In the January Garden

The middle of January can be bleak, to say the least. Who wants to garden in cold, wet weather? As passionate as I am about plants, I am not a hardy winter soul; I’d much rather paint and write and let the yard go until sunny spring days.

Force yourself! Each day, instead of shoving the dog out the door when you get home from work, go out with him. Keep small pruning shears and old gloves in your coat pocket. Pick just one plant to prune. (Any more than that can be overwhelming when you'd rather be sitting by the fire. If, after that one, you want more, go to it!)
One plant a day will get the yard in shape by the time the daffodils bloom. Just 15 minutes is about all it takes. You’ll be surprised what a mood lifter it can be when a bit of Vitamin D soaks in and you get some exercise and fresh air. Too cold to stay out? Then, by all means go back in after that one plant is done.

Try it, you’ll like it! Come spring, the bushes and yard will be tidy and you can spend more time tending to sweet flowers and bird watching.

TIP OF THE WEEK: As you prune a bush or tree a day, lay the clippings under that same bush in a pile. Wait until a sunny day when you have more time to gather the piles from multiple bushes  to recycle.


Prune dormant fruit trees.

Plant any bulbs that you didn’t get to in the fall. (throw away any soft, molded ones.) You’d be surprised how most will still come up and flower later in the spring or summer.

Shear off grasses if there are green shoots starting to show and if the birds have eaten the seed heads.

Plan your vegetable and flower garden. Buy seed packets now, as some of the unusual or popular seeds are hard to find during planting season.

Scatter wood stove or fireplace ash over alkaline loving plants, such as iris and lawns.

Clean bird houses for the early birds that start to nest soon. Keep feeders clean and full. Set out suet cakes for winter energy.

Valentine's Day Tea Towel Patterns

Here are two cute patterns to embroider on a tea towel for Valentine's Day. Hang your towel over a cabinet door or over the back of a chair to add a cheery welcome to a beloved day.
1. Left click on the pattern picture below that you wish to use. This will bring the picture up larger on your computer screen. Right click on the picture, then click on "print picture." The pattern will be printed to scale.

2. Click here for  materials, directions and how-to embroider videos from the past blog, "A Year of Tea Towels."

3. Embroider in the colors shown under the pattern. (These patterns also look good in "redwork" or "bluework." Anotherwords, all of the embroidery is done just in red or blue floss.)

Meet Elizabeth. She will be in some of the patterns for the primitive decor.

6-strand Embroidery Floss (divide into 3 strands) Colors for Elizabeth:
Deep Red
Shell Pink
Medium Blue
Mossy Green

This is Mary Jane. She will be in patterns with a more retro style. Important...Click on the larger picutre that is on its side for printing out the pattern!
Do not use this picture for the pattern; use the one below that is on its side.

6-strand Embroidery Floss (divide into 3 strands) Colors for Mary Jane:
Deep Red
Shell Pink
Medium Blue
Mossy Green
Bright Yellow
I found this simple red tea towel in a local craft shop and embroidered Elizabeth on it in all white floss. I was able to complete the embroidery while on a flight. It adds a nice splash of color to my kitchen as it hangs on the oven door. Experiment with different colored towels or add various material and trims to the edge of a simple white flour sack towel. Have fun!

A Year of Tea Towels

Like many of you, I love to craft. I don't have time to get out and put away something messy or time consuming. I think I've found something fun, creative and worthy of placing around the home or to give as a gift.

If you've been to recent craft shows, trendy gift shops or skimmed through home and garden magazines lately, you'll see a trend. Tea towels have made a comeback! Cute towels that are not only useful, they are an easy and inexpensive way to add a spark of the season to any room, not just the kitchen.

I embellish my towels with seasonal or retro fabric and embroider sentiments for the season. Throughout the year I will post the patterns and how-to for a tea towel for each holiday and various occasions.

Tuck an end of a towel into a kitchen drawer and let the embroidered decoration herald the holiday. Hang a retro towel over an armoir door or use it as a bathroom handtowel. Line a basket full of potpourri, Easter eggs or Christmas ornaments. Embroider a set for a new bride or as a housewarming gift. Place one a serving tray. Use it to wrap up a dozen homemade muffins for a neighbor or present a towel with a pretty ribbon as a hostess gift. The possibilities are endless.

All of the materials to make one towel can fit in a quart freezer bag and be tucked in a purse, carry-on luggage or in a pocket of your laptop carrier. While you are getting the car tires rotated, flying across country or sitting in front of the television, it is ready for you to pick up and stitch while stress and time passes away creatively.
Once you have the initial investment for materials, future towels are inexpensive to make. The following is a list of materials, where I bought them and how much I paid.

1. RED WATERPROOF ARTIST PEN (mine is by Faber Castell, extra fine, bought at Krogers/Fred Meyer for $3.00 in the hobby section. Also available at Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics. Any waterproof, extra fine pen will work.
2. PATTERN printed from your computer off my blog on typical 81/2 x 11" paper. The directions for printing will be under each pattern. Patterns will be updated for each holiday and season. (I'm also open to custom patterns if you have a suggestion of something you'd like; just leave in the comment section or email me at
3. EMBROIDERY FLOSS in colors to match your material, decor or as I have used which will be stated under the pattern. I buy my floss at JoAnn Fabrics, BiMart of Walmart for about 50 cents each.
4. SCISSORS small, inexpensive blunt-nose scissors will travel easily and is allowed through security and on aircrafts to use while flying. I bought these at Walmart in the children's craft section for $1.00
5. EMBROIDERY HOOP about 6" in diameter. Plastic or wood is OK. WalMart or JoAnns for about $3.00
6. FLOUR SACK OR KITCHEN TOWEL to embroider. A 5-pack of white flour sack towels can be bought at WalMart in the kitchen section for around $4.00. I keep an eye out for good buys for other kitchen towels to embroider, such as the retro one with red borders shown (around $2.00 each)

7. ONE YARD or 1 package RIC-RAC or trim. I like the giant ric-rac for a retro look.
8. 1/3 YARD OF FABRIC. Seasonal, retro, patterns and colors to match the holiday or decor. (note: "fat quarters" are not wide enough and will not work for flour sack towels, but will work for a typical kitchen towel.)

Pre-wash, dry and iron the towel and fabric.
Add fabric and trim: (If you are not adding these, skip to step #7)
1.  Sew the fabric to one edge of the towel, right side to right side, leaving 1” of fabric longer at each end of towel. Press seam towards fabric.
2.  Press opposite fabric end under 1/2”.
3.  Fold fabric to meet the seam, right side to right side, then stitch each side closed in line with the towel.
4.  Trim the seams to ¼” from the stitching.
5.  Turn the fabric to the right side and press. Pin rickrack to towel, centered over seam. Stitch the trim onto the seam and through the double layers of fabric and towel.
6.  Zigzag stitch, or hand stitch, each end of rickrack to prevent raveling.
7.  Tape the pattern to a window or light box. Tape the towel over the pattern (centered and about 2 inches from the bottom of the towel) and trace the pattern with the extra fine permanent marker pen.
8.  Embroider using 3 strands of floss with a basic stem stitch. French knot any dots and lazy-daisy stitch loops for flowers.

Like most anything, practice makes perfect. These patterns and towels are very forgiving. The "handmade" look is desireable; don't worry if your stitches aren't perfect or the back of the towel looks messy. When your towel is complete, you'll be surprised at how cheery and nice it will look!

Here are some videos to help the beginner with the stitches used.
The STEM STITCH (used to outline)
The FRENCH KNOT (used for dots)
The LAZY DAISY (used for flower petals)

Tomorrow will be the debut of the first set of patterns for Valentine's Day.
Take your pick between the primitive look of Elizabeth, or the more retro style of Mary Jane.

FUTURE PATTERNS to be on my blog (at least one each month)
Valentine's Day
St. Patrick's Day
4th of July (can also be used for other patriotic days)
Celebrate (can be used for birthdays, teas and other celebrations)