the great embroidery project of 2016

Embroidery is one of those skills I tried to learn as a kid but didn't really have the patience to stick with it.  I vaguely remember taking an embroidery class through our homeschool group sometime before I was in high school.  While I was digging in the bottom of my sewing box trying to find my stash of embroidery floss I came across some practice stitches I did for this class.

Many years later, I now have buckets of patience for complicated crochet and sewing projects.  I love creating things and having something to do.  Unless I'm completely worn out and really need some time to just sit and do nothing, I'm always craving for something to keep my hands busy.  For the past few weeks I've been working on a baby blanket during Sunday Bible Class (I promise I'm paying attention!) and now I have this embroidery project to keep me busy while we enjoy downtime in the evenings.

I've had ideas for an embroidery project bouncing around in the back of my mind for quite a while.  Recently I started recovering the throw pillows that came with our sofa and decided to do some pretty embroidery on one of them.  For a pattern I settled on one of the beautiful illustrations from the coloring book Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.  I was so proud of myself for coming up with such a clever source for a pattern.  But then I got on Facebook and saw that Johannah Basford had shared this beautiful embroidery based on one of her illustrations.

Inky stiches! Love this little Enchanted Forest Fox by Katie from Cottage Garden Threads! They dyed the threads, then embroidered the design. Colour me happy! Jx
Posted by Johanna Basford on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It burst my bubble of pride, but I was also in awe of the delicate stitches.  When I tried to find the image again I came across this beautiful hummingbird embroidery also pulled from the Secret Garden coloring book.

The last stitches are in, the project is complete, and here it is: http://www.needlenthread.com/2015/05/secret-garden-hummingbirds-last-stitches-finished.html
Posted by Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread on Thursday, May 14, 2015

I know my finished project will not be as impressive as these amazing works of art, but I'm still excited to try out embroidery again.

I would have loved to do one of Johanna Basford's intricate circular illustrations, but I knew I needed to start out with something much more simple for my first project.  For this project I copied a page full of flowers and then cut it down so I would have only whole flowers to work with.  Then I taped it to a piece of cardboard, making sure the paper was completely flat, and then taped a piece of tissue paper over the flower paper.

Yep, tissue paper.  When I started gathering supplies for my project, I knew I needed a heat transfer pencil and figured I could just use it on regular paper.  I should have done more research.  When my test scribbles didn't transfer to the fabric I turned to Google and discovered fancy tracing and transfer papers and a billion different ways to transfer embroidery patterns.  I didn't really want to buy a bunch of fancy paper in case I got sick of this project and never wanted to embroider again.  One of the websites I came across suggested using tissue paper so I gave that a shot and it worked!  It took me two evenings of ridiculous tracing, but I finally got it done.  (I'm sure there was probably an easier way I could have accomplished this.)

Next I cut apart the flowers and arranged them on the new pillow cover I had sewn together.  At first I tried to be careful with the heat settings on my iron because I didn't want to scorch the fabric, but the flowers just wouldn't transfer.  I ended up cranking the iron to the silk/wool heat setting and pressing down for thirty seconds on each flower.  I would not recommend this if you're working with delicate fabric, but my material seemed to be pretty sturdy and wasn't affected at all by the high heat.

Now I am happily spending my evenings stitching away at my pretty little flowers!  And I've already finished the first one!

I'm not too sure about the color combinations.  I think the pinks and purple on the petals look nice but maybe the green and yellow isn't quite right.  But the stitching looks pretty nice considering this is the first time I've embroidered anything in 10+ years.  I am planning to do one gigantic blog post when the entire project is done, but until then I'll probably post updates on Facebook and Instagram, so keep an eye out for more pretty little flowers coming your way!  :)


my favorite teas

Back in high school and college I preferred my tea to be drowned in sugar.  After all, I am from the south.  ;-)  Fruity and sweet, that's what thought tea should be.  I spent many years dumping sweetness into my mugs without a care in the world.

But at some point that started to change.  I don't remember when I started to cut down on the sugar I put in my tea (and coffee) but I believe it was for health reasons.  There was A LOT of sugar going into my tea and I knew it wasn't good for me.

Nowadays I drink my tea and coffee completely free of sugar.  (Unless my father-in-law makes me one of his tasty cappuccino concoctions.  They're so delicious!)  Instead of drinking tea for the sweetness I now enjoy this historical beverage for all of the unlimited flavors it comes in.  Something spicy, fruity, or subtle.  The possibiliteas are endless!  ;-)

I am no expert on tea, and I do try to not go overboard with how much I spend on this delightful hobby, but quality is oh so important when it comes to tea.  Quite often you will find tea that smells wonderful and has a flowery title like "Blueberry Bliss".  You excitedly steep a cup and the first sip tells you that the title and fragrance are lying.  No blueberries, no bliss, no flavor.  How disappointing.  All of the teas listed below will not lure you into this tasteless trap.  They are fragrant, tasty, and fantastic.  Everything you could ever want in a tea.

A photo posted by Laura (@redriojas) on

Herman's Boy is a kitchen store/deli/bakery/coffee roastery owned by members of our church.  It has been around since 1979 and let me tell you, their bagels are to die for!  And their signature "bagel dog".  So good!  But it gets even better!  They also sell tea!  Can you tell how excited I am about this?!  Here are the teas I've purchased from Herman's Boy.  (Man, I really want a bagel dog now.)

Wild Cherry Black Tea

Almond Black Tea

Apricot Black Tea

Citron Green Tea

Blueberry Rooibus Tea

The Apricot Black Tea reminds me of the fresh, juicy apricots we bought from a roadside produce stand in California.  The fragrance of the Almond Black Tea is so powerful!  My husband said it reminds him of the almond banket his father usually makes around Christmas.  And lastly, the Blueberry Rooibus is immensely fruity!  This tea was more expensive than the others so I've been using it sparingly.  It's like a mini special occasion every time I steep a cup.  :-)  All of these teas have beautiful flavors to match their beautiful scents.  The Wild Cherry Black Tea and Citron Green Tea are tasty too, but I prefer the flavors of the other ones more.  Sadly I have run out of my apricot tea and the almond tea is nearly gone too.  :-(  I'll need to get some more when my overall store of tea starts depleting.

A photo posted by Laura (@redriojas) on

Not long ago I came across a coupon for $10 of free tea from Adagio.  I had never purchased tea from them before but I wasn't about to pass up free tea!

Lemon Grass Tea

Chocolate Chip Black Tea

The Lemon Grass Tea sounded like it would be refreshing and subtle.  It certainly is, but it also came in a gigantic bag!  I ordered only six ounces and I thought it would come in a little bag the size of the little brown paper bags of tea I buy from Herman's Boy.  Nope.  Biggest bag of tea I have ever seen!  It is good though.  Something subtle to sip in the evenings, but I did end up sending some home in a jar with my best friend when she visited because I didn't think I'd be able to use it all before it starts to go bad.

The Chocolate Chip Black Tea is a different story.  I got to pick out a free sample with my order and thought it would be a fun flavor to try.  After my first sip I immediately wished I had ordered a giant bag of it.  It's so tasty!  I've tried vanilla and chocolate flavored teas before and either the flavors didn't really come through or they just didn't mesh with the other flavors in the tea.  This tea does not have that problem.  It doesn't smack you across the face screaming "CHOCOLATE!!!".  Instead, it's very rounded and subtle.  You taste the chocolate but it's not like cramming a handful of chocolate chips in your mouth that you've snuck from the pantry.  This tea is definitely going on my list of teas to buy again.

A photo posted by Laura (@redriojas) on

For our wedding we wanted to have an "afternoon tea" kind of reception.  I think this is what really ignited my hobby of tea.  After doing some research we decided to use The Republic of Tea.  We ordered six different kinds of tea (two herbal, two black, and two green) and had hot water available so people could steep their own little cups of tea.  We also had iced tea and water available.  We were so thrilled with how everything turned out!  It was a lovely afternoon tea party.  I have also been entranced by macarons ever since our reception.  I really want to try making them some day.

Here is a list of what I have now/some of what we ordered and that I really enjoyed.

Ginger Peach Rooibos Tea

Lucky Irish Breakfast Tea

Pumpkin Ginger Black Tea - I could not find this tea on their website, perhaps it is seasonal or discontinued, but they do have a Pumpkin Spice Black Tea that should be available this fall.

Decaf Strawberry Cherry Black Tea - Apparently this tea is no longer available.  Its scent reminds me of kool-aid.  This is the only tea to which I add a little bit of sugar.

Downton Abbey English Rose Tea

Orange Ginger Mint Herbal Tea

Blackberry Sage Black Tea

The Orange Ginger Mint and Blackberry Sage teas were my favorite out of what we ordered for our reception.  I loved how the spicy citrus flavor paired so well with the cooling mint.  My mother-in-law used the Blackberry Sage Black Tea to make delicious iced tea for our reception.  The sage and blackberry go so well together yet it's hard to describe the exact qualities of the subtle flavor.  The Downton Abbey English Rose tea is another one of my favorites.  Such a beautiful fruity flavor!  In truth I would love to try every single Downton Abbey tea, but especially the Crawley Sisters blend.  A tea made of strawberries and chocolate sounds so interesting!

There you have it!  A very lengthy description that is really just the tip of the iceberg.  I'm always on the look out for new teas to try.  Some of them I really like while others don't quite hit the nail on the head.  For instance, I have two different versions of pumpkin spice tea right now.  Pumpkin Spice Chai from Twinnings and Pumpkin Spice Rooibos from Trader Joe's.  (One I bought on clearance and the other was given to me.)  I try to not let them steep too long because the flavor can be VERY overpowering, especially the Twinnings.  Usually I'll cut the Twinnings with a bit of milk, kind of turn it into a latte to settle down the spicyness.

I like to keep some straight peppermint tea on hand for when I'm stuffed up.  I currently have Pure Peppermint from Twinnings.  Also for medicinal purposes, I have Throat Coat Lemon Echinacea from Traditional Medicinals.  One time I had the worse stuffy head, drainage, and sore throat for over a week.  About halfway through this agony I desperately researched what tea could help soothe sore throats and settled on Throat Coat.  I'm not going to say that it cured my sore throat, but it did give me some relief and I could finally swallow without feeling like my throat was lined with sandpaper.  Between the decongestants I was slamming down, drinking peppermint and Throat Coat teas, and getting lots of rest, I finally started to feel better.

Tea can be both tasty and practical!  :)