Sunday, August 30, 2015

My first sewing project

When I was in 4th grade, my teacher kept a box of fabric scraps, laces, thread and needles for kids to use during recess. It was during one of those recesses that I sewed my first real project. Maybe I had a little help from the teacher aid. I don't really remember. My mother sewed almost every evening after we went to bed, and so I probably thought I knew what I was doing despite not ever having any instruction.


The project was a Valentine's Day heart pincushion for my mother. I cut the hearts out, whip-stitched the sides together and then turned it right-side out. I realized that sewing something wrong sides together was the right way to do it, but whip stitching the seams was a mistake. My stitches were huge, so when I turned the heart right side out, the fabric gapped. I appear not to have been deterred by this development, however, and proceed to stuff the heart with fabric scraps before whip stitching the gap together. Then I embroidered "LOVE" on the stuffed heart. Yes, I think I embroidered it after sewing it together. Finally, I added some bows and a hand-writtenValentine's Day greeting for my Mom. Don't you love my cursive writing?

Mom pinned the heart to the bulletin board behind her sewing machine and it was there until they moved, when over 20 years later. After that, it went missing for many years, but last week, Mom sent me a care package and nestled in with the needlework articles and a FULL SET of EXTRA knitting needles was the pincushion. She sent it expressly so that I could share it with you.


Although my first piece of self-inspired embroidery was made when I was about 5, this heart was really the beginning of my love of needlework. It was that year that Mom started teaching us to sew--even getting my sister and me a heavy duty sewing machine to share. Not much remains from those early years, but in the months to come I will see what I can recreate in writing if not in reality.



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Needlework fiction -- Button Box Mystery Series

Button Holed Kylie Logan (2011)

**** 4/5 stars Check out Goodreads for more reviews of this series and individual book'd

Kylie Logan's cozy mystery series is not about needlework specifically, but the next best thing--notions. When Josie Giancola gave up her job in finance to open a button shop in Chicago, the last thing she expected was a murder on her doorstep. After all, buttons are boring. At least they bored her handsome ex husband. Even so, Josie gets her big break when a starlet chooses her to help find buttons for a royal wedding dress. At least she thought it was a big break until the starlet winds up dead, stabbed with button hook.

The cocky characters in this series are a lot of fun. The charming ex husband who is chronically loosing money on "sure bets," the fatherly ex-cop neighbor, the distracted detective who can only talk about police work, and Josie, who is happiest alone with her buttons, make an unlikely company of investigators, but it works extremely well. I've even laughed out loud at their antics. But even better, you will learn a lot about buttons while reading this series. Logan includes a history section at the end of each book that discusses the types of buttons the mysteries revolve around. It is fascinating.

There are currently 4 novels in this series. I hope that there are many more.

Information about this series

You can find a synopsis of each book in the series on the Kylie Logan's website.

A nice article on buttons.

National Button Society website. Be sure to look at the NBS Pintrest Pages for pictures of gorgeous

The second novel takes place at a national button conference. Click here to see examples of competition button trays.

If after seeing all these wonderful button, you are inspired to make one for yourself, see one of these death head button tutorials. Someday I will try this!



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Needlework Fiction -- Threadville Series

Dire Threads Janet Bolin (2011)

***/* 3-4/5 stars sdepending upon which book in the series you read

Check out Goodreads for more reviews of this series and individual books.


Janet Bolin writes a wonderful cosy mystery series set in Elderberry Bay, Pennsylvania on the shores of Lake Erie. Threadville is a small group of shops set up by an enterprising young woman sick of New York City scandal, her three weird mothers and her best friend, Willow. Each woman has her own shop dedicated to yarn, buttons, trims and notions, quilting, fabric, or machine embroidery. It is a stitcher's paradise and they bus themselves in every weekday to take classes from the different shop owners. But not everyone is happy with the transformation that Elderberry Bay has gone through. When Willow's dogs stumble upon a corpse in her back yard, the newby shop owners must defend their businesses, their innocence, and maybe their lives.

What I like most about this series are the characters. The three weird mothers (best friends who decided to raise an out-of-wedlock baby together) are truly wonderful in their eccentricities, wearing only clothes that they have made and bumbling around after their daughter trying to rescue her from imagined danger while real danger waits just down the street. The setting on Lake Erie also appeals to me. Having grown up a few miles from Lake Ontario, Bolin's description of the Great Lakes region is like going home. The most unique aspect, however, is the wonderful and creative descriptions of what you can do with machine embroidery. In the first novel, Willow sets out to do simulated stump work with her sewing machine, and solves a murder in the process. It makes me itch to try the technique myself! There are currently 5 books in the series, with the first, Dire Threads, having been published in 2011 and a new book every year since. The novels follow the general formula for cosy mysteries, but the sewing twists--especially machine embroidery--make them worth the read for stitchers.


Resources about this novel

You can find a synopsis of each book in the series on the Threadville website, along with a string of short updates on the characters and what goes on in their lives outside of and between books--a clever little extra for those who can't get enough of Threadville!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Pennants in the garden

We've been working hard on our garden, learning the ropes of what it takes to make a high yield organic garden produce to its maximum extent. We're still trying to figure out what grows best with what and how to keep our plants from bolting, but we have a bumper crop of tomatoes. While I was in Colorado, I was missing the garden and decided that we needed some colorful pennants to celebrate all of our hard work. Mine are simplified from the ones I made Dad last year. Instead of embroidering them and finishing the seams, I just used pinked triangles sewn together back to back and strung on twine. But don't they look festive? I've been home for a week and a half, but guests, rain, and work kept me from stringing them up until today. I think that they look pretty good--and so did the hummingbird who came along to admire them right after I finished! Next year I'll make a few more to decorate the expanded garden section behind the garage.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Needlework fiction-- Crewel World Series

Crewel World Monica Ferris (1999)

**** 3 to 4 stars depending upon which book you read in the series


Crewel World, the first book in Monica Ferris's popular needlework series set in Excelsior, Minnesota, begins when Betsy Devonshire's sister and proprietor of the needlework shop, Crewel World, is killed and Betsy is accused of the murder. As Betsy, at loose ends in her life, frantically tries to clear her name and find Margot's murderer, she develops friendships with Margot's friends and employees. After being cleared of the murder, she decides to take over Crewel World and anchor her life in the legacy that Margot left her.


Thus begins the Crewel World cosy needlework mystery series. At 18 books and counting, it is arguably one of the most successful of the the cosy needlework series, and deservingly so. Although any other small town would be reeling with the large number of murders that take place there, Excelsior remains populated by down-to-earth, caring small town folk, from Godwin, Betsy's naive gay assistant, to Jill, the town's statuesque police officer. Betsy's new friends support her and develop in complexity as the novels progress. And Crewel World has something for everyone-- wool, surface embroidery, cross stitch, and even knitting supplies are sold here, and Betsy's clients do everything from design to conservation work. Plus, Ferris is tuned in to the needlework world. Two of my favorite books take place first at a Needlework Market and discusses wonderful details about the design and sale of needlework patterns, and second with a visit to Nordic Needle in North Dakota. The fresh perspective of the challenges of a small business owner, plus Betsy's struggles to learn and become competent in different needlework techniques, makes the series appealing. Although at times I tire with Betsy's methodical approach to investigation, I read on because I would simply love to shop at Crewel World and immerse myself in this needlework haven.


Link to the author website