needle & thREAD (and a bonus recipe)

needle and thREAD


I welcome you to needle and thREAD. What have you been sewing lately? Or are you embroidering? Pulling a needle with thread through lovely fabric to make life more beautiful somehow? Would you share with us just a single photo and a brief description of what you're up to? Would you talk sewing and books with us? I'd love that so much. Tell me about it in the contents or leave a link to your blog. I'll be happy to come by and visit!

You can get your own needle & thREAD button here in your choice of several happy colors.

Life's been a mixture of Sugar Plum and Maple Cinnamon Butter lately. Sounds like the kitchen, but it's really the sewing room. Well, and maybe a little kitchen, too. Take a little waltz with me through the pretty pictures?


Mary Beth was pretty bummed when she tried on the costume destined to be the Sugar Plum Fairy costume. I snapped a picture of her in it because my mind started spinning pretty much the moment I saw her face. I'd love to show you the whole picture, but she'd be horrified. I promise her face was well worth a thousand words and none of them were lovely. I did send the picture to K. C. of That's Sew K. C. with Mary Beth's permission. K.C. is the tutu queen and two days later, a box of her beautiful lace arrived at our house. We began the tutu transformation in the studio, where Mary Beth's ballet teacher offered both practical and moral support. The girls were rehearsing. Helen and I were stitching. Oh, and then we moved to some other costuming issues and watched Paddy play soccer at the same time. 




I was on a roll after I left the studio and my mind was whirling with ideas. I had Mary Beth try it on at home and did some pinning. I handstitched late that night (she had her first performance the next day) and awoke early to get back after it. When I read the bodice parts, I felt like the stitching would be better if it were actually being worn while being stitched. Mary Beth was still asleep and I wanted to surprise her anyway. So, Katie volunteered to be my mannequin and Karoline took up the camera. 


















Mary Beth was pretty thrilled when she awoke. (And truly, Katie and Karoline were so excited that their enthusiasm carried me for days.). I don't have any pictures of Mary Beth wearing the newly decorated tutu, but she took this one with her  phone. 


Oh, dear. The Snow Queen's costume is looking a bit shopworn next to the Sugar Plum. Whatever shall we do about that;-)?

There is some Christmas crafting underway at last. A dabbled a bit with this tutorial and that. And I've done a whole lot cutting and a wee bit of sewing. I'm pretty tickled with the results and looking forward to doing a whole bunch of these in the very near future. 






And a little something sweet to go along with the dish towels? Cinnamon Maple Butter! Yes, ma'am.

Cinnamon Maple Butter

yields about 3 half pint jars, with a wee bit left


3/4 cup REAL maple syrup

2 cups butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

4 tsp cinnamon

 4 half pint canning jars

Cream the butter, powdered sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon in an electric mixer with a whisk attachment until it's all smooth. Spoon it into the canning jars and tie with a scrappy bow. The butter needs to be refrigerated and it spreads much better if it sits out a bit before serving. I'm not eating bread or muffins or all those typical things upon which one might spread this heavenly butter. But, oh my heavens!, it takes baked sweet potatoes to a beautiful, beautiful place.

(Note: Like most things in life, this is all the better if you scrape a vanilla bean into the mixture:-) 


As for reading, I'm pretty much enchanted by Amy Welborn's new picture book, Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing. It's the sweet story of a little boy who visits his grandfather in Italy. Amy Welborn does a masterful job of bringing Italy alive as the little boy learns lessons in craftsmanship, forgiveness, and generosity. We learned a bit about the traditions of the presepe and Bambenelli Sunday, enough to want to research more and we all decided that this book went nicely with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey (Is it possible that this book is out of print???). And of course, we have to make our own Bambinelli (Sculpey, clay, wood, peg dolls? A little of everything?)


There's a live event today. Join host Judy Zarick and author Amy Welborn as they introduce her new book for children. Just in time for Christmas, Bambinelli Sunday tells a wonderful story about sharing, comfort, generosity, and forgiveness though the lens of a long-standing Italian tradition. 
Join us on December 5th at 3:00 p.m. ET (12:00 p.m. PT).  Log in and ask questions through the chat area.  Amy Welborn will answer them during her presentation. You must register first.

So tell us all about your reading and stitching!


  1. Caitlin says

    Oh my goodness- that costume…. I can’t. Your transformation is simply gorgeous, but clearly the costume quality has gone WAY down since I was dancing (ahem…. 15 years ago!). But now I think I’m remembering that we had some sort of super mom seamstress force that embellished everything… Mary Beth looks absolutely beautiful in that tutu! It’s a sugarplum dream!
    I made apple butter in the crockpot last night because I never got to my Thanksgiving apple pie. Fail. But it’s delicious.

  2. Terry says

    Wow! That costume is awesome. Great job!
    Jonathon Toomey out of print? How can that be?
    Thank goodness we have a copy but how I wish we had one for each child.

  3. says

    That was a little magical stitching that happened there. Plain and simple magic. And she does look so beautiful.
    Love the peeks at your other stitching. You have a lovely eye for color and pattern!

  4. says

    The costume industry certainly is sad, isn’t it? And expensive! But Mary Beth is beautiful in her new and much improved tutu. Makes me so excited to take my boys to see the Nutcracker this year!

  5. Christine Scarlett says

    Thanks for telling us about the new picture book. My 15 y.o. just got back from a pilgrimage to Italy and this sounds so good. She will also be in a low-key version of the Nutcracker with two shows on Saturday. She does Irish dance so it will be interesting to see how they adapt the original for this. We rented her long sleeved black velour costume for $15 from the studio. I think it is an ice skating outfit, but it can pass for River Dance wannabe. With black tights, it is pretty modest. I put together a fun gift for her instructor: a Mason jar containing a Nutcracker Snickers bar, a GREEN nutcracker Christmas ornament, and a nutcracker rubber stamp. She has two young daughters and will last longer than flowers.

  6. Christine Scarlett says

    I hardly ever read fiction, but I recently finished The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Deffenbaugh. It is about a young woman who ages out of the foster/group home system, then becomes a specialized type of florist. It really unpacks attachment disorder better than any textbook or self-help book. I enjoyed it and it helped me to better understand a foster daughter that we once had. The author also fostered, then adopted a son. It would make a good book club choice. Read it first before deciding if it is appropriate for your mature 16-18 year olds.

  7. says

    I often find that I am more inspired to be better by (and learn more from) fiction than self-help type books. Sadly – before I figured that out, I quit reading fiction for several years, because I had decided I didn’t have the time for ‘pleasure reading’ – I needed to always be ‘improving myself’ : / One day, I decided I just wanted to read for the joy of reading – and wouldn’t you know it, I found myself inspired to love more (and learn to shoot a gun with better accuracy ;-)
    The Language of Flowers book had been on my reading list for awhile; maybe I’ll get around to it before long ~ thanks for the reminder :-)

  8. Rachel says

    Gorgeous! I didn’t realize how bad the original dress was until seeing the new version. Our family is looking forward to seeing a performance of the Nutcracker next week, the first time for our girls and we’ve been diving into reading different versions of the Nutcracker story for them before going.
    I just realized that it’s crunch time to get all my sewing and crafting projects finished before we leave for Christmas. One hand-appliqued book completed, one Christmas dress completed, another needs a few more beads and a hem, mittens underway, and LOTS left to do!

  9. says

    So beautiful! I didn’t receive that kind of sewing gene when they were past out so it amazes me one can do that.
    Thank you for the recipe. I’m going to make it later today. I’m making a few simple “brownie in a jar” recipes and I wanted one other item that was simple for my husband to take to a friend. This would be perfect.

  10. says

    I went to a production of the Nutcracker by a local Irish dance school last year. It was cute and interesting until the second half of the show, where it sort of went off the rails in terms of following the story (they ended up in Ireland at one point??). The great dancing made up for it though – hope your daughter’s production goes just as well!

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