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My son turned 13 years old yesterday, and I thought he would like my present best.

The gift was a snack quilt that I had been working on for about six months. I sewed for hours while he was in school or late at night after he had gone to bed so he wouldn’t see the fabric, which featured gum drops, cheese crackers, pretzels, fruit and other snacks.

“I see hamburgers,” he said slyly as he ripped away the silver wrapping paper to reveal the quilt, which was bordered in hamburger fabric. He draped the blanket around himself, said “Thanks Mom,” and then set the cover aside to open more gifts.

I felt slightly disappointed by his reaction. No jumping up and down with joy? No declarations of the blanket being the best present ever? It was like he had opened a pair of socks.

Other gifts got more of a reaction.

He sang with excitement when he opened a drink cup, hot chocolate and handmade hand-warmers from his friend; his friend’s little sister colored him a picture, which he posted on the refrigerator; he played for hours with a remote-controlled helicopter from my mother.

“This is just so cool,” he kept saying.

Close to bedtime, we talked about his birthday and how much fun he had getting phone calls, how much he liked his cake and how thoughtful people were to send presents and gift cards. He was still playing with his helicopter when I headed toward the stairs. I mentioned that the house was cold, and it was getting late.

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a warm quilt to sleep under tonight,” he said.

I stopped and smiled.

“Yes, you do,” I said, watching his flying toy whirl above the sofa. “But I have to tell you, I thought you’d be more excited when you opened the blanket.”

“Mom, I love the quilt,” he said and landed his toy helicopter. “Besides, I’m sure it’s going to be here a lot longer than any of the other presents.”

Touched by his insight, I gave him a big hug.

I like the way this hamburger-and-snack-eating teen-ager thinks. And I’m especially happy that he liked his quilt.




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Last year, my quilting friend and I talked about getting together each month to sew, which rarely happened. But 2015 is a new year, and yesterday we met at her home resolved to sew.

She worked diligently with her rotary cutter to make pieces for a placemat. Her daughter, who was home from college on break, joined us needle in hand to sew a cross stitch picture. And I stared blankly at three unfinished quilt projects that I had sprawled out on their dining room table.

Each of my pieces had promise, but my creativity was stumped. I was ready to stick each project in a drawer never to be seen again, much less to be completed, when my friend rearranged some of the squares of the first project, offered her suggestions on the second and admired the third.

Seeing my work through her eyes breathed new life into the dormant quilts. I wrote down her suggestions and some of the ideas that they sparked within me. Now the projects are moving forward again.

Needle arts are more than the mechanics of stitching. They also involve the sharing and communicating of ideas.



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Some things happen every Christmas.

The kids volunteer to help pack food boxes for needy families.

Our neighbors across the street bring us a decorative plate of home-baked chocolate chip cookies.

And my mom, sisters and I spend part of the holiday knitting together in front of the family Christmas tree.

The room feels cozy with our needles tapping as we work, our laughter punctuating our chatter and the colorful yarns matching the glow of lights from the tree. It’s a family moment that belongs on a Christmas card.

We would like to send a Christmas card to all who have browsed or purchased from ChatterboxBeach this year. Best wishes to you and your families. May 2015 be a very Happy New Year!



painting camellias 2014 locals only honorable mention

The buds on my camellia bush are wrapped tight and tidy as if the petals are huddling to protect themselves from the cold. But soon they should self-combust and explode in beauty, making me marvel at the strength of their soft, fragile-looking pink petals.

If I can summon up the courage to brave the cold like they do, I’ll clip some of the elegant flowers, bring them indoors and float them in a bowl of water like my mother did so many times when I was growing up.

Her camellias served as a centerpiece for many festive occasions.

In addition, the flowers have become the focus of many of her paintings.

Recently, she entered a watercolor of camellias in my hometown’s Locals Only Show. The flowers in this art were open full, and she captured the shadows brilliantly, earning her an honorable mention award.

In addition, one of her acrylics featuring camellias is hanging upstairs in my home. Similar to the award-winning painting, the artwork captures the warmth of a bouquet of blooms in shades of pink with yellow centers surrounded by green glossy leaves that are displayed in a vase.

Whereas fresh camellias reach a peak and then fade, my mother’s paintings keep the wonder of the flowers alive indefinitely. The blooms warm my house every day, and I don’t have to brave the cold to admire them.



soccer ball for sisterchatter

My favorite part of crafting is the creative mystery.

My quilting projects begin with pieces of material that come together like the view in a kaleidoscope, and I never know what beauty the shapes are going to create.

Recently, I participated in a fun quilt challenge. Quilters were asked to turn strips of fabric into a wall-hanging. When my material arrived in the mail, I was frazzled and on my way out the door to take my son to soccer practice. But I couldn’t resist stopping to take a peek at the fabric.

I was disappointed. Inside the manila envelope were strips of black and white fabric. I had expected something much more bright and colorful to work with over the next few weeks.

“What on Earth is black and white?” I asked my son, who was standing at the door with the answer in his hands.

A soccer ball is black and white.

So while he was kicking around different moves at practice, I began kicking around ideas in my head.

The result was a wall hanging that featured his red jersey and a black-and-white soccer ball bordered with strips of the black-and-white fabric.

My favorite part of the quilt is the soccer ball, mostly because my son and I collaborated on the pattern. I drew the circle, and he filled in the details. When fabric was added, we gave each other high fives over the results. The red jersey in the back ground gave the ball an extra visual pop.

I didn’t win the contest, but my son now has a great soccer keepsake to hang in his room, and another creative mystery is solved.



This necklace would make a great gift for someone special, or a treat for yourself!

This necklace would make a great gift for someone special, or a treat for yourself!

I like to get all of my holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving.

It’s a tall order. But I’m a much more relaxed person when I succeed with the challenge and can sit back in December with all of my presents wrapped and placed beautifully underneath the tree. I also wrap extra gifts in case someone unexpected surprises us with a present, and I buy something for myself to put among the packages just for fun.

Most of my gifts have a homemade component, whether it’s an ornament attached to the bow or a set of dishcloths stuffed in a stocking.

Some years, I come up short on time and fail to make something for everyone on my list.

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That’s when I turn to Etsy and the local craft shows.

This year I found a hand-crafted letter opener for my son who collects stamps, a ceramic dish made in a high school art class for myself and a collection of soap cozies that will make great stocking stuffers.

ChatterboxBeach has a great selection of doll clothes, seashell wreaths, genealogy tools, note cards and necklaces. A vintage dollhouse also could make someone happy.

We’ll continue to add to our inventory throughout November and December, so check back often. With most of our shopping accomplished, we have more time for crafting.



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I can’t resist eating cookies, and now I can’t stop making them.

But forget flour, sugar and chocolate chips. These cookies are made of fabric.

Fabric fortune cookies are lots of fun. They can be used as place card holders, a home decoration or a special gift. Just slip a note inside the fabric cookie for party favors, valentines or invitations.

The first time I made them was for my book club. We were meeting for an end-of-the-year party, and I slipped quotes from the different books we had read during the year inside a batch of my homemade fabric cookies. Because we all have different tastes, I made the cookies out of a variety of colors so the club members could select the ones they liked.

Then we each took turns reading the quotes and guessing which book they came from and which character said the words. I mixed the batch with serious and funny lines. We laughed so hard, we were the loudest table in the restaurant. But it was great revisiting our favorite characters and moments from the novels.

I made fortune cookies again for two friends who enjoy needlework. We get together about once a month for coffee or to visit quilt shows. I slipped quotes about friendship and sewing inside the cookies and shared them. My friends were delighted by the experience.

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It’s truly what’s inside the cookie that counts. Messages can be simple such as “Get Well Soon” or “Happy Birthday.” They also can be more heart-felt. I’ve thought of slipping one in my son’s lunch box with a “good luck on your test” message or putting one on his pillow to say “thanks for making your bed this morning.”

I’m planning to make several sets for stocking stuffers this year. I’m hoping the personalized messages will be a hit, especially for two difficult names on my list. A similar gift should work for my neighbors, a favorite aunt, my teen-aged nephews and teachers, too.

I also plan to pair my fabric cookies with a restaurant gift card delivered in a to-go box to celebrate my good friend’s birthday.

Fabric cookies don’t add calories, but they can be served for almost all occasions.




My children and their cousins know that when my mom, sisters and I get together, at some point we are going to the craft store or a place that sells paint brushes, fabric or yarn.

We can’t help it. Creativity is in our DNA. We were meant to craft.

For years, we artists have tried to encourage the kids – three boys and one girl – to join us. We have wasted lots of money on paint-by-number kits, looms to make pot holders and projects for holiday wood decor only to see the kids scurry away from the activities at the first opportunity, leaving us to clean up, finish or discard their abandoned efforts.

“Don’t you want to make something?” we have asked them so many times, only to be ignored by my niece who sits nearby painting her fingernails in bright, sparkly colors and the boys responding with remarks of their own, such as “I’m hungry,” “When’s lunch?” and “Why don’t we have anything good to eat in the house?”

Increasingly, we who love to create have begun to understand and accept that the crafting gene might skip a generation. What can we do but adapt?

It’s okay that the kids have grown old enough to stay at home by themselves while we journey to the stores and shop in peace.

It’s no problem to stock the refrigerator shelves with quick-serve sandwiches, pasta salads and fruit trays in case the kids get hungry before we finish sewing.

We understand that our boys will skip the basketry, leatherworks and wood carving merit badges at Boy Scout summer camp to delve into the more adventurous studies of small boat sailing, kayaking and swimming.

Before giving up hope, we made one final push to keep our tradition of family crafting alive. What more could we do?

We offered to pay for pottery classes.

“No way!”

Kite making?

“Be serious!”

Collage and art?

“Mom, please. We don’t want to craft.”

And then my 13-year-old niece went rogue.

She needed a place to store and display the more than 90 bottles of nail polish she has collected. She found the perfect box of shelves on-line, but it cost $40. She decided to make her own. With research on the computer, a quick trip to the dollar store and a few hours of crafting, she built her own customized box of shelves out of a simple piece of school project board and hot glue. The total cost was $4.

My sister sent out an e-mail announcement.

“My daughter is one of us – she crafts!  I am so proud.”

We are all proud of my beautiful niece. She’s going to help our artistic hobbies move forward in a wonderful direction. She knows color. She knows style. And she is one of us.

The crafting gene did not skip a generation after all.

To celebrate, we’re all going to learn how to make a similar box of shelves this weekend. The box will be a great way to display my spools of thread in the sewing room.

The best part is that after we get our crafting lesson, we can all paint our nails to celebrate.

I’m ready to craft and sew.






Way back in November, my son asked me to sew a national competition badge on his favorite marching band sweatshirt. This morning, as I pulled the often-worn hoodie once again out of my clothes dryer with a load of wash that needed to be folded, I realized that two months have passed, and I still have not honored his request.

When he asked me to add the patch to his shirt, I told him to put the badge next to my sewing machine so I wouldn’t forget. The patch is still there. I haven’t forgotten. I just haven’t done the work.

Each time I sit down to sew, I see the patch and slip it underneath other sewing projects only to see it rise and reappear at the top of the to-do list. When I see it surface once again, I casually slip it back underneath another new mound of work. This could go on for years.

Why can’t I get started on that patch? All I need is a needle and thread, a pair of scissors and 10 minutes in a 24-hour day. I cringe every time I see that patch, not because the work is difficult, but because the work hasn’t been done.

This morning, the weight finally became too heavy. The irrational burden of hand sewing a tiny 3-inch patch onto a shirt had to go. I did the task, checked it off my list, and I’m all smiles.

The feeling of accomplishment is wonderful! The happiness on my son’s face when he sees that the patch finally has been sewn onto his sleeve will be even better.

Worrying two months over something that took five minutes to complete makes no sense. From now on, Monday will be my anti-procrastination day — a chance to get started or finish simple sewing projects that I have been avoiding. I’m marking the new routine on my calendar.

I’m ready to sew.





Similar to the person who hasn’t exercised in a while and wants to start a new fitness routine without overdoing it, I’m easing into this year of crafting by knitting dishcloths.

Some people think this is a waste of time. The owner of an upscale yarn shop near my sister’s house sure did.

My sister stopped there for convenience instead of driving across town to a national craft store retailer.

A group of retirement-aged ladies sat comfortably knitting sweaters in intricate patterns in the center of the pleasant shop. They were surrounded by shelves from floor to ceiling stocked with beautiful, colorful and expensive yarns.

When my sister asked the owner to show her the 100 percent cotton yarn that was for sale, the shop owner asked my sister what she was planning to make.

When my sister answered, “Dishcloths,” the owner dropped the reading glasses from her face and let them dangle on their beaded chain next to her shirt.

“If you’re going to invest money and spend all of that time knitting, you should make something better than a dishcloth,” she said.

My sister left without a purchase.

Most people who have used hand-knitted dishcloths will agree that their benefits are plenty. Not only are they strong, soft and durable, but they also are a great tool for washing dishes and wiping up spills in the kitchen.

Their usefulness is versatile throughout the home and office.

I keep a set in my car to wipe the morning dew off my windows when I have to drive somewhere early in the morning.

In the bathroom, the gentle cloths can be used as baby washcloths or facecloths.

They also can be used to wipe the ink off of white boards or when cleaning mirrors and glass doors.

As a sewing project, knitting dishcloths is a good way to practice or try out new stitches. Novices can work on their basic knits and purls. More advanced knitters can experiment with some of the new patterns they’d like to try – from basket weaves to cables. For knitters attempting a new stitch, it’s better to mess up on a small dishcloth than a whole sweater.

Dishcloths also make useful and thoughtful hostess gifts, teacher gifts and presents for graduates, moms, aunts, teens, neighbors, seniors and friends.

The yarn comes in a variety of mix and match colors and goes on sale at various times throughout the year. One ball usually makes two regular-sized cloths.

So this January, I’m getting back on the knitting treadmill and experimenting with styles and stitches in a variety of dishcloth patterns. By February, I’m hoping to be in good enough shape to try knitting some drink cozies.

I’m ready to sew.