Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sarah's cashmere

Remember my young Mom friend Anne and her twins? Here they are, enjoying a pancake supper with their vintage table linens...

Anne, of course, is passing along her love of thrift store shopping to her children. And young Sarah has discovered cashmere!! Don't you love it??

But, of course, they don't actually USE cashmere to make clothes for children (at least, not here in Iowa. Another reason to live in the heartland, eh?)

Hey -- Nooo problem. Sarah is going to CUT CASHMERE DOWN TO SIZE...

She decided to use a favorite shirt as a pattern...

YOU GO GIRL!! Be sure to send us a picture of you, modeling your new creation...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Magic "I'm Not 80" Pants

I often write about my cousin Linda...and awhile back, I posted a picture of Linda's recycled denim PURSE. Well, her Mom -- my Aunt Adda -- was inspired to make her own pair of recycled blue jeans...Doesn't she look fabulous??

Of course, I had to take her picture (for this blog) -- and she walked around the corner, with a big smile on her face, and said, "When I wear these jeans, I'm not 80". No kidding. She looks AWESOME, don't you think?

Here's a close-up shot of the embroidery she cut off a child's pair of jeans to sew onto her own jeans...

But -- my FAVORITE DETAIL....are you ready?? HERE IT IS...

I think the placement of that star tells the whole story!

THANKS, Aunt Adda, for playing my recycled jeans game!!

NOW -- GET BUSY PEOPLE -- Friday, February 26 -- is the BIG DAY AT EXPO. Wear your recycled blue jeans and -- maybe you'll EVEN WIN A PRIZE!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Project Runway

Project Runway is BACK...and it's amazing! They're giving us our Michael Kors -- and our Nina Garcia!! THEY ARE IN NEW YORK CITY -- HOME AT LAST...

I tuned in the last two weeks, DE-lighted to have my Heidi & Tim coming into the living room...

Last season, I tried to blog about every episode -- I can hardly remember when I had THAT KIND OF TIME!! LOL...With the Puyallup Sewing & Stitchery Expo just one month away....I can't commit to that.

But I could not resisst commenting on the "potato sack" challenge (episode #2). A GREAT CHALLENGE. I LOVED IT. The quality of the outfits was simply amazing. I would have given the win to the first outfit in the collage. But they picked the black one...which was also a strong contender.

So, okay, there could be some reasonable discussion about which outfit was actually the BEST outfit. True enough.

But there was NEVER ANY DOUBT ABOUT THE WORST THING THAT WALKED DOWN THE RUNWAY. Ping wrapped burlap around her model, leaving the sides gaping open (because she does NOT UNDERSTAND HOW TO SEW A WAISTBAND)...The gaping sides made the model look like she had saddlebags....and in the back, the center seam was held together with safety pins...and her butt was hanging out for all the world to see...

In the first challenge, Ping wrapped her model in rectangles of fabric -- and the judges acted like they were smitten with her 'creativity".

It is absolutely unbelievable that PING did not get sent home after she abused that potato sack... Are you kidding me?

THEY KEPT PING...and sent home the design school teacher (Pamela?) who did an impeccable job of hombre dying her fabric?

Ugh...I have nooo idea what the judges were thinking.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chair Dressed for Christmas

Underneath it all -- this chair is a very ugly brown floral velvet. If you remember -- I had it dressed for the 'Fourth of July". Most of the year, it wears an abstract printed shirt...

THIS is the holiday garb. the vest is a size 3X that doesn't fit me anymore...and the turtleneck underneath has a couple of stains...
Festive, eh? I'm about ready to DE-CHRISTMAS the house. For me, that means putting away the rugs and the mugs. And dress the chair in something new and different -- I haven't quite decided. I decorated the ottoman with a Christmas it's not going to be all that difficult to "de-Christmas"...

On second thought -- what's the big hurry? I've been so busy with the Sew Expo stuff -- I'm thinking of just hanging some red hearts on the Christmas Tree...HEY -- it would be fun to celebrate Valentine's Day, eh?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's a Halupkie?

I believe everybody should have family "specialties". You know -- that 'GO TO DISH" that, when eaten, will taste like love...and remind them of home. The best cook I ever personally knew was my mother-in-law, Helen Farro. And she taught me how to make halupkies. Which I never had until I met her. Helen was half Irish, half Ukranian, and she married an Italian. Her halupkies were neatly folded cabbage rolls -- and she always made it look easy. They are DELICIOUS...

Over the holidays, my cousins Linda & Jackie came for a little visit -- and I put them to work, making halupkies. Here's the official "recipe", girls:

One large head of cabbage.

Filling -- mix in a bowl:
1 lb. raw hamburger
1 yellow onion -- chopped fine
1 cup of Minute Rice
1 cup of "salsa"

1 can of tomato soup
1 soup can of water
1 soup can of salsa

Fill your largest pot with water and bring to a boil. I stick a big meat fork into the core of my head of cabbage -- so I can lift it in and out of the boiling water (without piercing the leaves). Put the head of cabbage down into the boiling water -- then "cut away" the outside leaves as they get just slightly tender...(just cut into the outer leaves, several at a time -- keep lifting the cabbage in and out of the boiling water).

Hey -- it takes longer to write about than it takes to actually DO.

Helen's "trick" when rolling the halupkies is to shave away the thick vein of the cabbage leaves -- you can see in front of Linda, on the cutting board, the shavings...

Then, roll -- as pictured.

Helen always cooked halupkies in a pressure cooker. Make the halupkies, cover with sauce, bring to pressure, and cook for 15 minutes. SOFT AND WONDERFUL.

You can also make them in the oven, in a covered roaster, cook for about 1 hour at 350 degrees. This is a picture of Jackie -- taking her first cabbage-rolling-job-very seriously.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baby Blankets -- Brown velour!

Yes, we've been blessed with a BABY EXPLOSION in our family. And, one of the things I've learned from all the new young mothers is that the baby blankets available in the retail world really are pitiful.

BECAUSE WE SEW -- my sisters and I all MAKE blankets -- and it's been interesting to realize how different our "blankets" are. It got me to thinking -- isn't that the beauty of sewing? You could give the SAME assignment to 300 different sew-ers -- "make a baby blanket" -- and no two blankets would be alike. Apparently, sew-ers are like snow-flakes...!

My sister Deborah, of course, EMBROIDERS the baby's name or a theme.

My sister Deena loves to incorporate a "theme" with the fabric she chooses. Deena loves to make those hand-tied polar fleece blankets. If I can manage it, I'll post her unique method of doing the fringed edge...without the pesky knots that draw everything up too much. With Kelcy, it was all about the Safari fabrics, and with Brenda, she went bandana-crazy, remember?

My sister Ronda loves to flannel-fabric-shop (she has THOUSANDS OF YARDS ON HAND) -- so, using six different fabrics -- she makes those flannel-squares-right-sides-sewn-together -- and then cuts all those fringes.

Me? I am the instant-gift-girl. So my receiving blankets are light weight and VERY easy tomake. Carefully lay two pieces of 36" square fabric, right sides together, pin, and sew around the edges, rounding the corners, leaving a hole to "turn":

Here, you can see the opening I used to turn the blanket right side out..:

Then, I iron/steam around the edges, and topstitch 1/2" around the edge. (which closes the opening -- I am sooo lazy).

Sometimes, if I'm in the mood, I do a little embroidered heart or circle every 15" or so in the body of the blanket....just to keep the two "layers" together.

I'm telling you -- a cute little BOY blanket is quite a challenge. So now you've seen MY KIND OF BABY BLANKET. This 36" square blanket is red bandana flannel on one side and brown velour on the other side!

In future posts -- if I can get the pictures -- I'll show sisters' various VERY DIFFERENT STYLES OF handmade BABY blankets.

Hey -- if I remember to take my camera -- I'll show the baby (Clayton) that goes with the red bandana blanket!

Monday, January 25, 2010

2009-2010 Ice Storms

Yep. Another ice storm. This time, we filled TWO bathtubs with water (for flushing) and have 10 gallons of drinking water in our, of course, our power did NOT go out.

But thousands of people around us were not so lucky. There are power lines down, there are crews all over Eastern Iowa, trying to restore electricity.

Here's a picture of the bush just outside our basement is soo beautiful. And so deadly.My plan is to NOT leave the house until the ice melts. Not a problem...there's plenty of work to do.

For one thing, I'm starting to lay out my Pink & Red Outfit for the show...WHAT ABOUT YOU??

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Linda Phillips Wishlist

This is a picture of a summer book club meeting on my porch. HARD TO REMEMBER summer, eh? Linda P. sent me one of those internet-forwarded-messages. Hey -- like everybody else -- I get a TON OF 'EM. She hardly ever forwards them, so I knew this would be good...I really identified!!.

1. I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.
3. I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5. How the heck are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
7. Mapquest really needs to begin their directions on #5. I’m pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they stated how the person died.
9. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind of tired.
10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don’t want to have to restart my collection. . .again.
13. I’m always slightly terrified when I exit WORD and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my 10-page research paper that I swear I did not make changes to.
14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry” means I will never wash this. . .ever.
15. I hate when I just missed a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Doggone it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times then goes to voicemail. What’d you do after I didn’t answer? Drop the phone and run away?
16. I hate leaving my house feeling confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste!
17. I keep some people’s phone number in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
18. While in the car the other day, my 4-year-old son asked me, “Dad, what would happen if you ran over a ninja?” How the heck do I respond to that?!
19. I think the freezer deserves a light too.
20. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with a Miller Lite than Kay.

Thanks, Linda!

Friday, January 22, 2010



Let's say, for example, we made FRIDAY our "Wear Recycled Denim Day" (good idea, Bonne -- using the casual FRIDAY example).

Here's a great recycled denim SKIRT I was admiring in Chautauqua last September...

Here's Bonne from the BLOG challenge last fall...

This is a picture of Lumberjack Jan in her recycled jeans jacket:

This is a picture of Rita (me) in my recycled three-pair-of-jeans-makes-one:

HEY. I LOVE 'EM... and YOU WANT to see them at the show, right??!!

And I'm sure you WANT TO WEAR YOUR get busy, people. Our friends in the Schmetz booth and Junk Jeans are working up some kind of REWARD FOR YOU...and there's a great possibility that they'll be giving out REAL PRIZES...

I'll keep you posted as they develop their plans.

Sock Monkey Christmas

In this picture, Lillian is introducing her sock monkey to her little white stuffed doll (that looks just like her real-life-maltese-sister, Sophie)

Of course, there's that moment where she has to see if it's edible...

Then, playing with Kim's sock monkey ornament, giving me another one of those exuberant, winning smiles...

If we weren't in the middle of YET ANOTHER ICE STORM -- I'd drive up to Wisconsin to see Lillian. The house got so quiet when they left...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Janome Contest?

this is an email I received yesterday:

Dear Rita,

Hello from Janome America! As a large sewing machine company we are extremely interested in who’s doing what in the sewing and craft world. For this reason, we have been following your blog and are excited to see your enthusiasm for the craft. We at Janome are thrilled to see sewists sharing this art with others.

Currently, Janome is running a contest we thought would interest you. The contest theme is “Pass it On”, and encourages those who love to sew to share their skill with someone new to the craft. In the primary contest, you are given the chance to win one of three PAIRS of prizes. If chosen, both you and your 'student' win! There are three fantastic prize sets in all: two pairs of sergers and one pair of thread collections!

The rules are simple. On our website, we provide you with four easy and unique projects. Choose the one you like best and partner up with a beginner sewist to create this project. Submit a photo of the two of you as well as a few short words, telling us how the project went.

Winners will be chosen on March 31, 2010 - so get sewing! The goal of this contest is to encourage people like you to share their love of sewing with others, and to spread the joy of this craft.

We appreciate your participation and are excited to see the projects and photos you and your readers create!

Feel free to email me for more information about the contest or Janome’s machines.

Thanks and Good Luck!

Eynat Eshel
Marketing Intern
Janome America, Inc.

201.825.3200 ext. 114

I called Eynat -- and she sent me pictures of a sewing machine and a serger. I AM TELLING YOU -- ENTER THIS CONTEST. I would be sooo delighted if one of my readers won a sewing machine!! c'mon -- DO IT. And be sure to send me LOTS OF PICTURES...

Window Valance

You've seen this room before. It's my "guest room". After the boys moved out of the house -- I used all the cans of paint in my basement, had a party and painted the room a lot of crazy colors. Then, I furnished it with garage sale finds, including a table for my jig saw puzzles, and an "extended twin" bed. When the boys visit, we would jokingly say, "we don't want them to be TOO comfortable."

However -- after Elliott & Emily brought the adorable Lillian into our lives -- we bought a full size bed -- so they would stay longer. yeah, crazy -- I know...

There are two big windows in this room -- and one day -- at the Goodwill store -- I found this valance for only $3.38. YES! I call this "Ritaluck"...The fabric is black background, pink, yellow and orange dots -- trimmed with pink fringe. SERIOUSLY...

I put it above one of the windows. The other window had to settle for a string of plastic-flower-lights. The picture is bad -- but trust me -- the lights are magnificant!!


I shudder to think.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hello Cheryl!!

Here's the way this thing works. If somebody sends me an email -- I put their message up on the blog. I was delighted to hear from Cheryl Weiderspan -- one of the most popular speakers at the Sewing & Stitchery EXPO! And, low and behold -- I have some great pictures of her and some of her fun stuff.

Here's Cheryl in Chautauqua, New York...what is that cool briefcase made out of?

Placemats?? Really?

You look FABULOUS, babe! Send me some information about what you're bringing to the 2010 Sewing & Stitchery EXPO...I'll post it up on the official show blog.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Washing Vintage Red Work

Recently, I bought a big mystery box at an auction. It was loaded with vintage "Redwork".

I pride myself on having VERY GOOD LUCK with laundering vintage linens -- even if they start out stained, yellowed and looking TERRIBLE. Here's a quick lesson:

1. Soak the linens overnight in warm water. The logic here is that cotton and linen are natural fibers -- and if they have been stored for years -- they are dry and brittle. SOAKING revitalizes the fiber and makes them STRONG -- you need to do this BEFORE adding detergents or soap, so they can ABSORB the cleaning agents...

2. The Second Soak is with a full measure of OxyClean. Overnight is good.

3. NOW -- wash in the machine, a regular cycle with warm water. With OxyClean again. After this wash, hang the linens and look again to see if any stains or yellowing came out. If not, now is the time to pre-treat.

4. For pre-treatment of stubborn stains, I like the spray bottle of Oxy-Clean. I've also had good luck with rubbing the stain with a bar of old fashioned Fels Napta soap. If the stain is on a pillowcase, yellowing can be caused by hair oil. In that case -- I use shampoo as a pre-treat.

In another post -- I'll show how my new vintage redwork came out, after a night of SOAKING, and then three different "washes". The linens turned out's the camera I'm having trouble with...ugh...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cleaning the basement

FOR THE RECORD. And -- IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE. I may soon be appearing on an episode of the TLC Hoarder show...

This is what my basement looks like, on a typical day. I took these pictures right before Mary's December visit:

In the next picture, you can see a corner of the pool table -- sticking out -- barely...the pool table is piled high with treasure. Mostly from thrift stores. A lot of sweaters to recycle, t-shirts that crack me up -- clothes that fit me, or at least -- they USED to...ugh...

I VOWED to myself that I would clean the basement before Mary's visit. AND -- I did TAKE OUT SEVENTEEN BAGS....back to the Goodwill store....some right to the you can imagine...
My goal was to take Lillian's picture, sitting on the pool table, wearing a Christmas dress. I forgot to take her picture in the dress. But here she is -- AFTER Christmas -- sitting on a Christmas rug. Hey, I was close people...

The thing is -- I FORGOT TO TELL MY FAMILY I was clearing off the pool table. lol. So, nobody went down there. Not a single game of pool was played. Bummer. All my work was never acknowledged or appreciated....Oh well.

At least I get to TELL YOU ABOUT IT, eh?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Soup Spoons & Napkins

I collect many things. One of my FAVORITE THINGS is soup spoons. The first time I actually bought soup spoons was during our sisters trip to Ireland. Since then, I have been a sucker for soup spoons. I look for them at antique malls and flea markets, bid on them at auctions, I buy spooners to put them in -- and I get a strange thrill out of polishing old silver-plated soup's a picture of my beautiful soup spoons -- in a classy spooner -- my holiday fabric napkins -- AND DEENA'S HOMEMADE CREAM PUFFS. oH mY gOD...THEY ARE every bit as delicious as they look, people!!

My family and friends use these soup spoons to eat soup, stew, chicken & dumplings, cereal....

After we decided soup would be the main menu for Kelcy's baby shower -- there was NO QUESTION I'd provide the soup spoons...and, well -- the cloth napkins!! And the broccoli-cheese soup, the bean soup, the veggie pizza...

Anyway -- the day before the shower, as I was polishing my very best, most beautiful 35 soup spoons -- I said to John, "there are not many people who could deliver 35 beautiful silver-plated soup spoons."

With his usual enthusiasm, he said, "yes, Rita. you are changing lives..."

Hummm?? I think that calls for a sarcasm penalty....

Here's a picture of some of the young Mom's in our family -- Becky (sans her two girls, Maddie and Avery -- our Emily & Lillian -- Kelcy & Mason and Brenda & Clayton.

My new screen saver...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jungle-Safari Dress Up Game

I promised you a picture of the Jungle Dress Up Activity (not exactly a GAME) -- we had for Kelcy's baby shower. Here's a nice group shot....some were shocked that I had enough Safari/zebra/leopard/fur to accessorize nearly 30 women!! (Nobody who knows me was the least bit surprised..)

It was a perfect occassion for Lillian to wear her new faux-fur vest from my recent trip to New York City. Lexi was there, too!

The day was really ALL ABOUT THE BABIES...Cash is no baby (3 1/2 now)...Mason and Clayton in the middle...Lillian holding up her end of cute....all of them nestled into safari EVERYTHING..

Oh, yes -- we DO KNOW HOW LUCKY WE ARE. Beautiful healthy babies, good friends, delicious food...everybody playing the Safari game....oh, yeah.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sewing Burpies

My niece Kelcy has at least a dozen different "burpies"....

Starting with purchased cloth diapers -- some are embroidered with funny sayings -- or farm scenes...

Cute, eh?

When I spent the morning with Kelcy and little Mason -- she said she preferred the "shaped" burpies...because they stay on her shoulder better.

Hey -- I SEW!! (well, so does her MOM -- my sister Deena -- but I've got this blog to feed...)

It was a slight little modification to make -- but, sometimes, it's the little details that make a big difference. And the fun part was that my daughter-in-law, Emily serged the sides of the burpies -- I'm sure she'll be hooked on sewing any day now...

Monday, January 11, 2010

2009 Christmas Dresses

Okay -- I'm just about over it. Really...this is the last of my "Lillian in a Christmas dress picture"...
Here she is at home, with her Maltese sister, Sophie...she has noooo idea what's in store for her in the coming days...once she gets to Grandma's house...

Christmas Eve, her first day in Iowa, wearing the first of many outfits -- she seems a little suspicious, don't you think? Kinda worried, maybe it's just Uncle Ross's beard....

On Christmas Eve, in her red velvet...she's asking my cousin Linda to help her escape...

Christmas morning, in special red pajamas...more than a little weary of the camera in her face...

Later in the day -- YET ANOTHER OUTFIT -- the little black turtleneck was so cute. But, she just doesn't seem to be enjoying the dress-up-game, does she??

Oh, yeah, by the end of Christmas day, after wearing four different outfits and two different Christmas pajamas, she's thinking, "Seriously, people. Quit. If you do not stop dressing me up, I am moving to Brazil...."

Really. I'm going to let it rest just wasn't quite out of my system...