Monday, July 31, 2017

Amish grocery shopping

My husband and I stopped by the Fort Scott farmer's market last week and had a chat with an Amish couple who live outside of town. The market is not large and about half the booths are Amish goods - produce, canned goods, baked goods, eggs and butter.

We were talking about Walmart being pretty much the only game in town for grocery shopping and they told us they also sold produce from their home. We had heard of a small bulk goods store not far away also, so Friday we headed out to find them. 

The produce shop was in a shed on one property with a huge garden in front - the only sign this might be the place.

A young girl was sweeping the porch but let us in and we bought some fresh corn, tomatoes and other produce, and canned sauerkraut, apple butter, and local honey. She said it was her parents we had met at the farmer's market and that the bulk goods store was at her uncle's place, Eli Yoder.

Before we left, I asked if we could take photos and she said as long as we didn't take photos of the people, that would be fine. It's a beautiful farm, well kept, and made pretty by flower beds around.

Wife of Eli, Barbara Yoder, met us at the other home and let us in the shop. It was a small room with a wood stove, not much of a store by most standards, but it probably keeps folks in supplies when they get low. Whole wheat flour, cornmeal, sorghum, and spices. Lots of good made-from-scratch ingredients. 

Barbara was lovely and I asked if I could take a photo. Her husband and children were about so I didn't want to overstep so I just took a couple of quick snapshots.

Now, this is a far cry from the Kuntry Bulk Grocery in Windsor, Missouri which has everything including cookware and dairy and meats and everything bulk for cooking and baking. We visited that shop in January and had hoped this would be as well-stocked.

Quite a difference. But my experience at the Windsor shop was not very friendly and I have to say, the Amish families living just outside of Fort Scott, Kansas are as lovely a bunch of folks as you'd ever want to meet.

There's something to be said for a simple selection of staples and a home garden. And friendly neighbors.

If you come visit, I'll take you on a drive where there are no power lines and we can buy fresh corn on the cob and home canned peach jam. 

Just remember, we have to share the road with a buggy or two.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sneak Peek of Issue 2 (August) of Stitch Cafe magazine!

The August issue of Stitch Cafe magazine is nearly ready!

And who doesn't like a sneak peek of anticipated delights?

While summer is not my very favorite season, there are some wonderful events completely particular to these long, sunny days. 

Fireflies, cicadas, sunshine, wildflowers, swimming, fishing, and a garden full of ripening deliciousness. 

I've taken some of these special summer moments and created some projects and patterns for this issue.

In this issue, there are 5 patterns, 2 tutorials, a recipe, and articles. As always, there are links and resources for methods, supplies, and inspiring blogs and websites.

Here's a peapod softie. You won't have to try to get anyone to eat this, but even the pickiest eater will love this veggie.

My son-in-law loves to fish so I have to credit him with inspiring me to create this little bell-like fabric fish. I made it a salmon, well, salmon colored anyway, because we used to go salmon fishing when we lived in Alaska.

Another summer delight is chickens! My high school bestie still lives in the area and has a lovely coop full of feisty chooks (Aussie for chickens). Here's one of them on a little egg cosy.

There's also a teatime applique hoop art pattern, a firefly headband pattern, and two weaving tutorials including the chair seat on the cover above. What a great way to beat the heat - stay inside and play with your sewing and stitchery stash!

Stitch Cafe Issue 2 will be in my Etsy shop on Monday, July 31. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Product Review: Bucilla Ready to Stitch Aida on a Wooden Frame

Cross stitch is not my go-to embroidery, but I do enjoy it. It's structured and easily accomplished. 

This week, a local shop owner asked me to review a Bucilla product - the Ready to Stitch Aida cloth. Basically this is a 14 count piece of embroidery Aida already stretched onto a square wooden frame. It comes in white, natural, and black.

I chose the black canvas and embroidered a Victorian rose on it.

So what do I think of the Aida canvas on a frame? 

I love that it's pre-stretched and square. It's a nice change from round hoops. It's a standard size for most patterns, 14 count. The wooden frame is sturdy and can be hung easily on a small nail. It's lovely for highlighting a small pattern.

That makes it great also for budding young stitchers who want to make a gift that can be instantly displayed on an honored wall. Because it's sturdy, it will also stand up well on a shelf or mantle.

Here's what I didn't like about the frame.

Like any Aida fabric, it can stretch during stitching. But because it's already on a frame, it can't be blocked once the work is done. Stab method, in and out stitching, is necessary rather than being able to stitch through from hole to hole.

Another problem was that borders and designs have to be inside the edges of the frame because, obviously, the frame is in the way of stitching. This means about an inch all around can't be used for stitching. 

This pattern, by the way, is the new free pattern you can download when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. If you are already a subscriber, you'll see the link in the newsletter.

Bottom line for me is that I would use this product again. While I would rather be able to create borders closer to the edge, this frame does allow for gluing on a lace or ric rac border. It's a great size for small projects, and it's easy to hang up to display.

Have you done any cross stitch on one of these ready-to-stitch frames? What did you think about it?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Because we're joined at the seam ripper

My readers are awesome! Seriously. 

If you haven't checked out these posts from last October, please do. I've gotten some wonderful photos from readers who have made SweaterDoll patterns and tutorials and shared photos with me.

Come on, ladies! Start your cameras! I want to see more!

Readers are Makers 1

Readers are Makers 2

Readers are Makers 3

But why do I love my readers? Because so many of you email me and we get into these pen pal sort of emails for awhile. No, they don't last forever, but they are always personal, heartfelt, and neighborly. 

Just like you lived next door and we got together for a cuppa and a chat and sharing some sewing wins of the week. If you did live next door, that would be ideal! We could all get together and sew things and make homemade pasta noodles.....or just go to the cafe and buy the pasta and bring the stitching along. (This is my favorite cafe in town.)

You are REAL people. I like real people. So much easier to talk to than....not real people? 

But then, no one wants to hang out with that gal who stands around talking to mannequins in the department store, huh?

I'm so glad we're all just an email away, because some of you are from parts of the world I will probably never get to see. And you give me the gift of seeing them through your eyes. I see your families that way. I see your creativity. I am invited into your world and your story and how precious a gift is that!

So thank you, dear readers (who are also mostly customers). You make what I do supremely human. I've always said hand-making creates relationship. 

BTW, I know an amazing woman, Amanda Creek, who helps folks with their business stuff, so if you're creating your blog or business website and need help with an About Page check out her stuff!

No strings - just wanted to share this with you as I know some of my readers are also online business makers. 

"Need an About Page that connects? Join “Your About Page Story” and begin your customer relationship on the right foot, with the right story and the most creative expression of it."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Santa Advent Calendar - free pattern

If you're getting a head start on your Christmas making, then here's another Christmas in July pattern for you.

This is the original Santa advent calendar I made in 1989, when my son was two and my daughter just born. 

To this day, it has to go up on November 30 and by gosh, it must be filled by elves overnight with little treats so that on the morning of December 1, when the kids wake up, there is evidence of the magic of Christmas.

Of course, this only happens when we all manage to have Christmas together, but don't think that adult children will let you off the hook when it comes to family traditions.

It's pretty easy. All you need are some fabrics in holiday colors, iron-on fusible web, a bit of batting or a layer of flannel between, some ribbon, a few buttons, and a hanger.

And 24 tiny gifts. And an elf. 

This is a very quick pattern to make.

Download your free pattern here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

From Hideous to Comfy in Six Months and Zero Dollars

It's lovingly referred to as "the Monolith". 

When we toured the house for sale in January, we noticed some light coming through the faux brick that encased the huge non-working gas fireplace insert in the parlor side of the living room. 

We poked around and realized the previous owner had installed this fireplace in front of a window we hadn't even noticed on the outside. This is the before-we-bought-the-house photo.

Walking through the weird maze of this house was disconcerting enough - what with the odd connection of rooms which made each and every one a hallway into two other rooms and the fact that 125 years of bad drainage had caused the north end to sink 5 inches. I don't notice it anymore and we've (royal we - it was my husband) solved the drainage issue - but that thing was sitting in a room we couldn't even use and I finally decided it had to go.

Zero dollars? Hubby said he wasn't going to pay anyone for something he could do himself, so last week when I went to visit my parents, he dismantled the chimney stack and dragged the Monolith to the backyard. I couldn't possibly get him to do it any sooner since he's been under the house solving the drainage issue. Good man!

He painted the Osawatomie mental hospital green wall behind it and yesterday, I painted the trim. Then I moved my comfy chair to the only window in the house that has no huge overhanging roofline and I now have a naturally lit comfy corner in a working parlor. 

Excuse the ceiling. We left the chimney for a future wood stove for the corner. The ceiling is for another day....week....okay, season.

I still need to buy brackets for the curtains that I bought at the same time as the other ones in the room - heavens to Betsy if they didn't match! And there's a side table around here somewhere I need to move in.

And did you notice the front door? I threw a lovely velvet cut-out scarf I had over the sheers that were there. Then I used this tutorial
to cover just the glass with a lace curtain left in the house. Rehung the scarf and it gives us privacy and light and style.

You probably didn't notice the little sewing box next to the chair. My stepmom just gave it to me and I'm thrilled. I remember her using it my whole life.

I think next week we should play a game: What's In Your Sewing Basket? Leave all game rule suggestions in the comments or email me.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Toto, we're back in Kansas!

After a forty year absence, I'm living back home again. It's so lovely to be near my folks, especially as they are getting older. It's my dad's 89th birthday today, and yesterday we celebrated with a fantastic dinner at Jack Stack's barbecue house in Martin City, Missouri.

I live about an hour away from them and every drive is a pleasure. I take side trips and errand detours and get to see the lovely skies and prairie farm life all around me.

One of the errands is to the Louisburg Cider Mill, because my dad can no longer drive down to buy his favorite cinnamon apple cider. 

Kansas is full of lowers in summer. At the cider mill, even the bathroom stalls are blooming and dishware is turned into garden events.

My favorite wildflower is the black eyed susan. Yes, there is another flower with the same name, and these are often called "ditch sunflowers" here to note the difference.

I live in Fort Scott, a small town of about 8,000. Sadly, old politics has long kept out new businesses and Nevada, Mo, with about the same population and 15 minutes away, is thriving with what Fort Scott voted to dismiss. So sad. The people are so lovely, but you know, politics is not my cup of tea. I have no patience for it.

A good number of streets in Fort Scott are still brick cobblestone and at the end of Main Street is the historic fort. You can just walk through and see all the buildings and restored interiors with period decor and household items.

My favorite place in town is the Treasure Hunt flea market. It's a remarkably well-stocked antiques market with phenomenal prices.

But one of the best sights is the corn. I love driving past the corn fields (though I shudder to think they are probably all GMO). It's a true Kansas treat.

Next time you're driving through Kansas, take your time. It's flat as heck on the west side, but here in the east, it's rolling hills and historic towns full of really nice people and handmade local crafts galore.

Monday, July 10, 2017

6 Steps for Putting Your Unique Spin on Any Craft Pattern

We all see projects on Pinterest or blogs or Etsy listings, and it's love at first sight. We adore the appliqued table runner but we don't need a table runner. And those fabric choices on that quilt! We'd love to make that quilt block, but forty of them? Maybe not.

How many times have you gawked and drooled and ogled crafts and even bought the patterns only to think: That's not exactly what I want to make.

Hey, that's no problem. In fact, that's a sign that your creativity is bursting at the seams. You want to make stuff from patterns, yes, but you also want to break out and let inspiration take you and that pattern somewhere that has your unique mark on it.

What this post isn't

We're not exactly talking Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, because this isn't about how to be enriched by other makers and from that develop your own way. I highly recommend the book, but it's not quite what this is about.

And this also isn't about how to take one item, such as a pillowcase, and turn it into a bunch of things you would never have thought of - though I find the Craft Challenge books like Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase by Suzanne Tourtillott motivating and fun.

What this post is

This is about how to take a craft pattern - a sewing or embroidery pattern, an applique hoop art pattern, a quilt block pattern, a crochet pattern, any pattern you would stitch - and use what you love about the pattern to make more than just the original idea. This is about putting your own spin on any craft pattern.

Most of us follow craft patterns because we like the original item and want to know how to make it. Fair enough, right? But what about ALL those pins and pics we file away for patterns we never try because we don't want to make the actual item. Still, there is something about that pattern that makes us feel like we're just a little bit in love. You know, just like chocolate does.

You can do amazing things with these ideas. You just need to know how.

These steps are pretty much the same steps a designer uses to imagine a pattern for you in the first place. You won't have to do quite the same process because the original pattern has all the instructions and templates completed. But creating a project spin may mean using methods not suggested or outlined in the pattern. This might be:
  • using free hand machine embroidery instead of hand embroidery or vice versa
  • enlarging an applique image to use on a jeans jacket rather than in hoop art
  • taking away the cutely vintage embroidery on that clothespin bag, sewing it with modern fabrics to make a fabulous tote bag
  • turning a certain floral granny square you love so much (but you don't crochet) into a quilt block pattern
You may not even know you can translate all those great craft pattern ideas into many different and unique projects to keep or give. If you're shy about trying your hand at these kind of things, don't worry - it's so much easier than you think.

You're just six steps away from putting your unique spin on any craft pattern. 

1) Understand the original stitchery pattern

What is the pattern? Is the pattern an applique? An embroidery? A doll? A tea cozy? A peg bag?

Why are you drawn to it? Is it the colors, the style, the function, the timing, such as a holiday, wedding, or birthday item? Is it the artisan you love?

Is it a skill you already have, such as sewing, knitting, or embroidery? Or is it something you dream of trying out or would like to add to your repertoire on a regular basis?

What is it about this pattern that makes you bookmark it, re-pin it, or save it to your to-do file?

In order to re-imagine a pattern, you kind of have to get to know it. You have to know if this is really doable based on your skills level. Are you good at improvisational sewing? Do you just want to know how to take one element of a pattern and use it elsewhere?

Maybe you love the peg bag style but not the design on it. Maybe you love a turtle pincushion so much, you're wondering how to make it big enough to make as a softie. Maybe it's an applique of seaside row houses that you'd like to turn into a doorway draft stopper.

Know the pattern well enough to identify the part of the pattern you want to re-imagine.

2) Dream and make lists

How does this pattern - or  part of it - inspire you to do something other than to simply make it in its original form?

This is a hoop art pattern I'm including in Issue 2 (August 2017) of Stitch Cafe digital magazine (shameless promotion opportunity), but after I made it, I started wondering about Brown Betty teapots. I had not made the teapot to be a Brown Betty on purpose. It just turned out that way because I had some yummy brown linen. So I did some research and included an article about Brown Betty teapots and a Brown Betty dessert recipe in that issue. I started with just the pattern and it ended up expanding my creative mind.

But it didn't stop with additions to the magazine. I like my patterns to feel open-ended, to inspire makers to take elements of them and create more.

The hoop art was a lot of fun. I love several elements of it, such as the storybook reference in the words, the colorful embroidery, and the teapot itself. I started thinking about how I could use these in other projects, using the original template as a start. I came up with a number of project spin ideas. 

  • teapot pillow
  • pincushion
  • embroider Once Upon a Teatime on a teatowel
  • embroider the teapot onto a small zip or clasp purse
  • applique patch for a shirt or apron pocket
  • use the pattern on a journal cover
  • embroider or use fabric pens to make a set of teatime coasters
  • kitchen window valance with a teapot on either side of the text 

Grab a craft pattern or tutorial you love, or check out one of the patterns in my Etsy shop or from Stitch Cafe magazine. Pick out something you love about the design and start dreaming -

  • great tote bag size and shape, uninteresting design on the front - how would you rather adorn this tote to reflect you
  • awesome little kitty key fob - maybe this design would make a great crib mobile
  • loving a recipe book cover with a kitchen scene, but don't need that item - could simply make the front and frame it for some kitchen art
  • very cool cuff bracelet - wouldn't wear a cuff but, size altered, would make a completely not-boring wrap for electrical cords

Let the dreaming begin!

3) Choose something and decide on colors and materials

Who is it for? Is it a gift? Is it for a special occasion? Is it for your home? Are you going to use this in a craft challenge or teach a stitchery class using your re-imagining of the pattern elements? These questions will help you decide on color, style, and what to choose from your dreaming list.

This is one of my favorite parts. I love hunting and gathering. I stalk thrift stores and fabric shops. I love flea markets and yard sales. Most of the time, you can't find the amazing fabrics you see on clothing and home linens in fabric stores. There's a stitchery gold mine out there, waiting for you to discover it. So go hunting, first in your own stash, and then in the shops and thrifts.

Sometimes I simply can't match available materials to what I see in my dream. That's okay if you find yourself in that position. Don't get discouraged.

Make a small list of what you would need to make your project and be very specific when you go a'hunting. If you decide you don't have time to go looking for the perfect materials, file that idea on your wish list, and pick another re-imagining.

Remember to adjust the detailing materials. If you are embroidering on a much larger image now, you will need to adjust the size of your stitches and probably the number of strands of floss used, possibly even the type of embroidery thread used. If you would have used stranded cotton embroidery thread for a smaller project, you might need to substitute perle cotton or another larger gauge thread.

4) Prep the pattern - Enlarging and Reducing

Recently, I found myself completely stumped when it came to figuring out percentages for reducing and enlarging a craft pattern. I had a digital copy and wanted to make it larger, but I had no idea at what percentage to enlarge it.

Then another designer directed me to a tutorial by Choly Knight for enlarging and reducing pdf toy patterns. The whole tutorial explains how to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to do this and if you have this, go for it.

But I don't have it and I just needed to know the math. When I print, I can tell the pop-up window at what percent to print the image. So how do you calculate the percentage?

The very first image in the tutorial explained it all to me. You simply divide the desired size by the current size and then multiply that answer by 100.

Take that teapot again. The original image printed at 100% is 4 1/4" (11cm) wide. I want the throw pillow to be 12" (30.5cm) wide.

I divided 12 by 4.25 and got 2.82 (or 30.5 by 11). So I'm going to enlarge the pattern 280% (rounded off). Hmmm…I doubt my printer can do that, so I will likely take a file to Kinkos or Office Depot and have them do it for me.

And to reduce? If the pattern is 4 1/4" and I want to make a small patch 3" wide. 3 divided by 4.25 is .70 so I'll reduce it by 70%.

In her post, Choly reminds makers that if seam allowances are marked on the pattern pieces they will also be made larger or smaller so you'll need to adjust these manually. 

5) Get the instructions

You may need to Google some basic instructions for the type of project you'd like to make. So if you want to make a throw pillow, coasters, a coin purse, or a journal cover (who isn't in love with bullet journals yet?) using my Brown Betty teapot or other design, the links at the end of the post will help you with fundamental methods for making the basic item (like a coin purse) that you can embellish using the design you've chosen.

For the design work, you can refer to the original pattern instructions which will help you with embroidery stitch choice, fabric choice, and other directions that will carry over into the design of the new project.

For free tutorials other than the ones in the resource section below, you can usually find just what you're looking for at:


All Free Sewing



Remember to bookmark your favorite tutorial sites for future reference.

6) Ready to work!
Once you've decided on your project spin idea and narrowed down your materials choices, use this handy planner to organize your project.

On this planner, you can note the original idea, your new ideas, helpful links or tutorials, materials on hand and materials needed, and there's even a place for a sketch of your dream project spin.

Download your planner. 

Assemble all of your materials for the new project. Be sure to have copies of the original pattern instructions and any additional tutorials or specific instructions you'll need, such as how to accomplish new skills such as needle-turn applique or the instructions that come with iron-on fusible fleece.

If you are really concerned about how the pattern will translate to a new size or medium, you can make a mock up using calico/ muslin fabric to check on shape and size.

Before cutting fabric, check on whether or not seam allowances have been included in sewing pattern templates. If you have enlarged or reduced the pattern, adjust the seam allowance sizes.

To transfer embroidery, read this post about the many methods you can choose from.

Now you can cut out the pattern template(s) (for sewing) or use your favorite method to trace or transfer the pattern to the fabric (for embroidery).

But first, take a deep breath. Relax. Then put on some music that will forever be the soundtrack for this creative day in which you put your unique spin on a pattern you like so much, it has inspired you to create even more.

And when you're done, don't forget to have a little dance party, even if you and your new creation are the only invited guests!

Stay in touch!

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Sewing and embroidery craft patterns: