projects for Christmas presents, which is as good an excuse as any, right?

In any event, in the summer of 2016, Tom and I took a trip out west to geocache, see the sights, and experience the magnificence of wide open spaces. Naturally, our car is trained to stop at all needlework and quilt shops along the route and stop it did!  I found some of the most unique ideas for quilting! The patterns were amazing and very different from those in our area.

Wyoming proved to be a gold mine for quilting ideas. One of our most memorable stops here was a National Park called Devil’s Tower. The rock formation is breathtaking. We spent about two hours hiking, exploring the area, taking pictures, and watching those climbing the incredibly steep tower to get to the plateau top.  I was personally moved by the prayer bundles and cloths that are found hanging from the trees at the base of the tower. This tower and the surrounding land is sacred to six tribes of Native Americans. Sun dances, sweat lodges and other ceremonies are still practiced on this site. The prayer bundles and cloths are placed as an offering, a request, or a remembrance and must be left undisturbed by those visiting the area.  I have great respect and admiration for Native Americans so this area held me spellbound. I think this and the Badlands were the most memorable places we visited! You can learn more about the history of the Native American at Devils Tower by visiting Devils Tower: A Sacred Site to American Indians.

While at Devil’s Tower we stopped in the gift shop which had one of the most unique quilt wall hanging ideas I have ever seen.  Maps of various National Parks and the United States were printed on fabric with instructions on how to add borders in the colors of your choice and create a quilted piece with the map in the center. Our daughter Sabrina and her husband Dale, along with their two boys Soda and Cooper, are huge National Park enthusiasts so I picked up the US map that had every National Park numbered and listed on it. I had no idea how I was going to use it but I could not pass it up! To see all the available maps check out  Old American Antiques: American Quilt Blocks.

Life got away from me, as it often does, but this past summer I pulled out the map, read the directions, and put together this unique wall hanging using batik fabrics to match Sabrina and Dale’s décor. We found out that if you go online you can purchase little National Park pins for each park so we added a box full pins for the parks we knew they had visited already.  You can find any park pin you need at eParks.com . My plan was to make this a Christmas present, which I did, but that meant that I could not blog it until AFTER Christmas!

US National Park Quilt Map

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Coming up next? Christmas 2017 Part 2: French Roosters in Wyoming

Sometimes It’s Just Love at First Sight

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Tom and I love to head down to Holmes and Wayne counties in Ohio whenever we have the chance. For those who don’t know anything about this area, it is the home of the largest settlement of Amish in the world. There is just something about this area that brings a peaceful feeling to the mind and soul. For many years, I was a nurse in a pediatric hospital where Amish families often brought their children for treatment. Their faith is amazing and their devotion to family is unparalleled in my experience. I had many conversations with the Amish moms about cooking, baking, quilting and raising children. I learned so much from them about life and God’s peace.

Naturally, this area of Ohio is filled with quilt and craft shops that are some of the best I have ever seen. Usually I just meander through them and drool over the beautiful quilts and projects. True, I have purchased many items for “future projects” and have a stash that rivals that of any quilter/crafter, but while I was working full time large projects were just not in the cards. It wasn’t until I became semi-retired in December of 2015 that larger needlework projects were once again feasible.

Last spring we were on one of our trips to Holmes County and stopped into the  Country Craft Cupboard, one of my favorite shops for needle craft supplies and ideas. One of the projects on the wall caught my eye and captured my heart (and Tom’s too). Entitled My Country Home, this rag style quilt had all the color and flavor of our home décor. I stood marveling at the wool applique squares and the blending of colors wondering how it the world I could ever learn to make something like that. It was then that I saw these magic words “Pattern free with the kit available at the front of the store”. I had to check it out.

The kit contained all the homespun cotton fabric for the quilt blocks and the wool for the applique. All I needed to add was batting, thread, and some iron on adhesive to secure the applique in place until I could stitch it down. The sales woman gave me a quick crash course on the simplicity of creating a rag quilt so I took the plunge and made the purchase.

I started actually working on the project this past January. The applique was the hardest part but when I was stuck or confused, I just called the staff at the Country Craft Cupboard and they gave me all the help I needed right over the phone. It was great fun watching the quilt come to life piece by piece.

My friend Shirley, who is an avid quilter, assured me that it would only take about a month to complete my quilt, as rag quilts are a very simple technique. When I told her about the applique, she amended that time frame to two months…. and she was just about right. It took me a couple extra weeks to complete everything because, while I do my piecing by machine, I quilt everything by hand, thus the echo quilting around the applique took a bit longer than the simple crosses on the plain squares.

This past Thursday I finished piecing my block together, clipped the seam allowances and held my breath as I threw it in the washer where the magical fraying of the seams takes place. True to form, it made a mess of my washer with all the stray threads that unraveled from the clipped seams. The dryer finished the job and the quilt was done!

Now to make the matching pillows with the leftover cloth……..

My Country Home

Welcome to Our Little Flower

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Every season holds it pleasures but so often winter seems never ending. Not so this year! December held a special magic for the Bowers and Kiser families this year, as we welcomed the newest member of our family, Lillian Rose Bowers! Lil arrived exactly on time  on December 15, 2016! What a prompt wee baby she is! Each child holds his/her own charm and magic and Lil is no exception to that. From the moment we met her she captured the heart of every family member. From her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to  her sister, Claire, and her cousins Soda and Cooper, everyone fell in love with her. We were, and still are, enchanted by her sweet face and tiny hands. What a blessing she is.

Naturally, the announcement that a new baby was on the way sent me into a whirlwind of stitching. I got to work immediately on the Woodland Babies afghan by Stoney Creek (Book 455). I was determined that this afghan would not arrive for Christmas when she was 7 years old! (See my post about my last afghan for Soda!)

I presented the afghan to Lil on her 1 month birthday. Her parents and sister loved it. As for Lil…. she yawned, wiggled, ate and fell asleep! What else would a 1 month old do anyway? So the afghan hangs on the end of her crib waiting for the day she scoots over and discovers it!

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Lil’s Afghan

Family Pictures

Top left to right: Daddy and Lil, Mom, Claire and Lil, Me and Lil

Middle left to right: Grandpa and Lil, Soda and Lil, Cooper and Lil, Aunt Sabrina and Lil

Bottom left to right: Uncle Dale and Lil, Lil at 2 months old

Christmas Fantasy Friends

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Nearly 30 years ago, I discovered the joys of soft sculpture Christmas characters that could be cut out from pre-printed fabric panels and pieced together. Better still, I was able to personalize them with buttons, bows, charms and bells to make them even more animated.

My first adventure into this crafting art was the Mr. and Mrs. Clause pair in the first picture below. Actually, it was supposed to make two Santa  Clauses but I decided to play around, cut down some pieces and create other ones to make Mrs. Claus instead. Who needs two Santa Clauses, right? I found this great fuzzy fleece-like material to use for the trim on their coats, capes and sleeves. Cruising around the fabric shop, I found some cute buttons to add to their outfits to make them more festive.

Now, any crafter knows that if you spend enough time in any fabric or craft shop you will find tons of intriguing items, especially at Christmas time. It didn’t take long before I found a ton of little holiday charms and some wire to create the string of delights each of them is holding.

Home I went and created my couple but within a week or two I was back out shopping for more of these delightful patterns. Reindeer were next, followed by a snowman that year. It was so much fun!

I got away from using pre-printed panels after a while and began creating dolls based on the basic shape of the two Santa figures. (I posted two of them, Bedtime Memories and Simon the Fisherman, earlier this year.) When my daughter got married and started her own traditions, she began seeking out the Christmas panels once again. No longer carried in fabric stores, she found them on e-Bay and together we began collecting all sorts of wonderful panels and creating them in our spare time. Many of them are displayed in the “group” picture below.

I still have panels to put together… lots of them! One of these days, they will all grow up to join my collection!

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Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

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It’s been some time since my last post. Life just got in the way with our trip to Ireland in the spring and the flurry of activity that boys and girls Little League baseball brings when you have 3 grandchildren on different teams, playing on different nights! It’s be a fun filled summer so far with much more to come.

Back in the late 1980s I decided to do my first counted cross stitch sampler. My family and friends thought it was beautiful. It took forever to do but was well worth the effort. I was encouraged by a local stitchery store owner to enter it in the prestigious Stan Hywett Hall needlework show. She was certain it would receive high “marks”. I decided to do so on lark and had both my children enter one of their pieces in the children’s competition.

I didn’t win anything, but both my children did get ribbons and a commendation for their abilities. The comments on my work, you may ask…. Well, the first thing they did not like was that it was professionally framed. (I still can’t figure out why that was a drawback!) I honestly don’t remember their other comments well, but I do know it was something about uneven stitching…. I  don’t quite understand that one either. It was and interesting experience though and I’m glad I did it. To this day it hangs proudly on my dinning room wall.

The fact of the matter is that no one and nothing is perfect. The Amish ladies I have met tell me that since only God is perfect they allow an error to exist in everything they make. I can live with that…. and so can my stitching.

Sampler1 for blog