Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dishes, dishes, and more dishes

When we last parted, gentle readers, I was on the hunt for new every day dishes and I'd decided that a foundation set of white dishes was what was required.

Oh, what a rabbit hole that turned out to be!

I started by gazing at some white dishes I've loved for as long as I can remember -- Nantucket Basket by Wedgewood.  They're simple but interesting, and they remind me of wonderful Nantucket vacations.  I realized I like rounded shapes, not square, and I like texture. And I like things that feel sort of comfy and homey, not super modern.

It's good to have clarity about one's goals and preferences, you know.

I came across these "Cowgirl Lace" white dishes, designed by Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, whose blog I've followed since before she was a big Food Network Star.  I love the name, Cowgirl Lace, and the detail is so pretty! These are available from Walmart for just $44 for a set of 4 place settings! Good news, bargain. Bad news - reviews say they chip really easily and show marks instantly.  Darn. Sorry, Ree, I'm looking for something a bit more durable.

 I think these are Emma from Pottery Barn. (Pssst... they're on sale right now.) Love the simple but striking dot detail and these were a strong contender.  But reading the reviews shut down that option... lots of poor reviews for durability, marking, chipping easily.

I did take a detour to read about durability.  Stoneware and earthenware are apparently the least durable -- they are fired just once, generally a bit more porous.  Porcelain and bone china get higher marks for durability because they are fired more than once. Funny -- stoneware sounds like it should be more durable, and porcelain sounds like it will be more delicate, doesn't it? But it turns out that the reverse is true. And that's proven true with my own experience.  The stoneware dishes I've used over the years have had gorgeous rich color, but have chipped easily.  I started thinking I should be looking for white porcelain.

I did hesitate over this Napoli set by Pottery Barn.  I just love the edges on the bowl and salad plate. Can't you see that bowl heaped with juicy red strawberries?  But these are stoneware which gave me pause, and they're sort of expensive. Maybe I'll keep my eye on PB and buy a bowl or two if they go on sale. 

Martha Stewart has some pretty white dish sets at Macy's.  This set is called Belle Mead -- and it's porcelain. I like the plate and bowl, and like that they're different patterns.  But I don't need mugs or particularly like these, and you can't buy them open stock to just get the plates. So, no.  (But if you like them, they're on sale right now AND Macy's has an extra 25% off promotion going on.)

 I did a big swoon when I saw this photo of dishes from Casa de Perrin. (And Perin is my maiden name so it sort of caught my attention.) Turns out the company is a china rental company in Los Angeles, so I guess they buy pretty china, mix and match it, and rent it for weddings and events.  Maybe if I spent the next few years collecting pretty white plates I'd end up with an assortment like this. But I'm looking for more immediate gratification. 

Another gorgeous set, yes? It's White Perle Stoneware by Lenox.  Maybe other people have stoneware and no durability issues, but after what I read, it's putting me off.  Still, they're pretty. (And they come in a few different colors, if you're interested.)

Are you getting the idea that I saw a ton of white dishes I liked? Look at these, a random shot from a collector of vintage linens. I have no clue what the patterns are but they sure look pretty.

So what did I do? Well, I looked and looked.  And read reviews. And looked some more.  And then it dawned on me that the answer was obvious.  Get the ones I loved from the beginning.

Yep, Nantucket Basket. I found them on sale for a good price, even. They were not the cheapest option, but I figure if I've loved them for 30 years, chances are I'll love them for another 30.  They make me smile just looking at the pictures.

So they will be at my door any day now, and I'll be dining in style.

Oh my. Do I need a new tablecloth? Perhaps I should christen them with a champagne opening to their first meal? Hmm, do my champagne glasses measure up? Should I shop for new ones?  Just kidding. I think I'm done with the online shopping for quite a while.

I'm going to go sit at the front door and wait for the UPS man now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let's Dish

I have been obsessing about dishes lately. 

It started when I decided that it was time to buy some new flatware.  The silverware I have is something I bought years ago, when I got out of law school and set up my first grown-up home in Concord, New Hampshire.  That was (yikes!) over 30 years ago.  And while I still like the pattern, they're pretty thrashed. They've gone through over 30,000 meals, moves to 3 different homes, a lot of dropping and banging and scratching, and the occasional unintended tangle with the garbage disposal.  I thought it was time to get something new and shiny. 

After a whole lot of perusing of flatware and reading of reviews, I settled on something that looks simple, classic, but lovely -- and different from what I have, for sheer excitement. It's a pattern called Merlemont by Villeroy & Boch. It should be here any day and I can hardly wait.

Hey. You might not think they're exciting. But I do. And I might even go hog-wild and buy a new silverware organizer for the drawer. Be still my heart!

But, as these things go, anticipating new silverware made me look at my dishes.  Three years ago, when marital changes happened and a lot of kitchen stuff got divided, I bought some simple white plates from TJ Maxx or HomeGoods or somewhere like that.  They were from the Hotel Collection brand, and they had a pretty but not complicated scalloped edge, and they were cheap.  So Miss C and I have used them daily since then.  But wow, what a mess they are.  They are covered with gray lines and scratches from basic daily use. I've researched, I've bought special products, I've scrubbed with cleaners "guaranteed" to remove those marks, I've applied a whole lot of elbow grease -- and they're still horrid-looking.

So, to celebrate the impending final conclusion of the previously mentioned marital changes, I decided I'd get some different daily dishes. And I started looking.  There are so many gorgeous patterns out there -- and somehow, in my mind each one promises a different life if I just had those dishes to eat off of.

I love the effect of mismatched vintage dishes, I really do.  But let's get real.  I'm going to put them in the dishwasher. They're going to get banged around occasionally on the granite counter.  So for every day, that's not going to work.  (Although looking at so many beautiful vintage dishes has me thinking that I need to have a weekly tea party to use pretty pastel floral cups and saucers and dainty little plates. Care to join me?)

I love this set of dishes, Petit Fleur by Villeroy & Boch, I always have.  I even have 2 complete place settings, bought at a bargain price at a V&B outlet store back in Maine years ago. They're in perfect shape and they don't have a grey mark on them. They're fun to use when I feel springy.  But too ... well, cutesy for every day. I'm just not in that sort of mood every day.

I'm always drawn to blue and white dishes when I see them. There is something so homey and comfortable about them.

Oh dear, those swallows! I think I'm swooning. But no, not for every day.

And these pretty Spode fleur-de-lis dishes.  Instant transportation to a farmhouse kitchen. Perfect for a slice of blueberry pie, yes?

And then there's that mix and match possibility again. Aren't these bowls beautiful?  I want all of them.

But then I'd be locked into blue and white.  And what if I get tired of blue and white in a year? or in 3 days?  I like to keep my options open, you know.

I could do what a certain person I know does (I'm waiving at YOU, sister!) and have one or two or more of  a whole bunch of different patterns, so I can choose to suit my mood.  But what about when I have 12 people over for dinner?  Hey, it COULD happen, you know. 

Is it just me?  I want to LOVE the dishes I use every day.  And while I like having odds and ends of other sets, I want to have one foundation set of dishes that will allow me to mix and match other stuff in.  So, generally, that means white.  I love white dishes.  But that's a whole different online hunt. 

I *did* choose something!  But you have to stay tuned to find out what!  Meanwhile, tell me what your dishes are! Or what you'd choose if you could. I could always add a few more plates...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Selvedge Star

          Well, I'm back after a lovely 4 days on retreat, and as you might have guessed, while I was there I finished the Selvedge Star quilt I've been working on for ... well, seems like FOREVER.  I've hung it on the wall in the upstairs hallway so I see it every time I go upstairs -- please excuse the wacky picture, there's no angle up there where I can get a straight-on look at it.  But it makes me so happy to see it there. One of the aspects of using these selvedges that I like best is that when I look closely at the quilt, I see bits of fabric that I used so long ago. So it's a sewing memory quilt of sorts.

         This really was fun to make, even if it did take me a long time to collect the selvedges, make the selvedge fabric, and then create a design that made me happy. 

         If you are thinking of saving your selvedges to make something fun, I have a few tips for you:

1.  When you cut or tear the selvedge from fabric, keep at least 1/2 inch (and ideally an inch) of the print up to the selvedge. You'll want a bit of color to separate the white selvedge parts, because it's the colored parts that create the stripey effect. You can see what I mean below. If you just tear or cut off the white edge, you won't have room to do anything with it.

2.  If your friends offer to save selvedges for you, by all means say YES!!  And then tell them #1! Oh, and tell them you only want the side that has the writing.  I had friends save the opposite edges for me too -- solid color strips that I couldn't really use.

3.  I found it worked best for me to create "selvedge fabric" on a fabric foundation.  I started with muslin pieces about 14 inches square, and then sewed selvedges to the base fabric, one overlapping the prior raw edge, until the square was filled.  If you know before you start what you are going to do with your selvedges and what size of pieces you will need, you can adjust accordingly.  Me, I jumped in sewing before I had any plan, and the 14 inch squares worked out just fine.

4.  Once you have some selvedge fabric, you can use it just like any other fabric.  You can plan with it as if you have striped fabric. I would not recommend using it for binding or for handquilting on it, because all the layers make for rather thick fabric.

5.  There are a lot of great ideas for using selvedges out there!  You can check out my Pinterest board where I collected selvedge ideas to get you started.

If you do decide to make something with selvedges, do let me know! I'd love to see what you come up with!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Making, making, making!

Hello, friends!  I have been a busy artist over the last few weeks. I got caught up in a book-making frenzy and away I went. Does that happen to you? It's as if something takes me over and my mind is filled with ideas and plans. And my studio/sewing room looks like a tornado hit and flung bits of paper everywhere.

But I was on a mission and a little mess does not deter me. No sir! I was greatly motivated by the fact that I'm about to head off on my regular quilt retreat, and when I went last fall I got quite a few requests for more of my crazy "jumbly journals." So now I have a big box of books to share with my retreat buddies.

I made a bunch of sewing-themed ones, as the retreat is mainly a quilting retreat and we're all hard-core sewists. (It's awkward to write "sewers."  Because, well, SEWER.)   I had a great time making book covers collaged with old sewing patterns.

I didn't do a flip-through video of these but if any are left when I return, I'll put them up on my Etsy shop and add a video. I love gathering sewing-related papers and bits of ephemera.

And I had a specific request for some travel journals, so I made a few of those:

If you want to see inside, you can take a look at this flip-through video of one of the books:  

And then I decided to make some books featuring the ranch where our retreats are held. I've written about it before -- it's The Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg, California (about an hour north of San Francisco) and it's a gorgeous, peaceful place. I used photos I've taken there over the years to feature in these books.

In case you want to see inside one of them, here's a video:


And then, well, just because I had it started and it's April and summer is just around the corner, I finished up a beach-themed book, too. 

Something about red, navy and aqua says beach to me, not sure why.  

By the way, someone asked me recently if I made custom books. YES! I do! I'll make journals on a custom theme for a special person or occasion. I can use photos you provide, colors, themed materials, etc. Email me if you are interested! 

At any rate, I've cleaned up the paper mess in my studio, switched over to fabric-mode, and now I'm gathering up quilting supplies for a very fun week ahead. 

I hope your week is filled with lots of making, too!