Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: How to Love Your House

Maybe you've heard people say "I love my house!" Did you ever wonder why? Our society places great value on decorating and remodeling and building equity in our home. People spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to make a home they can love.

I think what we are really looking for is comfort. Comfort is what we really fall in love with. When we enjoy comfort at home, time to relax in rooms that welcome us and work for us, we come to love the house because we love being at home. Comfort is an individual thing, but it is usually small things that bring home comfort.
  • a pretty edge on a face cloth
  • a favorite chair with a pillow for your back
  • souvenir magnets on the fridge
  • a fuzzy lap throw to snuggle under
  • homemade cookies in a cookie jar
  • a handmade picture frame with a photo of far-away family
  • a pretty set of sheets that feel just right
  • a hand-thrown flower pot your best friend made for you
  • somewhere to stash your keys
  • a favorite soup simmering on the stove
  • a bath towel that is just the right size
This feeling of comfort is the point of the hope chest. When you take a bit of time to prepare ahead those items that you know will bring comfort, you'll fall in love with your house, whatever or wherever it is.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Peek Inside: Valentine's Day Kitchen Set

These are all the items we have in Miss Abigail's hope chest to celebrate Valentine's Day. This holiday has been a favorite for Abigail. I always made sugar cut-out cookies and Abigail would help me decorate them. The pretty vintage gingham apron was a gift from one of the club ladies to Abigail. It is a perfect cookie-baking apron. Miss Abigail made the cute stenciled hearts dishtowel a few years ago with a friend. You can read the "how-to" here.

We also crafted hand-made Valentines every year to give to friends and that was the most fun! We collected quite a lot of supplies for this project: stamps and stickers and specialty paper and ribbons and fancy scissors and templates. Once the scrapbooking craze hit the stores some years ago, we were truly in business. This activity has been so much fun and I will miss it intensely. I will pack up some of the tools and supplies in a pretty box for the hope chest, so that Abigail can continue this tradition with her own children. She will also be quite ready to bake the cookies!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sew on Saturday: Valentine Hand Towel

I quickly hand-stitched this holiday towel for the Valentine kitchen set this morning. I like the simple running stitch across the plain bands in the terry cloth. The trims for the heart came out of my scrap basket. While this towel is intended for the hope chest, I think it would be just as pretty as a guest towel in the powder room. Hmmm. A different motif maybe...I think I will make another one...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Web on Wednesday: Cherries Round-Up

photo courtesy of Nicola Pravato

I saw this darling pattern for crocheted cherries on Pinterest and wanted to share it in time for National Cherry Month. It would be so cute sewn onto a terry hand towel, or in the corner of a flour sack dishtowel, or on a pair of thick hot pads, or sewn onto a place mat and paired with red napkins. This cute motif has potential! Thanks to the very crafty Nicola Pravato and her blog, Next to Nicx for sharing a great pattern.

Cherries are ever so popular as a kitchen motif. I was wondering out loud to my husband why cherries would be celebrated in February. He laughed just a little and reminded me about the birthday of George Washington and the legend of the ill-fated cherry tree. Ah, now it makes sense! Here are several more links for cute projects around the web. Whatever you do, don't leave cherries out of your hope chest.

French-Knots: All Things Stitchy is a wonderful site featuring free vintage patterns for embroidery, quilting and crochet. This pattern is for embroidering a cluster of cherries. The design would be delightful on a flour-sack dishtowel with a pretty fabric border! Don't miss this site.

French-Knots: All Things Stitchy

Wouldn't this look cute as the cover of a recipe booklet for the hope chest? There are so many yummy recipes featuring cherries and I think it would be fun to make a collection for the hope chest. LeAnne Pugliese is a talented crafter who specializes in stamping and beautiful handmade cards. She has many more ideas at her blog Wee Inklings

Here is a pattern for a charming crocheted cherry pie pot holder by Miss Abigail really doesn't need many more pot holders in the hope chest, but this would still make a lovely gift, especially at a bridal shower, accompanied by my favorite recipe for cherry pie!

A blog called Arte & Ricamo offers this simple cherries cross stitch pattern, along with several other links for free patterns of cross stitch cherries. I could make two or three as decorative jar lid covers and put them with Abigail's canning tools in the hope chest. They would look just as nice on my own jars in the pantry.

Whatever else I might make with the cherry motif will certainly go well with this pretty oven mitt, already in the hope chest. I crocheted the fancy white open fan edging and attached it to the cuff with hand stitching.

I had so much fun surfing the web (and Pinterest) for fun cherry ideas for the hope chest. I started a new board called "Cherries" on Pinterest to collect them all. These five fun ideas could keep me busy for a while though. I do love cherries, don't you?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tutorial: Hand Embroidered Tea Towel

Here is another quick project for the hope chest. I hand embroidered a pretty border near the bottom of two gingham tea towels, using a woven variation of the super easy running stitch. To make a set for yourself or to use as a gift, you'll need the following materials:

I love the heavy Dunroven gingham plain weave hand towels. You can often buy these at quilt stores and they are very high quality towels - worthy of your hand embroidery. You will also need a skein of 6-strand cotton embroidery floss, a skein of perle cotton in a contrasting color, a crewel-style embroidery needle, and a blunt tapestry needle.

From the skein of embroidery floss, measure a length that is 2.75 times the width of the towel. Thread the crewel embroidery needle with all six strands of floss. Tie a knot in one end of the thread. Bring the needle up on the back side of the towel in the side hem near where you want to begin the border.

Bring the needle through to the front side of the towel in one corner of the gingham weave. Use a running stitch and follow along the edge of the gingham weave, taking a "bite" of two squares at one time.

When you reach the opposite side of the towel count up three squares and bring your needle through the side hem to the selected row. Use the running stitch to come back across the towel, BUT this time the stitches will be alternated (or stepped) with the row below. You'll have to create this stepped effect or the weaving won't work. Where the thread went under two squares on the previous row, the thread will be on top of those two squares on this row. This creates the alternate effect.

When you reach the beginning point, push the needle through to the back side of the towel. Take two or three small back stitches to secure the thread, then "lose" the thread in the hem and clip it off.

From the perle cotton, measure a long length of thread that is about 4 times the width of the towel. Thread the tapestry needle and tie a knot in the thread. As you did before, bring the needle up near where you need to begin and "lose" the knot in the side hem. You can see that I began my first stitch near the edge of the top running stitch. I slid the needle through that first running stitch, then took a small stitch near the lower edge to position my thread to pull up through the next running stitch on the bottom row.

Weave the thread through each running stitch, top and bottom, alternating rows and returning to catch the previous stitch.

When you reach the opposite side, push the needle to the back. As you did before, take 2 or 3 small backstitches to secure the thread and then "lose" the thread in the side hem. Clip it off.

The finished border.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Goes Into Miss Abigail's Hope Chest?

I received this question in a comment on the very recent post about organizing my hope chest projects: How do you know how many sets of the various things are needed? What are the sets you normally make (kitchen towels/washrags, bedroom linens, others?) and what does each set normally consist of?

This is a really great question and I recognize that it deserves a reply which does justice to the desire for information and won't be buried in a comment. You may have noticed that in all the years I have had the blog I have tried to avoid the "recommended" numbers aspect of a hope chest list. I will just here offer a list that works for me and hope that it might be useful as a starting point.

Decisions about what to put in Miss Abigail's hope chest are based on the following:
  • what Abigail wants to prepare
  • what I have needed and use on a regular basis
  • what I think Abigail will need as she makes a home away from this one
  • what we can realistically afford to prepare ahead 
  • what I would like to create and give to Abigail as a gift

Let's use the kitchen set as an example. First, I am a traditional homemaker and make almost every meal from scratch. I love to cook and you can probably imagine that I spend time as well cleaning up after all the cooking and eating. You may be surprised to learn that I have never had an automatic dishwasher and do not use an automatic clothes dryer either. (That is another story, right?) All our dishes get washed by hand and the linens get dried on the clothesline. I understand that I need to own more kitchen linens and rags than most people.

Secondly, I have taught Abigail to cook and she is a great cook, but a little messy in her methods. I have confidence that she will get more efficient, but I suspect she will always create a bit of a kitchen mess. After thinking about what Abigail might need in a kitchen set, I made a list of kitchen linens that I felt would fill that need.

Finally, I love kitchen linens! It is that simple. So Abigail will have more kitchen linens than she realistically needs, just because I love them and want to give them to her. I almost always wear aprons, I love drying dishes with a clean, crisp dishtowel and I hate using dirty or damp towels. I love picking up a pretty towel to wipe my hands and noticing how quickly the water is absorbed into the fibers, and I hate, hate, hate to have a towel that doesn't do the job well. I know! You too? Decisions are always based on what we like or don't care about.

Kitchen Linens Set: (2 sets recommended)

7 dish cloths (for washing dishes - a clean one each day in the week)
7 dish towels (for hand drying dishes - a clean one each day)
7 hand towels (for drying hands - a clean one each day)
1 set of hot pads (to match the set or kitchen color)
1 apron (to match the set or kitchen color)

The number of household linens Miss Abigail will need is determined by how often she will do laundry and that will be different as she passes through stages in her life. We have no way of knowing her laundry situation ahead of time, but we can assume that she will likely begin by using a laundromat, when she has a chance to get there. I think a minimum of two sets of kitchen linens would be required in this situation. Current housekeeping literature often recommends, in setting up a new household, one dozen towels and cloths, 2 sets of hot pads and 2 aprons.

Table Linens:

1-2 tablecloths (to match everyday dishes)
1 set of place mats (to match everyday dishes)
1 tablecloths (for special occasion or holiday)
1 table runner (decorative)

Setting an attractive table is important. I know you can place your dishes on a bare table. We do that often when a meal is very simple or rushed, but there is no question that even an informal meal merits some thought and care in presentation and sociability. Table linens simply make a meal more pleasant and sociable. The dollar stores have inexpensive place mats. It isn't hard to plan for setting a nice table. Abigail has enjoyed setting a pretty table and I expect that she will always feel that way. We have not done much with table linens yet because we were waiting for her to choose dishes. That purchase has now been made and the gift given, so we can move forward with table linens. I don't have a very specific list, but I do have some projects planned. These projects are all based on what I think will be fun to make or use.

Bath Linens:

3 sets bath towels (2 towels, 2 hand towels, 2 wash cloths = 6 total of each type)
1 dozen extra face cloths
guest hand towels

The number of bath linens required is based on the availability of laundry facilities and how often you require a clean towel. That varies from person to person, depending on the custom in your home. Miss Abigail likes longer hair and so requires two towels when she bathes. She is particular about washing her face and needs a TON of facecloths! My husband will use the same face cloth to shave for at least two days before wanting a change. I can't guide you in this decision, you have to make your own prediction of need, based on your preference. The reason I have planned for only three sets of towels is based on experience. Towels are a popular wedding gift. I anticipate that Abigail will receive at least a couple more sets as gifts when she marries. Three sets in the hope chest will get her started as a single woman.

Bed Linens: (minimum)

2 sets sheets (queen size)
1 set sheets (full size)
1 set sheets (twin size)
extra pillowcases
crib sheets

The number of sheet sets to plan for isn't hard. I started with two sets and it worked well - one on the bed and one in the wash or in the linen cupboard. I have happy memories of a trip from Idaho to Salt Lake City to purchase some final items for my hope chest. I remember standing in Z.C.M.I ( a very nice department store) with my mom teaching me about how to choose bed sheets. In those days, the choice of size was easy. Every couple I knew slept in a double bed, so I chose full size sheets. Nowadays, experience shows that most young couples try for a queen size bed. Since that has been the case with each of our sons who have married, we are planning for queen sized bed sheets. The set of full-size sheets is a back up and to use on a guest bed (even an inexpensive air mattress.) The twin set is for her first apartment. I think extra pillowcases are a must. I often like a clean one before I'm ready to launder the whole set. Plus, I use more than one pillow, so I need extra. I'm just projecting my need onto Abigail and she may end up with more pillowcases than required. You need, at the very least, one blanket or quilt per bed and this obviously depends on your climate. Abigail's grandmother has already gifted her with one quilt for the hope chest and I know the special "wedding quilt" is on reserve. I also plan to make a quilt or two, hopefully. Crib sheets are on our list because these will be a "gift from grandma" to my future grandchildren. I like to embroider on them to make them just a little bit special.

Other Linens:

2 lap quilts for watching movies at home (Abigail is always wrapped up in a small quilt)

There are some other categories of items we have planned for the hope chest. In general, you can see a working list of our categories on the sidebar. Scroll down a bit - past the blog labels.

Coincidentally, Kiyoko Ball just wrote about this topic in a funny opinion piece at her blog called Taffeta Dreams. I think she created a great list of items that could be in the hope chest and she made me laugh. Don't miss what she has to say about it. Also I will share again this post from Jill Wright who wrote a very nice article about what to include in a hope chest.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Organizing My Projects

A long term creative project, such as Miss Abigail's hope chest, requires a certain amount of organization. For example, I typically buy linens for the hope chest way ahead of time on sale or when I find a particular color. I found, early on, that I needed a way to keep track of what I had and what I planned to do with it. Eventually my hope chest planning book came into being and I wrote a little about how I use that in this post. But I am a very visual person. Sometimes it is hard for me to visualize when working from a simple list.

Like many of you, I also keep a pretty nice stash of fabric, yarn, needlework supplies, fabric paint and pens, etc. I have to admit, though, that these items are not always stored very efficiently and I often can't locate something when I'm ready to begin a hope chest project. I have several projects half finished or on hold because I need to get something the next time I go to town. Items for hope chest projects were stored along with my other supplies. Everything has been in a kind of explosion around the house, half finished projects, loads of blank linens.

Some time ago I tried something new to help me be more efficient with my hope chest projects. When I did the "quick hope chest" project a couple of years ago, I found that I loved having all the supplies and instructions for each project together in one spot and ready to go. That was a very efficient way of getting many projects done in a short amount of time. So I thought that I would learn a lesson and, to the extent possible, organize all my pending hope chest projects that way.

I sorted through the kitchen linens in my Rubbermaid tub and I've used ribbon, extra lace trim, or fabric strips to tie these together into the sets that I have planned for in my notebook. Many items in these sets are finished, but they await other projects that are still planned. Now I can readily see what still needs to be done in any one of the sets. For each of the unfinished linens in the stack I have been attaching a sticky note with the idea for the project and any supplies needed. If possible, I've attached supplies as well. You can see skeins of yarn in the stack pictured above. When I'm ready to begin that project I can remove the sticky note and, if necessary, take it town to purchase supplies. This has made a big difference to me. I hope it might help you too. I can more clearly see what still needs to be done and I'm anxious to get these stacks finished and in the hope chest!

P.S. Here is another example of a planned hope chest project. You can see the sticky note and the supplies attached. This project will complete the holiday set for Valentines day. My goal is to get it done so that I can show this completed set by Valentine's Day this year.

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