UC Master Gardener Conference Marketplace

Dig Plants

The Master Gardener statewide conference has a Marketplace where counties can sell to fundraise for their group and its projects. My group was pretty busy when the sign-ups came out, so I volunteered to “just do it” and make all items plus run a table (yes, I am a bit nuts). It’s been a few months of nose to the sewing machine when I’m not working.

Embroidered Avant Gardener apron

I’m posting this a tad backwards – this week I’ll have more detailed posts on making the items – but my Sundays in My City friends will appreciate simply seeing the end results and being spared all the bloody details.

Turquoise Crazy mug rug

I’d been stitching up mug mats / mouse pads with a garden theme …

Black and white canvas Cafe Apron

Cafe aprons that are great for farmer’s markets and plant sales with their nice deep pockets …

Black and white cafe apron

Binding their pockets ..

mg beginning to look organized

Crafting earrings and ornaments from machine stitched lace and tatting plus beads, then carefully packaging..

MG FSL Lace Ornaments

and stitching more ornaments (the off-kilter loops were fixed) ..

MG fall fruits apron lined pocket

Lining apron pockets and matching designs ..

Embroidered Tree Hugger Bag

Of course, stitching only my favorite designs (so having a green tote/grocery bag for me with this one!) ..

MG Buttons on floral cotton apron

Adding buttons to hide where the ties connect to the apron …

Machine embroidered cupcake mug rugs

Creating more mug rugs for a cupcake theme silent auction basket ..

mg cupcake apron

And finishing pot holder and stitched matching towel to adorn the cupcake apron in that silent auction basket ..

mg I dig plants embroidered apron

Finishing the canvas aprons (oops, did trim that thread after the photo) …

mg Embroidered Avant Gardener tote

Finishing the canvas totes, getting everything packed and to the conference …

MG Marketplace table Front

Making signs, snapping a few pics mid set-up ..

MG Reception at Tenaya

And then mustering the energy to enjoy our wonderful reception with my fellow Master Gardeners at the Tenaya Lodge ..

UC Master Gardener Conference Yosemite

Joining 650 other California Master Gardeners for informative sessions over 3 days..

Heims at UC Master Gardener Conference

And make it all the way to the closing Horticultural Humor presentation, plus demanding drive home through circuitous mountain roads. Believe it or not, I am happy I did it. Haven’t challenged myself craft wise other than the annual mad Christmas push. Raised oodles and oodles of money for my group – a lot of their funding goes to the school gardens they run across our county. And, finally – best of all- I had a fantastic time at the conference itself.

Be sure to stop by Sundays in My City to see what kinds of things that global group spend their time doing.

Valentine Cheer

Don’t do a massive overhaul of the home or tablescaping for each holiday, but I do enjoy a few perky little elements sprinkled here and there. The embroidery machine (Husqvarna Viking Topaz) let’s me accomplish this so simply. As I’ve mentioned in a few other posts, the easiest way is to pick up white hand towels and match your thread to the other colors of the bath, scout and add a border to the smaller microfiber towels or find kitchen towels to meet your needs – my previous posts list favored suppliers and resources.

For my own kitchen, I found Ikea towels and was able to match the threads to them exactly. All of the designs except the teddy bear are Embroidery Libraryand named at the bottom of this post. 

I edit the colors, sizes and overlap in 4D Embroidery Extra. This program defaults to “remove overlap” which works well if you’re stacking hearts, like the towels I gifted above, or solid areas of overlap. However, I learned with the teddy bears below that you want to shut “remove overlap” off if you are placing lettering on top of a design. It creates oodles of stops, starts and jump stitches and it does not look as solid and smooth as if the wording were placed on top of a solid design. The towel on the right below is my edited version where I didn’t stop the program from “removing overlap” when I added the “I’m Yours” so I could have a matching set.  Also, some vendors do not put a code (say Urban Threads has UT as part of a design name when you download it). This means after a year or more of collecting designs – unless you’re smart enough to note it when you first download – you’ll have no idea where a design came from. The teddy bear is one of those designs for me. Now I always add a few letters to the filename so I know where the design is from. If someone emails me or I find the vendor – I’ll update this post to note it who sells the teddy bear.

The kitchen towels below are mostly my editing program and fonts. The heart outlines are from the Hearts and Ribbon Bridal Border. I love the touch large rik rak brings to kitchen towels and mentioned my favorite ebay supplier of it in one of my earlier linked posts. Personalizing the towel just brings that extra glimmer of fun to gifts.

I’ve also mentioned Napkins Online in many posts. If you machine or hand embroider or simply decorate with appliqué and trims – they have great napkins to start with. The Simply Sweathearts design was used “as is” – no editing as it was perfect for the application

The designs for Embroidery Library are Be Mine Heart, Cutie Pie Heart,  Kiss Me Heart, XOXO (Hugs and Kisses) Heart , I’m Yours HeartHearts-a-Plenty,  Simply Sweethearts, Hearts and Ribbon Bridal Border.


Loving Linen

Making your own linen guest towels is pretty fast and easy if you sew anything at all. And that’s splendid as I love linen. Love the look, love the feel, love working with it.

I know I’ve mentioned that I often rely on Napkins Online from eBay rather than sewing out mitered cornered napkins – but hey  – at about $1.50 each it’s worth it if I have a bunch (sets of 12) to make given I like the whole mitered corner thing. Four or 6 double sided napkins with cute rik rak, aka the Halloween ones I discussed with tutorials here, yield very satisfying high speed results. Linen mitered corner napkins in larger numbers lose their appeal quickly.  Not so the linen towels. You’re not burning your fingertips trying to press and miter really small hems. And, two make a very nice gift. Keep your regular bath towels out but make 2 guest towels in coordinating colors to place over them for your holiday of choice.

Pretty much, I pick up my linen at JoAnn on sale. The folks over at Martha Stewart Living had recommended Gray Line Fabrics in one of their articles and I keep them bookmarked in case I need a color I can’t find locally. They have a wonderful selection and reasonable prices.


I simply cut rectangles 25 inches by 15 inches. First press the hems – I like to use a stiff piece of cardboard as a guide, for those in the U.S. priority mail envelopes have a nice edge to help with straight hems. First, press all around less than a ¼ inch. Then make a second pass. Finished side hems are about ¼ inch, back hem about ½ inch and front hem 1 ½ inch. Decorate to your liking. Machine embroider, hand embroider, stitch rick rak, trims or fabric strips across or appliqué with either iron on or stitching. The one thing to keep in mind is that linen really only looks good if you iron it while damp – it can be difficult to get crisp looking otherwise.

I’d purchased some linen guest towels here and they’re fine -literally and figuratively (she’s a popular seller). My Nice / Naughty stitching actually poked a hole through the purchased towel when stitching out the poinsettia (i.e. the fine notation). For my handcrafted linen towels I use a bit sturdier linen so I have more design choice in machine embroidery I’ve used JoAnn’s 100% linen (note the linked linen is 53 inches wide), not a handkerchief linen which would be too fine. You could go with linen look (55% linen, 45% rayon) or craft some very inexpensively using “poor man’s linen”, osnaburg (100% cotton), if you prefer. I’ve decided I like my handcrafted better then the “for sale hemstitch”. If you like the look of hemstitch but want to make towels, check out the fancy stitches on your machine. You may find you like an airy, feathering stitch along the hemline just as well.

 Always prewash and dry (low if linen, high for cottons). If you machine stitch items that later shrink, you’ll end up with something that’s only good as a rag – it will never look good again (picture a scrunched up embroidery design that never flattens out). For this reason be careful when purchasing items to embroider. I’d bought some cotton waffle weave that shrank terribly. I was a tad forewarned as the site said wash cool lay flat – but I don’t know anyone I could gift waffle weave cotton dish towels who would not throw them in the washer and dryer so I bought a few as an experiment. I was surprised to find someone was actually selling cotton dishtowels that couldn’t go in the dryer to crafters as embroidery blanks. They are now with my rags, luckily I didn’t embroider with them first. I can understand with linen, but cotton waffle weave? I only hope crafters reselling these didn’t lose their reputation and customers. Not pre-washing keeps that crisp, new look. But it can bite you later. Always pre-wash. Starch after if you like and want a crisp new look. (aside: I did email the seller, saying the warning was there so I didn’t want a refund but it wasn’t big and could cost customers – I noticed they came off the site’s offerings).

I use various shades of linen above are 2 in the “natural” look. The runner they are sitting on is linen yardage from Ikea (seemed to be a summer product only).

The Dove towel stitched out beautifully. The Peace on the right I’d edited by removing the dove and added the word peace. My machine then had problems stitching it out (no stop from green to red on 2 of the poinsettias that you can see). When machine embroidery fouls up – it can be nasty. Nests of threads knotted together on the underside, can poke big holes, and worse. My first machine had a ton of problems (and these puppies can be expensive). The retailer finally swapped it for a different new one and it’s been clear sailing since, but at first it was way too finicky and unpredictable.

The designs on the towels I’m displaying are: Embroidery Library Watercolor Maple Leaves and Embroidery Library Victorian Christmas Dove. I usually edit the colors to suit me better. The Nice, Naughty I’d put together with my font program. I have so many small holiday designs I’m not sure where those particular poinsettia and mistletoe came from.

If you don’t want to “sew your own” Dharma trading has very reasonably priced linen runners (and  Napkins Online has linen cotton blend runners). For something different in hand embroidery designs, check out Sublime Stitching or Urban Threads. Using trims, fabrics and appliqué on your guest towels is as limitless as your imagination.

This post is participating in the linky parties noted below.

Leverage the Kaleidoscope of Fall

The mountains, and my little town of Murphys, are a beautiful place to be in fall. Walks and hikes in crisp air are so perfect, the birds and wildlife are active and abundant having not yet holed up or gone south for the winter, and the scenery with falling leaves and acorns and the colors is breathtaking. I adore the colors of fall and now is the time to revel in them.

Here is my oh so perfectly toned runner for the fall kitchen.  It’s a pre-quilted double sided cotton I found at JoAnn. You can cut the pieces lengthwise to get 2 runners from the lengths you procure.  I’d made the binding from the same gold flecked brown cotton you’ve seen as the new ruffle in my fall apron redo. Purl Bee discusses how to make double fold binding here – follow their quilt binding instructions except cut your strips 2 inches wide. It’s that simple for a runner:

  1. Determine length & purchase pre-quilted fabric (quilt your own if you’re so inclined)
  2. Buy or make double fold binding
  3. Sew on binding with clean mitered corners
  4. Enjoy!

The acorn napkin ties are simply plaster that is:

  1. Poured into a candy mold with a small hook placed in the back
  2. Allowed to dry
  3. Base coated white (front and back so you don’t get plaster dust everywhere)
  4. Painted
  5. Sprayed with a quick hit of sealer over the top (I always have Walmart clear spray paint on hand)
  6. Strung with a pretty fall ribbon

Plaster and links to tutorials for it are discussed in my Woo Hoo Fall’s Finally Here post.

Using fall colors provides a seamless transition from the rooms on the “forest view” side of my home to the wondrous panorama that so captivates me just beyond my windows.

The kitchen towels have been machine embroidered to match on a Husqvarna Viking Designer Topaz with Sulky threads using Embroidery Library’s Maple Leaf Montage design. You can find their instructions for embroidering on towels here. The main points for terry are always use a topping stabilizer – generally a wash or heat away, a larger needle, and with any dense design I always slow down the stitching speed. The picture shows you how well this stitched out.

Time to log off and take a stroll, perhaps I’ll snag some new leaves to soak in glycerin and find a use for.
Special thanks to Misty at Creative Itch Boutique for featuring this post on Sew Cute Tuesday!

This post is participating in the linky parties noted below. 

Festive, but Not scary

I’ve been meaning to make a new apron for Halloween.  In my previous neighborhood, you would know the folks in the houses right around you, but not much further. It was my first house and I approached Halloween with excitement donning a mask one year, a veil the next.  But, I noticed some of the little ones were frightened (and I didn’t even go for scary masks). Plus, the whole mask/veil thing meant my neighbors were no closer to recognizing me and any “connection” was lost.

Now I have a festive apron for end of October get togethers and trick or treat night.  The candy goes in a great basket lined with a Halloween cloth napkin.

The first step was looking at the fabric stash – I knew I had enough for an apron without additional fabric shopping.

The photo is the stash laid out on a queen bed. The border panel with paint accents I’ve had for 4 years. I’d made two runners  for myself and a few for my sister, then stopped. It would be perfect for the main ruffle and I’d use tulle for some extra ruffle flirtiness. I love the hats and pumpkins piece and had plenty of that for the main part of the apron. It’s also been patiently waiting some time in my fabric stash.  A bit back I completed a quick Halloween lap blanket with it I wrote about here.  My bat and cat tulle will continue to be table toppers or veils – I decided there was no reason to cut into them for this project.

I played with making another ruffle from pieced smaller scraps, but decided more would make the apron longer than I’d wanted. If I were a taller person, it may have worked. I have plenty of scraps and like the idea –by next Halloween I’ll have figured out what I want to ruffle with it.

For the pattern, I started with the same Simplicity upper piece I used in my cupcake apron, shortening it again. The ruffle was a given as that piece would be used as is.  The bottom edge of it is a bit wavy, which I thought would look nice with the tulle ruffles underneath.  I cut the tulle ruffle pieces to be longer width wise (about a length and 2/3 – don’t have to be fussy with a tulle ruffle) than the panel piece. Each tulle ruffle was also cut to be about an inch and a half longer than the one that would sit above it. The tulle is shades or orange, purple, black and green.

Originally, I’d planned to just have a raw edged tulle. In digging through my bindings and trims, I found I had black lace hem tape and decided that would add a nice touch. On my next outing, I stopped into Country Cloth and picked up some orange hem tape as well.


If you haven’t tried gathering by zig zag stitching over a piece of dental floss – do.  There’s nothing worse than getting a lot of your ruffle done and having the thread you’re pulling snap. Just be sure to not stitch into the floss or it won’t work.

Above you can see the corner of the ruffle plus the dental floss stitched on for gathering.

For stitching a ruffle to an apron, I mark the ruffle (prior to gathering) into quarters.  Then I mark the bottom of the apron piece in quarters.  I pin, right sides together, matching the quarter markings. Then I gently tug on the floss and gather while it’s pinned together.  I find it easy to “even out” this way.  Add more pins when it’s how you like and sew. I cut the muslin lining almost as long as the apron with ruffle. Plan to trim the bottom up more once I see how the layout of the tulle ruffles looks best.

The order of sewing is ruffle to apron, muslin lining to apron piece only, not ruffle and leave bottom edge open. Iron open. Then stitch the tulle ruffles to the lining a bit lower than where the border panel ruffle joins the apron piece. I then stitched on some super big rick rack trim where the ruffle joins the apron piece. I got it on eBay here (and I ran and got some more in Christmas colors before I posted this and sent the rest of you over there J). Then stitch bias trim binding all around.  If you stitch your ties so the ends are within the lining – you won’t be able to easily set off the whole piece in stitching the binding all around. The ties would get in the way (for my reworked apron, I had to remove the ties to be able to add the binding trim, then stitch them back on). With binding – this design takes 2 packets to go around the apron and across on bottom ruffle – always iron the folds out and join your binding pieces to be as long as your project needs before you start. Hem the muslin lining piece to be right up by the tulle ruffles and stitch the ties on last.

Taa Daa!  I love it.  The shot doesn’t do it justice – the colors are much better in person.

Now you see it, now you don’t

For those of you who’ve been following the blog, you’ll have noticed my style hasn’t been short, one topic posts at regular intervals.  Like a lava flow steadily consuming and obliterating everything in its path, I often allow my work to consume my time and attention. Periodically, I disentangle myself and compose a few posts; often finding ways to consign multiple, separate projects to a theme.  When I have time, I like to read books. In blogs, I want pictures and ideas. No lengthy expositions on opinions, families or vacations – thank you very much. So, without further ado, today’s surprise quick hit one topic post.

My Cutting Table (and assorted projects table)

I have not invested in a nice folding cutting table from the fabric stores.  In one of my better moments of inspiration, I realized I could easily create my own temporary work station. A fold up card table is my base. I set it on bed extenders (Bed, Bath and Beyond is one source for these) to reach a comfortable working height. It’s topped with a 24 inch by 48 inch by ½ inch piece of Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) (Home Depot and the like carry it) that I’d picked up for a different project.  I place my cutting mats on top of this for a nice solid, even surface. I LOVE having the cutting mats on this. You’ll notice it does extend about 8 inches on either end, but the board is heavy enough that this has never caused a problem (even hefty kitty doesn’t topple it if he lands there, and I’ve been known to lean into cutting with the rotary blade with much more force than needed – this puppy stays as solid as a rock).

There’s even some room on the table for my rulers and a bin that carries pins, cutting implements and assorted trims for what I’m working on (the card table top is that solid green by the rulers and plastic bin).

These were shot while I was working my Halloween apron with another project in the wings.  The entire thing folds up and can be out of sight in a moment’s notice. I have it set up in my kitchen in case I need to expand my layouts and choices to the counters and island.

This post is participating in the linky parties noted below.

Bond, James Bond

Thought I’d post about a few miscellaneous machine embroidery projects. For those without an embroidery machine but with a basic understanding of sewing and an imagination for adding your own embroidery, appliqués or image transfer designs – this post will still have some ideas for you.  I’d mentioned early on in this blog that I’d been searching out non-vendor blogs related to machine embroidery and coming up empty. So, I’m on a mission to highlight a few more projects.  The starring role today goes to Milo.  Sis takes care of mom (monumental task) and likes dressing her pooch, so sis gets the goods she likes from lil ol’ seamstress me.

This first design is an “in the hoop” project from Moose Be Stitchin.  It’s a casing for the collar with a simple triangular bib, embroidered “buttons” and a bow tie you hand stitch on.  Very easy, fast, oh so cute on and pretty much easy for the pooch to wear.  We call it “Bond, James Bond”.

This shot is a sewn and not embroidered at all (in case some of you stitchers are still with me) dog bandana with Happy Birthday embroidered kitchen towel (it does match the apron sis also received). The Happy Birthday design is Embroidery Library (you’ll see their name popping up a lot as they have good pricing and consistent sales with fantastic pricing  – if you’re an embroiderer, sign up for their Christmas Club plus Happy Hour Fridays to get truly tempting prices coming to your inbox).

As long as I’m discussing Embroidery Library, here are cupcake napkins that go with the whole birthday/cupcake theme for sis. I prefer cotton or linen hemstitch (I get mine on eBay from Napkins Online) but sis has her hands full and requires no-iron polyester.  The cotton and linen, though lovely, must be ironed when damp to look good. I’d sewn some solid ones to decorate, but at $1.50 each decided I’d rather start with the eBay hemstitched ones then toil with my iron and machine carefully making mitered corner napkins.

Another, “probably easy to replicate with a tad of thought” project is the Zippy Designz duster made from your fleece scraps (fits 99cent store duster or Swifter handles).  Don’t want to step on Carolyn at Zippy’s toes so won’t give pics or details, but you just need 3 rows of stitching to hold this together and you have a green, washable, re-usable duster that gets in crooks, crannies and all around those books. I’ve whipped up a bunch. They also make pretty good cat toys if your kitties chase your dusting activities the way mine do (not the vase, no … L).

With fall holiday season opening up to full swing, it’s time to bake those warm goodies to share at gatherings with friends and family. I was always finding myself rushing off with casseroles or baked goods fresh from the oven, wrapped in towels to not burn me or the car seat. Time for the age old classic – a casserole cover.  Now some lovely patterns call for such a nice handle – Beware.  I know someone who actually carried the casserole by the handle, which, of course tipped, swayed and dumped said casserole on the pavement (they were lucky it didn’t happen inside the car, eeewwww). Save yourself and appointed casserole carrying helpers the temptation of using that handle. A simple slide-in case that you carry is the best all around bet and simpler to sew.


Embroidery Library showcased a project (here) where the stitcher simply took two quilted placements, sewed them together leaving one end open and placed a nice big button and buttonhole on the open end. I like the look of the scalloped placemat edges. You don’t have to add a design with some of the lovely patterned placemats available. I made an extra large case for my extra large casserole by simply starting with some cotton pre-quilted solid fabric. The design is lettering is from my Husqvarna Viking Topaz with an edited combo of Embroidery Library’s border from their chocolate pack and Embroidery Design.com’s Machine Embroidery Designs cupcake.  (Embroidery Designs.com carries multiple vendors).  I made the bias trim from fabric in my stash.  Always make an easily washable casserole cover as some drips/spills and food smudges should be expected. I’ve picked up a bunch of placemats with these on my Christmas to do list.  No worries – I haven’t yet hooked gift exchanging friends and family to this blog just so I can write about the crafting here without ruining any surprises. Those of you who do stitch can imagine how fast the placemat version of these carriers goes together.  Besides, how better to showcase those fancy buttons you pick up at quilt shows or create from Fimo?

I’ll close with another doggie project.  This for close friends who acquired a Rottweiler while living in South Africa. They are now crazy about her. Their gift was pillow covers in their guest room colors. My friend helped me pick the right Rottweiler design (this is Embroidery Library but Embroidery Designs.com has a bunch, a lot of their obviously males) and match the thread colors to her dog so this would be personalized and correct.

With Christmas wish lists begun, if any of you have questions about machine embroidery –I’ll be happy to answer what I can.