Saturday, December 29, 2018

Regarding My Absence

Dear Readers,
I apologize for seemingly dropping off the edge of the internet, but Christmas came too quickly and I suddenly needed to finish two projects. Those that know me well, know that while I love to start new projects, finishing them is another matter! As testimony to my "finished-is-better-than-perfect" philosophy, I am posting pictures. This third simple, hand-tied comforter was finished and mailed to my niece's step-child before Christmas! Sewing for a young princess is always fun! Pink, lavender and blue are my favorite colors too and add a bit of Disney, with a touch of lace and I'm all in!
For my niece's little princess, I simply sewed lace around a Disney Frozen
Princesses fabric panel and then appliqued it onto a background of patchwork
 squares. Would you believe these squares were left over from another
comforter made some time ago?

It is backed with a soft sheet brought up and over the front to edge this
hand-tied comforter. It should keep this little princess warm all winter!
Of course, it needed a special princess pillow case to go with it.
And another one in fabrics left over. Sleeping on pink is always good!

Then onto making a crazy-quilted Christmas stocking to better match one made almost forty years ago before my youngest daughter was even born! I was a bit rusty after not doing crazy-quilt work for several years and I had to content myself with what came of it. See the picture below. Again my "finished-is-better-than-perfect" rule was applied! This is the way projects go when there was no time to waste as Christmas neared. It was done in the nick of time for Santa to fill! I will include pictures of our other family heirloom crazy-quilted Christmas stockings that we have used now for the past 39 years!!

This crazy-quilted stocking was made for my youngest daughter's boy-friend
to better match hers. You can see below that the match was made, though
each is unique and different.
These are our family stockings that we have used for almost 40 years. The
stocking on the lower far right is the one made this year, and as you can
see still looks vintage! Fortunately I still had some similar fabric, which made
for a better match!
Our Christmas stockings fit right in with our old-fashioned tree, though
they fit in regardless how you decorate.
This manger was made by my husband when he was a young boy. It is
at the center of our home each year as we celebrate Christmas along with the
creche set he and his mother purchased piece by piece after his catechisim
lesson at the local Cenacle in Brighton,Massachusetts. Fortunately we have
another set just like them that were his parents, along with the manger his
father made, so each of our children will inherit a similar set.
Our Addie-boy was delighted that he had a real tree to sit under! After getting
tangled in the lower string of lights, and him making a mess of our tree skirt
 as well, we placed a couple of folded paper towels on saucers with a
bit of "Goo-Gone" on them under the tree. Cats don't like the smell of citrus
and this made him choose another favorite spot to "camp out". 

I am relieved that Christmas has come and passed! Although I love advent, it seemed that our Christmas preparation wasn't complete until but a day or two before Christmas! I got into the real Christmas spirit just when my niece's car was stolen in Denver and in it were coats for my niece and her step-child, along with gloves, hats, boots, backpack and lunchbox. Her young family was already financially stressed with the Christmas season and so I went through my house and crafts and did a bit of shopping as well to put together what I could to help meet their needs and got it packed and sent in time for Christmas! The intent was that my package would at least bring some warm hand-me-downs and a few gifts besides! Fortunately her car was found, though her personal items were lost and gone forever! I have made my first New Year's resolution already: I am going to start planning for Christmas 2019 now! Holiday rush equals holiday stress! Of course, I already knew this, but how quickly I forget!

This holiday also came with unexpected news. My end-of-the-year doctor appointments brought another shock! I had found an article on line about a woman with Chronic Lyme having issues with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. It read too much like my own health history to not share with my doctors. I didn't give it much more thought. Not only did they listen to me, but agreed with my finding and are considering the possibility that this issue might well be cause for some of my health issues. I am to be pre-tested in January, to be followed by more testing should such other inflammatory reactions occur again. It seems I continue to be a "red herring" in the medical world!

After getting over the shock of potentially having still more medical issues to address, I have been reading more about mast cell dysfunction and have found the information most helpful! I have already made changes in what I ingest. The more information I have regarding what might annoy my body will help me to better honor its preferences! I have ordered books to study in the new year. I figure knowledge is power and hopefully I will learn how to avert medical crises! It also came in the nick of time to stop myself from becoming the Holiday Grinch as we hosted our two daughters and their significant others to celebrate Christmas here at Little House! As I review 2018 and set new goals for 2019, I will once again add health goals to the top of my list, cross my fingers and pray for another productive year! I have lots to do and am eager to get started! Planning and setting goals are part of what I need in order to focus and accomplish my sewing dreams!

Take care, my readers and have a wonderful and healthy New Year!! Sincerely, Jane McMillen

(E-mail me at if you are interested in possibly ordering any Christmas stockings. If enough are interested, I may well make a "batch of them". Note that the male stockings are made with a boot cuff, heel and toe of matching fabric, and the female version has lace and a band at the top. I am charging $45 each plus shipping and handling. Know that they are pieced using a foundation of unbleached muslin, and then embellished with hand-embroidery and measure about      24-25 inches long and about 7 inches wide. They are backed with a heavy, rich fabric and a strong ribbon hanger is added to the inside top of the stocking. When filled by Santa they are guaranteed to bring delight year after year! I will heed my resolution and will make only a limited number of these during the first months of 2019, so as to leave plenty of time for my other quilting goals and not push making them too close to the holiday season. Each is a one of a kind Christmas stocking of heirloom quality and properly stored will last for years of use!)

*A special thank you to my husband for his help in photographing the pictures included in this blog!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Creating Multiple Quilts

Creating multiple quilts is a little like watching grass grow! It starts slow, but after a bit of time, I am inundated with quilt blocks, such that new plastic containers became necessary to keep them all organized. If all goes according to my plan I will have quilt blocks enough for six quilts by the end of the year. They, of course will still need to be stitched into quilt tops before they go on to be quilted. Here are pictures of what I am working on, though to be sure, until they are stitched, all are subject to change. I am, however, wanting my readers to know that while I don't blog often, I remain hard at work to accomplish what I can!
This is to be a hand-tied comforter for my nieces step-child. There will be
white cotton lace around the center panel which is surrounded by multi-print
pink, blue, lavender and purple patchwork squares. I will keep this simple,
as it is to be completed by January 2019, in time for her birthday.
These are simply a few of my double appliqued heart quilt blocks? So far
I have 54 blocks almost done, but my plan iss to do two a week for 52 weeks
for a total of 104 blocks by the end of the year. I am playing catch up right
now in hopes of reaching my yearly goal! All are done on different shades
of un-bleached muslin or neutral prints, as in the end it  or they are
supposed to look like scrap quilt(s).

These are some Civil War Sampler quilt blocks from Barbara Brackman's
Civil War Sampler quilt book. Years ago I took a sampler class and found
it so interesting to see how the same blocks turned out so different using
different fabrics and so I decided to be "a class of two" making two blocks
each week that are the same block design but made of different materials. I
 should complete 104 different blocks to make into two quilts by the end of the
year. I am considering constructing them differently using different sashing
strips and different style borders. This has provided me much practice
constructing different sorts of machine-pieced quilt blocks. I do hope,
when finished, all the different designs in the blocks will tie together to make
two colorful and unified quilts.

More of these same Civil War blocks. Barbara Brachman's book has 50
different quilt blocks with complete instruction for each! I love the red,
off-white and blue Civil War reproduction fabrics! Did I mention that my
grandfather, John L.Campen fought in the Civil War under General Custer?
I have read many novels and books about the Civil War, including those
about the prisons of this time period. What a divided time in our nation's
history! Almost as many died of starvation and disease as were killed in its
various battles. My grandfather spent over a year in different prisons. He
was fortunate to have survived the war and sustained only a minor injury
when his horse was shot out from underneath him!

This is a 9 patch/9 patch quilt with a poinsettia block in the middle of each
9 patch/9 patch block...The quilting of the unbleached muslin quilt blocks
should add much design to the quilt. Even so, laid out, I am not sure that
I like it and am considering different ways of constructing it to make it
more interesting. I laughed and told one of my friends, that  the real
creativity comes when you have the blocks cut and sewn and then decide
to redesign it! It is a very old and simple quilt pattern (usually).

This is another 9 patch/9 patch quilt, though I may put it together in a more
random fashion? I am not certain yet, but you will note the different
 Christmas colors used. I am going to further explore ways of using
9 patch blocks and consider redesigning this quilt too. 9 patch/ 9patch
quilts can be beautifully simple, or downright homely? I am not sure that
adding the poinsettia blocks in the middle creates the effect I was hoping
for. I take heart that a few of my mother's beautiful quilts were redesigned
while in the middle of creating them!  Some quilts despite beautiful fabrics
turn out to be ugly...I am trying not to take it personally...
Using Connie Harris Farrington's modus operandi, I have had a relaxing year simply focusing on making quilt blocks, as well as working on finishing a quilt of my mother's, not included in this blog.
I have taken a longer break than I planned to make some new pincushions for Maria Wulf's Fall Open House in Cambridge, NY. this coming weekend. I was also slowed down by some health issues as well, so I have fallen behind on some of my quilting goals. A period of catch-up will be needed. Working on multiple quilts and projects at a time is a little crazy, but overall it has been very successful and never boring! Doing different projects at a time is actually keeping me motivated
and creative!

While I haven't been blogging on a regular basis, so as to not bore you, I have not been idle~ It has been a year of practicing my hand-applique skills and piecing skills of all sorts. My new quilting machine has been sitting idle for too long in the basement, as I prepare quilt tops for much quilting practice ahead! I am trying to be patient with myself as I learn all the different aspects of quilting. No matter how many quilts or comforters I make, I am still learning new skills and practicing old ones. I have more quilts in my heart and head, but will continue to work on everything incrementally, as I finish some old UFO's that I want to complete. In between I will be creating simple hand-tied comforters for relatives and friends that I want to keep warm during the winter!

My quilt projects continue to be organized so that I have nothing to worry about (see my blog, Process for a Multi Quilt Quilter of 7/19/18) which talks about my new modus operandi of creating multiple quilts versus one start to finish. Keeping everything organized is my new way of keeping me calm and collected, knowing that they will all be finished someday by someone, albeit, not necessarily me!

Did I fail to mention that my goal has been to live as long as Grandma Moses and become The Grandma Moses of the quilting world and create oodles of quilts before I die?!! That is my plan and I am sticking to it!! I do hope my body cooperates, and I will soon write about some of the ways I am working to maintain it, but that is a topic for yet another blog...Stay tuned!

Part of the fun in all this is finding materials on sale at good prices and sometimes they come already
color coordinated. The other part of the fun is trying new patterns and learning new techniques!
Love these pinks and browns!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

8th Annual Open House at Maria and Jon's Bedlam Farm October 6th and 7th

I am getting ready to deliver my wares to Maria in preparation for their outdoor gathering October 6th and 7th. I make designer wool pincushions, that are mostly stuffed with crushed walnut shell filling. Every year I feature different new designs, but also bring a large variety of the sorts of pincushions that I have made in the past. Here are samples of the sort that will be seen at Maria's sale:
A whole flock of silly little chicken pincushions.

This year's new Penny-rug style dog pincushions.

This year's new cat, snail (in memory of Maria's Socrates snail)
and bunny pincushions.

Traditional Penny-rug design pincushions.

Colorful Penny-rug style designed pincushions.

Felted Wool Owl Scissor-holder Chatelaines (necklaces so as to keep your
scissors handy).

Two-toned with Button old fashioned wool pincushions, all sizes.

Floral and other designed Penny-rug style pincushions.
The biscuit-shaped pincushions are what I call biscornu pincushions.

Needlebooks, eyeglass cases, coin purses and button purses.

Fruit pincushions including yellow pears, oranges, peach and lemons.

More fruit pincushions, including plums, apples, peaches and lemons.

Over-sized tomato pincushion and needle-book.

Over-sized pumpkin pincushion and needle-book.

Regular-sized pumpkin and Tomato pincushions.

Strawberry needle-books and pincushions and mini-tomatoes and
mini-pumpkin pincushions.

More two-toned and three-toned old fashioned pincushions and
 mini-corn candy pincushions.

Large and small owl pincushions.

 Flower-pot pincushions.

Penny-rug style pins and ornaments.

More pins and ornaments.

Everyone is invited to attend this Open House at  Bedlam Farm at 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, NY from 11 AM to 4 PM. It is a free and fun event which will  include poetry readings, book signings, a preview of  Jon Katz's new book, Gus and Bud, to be published by Simon and Shuster.  Jon is a NY Times Best Selling author, so come meet him in person! His books will be for sale, along with other books by his friends and book signings are all part of the event. There will be sheep sheering, sheep herding demonstrations and a sale of art wares by eight different artists in Maria's schoolhouse studio. There will also be performances by the Albany Warriors Chorus Group as well as Sisters of the Shawl Belly Dancing. I will refer you to for more details.

The variety of designer pincushions you will see will include felted wool flower-pot pincushions, two-toned old-fashioned wool pincushions, various fruits and vegetable sorts of pincushions, as well as chicken and owl pincushions. What I am best known for are what I call "penny-rug" pincushions. These are colorful appliqued  felted- wool pincushions, embellished with embroidery, reminisce of early penny-rugs made in the 1800's. Other miscellaneous items, include felted wool coin purses, button bags, eyeglass cases and needle-books and owl chatelaine scissor holders. Know that whatever is left over from this sale will be featured later in my shop on Etsy (at Littlehousehomearts) This shop will be closed during this event at Bedlam Farm.

Besides my wares, there will be seven other artists' work displayed and on sale in Maria's school-house studio! All are welcome! It is a lovely way to spend part of your Columbus Day Weekend as you celebrate leaf peeping season in Upstate New York and Vermont!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Back to Creating Pincushions

Back to creating pincushions. In back are my batch of fruit pincushions. In
front are some of my penny-rug style pincushions.
I am back to creating pincushions for my only scheduled sale this fall and holiday season. It is to be at Maria Wulf and Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm annual Fall Open House the weekend before Columbus Day, October 6th and 7th. It is an event not to miss!! There will be all sorts of outdoor activities and Columbus Day is when Leaf Peeping Season is usually at its peak! It is a beautiful time to be outdoors and taking in Vermont and Upstate New York's beautiful fall foliage colors!

Each year, I have been privileged to be invited as one of the artists to participate in Maria's Schoolhouse Studio Sales! It has become an annual challenge for me to create a new line of pincushion for this special fall event. This year I have decided to create a limited number of "Household Pet" Penny-Rug Style Pincushions. Each one is different and features a dog, cat, or bunny. Each is a one-of-a-kind in design, hand-appliqued, and hand-embroidered felted wool pincushion. I have also created a snail penny-rug pincushion in memory of Socrates, who was Maria's infamous snail that she blogged about on her web-site. Snails don't typically live long lives and so I was glad to hear that Maria continues to have a household snail pet, though her original Socrates Snail's memory lives on, and has inspired some of Maria's and my artwork!
My new featured items to be featured, "Household Pet Penny-Rug Style
Pincushions. Dogs, cats, and bunny. Shows tops and side bands of
pincushions that will be filled with crushed walnut shell. Limited in number
as all hand appliqued, hand-embroidered and individually designed.

I took several "sneak peak photos" of my pincushion production. I have a "batch of fruit pincushions in the making". These will have stems and leaves and look like the "real deal" soon. I also have two-tone wool pincushions (see below for a sample of these when finished), biscornu pincushions that will be biscuit-shaped when they are finished, other penny-rug floral pincushions as well as the more traditional penny-rug style pincushions. My production does not include my flower pot pincushions, silly chicken pincushions, and owl pincushions as they are already made and waiting to go. After Maria's sale, whatever is left over will be listed and featured on my Etsy shop site, LittleHouseHomeArts.
Needle-felted, Traditional Penny-Rug Designs, Biscornu Pincushions and
regular round pincushions to be filled with crushed walnut shell. Only
partially showing are two-toned wool pincushions in front row, ready
to be embellished with pearl cotton wrapped seams and buttons.

For those that are not familiar with penny-rug style art. It originated in the 1800's. People would make penny-rugs out of old wool garments. People actually wiped their feet on them before entering the house. Each rug was made of circular medallions using coins as templates and appliqued them to a wool mat using a blanket stitch. Each medallion had a penny sewn inside of them, hence the name penny rug. This kept the mat durable and heavy enough to stay put. As the individual wool circular medallions wore out, they would be replaced with others to keep the mat functional. Eventually penny rugs became fancier works of art made with scraps of colorful wools and embellished with hand-appliqued designs and embroidered stitches and while they were still often made with circular medallions, they  no longer made them with pennies sewn inside of them. They were no longer used on floors nor used as door mats to wipe your feet on, but rather placed on tables and chests and backs of furniture to decorate your house. It should be noted that anything made out of wool needs to be kept out of direct sunlight to prevent fading, unless you don't mind the faded look and simply keep them dust free by using a tape roller to gently remove dust. The prices on these items are kept as low as possible. Sadly there are no more woolen mills in this country, but I have been fortunate to obtain wool by recycling woolen items as well as finding wool through a wonderful estate sale! It is a work of passion and love versus getting rich! What I make on my sales usually goes to purchase other materials and threads to keep me sewing!

Sample of Forget-me-Not Flower Pot
Sample of Penny Rug Style Biscornu Pincushion. This one was a special
order and detailed with beads as well as embroidery and special decoration.
Sample of two- tone wool pincushions.

Sample Fruit Pincushions. Sometimes I add detail to the leaves.
Soft sculptured pumpkins.

Flower Pot Strawberry Plant Pincushions. Detail work is what I most enjoy doing as you will see in much of my work!

Center Sampler of my Penny-Rug Sampler Quilt, still waiting to be
quilted. Maybe soon. Good thing I am patient and persistent!

Winter Sampler on my Penny Rug Sampler Quilt.

Small Fall Foliage Penny Rug

I started making penny-rugs some years back and soon made them into functional pincushions and then extended my work with wool to create soft sculptures of various shapes. These have included  acorns, pots of flowers, cactus, owls, and chicken as well as doorstop hens. Whether you are a sewer and enjoy my pincushions to hold your pins and needles or just like to have some bright and colorful works of art to decorate your house, I think you will enjoy what I have done with this old art form.They will definitely be conversation pieces for years to come and some people use them as paperweights or pin notes to them.
Sometimes I make soft sculptures as personal gifts. This was a gift to an
acupuncturist who did some work on me. Picking my ear was my first
treatment. It was the only time I saw my acupuncturist smile. He was
professional and didn't want to be given a gift! He was comforted
to know that I spent mostly time on his gift! I do hope it was a
meaningful and personal gift and that he still has it, silly as it was!

 I have extended this sneak peak to include a few other pictures to show what can be created out of wool... I have a detailed lap robe in process, a wool penny rug sampler quilt waiting to be quilted, as well as other small works of art, most of which will be at Maria and Jon's Open House on the 6th and 7th of October in Cambridge, NY. All are invited and I will post more information as the date approaches.

Most of my customers are familiar with Maria Wulf and Jon Katz and know that Jon is a New York Times Best Selling Author, and photographer and now writes a daily blog, Bedlam Farm Journal. His wife, Maria Wulf, also writes a blog,  Full Moon Fiber Art and creates special quilts and fabric art. Both of them enjoy their mini-farm in Cambridge, NY and have followers from all over the world for their blogs. I don't think I would be exaggerating to say that they are so involved in "good work" in their community  and avidly support artists and writers too, but they also make significant contributions to world peace as they extend their love, friendship and service to anyone in need. To adequately appreciate all they do, tune into their blogs and definitely come to their Open House October 6th and 7th! Not to be missed either are their animals of Bedlam Farm. Jon has written about most of them and truly they are unique. I believe Red is still demonstrating his sheep herding abilities and Jon is always proud to show what he can do. Other friends and followers will be at this event, as well as the many who belong to their face-book Creativity group that support one-anothers' writing, photography, artwork and shared life's journeys. Their Open Houses are delightful and display what love and community are all about! I am blessed to be included in such events!