Valentine’s Day – Then and Now

I don’t much care for Valentine’s Day.

In a lifetime, we probably only have one or two Valentine’s Days that stay with us, that capture our memory, that hold the actual magic we see in the sentiments on a card.

My first came when I was 12 years old and in 7th grade.  An 8th grade boy found out I thought he was cute (remember those days…good grief my son is heading straight into that territory in the next couple of years!) and he gave me this Valentine.  Yes, it’s been 40 years and I still have it.

It was a real card, bought at a store, just for me.

It was a real card, bought at a store, just for me.

My favorite part is the note on inside.

My favorite part is the note on inside.

ur 2nice 2b 4 gotten.  It was a tweet in the days before twitter.  A text message that can’t be erased.

Even in this era of Facebook, I don’t know where he is, if he’s still alive or if he’s a millionaire or homeless.  And I am quite sure I am 4 gotten.

Fast forward about 25 years.  My husband bought an engagement ring intending to give it to me on Valentine’s Day.  But when he got the ring, he couldn’t wait another day and asked me to marry him on Jan. 31.  That Valentine’s Day was the sweetest I can remember.  Engaged, in love, happy.

This Valentine’s Day, I took to the sewing machine.

myvalentineI created a little card for my husband using scraps and pieces of lace I had in the back drawers of my sewing room.

flowersThe flowers were cut from some old flea market hankies that were stuffed in a drawer for 15 years…no heirlooms to me, just hidden away so I pulled some out and found the perfect Valentine flowers.

loveyouhoneyI used the machine to add embellishments, sentiment and personalization.  I also played with a little transfer artist paper to add musical notes that my husband would understand.

2014And of course I added the date.  Because, you know, 40 years from now, this time in my life will be 2 nice 2b 4 gotten.

When I showed it to my son, he said, “I don’t think Dad is going to appreciate that.”

“Why not?”  I said, not sounding at all crushed.

He just laughed and shook his 11-year-old-almost-a-teenager head.


Like I said. I don’t much care for Valentine’s Day.





Feed the Birds

So, I ran out to the store the other day and purchased a small bag of general wild bird seed.  I threw about half on the ground and the other half up on the platforms since all the birds seem to be willing to sit at the platform to eat.

Today, we have an actual temp reading of -10 with a windchill of around -30.  Kids are all off from school.  I have been watching the feeders and many of the birds bulked up right before the cold, but they have steadily been at the feeders the last few days, including today.  I’ve seen all the familiar faces…red bellies, bluejays, cardinals, chickadees (of course, they were the first to approach), hairies, downies, doves, sparrows, even a few remorseful robins who must have decided against flying south.

The pics are from the kitchen window which has a screen.  I did my best.

Familiar face gathering 'round. Cardinals, doves.

Familiar faces gathering ’round. Cardinals, doves.

Bluejay brought his mate.

Bluejay brought his mate.

Cardinal.  We had many pairs this week...all bring their mates.

Cardinal. We had many pairs this week…all bring their mates.

7 squirrels and a pair of cardinals. You knew the squirrels wouldn't miss out.

7 squirrels and a pair of cardinals. You knew the squirrels wouldn’t miss out.




It’s Hemmer Time!

My apologies for the header….I couldn’t resist.

But if you have never used hemmer feet, you are in for a treat.

Bernina has quite a few different hemmer feet and you can read about all the details of each one in their “Feetures” series of books.  These detailed books are the best resource in the industry, explaining every foot and accessory that Bernina makes, why it is engineered the way it is, the advantages of the foot, the how-to’s of different techniques using each foot, and cross references to other feet that might be used for the same technique.

I purchased a few of them and you can see the differences below.

Bernina Hemmer Foot #62

Bernina Hemmer Foot #62

The #62 foot is meant for very small, fine hems on lightweight fabric.  If you look closely, you can see that the hole for the needle is only large enough for a straight stitch.  That’s because the hem this foot creates is only 2 mm wide…only a straight stitch will fit.



Bernina Hemmer foot 63

Bernina Hemmer foot #63


The #63 hemmer is designed to hem around curves.  It takes a little practice to get this hem perfect, but well worth the work.  The cutout on the bottom of the foot is specially designed to make it easier to feed the fabric around a curve. I will be making some flounces in the near future. Definitely needed this foot.


Bernina Hemmer foot #66

Bernina Hemmer foot #66

Another wonderful foot.  The Bernina #66 hemmer is designed to use with denim or upholstery fabric, any fabric that’s on the heavy side.  The hem on this foot is approximately 6 mm.

The finish is very clean.  I can see using this on ruffles for valances.



If you are interested in finding out more about hemmer feet, look it up in Bernina’s Feetures books, or visit

Now that I own a few, I can’t imagine why I waited so long!

I Wonder if Tolstoy Ever Sewed a Button

From the words of the master:

To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling – this is the activity of art.

Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one (wo)man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings (s)he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.

I think Tolstoy was brilliant, but I have a soft spot for many of the Russian novelists. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Gogol, Pushkin…all that angst, guilt, stream of consciousness (not to mention the Russian names). They do the heavy lifting, for sure.  And somewhere in the middle of it all, I find scraps of truth.  Maybe it’s my European ancestry that harmonizes with this dark bunch.

So when Tolstoy tackles the definition of art, I listen.  He knows art.

But, Dear Tolstoy, what about the bodies of work that never get seen?  What about the unpublished novels, the paintings in the closet, the songs scribbled on scraps of paper and buried in desk drawers, the dance, done at home, the private journals, or for that matter, the flower deep in the woods, the snowflake on the mountaintop, the galaxies we never would have seen if not for Hubble?

You, Mr. Tolstoy, may call them many things, like creations, or nature.  How, you may ask, can it be labeled art, if no one knows it exists?

I wish I had an answer.

Your definition of art is by far one of the best I have ever seen.  But where is the soul of the artist?  If work is never shared, or never recognized, is it still art?  If not, then what exactly is it?  Because work done in private may be just as powerful as work shared publicly…for the creator at least.

I leave you with this thought, dear Tolstoy.  If art is only art when it communicates to others, then why do any of us strive to create in private?  Why do we put down the brush or the pen and set something aside?  What would happen to the world if we never bothered with the pre-art, the first drafts, the disposable stuff, the mediocre?

Again, I wish I had an answer.

But I know this much:  the world would be a shallower place without it.


Who Sews?

When I first started working again after our son began school full time, my neighbor and I were chatting about work. I told her that I worked for a woman-owned small business very close to home…a sewing store.

She looked at me quizzically and said…”Who sews?”

Behind her words were the unspoken questions of “Who has the time for that?  Why would anyone take up such an old-fashioned, albeit charming, skill?  Isn’t that what a grandma does?”

And I realized, that in the world of non-sewers, there seems to be a real lack of understanding of the whole sewing world/phenomenon.

Who sews?

Having spent a number of years in a sewing store now, I can give at least anecdotal answers to that question.  But it may surprise you.

–Young moms.  All you have to do is glance at etsy or pinterest to see this group.  They will try anything with a sewing machine! And they are also the source for a lot of new fabric designs, patterns, and books.

–Newlyweds.  Starting fresh, they get excited about creating together.

–Middle-aged women with highly stressful full time jobs.  They sew for their sanity.  Truly.

–Artists, artisans and crafts people, in general.  Once they learn to sew, the ideas keep pouring in.  One can never know it all.  They find self-expression in the techniques and fellowship in classes.

–Men.  They are usually drawn to the creative — tackling the technical challenges with gusto.

–People who are grieving or caregiving.  Sewing is such a healing task, especially a quilt made of a loved one’s fabrics or shirts. Not long ago, a woman told me she spent the last year of her husband’s life working on hand quilting a wool blanket, and it kept her from losing her own mind, as her husband faded farther and farther away.

–Volunteers.  If you ever want to know who makes pillowcases for cancer victims, quilts of Valor for the families of veterans, lap quilts for friends in chemo, quilts for women’s shelters, hospital gowns for kids in Haiti, and on and on and on, let me fill you in.  Sewists and quilters.  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made something for someone else

–Retirees and empty nesters.  Finally, finally, they decide to do something for themselves. Which is ironic, because the first thing they do is make something for their kids or grandkids.

–Anyone with a love of fabric.

Who sews?

Maybe the question should be:

Who doesn’t sew?





Machine Applique in Neutrals

What did you do over the holiday break?

Mostly I did a whole lot of nothing, besides cook and clean up.  But in between, I did some reading and re-watched Season 3 of Downton Abbey so that I could at least remember everyone’s name when the show starts up again…(this Sunday in the USA, just in case you’ve been living under a rock.)

In the's all just cutting out shapes.

In the beginning…it’s all just cutting out shapes. Don’t forget to use Fuse and Fix on the back!

Anyway, I also worked on an appliqued pillow cover.  The pattern is in a new book called Knockout Neutrals by Pat Wys.  I fell in love with this whimsical pattern.  It’s not usually like me to be charmed by vines and cute-shaped flowers, but the neutral palette of this particular bouquet and the overall ambitious and unusual size (I had to sew 2 -18 inch sq. pillow forms together) made it surprisingly appealing.

Knockout Neutrals by

And the neutrals work for me. Did I say that already?

Mastering Machine Applique by Harriet Hargrave.

A friend also lent me her copy of Harriet Hargrave’s amazingly detail-oriented Mastering Machine Applique.  Trust me, there’s an art to precise machine applique, and while I grew more adept through this project, I don’t consider myself an expert.

I used a blanket stitch throughout, which is probably one of the toughest stitches to get perfect around tight curves and sharp points.  I am a glutton for punishment.  Lucky for me, I am not a perfectionist.

Applique detail.

Applique detail.

One of the interesting aspects of machine applique is its meditative qualities.  You’ve heard of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”?

Well, I would like to introduce you to “Zen and the Art of Machine Applique.”  Following the lines and repeating the same patterns over and over and over, while still accomplishing something is a tremendous stress reliever.

Your focus at any given moment is not on the big picture, but on each tiny little stitch.  One by one, moment after moment, little by little. Stitch, turn, stitch, adjust, stitch, stitch, stitch.  It’s enough to keep you engaged, but not frustrated.   How refreshing.

And again, little by little, you make progress.  In a world where everything is rushed and instantaneous, where food is fast and craftsmanship is outsourced to mass-producing factories in other countries, working little by little is peaceful.

Now it’s January and the bitter cold is settling in again. It’s “Finish a Project” month for me. One down.

Thousands to go.

Final machine applique