Arts and Crafts

Tea towelsMy friend Jana is one of the most talented people I know. She can Appliqued tea toweldo anything and frequently dazzles us with her creativity and imagination. Luckily for us, she got an embroidery machine for Christmas. (I think the fact that her first grandbaby is on the way had something to do with it!) For her beginning practice projects she made tea towels for several of us and ourdaughters. “They’re easy,” she said as we were oohing and ahhing. “Really. There’s nothing to it.”  I am unconvinced. Because that’s the same thing my younger daughter — another one of those awesomely talented people — says about the appliqued and quilted tea towels she makes, inspired by projects in “Alabama Stitch Book” by Alabama native and fashion designer Natalie Chanin. I love all things with black-and-white patterns, and my daughter made me this black-and-white tea towel for Christmas. I am in awe of these talented people who do such incredible work — and am grateful I know them. Otherwise, my house would be pretty bare.

Christmas Gift Projects

carolyns-scarves-005My younger daughter Carolyn is a master at recycling and reusing when carolyns-scarves-004it comes to making gifts. She is so creative and talented — proof that genetics skips a generation because she did not get those characteristics from me. Inspired by Natalie Chanin’s how-to guide “Alabama Stitch Book,” Carolyn’s latest project is making these tea towels* from thrift-store T-shirts. She shops for the colors she wants, then cuts out the solid pieces of fabric from the shirts and plans her embroidery and reverse-applique designs. We recently spotted towels just like this in a Birmingham gift shop for $25 — she’s got less than $1 in each towel and the embroidery goes fast, so making them is definitely a money-saver. Plus, I think it’s her therapeutic stress-relief. These are so wonderful that I’m counting on her to make my old age rich and comfortable. Isn’t it nice to know that your children will take care of you?

And if you haven’t seen a copy of Natalie Chanin’s book, you’re missing out. It would make a wonderful carolyns-first-bandana-0021Christmas gift for any crafters on your list. Natalie is a fashion designer who returned to her northwest Alabama roots several years ago. Her company specializes in gorgeously hand-quilted clothing made from recycled fabric. Check out her Web site at to learn more. Carolyn’s first project out of “Alabama Stitch Book” was this past year when she tried her hand — literally! — at making this bandana. She’s gone on to make several for family and friends out of old and vintage T-shirts, including one she made for her sister, Liz, from the blue T-shirt Carolyn was wearing on the day Liz’s first baby — Nolan Thomas Behel — was born. I remain in awe of my children’s talent and imagination. Who would have thunk it back when it was a struggle to get them to finish their homework???

* Tea towel — a Southern term for a pretty cotton or linen towel used exclusively for drying delicate dishes and silverware